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Lexie (Draft) (Original Content) (Updated 8/24/19)

Durr_anon Jan 26th, 2019 (edited) 13,025 Never
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  1. Lexie
  2.  
  3. Chapter 1: Coffee, Cars, and Criminals
  4.  
  5.     You walk into the cafe, still tired from the drive back. You needed a pick me up. The line was long and full of anthros, but you didn't care, it was better than driving and slamming into a tree because you didn't have the energy to keep driving. The line moved forward with surprising speed, telling you that you wouldn't have to wait for very long when you reached the front.
  6.  
  7. “Next!” An excited woman tells you.
  8.  
  9.     You trudge up to the counter and look behind you, seeing nobody else waiting. You could take your time with this one. After about a minute of deciding, you finally pick.
  10.  
  11. “I'd like the Caffe Macchiato please. The espresso one. Could you add some whipped cream to it as well?” You ask.
  12.  
  13.     The girl nods, not looking back while she worked the machine. She was very fast, almost too quick to follow, especially in your tired state. She turns around and you nearly fall over. She was so cute.
  14.  
  15.     Her face was a mixture of white and brown, colors fading into each other perfectly. The area around her dark magenta eyes was light brown, like the coffee she was serving. Her smile was perfect, her teeth looking pearly white and not too pronounced like other canines. The only imperfection was a small dot on the left of her snout. Her left ear slightly drooped, as she gave you a wink and handed you your coffee.
  16.  
  17. “That'll be 5 dollars, sir.” She tells you, flicking back her dark brown hair that had almost crimson accents.
  18.  
  19.     You nod, taking your eyes off her and grasping for your wallet. You pull out a five and a twenty, putting the twenty in the tip jar and giving the five to the girl. Her smile drops, replaced by a worried glance at the tip jar.
  20.  
  21. “O-oh. Sir, I think you put a twenty in the tip jar.” She tells you, worried you may have made a mistake.
  22.  
  23. “I know. It's for you.” You tell her with a smile. “You're pretty quick, and I know you're not getting paid enough for how fast you work.”
  24.  
  25.     She smiles back as you take the coffee and the little dumpling beside it. You walk off to a table free of people and sit down. When you're about to drink your coffee, you look over and see the woman talking to an older looking dog man. He looks over to you and back to her, nodding. The girl smiles, putting some money in the cash register and beginning to make a capachino.
  26.  
  27.     You're half way through the coffee when the girl comes over to your table, holding a cup of her own.
  28.  
  29. “Hello!” She says excitedly, setting her cup down and smiling at you.
  30.  
  31. “Oh, hi miss...” You say looking at her name tag. “Lexie. I'm Daniel, but you can call me Dan.”
  32.  
  33.     You look around her and notice something odd. Looking towards the counter and seeing all the employees, you realize what's wrong.
  34.  
  35. “Lexie, you don't have a shirt on.” You tell her.
  36.  
  37.     She looks under her apron and her eyes go wide.
  38.  
  39. “I don't!” She yells, blushing like mad. “Oh my god, my boss didn't even tell me!”
  40.  
  41.     You take off your dress shirt, revealing the T-shirt you had underneath.
  42.  
  43. “Here, take mine.” You offer, giving her your shirt.
  44.  
  45.     She immediately accepts the shirt and rushes off to the back of the store, where you notice she has no pants on either. You hear frantic yelling as Lexie 'talks' to her boss. When she comes back out, she's wearing your shirt and she sits back down.
  46.  
  47. “Thank you for the shirt.” She tells you.
  48.  
  49. “It's nothing.” You reply.
  50.  
  51.     You finish your coffee and the little dumpling before setting the cup aside, watching Lexie drink hers.
  52.  
  53. “Did you at least like what you saw?” She asks, setting the cup down.
  54.  
  55. “What?” You ask.
  56.  
  57. “You were staring at me for about five minutes before I spoke.” She tells you.
  58.  
  59. “I was?” You ask innocently. “Sorry about that. I didn't look at your, um, features, if that's what you thought.”
  60.  
  61. “Oh, well, my question still stands.” Lexie says with a smirk.
  62.  
  63.     You look around the coffee shop nervously, as you search for something else to talk about. You didn't really know how to respond to this, as you were too tired and too awkward to form a response right now.
  64.  
  65. “Y-you're very pretty.” You manage to get out.
  66.  
  67.     She just giggles sweetly at that. Her laugh is like nectar to your weary psyche. Lexie grabs a pen and paper from her apron as she drinks coffee with her other hand. She writes something on it before tearing the page from the notepad.
  68.  
  69. “Here's my number if you want to talk later. I think you're sweet.” She tells you. “My name's Alexis, but most people call me Lexie.”
  70.  
  71.     She smiles and gets up, beginning to walk off before you remember she has no pants on.
  72.  
  73. “Lexie!” You yell across to her.
  74.  
  75.     Lexie whips around and cocks her head.
  76.  
  77. “Yeah?” She asks.
  78.  
  79. “Pants.” You tell her, pointing to her legs.
  80.  
  81.     Her face goes bright red as she feels her butt, sighing when she feels underwear. She smiles gently before turning back around, her smile dropping just as she begins to stomp into the back room. You hear screaming in the back, mixed with semi apologetic voices coming from inside. She leaves the back room with her arms crossed and her lips pouting.
  82.  
  83. 2 hours later.
  84.  
  85.     You decided to stay, waiting for her to finish work. She had your shirt after all. When everyone started packing up, you see all her coworkers are male anthros of various types. The manager 'helped' Lexie out of the kitchen by putting his arm over her shoulder, which Lexie pushed off. She took off the apron and folded it around her arms. You walk out past the boss, who gives you a less than welcoming look as you pass by.
  86.  
  87.     When you're outside, you feel the cold winter air nipping at your face as all the other workers get inside their cars and leave. You watch them all go before walking over to Lexies car. The car tries to turn over, but stops. Lexies calm smile is replaced by an annoyed frown as she tries to crank the car over again. It cranks, but stops again.
  88.  
  89. “DAMMIT!” She yells inside the car.
  90.  
  91.     Lexie exits the car after popping the hood open, the snow falling off as she hefts it open with all her strength. The boss comes up behind her and puts his hand on her shoulder.
  92.  
  93. “I can give you a lift when I'm done closing up.” He tells Lexie.
  94.  
  95. “No thanks. I'd rather walk.” Lexie says with just a tinge of ire.
  96.  
  97. “Be careful Alexis. More talk like that and you'll be jobless.” He threatens.
  98.  
  99.     Lexie sighs, folding her ears back before turning to you.
  100.  
  101. “Oh, hey.” She says, regaining her positive mood. “What's up?”
  102.  
  103.     You look back to see her boss walking into the back of the shop. You look back to your front and smile.
  104.  
  105. “I heard you needed a lift.” You tell her.
  106.  
  107. “Yeah, my battery died.” She tells you.
  108.  
  109. ““I don't have any jumper cables, but I have a tool set I can use to disconnect your battery.” You reply back. “I can take you to the auto parts store and we can get you a new battery.”
  110.  
  111.     Lexie nods, walking back to your car. It was an old Subaru from the 90s, but it ran like a champ and you rarely had any problems with it. You walk over to the tailgate and opening it up. You're shivering by now, having forgot your coat and given the long sleeve shirt to Lexie. When the toolbox is out, you bring it over to Lexies car, beginning to unscrew the battery from the car. You heft the battery out of the car, scraping the corrosion from it and hefting it back along with your tools.
  112.  
  113.     The door closes beside you with a loud thud, shaking the car a bit as you dig for your keys. You put the keys inside the ignition and twist it to the on position, letting the fuel pump deliver fuel to the injectors before starting the old car.
  114.  
  115. “Thank you for this.” Lexie tells you. “Do you mind stopping at my house before we go to the auto parts store? I forgot my purse at home and it has all my money and my license inside.”
  116.  
  117. “Sure. I can do that.” You reply. “You might want to change into some clothes too.”
  118.  
  119.     Lexie chuckles as you turn the key all the way, starting the car. The rumble of the boxer engine filled the car before the radio began playing. It was some rock-n-roll that you had on.
  120.  
  121. “You have the radio turned down pretty low. Why's that?” Lexie asks.
  122.  
  123. “I just don't like loud music.” You reply, shifting into reverse and letting off the clutch a bit.
  124.  
  125. “That's the first time I've ever heard that.” She tells you. “How old are you?”
  126.  
  127. “21.” You reply, shifting into first and letting the clutch out again, giving it some gas.
  128.  
  129. “Really? I thought you were older.” She says, surprise apparent on her face.
  130.  
  131. “I get that a lot. Just the way I carry myself I guess.” You reply, turning onto the road.
  132.  
  133.     You shift through the gears as light snow falls on you. The roads are snowed over, recently plowed, yet slippery. Your studded tires helped with this, gripping the road and keeping you straight.
  134.  
  135. “Are you sure you want to drive in this stuff? I didn't see any studs on your tires.” You tell Lexie.
  136.  
  137. “I'd rather not, but it's not like I have a choice.” She says, lowering her head.
  138.  
  139.     You smile gently, remembering it's Friday.
  140.  
  141. “I could drive you to work tomorrow.” You tell her. “I'm pretty sure the snow storm will pass by then.”
  142.  
  143. “Sure. Can you give me your number so I can call you when I need to go to work?” Lexie asks.
  144.  
  145. “Yeah, when I get to your house I'll write it down.” You reply.
  146.  
  147.     When you arrive at Lexies house, you give her your number before driving over to the auto parts store.
  148.  
  149. 7:45 AM, the next day
  150.  
  151.     You wake up in the morning, having heard your alarm go off. When you look outside, you see the snow has gotten worse. Instead of falling gently like it was last night, it was coming down in a flurry. You groan, getting out of bed and scratching your neck. Grabbing your phone, you dial Lexies number and wait for the phone to pick up.
  152.  
  153. “Hello?” She asks.
  154.  
  155. “Hey, it's Dan. You want me to come pick you up or do you have the day off?” You ask.
  156.  
  157. “Yes! Please come pick me up.” She says, the relief apparent in her voice. “I thought I was going to have to call a cab, but I doubt they'd pick me up in this weather.”
  158.  
  159. “Yeah, I'll be right over.” You tell her, getting some pants on as you hold your phone to your shoulder. “Anything you want me to bring?”
  160.  
  161. “No, we should be good to go when you get over here.” She tells you.
  162.  
  163. “Remember your clothes.” You tell her.
  164.  
  165. “Oh crap, you're right!” She says, tapping being heard in the background. “Call you back.”
  166.  
  167. “Yup, bye.” You say.
  168.  
  169. “Bye!” She replies excitedly.
  170.  
  171.     You hang up the phone and put it in your pocket before tightening a belt around your pants. You were going to have to go fast if you wanted to get her to work on time.
  172.  
  173. 8:05
  174.  
  175.     You reach Lexies house, honking your horn a few times before seeing her exit the house, actually clothed this time. The snow fall hadn't lessened on your way here, meaning you were going to have to make sure to be careful. When Lexie gets near the car, she shakes her fur off before entering, closing the door gently and looking over at you.
  176.  
  177. “How do I look?” She asks.
  178.  
  179. “Great.” You say, looking over her.
  180.  
  181.     She really did look great. She was such a cute and pretty girl, not to mention she made great coffee.
  182.  
  183. “Oh crap, I need to be at work by 8:30.” She tells you.
  184.  
  185.     You try to keep your grin to yourself. She had no idea what she was in for if she said...
  186.  
  187. “You're going to need to drive a bit faster.” She says, finishing your thought.
  188.  
  189. “You got it.” You say, grabbing a tape from your visor.
  190.  
  191.     You stick the cassette tape inside the old radio, watching it slide in as you turn the radio up a bit.
  192.  
  193. “What are you doing? We need to go!” Lexie says, jumping up and down in her seat.
  194.  
  195.     You release the parking brake as the music begins to play, slamming your foot on the gas and releasing the clutch. All four wheels spin as you peal away from the driveway.
  196.  
  197. “DAN! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING!?” She shouts, clinging to the grab handle.
  198.  
  199. “Going fast.” You tell her, power sliding out onto the road. “You wanted to get to work fast, didn't you?”
  200.  
  201. “I DON'T WANT TO DIE DOING IT!” She screams.
  202.  
  203. “Please stop screaming.” You say calmly as you row through the gears, going faster and faster. “I do rally and am told I'm pretty good at it. You'll be fine.”
  204.  
  205.     This doesn't put her at ease as you begin to feel your connection to the car strengthen. You feel the imperfections in the road underneath the snow, however small they may be as your studded tires grip the packed snow. You see a pair of headlights ahead and fly past them at blistering speed, catching a glimpse of the shocked driver on the way by. Your engine screamed as you upshifted, giving the car more gas and speed.
  206.  
  207. “You're crazy!” She yells. “This is packed snow! It's too slippery!”
  208.  
  209. “You think this is slippery? Try rallying on a frozen lake in a truck. Now THAT'S slippery.” You joke, keeping the speed at a steady 60 miles an hour.
  210.  
  211. A turn comes up and Lexie braces herself on the floor, grabbing the grab handle with both hands.
  212.  
  213. “Dan, slow down!” She yells.
  214.  
  215.     You comply, slowing down to a modest 50 and throwing the cars rear end to the left just before you hit the turn. When you reach it, you swing the tail right, power sliding into the turn and giving it gas to keep on the road. Lexie is speechless by now, probably not having the words to express how terrified she is. You feel yourself slipping off the road and furrow your brow, downshifting and slamming your foot home, pulling you back up.
  216.  
  217. “Come on baby, let's get the nice girl to work real quick. Then we can go have some fun in the snow.” You tell your car quietly.
  218.  
  219.     The car seems to listen, gripping the road and finishing the turn. You look over to Lexie and notice something odd. Where's her seat belt? You tense up and grit your teeth.
  220.  
  221. “Lexie!” You yell.
  222.  
  223.     She nearly jumps out of her fur as she looks over at you.
  224.  
  225. “W-what?” She asks, shaken from the turn.
  226.  
  227. “Seat belt. Now.” You say firmly.
  228.  
  229.     Nobody rides in your car without their seat belt on. She hurriedly buckles the seat belt and you relax. Now she wouldn't eject herself from the car if you get into a crash. Ahead of you are a pair of tail lights. Lexie sees them too and shakes her head. She says something, but you don't really hear it. You're in the zone.
  230.  
  231.     You downshift, hitting the gas and releasing the clutch as you pass the car. By your estimates, he was probably going 25, a more sane speed than your blistering 60. Looking down at the clock it read 8:23. Son of a bitch, 60 wasn't going to cut it. Any faster and Lexie might faint. Then you see a path off to the left and smile.
  232.  
  233. “We're going off road real quick.” You tell her, knowing the path leads relatively close to the cafe.
  234.  
  235. “WHAT?!” She screams.
  236.  
  237. You turn left hard, whipping across the road and hitting the trail hard. You down shift and keep the revs in the optimum torque range.
  238.  
  239. “STOP!” Lexie screams, bouncing up and down as you hit large bumps under the snow.
  240.  
  241. “If we stop now, we'll get stuck.” You tell her. “Just hang on tight. I'll get you to work on time.”
  242.  
  243.     You push on through the snow that was more than likely 8 inches deep. The car bobs up and down as it dips the bumper into the snow, throwing said snow over your windshield. You turn on your windshield wipers and it clears the view for you. A line of indicator sticks mark a turn and you turn hard right, avoiding a small depression in the valley. Lexie is just grabbing the grab handles, her face tense with fear as you take the corners like you knew them by heart. In reality, you just followed the road markers most people ignored, taking cues from the environment to aid in your driving.
  244.  
  245.     You see a large incline coming up and put your foot to the floor, accelerating to scale it. When the bumper smashes into the snow in front, the car bounces upwards, like a breaching whale. You check your gauges and see the temperature rising quickly.
  246.  
  247. “Just hang in there a bit longer. We're almost there.” You say to your car, closing in on the top as your speed drops rapidly.
  248.  
  249.     You check the time and see it's 8:27. Time to step it up a bit. The little Forester wasn't coping too well with the abuse you were throwing at it. It wasn't made for the constant high revs that you needed to keep the car under control off road while still going reasonably fast. When you reach the crest of the incline, you feel the tires leave the ground as you slam back down on the road with a thud. You feel the rear end fish tail, but quickly recover it and keep the throttle pegged. The temperature was climbing rapidly towards the red and you up shift, relieving the engine of the constant high revs.
  250.  
  251.     The cafe sign shines through the almost blinding snow and you look down at the clock. 8:28. You see no traffic coming and decide the fastest way to get Lexie out the door is to slide into the parking lot, door facing the entrance. You throw the rear end out and slide into the parking lot, throwing the car in neutral and pulling the parking brake. The car quickly comes to a stop a little bit too far from the exit for your liking. Can't win them all.
  252.  
  253. “JESUS CHRIST!” Lexie screams. “WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR DEAL?!”
  254.  
  255. “You have one minute to get inside. You shouldn't be yelling at me right now.” You tell her. “Sorry about the scare.”
  256.  
  257.     Lexie realizes you both were at the cafe, safe, sound, and better yet, on time. She nods, getting out of the car and rushing inside. You smirk and sit there for a while, letting the car cool down.
  258.  
  259. Lexie
  260.  
  261.     You walk inside, completely clothed and somewhat shaken from Daniels insane driving. It scared you how fast he was going, not to mention he was throwing his car around recklessly. However, you were on time and ready to work. Sort of. You stumble over to the counter and your boss notices you. He eyes you up and frowns, probably noticing you're dressed.
  262.  
  263. “You're-”
  264.  
  265. “No I'm not late.” You say, clocking in just before the clock strikes 8:30.
  266.  
  267.     Your boss grumbles and walks back into the kitchen, allowing you to put your apron on. Dell comes out of the kitchen and smiles warmly at you. He was the only guy here who didn't want to take you off to his house and have his way with you.
  268.  
  269. “How'd you get here Lex?” He asks.
  270.  
  271. “See that guy out there in the green car?” You ask, pointing out the door.
  272.  
  273.     You look outside and see the wheels are caked with snow and the entire side of the car has snow caked to it. Dan was reading something from a leather bound binder before exiting his car, rounding to the back of it. He stops at the hatch and opens it up, grabbing a battery from inside. He enters the shop and Dell clears his throat.
  274.  
  275. “We're still getting ready for the day sir. You're going to have to wait until-”
  276.  
  277. “It's fine, I don't want anything yet.” He says, holding a bag of some sort.
  278.  
  279.     You recognize it as your purse. You left it in his car. He could've just taken it and ran, but he's bringing it back.
  280.  
  281. “You forgot your purse Lexie.” He tells you with a smile. “Again, sorry about the drive. You said you wanted fast and-”
  282.  
  283. “Really, it's fine.” You reply, blushing slightly. “Thank you for getting me here on time.”
  284.  
  285.     Dan looks off to the side and smiles.
  286.  
  287. “Aw, it was nothing.” He says, setting your purse on the table before taking your keys.
  288.  
  289. “H-hey!” You yell in protest. “Those are-”
  290.  
  291. “It's okay Lexie. I'm putting in the new battery. Mind if I buy some new tires too? Yours are almost bald.” He tells you.
  292.  
  293.     You stand in shock, not knowing how to reply. He just offered to buy you tires. That's almost 800 dollars in the hole and you barely knew him.
  294.  
  295. “A-are you sure?” You ask, unsure if he's really sane in the head.
  296.  
  297. “Of course. I wouldn't be offering if I wasn't going to follow through on it.” He replies.
  298.  
  299.     You look in his eyes for any sign of a lie and find none.
  300.  
  301. “If you'd like, I could grab the tires and throw them in the back of my car.” He offers. “I'd just have to take some measurements first and-”
  302.  
  303. “No, it's fine. You can take my car as long as you give me the keys to yours.” You reply, not really knowing whether or not he's sincere.
  304.  
  305.     Dan nods, handing you the keys to his car and walking back through the shop.
  306.  
  307. “Be back in an hour.” He tells you with a genuine smile.
  308.  
  309.     You nod and wave, waiting for him to exit the door before turning to Dell.
  310.  
  311. “He brought you here?” Dell asks.
  312.  
  313. “Yes! He was so fast! I thought I was gonna die. He even talked to his car while he was driving! HIS CAR!” You yell back. “But, he told me that he would get me to work on time and he did. He even took a shortcut through the depression over there.”
  314.  
  315.     You point to the right of the shop, out the window to where the depression would be viewed if there wasn't snow falling down. You look out and see Dan close the hood on your car gently before pushing it closed. He enters your car and you hear the dull sound of it starting before pulling away. He exits the parking lot slowly and begins driving off at a reasonable pace before the snow completely blocks sight of him.
  316.  
  317. “Wait, he made it through that snow?” Dell asks. “No way, he would've been stuck in that car. There's too many turns for a normal driver to deal with and keep going.”
  318.  
  319. “Well he did. I told him to stop but he said he'd get stuck if we stopped.” You tell him.
  320.  
  321. “He's obviously familiar with driving in that kind of terrain. Did he say whether or not he raced?” He asks.
  322.  
  323. “He said he did rally or whatever, but I don't know if that's racing.” You tell him.
  324.  
  325. “That tired looking dope does rally?!” Dell asks loudly. “That's like off road track racing!”
  326.  
  327. “It is?” You ask, feeling bad for doubting him now.
  328.  
  329. “Yeah! You were probably in the safest possible car when he was driving.” Dell tells you. “He's probably gone much faster than that on much more slippery courses.”
  330.  
  331.     You feel your heart skip a beat. You were so scared and so angry he wasn't listening, but he was trying his hardest to get you to work on time. Now he was going out to buy you some new tires. Your train of thought is interrupted by a customer entering the cafe.
  332.  
  333. Daniel
  334.  
  335.     You bring Lexies car back, brand new tires adorning the hubs. You stop the car to the side of the cafe, grabbing your wallet and putting it in your pocket. You remove the keys from the ignition, opening the door and closing it with moderate force. The door closes and you lock the car, making your way back to the cafe with the snow whipping your face.
  336.  
  337.     It got worse when you left, forcing you to drive slower than normal. You had to cruise at 15 miles an hour instead of the steady 30 you usually do. When you enter the cafe, you see Lexie finishing an order for a customer. She notices you and smiles brightly, causing you to dip your head. Lexie was probably still mad at you for putting her through all that. Maybe you could order some coffee real quick and get out before she yells at you.
  338.  
  339.     You make your way up to the counter and Lexie smiles widely.
  340.  
  341. “Hey Dan!” She says excitedly, her tail wagging behind her.
  342.  
  343. “Hey Lexie.” You say, putting a ten on the counter. “I want a coffee and one of the croissants covered in jelly please.”
  344.  
  345.     Lexie nods and begins pouring some coffee and bringing a croissant over. When the coffee is done, she puts a bit of whipped cream on top and an ice cube inside. She whips around, slowing her twist as she faces you. Lexie sits the coffee and croissant on the table and you go to put a ten in the tip jar. Lexie covers the jar with her hand, struggling to keep her smile up.
  346.  
  347. “Please, no more.” She says, her ears going flat against her skull.
  348.  
  349. “Why?” You ask, bummed that you can't atone for your wrong doings. “I just wanted to make up for scaring you.”
  350.  
  351. “W-what are you?” She asks, her lower lip quivering slightly.
  352.  
  353. “I'm a human.” You tell her, confused.
  354.  
  355. “Hey, move it pal. You're holding up the line with your chit chat.” A man says from behind you.
  356.  
  357. “Oh, sorry.” You say, grabbing your coffee and putting your ten in between her fingers.
  358.  
  359.     She wipes her eyes and regains her composure, ready to serve the next customer. You walk over to the table you sat at yesterday and begin drinking your coffee.
  360.  
  361.     After sitting for about an hour, you finish your coffee and look outside, seeing the snowstorm has gotten worse. There was no way you were driving in this. Guess you could kick back and read the paper. You leave your seat and walk over to the stack of papers by the door, grabbing one and bringing it back to your seat, sitting down.
  362.  
  363.     After reading the paper for a bit, you hear a chair being pulled out to your front. You put the paper down and see Lexie looking over at you, twiddling her thumbs.
  364.  
  365. “Hey.” You say, looking down at the table.
  366.  
  367. “Hi.” Lexie says back. “I just wanted to tell you something.”
  368.  
  369. “What is it?” You ask.
  370.  
  371. “I just want you to know that I'm not mad at you. I just got a little frightened and over reacted, that's all. Sorry for yelling at you.” She says, whining a bit at the end.
  372.  
  373.     You look up and see her with a somber look on her face.
  374.  
  375. “Oh, that's okay.” You tell her.
  376.  
  377.     She looks up and smiles that cute smile that melts your heart.
  378.  
  379. “Hey, I know what we can do.” She tells you.
  380.  
  381. “We?” You ask, not knowing what she meant by that.
  382.  
  383. “Yeah, unless you don't want to.” She tells you.
  384.  
  385. “Sure, let's hear it.” You tell her.
  386.  
  387. “Maybe I could come over to your house and hang out for a while. We could watch Netflix and chill, who knows where that could lead us?” She asks, her voice slightly shifting to a more mischievous tone.
  388.  
  389. “Sure, we can hang out today. When do you get off work?” You ask.
  390.  
  391. “About 12 if it's not busy. I only work half days on Saturdays.” Lexie replies. “Write down your address and I'll come over after work.”
  392.  
  393. “Oh, I'm probably not leaving until the blizzard lifts up, but okay.” You tell her.
  394.  
  395. She hands you her pen and notepad, the front cover having a little heart on it, just like her apron. Lexie smiles gently as you write down your address, handing her back the notepad. She tears the paper out of the notepad and stuffs it in her pant pocket, getting up from the seat and walking back over to her station.
  396.  
  397.     You watch as Lexie is called into the back for the fourth time today by her boss. When she came back out, she was pulling her apron down and sighing gently. Everyone else saw this, but nobody said anything. Nobody but you. When you pushed your chair in, you walk up to Lexie and stand at the counter.
  398.  
  399. “Hello Dan, do you want some coffee?” She asks, voice cracking slightly as she tries her best to put on a smile.
  400.  
  401. “What are they doing to you in the back?” You ask.
  402.  
  403. “Nothing.” She says, looking down at the counter before putting forth an obviously fake smile. “They just keep asking me if any new customers came in.”
  404.  
  405. “I think I saw someone spill something over in the corner of the cafe.” You say, pointing over to a corner of the cafe with no camera watching it. “Can you come with me to check it out?”
  406.  
  407.     She grabs the mop and bucket hurriedly, walking out front to help you. When you take her over to the corner, you turn to her. She drops the mop bucket and looks at you guiltily.
  408.  
  409. “Are they touching you?” You ask quietly.
  410.  
  411.     She nods, ears drooping down as her tail goes limp.
  412.  
  413. “The new guy has been asking me to take my clothes off all day today. He says I'll get tipped more if I do, but I know that he's just a perv.” Lexie tells you. “I don't know what to do.”
  414.  
  415.     You grab a USB stick from your pocket and hand it to her.
  416.  
  417. “Take this to the security camera computer and plug it in. I work as IT in my office so this stick has software to download the last hour of security footage from the hard drive.” You tell her.
  418.  
  419.     She perks up at this and takes the USB stick from you.
  420.  
  421. “Why do you have this?” She asks.
  422.  
  423. “I accidentally put on the pants I wore yesterday.” You say, scratching behind your neck.
  424.  
  425.     Lexie takes the USB stick and smiles, putting it in her pocket before walking into the back.
  426.  
  427.     Later, Lexie walks back out with a smile on her face. She must've gotten the footage. The clock strikes 12 and Lexie goes over to the machine for clocking out. She enters her pin and clocks out for the day, looking outside with a worried look.
  428.  
  429. “Dan, I don't think I can drive in this weather. Do you think you could drive me to your house?” She asks politely.
  430.  
  431. “Sure. I'll get my car started.” You reply, walking out the door.
  432.  
  433. “Aren't you forgetting something?” Lexie asks.
  434.  
  435.     You turn around and see she still has your key.
  436.  
  437. “I'll trade you.” You say, digging her key out of your pocket.
  438.  
  439. “Deal” She says with a smile.
  440.  
  441.     You both trade keys and walk out the door, facing the blizzard with shivers and face covering.
  442.  
  443. 1:00 PM
  444.  
  445.     The drive home was slow, on account of visibility being no more than 10 feet. However, once you were home, Lexie smiled.
  446.  
  447. “I thought it'd be an apartment, but you have an actual house!” She says as you push the button on the garage door opener.
  448.  
  449.     The door opens and you drive your car inside, parking it and closing the garage door. The whir of the motor echoed throughout the garage as you exit the car, turning on the lights inside. Lexie looks around the garage and sees a car underneath a tarp.
  450.  
  451. “What's that?” She asks, pointing to the car.
  452.  
  453. “That's my rally car.” You tell her. “Haven't driven it in almost a year now. Doesn't want to start.”
  454.  
  455. “That must suck, but it looks nice enough.” She says, turning around and giving you a cute little smile. “Let's go inside.”
  456.  
  457.     You nod, walking up the steps to your house. The door is locked, so you grab your key and insert it into the lock, turning it until the lock clicks. When you open the door, the heat is a welcome change to the nipping cold of your garage. When you let Lexie in, she smiles wide.
  458.  
  459. “It's so clean!” She says excitedly. “I almost feel bad for coming in here.”
  460.  
  461. “Don't feel bad. I clean it every few days, so you can walk around as you please.” You tell her.
  462.  
  463. “You want to watch some movies?” She asks, turning back to you.
  464.  
  465.     You nod, walking over to the living room. When Lexie enters it, she looks at the walls in awe.
  466.  
  467. “What is all this?” She asks.
  468.  
  469.     You look around the room as well, seeing all your old newspaper clippings and medals hanging around the living room. Your racing suit was hanging on the wall by a shelf. On the shelf were 2 gold and one bronze trophy.
  470.  
  471. “Racing stuff.” You tell her casually, walking to your couch.
  472.  
  473.     You sit down on the couch and grab the remote, turning on the TV and switching the input to the DVD player. You pick Netflix and pat the other side of the couch, prompting Lexie to sit down by you.
  474.  
  475. “You have anything you like to watch?” You ask.
  476.  
  477. “Yeah...” She says, taking the remote.
  478.  
  479. 9:05 PM
  480.  
  481.     You're sitting down on the couch, watching another episode of some cute cartoon about a cat, dog, thing? Maybe it's a fox? You can't tell. It's pretty funny and you've been watching it for the past hour.
  482.  
  483. “What made you quit?” Lexie asks.
  484.  
  485. “Quit what?” You ask, confused.
  486.  
  487. “Quit racing.” She answers. “Why'd you quit?”
  488.  
  489.     You cringe at that, remembering exactly why you quit. The sounds still give you nightmares. It was something you'd rather not talk about.
  490.  
  491. “I don't want to talk about it.” You tell her.
  492.  
  493.     Lexies ears go flat and she lays her head on your shoulder.
  494.  
  495. “I understand.” She tells you.
  496.  
  497.     You just sit there and continue watching the tiny cartoon fox get yelled at as you unconsciously wrap your arm around Lexie.
  498.  
  499. 11:00 PM
  500.  
  501.     Lexie is fast asleep, leaving you alone with the show you were watching. She decided that she wanted to lay her head down on your lap, making it impossible for you to leave her. Maybe that was her plan? Make you stay here so you'd have to pay attention to her. Not that you were complaining, it's just that you'd like to sleep in a bed tonight instead of on the couch.
  502.  
  503.     You turn the show you were watching off and search for the rally special you used to watch every night. When you find it, you push the play button and it starts off with a picture of 10 different anthros and a helmeted man standing behind them.
  504.  
  505. “These were the contenders for last years annual rally cross event.” It begins. “Fierce competitors and excellent drivers. All of them top of their class. This is their story.”
  506.  
  507.     You sit back and watch as the announcer lists off all of the contenders in last years rally cross event. He goes into detail about each contender and how they each trained hard for the event before proceeding with the race. Then they came to the helmeted figure, who had his arms crossed and tinted visor down.
  508.  
  509. “Sir, could you please take off your helmet for the interview?” The fox asks.
  510.  
  511.     The figure nods and starts undoing the straps for their helmet. Lexie wakes up with a yawn and stretches her arms out.
  512.  
  513. “What are you watching?” She asks curiously.
  514.  
  515. “The annual rally cross event.” You reply.
  516.  
  517.     The figure takes off their helmet and the name pops up on the screen. 'Daniel Fletcher.' You hear a gasp come from Lexie as you take off your helmet on screen, revealing yourself.
  518.  
  519. “What's this about?” TV you asks.
  520.  
  521. “We just want to hear about what makes you a good racer.” The fox tells you.
  522.  
  523. “Well I used to watch a lot of cartoons and racing shows, even some instructional guides on how to rally.” You tell the fox, looking off to the side of the camera.
  524.  
  525.     You remember the interview now. It was 2 days before the, uh, accident. You continue to tell him about how your love of racing came about and what made you get your rally license. Lexie is intrigued by this, watching as your car zips around the corners, narrowly missing trees and leaping through the air. The engine blaring in the background as you continue to talk about why you raced.
  526.  
  527.     After all was said and done, the camera switches to scene you wished you would never have to see again.
  528.  
  529. “No...” You say, feeling your heart sink.
  530.  
  531.     You hear a pop as the hood flies up and in the way of the windshield. The brake lights flash on but the car is going too fast. Lexie gasps as you're flung into a tree, making it shake as the car slams into it.
  532.  
  533. “GOD DAMMIT! F**K!” You scream on TV, the censor bleeping out some of your foul language. “You alright Charlie?!”
  534.  
  535. “I'm fine Dan. You okay?” He asks.
  536.  
  537.     You don't respond, watching as the door opens on the TV. Your racing suit is covered in oil and smoke is pouring out of the cab. Charlie runs out of the car before you get an extinguisher, spraying the car down with the extinguisher before rushing to the hatch and opening it. When the car airs out, you see yourself fall to the ground, Charlie coming to comfort you.
  538.  
  539. “This was the last we ever saw of Daniel. He vanished from the rally scene without a trace, leaving behind a legacy that many still strive for. Not to mention some still wish to learn from him.” The fox says before the program cuts to credits.
  540.  
  541. “I-I see.” Lexie says, laying her head back.
  542.  
  543. “Yeah. My car was toast.” You tell her. “I fixed it up, but it doesn't want to start. I think the car hates me now.” You tell her.
  544.  
  545.     You look down at Lexie and see she was asleep again, breathing gently into your lap as she slept.
  546.  
  547. “Lexie?” You ask.
  548.  
  549. “Hmm?” She asks in response.
  550.  
  551. “I have a bed you can sleep in.” You tell her. “You don't need to sleep on the couch.”
  552.  
  553.     Lexie nods and tries to get up, but falls back down. She puts her arms up around your neck and you know what she wants. You get off the couch and pick her up by her legs and back, taking care not to touch her butt or her chest. She goes limp in your arms as you carry her into the guest bedroom. When you lay her down, you pull the blanket over her and tuck her in gently before earning a content sigh from her.
  554.  
  555. “Goodnight.” You tell her.
  556.  
  557. “Goodnight.” She replies back, tired from the stress of today.
  558.  
  559. A week later
  560.  
  561.     Lexie arrives at your house, as she always does. Her apartment is only ever used on very rare occasions now, as she's basically moved into your house. You didn't mind though, as she could cook and was pleasant to be around. Her personality was just so cute. She's even let you pet her a couple of times, which you thoroughly enjoyed. She sits down next to you, laying against your shoulder as you read the paper.
  562.  
  563. “Why don't you ever read the news on your phone?” Lexie asks. “It's so much easier.”
  564.  
  565. “I like to keep things analog.” You tell her. “I could easily sell my car and get a newer one with those touch screen things, but I'd rather have buttons and dials to push and twist.”
  566.  
  567.     You then roll the news paper back up and hold like a club.
  568.  
  569. “You also can't hit people with a phone.” You tell her, playfully tapping the paper on her head.
  570.  
  571.     Lexie laughs at that and smiles, her collar jingling as it always did. Then you remember what you were going to ask her.
  572.  
  573. “Hey Lexie, why do you wear that collar?” You ask her.
  574.  
  575. “Oh, this? I wear it because my old boyfriend wanted me to. He was the same species as me, but he wasn't nearly as nice.” She replies.
  576.  
  577. “Well, what's inside? It looks like it has a key.” You tell her.
  578.  
  579. “It's just a picture of him and I. I've been meaning to get rid of it, but I can't open it.” She tells you.
  580.  
  581. “Why not just stop wearing the thing?” You ask. “Why did he even want you to wear it in the first place?”
  582.  
  583. “He was into pet play when I would, um, you know, never mind.” She tells you, blushing red.
  584.  
  585. “That's fine. If you don't want to talk about, I can understand.” You tell her.
  586.  
  587. “Thank you for understanding.” Lexie says after sighing in relief. “It was really nothing though, we just did mouth stuff and that's it. I never let him touch me, you know, down there.”
  588.  
  589. “Y-yeah, I get it.” You say, it being your turn to blush now.
  590.  
  591.     Lexie begins nuzzling you before she gets a call from her phone. She answers it and begins talking before her ears droop down. When she hangs up, she looks at you, pleading to you.
  592.  
  593. “Please come with me to work. My boss says he wants something and I don't feel safe going alone.” Lexie tells you.
  594.  
  595.     Her boss has been getting more ambitious with each passing day, offering to take her home, asking her to hang out with him, and straight up asking her if she wanted to keep her job. She had all his harassment on the USB drive you gave her, but that was to be saved until a court case was able to be made. You nod, getting off the couch.
  596.  
  597.     You went into your bedroom and opened the drawer by your nightstand, grabbing your keys and the gun that you had hidden away. You grab your concealed carry license and wallet, putting the former inside the latter. You stuff the revolver into your right pocket, pulling your shirt over it before walking back out the bedroom, Lexie none the wiser.
  598.  
  599. 8:20 PM
  600.  
  601.     You make it to the cafe and her boss frowns when he sees you. You put the parking brake on and shift into neutral, letting off the clutch. The car shuts off when you turn the ignition off, allowing you to exit the car without wasting any gas. Lexie gets out too, which causes her boss to smirk a bit.
  602.  
  603. “Lexie, I'm so sorry to call you in this late, but we've been busy all day and we've run out of pastries. You're needed in the back really quick.” He says, his fake concern clearly visible.
  604.  
  605.     Outside of your car being the only one in the parking lot who isn't an employee car, you could tell he was lying by the way his face was moving. Anthros were so easy to read that they were like an open book most of the time. Lexie, on the other hand, had no idea. She smiles awkwardly, not really noticing the things you noticed. She walks inside as you follow them in.
  606.  
  607. 9:15
  608.  
  609.     You're sipping on the coffee that Lexie made you before going back into the kitchen to make sweets. You've been looking on your phone and checking the news on the app before setting your phone down, frustrated. It just doesn't have the same feel to it, not to mention you had to keep scrolling to read an article.
  610.  
  611.     Just as you sit down with an actual newspaper, you here a commotion in the back with pots dropping and plates breaking.
  612.  
  613. “GET AWAY FROM ME!” You hear Lexie scream.
  614.  
  615.     The doors burst open and she runs out of the kitchen, her shirt cut in various places and torn on one side. Lexie sees you and rushes over to you, pulling you into a hug and crying.
  616.  
  617. “T-they tried t-t-to r-r-ra-”
  618.  
  619. “I know Lexie.” You tell her, hugging her back. “We need to get outside now.”
  620.  
  621.     You get up, Lexie following you as you rush out of the cafe. You see her boss and 2 other dogs exit the kitchen. You almost run out of the store as Lexie pushes the door open. She frantically takes off her apron and throws it on the ground, running to the car. When her boss gets outside, he sees the apron and you, growling viciously.
  622.  
  623. “I'll kill you for getting in my way!” He says, drawing a knife.
  624.  
  625.     You draw your gun and back away slowly, not saying a word. The old dog drops the knife and puts his hands up. You slowly back towards your car, gun trained on the dog the whole time. He growls menacingly as you open the door of your car, keeping the gun pointed at him through the window as you lock your door. When you go to start the car, you switch the gun to your left hand and turn the ignition, starting the car.
  626.  
  627. “Shift it into reverse.” You say, pushing the clutch in.
  628.  
  629.     Lexie complies, pulling the gear lever into reverse as you step on the gas, putting the gun down and doing a 180 in the parking lot. You quickly make your way out of there, pulling out of the cafe with Lexie by your side.
  630.  
  631.     As you drive along, Lexie begins to sob.
  632.  
  633. “What's wrong?” You ask her.
  634.  
  635. “I'm fired for sure now.” Lexie replies. “I loved that job and wanted to work there until I could finally become the new owner. I came in every day, played by all the rules, and then those assholes tried to RAPE ME!”
  636.  
  637. “I can get you a job in the office if you-”
  638.  
  639. “I'm not good with numbers! I make coffee and bake treats for gods sake!” She yells.
  640.  
  641. “Oh, I see.” You say, lowering your head.
  642.  
  643. “I-I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell at you. I'm just really upset that I lost my job.” She tells you. “At least I got this.”
  644.  
  645.     Lexie pulls something from out of her shirt and hands it to you. It's the USB drive. You stop the car on the side of the road and shift into neutral. When you're stopped you look over at her and give her the most serious look you could muster.
  646.  
  647. “Do you want to go to court over this? They can all be put away for a very long time. I have some very good lawyers who could help you if you wanted to go through with it.” You tell her. “I'll pay all the lawyer fees and you wouldn't have to pay a dime.”
  648.  
  649.     Lexie doesn't even respond, not sure of what to say.
  650.  
  651. “I'll take you back to your apartment and you can think on it, how does that-”
  652.  
  653. “NO! I don't want to be alone right now!” She yells in protest. “Just, please take me back to your house. I want to just lay down for a while.”
  654.  
  655.     You nod gently, driving off towards the house.
  656.  
  657. Chapter 2: New job, new life.
  658.  
  659.     You're on your way home from work, having had a rough day today. The weather was terrible and you were tired, having to fix your car back at the office with nothing but basic hand tools and some bubble gum. Surprisingly, the gum was holding as a temporary gasket until you could make it home and replace the right side head gaskets. You finally pull into your driveway before opening the garage, the snow whipping inside the newly opened door as you drive through.
  660.  
  661.     It was bitter cold outside still, being the middle of January. You exit the car, smelling oil and burnt gum as you exit the Subaru cocoon. When you close the door, you lock the car, electing to work on the problem tomorrow, as it was Friday today. Lexie had called you earlier, saying she was just getting out of work at some local coffee shop downtown. She told you she'd call when she was about 20 minutes from the house, as her commute was 40 minutes either way. It was much further away from the last coffee shop, but her boss was a woman and a very nice woman at that. Plus, most of the people she worked with were much older and more mature than her previous coworkers.
  662.  
  663.     You walk inside, having turned on the garage heater to warm the ice off your car and generally keep everything from freezing in the -5 Fahrenheit weather you were experiencing. When you get inside, you walk to the living room and see your racing suit was sitting on the couch, having been unzipped with suspicious looking fur surrounding it. Oh well, no harm done outside of you having to brush a few hairs off the suit. When you go to put the suit back, you stop before you can, looking down at it.
  664.  
  665. “Just putting it on can't hurt, right?” You ask nobody in particular.
  666.  
  667.     You finish the suit by strapping your gloves on, having already put on your boots and helmet. Just putting everything on made you feel great about yourself, like you were gearing up for your next rally event. When you look in the mirror on the wall, you smile, having had to buy a new helmet that wasn't a motorcycle helmet for rally on the day you, well, crashed. Before you could go back to that place, you hear your phone ringing and take off your helmet. You dig your phone out of the pocket of your work pants and see it's Lexie. You push the answer call button and bring the phone to your ear.
  668.  
  669. “Hello?” You ask.
  670.  
  671. “Dan, I crashed my car. My tires just popped and I'm in a snowbank.” She tells you, sounding really shaken by the whole event. “Can you come pick me-wait, someone's outside.”
  672.  
  673. “Are you okay? Who's there? Do you know them? Are they helping?” You ask, concerned for her safety.
  674.  
  675. “NO! GET AWAY FROM ME!” She screams, loud thumping being heard before you hear wind rush against the phone. “Dan! It's my boss! He's chasing after me!”
  676.  
  677.     You can hear the wind in the speakers as she's stuck outside, running through a snow bank or whatever it is while she begins to breath heavily.
  678.  
  679. “I'll be right there!” You yell, grabbing your keys from the key rack. “Don't worry!”
  680.  
  681.     She hangs up the phone and you shove the phone in your pocket, helmet still in hand. You rush out the door to the garage before remembering your Subaru had bubble gum as a gasket. There's no way it'd work. Your other cars were out back, buried in the snow. There was no way you were going to make it to Lexie. She'd freeze to death or be raped by her boss. Why didn't you just change the gaskets like you were supposed to?!
  682.  
  683.     You look around the garage for ideas before your eyes rest upon the tarp to the right of your Forester, your other Subaru. You make a mad dash to the car, ripping the tarp off to reveal a cleanly painted and sponsor free rally car. When you make it over to the drivers side, you look down and see you grabbed the rally keys anyways. Lucky for you. The door opens flawlessly, being very light and almost paper thin. You contort yourself around the roll cage, sitting in the perfectly adjusted seat before closing the door with the door strap.
  684.  
  685.     You stick the key in the ignition and open the garage door before remembering, it's not going to start, but you needed to try. For your friend. You shove the key in the ignition and begin turning over the car, hearing the starter motor begin spinning up the engine. Just like all the other times in the past, you can't get the car started as it just keeps cranking.
  686.  
  687. “Come on baby, come on!” You yell, pumping the gas pedal. “I need you right now!”
  688.  
  689.     The car doesn't respond, still cranking as you let off the starter.
  690.  
  691. “Please, I need you right now.” You tell the car, setting your helmet in the seat next to you. “My friend's going to die and I need you to work right now!”
  692.  
  693.     You turn the key and the engine begins cranking, but isn't starting. You could hear the engine begin cranking slower as you stop cranking, your head hitting against the steering wheel.
  694.  
  695. “GOD DAMMIT! I'M SORRY I DIDN'T CHECK YOUR GASKETS! I WAS UNDER A LOT OF PRESSURE BECAUSE THE RACE WAS ON!” You scream, angry at yourself for being so stupid. “I'm sorry, okay?”
  696.  
  697.     Just as you say that, the fasten seat belt alarm comes on and you grab your straps, putting them on.
  698.  
  699. “Please, just work. My friend is going to die if you keep throwing this tantrum and I don't think I could bare it. If not for me, do it for her.” You say, turning the key. “Do it for Lexie.”
  700.  
  701.     The engine begins turning over before you hear it begin to catch. You give it some gas and the car rumbles to life, filling the garage with an almighty roar as the unmuffled exhaust belches flames. The angry growl of the flat 4 echoes across the empty streets as the lights come on, causing you to smile. You put your helmet on and fasten it tightly, moving it around as it pulls your head with it.
  702.  
  703. “Thank you.” You tell the car. “Now, let's shake off some of that rust.”
  704.  
  705.     You throw the gear shift into 1st and slam the gas to the floor, releasing the clutch as you're pushed back in your seat, the tires screeching against the smooth concrete. When the tires hit the snow, they begin spinning as you compensate, turning the slip into a powerslide towards Lexies old work place. The engine hits max RPM before you know it, prompting you to change gears as you let the clutch go again.
  706.  
  707. “S turn, hairpin ahead.” You say quietly, using the middle of the road as you shift into 4th.
  708.  
  709.     You throw the car around the corner, downshifting and giving it all you got as you take the corner at 65. The dirt tires threaten to let go of the snow, but you know the car won't let you down. The rally car is filled with the throaty buzzing of the boxer engine, propelling you out of the corner at almost 70 when you upshift. You see a car ahead and take evasive action, the car holding its horn down as you drift around it, beginning to tackle the S turn.
  710.  
  711.     You feel the car begin drifting, but you counter by giving it less input and the tires begin grabbing the snow again, allowing you to use the inertia for a hard turn into the left part of the S turn. The power starts to fall off and you downshift, the exhaust spitting fire as the turbo spool system works to keep the boost up. When you exit the S-turn, you're rocketing down the road at a ludicrous 100 miles an hour, not letting up as you drift around a car. Nobody is getting between you and Lexie. Not even a blizzard would slow you down right now. Lexie needs you and you're not going to be responsible for her dying.
  712.  
  713. Lexie
  714.  
  715.     You're hiding in a snow bank, your white down coat keeping you camouflaged as your butt begins to soak up the freezing snow. It was so cold you couldn't keep from shivering violently as your old boss looks around for you. That bastard put a spike strip down to stop your car. You thought he was trying to cross the street, but you saw the strip on the street too late.
  716.  
  717. “Come on Lexie, I know you want your old job back. All you have to do is come back to my place for a talk. I promise it's just a talk, nothing malicious.” He lies. “Just come out or you'll be losing much more than just your job.”
  718.  
  719.     Your tail has frozen stiff by now, not because your muscles were frozen, but because your fur had collected enough wet snow and froze over. You had moved your tongue between your teeth to silence the chattering due to how hard you were shivering. Fur or not, this was really cold weather. Your boss begins sniffing the air, causing you to cringe. He's caught your scent.
  720.  
  721. “Oh, where are you my little flower? If I have to find you, it's going to be even more painful than it already will be.” He says, smirking as he makes his way towards you.
  722.  
  723.     He looks around, looking for you as you close your eyes and lay face down in the snow.
  724.  
  725. “Ah, there you are.” He says, making you go stiff as a board.
  726.  
  727.     You look up and see him looking back, brandishing a large kitchen knife as he nears you.
  728.  
  729. “N-no! Get away!” You yell, getting up from the snow.
  730.  
  731.     You then realize how weak you've gotten from sitting in the snow. Just sitting in it has sapped all of your energy from your body. You couldn't outrun him if you tried, so you keep backing away from him. You feel your right leg give from behind you and fall to the floor, looking on in terror as he gives you a devious smile. Just as he nears you, your ears pick up a faint sound. It was a very subtle buzzing, but it kept getting louder. Your boss notices it too, looking behind you. You look back, the buzzing interrupted by rapid pops as lights began shining on the snow.
  732.  
  733. “What the hell?” He asks. “The roads are closed...”
  734.  
  735.     The lights get much dimmer before you see the car come around the snow bank, going sideways on to the corner. It was throwing up snow as it blinded you both with the lights, the sound of loud buzzing being replaced by the roar of an engine. This is Dan? You get up off the ground and run towards the car, adrenaline surging through you as you look back. Your boss was on his phone, talking to someone. Then, you see a strip come flying out of the snowbank about 50 feet in front of Daniel.
  736.  
  737. “Look out!” You shout on impulse.
  738.  
  739.     You didn't need to, as Dan flicks the steering wheel left, sliding around the spikes as he begins to spin out of control. He continues spinning towards you before arresting the spin, sliding towards you with the passenger door facing towards you. Before he stops, the door opens up and it reveals him in that suit you tried putting on. He had a helmet and some gloves on, waving you in before stopping.
  740.  
  741. “GET IN!” He screams, which seems to put a fire under your rear.
  742.  
  743.     You run like your life depended on it, closing the distance fast as you almost leap inside the car. Before you can close the door, he's already on the gas, sliding back on the road. You manage to close the door and look over at him, watching him shift gears as he flicks the steering wheel left and then right. You hang on to the bars inside the car as he turns, seeing he's going almost 65 around the turn.
  744.  
  745. “SEATBELT!” He screams mid turn, pulling a shoulder strap out from behind your back.
  746.  
  747.     You don't argue, pulling the other strap on the side out and buckling them together with the middle buckle. The noise inside was so loud, you could barely hear yourself think as another turn comes up. When you look at the speed, he was going almost 80. He down shifts and the entire car is filled with unbearable noise, causing you to cover your sensitive ears. You're thrown to the right of the seat, being forced into it as he rounds the corner, pulling out of the corner as he checks the rear view.
  748.  
  749. “IS ANYONE FOLLOWING US?!” He asks very loudly.
  750.  
  751.     You look back and see nobody coming after you as you continue to speed down the road.
  752.  
  753. “NO!” You scream over the engine. “YOU CAN SLOW DOWN!”
  754.  
  755.     He does just that, slowing the car down to a more reasonable speed as he continues to cruise. You lay back in the seat and see him constantly checking the rear view, still not certain nobody was following you. You feel the adrenaline wear off and begin shivering again, looking for the temperature controls.
  756.  
  757. Daniel
  758.  
  759.     You see Lexie reach for the temperature controls as you check the mirrors again, not sure if they're just slow or what. Lexie came into the car with her tail frozen solid and her pants coated in snow. She had been shivering so bad you thought she might die. She turns the temperature all the way to hot and puts the fan on full blast. You turn your vent towards her and she takes her jacket off, which looked like a white down jacket. Her clothes were soaked, which she also seems to notice, so she begins...oh boy. She takes her shirt off tossing it in the rear of the vehicle, a wet splat sounding on the back of the car. You see she didn't have anything on underneath, exposing her boobs to the world as you look back at the road.
  760.  
  761. “Y-you don't have any shirts on you, do you?” She asks, still shivering.
  762.  
  763. “N-no, I didn't think to bring any.” You tell her, pulling into the street you live on.
  764.  
  765. “You d-don't mind me stripping do y-you?” She asks.
  766.  
  767. “No, not at all!” You tell her. “I don't want you dying of hypothermia.”
  768.  
  769.     You pull into your driveway and into the garage, just sitting there while you let the car idle for a bit. You missed the sound your old Subaru made. It was a truly unique sound.
  770.  
  771. “H-how do I open the door?” She stutters, still insanely cold.
  772.  
  773. “There's a red strap on the side, just pull it and push the door open.” You say, not looking in her direction. “Take a hot shower for as long as you need.”
  774.  
  775.     You turn the car off, closing the garage door before the heat can get out. You see Lexie walking in front of the car, covering herself as she fast walks into the house. She sniffs the air a couple of times before sticking her tongue out in disgust, probably smelling the burnt gum. You take off your helmet and set it in the passenger seat before taking the keys out, listening to the engine tick as it cools down. You just now notice that your hands are shaking, the adrenaline still pumping through your body as you realize just how cold you are. You get out of the car and shut the door, putting your hand on the hood of the Subaru.
  776.  
  777. “Thanks.” You tell it. “You can rest as long as you want now.”
  778.  
  779. 2 hours later
  780.  
  781.     You're sitting down, having talked things over with your lawyer on what to do. Not only was the spike strip fiasco illegal, it was illegal to even own one of the strips. Nobody is able to sell or give away the spike strips after they're retired, as they're supposed to be destroyed after they've outlived their life, so they have to have been stolen. That's not the only thing you had talked about though. The attempted rape of Lexie by her boss and fellow employees was definitely 20 years minimum, 40 years for her boss considering he did it twice. Just as you're about to get up, Lexie comes into the living room, dressed up in a sweater and long sweat pants.
  782.  
  783. “Are you okay?” You ask. “Are you warm enough?”
  784.  
  785. “Yeah, I'm warm now.” She says with a somber smile. “Can I tell you something?”
  786.  
  787. “Sure, anything.” You reply.
  788.  
  789. “I'm scared Dan.” She tells you, moving towards you. “I don't want to go outside alone anymore.”
  790.  
  791.     She sits down beside you and puts her arms around your shoulders, resting her head on them as well. You feel her begin to quiver and pull her into an embrace, hoping to comfort her and soothe her fears.
  792.  
  793. “I'll take you to work if you'd like. I'll try my best to be with you as much as possible.” You tell her. “Now let's get some sleep. I'm tired and have work tomorrow.”
  794.  
  795. 3 days later
  796.  
  797. “You're fired.” Your boss tells you.
  798.  
  799.     You drop the papers you were holding on the floor as you look back at him in shock.
  800.  
  801. “W-what?” You ask, hoping you misheard.
  802.  
  803. “You, are, fired.” He tells you.
  804.  
  805. “W-why?” You ask.
  806.  
  807. “I've heard about your activities outside of work and I must say, I'm not impressed. Pulling a gun on one of my close friends? You're lucky he didn't call the police.” Your boss tells you.
  808.  
  809. “That guy is your friend?” You ask.
  810.  
  811. “Yes, he is.” Your boss replies.
  812.  
  813. “Well, okay.” You tell him. “I'll pack my things and leave.”
  814.  
  815. “Pick up these papers-”
  816.  
  817. “Do it yourself.” You tell him, walking out the door.
  818.  
  819. 2 hours later
  820.  
  821.     You open the refrigerator and look at all the nice little pastries Lexie has made for you, all sitting inside and awaiting consumption. You had told her of a new route she could take from work, which eliminated the need for you to drive her to and from work every day. You smile at that before grabbing 2 bottles labeled 'Heinlen PRO', a cheap draft beer you got from winning a sponsored race. Well, it was given to a friend, who in turn gave it to you. You've never drank before today, but it seemed like a drinking kind of day. You pop the top off of one of the green bottles and take a sip, almost spitting it out. You swallow it and feel the beer burn your throat. This was going to be rough.
  822.  
  823.     You down the rest of the beer and sit it down on the floor, opening another. You feel a bit better about yourself, drinking a bit more of the drink. The flavor had grown on you and what you were feeling now as probably a buzz. You liked this feeling. The door to the house opens and keys are set on the table by the door. Lexie walks into the room and smiles at you before seeing what was in your hand. She immediately begins backing away, her tail going under her body. You cock your head and look in your hand, seeing the beer.
  824.  
  825. “Y-you're drinking.” She says, fearfully.
  826.  
  827. “Yeah, I am.” You tell her. “Did something happen at work?”
  828.  
  829. “N-no, nothing happened.” She says, backing up into the wall.
  830.  
  831. “What's wrong?” You ask. “Do you want a beer?”
  832.  
  833. “You're not angry?” She asks.
  834.  
  835. “I'm just sad right now.” You tell her. “My boss knew your boss and got me fired.”
  836.  
  837.     You lay back on the couch and begin feeling sad again. You drink a bit more of the alcohol and feel the burning sensation creep down your throat again. Everything was all warm and fuzzy now, but you felt sad still.
  838.  
  839. “Oh god, I'm so sorry!” She yells.
  840.  
  841. “It's fine. I wasn't happy there anyways.” You tell her. “I don't really know where to go though. I'm definitely not working fast food and I don't think anyone will hire me without references.”
  842.  
  843. “You could come work with me.” Lexie offers. “It's just serving people hot coffee most of the time. You know how to make coffee, right?”
  844.  
  845.     You nod, but coffee didn't really interest you. That was her thing and you didn't want to intrude.
  846.  
  847. “Good, then maybe we can work together!” She says cheerfully. “Are you sure you're not angry?”
  848.  
  849. “No, why?” You ask.
  850.  
  851. “Well, my boyfriend used to get drunk and got really mad, but I guess not everyone is the same when it comes to alcohol.” She says with a somber smile.
  852.  
  853.     You nod, turning on the TV and tuning to the news channel.
  854.  
  855. “Another cold day in northern Minnesota as a blizzard completely shuts down the roads. This is the first day in a long time where the entire state has been put on a complete lock down. Police are at every intersection and old snow cats are making rounds to houses to deliver food and water. We urge you to stay indoors and keep off work until further notice. Businesses are being asked to shut down while the roads are closed.” The news chameleon tells you. “Keep warm and don't go outside without letting someone know where you're going.”
  856.  
  857. “Well...guess you don't have to go looking for a job just yet.” Lexie says, stepping towards you tentatively.
  858.  
  859. “Hey, it's fine, I don't bite.” You tell her, your face feeling warm as she steps towards you.
  860.  
  861.     She continues taking tentative steps towards you, wary of your buzzed state. You take another drink, which turns into you downing the entire bottle. You set the empty alcohol container on the floor and Lexie sits next to you, smiling awkwardly.
  862.  
  863. “Your face is all red.” She says with a giggle.
  864.  
  865. “I dunno why.” You say, your speech being impeded. “I think I should go to sleep.”
  866.  
  867.     You lay back on the couch and immediately fall asleep, only to be woken up by Lexie minutes later.
  868.  
  869. “What?” You ask.
  870.  
  871. “Drink water or you'll have a nasty head ache when you wake up.” She tells you.
  872.  
  873. “Okay.” You say, taking the glass she had handed you.
  874.  
  875.     You drink the entire thing and give her back the glass before going back to sleep again.
  876.  
  877. 10 hours later
  878.  
  879.     You wake up slowly, feeling your body slowly come to as you feel wrapped in warmth. There's a blanket draped over you as well as a fuzzy arm. When you look off to your left, you see Lexie laying beside you, keeping you warm and cuddling as you lay back onto the couch. The news was still on, showing snow cats running around the town, delivering food and water to people.
  880.  
  881. “However, the continuing blizzard isn't going to stop everything from moving. Only 2 weeks away is the local rally race, being hosted by local Subaru dealers. Some of the best racers from the state will be coming here to race on the snowy courses.” The news chameleon says. “Everyone who's anyone in the rally scene will be there. Sign ups end today at 10 PM at the Daleson arena, so anyone who hasn't signed up yet isn't going to. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
  882.  
  883. “You should try it.” Lexie says. “Maybe they'll let you in later.”
  884.  
  885. “Nah, they're very strict about that kind of thing. I'd have to get going right now if I wanted to sign up.” You tell her. “Which I don't know if I should.”
  886.  
  887. “Why not?” She asks.
  888.  
  889. “I could crash again.” You reply.
  890.  
  891. “You could've crashed when you came to rescue me, but you didn't care.” She says. “I hear these events give out cash prizes, maybe you could do it so you had a cushion while you look for a new job.”
  892.  
  893. “The last time I raced I blew the gaskets and crashed. I don't know if I could do that again. My co-driver almost died and just about totaled my car.” You tell her. “Besides, how would I get there? It's a blizzard out there.”
  894.  
  895.     She smiles and pulls a picture off the wall. It shows you on a snowmobile, smiling like a kid on Christmas. Your eyes go wide in surprise, having completely forgot about it.
  896.  
  897. “W-what about my car?” You ask. “I could total it. I don't want to take it racing-”
  898.  
  899. “Just do it.” She says. “I saw how much fun you were having when you were driving the way you did. You want this, even if you've fooled yourself into thinking you don't.”
  900.  
  901.     You look down at your lap and pull out your wallet, opening it up and see a few photos come out. One was of you in your older rally car, smiling the same smile you did in the picture Lexie pulled out. You needed the money, so you pull the blanket off of you and get off the couch.
  902.  
  903. “I'll be back.” You tell her with a smile.
  904.  
  905. 30 minutes later
  906.  
  907.     You make it to the sign up office, which had 2 cars covered with at least a foot of snow in the parking lot. You stop the snowmobile and make your way to the door, which has 2 sleeping bags on the floor. You knock on the door and one of the bags moves, a wolf exiting the bag. He looks at you curiously before getting up and opening the door.
  908.  
  909. “We're closed man, you looking for shelter?” He asks.
  910.  
  911. “It's not 10 PM yet.” You tell him. “I'm here to sign up for the rally.”
  912.  
  913.     He groans and lets you inside as you take off your heavy coats. When they're off, you're escorted to a sign up area. A very cold looking fox is sitting there, covered in a blanket and a space heater next to him.
  914.  
  915. “You stuck here too?” He asks.
  916.  
  917. “No, I'm here to sign up for the rally.” You reply. “You need a ride home? I have a snowmobile if you do.”
  918.  
  919. “Nah I live 20 miles away. No coat or helmet either.” He replies. “Just sign on this sheet.”
  920.  
  921.     You take the clip board in your hand and sign your name. The fox takes the clipboard back and his ears fold down on his head.
  922.  
  923. “No way.” He says. “You're him!”
  924.  
  925. “What?” You ask.
  926.  
  927. “Daniel Fletcher! You're THE Daniel Fletcher!” He yells excitedly. “I'm a huge fan! I used to watch you race when I was a kid!”
  928.  
  929. “A kid? How old are you now?” You ask.
  930.  
  931. “17!” He replies excitedly. “I'm Hugh, it's a pleasure to meet you sir.”
  932.  
  933. “Well, you're only 4 years younger than I am, so, uh, hello.” You say, offering your hand.
  934.  
  935.     Hugh shakes it excitedly, his tail wagging from side to side as you smile graciously. You never knew you had fans.
  936.  
  937. “Whoa, I thought you were in your 30s!” He says. “That's so cool!”
  938.  
  939. “Hey, could you do a favor and keep the listing a secret?” You ask. “Don't go telling reporters I'm gonna be there. I have stuff going on and I don't want news reporters at my house.”
  940.  
  941. “Okay, sir. You can count on me!” He says, excited to have something asked of him.
  942.  
  943. “Alright, I'll be going now.” You tell him, putting your coats back on. “See ya.”
  944.  
  945. 30 minutes later
  946.  
  947.     You close the door and start stripping out of your winter clothes as you beam with pride. You had no idea people watched you rally, let alone rooted for you.
  948.  
  949. “Dan?” Lexie asks.
  950.  
  951. “Yeah?” You ask in return.
  952.  
  953. “Okay, good. It's you.” She replies. “How'd it go?”
  954.  
  955. “I met a fan.” You tell her. “Didn't even know I had any.”
  956.  
  957.     You walk into the living room and see Lexie wrapped up in blankets. She sees your smile and returns it, her tail wagging underneath the blankets.
  958.  
  959. “That's great! Now you know I'm not the only one who's rooting for you.” She says with a sweet little smile. “Now come on, snuggle with me!”
  960.  
  961.     You nod, walking over to her and pulling the blankets up.
  962.  
  963. 2 weeks later
  964.  
  965.     You managed to dig your truck out of the barn in your back yard, hooking up the trailer for your rally car inside. It wasn't anything too special, just an old F-100 your dad used to drive around your grandpas farm. It could tow just about anything you attached to it, so it was a good truck for you. When you close the rear door on the trailer, you lock it in place with the bars on either side. Once that's all closed up, you move to the front of the vehicle and enter the drivers seat, looking outside at the light January snow. After you're done gawking, you wrench the old truck into gear and sigh. Here goes nothing.
  966.  
  967. 40 minutes later
  968.  
  969.     You arrive at the track staging area, seeing all the new Raptor trucks and high end racing vehicles you had to contend with today. The only things you had bought for your Subaru were some snow tires, as you had found the dirt tires didn't like snow. When you find an empty spot, the coyote next to you stares in disbelief before breaking out into laughter. You stop the truck and shift it into neutral, pulling the hand brake before turning the vehicle off. When you open the door, the laughing is still going on before you shut the door forcefully. It never wants to close properly otherwise.
  970.  
  971.     You walk back to the rear of your trailer, unlatching the ramp as the coyote finally stops his chuckling.
  972.  
  973. “What do you have in there? A Falcon?!” He asks before bursting into laughter again.
  974.  
  975.     You chuckle at that, not really caring what he thinks of your truck and trailer. You're not here to get angry at elitists, you're here to try for third place in the main race. They have a 3 grand prize for third place, which would give you a nice safety net for the next month while you look for a job. The ramp drops and you walk inside, opening the doors as you manage to squeeze yourself inside the car. When you're in, you start the car and it growls to life, allowing you to back it out of the trailer. When you do, the coyote is silent, staring back at you while you back out. Once you're clear of the ramp, you get out of the car and walk back to the metallic door, raising it back up before latching it closed.
  976.  
  977. “I'm still gonna win.” He says sourly. “I've got a Lancer Evo, built from the ground up to beat your car!”
  978.  
  979. “I'm fine with that.” You tell him. “You can take second or first, I'm only here for third place.”
  980.  
  981.     This seems to sting him more than it should have, as he begins advancing on you.
  982.  
  983. “Are you saying you can beat me?” He asks.
  984.  
  985. “Nah, I've been out of this scene for about a year. You're probably a lot more in practice than I am.” You tell him.
  986.  
  987. “You got that right. Now let me work, I gotta tune my car before I kick your ass on the course.” He says.
  988.  
  989.     You nod and walk to your car, locking the door before making your way past the crowd. It felt like everyone was watching you walk, making your way to the sign up booth as you put your helmet on your head. When you reach the booth, you see a female bird sitting at it. She looks up and rolls her eyes, obviously not wanting to talk.
  990.  
  991. “Easy, I'm only here to make sure my name is on the list.” You tell her.
  992.  
  993. “Whatever. What's the name?” She asks, completely unenthused.
  994.  
  995. “Daniel Fletcher.” You tell her.
  996.  
  997.     She seems to freeze at the name being mentioned looking back up at you curiously. She cocks her head before her eyes go wide, checking the sheets for your name. She finds it on the last page and looks back up at you.
  998.  
  999. “Jeez, I'm so sorry. I thought you were one of them.” She says, pointing to some guys drinking energy drinks by a fire barrel. “Yeah, you're on here. Have a great race mister Fletcher.”
  1000.  
  1001.     You nod, smiling at that. When you walk back to the car, you see a feline standing by it, looking it over. As you walk up, he sees you coming and freezes in place, as if he's been caught stealing cookies from the cookie jar. When you reach him, he looks up at you and you can see him shaking a bit. He must be terrified.
  1002.  
  1003. “I don't mind you looking at my car, not that there's anything to look at.” You tell him. “Unless you start spray painting it, I don't have a problem with you being here.”
  1004.  
  1005. “S-sorry, sir. I'm just really fascinated by rally cars. This is a WRX STI, right?” He asks.
  1006.  
  1007. “Yeah, it is.” You reply. “Bought it 4 years ago to rally with.”
  1008.  
  1009. “What's your name, if I might ask?” He asks.
  1010.  
  1011. “Name's Daniel Fletcher, pleasure to meet you.” You say, holding out a hand.
  1012.  
  1013.     He freezes up again, looking at your hand frightfully before looking back up at you.
  1014.  
  1015. “The real Daniel Fletcher?!” He asks loudly. “One of the greatest human rally drivers ever witnessed?!”
  1016.  
  1017. “Greatest rally drivers?” You ask. “Who said that?”
  1018.  
  1019. “Jabotnik and Rally USA did! You're one of the greats!” He says excitedly. “Nobody knew why you left the rally scene for a year, it's been a huge mystery!”
  1020.  
  1021. “Well, I crashed my car.” You tell him. “Didn't want to race again after that.”
  1022.  
  1023. “O-oh, I understand.” He says, ears folding down guiltily. “Sorry for bringing it up.”
  1024.  
  1025. “Nah, it's fine. I've made peace with it.” You tell him.
  1026.  
  1027. “W-well everyone will be rooting for you when they find out you're here!” He says excitedly. “I'll be in my trailer!”
  1028.  
  1029.     You nod and he's off like a shot, earning a smile from you. When you turn over to the coyote's trailer, he steps out, perplexed by the boy running towards his own trailer. He looks back at you and you smile, walking to the front of your car.
  1030.  
  1031. 3 hours later
  1032.  
  1033.     You sit at the beginning of the track, your engine idling as you wait to be called to the line.
  1034.  
  1035. “One of the last racers of the day is Daniel Fletcher, back from the dead and ready to take on our track without a co-driver!” The announcer says. “He must know the track by heart!”
  1036.  
  1037.     Truth is you couldn't find a co-driver in time, so you had no choice but to go alone. Hopefully there was enough signage to adequately warn you before you fling yourself off a hill. When you look back towards the trailers, you see a few people walking towards the car curiously, so you open up the sliding window to talk. The first person at the window was a fellow racer, surprise adorning his face.
  1038.  
  1039. “Didn't know you'd be here. You weren't even on the list from what I saw.” He says. “Good luck friend.”
  1040.  
  1041.     You nod before looking forward, seeing the Christmas tree light up. A little odd for a rally race, but you'll take it. You close the sliding window and push the clutch in, putting the car into gear before waiting. The yellow lights illuminate and you begin revving the engine, making sure you were in the perfect power band for a snow launch. The last yellow light lights up and you begin letting up on the clutch.
  1042.  
  1043. “Let's give them a show, girl.” You tell your car.
  1044.  
  1045.     The light turns green and you let off the clutch, your tires spinning as they propel you across the snow. Your lights shine bright on the snow, illuminating the track as you take the first corner sideways, still in first gear. When you exit the corner, you straighten the car as it hits red line, prompting you to shift to the next gear. The deep throaty growl of your engine fills the car as you see another corner ahead, turning away from it before pulling the handbrake. You shift the steering wheel left and the car power slides into the turn as you begin kicking up snow.
  1046.  
  1047. Lexie
  1048.  
  1049.     You see Dan pull up to the start line as the announcer begins speaking.
  1050.  
  1051. “Alright, next up is, hold on, that can't be right.” The announcer says, perplexed. “Is that really Daniel Fletcher?”
  1052.  
  1053. “It appears so, Dave. Daniel Fletcher is back in the game! After more than a year of absence and no news on his whereabouts, he's back to race in the Minnesota snow rally!” The other announcer says excitedly.
  1054.  
  1055.     While they were talking about the race, Dan is already off, the buzzing of his engine seeming to snap them out of their blubbering.
  1056.  
  1057. “He's already off! Eager to show that a year off hasn't dulled his edge when it comes to his unique style of rally!” Dave says. “He's coming up on the first corner fast, showing no signs of slowing down!”
  1058.  
  1059.     You watch as Dan turns opposite to the turn before going sideways, throwing snow over the snow bank of the track, sending chills up your spine as he gets very close to the outer edge of the turn. He begins pulling himself back onto the track as the pitch shifts on the engine, indicating a shift.
  1060.  
  1061. “An amazing first corner from Fletcher, getting incredibly close to the snow bank as he seems to be shaking off the rust.” The other announcer says.
  1062.  
  1063. “You got that right Keith, he's not nearly as bad as some of the racers we've seen today, but he's not shaping up to be the best either. We'll see if he corrects himself on the second corner and-”
  1064.  
  1065.     Before Dave can say anything more, Dan looks like he's turning into the snow bank, but he flicks the car back towards the corner, which looked incredibly sharp. The commentators are speechless as they too watch on in awe. He's gone so far sideways that he's actually pointing back the way he came, snow and dirt spraying into and above the snow bank.
  1066.  
  1067. “Wait, we just learned that he has no co-driver!” Dave yells frantically. “Is he trying to get himself killed?!”
  1068.  
  1069. “Well, the track has ample signage up to alert the drivers to various turns, so he might be using the signs to help him tackle this course.” Keith replies in a much more calm voice.
  1070.  
  1071. “Half of the signs are buried in snow by the other drivers! He may not see a few of the hair pins coming!” Dave replies, not calmed by Keith's revelation.
  1072.  
  1073.     You feel yourself sink back into the couch. What did you push on Dan? You look back up and it's an aerial view of the race from a drone or a helicopter of some sort. He has turned straight again and is powering down a straight part of the course, a cloud of snow following him as he nears a slight turn. Dan turns the wheel and begins going sideways into the corner, sliding around it like he was on rails. You've never seen him drive this fast before in all the time you've known him. You're kind of glad too, because this was worrying you very much.
  1074.  
  1075. “Here comes one of the hairpins. The sign looks like it's covered in snow!” Dave yells worriedly. “Is he going to wipe out this early into the track?”
  1076.  
  1077.     As if responding directly to his question, Dan shifts down and flames spit out of the exhaust as he spins around 180 degrees. No way...he couldn't have known that was coming.
  1078.  
  1079. “Unbelievable! It's like he's driven the course before!” Keith says excitedly. “He's making great time too!”
  1080.  
  1081.     You look up and see the fastest time was 4 minutes and 32 seconds, while Dan's time was 1 minute 3 seconds right now. He was about a quarter through the course, so if he kept this pace, he'd make first place. He definitely sells himself short when it comes to driving. You see the camera switch to a small hill and you tilt your head.
  1082.  
  1083. “Here comes the hop that's been giving our new guys so much trouble!” Keith continues commentating.
  1084.  
  1085. “The hop?” You ask before realizing what he means. “Oh god, no!”
  1086.  
  1087.     You see the car leap into the air, the wheels seeming to drop out from underneath the car as it lands hard. You can almost feel your spine compressing as you hiss in sympathetic pain. You wanted to look away, but you couldn't. Your eyes were now locked on what Dan was doing in that funny looking car of his.
  1088.  
  1089. “Wow! The first non professional rally racer to take that jump and keep accelerating!” Dave says, surprised. “What is this guy made of?!”
  1090.  
  1091. “He's made of something alright! Look at him go down the straightaway!” Keith replies. “He's like a blue rocket!”
  1092.  
  1093.     You look back at the time and see he's 3 minutes in. However, he's only a bit more than half way through the course, so he needed to go even faster if he wanted to beat that time. The camera switches to another angle and he's in the air again, hitting the ground as he continues to race down the straightaway. Fire spits from the exhaust as he hits 90 miles an hour before something crosses in front of the clearing.
  1094.  
  1095. “Oh my god! It's a feral deer!” Dave yells.
  1096.  
  1097.     Dan swerves to avoid it, but loses control of his car in the process. He begins bouncing off the snowy walls of the course before the car begins kicking up snow and dirt.
  1098.  
  1099. “He spun out avoiding it! He was making such good time too!” Keith replies, sounding almost defeated.
  1100.  
  1101.     You see Dan begin correcting the spin as it begins to slow, bringing him back on track as he accelerates again, more fire spitting from the exhaust.
  1102.  
  1103. “What a recovery! I thought he would flip for sure!” Dave shouts excitedly. “He's still in the race!”
  1104.  
  1105.     You watch him slow down for the corner coming up, which appeared to be the last one. The rest of it was a relatively straight shot to the finish line. When he reaches the end of the corner, the front wheels seem to leave the ground as he continues to accelerate hard towards the finish line. The speedometer keeps going up as Dan continues to rocket across the snow. It reaches and surpasses 90 miles an hour. The faster he goes, the more you tense up. A slight corner comes up and Dan just slides off to the left and right as if it was nothing, continuing to accelerate even faster.
  1106.  
  1107. “The finish line is in sight and he's making great time! I don't know if he's gonna make first place with all that time he lost on the animal!” Keith says, audibly on the edge of his seat. “It's gonna be close!”
  1108.  
  1109. “Come on Dan!” You say before covering your mouth.
  1110.  
  1111.     It's very close, he's at 4 minutes 29 seconds as he nears the finish line, the seconds ticking up.
  1112.  
  1113. 30 seconds...
  1114.  
  1115.     He's continuing to accelerate past 100 miles an hour, a horrendous noise coming from his car as he pushes himself faster and faster.
  1116.  
  1117. 31 seconds...
  1118.  
  1119.     He's going as fast as he can, he's just about there.
  1120.  
  1121. 32 seconds...
  1122.  
  1123.     Dan crosses the finish line and the commentators let out a defeated groan, as do you. He's a few milliseconds short. 4 minutes 32 seconds and 12 milliseconds compared to the 10 milliseconds on the fastest run.
  1124.  
  1125. “What a heartbreaking run from Daniel Fletcher, foiled by a deer in the middle of the road!” Dave says. “Unbelievable!”
  1126.  
  1127.     You watch as the car comes to a stop and Dan gets out of the car, running around the car with his hands in the air. He's excited?
  1128.  
  1129. “Has anyone told him he only got second place?” Keith asks.
  1130.  
  1131. “Yeah, he's been told.” Dave replies.
  1132.  
  1133. “He's okay with that?” Keith asks.
  1134.  
  1135. “I guess so.” Dave responds. “Second place prize isn't any slouch. It's about 10 grand if he can hold onto that second place.”
  1136.  
  1137. Daniel
  1138.  
  1139.     You settle down after parading around for a bit, ecstatic that you finished the race in second. After an entire year, your car and you still had it. You honestly thought you were going to die on that straight away, as you were trying to stop the car, but something else took over. It was like you knew exactly what to do. It surprised you. When you enter the car again, you check all the gauges and see she's running a bit hot, so you'd have to check her coolant levels and look for leaks. Still, you were pretty confident you could hold onto that place, as the rest of the drivers were all first timers.
  1140.  
  1141.     When you make it back to the starting area, cameras are all over you, making you shrink down into your seat a bit. Why are they filming you? There are plenty of other people who want to be filmed in the staging area. They followed you back to your trailer, snapping pictures and taking videos as you got out of the car.
  1142.  
  1143. “Mister Fletcher! Where have you been for the past year and a half?!” A reporter asks.
  1144.  
  1145. “Daniel, how does it feel to be back in the rally scene?!” Another asks.
  1146.  
  1147.     You ignore them and open the ramp to your trailer, walking back to your car and getting inside. The reporters are all a slew of different species, all trying to get your attention as you put your car away. When it's up, you contort yourself out of the thing and walk back out of the trailer.
  1148.  
  1149. “Is this really your trailer and truck?!” A reporter asks.
  1150.  
  1151.     You step off the ramp and close it, locking it down and grabbing a padlock you usually don't have to use, clicking it in place to lock them out of your trailer. This was all new to you, as you've never been swarmed by reporters before. You walk up to your truck, opening the door and entering it, picking up a news paper as you put a coat on. You turn on the engine and put your foot on the throttle, holding it there as you let the truck warm up.
  1152.  
  1153. 30 minutes later
  1154.  
  1155.     There were only a few reporters left now, the rest having been dissuaded by your lack of attention. You had offered them some coffee you heated up with your trucks cigarette lighter, which they took graciously.
  1156.  
  1157. “That's all for today folks! Hope you had as much fun racing as we did watching!” The bird lady says enthusiastically. “Carl Hetland, Daniel Fletcher, Donovan Laril, come up to the podium and take your spots!”
  1158.  
  1159.     You get turn the truck off, taking your coat off and opening the door. The 3 reporters left were about to ask some questions, but you shake your head.
  1160.  
  1161. “I'm not the guy you should be asking questions.” You tell them. “Carl is.”
  1162.  
  1163.     You make your way to the podium, a crowd of people and reporters in winter jackets all trying to ask Carl questions. They turn their attention to you and you freeze, not knowing what to do with all of this new found attention. They swarm you, taking pictures with bright flashes and asking questions that seem to blur together.
  1164.  
  1165. “How do you feel?” Is one you could make out.
  1166.  
  1167. “Uh, um.” Is all you can respond with.
  1168.  
  1169. “What was it like to lose to a feral deer?” Another asks.
  1170.  
  1171. “Hey!” A voice shouts over the crowd.
  1172.  
  1173.     You turn towards the voice, seeing the tall form of Carl Hetland making his way through the crowd. He was a German shepherd by the looks of things, but he wasn't nearly as aggressive looking. He looked friendly in comparison to most of the shepherds you've seen.
  1174.  
  1175. “Hey bud, let's get you out of the crowd and onto that podium where you belong.” He says, putting a hand on your shoulder before turning around. “Make way!”
  1176.  
  1177.     He leads you through the crowd of reporters as you shield your eyes from their cameras. Before you know it, you're at the podium, climbing up the second place podium and smiling. Your first day back and you already won something.
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