LPfiction

Category Linkin Park

A Thread Softly Clinging by Elisa

A Thread Softly Clinging

Author's note: This was written for the graffitidec_fic challenge on livejournal, with the prompt of murder. Calling what happens in this fic "murder" is probably controversial. I don't mean to force my views of the issue on anyone, or give anything away, so I won't say anything more. Just be aware that it's open to interpretation.


Also note that this story includes m/m relationships, character death, and mature themes.




A Thread Softly Clinging



1.

When Mike walks back into their newly acquired penthouse apartment, his shoulders are slumped and there is a look in his downcast eyes that makes Chester catch his breath.


Mike unbuttons his coat slowly, as if it’s painful to move. Chester notices that his hands are trembling before Mike slips the coat off, letting it fall to the floor listlessly. His eyes stare at the ground for a long moment before he raises his head to look blankly at Chester, desolation etched on his face.


Chester crosses the room quickly but hesitates at the last minute before touching Mike.


“He’s gone, then?” Chester whispers.


Mike nods.



2.

“ – Brad…”


“SHH!”


“Brad, no, this is a bad idea, let’s just go home and - ” Mike is cut off suddenly by Brad’s hand lying across his mouth.


“Shut up, Mike. We’re gonna get him.” Brad says, then shifts, positioning himself for a better view.


Seven year old Mike shoves his glasses up his nose and grips the tree branch harder. The tree they’re perched high above the ground in sways in the wind, and Mike is starting to regret ever mentioning to Brad that he had been getting picked on by the school’s resident bully.


“Here he comes,” Brad whispers.


“Brad, are you sure we won’t get caught?”


Brad grins at him. He’s missing one of his lower teeth.


“I’m sure. He’ll be too busy trying to get the paint out of his eyes, he won’t be able to see us.”


Mike bites his lower lip, sucking on it thoughtfully for a moment. Then he nods. “Okay.”


Brad grins.


“T minus five…four…three…two…one…blastoff!”


The four balloons filled with paint fall and explode directly on their target. The bully howls in anger, dancing wildly as he struggles to clear the paint of his face.


“ARRRGGGH!!” The cry reaches the two boys’ ears, and they grin at each other for a heady moment before giving each other high fives.


The bully below them runs for his house, several blocks down the road in the middle of their suburban neighborhood. Mike and Brad climb hurriedly out of the tree and run to Mike’s house, holding hands all the way.



3.

“…he was always there for me, Ches, always and I don’t know what to do without him. I don’t know who to be without him next to me. He’s always been there. Always and now he’s gone and I don’t know how I can do this without him, I can’t do it…”


Chester can only tighten his arms around him and hold him in silence and let Mike cry himself to exhaustion.



4.

When Mike turns sixteen, he begins to worry that he’s gay.


When he hesitantly confesses this to his best friend, Brad contemplates this for a moment and then says simply, “Come here.”


Mike rolls off of his bed and walks to the small sofa he has set up in front of his tv, and sits next to Brad. Mike looks at him askance, worrying about his reaction.


Brad rolls his eyes, and then suddenly leans forward and kisses him.


It’s nice enough, warm and familiar and only a bit awkward. But there is a certain element of aversion for both boys. It is, Mike thinks, a bit like kissing his brother.


They break apart, all shyness suddenly gone.


“Well,” Mike says happily, “That didn’t work at all, did it?”


Brad grins and shakes his head. “No, dude, it really, really did not.”


They sit in amused silence for several moments before Brad gives Mike an affectionate pat on the leg and stands.


“Going home?” Mike asks.


“Yeah.” Brad says. “I think I’ll go watch some of my dad’s porn. I need to see boobies after that.” He shudders dramatically and shuts the door behind him, leaving Mike laughing behind him.



5.

“He’s always been a better friend to me than I could ever been to him. He’s…” Mike pauses, trying to find the words. “He’s always there for me when I need him. And now all I can do is watch him die.”


Chester says nothing but keeps running his hand idly over Mike’s shoulder. They lay on their big bed together, surrounded by the various photos and memorabilia that Mike had pulled out of his closet earlier that day. He reaches down and picks up a photo of Brad, still a child, wearing a baseball uniform and posing proudly with a bat on his shoulder.


“When was this?”


Mike peers at it for a moment before breaking out into a watery smile.


“Third grade. Brad decided he loved baseball more than anything for about two weeks before he quit.” Mike laughs softly. “He was horrible. I don’t think he got on base once.”


They’re quiet for a few minutes before Chester observes, “He looks so happy there.”


Mike gives another sad half-smile. “Do you think he was happy? Before the accident?”


Mike’s eyes are imploring Chester to tell him what he wants to hear, and Chester hesitates for a moment before replying.


“Yes,” he says honestly, “I think he was.”



6.

“So did you like him?”


Mike grins enthusiastically while sitting in the passenger seat of Brad’s beat up old car. “Yeah, I did. I can’t wait to sit down and write lyrics with him.”


“Yeah? That’s good.” The words are simple but Mike detects a slight undercurrent. He turns to Brad, puzzled. “What?” He asks suspiciously.


“Hm?”


“What do you mean, ‘that’s good,’ in that tone of voice?” Brad glances briefly at Mike, then looks back at the road.


“Well – are you sure writing lyrics is the only thing you want to do with him?” Mike doesn’t understand the implication until Brad sighs and give a suggestive leer in Mike’s direction. Mike finally gets it.


“What! No! Of course not! Why would you even think that?!”


Mike, Brad thinks, is either a great actor or very, very stupid. Either way, he shrugs and decides not to press the point. But Mike has different plans.


“I said, why would you think that?” he demands, twisting under his seatbelt to better see Brad, who sighs.


“I just meant that you two have good chemistry. You could see it – you could feel it. You were into each other.”


Mike sits back grumpily. “Yeah, but not in that way.” He gives Brad a scandalized look.


“Oh.” Brad says. “Okay then.”


What an idiot, he thinks, then smirks.



7.

Mike closes his eyes painfully and lets the memories of Brad come. Flashes of their life appear in his mind – Brad, five years old, on his first bike – Brad dripping paint filled balloons out of a tree at seven – Brad swinging at eleven, higher than Mike ever dared to – Brad with his first guitar, stringing it clumsily but holding it proudly – Brad in a cap and gown – Brad grinning at him while they were on the very top of a ferris wheel – Brad flashing the devil horns at a screaming crowd – Brad standing in a tux at his wedding, a huge smile on his face – Brad’s eyes gleaming with anticipation as they found a small antique shop – Brad’s surprised and pleased face when he and Chester announced their plans to move in together – Brad’s fingers moving in a blur over his guitar as he played a solo –


And then he opens his eyes, and sees what Brad has been reduced to, and suddenly there are tears in his eyes again.



8.

“Mike, what the hell is going on with you?”


Brad is standing in the middle of Wal Mart and looking at him like Mike has grown a third head. Mike gives him a small sneer in return.


“Nothing is going on with me. Now, do you think he’d like crossword puzzles or SuDoku puzzles better?”


Brad is still staring at him like he’s crazy and now Mike is starting to get annoyed. “What? What’s wrong?”


Brad circles the cart Mike had yanked out of the cart return as they entered the store. “What’s wrong? Let’s see, Mike, in this cart you have two pillows, three blankets, bottled water, candles and lighters, which are in no way going to be allowed in a hospital, two cardboard replications of his favorite paintings, three notebooks, a package of pens, the newest Anne Rice novel, hair gel, hot cocoa, a box of tissues, and two jigsaw puzzles. You haven’t slept in two days, you’ve barely eaten, you look like shit, and all you can think about is whether or not Chester wants crosswords or SuDoku puzzles?!” Brad’s voice grows high and shrill as he rants.


Mike stares at him for a moment. Then he turns back to the magazine rack and says thoughtfully, “I think he’d like the SuDoku book.”


Brad wants to beat his head against the rack of discount dvds next to him, but he refrains. Barely.



9.

“I think he’s responsible for everything good in my life.” Mike slurs slightly, a mostly empty bottle of whiskey on the floor next to him. “I’ve got – I’ve got nothing without him, Ches.”


Chester tightens his arms around him. “You’ve got me,” he points out.


Mike smiles slightly. “He’s the reason I’ve got you, y’know.”


“What do you mean?” Chester’s brow furrows slightly.


“He’s the one that made me realize that we were in love with one another.” Mike looks up at his lover and smiles again. “He knew before I did that I loved you.”



10.

“This is so ridiculous!” Brad finally lets the frustration of the past hour explode.


Mike stares at him, shocked. They’re sitting on Mike’s couch, drinking beer and watching movies. Since Anna left him, it’s become their Saturday night routine.


Mike blinks at Brad. “I know the beer’s sort of bad, but I’ve got some Heineken in the fridge if you want - ”


“Not the beer! You! You and Chester! You’re both ridiculous!”


“What?”


“You’ve been divorced for what now, five months? And he’s been divorced for three? And the best thing you can think of to do is sit around and watch - ” he picks up the dvd cover “ – Runaway Bride – Runaway Bride, Mike!”


“I - ” Mike draws himself up indignantly. “I like Runaway Bride!”


Brad slaps his forehead in frustration, then turns and puts his hands on Mike’s shoulders.


“Listen up, Shinoda. You and Chester – who is also a clueless little shit, by the way – are madly in love with one another – Nuh uh uh!” Brad gives Mike a shake when he opens his mouth to protest. “That wasn’t a question. You are in love with one another – Mike, he feels the same way bout you as you do about him. So why are you both still moping around?”


Mike gapes at him. “I – that is completely – out of your mind – couldn’t possibly…”


Mike pauses. He thinks for a few moments.


“Really?” He says hopefully, looking, Brad thinks, like a kid who has just been told that Christmas is going to come once a month this year but doesn’t quite believe it yet. He resists the urge to roll his eyes at his friend.


“Yes, Mike, really really. Now what are you going to do about it?”


Mike thinks for another minute, then grabs his coat and car keys. “Can you let yourself out?”


“Yes, idiot.” Brad can’t resist the eye roll this time.


Mike beams at him despite the insult. “Okay! Bye!”


Brad watches as Mike runs out the door and drives away in a rush. What a doofus, he thinks affectionately, and sits back down to finish watching Runaway Bride.



11.

Mike sits, and stares at Brad – at the pale ghost that used to be Brad – for long hours, and contemplates life and death and all that falls in between.


When he had first found out, he had raged for days. He had been physically sick with the fury that ripped through him. He didn’t sleep, pacing the small hospice room and cursing the world, the gods, fate – everything. When he was unceremoniously kicked out of the insitution, he drove until he found a small, out-of-the-way bar, and got in the first and last bar fight of his life. Drunk, bruised, and furious, he drove home anyway, tempting fate to kill him.


Then had come sorrow. Blinding, searing sorrow – the kind that sinks into a person and rots them from the core – the kind that aches constantly as if some part of them has been torn out. Mike stayed in their bed for several days, surrounding himself with photo albums and boxes full of things from their childhood and college years, all filled with memories of Brad.


After sorrow, there came horror. Mike stopped sleeping again. Even when he closed his eyes, he could see the image of his best friend lying motionless (never to move again, Mike thought, and shivered) on that small hospice bed, being kept alive by wires and tubes and pumps and whirring, clicking machines. It wasn’t living. His body would be kept alive, but his mind was gone. And Brad would become thinner and thinner until eventually his body just stopped accepting nutrients, and then he would starve to death, wasting away as Mike watched helplessly, unable to do anything to ease his friend’s passing.


It wasn’t to be abided.


So he sits faithfully by Brad’s bedside, and he waits, head in his hands, eyes staring blankly, until eventually, his opportunity comes. The personnel are severely understaffed, and Mike has learned their routine well. It’s all too easy to avoid their rounds.


He stands. He does not weep. He does not hesitate, but he does bend down to kiss Brad lightly on the cheek. He smoothes a hand gently over the unrepentant curls.


And he reaches for the power cord.



12.

When Mike walks back into their newly acquired penthouse, Chester looks up without a question in his eyes. But the silence between them is unbearable, so he asks anyway.


“He’s gone, then?”


And Mike nods.

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