The Bruises – Chapters 1 Thru 5

thebruises

Chapter 1: Who Did This?

June – Michigan Int’l Speedway – Post-Race

She felt bad, real bad. She never meant to get into him. But when the tire blew, she had no control of the car and felt the contact right away. Why did she have to wreck him? Why not somebody else?

“I just want to go apologize,” she told Ricky as they were packing their bags in the motorcoach. Ricky, meanwhile, had a decent run as he had finished 13th. “I’ll be right back.” She gave him a kiss before heading for the door, knowing that he’d be ready by the time she got back. She walked through the motorcoach lot, knowing exactly where she was going. She had been by his motorcoach plenty of times, talking to him about an array of things.

Meanwhile, inside of his motorcoach, he just wanted to scream as he thought he had the car to win that day. He thought that at the end of the day, his team would be celebrating in victory lane. Instead, he was wrecked out with about 15 laps to go because of her flat tire. He knew he couldn’t be mad as it was an accident, but it still pissed him off.

“Figures he’d win,” Dale commented aloud as he shut off the tv, not wanting to watch anymore of the post-race blitz. He had already heard enough to make him want to puke. “Why couldn’t someone else win? Anybody but him!” He then threw the water bottle in frustration, watching it burst open as it bounced off the one wall. “Fuck!”

“Dale?” He heard, startling him. Who was that? Why were they there? What hadn’t he closed the door after Lindsay left to go get something? He turned around, surprised to see Danica standing there. Hadn’t she left already with Ricky?

“Hey.” He didn’t know what else to say. She had probably seen the hissy fit.

“Hey.” She then walked up the steps slowly, knowing that he was mad by what she had witnessed. It was expected though as he had dominated the race before the wreck. Though, that wasn’t of concern anymore. He had been standing there topless, racing suit tied around his waist. She had gotten one look at his back and wanted to scream. She could see a trail of bruises, from his shoulders to his waist line. What was going on? She also saw scratches down his arms, which continued to grow her concern. She sat down on the couch as she watched him furiously try to pull his suit, knowing that now he wanted to hide it. “I just wanted to apologize for getting into you there.” She then grabbed his hand, stopping him, wanting to ask him about, still curious. “What’s going on?” She watched as he froze up, pulling him down to sit with her. Something was seriously up. She eyed the scratches more closely, trying to determine their depth. Had he simply fallen? Maybe he had gotten it from playing with the animals? Or was something a miss? “Dale, you can tell me. I promise I won’t say anything to anybody. What are these bruises and scratches from?” He then looked away, taking a deep breath, not wanting to talk about it. He knew exactly what it was from and wasn’t willing to speak of the details.

“It’s nothing, Danica.” He then stood up, pulling his racing suit back up, hoping she’d get the idea that he just wanted to be left alone with his own frustrations. “I just fel-”

“Like hell!” He then turned around surprised by those words. Did she really say what he thought she said?

“Can you leave please? I appreciate the apology and I know it wasn’t your fault, but I’d like to left alone.” She stood up, seeing the fear in his eyes, knowing that there was something that he was definitely hiding and it made her sick. Why wouldn’t he say something?

“Dale, I know these are caused from somebody hurting you. Now, who did it?” She wanted to be there to console him, help him. She hated seeing him like this. There was only one thing that she could think of. Somebody in particular wasn’t there at that moment and now he wondered if that’s why she had to leave so suddenly. “Dale? Did Lindsay do this?” He turned around, eyes full of shock. How could Danica say that when she knew how much Dale loved her? Oh wait, it was possible. Most times you see bruises on somebody you think of their significant other.

“No, it wasn’t Lindsay.” Danica then took a deep breath, knowing that she had to find out who.

“Then who was it? I swear I won’t tell anybody at all.” Dale then looked down, knowing what he had to tell her, despite every inch of him bagging to say the truth.

“I can’t tell you. I just can’t do it. I’m sorry.” He then walked to the back of the motorcoach, closing his bedsroom door, wanting to find something else to throw. There was his escape. He found finally tell somebody and get it out there as to what was going on.

“Dale!” Danica then yelled as she made her way to the back of the motorcoach, knocking on the door. She knew by the fact that he was hiding in the room that he had wanted to tell her. “Please tell me.” She then heard footsteps, turning suddenly to see Lindsay standing there. Now this wasn’t a pretty picture indeed. She then walked away from the door, wanting to comfort Lindsay, wanting to ask her. She knew what was going on. “Lindsay, what’s going on with Dale?” Lindsay looked at her confused, wondering why she was there. Shouldn’t Danica be cuddling Ricky at that moment?

“Lindsay!” The both girls heard from the bedsroom as Lindsay kept her eyes focused on Danica.

“What are you doing here?” Lindsay then asked, now really confused. She then closed the door, taking steps down the short hall way to be face-to-face with Danica.

“Lindsay, are you okay?” Danica then looked towards Lindsay confused. Why was Dale asking that? She watched the bedsroom door open and Dale step between them, wrapping his arms around Lindsay. What was going on?

“I’m fine sweetheart. I just want to know why she’s here. Why is Danic-”

“She came to apologize for what happened.” Lindsay then let out a sigh, realizing that her worry was for nothing. She saw what had happened on the track and it made her stomach sick. What was worse was the events that took place after that.

“Oh, okay. Well, if you’re ready, I’m ready to go.”

“Lindsay, I know about the bruises on his back and the scratches down his arms,” Danica then started, not wanting to leave without confronting Lindsay on the question first. “What’s going on?” Lindsay held Dale close to her, knowing of them herself and knowing where they were from.
“We can’t tell you,” Lindsay then started as she felt Dale cling to her. “There’s a lot going on that you don’t know about.” By those words, she knew that they were caused by somebody within this very garage, maybe this very room. However, seeing as Dale was clinging on her, it was probably not Lindsay.

“Like what?”

“I told that I can’t tell you who did it,” Dale then started lightly. “Now can you leave please?” He then buried his head in Lindsay’s shoulder, knowing what she had just been through herself.

“Can you please leave us be?” Lindsay then asked. “I can promise you, swear to you, that it isn’t me who is doing this. I’m going through it myself, too. We just can’t talk about it right now.” Lindsay then kissed Dale’s cheek, hoping that Danica would leave so they could be together, alone.

“Go Danica…..Thanks for coming and apologizing once again.” Danica then slowly left the motorcoach, thought swirling through her mind. After what she had witnessed and spoke about, she was worried. Who would do such a thing? “Did he do it?” After he watched the door close, he tilted Lindsay’s head up to his, wanting her to answer the question. He knew why she had been called away.

“Yeah, but I’m alright.” She then gave him a kiss, rubbing her hands down his back, knowing how much it hurt him.

“I just wish this could end.” Lindsay then wiped his tears away as they sat on the couch, knowing how much pain he was truly going through. “When he came looking for you, he told me that he’d make sure to come see me.” Dale then slipped his firesuit off, biting his tongue as he felt the pain take over him from the bruises.

“He told me that he’d be by during the week.” Lindsay then wrapped her arms around him, not wanting to see his tears, wanting every bit of it to end.

Outside, as they walked through the motorcoach lot and ready to leave the area, Danica had just finished telling Ricky about the details. She couldn’t hold it in. She had to tell somebody. As they walked, Ricky thought about it through and through, agreeing with her that something wasn’t right. There was something going on and both were doing one heck of a job hiding it.

“I don’t wha-” Danica then started as Ricky took a glance towards her.

“I do.” He cut her off simply as he grabbed her hand, knowing that he was going to find a way to get to the bottom of it. “You need to go tell Tony. He can get through to Dale.”

 

Chapter 2: Stewart

Monday after Michigan – Stewart-Haas Racing

“So I told Ricky and he said to tell you,” Danica finished off telling Tony about what had happened the previous day in Dale’s motorcoach. She was scared speaking up, scared telling his secret, but she had to tell somebody.

“I know we’re close and you’re friends with him so maybe you can help,” Ricky added, as that what was going through his mind after Danica had told him everything. He also had thoughts of telling Jimmie or Rick, but wasn’t sure how that would go over with how they are friends and such.

“Like I said, it’s not Lindsay, but it’s somebody he knows that is close in his life. I just wis-”

“Just quiet for a minute!” Tony then yelled, trying to think things over. How was this happening? Why was this happening? Was his affection towards Lindsay a cover-up? Was that a set-up to ward her off? Tony wanted to know why would somebody else do something? He sat back in his chair, musing in his own thoughts as she walked over to where he sat, curious as to what he was thinking. Did Tony know something? “Go back to your side of the desk, please. I really want to think this over before I do something I will probably regret.” By those words, Danica knew what Tony was thinking – he was in ass kicking mode. But who’s ass was first? “There’s a lot that has gone on that you both don’t know about and that could be why this is going on.” Tony then pulled out his phone, thinking of what to do. He was his own boss. He could leave at that minute and run over to Dale and confront him. Or would a text be simpler – would that cover the basis better? “Linsday isn’t the only person that has been in his life. Jimmie has been there, too.”

“So do you think Jimmie did this?” Ricky asked with his eyes wide open. He was in total disbelief. He would never ever believe Jimmie doing such a thing. How was this possible?

“It can’t be….” Danica thought outloud, also in shock by Tony’s words. There had to be some other explanation.

“When you say in his life, what do you mean?” Ricky knew that Dale was good friends with his teammate, but was Jimmie something special?

“They were in love and had sex; are you happy now?” Tony didn’t want to tell Ricky and Danica that, but knew that he was left only to do that. “I don’t believe Jimmie did it, though. I honestly have no idea whatsoever who is the person.” Ricky then crossed his arms, watching Tony fiddle with his phone.

“So what are you going to do?” Tony then stood up, knowing that texting wouldn’t be the same as confronting. If Dale wasn’t going to speak about it, there was only one way to make him.

“I’m going to go see him tonight and get him to fucking tell me. Then I’m going to go kick some ass before the night is over.” Danica then smiled, already knowing in her mind that’s how Tony would react.

“I will have your bail money posted for you,” Danica joked as they all laughed, trading some hugs as they left the office.

“I don’t even give a shit about that right now. All I give a shit is about finding out who is doing this.” They then walked through the halls as Ricky knew he’d have to leave soon, bounded by Tony’s rules of where he was allowed within the building.

“I still can’t believe you let me in the building,” Ricky commented as they walked through a set of doors. “But really, do you think you can get him to tell you? I mea-”

“I will force him to tell me,” Tony cut Ricky off, already determined that he wasn’t finishing the night without kicking ass. Danica then watched Tony send a text, curious as to who it was to.

Hey – are you still sleeping with Earnhardt?

No – why?

Just curious buddy.

Have the hots for him?

lol Not a chance. Just heard some rumors.

From who?

Don’t worry..shop guys. I’ll kill ‘em.

Tony closed his phone, now having a mind filled with too many thoughts. Was it Linsdsay? Was it Jimmie? Or was it someone else? How could this be happening? Why was he feeling so bad for Dale? Dale was a strong guy! He could handle it. Why was his heart cracking?

“Are you going to be alright?” Ricky asked as they reached the exit doors, seeing the look on Tony’s face. “I mean you look shocked, paranoid, confused. Sure you don’t want us to com-”

“I will handle it,” Tony assured them. “You go back to your love life now children.” Tony then closed the door, putting his phone in his pocket. “Why do you have that affect on me?” Shaking his head, he headed back inside, knowing where he was heading as he had to make sure to get things done fast so he could do what he had to do that night.

 

Chapter 3: The Visit

Dale Jr.’s house – Post-Michigan

Getting out of the truck, locking the doors, Tony Stewart was still nervous about walking through the doors and questioning Dale Jr. about what Danica had spoken of. What if it was nothing that she noticed? What if she was just overreacting to something that wasn’t needed? Shaking his head, he knew he was in denial at that point. He knew that he was trying to make it disappear because he didn’t want to believe that someone was hurting one of the people that he cared about. He was already too far in to turn back now.

He had texted Dale earlier that afternoon, wondering if they could hang out and drink beers, chit chat like they always would. It was a typical request that Dale wouldn’t get suspicious about. Dale had accepted – as he always did – and they agreed to meet up at the house around 9 to enjoy their back porch discussion.

As he walked up to the front door, he debated in his head how he would bring it up. Would he allow themselves to have a casual conversation and bring it up very lightly? Or would he spit it out, demanding answers? Either way, he wanted those answers before he walked back to his truck later that night. He wanted to know the exact name of the person and their address so he could fulfill the words that he had told Danica and Ricky earlier that day.

Knocking on the door, he moved his feet around nervously, still full of debate in mind, but now also anger. Deep breathes, he told himself. He knew he couldn’t let Dale see him like this to start off the night. It wouldn’t allow them to get to what he wanted to talk about.

“I thought you’d never show up,” he heard as the door opened, smiling. Even with something going on, Dale was being typical Dale in Tony’s mind and that’s what made it hard to believe. Even on track, things had been going great. Dale was running up front each week, clicking off good solid finishes without any worries. How could something like this be happening behind the scenes to ruin that good flavor?

“Remember – I do have a company to run,” Tony joked back as Dale led him through the house out to the back porch. They went out there, Tony closing the door behind him as he knew with the topic at hand, nobody needed to hear the details. Relaxing in the same chairs they always sat in, the cooler was already there, full of drinks ready to go. Everything so far was going as it would normally and that meant that the door was wide open for Tony to do what he needed to do. “It seems the business never quits for a second. There’s always some sort of paper that needs to be filled out and signed.” Dale then smiled, as he opened the cooler grabbing a drink for himself. With everything that was going on, it felt great to kick back and relax on the porch and share drinks with a friend. For the next couple of hours, he could escape what he had been going through. “How’s things at JR Motorsports?” Despite the self-arguments in his mind, Tony had decided to take things slow, not wanting to hit the pressure cooker right away. He also knew that he couldn’t waste too much time as he had to ask Dale before he had too much to drink. Getting him totally drunk and then asking wasn’t a good idea at this moment if he wanted a logical explanation.

“They’re alright if you consider how the boys are running on track.” Tony then shook his head as he grabbed his own bottle, quickly popping the top off, knowing he couldn’t look like there was something going on. Tony knew what Dale meant as it seemed Brad Sweet couldn’t stay out of trouble, while Regan Smith was having a solid season, currently sitting fourth in points. Tony watched Dale down half of the bottle in a swig, knowing that time was ticking till they got into the rest of the cooler. Though he was looking for any sign of what Danica spoke of. Dale sat beside him, wearing one of his all too familiar white t-shirts. For the area that as visible below the short sleeves, there was no marks to seen, none of the scratches that she spoke of. This person is careful with what they’re doing, Tony thought to himself. This person knew that people were always around Dale and there was no chance of leaving any clues.

“Brad will get better with experience and hey, Regan could still win that championship.” Dale smiled as Tony was right about Regan. Making up 20 points was very easy to do with three months left on the schedule. Many drivers had made up that many points in one week so what was stopping them?

“No doubt in my mind with his talent. How are things with Ryan and Danica?” Tony looked down, having wished Dale had not asked the question as he was hoping to bring up what was truly on his mind.

“Ryan is doing okay – no luck finding sponsorship for next year, while Danica is, well, learning.” There was no secret that Danica was having some bad runs, not even finishing within the top 20 as they had at least hoped for. But, Tony took it all in stride, knowing that each week she was continuing to learn and they would get better. “Listen, talking about Danica, I do want to talk you about something important. She came to my office today with some concerns.” Tony knew that he couldn’t wait any longer with how many thoughts were going through his mind and the concern that his heart felt. How could he sit there beside his best friend without doing anything?

“What did she say?” Well Dale was curious as to what Tony would answer, in his heart, he already knew the answer. She had seen enough on Sunday to be concerned and he knew after she left the motorcoach, that she would tell somebody. He was hoping that she’d only tell Ricky, but as Dale could tell, that wasn’t case. But why tell Tony? Why tell the guy that was known for kicking everybody’s ass?

“She told me that after coming to apologize to you, she saw some bruises and scratches that she was concerned about.” Dale then stood up, walking over to the railing, not knowing what to say next. For most people, he could lie to them, say it was cause of something. To others, like Danica, he knew he could ward them off and they wouldn’t press the issue. But Tony – he knew he couldn’t push Tony away. He knew that Tony wouldn’t leave till he got a straight answer and that worried Dale. Dale was scared to say who it was, knowing what was at stake. What if Dale opened his mouth and told Tony? Then what would happen to them? “Now I know by your reaction that she wasn’t fucking lying.”

“Just leave, please. I don’t want to talk about it.” Looking out at the field, Dale knew that he wasn’t in the mood to deal with Tony anymore that night. What he had hoped would be his escape was now turning into something worse than the pain itself. How could she send him over to push the issue? Why not someone else? Instead of listening to Dale’s requests, Tony joined Dale over by the railing, knowing that he came there wanting to know one thing and wasn’t leaving till he cracked the nut.

“You’re not doing yourself any favors by not saying anything to anybody about it.” Dale then looked towards Tony, shaking his head at Tony’s words. Tony didn’t know anything. Tony knew nothing about the secrets. He knew nothing about the torture that he was going through – the violation. Tony knew nothing about what Lindsay was having to deal with. How could he think Dale would open his heart and just tell him?

“You don’t understand…” Tony then put his hand on Dale’s, knowing that he had to do anything in his power to get Dale to tell him. If it meant showing the soft side that secretly cared about his best friend more than the racing and the team, then so be it.

“Then help me understand by telling me what’s going on.”

“I can’t do it.” Dale then turned, beginning to walk the length of the porch as the tears began to fall down his face. For the first time in a long time, somebody else besides his torturer and Lindsay had seen the tears fall out of his eyes. This had been going on for two months now and yet Dale had managed to hide it all from everybody. Why was he breaking right now in front of Tony? He walked over to the stairs, walking down them slowly in the darkness, heading into the backyard, just wanting to run. In that instance, all the pain that he had gone through – physically, emotionally – just wanted to pour our. He wasn’t about to let Tony be there to be consult him. That would just lead to him spilling the beans and that wasn’t an option.

Tony stood there, leaning on the railing, watching Dale go sit by the rocks by the pool, dipping his feet in, just staring. He saw enough. He saw the tears. He saw the pain written in Dale’s eyes when he said those few words. He saw everything that he needed to see to know it was true. How could this be happening? In that instant, he also felt his own heart break in half. How could he let this happen? For so many years, even when Jimmie was with Dale, he had always wondered what they’d be like together. How could he not be there to protect him?

“Why won’t he just leave?” Dale said outloud as he swirled the water around his feet. He was hoping that Tony would just leave as he didn’t want to have to deal with him. He didn’t want to talk about it, he didn’t want Tony to know anymore details.

As he sat there, losing himself in the motion of swirling the water around his feet, he then felt his phone vibrate. Pulling it out of his pocket, quickly unlocking it, many thoughts were going through his mind. It was probably the torturer, speaking of their next meeting. Or maybe it was one of the guys, with some random text. However, as he read the text, he realized it wasn’t none of that.

I wasn’t going to leave because of one thing – I care about you. To see you cry, to see you hurt, it breaks my heart. How could you let someone do this without telling everyone? For your own sake, please tell someone that can help you! Tell the cops!……Considering you don’t want to talk about it, I decided to leave. However, when you want to talk about it, know that I am just a phone call away. The minute you phone, the minute I will walk through that door and be there to hear your story. To help you. Remember Dale, I love and care about you. I want to see you happy.     – Smoke

Dale closed the message, putting his phone in his pocket, feeling the tears trickle down his face.

Meanwhile, out front of the house, Tony sat in his truck, holding his phone in his lap – waiting for a text, waiting for a phone call. He was praying in his mind that Dale would open up and allow him to be there. Why wasn’t he responding?

“Fuck Dale!” Tony yelled before throwing his phone across the truck in frustration, hearing the screen shatter against the passenger door. He then turned the truck on, backing out of the driveaway and driving away. If Dale wasn’t going to open up and realize that someone was there, willing to give him a way out, then Tony wasn’t going to sit there all night and waste the night away. “Now I need another new phone. And I still didn’t kick anyone’s ass! Why won’t he listen to me?” Driving down the dark roads, Tony lost his mind his own thoughts, thinking it over. What was stopping him? Why wouldn’t he say something?

 

Chapter 4: The Wreck

Daytona International Speedway – July

2 weeks had past by and still nothing – Dale had yet to reach out to Tony and speak about any of the details. There was nights that he wanted to, but as he would reach for the phone, fears would enter his mind, scared of what could happen if the news spread.

However, after what had happened on the last lap of the race, he was ready to do it – knowing that he needed to talk to Tony. This time, the torturer had crossed the line.

Last lap coming out of turn four, Dale and his new found enemy were side-by-side, battling for the win. As they went for the tri-oval, it looked like without a doubt that it’d be the “other guy” taking the win as he was half a car ahead. Dale was fine to settle for second – mad, but would settle for second. It would at least keep him up front in the points and that’s all that mattered. However, in a split second, that finish was wiped out of his hands. The car to his outside came down, making contact, sending Dale for a spin through the grass, resulting in a finish of 14th – or at least that’s what NASCAR has decided for now. How was that fair?

Sitting in the trailer, glad that he at least didn’t find a wall in the incident or another car, he was ready to press the numbers on his phone that could give him the freedom his body ached for. Finally somebody would know what was going on. Finally, maybe, somebody could help him and he could escape what he was going throug-

“What the hell was that about?” Dale heard, surprised, as he looked up to see Steve LeTarte storming into the trailer, furious. Steve wasn’t one to get mad. He never got mad. He typically always had a calming sentence or two to put Dale in his place. Dale was actually glad that Steve was able to do that with everything that was going on. “How does a teamma-”

“Steve, calm down,” Dale encouraged, not needing to hear this right now as his phone sat in his hand ready to dial Tony’s number. He had put Tony’s number on speed dial, not wanting any hesitation when the decision was finally made. “He probably got loos-”

“I’ve watched the replay 20 times and no, he didn’t! He did that on purpose!” Dale watched Steve storm back out of the trailer, still surprised at how mad the normal crew chief was. For sure something had to give. Now it had gone too far. It was fine when it was away from the track, hidden from everybody. Dale could handle that, to a certain extent only, but he could handle it. He could keep the tears hidden away, locked to where nobody saw them. He could hide the marks that were left on his body as reminders for what had happened. But to take it on the track and do something that messed the one thing Dale held on to up? To screw up the race for the team because of their own deal? Was that even fair? Not at all!

As Dale fiddled with the phone in his hand, now returning to a mind of self doubt in saying something, he could hear Steve outside discussing things with Rick. This definitely isn’t going to end well for me, Dale thought. He knew once word spread to Rick and their “teammate” got in trouble, there’d be anger to be spread and directly at him. That was how it always worked. As soon as something happened on track to make him mad, he would take it out on Dale right away. It didn’t matter what. Dale was his pressure release and that was all that mattered. It didn’t matter whether somebody else had caused the wreck, he had caused the wreck or some mechanical failure – Dale felt the blunt of it all. That’s why part of him was glad to see the guy win as maybe he could escape for a week. However, with Rick involved, that wasn’t likely.

“Rick is going to have a talk with him about it,” Dale heard Steve say as Steve returned inside the trailer, somewhat calmer. While Steve was calmer, Dale’s blood began to boil and rush through his veins. What would be the plan for Monday night or Tuesday afternoon if that be the case? What would the torturer do next?

Filled with worry, knowing that he couldn’t say a word to Steve or Rick without giving off a clue, he quickly picked up his phone – sending out the text that Tony had been begging to read the past two weeks.

Tony, I’m ready. I’m ready to tell you what’s going on. Meet me at the house tonight at 11 when I get home. 

As Tony sat in his hauler reading the text, he smiled. Finally Dale had come around. Finally Dale was going to speak the truth and say what was going on. There was only one thing Tony feared now – who was the person behind it and what had they done? What had they done to push Dale to the edge of telling?

“Whoever it is, they better hope that somebody is there to save them,” Tony spoke outloud before quickly heading out, not wanting to be late for their meeting together.

“Whoa Tony – slow down!” Danica yelled as Tony almost ran into her, trying to make his way quickly through the garage area.

“Sorry. Didn’t see ya.” Danica was shocked by those words as she followed him. How could he not see her when she was wearing a bright, bright green suit?

“Where are you off to in a hurry? I have never seen you run like this before – except when you’re mad. Did somebody piss you off?” Tony looked towards her, knowing that was exactly the truth.

“Oh yeah, and they’re going to pay. Remember the promise you told me a couple weeks ago.” She then smiled, knowing what that meant. It was finally time for Tony to figure out what was going on. She had to admit – she had been worried about Dale since the day she noticed the first bruise. She had wanted to go and say something to him, but knew by Tony’s words to sit back and wait till he was ready.

“Good luck.” She then headed off in the other direction as Tony ran into his motorcoach, quickly grabbing his bag.

“If I was her, I’d be saying that to oh said bitch.” As Tony ran out of the motorcoach 10 minutes later with his bag packed, he pulled out his phone, sending one quick text.

Thanks for finally texting me. It’s about damn time. I’ll meet you on the back porch when ya get there. If I get there before you, I’ll let Killer and Stroker out for a pee.

Chapter 5: The Marks…
Dale Jr.’s House – Saturday night, post July Daytona race

Tony stood on the back porch, watching the two dogs run around, looking for a spot to do their business. The race had gone alright for Stewart as he managed a fourth place finish despite the wreck at the end. However, that wasn’t what was bugging him. He was concerned about what would happen when Dale came home. Would he be able to take in every thing that Dale was going to tell him? Could he handle hearing the events first hand himself? Shaking his head, he knew he had to. He had to so he could kick the person’s ass. He hated the thought of what Dale was going through and it made him sick everytime he thought about it.

“How’d you let the dogs out?” Tony heard, causing him freeze. He knew that voice from anywhere. He didn’t need to look at the eyes behind him to know who it was.

“I went and got the spare key from Kelley,” Tony replied as he held the set of keys up, still keeping his eyes focused on the dogs.

“Did you say anything to her about why you’re here?” Tony could hear the fear in Dale’s voice as it was quivered, while just above a whisper. Tony now knew that there’d be lots of comfort needed because whatever was going on was big.

“No – I just told her that I came here to hang out with you and chit chat over some drinks due to having tomorrow off.” Tony then turned slightly, locking eyes with Dale. He had to make one thing clear before he started anything. “When I told you that you could trust me, that I wouldn’t tell anyone, that it would be kept between us – I meant it.” Dale smiled slightly, still keeping his eyes down. Was he ready to let somebody in and let them know exactly what was going on?

“Thanks…..I’ll take those two inside and get changed. Stroker! Killer!” Both dogs shot their eyes up, immediately running to their owner, giving him licks. Dale chased the pair of dogs inside as Tony turned around, looking over the backyard again. In all previous thoughts of this moment, he had felt confident. Now, he felt scared – how would he start this conversation off? How would he show that Dale that he was really going to be there for him? Tony shook his head, downing the last of the bottle of the water as Dale came back out, changed into a t-shirt and some jeans.

“Where’s Lindsay?” Tony knew he had to start the conversation somewhere and this was a spot to begin it, since he was worried that maybe she’d show up in between their conversation and mess up the confession. Maybe that’s why Dale had chosen to tell him that day.

“She went away for the weekend with some of her girlfriends. She’ll be back tomorrow night.” Tony smiled inside, knowing that meant they had the time to themselves to discuss what needed to be discussed. If Lindsay had any effect on what was going on, it wasn’t something to be worried about at this point. Tony then moved so he was sitting in the chair beside Dale, taking a deep breath. He was anxious, wanting to hear the name badly – knowing where he’d be going right after the name was spoken. However, he also knew that he had to be careful. It had taken two weeks for Dale to take him up on the offer so he couldn’t ruin the opportunity. “Whenever you’re ready, I’m here to listen to what you want to tell me.”

Dale shifted in the chair so his back was facing Tony, slowly pulling up his t-shirt to reveal the bruises that Tony had learned about from Danica. There were some that looked more fresh than others, while some looked like they were almost healed. There were ones that were a light brown and small to a purplish one that was huge. In that moment, Dale couldn’t find the words to say what he wanted to say. He couldn’t find the words to say the person that had hurt him so badly, that had caused the wreck, that was ruining his life one inch at a time. It felt like someone had come and ripped his tongue out of his mouth. Was there fear setting in?

Tony ran his eyes over the marks, lost for words. There had to be a good 30 different marks across Dale’s back, inflicting their own levels of pain. The caring part of Tony wanted to rub Dale’s back, find someway to soothe them. The frustrated part of Tony wanted to scream at Dale for not saying something. The angry part knew that some serious ass kicking was needed to be delivered. How could this had happened?

While fighting to find the words to say to Tony, the tears began to once again fall down Dale’s face as they had the other time he had faced Tony for this discussion. Facing the pain, possibly finding a way out of it made it even more real. Though the fear was also there. His so-called teammate would be mad when Rick began to the lecture during the Monday morning meetings. Dale knew he would already be feeling the blunt of Steve opening his mouth. Though if Tony dare said a word that escaped that area – that would be even worse. There was no telling that would happen in their next meeting. Was Dale ready to face that? Could he handle what was yet to come? As his thoughts collided with each other, he began to stand up, knowing that he had made the wrong decision in sending Tony the message in the heat of the moment.

“I can’t tell you….I’m sorry….” Dale let out, tears streaming down his face, feeling defeated. He knew that this was his inner battle to face till he could find way out of it himself. There was no way that he could let somebody else know what he was going through. That was just too hard.

“Dale, please let me know,” Tony begged as he grabbed Dale’s hand, wanting to pull him close and give him a comforting hug, wanting to be there. All the frustration and anger had cleared as Tony’s heart broke immediately after the first tear fell. He couldn’t believe the sight before him. Immediately, Tony felt Dale go to pull away…..

“Let me go, Stewart. Let me go! Stew-”

“If you can tell me like that, then why the hell can’t you say that to whoever is doing this to you?” Tony didn’t want to grab Dale’s hand and hold it as tightly as he did, but he had to. He had to show Dale that he would be there for him. He had to show Dale that he cared and wanted to help. He also wanted to see what Dale would do, sort of like a brutal reaction test. He had expected the fear to come across Dale and for him to be able to use that to break the barrier that Dale held up. Instead, he was treated to defense from Dale and that had him curious. What was going on between him and this person? “What is stopping you, Earnhardt?” Dale kept his eyes focused on Tony, growing frustrated with Tony’s antics as his eyes from a crystal blue to a dark navy blue. The anger was growing and as much as Dale wanted to keep things cool between him and Tony, part of him was able to give Tony a slap for what he was choosing to do.

“Just let me go.”

“Fine – but I want an answer.” Having seen enough to answer some of his questions in his head, Tony did as requested, curious as to whether Dale would tell him what he was originally supposed to tell him.

“I told you before – you don’t understand.” Tony rolled his eyes, standing up so they were level with each other. He hadn’t come for a fight right there, but if that is what it took, then he was willing to do it. He wanted to get to the bottom of what was going on.

“Then why don’t you start explaining? Nobody will understand till you speak your mind! Nobody will know what you’re going through till you let them know! If you don’t say something, this is going to go on forev-”

“No, because I’m going to handle it myself.” There were many nights Dale had sat thinkings of ideas on how to handle things. Would he tell the police and get them involved, arresting the individual and hoping the charges stuck? Would he hurt the person back in no way describable to let them know what he was going through? Or was there some secret he could dig up that would hurt enough to make it end? “I don’t need you doing my dirty deeds for me.” Tony took a deep breath, shaking his head. How had their discussion gotten to this point?

“I think you do because if you could do it yourself, it would’ve been done.” Dale shook his head, walking away from where they stood, knowing that he had definitely made a mistake in texting Tony. How could he had let him into his world? “Admit it – you’re scared and you don’t want anybody to know the details of that.” Tony then followed Dale, wanting to get through to him, not willing to leave. He had left the other night and had regretted it ever since. “What is stopping you from telling that person what you said to me? What do they have over your head that you’re not telling?” Dale reached for the back sliding door, ready to find a mistake from Tony, but Tony put his hand on the door, holding it shut. He wanted one last shot at getting the truth out before he once again left, defeated. “Why do you let them keep hurting you? I don’t care who it is anymore – I just want to know why they are doing it. I want to try and help you, and to do that, I have to understand what you’re going through.”

“I told you – I can’t tell you and I’m going to handle it myself.” Dale then pushed Tony back, causing Tony to trip over the chair. Dale heard Tony fall, but ignored it, sliding the door open. He just wanted to escape Tony and not have to answer the questions. He couldn’t. He knew he couldn’t and it was eating him inside. As Dale began to slide the door closed, Tony got there, pushing it back, not ready to give up. Dale had pushed things too far at that point and Tony was ready to let his feelings loose. “If you don’t leave, I will punch you. I thought you’d get the ide-”

“Tell me what is going on and let me help you!” Tony then walked inside the house, following Dale into the kitchen. “Give me something to work with to understand why you can’t say anything.” Dale then turned around, looking at Tony straight in the eyes, anger written through his eyes and stance. Tony had picked the wrong time to test the Earnhardt  Stance.

“What part of I have it handled and I don’t need you do not understand?” Tony then walked up to Dale, standing right up close, ready to say what needed to be said. There was only one reason Tony hadn’t left yet.

“Because I fucking love you and care about your ass. I have always loved you – that’s what attracted me towards you in wanting to be your friend.” Tony then walked past Dale, knowing that was the last bit of effort he had left in him. He had no other ideas in how he could possibly get Dale to tell him what needed to be said. If Dale didn’t want to tell him, then he would have to live with that. Also, with confessing his love, he also felt his own tears fill in his eyes, hurt that the person he loved didn’t trust him. Tony walked down the hallway slowly, headed for the front door, ready to leave. He couldn’t do nothing about it and it killed him inside. It felt worse than any of the previous feelings he had. “Text me if you grow some ball-”

“Do you remember Amber?” Tony then froze, a shiver going through him at hearing her name. Amber was Dale’s famous flirt from his second season in NASCAR. Everybody hated her attitude, and the fact that she was always wearing tank tops that showed off her boobs and short shorts. In contrast to what everybody was saying, Dale insisted that everything was perfect in his eyes with her. For Tony, she was the total tramp, just trying to sleep with all of the drivers. When Tony heard that Dale broke it off at the end of the season, he had an inner celebration, glad that Dale had reached his senses. He was glad to put her in the book of girls they’d never hear of again. “Amber Lynn Jami-”

“Yeah, I remember the tramp. What does she have to do with what is going on? Is she the reason that this is happening?” Dale then walked down the hall up Tony, ready to begin explaining a piece of the puzzle. He wasn’t ready to say who was doing it and what was going on, but after hearing Tony’s confessions and knowing the feelings that he had felt for Tony in the past, he was willing to start somewhere.

“She’s not the one doing it, but she has to do with the reason. The person, who I can’t say because….I just can’t. Anyways, the person knows something about Amber and I that is causing this.” Dale walked into his living room, opening a table drawer, pulling out some photos. Looking at them, he knew this was the perfect time that he had told anybody about the contents – beside Jimmie – and knew it was a big step to tell somebody else what had happened. He was just worried as to how Tony would handle it once he knew everything. “Meet Angelica.” Tony looked over the photos, surprised by what he saw. The girl in the photos looked to be in her teens in some of the newer photos, with blond hair that matched Angelica’s and those crystal blue eyes that Tony knew where Dale’s. “She’s my daughter.”

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