Truck Stop

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Chapter IX.

After Jupiter attacked Yong-sun once more (he hadn’t been satisfied with the answer of “not since Saturday”) with tickles until Yong-sun was begging for mercy, they finally settled down so Lincoln could drag out his textbooks and study a little. Lincoln hadn’t really spoken to Jackson either beyond texts. It seemed like he had disappeared off the face of the Earth. The only one who’d seen him recently was Jupiter.

“Just give him some time,” Oliver said, rolling his eyes. He was still tapping away on his phone. Apparently, he was pretty popular for someone so monotonous and antisocial (Jupiter’s words, not his).

“This is really cool,” Jupiter said, reading one of Lincoln’s textbooks, curled up on the couch with Bambam in his lap, purring away. “You ever see Xavier in the Psych building?”

“I really only have one course there,” Lincoln said. “I already got the others out of the way last year. I’m pretty sure he mostly has afternoon classes.”

“Yeah, I’ve never seen that kid get up before nine AM,” Oliver mused, finally putting his phone away to stand up and stretch. “Jupiter, be careful with that, textbooks are expensive.”

“That was 130 bucks,” Lincoln said, not looking up from his notes. Yong-sun was playing with his highlighters and trying to read his paper on Al Capone.

“Do you pay for that yourself?” Oliver asked interestedly, walking over to the couch and crouching next to the coffee table, thumbing through the textbook Lincoln had open, careful to mark the page so Lincoln doesn’t lose his place. Lincoln leaned back against the couch, squeezing his eyes shut. If he had to read one more line on why specific communities had higher crime rates, he was going to shoot himself. Maybe he should go back to reading about the increased proliferation of social media. He spent $300 on that textbook, might as well read it over and over again to get his money’s worth.

“My scholarship only covers tuition,” Lincoln replied sadly, not opening his eyes. He really needed another cup of coffee, or he’d fall asleep and fail his midterms and never amount to anything. Okay, maybe he was highly exaggerating, but he could not fail his midterms. Who even failed their midterms in their third year of university?

“What about your parents?” Jupiter said, not looking up from the textbook. It still made Lincoln inhale sharply, digging the heels of his hands into his eyes.

“My mom can’t work,” Lincoln said finally. “And I haven’t seen my dad in years.”

“Oh. Oh!” Jupiter exclaimed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know–”

“Chill, Jupiter,” Lincoln cut him off before he could ramble his head off. “It’s not like you could have known. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter, it doesn’t bother me anymore. You guys are all coming to the cafe on Halloween, right?”

And just like that, the subject changed as the three agreed vehemently that they would come visit. Lincoln breathed out a huge sigh of relief that luckily went unnoticed and went back to studying, occasionally adding to the conversation. His eyelids felt heavy and the words swam in front of him, but he knew if he went to sleep now, it would fuck up his sleeping schedule even more than it already was.

“I do not look like an elf!” Lincoln squealed in protest when Yong-sun and Jupiter leaned over to tug on his ears.

“But they are pointy like fairy’s,” Yong-sun argued, pulling on Lincoln’s earring.

“Like a fairy’s,” Oliver corrected automatically, sounding like he was used to correcting Yong-sun. He probably was, Lincoln didn’t really know how long everyone had known each other. “Or fairies.”

“Yes, like a fairy,” Yong-sun corrected himself, pouting. “I hate English. How do you explain fish?”

“I try not to explain fish,” Oliver admitted, rolling his eyes. He now sounded slightly annoyed, though his expression didn’t change. His Resting Bitch Face was impressive. “We’ve been through this like a million times.”

“I don’t get it,” Lincoln stage-whispered to Jupiter.

“He’s talking about plural forms,” Jupiter replied in the same manner before turning to Yong-sun. “It’s not really that difficult, bro. We use mulgogi for live fish and saengson for the one you eat.”

“English is so stupid,” Yong-sun whined.

“I could teach you?” Lincoln offered. He didn’t think of it as a big deal until it went so silent you could hear a pin drop. Even Bambam stopped purring. “What?”

Yong-sun’s eyes went wide and his jaw dropped comically. “You teach me English?”

“Well, yeah, of course,” Lincoln said awkwardly. “Um, you’re saving me a lot of money by sharing an apartment and you pay for all of Bambam’s things even though we share him so… so why not?”

Nobody said anything. Oliver was smirking at him from over the top of his phone and Lincoln didn’t know why until he had a lapful of Korean boy, Yong-sun’s fluffy hair getting in his mouth as the younger attempted to squeeze the life out of him.

“Fuck, Yong-sun, I can’t breathe,” Lincoln gasped raggedly, feeling like his ribs were about to snap. For someone who seemed so small, Yong-sun had broad shoulders, despite his narrow waist, and was extremely strong.

Yong-sun let go immediately. “Sorry, hyung.”

Lincoln almost told Yong-sun not to call him that, but he remembered to shut his mouth. He didn’t want to disrespect the Korean culture anymore than he probably already had without meaning to. Yong-sun’s face was lit up like a city at night, and he didn’t want to crush the younger’s feelings.

“I am so happy!” Yong-sun cheered.

“Hey, I offer to teach you English all the time!” Oliver said.

Yong-sun shrugged. “You’re grumpy all the time, for someone with such a cute pseudonym.”

“Ooh, nice word!” Jupiter said, holding up his hand for a high five. Yong-sun leaned over and slapped his hand with a huge smile while Oliver grumbled insults under his breath.

“I was fourteen when I made that name!” Oliver protested. “Don’t judge me. Button is a cute name anyway.”

“Yeah, we should get another cat and name Button,” Yong-sun commented. Lincoln laughed and lifted Bambam out of Jupiter’s lap. The cat meowed in protest but soon enough, he was curled up and purring again.

“I think one cat is enough,” Lincoln told Yong-sun, breaking off into a yawn.

“Okay, time for us to go,” Oliver said, shoving his phone into his pocket and getting to his feet. “C’mon Jupiter, let’s go bother Jackson.”

“I’m always up for that,” Jupiter grinned with an evil glint in his eye. “Link, get some rest, for God’s sake. And Yong-sun, if you don’t text Jackson, I’ll steal your phone and do it for you. Don’t think I won’t.”

Yong-sun muttered something darkly under his breath, putting on a smile that was clearly fake. Jupiter glared and stuck his tongue out before following Oliver out the door, slamming it behind him.

“I sense tension in the air,” Lincoln commented mildly.

“Attention?” Yong-sun asked cutely, eyebrows furrowed in that same confused look he got every time he didn’t understand. Lincoln felt really, really bad every time Yong-sun made that face.

“No,” Lincoln shook his head. “Tension. Like, hostility, or something.”

“What’s that?”

“Agh, you’re making me feel bad,” Lincoln said, burying his face in his hands.

“I’m sorry, Link-hyung,” Yong-sun said dejectedly, staring down sadly at Lincoln’s highlighters.

Shit. Lincoln quickly tried to desperately take back what he said. “Ah, no! It’s not your fault, really. I’m just not good at explaining things. It’d be easier if I knew Korean.”

“No,” Yong-sun replied, looking like a kicked puppy. “Is my fault. I shouldn’t come to an English-speaking country and not know much English. Jupiter, Hajime and Tsu can speak it just fine.”

Lincoln snorted. “Look, that’s just some weirdly perceived notion that everyone seems to have, okay? If someone is struggling to speak English, that means they’re fluent in another language.”

Yong-sun blinked owlishly, understanding dawning on him. “Oh. You’re right. Why can’t everyone think like that?”

Lincoln responded by accidentally yawning in Yong-sun’s face, so widely that his jaw cracked. Yong-sun giggled and grabbed him by the arms, pulling him up off the couch.

“Okay, you need a nap,” Yong-sun laughed, dragging him through the living room into the hall. Lincoln stumbled after him tiredly, following him into his bedroom and collapsing onto the bed.

“Don’t you want to slip into something more comfortable?” Yong-sun asked.

“Like a coma?” Lincoln suggested, crawling under the covers.

“No, like pajamas,” Yong-sun replied flatly. There was a moment of silence before the bed dipped and Yong-sun was laying beside him. “I’m gonna join you.”

Lincoln mumbled something affirmative, already half-asleep. He was tired and the bed was warm despite the shitty heating, and Yong-sun wasn’t a dick who stole the covers, plus he radiated warmth like a furnace. It was silent again until Yong-sun spoke.

“Link?”

Lincoln grumbled, feeling a pang of irritation since he was this close to falling asleep. He shoved it down and raised his head to glare sleepily at Yong-sun’s silhouette in the dark.

“What?” He grouched, letting his head drop back onto the pillow with a soft thud.

“I think I’m scared to like Jackson,” Yong-sun said quietly, sounding young and afraid. “It’s not really widely accepted in my country.”

“Well, you’re not in your country,” Lincoln said gently, rolling onto his side so he’s facing Yong-sun. The younger’s eyes were wide and doe-like, his face scrunched up like he really was afraid. “You just have to go for it. It’s okay to be afraid, everyone gets afraid sometimes.”

“Even you?” Yong-sun asked innocently, his voice soft as he huddled closer. Lincoln felt his mouth go dry. He swallowed harshly past the knot in his throat and nodded.

“Especially me.”

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