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shifting gears

Chapter Text

On the racetrack, there’s no such thing as friends. It’s something you learn the moment you take your first steps, when you first rev your engine. There’s only you, your competitors, and the race ahead.

Sure, outside the races, everyone was calm and civil with each other. She would even call some of the fellow racers friends.

Some of them she would not.

Being a favourite, and sponsored by a very popular brand of drink, Test Tube knew all eyes would be on her today. She’d been beaten by a rookie last race, but was determined this was finally her season.

She gripped her handlebars tighter. 

The flagman waved the flag, and once again it’s insanity. The fumes, the loud roaring of the motorcycles. The mad dash to be in front first just for attention.

A crowd full of fans, a motorcycle, a wide track, many, many competitors representing their sponsors and respective numbers.

This was living.

Test Tube didn’t remember what had happened throughout the entire race. She never does. All she remembers is the roar of the crowd, and being so blinded by fury once the rookie overtook her just as she was about to have another win under her belt.

Everyone was disappointed in her, everyone . Test Tube was a star amongst these racers. If you asked someone their favourite, it was most likely “The Dr Fizz girl!” “42!” “Test Tube!” They were counting on her, all of them. Sometimes she wished she didn’t have to do so much to appease.

No, this was all the rookie’s fault, with his smug grin and his blonde hair, his glitzy gold bike sponsored by Meeple themselves. Number 36. She didn’t know his name, and quite frankly, didn’t want to.

She couldn’t let her deep hatred of him show on the racecourse, but could you blame her? She’s been doing this for seasons and he’s brand new. 

His luck would run out, surely.

“Yo, Tubette! Tough today, huh?”

Test Tube looked up from where she was sitting once the race was over, playing around with an empty bottle of water she’d unconsciously chugged whilst staring daggers at the rookie.

Nonetheless, she would recognise that voice from miles away. Number 15 - Lightbulb. Another fan favourite, not for her skills, but for her personality. She seemed to be chewing something - knowing her, it was probably bright pink bubblegum. Her hands were resting on her hips as her dark skin and golden hair shone in the bright summer sun. Lightbulb radiated positivity, no matter what - which was something Test Tube admired. She donned a bright yellow and aqua uniform, sponsored by some odd brand of lemonade.

“You gonna speak, Tube?” Lightbulb teased, grinning widely. 

“...Yes, tough today.” Test Tube muttered, trying her best to put all of her attention on her friend, despite the faint sound of 36’s pompous boasting from a few metres away.  

“Aw gal, don’t let him get to ya!” The blonde sat down and elbowed her friend. “I know what’ll cheer you up! Me and Painty are throwing a little get-together to celebrate the new season, and bond a bit with the other racers.”

A get-together, hm? 

“You are formally invited! There’ll be drinks, on me!” Lightbulb winked.

“So.. a party.”

“Uhh.. yeah, but I knew you would like it better if I said it was a get-together.” She stuck her tongue out. “But it’ll be fun, Tube! My place, 7 til midnight tomorrow. Be there!”

Just as suddenly as the blonde had appeared, she was gone again, running off towards a much taller and less lighthearted racer - 11, Paintbrush. Lightbulb saw something in them that many others didn’t.

Wait. She had no idea where Lightbulb lived.

Finding Lightbulb’s house was… a challenge, to say the least. A constant back-and-forth of panicked texts, a wander around a bunch of streets she’d never seen, and one meltdown later, she was finally there.

Compared to Test Tube’s humble home, Lightbulb’s estate was a palace. Huge, with giant sliding glass doors, a pool and a balcony. She wasn’t one to live modestly.

Test Tube stumbled through the doors, which were possibly heavier than the racer herself. And… oh god, it was bustling in here. She was greeted by people who she’d never even seen - were they even racers? Everyone was dressed to the extreme, which made Test Tube feel slightly self-conscious, donning a simple white button-up shirt and black trousers. She spied her friend from across the room, hogging the punch and laughing along with some shorter girls. She believed them to be Paintbrush’s pit crew. There was someone else there, too, that she was unfamiliar with.

Pushing through the crowds, she bumped into the guy she recognised as 67, apologising profusely as he sneered at her. She’d never liked him anyway. She knew him from his antics last season - constantly arguing with Paintbrush and battling for the most wins. Paintbrush turned out to be victorious in the end.

Finally, the racer found her way over to Lightbulb and the shorter girls. She gave them all a pleasant nod, reaching for a cup to fill with punch.

Someone else was quietly stirring around the punch and mumbling to themself, however. They seemed very intent on what they were doing, eyeing the punch suspiciously as if it was supposed holy water.

They had red hair with yellow tips, tied back swiftly in a small ponytail. And… they were honestly wearing a very pretty dress, simple and red, yet sparkly with a faint floral print. She must’ve been staring, because they looked up from the punch and gave her a startled look.

Test Tube instantly snapped out of it. “Oh, so sorry, I just wanted some punch.”

“Number 42!” 

“Hm?”

“I know you!” They grinned.

“Oh! Are you a fan?”

They bursted into sudden laughter, their smile strangely contagious. They poured some punch into their glass, then some into hers. “Here!”

“That doesn’t.. Answer my question.”

“I guess you could say I’m a fan. I.. am Fan.”

Fan… she thought for a second, before mentally slapping herself. The flagman! She’d never been acquainted with him, but she had heard of him from others. Apparently, he was a total dweeb .

But… he seemed interesting, to say the least, with his tan skin and freckles. He just smiled at her, not egging her on to reply. She sipped her punch, still curiously looking at him through her round glasses.

He broke the silence, not making eye contact. “Yeah, I watch you race all the time…from my little stand… you’re a favourite to win this season.”

“I know,” Test Tube muttered, gritting her teeth at the thought. She just prayed the rookie wasn’t here. Surely Lightbulb didn’t invite him.

“I’m Fan - wait, I already told you that.” He giggled awkwardly. For some odd reason, it brought a smile to her face.

“Test Tube - though I assume you already knew that.”

“I, uhm, I did.” He finally made eye contact, and Test Tube hated to admit it, but she was honestly awestruck. His eyes were gorgeous - pools of amber that shone like the sun. She felt a strangely warm feeling in her chest. Snap out of it. They always make the flagmen pretty .

“But, I don’t know everything about you!” He broke the silence again. “Why don’t you tell me about yourself - if you don’t, uhm, mind.”

“Sure, I don’t see why not. Do you know any place that’s quieter?”

“Uhm…” He looked to her side, and she did the same. Lightbulb was gone, presumably off somewhere dancing and getting intoxicated. “We could…always check upstairs?”

“Sure.” seeing the excited smile on his face definitely did not make her feel some sort of way.

She learnt a lot about Fan that night, after they ended up sitting together in Lightbulb’s room. They learnt stuff about Lightbulb too, like she really really liked to collect paintings, but that wasn’t important.

Fan was a year or so younger than her, birthday being July 1st. He liked racing, and flags, and motorbikes, as was expected. He also liked to dye his hair, wear dresses, and play video games. She expected that last part just from the way he acted.

Fan liked music, as well. He told her about some group named Spoiled Lemon. He also liked some dude named Bo Burnham, and this band called Los Campesinos.

He also liked to talk about himself a bunch.

She told him what she liked, too. She liked racing, and motorbikes. She also liked science, and she liked animals, and she liked to swim and exercise. Fan hung onto every word like he was hearing God themself speak right to him. He slightly kept his mouth ajar, like everything she said fascinated him.

Eventually, a very tipsy Lightbulb told them it was time to go, and that she needed some sleep. 

Fan bid her adieu once they were out of the estate, giving her a small curtsy before running off to catch his taxi.

She watched him go, fixing on her helmet and sitting down on the motorbike’s seat. The way he wobbled slightly when he ran. The way his tiny ponytail blew to the side of his face in the warm wind. The way he greeted the taxi driver with such a warm smile.

Snap out of it. They always make the flagmen pretty.