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Long story short, I survived

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Fatefully, I tried to pick my battles

'Til the battle picked me

Misery, like the war of words I shouted in my sleep

And you passed right by

I was in the alley surrounded on all sides

The knife cuts both ways

If the shoe fits, walk in it

'Til your high heels break

 

 

Lewis has spent his life trying to avoid as many fights as he can, picking only the ones he really can’t let go. Being the only black kid in his sport did that to him. He had to be careful, his dad always reminded him that he would have to prove himself more than the other kids would, no matter how unfair it was, that he’d face never-ending prejudice, that he needed to keep himself extra clean. He could not afford slip ups in the way the other kids could. It was shit, absolutely fucking shit, but there was no way around it.

 

He really has done a pretty decent job, overall. Okay, so maybe we shouldn’t talk about 2007. As far as he’s concerned, he had a point to prove, a reputation to make. And Fernando fucking deserved it. So did every single one of his fans that were overtly racist to him for beating their beloved favourite driver as his rookie teammate.

 

Okay, and maybe that time he released confidential McLaren data on twitter to make a point about him and Jenson. And then the tweet about how Jenson had unfollowed him, just to realise he’d never followed him to begin with. That was a bit embarrassing. Not exactly his best moment, he can acknowledge that now.

 

Beside that though, he’s done a pretty good job staying out of trouble, avoiding conflict. Clean racing, clean attitude. He’s only human, he’s done his best, okay?

 

He didn’t expect the fight he found himself in that was tearing it all to shreds. He didn’t pick this battle though, he will swear on that until the day he dies. This one picked him.

 

This one, to be more specific, was Nico Rosberg. A lifetime of friendship up in flames, and for what? Seriously, he’s still a little at a loss.

 

He’s not exactly innocent, he’s aware of this, but he also didn’t start this one. He didn’t pick this fight. If anything, Nico had been the last person he’d want to pick a fight with. He’s been the most important person in Lewis’ life for…well, he doesn’t even know anymore. Since the very beginning, from pretty much the day they met.

 

Karting teammates to friends. Friends to best friends. Best friends to something like brothers. Something like brothers to something distinctly more than brothers, realising they were never like brothers at all. From that to everything. Nico had been the person who’d known him best in the world, better than even his dad, than his little brother. Nico knew every last thing, every secret, every hope, dream, fear, all of it. He’d trusted Nico with everything he had, everything he was.

 

Which is a little stupid of him in retrospect. Because it’s not like he didn’t know what Nico could be like. He was a sore loser, he could be a real ass. But Lewis was enamoured, and he was no saint himself, certainly not back then. But in retrospect, he let a lot of things go that he never should have.

 

Being teammates with the man you loved, after a childhood full of memories being teammates in karts, sharing hotel rooms, causing chaos, driving the people around them absolutely mad. It seemed like a brilliant idea at the time. What could possibly go wrong? Sure he’d known some tense partnerships in his time, but he couldn’t imagine the devolving into anything remotely as bad as what it had been like with Fernando.

 

Turns out it was worse. Being in love is hard, fighting with them on track and separating that from being with them away from it is harder, especially when the other person isn’t nearly as invested in avoiding a fight.

 

It started out great, but it went downhill at an alarming rate. Nico didn’t like losing. He liked losing to Lewis least of all. The fights became steadily more frequent, more explosive. Lewis really had tried to pick his battles, but Nico knew exactly which buttons to push. And he was pushing them all. He wanted a fight, and Lewis couldn’t find a way out of giving him one.

 

A disaster, that’s what it was, a relationship self-destructing in the most explosive fashion it could. It got to the point Lewis was dreaming up arguments they hadn’t even gotten around to having, had planned his defence for things not yet even done. He had apologies prepared for things he shouldn’t even have had to be sorry for. It was haunting him, even in his sleep.

 

Sebastian caught glimpses of it, was vaguely aware of what was happening, by a certain point, it was hard not to be. But he had no idea how volatile the situation was from the inside, had no idea the magnitude of it. He’d walk past them every day, occasionally stop to have a short chat. He knew Lewis was struggling a bit, but he had no idea what to do, what to say, so he didn’t. He trusted the people around Lewis to have his back.

 

Well that didn’t work out so well when the person normally trusted to have his back above all others was currently the one holding a knife to it. Not a literal one, of course, Nico wouldn’t go quite that far, but a metaphorical one was somehow just as easily felt. Lewis was trapped in a situation turning sour. He wanted to believe the team had his back, he was pretty sure his side of the garage mostly did, that if it came down to a choice then Toto and Niki would choose him.

 

But they’d always resent him for forcing the choice on them if he did.

 

A knife can cut both ways though, and if Nico was going to plunge one in his back to get ahead, Lewis would damn well make sure it cut him just as much. If he was going down, and it looked like he quite possibly would be, then he’d damn well be taking Nico with him. If he was going to get painted as the villain no matter what he did, he might as well play the part until it all came crashing down.

 

 

And I fell from the pedestal

Right down the rabbit hole

Long story short, it was a bad time

Pushed from the precipice

Clung to the nearest lips

Long story short, it was the wrong guy

Now I'm all about you

I'm all about you

I'm all about you

 

 

He started his career as the sweetheart of an entire nation. The commentators loved him, the former drivers, at least the ones he cared about, hailed him the next big thing. But he wanted statistics. So he got them.

 

McLaren’s refusal to pick a favourite, plus certain mistakes that still haunt him, cost him the chance to say he’d won a championship in his maiden season. He rectified that in the year that followed though. Multiple times a race winner so early in his career, a champion, the youngest, in just his second season. Not too shabby. A King with his crown. He was on top of the world.

 

Until he wasn’t. Until he got into his new car in 2009 and it was a piece of complete and utter shit. Until dragging it to a remotely decent position was a miracle. Until dragging it to a win felt like an insurmountable challenge. It wasn’t the most terrible season it could have been, but from the top to where he landed…that was quite far to fall.

 

He fell from his great heights and landed hard, and suddenly he wasn’t quite so beloved, suddenly people weren’t talking about his greatness, making guesses as to how much he could achieve. Now they were wondering if he was already finished, if he’d peaked early and his success was short lived, if there were better, more exciting prospects to focus their gaze on instead. Jenson was the nation’s sweetheart that year, and even a plucky young German with a mop of blonde hair like a halo, a cheeky grin and a love of British comedy had captured their hearts. Lewis was scrambling for whatever foothold he could get.

 

It sent him on a bit of a spiral, if he’s honest. Desperate to find performance, to fix a car that he honestly couldn’t imagine fixing. And on top of it all came the announcement that when he’d finally managed to make something out of it, remind everyone of everything he could be, remind the team why he was their great light, McLaren had signed Jenson, his successor, to take the spot of his teammate.

 

Of course they would, given the opportunity, of course they’d want a top tier driver to stand beside him, because they needed two of the best, they wanted to have the very best chance at getting everything they could get. But that didn’t stop it being a hard pill to swallow. That didn’t stop the fears trying to creep in, that he would be bigger, he would be better, that he’d overthrow Lewis in his own team, just as he had stolen his crown.

 

The King is Dead, Long Live the King.

 

To say it was a difficult time would be an understatement. To say Nico was understanding would be…well…an overstatement. Nico’s car was worthy of winning, and he was adamant he was. Lewis didn’t disagree, in fact her very much so did. But there was nothing he could do about it. Not that he didn’t try to console him, support him, encourage him, he did. But he was also young and foolish and a bit more arrogant than he cares to remember. He was more than likely insufferable just as much as Nico was, complaining that his winning car wouldn’t win enough.

 

He supported Nico’s move to Mercedes though, cheered him on. Things looked promising, they sounded promising, he was hopeful for him. He could finally show just what he was made of, next to the man hailed the all-time great. He was proud of him.

 

Then Lewis decided he needed a change. His stint at McLaren was one to be proud of, he’d made one hell of a name and reputation for himself there. Leaving that team felt like leaving home. Everyone thought he was insane to leave them for Mercedes. Sometimes he thought he was too. But Niki was so adamant, and the pay check wasn’t half bad either. He trusted the process, he trusted a three times world champion to know a good project when he saw one, he trusted that Schumacher of all people must have seen something worth getting involved in with this team. McLaren hadn’t given him championship worthy machinery in more years than he was willing to wait as it was.

 

And Nico said it would be great.

 

McLaren was home, he grew up there in a way. But eventually you must leave home. So he did.

 

The first season was a struggle, they were good but he wanted great.

 

And then they were great. And then they were undefeatable. Win after win after win. They were the very best, nothing could stop them. At least that was what it felt like. The top step had always felt like his true home, and now he almost spent more time there than he didn’t. A championship trophy. Then another one. Chasing after Sebastian. He’d stolen his record for youngest champion in 2010, but Lewis was just two titles away from besting him in a way that mattered even more. He was on the pedestal once again, crowned like a King once again. Glorious, above all else.

 

But it was uneasy. Heavy hangs the head that wears the crown, so they say. Now he was learning to understand why, by the end of 2013, Seb’s had started hanging so low. He knew Seb and Mark could very easily be found at each other’s throats back then, but they weren’t like him and Nico. They couldn’t ever be like that.

 

And he was right. Because loving someone and hating them in equal measure, that was so much more deadly.

 

Things had been rough for a while, but now they were turning straight up ugly.

 

At first, Nico could stomach the loss so long as Lewis was ready to appease him, would get on his knees in apology. Then that steadily ceased to be enough. They were walking a very thin line, and not straying over it was becoming ever more and more challenging.

 

Things were falling apart. He clung to their relationship because he loved him, because he wanted it to work, because he had to believe it could. Regardless of the flaws in their relationship, even then, in hindsight he can see that they were plentiful, he loved Nico, passionately, deeply, wholeheartedly. He clung to him with everything he had, because he loved him.

 

But that didn’t make him the right guy. That didn’t make their relationship survivable. There’s only so many holes you can patch up, and Lewis was steadily running out of things to patch them up with.

 

It blew up. When things finally gave out and it all fell apart, it blew up spectacularly, right in Lewis’ face. Nico won the championship, pulling every dirty move, every mind fuck, everything he had to, to do it. He drew on all the deepest darkest secrets Lewis had, his greatest fears and insecurities, all the things he and only he knew. Because that was what happened when you let someone that close to you. You handed the all the ammunition they needed to blow up your life, trusting that they wouldn’t.

 

But he did. And he never looked back.

 

Lewis had expected healing to take an incredibly long time, maybe forever, and in some ways, it did. But in some ways, that formerly plucky young German with a mop of blonde hair like a halo, a cheeky grin and a love of British comedy, now a bit less young but no less plucky, a little less of the mop of hair, but still with the same sense of humour, made that process go one hell of a lot faster.

 

Because Seb walked into his life when he was at his weakest, despite giving off the appearance of overwhelming strength, saw through his façade, tore down the walls he’d been very meticulously trying to build up around himself, around his heart, and he did it all without a shred of remorse.

 

And Lewis is so fucking grateful. He’s also very fucking proud of himself for letting him. He still can’t quite comprehend how it happened, how Sebastian managed to just walk into his life and throw everything he thought he knew out the fucking window. But he had.

 

Sebastian helped him heal all his wounds, took his time, was patient with him in a way he’d never known, let him be vulnerable but accepted where he still wasn’t ready to let down his guard, gave him back his ability to trust. He taught him that you could fight each other on track with everything you had in you and still love each other off track just as hard.

 

If Nico was the wrong guy, and he most definitely was, then Sebastian was definitely the right one.

 

 

Actually, I always felt I must look better in the rear view

Missing me, at the golden gates they once held the keys to

When I dropped my sword

I threw it in the bushes and knocked on your door

And we live in peace

But if someone comes at us

This time I'm ready

 

 

He sometimes wonders if hindsight makes him look better rather than worse. Because he knows he was far from perfect, he could be a real douche in fact, he knows this. But he also knows he loved Nico, despite it all, despite all his failings, he knows he did that and he knows he loved him well. He wasn’t perfect, but if anyone got the best of him in a time when he was near his worst, it was him.

 

He knows if anyone comes off worse in hindsight, it certainly isn’t him. He did his best, and sometimes that wasn’t good enough, and sometimes he made mistakes. But he knows that when it came down to it, Nico chose to do his worst.

 

In hindsight, he looks pretty damn good by comparison. And the way Nico still looks at him sometimes, in the moments before he looks away, he knows Nico misses him. The feeling isn’t mutual. He’s pretty sure Nico knows that one too. He hopes he’s made it pretty abundantly clear. When Nico chose to take a torch to their relationship, he agreed to let it burn. He’ll rise from the ashes, but that relationship will never be coming with him.

 

Lewis is back on top now, after a good fight with Sebastian. He’d been terrified for a while, that Seb would start resenting him, hating him, for it, because Lewis was not holding back and Sebastian was losing. But he hadn’t. A good fight, a fair fight, and at the end of it, he congratulated him and meant it. They had their moments, Baku wasn’t pretty, but they moved past those things together.

 

Equal on four, ready to battle it out for the fifth. And he knew that no matter who won it, they’d survive. He was back at the top, once again he held the kingdom keys. He and Nico once dreamed of holding them together. Not anymore.

 

Lewis has no interest in fighting like that anymore, none at all. It fucking hurt, it wrecked him, it tore his life apart. He’s not going to do it again, he won’t let it happen.

 

He knows Sebastian won’t either.

 

The press keep trying to get a rise out of him, get him to say something that they can blow out of proportion, perpetuate into something it’s not. The media are vultures, they played their part beautifully in destroying the relationship that Lewis had thought he’d be settled in for the rest of his life. He will absolutely never allow them to do the same again.

 

He’s tired of the fighting, of seeking a validation people adamantly will not give him. He doesn’t fit their mould, he’s not what a champion looks like in their head. He’s not enough, he’s starting to realise that, in their eyes, he never will be. He’s learning to accept that.

 

He will never bring that home to Sebastian in the way he used to, he will never let things turn sour like that. He made a decision, early on, when he knew things were going to be serious, that he wanted them to be, to make it, to last. He picks his battles, more carefully than before, with a readjusted sense of priorities, older and wiser he has a better perspective now. Battles will no longer be able to pick him. He won’t fight like that anymore.

 

Instead he walks into Sebastian’s house, his arms, his heart. Instead he makes a home for himself there. Instead he finds his peace, their peace.

 

The only reservation he has on that, the only condition, which he learns as things start turning sour for Seb at Ferrari, as critics start getting louder and doubts start creeping in, he picks his battles, but for Sebastian? He’ll pick them all. He learns then that it’s not the fight he’s tired of, he’s tired of defending himself. For Seb though? He’ll got to bat for him, he’ll come out swinging.

 

They live in their very own, hard won, carefully carved out peace. But if someone comes for them, well they’d better prepare themselves for everything Lewis has in him. They can come for them if they want to, but this time? This time he knows how this game goes, he knows their moves, he knows the card they think they’re hiding, he knows the intricacies of the games they play. If he has one thing to thank Nico for, it’s this. This time, with Sebastian by his side, he’s ready.

 

 

No more keeping score

Now I just keep you warm

No more tug of war

Now I just know there's more

No more keeping score

Now I just keep you warm

And my waves meet your shore

Ever and evermore

 

 

He feels lucky, luckier than he can put into words in fact, and not for lack of trying, that he gets to be like this, in bed, with Seb curled into his side, fast asleep, completely open and trusting, feeling so secure and safe. He doesn’t understand how he managed to deserve this. He’d never really thought this was possible until he had it. And sometimes it feels like it has just fallen in his lap.

 

With Nico, everything was a competition, everything was a win or a loss. It was always a fight for a victory, no matter how stupid the competition was. It feels ironic really, that he and Nico were a literal team, but they couldn’t manage to be a metaphorical one, while here he and Seb are.

 

And sure, maybe the fact they aren’t teammates helps, but honestly? He and Nico were on that precipice, dancing precariously on the edge for a good while before his move to Mercedes. When he thinks about it, he’s almost certain that only hastened their decline. Does he think he and Sebastian could have managed to be like this had they been teammates in 2010? Probably not, because they were both immature and stubborn and far too focused on winning, ruthless and capable of things they’re not so proud of today. But now? Now he’s pretty sure they could handle it. He’s almost certain in fact. Maybe it’s because they’re older and wiser, maybe he’s being unfair to Nico, but he doesn’t think so.

 

Because between him and Seb, they don’t keep score. It’s not like it’s an explicit rule they have, it’s just not even something they think about. They’re still competitive people, they still have stupid little competitions, but that’s all they are, and they know that. At the end of the day, as fun as it is to mess around with each other over who can do something better, faster, what he really enjoys about it is the way they’ve made it domestic. Who can fold their pile of washing faster, who can get their errands done quicker, who’s better at taking the other apart. It’s all for fun, not a fight for the sake of fighting.

 

And they don’t hold grudges. That was something he and Nico were terrible at. Communication, healthycommunication at least, was a foreign concept to them. By the end, screaming and shouting were all they really knew how to do. And even that never got the message through.

 

Sebastian isn’t like that, he just doesn’t do it. He talks, he does it a lot, about everything. If he’s happy, he’ll talk your ear off about it, and if he’s not, well then he wants to talk it out. Things are hardly perfectbetween them, because the perfect relationship doesn’t exist, but it was one hell of a shock to the system when Baku happened and he was throwing a fit but calmly, albeit frustrated and pacing the length of their hotel room to the point he was going to wear a hole in the carpet, trying to talk it out, willing to apologise for his own mistakes. It was still a little startling, despite the time and distance from his past, when Canada was the same.

 

And he does that with every disagreement, no matter how close he is to losing it, he doesn’t let it happen, if he knows he’s about to lose control, he takes a break, gets some fresh air to clear his head and calm down, then he comes back and they try again. They both make mistakes still, but Lewis learns how to deal with that properly, how to sort it out then let it go. He doesn’t wait for things to implode on him anymore. He trusts that Seb isn’t waiting to throw things back in his face. Because he wouldn’t.

 

He thought learning to trust someone with your secrets again, after what Nico did, would be hell, but there’s just something about Sebastian that ruined his resolve to protect himself from the whole world.

 

So instead of the back and forth, the never-ending push and pull of trying to get on top, to come out the victor, they learn to meet in the middle, to find common ground. He holds Sebastian close and knows that just as Sebastian feels safe, asleep in his arms, there’s no place safer for Lewis to be.

 

He will protect this with everything he has. He with protect Sebastian from everything he can, shield him from the world. Nothing can get to them here, in the sanctuary of their home. What happens in the world outside doesn’t matter as long as they can come back safe, here, to each other.

 

This is his forever, and he couldn’t think of a better way to spend his life.

 

 

Past me

I wanna tell you not to get lost in these petty things

Your nemeses will defeat themselves

Before you get the chance to swing

And he's passing by

Rare as the glimmer of a comet in the sky

And he feels like home

If the shoe fits, walk in it

Everywhere you go

 

 

The one thing he does wish, he wishes he could go back, find this sooner, waste less time on a sinking ship, on petty fights, on trying to win when that only meant losing more and more. He wishes he could go back and tell his past self that the battles he’s let himself fall into aren’t ones worth fighting, aren’t worth losing himself to.

 

He spent so much time trying to beat people in ways that were so unnecessary, win wars that he didn’t need to be involved in. he wasted so much time trying to prove himself to people who would never take him seriously, earn respect from people who would never grant it to him. So much time trying to carve a place in history to quiet every critic, when there could never be such a thing. There was never going to be any amount of success that would force everyone who had doubts about him to give way.

 

He just spent so much time fighting. He wishes he could go back and tell his past self that there’s things that are so much better, so much more worth it, and they were right in front of him if only he’d just open his damn eyes and reach out to take them.

 

All those people he was trying to defeat, to prove wrong, none of them mattered, and none of the energy he wasted on them was needed. They’d all tear themselves apart before he’d even have the chance to do anything about it.

 

Nico is the perfect example. He won, but at what cost? What is a reputation for running from the fight? He won once by playing dirty then ran away, scared, because he knew he couldn’t do it again? All his excuses, all his prettily dressed up reasons. He was scared. Now he has one championship and a lack of credibility. Now he’s alone and stuck in the past, unable to move forward, while Lewis has long since left him in his past. He’s not the only one, but he’s the most glaringly obvious example. The others aren’t even worth thinking about.

 

There were vastly better things waiting for him, close enough to touch, he could have had this so much sooner if he’d have stopped with the tunnel vision, expanded his horizons beyond the goal of winning, of defeating everything that stood in his way.

 

He could have missed this. Sebastian could have just walked straight on by into something else, he could have done it so easily. He’s incredible, in so many ways, Lewis has been awestricken by him for a long time, he doesn’t think he’ll ever truly wrap his head around it, how he has Sebastian.

 

Because objectively he knows he has a lot to offer, but he also knows Sebastian picked him up at a time when he came with more baggage than he was probably worth. He’s aware he’s a catch, but Sebastian is too, more than Lewis thinks he knows. He could have picked someone far less complicated, far easier to handle, to be with, with far less work needed. He didn’t.

 

Lewis wishes he could go back and scream at his younger self, shake some sense into him, and point him in the direction of that plucky German kid. Because that kid turned into a wonderful man, and Lewis loves him more than he ever expected to be able to love another soul. Love like this is rare, and he thanks his lucky stars that Seb hung around long enough for him to find it.

 

Home has stopped being four walls now, it’s no longer a defined space in the same way it always had been before. Now, home is a pair of arms, a body pressed against him, lips to meet his, eyes that sparkle when they look at him, a smile that does indescribable things to the beat of his heart. Sebastian feels like home. And he’ll never take something like that for granted ever again.

 

Never again will he have to walk alone.

 

 

And I fell from the pedestal

Right down the rabbit hole

Long story short, it was a bad time

Pushed from the precipice

Climbed right back up the cliff

Long story short, I survived

Now I'm all about you

And now I'm all about you

 

 

After finding himself again with Sebastian, he managed to drag himself back to the top of the world. Once again the King, conquering. He felt undefeatable, like anything and everything was possible. He broke all the records, with the exception of one, he ensured that no one could ever look at the history of his sport without knowing his name, his mark permanent and inerasable.  He found his way back to the top of the world with the help and support of the man he loved, he was there for him despite the world collapsing down around him. And Lewis was there for him in return. They could figure it out together.

 

He’d climbed higher than anyone had ever climbed before. With that, he learnt, came an even greater desire to topple him than ever before. He hadn’t been booed in a long time, Sebastian had. He helped him through it.

 

Then he was rather violently forced off his pedestal, shunted off the cliff. Apparently they really could hate you that much, apparently the sport he loved had become a show, and the grand finale came at his expense.

 

He understood a little now of what Felipe must have felt. He almost wants to apologise.

 

If he’d thought he’d had a hard fall, it was nothing compared to this. Not even 2016 hurt this badly, which was a shock to the system to realise. He wanted that eighth title, he wanted it bad, and it had been within his reach. It was his, it should have been his…but it wasn’t. And there was nothing he could do about it.

 

A champion dethroned, his crown gone, again. He’d become a centurion, but even Rome fell. And he couldn’t help the doubts creeping in that he would never capture the crown again. Perhaps he was greedy to want one more, he asked Seb as much, and was shut straight down. They didn’t join this sport to be anything but the best. It was not wrong to want it, it didn’t mean it wasn’t grateful for what he did have, not proud of what he’d already achieved.

 

He fell, and he fell hard, and it took a lot to come back from it, he hid away all winter with Seb, working on getting over it. It was one hell of a fall, but Seb had caught him, and he helped him stand back up, supported him and had his back as he dragged himself back up the cliff. He stood beside him when he finally got back on top.

 

An eighth title, unheard of. He’d once again regained his crown.

 

Along the way the rise and fall had almost crushed him. But it hadn’t. He hadn’t let it. And he hadn’t let it crush what he had with Sebastian either, he hadn’t let it all come crumbling down. Getting there, he’d been through one hell of a bad time, but he’d made it, despite everything, eight titles and a man who loved him, a man he loved more than life itself, beside him.

 

To make a long story short. He’d had one hell of a bad time. But he’d survived.

 

 

Long story short, it was a bad time

Long story short, I survived