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How Nico's career ended and something new began

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It's the third day in Barcelona and Lewis' second day in the new car.
And damn, it has been about time.
Sure, he always enjoyed taking a break and finding time to meet up with friends or just spend the days at the beach with Roscoe and Coco but this is what he is destined to do.
He is on top of the game, the best of all and he is eager to win his fourth title this season.
The moment he had smelled that unique scent of motor oil, burned tires and hot asphalt again after the winter break, he had had to close his eyes for a few minutes, breathing it all in and finally feeling alive again.
Because this is what this sport, what his destiny makes him feel like: alive and experiencing life in its fullest, pushing boundaries and crossing them, breaking record after record to eventually reach his goal of finally being the best driver to ever be in F1, better than his idols, even.
And when he is checking the lap times on Toto's computer, with his engineers standing beside him and Niki talking to the press with his funny accent, he feels home again.
This is where he is supposed to be.

However, it feels different.
Not just because of the new car or the new Mercedes employees or the different style of his helmet, no.
What makes this start of the season feel so completely different from what it used to be and what actually causes a little itching in his chest is the absence of the man that has pushed him past his boundaries and out of his comfort zone so many times, race after race.

Lewis catches himself looking over at the other garage a few times, expecting Nico to be standing there with his eyes glued to the monitor, analyzing data which Lewis himself had never understood in the first place.
And every times he spots Valtteri instead of his former team mate, there's a sharp pang of anger rushing through his guts and it confuses the hell out of him.
It has nothing to do with the Fin himself; in fact, Lewis didn't even care about who would be his new team mate (if it wasn't Alonso, after all) because he was convinced that he would be able to beat them all.
But he couldn't and still can't imagine a world of Formula 1 without Nico.
The German had been there since the very beginning, before there had ever been a realistic chance of making it into the champions league of motor sport one day.
Nico had always been been around, somehow.
Despite all the ups and downs Lewis had to face during the last years, his personal failures and growth, the one thing he had always been able to count on was that Nico would be there and ready to beat him, to chase him down the track and force him to give his very best every single day.
Nico had been there when Lewis would come back to their hotel late at night, his blood poisoned by alcohol and his mind weak, collapsing into his former best friends arms to cry a few silent tears against the German's neck.
Nico would stay around when Lewis was at his worst, when the whole world seemed to hate him, Nico had always been there to prove that he was still just that kid from Britain hoping to be the best on a track.
And he had been around when they had started to ignore each other.
Even after weeks of not talking to the other, Nico would still be present, his personality able to fill whole rooms with glory, ready to accept every apology Lewis had to offer, even if he'd have to wait for weeks or even months.
So yes, he has missed his [former] best friend.
He's missed what Nico made him feel like.
He has even missed their fights, now, when Nico is a thousand miles away, trying to build a life outside F1, away from him.

It is when Lewis is about to get in the car for the final laps today, when his breath gets caught in his lungs and that familiar tickle down his back leaves no other assumption.
He doesn't even have to turn around to know that Nico is there but he does it anyway.
He had somehow always been hyper aware of the other man, as if the German was the vanishing points all lines in the room would realign for, as if all the atoms in Lewis' body were somehow attracted to those of his former teammate.
So when the Brit eventually turns around, Nico is standing in the doorway, dark glasses hiding is blue eyes, his stupid hair as perfect as ever and god, Lewis thinks, he looks happy.

"What are you doing here?", is the only thing that leaves his mouth and Lewis immediately regrets his harsh tone but Nico just grins and lifts his glasses, winking at the Brit.
"I was around and thought I'd check out the new cars if there's the opportunity."
Lewis raises an eyebrow, trying his best to ignore the way the setting sun hits Nico's blonde hair, giving off little rays of sunshine: "Yeah right. You're probably just here because you've missed me."
Lewis' tone is light and teasing but Nico seems to be more serious in a heartbeat and it takes some time until the German answers: "Well, what if I am?"

And this is how it all started.