LPfiction

Category Linkin Park

Knowing Me, Knowing You by L.Phoenix

Horizons

Authors Note This is an old story I was working on around the same time last year. It’s my baby and I already know what’s to happen and how it ends so it’ll be updated a lot faster than “Room For Two.” This story is also posted on An Archive of Our Own under the pen name Shower_Of_Oranges. I just wanted to make that clear so that no one here thinks I’m stealing the story because trust me, it is mine. XD I am going back and editing the chapters I already have written so I will post three at a time and then go from there.

As always reviews are appreciated!


This story takes place in a world where humans are equipped with chips behind their ears that can record every aspect, every second, of our lives. These are called CHIPS. In addition to the chips, whenever one chooses to “rewind” their memories via a remote, clear LENSES will slide over the human’s eyes so they can watch said memories and they can also hook their MEMORIES up to a television if they wish to share the memories with others. I borrowed this concept from an episode of the Netflix show “Black Mirror”.


DISCLAIMER: I do not own Linkin Park. I wish I did. This is entirely a work of fiction.


:::Three and a Half Years Earlier:::


Dust Devil swept you away

It’s still not real

Ash and urn and silence

Talk to me


The room smelled of sanitizer and bleach. He loathed that smell: hospital smell… death. Only this wasn’t a hospital, not really. He lay back in the chair and stared at the three large computer screens on his right, one of them beeping along to his irregular heartbeat monitored by a tab pressed into his index finger. It was dark aside from the green lines on the screens which were providing information such as heart rate, blood pressure, and Chip download. His hands itched to reach behind his ear, yearning to touch the one thing that would be eternally altered come morning. Tracing the outline of the small square buried underneath his flesh, he felt the strain of stress overtake him completely. He’d never done this before and couldn’t quite explain into words the equalized doubt and relief he would be feeling once these chosen memories would be out of service.


Dust Devil swept you away

My recollections are all that’s left of you

Swirl and sway

Without me


Two men on the other side of the room talked amongst themselves as he closed his eyes and steadied his breathing: in… 1,2,3…out 1,2,3… in 1,2,3,… out 1,2,3… just as they instructed to him hours prior. What was the point of the breathing exercise if they were just going to knock him out anyways? It didn’t make sense. Then again, did anything make sense anymore? Ten golden years of happiness and he was choosing (on his own free will) to have them erased. He’d only read about people doing what he’s about to do in the papers, blogs, and magazines. The media portrayed Memory Cleansing as a sort of “jubilee of the soul” if you will; a fresh start; a new beginning. A majority of the patients, however, were either celebrities or those in the 1%, it was an expensive procedure. God only knows what they chose to have removed: bad memories; molestation's, rape, family feuds? Surely he was the only lunatic in the entire world to ask to have the happy memories pulled out. No one in their right mind would ever do such a crazy thing. No one, that is, except him. Still, he had his reasons, and whether or not those reasons made sense were strictly up to him.


“Just make sure this is what you really want,” they told him earlier, the same two guys whispering in the corner of the room. He didn’t need to look to know that were staring at him even now. “There’s no turning back after this. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.”

He wasn’t stupid – a tad mad, perhaps, but not stupid. Would he regret this in the morning? Maybe… Yet, would he even be able to remember enough to feel such regrets? He’d hoped not…


Soft fingers grasped his hands and when he opened his eyes, he was greeted by a familiar face and a friendly smile. Oh, but the sadness in his friends eyes… thank God he’d be forgetting this moment.


Dust Devil swept you away

Whirling playful dancing

About you

What’s left of you is

Ash and urn and this

Silent

Horizon


“You got your heartbeat down,” his friend noted. Another few seconds of silence passed.


“Are you sure this is what you want?”


The patient waited to answer, looking into the two pairs of eyes staring at him: one of them sad, the other lost. Then, very slowly, he nodded.


“What other choice do I have?”


His friend knelt down next to him, the tile cold on his knees, his hands just as cold, shaking, as they soothed over his arm.


“You won’t even take therapy into consideration? Or counseling? I know a therapist, a great one, he’s helped me through some thin–”


“No, no therapy. I understand your concern and I love you for it, but it’s just a few memories, not an entire ten year span. I’ll still remember you and my family. This is… this is what I want.”


He let out a sigh. “Okay,” he said and kissed his forehead lightly. “I’ll see you in the morning.”


The patient watched his friend leave the room, patting the Tech Doctor, Chester, on the shoulder as he walked by him.


They were alone now. They hadn’t been alone together since… he couldn’t even remember when. Chester’s footsteps were like air as he strode across the room. He always a grace to him, his hips similar to a butterfly’s wings, their sway easy and light. He picked up a chair and placed it next to his patient who was looking up to the ceiling, avoiding Chester's troubling gaze as he sat down.


“You don’t have to look at me. I understand if you don’t. I just want you to hear me out.”


“Don’t try to change my mind. It’s made up.”


“I know,” Chester said. “I’m not going to try to change your mind. I just… I just want you to know some things before we begin.”


Once again, he said nothing. Chester continued:

“Humans…” he began; an apparent fumble to his words. “Humans shouldn’t be born with these Chips. It’s so unnatural. How we’ve become a species that are equipped with camera lenses and a microchip embedded into our skin is nothing short of a curse.”


“Or a miracle.”


“Maybe. But… we’re supposed to be able to keep our memories, ya’ know? Even the bad ones.”


He scoffed and shook his head. “Why? What good could the bad ones possibly do for us? Put us deeper into despair? Depress us? Make us put a gun to our head, hot and loaded?”


“Is that… is that how you feel? About–”


“Yes,” the patient snapped. “That’s exactly how I feel and I don’t want to feel it anymore. I never wanted to feel it to begin with but you…” The room grew still – quiet – as he finally turned his head and looked into the dark, brown eyes rimmed in red; tears threatening to spill. “You fucked it all up,” he continued. “I’m not trying to make you feel bad… or maybe I am, I don’t fucking know. All I know, for certain, is that I want this shit out of my head. I don’t want to have to close my eyes, Lenses or not, and see your face, hear your voice, see how it felt to have your hands on me, your lips on me. I want it gone. All of it.”


They were unable to grasp how tension could be thicker than a sheet of foam board. Chester sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He hadn’t slept in days. His nerves were shot. Everything was shot: his life, his future, his family…


Dust Devil swept you away

It’s still not real

Ash and urn and silence

Dust Devil swept you away

My recollections are all that’s left of you

Swirl and sway without me


“What’s left for me after this?” He asked his patient. “After tonight I’ll have lost everything. Your love was all I ever wanted. Ten years! Ten years just to throw it into the fire?”


“Not my fault.”


“You’re right, it’s not! I know I fucked up. Damn it, you think I don’t think about it every single day? You think I don’t feel the emptiness of the bed? The unfamiliar scent of the sheets?” The patient turned back to the ceiling, his heart aching at the sight of Chester’s glorious, kind eyes so broken down and weak. Still, he listened. After all, Lord only knew when he’d hear that voice again. “I wish I could take it back, you know that right? It was a mistake, a stupid, stupid mistake. But there’s nothing I can do about it now. It’s too late and I wish it wasn’t. I wish I could just… just unhook you from these goddamn machines and hold you one last time. Just one last time I want you to feel my love for you.”


“Please stop.”


“No! Tomorrow I’ll be out of your life and I have things I need to say, damn it! Look at me!”


He lowered his voice. “Please?”


Eyes met and the doctor rested his elbows on his knees and wrapped his fingers of his left hand around the patient’s wrist. His tone softened along with his posture, his shoulders slumping from an invisible, powerful weight. They were unable to turn away no matter how badly they wanted to. One man knew he’d never see those eyes again – in memory or in life. As for the other man? Well, wouldn’t you want to look into your lovers one last time before they erased you out of their life forever?


“Are you… are you going to… miss me? Even just a little?” Whispered Chester.


Unless you were looking for it, one wouldn’t have been able to see the smile grow on the patient’s mouth. He closed his hand over the pale one on his arm.


“Yes, of course.”


Chester released a held-in breath. “Then why?”


“Oh, sweetness, I will always love you,” he promised, the tears now freely spilling over. He told himself he wouldn’t cry; that he didn’t deserve his tears. Well, to Hell with that. “My best years were with you; all the laughs and the kisses. We’ve watched each other grow from lost boys into successful men and… and I know this is hard to believe right now but I wouldn’t trade any of that for the world.”


“You’re trading them in now.”


“But not because I don’t cherish what we have,” he paused and said, “…had. You know why I’m choosing this.”


“I do but… I’m hurting too, darling. Maybe not as bad as you but, fuck, this hurts! This hurts…” Chester pressed his forehead to their locked hands and cried into their skin. “This hurts so fucking… so fucking… bad!”


The patient sat up in his chair and ran his fingers through Chester’s sweaty hair.


“Shhhh… I know…” He cooed, resting his cheek on his crown.


“No you don’t. You don’t know! You’re just throwing me away!” Chester rebutted.


“But I’m not.”


“Yes you are! Ev-ev-everything we ever were! Everything we ev-ever could be!” It was

difficult to talk; the silent tears now a weeping massacre. “Fuck, don’t leave m-m-m-”


Dust Devil swept you away

Whirling playful dancing

What’s left of you

Ash and urn and this silent

Horizon


He pulled him into his arms and Chester instantly buried his nose into the crook of his neck. Salt and waterfalls… God, it was the best scent in the world, his skin. He wanted to scrape it off his flesh and bottle it so he’d never forget. How foolish he was. How foolish they both were.


“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for everything,” said Chester.


“I know, darling, I know. But it’s time…”


“No! NO, NO, NO!” He looked up at him, his face flushed and tear-stained, his bottom lip quivering. “Don’t make me do this! I’m begging you! Please! The technology isn’t up to par! What if something goes wrong? I could never forgive myself! Fuck, please! Please don’t make me!”


“We’ve been over this. It has to be done. I know my chances. I signed the papers.”

“Fuck the papers!”


“Shhhh, Ches, please calm down. Don’t make this harder than it has to be.”


“Like this could get any harder!”


He didn’t know what else to say, so he said nothing, and held the crying man, absorbing his body heat, and inhaling his masculine scent. Would he ever remember any of it: how Chester felt in his arms, how his bones felt beneath his hands, even if it was just in bits and pieces; small flashbacks that occurred out of nowhere?

When Chester calmed (his hands still in a death grip on the patient’s shirt collar) the door to the lab opened. They knew who and what time it was. Chester’s heart tumbled into the pit of his stomach. He held back an urge to throw up, his throat dry and eyes burning from constant tears.


Their friend came up behind Chester and squeezed his shoulder. “C’mon, it’s time, buddy,” he whispered in his ear, Chester nodding in response. He sat up and sniffed, wiping his nose on the sleeve of his shirt. He flashed his patient one more longing gaze then stood up. He walked to the opposite side of the room where he shed his emotions and slipped into his lab coat, surgery gloves, and mask.


The patient sat back into his chair and rested his palms on his stomach. Tears rolled down his cheeks and into his ears. He heard the ocean. He smelt the sea water and saw the seagulls gliding along a clear, azure sky. It was their place. Chester always smelled of sand and sea. He closed his eyes and focused on that one singular memory: crashing waves, sea-foam, and welcoming skies; white puffy clouds like cotton candy, a flavor which melted onto his lips whenever Chester would kiss him, just as he was now.


One last kiss: warm, tender, passionate and worth more than any vocal goodbye.


“I love you.”


Something that wasn’t Chester’s lips covered his mouth. He breathed in deeply.


Swirl and sway without me

Dust devil swept you away

Whirling playful dancing

About you

Then he slipped away.

What’s left of you

Ash and urn and this

Silent


:::Present Time:::


Chester slammed the box down with a huff. He leaned over the cardboard and wiped the sweat off his forehead with the back of his wrist.


“Damn, sis, how did you manage to fit all of this in your car? And I thought I was a hoarder!” He exclaimed to the petite blond standing at the side of her bed, pulling out clothes from another box and laying them flat on the mattress in orders of color and cut, summer and winter apparel. Chester cocked a brow. “And I see that OCD runs in our family.”


Jazalyn Bennington peered over her shoulder at her older brother and rolled her brown eyes at his over dramatization as he huffed and puffed over a cardboard box no bigger than a twelve pack of Budlight. She shook out another piece of clothing, the cotton-blue dress falling into the summer pile.


“Stop being such a cry baby. I did not bring that much.”


Wide eyed, Chester chortled. “Whatever! I can barely move in this room!”


“Everything’s in boxes, Chazzy-boy! Besides, I don’t think you have room to complain. I’m doing you a favor, remember?” She asked with a hiked blond brow.


Chester tensed up, suddenly feeling guilty for giving his sister a hard time. Jaz was right. She’d driven all the way from Phoenix, Arizona to Los Angeles, leaving her friends, their mom and stepdad behind, to assist Chester. He had been running out of people to trust with his son, his last baby sister having taken advantage of Chester’s hospitality. Coming home to find the woman you trusted with your kid screwing her boyfriend on your bed wasn’t something one was pleased to discover after a late night at the lab. Needless to say he kicked them both out, fired her, and then set the bed ablaze.


“Earth to Chester!”


Chester shook his head at the sight of a blurry hand waving in front of his face. Jaz now stood in front of him, her eyes glowered in worry and sympathy, a look he’d grown used to over the past three and a half years.


“Sorry, sis,” he apologized in a half-mumble. “Got lost in memory for a bit there.”

Her petite shoulders hung and she wrapped her fingers around his colorful wrists, her thumbs rubbing along the licking flames adorning his skin.


“Stop looking at me like that, please.”


She sighed and remarked, “I’m sorry. I just worry about you. You’ve been through so much,

Chaz, more than any one person should ever have to go through in a single lifetime much less a few years.”


“I’m fi--”


“You don’t always have to be strong, ya know. There are ways to… erase things, Che--”


Jaz jumped as Chester yanked his arms out of her grip. He turned his back to her and ran his hands through his short, brown locks. They didn’t say a word, Chester now staring out at the ocean through the opened French doors, watching gentle waves lapping against a white sandy shore. He inhaled the salty fresh air and closed his eyes, trapping in a single tear threatening to escape.


“I think we both know what happens when erasing goes wrong,” he said at last, his voice nearly a whisper that Jaz had to stop breathing in order to hear him. “It may hurt but at least I… at least…”


Jaz rubbed his shoulder gently. “It’s okay, Chaz. You don’t have to talk about it. I’m sorry I even mentioned erasing anything. I wasn’t thinking.”


Still looking out towards the ocean, he gave a small smile. “It’s all I have left, Jaz. Just one push of a button and he’s there, ya know, right in front of me: smiling, laughing…” He chuckled sadly. “God that laugh,” he reminisced with a longing in his almond eyes, “that laugh’s the sweetest song in the world. Is it wrong for me to go back and re-watch all those moments?”


Jaz didn’t answer right away. In her opinion it was unhealthy to go back and relive memories that had the ability to shatter ones soul. Her brothers’ case was a special one and Jaz constantly caught herself worrying over his overall well-being. Three and a half years she had to sit back and watch the Lenses glass over his eyes, seeing sights that only put him in tears. How many times had he called her up in hysterics? How many bottles of whiskey did he go through during those first six months of loss? It got so bad that she and their mother had to make an emergency red-eye flight to Los Angeles to watch over a newborn Jude and pick up the shattered pieces Chester buried himself in.


They’d made so much progress in the last few years that Jaz dreaded the idea of it all going to waste; of Chester going down another spiral of self-loathing and alcohol abuse. It didn’t take him long to quit his habits, realizing that he had to clean himself up, not for his benefit, but for Jude’s. After a year Jaz somehow managed to push him back out into the dating world. Chester’s friend, Brad Delson, had introduced him to a lawyer from his firm, Rob Bourdon, and the two hit it off instantly. They dated for a few months and things went as smooth as one could expect given Chester’s delicate matters until Rob broke the relationship off. Chester wasn’t ready, everyone knew it, and Rob didn’t want to pressure him into something he wasn’t comfortable with.


“I know he sees another face whenever he looks at me,” Rob told Brad after the breakup. “He needs more time.”


Brad agreed, of course, and understood, but, after Rob left, made a phone call to Jaz just the same. The two were at their wits end when it came to Chester. Brad didn’t know how to deal with his friend’s heartbreak and Jaz was just trying to make sense of her brother’s emotions. Having never been in such a situation, neither Brad nor Jaz could ever fully understand what Chester was going through, and that only made things that much harder. How do you fix a broken man when the piece he needed most was amiss?


“Jaz?” Chester repeated.


She blinked once and sighed. “Chester,” she began. “You’re my best friend, you know that. I just want you to be happy. I hate seeing you dwell over things that you can’t fix. It kills me to watch you just… like… space out or trail off when you start talking. When was the last time you went out? Like, not with a guy, I mean just out, with friends? Like to a party?”

“Jude and I went to a birthday party last week,” he shrugged.


Jaz snorted. “I mean a party not involving a donkey piñata and a Frozen cake?”


“Hey! Kids that age are just as impossible to take care of as my grown ass, drunken friends!”


They shared a hearty laugh and Chester answered a breathless, “It’s been awhile.”


Jaz hummed, rubbing her chin in thought, Chester giving her a sideways glance. He hated when her hamster brain was on its wheel; nothing good ever came out of it.


“C’mon,” she said all of the sudden, dragging him away from the French doors, out of the room and down the hall towards Chester’s bedroom.


“Jaz! What the hell?”


She pushed him down on the bed before opening his closet, the sound of hangers scraping against the metal bar. Jaz was singing random “na, na, na’s” as she flipped through his wardrobe.


“Jaz?”


“Chaz?”


“What are you doing?”


“What does it look like I’m doing?”


“It looks like you’re raping my closet.”


“Ah-ha!” She exclaimed and tossed him a black button up and a pair of light blue jeans with

a rip in the knee. Casual yet sexy, typical Jaz, he mused inwardly.


“And where are we going exactly?”


“I got invited to a party,” she said while rotating his shoe rack.


Chester scoffed. “Unbelievable! You’ve been in town for less than a day and already you got invited to a party? How the fuck do you manage these things?”


“Because I’m adorable! Duh!” They laughed. She continued. “There was a guy standing next to me at the luggage claim and we got to talking. Name’s Dave something or another. Not a bad looking dude. Very polite. Figured ‘why the hell not’, ya know? I don’t know anyone here except you and Jude and as much as I love you, I need friends that I can – A: sleep with without it being disgusting or illegal and B: have a dinner and a drink that doesn’t consist of spaghetti oh’s and chocolate milk.”


“My spaghetti oh’s and chocolate milk movie nights with Jude are a helluva good time! You’re missing out!” He pointed out and smirked. “Besides, I can’t go out tonight. Jude is at his friend’s house for only a few more hours.”


“So call up the mother of Jude’s little friend and ask if you can pick him up in the morning and in exchange you’ll watch over her little heathen next week for a night,” suggested Jaz with a shrug while walking on her knees towards the second shelf of shoes. Chester opened his mouth but snapped it shut when Jaz interrupted him. “Stop! No arguing! You need to get out, Chazzy-boy. I just got here, left behind mom and my friends to help you and Jude and don’t think I don’t love you guys, I obviously do, this isn’t a chore for me but cut me some slack, Chaz. Let’s go have a fun night before our days go back to working long hours and cleaning up after a kid.”


Chester fingered the shirt in his lap, the expensive cloth soft to the touch. It was a shirt he had bought for this exact reason: parties, friendly get-togethers…engagement dinners. The tag was still attached at the end of the sleeve. He let it slip through his long fingers a few times over. Then in one, quick motion, ripped it from the clothing.


He got up from the bed just as Jaz was setting aside a pair of his black boots.


“Where ya goin’?”


“To call Marge and ask if she can watch Jude for tonight,” he answered while walking out the door.


Jaz smiled.


**********


“Hey, Mike, could you please throw some more beer in the cooler for me?” Brad yelled over the blast of the music. He coughed slightly, grey smoke from the grill rising high into the air as he opened the heavy metal lid.


Mike Shinoda nodded and ran into the house, skipping towards the mud room and grabbing a few cases of beer. Two hours into the party and already the Delson property was crammed corner to corner with people, the music so strident that it made Mike’s chest vibrate and his ears pop. He still didn’t understand it -- how could one person possibly know so many people? Then again, he guessed being the most popular and well respected lawyer in the L.A. area gained one a lot of company and respect. Mike inferred that most of Brad’s ‘friends’ were nothing short of acquaintance’s sucking up just in case they needed to force their partner into a prenuptial agreement in the future. Then there was the other half of people who went to Brad’s parties for the free booze and food, and slip of private beach. It wasn’t a secret to Brad that he was being used, he just didn’t care. He enjoyed playing host and he had the funds to do it. Besides, it wasn’t something he did on a monthly basis.


“How’d you manage to get Mike to come out of his hermit shell for a night?” Dave Farrell asked, scratching at his ginger goatee and raising a questionable brow with an amused guise.


“Told him it was either this or being dragged to a gay bar,” Brad laughed. “Ultimatums, dear friend.”


Dave chuckled and jabbed Brad with his elbow. “That’s not nice taking advantage of our Mikey like that.”


“Yeah, well, it’s also not nice to see him impound himself in his home office, working until his brain turns to mush. He needs to get out more.”


Dave nodded, his voice an undertone of seriousness. “I know. I worry about him too,” he looked over his shoulder, seeing their topic of conversation coming out of the screen door carrying a pile of beer cases. Dave ran over at once and relieved Mike of some of the weight. Mike thanked him with his infamous smile, the kind that made his cheeks rise high and brought out the laugh lines in the corner of his striking Japanese eyes.


They went about putting the glass bottles in the coolers, Mike sneaking a glance every so often at the crowd of people mingling about the large yard, admiring the warmth of the California sun beaming down on the sea green waters in the near distance.


Dave and Brad continued talking though Mike was unable to make out the conversation over the booming of music their friend Joe was creating on a makeshift stage, the Korean man scratching the turntables with one hand while the other held up an earphone to his ear. He bobbed his head to the techno beat, lost in his own musical world. Joe was practically famous in the L.A. area, often hired by celebrities to DJ at parties or weddings, his latest job having been for a shindig hosted by Jay-Z in celebration of his current album release. Joe invited Mike, Brad, and Dave along to the party. Mike declined, as he often did, and instead spent the night working on some freelance art for a local record company.


Mike was more than aware of his workaholic tendencies which often led to a lot of lecturing from his equally workaholic friends. However, whenever Mike would make that point apparent to them, they’d rebuttal with the overused, “but we have lives outside of the office” bullshit. Yes, they did live outside of their work, so much in fact that Brad started taking his wife and two kids on vacations twice a year. This year he took them to Disneyland and at the end of December they would be on a cruise heading towards Alaska. And while Mike did appreciate Brad’s concern, what Brad failed to comprehend was the fact that Mike didn’t have a partner, or kids, and his friends worked just as much as he did. His mom, dad and brother lived hours away and it was hard to find the time to make the travels, seeing each other only during the holidays and birthdays. His work was all he had and he didn’t mind it whatsoever. It kept him out of trouble and, most importantly, happy.


“Hey, Mikey!”


He looked up from the cooler at Brad.


“How do you want your steak, buddy?”


“Medium-rare, more rare than medium.”


Brad’s face fell. “Do I look like Gordon Ramsey? You’re getting rare!”


Mike chucked and shut the door to the cooler. Brad slapped the seasoned steak on the grill and bobbed his head to the music. Out of all the countless parties he’s thrown over the years, this was by far the largest outcome thus far and he was quite proud of himself. His wife, Michelle, had taken the kids to her mother’s for the night. He spotted Michelle near the pool, her tanned skin glowing in the sun, her bikini showing off a tight body that always seemed to snap back into place even after two pregnancies and a c-section. She flipped her long, brown hair over her shoulder and winked at Brad before going back to her conversation with a few of her girlfriends.


Dave skimmed the crowd of people and took a swig of his beer. He’d been scoping out the party since the moment he arrived, hoping to spot a particular cute blond he’d met at the luggage claim earlier that morning after a business trip to Washington. He was instantly taken by her, her tired yet big doe eyes reading over the tags on suitcases as they came around on the belt. When her luggage came up, she grabbed and held on, chasing it down the carousel, yanking with all her strength. Dave had come to her rescue and lifted her suitcase off the belt. When she turned to look at him, simply flushed, Dave couldn’t contain his inner teenage boy from making an appearance. She was beautiful in her own natural right, opposite of most women he saw in downtown L.A., her blond hair tied up in a messy bun and her jeans ripped, an army green tank hugging her in all the right places.


“Thank you so much,” she said to him, turning cherry faced. “I swear I’m not usually this helpless. It’s been a long week. I just moved here from Arizona and had to make a quick flight out to get the last of my things.”


“Arizona? What brings you to L.A.?”


“My brother lives here and needs some help with his son. Oh, my, how rude of me, I’m Jaz,” she introduced with an outstretched hand.


He smiled. “Dave.”


They didn’t talk much after that, the hustle and loud commotion of the overstuffed airport making it difficult to hold a steady conversation. Dave took a chance on fate and invited her to Brad’s party, writing down detailed directions before going their separate ways. Two hours into the party, Dave had given up hope on seeing the beauty again. Then, looking over the tail of his beer bottle at his mouth, a familiar blond could be seen snaking through a sea of guests, her navy blue dress strapless and flowing freely to the ground. His heart jumped and then, just as quickly, it stopped. Beer spluttered out of his mouth like a fire hose, the liquid soaking the side of Brad’s face.


“Dude! What the fuck, man?” Brad yelped, swiping at his now wet, hops smelling cheek. When Dave didn’t answer, he looked in the direction to see what it was – who it was – that had his friend so shaken. Brad squint his brown eyes at the girl in blue then jumped where he stood, eyeing down the familiar man following close behind.


“What the fuck is he doing here?” Brad exclaimed in a whispering hiss into Dave’s ear. “Who invited him?”


Dave slowly turned to Brad and nibbled at his lower lip nervously. “Erm… I may have… erm…”


“Daaaaave, what did you do?”


“It was an accident!”


Brad lowered his arms to his side and balled his hands. “What do you mean an ‘accident’? How does one ‘accidentally’ invite someone to a party exactly?”


“I invited the girl! I met her at the airport today! I didn’t know she knew Chester!”


Brad took a peek at Mike who was behind him at the coolers, sitting in a lounge chair, soaking up the sun, watching idly at the party happening down below the second story patio they were on. Brad squeezed his eyes shut and turned back to Dave and said in a low growl, “Go-fix-it-now.”


“Little too late for that,” Dave whispered and gave a single nod in the direction behind his irate friend.


“Hey!” A female voice chirped. “It’s a good thing you’re up here otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to spot you! There’s like, thousands of people here!”


Jaz smiled at Dave then cocked her head confusingly at his awkward greeting of a single “hey” barely audible over the thumping of music. Brad slowly spun his heel and met Chester’s eyes who were staring back at him with the same petrified expression on Dave’s paled face.


“Hey, Brad,” Chester greeted.


Without a word, Brad pushed Dave in front of Jaz before grabbing Chester’s bicep and dragging him off the patio and into the house. Chester sighed, knowing all too well he was fixing to receive one of Brad’s infamous speeches, something no-one ever looked forward to for he always had a way of smearing on the guilt trip –- thickly. He followed the lawyer into the downstairs study and Brad pushed him inside before slamming and locking the door behind him.


“What are you doing here?” Brad asked at once. “You can’t be here.”


Chester held up his hands in defense. “I got dragged along! I didn’t know it was your party! Which, by the way, thanks for the invite,” he grumbled with an eye roll.

Brad grunted.


“I couldn’t invite you and you damn well know why! And you didn’t think to say something when she gave you the address to the house?”


“She drove! By the time we reached your road it was too late!” Chester ran his hand through his hair and stared at his clean boots. “Listen, Brad, she’s doing me a huge favor here. I can’t just like... force her to leave the party. She’s suffered enough because of my fuck ups. Just let her have some fun tonight and I swear I won’t do anything stupid. I’ll stay out of the way, I promise.”


Brad exhaled and looked about the room before settling his eyes on Chester, catching himself between being a good friend or a practical one. His foot repeatedly tapped against the hardwood floor as Chester fidgeted before him.


“Fine, you can stay,” he said at last. He pointed a finger at Chester. “But no funny business! Understand? There's a lot of us who have suffered at the hand of your fuck ups, Chaz.”


He hung his head. “I know, Brad.”


Brad sighed and rubbed Chester’s arm which resulted in Chester looking up at him through his wet lashes, tears streaming down his face. Brad melted at the sight. It’s been a long three years for everyone, but an even longer three years for Chester.


“I’m sorry, man, I didn’t mean to go off like that. I just… I’m trying to protect everyone involved, you know? Especially you. Don’t you think you’ve suffered enough?”


Chester sniffed and wiped his tears with angry fists. “No. I deserve to suffer for the next thousand lifetimes, Brad.”


“That’s not true. We all make mistakes.”


“Not like this…”


Brad’s back tightened and he squeezed Chester’s arm one more time before nodding

sideways.


“C’mon, I’m sure I’ve already burnt everyone’s steaks.”


Chester laughed through his quiet sobs and followed Brad back out to the patio. Jaz and Dave were standing at the grill flipping over steaks and burgers and very obviously flirting that it was almost painful to watch. Chester chuckled to himself when Jaz began twirling a strand of blond hair around her index finger and staring up at Dave, sipping at her daiquiri straw.


Brad took a look around, seeing the lounger empty. He furrowed his brow and searched for the man who had been lying there no more than five minutes ago. Brad shrugged and kicked Dave away from the grill. Jaz giggled and Brad outstretched a hand in welcome.

“So how do you know Chester?” He asked her.


“He’s my brother,” she answered. Brad went wide eye. “I know,” she said, “all these years talking on the phone and we’ve never met! Crazy, huh? You must be Brad though.”


“How could you tell?”


“Chester always mentioned a friend with a big bushy beard. Said you had a nest of baby birds in there at one point.”


Chester yelped when a hamburger bun hit the back of his head as he was reaching into the cooler for bottled water. He stood up and shot Brad a daggering glare.


“What was that for?”


“I did not have a nest of baby birds in my beard!”


Dave, Chester and Jaz broke out into a fit of hysterics at Brad’s expense. Brad shook his head and went back to flipping the food on the grill, mumbling profanities under his breath. A still chuckling Chester went back to rummaging through the cooler, pushing aside bottles of beer, the sound of glass clinking, the ice freezing over his skin as he dug deeper.


“Brad! What the hell, man? Is there no water in here?”


“It’s a party dude! Not recess!”


Chester rolled his eyes and slammed the cooler lid shut. Wiping his damp palms on his jeans, a shadow cast over him and he craned his neck to see a jean clad crotch standing before him. His heart began to race and he slowly stood up, head down, staring at the clear bottle of water dripping in condensation cradled in a caramel toned hand. He followed that hand up to a long arm and broad shoulder, over the dip of a strong neck. Full lips smiled at him in a somewhat shy manner and Chester settled into chocolate pools of brown staring back at him, the beams of the sun bringing out specks of dark amber.


“Uh… here… I’m sorry… I just… I overheard and…”


Chester smiled at him and Mike bit the corner of his lower lip when those honey brown eyes studied him in a quizzical fashion as if they were taking Mike in for the first – and the millionth – time. Mike was mystified by this man’s eerie presence and when he reached out to take the bottle from Mike, he didn’t move his hand away, and neither did he.


“Thank you,” he said. “Um…”


“Oh, Mike, Mike Shinoda.”


“I’m Chester Bennington. Nice to meet you.”


Mike froze. Where had he heard that name before? Somewhere in the papers? Facebook? Local news? He was someone important but Mike couldn’t quite place it. A musician? No…

not a musician. Magician? Don’t be silly, Mike. Doctor? Yes. No! Technical…


“Yes!”


Chester jolted at Mike’s excited proclamation. Mike’s cheeks turned rosy beneath that caramel, sun kissed skin.


“I’m sorry. You were just so familiar to me. Like I know I’ve seen you somewhere.”


Chester swallowed dry. His heart could be heard over the pounding music.

“Oh?”


Mike nodded. “Yeah, you’re that technical savvy, right? Like, you specialize in erasing Eye

Memories, right? You can even remove the uh…” Mike tapped behind his own left ear, “Chips?”


It took Chester a moment to digest Mike’s realization. Yes, that was him alright: Chester Bennington: Chip Removing, Memory Erasing, selfish, heartless, S.O.B. who only destroys lives and somehow that gained him fame and praise instead of punishment. Well, aside from his own self-inflicted punishments, that is.


“Yes, that’d be me.”


Straight, white teeth gleamed in the sun, as did his entire being, when Mike’s lips stretched into a smile.


“I read an article on you. Long time ago. Um… it was a rather personal article. Supposedly you accidentally deleted too much information on someone and it threw you off your work for a long time and then you… er…” Mike paused at Chester’s change in demeanor, his body tensing, eyes welling. “I’m rambling on about things that I shouldn’t. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. I’m an asshole. I sometimes don’t know where my limits are. I mean, I was just trying to strike up a conversation up with you and I went and blew it and now I’m making you uncomfortable and… what? What’s so funny?”


Chester couldn’t help but to laugh at Mike’s struggling attempt at conversation.


“Do you do that a lot?”


Mike scrunched his brows. “What?”


“Ramble like a jack rabbit?”


Mike blushed ten shades of scarlet and looked down at his hands. “I’m sorry. I’m not good in big groups. They make me nervous. I apologize if I’m making you uncomfortable.”

Chester nodded knowingly. “It’s fine. I’m not here to judge you. And you didn’t make me uncomfortable at all.”


Mike looked up through his long lashes. “Really?”


“Really,” Chester assured with a friendly smirk.


Meanwhile, Dave was off on the other side of the porch, desperately trying his own hand at the whole “flirtation” thing. It’d been awhile since he’d been with someone and talking to a girl was not exactly his forte to say the least. It didn’t take long for him to realize that Jaz was practically Chester’s double in all ways possible. Or, better put, she was Chester before the “accident”-- bubbly, loud, and confident. Chester used to be that way. Now he was quiet and reserved. Dave couldn’t recall the last time he and Chester hung out, just the two of them, like they used to. No more concerts or Sunday night football. Chester was either too busy working or too tired to do any of those things.


“So will you be staying with Chester permanently?” He asked Jaz.


She nodded. “Yep, it’s just easier that way. Never thought I’d see the day where my brother would pay me to watch his kid. Well, and clean his house too. Lazy fuck.”

Dave laughed and looked over Jaz’s shoulder at Mike and Chester conversing. It appeared to Dave that Mike was offering Chester a bottle of water yet neither of them had removed their hands from said bottle; their eyes locked, bashful smiles exchanged, and Dave, drawn away from Jaz’s voice, excused himself, promising he would be right back. She was taken aback, baffled by the concerned shadow in his fern green eyes. How’d she always manage to attract the crazies? She rotated on her heel. Her heart stopped when she saw who Dave was walking towards.


Dave jumped in next to Mike, instantly breaking the trance between them.


“Hey buddy, can you help me out with something?” Dave asked Mike.


“Uh… yeah, sure.”


“Sorry, Chaz, it’ll be just a moment.”


Chester pursed his lips and gave his okay with a stiff nod to Dave before dragging Mike inside the house. Chester didn’t realize how bad he’d been shaking until Mike had let his grip slip from Chester’s hand. He couldn’t open the bottle of water, his fingertips slipping over the plastic cap, his bones weak beneath their muscles. Those eyes… he couldn’t get those damn eyes out of his head… What was Dave telling him? How much was Dave telling him? Yes, Chester had made mistakes – unforgivable mistakes – in the past. But he was only human. Whatever happened to redemption?


“So whatcha need, Phe-Phe?” Mike asked Dave, giggling at the redhead’s college nickname.


Dave snarled and hissed, “Please don’t call me that.”


Leading them into the garage, Dave shut the door and turned on the light. Mike stood face to face with his friend, his pulse vibrating beneath his skin at Dave’s somberness. He had a tone to match that somber posture.


“So, I have to ask,” Mike said to Dave. “Is that hunk out there… you know… gay?”


Dave blinked at him and answered. “Erm… yes. But Mike--”


Mike stood on his tiptoes to look over Dave’s shoulder, his eyes lit with curiosity. “Really now? Hmmm… Well, I may just have to--”


“You have to stay away from Chester Bennington.”


Mike snorted and crossed his arms over his chest. “What? Since when did you become my dad?”


Dave pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “I’m not saying this to be a dick, Mike. When have I ever told you what and whatnot to do? You and I both know I would never do such a thing unless I felt as if it were important. Just, plea--”


“Is this because of what he did to that one person? You know, the experiment that went wrong? Surely it was a mistake.”


“Mike--”


“No one would ever purposely swipe a person’s Memories clean like that without feeling some remorse. People make mistakes, Dave.”


“Mike--”


“You can’t really hold that one thing against him no matter how big that one thing may be.”


“MIKE!”


They went silent. Mike’s big, brown eyes narrowed, Dave’s shoulders tightening as he stared back, unsure how to explain to Mike the kind of person Chester Bennington truly was. He didn’t want to talk bad about Chester, especially behind his back without a chance to stick up for himself, but Dave was left with no other choice. He reached out and took Mike’s hands in his. Mike looked down at their hands then back up at Dave’s face.


“Please Mike. Just do this one thing for me, no questions asked. You don’t… you don’t know

Chester like I know Chester. He’s not a bad guy, I’m not saying that. I just…” He paused and licked his lips. “Just this one time listen to me.”


Mike had never seen Dave react this way before. Normally the laid back one in their group of friends, the last to raise his voice or say a single bad thing about anyone – that was the Dave he knew, not this stiffened, petrified, stern man begging him to stay away from someone. Still, he could sense the urgency and seriousness in his warning. He put his chin to his chest.


“Ok, Dave.”


It was as if he melted out of a cube of ice upon hearing Mike’s agreement. He dropped their hands and put an arm around Mike’s shoulders.

“Right then. C’mon, let’s go enjoy the party. I’m sure Brad’s done burnt your steak.”

Mike snickered. “I’m sure you’re right.”


Song is Horizon by Puscifer

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