Category Linkin Park

Snapshots of Grief by lpfan503

In the Studio

A/N: This fic was inspired by Phoenix's instagram post a few weeks back of the guys in Mike's home studio. I couldn't stop thinking about how hard it must be for them to be rehearsing without Chester... and this story is the result. My first fic. I hope you enjoy.

written October 22, 2017


In the Studio

They are coming today. The guys are coming to the house and the studio and you have to be ok, you have to walk up the stairs and walk inside and sit at the controls for the first time and just make it though the first of what seems to be endless rehearsals without… him. Without Chester. It doesn’t seem real, that the five of you have agreed to step out on stage so soon, while the wound is still bleeding, to honor your lost vocalist. Your best friend. It has only been eleven weeks. Eleven of the longest weeks of your life, the worst weeks you can remember.

The first days were a blur, a whirlwind of frantic activity that the pain didn’t seem to break through. There was business to attend to, phone calls to be made, people to speak with… and then… his identification. You knew it was Chester but your heart ached just under the numbness that had covered your body like too much wine. You knew when Talinda grasped your hand and barely breathed the words begging you to go with her, up the stairs to where Chester lay in the bedroom, that you had failed him, failed her. You had to shoulder the burden of seeing him, knowing you would never forget the scene in front of you. You had to do this, for him, for her, for yourself. You had to know it was true.

You shake your head and take a deep breath and press down on the handle and another memory flashes unbidden, brief and fleeting, Chester’s bright eyes laughing from his seat on the grey couch, ankle crossed over his knee. Chester’s hands on the guitar, stilled as he tipped his chin back and those dark eyes sparkled…

No, Shinoda. He’s not there, you tell yourself.

But stepping inside you still feel that rush of anticipation, that he would be there, before the wave of grief takes your breath from your chest for a moment. Scanning the room, seeing the cushions strewn with hundreds of rainbow origami cranes, where he should have been sitting, waiting. You close your eyes and block them out, block out the cracked door to the vocal booth where his headphones lay haphazardly on the music stand, a light layer of dust already visible on them. Block out the scrawl of his handwriting weaving in and out of yours on the new lyric sheets that were already being worked on, despite the newness of the latest album. Block out the coffee cup he’d left on the corner of your workstation just a week before… before… despite your threats to break them over his head if he kept leaving half filled cups around your expensive gear. He knew you’d never do it. Now you can’t bear to move his cup despite the nastiness of the twelve week old coffee inside.

Open your eyes, you tell yourself. You have to get everything ready. You have to be ok. The guys will be here soon. Your eyes settle again on the cranes. What are you going to do with all these cranes? You have a finished product in mind but you haven’t picked an adhesive yet, and besides, what’s the rush? You have so much time now, without him. Time that is unfilled, silent, aching, and grey. Nothing is the same, will ever be the same, but right now all that matters is that you find somewhere to store one thousand and one origami cranes.

The crack in the vocal booth door catches your eye again. He never could just shut the door all the way. You used to smile and shake your head and think “damnit, Chaz” when you walked over to shut the door after he’d leave. It’s been cracked open since before. Everything in this room is from before, except the place on the floor you curled up the Saturday evening of his memorial service, the place you’d finally allowed the tears to fall. You’d cried yourself into pieces, burying your face in the hoodie he’d left on the couch, aching for him, for one last moment to look into his eyes and tell him exactly how much he meant to you. Maybe he would have listened. Maybe he would have stayed. Maybe your life would still be different now, eleven weeks later, but in an entirely other way. You’ll never know what he would have said in that moment. You’ll regret not saying it forever.

You start carefully scooping paper cranes up in your hands and depositing them inside the vocal booth. They litter the floor with bright spots of color. Your artist’s eye and lyricist’s brain think for a moment of the metaphor in that visual on the floor. Chester was the bright spot, the color, the magic that made your dream a reality. You keep dropping cranes on the floor until it’s covered, and you think satisfyingly that you’ve put them safely away temporarily. Nobody will be inside the vocal booth today.

You absently push the door closed behind you as you scan the room, and you don’t notice that the weight causes it to stop an inch before it closes. Things look normal. Like before. Except for his hoodie, and you pick it up and close your eyes again, bringing it to your face and inhaling. It smells like you and a sharp pain punches you in the stomach. It’s lost the scent of his cologne, his Chesterness, and you feel like you’ve been robbed of something important, irreplacable. After a few long moments, you open your eyes, brushing the cotton across your cheek before folding the garment and setting it next to your keyboard.

Before you can scoot the lyrics into your folder, you hear footsteps on the stairs and then there’s Brad, eyes wide and feet bare, his black and grey tank top fitting your mood perfectly. After all, you’ve been wearing a lot of black lately. You know it makes you look exactly as tired as you feel, and you try to care, but you just don’t. Brad sucks in a slow breath as he looks around the studio, and walks in, heading for his guitar in the corner without meeting your eyes. As he picks it up the smallest smile ghosts over his lips and you know he’s enjoying the reunion with the instrument. It’s been eleven weeks.

You sit in your chair and tip your head back, watching and listening as your oldest friend quietly and with practiced ease goes about tuning the guitar, turning his head to one side and listening with his eyes closed. You don’t need to speak, and it’s comforting right now. Being here, in this space, in the studio, seemed like such an impossibility even yesterday. You’re easing in, all of you need space at first, even in each other’s presence.

Brad’s lightly picking through the notes of something he’s been singing in his head since Chester left you, when Rob walks in almost reverently, heading straight for his stripped down set in the corner, placing a hand on the wall beside the kit and leaning his forehead on his bicep. You avert your eyes for a moment, staring out the window beside him, swallowing thickly and willing yourself not to cry. It’s been hard to talk to Rob at all these past weeks, and you know he’s terrified of the upcoming show and how he will make it though without breaking down on stage. You think that at least he doesn’t have to try to sing with those emotions bubbling up inside, and wish for a moment you could play drums more than just a little bit. You wish you could hide behind long hair and an elaborate drum kit instead of standing alone… alone for the first time in twenty years, alone singing words you know in your sleep but that will never sound right without his voice. Alone, in the front, without him to soak up the spotlight and leave just the perfect amount that you’re comfortable with. You feel the panic start to settle in and think there’s no way you can do this and then Dave is there, murmuring ‘good morning’ in a low voice from the door.

He looks around the room, at Brad still lightly picking out notes, at Rob slowly taking a seat behind the drums, and crosses over to the couch, settling comfortably back into the cushions and facing you, watching, waiting. He zeros in on the vocal booth and you turn your head that direction.

Chester has left the door open again, you think, before you remember. He’s not here. He’s not gone downstairs for a glass of water, or off to the bathroom, or into the hall to take a phone call. You follow Dave’s gaze and see that his eyes have lit upon the cranes, the mound spilling from inside the vocal booth, but he stays quiet, then looks at you with his heart in his eyes. You swallow and smile, tentatively, and his eyes are warm and understanding in response.

When Joe arrives with a bucket of chicken, the atmosphere of the room shifts and you feel, for a moment, a sliver of joy to be back in this room with your brothers. It’s greasy and terrible for you and reminds you of your early touring days, and maybe that was what Joe was going for. A different kind of nostalgia. You hear him mention he’d sketched out the design for the race car and you nod, knowing he wants your approval. It leads into a sort of discussion about what you might want to play on the concert, and you all try desperately to cling to the routine of voting on songs to keep your minds off the reality that there can no longer be a tied vote. There will never be a tied vote again, spiraling into hours long negotiating and passionate arguments for or against… there are only five of you now, every song approved has a majority vote.

After a while, you grow weary of the discussion and your head spins with all the implications, all of the responsibility you feel for honoring Chester the way he deserves. While the guys continue in soft voices, your eyes again catch the lyrics you and Chester started. You look at how he’s crossed through a line you wrote, rewriting it in his scrawl, and adding a quickly drawn picture of a unicorn cat with wings and a lollipop in the margin. Your eyes prick with tears as you remember his carefree singing backstage on the topic of unicorns and lollipops. You add a leprechaun on a skateboard underneath, and then sigh.

“Take a look at these lyrics… maybe we can turn them into something new for the concert,” you say, sliding Chester’s unicorn cat across the desk to Dave, before turning back to your workstation.

Rising, you pick up the coffee cup and slowly walk down the stairs. Behind you, you hear the beginnings of something new, something you’ll put your own voice to now. You’ll be ok. You all will.

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