This was it, the final race of Piston Cup season. The weather was clear and the whole stadium was packed with cars. Lightning was looking at the passing racers. He didn't recognise them and it scared him. All of his friends were forced to retire and he was the last one left. Was this going to be his last race ever? A part of Lightning was telling himself that he had a good run with seven Piston Cups won, just like the King had. Lightning narrowed his eyes. No, he was not that old. He would go the track and show those rookies. Especially to Jackson Storm.
With determination in his eyes, Lightning was ready to drive off, until a certain black car blocked his path. Storm acted as if he hadn't noticed him right away. His cocky grin and indifferent look in his eyes made Lightning feel annoyed, yet on some level, nostalgic. Like seeing a reflection of his younger self. His thoughts were cut by Storm's voice who was now facing him properly.
"Glad to see you made it to your final race, McQueen. For a moment I wondered if they told you to quit." As usual, Storm was covering the insult behind his friendly tone. Lightning was not in the mood for this. The race was about to start and he was already on the edge.
"Yeah, well, someone has to show you rookies what's real racing..." Storm laughed a little at the comment.
"Oh really? Like the last time? Was losing a part of your strategy?" What a burn, Lightning thought to himself. This could go on forever so he switched the topic to something less hurtful.
"You said I have been your role model for years. I'm starting to believe you were only kidding," Lightning said, trying to sound playful. Storm's cocky expression didn't change at all. He understood what the old man was hinting.
"I wasn't kidding. I used to watch you race and be impressed by all of it. I even knew most facts about you in my friend group," he admitted. Lightning's mouth curved into a small smile. He hadn't expected to hear that. "Okay, tell me one fact only a true fan would know."
"Your real name is not Lightning, it's Monty," Storm answered and his grin was now unbearable. Lightning's eyes widened in embarrassment. His real name was not really a secret but not many knew about it. Perhaps it had slipped in one interview years back. Lightning wasn't sure if he should compliment Storm or not since it was evident that his real name was a joke to him.
"Such a cute name," the rookie bantered, "Makes you sound like a softie."
"Haha, how funny!" Lightning said sarcastically. "That's why I prefer Lightning... But if you call me by my original name on the track, I'll make sure your paint job won't be the same after it," he warned. Storm found the small threat funny and moved forward in a menacing way. "Oh yeah? I don't think you'd be able to catch me."
The insult did strike a nerve in Lightning but he controlled himself. He wasn't a violent guy though Storm behaved like he was asking to get beaten. Ten years before, Lightning used to be similar: always taunting his rivals, not caring about consequences. That way he got others doubting themselves and it seemed to work. Fortunately, he dropped the habit after meeting Doc Hudson. It's not about winning, it's about the legacy you leave behind, and Storm was too young to understand it yet. And Lightning forgave it.
"What's the matter, old man? Can't bear to hear the truth?" Storm kept on teasing. He was probably taking it too far but he couldn't stop himself. Lightning needed to get his reality checked because his career was already over. He didn't have to race anymore. Storm didn't need to witness his idol getting the last place on Piston Cup. "Be smart and choose retirement..."
"No!" Lightning suddenly shouted. "I will do this, Storm. Stop trying to get inside my head because it's not working. I know these tracks better than you and won this same competition seven times. Your experience in racing is nothing compared to mine!"
He hadn't meant to cause a scene. Other racers were staring at them in silence, expecting a fight to break down. Storm rolled his eyes at him.
"Well... You chose your fate, Lightning. You're gonna regret it." and he drove away. Lightning watched the rookie making his leave, feeling a bit ashamed of himself. Although winning Pistol Cup was not his primal goal, Lightning knew he had to beat Storm. A fan or not, the rookie was an arrogant jerk. Lightning drove off to another direction to wait for the race to start, Storm's insults echoing in his head.
If only he had known that challenging Storm was going to cost him more than just victory on that day. Not even Storm himself had predicted the crash. Despite not showing it, he was shocked to see it happen. After the race, a small voice in his head was saying that maybe, possibly, he was to be blamed.