Trixie shook violently as the realizations washed over her. She'd been driving. Drunk. And she hit someone. But not just any someone. She'd hit Speed. Her boyfriend. The one man, other than her father and brothers, that meant the most to her in the entire world.
What his true condition was, she didn't know. Inspector Detector hadn't exactly come out and told her, only that it was very severe and he was in the intensive care unit. To her, that meant too many horrible possibilities for her to imagine. To know that he was in the hospital and that it was serious sent another wave of nausea coursing through her. Her hangover added to the effect still she fought herself to keep from vomiting. The last thing she needed to do was throw herself a pity party. It was her own fault she sat in a jail cell anyway, just as it was her fault her boyfriend was in the hospital. She knew if he could speak to her, Speed would tell her she needed to take responsibility for her actions, that he couldn't save her this time.
'How am I going to be able to look at him again and pretend I haven't hurt him?' she thought, tears welling up in her eyes. 'How will . . . how will I be able to look him in the eyes? How will I be able to face his parents? I . . . I don't know . . .'
A small hiccup escaped her as sobs, great and terrible, threatened to overwhelm her. She still sat in the detox cell at the county jail. One of the officers had told her that her father was on his way to bail her out but he hadn't come yet. Of course, it had only been five minutes, roughly, since the officer had told her and it took at least fifteen to get from her father's home to the station. At least, in the Mach 5 it took fifteen minutes. She knew as much because she'd timed Speed once.
'He told Inspector Detector that he would . . . and I said it couldn't be done . . . silly me . . .'
A stray tear rolled down her cheek as each thought of Speed entered her mind, increasing the ache in her chest and her sorrow. She wanted to go see him once she got out of the detox room, but she wasn't sure if she'd be welcome at the hospital. As much as Mom and Pops Racer adored her, this, in her opinion, was simply unforgivable.
'And even if they did forgive me, I could never forgive myself. God, how could I be so stupid?'
"Please God," she whispered as she wrapped her arms around her belly. Unconsciously, she began to rock back and forth. "Please . . . let him be all right . . . please let him live . . . he didn't deserve what happened last night. He didn't. Whatever punishment you have in store for me for this, I'll take. I shouldn't have been out at that party . . . I shouldn't have been behind the wheel of that car . . . why? Why did this have to happen?"
Trixie knew the answers to her questions. She'd been stubborn and willful, wanting her way when it wasn't possible. She wanted to be seen on the arm of one of the best-looking young men in the world, and she'd been angry with him when he turned her invitation to party down. At the party, she started drinking, trying to forget about him, if only for a moment. She knew these reasons oh so very well, just as she knew that she'd have to live with the consequences . . . such as the guilt for injuring her boyfriend. And the shame. The shame of not only hurting him but tarnishing the name of the Mach 5 team. They had always boasted about never driving drunk, and she had wrecked that.
'It's true what they say . . . you're lucky if it's a cop that stops you when you're driving drunk . . .'
At the sound of her father's voice, Trixie glanced up . . . and their eyes met.
For a moment, neither of them spoke. They didn't need to speak. There was concern and understanding in her father's eyes. No reprimands . . . as if he could see the torture that she was putting herself through. Then he held out his arms to her and she found herself clinging to him, tears falling freely down her cheeks as she did so.
"Oh, Daddy," she sobbed, her petite form trembling. "It's my fault. It's all my fault."
"Shhhh," he murmured. "It's going to be all right . . ."
"How? How is it going to be all right?" Trixie nearly wailed, hugging her father tight. "I hit my boyfriend last night! And I don't know how he's doing!"
"I realize this, darling," came the gentle reply. "I realize it very well. However, you can't keep beating yourself up over this. It isn't going to do you, or Speed, any good."
"But . . ."
"No buts," her father interjected firmly. "Now I realize that you're feeling very guilty over this. You've made a mistake and now you're paying for it in the worst way possible. My question is, what are you going to do about what's been done?"
Cool hands brushed against his fevered skin. At least, he felt fevered. Given the amount of pain he was in, despite the painkillers (which never lasted long, it seemed), he was surprised he could even feel those cool hands brushing the hair away from his face. He had to admit, though, it felt nice to feel that coolness against his skin. Somehow, it eased the pain.
"Hey, baby . . ."
His mother's voice. She sounded so tired, as if she hadn't slept in over a day or so. Why hadn't she slept? He couldn't recall. He just knew that he wanted to tell her to get some sleep, that he'd be all right but it would have been a lie. He knew that and she knew that.
'What happened anyway? Why do I ache like this? Why is it so hard to see my mother's face when I open my eyes?'
Someone had said what had happened to him, why he had a breathing machine hooked to his face. There were other things poking him as well for whatever had happened but he couldn't really recall. Not that it would have mattered any at that moment. Sleep called to him and he felt too weak to protest.
'I'll just close my eyes for a few minutes . . . that's all . . .'
Slowly, his eyelids drooped shut and sweet darkness claimed him.
"Mr. and Mrs. Racer, please have a seat. We have some news on your son's condition."
As soon as the doctor entered the room and called for them, a war of emotions raged within Rachel Racer. Among those emotions were hope and fear. She hoped her son still lived. She feared the doctor would tell her he had died, that they had done everything they could to save him, but it just wasn't enough. She prayed for the best, yet she schooled herself for the worst. With Speed's injuries, it was the most she could do.
Two hours before, she'd been holding her son's hand and talking quietly to him. Richard sat on the opposite side of her, also holding their boy's hand. He, however, did not speak, but she knew of the war of emotions raging within him. Of the two of them, losing Rex had hit Richard the hardest. The two, before that awful fight nearly fourteen years earlier, had always been close, closer than what Richard had ever been with Speed. He tried to make up for it once Rex had left, but there were no doubts in anyone's minds, including Speed's, that Richard truly missed Rex. Perhaps it was why Speed had always sought to be the good son, always obeying their orders with no complaints, and obtaining good grades during high school. He even remained in their home after graduation, helping around the house and assisting Richard in his goal to open his own car manufacturing company. At least with Rex, they knew he still lived. That much had become apparent to Rachel the moment Racer X started interacting with Speed.
Richard, however, had not connected the dots where Rex and Racer X were concerned and to see their normally vibrant and energetic son laying so deathly still tore the Racer patriarch apart. To Rachel, in gazing at her husband while they kept a vigil over their son, the knowledge was there that they could lose another child, this time permanently. There would be no coming home for Speed, and her husband blamed himself for their son's condition, even though they both knew that it was a ridiculous notion. Speed had not been on the racetrack. Richard had been visiting with his brother Henry and enjoying some of their mother's recipes at the time.
She wanted to tell her husband he was not to blame for Speed's condition. Indeed, she started to say something when Speed's eyes closed, and the monitors started to scream. The nurses and doctors were rushing in and pushing them out of the room.
That had been two hours ago, two agonizing hours of no news. With every passing second, Rachel's fears grew and her hopes dimmed. Her son's injuries were severe. Though he pulled through the first seventy-two hours with very little incident, complications could still set in and one apparently had. Now the doctor wanted to talk to them about their son's condition. She clutched her husband's hand for support. He gripped hers with an equal fervor.
"It's good, and it's bad," the doctor said, before either of them could ask. He let out an exhausted sigh and sat across from them. "He still alive, but it isn't looking good."
"What's going on with him?"
His feet led him inside. He didn't stop. Maybe he did stop once, if only to find out Speed's location from one of the orderlies or a nurse. Otherwise, he kept on walking and didn't stop. Not until he'd reached his younger brother's room.
He wasn't sure what he'd been expecting. Maybe to see Speed sitting up in bed and berating himself for being stupid and foolish enough to get behind the wheel after drinking. That would be like his brother, after all. What he saw instead made him want to retch.
Speed lay in the hospital bed but he wasn't conscious. Rex didn't think he had been for a while, especially since bandages had been wrapped around the younger man's head and covered his left eye. A breathing tube had been inserted into his mouth and down his throat, an indication to Rex's muddled brain that his brother wasn't breathing on his own.
"His lungs collapsed yesterday morning, and he's going to need a liver transplant," a teary woman's voice stated. "The doctors say that, if he pulls out of this, he won't be the same as he was before . . . that his speech and motor skills will be affected . . . but he needs that transplant before they can do much else for him."
Rex turned around to face his mother as she drew a deep and ragged breath, the sadness and worry reflecting in her eyes. She hadn't slept any lately. He could tell by the dark circles surrounding her eyes. He always knew when his mother hardly slept for days. This was one of those times.
"Mrs. Racer," he forced himself to say, the words sounding alien to him at that moment, "I'm sure . . ."
"If you're going to say that Speed will be fine, that he's a fighter, please don't. I know he's a fighter, and he'll do his best to pull through. It's what's kept me going these last few days. However, those are bullshit lines, ones we tell each other to make ourselves feel better, and you know it," she told him, her tone firm. "And don't call me Mrs. Racer anymore. I'm your mother, Rex."
He felt his jaw drop, his eyes going wide. How had she known? Had Speed told their parents the truth? And when did she start to use such salty language? He attributed that more with Pops than with her. A wan smile touched his mother's lips as she moved to the bedside.
"I've known for a while that it was you," she stated, her tone soft. "Especially since that lunatic kidnapped Speed and had him steal all those paintings."
"I don't . . ."
"You slipped," she replied. "You said Pops."
For a moment, he could only stand there, his mouth hanging open as his mind vainly tried to conjure up the time that she spoke of. When he finally did, he felt his cheeks burn and he slowly removed his mask.
"And here I thought Speed would have told you once he found out who I was," he murmured, sitting on the opposite side.
"He did," his mother confirmed. "You don't realize how that felt, when he told us who you really were. We felt as if we'd lost you all over again."
She fell silent at that and her eyes wandered back to his brother's prone form. The only things breaking the silence were the respirator and the heart monitor. There were so many things that he had wanted to say, however, so many things that he wanted to ask. Rex found that he couldn't, though. The surreal feeling of the situation made it hard for him to focus. One thing remained clear to him and that was he would donate part of his liver to his brother. There were no doubts in his mind that they were a genetic match for each other. Hell, if his brother needed blood, he'd donate that, too. Finally, he decided to ask the one thing that had been bothering him the most.
"What happened to him?"