LPfiction

Category Linkin Park

Because Car Crashes Are So Much Fun by Remy

Because Car Crashes Are So Much Fun

I. AM. BACK. For good this time.

O-level exams are over, and English results were brilliant :D

Got an A* and I have you people and this website to thank for it. God knows where my English would be if I didn't have LPF to practice it on.

Beta'd by the awesome Lord Jaja. Go read her stories and proceed to fall in love.

Anyway, read on.

_____________________________


Chester exited the airport, inhaling the smoky air and taking in the noisy atmosphere. So this was Los Angeles, AKA his home for God-only-knows how many years.



His soft brown eyes scanned the crowd for the people who’d promised to pick him up. A few placards here and there bore names like Marcy Curtis and Kevin LaGrange, but none had Chester Bennington, Retard from Arizona or something similar on them. Chester frowned and focused harder.



The sound of squabbling males drew his attention. A short, slightly chubby Asian man was engaged in a shouting match with another, slightly taller Asian, both completely oblivious to the rest of the staring, giving-them-a-wide-berth world. Their companions, a man with a curly afro atop his head and another freakishly-tall one with spiky hair and a goatee, looked disgruntled and impatient. Chester squinted at the placard the taller Asian was holding under his arm. He could read the first two letters – CH – but the rest was obscured by the man’s arm. The last three letters were TON.



His hopes soared, and then fell again as he realized that these apparently mental men could possibly be his future bandmates. He stood there for a while, straining his eyes to read the placard and trying to figure out what the hell to do.



After around three minutes, the tallest guy nudged the hairy one and whispered something, and then looked towards Chester, who just stood there like an idiot. The hairy one looked at Chester too, nodded, and then, after a well-placed kick to the shorter Asian’s shins, started walking towards him.



Chester debated whether or not to turn away and pretend he hadn’t been staring at them, but before he could reach a decision the hairy man approached him and said, “Are you Chester Bennington?”



“Yes!” said Chester, his voice erupting in relief. For a minute he forgot about the fighting Asians. “Are you –”



The man nodded before Chester could finish. “Brad Delson,” he said, holding his hand out. “I’m the guitarist.”



Chester wondered uneasily if it would look rude if he didn’t shake hands. Deciding it would, he gingerly placed his hand in the man’s larger one and then, after a single shake, withdrew it rather quickly.



The tall one had joined them. “Hi,” he said shyly. Thankfully he didn’t hold his hand out. “I’m Rob Bourdon. I’m the drummer.”



“Hi,” Chester replied, glancing over at the Asians, who were still arguing.



“Don’t mind them,” Brad told Chester. “They’re especially cranky today because our car broke down.”



“Then how did you get here?” inquired Chester.



“Took a cab,” Brad answered. “Well, Rob didn’t. He walked over to the nearest rentals place and rented a car.”



Rob looked pleased with himself. “Thank God I did, too,” he said, relaxing a little once he realized Chester wasn’t going to pull out a gun and shoot him or something. “The cabs here are tiny.”



“And likely to break down within the first mile,” added Brad.



The Asians had finally noticed him. They came over, pointedly ignoring each other. The short one strode up to Chester and forced him into an abrupt hug, causing Chester to drop his bags with a muffled yell. He didn’t let go, however – at least, not until Rob grabbed the back of his shirt and pulled him away. “Stop it,” he hissed.



The Asian took no notice of him. “I’m Remy,” he declared. “I’m the DJ.”



“O-okay,” said Chester, still trying to convince his heart to slow down. He’d been uneasy with physical contact ever since having been abused during his childhood, but he didn’t know how to explain to these apparently mentally unstable men.



“I’m Mike, I’m the one who called you,” said the other, rolling his eyes at Remy. “And he’s Joe. Ignore him, he’s an idiot.”



Joe/Remy stuck his tongue out at Mike. “You’re an idiot!” he declared. “Besides, Chester likes me better.”



Chester was feeling quite helpless at this point. He didn’t quite get how he was supposed to adjust with these men, let alone work with them.



“You don’t know that,” argued Mike, forgetting Chester. “He didn’t say so.”



“He hugged me!”



“You forced him into it,” pointed out Mike. “And he looked like he was going through surgery without anesthesia.”



“Like I said, ignore Mike and Joe,” said Brad. “They’re retards.”



Both Mike and the person now known as Joe turned to their guitarist. “You’re a retard!” they exclaimed in unison.



Brad rolled his eyes and didn’t reply. To Rob he said, “Why don’t you help him with his bags, and I’ll drive the car around.”



“Okay,” agreed Rob, and Brad jogged off. To Chester he said, “That’s all you’ve got?”



Chester glanced down at his two, rather small bags and tried not to feel ashamed. He couldn’t help it if he was poor. “Y-yeah,” he mumbled.



“I’d figured there’d be more, considering you’re moving and all,” Rob said. “But it’s okay – less stuff for you to haul around.”



“I guess,” muttered Chester, still not looking up from his shoes.



Surprisingly, it was Mike who came to Chester’s rescue. “Let him be, Rob,” he said. “At least he doesn’t carry around unnecessary junk, like someone I can mention.”



Joe blew a raspberry but didn’t say anything. Rob picked up Chester’s bags, turning a deaf ear to his protests, and then said, simply for the sake of small talk, “I like your shoes.”



“Oh. Thanks,” Chester said, pink coloring his face. Compliments weren’t generally sent out his way.



“So, how do you like it so far?” asked Mike.



“It’s okay, I guess,” answered Chester, shifting awkwardly. “Not very different from Phoenix.”



“Phoenix reminds me,” Rob said, “our bassist sends his apologies that he can’t be here today. He’s got some urgent work to do.”



“It’s okay,” repeated Chester.



Thankfully, Brad arrived then with the SUV and saved them all from further awkwardness.


________________________________________



Joe and Mike started arguing again, this time about the seating arrangements. Brad was already in the driver’s seat and Rob had climbed in after him, just after dumping Chester’s bags in the very last seat. Mike had gotten into the middle row, right side, and very politely (not) told Joe to get his rear in the back. Joe wanted the seat next to Mike, however, if only to irritate him further. Guessing correctly at his intentions, Mike saved that seat for Chester.



Finally, annoyed beyond belief, Brad yelled, “Shut up, both of you! Joe, get your ass in the back, now. Mike – I hear one word from you, and you can walk home.”



Chester tried not to smile at the mutinous expressions on their faces. He reached for the seatbelt, and tried unsuccessfully to buckle it in. Mike, who was already strapped in, said, “Maybe it doesn’t work.”



“It doesn’t matter,” said Rob from the front seat. “It’s only a half-hour drive home, and hopefully nothing will happen.”



Trusting fate, Chester let the matter go.


________________________________________



As it turned out, Brad wasn’t exactly Driver of the Year and Chester soon found himself sorely missing his seatbelt. Everyone else was happily buckled in and comfortable, but Chester was tossed around here and there. Finally, tired of this not-so-pleasant treatment, he asked, sounding dangerously childish, “Are we there yet?”



“No,” said Mike. “Traffic’s being a bitch.”



Chester bit his bottom lip to prevent an unpleasant retort from falling. He’d just hit his head on the roof and was not happy about it.



Brad and Rob had begun arguing about directions.



“I’m telling you, that’s road’s a dead end –”



“Shut up, Bourdon. I’m in the driving seat, therefore I know better.”



“Says who?”



“Says your mom.”



“Keep my mom out of this.”



“No.”



“Yes.”



“Your mom.”



“Your dad.”



“Your aunt.”



“Your uncle.”



“Your gay half-brother.”



“I don’t have a gay half-brother.”



“Whatever.”



Chester looked out of the window. Whichever road they were on, it was eerily quiet and Chester couldn’t help feel as if the rest of the world had simply fallen away. This seemed too much like Rob was right.



Apparently Mike agreed. “Brad, where the fuck are we?” Chester didn’t know Mike very well, but even he could tell the too-calm tone meant danger.



“Los Angeles, CA?” suggested Brad, sounding a little nervous.



“I can see that,” Mike replied, still extremely calmly. “Just where in Los Angeles, CA exactly?”



“Okay, fine!” screamed Brad before Mike could begin throttling him. “I screwed up, okay? Rob was right, I was wrong, happy?”



“No!” yelled Joe from the backseat. “Not even a little! Oh, and Mr. Froggy’s gonna visit you in your dreams tonight and cut you up into bite-sized pieces.”



Chester just gaped. Mike said, “Joe likes frogs,” which seemed like a major understatement.



Brad took his hands off the wheel to run them through his massive hair. That turned out to be a big mistake, because they’d been rapidly approaching the DEAD END sign ahead of them. As it was, it wasn’t just a dead end. The road was broken off, and construction to fix it back wasn’t complete yet. There was a big fifteen-feet-deep hole where the rest of the road should have been, and the excavated pit was fenced off only with a flimsy roll of fluorescent yellow tape.



Rob was the first to scream (rather shrilly for someone his size, noted Chester through his panic), and that jolted Brad into action. He did something very silly, but which saved their lives – he slammed down on the brakes and tried to turn, both at once.



The car teetered dangerously on its right wheels for an agonizing thirty seconds – right on the brink of the pit. The yellow tape was tangled in the car’s wheels. No one moved, no one breathed. Chester in particular was mourning his lack of a seatbelt.



The car tilted another ten degrees towards the ground, before slamming down on its right side. The sound of glass smashing was audible as the windows on the right side went to hell. For a nanosecond Chester was suspended in midair, before gravitational force made a comeback and thumped Chester right on the broken glass.



Chester couldn’t help it; he yelled. Mike, who was now in extremely close range of Chester, jumped a little in his seat, startled. He had never heard a scream like that in his life, not even his mother’s.



“Are you okay?” asked Joe, sounding as if he was in a heap. He was.



“No,” whimpered Chester, hating the way his voice sounded. “I think I got glass in my arm.”



“That’s gotta hurt,” commented Rob, hanging sideways. Chester was the only one who’d fallen – everybody else was held in place by those damn seatbelts.



“Ya think?” muttered Brad sarcastically in response to Rob.



At that moment Chester realized he actually felt a slight breeze under him, almost as if –



“OH FUCK!” he screamed as he realized that if he made one wrong move he could fall out the window and down to his death. He certainly was small enough to get through the window.



“What is it?” asked Mike, alarmed. People generally did not yell this loudly in his vicinity.



“The window’s broken,” Chester pointed out, his already pale face losing whatever color it normally possessed. “If I move I’ll fall out, and I don’t wanna die!” The last part was a frantic wail.



“Relax, you won’t,” Mike said.



“How do you know?” demanded Chester, quite forgetting that he had met this man only an hour or so ago. He could not really be blamed for being indignant; he was, after all, half-suspended in midair and in very real danger of breaking his neck.



Mike answered, “I’ve got a way, but we’re both going to have to be very careful. No sudden movements, ‘kay?”



“Do I look suicidal to you?” asked Chester rhetorically, not expecting an answer and not getting one either.



Mike fumbled around for a little, jostling Chester and scaring him even further (for Mike and Chester were now squashed together, Mike hanging sideways from his seat and Chester wedged between Mike and the seat in front). “What are you doing?” he hissed.



“Just trust me on this,” said Mike calmly.



“I don’t even know you!” Chester exclaimed.



Mike paused in his movements to look at Chester, having to tilt his head at an interesting angle to do so. “Maybe so,” he said, “but you’re practically on top of me now. That makes you my responsibility.”



“That sounds so wrong,” quipped Joe. He was ignored.



Chester thought for a few seconds, regarding the man he was squishing. Finally he said, “Okay.”



Mike suddenly stuck both his legs out, startling Chester, and stuck them into the seat in front of him. Rob said, sounding annoyed, “What’d you just kick me for?”



“I didn’t,” Mike said absently. “Okay, Chester, brace yourself. You might not like this, but at least you’ll be safe.”



Chester’s apprehension grew, but he refrained from protesting, instead saying, “Okay. What do I do?”



“Just grab onto something and hold it tightly,” instructed Mike. “I’ll manage the rest.” Interpreting Chester’s look correctly, he added, “I don’t think you’re dumb, I’m only saying that if you move around too much you’ll fall out.”



That killed Chester’s argument, and he began looking around for something sturdy to grab hold of. Eventually he grabbed the little handlebar that’s usually on the top of the window, but was next to his hip now. “I’m ready, I think,” he said, a little nervous.



Mike had finished wedging his legs against Rob’s seat, and was now taking off his seatbelt. Not liking how this was going and beginning to panic again, Chester repeated, “What are you doing?”



“It’s okay,” said Mike, and for some reason his confidence and calmness assured Chester, and he relaxed. Somewhat. It’s hard to relax completely when you’re over a steep drop fifteen feet deep.



Mike smiled at him encouragingly, and then said, “Okay, look, can you move a little and just sit on my legs?”



So wrong,” Joe commented. Again, he was ignored.



Chester evaluated the distance between himself and Mike’s legs. Deciding he could manage, he said, “Yeah, I think I can make it.”



“All right,” said Mike. “Be careful.”



“Don’t see any other option,” muttered Chester, before carefully pushing himself away from the side of the car with his free hand. When he was sufficiently away from the window (or lack thereof, as it were), he suddenly let go of the handlebar and swung himself upwards and on Mike’s legs. Mike, who was fully expecting a lot of weight, was surprised but did not comment. Easier on him if Chester was light.



“You secure?” he asked when Chester stopped moving.



“Yeah, I guess,” he answered. It felt strange to be the only one the right way up.



“Good, that’s good,” said Mike. “Okay, this may be awkward, but just bear with me, okay?”



Chester’s euphoria at being in a safer position ebbed and he asked, somewhat apprehensive of the answer, “What are you going to do?”



Mike didn’t answer his question, saying instead, “Just keep holding on to something steady.”



Chester grabbed the headrest on Rob’s seat, accidentally hitting Rob’s head with his knuckles. “What’d you punch me for?” asked Rob indignantly.



“I didn’t,” replied Chester. “It was an accident. I’m sorry.”



“It’s okay,” said Rob, rubbing the side of his head and muttering something about violent bandmates.



“You ready, Chester?” asked Mike, and Chester replied in the affirmative. Without warning Mike reached out with both arms and grabbed Chester around the middle, ignoring his surprised yell and pulling him flush against himself. Chester flailed around for a few moments until he heard a click and realized that Mike had buckled the seatbelt around both of them.



“What the fuck?” he asked in the ensuing silence. His entire body was tingling, a sensation he did not appreciate. Being jostled against people in a life-threatening situation was tolerable; having to sit on Mike’s legs only just bearable because it was safer; but this? This was just awkward. And embarrassing. And it made Chester’s sixth sense scream its throat out. For he was sitting, strapped in, in a stranger’s lap.



“It’s okay,” said Mike, and Chester was increasingly tiring of that phrase, even if it did make him feel better. Only a little bit, though. “Look, this way at least you won’t be falling and breaking your neck.”



That fact offered small comfort. Chester hadn’t been in such close physical proximity of strangers since he’d been thirteen. Even if it saved his life, it didn’t make him feel comfortable – in fact, he felt close to throwing up. That was not made any better by the fact that all the blood in his body was rushing to one side, making him feel slightly dizzy.



When he didn’t reply, Mike spoke again, sounding concerned. “Are you all right?”



“I’m fine,” Chester managed to croak out. He wriggled a little so he was touching as little of Mike as possible. Mike didn’t seem to mind; it had to be just as awkward for him, too.



Joe said, “Oh my God, he’s in your lap, Mike. I always knew you were gay.”



Mike growled. “Shut up, Joe.”



"Wait, you're gay?" asked Chester, twisting to look at Mike.



“No,” Mike told Chester. “Joe’s just being a bitch. I’m straight.”



“He is,” confirmed Rob. Brad had yet to say anything.



"Nothing wrong with being gay," Chester commented. "Was just asking."



“Why is Brad so quiet?” wondered Joe, sounding concerned now. “Delson, you okay?”



“I’m hanging sideways,” Brad answered. “I’m fuckin’ peachy.”



“Congratulations,” said Rob drily. “I’m the one with a broken window under me.”



“Yeah, but your part of the car isn’t over the pit,” pointed out Mike. “You’re on solid ground.”



“Lucky us,” added Brad, not sounding satisfied by that at all.



After an uneasy silence Chester said, a little uncertainly, “You don’t have to blame yourself.”



“ ‘Course he does,” Rob said. “If only he’d listened to me –”



“Rob, shut up,” interrupted Mike. To Chester he said softly, “Go on.”



Drawing encouragement from Mike’s words, Chester continued, “Look, Brad. You didn’t do this on purpose. It’s okay, we’re not mad at you. Right?” He twisted around to look at Mike and Joe for confirmation.



“We’re not,” agreed Mike. “Are we, Joe?” he added sternly.



“No, not at all,” said Joe. “In fact, I think I’ll buy you some candy when we get out of here.”



Mike loosened his hold on Chester to raise one arm and flip Joe off. The movement led Chester to realize that Mike’s arms were still around his waist, and his body tensed again. Mike interpreted it correctly and said, “If you’re uncomfortable, just tell me.”



“Okay,” said Chester, but mentally decided not to. Mike had just risked his own neck (and dignity) to get Chester in a safe position – he wasn’t going to whine about it and be ungrateful.



Joe was saying, “Okay, so we’re not mad at Delson. We’re all stuck in extremely difficult positions. I’m beginning to get a headache from all the blood collecting in my head. What do we do now?”



“Has anyone called 911?” inquired Rob.



Silence. Crickets could be heard chirping. Then Brad said, “I’ll call them.”



The cops informed Brad that due to a conflicting schedule and an important issue they were preoccupied with, they were going to take some time. Brad took it to mean they were going to be there in another few hours, at least. Rob groaned loudly; Chester did so inwardly. All he wanted was a bed. Was that too much to ask for?



After around three minutes, Rob said, “Anyone wanna listen to music or something?”



“Is the radio still working?” asked Joe.



“No, not the radio,” explained the drummer. “The antenna’s on the right side of that car and therefore, screwed right now. I meant the cassette player.”



“What tapes have you got?” queried Chester. Some music might just help him feel better.



“There’s lots in the glove compartment, let me see,” answered Rob. After a silence, in which the only sound was plastic against plastic, Rob said, “Okay, so there’s Metallica, AC/DC, some Britney Spears, Tupac, Busta Rhymes, Beatles, Rolling Stones – ooh, look. Elvis.”



“How about we vote on it?” suggested Brad, and everyone indicated their assent.



“Okay,” said Rob, holding up a cassette and trying to read its cover. “The Black Album by Metallica?”



Chester was the only one who wanted to listen to that, so Rob moved on.



All Eyez on Me by Tupac?”



Only Mike.



Bad by Michael Jackson?”



Only Joe and Brad.



The Woman in Red by Stevie Wonder?”



Only Rob himself.



Dookie by Green Day?”



Everyone agreed on that, except for Brad who wanted Britney. But he was ignored and the tape was pushed into the somehow intact cassette player.

Chester relaxed considerably once the music began to play. Unconsciously he began singing along. He didn’t realize everyone had grown quiet until the song ended and the silence became more pronounced. “What is it?” he asked, fidgeting and suddenly uncomfortable again.



“You were singing,” stated Brad.



“Oh. Was I that bad?” asked Chester, beginning to panic internally. What if they said he was and he had to go back to Arizona?



“No, actually,” said Mike, and Chester let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. “You were great.”



“Someone’s in luuuuuuuuuuuuurve,” sang Joe.



“Fuck you,” Mike said to Joe before adding to Chester, “Ignore him, he thinks you’re great too.”



In the faint light Chester could be seen blushing, his cheeks going a pale pink. Rob could see that from the rearview mirror, and partly to get rid of the ensuing silence and partly to keep Joe shut, he hit Play.



Do you have the time



To listen to me whine …



As Chester sang along to Basket Case, a lot more confidently this time, he felt Mike’s body relax. His arm came back from where it had been flipping Joe off again, and wrapped itself around Chester’s waist. Chester’s voice hitched a little but he didn’t pull away. Now that he was used to it, it made him feel safer. Like he knew Mike wouldn’t let him fall.



Mike, for his part, was thoroughly enjoying the song. It sounded even better when Chester sang it, and he caught himself feeling proud. It was, after all, his choice to talk to Chester on the phone and then ask him to come here.

Brad seemed to feel the same way, because when the song ended he said, “Hey Mike, I think we should cancel the auditions.”



“Why?” asked Rob.



“Isn’t it obvious?” Brad asked rhetorically. “We’ve just found our vocalist.”



Chester realized they were talking about him, and not in a negative light, and he blushed again. “Damn good one too,” Joe added, confirming Chester’s belief.



Mike grinned. “So, Chester,” he said. “Welcome to Hybrid Theory.”



Chester was speechless. He’d been hoping for this ever since he’d gotten that call from Mike on his birthday, and now that it had finally happened he had nothing to say. Finally, throat constricting and eyes burning, he managed to say “Th-thank you. So much.”



“No, thank you,” Rob said. “Not a lot of people would have travelled this far for a job they weren’t sure they’d get.”



“Speaking of jobs,” Brad said. “You’re going to have to find work, Chester. Singing alone won’t keep you alive.”



“My brother already talked to someone at Sandy Burger,” Chester told them. “He says I can start in a couple of days.”



“Well, that’s all right, then,” said Brad approvingly.



They lapsed into silence, a friendly one this time. The tape was messed up and emitting a strange keening sound, and so Rob ejected it. Without asking anyone, he put in a Michael Jackson tape and began tapping his fingers along to the catchy, upbeat music. Before long Chester felt his stomach growl. Embarrassed, he tried to hide it, but Mike had felt it under his forearms too, and said, “I got a packet of Cheetos, if you want it.”



“Thanks,” said Chester gratefully. He hadn’t had anything since breakfast.

Mike opened the packet and passed it around, and when it came back to him he began eating too. It was strange, eating in this gravity-defying position. Twice or thrice Chester and Mike reached for the packet at the same time, and then grinned at each other, Chester somewhat shyly. It wasn’t even funny, but Chester felt a lot more contented in a safe position, with good music and food in his stomach.



“How long is it until the cops are here?” queried Joe from the backseat.



Brad shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe another couple of hours, or three.”



“We’re going to get brain-damaged, hanging sideways like this,” grumbled the DJ.



“You’re already brain-damaged,” said Mike jokingly.



Thankfully, Joe seemed to take the jibe for what it was, and he replied, “Yeah, but I’m also a genius. And awesome. That’s why you have me around.”



“Oh, please,” Mike said with a roll of his eyes. Joe laughed in the backseat, and soon they all joined in. Finally, finally, Chester stopped thinking of them as the retarded Asians. They’d reached a truce.



Brad checked his watch, the only one in the car with glow-in-the-dark hands. “It’s midnight,” he reported. “Gonna get cold in a bit.”



As if on cue, Chester shivered. The wind outside had easy access to him and was taking advantage of that fact, blowing in through the broken windows and creeping under his clothes. “You okay?” Mike asked.



“Yeah,” Chester answered, but was proved wrong when he shivered again.



“Rob, didn’t you bring a blanket?” asked Mike, sounding concerned about Chester. It made the singer feel good – no one had been worried about him in longer than he cared to think about.



“Yeah, it’s in the back,” answered Rob. Joe could be heard moving, a few muffled thumps issued, and then a blanket was handed to Mike.



It was old and its edges were frayed, but it made up for that by being fluffy and thick. Mike somehow managed to unfold it, and then he spread it over Chester and himself. “Better?” he asked, and Chester nodded gratefully.



“Thank you,” he said.



“You’re welcome,” answered Mike warmly. “I was going to ask for it anyway – these California winds can be a bitch, especially in April.”



“Are you sure no one else wants it?” asked Chester, welcoming the warmth that spread over him.



“Don’t worry, we’re used to it,” said Brad, but he sounded cold too.



Chester said, “Joe, can you please do me a favor?”



“Sure,” said Joe. “Your wish is my command,” he added in a cheesy tone.



Chester grinned, before saying, “My bags are with you, right?”



“Yes,” answered Joe. “They’re at my feet.”



“There’s a black bag, and it’s got a couple of blankets in it,” Chester said. “I’m afraid they’re old, and maybe not as warm, but –”



“They’ll do perfectly,” said Rob, cutting Chester off. “Thanks.”



“You’re welcome,” replied Chester, smiling and glad that he could help.



The blankets were passed around, and soon everyone was nice and toasty. Joe had a blanket to himself, and Rob and Brad shared the second, larger one. Chester was mistaken – they were warm.



Brad was the first to yawn. Rob said, “Hey, I’ve got an idea.”



“Rob’s got an idea!” exclaimed Joe. “Drinks all around!”



“Shut up, Hahn,” said Rob, but he was grinning too. “Don’t insult my intelligence.”



“What intelligence?” retorted Joe.



“Idea, please,” said Brad loudly, bringing the conversation back on track.



“Okay, I get we’re all sleepy,” said Rob, reverting back to his serious tone. “So how about we sleep in shifts?”



“What do you mean?” asked Mike.



“One of us can stay awake for a bit while the others sleep,” explained Rob. “Let’s say, for around forty-five minutes or so?”



“Good idea,” declared Brad. “So who’s taking the first shift?”



“Me?” suggested Chester. “It’s the least I can do –”



“No, not you,” said Brad. “You’ve got to be tired.”



“I’ll be fine,” insisted Chester, but his statement was interjected with a yawn.



“No, it’s okay,” Joe said. “Rest for a bit. I’ll stay awake.”



“You sure?” asked Brad.



“Stop underestimating my abilities, Delson.”



“Okay, then.”



“How long?” asked Joe.



“Err – forty-five minutes?” suggested Brad.



“Okay,” said Joe. “Give me your cell phone, I’ll play some games in the meantime.”



“Battery’s low,” Brad informed him. “But I think Mike had a paperback with him.”



“And how, pray tell, am I supposed to read it without seriously killing my eyes?” asked Joe.



“Isn’t there a light in the back?” asked Chester.



“I think there is,” Rob said.



“Yeah, there is,” Joe confirmed, having found it. “Okay, Shinoda – paperback, please.”



“I can’t reach it from where I’m sitting,” Mike said. “It’s in the pouch-thingy in the back of Rob’s seat.”



Chester leaned forward and removed it. “This one?” he asked, holding up a copy of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.



“Yeah,” said Mike, taking it and giving it to Joe. “Thanks, Chester.”



“It’s okay,” Chester said, before adding, “The Narnia books were my favorite, when I was little.”



“Mine too,” Mike told him. “Actually, they still are.”



“Weren’t you going to sleep?” came Joe’s voice, slightly muffled due to the book in front of his face. “Is the light going to bother you?”



“No, it’s okay,” Mike said. “Right?” he asked Chester.



“It’s fine,” Chester agreed. He yawned again. “Guess I’m more tired than I thought.” Unconsciously he leaned back and relaxed into Mike, who didn’t comment but instead moved a little to make Chester comfortable. The effect of closing his eyes was instantaneous – sleep was rapidly overtaking Chester and pushing all coherent thoughts from his mind. Dimly he realized that even in this position his head only came up to Mike’s ear, and without thinking much about it he rested his head backwards on Mike’s shoulder. Gravity took effect, and Chester’s head was soon nestled in the crook of Mike’s neck. He was too out of it to care, and besides – he felt safe. And warm.



Mike smiled. He was beginning to like their new vocalist already. Tightening his hold around the already-sleeping singer’s waist, Mike closed his eyes and drifted off. They’d be okay.


________________________________________



Mike was woken three-quarters of an hour later by Joe, who quietly informed him it was his turn to stay awake. Mike nodded, careful not to disturb Chester, and said, “All right, Joe. Get some rest.”



All animosity forgotten, Joe nodded and smiled at Mike, before settling in his seat, careful to avoid the broken glass on his side. He too was over the pit, and he decided he should do something about that before going to sleep. God only knew how Mike and Chester had fallen asleep with a broken window and fifteen feet under them.



Twisting his body to look around behind his seat, he found a long wooden board. He grinned. Perfect. He reached out and managed to grab it, and then leaned forward and said to Mike, “I’ve found something to put over the windows.”



“Awesome!” declared Mike, keeping his voice low so he wouldn’t wake anyone.



“I know, right?” said Joe gleefully. “Now wait a bit while I slide it in place.”

The windows were soon covered, and Joe and Mike both relaxed. Joe said, “All right, I’m out. Good night,” and Mike answered likewise.



Joe was soon asleep, and with nothing to do Mike took to watching Chester.

He looked incredibly peaceful while asleep. Young, too. Mike knew Chester was older than all of them, but right now he looked like a child. His lips were slightly parted and his fingers had somehow curled around Mike’s, gripping them tightly. Mike felt a little strange – after all, they were bandmates but not friends yet – but he didn’t have the heart to do anything about it. It almost seemed a sin to disturb someone sleeping so soundly.



Chester shifted a little and mumbled something, and Mike strained his ears to hear. But Chester didn’t say it again, and so Mike did his best to remain still while Chester moved, apparently to find a more comfortable position. His hands momentarily left Mike’s, and he began squirming a little. He wasn’t heavy, but he sure was bony and Mike felt himself growing uneasy. He couldn’t be blamed for it, either – one does tend to feel a little uncomfortable when there are bony elbows digging into their sides.



Chester said something again, and this time Mike heard a word or two. “No … please …” Mike stiffened as he realized Chester was having a nightmare. He’d never had much experience with nightmares himself – he usually just forgot his own dreams.



Chester’s left arm flailed a little and Mike caught it before he could hurt himself. Grabbing Chester’s other arm and gripping his hands tightly, Mike whispered, somewhat uncertainly, “It’s okay, you’re safe. I won’t let you fall.”



Chester went completely still, and Mike wondered if he’d done something wrong. Before he could think too much on it, however, Chester’s whole body relaxed, his breathing returned to normal and he stopped murmuring. His head landed heavily on Mike’s shoulder, and once again slid into his neck. Mike felt his face go warm – this was certainly an awkward position to be in with someone he’d only just met.



But Chester was sleeping peacefully again and his breathing was deep and uniform, and Mike found himself thinking it couldn’t be so bad. Indeed, it didn’t feel as bad as it had been a while ago. Mike almost felt as if he’d known Chester for years instead of just hours. He realized he was still holding Chester’s hands, and that Chester was holding his as well. Maybe Chester just needed something to keep himself grounded, and that was okay with Mike. He’d already gone through the extremely embarrassing situation of transferring Chester in his lap in the first place, and so he figured holding his hands while he slept couldn’t be bad compared to that. Besides, Chester had soft hands that radiated enough warmth to make Mike forget about the bitchy California winds.



It felt good to have possibly saved someone’s life, and that feeling intensified every time Mike glanced at Chester’s face in the moonlight filtering in from the left-side window. Their situation didn’t seem as threatening as it had done some time ago, and Mike wondered if he wasn’t the only one not minding it at all. He thought about what might have happened if Chester’s seatbelt had been functional, and decided he was rather happy it wasn’t. After all, no better way to bond with a person than save their life and have them sleep curled up against you.



He didn’t know much about Chester, but he could tell it was going to be good having him around. Brad and Joe were always doing something retarded together and Rob was always with Phoenix – when Phoenix was around, at least – that Mike had often found himself getting lonely. Instead of complaining about it he’d dedicated himself to his work, writing and recording like crazy and driving them all as well. While it was an effective job strategy, it didn’t do much for his personal life, and soon Mike caught himself getting bored to death and pensive when he took breaks. Maybe having Chester around would be good for him. It already seemed likely he’d grow close to Chester.



Suddenly his hand brushed over something sharp, and he remembered about the glass in Chester’s arm. It had to be painful, but Chester hadn’t said a word. Mike wondered if he could take it out without hurting Chester, and decided there could be no harm in trying.



He carefully extricated his fingers from Chester’s and moved the blanket aside, switching on the light in the ceiling so he could get a better look. Most of the glass had fallen down in the excavation, and so whatever had gotten into Chester’s arm consisted mainly of small slivers, large enough to easily pull out but not enough to cause extraneous bleeding.



Mike glanced at Chester’s face one more time. Chester was in deep enough sleep to not wake up if Mike was careful. He dropped his gaze back to Chester’s arm and decided to begin with the smallest piece, pulling it out slowly without hurting either himself or, hopefully, Chester.



Chester shifted when it was almost out, but didn’t wake up. His hands, now free, found Mike’s wrist and grabbed it, impeding on Mike’s work. Mike carefully took Chester’s hand and put it on his knees, and began working on the larger pieces, throwing them at his feet when he got them out.

Throughout it all Chester never woke, though he did move around some when it hurt. Mike was glad – it would have hurt more if he’d been awake. When the last piece came out Mike slowly mopped up the small rivulets of blood on Chester’s arm with his own sleeve, and then covered them both up with the blanket once more.



Chester shifted again and turned his head so that his face was now half-hidden in Mike’s neck. Mike raised his hand to absently pat him on the head, and then squinted at his watch in the bright moonlight. His time was up, but there was no way for him to move forward without disturbing Chester – something he didn’t want to do at all. So he lightly kicked Rob’s seat, putting enough force into it to wake Rob up without jostling Chester too much.



“What is it, Mike?” asked Rob groggily.



“Your shift,” answered Mike. “Come on, Rob. Wakey wakey.”



“I hear ya,” muttered Rob, before yawning and stretching. He twisted around in his seat to look at Mike. “You okay back there?”



“Absolutely peachy,” replied Mike.



Rob grinned. “You sorta like him already, don’t you?”



Mike grinned back. “Look at him, Rob. Is it possible to not like someone like that?”



Rob seemed to agree. “He’s not too heavy, is he?”



“No,” Mike told him. “Not at all. And God, he’s warm. Almost does a better job than your blanket.”



“Should I feel insulted?” asked Rob.



“I don’t know,” Mike answered with a yawn, his grin fading. “Man, I’m tired.”



“Go to sleep,” Rob said. “I’ll wake Brad up in a bit.”



Mike nodded and then stopped when the simple movement disturbed Chester, who shifted a little before settling again. “Okay,” he mouthed at Rob, who was watching with fascination.



Rob gave him an easy smile before turning to the front again. Mike dozed off again, his cheek resting on the top of Chester’s head.


________________________________________



It was 3 a.m. when the cops were finally able to come. Rob woke everyone up and told them the news, and they all cheered. Chester blushed deeply and tried to move away when he realized just exactly which position he’d fallen asleep in, but Mike grinned and said, “It’s okay.” Hesitantly Chester relaxed again, suddenly not minding the physical contact at all. Mike seemed like an awesome dude, and besides, he’d saved his life.



The rescue workers on the scene approved of Mike’s technique and Joe’s ingenious idea of covering the windows, and soon they were all out and relatively uninjured. Chester was surprised to find his arm glass-less, and looked around at Mike. Mike smiled at him, and Chester understood. “Thank you,” he said softly.



Mike patted his arm. “Don’t mention it.”



Brad was dealing with the inquisitive cops, answering their questions and stating what had happened, the latter somewhat sheepishly. He was handed a $50 fine for having ignored Rob (Rob was delighted), and told to talk less the next time he drove. Or preferably, to not drive at all.



The rental company was apprised of the situation and was unexpectedly gracious about it, refusing to press charges and even happily wondering how their insurance company would react to the news. Rob hung up on them with palpable relief, and then asked a nearby cop, “How do we get home now?”



“We’ll drive you,” the cop said. “I think two cars will be enough.”



“Where are you staying?” Joe asked Chester, who started when he realized he really did have nowhere to stay.



“I think my wife has a few friends downtown,” he said. “Maybe I could –”



“You’re staying with me,” said Mike firmly. “You don’t know these people, they’d be pretty pissed if you woke them up at this time. And besides,” he added, cutting off Chester’s protest, “I live closer.”



“Okay,” Chester finally gave in. “Thanks.”



“Anytime,” replied Mike, grinning.



Chester fell asleep again in the car on their way to Mike’s place, his head resting sideways on Mike’s shoulder. Mike smiled and decided he wouldn’t wake Chester up when they got there; he was light enough to carry up two flights of stairs. Rob helped Mike with Chester’s bags, and between them they managed to get Chester settled on Mike’s couch, a fluffy pillow under his head and a quilt over him. Chester looked content and comfortable, and with a knowing smile to Mike, Rob took his leave.



Mike didn’t go in to his room immediately – instead he stayed to ensure Chester was comfortable. Without really knowing why he was doing it, he pulled the quilt up to Chester’s chin and tucked him in. He had a feeling Chester wasn’t used to affection, and it felt good to provide some. On a sudden whim he gently brushed Chester’s hair off his forehead and rose, whispering, “Good night, Chester.”



That little smile that spread on Chester’s face in his sleep was answer enough for Mike, who, with a smile of his own and one last look at Chester, headed back to his room.

___________________________________

Feels bloody amazing to be back. Review, eh?

-Peace

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