The Path to Victory
Chick never really wins. The real story behind the King's wreck.
Disclaimer: This story is based on Cars and its characters and situations, all created and owned by Disney and Pixar.
"Chick, we need t'talk."
Chick frowned at the King's serious tone and braked. The two racecars had been practicing at the track of the Los Angeles International Speedway, both preparing for the big race and just spending time together.
They weren't exactly friends, per se. Friends-with-benefits was more like it, for being friends with the King certainly had many benefits for Chick: the kisses, the drives, the talking, and (not that Chick would ever admit to being the cuddling type) the snuggling. It was a no-strings-attached sort of arrangement. They both had priorities: the King had his marriage and Chick had his pride. Neither of them held any romantic notions—well, that had been the original plan, anyway.
But Chick was shrewder than most thought. He could tell that the King's feelings about him were a lot stronger than they had been when the whole thing had started. There was just something about the way he kissed his fender, something about the way he touched him with his tire, something about the way he gazed at him when he thought that Chick wasn't looking. Chick never brought the subject up when they were talking, though. Because he didn't feel he same way, so what was the point, right?
Oh, who was he kidding? He was less expressive and obvious about it, but there was definitely something there, blooming. The King just made him feel things that nobody else had ever made him feel. It just made him really uncomfortable, that was all.
One thing that had clued him in to his odd attraction was that he hated it when the King talked about his wife. She this, she that—he couldn't stand it! And if Chick was anything but ambitious, he was possessive. At first he had brushed it off, thinking it was just that—possessiveness—but then again, why should he feel possessive about the King? Chick didn't care for him…right?
It had disgusted him, when he had first realized what had been happening as they became closer and closer. He had begun to develop…something for the older car. It wasn't love, it wasn't lust, and it wasn't even a yearning for friendship. He had begun looking forward to seeing the King. He just… The King… The King made him feel good, in a more-than-physical way. He made him feel special. He made him feel appreciated. He made him feel loved. And try as he did, Chick couldn't deny to himself that he liked that feeling. In fact, he liked it so much that part of him wished to make the King feel the same way. But that would never happen, because Chick refused to let anyone—anyone—get an upper hand on him. He would not let himself be weak.
And so he let himself kiss the King. He let himself nuzzle him. He let himself watch him out of the corner of his eye. He let himself look forward to seeing him before the races, during the races, after the races. But he never allowed himself to love him.
And this was where it had gotten him.
"This is gonna be the last time, Chick," the King declared solemnly. His eyes were looking everywhere except directly at the green stock car. "We ain't gonna be seeing each other like this anymore."
Chick scowled reflexively, masking the sudden panic that had flooded him. "What are you talking about?"
"We're done, Chick."
Chick's heart stopped.
The King sighed heavily. "This has gotta stop now. I'm tired of all this lyin', all this sneakin', all this betrayin' a woman who has never done me any wrong."
"I see," Chick lied.
"S'been fun n' all, and you're a great guy n' everything, but you're not what I need. And it ain't healthy for either of us to hold on. At this point in my life, I can't risk the loss of my wife. I'm too old to be playin' these kinds of games."
Chick nodded, clueless about what to say. All he could think of was, He's leaving me. The King stared at him for a minute. He seemed to be waiting for something. When Chick didn't say or do anything, he sighed in disappointment.
"See you tomorrow at the race," he muttered, and began driving towards the exit of the stadium.
A thousand confused cramming his mind, Chick blurted out, "What did I do wrong, Strip? What can she give you that I cannot?" He didn't think that anything could stop the King when his mind was made up, but he had to know.
The King didn't look back.
"Love," he said simply. Chick's face fell.
"If I told you I loved you, would you leave her for me?"
"Would you mean it?" the King challenged.
Chick was silent.
He thought about it. He could say it. He could easily say it. But meaning it… Ah, that was another story. The King was right. Chick could never give him love, or stability, or kindness. He could give him danger, risk, fun, entertainment, the joyride of his life. But not love. Never love. Not if his pride had anything to say about it.
It had started out as a game to gain power. He had always fallen behind Strip on the racetrack. Veteran or not, he had to lose sometime! But no, not a single time had Chick won a race with the King competing against him. His entire career—a complete failure, and it was all Strip's fault.
But Chick had never been one to give up. If he couldn't defeat the King on the racetrack, then he would defeat him in another way—a much more humiliating way.
He would seduce him and make him pine for him. He would coax him into the clutches of his tires, and then, when he had grown dependent, Chick would wrench away and leave the other crumpled and broken.
But he had never counted on the King ever loving him.
How could anyone love him? He was nothing but an ambitious machine, caring little about hurting anyone or anything that stood in the path of his goal. Any obstruction to the path to victory was game. The King had only been a pawn.
He was the kindest, most warm-hearted pawn Chick had ever faced.
He understood his attraction to the King. He hated it, but he understood it. The King was everything Chick wished he was—kind, generous, friendly, charismatic, loved, adored by all, and the best damn racer around. He had fans, he had a successful marriage, he had friends, and he had under his belt the most successful career the racing sport had seen in a long time. He had even been dubbed with an honorable title—"The King". And if Chick couldn't be Strip, then he wanted Strip to be his.
But here he was, losing him. Losing him to that old devil woman who could give him everything that Chick could not.
Chick had so many things to say. He wanted to confess to him about the reason he had wanted him in the first place. He wanted to admit that the King was the embodiment of everything he wanted. He wanted to tell him that although he didn't love him, it might just come to that in the future. He wanted to beg him not to leave. He wanted to ask if they would ever see each other again, after the big race tomorrow.
Chick opened his mouth but no words came out.
And so he said nothing.
Even from behind, the King looked sad and disappointed. Chick saw him sink a little lower to the ground.
"I didn't think so."
And with that, he revved his engines and sped away.
As Chick watched his lover drive away, his face as blank as an unpainted mask, he wondered if he had just made the biggest mistake of his life.
The morning of the big race came. The race of the century, the media was calling it.
Chick felt anything but excitement as he spoke confidently to the reporters, feigning an eager and cocky attitude. He was still smiting from his confrontation with the King last night.
"Oh yeah? You wanna hear the forecast? I'll give you the forecast! A hundred percent chance of…thunder! Ka-chigga! Ka-chigga! Say it with me!"
He hoped that the "thunder" thing would unnerve McQueen, along with the twins having switched sides to support him. The idiot punk deserved it! He hated him for having entered the elite ranks out of absolutely nowhere—that place in the upper rankings belonged solely to him and the King! Oh, but what a laugh Chick would be having when he had won, with McQueen in the third place!
He growled when he saw the aforementioned red racecar. He had been hoping that the little brat had gotten lost on the way to California, but (unfortunately, in Chick's mind) they had been able to find him. Honestly, the kid was a pain in the bumper. He didn't deserve all that glory, all that popularity that everyone lavished upon him. That spotlight belonged to him. That spot behind the King belonged to him. Not some cheap flashy show-off with talent he didn't deserve.
When the loudspeaker signaled for the racers to go to the start line for the practice laps, he pasted a confident smirk on his face and taunted McQueen. He didn't get the reaction he was expecting, but the other car did seem to be really out of it.
Chick began the race with a fast start, determined to beat both the King and the brat. He would show them not to ever mess with Chick Hicks, not if they knew what was good for them.
A hundred and ninety-nine laps later, and the rookie brat was going to win the race. Lightning Mc-what's-his-face. The arrogant, boastful, and yet unfairly talented kid. Damn it all! Chick growled. He was still trailing after the King. Curse his luck! He was not going to place third. He was not going to come behind ol' Weathers again. He'd show them. He'd teach them a lesson they would never forget. He'd make sure they would all know not to mess with Chick Hicks ever again.
He'd show Strip for dumping him like he had. He'd show him that he was the one who had made a mistake. He had made a mistake that would cost him his life.
"If I can't have you, nobody can," Chick muttered, and then said louder, "I am not coming behind you again, old man!"
He slammed into the King and sent him sailing in the air. Inwardly he cringed as he heard the clatter and thuds of the wreck (he tried not to imagine what Strip would look like when he finally stopped), but he plastered a triumphant grin on his face.
The rookie brat suddenly stopped right before the finish line, for no apparent reason. Maybe he had run out of gas or had realized the danger of robbing Chick of his deserved Piston Cup. Either way, the path to victory was clear!
He sailed past the checkered line, cheering and spinning around in pure delight. He had won! At last! All those years of hard training and hard work… It had finally paid off! He had won the Piston Cup!
"Yeah! Whoo! I won, baby! Yeah!"
He paused and looked around in confusion. The crowd had suddenly gone silent. "Hey! What? What's going on?" Was the crash really that transfixing? He didn't dare look at the damage, afraid that he would regret what he had done. Instead, he sped to the stage.
After being booed offstage, he grabbed his trophy and rushed to join his pit crew.
Fools. The Chick era had begun! They should be bowing down to him, not throwing tires at him! He scowled, but the sour expression on his face soon evolved into a shocked one. The King was a few feet away. He slammed on his brakes. His eyes widened in horror as he took in the damage he had caused the older car. Sure, he had intended to hurt him—hell, he'd wanted to kill him in the heat of the moment—but now, after the fact… He gritted his teeth together. If it had been any car that had done this to Strip, Chick would have hunted him down and given him a piece of his mind. He debated apologizing to Strip. He had been his one-time lover, after all. But no, he deserved this! For leaving Chick. For making Chick hurt. For making Chick doubt his completely unromantic thoughts towards him.
Just then, the King—guided by his wife—slowly drove up to him, glaring darkly. Mrs. The King looked angrier than Chick had ever seen her.
"You're a nasty car, Chick Murphy. You'll regret doing this to King. We are going to sue you 'til you're left with nothing but your own four tires. Just you wait and see. Now apologize," she demanded.
He smiled nastily.
"Now look here, mister," she snapped. "You just almost killed my husband. I think he deserves an apology at least, don't you?"
"I'm not sorry," Chick snarled. He hated this woman. Hated every part of her, down to the very last screw. It was this woman who Strip had left him for. It was this woman who Strip loved. It was because of this woman that Strip would never love him. Suddenly, he wished that it had been her that he'd nearly killed.
The King sighed heavily. "Honey, why don't you go talk to Tex for a bit? I need t'speak with Chick."
She narrowed her eyes at Chick in a deathly glare before leaving the two alone. The King slowly led them to a more secluded area so that they could talk privately.
As soon as they were away from the reporters, he shoved Chick hard, though Chick noticed that he winced at the strain on his injuries.
"What the hell was that all about?"
Chick was finding it hard to maintain direct eye contact with the other. He shrugged.
"You left me," he said, as if it explained everything.
"So you go and try t'kill me?"
"If I can't have you, nobody can."
The King stared at him, eyes narrowed. Chick couldn't identify his expression.
"You're messed up in the head, Chick," he concluded.
"Fuck you!" Chick yelled. "We were having a great time—don't even say it, I know you were! You were the one part of my life I was happy about! Even if I always came after you, it was okay, because there were always those times after the races to look forward to! When you'd… When you'd… When you'd make me feel good about myself, all right! Your presence there, after the races… It just… It was nice knowing you didn't care that I was a loser." He grimaced. He hated sounding so weak, but Strip had always brought out that side of him. Chick scowled. Despite all his misgivings, he had let himself be vulnerable, and look at where it had gotten him.
"You've never been a loser," Strip said quietly.
"I lost you, didn't I?" Chick snapped.
The other car opened his mouth to speak before quickly closing it again.
"And then you left me. You fucking left me! And just when I had finally come to terms with liking you, too."
"Likin' me," the King repeated. "That's great, Chick. Thanks a lot. If y'think that you likin' me is gonna make me leave my wife, you're very mistaken. Likin' someone n' lovin' them are two very different things."
Chick shrugged. "Who knows, maybe with time—"
"Look, buddy," the King interrupted, "I'm not young anymore. I don't have time for this kinda thing. I ain't as patient as I used t'be, n' I can't afford lovin' a car that may never love me back. Once upon a time, maybe, Chick, but s'too late now." He paused. "I'm sorry." With a disappointed smile, he slowly drove away, presumably to rejoin his wife.
Chick smiled bitterly at the King's retreating spoiler, wondering at the irony of Strip apologizing when it was Chick himself that had almost killed him.
Two birds with one stone. Two victories in one. The King had paid for his crime and the Chick era had finally begun.
Chick stared at his Piston Cup and wondered why the victory felt so empty.