LPfiction

Category Linkin Park

Untouchable by lpfan503

The Bennington Twins

A/N: This is a little something I’m going to play with before I start Forever. I hope you don’t mind. I just needed a bit of a break after all the heavy writing in both Secrets and Devil’s Drop. Let me know if you find this interesting at all!


Thanks, Penelope_Ink for the idea and encouragement. <3


**********


Mike Shinoda glanced down at the Apple watch on his wrist, checking the time as he chugged back the remaining half mug of cold coffee on his desk. The fucking bells are late again. How hard is it to set the damn computer to ring the bells on time? He heard his assistant fussing at the kids lined up outside the office door as they waited for the class change, and he looked up from his disastrous desk in time to see Rob squeeze his way around backpacks and instrument cases to come into the office.


“Wait! Mr. Bourdon! My mom told me to give you this!” A seventh grade trumpet player thrust his hand across the threshold to the office and waved a piece of paper around.


“Zac, you know this is late. Mr. Shinoda doesn’t take late paperwork,” Rob said, looking over the late solo contest entry form and receipt.


Mike sighed as he stood up from his unbalanced desk chair and crossed the three small steps from his desk to the office door. “Zachary,” he said sternly, “where was this paperwork when we asked for it every day last week?”


Zac froze, looking up at his band directors. He knew that Mr. Shinoda, the head director, was particularly strict about paperwork, assignments, and money being turned in on time. His shaggy blonde hair was almost covering his green eyes as he tried his best apologetic look. “It was in my backpack?” he said timidly.


“That look might work on your mom, but not on me,” Mike said as he snatched the paperwork out of Rob’s hand to look at it. “Seriously. I just got done with all this paperwork. Like, just now.” He sighed in exasperation. “I guess I’ll take it, since your parents paid the fees on time. You know, in the real world, this is how your electricity gets turned off. By paying your bills late.” Mike stared down at the fourth band kid as he shifted uncomfortably on his feet. The bell rang and Mike waved his hand in the air. “Go to class. I’m not writing you a pass.”


“Bye, Mr. Bourdon!” Zac chirped before he looked at Mike. “Bye, Mr. Shinoda,” he said somberly, turning away from the door with his backpack - covered in pepperonis on a background of melted cheese - halfway unzipped.


“Zip up your bag, Zac!” Rob yelled as he closed the office door behind their student. “You’re such a hard ass,” he said, a brief smile crossing his face. He pushed his square, wire rimmed glasses up his nose and dropped down into his office chair. “Fuck. They wore me out. You’ve got it so easy,” Rob complained for at least the hundredth time this semester. His longer brown hair was falling into his eyes, and he reached to tuck it behind his ear.


“You need to get a haircut before Mr. Hahn comes down here and tells you to do it. And I’m not a hard ass. They have to learn to meet deadlines,” Mike responded, adding the late paperwork to the pile on his desk. He looked down, then shifted it to a different pile. There were three piles of paperwork on his desk, none of which were completed, and all of which couldn’t get mixed up or he’d lose his mind. “And I did my time teaching non-varsity bands. When you get your head director gig, you can pass off the babies to your assistant, too.”


He shoved a hand through his black hair as he glanced out the office windows, watching their next class come in. It was one of their beginner classes, all sixth graders, and he and Rob split it up woodwinds and brass every day to make the most of their forty-five minutes with the students. “God bless, this class wears me out,” he said with a sigh before he opened his thermos and poured a new cup of coffee. He knew it would be cold before he even got to drink it all, just like every other cup he’d had at school for the past ten years.


“It’s because of the Bennington twins,” Rob smirked, then chuckled. “I’ve never been so happy to see two kids decide to play the flute in my whole life. That was my crowning achievement at last year’s instrument drive.”


“Yeah, thanks for that,” Mike remarked drily, watching the students make their way into the band hall. The Bennington twins were notorious before they ever stepped foot in the halls of McArthur Middle School. Two identical exotic beauties who loved to play games on their teachers and pretend to be the other twin, who loved to dress alike, and whose friends sometimes didn’t even know which twin was Lily and which was Lila. Their elementary school teachers had been ecstatic to send them off to the middle school after six long kindergarten through fifth grade years.


Mike remembered the exact moment their mother, the beautiful Talinda Bennington, marched them into the instrument placement night at the end of their fifth grade year. She was the kind of woman that expected the world to stop for her when she walked into a room, and that night, it certainly did. Both he and Rob and fallen all over themselves in an attempt to make the city’s most recognized, high-power lawyer happy. Mike had been more than a little upset that both girls had insisted on playing the flute, though he had to admit, their facial structure was perfect for the instrument.


“There they are now, the little animals.” He watched Lily and Lila both retrieve their flute cases from their lockers and sit down in the front row of the set up. He had to keep them close to him or they’d be off task in a heart beat. He’d never seen such spoiled kids in his life. They were pretty girls and they knew how to work that to their advantage, but they also had a haunted, hollow look to their eyes that he caught on occasion. Mike suspected it had everything to do with the fact that they had grown up without their mother around.


Everyone knew Talinda Bennington was a work-a-holic, and as far as Mike had been able to piece together, the girls had been raised by and now lived with their father. Mike had never met the man, but he had overheard Lily/Lila talking to a friend about going to their mother’s over a long weekend in October, and then the girls had used being at their mom’s as an excuse not to practice over the long winter break. He figured all of their behavior issues stemmed from their parent’s divorce and a father who had no idea how to handle the little devils.


“Come on,” Rob said, picking up his water bottle. “Bell’s about to ring, and if we’re not out there, they’ll burn the place down.”


“Bells are a minute off,” Mike complained, picking up his teacher’s edition of the method book they used along with his coffee mug and following Rob out into the main teaching space anyway. Most of their students were in their proper place when the bell rang, and Mike set his coffee cup down on top of the podium just as Lily/Lila raised her hand. He’d still not figured out which twin was which, and it was almost February.


“Yes?” he asked, his eyebrow quirked as he looked at Lily/Lila.


“Mr. Shinoda! I need to go to the bathroom!” Lily/Lila exclaimed, turning to put her flute down on the chair behind her. Naturally, she put it key side down, and it was an absolute invitation for a broken rod or spring.


Mike sighed. “Don’t lay your flute down on the keys. I’m tired of fixing it. And the bell just rang. You know there’s a ten minute rule. You can’t leave the first ten minutes of the period. Now, band, I need you all to raise your stands and open you book to pa-”


“But Mr. Shinoda!” Lily/Lila exclaimed. “I need to go! It’s an emergency!” She looked around the room at her classmates and then at her twin before she dropped her voice like she was embarrassed. “It’s a girl thing.


It was the kiss of death as far as Mike was concerned. The last thing he wanted to do was deal with an angry Talinda Bennington over not letting her daughter go to the restroom to deal with unspeakable female catastrophes. “Fine,” he said with an eye roll. “Hurry up, you’re missing information when you’re in the bathroom.” He looked out over his students, who were all watching him expectantly. “Now, none of the rest of you ask me about the bathroom today. We have stuff to do.”


A chorus of complaints went up as Lily/Lila made a triumphant exit and Mike raised his hand to shush them all. “You guys know we have a grade today. Now, let’s get started.”


Mike spent the next forty-five minutes walking around in-between his students, adjusting posture and hand position and all manner of things before it was time to take the grade. He tried not to be visibly frustrated at the twins, who despite his best efforts and years of experience, still weren’t making great sounds on their flutes, nor could they read notes and rhythms the way the other students were already managing to do. It’s like they are deliberately sabotaging themselves, he decided as he looked at them. They were obviously bright students, and he couldn’t find one reason why they shouldn’t be on the same level as their classmates.


It’s because they talk all the time. And one of them is always in the bathroom. Just now, Lily/Lila had come back from the bathroom with fresh makeup and a smirk, smelling like Bath and Body Works Cucumber Melon body spray. Mike hated that he’d been teaching middle school long enough to identify that scent, and he thought sixth grade was far too young to be wearing a full face of makeup.


“Ladies, I think it’s probably time I had a talk with your parents about your progress,” Mike said as the class was cleaning out their instruments and packing up. He was standing in front of their music stands with his hands on his hips. “It seems to me as though you aren’t practicing at home.”


One of the twins looked up, her dark brown eyes large in her tanned, heart-shaped face. She flipped her long black hair off her shoulder with one hand and pulled her lips into a pout. “Mr. Shinoda,” she whined, “it’s hard to practice! Dad doesn’t know anything about music! He can’t even help us!”


“Yeah!” the other twin chimed in. “He says everything we do sounds good, and then you tell us it’s all wrong. And we don’t even know you. How do we know you’re not wrong?”


Mike rubbed his temples as Rob walked behind him, chuckling on his way back to the office. “Because I have two degrees in music. That’s how you know I’m not wrong. And if you two don’t start practicing, then you’re not going to pass my class.”


“What?!” Lily/Lila screeched. “You can’t fail us, Mr. Shinoda! Our mom says as long as we’re trying, you can’t fail us. Band is supposed to be fun!” She latched her flute case and stood up to toss it in her locker, the other twin right behind her.


“Band is fun when you’re good at what you’re doing,” Mike amended. “And you get good at it by practicing.” He smoothed his hand over the front of his dark blue button down shirt and turned away from them. “You can expect a phone call home,” he said, ignoring the girls’ whining behind him as he picked up his coffee mug from the podium and headed for his office. It was finally his conference period, and he wasn’t even going to get to his paperwork because he had to call Lily and Lila’s parents. Maybe just one parent. I’ll see what it says in the computer, who they live with, and I’ll call that parent. I think they live with dad. That’s what it sounds like, anyway.


He was just about to walk into the office when the main band hall door opened and his favorite eighth grade percussionist, Bryce, flew in the door. “Mr. Shinoda! Here’s my solo entry form! I’m sorry it’s late!”


Mike felt his shoulders drop as he stuck his hand out to take the late paper. “Bryce, you know better than to turn stuff in late. Give me one good reason why I should take this from you.” He glanced over the paperwork. It was all in order, complete with a parent signature and the fee receipt attached.


“Because I heard you took Zac’s?” Bryce asked hopefully, and Mike heard Rob snort from inside the office as he poured protein powder into his shaker bottle that Mike hated.


“Go to class, Bryce,” Mike answered with resignation in his voice. “I’m not writing you a pass,” he added before he stepped into the office and shut the door, throwing his laughing co-worker a glare as he added more paperwork to stack number three.


****


It was well past six o’clock before Mike walked through the door from his garage into the laundry room of his townhome and hung the keys to his silver Toyota Camry on the little hook next to the light switch. He walked past his completely utilitarian washer and dryer into the kitchen and breakfast area, setting his lunch bag, coffee thermos, and work bag on the counter next to the sink. Running his hand along the white Corian countertop, he walked over to the stainless steel refrigerator and opened it up.


An assortment of vegetables and uncooked meat lined the shelves, but he was too tired to deal with any of it. Cooking for one wasn’t fun anyway. He still hadn’t gotten used to being alone, and he was too stubborn to admit that the townhome and all the memories left behind when Brad moved out were something he needed to let go of in order to move on with his life. I really thought we were happy, he mentally whined again as he looked at the package of raw, wrapped fish on the shelf. If I don’t cook that tonight, I’ll have to throw it out. And that’s a waste of money I just don’t have.


He reached for the paper wrapped salmon and set the package on the counter, then poked around in the crisper to find the asparagus he knew was in there. There was a tune stuck in his head from the contest music they were learning in his top band, and he hummed along as he lined a pan with foil and put the fish and asparagus in the glass dish, drizzling it all with olive oil and salt and pepper while the oven pre-heated.


“I should open a bottle of wine,” he mumbled as he put away the seasonings and stood looking at the still clean kitchen. At least what he was making only required dirtying one dish. Maybe he’d even eat out of that dish. “White with fish,” he reminded himself as he looked up at the built-in wine rack Brad had installed where a cabinet used to be for his thirtieth birthday. It had been one of many surprises, all of which Mike had come to find out were trying to assuage his husband’s guilt over the affair he’d been having with a man who was barely over legal drinking age. The memory of discovering that affair had taken some of the admiration for the home improvements down a notch, but Mike still loved the townhome. He wasn’t ready to give up everything they had worked for, even though it had been easy for Brad to walk away.


He knew he worked too much, and invested a lot in his kids… but he wouldn’t be a good band director if he didn’t. He knew he’d neglected Brad at times, but contest season was busy and tiring. Over time, Brad had come to resent everything he had once admired in Mike: his dedication, his love of and talent for music, his single-minded drive and determination for success. When Joey had come along with his carefree lifestyle and blue eyes and love of the beach, it hadn’t taken much convincing for Brad to abandon a decade together. A whole decade. He knew how I was when he asked me to marry him. He knew how much I gave to my job. I didn’t change the terms. He changed his expectations.


The sticking point had probably been his lack of desire to adopt. Dealing with kids all day left him completely tapped out when it came to the energy or desire to have one of his own, but Brad had been wanting a child for years. Mike knew he’d let Brad down on that front, but asking him to parent while he was home after he parented and taught all day just felt like too much. He was happy with the way things were. Brad wasn’t. It had been that simple, except that Mike had still been in love when Brad walked away. With Joey.


Mike shook his head, grabbing his favorite bottle of white wine from the rack and opening the bottom freezer drawer to pop it in to chill. It would be the perfect temperature right about the time his fish was ready. Looking at the oven timer, he had a half hour to sit and plan for tomorrow’s classes before time to eat. He’d just settled into his chair at the whitewashed dining table when Lexie, the black and white cat he and Brad had adopted together, appeared from the living room. Mike leaned over and scooped the cat up, burying his face into her fur as she purred her approval that he’d finally made it home.


“Hey, Lex,” Mike gushed with affection as the cat kneaded her paws into his chest. “Thanks for coming to say hello. Did you have a good day?” He scratched behind his pet’s ears as she settled onto his lap. It was part of their routine now. Mike came home, and Lexie cuddled with him for a while before she took off for more interesting cat activities that didn’t include her owner. The cuddles always made him feel as though someone had actually missed him during the day.


He opened his notebook and penciled out a plan for the next day with one hand as he stroked the cat with the other, finishing just as the timer on the oven signaled that dinner was ready. “Up you go,” he whispered to Lexie, knowing he wouldn’t see her again until bedtime as she dropped down to the kitchen floor and stretched before slinking off. He used two oven mitts to take the glass pan out of the oven, and he smiled as he inhaled the cooked fish and vegetables. Even if it was depressing to cook for one, he was glad he’d given in as his stomach rumbled. “I think I’ll even eat on the couch,” he said aloud to nobody as he went ahead and moved his food to a plate instead of eating out of the baking pan.


After he poured a glass of wine he carried both his plate and wine glass into the living room, setting them both on the glass coffee table as he reached for the remote. He sat down on the black leather couch and clicked around through his channels until he found the National Geographic channel. “Well, Lex, it looks like Seconds From Disaster again,” he called out the cat as he picked up his dinner plate and wine glass. He set the plate on his lap, and took a generous sip of the wine.


It hadn’t really been a bad day, just a typical mess of band classes and paper work, and not enough time to do any of it. And the twins. At least they’ll be Rob’s problem next year. They won’t be good enough to be in anything but the bottom band. Then he won’t make fun of my headaches every day. They’ll be his headache to deal with. Mike smiled to himself, enjoying the thought of relief from their pre-teen drama in just four months.


I bet their dad doesn’t even return my call. They seem like the kind of kids whose parents avoid the school at all costs. Mike flaked off a piece of his fish and popped it in his mouth. It wasn’t too bad, he decided, as he watched a rerun of his favorite show that utilized computer simulation to show the series of events that led up to the moment of the disaster. The episode was about a department store collapse that has happened over a decade ago in South Korea, and the computer models were fascinating. Before the show was over, his plate was clean, and he’d even refilled his wine during a commercial. Lexie hopped up on the couch at some point in the show and stretched out across the back behind his head, occasionally swiping a paw at his neck, and Mike reached behind him and fed her a tiny piece of the salmon every time she begged for one.


They stayed on the couch together for the rest of the evening, flipping channels and watching nothing before Mike decided he should go to bed. His alarm went off at five every morning so he could run six miles before school, and he knew if he wasn’t asleep by ten he wouldn’t be functional in rehearsal the next day. “Come on, Lexie,” he murmured to the cat, making his way slowly to the kitchen. Somehow he’d managed to drink almost the entire bottle of wine before bed, something that had been happening more and more since the divorce became final.


He made sure his baking pan and plate were in the dishwasher, and wiped the counters down with his white kitchen towel. He filled Lexie’s dish with fresh water, and locked the back door to the garage. Flipping the lights off, he waited to see if the cat would follow him upstairs, but she didn’t budge from her nest on the back of the couch.


“Night, Lexie,” Mike said as he turned to climb the stairs quietly. He knew the cat would stay downstairs to complete her crazy midnight run throughout the house before she came up to lay with him. His feet sank into the plush gray carpeting that covered the stairs, muffling his footsteps as he reached the second floor. Mike saw that the door to his office was open, but he walked right past it on his way to the master bedroom. He wasn’t doing any more work before bed.


The same black furniture he’d bought with Brad all those years ago greeted him as he turned on the light and started unbuttoning his shirt. As it was every day, the bed was neatly made with the white and gray quilt and matching sheets, and his pajamas were folded and sitting neatly on his side of the bed. He dropped his work clothes into the hamper and went to complete his night routine: shower, shave, teeth brushing, take a piss. It was all like clockwork, and Mike was peeling back the blankets and climbing into bed at 9:59 pm.


Right before he turned off the lights, he glanced at his phone, plugged in on the bedside table. A notification had popped up on his screen, catching his eye. He moved his hand away from the lamp switch as his iPhone screen faded to black, and picked it up so he could see what the notification had been. With a frustrated sigh, he set it back down on the table and flipped the lamp switch off, dropping his head onto the pillow and closing his eyes. It was his least favorite automated notification from his school email account - and there were two of them, back to back.


You have been scheduled for a Parent-Teacher Conference on January 20, 2010 at 3:10 in the front conference room for student Bennington, Lily.


You have been scheduled for a Parent-Teacher Conference on January 20, 2010 at 3:10 in the front conference room for student Bennington, Lila.


Mike cursed himself for calling the twin’s father and leaving a message. He hated PTC’s more than anything at school - including faculty meetings - and he figured that the dad had probably sent an email after hours to the school counselor to set up a meeting after missing his call. Damn it, Anna is such a push-over. She always wants to schedule face to face meetings because it’s “better for people to see each other when they are talking”, or some new-age bullshit. An image of the school counselor for students whose last names started A through P floated through his mind, and he mentally stuck his tongue out at her mouse brown hair and polyester blouses.


Anna Hillinger meant well, and the kids loved her, but she was a pain in the teacher’s asses. She especially had a way of making Mike’s life more complicated than it needed to be by messing up his schedules and putting kids in the wrong classes, then pretending it was all just a misunderstanding while she took three weeks to sort it out at the start of the school year. Every year it was the same thing, ever since the year she’d come to McArthur and tried to flirt with him, not knowing he was gay. The memory of that awkward conversation where he’d turned her down by mentioning his boyfriend skidded across his mind before he quickly dismissed it. It wasn’t his fault she didn’t have a gaydar. Brad had thought the whole thing was funny at the time, and they’d been married six short months later. Mike pushed the thoughts of their wedding out of his mind.


I hate conferences. And what am I supposed to say to this man’s face? Your girls are the most irritating creatures on the planet? They don’t seem to want to be in band, they’re always primping in the bathroom. Perhaps cosmetology school would be a better fit? Mike buried his face in his pillow. He knew none of that would come out in a conversation with the father tomorrow. It would be a standard meeting that ended with him offering extra help to catch the girls up, on his own time, after the dad lamented over his inability to help because it wasn’t like math, or any subject he’d taken before. Mike had heard it all a million times. Excuse after excuse for lazy kids, instead of just admitting that maybe they should take theater instead.


I hate that theater guy. Fuckin' Dave. Always handing out 100’s like they’re jolly ranchers. You have to earn your grade in my class. Mike rolled over and grabbed the extra pillow on the bed, hugging it close. It was better than having an empty space in the bed next to him, and he tried to shut off his mind and stop thinking about the conference. Maybe it will go quickly and I can get my paperwork finished. Yeah, right. I’ll never get my paperwork finished.


With a long-suffering sigh, Mike reminded himself that he loved his job, paperwork and all. Tomorrow would be just like any other day, and maybe something good would come of meeting the twin’s father. With the hopeful thought of a positive outcome on his mind, he finally drifted off into a dreamless sleep.


****

TBC

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