“You look like shit,” is the first thing Lincoln heard when he stepped out of the break room in the cafe. Lincoln snorted and finished tying the strings of his apron. Sierra rolled her eyes at him.
“Thanks, I try my best,” Lincoln said sarcastically, already walking behind the counter and checking to make sure the display cases were full and the sugar and cream holders were stocked.
“You’re ruining our Happy Go Lucky image,” She joked, adjusting the hair net covering her blonde locks.
“Somehow I don’t think our customers will care,” Lincoln deadpanned, then broke out into a smile, even though he could feel exhaustion settling deep into his bones. “I promise I’ll be the very epitome of happy go lucky now that I’m on the clock.”
Sierra smiled back, but she still looked concerned. “Just promise me you’ll take multiple breaks today.”
“I promise,” Lincoln said, crossing his fingers behind his back. He prided himself on being a hard worker, and felt terrible every time he took more than two breaks per shift to work on essays and assignments. Taking more breaks than necessary made Lincoln feel like shit, even though he was tired. Everyone was tired, he didn’t deserve special treatment.
“Lincoln, you look like a ghost! Have you been eating enough?” Ms. Gardina scolded him as he poured her a cup of coffee.
“Of course, Ms. Gardina, don’t worry about me,” Lincoln smiled happily, and it’s only half-forced. “You’re looking lovely as ever. Would you like something to eat?”
“No, I’m alright, thank you,” Ms. Gardina replied sweetly. “You’re such a good boy.”
Lincoln beamed at her once more before hurrying away to serve the other customers seated in his table area. Finally, when things began to wind down, he stopped at the counter to take a breather. He felt more heated than usual, unsteady on his feet. He drank some water and tried to slow his breathing.
“Are you alright, Link?” Theresa asked. Lincoln hadn’t even noticed that she’d stepped out of her office.
“Yeah, I’m great,” Lincoln answered breathlessly, readjusting his apron. “I’m just tired.”
“You can take a break,” Sierra chimed in. “Look, your friends are waiting for you anyway.”
Sure enough, Yong-sun and Jupiter were sitting at a table outside of Lincoln’s table area. They looked like they were scheming something, and when Lincoln approached them, they suddenly got quiet.
“You don’t really have to stop talking, I don’t know Korean,” Lincoln laughed shortly, collapsing into a chair.
“We wanted to sit in your section, but it was full,” Jupiter pouted. Lincoln felt like Jupiter ignored his statement on purpose, but he didn’t really care. The tabletop was so cool against his forehead, and felt so good.
“You know you can request me to be your waiter, right?” Lincoln informed them, head still down on the table.
“But you had very many people,” Yong-sun said gently, petting Lincoln’s hair like he was Bambam (the cat, not the member of the Korean group) instead of a six-foot tall male human. Lincoln smiled despite himself, the action making his face hurt. He’d been forcing himself to smile all day. “You are working too hard.”
“Gotta pay my half of the rent,” Lincoln joked. And groceries, phone bills, mom’s medical bills… “Don’t worry about me, I’m fine.”
“Whatever you say,” Jupiter frowned. Then he smirked as his eyes lit up, focusing on a woman with a tiny dog on a leash sitting a few tables away. “Wanna tie that woman to her chair using her dog’s leash?”
“Please don’t,” Lincoln groaned pitifully, shoving himself away from the table enough that he can stand up. “I’ll get fired.”
“Aww, you’re no fun, hyung!” Jupiter stuck out his lower lip childishly, crossing his arms. With his height, he could pass off as an eleven year old kid.
“Yah, Kim Jupiter! Leave Lincoln alone,” Yong-sun laughed, pushing the purple-haired boy off his seat. In a flash, Jupiter is back on his feet and he has a plastic butter knife pointed at Yong-sun’s throat.
“Surrender now!” Jupiter yelled, attracting the attention of everyone in the cafe. Lincoln was so embarrassed he could die, but he was also too busy laughing at the Korean students to say anything.
Yong-sun giggled. “Never!”
Jupiter poked him in the stomach with the plastic. Yong-sun immediately fell to the ground, clutching his stomach, face contorting in mock-agony. Lincoln eyed Jupiter warily as the younger climbed on his chair.
“Aha! I have slain the villain named Yong-sun the Destroyer. The fair maiden and her sassy hips belong to me!” Jupiter cried out, pointing his plastic weaponry at Lincoln, who just blinked at his antics.
“Sassy hips?” Lincoln questioned.
“The sassiest,” Jupiter confirmed.
“I love your sassy hips!” Yong-sun giggled from the floor. “Just not as much as Jupiter does.”
He yelped in surprise when Jupiter whipped the knife at him and jumped down to assault him repeatedly. Lincoln laughed at both of them, then at the amount of spectators. Even Theresa was watching with amusement from where she had stepped behind the counter to help make drinks.
Finally, when Yong-sun was reduced to a giggling mess on the floor and Jupiter was satisfied with his work, they were seated quietly at the table once more, a complete contrast from earlier.
Yong-sun turned cherry red when he noticed everyone in the cafe watching him. He began stammering softly before he just hunched down in his coat, only the top half of his head visible.
“Wow, Yong-sun, way to ruin the mood,” Jupiter teased, poking Yong-sun in the forehead. Yong-sun whined something in Korean that had Jupiter bursting into laughter once again.
“I’m so lost,” Lincoln said in an utter state of confusion.
“He said,” Jupiter began between gasps. “That it’s not his fault, he was born awkward!”
“Shut up,” Yong-sun grumbled, uncurling himself to swat Jupiter’s head. “You’re no fun.”
“You’re no fun,” Jupiter mimicked, finally settling down and sitting calmly. Lincoln, on the other hand, stood up and brushed off his apron, deciding to get back to work before he spent the entirety of his shift with them. The short break had given him some energy, but he still felt extremely tired. When he stood up, he felt lightheaded, and spots appeared before his eyes. He gripped the table to support himself as he swayed.
“Are you alright?” Jupiter asked, sounding alarmed.
“Ugh, I just stood up too fast,” Lincoln groaned, blinking rapidly to clear the spots. He turned around to smile at them and felt another wave of dizziness. What the hell is wrong with me?
“You okay?” Yong-sun stood up to reach out for him, but Lincoln’s knees buckled before Yong-sun’s fingers could make contact. He fell to the floor and the last thing he remembered was Jupiter’s and Yong-sun’s worried faces above him.