BEHIND THE LIGHTS

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Chapter 55

April 13th, 2017
Oslo, Norway
Iris - Breaking Benjamin ft. DIAMANTE

It had been two nights, but it felt like someone had pressed the pause button on the clock. The whole world had stopped rotating for Søren the moment he picked up the phone.

The doctors said the swelling in Alex’s brain had decreased, which was a positive sign. However, they couldn’t guarantee he would wake up.

Søren was having a hard time processing that information, the idea of his friend not coming back making him sick. The person who had shown him what loyalty truly was, his brother, his family, his biggest support through thick and thin... Would he really not hear his voice anymore? Would he really not hear him groaning when working on their next song? Complaining about how tobacco was more expensive every day or how he hated it when the summer came?

No emptiness or pain that had hit him before matched the feelings he was having at that moment. A dead Universe spreading in front of him. No signs, no lights, just darkness, and agony.

The last forty-eight hours of his life he had barely slept or eaten, acting like a robot as his brain switched to autopilot, tossing and turning in bed all night, talking with the police, with Mikael because they couldn’t and didn’t want to deal with the label or the press, arranging things in the club and the recording studio... He needed to keep himself busy.

“What are you thinking about?” Leah’s question snapped him back to reality.

He had his face buried in the crook of her neck, taking in her sweet, calming scent as she caressed his head, entangling her fingers in his hair.

She had been awake for a while; he realized when her breathing pattern had changed, but she didn’t say anything. That was one of the reasons he liked her so much. She wasn’t pushy and never tried to make him talk when he was feeling bad or dealing with shit in his head.

She had been spending a lot of time with Astrid, keeping her occupied so she wouldn’t think much about it either. Since they had talked, even though things were still awkward between them, they didn’t mind being in the same room together.

“Nothing.”

“You can’t keep blaming yourself...”

“I should have been there.”

“Søren... You getting hurt in his place wouldn’t change anything...”

“I know, but... Ugh!” He rolled on his back, rubbing both hands over his face. Leah turned to him. “I... If he dies...” He clenched his jaw, frowning. Voicing it out loud made it all more real. “I just wish this was a fucking nightmare.”

Leah didn’t say anything, simply touched her forehead to his temple as her arm snaked around his waist, hugging him. He gritted his teeth again, shaking his head as he tried to hold all the emotions back. With his hand on her forearm, he gripped her tight, trying to hold onto something to not lose himself.

“I’m gonna take a shower.”

“Okay...”

He walked towards the bathroom with Leah’s eyes piercing through him, but he didn’t dare to turn around. The way her eyes spoke to him would have made him break, and he couldn’t allow himself to do so.

Pulling his boxers down, he gazed at his reflection. It had been some time, years, since he had seen that look in the mirror staring back at him. The dark circles under his eyes and the out of control growing beard making him cringe. He needed to get his shit together.

As he walked into the shower, letting the water run, he untangled his hair with his fingers. The warmth in the shape of a cloud of steam soon made him relax, muscles loosening and mind drifting. He readjusted the temperature and got under the water, letting out a sigh. It felt nice.

Søren was shampooing his hair when he heard the shower screen sliding. Leah walked in and stood behind him, hands caressing his sides. She reached for the bath gel and lathered his body without uttering a single word.

When he turned around and gazed into her beautiful eyes, he saw the pain invading her. She hadn’t protested, not even once, allowing him to deal with that situation the best he could, but her affection for Alex and for himself was also tearing her.

Cupping her face with his hands, he leaned down and softly kissed her, feeling her fingers wrapping around his wrists. The foam gliding down their skin, disappearing in the drain, washing part of his burden with it.

He moved his hands to the back of her neck and pressed his forehead against hers, their eyes locking, having that unspoken conversation he couldn’t live without now.


As they made their way to the hospital, Søren tried to focus on the road instead of Astrid’s constant sighing and writhing in her seat. He couldn’t blame her, she was nervous, worried, and a lot of other things no one could put into words. But he wasn’t calm either, and those not so quiet sounds were making him more anxious.

She had been pacing up and down the apartment all morning, wanting to go back to the hospital as soon as possible, but Søren had convinced her to go after lunch, telling her that if Alex woke up, they would immediately go to see him. Only two people were allowed in the ICU room and there was no way Ian and Jørn wouldn’t call if any changes in Alex’s state happened.

Leah’s hand sneaking to his thigh pulled him down to earth. As he glanced in her direction, her lips slightly curled up to a knowing smile. It was as if she was inside his head, rummaging through his thoughts, memories, and fears, reading him inside out.

“There’s a spot here!” Astrid exclaimed.

Hitting the brake, he drove backward and parked where she said. They were both tense and if they had any other discussion about anything he would knock her out.

The sky was a bit cloudy, but the press had been fluttering around the hospital since the night of the fight, so Søren put on his sunglasses. They would still recognize him, of course, but having his eyes covered made it easier to mask his emotions and the need to punch them in the face sometimes at bay.

As they approached the main door, five reporters that looked as if they were standing in line for a concert, immediately ran towards them. Did they really not have anything more interesting to do? Like getting their pens, recorders, and phones up their asses?

“You’re Alex’s girlfriend, right?” one of them asked Astrid.

She didn’t even look at him, just kept her head down as she walked forward.

“Do you have any news on his condition?” another one inquired.

After a few more stupid questions about what had happened with Henrik, and about the future of the band, someone had the balls to ask Astrid how she was feeling with the possibility of the bassist not waking up.

She froze. When she jerked her head to the right, Søren could sense the rage and indescribable pain she was feeling. Her chin was trembling and she was about to fire back when Mikael walked through the glass doors.

“No comment!” he announced. “I already told you everything there was to know, so please, go away and let his family and friends deal with these hard moments in peace.” He was being polite, but the vein in his neck was about to explode. If they kept bugging them, they would end up seeing a side of the manager everyone feared.

“Thank you...” Astrid muttered with a quivering voice as they finally stepped inside the building, the security guys from the hospital and a couple of their own keeping those annoying bloodsuckers outside.

“Have the doctors said anything new?” Søren asked as they walked towards the private waiting room.

“Not really...” Mikael clenched his jaw.

“Can I go see him?” Astrid’s new zombie-like look was more evident under the white fluorescent lights emphasizing the prominent, dark circles under her eyes and the paleness of her skin.

“Yeah, sure.” Mikael nodded. “Ian had been here since early this morning and just went back home.”

“Thanks,” she said as she left.

“So, how’s the situation really going?” Søren asked as he dropped his jacket on one of the plastic seats.

“The doctors said the swelling has resolved, and all his tests show normal brain functioning. Now it’s just a waiting game.”

“So he’s better?” Leah wondered with a worried frown.

“Well, yeah, but now it’s up to him...”

“I can’t deal with this, Mikael...” Søren let himself fall onto one of the chairs. Exhaustion and helplessness taking over him.

“I know it’s hard, but you gotta keep the faith.” The manager put his hand on his shoulder and gave him a light squeeze.

“Easier said than done... What did the label say?”

“They get this is hard for you, so you can take a few days off, but you have a contract.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Jørn asked as he entered the room.

“That whether or not he wakes up, you have an album to promote.”

“Figured.” Søren huffed, rubbing the back of his neck, tilting his head to the sides, cracking it.

At that moment he didn’t care about the money they would make with the gigs, or the disappointed crowd if they canceled everything, not even about the label suing them as they got their income from sales, and the sales grew when they performed. It was part of the deal, part of the vicious cycle where one couldn’t survive without the other.

“There’s also another thing...” Mikael started.

“What is it?” Jørn rolled his eyes.

“It’s not like in the gossip columns, but they’re already speculating about your relationship with the band, especially with Søren,” the manager said, looking at Leah.

“Yeah... I know.”

“You’ve already gotten messages about it, I guess?”

“Yeah.” She bit her bottom lip.

“Wait, what?” Søren frowned, turning to her. “Messages about what?” He had deleted all the social media apps from his phone because he was receiving tons of annoying notifications about the incident with Alex and Henrik, leaving the device only usable for important messages and calls.

“Look at these.” The manager slid his finger on the screen of his phone and then handed it to him. “Someone has taken some photos of you together.”

‘Are the Norse beast and the German beauty dating?’

‘How did Søren Wolff and Leah Jäger meet?’

Søren cringed when he read the sentences accompanying pictures of him and Leah walking towards the hospital and them sitting in the cafeteria with their hands joined.

“We have our friend fighting for his life, but they still have the guts to write this shit? Why the fuck do they even care if they’re together?” Jørn exclaimed, frustrated. “They have so much free time...”

“People love this stuff,” Mikael said. “They might love music, but they can’t do it without these juicy parts of your lives.”

“And you knew?” Søren asked Leah.

“Yeah.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?” He scrutinized her expression, searching for anything. She did really have a great poker face because he hadn’t noticed any discomfort or annoyance from her during the last few days. But maybe he had been inside his own head too much.

“You were so worried about Alex, dealing with the police, the insurance of the club, rearranging the schedule for the bands coming into your studio... I didn’t want to add more to it. It’s really not that important.”

“We agreed to keep it a secret for a reason,” he reminded her. “You probably already get a lot of texts from your own fans and haters, and now you’re gaining more of both.”

“It’s okay.” She shrugged. “Besides, it’s not like it’s a lie...”

He knew they were on the same page, but that kind of confirmation and her trying to protect him felt good. Though it still bothered him that she could have problems, aka his crazy fans disturbing her. “I know, but—”

“What is it, Astrid?” Jørn’s question interrupted them.

As they turned to her, Søren felt the blood freezing inside his veins. Tears were rolling down her cheeks, her breathing was accelerated, and her hands shaky.

No, no, no. Fucking no.

“Alex...” she stuttered. “He...” Rubbing her nose with the back of her hand, frowning, she smiled, relief spreading through her whole being. “He’s awake.”


April 16th, 2017
Oslo, Norway

“Ouch, ouch!” Alex whined when Astrid launched herself onto him.

“Sorry, Babe,” she apologized, making Søren grimace with a weird smile. He had never seen any of them so cringy glittery. Getting used to them being together and all lovey-dovey would take a while, but deep down he was happy they had finally taken that step.

“Jesus, you’re not sorry, you’re smiling way too much!” the bassist protested.

“I’m just excited you’re awake and doing so well,” she told him, fluffing up his pillows, so he was more comfortable in a sitting position.

The first day after he woke up had been really hard. Alex was very confused at first and didn’t remember anything from the week before, not their last concert, the trip back home, or spending time with Astrid, let alone the fight with Henrik. His motor skills had been affected by the head trauma too. He stuttered a lot, but what scared him the most and caused him an anxiety attack was not being able to control his arms and legs.

He was doing way better now. He still didn’t remember everything and his face looked like a Picasso, but he at least could shake Søren’s hand.

“Yeah,” Alex said, “the doctor told me it’ll take some time to completely recover but with rehabilitation I’ll be able to play again for the Download festival in Paris.”

“That’s good, but take it easy, okay?” Søren chuckled.

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of him...” Astrid pulled her bottom lip between his teeth. “You’re not doing anything, not even getting out of bed until further notice.”

“That sounds good to me.” Alex smirked, wrapping his arm around her waist and bringing her closer to him.

“Could you keep that for when you’re alone?” Søren groaned.

“You’re a child, S,” Astrid retorted.

“Whatever, but it’s disgusting watching you flirt.”

“I agree,” Ian agreed as he walked inside the room, followed by Hilde and Jørn. “How are you, bonehead?” He grinned.

“I’m alright. Seems like having a bone head is useful after all,” Alex quipped—he had that kind of humor.

“Oh! Frida sends you this,” the guitarist said, handing him a glass bowl with a blue cap. “She said you’d be even skinnier if you had to eat hospital food for too many days.”

“Thanks.” He chuckled. “I could really use some real food.”

“Good morning...” Leah smiled as she walked into the room with one of those disposable takeaway coffee trays. “Hey, guys! You should have let me know you were coming so early, I’d have brought something for you too,” she said as she handed Søren his coffee.

“We’re fine, thank you,” Hilde replied.

“How are you doing, Alex?”

“Better, I think...” He arched an eyebrow when she gave Astrid her coffee.

“Here is yours... With soy milk, sugar, and a tablespoon of cinnamon.”

“Thanks.”

“Okay, what’s going on here?” Alex asked.

“What do you mean?” Astrid wondered as she sat on a chair beside him.

“I hit my head and I still can’t remember a lot of shit, but I do remember you two wanting to rip each other’s throats. Is this like one of those movies where I’m still sleeping and this is an alternate reality?”

Leah laughed. “You sure have a wild imagination.”

“Hey! That’s rude!” He pointed at her. “So insensitive, laughing at the poor injured guy...” Alex pouted, faking hurt.

“You giving us such a fright brought everyone together,” Jørn commented, shrugging.

“So there won’t be blood if you’re in the same room?” he asked his girlfriend.

Astrid rolled her eyes. “You’re my best bad influence and you made me see things I hadn’t seen in her before... and well, she’s proven to be a lot better than I thought so... yeah, no blood.”

“For now,” Leah said.

“Yeah, for now,” Astrid agreed, smiling.

They got along better now, but some sharp ends still needed to be filed down. They both had strong personalities and Astrid’s need of making sure Leah wasn’t going to hurt her friend could be a pain in the ass for her.

“This is awkward as fuck,” Alex stated.

“It is, but you’ll get used to it.” Ian laughed.

“I guess... Anyway, fill me on everything I’ve lost, which seems to be a lot.” He looked at Astrid and then at Leah, narrowing his eyes at them. “Is the label still as fuckerish as always?”

“Yes,” Søren confirmed, “they’re still the same old bastards you know.”

“Well, they said we could take some time off, don’t have to do any interviews or shit until our next gig,” Jørn mentioned, the sarcastic tone in his voice, obvious.

“That’s something.” Alex laughed. “Ugh!” His face turned in a frown as he put his hand over his stomach. The meds they were giving him for pain were very light because they were opioid-free. They couldn’t risk having Alex fall into the drugs trap again after doing so well for the last month, so he would have to deal with that like a champ.

“Oh, yeah, and you haven’t heard the juiciest news this week,” Hilde exclaimed.

“About what?”

“These two.” Ian flicked his finger between Leah and Søren.

“Huh?” Alex frowned. “Dude, seriously, I’m super dense”—he touched his head—“so, could you please elaborate?”

“It’s official that they’re together,” Hilde explained.

“Oh.” He blinked a couple of times. “But everyone knew already that that wasn’t just sex, they just weren’t admitting it.”

“Eh!” Søren called.

“Dude...” Alex rolled his eyes.

“No, I mean... This.” Hilde handed him her phone, showing him the last picture a fan had taken two nights before when Søren had invited Leah out on a date, nothing too fancy or romantic, but they needed some relaxing time alone after all the stress and drama.

It was a nice shot—Leah was leaning against him as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and kissed the top of her head—but it was annoying that they couldn’t keep their private life private.

“Aaaaw.” Alex mocked, batting his eyelashes at Søren.

“Want me to punch you?”

“Please, I’ve had enough of that for a lifetime.” He laughed. “But it was about time...” He smiled, his blue eyes squinting and shining with pure bliss.

“Also...” Ian started. “We’ve been working on that song you were writing during the tour,” he said, taking his phone out of one of his pockets. “Listen to this.”

As the guitarist pressed the play button, Leah walked towards Søren and circled his waist with an arm, leaning her head on his chest.

“It’s good to see you smiling like this again,” she mumbled as they watched Alex grinning, enjoying Jørn’s drum base and the few harmonics Ian had added to the mix.

“It’s great to have him back.” Søren sighed, relieved.


April 20th, 2017
Oslo, Norway

Alex had been released from the hospital two days before, and as their lives went back to normal, Søren felt the knots in his body loosening. The overwhelming emotions that had been making his neck stiff were disappearing, leaving all the muscles in his back sore.

“Ah...” He sighed as Leah pressed the right spot, moving her thumbs in a circular motion on the base of his skull.

“Better?”

“Yeah.” He chuckled. “Thanks.”

“You should relax a little, you know?” Leah said from above as she was straddling him.

“But it’s hard to ignore inspiration when it strikes,” he protested. “And I had been blocked for a couple of weeks, couldn’t let that go.”

“I know... But you need to take care of yourself too,” she said as her hands moved towards his lower back. “Everything’s been so stressful lately...”

“Oh, shit! There.”

Søren shut his eyes as she slid up his backbone, pressing the heels of her hands on both sides, slackening the contractures.

“I don’t know how you can still walk, dude,” she muttered.

He shrugged, letting his mind drift away as he enjoyed the sensation of her palms massaging his back.

He had been working on a new song the entire afternoon. And after some time of sitting in the same position, with one leg bent over the couch and the guitar on his lap, waist twisting every time he leaned down to write whatever crossed his mind, he started feeling tired, constantly rubbing his neck as that stinging rush began to burn.

Leah had chuckled, shaking her head and leaving the book she was reading on the coffee table, bossing him around to let her help him with the pain. And he was glad he had accepted.

“Thanks,” he mumbled when he straightened again, pecking her lips.

“No need.” She smiled.

“I’m gonna make dinner.” He kissed her again. “You can stay here and keep reading or just relax,” he said, pushing her back down when she tried to get up. “You’re supposed to be on vacation and this past week has been hectic enough.”

“Fine.” She beamed.

Søren walked towards the kitchen and opened the fridge, getting the ingredients to make a salad to accompany the grilled salmon he was about to cook.

He was settling the wooden cutting board on the counter when the sound of his acoustic guitar made his ears tingle. Turning his face towards the living room, he saw Leah playing and humming the distinctive notes of the beginning of Enjoy the silence.

As she started singing with a clean and soft voice, a delicious shiver ran down his spine. He had seen her live, giving her all on the stage, but it was nothing like that. She was thinning out her vocal force, letting it out as if it was a lullaby, singing only for him.

With the emotions all over the place after the scary events from the previous week, the warm atmosphere as the sun slowly sank in the horizon, dying the sky with vivid shades of orange and purple, he felt like floating.

"All I ever wanted, all I ever needed is here in my arms..."

The way she breathed the syllables out, adding a little strength on the higher notes, haunted him. Her voice wrapped around his body, caressing his skin the same way her hands, her lips, and her gorgeous hazel-green eyes did when they got lost in each other.

As if someone had chained him to that beautiful humming, he moved towards her, stopping behind her as he let her play the last chords of the song, contemplating her.

When she finished, aware of his presence, she dropped her head back and looked at him with a faint smile, eyes glowing with an intensity that made his heart stop. Words were really unnecessary between them.

He tilted forward and kissed her upside down. Time stopped as the flutter inside him intensified when Leah’s fingers entangled in his hair and pressed him further against her.

Grazing her jaw with his thumb, he broke the kiss. “I want you,” he whispered.

Without saying anything else, they went upstairs, engulfed in the passion that was eating them from within.

Skin on skin, he laid atop her and let his tongue lazily glide over hers as their bodies moved in perfect sync, fitting like two missing pieces of the same puzzle.

Søren didn’t believe in destiny, soulmates, and that kind of shit, but if any of that existed, Leah was definitely all of it. She was like the north star, shining bright in his dark sky, guiding his path back home. The way she made him feel, the way every cell in him vibrated like the string of a guitar with her voice, was unspeakable.

Sharp breaths died in her throat as she clawed on his back, hips grinding at a faster pace. He loved the way her body always craved him.

Sucking on her neck and groaning when a languid moan fell from her lips, Søren rolled on the bed and got a condom. As he sheathed his length, he felt her intent gaze on him. Leah knelt on the mattress, staring at him through her long lashes, chest heaving with a light shade of pink covering it, reaching her cheeks.

Untamed and breathtaking muse. She was so gorgeous he could hardly control himself around her.

When she straddled him, he couldn’t help but caress her thighs, feeling his body throb with anticipation as their eyes locked. Biting on her bottom lip, she slid down on him, dragging out a torn groan from his throat as he felt her tight walls stretching, accommodating him until he was completely buried inside of her.

“God...” Leah breathed, whipping her hair around as she pressed both hands on his chest.

Søren dropped his head back on the pillow, enjoying her warmth encapsulating him, palms moving to her waist when she began to move up and down. That slow groove, the way her lower back arched and her ass tilted up to thrust down on him... Fuck! He clenched his teeth as he felt her sinking him deeper every time, sending scalding waves of pleasure coursing through his veins, cutting their way into his brain.

Watching her from below as she played with him, grabbing his neck with that devilish and beautiful smile painted on her face, drove him crazy.

His hands traveled up her body, caressing everything until he reached her breasts and squeezed them, stroking her nipples with his thumbs.

Leah leaned forward, framing his head with her arms as they kept grinding, breathless moans left their lungs. There was something in the way her eyes bored into his, something in the way her lips parted as she smiled, grazing his nose with hers... He didn’t know what it was, but he was in awe. Gripping the back of her neck, he claimed her mouth again, hungry and intense.

His hands trailed her back, flowing down her waist, stopping when he reached the most perfect and erotic curve on her body, digging the fingers into her flesh.

“Ah...” Leah whimpered.

He hummed happily in response, nibbling her neck and collarbone. “Don’t hold it back,” he whispered, getting lost in the ripples of her chocolate hair.

“I’m so close...” she moaned.

“... Cum for me, Babe,” he rasped against her lips, feeling himself about to combust as the fire in the back of his throat rose, reality vanishing as he looked into her eyes.

The only thing that mattered when they were together was that incredible sensation unlocking a hundred doors, undressing their souls, because in the confines of that remote corner of the world, behind the lights, they were free.

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