The Dangers of Attraction
Sheriff tries to warn Doc about the consequences of his attraction to Lightning, but Doc is already in too deep.
Disclaimer: This story is based on Cars and its characters and situations, all created and owned by Disney and Pixar.
"You're just going to end up hurting yourself," he tells Doc for what feels like the hundredth time. Doc nods, but he has a faraway look on his face. Sheriff sighs.
"I don't understand what you see in that delinquent, anyway."
"You wouldn't understand," Doc says shortly.
Sheriff frowns, undeterred. "Try me."
"He reminds me of myself, when I was young," Doc says quietly, and Sheriff knows there is some big, important story behind this. He waits for an elaboration, but Doc remains silent, staring into the distance.
"How?" he ventures.
"Like I said, you wouldn't understand," Doc says in a forceful tone that demands that the subject be dropped, before pushing him out of his office.
Sheriff stares at the closed door, windshield furrowed.
Doc's right. He doesn't understand.
- - - - -
"Why don't you get a quart of oil at Flo's? I'll keep an eye on him."
Sheriff gives him a sidelong look. Doc doesn't appear to be fazed. He looks determined.
Sheriff sighs, giving up. "Thanks, Doc. I've been feeling a quart low," he says in a cheery tone that nearly overrides his concern. "Watch yourself," he warns him in a quieter tone.
Doc gives an imperceptible nod, eyes fixed on Lightning.
Shaking his front end, Sheriff turns back towards the town.
- - - - -
"Doc, you know I'm your friend, right?"
Doc gives him a funny look. "Of course, Sheriff. Why?"
Sheriff narrows his eyes at him. "And you know that you can tell me anything, right?" Doc looks nervous. He knows what's coming. "Why was the boy talking about you being a racecar?" Sheriff asks, even though he already knows the answer. "Why—"
"Some things are better kept buried in the past," Doc says sharply. Sheriff frowns, attempting a different tact.
"He seemed really excited about it. Like he worshipped you or something."
Doc looks away. "Yeah. I heard." Then quieter, "That boy is going to be my demise, Wallis." Sheriff's engine wrenches at the pained look on his long-time friend's face. "He's everywhere," he almost whispers.
"Well, this here ain't exactly the biggest town, Doc."
Doc shakes his front end. "No, he's everywhere. Everywhere I go. He won't get out of my mind." If he didn't sound so serious, Sheriff would laugh at him for sounding like a lovesick teenager. Before he can respond, Doc cuts in, suddenly sounding angry. "I want that boy out of here, Sheriff."
"No, you don't," Sheriff replies matter-of-factly.
Doc remains silent.
- - - - -
Doc drives into Flo's and parks at the stall next to Sheriff.
"I just talked to him," he announces quietly, and Sheriff narrows his eyes at him, attempting to gauge whether this is good news or not. "He doesn't care about anything but himself," Doc continues, and Sheriff frowns at him. Doc is obviously upset, but he knows that prying will be useless. If Doc wants to tell him something, Doc will tell him of his own accord.
"The boy? But that's nothing new."
Doc nods slowly. "He says that I'm just as selfish as him. I'm nothing like him," he growls, and Sheriff is completely bewildered. Hadn't Doc told him that he was attracted to him because he reminded him of himself in his younger days?
Doc sighs heavily, as if burdened by some invisible weight on his roof.
"I want to tell you about who I am and why I never told you about my history," Doc says, and Sheriff has no idea what this is about, but he settles down with his can of fuel and listens.
- - - - -
The morning sun rises over Radiator Springs and everyone comes out to see the progress of the new road and praise the car who is paving it. Problem is, he's not there.
"He's done," Mater says in wonder. "He must'a finished it while we was sleepin'."
"Good riddance," Doc says, and Sheriff catches a glint of regret in his eyes as he drives past him to his office.
- - - - -
Sheriff's eyes snap open and he blinks to clear his eyes of sleep. "Doc? What are you doing h—"
He looks panicked. "I called them," he confesses. He is referring to the press, of course. Sheriff shrugs.
"Yeah, I heard you talking to Sally earlier tonight."
Doc nods. There is a long silence, during which Sheriff stares at his friend in bemusement. He looks like he is trying to put his words together. Sheriff waits.
"What am I supposed to do now?"
Sheriff looks at him, shocked at how helpless he sounds. Doc's always been so strong and firm about everything. He's always kept his head in any situation. It almost seems wrong to see him like this, so vulnerable and anxious.
"He told me I was amazing," Doc says, voice cracking. He begins to shake uncontrollably, and for a second Sheriff worries that he is having a seizure of some kind before he realizes that Doc is silently crying. He has no idea what to do. After a moment, he settles for allowing Doc to lean on him and murmuring "It's okay" every few seconds.
"I'm never going to see him again," Doc chokes out between gasps, and Sheriff doesn't know what to say.
- - - - -
He can't help but notice that it was Doc who took the initiative to go after Lightning, not Sally. He can't help but notice that Doc ordered Sally to stay in Radiator Springs—he finds the thought of a jealous Doc strange indeed, but he supposes attraction (attraction as strong as Doc's interest and attachment to the boy, anyway) does funny things to people—and that Sally consented with little protest. He can't help but notice Lightning's huge smile when he stops by the pit to greet them—and how he has eyes only for Doc the entire time.
He can't help but see the way Doc lights up after that, practically bouncing on his wheels like some child on Chryslermas morning. He can't help but see the way Doc glows with pride and admiration and maybe even something more when Lightning executes that sliding move (Sheriff isn't very familiar with all those fancy racing terms) that puts him ahead of his competitors.
When Lightning gives up that trophy he couldn't stop raving about when he first arrived in Radiator Springs to help the wrecked car, Sheriff feels himself swell with pride. The egotistical, selfish car that wrecked their road would never have given up his chance at winning the race, and Sheriff knows that all of his companions are thinking the same thing.
But all of their smiles added together are nothing compared to the brilliant smile that spreads across Doc's grill. Sheriff looks at him, and can instantly tell that what he feels for the boy is much more than mere attraction.
When Lightning rolls up to them (all waiting for him in front of his sponsor's tent) and he smiles—almost embarrassedly, it seems—at Doc; the two don't say much but seem to say everything at the same time. Some secret understanding appears to pass between them through some connection invisible to everyone else. Watching the boy and his wide grin now, Sheriff has to wonder if he doesn't share Doc's feelings—to some extent, at least.
When he comes back from speaking to the Dinoco president, Doc nudges him and says something that Sheriff can't hear. Lightning nods happily and nuzzles Doc briefly before they head off towards Lightning's trailer, driving closer together than necessary.
He can't help but hope that maybe Doc won't end up hurt, after all.