Category Linkin Park

Things aren't the way they were before by halvlang

Happy Birthday

Hey everyone,

I wrote this standalone on Brad’s birthday. It took me a while to re-write it afterward until I thought of it as done, but here we go.

It is posttraumatic and sad, please note that before you start reading. I don't even know where this came from. But it was in my head obviously, and I prefer to let things out these days.



There is a hole in Brad’s chest. It hurts like hell and no matter how hard he tries, he can’t ignore it. His breathing is heavy and his body is aching.

“Happy Birthday.” Elisa is coming back to bed with a big smile on her face and places a kiss on her husband’s lips. She doesn’t get any reaction and that’s the second, she sees the traces of tears on his cheeks.

She doesn’t need to ask. It’s not the first time and it’s not going to be the last. All she can do is laying down next to him, dragging him into a hug.

“Do you wanna talk about it?” Elisa is not surprised when Brad is shaking his head and just continues to stare out of the window that he has his eyes fixed on. The sun is rising and he can hear the kids downstairs. He knows that he should be there with them but the weight on his shoulders is so heavy that he couldn’t get up.

Actually, he can’t now either. Not even when his wife is telling him about the cake waiting. Yes, he loves everything sweet. But right now, all he wants to do, is staying here, in the safety of his bed.

Elisa senses that this is more than a bit of sadness that sometimes overcomes him when waking up, either after a bad dream or when unfiltered thoughts coming to his head when just dangling on the edge between sleep and awake.

She isn’t sure how to explain this to the kids waiting downstairs for their dad, with self-made gifts and expectations on their faces. Proud to show him what they made and so eager for a smile and a compliment of their dad.

Of their dad that is withdrawn into himself often, just leaving the room in the middle of a conversation when the tears are forcing themselves out.

She sights and gives him another kiss.

“Please, come down for a bit.”

Brad closes his eyes and swallows heavily, grabbing the blanket around his body a bit tighter. He really thinks he can’t do it and holding on to the fabric seems like holding on to this feeling as well.

Then there is a knock on the door. Careful but audible. His oldest is sticking his head in the bedroom and Elisa and Brad both know that he got send upstairs by the other two, checking out what’s going on. He enters the room and climbs on the mattress. There are days he refuses to do that because he feels too old and adult for coming in his parent’s bed but he senses that something is off and wants to figure out what it is.

Brad is getting himself together, even though every muscle and nerve in his body is tensed up. His mind screams at him to run but he knows that he shouldn’t. And so, he stays, letting his son hug him and telling him Happy Birthday.

He isn’t feeling happy, a thought that he wisely keeps for himself. With his son’s hand around his own he manages to get up and when he finds himself in his kitchen, surrounded by his loved family, cake in front of him, he takes a moment to catch his breath. He ignores the pain that is lingering somewhere inside him and he actually enjoys being down here. His smile is honest when the kids are handing over their presents.

Breakfast is going fine and Brad even manages to keep it together when his parents call. And his parents-in-law.

Dave is the first person that he mutes. Next, it’s Joe and then Dave again. Elisa is eying him but not commenting on it. He reads the text that Rob sends him only halfway and doesn’t bother to answer.

The day proceeds slow, the kids and Elisa are sticking around, trying to cheer him up. A few times he manages to actually forget about the dark hole that is so evident today. When Mike rings, just before lunchtime, he isn’t answering either and so Elisa gets hold of his arm and drags him down on the couch before he can run upstairs to hide his phone somewhere he can’t hear it ringing.

“Brad… Why aren’t you talking to them?”

He isn’t answering immediately because he isn’t sure if he has the right words to describe it. After a few minutes of silence, he gives is a try.

“Talking to them makes it real. The four of them call and he… isn’t. When I don’t answer the phone, I can pretend that I will just see all of them later and that’s why he isn’t calling me now.”

Elisa has a sad smile on her face.

“That makes sense. I wish I could help you. Maybe we should still invite everyone over tonight? It’s spontaneous but maybe some have time? I know you said…”

“I said I don’t want a celebration and that’s still how I feel.”

“But last year… that was nice.”

“I was on meds and high as a kite.”

Elisa pauses her thoughts and sorts out her mind for a second.

“You are right. You were in a really bad state last year around this time. And I understand that some days are harder. But see how far you have come. The meds are gone and so are the weeks when you wouldn’t be able to function at all. Because you fought through it. You are so strong.”

Brad is touched by her words and whips away a few tears. He is leaning over and kissing his wife. They only get stopped by three kids running into the room and making disgusted noises by the picture of their parents sharing an intimate moment with each other.

It makes the whole atmosphere in the room shift. Because Brad actually has to laugh and provocative, he drags Elisa closer for another kiss. Just for a second before he runs after his kids, chasing them through the house.

The lunch goes just fine. The kids ask why they don’t go out, as they normally do for birthdays, but they are fine with the simple answer that Elisa cooked Brad’s favourite meal. It might help that filled pancakes are also their favourite.

It’s the phone that rings again right when they are done and Brad can see the number on the display. Immediately, he answers, holding his breath.

“Hey, Brad.” The guitarist wasn’t expecting to hear Talinda’s voice and he is just hanging up. No, he definitely can’t deal with that right now. Before Elisa gets an explanation, he is heading upstairs and closes the bathroom door behind him.

Elisa isn’t sure if she should follow him but the phone rings again and she might get more answers out of taking this call and see whoever called just a minute earlier, than from her husband.

Brad is hiding for an hour, emptying his stomach and crying, before Elisa has it with him and threatens to break the lock and somehow, he decides that it’s safer to open the door.

He has been crying and holding onto the pain that came to the surface when he realized that it was Chester’s wife calling. Not the singer. He never changed the contact in his phone. For a second, when he heard the ring and saw Chester’s name on the display, he made himself believe that it was actually his friend calling.

Reality hit him hard. It has before, but today, he just doesn’t want to keep it down. He is quite sure that he wouldn’t be able to, even if he would try.

When he allows it to come to him, pictures of his last birthdays are floating to his mind. Memories of a singing Chester, the same song every year. Happy Birthday, but either in a silly high voice or in a silly deep voice. Also, hard rock style. Reggae. Opera. Whatever came to the singer’s mind, but never the same twice. Brad doesn’t know how he even kept track of those things over all the years but he did and so Brad got surprised with a different version of the same song every year.

He holds on to Elisa when she is sitting down next to him on the bathroom floor. She has talked to Talinda and apologized for her husband’s behaviour. She was met with understanding and that’s what she lets Brad know. That people are not mad at him when he acts out. He doesn’t really care right now but Elisa knows that he will as soon as the dark cloud over his mind will disappear.

She makes him leave the bathroom and take a nap. It will do him some good, he is mentally exhausted, even though it’s just early afternoon.

Before Elisa leaves the bedroom, she is taking his phone. He really needs some rest and she needs advice. Therefore, she is calling Mike. He knows the guitarist the best and maybe has an idea how to help out. He already suspected that something was wrong when Brad wasn’t answering his phone and it made the emcee worried. When Elisa calls him, he is already on his way over to their house.

Half on the phone and half face-to-face when he arrives, they make a plan.

It’s risky and maybe Brad will be mad at them, but they have to try. Seeing her husband that miserable on his birthday is hurting Elisa nearly as much and Mike wants his best friend to be happy today. Ok, not only today, obviously. But especially today.

After they agreed on the details, both start phoning around.

Later, when the sun sets, Elisa goes upstairs and wakes up Brad. He is grumpy and just wants to go back to sleep. Maybe tomorrow will be easier. He doubts it right now but who knows. It’s not that he hasn’t been there before and his wife was right, it was rarely that he felt that off for a whole week anymore.

But again, Elisa gets him convinced to take a shower and get dressed. From the bedroom, Brad can hear the kids fighting over something but doesn’t have the energy to really care. He asks Elisa to deal with it and she leaves him alone for a few minutes. Not without him promising that he will come downstairs when he is done putting clothes on.

Brad isn’t really sure why sweatpants wouldn’t do and why Elisa gave him some jeans, but then he hears more voices on his way down the stairs. The urge to just hide is really strong right now, but there is something that makes him continue.

It’s a song, sung by more than just one person. He can hear the kids and his wife. He can also hear the other guys. When he steps into the living room, he is faced by them and their wives. By his own wife. His children and all the other kids. Talinda is smiling at him as well. They sing and Brad is just standing in the doorway, not moving another inch.

When they are done, Mike is stepping forward, collecting him in his arms and dragging him against his chest.

“Happy Birthday, B. I know how much you liked this tradition… So… There has never been a chorus version for you. That’s the special treat for this year.”

Brad is whipping away tears but he nods against his best friends’ body that he is clinging to. He is right, that has never happened. The other guys are up next, each hugging him and telling him their wishes. Then the wives. Some of the kids do the same, others just don’t bother and rather focus on each other and what to play while the adults are busy with emotional stuff.

Meanwhile, Elisa is answering the ringing doorbell, letting the guy with all the pizza in. She obviously wasn’t prepared to cook for that many people and they don’t need anything fancy. Anna and Rob help her to get the table set and they all find themselves sitting around.

Brad is still a bit overwhelmed, but also grateful. So unbelievable grateful.

There is still a hole in Brad’s chest. It hurts like hell and no matter how hard he tries, he can’t ignore it. But it is bearable. It is not as infinite and dark when the guys and his family is around.

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