Disclaimer: Don't own 'em and I never have. I just borrowed 'em for a little bit.

A/N HAPPY NEW YEAR!!Thanks to everyone who reviewed and alerted!! This chapter is dedicated to all you guys because you ROCK!! Special thanks to GentleLady and Rangerfan58 for your AWESOME support! Oh, and I forgot to mention that these lyrics I post are NOT random. For example: the Evanescence song I felt was Racer X's song because of his character and the struggle he goes through mentally. The HSM song posted here (which, by the way, I DO NOT OWN) expresses the brothers' joy as they are now partners again. PLEASE for the love of Speed, REVIEW!


Take it back to the place where you know it all began
We can be anything we wanna be
You can tell by the noise that the boys are back again
Together making history
It's time to show how to be a superhero
Just like a showdown, we split for many to near, oh
We're the best, no doubt, do it like we use to do
This is our time, and I'm telling you all
The boys are back

--High School Musical 3—


Keeping the Secret was easy for Speed.

Especially when Racer X insisted that he train harder than he ever had before. When in 'Mentor Mode" the older Racer showed less emotion than usual; forcing Speed to see him more like a drill sergeant than a caring older brother. Racer X's style was a lot rougher than Rex's, and Speed was amazed that his brother had detached himself from that personality so thoroughly that he designed a whole new driving style just for Racer X. However, Speed also notced that Rex's attitude towards T-180s had not changed an iota over the years.

"Come on, Speed! Give her the gun! She's begging you to push the limit!"

The two were practicing at Thunderhead; Racer X and Sparky sat in the tech box, watching the white-and-red vehicle as it careened down the track.

"He's five seconds faster than last time, X!" The mechanic pointed out.

"He can push her further, Sparky. Remember what he did at the Grand Prix."

"But that was a race. This is just practice!" Speed remarked through his headset.

"When you're behind that wheel, you race to win. In circuit you race against other drivers. In practice you race against time. If you're off by just one millisecond, you lose. Now, push her, Speed!"

The Mach 6 tore a hole in the air surrounding it as the young driver grit his teeth and poured on the gas. Sparky's eyes widened as the white streak blasted past the mechanic's box.

"Holy Canoli! Look at him fly!"

Racer X inwardly smiled. Outwardly, he grunted. "You seem surprised, Sparkolemew(SP?) Speed, take a break for a minute. You've definitely earned it."

The blur materialized back into the Mach 6 and Speed slowed to a halt, leaping out of his T-180 before it came to a complete stop. He rushed over to Trixie, who sat in the otherwise empty grandstands, and breathed,

"You know, Trix, I think I felt her more today than I ever have in a practice run. Racer X is tough but there is no denying the results."

Trixie hugged the track star and murmured softly as she played with his wet hair, "I knew you had all that talent locked inside you, Speed. It's like ever since Rex left, you've bottled it up and haven't given it enough air. Ever since the Grand Prix you've opened it up again, little by little. Today it looks like you knoked the cap completely off!"

Speed blushed and gave a nervous laugh, then reluctantly pulled away from his girl at his older brother's behest.

GOSPEEDGOSPEEDGOSPEEDGO

Snake waited until everyone in the house was asleep before sneaking to Speed's open window and slipping into the dimly lit room. To his annoyance, his victim was not even in the room, but this mattered little as Snake prepared to strike. Finally, Speed entered, unaware that he was in serious danger until the villain snuck up behind him and threw a noose around his neck. Snake pulled the rope tight so his victim wouldn't scream; he just thrashed around making a strangled squealing noise.

"Shut up, punk and listen closely!" the predator hissed while he tied his rival up with the same rope the noose was on, "I would love to kill you now but my employer wants me to finish you during the upcoming race. You'd better stop thrashing, Speed, or you won't be participating. I'd rather you not die so quickly." The villain leaned in close to the captive Racer's ear and sneered venomously,

"You don't know how much fun I'm gonna have destroying that tin can of yours while you lay on the pavement breathing your last. Just remember, punk, you won't be alive much longer-"

Snake began climbing out of the window, not knowing that he had tripped one of Racer X's silent alarms and had been on camera since he had entered the house.

"-and you won't be going painlessly!"

Oiler jumped out the window—and came face-to-mask with a VERY ticked-off Racer X. Snake yelped and tried to get away but X locked him in a chokehold.

"Snake, you little weasel!" the Masked Racer growled, "I thought I made it clear that Speed Racer is off limits when I destroyed your car! By WRL standards I should bring you in, but I have a better idea. Do you know how hard it is to drive a T-180 with only one hand?" Still keeping his chokehold, X twisted Snake's left wrist until the guilty driver sobbed for him to stop.

"Please, no, X! Come on! Please! PLEASE!!"

X held his position for five solid minutes before releasing Snake's wrist-but not before cracking the bone a little.

"Remember that pain, Oiler. Remember it well on race day. If I catch you headhunting, I'll break more than just your wrist!"

X shoved Snake to the ground and watched in satisfaction as the whining driver took off. Then the Masked Racer dashed in the window to attend to Speed.

To his horror, Speed was struggling his hardest to get free of the rope that bound him like a doomed swine. To Rex's trained eye, this was NOT a good thing. "Speed! SPEED!! NO!" The Masked Racer rushed to his little brother and began cutting him free.

"Stop struggling, Speedy! The more you move the tighter it gets. You're strangling yourself. Easy, Speed, easy!"

Finally the noose was off, and Speed rolled onto his stomach, coughing hard and gasping for air. When he was finally able to speak, the young driver rasped,

"I don't know how much more of this I can take, Racer X. I feel like every other driver out there wants to make me suffer or wants to tear me apart. Why is this happening to me?"

The Masked Racer chuckled, "Well, for one thing, you're not wearing the socks."

Speed's eyes lit up, "You remember the socks?! You know, I still wear them. Guess they really are good luck because I never get attacked when I'm wearing them. Seriously though, why is this happening to me? It's like ever since I won the Grand Prix I've gotten nothing but trouble! I'm doing something wrong, aren't I?"

X shook his head and held up a hand, "Stop it! These events are NOT your fault. They are the ones to blame not you. You have talent that goes beyond anything they've ever seen, Speed. They feel threatened by you."

"They're scared of. . .me?!"

"Yes. You represent what racing should be, and if people ever figure out that pure racing--what you do—is the way the sport is meant to be, then it would cripple companies like Royalton Industries because of what they have done to racing. RI can't handle that and neither can the other large corporations. Plus, I think Taylor is putting you through Hell because not only does he want revenge, he wants to break you into becoming as corrupt and twisted as he is."

Speed snorted, "Forget that! If he keeps pushing, I'll keep shoving!"

Racer X was about to reply when the phone suddenly chirped to life. Speed glanced at the clock: 1:30am. No WAY that's a telemarketer! He and X exchanged puzzled looks, then Racer X pulled out a tracer and put one end in his ear. The agent gave his brother a thumbs-up and Speed picked up the phone.

"Racer residence, this is Speed."

"Greetings, Speed Racer. May we talk a little? Please, hear me out."

The voice that was on the line Speed knew well, and the young man scowled in frustration and sighed as Racer X gave him the 'go ahead'.

"Alright, Firetoll. I'm listening. What do you want?"

Firetoll chuckled. The menace was out of his tone now that he had Speed's full attention and the man's voice took on more of a businessman tone as he cleared his throat and spoke as one would when addressing an associate.

"Speed my boy, it is my understanding that you have been the target of several attacks recently, am I correct?"

"Yes."

"This is Taylor's work. That conniving little weasel would murder his own mother if it got him back into the Hall of Fame. You know, I am partners with Taylor. I could be of help to you, Speed."

"Firetoll, you're no better than Cannonball. You've threatened me-not in the same way but your intentions were the same, so why should I trust you?!"

"I can offer you protection, Speed. However, there are conditions."

"I knew it! You slime!"

"The conditions have everything to do with you and nothing at all to do with your family, so calm down. I can and will offer protection but the problem is I cannot protect you if you are not on my payroll. You can't be on my payroll if you aren't driving for me. Do you understand what I am saying, Speed? I win and you win as well."

Speed grit his teeth. Firetoll's logic was good, but the young Racer's gut clenched at the thought of betraying Racer Motors and his family just to save his own skin. Besides, as far as he was concerned, he already had protection. Speed looked at Racer X and grinned.

"What do you take me for, a chump?! You think that after you harassed me that I would even consider coming to you? Just because I fell into a scorpion pit with no chances of escape, you think that I'd jump at the chance to drive for you just to save my own hide?!"

"Yes, young man. You have no other choice."

"There's always a choice. Thanks for the offer, Firetoll, but my answer stays a definite 'no.'"

Firetoll growled low, the threat back in his voice.

"You're as stubborn as your brother, boy, but even the great Rex Racer broke under a fixer's grip. They say generational events are passed down from older to younger. How long can you take the strain, Speed, before you break as he had?"

There was silence as the threat sank in. Racer X noticed that Firetoll had dealt a good blow. Even though Speed knew the truth about the reason behind his leaving, what Firetoll had said was painfully true. Rex Racer had been worn down until he finally broke. He broke for his family's sake, not his own. Would Speed break for anything less? Looking at the fire that burned in his little brother's blue eyes, Racer X knew the answer.

However, the Masked Racer was in for the shock of his life as Speed dropped his shoulders and sighed heavily.

"That was a low blow, Firetoll, but you're right. I'm getting worn out and it's only a matter of time before I break completely. Send the contracts. There is one condition."

"Name it."

Racer Motors keeps me as a driver. I am many things but a turncoat is not one of them. You are just a sponsor and a MINOR one at that. The only ties to you are my signature, a patch on my uniform, and your assurance that you will leave my family alone. Agree to those terms and I'm all yours."

WHAT?!! Racer X's face clearly screamed. Speed looked at the shocked Masked Racer and mouthed Trust me.

Firetoll chuckled, "Is that all? Then consider yourself hired! Believe me boy, you just made me a very happy business man. Your paycheck and contracts will arrive in two days. I will have guards patrol your house starting in two hours."

"Thanks, but that won't be necessary. I already have protection here."

"Oh? Very well then. See you on the track, Mister Racer!"

The two hung up.

Racer X exploded.

"Speed, do you know what you've done?! Are you INSANE?! Did you learn anything from my mistakes?!"

"Yes, maybe, and yes, I learned something. I learned how to set a trap."

"??!!?"

"Firetoll said he'd be at the track, right? So tell Inspector Detector and he'll send a squad and. . . we've got him! According to eyewitnesses, Firetoll has been charged with fixing but no one has been able to lure him out of his hole. I just did."

Racer X chuckled and unclenched his fists.

"Firetoll was right. Some things are passed down from older to younger. So what now?"

"Now we wait and see what happens. Hey, are you up for a midnight drive? My endorphins are screaming for a rematch!"

"You are hopeless. You just got attacked and you want another sound beating? You really are a glutton for punishment."

Speed laughed and grabbed the keys to the Mach 6, then his eyes sparked deviously as he looked at his disguised older brother and held up the key to the Mach 5.

"The Mach 6 needs to stay in peak condition. What do you say, Racer X? Do you think your T-180 has the power to win against the sickest vehical ever built?"

The Masked Racer snorted as he stood to his full height and twirled the key to the Augury on one finger.

"I hope you treat this as part of your training, Speed Racer."

"Why?"

"Because there is no way I am going to lose against a cross country car. The Mach 5 has had her day, Speed. Against a T-180 she is as good as trash."

"GRAAWWW!!!" The younger Racer roared and lunged for the Masked Racer's throat, only to find himself in a powerful headlock. X laughed menacingly and challenged,

"Prove me wrong and I will let you have a day off to hang with your girlfriend. When I win, I will drive you three times as hard as I do now."

"You are so on!"

TBC


SO VERY SORRY for the long wait!! I went AWOL for a while and found my way into the Dragonball Z universe. Since then my inspiration has shifted and these guys took a back seat. Sorry about that! Forgive? Cool! so, yeah, Check my profile for more details and please REVIEW! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!