Category Linkin Park

Love Over Linkin Park by Penelope_Ink

The Third Wheel

Hi guys. Just a few words about this story. This takes place in the neighborhood of Lincoln Park in Chicago, IL. Yes, that’s a real thing. And there really is a Lincoln Park Zoo. But, since I’m silly, I changed it to Linkin Park for this story. Corny, I know, but I couldn’t help myself. Now maybe the title makes sense. But anyway, the subject matter of this one can be a little touchy, but I really felt like it was a good fit. I did have a sci-fi story in mind to do instead…it was going to have tentacles in it and be super weird but cute, but I’ve got some world building issues in that one I’m still trying to work out, so this one was next on the list. I hope you like it.


Mike finally heard the shower turn off. He looked up from where he’d been working on his latest project - a flyer design for a local Chicago company. He already had his idea sketched out on his iPad. It was coming along faster than he’d expected, which was always satisfying in its own way. In the three years he’d been working as a graphic designer, he found that each project was its own animal. Some flowed, like he and the idea in his head were connected, and it would translate beautifully into the final product.

And other projects were a struggle. Sometimes it was the subject matter. Mike found himself unable to groove with what the customer requested, or his vision of their needs wouldn’t turn out exactly as they wanted, and revisions would be made, over and over. Those were the projects that wouldn’t die. The customers that could never be satisfied.

But his current project was like the former; he knew he’d be done with it in just a day or two. “But it’s late,” he mumbled as he put away his iPad, setting it off to the side of his desk. He checked his Apple Watch, it was almost six o’clock. Brad’s date should be here anytime. This is their fourth time going out. I think he really likes this one. He’s going to want me to come out and say hi. I just know it.

A second later, there was a quick knock on Mike’s bedroom door, as his roommate stuck his head in, his freshly blown-dried curly hair looked tamer than normal. “Mikey,” he cheered happily as he stepped into the room and over to Mike’s workspace. “Rob’s going to be here in a few minutes. Tell me, how do I look?” He took a step back, like he was making room for Mike to see him better. He put his arms out to either side.

Mike looked him up and down, barely taking in his blue and black plaid button up shirt and dark jeans. “I swear, Brad, you’re skinniest motherfucker I’ve ever known,” Mike teased.

Brad gasped, his show-off posture leaving as his hands went to his slender hips. “It’s not my fault, and you know it. It’s not like I don’t eat. I’ve been trying to gain weight since I was a kid, it just doesn’t work.”

“Brad, Brad,” Mike said, both his hands going out to try and ease his friend. “I was just busting your balls, man. You look great. Really.”

Brad tugged on his shirt as he looked down. His black and white Converse tennis shoes were sticking out the bottom of his tight fitting jeans, making his feet look twice as big as they actually were. “I wish I had more muscle. Or more fat. More anything.”

“Brad, don’t,” Mike said, feeling terrible. “I was just being a dick, don’t listen to me,” he implored, pointing to his chest. “And look, this is your, what? Fourth time out with Rob? He obviously likes you.” He waited, his eyes pleading for Brad to hear what he was saying. I’m such an asshole. I know his weight is a sensitive topic for him and I had to mention it anyway. Fuck.

Brad looked up, his brown eyes showing that he wasn’t feeling totally down. “Yeah, fourth date,” he chirped, his confidence returning. “And, I know you didn’t mean anything by it. I’m just nervous.”

“Nervous why?”

Brad shrugged as he played his fingers over the edge of Mike’s desk. “We haven’t, you know, we haven’t slept together yet and we’re getting closer. I just want to time this one right. I think I jumped into bed with the last guy too fast and it ruined it.”

Mike nodded. Steve. Steve something-or-other was Brad’s last boyfriend of two weeks. To say it was a bad breakup would be an understatement. “Don’t even think about that guy. Rob seems so much better and you guys work together, so that’s something.”

“Okay, we don’t work together,” Brad corrected. “I work at the hospital, he’s an ambulance driver.”

“That’s splitting hairs.”

“It’s not!” Brad whined, before he took a deep breath. “We have a very strict no-dating policy at work, and it’s okay for me to date Rob because he doesn’t work there. He works for the city.”

“Okay, okay, you win. But I mean you have the medical profession in common, so already you two have an advantage.”

“I guess we do,” Brad agreed, a smile crossing his lips before he waved his arm toward the door. “Come on, Shinoda, help me do a double take around the living room. I don’t want him to know we live like pigs.”

“Like pigs,” Mike repeated with a snort. “Yeah, right.” He paused for a second as they both shared the laugh before saying, “I’ll be out in a minute. I need to finish something in here first.” He motioned over his desk.

Brad nodded before he stepped toward the door. “Okay, guess I’ll trust you. I don’t want you hiding in here. You need to come out and say hi. I want you to check him out for me.”

Mike spun his chair around. “Check him out?”

“Yeah, you know…see if you can sense any chemistry between us. A spark, or something.” Brad shrugged as he trailed off his words.

“A spark?” Mike laughed before he quickly agreed. He could tell his roommate was being serious, and so he promised he would. Mike waited until Brad was out of the room before he wheeled his chair back around to his desk. He let out a sigh as he went through his end-of-work-day routine. He straightened everything up, making sure his iPad was plugged in for the night, and his cup full of artist pens wasn’t too close to the edge. He shuffled a few papers around, and put them in his desk drawer, and then he looked out the window. Their Chicago apartment was in the well sought after neighborhood of Linkin Park, and from Mike’s window he could see the Linkin Park Zoo. From where he was, he could see the camel enclosure, and it always made him smile. He knew it was ridiculous, but the Linkin Park camels felt like his friends sometimes.

“I gotta go be social,” he told the camels, which were miles away, and couldn’t hear him. “Guess I’ll see you guys tomorrow. It’s already getting dark.” The dim evening sky meant that his view would soon turn from far away camels, to a more generic picture of the night lights of the beautifully lit up free admission zoo. Which isn’t a bad tradeoff, it’s just lonelier.

“Mike! Come on!” Brad hollered from out in the living room. That was it. His time was up. He needed to go smile and try to look for a spark. Mike wheeled his chair around, and out his oversized doorway. His bedroom was just off the living room, with the bathroom and Brad’s room further down the hallway. Mike wheeled himself out into the living space, and even he was surprised with how clean everything looked. The purple throw pillows on their black leather couch were fluffed. Their glass coffee table looked extra sparkly, with no signs of fingerprints or cup rings. Their four person rectangular dining table - which often served as a catch-all, everything from unopened mail and magazines, to books they were both currently reading or any other random thing - was actually empty. The flat screen television was off, but their gas fireplace was on, keeping the space a degree or two warmer than the rest of the apartment. It wasn’t winter yet, but the Chicago air had already turned nippy. It wouldn’t be long before they would be seeing snow.

Mike turned to see Brad in their small kitchen. It was utilitarian, with one line of frosted glass cabinets, a sink, stove, and refrigerator all on the same wall. A small island, which also housed their dishwasher, sat across the way, three purple pendent lights hanging over top it. All the countertops and cabinets were set lower for accessibility needs. “Brad, you want me to open the curtains?” Mike asked as he watched his roommate pace back and forth in their dinky nine square foot kitchen.

Brad stopped as he looked out into the living room. The floor to ceiling windows, and the sliding glass door, which lead out to the balcony, were hidden by their gray and white curtains. “Yes, please,” he said, motioning toward the windows. “Open them. It makes this place look bigger. God, Mike, why am I so nervous?”

“You really need to calm down,” Mike suggested as he wheeled himself over to the windows to get the curtains open. “Where are you guys going tonight?”

“We’re going out to eat, some Italian place Rob picked. And then to the movies. We haven’t decided yet what we’re going to see. There’s a romance and an action movie.”

Mike stuck out his tongue. “A romance movie?”

“I know you’re not a fan,” Brad shot back. “But not everyone has your dark sense of humor.”

“Me? Dark?” Mike laughed, pressing his hand to his charcoal colored t-shirt, his black painted fingernails showing. “Just because I don’t go for all that sappy stuff, doesn’t mean I’m dark.”

“Should we go back to your room? Because you have a skull in there,” Brad stated, ticking things off on his fingers. “Some dead animal in a jar and -”

“Hey, Marilyn and Manson have names, you know,” Mike interrupted. “And they’re a wet specimen of a two headed kitten. They’re very special.”

“More like very creepy,” Brad mumbled. “And all the horror movie posters you have in there…Mike, don’t take this the wrong way,” he said, as he came out of the kitchen and into the living room, “but maybe all this dark stuff…might be why, you know, you haven’t had a boyfriend in awhile. You scare everyone off.”

Mike’s face turned down to a frown. “No offense, Brad, but I don’t think it’s the posters in my room that are scaring guys off.” He looked down at himself. If he was just sitting down, he’d look pretty good. His black Rob Zombie t-shirt showed off his toned upper body. His darker jeans were flattering, and his Adidas sneakers were the perfect compliment to his outfit. Despite working from home, he was still keeping up with everything. His nails were always painted a nice shiny shade of black, and his matching dark hair always styled, with just enough gel to keep his short fohawk in place.

But he wasn’t just sitting down.

“What? Because of your chair?” Brad asked as he watched his friend’s spirits drop. Normally, Mike Shinoda had a rather upbeat attitude when it came to his circumstances. He’d accepted it years ago. But every now and again he’d get down on himself, and Brad always hated to see it. “Mike, you’ve dated before, it’s not like that stops you.” He knew it was touchy territory. Despite their many year friendship, Brad still had to catch himself and be mindful of what he said when Mike’s disability became the topic of conversation. “You’re sexy, man,” Brad offered. “You’ve got that exotic look going with your Japanese features. People dig that. You’re not just a sad Jewish boy, like me.”

“Half Japanese,” Mike corrected, though he wasn’t sure why. He’d known Brad since high school, there was no reason to explain anything. “And, I guess,” he agreed in the most melancholy tone he owned. “But no matter how sexy exotic I am, this,” he said, slapping on of the wheels on his chair, “keeps people away.”

“Assholes, Mike,” Brad corrected. “It keeps assholes away. And you’re better for it. If someone is going to be that superficial, then why bother?”

Mike smiled. Brad always had a way of saying things that made him feel better. “I guess,” he said, just as there was a knock on the door. He watched as his roommate immediately started to fidget - scratching his fingers over his short goatee, pressing his hands down his shirt front, and fussing with his hair. He had the sides trimmed, leaving just a curly mess on top. Mike often likened Brad’s hair to a poodle. A sexy poodle. That’s what he always says when I call him that. He cracked a smile before he gestured toward their front door, just past the kitchen, and said, “Well, are you going to let him in?”

Brad took a few dramatic breaths before he looked at Mike. “Last chance, Mikey, sure you don’t want to go with us?”

Mike rolled his eyes. It wasn’t the first time Brad had tried to include him, which was just ridiculous. “No thanks,” he said, holding up his hand. “The Italian food would be okay, but I’m not going to see some sappy romance movie with you two. I might have wheels, but I have zero desire to be the third wheel,” he stated with a chuckle.

“I try to be nice to you,” Brad laughed as he turned and headed for the door. He stared at it for a second, mentally building himself up before he opened it. The moment he saw Rob’s face, all the nervousness dropped away. “Hey, you, you look great,” he said immediately as he scanned his boyfriend up and down. Rob was built, with strong biceps and legs like tree trunks. His jeans looked nice on him, and the dark heavy jacket he had on top gave him a well put together appearance, like he was the eligible bachelor everyone would want to date. His dark brown hair fanned behind his ears in a bouncy, casual look that Brad adored, and he had a newly growing beard, leaving him looking a little scruffy - manly - and Brad loved running his fingers over Rob’s chin and jawline.

From the living room, Mike watched. He’d rather wheel himself away quickly, hide back in his room till the couple was gone. But he’d promised he’d stay and say hi, and so he got ready. He’d only met Rob Bourdon once before. And he was nice. Of course he’s a nice guy…Brad really likes him, and he’s an ambulance driver. That’s gotta give him some merit over the normal every day guy, right? He waited, his hands clutched to his wheels. He tried to see what was taking so long, and the thought that maybe Brad and Rob were in the doorway making out, made Mike’s heart sink. I wish I had someone to make out with.

A moment later, and Rob was walking into the apartment. He waved, his good-guy smile broad, as he stopped at the kitchen island. “Hi, Mike,” he offered. He didn’t really know Brad’s roommate personally, but he knew a lot about him from all the getting-to-know-you conversations he’d had with Brad over their last three dates. “How’s it going?”

“Good,” Mike answered. He knew he needed to say more, or Brad would be disappointed. And a spark. I have to look for a fucking spark. What does a spark even look like? Sounds like sappy romance movie crap to me. He was about to ask Rob how he was doing in return, maybe ask about the restaurant he and Brad would be going to, or how work was treating him, but he stopped. The words never got off his tongue as his gaze popped around Rob to a man coming in the door right behind him. He titled his head, trying to get a better look as he heard Brad shut the door.

“Oh, Mike, I want to introduce you to a friend of mine,” Rob said, as he turned and motioned for the other man to step forward. “This is Chester.”

Mike had to order his jaw not to drop open as he visually groped this new, unexpected person. He wasn’t as skinny as Brad, but he wasn’t a big guy by any means. His waist was slender, along with his legs. He was dressed in a black hoodie that had skeleton bones running down each arm, and blue jeans that held a relaxed fit. He had on Converse tennis shoes, just like Brad, only Chester’s were candy apple red. But it was Chester’s soft features that caught Mike’s attention most. His eyes were brown, but there was light behind them. Like someone had sprinkled glitter into Chester’s eyes. His thin lips were pulled up into an easygoing smile. He had a baseball cap on, turned around backwards, but Mike could see just the tiniest bit of blonde hair poking out, a hint of what was hiding underneath, and Mike suddenly found himself wanting to see more. If he had to guess, he would say Chester was in his mid-twenties, just like the rest of them.

“Hi,” Chester said with a short wave to Mike. He knew Rob’s boyfriend’s roommate was in a wheelchair, Rob had told him as much, but actually seeing him was different. He wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, but Mike wasn’t it. Chester actually felt his stomach flutter a little as he checked Mike out. There was something unique about him, the way his ears stuck out just a little, his dark fohawk, and the short beard that ran from one cheek to the other. He picked up on Mike’s Asian accents right away, and even though he’d never thought about it before, he suddenly realized he was attracted to that. And the black fingernails. They were enough to raise Chester’s eyebrow.

Rob patted Chester on the shoulder. “He just moved into my building and he was looking pathetic, so he’s tagging along with us tonight,” he announced.

“Yeah, I get to be the third wheel,” Chester said, before his face flushed. He looked away from Mike and around the apartment instead, not being sure if he’d just said something insensitive or not. But the thought quickly turned to the space - the smokey colored wood floors and the expansive windows that showed a beautiful view of the city and the dusk that was falling. The artwork on the walls was tasteful, and every stitch of furniture looked well cared for. There was no clutter, and they actually had a fireplace! Chester felt a twinge of jealously. He and Rob didn’t live in Linkin Park, and he was a little awestruck over how nice Brad and Mike’s upscale apartment was. “This is a really nice place.”

“Thanks,” Mike offered. “So you’re tagging along with them? I heard there’s Italian food on the menu.”

Chester’s attention shot right back to Mike, and he smiled widely for a moment. “So I hear. I’m up for spaghetti.”

“I love spaghetti,” Mike said, just before Brad started shooing everyone out the door.

“And we’re going to be late for spaghetti,” he said, grabbing his jacket from the kitchen island and motioning for Rob and Chester to get going. “Mike, I won’t be back till late,” he said, mostly over his shoulder. If they were going to make the movie in time, they needed to move things along. He didn’t know Chester was coming, and it was kind of a damper to think that his romantic fourth date with Rob Bourdon was suddenly going to be more of a group activity.

“Oh, you guys are leaving already?” Mike asked, rolling himself closer to the kitchen to follow them.

“Yeah, running late,” Brad said, just as Rob and Chester stepped out into the hallway. He stopped, Mike’s out of character question catching up to his brain. “Hey guys,” he said, keeping his voice low, “give me a minute, okay?” He watched as Rob nodded, and he shut the door before walking back toward his roommate. “Mikey, you okay?” he asked.

Mike wheeled himself back a few paces. “Yeah, no, of course I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be?” He glanced past Brad to the door. He’d only gotten to see Chester for a few seconds, and that was a bummer. He couldn’t tell Brad that though.

“You sure?” Brad asked, his hand going out. “You know, you’re always welcome to come along. Chester seems nice. You wouldn’t be a third wheel, you’d be a fourth,” he suggested in his upbeat tone.

For half a second, Mike thought about saying yes. He had no idea who Chester was - or even what his last name was, or even his sexual orientation - but he was cute, and they both liked spaghetti, and maybe that meant something. Mike opened his mouth, ready to say sure, but he stopped as his self-doubt trampled his courage. “No, it’s okay. You guys have fun. You can tell me about it tomorrow. Like I said, no romance movies for me.”

“Okay, well, have a good night then,” Brad told him before he spun around, ready to go grab Rob’s hand and walk to the elevator to get down to the bottom floor. They were thirteen stories up, so elevator smooching time had become one of Brad’s favorite actives. But not tonight. We’re not alone. Oh well. Maybe on date number five.

“Oh, hey, Brad?” Mike called, and he waited till his roommate turned to face him. He took a deep breath before he said, “I definitely felt a spark.”


Thanks for reading, everyone! I hope you guys liked this first chapter. I know it’s a different kind of story, but that’s what I was going for. Something a little more out of the box. I know disabilities can be a sensitive topic, but don’t worry. This story will be vey respectful of that. I hope you’ll come back to read more :) Let me know what you think in the reviews. I’ve never written anything like this before.

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