Okay, so I really would like to thank my lovely readers and reviewers. MrsChickHicks, thanks a lot for your comments! I like the feedback you give me on Georgia's and Chick's characters. I put a lot of effort into writing characters so it means a lot when I see reviews like yours! Mere, thanks a bunch for your wonderful reviews and your concern as well! It was just a little pain, easily solved with some Motrin, but thank you. CarsCars2Fanatic, I was like, "D'aww!" when you said that this was one of your favorite stories. I love seeing the reviews, they really make writing this even more fun than it already is. So to all the readers and reviewers, I hope that you enjoy this chapter!
Chick listened to the dismal hum of the road beneath the trailer's tires, replaying the race over and over again in his mind, every twist and turn and the sting of McQueen's win sweeping over him as if the feelings were still fresh. And to rub salt in his wounds, he hadn't even managed to place second. Some kid, Sage VanDerSpin, beat him to second.
It was like McQueen's rookie year, all over again, and it made him wonder if he was going to relive that nightmarish season. He opened his dark brown eyes, allowing them to adjust to the darkness of the trailer. The window allowed him to see the lights on the side of the highway and the occasional passing car, but he continued to think about the race.
"You should get some rest," Sam said through the intercom-style system in the front of the trailer.
Chick opened his mouth but abruptly closed it, shaking his hood. "You're probably right." Another dash of salt in his wounds: Malone had threatened him again. He replayed the conversation in his head, which wasn't even a conversation, really - it was Malone telling him that if he didn't get his act together and get on McQueen's tail, he wouldn't have a sponsor next season.
And that would be it for him. There wouldn't be anything for him, which was a scary thought. Chick sighed, frustration seeping out as he tried to keep a lid on it all. He really need to stop focusing on all this other crap and start paying attention to Lightning McQueen. He was supposed to be in Radiator Springs to scout his moves, and so far, all he had done was fool around and allow himself to be distracted by the Weathers' girl.
Georgia. He dwelled on that subject for a little while, wondering if she had watched the race (and hoping that she hadn't), the sneaky thought that she wasn't such a bad distraction after all causing him to shake his hood and ask himself what he was thinking. That race must've screwed with my hood.
"Just get some rest." Sam's voice broke him from his train of thought. "Malone wants you to scout some of McQueen's moves, so you'll have to find ways to do that."
"Mm." Chick wasn't all that interested in pleasing Malone. I should do something for myself. This whole racing thing is my passion, not something that Malone can just exploit like that. "I haven't seen McQueen out on the practice track at all. I haven't seen him at all, period. I've seen the old man more than I've seen the rookie." The rookie that wasn't really a rookie anymore.
"Well," Sam began, his voice hesitant, as if he was treading on thin ice. "Why don't you ask the old man for some pointers?"
"Nope, no, no, completely out of the question," Chick replied quickly, putting his tire down on the trailer floor. "I don't need his advice anyway."
Sam shut his mouth, but he knew that sooner or later, especially with Georgia around, Chick would be forced to speak to The King.
"How much longer until we get back to that hillbilly hole? I'm freaking exhausted and I haven't eaten since before the race," Chick remarked, making quick work of changing the subject.
"Shouldn't be too much longer."
"Cool." Chick turned to look out the window, feeling his tank churning and turning over as they turned off the highway and made their way to Route 66. He, not wanting to think about the race, or Malone, or any of that crap, allowed his mind to drift, even as sleep evaded him.
Georgia cast her eyes across all of the bumper stickers in Lizzie's knick-knack shop. They were plastered with clever little sayings like, "Nice Butte" amongst others. She took her time casually admiring all of the things in the shop as the old model T dozed off behind her desk. The powder blue car had spent the day with Strip, and then when her mother returned, her parents went out on a little dinner date. She had always admired her parents' relationship and how long it had lasted and how happy they were.
"I want that someday, too," she said aloud, to no one in particular, but it woke Lizzie up.
"What? What?" Her voice cracked a little as she looked over at Georgia. With her shaky voice she asked, "Did you say something?"
Georgia smiled and shook her hood. "No, just talkin' to myself."
"Oh. Well if you keep talkin' to yourself, you'll go crazy." And with that, she dozed back off into her sleep as if nothing had happened at all.
Georgia stayed on in the shop, listening to the dull hum of the television in the background. It was an old thing that hardly worked and had a somewhat static-y picture, but it served its purpose. Something about the race was on, so as she browsed she listened a little more closely.
"Lightning McQueen with another victory today as the racing season begins. But it was no surprise really," some news anchor/reporter (Elliot was his name?) commented. "The superstar racer has been on a role since the World Grand Prix and is continuing to blow fans and critics alike away. But what everybody's talking about is that Sage VanDerSpin, beating out Chick Hicks to take second place!"
Georgia perked up, turning around to watch now as Elliot went on.
"Sources say that Dinoco's owner is talking with VanDerSpin about possibly signing a contract! Dinoco may have found its long-awaited new racer."
Georgia shook her hood and turned around. "Sounds exactly like McQueen's rookie year. Break out star of the season." She drove out of the shop, not wanting to hear anymore, taking up a spot at Flo's. Mia (or Tia, Georgia had discovered that the waitresses were twins) came over and delivered the usual that Georgia drank, before disappearing back into the small shop.
She caught part of a conversation McQueen was having with some of the townsfolk. "It's just nice to get back here, you know? I need to hit the dirt track, though."
Mack chimed in, his deep voice startling Georgia. "Hey, you should keep an eye out, Lightning. You've seen Chick's driver hanging around here..."
McQueen practically snorted. "I'm not worried about Chick, honestly. He's lost his touch. I mean, he was a great racer but I don't think he really ever recovered from what happened. I think this is going to be his last season. And hey, I don't mean to sound so rude about it, but he's caused enough trouble and it hasn't paid off for him."
Georgia stopped herself from butting in to a conversation she wasn't part of. She felt the need to say something, because it irked her a little the way McQueen talked about Chick, but she didn't say anything. She simply listened, sipping on her hot oil carefully.
Mack shrugged. "I dunno. Hey, give the guy some credit though for trying. I'd still keep an eye out."
"I will, don't worry," McQueen assured his driver. "But I don't want to be worrying about Chick. My racing is more important to me than that, and he's not going to stop me. He hasn't in the past, so why let it happen again? Doc wouldn't want me to worry about it... He'd want me to focus." The racer's voice softened slightly as he thought of the Hudson Hornet. "And besides, we don't even know if Chick's coming back."
Before anyone could reply, heavy headlights flooded the road as a big rig drove towards the cafe's back lot.
"Looks like you spoke too soon," Sheriff remarked as a few of the cars hanging around dispersed.
Georgia didn't want to hear anymore of this either, so she finished off her oil and left the cafe to drive around back, where Sam had parked himself.
"Sam, how'd the race go?" A question she already knew the answer to, but asked anyway. By the big rig's expression, she could confirm that it didn't go so well. "Third place isn't bad for the first race of the season. He shouldn't beat himself up," she said, starting to drive past him, but Sam grabbed her tire to stop her.
"It's not just the race. It's his sponsor." His voice was low, as if he didn't want Chick to hear him.
Georgia nodded and drove around to the back of the trailer, but her intentions were not to bring up the race or the htB sponsorship. She banged on the trailer door with one tire, eager to see Chick and whisk him away from the loss. They could deal with that later; if there was one thing she remembered wanting as a kid, it was for somebody to make her stop practicing, to make her stop worrying about wins and losses.
The trailer door opened shortly thereafter, and Chick drove out, but she was rather surprised to see that he wasn't angry, at least not outwardly, which she took advantage of quickly.
"Unless you want to see McQueen, I suggest you take a drive up to the Wheel Well to eat."
One eyelid rose in surprise as the trailer door closed. Chick was prepared to say something in rebuttal, but her suggestion sounded like a fantastic idea, considering how frustrating and downright annoying the race had been. The last car he wanted to see was McQueen - well, besides Malone. Malone would want him to face McQueen but the first thing he thought of when he thought of Malone were the words 'screw that guy'.
Georgia waited for him to answer, noticing his moment of deliberation. "Unless you want to see McQueen."
"No, not really. Let's just go, before anybody says anything." He started to drive off, and when he noticed that Weathers wasn't following, he stopped. "Are you going to make me eat alone? C'mon!" Georgia was surprised by his change in attitude towards her, but nonetheless told Sam they'd be back and drove to catch up with him. "This was your idea, anyway."
"I know. I just wasn't expecting that you'd want company."
"I've been cooped up in a trailer for a couple hours. Sam is a great guy but sometimes..." He glanced over at her and stopped.
"I get it," she said quickly. "I myself liked the rides to and from races. Usually they helped me get my crap together before and after."
Chick glanced again. "What, like, the old man's races? Or yours...?"
"Both I guess. Although 'my' races were just independent circuit things. Preparation for the big leagues, as they called it," she replied.
"How'd that go?"
"It was all right. I dunno, I got distracted too easily. I had other things I was interested in but never pursued because racing was my focus. There's an old practice track out by my place that's been there for as long as I can remember. I was down there all the time, it was insane," Georgia commented.
Chick snorted. "If I were you, I'd move back there. I hate this place."
Georgia shrugged. "It's nice. I like it." Her words were very vague, which caught Chick's attention.
"Family secrets coming back to bite you?" His voice was almost hopeful.
She rolled her eyes. "No." She didn't say anything else about it, and didn't say anything else at all, for that matter. The rest of the drive was silent, with the stock car wondering if he had pissed her off by asking that, and Georgia wondering why she had even brought that up to begin with. They reached the Wheel Well shortly after, and were taken to a table by a waitress. It was mostly deserted tonight, as it was rather late.
"When's the next race?" she asked, finally breaking the long silence.
"Two weeks. I have to scout out McQueen's crap in that time, but I don't really care enough to do it. I just won't and say that I did."
"Why would you say that you did if you didn't?"
"My sponsor is a total... He wants me to scout McQueen. But there's nobody out here from htB to really watch me," Chick explained with a smirk, "so I could do whatever I want."
"So I take it you're not doing anything tomorrow then?" Georgia asked.
"It sounds like you were waiting for me to say something that would let you slip that in there."
"And if I was?"
"Well, I'm not doing anything. So whatever you want to do - no. Whatever reasonable thing you want to do, I could probably do that."
"I just want to show you something." Again, her voice was vague, but this time it was different. It was more sneaky, which was totally spot on. She was hiding something from him... His eyes narrowed for a moment, but he played along. The more and more time he spent around Georgia, the better he felt. She wasn't going to push him around or take advantage of him. When he thought about it, it actually made him chill a little. Of course, this scared him, too. So many cars had taken advantage of him that he had built up his defenses to the point of no return.
"Uh-huh... You're a sneaky one," he said.
She laughed, shaking her hood. "I think you'll like it. I mean, I hope you will. Just something I found while wandering around."
"You get distracted a lot, don't you?"
"No... Okay, maybe just a little bit. But I don't know this place that well. I have to get a feel for it a little bit," she told him matter-of-factly. "I am possibly going to be living here."
"If I were you, I'd stay where you were. This place doesn't seem all that appealing," Chick remarked as the waitress delivered their drinks.
"I've been living at home for all these years... It's time for me to move on," she told him.
"It sounds like your mind is already made up." Chick's eyelids rose.
Georgia simply shrugged her tires loosely. "It'll all depend on how the next few weeks go... I'm going to have to go back - or at least call - and make sure everything's okay, get an extension at work... Going back for a couple days to put things in order is probably what will happen. I have a feeling I'll be here for longer than just a month."