LPfiction

Category Linkin Park

Apple Juice by frostfall

Basketball Injuries

This story takes place during the recording of 'Minutes to Midnight'.






*****






There’s something going on between them, Chester thinks as he absentmindedly tosses the basketball at Dave’s direction.


It isn’t the first time such a thought has crossed his mind. Heck, it has happened one too many times these past few months. Too often, in Chester’s opinion.


Ever since they gathered to start work on the new album, they’ve been attached to the hip. Hell ever since he came back from tour, they’ve been in constant contact.


Which shouldn’t be as strange as Chester’s making it out to be. After all, they’ve been best friends since they were kids. It makes sense that best friends would be hanging out together, right?


At first, it didn’t bother him. Chester has never been bothered by Mike and Brad’s relationship at all. He knows very well how much Mike valued Brad and vice-versa.


But then Mike suddenly stopped talking to Chester outside of anything work-related. Which in turn, means Mike ditched him for Brad. And frankly, it fucking frustrates him.


Chester exhales loudly, watching Joe trying to block Dave’s attempt at a basket. The ball bounces off the court, sending both of them and Rob in a frenzy as they run after it.


He should get his head out of his ass, chase after them, and focus on the game at hand. But Chester seemed to find focusing pretty difficult today, not when he knows that Mike and Brad are hanging out in the mansion.


Alone. Right now.


It shouldn’t mean anything. Mike and Brad has hung out on their own a lot. Chester knows that. They’ve been doing this for years, many more before Chester walked into their lives too.


But the past few weeks have been weird because Brad would shoot Mike these strange looks when Mike wasn’t paying attention and they’d be huddled together whispering something and then Mike would throw his head back and laugh and goddamn if only Chester could drink. He’ll need something strong to deal with whatever that’s brewing between Mike and Brad.


He definitely would’ve ran off to the nearest bar had he not promised Mike he wouldn’t go back down that road. And when Chester makes promises, he makes sure he does his best to not break them, especially when it comes to Mike.


It isn’t like Chester hates the idea of Mike and Brad together or even possess feelings for each other. Hell, he’ll be the one to say, ‘I told you so’ should they reveal their secret relationship or their feelings or whatever. Them being together? Makes perfect sense.


But he hates that it’d be at the expense of Chester’s friendship with Mike.


“Where the hell did it go?!” Joe yells, his voice faraway. None of his friends are in sight, possibly in search for the missing basketball.


Chester chews at the bottom of his lip. He really should go and help them out. Knowing them, they’d probably call him out for being a lazy ass or some shit when they return.


Which he’s not. At all.


But Mike. Fucking Mike.


If he doesn’t know better, Chester would’ve figured Mike isn’t used to returning to being a part of Linkin Park after donning his Fort Minor hat.


But Mike didn’t tossed him aside when they were apart. In fact, Mike would constantly hound him, asking for opinions that Chester deems himself too unqualified to give.


His white ass knowing an inkling of hip-hop? Not in a million years.


As frustrated as he felt about his incompetence, Chester didn’t mind though. After all, it’s Mike and when Mike calls at 2.30 am freaking out on whether he should use past or present tense in his lyrics, Chester picks up without any hesitation. No questions asked.


Hell, they’ve been fine during the early stages of the recording of the album. It’s only recently Mike just stopped being him. Around Chester anyway.


Chester initially blamed it all on the producing Mike has decided to undertake this time. But that theory went completely out the window when he noticed Mike interacting with everybody else.


And B—


Something hardy whacks the side of his forehead, snapping Chester out of his reverie in the most painful way possible.


“Ow, fuck!” he exclaims, his eyes fluttering shut as searing pain spreads through his forehead. His hand flies up to cover the sore spot, a slight bulge forming under his palm.


Well, fuck. Another injury to add to his ever-growing collection of injuries.


At least now he can check off “getting hit by a basketball” off his bucket list. If only somebody could whack him with a baseball bat right now, then he’ll have two off his list.


“Shit!” Dave exclaims, his voice loud and clear as the sound of footsteps abruptly die. “Are you okay? Holy shit, I told you not to do that.”


“How was I supposed to know it was gonna hit him?” Joe whines, the apparent culprit. Chester shouldn’t feel as unsurprised as he is.


When he finally gathers his bearings, he’ll definitely kick his ass. Doesn’t matter that Joe’s his friend. He will kick his ass. Chester may have skinny legs but boy, do they do the trick.


“Actually,” Rob points out. “You did. You wouldn’t have done that if you didn’t mean to.”


Chester’s eyelids flutter open to Dave’s concerned gaze and Rob’s annoyed look trained on Joe’s sheepish grin.


Joe tilts his head from side to side. “Well…yeah. But I guess I underestimated how much it’d hurt.”


“Yeah, but—”


“Guys,” Dave interrupts, tossing them an exasperated glare. “Not important. Let’s just go back inside and get Chester an ice pack and then debate on the morality of throwing a basketball at somebody.”


Chester suppresses a groan. One of the reasons why he hates getting injured besides the mind-numbing agony is the concern he draws. Sure, it’s nice that everybody’s concerned for him. He’s glad that he’s surrounded by people who finally give a shit about him.


But holy shit, he isn’t made out of fucking glass. It’s just a head injury, not a relapse for fuck’s sake. And he’s an adult. He could deal with a little pain. It wasn’t like he has a concussion or amnesia or some serious shit.


“I’m fine.”


“You don’t look fine,” Rob asserts.


“But I am,” Chester insists.


Dave gestures to the injured area with his chin. “May I?”


Chester shrugs his shoulders, lifting his own palm.


Dave hums, his gaze gliding over the spot. “Looks fine. Just a slight bulge. Probably still need ice.” He turns his head to the side, his tone switched to a more icier one. “And an apology.”


Rob nudges Joe with his elbow. Joe flashes Chester an embarrassed smile. “I’m sorry,” he says sincerely. “I was just trying to get your attention.”


“That was a shit way to do it,” Chester says as his injury continues to throb, the pain intensifying.


“Yeah, it was. But you were spacing out during a game.”


Chester flips him off in response, eliciting snickers from his other two friends.


Unsympathetic asshole. Joe’s notorious for being terrible at apologizing, choosing humor and deflection instead. Chester knows Joe meant what he said, even if it doesn’t seem like it. That’s Joe Hahn for you.


But holy shit, it’s a trait Chester loathes.


If Mike’s here, he wouldn’t be laughing this shit off. He would immediately switch to Mother Hen Mode and try to comfort Chester or cart him off to the hospital.


Sure, Chester hates it when Mike’s being all overbearing because he’s not glass but he’ll take overbearing over being a dick anyway.


Or maybe Mike wouldn’t be like that. Not anymore anyway. After all, Mike seems to only acknowledge Chester’s presence when he needs him.


“—and get’cha head in the game, man.”


Chester cocks his eyebrow in disbelief, having only caught those last few words. “Wait, did you just quote what I think you just did?”


Joe grins gleefully, nodding his head. Chester groans inwardly.


Don’t get him wrong, High School Musical is fine. It’s a good guilty pleasure movie and the singing wasn’t so bad. It’s the kind of movie you play as white noise while you do spring cleaning, which for Chester, isn’t necessarily a horrible thing.


But people are making it out like it’s the best thing since sliced bread, which is totally wrong and they need to take a reality check. Or fifty. Joe definitely needs at least five hundred.


“It’s a phrase,” Dave says. “Why would Joe quote that stupid movie?”


Rob snickers in response. Joe’s lips part, offended.


“Hey, that movie’s great,” he says defensively. “Just because Olivia Newton-John isn’t in it, doesn’t mean it’s shit.”


“Yeah, but High School Musical’s a rip-off of Grease,” Rob points out. “Like High School Musical’s whole storyline is almost a complete carbon copy of Grease.”


“Not all rip-offs are shit though.”


“Unfortunately for you, High School Musical’s a shitty rip-off. A dollar-store Grease.”


Chester’s about to add his two cents into this needless and pointless conversation when another wave of pain hits him. “Ow, fuckin’ hell.”


Dave’s eyebrows shoot upwards. “Okay, guys. That’s enough horsing around. We’ve probably made it worse standing around.”


Before Chester could protest for the thousandth time today that he’s fucking fine so stop babying him, he’s cut off by a voice calling them in the distance.


Oh, hell. He recognizes that voice. And that nest of a hair. He could recognize both of them anywhere.


Which means he would be right at his heels.


“Hey, Mike and I are going to get—” Brad cuts himself off, frowning at Chester. “Holy shit, what happened to you?”


Nobody has time to answer because Mike has pushed everybody to the side to stand right in front of Chester.


Yup, Mike’s here. In the flesh, dressed in his typical plaid and jeans getup. With Brad. Probably stopped making out to wonder if Chester hadn’t died of old age yet.


Just what he needs right now.


“Jesus,” Mike breathes, worry etched on his face. It’s the most expressive reaction Chester has managed to elicit out of Mike this past two weeks. “Are you okay? What the hell happened? Who—? Never mind. C’mon, let’s go.”


Chester doesn’t have time to protest because Mike has his fingers around Chester’s wrist, dragging him away from their bandmates and back into the mansion.


To say Chester finds the whole ordeal odd is an understatement. After all, Mike has spent the last two weeks giving him the cold shoulder. And now here he is being all motherly and friendly and concerned?


Really?


But he’ll be a liar if he doesn’t say that he relished in the sudden change of heart. Even if it pisses him off at the same time.


“You guys should’ve went back inside as soon as you got him,” Mike scolds as they enter the building, the rush of the air-conditioner greeting Chester’s clammy skin. “The blood might’ve clot with you guys standing around. Hell, we might need to take you to the hospital and—”


“I’m fine,” Chester cuts him off. “I don’t know why you guys are freaking out. I get injured all the time.”


“Yeah,” Mike agrees. “But still, injuries are injuries.”


Chester wants to protest further but holds his tongue at the last minute. After all, Mike will be walking back into Brad’s outstretched arms and forgetting about him any second now. Might as well savor this while he can.


He hops onto the kitchen island, watching Mike yank the freezer door open and reaching inside.


“Here,” Mike says, dropping the ice pack onto his lap. Good thing Chester’s wearing underwear today because his dick wouldn’t appreciate being iced.


“Thanks,” he mumbles, pressing the pack onto his forehead. A quiet hiss tumbles out of his lips at the contact, his other hand gripping the edge of the countertop tightly.


They don’t speak for the next several seconds, both of them looking at anywhere but each other. It’s been a long time since Chester’s found himself sharing awkward silence with Mike.


A part of him is expecting Mike to throw out some weird ass excuse to get out of the room like he has done the past weeks, use Brad’s name as justification. Instead, Mike whips his head up suddenly, quickly shutting the freezer door.


A snort escapes Chester before he could stop himself. Mike’s gaze darts back to him.


“What?” he asks, quiet but unsure.


Chester shrugs. “Nothing. I just thought it was cute. You forgetting to shut the door.”


Mike’s cheeks darken at that. He clears his throat, gaze pointed down on his shoes.


Chester’s brow creases. Mike’s acting really weirdly. Usually when Chester throws out a compliment, Mike would reciprocate, maybe even sprinkle a joke or two.


But here he is with arms crossed and eyes glued to the ground and Chester hates this. He really does.


“What happened?” Mike suddenly asks, voice barely above a whisper.


Chester shrugs his shoulders. “Nothing really. I was just thinking ‘bout stuff. Joe thought it’ll be a great idea to get my attention by hitting me with the ball. Apparently he forgot he can talk.”


Mike heaves a sigh. “Fucking Joe. Typical.” He rakes a hand through what’s left of his hair, which Chester personally hates. Chester likes Mike with longer and messier hair. Mike without hair is like peanut butter without jelly. Or Mickey and Minnie. Or Simon and Garfunkel. It just doesn’t make sense.


Okay, maybe not Simon and Garfunkel. They don’t really get along so that’d defeat the purpose of Chester’s analogy.


“Did he apologize? I swear if he didn’t—”


“Yeah, he did,” Chester answers quickly, figuring where this conversation is leading towards. “And no, I’m not covering up for him so don’t go hounding him about it, okay? It’s just a basketball.”


“That could’ve given you a concussion.”


“But it didn’t,” Chester counters firmly. “so let’s just forget about it.”


Mike’s eyes narrow. “But were you playing or watching or—?”


“Playing.” Mike shoots him a knowing look. Chester rolls his eyes. “Yeah, yeah. I know I shouldn’t have been daydreaming during a game. But that doesn’t mean I deserved to get hit by a basketball.”


“I didn’t say that,” Mike says, his arms returning to his side. “It’s just that you don’t usually space out, especially during basketball.” His features soften. “Did… Did something happen?”


Chester freezes up, the ice pack he’s gripping hovers over his forehead.


Is there something wrong? Is there something wrong?


Of course there fucking is. Mike has barely acknowledged his presence outside the studio, he may be fucking Brad without telling Chester (which okay, shouldn’t be a reason because it’s none of Chester’s business even if they are friends), Chester got nailed by a basketball, and— and Mike wants to know how he’s doing?


“You know you could talk to me,” Mike continues, taking a step towards Chester. “I’m always here. If you wanna talk.”


Chester whips his head up, the fire at the pits of his stomach stoked.


“Talk to you?” Chester asks bitterly, the words tumbling out of his lips before he could stop himself. “How the hell am I supposed to talk to you when you’ve been ignoring me for the past couple of weeks?”


For a split second, panic washes over Mike’s face, disappearing in a blink of an eye. But it’s long enough for Chester to register it.


So he is being conscious of side-lining Chester.


Holy fucking shit.


Did Chester do something wrong? Did he say something insulting to Mike without knowing? Was Mike still wounded over all the shit he put him through during his drug-addicting days? Did he—


“Hey, Mikey!” Brad’s voice calls from a distance, making Mike and Chester jump apart. “You done?”


Chester mentally swears as he presses the ice pack harder against his head.


Of course Brad would come and break up the only time Mike decides Chester was worth talking to. Of course Brad would swing by just when Chester has Mike where he wants him to be.


Of fucking course.


Oh, what he’ll give to strangle that son of a bitch. He doesn’t care that Brad’s his friend or the guitarist of the band. He will get him for this. Maybe on the next April Fool’s Day or Hanukkah.


Maybe.


Mike’s eyelids blink rapidly, as if he’s been snapped out of a trance. His gaze trails reluctantly from Chester, to the direction of Brad’s voice. “In the kitchen!”


Okay, now Chester wanted to strangle Mike too for seizing an opportunity to avoid the subject.


“Hey, you two,” Brad greets, popping his head into the kitchen. “You guys doing alright?”


Chester nods his head stiffly, not meeting his eyes. “Fine.”


If Brad notices Chester’s sudden curtness, he doesn’t seem to acknowledge. Instead, his gaze shifts to Mike. “You still coming or you wanna hang with Chester?”


Mike sneaks a quick glance at Chester before ducking his head. “Yeah…” he says slowly. “I’m coming.”


Brad nods. “Alrighty,” he says as he draws back, leaving Mike and Chester alone again.


Chester exhales loudly, not caring that Mike’s right in front of him.


So that’s it? That’s the end of their conversation?


As much as Chester doesn’t want it to be, he knows he has to let Mike go. It’s not like he can physically hold him back. The last thing he needs is the rest of the band coming after him for being an aggressive asshole again. So if it means he won’t get the answers he wish he could have and let Mike run off into Brad’s embrace, he has to—


Holy shit, that’s such a dumb thought. It doesn’t matter what they do. It’s none of his business. It’s not like he’s Mike’s mother or great grandfather or the FBI agent assigned to monitor him.


“We’re gonna grab some burgers at McDonalds for lunch,” Mike says, breaking the silence. He manages a shy smile, as he rubs the back of his neck. “You, uh, want anything in particular?”


Chester shrugs. “You know me, I eat anything. As long as the burger patty isn’t made out of worms, I’m good.”


A quiet laugh escapes Mike’s lips. “Alright, then. I’ll make sure to get you a patty stuffed with paper and grass instead. I know how much you love that.”


Chester cringes as the unfortunate memory breezes by. “Hey, that was a dare.”


“But you did it without hesitating so that means you had experience.”


“Hey when people dare you to do shit, you do it without hesitating.”


Mike raises his eyebrow, his grin broadening. “Uh huh, that’s what they all—”


“Mike!” Brad calls again, his head making an unfortunate appearance again. This time, the rest of the band has joined him, their heads sticking out of the door frame in a line. “Let’s go! I’m hungry.”


“Yeah, Mike. You better get going,” Joe chimes. “I’m hungry too. And you know what happens when I’m hungry.”


Mike rolls his eyes as he draws away from Chester. “Fine,” he says as he makes his way towards his bandmates. “The rest of you, behave. No whacking Chester with basketballs. Or footballs. Or any kind of hard object. If you wanna get his attention, just use words. All of you can speak so you don't have any excuses not to.”


“Yes, mom,” Joe drawls, earning a sharp slap on the shoulder courtesy of Rob. “Ow!”


Mike shakes his head as snickers fill the room.


“Okay, that’s enough,” Brad says as the laughter dies down. He threads his fingers through the bush on his head as his head disappears. “I’m so fucking hungry. Let’s go before I start turning into a cannibal.”


“There’s a perfectly manicured lawn outside,” Chester points out, hopping off the kitchen island. “I think


Brad huffs. “Please, what do you take me for, a rabbit?”


Another round of laughter is shared as the band headed over to the front door to bid their goodbyes to Mike and Brad.


Mike and Brad. God help him.


“Hey, Mike?”


Mike pauses, halfway out the door. “Yeah?” he asks, his gaze pointed to the ground. The lack of eye-contact never cease to cause him heartache.


Chester hates this so much, so fucking much. But he’ll get to the bottom of this. He’s not sure when but he will. He’s not going to let their almost decade long friendship be thrown out the window for...whatever.


Definitely not now though. Not when four other pairs of eyes are glued on the both of them. Not when four other pairs of ears are hanging onto their every word. This problem needs to be dealt privately, away from prying eyes and ears.


That’s why he swallows his words and vomits out a lame, ‘see you later’.


Mike’s gaze flicker upwards, his lips parted in surprise. “Um, yeah. See you later.”


Another stab to the heart. Apparently being civil to each other is surprising to Mike, which makes no sense at all. Or maybe he’s surprised that Chester could still keep his cool after abruptly bailing out on him before they could talk.


God, this is all so stupid and juvenile and this is all—


“Hello? Earth to Chesterland? You in there?”


Chester jerks backwards, finally noticing a waving palm is right in front of his face. He almost trips over his own feet. “What the fuck?”


Apparently Mike and Brad are long gone, judging by the closed door. This leaves the rest of the band standing around and observing him with hawk-like attention.


Fuck, he must’ve zoned out again. Great, probably looked like a dumbass too. But they’re the dumbasses standing around watching him space out so really, he isn’t the biggest dumbass here, is he?


“You’ve been out of it again,” Joe teases as he withdraws his hand. “You’re back in La La Land again?”


Chester rolls his eyes as he lifts the ice pack from his forehead. “Hardy ha. Fuck off, Hahn.”


Spinning on his heel, he retreats into the kitchen, taking residence on the kitchen island again. Unsurprisingly, his friends are hot at his heels, watching him with dubious glances.


God, not this shit again.


Before Chester could revert being a broken record player, Rob cuts him off.


“Um, you know you can talk to us, right?”


Chester’s eyes narrow in suspicion. “Yeah… Why?”


“Yeah, well…” Rob pauses to push his slipping glasses back on the bridge of his nose. “It’s just that… Is something wrong?”


“No. Why’d you say that?”


“You’ve been acting weird lately,” Dave explains. “You space out more often that usual. Something has to be troubling you for you to be like this. This isn’t like you.”


“Yeah,” Joe says. “Wait, have you finally admitted High School Musical is the superior high school musical.” He breaks into a wide grin. “Get it? High School Musical takes place in a high school? And it’s a musical?”


The rest of the group groan out loud. Rob even slaps his forehead, cringing. “No shit, Sherlock.”


Chester snorts. “Contrary to popular belief,” he says as he resumes nursing his injury. The ice pack seemed to be doing its trick, dulling the ache for the moment. “I don’t hate High School Musical. I think it’s just inferior to the original which is Grease.”


“Hey, hey,” Dave interjects as he clamps Joe’s mouth with his palm. “No deviating from the subject. That’s not the point here.”


“What subject?” Chester demands, his voice rising a couple decibels. “There’s nothing up for Christ’s sake. So stop asking.”


“It can’t be nothing if you have been thinking about it for a while though.” Dave sighs, his shoulders slumping. “We’re just worried, Ches.” He gestures to the rest of their bandmates, who’re nodding vigorously. “We didn’t mean to be nosy or anything. If you’re not ready to talk, you’re not ready. You know you can talk to us when you’re ready, right?”


Chester’s anger deflates at that, guilt filling in. Dave’s right. They are just concerned for his well-being. All of them are, including Mike and Brad.


God, what is up with him today? The basketball sure did a number on him.


Chester sighs. “I know. I just… I don’t know man. I’m sorry I exploded.”


Dave nods. “I know,” he says, an answer Chester has heard more times than he should. “Don’t worry, man. We get it. You know we’re here for you right? And even if you don’t wanna talk to Rob or Joe or I, you have Brad and Mike. If you haven’t told Mike already, that is.”


Chester almost barks out a laugh at the last part. Instead, he shakes his head.


Oh, if only you knew.


Wait, maybe they’ve noticed it – Mike’s cold shoulder towards Chester or Mike and Brad’s latest shift in their dynamics. They should’ve.


But if he did, would they even agree with him? After all, Chester has been told numerous of times that he has a habit of dramatizing things. They might not buy the idea of Mike or Brad crushing on each other, let alone in a secret relationship.


Well, only one way to find out.


Chester sucks in a breath, his pulse racing in anticipation. “I just—”


The chorus of System of a Down’s ‘Chop-Suey’ suddenly blares, jolting everybody in the room.


Holy fucking god the whole universe is out to get Chester today. The universe gave him a throbbing bump on his head, another bout of heartache, and now hearing loss.


He just can't fucking win, can he?


“Sorry,” Rob apologizes, whipping his phone out of his back pocket. “It’s Brad. Probably forgot our orders again.”


The phone call puts an end to their conversation, their discussion shifting to debates on burger patties and soda flavors.


It’s for the best, now that Chester thinks about it. It isn’t their problem in the first place. Whatever Mike’s issue is with Chester is between the both of them. No point bringing other people into it.


Plus, things may be looking up because when Mike and Brad returns with the food and drinks in tow, everything seems to revert back to normal. Chester’s normal, anyway.


Mike sticks by his side for the rest of the day, hounding him about his injury like an overbearing hen and cheering him up with stupid jokes. Mike always does that when Chester is in a shitty mood, besides offering an ear. Not that he can talk about shit anyway, not when they’re surrounded by the rest of the band.


Which is kind of weird given the silent treatment he had received recently. But he’s not against this change, not in the slightest.


But then he notices Brad looking at Mike and Mike looking at Brad and they’re looking at each other and oh for fuck’s sake.


Even if Chester seems to have Mike back for the moment, he still can’t deal with...whatever this shit was. He just can’t.


Chester almost lets out a defeated groan at the exchange. Instead, he grabs a handful of fries and stuff them in his mouth, preventing him from saying something he’ll regret.


They’re being so fucking obvious right now. Frankly, it’s pissing him off.


And he doesn’t know why.






*****






I've had this idea for a long time now so I'm glad I could finally write this down. Hope you guys like this chapter.

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