Truck Stop

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Chapter V.

“You are not going inside?” Yong-sun asked. It had been about twenty minutes, and Lincoln was sitting on the lawn debating whether or not he should go in. Yong-sun had come outside, reeking of alcohol but supposedly not actually consuming any. He was carrying a bottle of what looked like alcohol but nothing Lincoln had seen before. It remained unopened on the grass while Lincoln picked at the label.

“I’m not really good with parties,” Lincoln said lamely.

“I just like soju,” Yong-sun commented cheerfully, pointing at the bottle. “But I want watermelon, and there is none here.”

“No,” Lincoln said slowly. “I don’t think there would be any here.”

“You are not happy,” Yong-sun stated randomly, knocking over his bottle in his haste to grip Lincoln’s face with both hands, staring with wide eyes. “Why are you unhappy?”

“I am happy,” Lincoln protested, but he wasn’t good at lying when he was tired and he knew it. Still, he tried to smile as best as he could, because Yong-sun just put on an amazing performance and deserved to have a good time without Lincoln’s minor problems dragging him down.

“You will hurt your face if you pretend like this,” Yong-sun said sternly, forcefully patting his cheeks like he was repulsed by the fake expression. Lincoln smiled genuinely, Yong-sun reminding him of his mother before she got sick. “Why are you so tired?”

“School, work,” Lincoln answered finally, giving up on the lies. He just omitted the truth a little. “Midterms. Trying to find a roommate.”

Yong-sun perked up visibly. “You look for roommate? I can be roommate. I am not bad, I promise. Please please please please, hyung.”

“Um, you don’t really have to call me- never mind, actually. And the apartment’s kind of small, I’m not sure you’d like it,” Lincoln babbled awkwardly, cheeks burning. He wanted nothing more than a roommate at the moment, especially if it was someone he actually knew. He wasn’t ready to be faced with disappointment.

“I am at the Sunshine Motel,” Yong-sun deadpanned. “I assure you, anything is better.”

Lincoln cringed inwardly. The Sunshine Motel was a shitty place in a sketchy neighbourhood with a lot of bad people. He had spent a few nights there when he first moved to town, and it was anything but sunshine.

“Right, yeah,” Lincoln stammered. How was he supposed to go about doing this? “Um, did you want to go check it out?”

“Check it out?” Yong-sun repeated, sounding slightly confused. Lincoln hurriedly backtracked, rephrasing his question. “Oh, yes! Thank you!”

Lincoln still felt awkward as Yong-sun bowed and beamed at him, all perfect teeth and crescent shaped eyes. He had no idea where they were, so he ended up calling a cab. If Yong-sun decided he really did want to share an apartment, then he could afford the spare the cab fare.

Yong-sun talked excitedly the whole way there, struggling to speak in English in a way that made Lincoln feel bad for not knowing Korean. He tried his best to interpret what the younger male was saying so Yong-sun didn’t get too frustrated. When they got to the apartment, Yong-sun had insisted on splitting the cab fare, which made Lincoln relieved.

“Um, the elevators don’t work,” Lincoln told him as he unlocked the door, pointing at the elevators. “But I’m on the third floor, so it’s not too bad. There are eight floors, I’m pretty lucky.”

Yong-sun nodded like he was in a lecture instead of in an old apartment building. They walked up the stairs together, Lincoln pointing out where the laundry room was and talking about what they did with their trash.

“And here’s my apartment,” Lincoln finished, fishing his key out of his pocket and unlocking the door. He felt nervous as he pushed it open, not sure of when the last time he cleaned was. Luckily, his apartment was in a decent state since he spent so little time in it. “It’s not much, but it has two bedrooms, a functioning kitchen and wi-fi.”

Yong-sun ran into the middle of the living room, spreading his arms as he spun around slowly, examining the place like it was a work of art in a gallery and he was an expert.

“The kitchen’s there,” Lincoln said lamely, pointing at the room with cheerful yellow walls. The younger male walked through the kitchen and out the other door, where a small table with chairs sat at the back of the living room. He came back around and Lincoln showed him the hall with the two bedrooms and the bathroom.

Yong-sun spent a little more time looking in the bedroom, checking the windows and the spare bed while Lincoln waited anxiously in the doorway, not wanting to get in his way. The room was almost bare of furniture, just a bed, lamp and desk that hadn’t fit in Lincoln’s room. The spare bed had belonged to his old roommate, who had stayed for about a month and then left, only leaving the bed frame and mattress because he had a bigger one in his new apartment. Lincoln had just replaced the sheet and then left it alone.

“There’s not a lot of furniture in here,” Lincoln said apologetically, chewing on his lower lip.

Yong-sun smiled from where he was perched on the bed. “It’s okay, I like it. I like your apartment, I want to live here.”

“Really?!” Lincoln blurted out, unable to hide his surprise.

“Only if we can have cat,” Yong-sun joked.

Lincoln just smiled and made a mental note to ask his landlord.

In the end, they do get a cat.

Yong-sun had been so delighted at the prospect of finally moving out of the Sunshine Motel that he had wanted to move in as soon as possible. It took a few days, but both their names were on the lease and their landlord had agreed to them having a pet as long as it was quiet. Yong-sun ended up throwing somewhat of a housewarming party, and everyone showed up to help him move in officially. He didn’t have a lot of things, but they spent a lot of time re-arranging furniture to accommodate Yong-sun’s things.

Their friends came bearing gifts, ranging from a potted cactus (Tsuyoshi and Hajime), a portable Crosley turntable (Oliver) and a cat (Jackson). Lincoln teased the Chinese male relentlessly while Yong-sun was distracted with the cute feline, naming him Bambam and cooing over him. Jackson had gotten so flustered he could barely stammer a single sentence, eyes focused on Yong-sun happily playing with his gift. Xavier wandered over carrying an enormous stuffed tiger that was probably half of Jupiter’s height.

“This is from Jupiter,” Xavier mumbled. “No idea where Yong-sun’s gonna put this thing.”

“Where did he even find something like that?” Lincoln demanded.

“I have my ways.” Jupiter popped up next to him, almost scaring him to death. He was wearing an oversized Misfits sweater and basketball shorts, and had a lollipop sticking out of his mouth. “Where’d you go on Wednesday?”

“Ah, Yong-sun wanted to see the apartment, so we left early,” Lincoln lied, quickly changing the subject. “You like the Misfits?”

“Mhm,” Jupiter replied distractedly. “My favorite song is Dig Up Her Bones– Xavier, what the fuck are you doing with Ziggy?”

“What the hell is a Ziggy?” Xavier replied, voice muffled by the giant stuffed animal. He dropped it on the ground and followed suit, sprawling across the back of the tiger.

“The tiger’s name, dumbass, didn’t you read the collar? His name is Ziggy, short for Ziggy Stardust,” Jupiter rolled his eyes and scooped up the stuffed tiger in his arms. It really was half his height, probably eighty centimetres long and thirty wide. “Look, I even got your name engraved.”

He struggled to hold the animal upright as he flipped the pendant to show Link’s name on the back with a little Triforce symbol underneath. It was kind of endearing. Lincoln took the stuffed tiger when Jupiter almost toppled over, Xavier rescuing him from falling face-first onto the floor.

“Shouldn’t this be for Yong-sun?” Lincoln asked, admiring the tiger’s face with marble-like eyes.

Jupiter scoffed. “I already got him a new sweater.”

“And I love it,” said Yong-sun, walking into the living room. He showed off his baby pink knitted sweater with glee. It hung off his broad shoulders and showed off tan skin and sharp collarbones. Lincoln gave him a thumbs up and dragged the stuffed animal into his bedroom. He dropped it next to the bed, frowning a little when it took up most of his floorspace. Whatever, it was cute and he could sleep on it.

When he walked out, everyone was in the living room except for Yong-sun and Xavier, who went to get snacks according to Tsuyoshi. Apparently, Yong-sun wanted Pocky, which was some sort of snack, and Xavier didn’t trust Yong-sun to go alone.

“And being the second-oldest, Xavier bravely decided to accompany Yong-sun on his long and tiring journey,” Jupiter said dramatically, standing on the couch. Hajime pushed him off, and he toppled to the floor. “I’m not getting up now.”

True to his word, he stayed sprawled on the floor despite Oliver constantly stepping on him. He remained there until Yong-sun and Xavier returned, and suddenly he was all over them like an eager puppy, tugging the plastic bags out of their hands and rummaging through them.

“Where do you want these?” Tsuyoshi said as Jupiter dumped all the contents onto the floor. He pointed at the plastic bags lying on the floor, surprisingly intact after Jupiter’s attack.

“Um, you can just toss them,” Lincoln said, then suddenly all eyes were on him.

“You’re supposed to keep them,” Jupiter said, looking up from his arrangement of snacks that Lincoln had never even heard of.

“They’re just plastic bags,” Lincoln replied, suddenly feeling stupid.

“Yeah, but you never know when you might need them,” Tsuyoshi said.

“We don’t really do that here,” Xavier told them. “Remember when I used to throw them out until you told me to keep them?”

“I always thought every family had a plastic bag full of plastic bags,” Hajime commented. The others nodded. “Here, I’ll show you how to fold them so you can conserve space.”

“It’s good to have them handy,” Oliver said, finally looking up from the screen he’d been staring at for the past hour. “Plus, saving the planet and all that shit.”

Lincoln still felt awkward around Oliver after discovering he was Button. Jackson had embarrassed him in front of Oliver until Lincoln threatened to reveal how Jackson had feelings for a certain someone. That had shut Jackson up quickly, but the damage had been done and Lincoln could barely look Oliver in the eye.

He watched as Hajime spread the plastic bags and fold them into triangles, tucking the ends in so they kept their shape. Then he shoved all the triangles into the last plastic bag, standing up.

“I’m gonna go put this in one of your drawers,” Hajime said, disappearing into the kitchen.

“Yay, Link learned something today,” Jupiter chirped, ripping into a red foil bag of something called shrimp crackers.

“You guys want to play Pepero challenge?” Yong-sun asked, holding up a snack in a cardboard box.

“What’s that?” Lincoln wondered, voice drowned out by Jupiter’s shouts of excitement.

“It’s like gay chicken,” Oliver informed him. “Both people take an end of the stick in their mouths and eat it, like the spaghetti scene in Lady and the Tramp. First person to back away loses.”

“I’m out,” Lincoln said immediately. “Not that you guys aren’t beautiful or whatever, but I’m not a fan of making out with my friends.”

“No fun,” Jupiter pouted. “Okay, losers go, then. Ninja, Cowboy, Bear!”

“What the hell is that?” Lincoln demanded.

Oliver rolled his eyes. “Haven’t you ever read The Legend of Ninja, Cowboy, Bear? It’s a children’s book. It’s basically a different version of Rock, Paper, Scissors.”

Lincoln just shook his head and watched his friends strike various poses. Eventually, the only ones left were Jackson, Yong-sun and Hajime. Lincoln was secretly rooting for the Japanese student to win.

It worked, as Jackson and Yong-sun chose cowboy poses and Hajime chose a ninja pose.

“Suck it,” Hajime yelled, raising his arms in victory and flinging himself onto the couch.

You suck it,” Jackson grumbled.

“Stop with the Psych references and get on with it!” Oliver snarled, throwing a box at them. Jupiter cowered behind Tsuyoshi.

It turned out that Pepero was basically a cookie stick coated in chocolate. Lincoln snatched the box while Jackson placed the end of the stick in his mouth. He shared the snack with Oliver, who had actually put his phone away and focused his attention on the two students in the middle of the room.

Yong-sun walked in front of Jackson and tilted his head. Suddenly, he yanked the cookie stick out of Jackson’s mouth, replaced it with his lips briefly, and walked away, sticking the Pepero in his own mouth.

It took a few minutes for everyone to recover, stunned into silence. Jackson just stood there with his eyes wide and jaw hanging open as Yong-sun went into his room.

“Holy shit,” Oliver whispered, smacking Lincoln’s arm repeatedly. “Holy fucking shit. Did that actually just happen?”

Lincoln was too shocked to answer, eyes still on Jackson who had turned bright red, still frozen in place and the centre of attention. Even Jupiter had stopped bouncing on the couch, instead walking circles around his best friend and poking him, waving his hand in front of Jackson’s face when the taller didn’t respond.

“I think Jackson’s broken,” Jupiter announced to the room.

“Yeah, no duh,” Hajime said, standing up and gently peeling Jupiter away from the shocked male. Xavier guided Jackson to the couch and forced him to sit down.

“Did that actually just happen? Was I seeing things?” Oliver repeated. Lincoln nodded in agreement, taking in Jackson’s state.

Holy shit indeed.

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