BEHIND THE LIGHTS

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Chapter 51

March 21st, 2017
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Anthem of the lonely - Nine lashes

After playing in two cities in Mexico and three in Colombia in barely twelve days, Dark Omen had traveled to Brazil. They’d had enough time to rest since they hadn’t done anything during the last twenty-four hours. However, Søren felt exhausted.

He had been trying to ignore it, but since the hospital had called him to let him know about his father’s condition because, of course, his brother had dropped off the map and they couldn’t find any other relatives, he had been a mess of doubts.

He knew he didn’t owe that man shit, except maybe a punch in the throat. After all the suffering he had put his family through, he wasn’t in the mood to give the old man a second chance. That ship had sailed years before.

Every time someone mentioned him that jittery sensation rushed to him, staining his dreams, making his demons creep up to the conscious part of his mind. But what if he died and he didn’t bid farewell to him? What if he never told him all the things that had piled for years inside of him? Would he regret it?

Alex had told him that as hard as it had been, being able to talk to his mother one more time before closing that door forever had helped him, that as much as he hated all the pain she had caused him, without that last blow he might not have seen the light.

“Eh!” Mikael called, bringing him back.

“Sorry, what were you saying?”

“Nothing, that it’s time.”

“Oh, yeah, yeah...” Søren got up from the couch. After doing some warming up, he had let himself fall there like a sack of potatoes, getting lost in his thoughts.

“Is there anything you want to talk about?” the manager asked him.

“Nah, it’s alright.”

“Okay, then move your asses out there! Come on! You gotta give them a show!” He clapped his hands, patting their backs as they walked out of the changing room. As they approached the stage, the buzz outside grew louder, making the blood run faster inside his veins.

Without uttering a single word, Søren put on his in-ear monitors while Anders, his guitar tech, attached the wireless pack to his belt, sticking the cables to his back with tape, making sure everything was functioning well. Then, he handed him his guitar.

Feeling the stares of his friends piercing through him, he changed his attitude, putting on that fake mask he was so used to wearing by now. “Let’s do this!”

Jørn gave him a quick nod and walked out to the red lights illuminating the stage, the cheering of the crowd increased as he put his drumsticks in the air before sitting on his stool. A second later, the rest of the band joined the drummer on the stage, waving their hands at their audience as they stepped out.

The mass of people had left a space in the middle for the mosh pit, some of them already walking and jumping in circles inside at the rhythm of a tribal sound in the background, but the moment the musicians stood on their positions, everyone stopped and turned to them. As the percussion recording faded away, as if they were synchronized with it, they began to play.

Flashes of icy blue pounded at the same insane speed Jørn was hitting the drums, changing to a fixed shade of orange as Ian did the slide sound that characterized their music.

Immersive and brutal, the notes of that intro unleashed that thrilling sensation Søren couldn’t live without. And, as the gas jets at the edge of the stage let out a cloudy stream in time with his growl, all his worries and angst disappeared.

Alex slapped the strings of his bass with his pick several times, making a punchy aggressive sound right before the pace of the song changed.

Søren let go of his guitar and approached the mic again. The power traveled from his abdomen and climbed up his chest, leaving his mouth in the shape of harrowing grunts.

Horns, headbanging, screaming along with him, sweat running down his back and temples. The throng at their feet slamming into each other, enjoying their music as their compositions raised in the air, creating a parallel universe for everyone there. The feeling of the strings under his fingertips as he watched his friends indulging themselves to the most amazing vice in life.

Nothing mattered anymore.


As he hit the bed after the concert and the after party, with the sun already rising—he didn’t know how he lasted so long—he closed his eyes, letting the silence in the first individual room he’d had since the beginning of the tour dragged him to the world of dreams.

They were staying in one of those suites with a common living room and separate rooms for everyone, well, except Mikael, who was sleeping on the couch. Though he was always so busy, coming in and out of the room at all times. Maybe he was a vampire and didn’t even sleep?

He was uncomfortable, the chain attached to his belt sinking in his leg, but he was so tired he couldn’t move. And as he felt like floating in water, relaxing, his phone chimed, startling him.

“Fuck!”

Patting the mattress, he grabbed the phone, and without looking who was calling, he picked up. “Yeah?”

“Oh, wow! I’m excited to hear your voice too,” Leah quipped.

“Hey...” He smiled, her velvety voice always putting him in a better mood. “How are you?”

“Good, taking a break from work... I wasn’t sure if I should call, with this time lapse and all I don’t know what time it is there anymore, or if you’d be awake or something,” she rambled, making him chuckle. “What?”

“Nothing... You don’t need to give me so many explanations. Just say you miss me.”

“In your dreams.”

Søren laughed. “So, how was your day, yesterday I mean... We didn’t talk, right?”

“Hm... No. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, why?”

“You sound exhausted.”

“Well, it’s seven in the morning here... I think.” He pulled the phone away from his ear and checked the time. “Yeah, seven... I’ve dozed off for an hour.”

“Fuck, sorry! I knew I shouldn’t have called.”

“It’s fine, I’m glad you did, I haven’t even taken my jeans off.”

“Okay, now. Seriously, what’s wrong?”

“... I’ve been having trouble sleeping.” He sat up in bed, resting his elbows on his knees as he pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Nightmares?”

“Yeah...” He ran a hand through his hair, disheveling his already messy bun. “They called me from the hospital two weeks ago. About my father.”

“Hm?”

“He’s been sick for a while, going in and out all the time, but this time it seems serious. They said that if they don’t find a liver for him he might not make it.”

“Sorry...”

“Don’t be. It’s just that... I don’t know what to do. If he’s still alive when I go back, should I go see him? Ugh!” He frowned.

“Do you want to?”

“Not really.”

“Then don’t.”

“Everyone’s telling me to do it, that it might help me find some peace.”

“Yeah, but...” She trailed off.

“What?” He arched an eyebrow.

“Are you doubting because you hate him and want him to suffer alone?”

“Hm...” He looked to the floor for a few seconds. “He’s never gonna be my favorite person, but it’s more because I don’t feel like he’s a part of me. If that makes sense.”

“It does, yeah.”

“You’re not going to tell me I’m a cold bastard?” He chuckled.

“No. When someone has hurt and disappointed you the way he did... It’s not easy to let go.” She paused. “It might work for some people, like a way of finding closure, but in my opinion, it’s just a false sense of security. The only thing you have to deal with to find that peace are your own emotions. So, if you don’t want to go see him, don’t go, just make sure you’re making your decision based on the right reasons and not your gut. Regret is not a pretty place...”

“I know... Thanks.”

“No need.” He could sense her smile.

“Fuck... I wish you were here now. It’s way easier to sleep when you’re in the same bed, even when my head is a fucking turmoil of shit.”

Silence.

“Leah?”

“Yeah... I was just thinking... Maybe I could help you with that.”

“How?”

“You have your laptop with you?”

“Hm... Yeah, why?” he chuckled.

“Gonna hang up now, open the laptop. I’ll be back in a sec.”

Before he could say anything else, she ended the call. Shaking his head—fairly sure of what she was planning to do—he walked to the other side of the room and grabbed his backpack, taking the laptop out of it and placing it on the bedside table. Then, he got undressed, leaving only his black boxers on.

As he let his hair down and untangled the knots with his fingers, he stared at his tattooed thigh, the ink in some of the areas had started to lighten—it wasn’t that weird since he had that tat for almost ten years, but he liked the blacks, black, and the shadows in the tentacles slipping out of the skull more intense.

I’ll have to get it retouched.

His phone vibrating on the bed snapped him back.

Leah: Open your Zoom.

Chuckling, he did as she said, getting a request for a video-call from her the moment he did.

“Hey—” His eye widened and his dick grew. She had placed her laptop probably on her desk, the camera facing her bed, where she was sitting, wearing nothing but a white tank top and what seemed to be a tiny black piece of lingerie down. The sides of her boobs were in full display and her nipples hard under the thin fabric—that fucking piercing.

“You said that when you’re with me you don’t have nightmares and you can relax, so this might help?” She reclined, propping on a hand while she balanced a dildo in the other, spreading her legs.

What was a shy boner, became a strong, full-mast steel bar that could have hold the fucking Norwegian flag. Hail to the King of Ásgarðr!

“I thought you didn’t want me to stare at you while you diddle yourself.” He crooked a brow and smirked.

“Oh, well... I was in need of a release and I thought it might help you.”

“I love how you think...” He bit his bottom lip, hand already inside his underwear. “Now, strip,” he said in a commanding voice.

“As you wish, Mr.Wolff.” A devilish smile spread on her face as she pulled her shirt over her head. He had never been a fan of being called weird things while having sex, but the way she voiced those words did something strange to him.

Let the show begin!


March 24th, 2017
Munich, Germany

“What the heck are you doing?” Erik asked as he entered the questionable stylish room.

“Shhh...” Chris shushed him, chuckling.

“We’re making art.” Leah declared as she kept drawing.

Marc was lying on the couch, sound asleep. He had texted them, telling them he was going to the rehearsal room sooner because his neighbors were doing some renovations at home and he needed some rest. The poor guy had been having it tough at work since they had leaks in his shop, a complete mess that was driving him nuts.

When Chris and Leah got there, the guy in the reception told them Marc was already inside, that he looked like a pissed dead man walking when he got there at six. At the beginning they tried to act like adults, chit-chatting in low voices so they didn’t bother him, but in the end, their childish personalities, fueled by the other, resurfaced.

The bass player was sprawled on the couch, mouth slightly opened with an arm bent over his face and the other hanging as he softly snored. He was so vulnerable and so at hand... And Leah was carrying a black pen, one of those that won’t go away until days later unless you rub your skin with a scourer.

While they kept talking, trying to not wake their friend, sitting with their legs crossed on the dark red, dusty rug, she started painting his nails. Then, carefully wrote FOTZE on the back of his hand, as if it was the stamp of a club.

“This is why I have to sleep with one eye open when we go on tour,” Erik chuckled, shaking his head. “Why do you even listen to him?”

“Eh! It was her idea!” Chris protested.

“Dude!” Leah exclaimed, faking being offended.

“I don’t know who is worse anymore.” The blonde laughed, hanging his coat in the almost crumbled closet.

“What the fuck? She’s way worse, deceiving everyone with that innocent expression.”

“I’m sweet, cute, and innocent.”

“My ass!” Chris showed Leah the middle finger as he got up to greet the drummer.

“Why do you have to be so noisy?” Marc grumbled, rubbing his eyes. “Wha—? You two really are such kids.” He rolled his eyes.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Leah grinned.

“Fucking gremlins,” Marc mumbled, laughing.

“Your fault for being such an easy bitch,” Chris declared.

“Come on! Let’s do this!” Erik urged them.

“Aye, sir...” Chris muttered, getting up and walking towards his guitar. Putting the strap over his shoulder, he plugged it into his amplifier and touched the strings, making them vibrate.

As they all got in their positions, Marc tuning his bass, Leah twisted her neck to the sides with a hand already touching the mic. They were playing in Milan that weekend and the nervousness that always preceded a concert was already palpable.

Erik clicked his drumsticks three times and the three musicians started playing their instruments. Even without the eerie recorded sound that gave it a more mystical and dark aura it still was one of her favorite songs. She loved the ambiguity in it.

Lake of doubts conjured up imagery of a romantic melancholy, the kind of feeling one had when trapped in a depression. It talked about how numbing was that lack of hope, but how comfortable it felt compared to the scary unknown.

It wasn’t the opening song of their concerts, but it was the one they always used to start rolling since it was smooth and soft at the beginning, allowing Leah’s vocal cords to warm up and get ready for the screams.

“I was trying to preserve my life
But everything was just a lie
I can’t survive in the world outside
Where there’s nothing for me but insecurity
Blessed, my home in this lake of doubts
Without it I feel my sternum ripping out”

Verbalizing the pain she had gone through, giving it form, and accepting the scars had helped her to deal with all that suffering. Music had been her salvation.

Balancing to the sides, she closed her eyes. The way the melody swallowed her whole and slid down her bones, invading her, fired her up.

As the music became heavier, building up towards the climax and end of the song, Leah grabbed the mic with both hands and sucked in a deep breath before her voice mixed with Marc’s in a tearing growl.

"Entombed to die
I lost myself in my head
Consumed alive
Restless bones shred in death”

Toggling to a clean voice again, she repeated the verses of the chorus, belting as she reached higher notes. And when the last line left her mouth, Erik hit the drums, closing the song with a solid thud.


They had been practicing for over two hours, going back home after having some beers at their usual bar—the last drop of alcohol she would have until they performed, she needed to take care of her instrument.

Leah had been in the bathtub for long enough to end up with her fingers wrinkled as she almost dozed off. It had been a long week.

With her body all relaxed, she laid on her bed and sent Søren a text to see if he was free to talk before she went to sleep.

Two minutes later he was video-calling her.

“Hey!” Her lips curled up when she saw his face smiling back at her.

Could he be any more handsome?

“Hey! How are you?”

“I’m good, tired from the practice today... Where are you?” She slightly frowned when she saw a stranger walking behind him.

“In the hotel’s cafe. Alex is in the room and... he needed some privacy. ”

Leah arched an eyebrow. “He found some hot Latin that got his dick dancing?”

Søren laughed, rubbing a hand over his stubbled jaw. “I wish it was that...”

“What is it then?”

“He’s dating Astrid.”

“Are you serious?” She tried to keep a straight face, but she couldn’t help feeling weird at the mention of her name.

“Yeah... Apparently, the few days I stayed with you in Germany a lot happened between them.” He huffed, rolling his eyes.

“You don’t seem very happy about it...” Her brows creased together. Did it bother him?

“No, I am happy for them. But we’ve been together so many years as a family... I knew they would end up together at some point, maybe in death because they’re both dumb as fuck, but it being a reality is weird. And gross.” He scrunched his nose.

“Well, you’re probably the only one seeing it that way.” Leah chuckled.

“You might be right, but I still hate it when he kicks me out of the room so they can...” He clicked his tongue twice. “You know.”

Leah laughed.

“And he’s also been a pain in my ass about talking to her because she’s feeling bad about what happened with you and blah blah blah. Such a pussy.”

“I... I didn’t want to ask and look like a busybody, but maybe you should talk to her...” She bit the inside of her cheek.

“With everything that’s happened with Alex, the shit going on with the label, and the tour, I really didn’t have the time or energy to do it.”

“Yeah, I get that... But you shouldn’t let it pass. From what you told me, she had a rough childhood, and you’ve been friends for a long time... Even if she still doesn’t like me, she must be feeling horrible.” That was guilt talking, for sure. The idea of them falling apart because of her felt heavy in her stomach.

“Look, this is not only because of the things she said to you, for which I could be kicking her ass until the end of times but her not facing her issues. None of us have had it easy, and if you have a problem with someone, you talk to them or punch them in the face, but don’t go behind their backs, bitching around and cockblocking them.”

Leah let out a snicker.

“What?” He raised an eyebrow. “That’s the way we solve shit.”

“She’s cockblocked you?” she teased.

“Yeah... Several times.” He huffed, “but she was so fixated on you... Guess she just saw my own obsession even before I did.” He grinned.

“You know you don’t need those cheesy pickup lines to get me into your bed, right?”

“It’s the sad fucking truth, I was so fixated with you, but you can believe whatever you want.” He shrugged, quirking a brow.

“Here’s my man!” Ian exclaimed as he walked behind him, patting his shoulder.

"Hva gjør du her helt ?" Leah recognized Jørn’s voice.

“Talking to Leah,” Søren told them.

“Oh, hey there, pretty girl!” Ian leaned forward, resting his elbows on the back of the armchair where Søren was sitting, disheveled hair falling over his chestnut eyes.

“Hi!” She smiled.

“What you up to?” The Irish asked.

“Almost going to bed. We’re getting up early tomorrow for our trip to Milan.”

“Oh, right, you’re playing there this weekend,” Jørn commented, the tattoos on his arms moving as he put his hair up in a bun.

“Yup. How are you, guys? And the babies?”

“They’re growing bigger every day.”

“Send me a picture later. I want to see those chubby cheeks.”

Ian laughed. “Will do.”

“We’re gonna grab something to eat from this restaurant on the corner, you coming?”

“Yeah”—Søren nodded—“I’ll meet you there in a minute.” Turning his face to her again, he ran a hand through his hair, slicking it back. “So... Talk to you tomorrow?”

“Yeah. I’ll call you when we get back to the hotel.”

“Hm... I might be in an interview, depending on the time you go back.”

“I’ll wait for you to call me then...” She grinned. “And I might send Chris to sleep with Erik and Marc so we can play a little.”

Søren chuckled, shaking his head. “I’d love that...” He bit his bottom lip. “Night, Leah.”

“Night.”


April 2nd, 2017
Buenos Aires, Argentina

It was two something in the morning when they finally made it to the hotel, and for some strange reason, Søren was feeling horny as fuck.

The fact that she was willing to satisfy him like that turned him on even more. Watching her masturbate was the most erotic thing he had ever witnessed. The way she touched herself, sighing, moaning, showing him everything, coming for him... He couldn’t wait to feel her throbbing around him again.

Luckily for him, Leah seemed to be awake.

Søren: Hey

Leah: Hey

Søren: What are you doing up? Isn’t it like super early there?

Leah: Yeah...
Can’t sleep

Søren: Is everything ok?

She typed for a few seconds and then stopped, nothing coming in. That was odd. All the fired up hormones that were fluttering like crazy inside of him before vanished as a red light switched on in his head.

Søren: Babe?

Leah: It’s just... This time of the year is kinda hard for me

Søren: Give me a sec, I’ll kick Alex out of the room and I’ll call you

Leah: No, don’t worry, it’s okay.

Søren ignored her. Whatever it was that was going on, he wanted to know. He wanted to be there for her like she had been for him when he needed it.

“I’m gonna talk to Leah,” he noted as soon as the bass player walked out of the bathroom.

“Are you serious? Can’t you wait ’til the morning to choke the chicken?”

“First, I had to sleep with Ian the other day because you couldn’t wait, you fucking brat, and second, I think something’s wrong.”

“Wrong like what?” He rubbed a hand over his face as he yawned.

“She seems off...”

“... Okay.” Alex nodded. “But you owe me.”

“I owe you shit.”

“Meh. Call me when you’re done, I’m not sleeping with them, Jørn snores like a fucking tractor.”

“Okay,” Søren chuckled.

As Alex put on his sneakers and left the room, not even bothering to get dressed, Søren grabbed his phone and called Leah.

“Hey...”

“Hi...” She sniffed, touching the back of her hand to her nose, her eyes red and puffy. It was probably the dim light of the nightlight coming from her right, but he had never seen that shadow creeping up her beautiful face. “Shouldn’t you be sleeping?” She put on a fake grin, trying to lighten the mood, but it didn’t work.

“Leah...”

“Sorry, I just—”

“Gonna go down to get you something, be right back,” Chris said from afar.

“Thanks.”

He watched her, the pain twisting her features so obvious it hurt, and the distance wasn’t making it any easier.

Sighing, she returned her gaze to him. “You remember when you told me you sometimes have nightmares?” He nodded. “I do too, sometimes. It hadn’t happened in... I don’t know, but tonight... This shit puts me upside down.”

“Wanna talk about it?” He stared deep into her teary eyes.

He didn’t know exactly what had happened to her, but the night he opened up about his messed up family he had a glimpse of the dark void she was keeping inside. And while he would never force her to talk about it, he wanted her to know she didn’t need to live in silence.

“Søren, I...” Leah lowered her gaze.

“I told you, you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to but, whatever it is, I’m not gonna judge you, if you need to vent or break something, do it, I’ll cover you.”

Leah softly laughed, then took a deep breath in. “It’s my ex.”

“Okay...” He nodded, trying not to jump to conclusions.

“He... He abused me.”

Søren’s heart stopped beating.

What?

No!

“... Five years ago”—she tightened her knees against her chest, nostrils flaring—“almost five years ago... I still have nightmares about it...” She shook her head, running a hand through her hair, chin trembling. “I... You’ve noticed the scar on my back, right?”

Søren nodded but didn’t say anything, the lump in his throat too big to even swallow.

“The day I got that—” She quickly wiped away a tear that had rolled down her face. “The day I got that... Five years ago—it’s the last time I saw him.”

Leah sobbed. The camera of her phone moved fast, the image blurring before everything went dark. However, he could still hear her crying her heart out.

Søren was speechless, and not because he didn’t know what to say, but because nothing good would leave his mouth at that moment. That fucking piece of shit, whoever he was, would wish he had never been born if he ever found him.

With the blood freezing in his veins and the turmoil of thoughts spiraling in his head, he clenched his fist, feeling his palm and knuckles burning.

His heart sank deeper in his chest as heard her cries and drowned breathings as she tried to gasp for air. It was gut-wrenching. He wanted it to stop. How would anyone rather hear that than her beautiful laugh?

“Breathe, Babe... Breathe.” He wasn’t even sure if she could hear him.

Fuck.

He wished he could be with her, hug her, shield her from those overwhelming and painful emotions.

Then, the call ended.

Chris: I’ll have her call you later


Feeling powerless, he got up and began pacing up and down the room, running a hand through his hand, huffing.

It was stupid but he felt jealous. Jealous that Chris could be with her. Jealous that he could help her through that while he was there, inside his hotel room, thousands of miles away, walking around in circles like a lion in a cage. So fucking useless.

“Fuck!” He punched the wall.

He knew he wasn’t responsible for the way she was feeling, but couldn’t help the guilt wrapping around his neck.

After the countless times he had seen her shaking with a full body laughter, squinting, and even crying, looking at him with that crystal clear honesty glowing in her eyes... He could have never imagined that was the scary truth she was hiding.

His chest tightened.

He walked into the bathroom and splashed his face with cold water, watching it dripping as he looked down, hands in fists resting on the countertop.

Anger and frustration gave way to worry and sadness as he waited for her to call back. It had been an hour. Maybe he should call her instead? No, don’t burden her. He had never felt that anxious, well, yeah, when he was in rehab and couldn’t sleep, and the times he did, he woke up screaming with the image of his father beating his mother burned in his retinas.

An uncomfortable, acid bile flavor climbed up his throat as he let himself fall on the bed, head hanging low, elbows resting on his knees.

Suddenly, his phone rang in his hand, startling him.

“Hey...” he breathed out when he picked up, brows creasing together.

“Sorry about... before.”

“No, don’t apologize. I’m sorry I wasn’t there with you when you told me.”

“It’s alright... It’s just... I keep thinking I’m over it, and then...” She sighed. “Then, out of the blue, it hits me like a fucking truck, and this time of the year... It’s especially hard.” Her voice sounded quite nasal, but it was steady—at least more than before.

“No need to apologize, I know how it is.”

“Hm?”

“My father... He was the same.”

“I kinda figured...” she said in a low voice. “Did he ever...? To you I mean.”

“Only once.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be.” He let out a heavy puff of air through his nose. “How are you feeling?”

“Better now.”

“I’m glad you weren’t alone...”

“I’d rather be... I’ve put too much pressure on Chris these past few years with this shit.”

“I bet he doesn’t mind.”

“That’s what he says but...” He could picture her rolling her eyes.

“Stop that. If someone loves you, they won’t mind being there for you in your darkest moments. So, let them in, you’re not alone, Leah...” He had been there, still was—ignoring, pushing his problems away, and pretending they weren’t as bad—but it was easier to offer advice.

She chuckled.

“What?”

“Nothing... He told me the exact same a few months ago.”

“See? Then listen to the man because if I’ve learned something about him during the time I’ve known you is that he won’t keep the shit he thinks in, good or bad, he’ll tell you straight to your face.”

“True.” He could sense her smile. She seemed more relaxed, but the sadness filling her voice reached him.

“Promise me you’ll call me if you ever feel overwhelmed with any of this again.”

“I thought you hated talking,” she quipped.

“And I hate it, but you’ve proven to be good enough to deserve my time.”

Leah laughed. “Good to know.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

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