Kevin Meendering glances over towards Chase, wondering if he was set to follow the team to the top of the hauler to watch the upcoming practice session.
“I’ll be back in a bit,” he offers, causing the crew chief to look at him confused as Kevin had expected Chase to stick around. “I got to take care of something quick.” Kevin wanted to intrigue for more details, but knew he didn’t have time as he had a driver and car to focus on. With that, he simply waved him off before heading to the trailer to join Dale and the rest of the team.
Chase had planned to join the rest of the team, keep an eye on Alyssa, and be there for her for support throughout the weekend. However, there was a wrinkle in the plan. The pain in his stomach had picked up a bit over the last bit, and he knew why – it was time for another one of those pain killers.
Though being in a forgetful streak that morning distracted by everything else, he had left the pills in one of their first stops of the day – his 24 hauler, which was located on the other side of the garage with the Cup Series haulers.
So the plan was now to go get the pills, take one, and then join the rest of the team where he should’ve been all this time before. It seemed like an easy plan, with a pre-planned route based on how well he knew the garage area.
He makes his way out into the sea of people, set on the destination in mind. He knew the quickest route, it was just getting there and around all the people that filled the garage area. It started off easy, as he even signed a couple autographs with his steps.
With each step, the crowd increasing in size, he felt his heart beat quicken and palms go sweaty. Each movement saw this increase, with the pain following suit. There was fear – what if something happened? What if someone had snuck in? What if there was still something to worry about, even with Randy being dead? What if…..
It was like his mind went completely blank, or turned red – he wasn’t sure which – but his feet immediately picked up the pace as he took off running, feeling as though he had to get away from everything in that exact moment. The pace carries him through the garage, around a bend, mind still focused on escaping whatever, till his feet stumble over a rock.
“Fuck!” He lets out as he falls forward slightly, though is able to steady himself before he falls completely down. His hands immediately go to his stomach, pain increasing as obviously the stumble had aggravated everything.
“Chase?” He hears someone call out his name, feeling their presence closer over a small period of time. His initial reaction, still locked in his fear and worry, was to jump back. “Hey…it’s okay. Look at me.” Chase glances up from the rock he had stumbled upon, looking into the eyes before him as he feels his body slightly relax. The person was right – it was okay.
“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to jum-”
“Chase, you don’t need to apologize.” Tony then slowly reaches his hand out, placing it on Chase’s shoulder. “It’s okay. I know you were having a moment, didn’t realize it was me. It’s fine.” Tony then glances around, curious of the people around the garage, with a sigh; he knew they didn’t everybody laying eyes on them. He then opens the side door to one of the haulers that surrounded them with the familiar SHR logo on it, ushering Chase inside before slipping the door closed. He then led the young man up to the lounge, opening the door, motioning for him to go inside. “Go lie on the couch and relax. I’ll be right back – I promise.”
“Okay…” Chase walks inside slowly, fear and feelings still flowing through him as he walked into the lounge, sitting down in the one corner of the couch. It felt comforting knowing he was in one of the team’s hauler away from everybody, but he hated the thought of being alone in there. It felt better having Tony there….and the feeling returned once he saw the owner walk through the door, slipping the door back closed.
“Here you go.” Tony then hands over a bottle of water, before taking his own seat on another one of the couches. He didn’t know the best thing to do in this scenario, but figured being away from everyone and a calming cold drink would help for now. He could figure out….
“Oh gosh…” Chase sets the bottle on the table, hands immediately going to his stomach as the pain settles in. he knew that some of it was normal at this time, but he also knew that he had brought some of it on with his own actions.
“Do you want me to get someone? If you need to be checked out, I take you over or get someone to come over. I could call Dale, anybody…” Chase knew that Dale would be a good option as he knew what was going on, but that wouldn’t be fair as Dale was focused on his daughter this weekend. Since he wasn’t in the best state to be supporting her, it wouldn’t be fair to take that away from her. He thought about Regan, Ryan and Bubba – but wondered if they were busy with something right now. He also didn’t need no doctor because it was obvious what was going on. “Chase, you’re in pain. You need to do somethin-”
“My pain pills, I left them in the 24 hauler earlier when I stopped by to see the guys. I was going to get them when I stumbled there.” Tony shakes his head, glad that he had gotten somewhere. It wasn’t much, but at least he knew what to do.
“I can go ge-”
“No, please, don’t leave me alone. I don’t want to be alone…” Tony could sense the fear in the statement, and knew it wouldn’t be fair otherwise.
“Okay, I can send someone then.” Tony then stands up, peaking out of the lounge as he gets one of the crew members attendance. “Go to the 24 hauler and ask Alan or Jimmie or whoever you see for Chase’s pain pills. He left them there earlier.” The crew member shakes his head, hurrying off as Tony closes the door once again.
“Thank….you.” Tony glances back over, his heart breaking as he works out the next thing to say in his mind. He couldn’t help but feel bad right now.
“You don’t need to thank me. If you need anything, any time, don’t hesitate to come see me.” Chase simply shakes his head quietly. The pair sat in silence – Chase trying to relax despite the pain he was feeling – till a knock was heard on the door. Tony opened it, accepting the bottle from the crew member before re-closing and handing over to Chase. Chase simply takes the pill, before curling back up on the couch. “Do you need anything else?”
“No, that’ll do the trick. It should…kill the pain.” Chase takes a couple calming deep breathes as he couldn’t believe the trail of events that had just happened. He was supposed to be the strong one this weekend for Alyssa. “I thought I could make the simple trip to get them without any issues and then go back to the hauler. Then it happened, again.”
“What happened?” Tony wasn’t sure if he should peel back the layers, unsure if Chase truly wanted him to hear this or if this was just spewing out due to being overwhelmed.
“The people, everybody around me, flashbacks, fear – it just all hit me like a wave and I took off without a thought, just wanting to get away. Nothing that I tried to tell myself different stopped it.” Tony sat back surprised in hearing the details, not realizing just how things were that Chase had been dealing with lately.
“Like a panic attack?” Chase shakes his head yes as he looks over at Tony, finding himself finally calm as the safety of being there with someone and in a safe spot comforted him. “And it isn’t the first time?”
“That’s how I ended up in Canada trying to save Alyssa without a thought of common sense.” Like everybody else, Tony hadn’t heard the full details of what happened except both had been kidnapped and tortured in some way, along with the injuries had. However, it was concerning to hear this wasn’t a lone occurrence and it made him want to say something to some key people in Chase’s life so it didn’t happen again. “Just like that, though, I let my fear control me and failed to be there for her. I failed to save her there, and I failed to be there for her today right now. I’m just being a shitty boyfrie-”
“I want you to can that thought right now and never say or think that again, Chase Elliott.” Tony then moves closer to Chase, facing him directly. “You are no way a shitty boyfriend at all. Heck, you put your fears aside to make the attempt to come out this weekend and be there for her. You stood before all those people at the press conference despite your thoughts probably telling you otherwise. You’ve been by her side, giving her support no matter what, since you guys got together – even when everybody told you that you shouldn’t be togeth-”
“Maybe they were righ-”
“Now I don’t want to hear that either because I tell you what, they were damn well wrong. You guys make an awesome couple and you’re perfect for each other. Everybody can see how much you mean to each other, and how much you love each other. It’s why those comments went away immediately. So don’t repeat that ever, ever, again. I know right now it feels t hat you’re letting her down, but hey, it happens. We all make mistakes and do things that we regret. I am the perfect example of that. The key is how you bounce back from tha-”
“But look at what’s happened, Tony.” Tony knew that it was the fear talking, and knew he needed to give the best advice that he could muster, even if he wasn’t the best at it.
“I hear what you’re saying, but I’m telling you that it’s fine. In no way is Alyssa mad at you for what happened with Randy, and in no way will she be mad for you being here instead of out there for her. Do you want to know why? Because when you tell her why, when you explain these feelings that you’re having and what they’re doing to you, she’s going to open up her heart and care for you. She’s going to want to be there for you, protect you, and help you get through everything. She, along with Dale, your parents, and others close to you, are damn well going to make sure that everything works out because it will work out. You’ll find a way to handle everything you’re feeling, and a better way to deal with it so this isn’t happening. I can promise you that it’ll work out, somehow, because I believe in how strong you are.” Chase wanted to believe those words, but couldn’t do it. Nobody could get what these feelings were doing to him.
“I don’t know how, or if I can….” Tony takes a deep breath, knowing he was getting somewhere.
“I don’t know how, either, to be honest. But I know that between the strength that you have, and those closest to you who can help you from family to friends to the therapist that I know you’ve gone to, we can figure out a way. We can find the root of the problem, help you through it and get you back to who we all love. It’ll take some hard work, some hard times, and heck perhaps some tears. But it’ll be fine. It’s going to be okay.” A couple tears trickle down Chase’s cheeks as everything that happened, past and recent, finds it way to the surface. Tony simply just pulls him close, wrapping his arms around Chase in a hug. “It’s going to be okay…”
The pair remained like that for a while before Tony suggested that Chase have a nap due to everything, in which he easily accepted. Once Chase was asleep, Tony pulls out his phone and texted a select number of people on his contact list that they needed to meet up to speak.
He then stands up, walking out of the lounge as he glances at one of the crew members.
“I left him a note of where I was going and that you were here,” Tony starts slowly. “But once he wakes up, call me immediately. He’s going to need those who love him closest.”
“Yes boss,” the crew member replies before Tony heads out, set to meet up with everyone.