Chapter Two: Along for the Ride

Kira watched in horror as the racer slipped on the oil. His bike flew from under him, tumbling, tumbling, as if it were chasing Rei. On impact, Rei was tossed about like a ragdoll, crushed between the two bikes as they smashed him onto the track. His body managed to fall away from the crashing bikes, but he wasn't getting up.

Kira dashed from her seat, tears already rolling down her cheeks. Harumi called, "Kira! Wait!"

She started to follow Kira, but Tatsuya held her back, "Let her go. They won't let you though anyway."

Harumi watched as Kira shoved her way through the crowd the get to the track entrance. She looked back towards the track. Rei's body looked so small and he lay limp on the hot pavement, the two bikes grinding to a halt ahead of him. Tatsuya, seeing the fear in Harumi's eyes, took her hand, "Hey, let's not jump to conclusions." Harumi hid her face in his shoulder and Tatsuya wrapped his arms around her. Despite his own doubts he muttered, "He'll be fine. Give him some credit. He's been through worse."

The audience was in an uproar. The remaining racers caught up to the scene and stopped to look. The other racer was lucky enough to get up. He struggled to get up from the edge of the track, clutching his arm.

Kira flashed her ID and was allowed onto the track. She ran as fast as her legs would carry her to her husband. Kira shoved past the racers and pit crews until she reached him. Rei was on his back, arms spread above his head. One of them was bent in an unnatural position. There was a large crack in the side of his helmet.

Kira screamed, "Rei! Rei, please wake up! Please, be okay!" She lifted the visor on his helmet and gasped. A few trickles of blood came down from his forehead, staining his blond hair and smearing his cheeks. She gripped his hand tightly in hers and rested her forehead on his helmet, "Wake up."

"Get out of the way! Let me see him!" Akitaka plowed through the racers and staff, Kyoko following close behind.

An ambulance zoomed over, along with a crew of paramedics. Kyoko put a hand on Kira's shoulder, "Come on, Kira. The medics are on their way."

Kira shook her head, her hair flinging about her face. Kyoko, trying not to show the fear in her voice for Kira's sake, said, "Sweetie, they can't help him with you in the way. Don't worry, they'll take care of him."

Kira got up, reluctantly releasing Rei's hand from her iron grip. The paramedics surrounded Rei. Kira overheard the paramedics say something about internal bleeding. They removed his helmet to find a black bruise developing on his forehead. Kira choked back a sob and forced herself to look away. She couldn't stand to see Rei so broken.

As the paramedics lifted Rei onto a stretcher and into the waiting ambulance, one of them asked, "Is there a family member or friend who will come with him?" Kira wasted no time in rushing to the ambulance to grab Rei's hand again.

The sirens were blaring and the ride was bumpy. Kira watched wide-eyed as the paramedics sliced through Rei's racing suit, ripping off gloves and shoes. More bruises appeared with every cut.

She squeezed his hand and rubbed her thumb over his silver wedding band. They had been married for 2 years now, and he had not failed in being sent to the hospital at least 3 times each year. But this wasn't another broken finger or first-degree concussion.

"Uhnnn…" It was too bright. Rei tried to lift his arm to shield his eyes, but it hurt too much. He let out another moan and the curtains were shut. He let his eyes open again when he felt his hand being squeezed, "Kira…"

She gave him a soft smile, "Hey, sleepyhead. You had me worried."

Rei furrowed his brows, "I'm sorry, love." He squeezed her hand back, "I feel like I'm going to fall back asleep. Would you kiss me awake?"

Kira rolled her eyes and laughed, "You're a damsel in distress now, Sleeping Beauty?" But she obliged his request and pressed her lips to his.

After a moment of just enjoying the fact they were both alive and still together, they parted. But the kiss just made him more aware of his body. He groaned, "Ugh, everything hurts. What happened, anyway?"

"You got in a wreck. The racer behind you got caught in an oil spill and his bike came after you. It was a real mess."

Rei frowned, "Geez, have I got a devil on my shoulder, or what?"

Kira smiled, "Maybe it was an angel. After all, you're still alive. All you have to do is get better for me, alright?"

"No problem, babe." Rei gazed at her for a moment and a light bulb blinked in his head, "Hey, I can't remember… Did I win?"

Kira smiled, "You sure did."

Rei grew a wild grin, "Well, looks like you're sleeping with a Suzuka 8 champion, you lucky gal. I'm downright jealous."

Kira gave him a playful pinch on the arm, "Don't let the fame blow up your ego too much. There won't be a helmet big enough for it. Besides, you've got work to do. The doctors said they wanted to start you on your physical therapy pretty soon."

"What? Already?"

Kira said, "Well, yeah, you've got to be back on your feet soon to train for the GP, remember?"

Rei groaned, "Yeah, I guess. Ugh, it's gonna be so boring." He looked around the room, hoping to find something to occupy his time during his stay. He noticed a magazine on the night table, "Hey, is that me on the cover? Sweet."

Kira took the magazine and gave it to him, "You were out for a few days. Yesterday's issue covered the 8-hour, so of course you're on the cover; you won." She hesitated, "But, uhm… they covered the crash too. There are a few pictures in there I didn't really want to see again."

Rei awkwardly flipped through the pages with his one good hand and found a before and after picture of the bike he had been riding, "Oh man, the worksmachine got totaled."

Kira nodded, "Yeah. You didn't look so good either."

Rei turned the page to find a two-page picture of the scene. He was lying on a stretcher, oxygen mask over his mouth, blood dripping from his hair and race suit. His neck was in a brace, and he felt like he was looking at some other person whose head lolled to the side, practically lifeless. Rei said, "Huh, you weren't kidding."

He noticed a blurry face in the background. Red hair surrounded a tear stained face and big, scared eyes. He could see Kira's hand grabbing onto his, almost hidden by the paramedics. Rei took Kira's hand and pressed it to his lips, "I'm so sorry to scare you. I really can be a wreck sometimes."

Kira shook her head, "It's alright. As long as you're okay, I will be too."

Rei smiled, "I don't know how you put up with me sometimes. But I love you. Thanks for sticking around for the ride."

Kira gave him a kiss, "I'll stick around forever. I promise."