Category Linkin Park

Devil's Drop by Penelope_Ink & lpfan503

Red + Blue = Purple

A/N: Hi everyone! You’re probably looking at the author of this story and wondering what’s happening, haha! As Penelope_Ink and I have been working on site changes, there’s been a lot of discussion about our favorite boys… and somehow, one afternoon, the idea was pitched to try writing a story together, each of us taking a different headspace, and seeing where we ended up. This first chapter is the result. Maybe you’ll know who is writing Chester and who is writing Mike, but maybe not. :) We hope you’ll enjoy reading this as much as we’ve enjoyed creating this world. Feedback welcome, as this is a totally new venture for both of us. And don’t worry, all of our personal stories in progress are still in progress. Thanks for being such a supportive community. Let us know if you need anything. --lpfan503


Mike tilted his head to the right, his nervous fingers tugging at his silver earring while Joe sat across from him, his eyes expectant. There was no getting out of this. Mike was going to have to give him some sort of answer. But there is no way I’m stepping foot in a karate class. Just the thought is enough to make my stomach turn. Sweaty people everywhere, and all of them thinking I should know what I’m doing, sounds like a little slice of hell on an otherwise normal day. All I want is a simple cup of coffee and a bit of conversation after working all afternoon, not another one of Joe’s attempts to get me into his club.

“Come on, Mike, just give it a chance. Jesus,” Joe seethed, his head shaking. He tossed Mike his best annoyed look of disappointment before tipping back his latte.

Jesus? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m going to need if I’m going to make it through any sort of public exercise class. “I… I don’t know, Joe. It’s like, the complete opposite of how I want to spend a Thursday evening.” Mike looked down, his gaze hitting his standard issue button-down flannel and jeans. A defeated sigh crept from his lips as he pointed at himself. “I’m not even dressed for something like that, and this class is in what, a half hour? I don’t even have time to change clothes. No way.”

Joe pointed his latte toward Mike as he rolled his eyes. “I’ve been telling you forever now that you need to get out more. You’re turning into a hermit, Shinoda. Join with people a little.” Joe shook a meaty fist Mike’s way, his best jovial expression following it.

Mike felt himself smile a little. He’s probably right, even though it kind of pisses me off. I really just want to go home, trade these jeans for some sweatpants, and eat leftover Chinese takeout. Trying to get little kids to put their fingers in the right place on piano keys over and over again all afternoon is enough to make me want to eat ice cream right out of the container for the rest of the night. It’s the best way to eat away frazzled nerves.

“It’s just one class,” Joe said as he sat back. His wider frame looked a little funny in the tiny chair, but in the new aged coffee shop, everything seemed diminished. Minimalist, even. He smiled at his friend. “If I can do it, you can.”

Mike almost snorted out his coffee. That comment had to be a joke. Joe had been a Black Belt since before Mike had met him a few years back. Joe was on the shorter side, but his Korean features and broad shoulders made him intimidating. Even to me sometimes, and I’m his friend! Mike looked down at the cheesy ceramic top of the small round table where they were sitting, unsure of what to say.

“If you don’t like it, I’ll never bring it up again,” Joe said, his voice softening with sympathy. “I’ve been building my classes, Mike, and I’d love to see you come and check it out. Be a part of it. Be a part of something.”

Mike looked up, his stare going sharp. “You’ll never bring it up again?”

Joe’s eyes sparkled as confidence that he was finally going to win this argument drifted his way. Flannel or not, he was going to get Mike Shinoda to at least come check out his karate club. He’d been after the piano teacher for months now, but with no progress. Now, however, victory felt close. “I promise on my grandmother’s good name,” he said, his right hand raised.

Mike weighed the only two options he had - he could go back to his tiny apartment and spend the evening trying to avoid conversation with his irritating roommate, or give in and go to karate. Maybe I should just get it over with.

“And look at the bright side; you might not be dressed for class,” Joe added with a smirk as he looked Mike’s outfit up and down, “but it’s just right across the street. I’m not even asking you to fight the L.A. traffic to get there.”

Traffic. That was the one thing Mike hated more than a room full of sweaty strangers, and Joe knew it. He knew that as long as Mike didn’t have to get into his crummy excuse for a car and drive anywhere, he could probably get Mike to agree to one karate class.

The piano teacher drained the last of his coffee, and pushed his seat back before he stood up with a sigh. “Fine. But I’m only going to watch, don’t try to get me to do anything in these jeans. There’s a reason those karate clothes you wear are so… forgiving.” I mean, I know my ass looks great in skinny jeans but they aren’t exactly conducive to kicking, or whatever it is you do in a karate class. I know I’m going to hate this but I’m tired of telling Joe no. Besides, it’s only an hour, and my Chinese food will still be there when this ordeal is over.

“You won’t regret it,” Joe said as he stood up and slid his chair in with a horrible scrape against the floor. “And don’t worry about your clothes. Everyone comes in street clothes for their first time. You’re going to see my best class. Great group of people,” he assured Mike, slapping his shoulder as they headed for the door. “I’ve really got some promising students this time around. You could be one of those, too,” he said as he wiggled his eyebrows hopefully.

Mike tossed his cup in the trashcan and sighed a little heavier than necessary. A scowl sketched across his face as he glared at the back of Joe’s head and his black hair that was getting out of control, in Mike’s opinion. It was starting to get shaggy looking, thought Joe didn’t seem to mind. He was actually pulling it up in man buns now and again at this point. Which I guess sorta suits his whole karate thing, Mike decided as he followed Joe out the door. But doesn’t he know me at all? To think I’m going to end up being some sort of karate star is just ridiculous.

Swimming had always been Mike’s thing, from the time he started kindergarten, all the way through high school. There was something peaceful to him about gliding through the water in the early morning, alone with his thoughts. He had learned early on that being in the pool was just like playing piano - a place to retreat when life was too overwhelming. A quiet place. A place he could leave feeling whole again.

“I should warn you up front,” Joe said as they got to the corner where they stopped and waited for the light to change so they could cross, “that it’s going to be loud. But the yelling is important,” he added when he saw Mike’s wary look. “It’s all about breathing and putting your whole attention into what you’re doing. You gotta find your inner fire.” He reached over to shake Mike’s shoulder, but the piano teacher managed to sidestep him as the light turned. “And,” Joe continued as they walked along with a half a dozen other people, “karate is good to know. As least the basics. For self-defense. Not that you can’t take care of yourself,” he quickly added.

“Yeah,” Mike said drily. “I run into a lot a situations teaching grade school kids to play piano where I need self-defense.”

“Alright, smartass, you know what I mean. I’ve actually got a guy - a friend - in this class you’re going to watch, that’s in it right now to brush up on his self-defense. He’s had some run-ins with some pushy guys.” That last part included a glance in Mike’s direction.

It’s the first thing Joe had said about karate that caught Mike’s interest, and Mike knew he said it for exactly that reason. Joe had always been cool with Mike being gay, but Mike also knew that the karate instructor worried about him a lot. He says I’m not very street smart, and maybe I’m not. Well, I know that I’m not. Mike tended to meet guys that started off promising, nice guys who seemed interested in finding out about who he was as a person, and somehow ended up being total assholes. They had spent long hours trying to figure out what Mike was putting out there that drew the attention of those kind of guys, and Mike thought that Joe probably had a point. What if one day I can’t get out of a bad situation just by saying ‘I don’t think we should see each other anymore’ and walking away? What kind of protection is swimming going to offer me?

“So, this guy,” Mike said, glancing back Joe’s way, “has he had a lot of trouble?”

Joe shook his head. “Not sure, really. He just told me he’s had some guys wear out their welcome, and they’ve gotten a little physical with him. He’s a good guy. You two would probably get along. Share war stories and whatnot about asshole dates.” He flashed a grin - that Joe grin that begged Mike to punch him childishly in the arm. He loved to yank Mike’s chain.

“Maybe. You know how I feel about new people. Especially karate enthusiasts with bad dating histories,” Mike added, trying to lighten the mood a bit. There’s no sense in going into this whole thing with a bad attitude. I can do anything for an hour.

They finally reached the door to Joe’s rented space in the strip mall, and he opened the door for Mike to go in first. Right away the piano teacher was smacked by the muggy warmth of the gym and the sound of large, industrial type fans in the ceilings on full blast.They were standing behind a half-wall barricade by the front door and windows, which were plastered with the school’s logo and latest honorable win, and on the other side of the barricade was the class. The floor was one giant blue mat. Benches lined the outside, and belts and trophies hung on the walls. A large banner toward the front had the school’s latest tournament accomplishment on it.

An impressed smile gave Mike away as he looked around; Joe really had built something special here. His attention fell on the benches next, where everyone had gathered. Bodies and large black duffel bags sprawled along the floor and seats while people adjusted their different colored belts and black uniforms.

Joe leaned toward his friend. “See? Don’t you love this? Can’t you feel the energy already? And you’re not even on the floor yet!”

Mike recognized the excitement on Joe’s face; it was the same bright enthusiasm that he felt when he worked on music with his students. Guilt set in immediately as he realized he’d been wallowing in his own social insecurities instead of trying to be a little open-minded. Instead of being happy for Joe. “Yeah, it’s energetic for sure,” Mike finally agreed. “Maybe you should have brought me to a beginner class, though. These guys all look like they know what they’re doing and they haven’t even started yet.” He felt his palms starting to sweat and wondered if Joe would keep his promise, allowing him to just watch and not participate. Maybe this was a mistake after all. I should have gone home and dug out my sweatpants and called it a night.

Joe patted Mike on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, Mike. Everyone starts at zero. This is a good group. If you’re going to catch the fire, it will be from being around these guys.” He spread his arm out toward his students, who had started to line up in eight parallel lines of four to five people. They all had jump ropes in their hands.

“Jump ropes?” Mike commented in bewilderment. “I thought this was all kicking and yelling.” The panic set in as Mike mentally tried to calculate how long it had been since he’d jumped rope. He knew it hadn’t happened since elementary school, and it was not in any way making him want to sign on for a class.

“We start every class with warming up,” Joe said as he pointed. “Jumping rope is a great way to get the heart going.” He pounded his fist against his chest, his eyes with the light of excitement in them. “Then they’ll run a few laps and do some sit ups and maybe jumping jacks. It depends on what the instructor is in the mood for. But jump roping is always first.” As soon as he stopped speaking, like it had been planned, music started to play from overhead. It was loud, and consuming as Mike watched the class start to jump rope.

The piano teacher found himself tapping his foot to the beat of the music, scanning the lines in search of someone, anyone, who didn’t look coordinated. His heart sank a little as he looked up and down the rows at the class who had clearly been trained well, still feeling completely out of his element. As he continued along his path of self-pity, his eyes stopped on a class member in the far corner of the mat.

It was apparent that he was confident in his abilities, since he was heading up one of the lines and effortlessly jumping his rope in time with the music. Mike couldn’t help but stare; the man’s heavily gelled, red-tipped mohawk didn’t sway a bit as he jumped with his eyes focused on some undefined spot in front of him. He was focused, determined, and before Mike could help himself, he decided, fuck. That guy is hot.

“That’s Chester Bennington,” Joe said as he watched a small amount of drool form around Mike’s mouth. “He’s the one I was telling you about. I think you guys are about the same age.” He pointed to the man with the mohawk, who also had red and blue flame tattoos that coated his exposed wrists. They traveled almost halfway up his forearms, just enough to disappear under the mid-level sleeves of Chester’s black gi.

Mike hadn’t realized he was staring and quickly looked back at Joe. “He’s the one? Damn. You could have warned me a bit. He’s… something else.” Even from across the room, Mike was impressed with what he could see. He’d always been a sucker for tattoos. Maybe that was how he’d always ended up with the wrong guy, falling for their taste in body art instead of their personality.

Joe nodded. “Yup, that’s him. He’s a bit of a firecracker, but nice enough. I can introduce the two of you, if you’d like.”

The nervous excitement that always crept up on Mike in situations such as these slammed into him full force. What in the world would he see in someone like me? I’m so… average. And he’s so… wow. Is his lip pierced? He ran a hand nervously over his black hair, thinking about the blue tips his roommate had added just last week, and wondered if it looked good enough to meet someone like Chester. “Oh… okay,” Mike managed to get out. “Maybe after class. I mean, I am here to watch, maybe I’ll change my mind about signing up.”

Joe shot Mike a grin. He really hadn’t expected his friend to take to Chester. The two were nothing alike, but if a little crush got Mike to rejoin the living world and learn some self-defense in the process, then why not? “Okay,” he said, keeping his thoughts to himself. “We can go sit down.” He pointed toward the benches, and just as the music stopped, they sat down side by side.

A moment later, it was like someone had opened the floodgates as every single student turned around and rushed back toward the benches, tossing their jump ropes into their bags and grabbing bottles of water. They were all panting and sweaty, and that’s when Mike noticed that Chester’s duffel bag was only a few feet away from him.

Chester was quick on his feet, Mike noticed as he tried to be sly about watching, hoping this sudden interest of his wouldn’t notice what he was doing. It was ridiculous how attractive Chester looked with his head leaned back, chugging a bottle of water. Mike’s eyes slid up the man’s pale neck and flicked to his ears, landing on a set of black plugs decorated with tiny white skulls and crossbones. And he had been right; as Chester capped his water bottle and tossed it back in the bag, Mike could clearly see that his bottom lip was pierced. Everything about Chester was undeniably sexy, and Mike wondered what he would even say when Joe introduced them.

The air in the gym was hot as Chester placed his hands on his slender hips, taking in a few deep breaths. His eyes scanned the boring cream colored cinder block walls - walls he’d stared at a million times - but then something caught his attention. He glanced over just in time to see someone new. A guy with spiky black hair. No, that’s not black. It’s...kind of blue. Who the hell has blue hair? Well, I would. But that’s me. But this guy? I think he’s checking me out.Chester had to repress his smile as he twisted slightly, and lifted the ends of his gi to show off his firm ass in the stranger’s direction. He even bent forward a little, just because. He had to smirk to himself for a second before he spun all the way around and then he trotted back to his place on the mat as everyone returned to their places.

Mike felt the blood rush to his cheeks as he realized he’d been made. He saw me staring at him. Oh, God. I should just leave now. He fidgeted uncomfortably next to Joe and tried to look around at the other students, but his eyes kept coming back to settle on Chester.

The instructor at the front of the class blew a whistle, and now everyone was running. They paced around the mat in a single file line. Chester was all about the slow jog. It was perfect for working up a sweat without killing yourself. He rounded the corner, his eyes landing on the guy from before. I don’t know. He’s kinda cute. In that I’ve-never-been-in-a-karate-class kind of way. He’s sitting with Joe. Wonder if he knows him? Oh well. I’ll get him for staring at me. A second later Chester was just about to pass where Mike was sitting, and that’s when he flicked his tongue out, rolling it over his lip ring before he flashed Mike a smile.

That was all it took for Mike’s heart to furiously pound in his ears. Oh. My. God. That has to be the sexiest fucking thing I’ve ever seen. Mike took a deep breath and looked down at his clothes, suddenly wishing he had something more interesting on than a black and red flannel and old ripped jeans. How could he ever get a guy like that looking like a lumberjack? He’s just messing with me. He saw me staring. There’s no way he’s interested. Could he be interested? Mike slid his fingers down the front of his shirt and bit his lip anxiously.

A few corners later, and Chester was back to Joe and this guy that was still staring at him. Who the hell wears a flannel shirt to a karate class? How do you even do that? He must be weird. Or maybe he’s not even here for the class. But he keeps checking me out. Look at those shoes. . .this guy needs help.

Chester picked up his pace, and passed the girl in front of him, just in time to send a wave Mike’s way. He wiggled his fingers and cocked his eyebrow before he looked away, and went back to keeping up with the rest of the class. Weird cute guys with blue hair and flannel shirts would have to wait, because laps were just about over, and now it was time to kill it with sit ups.

Despite the very deliberate wave in his direction, Mike was still having a hard time believing the interest was real. Swallowing hard, he watched as Chester dropped down to the mat, getting ready for sit ups. The sleeves of his gi slid back all the way to his elbows as he put his hands behind his head, and Mike craned his neck to get a better view. He could tell there was something else tattooed on the elbow he could see from his vantage point, but he was too far away to make out what it was. Whatever it was, Mike wanted to see it up close. Mike wanted to see a lot of Chester up close.

“See how you are?” Joe said suddenly, pulling Mike’s gaze back his way. “I bring you here to learn self-defense and what do you do? You get Chester to wave and smile at you.” He rolled his eyes jokingly. “He’s a bit of flirt, Mike, so don’t read too much into any of that. I’ll be right back,” he announced as he stood up. “Feel free to get in line after they’re done with sit ups. And don’t worry, no one will laugh.” He offered his friend a sheepish smile before he headed for the office on the far side of the gym. He’d introduce Mike to Chester later, but right now he needed to get a bit of paperwork done. With Mike watching Chester like he was the last man on earth, Joe was pretty sure he wasn’t going anywhere until class was over.

Get in line? I’ll have to take my shoes off. No shoes on the mat. I don’t even think I have matching socks on. Of all of the possible problems going out and joining the class could bring, suddenly Mike was the most worried about his socks. He hadn’t done laundry in two weeks, and socks were always low on the priority list, since they were always hidden by his shoes. Mike looked at the candy apple red socks Chester had on, and toed off his shoes, dismayed to see that he had on socks that matched… but one had a hole in it. There was no way to hide that. There was no way he was going out on the mat, even if Chester himself came over and asked.

Sit ups were done, and now it was time for another drink and some breathing. Chester hurried back to the benches, his heart pounding and his body already coated with a thin layer of sweat. He glanced over at the new guy, noticing right away that Joe was gone. He took a long chug of water before he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, his mouth hanging open as he breathed. “Hey,” he said, nodding in the stranger’s direction. He took a step closer. “Are you a friend of Joe’s?”

“Um, yeah.” Mike glanced down at his feet again and tucked his foot up under the bench. “I’m Mike.”

“I’m Chester Bennington,” Chester said as he took another step to close the gap separating them. “I like your earrings,” he stated as his fingers picked at his own plugs. “Hoops, I don’t think I could really pull those off. I like the thicker stuff. It’s sexier. On me, anyway,” he chuckled with a bright smile, his brown eyes shining. “But the hoops work for you.” He stuck his tongue out a little, barely brushing his lip ring before he sat his water bottle down. “Gotta get back at it. You comin’ or what?”

In the space of a breath, Mike forgot about his sock with the hole in the toe. The hottest guy in the room just invited him out on the mat, and it didn’t matter that Mike wasn’t interested in karate. It didn’t matter that he was dressed for a mountain hike, or that his face was flushed pink with the embarrassment he always felt when talking to someone new. The only thing that mattered was that Chester Bennington was smiling at him, showing a row of almost perfectly straight teeth, asking him to follow his lead.

“Yeah, okay. I mean, I don’t have the first idea what I’m doing here, I was just supposed to be watching, so I don’t know how good I’ll be.” God, Mike, shut up, he commanded himself, standing up to find he was about the same height as Chester. He bit down on his lip to silence his rambling and looked out at the mat.

“No worries,” Chester dismissed immediately before he trotted off. He glanced over his shoulder, and something flipped in his stomach when he saw Mike following behind him. Ha. Got him to follow me and I didn’t even try. This guy. He’s not going to be able to do anything in those clothes. God, he’s got some guts for trying though. Or he just wants some more opportunity to look at my ass. Eh, either way I’m good. “Here,” he said, waving Mike over to the side, away from the other students. “We’ll hang out over here so we can go slower. I’ll show you some stuff.”

“I don’t even know where to start,” Mike admitted, his cheeks feeling painfully red. He glanced up front at the instructor and then back at Chester, looking at him through lowered lashes.

“Karate lesson number one,” Chester said, one finger raised, “don’t wear flannel shirts to class.” He chuckled as he pressed his one finger to Mike’s shirt front. “Rule number two,” he said, his voice dragging out a little slower, his finger still pressed to the soft fabric of Mike’s attire, “don’t worry about keeping up with everyone. You go at your own pace. You be you.”

Mike looked helplessly around him as the class began a series of long stretches. He could only bend so far in his skinny jeans, and he wasn’t too keen on having his ass in Chester’s face in the first five minutes after they met.

Chester crossed his arms, his eyebrow raising as he snuck a peek at Mike’s jean-clad ass. Nice. I could tag that. He quickly cleared his throat as he looked away and remembered where he was was. “Okay,” he said, as if clearing the air and his mind of Mike’s round bottom. “Remember to take everything in.” He stepped up to stand next to his new companion. He held his hands - palms together - in front of his chest and slowly rose his arms. “In slow, out slow.” He repeated the steps twice before he glanced over to see if Mike was getting it.

As long as he doesn’t ask me to touch my shoulders, I’m fine, Mike told himself, trying to copy Chester’s movements as much as he could. The flannel shirt didn’t have a lot of give in it, making him look even more inflexible than he actually was. He bit down on his lip again, a nervous habit he’d tried hard to break but just couldn’t shake.

“Are you nervous?” Chester asked, his eyes ghosting over Mike’s face and landing on the man’s lips. “Or just in love with your own mouth? I could see how that could happen.” For a moment, Chester stopped. He knew every word he’d just said was stupid, but he couldn’t take it back now. And besides, Mike wasn’t laughing. He wasn’t making fun or calling him an idiot. This guy. This guy with the blue tinted hair and a scruffy goatee, that actually came to karate class dressed like he was on his way to log rolling contest, was interested. He was looking at Chester with wide pitch black eyes and his full attention, despite the silly comment about his mouth.

As Mike smiled, the lip being held captive by his teeth slowly popped free, and he almost giggled. Chester thought his mouth was cute. In an instant Mike was wondering what it would be like to ditch the class and do something completely unlike his normal, antisocial self. He wanted Chester to ask him out more than he’d wanted to be asked out by any guy, ever.

“So, Mike,” Chester said, trying to redeem himself from his dorky comment a moment ago, “are you seeing anyone?” He looked over, catching Mike in a mid kind-of downward stretch, his legs so hindered by his tight jeans that Chester actually had to cover his mouth to stop the laugh that was ready to burst from him.

Mike froze, looking at Chester, at his gorgeous brown eyes that were twinkling with suppressed laughter, and his stomach took a turn. He better not be fucking with me. Oh, this floor would have to open me up and swallow me right here if he’s just fucking with me. Mike teetered on the edge of hope for what felt like a full minute, wondering if he should tell the truth or lie, just in case Chester was making fun of him, but something in the other man’s expression told him he was being real, and Mike took the plunge. “Ah… no. Are you?” Immediately Mike kicked himself for asking such a stupid question.

Chester rolled his lips together in thought for a second before he scooted behind Mike. “You know, your form is terrible,” he said, leaning close as Mike straightened up. Chester let his hands touch Mike’s hips - lightly - before he added, “let me help.” He maneuvered Mike into a better stance, feeling the other man shiver a little under his touch, and Chester smiled to himself. “You know, if we put our heads together, we’d make purple.”

The air went out of the room as Mike slightly turned his head, trying to catch a glimpse of Chester’s face, but he wasn’t even sure what to say in reply to such a comment.

“And I’m not seeing anyone,” Chester added, keeping his fingers ghosted over Mike’s sides now. “Breathe,” he instructed, gently. “And that’s it. We’re done.” He stepped away, giving Mike his space back as he waited to see what kind of reaction he’d get. It was his basic test. If he could give a compliment, toss in a cheesy pickup line, and get a little bit of body contact going, and the other person was into it, then maybe there was a chance for a little fun.

Time stood still when Chester touched him, and Mike wasn’t even aware he’d forgotten to breathe until he heard Chester’s voice in his ear. He could feel the heat radiating off Chester’s warmed up body, and Mike’s heart was beating so hard he was sure Chester could hear it as close as they were. He wanted to press back into Chester’s hands but stopped himself, his typical uncertainty holding him back, and he shuddered when moments later, Chester dropped his hands and moved away. So Chester wasn’t seeing anyone. Did that mean he wanted to see Mike again? As he struggled to control his heart and his breathing, Mike turned around and met Chester’s eyes.

Just then, Joe stepped out of his office. He glanced at his watch, and then across the gym. He gasped low and quick at the sight of Mike not sitting there waiting on him. Damn. He did leave. I’ll never get him back in here now. He headed toward the back of the room, his eyes slipping over his students as the instructor had them practicing punches now, but then he stopped. Mike was still here. He was off away from the rest of the class, with Chester standing next to him. The two men weren’t even following along with everyone else as they stared at one another.

Guess I’m a little late on introducing them, Joe thought as he hurried to meet them where they were. “Hey, you two,” he said, raising his hand as he neared them. “I was going to do a formal introduction, but it looks like you guys found each other anyway.” He stepped up close, his attention bouncing from one to the other. “Surely you already know this, but Mike, this is Chester, and Chester,” he said, a goofy chuckle following his words as he slapped Mike on the shoulder, “this is Mike Shinoda. He really doesn’t want to be here, but he promised he’d come check out the class anyway.”

“We met,” Mike said, just as Chester asked, “Shinoda? You didn’t tell me your last name.”

Mike smiled, his tongue poking through his teeth a bit as he stuck out his hand. “Let me introduce myself properly. Mike Shinoda,” he said, feeling a little more confident with Joe at his side. “Sorry I left out half my name before. I might have been a little distracted.”

“Distracted is good,” Chester said immediately. He looked Joe’s way, but it was clear he wasn’t going to get much more information out of this conversation. “Well, I’m going to finish class.” He nodded toward everyone else, their gut wrenching screams in unison making the hairs on Chester’s arms stand up. He loved it. He loved moving as a group and being part of something bigger. He loved learning how to kick someone in all the right places if situations got out of control, and how to use his voice as a defense. He could scream with the best of them, and as he gave Mike Shinoda one final once over, he was pretty sure he could get him to scream, too. “Mike,” he said, before he rejoined the group, “if you’re interested,” he said, flashing Joe a quick look to get reassurance, and he got it in the form of a nod before he went on, “if you feel like going out sometime, I’m usually free during the week.” He shrugged his shoulders, making sure to add in as much nonchalant appeal as possible. “If you want to, anyway. Or not, that’s cool. But, I gotta go kick some invisible ass, so I’ll see you around.”

With that, Chester was gone, leaving Mike and Joe in the back of the room. Mike couldn’t help but follow him with his eyes, feeling simultaneously disappointed and excited. Chester was interested, but not interested enough to get his number just then. Or maybe that was all part of the game. He was worrying his bottom lip with his teeth again, wondering if Chester had any intention of asking him for his number before Joe came out and made him reintroduce himself like an idiot. What was done was done, and now they were going to enter into that awkward dance, waiting to see who made the first move. Or did Chester just make the first move? That wasn’t really asking me out, was it? Should I tell Joe to give him my number?

“Told you he was nice,” Joe said, crossing his arms as he watched his students kick in unison, Chester included. “I don’t really like to get involved, you know that.” He looked Mike’s way, and saw the look of recognition. “But if you want, I can pass your number along to him. He’s pretty easy going, so if it’s weird,” he offered with a shrug, “he won’t be offended or anything if you’re not interested.”

With a deep breath, Mike looked at the back of Chester’s head, and thought about how it felt to have Chester in his space minutes ago. He wanted more. “Okay,” he answered decisively, “I think I’d like that.”



Thanks for reading, everyone :)

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