Cabin Fears – Chapter 59: The Afterthought

Tuesday morning

 

Regan knocks on the door, glancing around. He had been over here too many times to count through the years – almost too much it seemed. However, he was willing to do whatever it took.

He watches the door open, immediately smiling as he sees Marie standing there. She backs up, easily letting him inside as she was expecting him.

“Dale is out back with Tony,” she states simply as he nods his head.

He makes his way through the house, giving Robby and Elsa a quick wave along the way. He takes a deep breath as he opens the door, walking out onto the porch as he catches the boy’s attention.

“How are you?” Dale questions as Regan takes his seat with the group.

“I’m alright,” he answers. “The bigger question is how you are.” Dale knew the answer to the question was simple.

“I’m fine; that’s not why we’re here, Regan.” Regan shook his head, knowing exactly why Dale had called them. “So as I told you both on the phone, he had a bit of an episode yesterday. He snapped at Alyssa, and then I had a good discussion with him. A lot of mixture of thoughts from anger to frustration to blame to….well, the usual that he always get with Randy. But it was heightened more than I’ve ever seen it. That’s when I suggested he go to see Eric and he did, and Eric gave him a mild anxiety drug till he figures it out.”

“Glad that he finally listened to that advice,” Tony comments, remembering his discussions with Chase. “I told him that he should seek out help if he needs it. I mean, I know the feeling…”

“So do I,” Dale says, remembering the time he looked towards help after his experience with Marie’s family. “From what I get, this isn’t the first time he’s almost snapped, is it?” Regan shakes his head no, remembering their discussion at Bristol. “I don’t want to get overly crazy but we all agreed that we’d watch out for both him and Alyssa because we care. I think Alyssa is handling it slowly and right, as I know she’s taking steps in talking to people and getting her feelings out there.”

“She talked with me twice about things, actually,” Regan announces, remembering their discussions clearly. He remembered her concerns expressed about Chase.

“But what about Chase, guys? Should we be more concerned than we are? I mean, we’re trying to give him space and let him handle as he may because yes, he is taking steps slowly. But what if this is worse than that?” Regan thought back through the years, remembering his late night confessions with Chase and seeing all the signs of breakdown with him. He found himself comparing them to now.

“I think the emotions are worse, but I think we’re still handling it accordingly. He is slowly taking steps and he’s accepting advice when it is given to him. He’s doing more than he did before. If we keep seeing that, I’m going to lay off and let him do this the way that he wants. However, if we start backtracking with nothing done, you can hit the panic button and I’ll be there with you.”

“I haven’t been around him in other times like you both have,” Tony starts. “So I don’t know what he gets like. However, hearing the words that he wants to give up at times and he’s right at his edge, that’s concerning. If you’re going to get better, you have to believe in yourself without a shadow of doubt and focus on the steps to improving. If you have any doubt, where’s the effort coming from?” Dale and Regan both shook their heads, understanding what Tony was saying.

“I think that was the anxiety talking though,” Regan comments. “That’s why I feel what Dale did in making him go see Eric for a mild-anxiety drug will help keep that at bay as he works through the rest. Once he comes at peace with what happened, he typically stops panicing and worrying. So I think we let him get through it, and then see where he stands with regards to the other.”

“And what If our wait and see approach doesn’t pan out?” Dale didn’t want to think about that. He knew the previous two runaway activities by Chase had gone totally wrong.

“Let’s just not picture that, plea-” Dale pleads.

“It’s a possibility, and something you should consider if you’re going to do what you’re doing,” Tony cuts him off. “I know you hate the thought, but come on Dale…” Dale lets out a sigh as he looks out to the field.

“It’s not going to come to that, Tony,” Regan says as Tony looks over at him. “I’ve helped him through everything in the past. I know how he is. It won’t come to that. We just have to make sure he keeps making progress, slowly, whatever that may be. Keep making sure that he’s talking to people, working through his thoughts. If that happens, we’ll be fine.”

“100%?” Regan shakes his head yes, believing his words fully. He always knew to give Chase more credit than perhaps others would because he had seen what he’d been through.

“Alright, fine. But just promise me that you’ll keep watch and make sure it doesn’t go further.”

“100%,” Regan and Dale say together without a shadow of doubt.

While the boys were talking on the back porch, Alyssa had made her way over and met with Marie in the living room.

She remembered her own words last night of not wanting to make conversation. She remembered her own thoughts of avoiding what was going on. However, in the same thought, she was pushing Chase to talk about what was going on with him. So it was only fair that she actually did something instead of doing nothing.

“So what do you want to talk about?” Marie questions as Alyssa takes a deep breath.

“I’m having my nightmares again,” she confesses as Marie lets out a sigh. She hated the thought of her daughter suffering from anything.

“Well, that’s understandable with what you went through.” Alyssa looks down, remembering everything clearly. She could think through the trail of events without panicing now, thanks to careful conversation with some people.

“I’ve talked through that. I’ve handled that. I can look back at that and not worry a single bit. I talked to Regan, Ella, and a couple others. I’ve come to grips with what happened. I get that I couldn’t had done anything different and it is what it is. There’s no doubt there.” Marie was proud of the progress her daughter had made, knowing how much that meant to her. However, she was still concerned.

“But the nightmares….” Alyssa looks over at her mom, taking a deep breath.

“There’s nights that I close my eyes, and I see an assortment of scary images. Some of them are trying to kill me, or I’m watching someone I love be killed. There’s pain other nights. There’s also repeats of a plane crashing, or images of what happened like a movie.” Marie lets out a sigh as she reaches over, rubbing her daughter’s back.

“The last time you had these, it helped to talk through each nightmare that you were having. Have you done that, yet?” Alyssa shakes her head no. “Do you want to do that this afternoon?” While she loved her mom, she was never good at breaking everything like that down with her.

“I’d prefer to not do that with you, actually. It’s just…..I can’t explain it….I can’t tal-”

“It doesn’t come easily because you’re more comfortable with your father or Chase?” Alyssa shakes her head yes. “That’s fine, sweetheart. You have nothing to worry and I’m not offended. I understand being closer to someone else more. So, have you talked to Chase at all?”

“I admitted to them, but didn’t push the topic any further. With everything that’s going on for him right now, I didn’t want to make those thoughts worse.” Marie shakes her head, understanding.

“That’s fine, sweetheart. Just remember that you need to take care of yourself. So before sooner than later, you need to have that necessary discussion. Whether it’s with Chase, or if you feel that’s not ready then with your father or someone else. You need to work through this as it’s not healthy and we know that you need your sleep. You got a busy schedule coming up….” Alyssa knew that was for certain with plans to race for the championship and win it.

“I know. That’s why I’m trying to figure out the best thing to do….” Marie gives her daughter a pat on the back.

“You’ll figure it out – you always do. Keep believing in yourself; everything will be fine.”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 50: A Trip to SHR

Thursday

Chase waits patiently, glancing around the foyer.

It felt weird to be standing in the gift shop of another race team’s shop. It felt weird being at another team’s shop, period. After spending the past several years between Hendrick, GMS and JRM, walking into a shop that ran a different manufacture just felt strange.

However, he was there for a reason. He knew there was something that he needed to do before he and Alyssa boarded the plane together and headed off to Road America for the race that weekend.

“Mr. Stewart will see you now,” he hears, catching his attention. “Just go through the doo-”

“Is his office in the same spot that it’s always been?” Chase cuts her off, remembering one of the few times he had walked through the halls before SHR switched to Ford. The female shakes her head yes. “I’ve got this. Thank you, though.”

He walks through the store, catching a few curious glances from fans who were there shopping, before going through the set of doors. He walls up the steps and takes the walk down the hallway, glancing around in surprise of some of the changes made to the shop since his last visit there.

He reaches the office door he wants, glancing into the office and knocking on the door.

“Come in,” Tony says as Chase follows instructions, walking up to the desk. “You better not be here to steal secrets, and I’d be damn surprised if you were here asking for a ride. I mean, I know Jeff and Marshall can be crazy, but that’s extreme.” Chase chuckles as some days, he wanted to fling Marshall across the room.

“Negative on both of those actually,” he states. “I’m leaving for Road America in a couple hours, but I wanted to stop by and say thank you.” Tony then looks at him, surprised. “I’m serious, Tony. Our discussion at Bristol may have been by random chance, but it’s shoved me in the right direction quicker than I probably was going myself. It forced to take a step back, put things into perspective and do something. That’s something that I’ve never done, ever.”

“Chase, you don’t need to thank me. I’ve known you my whole life. You’re an amazing ki – well, I can’t say that anymore as you’re actually an amazing man. You’ve grown to be a great guy.  I did that out of courtesy and friendship for you. You were one of those who stood by me through everything that I did, despite some people’s comments, and I simply repaid the favor. I know what it’s like to go through hell and come back stronger on the other side.  I wanted the same for you.” Chase smiles as the hope for the future was nice to hear, especially considering at times it was tough to just take one step each day.

“Well, regardless, thank you. I appreciate it.” Tony couldn’t help but smile as it’d only been a week since their discussion, but he saw the change before him.

“You’re welcome. I wish you and Alyssa the best – just make sure my wedding invitation doesn’t get lost in the mail.” Chase laughs as he could only smile at the thought of marrying her one day down the road.

“I’ll make sure to hand deliver it when the day comes.”

“And I don’t want to hear of any crazy incidents this weekend. Know your limits, don’t test them, and take things at whatever speed is necessary – whether that’s time by yourself, how you spend your days in the garage, or anything.” Chase shakes his head, accepting. He knew there was going to be no self trips through the garage this weekend or any till he got the anxiety and nerves under control. He wasn’t willing to repeat that incident, again.

“Yes sir.”

“By the way, how have you been dealing with that anxiety, if you don’t mind me asking?” Chase didn’t mind the question, knowing that he could trust Tony with everything he said.

“I haven’t really gotten to dealing with that yet. I’ve dealt with fears, remembering what happened and worries.  I haven’t touched the anxiety. I think it’ll start to settle as I deal with everything else so I don’t think it’s something I necessarily need to focus on. However, I know if it doesn’t then I need to express that to someone, and maybe go see Eric again.”  Tony shakes his head, understanding. He could see where Chase was coming from in the steps that he was taking.

“Well, I wish you the best and know that you can always talk to me. You’ll figure it out.” Chase smiles and shakes his head in agreement.

While Chase was at Stewart-Haas Racing, Alyssa was also doing her own work. She made a phone call to Regan while getting ready to go, asking for him to come over. The pair then made their way down the backyard, climbing the steps up into the treehouse.

“When I was younger, I’d come up here when I needed a spot to think or be alone, and it just seemed to always calm me down,” she states as they walk inside. “I’d come up here, just lie on the floor, and put my thoughts in order.” She then goes to her usual spot, sprawling out as Regan sits on the couch.

“It’s a peaceful spot so I can’t blame you,” Regan tells her. “I used to go to this nature conservation area with these winding paths and hike through them when I was younger. Nature just has that calming effect.” She shakes her head in agreement as she looks over at him. “So you called me because you wanted to talk?”

“Yeah, if you don’t mind. I mean, I know that you and Chase talk all the time and we’ve known each other a long time. I’ve heard you’re good for advice, and I just thought this topic was perfect for you.” Regan wasn’t sure about that assumption, but was willing to go with it.

“I’ve always said the door is wide open to talk whenever you both need to.” She was glad for that assumption.

“You know Chase pretty well, so you’ll understand where I’m coming from with what I’m going to talk about. I mean, I hate that this is bugging me because it doesn’t feel right due to how well I know him. But, I can’t stop thinking about it as it’s been on my mind all week.” Regan felt his nerves growing with her words, wondering what could be going on as the possibility was endless.

“Okay….”

“He snapped at me on Monday.” Regan takes a calming deep breath, remembering Chase had mentioned something about that in a brief exchange they had. According to Chase, everything was worked out – but  Alyssa’s demeanor said otherwise.

“What happened to cause it?” Alyssa thinks it over, shaking her head now. It felt ridiculous looking back on it.

“Elsa called me to ask how he was doing, since he tripped over a rock in the Hendrick parking lot. I said fine because he hadn’t said anything otherwise. I then asked him about it, and he brushed it off immediately. I then pushed the issue, knowing there was something on his mind and he kept denying it. I kept pushing, though, and he then said he was going to go for a walk.  I then pushed again, and he snapped – just telling me to leave him alone.” Regan shakes his head, understanding. He got where Chase was coming from in snapping, and knew that was typical response for him when pressured from experience.  However, he also got how that’d make Alyssa feel.

“Have you guys talked about it since?” She shakes her head yes, remembering the conversation afterwards.

“I immediately began crying, feeling hurt. He then reached out to me, immediately apologizing.  He then explained that he didn’t mean to hurt me, and how he doesn’t like to talk about what happened and avoid it. Instead, as you probably know, he bottles it up and tries to avoid the topic – as he was with me. He brought up how he made himself so sick one time, and then when he ran away. I then  instantly felt fear, demanding he never run away, which he said he never could do that to me.” She then stops, glancing away, as she didn’t want to think about that being a possibility.

“I know how much he loves you, Alyssa. He cares about you so deeply.  Hence why he apologized immediately and why he immediately explained why – wanting you to feel better. You don’t need to worry about him running away or anything – trust me. And as far as what happened, I know he didn’t mean it.” She looks up at Regan, shaking her head in agreement.

“I know he didn’t mean it, and I don’t hold it against him, Regan. I could never do that, really. I mean, we talked about it more in developing the right ways moving forward. He expressed the want to change how he handles things, and I apologized for pushing him knowing that I was wrong. We worked it out, perfectly.” Regan then sat there confused as it seemed everything was fine – which he was glad to see. However, it didn’t explain why he was sitting in the treehouse.

“It’s great that you worked it out and got through that. I applaud you both. But if everything is okay, why did you call me?” Alyssa knew the exact reason as she sits up, pulling her legs close to her body.

“I know he’s hurting. I know what he’s like when he’s hurting. I know this is difficult.  Regan, I want to help him. I don’t want to see him suffer through this pain and everything. You’ve always been there, great for advice and seemed to help him move forward on a variety of topics. How do I help him?” Regan knew the answer without even thinking.

“Be there for him. When he feels the need to cry, be there to hold him. When he feels the need to lash out or talk about things, listen to him. When he wants some space, let him have it but assure him that you support him and love him. All you can do is be supportive. When the time is right, he’ll come around and work his way through this. But you can’t force or push him –he needs to do that on his time. Till then, you need to be supportive.” Alyssa wanted to scream as it seemed like nothing. She could only wish there was a magic button to hit and make everything better.

“And what about when he is talking, though? What about the advice or response to tell him?” Regan knew that at times it could be difficult to come up with a response, having been there before.  However, it was another easy piece of advice.

“Speak from the heart. Tell him the truth and tell him what your heart tells you. It may scare you at times or not feel right, but it is right. I’ve always just been honest with my responses and it has worked. That’s all that you can do. Tell him advice based on your own experience, and be honest. If you really get stumped, then you can then suggest speaking to someone who may be better to talk to. I’ve done that a couple times.” She shakes her head, understanding.

“Thank you.” He then smiles as he pats her shoulder.

“But in the same way, remember to take care of yourself. You can’t just focus on making his world perfect. We all know that you went through a lot as well, and you need to work through that too. Make sure you take time for yourself, and work on things, okay?” She shakes her head yes.

“And you’ll always be here to listen if I need you?”

“Absolutely.” She then stands up and walks over, giving him a hug.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 42: The Meeting

Tuesday Evening

Chase pulls up the driveway, turning the key off as he sits in the car taking a deep breath.

After a series of thoughts heading many directions, he found himself fixated on one person in particular to talk to. He realized just how much he was able to let out that past weekend, combined with the fact it was a fresh slate so no re-judging from past meetings. Though, he still found himself questioning whether he was doing the right thing.

He knew he was just questioning himself once again to try and avoid it as he grabbed his phone and stepped out of the car. He made the short walk up the driveway, hoping this went as smoothly as envisioned in his mind. He just needed to speak of some details, and start relieving himself of the pressure on his mind.

He knocks on the door, before taking a step back as he waits for it to be opened. His eyes fall to the ground as he debates turning and running – though his eyes immediately flash forward when he watches the door open.

“Come on in,” Tony says simply, before stepping back to let Chase in the house. Tony closes the door behind him, before leading him into the living room and gesturing towards the couch. “Do you want a drink or anything?” Chase shakes his head no as he sits down, nervously. Why was he suddenly feeling nervous? This was just a discussion between friends. “That’s fine.” Tony then takes his seat beside Chase, eyes fixated on the young man before him. “I’m all ears, Chase. I told you that I’d be here to listen to you whenever you wanted and I’m here to listen.”

“I want to thank you for helping me for starters,” Chase starts off, knowing simple would get him talking and maybe lead to complicated. “I want to thank you for the advice about Alyssa – that really helped towards our small discussion we were able to have. I know we’ve got more to discuss, but we’ve got started at least.” Tony shakes his head, glad to hear it. He had wondered how smoothly things went when Alyssa went to see him before anybody else.

“That’s good to hear, Chase. I’m glad that you’re making progress with her – and I told you, you don’t need to than-”

“You don’t understand, though. Your belief in me that day and reminders that it’ll work out, and somehow I’ll find a way to do this – finding strength, the right people – it was perfect in that moment. With that in mind, it sort of started a wave of momentum for me. I spoke to Regan about a couple details on Demi and let him in to my faults. I let him understand that I feel lost at times, that I can’t work out in my mind how to deal with this, and his thoughts on when I do decide to come back raci-”

“First and foremost, you need to focus on you, and your mental health. Everything else can be worked out later. That first statement there is the key, Chase. Don’t let racing and everything else cloud your judgment.” Those words reminded him of the discussion with Jeff and Rick that week, too.

“I know – and I’m sticking by my word that I’m not returning back to racing till I’m absolutely healed – just cause I know that’s my best way to deal with this. Hence why I talked to Jeff and Rick, and they’re both supportive.” Tony wasn’t surprised by that, based on how well he had gotten to know both through the years. “I also talked to Ella a bit, as well as Dale. To be honest, I think last night made me realize more than ever that I need to get things under control as I snapped at Alyssa, by accident. We talked it out, and she understands, but it scared me. It really forced me to take a step back further than I had been and figure something.” Chase looks up at Tony, knowing there was no way to avoid it anymore. “That’s why I called you.”

“I’m all ears, Chase. I told you that I’d be willing to hear you out whenever you need it.”  Tony knew how much having someone to talk to meant through tough times – having spent time with Kevin and others previously.  It was why he was willing to give Chase the benefit of the doubt here and listen.

“I spoke to Alyssa about things. We came to the understanding in our words that it wasn’t my fault, and we’d both be okay. But Tony, I still worry about her. I find myself wondering about her more than ever. I keep relieving the image of her getting hurt over and over in my mind and cringe every time. She also keeps saying that the arm thing is no big deal, but I can’t help but look at her and feel bad immediately. there’s so many things that she won’t get to do her way now because of that. We try act like nothing has changed, but so much has.” Tony could understand Chase’s feelings as he had some reservations from what he’d seen from Alyssa so far.

“You’re only having all these thoughts because of how much you care and love her. When you care about someone so much, you want to take the pain and anger away; you want to make them feel better right away. I know the image haunts you daily, and that’s understandable because you want to make that never happen. And of course you want to fix what she’s faced because you want things to return to before like nothing happened. As her boyfriend, you feel you’re her protector and that’s why it hurts because there’s shame in not doing what you’re set out to do.” Chase shakes his head, knowing that fit his feelings exactly.

“There’s time I try to help her – with some of the simplest tasks as that. She immediately blows me off, saying that she has it handled. It hurts because I just want to help, make that go away. I can’t erase what happened so I can’t fix the mistake, but I can make it better by helping her handle it.” Tony understood the perspective, knowing there were plenty who wanted to help him when he dealt with his broken leg.

“She’s stubborn – you know that from spending time with Dale. That doesn’t surprise me. I get that you want to help her and I can see the therapy in doing that, Chase. But you have to understand that she’s dealing with it, too. She doesn’t want people to look down on her, see her as weak, see that she’s changed from what happened. By being able to accomplish those simplest tasks as you call them, it gives her strength to know she can handle what life throws her way.  It gives her independence, assurance. There’s got to a balance in that for both of you so you can both heal.”  Chase knew that Tony was right, as much as he didn’t want to admit it – since he wanted to be there for her.

“It’s kind of like when I got stabbed. I wanted to do everything – walk around, get back to racing immediately, and not have anybody doubt me. I think it’s why I may have pushed myself a little too far at that late model test so I could get Dale’s approval.” Tony chuckles, remembering when he heard details of the test. He was betting money that Cindy was going to kick Dale’s ass.

“So you get where she’s coming from. We’ve all done it. We’ve stubborn to a fault, not wanting anybody to see weakness as we feel that’s going to bring our world crashing down. Now if you combine being attacked and feeling helpless, you have to get where she’s coming from.” Chase shakes his head, understanding.

“See, that’s the problem. I understand it too well with her. I look at her and see a reflection of the way I was at times. I remember going back to racing so quickly.  Well, you know how that turned out as I didn’t handle things like I am now and I ran away to try and escape it. I’m scared that she’s going to do that because she’s not handling it accordingly. I feel that she’s gone back too soon.” Tony shook his head, knowing otherwise by what he seen out of Alyssa thus far. However, he could see the similarities as discussed by Chase.

“It’s  obvious to have that fear because you’ve been there and know the situation from your shoes. However, each person handles things differently and I don’t think you have a single thing to worry about. Has she talked to anyone about things?” Chase had heard rumblings of that nature, but couldn’t confirm them.

“Her dad a little,  as well as myself. She’s slowly divulging details.” Tony then looks at Chase, eyesbrows intrigued.

“Different than someone else we know?” Chase looks over and shakes his head, letting out a sigh. Perhaps his worry wasn’t needed.

“Okay, so I don’t have to worry about her in that regard. I just wish she didn’t have to deal with this at all, Tony. I thought this was done and gone and never to be thought of again – but yet, here we are. She doesn’t deserve it, just like Marie and Dale don’t either. I remember when Randy had us in separate rooms, all I wanted to do take her pain away, make it stop for her, let her go. It tore me apart more than anything to hear her screaming, feeling as though she couldn’t do anything and in so much pain.” Chase then takes a deep breath, wiping a couple tears as Tony scoots closer, wrapping an arm around him.

“I know it hurts. I know it’s the worst feeling you will know, Chase. But you have to remind yourself that it’s okay now, you both made it through that, you’re both strong to move forward, and your happily ever after will come eventually.” Chase smiles as he hoped those words played true, remembering his joke with Dale the night before.

“You know, I have to thank you more than anything beyond this. You were one of the first people to truly believe in Alyssa and I together. I remember you came to the track one week to try and keep Cole out of his constant trouble, and made mention to us that you believed in us. That meant a lot, Tony.” Tony rubs Chase’s shoulder as he lets out a sigh.

“Everybody deserves to be happy, no matter who they decide to do it with. I could see the smiles on both of your faces, and how easily you could talk to each other. I wasn’t going to stand in the way of your happiness. And Chase, you’ll get happiness completely one day without a thought of this.” Chase looks up at Tony, a bit of hope fulfilling him in those words.

“I hope you’re righ-”

“No – I know that I’m right. Just promise me that you’ll both invite me to the wedding.”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 37: Food City 500

Despite the fact that he wasn’t racing and should’ve been home taking care of himself, Chase made the decision to stick around for the Cup Series event on Saturday night. Alyssa had easily agreed to join him, knowing that a night race at Bristol Motor Speedway was always fun to watch.

The pair hung out for the most of the day, before heading out as pre-race ceremonies kicked off to pit road. They stopped by and saw each of their friends, giving them well wishes while accepting their ‘take care’ ‘feel better’ messages in return. Alyssa also got the honor of hearing tons of congratulations messages in return.

The pair continued to make their way down pit road, knowing their final stop was going to be at Chase’s car. He wanted to see the guys again to say hi and wish them the best. The conversations all started off smoothly, with positive messages back and forth. Chase eventually made his way through the group, before setting eyes on the driver that night.

“You know, your fitness routine may have paid off after all,” Chase starts as Jimmie simply smiles in return. “You’re still in as good as shape as ever.”

“Still biking everyday like usual,” Jimmie replies. “When you start feeling better, I have some trails that you should check out.” Chase simply shook his head, accepting, knowing the spots Jimmie normally sent him were always fun. Some of them were a challenge, while some produced breath taking views.

“Triathlons as well?” Alyssa asks and Jimmie shakes his head yes.

“And by the way, Chani still says I’m as competitive as ever as I wasn’t too pleased with coming second the other week. But, it was good day regardless as I had fun.”

“Is it fun being back behind the wheel?” Chase wonders and Jimmie couldn’t help but smile in response with a nod of the head.

“It’s weird not working with Chad or Ron, but it’s still been awesome,” Jimmie comments. “You don’t realize how much you miss it till you make these odd appearances.”

“And it seems you still got it,” Alyssa adds, referencing last week’s third place finish.

“So how much longer till our favorite superstar is back?” Chase hated hearing the question over and over. It was annoying as it seemed 80% of people asked it, but it also felt like a load of bricks with the pressure amounting. Everybody wanted to know for sponsorship, contractual, and a sort of other reasons – not connected to himself, personally. He knew it was different with Jimmie – he was a friend and probably asked for those reasons. However, what if it was wondering how much longer he’d be racing himself?

“I don’t know, to be honest,” Chase answers, repeating the statutory answer he had been giving. “I got stuff to work through before I come back and I don’t know how long that’ll take.”

“Hey, I totally get it,” Jimmie starts. “No worries on that. I’ll keep your seat warm as long as you need me too, but I can promise these guys can’t wait for you to get back and will welcome you back immediately. Besides, it’s kind of neat getting to race against the girls.” Jimmie then glances down pit road where he sees Genieve with her team. “I never thought my girls would race – either of them. It just didn’t seem like it was in the cards. But when she turned eight, my gosh I couldn’t slow her down no matter what we did.”

“So where’s Lydia this week?” Alyssa wonders, as she had seen Chandra down by Genieve, but hadn’t seen the youngest Johnson.

“She is off in Paris doing a fashion show for one of the big designers that she’s working for. I actually was facetiming her before I came out to the grid.”

“So in other words, she’s totally like her momma?” Jimmie laughs and shakes his head yes. “Hey, she’s got the looks and she pulls off those dresses like I could only dream of.”

“I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit,” Chase comments as he wraps his arms around her. “I think you’re certainly beautiful.” He then kisses her cheek.

The rest of the pre-race festivities went off smoothly, with Chase and Alyssa remaining by the 24 car the innovation and national anthem. After a quick fist pump for Jimmie afterwards, the pair headed off towards pit road. Following pre-race discussions with Alan, it was agreed that they’d both sit on Chase’s pit box for the race.

“Chase!” Chase hears his name called, almost set to roll his eyes till he notices the source.

“I’ll catch up with you,” he says as Alyssa heads towards the pit stall while he turns and heads down pit road. He meets up partway with Tony. “What’s up?”

“I’m surprised you’re here.” Chase shrugs his shoulders as he looks around.

“It’s Bristol. Would you ever miss a fun night at Bristol, Mr. Stewart?” Tony laughs and shakes his head no. “Besides, I’m taking it easy so like everybody else, you don’t got to worry about me tonight.”

“I know you can take care of yourself, Chase. I just wanted to see how you were after what happened yesterday.” Tony takes a deep breath, debating his words. “To be honest, that scared me more than I let you know in what you told me. I was worried more than I let on, and why I called the immediate meeting with those closest to you. I don’t know what it was about that, but it just got me thinking and worr-”

“Tony, it’s fine. Listen, I’m glad that you told them so that way they know and understand. It also opened the door for Alyssa and I to begin discussing things. It also put it right in my face that I need to start doing something, whether then making up excuses to avoid it. It’s why I talked to Regan a bit last night. I appreciate what you did, so thank you.” Tony smiles as he glances over Chase’s shoulder towards Johnson.

“So does it feel weird watching someone else drive your baby?” Chase looks back towards the car and shakes his head yes. “It’ll feel even stranger as the day goes on, and especially since you’re sitting on your pit box. I went through those feelings when I was healing from injures, and then when I totally gave this up. I thought I was totally ready to walk away from NASCAR, and in the most part I was. But there was a touch of me that remained there, reaching out, for a good bit in the first couple months.” Chase knew those feelings all too well, having experienced them already.

“There’s part of me when Alyssa went testing and then watching Jimmie run the car that is doing that. There’s part of me that’s wishing, and wanting to drive as soon as possible. It’s all I’ve known, Tony. I want that need for speed that we all crave. Admittingly, though, that is just a small piece right now because in my heart and brain I know I’m not ready till I handle things.” Tony shook his head, understanding.

“There’s always the balance of trying to come back when you’re ready, but not too soon. As long as you’re keeping both sides of the coin in mind, you’re doing the right thing. Just make sure to remember that. You may be in your 30s but you’re still young, Chase. You got a lot of years of driving in, and you got lots to go. Make sure you fully do what you got to do before you come back so you take advantage of that.” Chase knew that Tony was right in those words. It was why he had made the personal promise to himself, already.

“I know, and thank you.” Tony then wraps an arm around him.

“You’ll always be the little rugrat that was running around the garage when I showed up to drive in this series so know that you can always look to me if you need someone else.” Chase smiles.

“Alright. I’ll remember that.”

“Hope Jimmie has a good race for you.” Tony then puts his headset on, heading off to one of his team’s pit boxes. Meanwhile, Chase heads back the direction he was going originally, climbing up on top of his pit box to watch Jimmie.

This was going to be one strange night.

In the end, though, it didn’t end with them celebrating. Jimmie ended up crossing the line second, at the hand of a well-timed bump-and-run from Cole Custer (SHR) for the win.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 30: Their Discussion

Thanks for reading and reviewing, and your patience for this chapter.

Alyssa and Tony walk out of the trailer together, quickly making their way across to the other trailer.

“Are you sure about this?” Tony asks, causing Alyssa to glance back at him. “I mean, I don’t want you to do the wron-”

“Tony, I know him better than anybody,” Alyssa starts. “This has to be done, and it’s a conversation we both need to have. Relax, it’ll be fine.” Tony shakes his head, believing her. However, he couldn’t help but be nervous based on what he saw earlier.

Alyssa makes her way up the steps, slowly creeping the door open as she walks inside, seeing him sitting on the couch sipping on a bottle of water. After he had alerted Tony, he had double checked the crew member was there, but stuck to being in the small room by himself. The company probably would’ve been comforting, but he didn’t know the guy that well and uncertainty out-weighed the fear.

“Hey,” he says quietly as she sits down on the small couch with him, door now securely shut. It probably would’ve been more comfortable for them to be having this conversation in one of their own trailers or the motorcoach, but this wasn’t too bad either. “Listen, I’m sorr-”

“You don’t need to apologiz-” She starts, remembering her purpose for being there.

“But I let yo-”

“Chase, just stop, please.” She then takes a deep breath as she faces him. “I’m not mad at you. I’m not upset. Tony told me about the little episode, and part of the discussion – its fine. You had a bit of a moment, he helped you out and everything worked out.  Heck, I wasn’t by myself. I had my guys, my dad, my mom; it’s not like I was left on an island, Chase. You damn well never need to apologize to me when you’re dealing with something of your own, okay?” He shakes his head yes, though still felt guilt. There was a reason why he was there that weekend, and he had let himself down in doing what he set out to do. It also didn’t help that intertwined with the other guilt he felt.

“Okay, but I still feel bad. I said that I was going to be there for you, to support you, and yet here you are probably worried after practice as to where I am. Rather than being supportive for you, I’m the distraction from you focusing on winning.” She takes a deep breath, as she knew it was his guilt talking more than anything. How could she make him erase that?

“I wasn’t worried about you because Tony took the liberty of texting my dad so he could let me know where you were and that you were fine. Secondly, you aren’t distracting me as I was able to run the full practice with ease, and talk with Kevin about the adjustments without an issue. You’re also not stopping me from doing anything right now as I’d probably be hanging out with you anyway. There’s nothing to feel about today, Chase.” Her words brought comfort to his thoughts, as he reminded himself to thank Tony once again. It seemed Tony knew how to take care of everything with ease.

“Okay, I get it. You don’t need to keep drilling it in my mind. I just felt bad…”

“I know you feel bad, just as I feel bad for watching you go through this and everything else again, just as I felt bad for what you went through previously. It’s part of being human and compassionate; it’s also part of the reason why we both love each other so much – because we care. But, with that said, you have your own needs and feelings and things to work your way through, too. I don’t want to see you throw everything for yourself aside just for me. I want you to get to feeling better and handling things. That only happens by you taking care of yourself. I’m taking care of me, you take care of you, and we’ll both take care of each other a bit.” Chase knew that she was right, as much as he didn’t want to admit it. The truth was perhaps he was so focused on her because he wanted to avoid his own feelings. Who’d want to think about that pain again?

“That’s a deal, but you better promise me that you’re handling it.” Alyssa knew that was partially a lie as she hadn’t things as much as she would’ve hoped in the past couple of weeks, as previously recognized. She couldn’t help but be reminded of her thoughts in the trailer, again.

“I promise you that I’m working towards getting better. I may not have done the perfect steps leading into the weekend, but I will work on it more moving forward.  I’ll work on sorting through my feelings, talking to who I need to talk to, and figuring a way to move forward. Promise me you’ll do the same?” If she had asked the question earlier today, he didn’t know what his answer would be. However, certainly the conversation with Tony and now with her had helped.

“Promise, I swear.” She smiles, as she was glad to be making progress.

“Oh, and by the way, none of this your fault. You’re not a shitty boyfriend – you’re amazing. Randy is to blame for what happened in his decisions – not you for whatever reason in that little head of yours. I know you may not have went about rescuing me as you wanted, but hey, it’s not your fault. I can’t blame the fear that you’re going through, or this whole flew of actions that the fear creates. That isn’t your fault; that’s the fault of those who caused it. I don’t want you to ever feel guilty for what happened to me, because Chase, it wasn’t your fault babes.” She then leans in and kisses his lips lightly, as he sits there purely stunned by her words.

“Tony told you what I said, huh?” She shakes her head yes.

“He cares about you, a lot. He figured it’d be best that I know so I can help you through that and convince you otherwise. So don’t kill him.” Chase wished he could, though, as he hated to face those head-on. However, taking a deep breath and calming himself, he knew he should thank Tony instead as he was right. Perhaps not hearing those words straight on from Alyssa would convince his brain and heart to stop telling him otherwise.

“Thanks for that, by the way. It’s comforting to know that you don’t blame me or have any hard feelings. It’s also comforting to know that I still have my girl with me.” He then glances away before looking down towards his feet. “I just wish I could convince my brain that at times. It tries to piece this puzzle together, otherwise.”

“That’s just how you are – you always want to find an answer to the problem, and seeing yourself as the solution for what happened allows the door to close easy. However, by pondering what else I said, it opens the door further to other thoughts that your brain doesn’t want to think about. It doesn’t want to try and comprehend your actions because it doesn’t understand that. It doesn’t want to think about Randy because that opens pandora’s box. But with time, constant reminders, and a little loving, it’ll go away.” He smiles as he looks over at her. How had she grown up so quickly before him?

“You’re smarter than a lot of people realize. Maybe I should’ve given you more credit coming into the weekend.” She shakes her head no, as she knew that wouldn’t be fair at all. Besides, as Tony stated, honesty was the best policy.

“You were actually right that I failed at handling thing before the weekend so I’m not as smart as you may thin-”

“You’re still pretty amazing, and I wouldn’t give you up to anybody.” He then leans in and kisses her lips once again. “As long as you’re starting the process before the weekend, that’s what matters. It’s when you totally block it out that it allows it eat at you.”

“Well then I better not be catching you doing that, either.” He knew that she was right as he shook his head in agreement.

“So by the way, who all knows what Tony had to say?” She then let out a sigh as she didn’t want to reveal details, but knew it was only fair.

“Tony, dad, your parents, Regan, Ryan, Darrell and Jeff. Is that okay?” Chase shakes his head, as it seemed only fair. Tony was the one that helped him then, and the rest had helped him at times in the past. It seemed only fair that the ones that could help him the most knew the whole situation.

“It’s fine. I know I could use some people to talk to and work this out. I’d rather avoid these sudden meetings with people.” She then wraps an arm around him, and pulls herself right close.

“Trust me, it’ll be fine. We’ll work it out, one way or the other, together. That’s what we do best.”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 29: The Meeting

Tony Stewart walks outside, turning the corner and making the quick work down to the next hauler, meeting face-to-face with Kevin Harvick. He was surprised to still see him racing, but had to chuckle as it reminded him a lot of himself. For some, there was no way to get the racing out of them.

“You  know, it’s a lot harder than you may think to wrangle up that group and get them to stay in a room calm without many details,”  Kevin starts as Tony crosses his arms. “Between the questions to the worry to the demanding of answers, to what the heck is going on – I give up with them. Why did you put me in charge?”

“Because I knew you could handle it as best as anybody here, and thank you,” Tony tells him. “Besides, I couldn’t say much or else they’d be stomping down the doors till they found him.” Kevin then looks at Tony curiously, stopping Tony as he goes to walk inside.

“Is he alright?” Tony stops, looking at Kevin with a sincere smile.

“He’s good right now, let me put it that way. It’s just going to take time working through everything, and I want to make sure that these people know what’s going on.” Kevin shakes his head yes as he understands, allowing Tony to enter.

Tony walks through the trailer, up the small set of stairs and opening the door. He glances around the room, seeing the group – including a face he didn’t text message – before stepping inside and closing the door.

“What the hell is going on, Tony?” Alyssa demands first, catching Tony’s attention.

“Where’s my son?” Cindy asks as she crosses her arms, giving Tony the equivalent to a stare down.

“Why haven’t you told us much of anything?” Dale questions as Tony sits back in the one open seat, spinning around the chair before looking at the group.

“Any other questions that you have?” He asks as he glances around. “No? Okay, then maybe I’ll start talking. For the record, Alyssa, I am going to explain what’s going on. Cindy, your son is currently having a well-needed in one of the other haulers in the lounge, at my request. He kind of appeared to look to need it. And Dale, that’s because I wanted to do it this way rather than in pieces over text message and make you go looking for him. Happy? Okay! Now that I’ve answered those, I will say what I called you here for.” He then looks over at Regan. “But wait, why are you here?”

“Dale told me to come,” Regan states with a glance towards Dale.

“When Chase is going through something and needs someone to talk to, most of the time he goes Regan,” Dale starts. “I figured it’d be fitting that he heard this.” Tony shakes his head, completely understanding. He figured the kid had a support system and tried to message those he knew were probably part of it, but figured he’d miss one or two. He was glad that Dale picked up on the fact to call Regan.

“Quite fitting indeed,” Tony comments as he takes a deep breath. Where was he supposed to begin? “So I was making my way back to the hauler after having met with some of the team in the garage to discuss things and I heard someone let out a sound, so I looked with curiosity – and it was Chase. He had tripped over a rock, causing him to let out a curse of word of his choi-”

“Was it fuck or shit?” Ryan questions, catching Tony’s attention. “That boy doesn’t say a lot of bad words. Cindy and Bill raised him really well.” Tony had expected a remark of question in that regard from Darrell, not Ryan.

“It was fuck, but who cares on that small detail, okay? Anyways, I called out his name, simply looking to ask if he was okay. I got an odd reaction, as he jumped back surprised, perhaps even worried. Anyways, I stood my ground and just simply said for him to look at me and got his attention. Seeing how startled he was –not by just me, but perhaps everything going on, I figured it’d be best to give him space to relax so I brought him in the hauler and got him a bottle of water, wanting to calm him down.”

“Anxiety, fear, worry – it’s common with him after something,” Regan starts, remembering some of their conversations. “There was one night he made me stay there over night to be with him because he was worried, I guess you could even say scared. We dealt with a good bit of that when Randy originally attacked him. You could also say that Alyssa being missing resparked that as I noticed it in a couple conversations we had before he got kidnapped. Tony, if that’s why you called us all figuring we didn’t kno-”

“I figured that you guys knew something, but you probably don’t know everything that I’m going to say,” Tony starts. “That’s why I called you guys – because of the unknown facts that I know. However, it’s great to see that you’ve recognized what’s going on and have spoken with him. I just hope that continues, and big time.” The comment throws a curveball through the room, as minds began to wander as to everything that Chase either said or did to spark this conversation out of Tony.1

“Why do you say that?” Jeff Gordon asks curiously from his perspective. Tony then takes a deep breath, figuring it was worth continuing with what else he sad to say.

“As he was drinking the bottle of water, you could tell that he was in pain – his stomach –just by his motions and expressions. I offered to go get someone, or do something, and he told me that he left his pain pills in the 24 hauler when he was there earlier today seeing the gu-”

“That’s why he probably didn’t come up for practice, because he went to get the pills and ran into you?” Marie questions and Tony shakes his head yes. “Yeah, he told Kevin (Meendering) that he had to do something and then was coming back. It caught Dale and Kevin off-guard when he didn’t, but we figured maybe he got tied up talking to someone.” Tony could understand that explanation. However, he knew that wasn’t a fitting reaction based on what he had seen out of Chase. It was why he knew this conversation was necessary.

“Totally easy assumption to make in figuring nothing is wrong,” Tony starts. “But to be honest, I think for the next bit everybody should be a bit more careful, know where he is and who he with and everything. Why? Trust me, you’ll understand if you let me finish saying what happened.”

“And you said that he was fine now, so we don’t have to worry at this very moment, right?” Bill questions and Tony shakes his head yes.

“He’s calmed right down, enough to grab some sleep in the trailer. I have a crew member there and as soon as he wakes up, the crew member will text me so I can go back and make sure he’s fine. Trust me, I took care of all angles.” Bill shakes his head in approval, glad that it was Tony who had found Chase and gone through the motions. He wasn’t sure if the same type of reaction would’ve happened with just any fellow driver or owner in the garage. “Anyways, I offered to go get them but he didn’t want to be left alone – sort of what you were talking about, Regan. So I sent a crew member, easily got them, and he was able to take one, which started working instantly. I waited quietly, just seeing where his reaction would go and what to do next as I wasn’t sure how to handle this. He then told me that he thought he could simply go get the pills, take one, return back to the trailer to watch Alyssa with ease. However, he then goes ‘then it happened, again.’” The group looks at each other, slight confusion entering the spectrum as Regan glances at Dale, remembering the discussion they had shortly after Chase had gone missing with the airplane.

“Can I guess?” Regan asks, catching Tony by surprise. “I’m guessing that he had a total panic alarm set off in his mind, blanking out logical thinking, just going through the wheel of motions till everything caught up together without clearly knowing what he was doing.” Tony was surprised that he heard the right guess made, as it made him question even more why Chase was left alone.

“Yeah, that’s what happened,” Tony answers as Regan lets out a sigh. Perhaps he should’ve moved forward on his original thoughts then. “If you guys knew of this happening, why did you leave him alon-”

“We didn’t know of it being an actual occurrence; it was a random mind guess after he went missing looking for Alyssa. It was a theory that I had put together, but quickly dismissed due to nothing said by him in the days that followed.” Tony felt anger boiling as he just thought nobody had any idea. However, how could you avoid thought when you had an idea?

“Well, since you know of it, I guess why I’ve called you all here. Listen, the kid is got a TON going on emotionally, on a variety of scales. I just wanted to warn you based on what I saw so that way those closest to him to make sure to be there with him, and perhaps – as I said earlier – make sure someone was with him at all times – just so that way they can handle when these happen, till he figures it out.”

“Maybe I did come back racing too soon….” Alyssa thinks out loud, as she thought back to Chase’s thoughts on her return over the past several days. She had been selfish, stuck on her own goals of racing and dealing with her feelings. However, was part of the apprehension actually due to his feelings and needing her to deal with them?

“Alyssa, you can go back racing and we can still handle this,” Darrell starts. “We’ve got a bunch of us here that are tied up and available at different times so we can help when we’ve got time. This doesn’t fall on your shoulders and don’t think your decision has bought this on more.” Tony was glad to hear Darrell giving that piece of advice to Alyssa, especially with what he had to come. He had debated not saying what was said between him and Chase about Alyssa, but knew it was worth her knowing so everybody knew just where Chase was mentally.

“Chase was only giving you those warnings based on his own experience of coming back early, not because of this,” Dale adds. “However, if you felt that you handled it enough to come back racing, and handle the rest while racing, then don’t hold a single thought back on coming back.” Alyssa lets out a sigh as that was a thought she had continued to toss back and forth over the past couple of weeks, as well as during the day with what was said earlier at the press conference.

“Beyond that comment, I think you have word from the rest of us that we’ll be there and help him, and I appreciate you letting us know,” Ryan states, figuring they were near the conclusion of Tony’s discussion period. Besides, there was another XFINITY practice coming up that some of them had to get to.

“I know that I have your word because I know that you guys love him and will do what it takes,” Tony states cleanly, and that wasn’t a question in his mind. “I just have one other thing I think you guys should know, and I hope it doesn’t cause another issue.” He then takes a deep breath, remembering the discussion. “Chase blames himself for what happened. He says because of letting his fear control him, he wasn’t there for Alyssa. He wasn’t able to save her, prevent it from happening, or be there for her today. it’s a ton of guilt that just seemed to pour out of him unexpectedly. I spent a good bit convincing him otherwise in telling him that he was an amazing guy, great for Alyssa, and the fact his attempt to come out this weekend despite everything going on was beyond brave. I told him that he did a great job at the press conference, that he’s proven the odds surrounding the relationship, and mistakes are bound to happe-”

“He’s a ultra perfectionist,” Bill cuts off Tony, catching his attention. “He doesn’t believe in mistakes. To him, mistakes are the cause of things that he could’ve changed or done better to change what happened. He’s always been that way. It’s why he kept playing the previous attacks in his mind over and over, trying to see what he could’ve done differently. It’s why this is eating at him, again, and perhaps more because of how much he loves and cares about her.” Tony shakes his head, having picked up on his own theory around that.

“I also told him that he could bounce back from this, in which he didn’t believe me at first. However, I reminded him how he was able to before, followed by everybody who is here to support him, including Alyssa. I reminded him of the strength that we know he has, and there’s always a way to move forward. I told him it’d be okay, and to be honest, I think I got somewhere as we had a good session of tears before I let him go to sleep for awhile.” Tony then takes a deep breath. “I’ve been in those darkest moments and I know it takes a lot of work. However, with this group, I know you guys will help him.”

“It’s going to work out,” Ryan comments. “It’ll take time, it’ll take each of being patient with him and helping – but it’ll work out. I hate to go through this again with him, but I’d do a 100 times over because of how much I like my best friend.”

“I have no doubt,” Tony states as he reaches for his phone, seeing a text message. “That’s Chase…” The group goes to move, but Alyssa holds her arms out as she stands up.

“I want to go see him before any of you, please,” Alyssa starts. “He blames himself for what happened to me. As Tony said, the first round of feelings that poured out was all about me. Let me go see him. Let me have a heart-to-heart with him, show him I love him, show him it’ll be okay. Maybe with that out of the way, we can work through the rest.”

She then makes her way towards the door, glancing at Tony for directions as to where to go. She knew that she had practice coming up, but she in no way could think about the car or the race later on that night. There was only one thought on her mind, just as he had been in the hospital.

She had to make sure he was okay before she could take her own next step forward that weekend.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 28: Practice

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.