AN: I started reflecting a little recently and I felt bad that I have so many unfinished stories lying around here. It's unfair to the people who read them, no matter how few, and I should at least put forth an effort. So, since I really liked this show, I'm going to do my best here first. But as I read through it recently I realized how much my char. development and writing in general sucked, so all my chapters have been updated! Yay!

Ages (I've altered the storyline so that this takes place two years after the end of the IGPX show):

Takeshi Jin - 18 years old

Liz Ricarro - 19 years old

Alex 'Cunningham' Hume - 24 years old

Amy Stapleton - 16 years old

Fantine Valjean - 19 years old

Yuri Jin - 16 years old

Miss Satomi - 20 years old (I think it's bizarre that she's younger than a lot of the racers in IGPX. lol)

Title: When the Inside Wants Out

Chapter one: Faithful Dreamer

"Jeeze, it's just like Takeshi to do something like this!" I growled as I balanced a stack of my playbooks in my arms along with some of our star forward's.

It was late at night, but still I stumbled over myself to make it to Takeshi's house in the dark.

"Always leaving his stuff all over the place…he's so absentminded!" I yelled to no one in particular, but when pictured Takeshi's apologetic smile, I sighed.

It wasn't as if I could expect anything else from him. He had been so busy lately with fans and interviews and training, he didn't have time for my "petty little games." I scowled at the thought of one of our conversations last week. It was during practice when I made a backhand comment about how he'd been avoiding the team lately. As usual he got all pissy and remarked that I was the one who needed the practice, not him. I don't know how I'd ever kidded myself believing we were close. I was just another person Takeshi had to step over in order to get where he wanted in life. I just had to except it, once and for all.

As soon as I figured I was far enough down the street, squinted out into the darkness, desperate to spot Takeshi's house. Blinking twice to clear the sleep from my eyes, I plowed on, smiling when I saw a large white banner with the words: "Congratulations Takeshi!" stretched across.

I didn't want to be angry about it, but for some reason, I was. His family had every right to celebrate his win, but the thought of him sharing cake and ice-cream with his mother and sister while Amy and I had drinks alone, burned me a little. Sometimes he just didn't have any consideration for the team.

Would it have killed him to invite us over? I wondered.

"He's so inconsiderate," I muttered the words under my breath and before I could stop myself, slammed my fist into the doorbell.

It was far too late to be running around the dark ringing people's doorbells. I should have just left the playbooks on the porch and ran, but before I even had the change to lean down, the door swung open. Before me, Takeshi's sister Yuri stood, looking drowsy. I hadn't seen her much over the past two years, but even in her state of disarray, she looked much more mature. Her brown hair was in a spilling out of a ponytail and a half-eaten stick of pocky was stuck to the corner of her mouth. Before she came to her senses, she reached out of sight and grabbed a pair of glasses sitting on the table inside.

"Damn," I hugged the books to my chest, sheepish. "I'm sorry about this. I—

"Liz Ricarro…do you know what time it is?" Yuri cut me off with a sleepy grin. She opened the door a little further and let me step into the house. It was shrouded in darkness, but still I felt comforting warmth. I couldn't think of what I had waiting for me back at home – cold, sterile, emptiness.

"Yeah I…" I started playing with my hair. "I'm sorry. It's just, Takeshi left these books back at the center and I didn't want him to—

"—Liz, it's okay," Yuri closed the door behind us and then put a finger to her lips. "You don't have to make an excuse to see my bro."

"E-excuse?" I nearly dropped the books as I realized what she thought was going on. "No—

"—I know it seems like he and Fantine have been going strong for a while, but honestly, I think you'd mesh way better with him."

She gave me a little wink and I shook my head. "You've got the wrong idea," I tried, but Takeshi's little sis continued to lead me through the house, right into the kitchen.

"We've got cake and food left over from the party," she tried to get me to sit. "You can have a little with me before you go upstairs."

"No thanks," I forced a smile. "Listen, I really just came to drop this off. Maybe you could give it to him…"

Yuri stared at me for a long while and then lifted the plastic wrap off a plate of frosted cookies. I said nothing while she took a large bite of one, chewed, and swallowed.

"It's the door on the right, you can go right in," she pointed up the spiral staircase with a little grin. "But be sure to be quiet, my parents are sleeping," she touched a finger to her lips and then disappeared around the corner with another cookie.

Sighing to myself, I ascended the staircase and tried my best to avoid the squeaky spots on my way to Takeshi's room. After stumbling around in the dark and into an empty bathroom, I finally found it. I balanced the books on one hand and unlocked the door with the other. Desperately, I tried to keep the stack in order, but failed miserably. Two fell right off the top and thudded on the ground. The sound was muffled into the plush carpeting, but I couldn't keep the grimace off my face.

I took a little peek inside. Takeshi was lying back in bed, quiet. With a tired sigh, I closed the door behind me and took four books off my stack. Carefully, I laid them on his side table, and then stared at Takeshi's sleeping form. His hair was ruffled, his usual side cowlick sticking up.

"Takeshi…"I said his name under my breath, not sure if I was angry, or just dazed.

Without a second thought, I took a seat in a chair next to his bed and glared him down. Amy would say I had no reason to be angry. After all, Takeshi was the leader. The forward. He was the won who had pulled through and won us the race against Sledge Mamma earlier in the day. It didn't matter if it was by a hair, Takeshi did it. He always did it, and it seemed I just had to learn my place.

I snorted to myself and clenched my fists. Sure, he'd never outright said it to me, but I knew what he thought. I was just backup.

"Why can't I be like you…?" I whispered, watching Takeshi's chest rise and fall with even breaths. He looked as if he didn't have a care in the world. I couldn't even remember a time when I had slept like that.

"Everything comes so easy…" My voice was barely audible, tapering off as I felt tears begin to form at the corners of my eyes.

'Snap out of it Liz…' I thought, and unclenched my fists. I was never really someone who would share my jealousy, but lately it'd been bubbling up in me and overflowing. Takeshi was growing as a racer and individual and leaving me behind. The difference between us was widening exponentially.

"You don't know how lucky you are," I sighed heavily.

Suddenly, I thought of how hard it must be for him, to have all the pressure on his shoulders, and felt ashamed.

"You take it for granted with this one track mind of yours. You don't even hang out with us anymore. With…me anymore. It's always Fantine!" I heightened the volume of my whisper, and touched his hand.

Takeshi moved involuntarily, and I retracted, smiling wistfully.

"What am I talking about?" I scolded myself and then looked back to Takeshi. "It's not about her. I just wish…I wish you knew how much this means. This partnership. This friendship. Just…don't leave me," A tear rolled down my left cheek, but I did nothing to stop it.

"Don't leave me behind." I whispered to Takeshi, and then looked out the open window, blowing cool kisses against my skin.

A second tear came – then a third – a fourth… Soon I was crying, stifling my sobs in my hands. I felt so angry at myself, but once I started, I couldn't stop. Crying wasn't something I ever did in person. It was reserved for nights at home with a slice of chocolate cake and my face pressed against the cold arm of a leather couch.

"Takeshi please," I managed to choke out.

I lowered my hand from my face and then tried to stroke down his cowlick. For once, it stayed down.

"Takeshi…" I whimpered. "You damn jerk."

I closed my eyes and continued to sob, as quietly as possible. However, I heard him stir, and knew it wasn't quiet enough. I gasped as I saw his eyes flutter open. For a brief moment he was disoriented and said nothing, but the second I moved, he spoke.

"Liz?" he murmured drowsily, and stared straight into my eyes. "You're…"

He reached out to touch me, but I pulled away, embarrassed, and angry for getting so emotional.

"I'm sorry!" I sputtered, careless, and ran.

I stumbled at first at in edge in the carpet and but then grabbed the side of his dresser and propelled myself out of the room. I heard Takeshi's footsteps trailing me downstairs, but I kept going, not even remembering my playbooks. I didn't stop until I got outside, and even then, I speed walked to the end of the street. From the corner, I watched him stand on the doorstep in sweatpants and white T, his cowlick pointed up. Quickly, I looked away.

"Dammit," I whispered to myself, and hurried home. I couldn't face him again…not after that….

A/N: Yeah, I know Liz is OOC, but a gal can't put up a strong front all the time, can she?