LPfiction

Category Linkin Park

Just Breathe by LannaLlamas

Just Breathe

A/N: Inspired by the song Just Breathe by Pearl Jam. Each section of text starts with a section of lyrics from the song. I decided to try my hand at writing angst again, and this was inspired by some fever dream I had so this might be kinda bad. It's Braz too because I'm not too comfortable writing Bennoda yet. Implied death, cancer trigger warnings. Told in Chester's POV.


~•~


'Yes, I understand that every life must end, uh-huh.'


The car radio sings softly in the pitter patter of the rain. It played on his favorite radio station, KR105. Eddie Vedder's voice seems like a godsend at this moment, this baritone voice reminds me of his. Eddie's curly hair reminds me of the frizzy fro that sat on top of his head. My eyes burn a fire that cannot be extinguished. Red like blood, veins stain my eyes just as they had since the day we found out.


'As we sit alone, I know someday we must go.'


The guitar harmonies blow with the wind that hammers into the outside of my car. I should leave, work traffic was just beginning. I could make it home only in time before the school buses hit the interstate too if I left now. Instead, I still stay put in this parking lot. My head rests on the steering wheel, the leather is tear-stained and wet.


'Cedar Cancer Institution & Clinic,' The big bright white letters flash and shine against the gloomy sky. I look towards the letters, then towards the hospital. The outside seems so welcoming; ferns and vibrantly painted flowers dot the entrance, the windows are almost pristine— except for one that has a significant white mark from where a bird had tried to fly in, everything was clean and up kept. It was crazy to think about how much death this place sees daily. It was my second home. At least, used to be. At first, we'd be here just once a month, then once a week. Then it got worse. Every other day at some points. Then they wouldn't even let him go home.


~•~


'Yeah, I'm a lucky man to count on both hands, the ones I love.'


His hands are cold, sweaty and nervous. He acts like a toddler at the dentist, shaking uncontrollably in his seat, dreading what he knows is to come. I try my best to put his worry at ease. I put my hand on top of his, letting my callused fingertips tickle at his jittery skin. He forces a smile, but I can see straight through it. His eyes reflect his worry and pain. They're glossy, foggy almost. Like a piece of ice or crystal. I move my hand up towards his face, touching his cheek. He leans his head into my palm, I can feel his jaw and teeth chitter and chatter behind closed lips.


The phone rings.


More dread sets in. Even I can't hide my worry now. We share a distressed look, I watch helplessly as he tries to keep his lip from trembling. Brad goes in to answer it, but I bat his hand away. He doesn't need to hear the words, not first. I take the phone in my hand and click the answer button before putting the receiver to my ear. It was the doctor, Brad's primary doctor to be exact. She's quiescent, soft-spoken and gentle. I can tell just by the way she answers the phone that something is wrong.


"We ran the test several times," She stammers her words, "I'm sorry."


I feel time hit a standstill. Brad listens in, his eyes swim with tears. I hear him sniffle, he knows. He knows the words that have left her lips, he knows his fate. He stands abruptly before I can finish the phone call. I reach a hand forward to try and stop him, to try and get him to sit back down, but he disappears deeper into our shared house.


I stop listening to the doctor's half-hearted comforting words. She probably has to repeat this speech once a week. Instead, I try and listen to where my lover's footsteps lead. I hear his soft steps lead down the hallway, but then I lose track of them. I enter the conversation again with his doctor, she starts telling me about the referral she's written for him. It's for the cancer institution, one of the more pricey ones. We say our goodbyes after she confirms we will get the referral in the mail sometime within the next day or so. I hang up the phone. Quickly, I try to find where he had run off to.


I walk up the stairs, passing the kitchen and the dining room. He was neither of those places, so I continue my search. I check the upstairs bathroom, the guest room, even our master bedroom. Still no sign of him. As a last resort, half-thinking he had run away, I enter the practice room where he stores his guitars and keyboards. Sure enough, he sits in the middle of the room, knees curled to his chest and tears falling freely from his cheeks.


"Brad?"


"I knew it," He sniffles hard, "I don't wanna die."


"You won't die," I step towards him cautiously, "I won't let you leave."


"You can't protect me from everything, Chester."


"I can try."


He looks at me, I look at him. I know he fights the urge to smile, his lips crease in a rum sort of way. I take another step. My knees pop as I bend down to be with him. He would always make fun of my shitty joints. My hand touches the fabric of his shirt, it was wet with fear and sweat. I take him in my arms, forcing his bushy head of hair to dig into my chest. He doesn't protest, he accepts my aggressive form of affection.


"I love you."


He doesn't respond to me. I look down and see he's staring in a dissociative way at the blank wall where his PRS guitar hangs. His chest is shaky, as is his breath. I resist my own urge to breakdown, knowing how tough the road ahead will be.


I swear to myself that we will make it through. I swear to myself that I'll be strong for him, just as I know he would be for me.


~•~


'Some folks just have one, yeah, others they got none, uh-huh.'


He holds my hand while we sit in the waiting room. He's weaker today than he was yesterday. I tried to write it off as it was a side effect of not eating anything at all today. The doctors said it was essential for testing, they had to do bloodwork and urine tests again. I fear for him. I couldn't imagine the strain of being poked and prodded with every new doctor you see.


"Chester?"


"Yeah?"


"I love you."


"Love you more."


He smiles at me, dark suitcases weigh heavily on those dark colored eyes. I wish we could spend our Friday somewhere else, somewhere happier. Not at a cancer doctor, waiting to hear the words that every other doctor has told us already. He squeezes my hand, a slight form of affection that I wholly cherish. His touch is angelic— even if pained and broken at this moment. It had always been this way, his touch was still soft and gentle with me. This kind of reminds me of our first date— Well, not really. I want to believe there's an inch of happiness here, maybe that's why that thought came to mind.


"Can we go eat after this?" He asks innocently.


"Of course," I offer a smile, "As long as you're not hurting."


"You know I will be," My forehead creases as he speaks, "But I wanna go to McDonald's after this. I'm craving their nuggets."


"Why don't we go to the chicken salad place? You need to eat healthy."


"I'm here for a good time, not a long time, Chester."


He stares at me, looking deep in my eyes. Ever since the first diagnosis, he always talked about death. Even if this was just a joke, it still reminded me of something that seemed so close. Death. I wish he would be hopeful with me, I wish he didn't see the negative. He squeezes my hand again.


"Chaz? You still there?"


"Yeah..."


"We can go to the chicken salad place if that what you want."


"No, no. You get to choose today. I chose yesterday, remember?"


"I know," Suddenly he leans his head on my shoulder, "But if you want—"


"We will go to McDonald's after this, babe."


I squeeze his hand. My lips push forward and place a gentle kiss on his forehead. He seems calm, no jitters or a fast heartbeat. Maybe he's used to people prodding at him now, maybe he's made peace with his diagnosis even if it isn't "official." I wanted to hold on to that last sliver of hope that it was just a false positive test, that today we can walk home happy. The thoughts are swept from my mind as a nurse walks through the wooden door and calls the name "Delson."


~•~


'Stay with me, let's just breathe.'


The first round of chemotherapy begins today. The room is dark and quiet, soft white noise plays from a speaker on one of the shelves. I guess they try to make these places more comfortable for patients. Having a large needle pumping you with chemo can be pretty nerve-racking, I suppose.


The nurse dabs a cotton pad with rubbing alcohol to clean Brad's incision site. The needle is big, more prominent than a standard IV. At least, I think so. Last time I had an IV was 2003. Brad winces audibly, mumbling a curse beneath his breath. The nurse doesn't say anything comforting as she hooks the IV to the bag of chemo chemicals. Then she leaves, not saying a word the whole time. I immediately come to his side, our hands lock as fingers intertwine. We've been inseparable since the diagnosis since they told us the pancreatic cancer was inoperable and chemo was our only option. His fingers rub softly against my skin.


"How do you feel?"


"Stomach hurts," He lifts the corner of his lip and wrinkles his nose, "It burns too."


"Burns?"


"It's like liquid fire in my veins."


"Is that normal?"


He just nods. I frown hard.


"I'm sorry, babe."


"Issok," He forces a smile. His eyelids look heavy as I watch him struggle to keep them open, I knew this side effect, "I'm not ready to lose my hair."


"You might not."


"I will."


"You don't know that," He still isn't hopeful, "But... I'm not ready for you to lose that 'fro either."


He smiles more genuinely now. His hair was something else, I'll tell you. Rob liked to play with it, as did I. Brad looked hot with those giant curls if I must say. I look back at him, realizing now that he is half-asleep. I stand from my spot, leaning forward and leaving a gentle kiss on his forehead. He smiles again before drifting off with the drugs still pumping into his veins.


~•~


'Practiced on our sins, never gonna let me win.'


He was getting skinnier by the days, I feared for him even more, but I never let him know about my worry and anxiety. I wanted to be his rock in this time, I wanted him to see how sure I was of how he was improving. Maybe it would help. That's what I wanted to believe.


"Chester?" His voice is soft, his hand touches my cheek.


"Yes?"


"Are you ready? To do it?"


I nod, softly and reassuringly. Today was the day we finally decided to get rid of his hair. It was falling off in patches, he almost clogged the shower drain yesterday with all that was coming out. He looked sick. People would turn their cheek when he walked by, acted like he was contagious. I hated it, I hated having to comfort him in those moments. He's been more resilient than ever, hope was really lost for him.


I stand from the bed, following his weak footsteps into the bathroom. He didn't want to have a professional do it, he wanted it to be personal. Between just us two. He sits down on a chair he's brought in just for this moment. I fumble around in the drawers for the razor. I hear the beginnings of weeps come from him. It was enough to make me crumble. I drop what I'm doing, coming to his side and hugging his as tight as I could. He felt even weaker in my arms.


"It's okay, shh, shh."


"I'm going to be ugly when I die."


"Shut up," I squeeze his frail figure, hard enough that he groans in protest, "You aren't going to die. Your hair will grow back when you get cured."


"Chester," His voice turns scratchy as he fights down a sob, "Do you know the survival rate of pancreatic cancer?"


I did know. I knew it long before he got tested. I was a worry wart, he fucking knew that. I knew it was a slim-to-none chance of him being here in the next five years, but I'll be damned if I'm not going to keep that last rove of hope. A stray tear falls from my eye, leaving a trail down my cheek that drips down onto my lover's shirt.


"I'm sorry," I let him go, "I'm sorry it had to be like this."


He doesn't say anything. He doesn't need to. I continue to look for the razor while he wipes away the falling cries. Finally, I find it and plug it in. I flick it on, the rumble and quake numb my hand as I walk back over to Brad. The first line of hair comes off hard. Maybe it was just emotionally hard to do this. It must be a reminder to him that he's sick, but it was better than having splotches of hair.


After a good two hours of shaving, his head is finally left with a short stubble (though even those tiny hairs leave patches of baldness). We both cry together, watching the hair on the ground.


"When your hair comes back, you need to grow it out again."


"Chester."


I sigh, knowing he won't let me win. Knowing he has accepted his death. He talks about it so bluntly, like he doesn't even care anymore like it was a normal part of life. I wish he would let me win, just this once. He needed just a pinch of hope.


~•~


'Under everything, just another human being.'


His hand shakes as he lifts his fork to his mouth. We had to eat bland foods now, the chemo has fucked his stomach and tongue up. I hate it, I miss our steak dinners and our date nights every Friday, but I am hard-pressed to keep my composure, so he doesn't figure my nostalgia. The fork scrapes his teeth as he eats. I should scold him for that, but I don't. I let him get away with everything now.


"Is it good?"


"No," He speaks with an undertone, "It's just plain oatmeal, Chester. I miss the good food."


I nod understandingly. The food looks terrible, even I had half-the-mind to pass that up. He drops his fork lazily in his mash, it sinks into the mush. I didn't think he was going to eat much today, anyways. He eats less and less, gets skinnier and skinnier.


"Well. It could be worse."


"Worse?"


"You could be eating hospital food."


I half-laugh, but he doesn't. He glares daggers towards me, and I immediately regret making that stupid joke. His jaundice was more apparent today, the yellow tinge stains his eyes. I can barely see it from his half-lidded eyes.


"Well, it won't be much longer till I will."


~•~


'I don't want to hurt, there's so much in this world to make me believe.'


The fourth round of chemo. He seems to grow number each time they put that considerable IV needle in his vein. I always hold his hand, even if he doesn't want me to. I squeeze his palm with my own, just to let him know that I'm right here with him. We're left alone in the chemo room, the lights are always low, and the white noise plays.


"Chester?"


"Yes?"


"Sing me a song."


There's one song that's been on repeat in my head, a Foo Fighters song. It was my rock in these trying times, it got out my emotions so I could be strong for him. I don't even hesitate to sing the chorus to him.


"It's times like these you learn to live again." I trill to him.


He smiles, softly at first. He drifts into sleep, though I know he's trying to fight the drowsiness for me.


"It's time like these you learn to give again."


His smile grows while his eyes weigh heavy. I watch the IV continue to drip the drugs into his veins, then I refocus my attention back on him.


"It's times like these you learn to love again."


It gets quiet, too quiet. Brad doesn't smile, the white noise machine stops teetering.


"It's time like these each time and time again."


My words are soft, barely audible as not to wake him. The pitter patter of rain chimes against the window glass. Just as I'm ready to sink back into my chair, Brad opens his eyes just a hair.


"Who sings that?"


"Foo Fighters."


He nods, letting me know he got that information. Then his head slides down and hangs off his shoulders as sleep finally takes hold of him. I smile to myself, watching his sleeping figure.


"I love you," I mutter into the silence, knowing I won't get an answer.


~•~


'Stay with me, all I see.'


They have him bedridden at home. I bring him mashed potatoes and rice for dinner, sometimes I splurge and let him eat a few bites of fruit or steak. He always complains about it though, anything that has flavor makes him sick to his stomach. I keep a bleached bucket near his side of the bed in case he feels the urge to heave. He doesn't usually use it though, thankfully.


"Brad?" I question into the darkness of our shared bedroom. I hold a plate of applesauce on a tray for his lunch. No response. I wait before repeating myself again, but still no response.


"Brad, babe?" I enter the room now.


He's laying face down, I watch him closely to make sure his chest is still heaving up and down. It does, thankfully. He hasn't quit on me yet. I sneak over to his side of the bed. Softly, I shake him awake. I use as little force as possible, he's so frail that I'm always afraid I'd break him. He shakes off the drowsiness as he turns to face me.


"What time is it?"


"Lunchtime," He props himself up as I situate the tray on his lap, "I got you some food."


"I'm not hungry."


"You have to eat. Please."


He stares up at me, pity and sorrow reflected in the gloss. He takes the spoon and grabs just a single bite. His face pales, more so than usual. The chemo was really messing with his stomach now. He drops the spoon down, letting the mushy applesauce sit nauseatingly in his mouth.


"Don't you have pills? For nausea?"


"I do," He swallows thickly, "But it's not nausea. Just pain."


"Pain?"


"I'm... I'm okay, Chaz," He waves a hand dismissively, "Come lay with me."


I perk up at his words. He was always in pain, affection just wasn't on the top of either of our minds lately. I welcome this change, I want to cherish it forever. I crawl up beside him in the bed, my hands instinctively wrap around his waist. I can feel his hip bones, they stick out like a sore thumb.


~•~


'Did I say that I need you?'


His forehead touches mine, we share breath. I pucker my lips, he reaches forward and kisses me. We've decided it was time to exhaust our final option; hospitalization. Brad just kept getting thinner and thinner, he was starting to refuse to eat all together. I didn't want to, I wanted him to be home with me. But this was our only option.


"Don't leave me here."


"I'm sorry."


My lip trembles as he kisses them again. I can only imagine how scared he must be. At least this was a friendly hospital, the staff seemed more comforting than the last two places we've been. I still want to cry, I still want to hold him in my arms and tell him everything's okay. I hope he doesn't hate me, I hope he understands. He was smart, he had to know why.


"Please," His voice is more shaken and disturbed, "I need you. Need you with me."


"I'm sorry."


Those are the only words I can force out. A single tear falls from my eye, it burns as it rolls off my skin. He watches me, watches with those dark eyes. For a moment, I hate him. I know he's guilt tripping me, I know he doesn't want to get treated anymore.


~•~


'Did I say that I want you?'


I come to visit him every time I'm able too. They don't want me to catch the radiation, they don't want him to get me sick too accidentally. I say fuck it, I'm willing to risk it. If he's going to die, then well, I'll be right by his side with my own poisoning. But still, they only let me visit once a week. 'For your own safety.' They have to nerve to tell me that.


"Brad?"


"Yes?" His voice is weaker than the last time I've seen him. He looks like skin and bones, his cheekbones stick out in a noxious way, "You came? To see me?"


"I told you I'd be here," I walk by his bed. They're sweeter than regular hospital beds, maybe they're trying to give these people one last touch of home, "How are you feeling?"


He just smiles. He doesn't need to tell me. I already know. I force myself to smile back at him, but it hurts. Hurts more than anything, it was like someone dug a rusted knife into my chest, thrusting into my heart repeatedly. I hope he doesn't hurt that bad. I hope he's at least happy. His hand rises from the bed, shaky but determined. I reach for it immediately, taking that bony appendage in my own hand. I kiss the top of his hand, he smiles again, but it falls flaccid soon after.


"They said it's spread."


My heart drops. If it already wasn't a death sentence, it sure as hell is now.


"Where?"


He points at his gut, "My colon."


~•~


'What if I did and I'm a fool you see. No one knows this more than me.'


Surgery. Those words shocked me when the doctor proposed it. They said since the beginning that surgery was out of the question. Had he been improving?


"He might not wake up." The doctor explains.


"It might make things worse."


"He might not get better."


"He could be scarred for life."


All these were spat in my face by the doctor. He acted like I didn't know the risks, like I was that stupid. I knew odds weren't in his favor, but Brad agreed to do it, so I stood behind my lover. They went over the procedure with me, they were just removing the tumor from his intestine and seeing what they could do with his pancreas. I prayed every God I knew for the best possible outcome. I even found myself praying to an old heathen god, Artemis, Aphrodite, anyone who would be willing to help me.


I sat by his bed while they prepped him for surgery. He was scared, he had a certain glow in his eyes when he was genuinely terrified. His first major surgery, I don't blame him. I remember my first, too. I remember him holding my hand as I went under the anesthesia, I remember him kissing me when I woke up. I was going to do the same for him, just like he did for me sixteen years ago.


"Don't let them take out my colon."


"No promises," I tease him. He was embarrassed about having an intestine issue, you can obviously understand why, "I'll help change your diapers when we go home though."


"Not funny, Chester."


Both the anesthesiologist and I burst into a donkey laugh, it even coaxes Brad to let out a little chuckle. These were the moments I missed more than anything. When we were happy, when we could joke. I suddenly feel my eyes grow watery as the anesthesiologist puts the mask over his head and begins to count down from ten. Brad doesn't even make it to the number eight before falling victim to the drug.


Now it was a waiting game. I sit in the waiting room for an hour, two hours... It's nearly four hours since I last saw him when the surgeon comes out to talk to me. He's dressed in clean scrubs, it's hard to picture my boyfriend's blood splattered on that blue gown.


"Is he okay?"


"He's recovering right now," He explains, "He did fine."


"Can I see him?"


"Yes, of course," He turns away from me, "Follow me."


The hospital room was dark and cold, completely silent too. He lays on his back in the hospital bed, covered by the paper thin blanket the hospital provides. I go to his side immediately, my eyes quickly look over his body to see if I can find anything. Nothing. He's completely still and seems almost lifeless.


"It could be another hour till he wakes up." The surgeon tells me.


And so I wait again. I wait for him to wake. And when he does, I'll be here holding his hand and telling him how much I love him.


~•~


'Cause I come clean.'


It's been a week since his surgery, most of his colon is still intact, but his pancreas is still cancer-ridden. They said they couldn't do anything more for him, they said it was up to his own body now. I hate them, I hate that they're just letting him go.


"My insides hurt."


"I know, Brad."


"You wanna see the scar?"


"Not really."


He drops his hospital gown dramatically. He must be feeling better, at least. The surgery was very rough on him. Our conversation is cut short as a nurse walks in with the dull and tasteless meal of clear soup and dark coffee. She places the tray on the big stand by Brad's bed. Then she leaves as soon as she entered.


"You should sneak me some McDonalds."


"I should," I smile as I watch him begin to eat, "But I won't. You know it's bad."


He nods while slurping.


"The lady next door got kicked out for sneaking in food," He had pounded down his soup already. I'm so thankful he's got some appetite back, "I know you'd be mad if I got booted from here."


"Damn right I would," No I wouldn't, "You know how much it costs to keep you in here?"


His smile fades.


"Then take me out."


~•~


'I wonder every day, as I look upon your face.'


Experiment treatment, they said, it'll either kill him faster or actually get him to recover. I didn't want to make that decision, I don't want to make a choice between life and death. They said he was too... unreliable to make the decision himself. I don't know why it was put on me anyway, it should've gone to his sisters. Maybe it was for the best, maybe I was the only one who kept him in good mind.


I gave them the 'go ahead.' He was going to die anyways. We both knew that we talked about it almost every day.


"Chester?"


"Yeah?"


"Why'd you say yes? You know it voids life insurance—"


"I don't care about that," He closes his mouth shut, "I just want what's best for you."


"Just let me go."


"I refuse."


Suddenly tears fall from his eyes, painting his cheeks with those dreadful waters. He cradles himself before I can wrap my own arms around him. I resist my own urge to break, I've already cried my number of tears for him. They won't help, they never do.


~•~


'Everything you gave and nothing you would take.'


He asked me to help him write his will. The new treatment only seemed to degrade him further. I didn't want to, it seemed like a reminder that he was due to expire within the next few months, but I stood by him and supported him.


"This is surreal."


He speaks barely above a whisper, I don't think he can muster the strength to talk any louder. The pen in his hand shakes as he writes, I have half a mind to ask if he just wants me to write it for him.


"I, Bradford Phillip Delson, of Agoura Hills, California," He articulates the words as he writes them down, "revoke my former wills and declare this to be my last will and testament."


I sniffle as his hand drifts down to the first article of the will. He breathes through his mouth, so he doesn't have the time or energy to alliterate what he writes this time. I see my name etched in ink, then his sisters, and lastly, Mike Shinoda's. Those two were brothers, I knew he'd work his way into his will.


Fifteen minutes pass, and he finally signs his signature at the final blank space of the will. He hands the paper to me, he needs a witness for this to become legally valid. I sign my name with an unsteady hand, then I drop the pen on the desk.


"I'm sorry, Brad."


"Don't be," He forces himself to smile, "You get everything I own."


"I don't care about that," I shake my head, "I just want you."


"There are things...," He takes a deep breath, his bony body quivers, "Things we can have in... in this world, but we can't keep them. It's just—"


"It's just part of life." I finish his words.


~•~


'Hold me till I die, meet you on the other side.'


He was too sick. Too sick to live. The final hours dawned on us, or so it seemed. He sits in a rocking chair that faces the window, I sit next to him. He's hooked to a whole number of IVs and machines, this isn't a life he needs to live.


"I love you, Chester."


"I love you more."


"Impossible."


His voice echoes with a whistle, maybe it was from a sob that itched at the back of his throat. I held his hand. He looked at me, I looked at him. We kiss. His lips are cold and deathly pale, they taste metallic from all the open sores he has in his gums.


"Don't forget me."


"I don't plan on it," I try to make him smile, but he doesn't, "Save a spot for me up there, okay?"


Then his cheeks dimple. He nods quickly and eagerly, tears now drown his milky skin. Mine flow freely too, our own streams merge together as we lean in to let our foreheads touch. The doctors wait behind us, waiting for our final goodbyes so he can just finish his job. I don't want this moment to end.


"Goodbye, Chester," He finally says through tears, "Don't forget that I love you."


~•~


Those all feel like a lifetime away. They are but memories, gone with the wind. I sit in my car still, the rain continues its journey from the clouds. I exhale audibly, moving my hand up to turn the engine on. I'm ready to leave this place in the past, I hope never to return.


But first.


The passenger door opens. I look over and see his freshly grown curls wetted from the pouring rain outside. He smiles at me before running a hand to tussle his hair.


"Were you crying?" He asks, "It's a happy day."


"These are happy tears."


My smile burns as brightly as the sun would, evaporating the tears that stained my cheeks. It worked out in our favor, just like I knew it would. It gets worse before it gets better, the doctor had explained to me. He was on his deathbed, he was set to die, but he pulled through on his own.


"Oh," He smiles just as giddily as me, "If you cry again, then I'm gonna cry too."


"Stop," I wipe my eyes, "If you cry, then I'll cry even harder."


He reaches forward from his seat, pulling me in a sincere, loving hug. I know now that I must cherish every moment with him because I'll never know if it'll be my last. His lips press haphazardly into my skin in various places, they're wet, and usually, I'd scold him for getting me damp, but I let it slide. I always do.


"I love you, Brad."


"I love you more."

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