AN: Hey, all, thanks for poking your heads into this. I've written plenty of stuff before, but I've never written anything for Cars, and when I saw the movie a few weeks ago, this demanded to be written. It was inspired by the part where Sally sees Lightning's trailer; the expression on her face just wrenched at my heart. Anyway, yes, this is blatant Sally/Lightning; I don't think any other character really has lines. So enjoy, mmkay? And please review.
Oh, one more thing: a huge thank you to Miss Nienna for being my beta! I know you don't really come onto but I thought I'd put it in here anyway, just in case. :D
Disclaimer: I do not own Cars and every character that appears here – they belong to Pixar/Disney and their subsequent creators. I am borrowing the characters (and several lines from the movie) for nonprofit purposes, and I stake no claim to them. Parts of this story, however, came from my own brain – let me know if you want to archive it somewhere. Now off with you, and enjoy the story!
If there was one thing Sally Carrera knew she did well, it was that she could judge a car's character quickly and accurately. The skill had served her well as a lawyer, allowing her to determine which kinds of questioning a witness would react favorably to, how a jury would respond to her statements, and so forth. It was the driving force behind her rising fame, and it had kept her as one of the top lawyers in Los Angeles.
If she'd been told that she would actually be wrong about someone, and that her dismissal of a certain red racecar as an arrogant son of a junker would quickly be rescinded, she would've laughed in their face.
From the moment she set eyes on him, she knew he wouldn't be worth her time. She'd seen his type all over Los Angeles, even worked with a few and hated every minute due to their incapability to do things properly. Despite the different body and make, he had that "Egocentric Jerk" persona down to an art that put others to shame, and his attitude came complete with a disgusting, delusional certainty that he was the Manufacturer's gift to women everywhere.
Probably because none had turned him down flat before.
Shooting him out of the sky had been more fun than she thought it would be, especially considering the expression on his face when he finally grasped the fact that she wasn't there to help him. She'd been unable to hold back a grin when she watched the sinking realization dawn on his face, that smug smirk melting swiftly to worry and fear. She'd laughed at the sheer petulance present in his tone when he told her he wouldn't be taking her to dinner, and when she and the sheriff caught him rolling to a stop out past the billboard, she'd relished the look of confused horror shining in his eyes.
She'd even managed to give him a taste of his own medicine by blinding him briefly with one of her mirrors.
Stickers, she'd called him, and the name was perfect for him. He was covered with the things, from those silly lightning bolts to his headlights and taillights; why did he even have those? Racecars had no use for either headlights or taillights, and the sight of them in sticker form only made him seem more ridiculous.
As the first day of his stay in Radiator Springs drew to a close, his ranting over the unfairness of having to pull Bessie properly ringing through the sleepy town, Sally had found herself hoping that he'd finish so they could be rid of him. Doc had been right about the town not needing his type around; he did nothing but insult them and complain, and she'd been close to offering to finish the road herself if it meant he'd be gone.
And yet, with the dawn of the next morning, he'd managed to surprise her, and the whole town for that matter, with that first stretch of well-paved road. She'd been forced to withdraw one of her conclusions about him; he was indeed capable of doing something well, when he actually applied himself.
On that second day, she'd watched the town warm up to him, with Luigi and his insane tire offers to Fillmore and his organic fuel, and once again she'd been surprised. Instead of snapping back in the cruel fashion she'd expected, he'd simply been impatient and annoyed, not showing any interest but not telling them off either.
And then she'd made the offer for Cone #1 for the night.
Part of her had been seriously questioning her sanity while the other part honestly felt like giving him a chance, reasoning that if he could do such a good job with the road, maybe there was more to him than she'd initially assumed.
Granted, their conversation did little to encourage the hope, especially considering his inane babble about traffic cones and the teasing over the tattoo. As she hid herself in her office, she'd hoped that she wouldn't come to regret of her offer.
Her eavesdropping on his conversation with Mater and her own conversation with him on the second night gave her even more fuel for thought, with his halting compliments and his actual expression of gratitude, no matter how embarrassed it sounded. His words to Mater, the play of honest emotions across his face, and the sound of his laughter followed her into her dreams that night, and she blamed them for the sudden softening of her own feelings when she awoke the next morning.
The drive they shared on the third day had forced her to rethink a few more conclusions, considering the naked awe she'd caught on his face more than once, and the playfulness they'd both shown. The jerk she'd assumed he was wouldn't have listened intently to her tale of Radiator Spring's past, or cared as much as he appeared to. He even expressed her deepest wish, to see the town restored to what it had been, and she knew the fluttering of her engine was due to that smile of his, where real happiness had shone in his rich blue eyes.
The fourth day brought a mix of shock to see the road complete and a bitter disappointment, as there'd been no sign of him. She'd been close to moving him back into the "Conceited Jerk" category – who left without saying good-bye, anyway? – when she'd seen the crowd around Luigi's.
Her engine had fluttered all over again at the sight of him sitting on the hydraulic lift, and then he'd winked at her, making her temperature shoot up rapidly as trills of happiness ran through her body. He hadn't left after all!
When she'd returned later in the day to see his new look, she found herself giggling at his preening. She had to admit that he looked good, especially considering that most of his stickers had either been removed or simply painted over. He'd circled around her, flashing that cocky grin of his – funny that it no longer bothered her – and the warmth she felt intensified at the sight of all the townsfolk grinning at them.
You've helped everyone in town, she'd said, happy to see everyone smiling and laughing.
Not quite, he'd replied, and then the town had lit up brilliantly, flashing neon bathing everyone in a surreal glow.
She'd been so stunned it was a miracle she was still able to speak. Feeling the purr of smooth asphalt beneath her tires, listening to the soft, peppy beat that filled the air, and watching the gentle play of neon across sleek metallic bodies made her wonder if someone hadn't plunged her into a wonderful, magical dream.
And it truly had been magical, especially when he smiled at her, bashful and hopeful at the same time. She couldn't remember who'd edged forward first, their fenders just barely brushing, and a jolt of pure joy had run through her. She'd nuzzled against him then, watching his eyes drift shut and a blissful smile rise to his lips, and she'd relished the way he responded with a nuzzle of his own.
Everything became a hurried blur after that point, with the reporters swooping in and snatching him away from her. She'd been lost beneath the waves of cars, her voice drowned by their incessant questioning. Constant flashes of light kept her from locating him, no matter how many times she heard him call out to her, and then a semi had come barreling towards the congregation, joy and relief radiating off the vehicle.
Something broke in her at the sight of the trailer, a certain racecar's face smirking back at her in a larger-than-life form, lightning bolts flanking him. She'd always known he was from another world, but had foolishly chosen to ignore the fact, given their budding relationship and her wild hope that maybe he'd grow to love the town as she had.
His world had come to reclaim him, and there was nothing she could do to stop it.
She did her best to seek him out then, if only to let him know how much he had helped the town, had helped her. He'd given her memories she would cherish to the end of her days, and she hadn't let him try to explain himself. They both knew he had to leave; to let him say anything would've shattered her already broken engine.
She knew she had to let him go, no matter how much it hurt.
Good-bye, Stickers, she'd whispered to the rapidly retreating crowd of reporters, knowing in the depths of her frame that she wouldn't see him again.
But she wished just as deeply that it wasn't so.
"So you just passin' through?" she asked, trying to keep her voice clear. Hope had her motor in her throat, and she knew she shouldn't be asking if she wanted to avoid disappointment.
But she couldn't help it.
"I thought I might stay a while," he said, a small smile appearing on his lips. "I hear this place is back on the map."
"Oh?" This was news to her; did he know something she didn't?
"Yeah, supposedly some hot-shot racecar is setting up his big racing headquarters here," he said, grinning widely, and she wanted to squeal in excitement.
"Oh," she said, feigning calm. "Well, there goes the town."
They shared a laugh, and then silence fell, his smile fading as a strange emotion appeared in his eyes. She swallowed, her engine fluttering under her hood; why did he suddenly look so serious?
"You know," he began, his voice falling an octave, "I really missed you, Sally."
I missed you too! she wanted to cry, feeling as though tears would start streaming down her cheeks. Chrysler, Stickers, I never thought I could miss someone like I missed you!
"Well, I create
feelings in others that they themselves don't fully understand,"
she replied, grinning as a shy smile rose to his lips. "And blah,
blah, blah, blah…"
"There you are!"
Sally jumped, the sudden voice startling her from her reverie and into a rapid reverse. She halted quickly and turned to see Lightning laughing at her from a good distance away, his eyes sparkling with mirth.
"Glad I could be so amusing," she drawled, and watched his smile grow to a grin.
"Hey, it isn't every day I manage to surprise you," he replied and she rolled her eyes at him. She then turned back to the view of the canyon, the setting sun painting the expanse in rich reds and oranges, and listened as he drew near, his frame creaking faintly as he settled himself beside her.
"So what'cha doin' all the way out here?" he asked quietly, nudging his bumper against hers, and she let out a small sigh.
"Just enjoying the solitude, I suppose," she replied, and saw his expression furrow from the corner of her eye.
"Should I go, then?" he asked, and she could hear the underlying disappointment in his voice.
She shook her front in a negative and snuggled closer to him, feeling him relax as she nuzzled his side. "We rarely get any time by ourselves," she said, letting her eyes drift shut, and felt him nod slightly. "Not that I'm complaining about the increase in tourism, but sometimes it's nice to just sit around quietly."
Lightning made a soft sound of agreement and pressed his side to hers, the two cars cuddling close and hunkering down on their tires. A comfortable silence grew between them as they watched the sunset, the sky slowly darkening and countless stars peppering the navy expanse.
"Hm?" he responded, his tone thick and sleepy, and Sally pulled back just enough to see him blink several times and yawn discreetly.
"Aw, did I wake you? I guess you're not having much fun just sitting out here, are you?" she said, her tone light, and she smiled as her comment sank in and shook him awake.
"No, no," he said hastily, assuming he was running damage control, "Doc really put me through some paces earlier, so I'm a little tired, but I'm awake, really! What'd you need?"
"Nothing, really," she said, settling herself back at his side. "I just wanted to know when your next race is."
That comment really woke him up; she could feel him staring at her. "It's in a week and a half," he said, and she could hear curiosity and confusion laced into his words. "Why?"
"Oh, no real reason," she said, though her tone said otherwise. "I was just thinking of finding someone to cover for me at the Cozy Cone, so I could actually be at the race for a change."
Shocked silence answered her, and when she snuck a peek at him, she found that he was staring at her with wide eyes.
"Really?" he asked, breathless, and when she nodded, he let out the loudest whoop of delight she'd ever heard. She laughed when he began circling her in his excitement, babbling something about how great it'd be to have her there, with a few 'yes!'s thrown in for good measure.
"People'll think I never see you race if you keep this up," she teased when he finally stopped moving, and he threw her an incredulous look. "Don't give me that; I've seen every single one of your races, Stickers."
"Seen them, sure, but actually been there? I think I've got more tires," he said, and she nudged him playfully.
"So what brought this on?" he asked, the incredulous look back. "Normally you never trust anyone to cover for you, even when you manage to find someone – not that I'm complaining, that is. You know I'd love to have you come along with me."
She shrugged, bobbing up and down on her axels. "I think I just realized how much I miss you when you're gone," she said, and felt him quiet beside her. She smiled when he nuzzled her fender affectionately, and they pressed their sides together. "Not that I didn't know that before now; it just hit me how much I hate seeing you leave."
There was a thoughtful pause before he responded. "You think I won't come back?" he asked, showing more insight than she expected, but she should've known better. Lightning could be very intuitive when he wanted to.
"I know it's silly," she said, her voice softening, and she let her gaze drift down to where one of her tires played with the dirt. "But sometimes I can't help it."
"Hey, Sally, look at me," he said gently, drawing back so their eyes could meet. "Radiator Springs is my home, and everyone here is like my family. I could never leave it, even if someone offered me the world on a silver platter."
She grinned, trying to cover the sudden lump in her throat and the tears she felt pricking the corner of her eyes. "If everyone here is like your family, what does that make me? A really sexy cousin? Or, heaven forbid, your sister?" she teased, watching as he grimaced in disgust.
"How about the hot girl next door?" he tried, and she fought to keep the look of mock seriousness on her face.
"You're the one who came up with the metaphor," she returned, and he made a face. "Should I be worried about your mental health now?"
"And you say I have problems with serious conversations," he grumbled, rolling his eyes, and she finally laughed.
"I just know that you're terrible with them," she said, and then blew out a breath, allowing her voice to lose some of its lightheartedness.
"Lightning, I know that this is your home, and I know you would never up and leave us," she said, smiling at him. "Sometimes I just get silly and need reassurances; you of all people should know that. We've been together for how long now?"
He returned her smile as he nudged her fender, his eyes shining with a look she knew was reserved especially for her. "Not long enough," he said, and her insides fluttered.
"You say the sweetest things sometimes," she said, gazing at him warmly, and giggled when his expression grew rather bashful.
"Yeah, well…" He trailed off with an embarrassed cough, shifting on his wheels, and then blinked when he realized something. "Hey, what do you mean, 'sometimes'?"
She shrugged. "Stickers, you and I both know you aren't good with words, especially when you actually mean them," she teased, and laughed when he pouted. "Aw, you look so cute when you do that!"
He rolled his eyes, though she could see he was fighting a smile. "So are we done with the serious stuff?" he asked, and she shrugged.
"For now, I suppose," she answered and laughed when he gave a mock sigh of relief. "You got off easy this time, Stickers."
"Don't I know it," he said and then gave her a sly look. "So last one to Flo's buys?"
She grinned. "You're on."
She was off like a rocket before he could reply, his indignant squawk and the distinctive roar of his engine following her into the night. She laughed as she hugged the twists and turns, listening to him rant and rave as he ate her dust.
"Too slow, Stickers!" she called as they reached the home stretch, but she had too much of a lead on him for the straight section to do any good. It certainly didn't help that he was forced to follow her taillights due to utter darkness that faced him otherwise, and she had the nasty habit of leading him off the paved road, only to leave him stranded beneath several tumbleweeds he never saw coming.
"Just you wait 'till I get headlights!" he shouted as they neared the edge of town. "Then we'll see who goes fastest in the dark!"
"Keep dreaming!" she shouted back.
"Oh I will!"
He nearly passed her once they got into the town, but thanks to some quick maneuvering and a red light that Sheriff wouldn't let him run, she had a full five minutes to wait before he showed up beside her. She laughed as he pouted, his body dusty and a little worse for wear, pieces of various plants stuck into the seams of his frame. When he only grunted grumpily when she nudged him playfully, she softened and placed a light kiss on his fender.
"Love you, Lightning," she said, and watched him roll his eyes, even though she got him to smile.
"You only say that because I'm buying," he muttered, but snuggled to her side, and the two drifted into their regular spot at Flo's. "Love you, too, Sally. You want your usual?"
She smiled, thrilled to hear the words, as sadly, they were a rarity. "Please," she said, and with one last nuzzle, he went to place their orders.
Sally watched him go, sighing to herself happily. Who would've thought that the love of her life would turn out to be someone she had initially disliked? Certainly not her, otherwise she wouldn't have let him go when the press had shown up all those months ago.
One thing was certain, however: now that she had him, she was never letting go.
"I'm afraid Flo was out of your usual," Lightning said, interrupting her thoughts as he wheeled back to her side. "So I just ordered you something I thought you'd like."
"Oh?" she asked, glancing at him before they settled against each other comfortably. "This isn't going to be like the last time you tried to surprise me, is it?"
She could feel him wince. "Hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time…"
She laughed and snuggled against him. "And it's the thought that counts," she said as he nudged his fender against hers, and she smiled when he let out a happy sigh reminiscent of her own.
Oh yeah, she thought. She was never letting go.