Category Linkin Park

Paths Left Alone by Umi

"I should at least wait until the guy is buried before I show up with slashier LP fic again" I said to myself, mere minutes before being told that they buried him yesterday. So.

Here we are, I guess?

still not rly comfortable writing in English, but somehow that's just how that story happened, so. sry @ mistakes (feel free to point them out)


"He was... not more than a brother, no, but someone just as important as a brother, only, well, differently. If it wasn't for my wife, you know, whom I already knew back then when we met... and his wife..."

He trails off. Laughs. Shrugs. Switches topics to the song he's about to sing and sits down at his keyboard.

His eyes sparkle in the soft light set by the crew to compliment the mood of the music. The last remains of tears he successfully fought off, a beer or four before the show, and the adrenaline of being in front of a crowd again...

Only his smile doesn't quite reach his eyes anymore when he realizes what he just said.

He doesn't have to turn his head to feel Anna and Talinda staring at him.

He focuses on the song, fights hard to keep his voice from breaking and his vision from blurring, but he makes it through it, the crowd is cheering, and maybe everyone already forgot what he said beforehand.

Maybe he's lucky.

He turns his head.

Talinda is gone.

And so is Anna.


It's not like they didn't know.

He had always been honest with Anna, whom he was introduced to by their mutual friend Mark as "the rapper of my band and that guy you told me to forget about" a week or so before he left Xero.

She didn't mind that he didn't mind kissing guys sometimes, because he liked kissing her, too, and was good enough at it in her opinion.

There was a (not so) brief time after that, where he went back to kissing guys, though. Or at least, one guy. They were always drunk when it happened, or high, or both, usually both, and at least in Mike's case usually to the point where reality seemed to shift around him, with Chester being the only thing that calmed him enough to be able to enjoy it. Instead of panicking.

He never got to know what he was to Chester in those moments.

They didn't kiss again after Chester got sober, especially not after he told his fiancée about it.

Mike was glad when he did - they weren't good for each other, not like that, or at least he wasn't good for Chester.

So he told his wife as well.

Rebuilding the broken trust between them took months.


"I'm sorry."

She just shakes her head, fumbling for the car keys in her purse.

"That was..." He's at a loss for words. Singing goodbye to Chester brought his grief back from the depths of his heart to the surface, and it makes him feel lost and inadequate. He starts to wonder how he ever ended up with a job based on his ability to string words together in a meaningful way. The beer isn't exactly helping, either. He still plans to drink more as the evening progresses, and doesn't find it in himself to care how inappropriate that might be. "... Disrespectful. Towards what you're going through, I mean." He clears his throat. "What I said there was disrepectful. You're his wife, widow, I mean, I shouldn't... I don't know. I shouldn't have said that."

She finds her car keys, but she's walking slower now and he doesn't have to hurry to keep up with her anymore.

So maybe he's saying the right things?

"I really, really am sorry, Talinda. It's just..." He can feel a helpless smile form on his lips, and hears a weird, slightly too squeaky sound - a chopped-off fragment of hysteric laughter that thankfully dies in his throat before it ever touches his tongue. "I don't know, it's not like he wouldn't have died like, over ten fucking years ago already if it hadn't been for you." Maybe he's not so bad with words after all. "Or if it had been me instead of you." Maybe he is.

Talinda just shakes her head again. "You're drunk, Mike. I don't want to talk to you like that." And then she hugs Anna, who has been by her side the whole time and who heard everything her husband said, and leaves.

Mike just stands there, unmoving, until he has to take a step aside to not get run over by another car leaving the parking lot. He's almost surprised to find that it's not his own one.

He and Anna exchange a tired look and then head back to the venue.


No one ever asks him about his unplanned outing on stage.

He's relieved.

But also disappointed in some way.

He never expected coming out to be something he needed or even just wanted. The people close to him knew, had always known, and that was all that mattered. Or so he thought. He doesn't know what he's thinking anymore, two more beers down the road, except that he would like that moment up there on stage to be acknowledged for what it was.

People hug him and shower him with condolences and praise and he hates it and drinks another beer.

His gaze lingers on the 6 feet high close up portrait of Chester at the other end of the room. As he tries to make his way to it, through that anonymous mass of sad but smiling faces and dark clothes, he runs into Ryu, who already opens his mouth to greet him with a joke to cheer him up, which dies on his lips though, when Mike grabs him by the shirt so tightly, his knuckles turn almost white.

Mike has no idea that it's the haunted look in his wide, dark, glassy eyes that does the trick, but when he asks Ryu if he has pot and would care to share, his friend just nods and leads him outside.


The rest of the night is a blur.

The walls are moving and so is everyone confined between them and Mike can barely tell all the people watching him with pitying eyes apart anymore. He muses how this must be how Chester used to feel, back then when he was drinking too much and people finally started to notice that he had an actual problem.

Mike doesn't have a problem. At least none he is aware of. He's just having a rough night. Or something like that. At least he doesn't drink too much on a regular basis, and when he drinks too much it's usually just to the point where things start to get a little funnier, a little lighter, more casual. This night is an exception to the rule. So he's probably okay.

Or something like that.

The bartender refuses to let him have another beer and places a glass of water in front of him instead.


At some point, Mike finds himself sitting outside and talking about the bitch that is fame with Stryker. He doesn't remember if he got there by himself or was dragged outside in an attempt to sober him up a little.

"The thing is..." His tongue feels heavy and disobedient, he can only hope he's not yet slurring to the point where his words aren't even words anymore. "No one really pays attention. They just... they just don't. They look and watch like, like vultures, but they always pick the wrong shit to focus on."

Stryker tilts his head a little and watches him patiently, apparently still understanding the slurry mess tumbling from his lips just fine. "So, what would you want them to focus on?"

"I don't know, man, I just..." Mike gulps. The desperation rising in his throat refuses to be swallowed down though. "I really don't know, I just, I just miss being seen?" His vision starts to blur and he angrily wipes away the tears before they can roll down his cheeks. "He knew. He knew I'm not a good person. I mean, Anna knows, too, but. He knew better. I'm not selfless, I'm not, I don't know, graceful? I think it was someone from PR who complimented me on handling all of this so 'gracefully', with just the right amount of, of honesty and reservedness. Or some shit. Like, what the fuck, I'm just. I'm just not. Graceful my ass, I'm sick of trying to look better than I am. But no one fucking cares!"

He snuffles.

Stryker makes an attempt to move closer, so he can put his arm around him, but then Mike gestures towards the door again, almost hitting him in the face doing so, and he decides to keep his distance a little longer.

"I just. I just fucking told everyone I'm not straight. On stage. And then I went and got shitfaced. And no one talks about it! What the fuck, man! Instead everyone is just... just looking at me, full of compassion and pity and patience and... why? Fuck this!"

"Because you're sad."

Mike looks at him, slightly struggling to even keep his head up, and blinks slowly. Confused. His cheeks tickle when a few tears take their chance and escape his eyes.

Stryker shrugs and tries a smile. The result is weak. "I think no one is saying anything because you're so sad. You're so obviously just so... so fucking sad... And people understand being sad. Being sad is why we're all here tonight in the first place. So... I'd say that's why they just let you be. And maybe also pity you a little."

"I don't want to be 'understood' though... Or pitied... I just..."

Again, Stryker attempts to put his arm around Mike.

"... I think I'm going to throw up."

He inches away instead.


Mike doesn't remember how he got home, but he wakes up in his own bed somewhere around noon, still wearing his clothes from the night before, and barely makes it to the bathroom in time to throw up (again).

An hour later, after some painkillers and a long shower, he apologizes to his wife for... he doesn't quite know what for, but his heart is heavy and embarrassment nags at the back of his mind, so he figures the night took exactly the kind of turn he expected, back when he opened that first beer.

And she smiles at him, sadly, and hugs him.

"I don't deserve you."

"No. No, you don't..."

He buries his face in the crook of her neck, while her fingers gently caress his still damp hair.

She doesn't ask him if he was in love with his best friend.

They already covered that topic a decade ago: he didn't know. No, he was actually quite sure he wasn't, he just. There was something he had found in Chester that he wasn't even aware he had been missing. He didn't know what it was, though. (Still doesn't.) But whatever it was, its pull wasn't strong enough to change what he felt for his wife. And he was sorry, so horribly sorry for kissing someone who wasn't her, for having done so repeatedly, in the most stupid manner possible.

He was an idiot.

She agreed.

And still agrees.

And hugs him a little tighter, because she's an idiot, too, or at least she assumes she must be.

"So... Roads Untraveled, huh?"

He laughs. Snuffles. Shrugs. Hugs her tighter, too, and quietly tells her that he loves her.

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