Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 114: Solid Rebound

Thursday, July 6

Chase walked into the garage, smiling as some crew members from fellow teams walked over to ask how he was, followed by some other drivers. He simply answered their quick question, thanking them for the well wishes.

He makes his way into the motorcoach area, smiling as he lays his eyes immediately on Sarina. He walks over, pulling her close without any hesitation, followed by a kiss on the cheek.

“I’m surprised you survived a day without me,” he comments as she rolls her eyes.

“Just be glad that you haven’t heard half of the crap around here yet,” she tells him as he looks at her confused. “You got my text about Briscoe, right? Well, he was one of many with comments.” Chase firmly wraps his arms around her.

“Listen, those comments don’t bother me at all. I’m here to do my job, and that’s drive a racecar as far as I can and try to win for my team. If anybody wants to try and create other drama around us for whatever reason, let them, because it doesn’t faze me – same as the pressure, and whatever else. All that matters to me is what we have, together.” She smiles as she lifts his sunglasses off his face, looking into his eyes.

“Do you realize how special you are?” He chuckles as he takes his keys out of his pocket, twirling them around. He then reaches over, unlocking the door for the motorcoach.

“After you….” Sarina heads in first, with Chase going to follow her, before a hand lands on his shoulder.

“Can we talk first?” He hears and feels like rolling his eyes immediately as he turns around to face his mom. “Are you sure by what you told her? I mean, there’s going to be lots said. People are going to question your actions based on being with her after what Chris did. People are going question everything about her due to her brother, and her background – the same questions that I’ve been reminding you of. Are you ready for that to be thrown in your face?” Chase nods his head.

“Just like I told you on Monday, and will repeat 10 times over if need be, I have her back and nothing is going to change that,” he informs his mom. “Her brother’s actions are not her fault. That is his fault for choosing to do that for whatever reas-”

“What about the fact that she let it go on for longer than it should’ve?” Chase crosses his arms, having asked the question himself initially.

“There was no concrete evidence pointing him to the crime prior to Ryan’s admission and them finding the vials. Secondly, she loved her brother and wanted to believe in a future together reunited just like they were when they were younger. It’s understandable that she didn’t believe it. You wouldn’t believe it if someone close to you decided to do something like that, would you?” Cindy lets out a sigh, shaking her head.

“But you said it yourself – you didn’t know whether you could trust him. That should’ve been a warni-”

“It was a warning, and she did approach him so it wasn’t like she didn’t take any steps. I was guarded more than she was without a doubt, and reasonably so based on what happened. However, I will admit that I started to believe in the change for awhile there before a couple off-key conversations happened. So while you want to accuse her, you can accuse me the same thing because I also trusted him a little there.”

“There’s nothing that I can to say change your mind?” Chase shakes his head no. “You know, I do this because I love you and I want to protect you. I don’t want to see you hurt like that ever again, and I can’t help but look at her because that’s three times now. Normally it’s three times and you’re out. I also know what everybody in this garage is capable of doing with rumors and stories from your father, and I don’t want to see you go through that.” Chase places his hands on his mom’s shoulders as he keeps his eyes locked on her. If they were going to have this discussion, might as well get it all out at once.

“I appreciate how much you care for me, and how you’re looking out for me. But with all due respect, there’s nothing you need to worry about when it comes to Sarina. I won’t get hurt with her, and as I told her – what is said won’t bother me at all, no matter who says it. I’m a big boy; I can handle it.” He then gives her a hug. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.” He then turns on his heels and heads inside, slipping the door closed as his eyes set on Sarina who was sitting on the couch.

“The usual discussion?” Sarina questions and Chase nods his head. “Chase, I’m sorry….” He walks over, sitting beside her.

“I told you that you never have to apologize, right?” He asks and she nods her head. “Well then, don’t apologize. Besides, she’s starting to come around slowly. She told me that she is just doing this because of how much she cares about me, how she wants to protect me and what not. I think she’s beginning to see why I love you so much.” She smiles as she places her hand on his leg.

“Well how about you begin taking advantage of my caring nature and we go head back there, and relax for a bit? You’re supposed to be resting and building up that energy, huh?” He lets out a sigh and nods his head. “It’s going to be one of those rainy ass days so I say we spend it being as lazy as possible, together as much as we can, until I have to race tonight.”

“Do I have a welcome seat on your pit box tonight?” She smiles and shakes her head yes, remembering her discussion with Kyle.

“Let’s just say that the boss is glad that we are back together.” Chase was glad to hear that as he didn’t need to hear any backlash from Kyle.

“It’s probably because he knows it puts you in a better mood.” She chuckles as she stands up, pulling at his hand.

“Come on. You need to listen to doctor’s orders.” He lets out a sigh as he stands and follows her. He wasn’t one for spending time relaxing quietly, so it was tough to follow the orders of keeping quiet and being lazy. However, if he had to follow them, this was the best way possible.

“Yes, Nurse Ott.”

********************************

After a quiet afternoon, the pair ventured out to the garage area, where Sarina headed into the Kyle Busch Motorsports hauler for a pre-team meeting, followed by getting ready. The actions left Chase to himself in the garage area, obviously now surrounded by the same comments that Sarina heard the day before. Of course, they were heightened with the pair having being spotted holding hands.

“You look quieter than normal….” Chase hears and glances over, seeing Ryan leaning against a wall pillar.

“I could ask you why you look lost in a garage, but I’d assume that you’re here to watch Austin and Chase (Briscoe),” Chase replies as Ryan nods his head. “Besides, I’m normally quiet anyway.”

“Touché, but it just seems quieter, and I’ve heard all the comments that people have been saying. For the record, I have your back and I’m glad you guys are back to square one. As long as her brother stays locked away, I have no issues.” Chase walks over, leaning against the wall beside him.

“We’re both on agreement on that, and so is Sarina. She’s been checking in to make sure he isn’t pulling any tricks at all.” Ryan nods his head.

“And what about the comments?” Chase lets out a sigh as he glances around.

“I can’t deny what I’ve heard. I’m surprised by who has said some of the things, to be honest. I thought some of these guys in the garage were nicer and more understanding than that. I mean, hearing that Kyle only kept Sarina because she’s a girl, and hearing that I’m messing up my perfect life by aligning myself with a witch like her isn’t heartwarming.” Ryan couldn’t help but shudder at the comments. “But, for the most part, it doesn’t matter. I haven’t really listened to any of it and just let it blow over my head. I’m focused on two things – racing this weekend, and my girl.”

“So you’re for sure racing on Saturday night despite everything that happened?” Chase nods his head, feeling confident that he’d be able to endure the full 400 mile distance despite the heat and everything, even with still working at building his strength entirely back up. “Well, I wish ya the best of luck and hope you do well.”

“Right back at you.” The pair then fell quiet, waiting for their respective drivers as Ryan thought over whether to ask the next question.

“Has Sarina told you her thoughts on the comments at all?” Chase glances over, debating whether he should open up about the text message.

“Oh, about the fact that Austin approached her unfairly yesterday entering the garage with a bitchy comment? Yeah, that happened and she wasn’t pleased just because nobody would expect that out of him. You’d think Tim would’ve raised him better than that.” Ryan rolls his eyes, having heard the rough details from a couple crew members.

“I heard he apologized, though.” Chase nods his head. “I mean, I know that doesn’t excuse him, but hey, it’s something. Oh, and for the record, I have no agreement on that.”

“Other than that, she’s her usual self – focused on doing the best that she can and kicking his ass, fully without any other thought interrupting her. I mean, that’s what makes her so good – her focus. She will stay focused and keep pushing harder, and also take in whatever lessons she can. She was texting Christopher last night while texting me to get more advice.”

“They are on good terms?” Chase wasn’t quite sure how far that went, honestly.

“Working as teammates, and probably as friends too, but I won’t confirm it.” Ryan nods his head.

“Has she mentioned her brother or family at all?” Chase looks over confused. “We both said that it was going to be something that’d tear her apart and affect her emotionally. I was wondering if she began talking, if you don’t mind me asking.”

“She hasn’t said much, yet.” Chase glances down, before taking a deep breath. “Her tactic is to avoid everything, and focus on racing as her escape. I’m letting her do that right now, while continuing to assure her that I have her back. That way when it gets to where she wants to talk, she’ll open up to me rather than running away from it. That’s all I can do.”

“Well, I hope it works out because I want to see you both happy.” Chase smiles, wishing for the same thing.

“She deserves it.” They then smile as they watch her emerge from the hauler, dressed in her familiar white uniform with pony tail fixed appropriately, heading their way.

“Don’t be getting any ideas, Ryan,” she states with a smirk, walking up to Chase. “I see you staring…” Ryan then looks at her as innocently as possible.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about as I wasn’t looking at nothing,” Ryan comments as Chase gives him a glance.

“Just because white shows everything doesn’t mean that you need to stare,” Chase says as he wraps his arms around her. “We know you’re jealous of our relationship. When Emma stops her cock-blocking games, I’ll find you a girl.” Ryan just rolls his eyes as Sarina laughs.

“Keep talking all you want, but remember who got you with the orange juice.” Sarina’s smile immediately disappears, turning into a ice cold stare on Ryan.

“That prank war isn’t over by a long shot, Blaney,” she says before walking away.

“You started a war that you’re not going to win,” Chase adds as he follows her with a smile of his own. It was nice to be getting back to their joking ways.

****************************

Sarina leans against the truck, sipping on a bottle of water following her post-race interviews, smiling as Marcus and Chase make their way over.

“Solid rebound,” Chase comments as he gives her a hug. “That was a job well done, considering.” She couldn’t help but agree. After running up front all race, she got spun at the beginning of the third stage, but managed to fight back for a fifth-place finish.

“Thank you,” she replies. “I just can’t help but think should’ve, could’ve and would’ve. If we could’ve stayed up front, we would’ve been able to possibly fight for the win and should’ve been right there with Christopher.” She then lets out a sigh as she takes another mouthful.

“Don’t let it eat at you. You’re performing great for a rookie – just ask anybody. The wins and success will come if you keep running like you are. You’re doing great.” He gives her a pat on the shoulder as Marcus looks on, nodding his head in agreement.

“Kyle found a gem in you, and we’re going to show everybody that soon,” he adds. “We’re working towards that. We’re running up front – now we just need to put it all together. Patience, young grasshopper.” She smiles as she simply gives her crew chief a hug.

“As long as we survive a night on dirt, I won’t complain,” she comments, knowing the next truck race was at Eldora Raceway. “That’s a whole new ballgame for me so it’ll be interesting.” Marcus chuckles nervously, though wasn’t too worried after seeing others adjust quickly.

“You have a natural feel. We’ll be fine…”

“You can also ask Christopher for advice,” Chase adds and Sarina nods her head, though slightly surprised. She thought that Chase was all set on those two not talking following Christopher’s previous comments.

“Keep doing what you’re doing, focus on your thing, and everything else will fall into place,” Marcus reminds her. “I’ll see you next week.” He then heads off as she turns to Chase.

“He’s right. It’ll work out, everything….” He then pulls her into a hug, knowing that the spin was still eating at her, as he rubs her back.

As she thought it over, she knew being frustrated with the spin was small in comparison to everything going on. If that was the only complaint on the day, than perhaps it wasn’t too bad and maybe Marcus was right. Maybe it was time for that happy ever after, finally.

Though letting out a sigh and seeing a missed call on her phone, she knew that was further from the truth given everything going on. She shakes her head, wishing the accompanying thoughts would disappear again as she deletes the notification.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 111: Their Moment

Monday, July 3

Chase sits up, set for the day’s activities. While it had been nice to chill out for the past day and let himself relax, it was going to be nice to move around. He knew of the day’s activities – walking around some, followed by a series to tests to see if there were any lingering effects. He knew there was no reason to be nervous, since they’d caught it early, but he couldn’t help but wonder if something would be fine.

Taking a deep breath, he also had another request on the day, as well.

“Ryan, do you know if Sarina is still in the area?” He questions, catching his mom’s attention as Ryan nods his head. “Give her a shout and ask her to come over this afternoon. I want to see her, please.” Ryan nods his head, as he pulls out his phone. He knew Sarina would be glad to hear that news.

“I hope the reason is because you’re through with everything,” his mom comments as Chase just rolls his eyes. He knew there was going to be comments, but it still didn’t mean he agreed.

“I’m old enough to make my own decisions, so please let me do that. Besides, it wasn’t her fault that her brother did this. She didn’t do anything wrong so you can’t hold this against her.”

“She trusted her broth-”

“He’s family. It’s just part of you to trust family.”

“What about when you raised suspicions?”

“She had her own opinion, and was stuck to it. I would be too if the roles were reversed. I get not wanting to believe it.”

“I still don’t agree with it, Chase. She’s just brought trouble to your life.” Chase hated to be having this discussion, but knew it was worth it after having a lot of thoughts the past night.

“I know, but it’s not been her fault. For that reason, I can’t hold it against her and we deserve a chance to talk about things. Whether you agree or not, that’s not the point. I hope, though, that eventually you come to liking her and agreeing with this because I think you two could get along well.” Cindy just rolls her eyes as Bill watches the pair from his spot in corner.

“We’ve raised him right, Cindy,” he starts. “Chase knows how to handle situations, and I have to agree with him here. It wasn’t her fault.” Cindy looks over at Bill, surprised. “She didn’t poison him. It also appeared that Chris was going to be fine from his actions and discussions. Just bare with it….”

“Besides, we can all go get something to eat and such while they discuss things,” Ryan offers, knowing that Chase probably wanted to have this discussion privately.

“Do I get anything?” Chase wonders as Ryan looks over, unsure.

“I don’t know if you’re cleared for anything, yet. If they allow you, I can be your best friend.” Chase smiles, knowing that Ryan knew what he wanted without words needed.

**********************************

Sarina takes a deep breath, glancing into the room.

She had just watched the group leave – including a stare from Cindy and a hug from Ryan, and was now set to finally see Chase. She was in total disbelief when she got the text earlier, despite her hopes expressed to Kyle, and she could only hope that it went smoothly.

Taking another deep breath, she forces her feet to move, walking through to the door, smiling as she reaches the bed where he was sitting up. He gives her a quick smile, motioning to the chair beside the bed. So much for bed cuddles….

“It’s nice to see you up,” she comments as she takes the requested seat. “Ryan has been giving me updates, but how are you?” He smiles, not complaining based on the progress seen.

“All the tests that they ran came back clean and I was able to walk all the way around here without an issue,” he says. “Still feel a little shitty, still a little tired, but it’s coming along. It’s like the (y)ucky flu right now.” She makes a face, knowing how much that sucked when she was sick herself. She couldn’t help as a driver herself to ponder the upcoming weekend, even though that should be farthest thing from her mind.

“Well, I’m glad that you’re doing better, honestly. When I heard what happened…..” She then glances down, remembering all of her thoughts from before, despite the constant reassurances from Alan, Ryan and Kyle. “Chase, I feel absolutely terrible. I wish we could switch places in a heartbeat as I hate this. I hate seeing you like this. I hate hearing about Ryan going through this. I hate hearing about the others going through this. It’s all my fault, too. I should never have trusted him. I should’ve known better. I should’ve don-”

“I’m not mad at you, nor do I blame you a single bit. Sarina, even though I am included in the list for him now, I still haven’t changed my perspective. It’s all his fault. He did it, not you.” She wanted to accept those words with ease, but the feeling was hard to shake.

“I trusted hi-”

“He’s your brother; I would do the same if the roles were reversed. If for some reason Star did something like this, I would trust her till the last single moment and somebody was able to show me proof otherwise. That’s what you needed, and I know I would need the same if we switched places.” Sarina knew he was just saying that because he was the easily forgiving type. Everybody else was probably trying to cut her head off.

“But you warned me, and so did Christopher. I should’ve done more….”

“You approached him, right?” Sarina nods her head. “That’s doing something. Really, with no proof, there was nothing else that you could’ve done yourself. You did the right thing through this and I don’t fault you at all. The only reason I didn’t get a hold of you sooner is because I didn’t have the energy to argue with my mom.” Sarina glances down, shaking her head.

“You have the best relationship with your parents, and I’ve screwed that up…”

“No, you have not. Me and my mom are sill close as ever – we just disagree. When we disagree, we argue about it and share our points. However, truly deep down, we trust the other with their decision. We also make sure to take care of each other and be there, leaving that aside. My mom and I will be fine, okay?” Sarina nods her head.

“I walked out on you, though. I yelled at you and left.” She then looks up into his eyes. “How do you ignore that?” Chase admitted to himself that hurt more than anything, but he wasn’t ready to let that show right now.

“I know you are. I know you’ve been through a lot over the years. Your motto is to turn your back and run, hoping to escape it because you don’t want to feel that pain ever again that you felt then. You don’t want to repeat mistakes. Hence why you tried to put everything in the rearview and not a thought. It’s understandable because of everything, and the fact nobody can understand what you’ve been through. I know when you left, it was more for that reason rather than directed at me direc-”

“I yelled at you and told you that I couldn’t trust your wor-”

“Because of your brother’s love and the fact that you love him and didn’t want to believe that. Like I said, I understood that. So I accepted it, knowing that when everything came out, you would understand where I was coming from and I would understand your side and we could talk it out. Sarina, the best part of our relationship – communication. We can talk to each other about anything.” She then rolls her eyes, knowing that’s a lie.

“We couldn’t talk about my brother to begin with. We couldn’t talk about your life being in danger. We’ve had issues with trust. We couldn’t rationally discuss this situation. But we have communication, Elliott?”  Chase nods his head.

“We’ve had trust issues – no doubt, and I’ve absolutely called you out on those. However, since February, we’ve taken steps to improve those and be more open with each other. That’s why when you left, I trusted that you’d come back when you were either ready to discuss or come to terms with it, just like you are here today. You didn’t leave Florida because you knew I’d reach out to you. That says something by itself.” She remembered the discussion with Kyle as a small smile forms.

“Kyle didn’t believe me….” Chase then looks on surprised.

“Really? Because I told him that I would always love you no matter what, had your back, and to keep an eye on you for me.” She then looks on, intrigued. “You should ask him. I told him that before the race.”

“I really am sorry…” Chase nods his head.

“You don’t need to apologize.” She then reaches out for his hand, which he easily lets her as the pair lock eyes. “We’re going to be okay. We both know that we have each other’s back no matter what. We both know that we can do what we need to do. I know you have some things to work through, and trust me – I’m here. I’m ready to listen to whatever you want to vent about. I’m ready for the tears, frustration, long nights, whatever comments may be about Chris. I’ve got your back.”

“Thank you, and I’ve got your back. I’ll do whatever you need to help you feel better.” A small smile then forms on his face. “Uh oh….”

“Whatever I need? Seriously?” She nods her head, nervously. “What about a kiss?”

“Do you think we’re really back to that point?” He then tugs at her hand, pulling it up to his mouth, and kissing it. “That’s a tease….” He then chuckles as she stands up, leaning in for a proper kiss. “I missed this. I missed you.”

“I missed you, too. I know you came by. You were the reason I woke up. I wanted to convince you to stay, and stop fighting with my mom.” She then looks on surprised. “I heard everything. I just couldn’t find the strength to do it.”

“You had bigger things to worry about, and I damn well want that to be your focus. You focus on getting better and I can worry about the rest, okay?” It was his turn to be surprised.

“So no more running?” She shakes her head. “That’s good, because I can’t take this again.” He then pulls her back close for another kiss.

“Thank you. Thank you for continuing to surprise me. Thank you for continuing to have my back. Thank you for continuing to be someone that I can trust on. Thank you for always showing me that it’s going to be okay.” He gives her a hand a squeeze with a smile.

“I meant what I said – it will be. We will fight through whatever is going through that mind of yours about everything. I know I fell in love with that simple, determined racer who seemed to know how to have fun, but I’ve fallen more for the woman underneath and the fact that you keep fighting no matter what. I’m here to make that easier.”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 110: Slowly Healing

Sunday, July 2

From the initial time he opened his eyes on Sunday, from the sight of the sunrise out of the hospital window, through the morning and afternoon, it was a repetitive cycle. He’d roughly wake up, say a couple words, comment on the pain with the doctors giving him what they felt was necessary, followed by more sleep.

He felt weaker than he could even describe and he knew his body was fighting against whatever he drank that day in the trailer. With that, the sleep was very welcome as he knew he had to take care of himself.

He found himself wanting to request Sarina in a couple instances when he woke up, but he stayed away from the topic for now. He knew that request would come with resistance and an argument, something that wasn’t worth having based on how he was feeling. He just hoped that the time apart wouldn’t kill their chances at a future as he still believed in them, despite what happened.

As the sun began to sat on Sunday, he finally found some more energy to stay awake longer, entertaining some light conversation with the occupants of the room. He spoke roughly of how he was feeling, while getting caught up on some things that he missed. Ryan left out that he was texting Sarina for the time being, knowing that Cindy would freak and wanting to avoid that.

“Alan….,” he comments the crew chief’s name aloud as they sit there. “Is Alan and Greg here? Or did they fly back to North Carolina yet?”

“The crew guys refused to leave till they knew for certain that you’d be okay,” Ryan starts. “They’re staying at the local hotel, and have been spending the days down the hall in the waiting room. That’s where Darrell keeps going down every couple hours.” Bill remembers when he took the walk down there, suggesting to them that they fly back and they’d get Chase to face time when he was up to it. However, the entire team shook their heads no as they wanted to make sure their driver was okay.

“Dude, none of us leaving till you’re okay to leave,” Darrell adds. Chase hated to mess up everybody’s schedules, but appreciated their support. Though he knew he owed Alan and Greg a visit now, too.

“Mom, Dad, you guys have been sitting here constantly all day and now night,” he starts. “Why don’t you go get something to eat? Darrell and Ryan can go with you and get something, too. I feel up to seeing the team for a bit. Send Alan and Greg first….” The boys accept easily, though reluctantly could be seen on the parent’s faces.

“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” Cindy questions and Chase shakes his head yes as he looks over at her.

“You need to take care of yourself, too,” he answers as he lays his head back against the pillow.

“Come on….” Darrell stands up first, beginning the effort of leading them both out of the room. Bill goes next, followed by Cindy as Ryan watches closely. He sees them exit the room, giving Darrell a quick nod before focusing his eyes on Chase.

“Sarina came to check on you but your mo-” He starts as soon as they left the room.

“I heard everything,” Chase cuts him off, remembering the argument clearly as Ryan looks on shocked.

“I’ve been texting her updates ever since so she knows how you’re doing because she’s worried. I just felt it was best to listen to Cindy’s request for now.” Chase shakes his head, accepting.

“Thank you. Please keep doing that…”

“Anything you want me to tell her, specifically?” Chase debated giving her a message aimed towards his hope for the future, but didn’t want her to take that as a welcome to show up just yet. So he shook his head no. “Alright. I’ll go get Alan and Greg for you.” Ryan then leaves the room, heading to where the crew continued to sit.

Chase glanced around the room, letting out a sigh. It was odd to be by himself for the first time since everything happened.

He glances up at the monitor, seeing all the numbers that flashed across the screen. He could only hope that those numbers meant something good, and he was continuing to get better. His eyes then glanced down at his arm, seeing where the IV was, followed by a shudder. He wished he didn’t have to deal with that, but he couldn’t deny that whatever they were giving him was working.

Laying his head back against the pillow, he lets out a sigh. He knew he was thankful. Thankful that it wasn’t more serious.  Thankful that he was awake and feeling decent, considering. Thankful that Alan had found him when he did. Thankful that he could see the future, and strength was coming back.

“One day at a time,” he reminds himself, knowing that he couldn’t rush it. The thought of missing Kentucky pained him as he was looking forward to racing there, being one of the more fun ovals on the schedule. It was his goal to be healed by then. However, pushing to be ready and not fully letting his body do what it needed wouldn’t help him. Besides, he was meant to be thankful.

He hears the door open and immediately smiles, watching the two crew members smile in response. He could see the worry written all over Alan’s face, obviously struggling with everything in being the one to see how bad it was. He knew how close they had grown already in a year and a half, and wouldn’t expect anything else.

“Gosh, this is a sight that I’m glad to be seeing,” Alan comments as he walks over to the bed. He immediately goes in for a hug, which Chase easily accepts, knowing how frantic everything was in the hauler that night.

“You don’t look too bad,” Greg comments as he remains at the bottom of the bed, eyes focused on the young man.

“All the hard ass training that you put me through is certainly helping in trying to fight this off,” he replies as Greg smiles. He had no doubt that everything would be fine based on how strong Chase was.

“So, how are you feeling?” Alan questions as Chase looks back towards the crew chief.

“Still a little sore and still somewhat sick, but a lot better than I was. It’s coming, slowly….” Alan shakes his head, accepting. That’s all that mattered to him.

“That’s good. I’m glad, really. You scared me….” Alan didn’t mean to come straight out and admit it, but there was no denying what he felt.

“It scared the crap out of me, too. It’s the worst I’ve probably ever felt.” Alan could understand that after what he saw.

“Well then make sure you take your time, focus on healing, and let your body do what it needs to do,” Greg advises and Chase knew that for certain.

“Trust me – I’m not going far the next couple of days,” he tells them. “I know how hard everything is fighting. I can feel the weakness at times. I’ve been letting myself sleep as I need it. But, I had to see you guys. I mean, I had to say thank you. Thank you for being there, and doing what needed to be done.”

“We love ya, kid,” Alan says. “I would do it all over in a heartbeat. Just promise me that we’re going to damn well win a race finally.” Chase laughs and rolls his eyes. It was certainly getting frustrated not having broken through for their first Cup Series win yet.

“I promise that I’m going to try as hard as I can do that just for you.” He then lets out a yawn, laying his head back against the pillow. He knew he should give in and accept the sleep, but he didn’t want to yet. He had slept most of the day away already, and there were a bunch of guys who deserved some time. “Greg, can you go get the guys? I want to say hi before I go back to sleep.” Greg easily accepts as he leaves the room.

“Greg kept telling me that you were going to be okay. I wanted to believe him so easily, but man, I was worried. I didn’t know what to think with how much pain you were in….” Chase looks over at Alan.

“Trust me, that’s the worst pain that I’ve ever felt. It felt like my guts were being ripped out of me. It was torture.” He then looks at the crew chief in the eyes as he places a hand on his shoulder. “But I’m going to be okay, and we’re going to fulfill that promise.”

“I have no doubt about that. I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else.” The door then cracks open, followed by a series of crew members making their way in. “Get ready for craziness….”

“I’m used to these guys.” Chase then glances over at the guys, with a quick wave.

“Easy boys. Let’s make this short and sweet as someone needs his beauty sleep.”

**************************

Sarina sits on the beach, reading the latest text message from Ryan, letting out a slight smile. It wasn’t much of an update, but it was something.

Ryan had simply told her that Chase knew about her being delivered updates, and the fact that he was doing better more and more throughout the day. He also told her that they were going to try and get him up on Monday, followed by some quick tests, to make sure things were panning out right.

She could only hope those tests and everything continued to go smoothly, followed by some interaction to follow with him. It was nice to see he was okay with the updates as that represented hope, but didn’t mean the same as being able to see him.

“We’re flying out soon,” she hears behind her, glancing to see Kyle standing there.

“I’m not going home yet,” she tells him as he lets out a sigh. “I’m not going home till I get a chance to see Chase.” Kyle knew he had to tread lightly as he took a couple more steps, before sitting beside her.

“What makes you certain that’s going to happen?” She then hands over her phone, letting him see the latest update from Ryan. “Okay….”

“He is okay with me receiving updates. That means that there’s something still there in the mark of feelings. If I’m patient, like he was with me before, I feel that we can do this together.” Kyle wanted to believe her words, though also feared worse as he could see everything changing based on the last string of events. Trust was a big deal with Chase, and she hadn’t trusted his judgment on Chris, or took it seriously, and now was in the hospital. What if that laid on his mind?

“And what if that doesn’t happen? I know things are crazy right now with your brother’s arrest and this, but there’s responsibilities for this weekend….” She knew that she had to be at the shop at least one day before the upcoming race.

“I was going to come by on Tuesday before we all headed out to Kentucky together. I need another day down here, not just because of Kyle, but because of my brother. I need to go check in to see where they are on things. I want to see him locked up and pay for what happened as he blew his second chance totally, and I need to make sure that’s right on course for happening.” Kyle easily accepted that. He didn’t want to see Chris ever again, either.

“That’s fine.” He then glances out to the water, before looking back at her. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I know how Kurt and I argue at times, and sure he’s done some stupid shit over the years, too. But I can’t imagine having something happen like what you’re going through. But I want you to know that I have your back, this changes nothing about our agreement, and you can always come see me for advice.” She looks over, with a slight smile.

“Thank you, Kyle.” He then gives her a pat on the shoulder before standing up.

“And Sarina, for what it’s worth, I hope you’re right about your future with Chase. I’ll see you later.”

She then gives him a quick wave before he heads off. She then lets out a sigh as she looks out to the water once again, letting every thought of her life flow through her mind. It didn’t matter what she did, she always found herself in some predicament.

“When am I getting my happily ever after, daddy? You always said I was your little princess and everything would come together. I wanna know when. I can’t keep doing this…”

She then wipes the tear off of her face as she continues to stare outwards, almost blankly.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 109: “Chase?”

Sunday, July 2 – 4:30 AM

Where was he? Why was it so dark? Why couldn’t he open his eyes? Was he trapped somewhere? Did the help that was supposed to arrive not come? Why did he feel like something was pushed down on him? Why was it so hard to open his eyes?

Why did he have all these questions?

He could feel pain throughout his body, sometimes feeling like he was on fire in parts. It wasn’t as bad as earlier, but he would’ve preferred someone just to tear the guts out of his stomach if they wanted to hurt and burn this badly.

He then could hear beeping – realizing the machines that were probably around him. Maybe he was in a hospital – or maybe he was being monitored for torture purchases. What if he was now the toy of Chris’ sick imagination?

“Cindy, I care about your son….” He recognized that voice. He knew he had heard that voice throughout his days and nights. It was a voice that he had grown to love, and wanted to hear for the rest of his life. It was a voice he had been missing throughout the past day.

“If you would’ve done something, we never would’ve been here. Did you ever think about that?” He also recognized that voice, as well. He heard that voice throughout his entire life to this date, and it had helped in growing….

“Mom?” He tries to speak, though can’t find the ability to do so. It had to do with what was pushing against his face and down his throat. Maybe this is what it felt like to have a tube down your throat as they described.

He still couldn’t see any lights nor find the energy against the pain he was in to open his eyes, but he was able to put together both of the voices.

His mother and Sarina.

Why should it surprise him that those are the first two voices that he hears upon waking up?

“I’ve thought about that constantly since hearing the news,” he hears. “I realize it and it’s the biggest regret ever. I don’t know how to ever be fully forgiven or made up for it. I don’t know if there’s any coming bac-” He could hear the pleading, the emotions in her voice. He knew she didn’t mean it; he understood her approach. Hence why he was waiting for her…he thought…or perhaps he wasn’t. But for some reason, he could remember sitting somewhere waiting for her before being engulfed in pain.

“There isn’t,” he hears in response. “Listen sweetheart, you’re done. I’ve been respectful and held back enough to let you stray and have fun. But that stops now. I can’t handle this and you can’t keep doing this to Chase. It’s unfair of you to take advantage of his sweetness, forgiveness. So why don’t you turn on your heels and march your ass out of this room?” He didn’t want Sarina to leave. He wanted to hug her, tell her he missed her, tell her that they’d be okay, and go back to what they had. He missed the fun times already with her. He felt the stung tears from their fight earlier that morning. He had to wake up and get back to her, and tell his mother otherwise. Why was it so hard to open his eyes?

“Cindy….” He hears a male voice, recognizing it right away.

“He still cares about me and I care about him,” Sarina starts. “None of this changes that. We agreed to that in sticking together no matter what happened with Chri-” Why did it feel like his arms weighed 500 pounds? Why couldn’t he just pick one up, reach out for her, and pull her as close as possible?

“That was before your brother tried to kill him!” Cindy yells. “Now get out!” He tried to yell no, initially forgetting the tube was there. Though a slight cough to himself and he instantly stopped. That was more pain than he knew he could handle. He had to find another approach and right away.

“He would want me to be here, so I have a right to be here.” He wanted her there. He wanted to cuddle her. He wanted to hug her. He wanted to assure her that he understood her position, and what happened. He wanted to assure her that they could build towards the future they wanted. He wanted to go back to goofing around in the stands like they were before the XFINITY race got rained out.

“Bill and I in charge of the situation in being the parents, so what I say goes. Get out of here before I call security!” He had wake up before she left. He had to wake up somehow….

“Come on….” He hears Ryan’s voice, feeling as though he should give up at the same time. Maybe some more sleep and relaxation would make this whole waking up idea that much easier. Maybe he just wasn’t ready to face the world. At least his best friend had his back.

“I don’t want to see her ever again….” He hears his mother’s voice, and perhaps saving his energy would be worth it so he could deal with the arguments to come in the days ahead.

“Just take a deep breath, relax, and focus on what’s important,” Bill comments. Hearing the concern his dad’s voice hit a nerve as he hadn’t ever heard worry in his father  before. Normally, his mother was full of worry while his father held down the fort. To hear the worry hit a nerve and he knew this was a serious straw…

He takes a mental deep breath, knowing that he had to find some way to wake up. As he sends the signal through himself, his eyes flicker open, though closing back shut as soon as the lights hit them. His fingers then twitch, as he tries to find the ability to fight against the white light and open the eyes.

“Guys….” Darrell comments. Obviously his efforts were paying off.

“He’s waking up,” Sarina starts and he knew he had to wake up before she left for good. He had to see her….

He forces his eyes open, immediately trying to turn his head towards the door and see her, though there was no sight. So much for the efforts….

“Chase?” Cindy questions as he feels a tight grip on his hand. He tried to channel that grip as he forced himself to open his eyes, staring at the ceiling, adjusting to light as he tried to keep himself calm. He was going to be okay. He just needed to work through this and then get his girl later….

“Easy kid….” He hears his father’s voice as he fully wakes up, the pain engulfing him at the same time as he struggles a little against it. He could feel the need to let a cuss word escape his mouth, wanting to let out the anger in what happened, in Sarina being kicked out, and the pain all together. “Hey now, no talking. There’s a tube there, bud….” He wished he could rip the tube out as it was getting annoying.

“You’re awake….” He looks over at her mother, giving her an assurance glance, before doing the same for his father. He then returns the grip to her hand. If he couldn’t have his girl, then his parents were the next best of thing as he knew there was no way he wanted to be alone right now. “You’re going to be okay….” He wanted to relax and give assurance, but the pain continued to grow as he moved his hand to stomach, feeling as though if he rubbed lightly it’d disappear.

“Pain?” He shakes his head yes as much as he could with the tube there, clinching his eyes together. He couldn’t do this again. there was no way he could let himself suffer through the amount of pain that he experienced earlier that night in the hauler.

“I got the doctor,” Darrell announces as Chase hears a furry of footsteps, followed by a big white light shined in his eyes. He immediately closes them, feeling blinded.

“Good reaction time,” the doctor comments. “And your vitals look strong. That’s a good sign.” He was glad that was good, but his focus was solely on the pain. “Any twitching since he’s woken up?” The group in the room shakes their heads no. “That’s good. Any pain Chase?” Chase shakes his head yes, pointing to his stomach, as he tries to relax in the bed. “Chest pain?” He shakes his head no.

His eyes follow the doctor as he walks over, changing IV bags and such, and he could only hope that something to take away the pain was among those.

“Another round of antidotes, half dosage of the anti-epileptic as we may not be out of the woods yet, and morphine to help the pain,” the doctor states, in which the nurse behind him records it down on the chart. Chase just keeps his eyes on the doctor, watching as the doctor looks back towards him. “Since you have no chest pain, we can try and get rid of that nagging tube…” He shakes his head yes.

“Are you sure it’s not too early?” Cindy questions, feeling a bit of nervousness in seeing how much pain Chase was experiencing based on his behavior.

“If it is, we can always re-insert, but I believe he is ready for this step.” The doctor then looks straight at Chase. “I want you to take a deep breath, as deep as you can manage, and hold it.” Chase does as instructed, followed by feeling a scratching sensation along his throat as he watches the tube come up.  He then immediately breaks into a coughing fit as he tries to find his compose. “Easy, deep breath and let the coughs out. It’s part of the process…” He does as instructed, trying to ignore the pain in his stomach to focus.

“Fuck….” He lets out in the midst of the pain as the doctor gives him a stern glance. “Sorry….”

“It’s okay,” the doctor replies. “I want you to limit your amount of talking, focus on your breathing, and try to get some more rest. Your body is doing a good job fighting it, but don’t fight against it.” He shakes his head, accepting.

While it was nice to be awake and see the wonderful faces, he had to admit that sleep felt like a good idea right now.

“You’re okay,” Bill rubs his arm as Chase gets back comfy under the blankets, eyes slowly drifting closed. He tried to fight against it, wanting to say a couple things, but his body was tired beyond anything he could imagine.

“Sarina…” He whispers as he closes his eyes, falling back asleep about a half hour later.

Ryan stands in the doorway, eyes focused on his best friend, glancing down at his phone. He heard the whisper and a glance towards Darrell and he knew the text that should be sent. Perhaps things were going to work out.

Though Ryan stopped himself from sending it, knowing that he wouldn’t fully let her to come till he was awake and the request was made consciously so Cindy couldn’t argue against it this time.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 108: “He would want me to be here.”

Alan ran his hands through his hair, letting out a sigh as he leaned back in the chair waiting for an update. It’d been a couple hours since the parents had left them to go sit with Chase, and they hadn’t heard a single update yet. The doctors weren’t concerned, saying the rest would be good for him as he would wake up in the next couple hours. However, that didn’t seem to ease the concerns of the crew chief.

“Do you want anything, boss?” Jared Seate asks as he looks over at Alan. Alan shakes his head no as he sends another nothing yet text message to Jimmie Johnson, who had been messaging him every half hour. “Okay. A couple of us are going to grab some coffees and such. If you want anything, just text us.” Alan shakes his head accepting as he watches the crew chief walk away, before returning his eyes to his phone.

He was caught staring at the screen – lost in thought, perhaps worry consuming his mind more than he thought – when he hears the doors open to the private waiting room. He had hoped it would’ve been Ryan and Darrell with news that Chase had woken up, but was caught off guard when he saw a familiar female standing there.

Her eyes darted around the room, before locking with Alan’s as he takes a deep breath before standing up. The crew glanced over, seeing her, unsure of what to do, while the crew chief made his way over.

“Hey Sarina,” was all he could manage at first. He didn’t want to hold anything against her for what happened, but she was the one that put everybody in that position with trusting her brother despite everybody else’s concerns.

“Hey Alan,” she says quietly, feeling emotionally drained. “I came over as soon as I heard that Chase was poisoned. We were sitting at the police station waiting for the detective to come back and he came back and mentioned that Chase was poisoned, brought over to hospital right after. Is he okay?” Alan wanted to bite his tongue and not say anything to her as he didn’t feel she needed to know any details right now. However, taking a deep breath, he knew that wouldn’t fit his driver’s wishes.

“It was a high concentrated stream that he consumed and it affected him big time.” Alan stops, shaking the thought of what happened in the trailer, as he tries to focus on his words. “The doctors feel they caught it quickly enough and gave him the right antidotes and other stuff he needs, but we don’t know for sure the full effects yet. They knocked him out with a sedative as he was fighting it pretty hard, and he hasn’t woken up yet.” Sarina feels her heart drop in her throat in hearing the slim details of how bad it was, and the fact that he was still out cold despite being brought in a couple hours ago.

“Okay, thank yo-”

“What happened with your brother at the station?” Alan didn’t care if he hit a sensitive nerve or not, he needed the details after what he had witnessed.

“It was totally his fault. They found a couple vials mixed in with his things in the trailer when they conducted a search. Everybody telling me that it was him – from Blaney to Christopher to Brad to whoever the hell and even Chase, was right. I was totally wrong. I feel terrible. I know there’s nothing that I can do take it back. I don’t even know how to be forgiven for such a thing. I mean, I should’ve seen the signs. I should’ve done something more. I get if everybody is pissed off and hates me. I mean, who woul-”

“Save the pity trip, Sarina.” Alan wasn’t in the mood to hear a feel bad for me speech in knowing what Chase was going through right now. Besides, he had to admit his own advice for Chase through the process was floating through his mind and perhaps some of his anger towards her. “He’s your brother. He’s your own flesh and blood. You guys grew up together and trusted each other. Anybody can’t fault you for not wanting to see it for all those reasons, no matter how screwed up things may be in your family. Even Chase understands that, and I know he was willing to move forward with you when you made the decision to come back after everything that happ-”

“That was before he was poisoned himself, Alan.” Alan takes a deep breath, understanding her concerns. However, he knew Chase well enough that it would probably get brushed off down the road.

“I know, but I also know how forgiving he can be. You may be surprised at the chance that he will give you, again. Now, what else about your brother?” Sarina just wanted to go see him, but understood the want for answers. She could only wonder what they’d been through with everything going on.

“He’s been charged with procession of drugs, combined with all the counts of poisoning, attempted murder in some respects, and a couple other things. Needless to say, you don’t have to worry about him for a long time if that’s you feel better. I can also tell you he tried to pull the mentally instable line again, which they’re looking into. However, I can damn well tell you that I’m not letting him fall through the cracks again.” Alan felt relief in hearing those words, hoping that Sarina stood by them based on what Chase had told him from his past encounters with Chris.

“Thank you for the assurance, and I’m sorry that it didn’t turn out the way you wanted. I know it’s got to be tough on you as I know how much you wanted to rebuild things with him.” She simply accepts his words, not saying much of anything, as she glances towards the doors.

“Which room is he in? I would like to go see him.” Alan took a deep breath, wondering if that was really a good idea given Cindy’s attitude. However, he once again found himself unable to deny her.

“Second door on the right. They’re keeping it down to four visitors at a time, and right now his parents are in there along with Bubba and Ryan.” She then takes a deep breath. She knew that Cindy would probably want to kill her the moment they crossed paths, but she had to see Chase for herself.

“Thank you.” She then walks by the crew chief, heading down the hall to the second door.

She then stops for a second, glancing down at her feet, before looking up. She enters the room slowly, one careful step at a time as she takes in the sight before her. If her heart could’ve dropped any lower, it probably did in that moment standing there, seeing him lying in the bed. He looked so weak with the IV, monitors and ventilator – something that she could’ve never imagined with him.

“And it’s all my fault for not believing everybody…” She whispers to herself, wiping a stray tear off of her face.

“Sarina?!?” Bill questions, surprised to see her there as he looks up from Cindy’s side.

“Hi,” she says very quietly. “I came to see him as soon as I got details that he was here.”

“What about your brother?” Ryan questions, still bitter about what happened to him and the fact that she didn’t take Chase seriously when he passed the message to her.

“Charged on procession and poisoning, and a couple other things, as they found the proof that I needed to see to believe it. I’m sorry Ryan, honestly. I should’ve took the concerns more seriously and done some checking myself. I should’ve done something sooner for both you and Chase’s sake. I’m sorry…” Ryan could only nod and accept her apology. Like Alan, he couldn’t find a voice to yell at her again as he understood her believing her brother.

“So is that assurance that this is the last time we’re stuck in a situation like this, Sarina?” Bill questions. He had been very patient with her through everything, always the first to forgive. However, standing there worried about his son again, he had to admit that he was getting frustrated with everything.

“I can assure you that he won’t slip through any crack and get what he deserves and/or needs for this,” she tells him with certainty in her voice. She knew that was the only thing she could do moving forward if she wanted to make it up to Chase and have a chance for a future.

“Well, I’m glad to hear but you can leave the room now,” Cindy speaks up as she looks away from Chase for the first time, sending a piercing stare through Sarina.

“Cindy, I care about your so-” Sarina starts.

“If you would’ve done something, we never would’ve been here. Did you ever think about that?” Sarina takes a deep breath, wishing that they weren’t having this argument right now.

“I’ve thought about that constantly since hearing the news. I realize it and it’s the biggest regret ever. I don’t know how to ever be fully forgiven or made up for it. I don’t know if there’s any coming bac-”

“There isn’t.” Cindy then stands up and walks over to Sarina, closing the gap between them as she stares at her. “Listen sweetheart, you’re done. I’ve been respectful and held back enough to let you stray and have fun. But that stops now. I can’t handle this and you can’t keep doing this to Chase. It’s unfair of you to take advantage of his sweetness, forgiveness. So why don’t you turn on your heels and march your ass out of this room?”

“Cindy….” Bill walks over, placing a hand on her shoulder. He knew she meant most of what she was saying, but the extra edge was obviously out of worry.

“He still cares about me and I care about him,” Sarina starts. “None of this changes that. We agreed to that in sticking together no matter what happened with Chri-”

“That was before your brother tried to kill him!” Cindy yells. “Now get out!”

“He would want me to be here, so I have a right to be here.” Cindy shakes her head no.

“Bill and I in charge of the situation in being the parents, so what I say goes. Get out of here before I call security!”

“Come on….” Ryan places a hand on Sarina’s shoulder and leads her out as Bill keeps a grip on Cindy, leading her back over to Chase.

“I don’t want to see her ever again….”

“Just take a deep breath, relax, and focus on what’s important,” Bill comments as he gets her settled back in the chair. He knew he would have a discussion with Sarina himself later, followed by some more to come. He didn’t know what direction it would go, still on the fence himself, but he knew this approach wasn’t right.

“Guys….” Darrell comments, noticing a twitch In Chase’s fingers and eyes, re-focusing the attention.

“He’s waking up,” Sarina starts as Ryan pulls her out of the room. “Please, convince her. Let me stay…” Ryan continues leading her way, before pinning her against the wall outside.

“There’s no way in hell that you’re going to get through to Cindy right now so stop pleading,” he states, cutting her off immediately. “Secondly, how would you feel if someone poisoned the person you love dearly and you couldn’t do anything about it? Put yourself in Cindy’s shoes. She’s doing what she believes to protect him. If you want to eventually have a future, I suggest you take a deep breath and consider some respect here. Based on everything that happened, I don’t fault Cindy for what she did.”

“Seriously?” Ryan shakes his head yes.

“Chase’s opinion may have changed now. We also don’t know what the future holds for him. There could be brain or muscle damage, Sarina. This shit is no game and you already know how Cindy is from experience. Do us all a favor, and please just give some space. Let Bill and everybody focus on Chase, rather than wasting energy on this.” Sarina knew that Chase was priority as she took a couple deep breathes. Maybe she should’ve given space.

“You’ll text me how he’s doing regularly, right?” Ryan shakes his head yes. “And when he wants me to come see him, and says it with his own words, you’ll text me?” Ryan shakes his head yes once again. “That’s all I ask. Other than that, I guess I have no choice. That’s what I get for what happened….”

She then turns on her heels and walks away, passing by the crew that had stared down the entire scene before them, and out of the door. She clutches her phone in her hand, taking a deep breath.

She just hoped that she got the text message she wanted from Ryan, eventually. Chase was all she had left now.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 107: The Waiting Game

Saturday, July 1

Alan walks into the waiting room with the team in toe. He stops as he sees Bill and Cindy there, taking a glance back at the team with a nod, before continuing to move forward.

The team recognizes the gesture immediately, each taking a respective seat as they give Alan and the parents their distance. They were each worried about their driver, but knew the worry of a parent went further than that. They weren’t about to breach the rules of respect.

“Hey,” Alan says quietly, catching their attention. “Any update?” Bill shakes his head no as he rubs Cindy’s shoulders, who sat in the chair by him.

“They said they brought him in and took him to a room, and for us to wait here for when they had something to say,” Bill replies as Alan could only shake his head. Typically a motion like that meant it was severe.

“I’m sure they’ll have something to tell you soon. I can tell you that we caught it relatively quickly, so that’s always a good thing. Greg mentioned that he was pretty sure he’d be okay.” Bill shakes his head, accepting, but knew he nor Cindy would be relaxed till they saw that for themselves.

“How’d it happen? i mean, I thought Chris was the cause and he was arrested today.” Alan hated to bring up the explanation, and knew once thought about, Chase would probably kick himself in the ass for drinking the bottle.

“Chase normally brings a drink with him outta the motorcoach and sticks it in the trailer fridge till he wants it. The bottle he grabbed was something that he brought out Friday.” Bill shakes his head in disbelief, knowing what that meant.

“So is there enough evidence to keep Chris locked up this time?” Cindy questions, having growing frustrated with him and wanting to give Chris a piece of her own mind. The timing also couldn’t have come any worse, either, given that she had just started to warm up to Sarina some.

“I don’t know,” Alan comments. “Chase was waiting to hear from Sarina on some sor-”

“He still has a thing for her?” Alan stops immediately, having grown used to Cindy’s complaints. In his mind, he wished that she could separate the thoughts of Chris and Sarina from each other.

“Yeah, he does. He was hanging in the lounge, putting off leaving, in hopes of some message in return.” Cindy could only roll her eyes, but wasn’t about to worry about that right now. There were bigger fish to fry, anyway. “Listen, if you guys need anything, we’re all here for you. We’ll give you the space you need, but the second you need something just ask. We care about him and believe me – he’s going to be okay.”

“Thanks Alan,” Bill says as he gives the crew chief a quick hug before Alan heads over to where the team was sitting, taking a seat of his own.

It felt like forever as they sat there waiting for an update of any kind from the doctors in how Chase was doing. They watched as a female entered the room about 15 minutes later, but with no update in hand. Instead, she held a clipboard that she requested be filled out with the necessary information.

Given the emotions of the parents, Greg Morin took the board and sat down, filling out each question step-by-step. With being the team’s pit crew coach, he had gotten to know everybody’s health strengths and weaknesses so he could help them become better through training. It also didn’t hurt that he was keen on keeping files on hand, committed to giving the boys the best care possible should the worst situation happen.

The room then stirred when they saw the door open, with Ryan Blaney entering with Darrell, Erin and Emma in toe.

“You didn’t need to come,” Alan states as he looks towards the young driver. “You should be resting…”

“He stayed all Friday night for me, Alan,” Ryan comments as he takes a seat beside the crew chief. “I owe it back to him to do the same. Besides, I’m worried and I couldn’t relax no matter how hard I tried. You can ask the girls.” Alan shook his head, understanding, knowing how close Ryan and Chase were as friends.

“Why hasn’t there been an update yet?” Josh Kirk ponders as Greg glances up from his chosen position.

“Because they’re focused on giving him the best care that they can and reason that us worrying a little longer is okay as long as he turns out fine,” Greg comments, having gotten used to protocol through the years. “Just relax. He’ll be fine…” Josh hoped those words were the truth as he could only wonder as to what was going on behind the closed doors down the hall.

“I hate waiting….” Alan lets out as he flips his phone in his hands, having been using it constantly with being put in charge of updates. Dale, Jimmie, Rick and a few others all had requested that they be updated as soon as news surfaced on how Chase was doing. Every once and awhile, the phone would go off with one of them, or someone new, asking if there was any news. Alan continued to send out the usual greeting of nothing yet.

“I wouldn’t tell you that he’d be fine if I didn’t believe it,” Greg assures the crew chief as Alan glances over, shaking his head understanding. He trusted Greg’s judgment, but it was one of those the worry wouldn’t be cured till the words were spoken and he saw it for himself.

The room then goes quiet for the next half hour, followed by them watching closely as the doors open once again with a doctor making his way in, holding a clipboard in his hand. Greg gave a nod to Alan, knowing that an update was right there before them – finally.

“Is every one of you here for Mr. Elliott?” The doctor questions and they shake their heads yes. “Mr. and Mrs. Elliott, do you mind if they hear the update that I am about to give?” Bill shakes his head no, as he knew the news would get back to the team immediately anyway.

“They’re like family to Chase – they deserve to know,” Bill reasons as he continues his duty of rubbing Cindy’s shoulders, trying to keep her calm.

“To start off, my name is Dr. Blakely Hanken, and I am in charge of the poison control for the Daytona area, but better known as a toxicology expert. If you have any questions as to the job, I’m sure Mr. Blaney can help you out. By the way, are you feeling better?” Ryan shakes his head yes.

“It’s subsiding more and more,” Ryan comments. “I just wish I wasn’t back here once again.” The doctor shakes his head, understandly.

“I didn’t want to see you on these conditions, either,” Dr Hanken replies, before looking back to Bill and Cindy. “Well I’m not supposed to tell you for certain yet or not due to possible complications and such, I can assure you that I’m more than certain your son will be okay.” Cindy felt her nerves twitch on the thought of complications, but tried to stick with believing the words that the doctor was telling her about being okay.

“Can we go see him, please?” Cindy asks, almost begging. She knew seeing him would be the quickest way to ease worries.

“I would like to explain how he is doing first, and then most certainly you may.” Cindy lets out a sigh of relief, glad that she was going to get her wish. She just hoped it came as quick as possible. “We did confirm that there was poison in the drink through testing, and the same type as Mr. Blaney had digested on Friday. However, Mr. Elliott’s symptoms were stronger as a result of a stronger stream being used.” Bill felt his anger boiling, knew that it had been the perfect set-up by Chris in knowing Chase’s common theme of behavior.

“Not surprised, to be honest,” Greg whispers to Alan as they listen in. “It had to be a pretty strong dosage for him to be like he was.” Alan shakes his head, in agreement, though wishes they could just get to the bottom of how Chase was doing.

“We immediately started him on two antidotes, counter-acting the effects immediately to try and ease the symptoms, as well as any other damage that could occur. We also gave him a dosage of an anti-epileptic medicine as a result of the twitching that he was going through. So far, the treatment is working as we’ve seen his heart rate steady out. However, it will take some time to fully work.” Greg knew the process, having seen it previously. He was glad that everything was stabilizing, though, as that meant that things were turning out alright.

“What do you mean by possible ‘other damage’?” Bill questions, now feeling the same worry that Cindy had in the word ‘complications’.

“Brain damage and muscle damage are among the two biggest things to watch for,” Dr. Hanken answers. “With any poisoning, it’s a risk of happening. Thankfully, Mr. Blaney had a low dosage and a quick action against it that he had nothing. With Mr. Elliott, the risk is a little higher based on the higher concentrate of the stream and bigger dosage. We believe that we caught it quick enough to prevent that, but we won’t know until we get into the full healing process.” Bill knew that meant they were going to be in a waiting game, and knew the patience for both him – but especially Cindy – would wear thin through the progress.

“And how long till we know for sure?” Dr. Hanken knew there was no answer to that question just yet.

“That varies depending on how he accepts the treatment and how his body heals. We’ll just have to wait and see. I wish I could snap my fingers and have an answer, but it doesn’t work like that. Now with the dosage, we did give him a sedative because he was quite agitated by the pain and motions it was putting him through. As a result, he is sleeping right now but should be waking up in the next two to four hours. Once he wakes up, we can begin to take steps towards finding everything out that you’re asking me about.” Bill shakes his head, understanding. He could only hope they were calm through it all.

“Can we go see him while he sleeps, though?” Cindy questions and Dr. Hanken shakes his head yes.

“I’m going to also warn you before you go in that he is on a ventilator right now,” Dr. Hanken adds, causing a shocked expression from both the parents. “With the fact that he was experiencing chest pain and stating it was difficult to breathe at times, we did that for precautionary reasons. Once he shows signs that the treatment is working and everything is returning to normal, we can remove and go from there.” Bill continues rubbing Cindy’s shoulders as she just shakes her head in disbelief. “For right now, let’s try and keep the visitor number at around four at a time maximum, please.”

“Bill and Cindy, you guys go ahead,” Alan instructs. “Ryan and Bubba, you guys can go to. We’ll hang back here and then once we wakes up, we can take turns. He needs you guys…”

“Okay,” Bill simply replies as he and Cindy stand up together.

“I’ll come out with an update here and there,” Darrell adds as he and Ryan go to follow the parents.

With each step, Cindy took a deep breath, reminding herself of the words that he’d be okay, everything was starting to work step-by-step, and the ventilator was for precautionary reasons. Though while her brain kept repeating it, her heart felt like it had sank as she thought the words over, and glanced in the room at him.

“Remember – he’s going to be okay,” Bill whispers, rubbing her shoulder once again as they walk into the room together, followed by Ryan and Darrell. Bill knew he had to be the strong one, despite feeling a need to crave to the same worries, having already seen how Cindy had reacted. He leads her to the chair by his bed, helping her sit down. “Remember that…”

“I just can’t believe this,” she says quietly as she wraps her fingers around his hand, bending down and kissing it. “I just can’t….”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 104: “I Swear, Chase….”

Saturday, July 1

Chase walks into the room, walking over and couldn’t help but smile as a smile greeted him back in return. It was nice to see Ryan awake and smiling.

“Hey,” Chase says as he sits down in the chair beside the bed.

“Hey,” Ryan replies. “I thought you would’ve went back to the track after checking in last night. I was surprised when Erin told me you were just down the hall when I told her we needed to talk.” Chase felt his stomach flip flop at the importance of the conversation.

“Are you kidding me? I care about you. You’re like a brother to me, man. I had to make sure you were going to be okay. Feeling better?” Ryan shakes his head yes as he sits more up in the bed.

“Still feel a little nauseous and just bleh, but it’s wearing off slowly. I’m just glad that they caught it when they did.” Chase couldn’t help but shake his head in agreement.

“How’d you figure it out?” Ryan takes a deep breath, as he thinks back to the night before.

“After they called the race due to rain, I was thinking about going to watch the ocktagon fight in the infield like everybody else. But then I just felt off. So I went back to the trailer and ended up throwing up a ton. Greg (Erwin) noticed and suggested that I go get checked out, perhaps some fluids if it was the flu, knowing that Saturday was going to be real busy running both races. Well, they saw a couple other things they didn’t like and sent me over here to get checked more, and boom – there ya go.” Chase shakes his head in disbelief, but thankful that Greg had convinced Ryan to get checked out.

“Remind me to tell Greg that he’s a bloody hero for helping you out.” Ryan shakes his head in agreement as he had to thank the crew chief, too.

“Trust me – I’ve texted him twice already since then. I’m just surprised I listened.” Chase chuckles, knowing how stubborn Ryan could be at times. “Anyways, the doctor mentioned to me that the police would be by sometime today to check-in with me and get a statement as part of their continued investigation. They told me to think back to everything throughout the day and have it ready for them – especially thing that were odd.” Chase knew that to be standard process as it was through the odd moments that they tried to pull apart everything. However, his stomach flip flopped as to wondering how he connected to standing there.

“They just want to see where you may have been poisoned. I mean, we never have a normal day at the track but they want to see if it fits other trends or whatever.” Ryan already knew what he wanted to say, but not how he wanted to say it.

“I called you in here because I figured you have a right to know before I speak to them due to Chris’ past.” Chase’s stomach then performed the biggest flip flop that he had done all day at that thought. He had enough suspicion already. He didn’t need evidence now to back it up.

“What do you mean?” Ryan takes a deep breath, closing his eyes, as he recalls the night before.

“The last person that handed me something to drink was Chris.” Chase’s jaw drops in shock as he didn’t think Chris would be that obvious if he was the one. However, it made sense in how Ryan would accept, knowing Chris through his friendship with Sarina, which obviously happened through Chase.

“Are you 100% certain?” Ryan shakes his head yes.

“I got out of the car when they pulled us down pit road. My PR guy was busy doing whatever so I was getting wet in the rain. Chris walked over with a umbrella, offering to hold it over my head as I walked back to my team’s pit box. I accepted, and we talked a little – nothing really important, to be honest. I then mentioned how I was going to grab a drink, and he had a bottle of Gatorade. He offered it to me, saying that he had grabbed it but would hand it over. I thanked him, took a sip.” Chase glances away, putting the pieces together immediately in his head as he stands up out of the chair, and glances out the window.

“And you’re sure that’s the cause?” Ryan shakes his head yes, once again, as he focuses on Chase.

“I had nothing else from then to when I was throwing up. It has to be…” Chase glances down, thinking it over, as he tries to sort through the tirade of thoughts going through his mind. “I figured you deserved to know first due to your connection with them. I hope I wasn’t wron-”

“No, it’s fine. It doesn’t change a single thing between us as you just simply told me what happened.” Chase continues thinking through everything, remembering every single concerned conversation with Alan, as Ryan keeps his eyes on his best friend.

“Then talk to me, please….” Chase turns around, leaning back against the ledge, as he just shakes his head.

“I thought everything would be fine once he got the surgery as he just seemed like a different person afterwards. I thought we had put all this behind us, and had begun to work towards trusting him. Sarina and I worked everything out from then. I really thought all the troubles were in the rearview. But now to hear this? To hear that my girlfriend’s brother poisoned my best friend? Ryan, I don’t know what to say….” Ryan could sympathize with the emotions as he watched Chase closely.

“I don’t blame you one bit. You had no idea what he was like, so please do not let this ride on your conscious. It is not your fault. And I’m sor-”

“Like I said, you have no reason to be sorry. You simply just told me what happened.” Chase crosses his arms as he thinks over what to do next. “Once you tell them, they’re going to put an arrest warrant for him as they already had him on their list. Jared mentioned him being someone to consider.”

“Your crew member, right?” Chase shakes his head yes as he runs the list of those poisoned through his mind.

“My crew member, a Joe Gibbs Racing crew member, Sarina’s crew member, Bubba – they’re all connected to me and Sarina in one way or another. It just adds to the list of reasons.” He then lets out a sigh, silently wishing he would’ve said something sooner.

“Now please don’t go snap on Sarina. She may not have any idea as to what her brother is doing, and she’ll believe him out of love. It’s not her fault for not listening and understanding. I don’t want you guys to throw away what you gained because of him.” Chase already knew that he was going to have the conversation with Sarina anyway, and he also knew it wouldn’t go well. However, that was besides the point as lives were at stake here.

“I’ll keep what you’re saying in mind. Thanks for telling me, and I wish you the best in getting better.”

“Thank you, and I’m here to talk if you need someone, got it?” Chase shakes his head yes. He then gives Ryan a quick hug.

“I’ll send the rest of the gang in, okay?” Ryan shakes his head yes as he watches Chase leave, letting out a sigh. He knew there wasn’t going to be a pretty set of hours ahead.

Chase walks down the hall, giving motion to the group that they could go see Ryan as he keeps his eyes focused on Sarina. He knew they couldn’t have the conversation there as that’d be too many eyes, but he knew it was necessary.

“Let’s go,” he states as he grabs his sweater off the chair and heads towards the elevator.

“Just like that?” Sarina questions as she watches him, wondering what he and Ryan talked about.

“Yeah. I want to go back to the track, grab myself a bite to eat, and then I have a sponsor appearance to get to.” She simply accepts as she grabs her own sweater, joining him in the elevator.

“Did your conversation go okay with Ryan?” He simply shakes his head yes. “What’d he want, anyway?” He knew they couldn’t mention it there, either, as they got off the elevator.

“Our usual fun stuff, that’s all. He needed a fun crazy break from his sisters.” Sarina shakes her head accepting as they head out of the hospital together.

“Well, at least he’s going to be okay. That’s all that matters, right?” Chase shakes his head yes as he climbs into the seat of the rental car, taking a deep breath. He knew there was a lot of other stuff that mattered.

He debated unleashing what he had to say right then, but held his tongue back as he turned the key in the ignition. He knew getting frustrated while driving back to the track with her wouldn’t be a good idea, incase it really blew up. There was only one option, and that was to have the discussion once they got back to the track.

Upon arriving the track, he quickly climbs out of the rental car, unlocking the motorcoach and heading inside. He lets out a sigh as he notices the clothes left on the floor by her brother, rolling his eyes. He moves them to the side, making a note that would be next topic of discussion – if ever necessary – before making his way to the fridge.

He reached in, grabbing himself a bottle of water – double checking the seal, though decided against it as he didn’t know if he could trust the liquid in his own motorcoach right now. He closes the fridge door, turning back to face Sarina as she sits on the couch, looking at him.

“What are you thinking?” She questions as Chase leans against the counter. There were many ways he could approach this discussion.

“The words that I want to say to you right now,” he answers as she looks at him puzzled.

“Why?” He thinks it over the conversation with Ryan as he glances away, before looking back at her. There was only one way to do this.

“Your brother is set to be arrested in a couple hours for the accused poisoning of Ryan Blaney, along with at least Jared Erspamer, among the others that have been in the past four weeks. That’s why Ryan called me in the room.” She then looks at Chase, even more confused.

“What do you mean? How the hell is that happening?” Chase crosses his arms, remembering Ryan’s words.

“After Ryan climbed from the car last night, your brother offered him a walk to the pit box with an umbrella. Ryan accepted, thinking he was trustworthy based on our relationship. Your brother then gave him a Gatorade, and Ryan drank it. Between then and when he was found to be poisoned, he did not consume anything else. Ryan believes it was your brother that poisoned him, without a shadow of doubt.” Sarina shakes her head, not believing it as there was no way that could be true. Why would Chris poison Ryan?

“Just because that was last thing consumed doesn’t mean it was the cause. Sometimes you don’t remember what happened du-”

“Ryan went back to the hauler after the race was cancelled – he remembers every bit of last night. He said from pit box after drinking it, to hauler once cancelled. He then puked in the hauler shortly after getting there, and Greg suggested he checked out. Ryan can account for every single second last night, Sarina.” Sarina then stands up, crossing her arms as she looks at Chase.

“So, what are you saying Chase? Are you saying that you believe Ryan’s theory?” Chase shakes his head yes as Sarina glance away, biting her tongue. She had to resist the urge to flip on him. “I guess I can see why based on your past with my brother. I mean, it wasn’t the most pleasant thing. It’s just, I don’t see how this is possible.” Chase knew he was going to hear that response as he recalled the warnings from both Alan and Ryan about this possible discussion.

“That’s understandable – I can’t fault you for that. You love him, he means the world to you, and obviously you’re going to believe he’s innocent till you’re shown without a shadow of doubt that he’s guilty. I would probably be the same way if the roles were reversed. However, I think you should at least consider the theory based on the evidence.”

“Evidence? You call that evidence? Do you not realize what police need to consider evidence?” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing that was obviously a big missing piece of the puzzle here.

“I do, but Ryan’s testimony is evidence as well. Next thing they will search his belongings and probably find a trace, if it is true. Then it’s over.” Chase could see the frustration growing on Sarina’s face as he keeps his eyes focused on her. “Look, I didn’t tell you to start a damn fight. Heck, I love you and I get why you trust him. But just like Ryan thought he’d warn me, I thought I’d warn you. Is that at least allowed?”

“Oh that’s always allowed, Chase. But this whole believing accusations and telling me how it’s going to go down and why is not allowed. That’s crossing the line. That’s not having my back like I thought you would.” Chase then looks at her surprised.

“Having your back? Okay, news flash – I always have your damn back. I’ll always love you. Hence why I said that I didn’t want this to cause a riff, but you should know. And damn, obviously I’m going to consider what Ryan is saying based on my past. You mentioned it yourself that I obviously have first right to consider your brother based on what happened.” Sarina takes a deep breath as she glances down at the floor, debating her next move.

“That was pre-tumor, though….” Chase shakes his head in agreement, though also had developed a theory of his own.

“What if the tumor was there, but didn’t change him afterwards like the doctor implied? That’s always a possibility, Sarina. He could’ve been acting.” Sarina laughs as she rolls her eyes.

“Of course, because we all know my family is screwed in the head.” Chase walks towards her, feeling bad for upsetting her and knowing how touchy of a subject her family was.

“Hey, I’m sorry, okay? I know it’s not easy for you to handle in learning this news and everything that has gone on with your family. If I can offer you any comfort, let me offer a cuddle or something, please. But also, please consider what I’m saying…” Sarina shakes her head no as she looks up at Chase.

“It’s not true. I don’t care what Ryan or you say, it’s not true. And I’m not going to stand here and listen to the bullshit.” She then grabs her purse and phone off the couch, heading out the door and slamming it behind her.

Chase then lets out a sigh as he sits down on the couch, eyes glancing towards the door.

He knew what she was like. When she didn’t like what you told her, she shut down and hid everything away and ran. It was her motto. She had run when she was younger. She had run from the danger to them before. He knew that once things came out – whether good or bad, everything would even out and they would be able to discuss things nicely as they had previously.

Though as he lays back on the couch and feels a tear trickle down his cheek, he couldn’t deny that it didn’t sting a little to watch her walk out in that fashion.