Soft moans and cries floated down the dark corridors as though they were riding on currents of wind down to Ofdensen's office. They were full of longing, regret, and pain. The manager stood, hoping to locate where the sobbing was coming from, and then the weeping disappeared. Suddenly, lyrics filled the air, and even Ofdensen felt paralyzed by the beauty of the song.
"Did you ever fall in love?
Did you ever feel the pain?
Thought they were sent from above,
Only to find they were a knave…"
At first, Ofdensen assumed Pickles was singing or referring to an old Snakes'n'Barrels song, but it became apparently obvious that it wasn't. These words were too deep, too meaningful to have ever come from people who were so high all the time. The next verse rang clearly throughout Mordhaus.
"Did you look me in the eye?
Did you feel my beating heart?
'Cause it hurt to say goodbye,
And you didn't even fall apart!"
Pickles' accent all but disappeared as he sang his sad, sad song. Ofdensen marched towards the heartbroken drummer and stood behind him for a moment. He took him by the shoulders and squeezed gently.
"Ya heard dat, huh?" Pickles muttered, suddenly interested with his nails. Ofdensen smiled quietly and walked around the couch, sitting down next to the redhead.
"Yes, I did hear that. Pickles, did you write that?"
"Bout, eh, two years ago. Yeah, back when I thought love was real."
Ofdensen arched an eyebrow, gazing deep into Pickles' green eyes. "You don't believe in love now? After all we've been through?"
Pickles looked away shyly. "I don't deserve it, I guess…"
Ofdensen pulled Pickles' face towards him and groaned mildly. "If anyone deserves love, it's you, Pickles." He leaned in towards the drummer and brushed his lips gently with his own. Pickles leaned forward and slung his arms around his manager's neck.
This wasn't the first time they'd share an evening partaking in non-metal activities. Ofdensen and Pickles had shared an unmatched, secret bond for nearly two months. Nathan, Murderface, and Skwisgaar knew nothing about it, although they both agreed that Toki had a sixth sense and was able to detect their growing closeness. Pickles knew that he wasn't gay per se, but he felt a magnetic attraction towards Ofdensen and occasionally the other band members. Something about their chiseled features made him grow uncomfortable, yet he was never able to look away. Especially Toki.
"Pickles…" Ofdensen trailed off, pulling away. "Not now." He looked both ways. "Someone could see us."
"Dat's true," Pickles admitting, looking down at his sneakers embarrassedly. "Couldn't we just, ya know, tell dem or somethin'?"
"Absolutely not," Ofdensen explained with a shake of his head. "It could put Dethklok in a stupor and fans in an uproar. We can't do that to millions of people simply for the sake of our…relations."
"Relations?" Pickles furrowed his brow. "What's dat supposed ta mean?"
"Affairs," Ofdensen corrected, then shook his head again. "No, no. That's not right."
"Tryin' ta say what we gat ain't natural? Ain't…love?" Pickles hollered, standing up.
"No. Please calm down, Pickles." Ofdensen tugged at his arm, pulling the drummer back into a sitting position. "It is love."
The manager stared off behind Pickles' left with glassy eyes.
"Fuck ya!" shouted Pickles, standing once more. "I ain't puttin' up with yer shit no more, Afdensen! We're…dis is done…" The drummer started down the dim hallway, then turned around when he was halfway to his room and added in a yell, "Have yer relations with someone else!"
Toki frowned, scanning his model airplane for any signs of damage. No, there was none. So where could the last screw go? Where had he messed up?
He could hear distant, muffled sobs from the room next to him, which he deciphered to be Pickles' room. He'd never learned who had what room other than his own, but the tenor sobs seemed to be desperate. Toki couldn't concentrate on where the last screw went, so he figured he had the time to waste to figure out who slept next door.
It was Pickles, alright. The characteristic "Fuck aff" said directly after Toki knocked was distinctly in a Wisconsin dialect. Why was he crying?
"Pickle, is Toki…cans I come ins?"
The door inched open momentarily, so Toki took that as an opportunity to come in. Pickles laid on his bed in his shirt and underwear with his head down. His red dreadlocks stuck to his head with sweat and salty tears.
"What wrongs, Pickle?" Toki asked concernedly, taking a timid seat at the edge of the bed.
"Did ya – look me in da eyes –?" Pickles choked out between sobs. "Did ya feel – my beatin' heart? 'Cause it hurt – ta say goodbye…" Pickles paused, then cried out loudly, "And ya didn't – even fall apart!"
"Oh, Pickle, that's pretty poems!" Toki exclaimed with a bright smile. Pickles turned over and smiled through his rolling oceans of tears.
"Think so, huh? Dere's another verse, if ya wanna hear it."
Toki nodded excitedly. "Oh yeah!"
"Did you even care about me?
You must've seen me broken-hearted…
You looked beyond my pleas,
You left, and just departed."
"So sads," Toki murmured with a frown. "You writes this?"
"Why ams you so sads that you wrotes such pain?"
Pickles frowned. "It was years ago, Toki."
"Then why you said it now…you feels sads now?"
Pickles nodded. "Yeah, I guess I'm sad now." Toki waited, so he continued. "I was stupid. I fell in love again after I already knew love ain't fer me. I did it ta myself."
"Love ams for everyone."
"Not me, Toki. Never fer me. Never works out."
The little Norwegian fell silent. Everything seemed a burden to Pickles, so why did he feel the deepest desire to tell him the strangest thing? "Well, Pickle…I loves you. You's my best friends!"
Pickles nodded. "Mine too, since Afdensen…"
"What about Ofdensens?"
"Nothin'. Don't worry bout it none."
Once more, the pair was silent. At least Pickles had stopped crying. Instead, he lay his head against the pillow and stared up at the ceiling looking like he felt both remorse and regret. His gaze fell to haziness and Toki no longer knew what was going on in the drummer's mind. Perhaps he felt drugged up. Perhaps he felt sad. Maybe he was lonely.
"You said somethin' yesterday, last night. A word, like, eh, surd…surge…"
"Sjurd," Toki answer simply. "Sjurd Trofasthet."
"Yeah, what's dat?"
"Who," Toki correctly with a slow smile. "Sjurd Trofasthet was my friends, longs time ago. Well – " The guitarist frowned momentarily. "I thinks he was my friends. Honestly, I felts nothing abouts him. He makes me numb, which ams what I likeds abouts him. Didn't feel nothings for him, didn't feel nothings about my parents."
"Yer drug," Pickles said after a short pause. "He was yer drug, yer painkiller."
"Mades me numb," Toki repeated nodding. "Thinks it's, eh, laudanums?"
"Yeah, dats a painkiller. Laudanum."
"I spents lots of times with him, just to gets away from my parents ands from feelings at alls…when I felts, when I thinks…it hurt. Hurt a lots. Felt likes getting punched, rights here." Toki pointed at his jaw. "My dads did that lots. So I stays with Sjurd lots."
After another moment of silence, Pickles asked, "Sure ya wanna go an, dude?"
"Ja," Toki said resolutely. "I decides last nights that I trusts you."
"So, what bout Sjurd?"
"One days like usual we sats under tree, doesing our schoolworks. He asks me if we be friends forever, and I lies and say yes." Toki bit his lip. "His forever ends soon."
"Dude, he died?"
"Ja, he has hamburger times." Toki faltered for another moment. "I didn'ts thinks about him much afters that…but now I has dreams, no nightmares, of him constantsly! Is like…his ghosts come backs to tells me how I uses him…"
"Ya didn't use him," Pickles replied quietly, patting his friend's back. "Ya needed him."
"He hads…sickness. Mades him thin for years. He weres always sick. Buts then he gains it backs, and dies week laters!"
"Dude, it was just his time." Pickles shrugged nonchalantly. "Can't help dat."
"But I coulds've!" Toki shouted angrily. "I shouldn'ts have lies to him! He woulds've lived if I didn'ts!"
"No, no. Toki, yer lookin' at dis all wrong. If he were always thin, den he wasn't healthy. Like you could've helped dat!"
"Buts he gots better," Toki moaned with grief. "He gots better and I kills him."
They both fell silent for the last time, and Pickles spent the remainder of the evening rubbing Toki's back helpfully until they both fell asleep, tears caked layer upon layer on their pale faces.