"Now that was a party!" laughed Lightning, pulling up to park beside Sally and Hot Rod at the head of Main Street to observe the town.
Sally smirked. "I sure don't envy some of them in the morning when they have to report for work or duty with a hangover."
"One has to wonder where Wheeljack got his hands on so much high-grade," Hot Rod mused.
"One also has to wonder where Jazz got a sombrero that fit his head," Lightning added, eliciting a laugh from the other two vehicles.
Radiator Springs looked a mess tonight -- if any tourists happened to blunder into town at this unholy hour, they might have assumed there had been a massive brawl, judging by the bodies littering the curbs and parking lots and the empty fuel canisters scattered about. Flo had been generous with her high-octane fuel, and the Autobots had whooped it up with their own version of intoxicating brew. Mater and Jazz had been the life of the party, of course, Mater livening things up halfway through with an unscheduled tractor stampede and Jazz flaunting the aforementioned sombrero for the revelers. Even Doc, who had a particular distaste for drunken antics, and Prowl, whom Hot Rod described as being a bit of a stiff, had enjoyed a few drinks and celebrated almost as hard as the rest of town.
The end result, of course, was that the residents would have quite the mess to clean up in the morning -- unless Doc had the Road Hazards do that. And Ratchet was going to have a time of it dealing with a few dozen hung-over mechs in the clinic.
Lightning gazed over the snoring vehicles and the sprawled forms of Autobots still in their robot modes. He and Hot Rod had enjoyed a few drinks, but being racers the last thing either of them needed was an octane overdose, so they had kept the imbibing to a minimum. Sally rarely drank high-octane anyhow, so she too was clear-headed. Lightning wondered if the three of them were the only sober mechs in town at the moment.
"I hope Hound got holos of this," Hot Rod grinned. "I need a few of those pics of the twins climbing the tire tower."
"Blackmail material?" asked Sally knowingly.
"Slag yes. With those two, you need all the defensive tools you can get."
The three cars looked up to see Jazz in robot mode, picking his way over the prone forms of Wheeljack, Fillmore, and the Dinobots to get to them. He wobbled slightly on his feet but otherwise seemed perfectly functional, which was surprising given the amount he had been drinking that evening. When he reached Lightning, he knelt to address him.
"Prime would like a word with ya, Lightnin'," Jazz informed him. "An' Mater too, if we can find him."
"I haven't seen him since we finished rounding up the tractors," Sally replied. "Though with the mood Sherrif was in about that, I don't really blame him for hiding."
Hot Rod pointed with a tire. "He's over by Sarge's Surplus Hut. Looks like Smokescreen and Bluestreak are with him."
Lightning frowned. "That can't be too good." Despite liking Mater a great deal, he had to admit that the tow truck could be a little overwhelming when being introduced to someone new. Smokescreen, who had just arrived at Radiator Springs that day for the party, was probably learning a lot more than he ever wanted to know about the residents and history of the town at that moment.
Jazz laughed. "Aw, 'Screen can handle himself," he assured Lightning, and he shifted to his Porsche mode. "C'mon, let's go see what they're up to."
As they approached Sarge's hut, they caught the tail end of the conversation -- or rather, the tail end of Mater's story.
"...an' all that was left of them was two outta-state license plates. So remember, the one thing the Ghostlight hates most of all is the sound of clankin' metal..."
Smokescreen gazed at Mater with half-lidded optics, clearly unimpressed with Mater's recounting of the Ghostlight legend. Bluestreak was another story -- the poor young Datsun was shaking enough for his door panels to rattle.
"Calm down, Blue, it ain't real," Jazz assured him, pulling up alongside Mater.
"But it is real!" Mater protested. "Just ask the Sherrif!"
"Mater, Prime wants to talk to us," Lightning told him, cutting him off before he could scare the Datsun any worse.
"Okay, g'night Smokey, g'night Blue," Mater told his audience.
"Good night, and don't call me Smokey," Smokescreen replied, turning and driving off.
"Jazz?" squeaked Bluestreak, his gaze flitting everywhere as he desperately searched for any sign of the mythic Ghostlight. "I know you're recharging at Sally's motel tonight... but... ah... can you... uh... come back to the Wheel Well with me?"
"No can do, Blue. All th' major officers an' team leaders need to be at this meetin'."
Lightning offered the Porsche a quizzical look. All officers? Just what was going on?
"I'll go with him," Sally volunteered.
Bluestreak visibly relaxed. "Thanks, Miss Sally."
"No problem, Bluestreak," she replied.
"Oh, while you're at it, can you drop this off at the racing museum for me?" asked Lightning, handing her his Dinoco cup. "Don't want anyone trying to drink out of it again."
"Or at this point, y' don't want anyone purging their fuel tank in it," Jazz grinned.
Sally rolled her eyes. "So now that Stickers is a Dinoco champ, he has to have someone else run his errands, huh?" she asked teasingly, taking the cup. Involuntarily she glanced inside the trophy... and gasped.
"What?" asked Hot Rod. "Don't tell me somebody DID tank-purge in it..."
She didn't answer, only tipped the trophy and caught what was inside in her other tire -- a gold lug nut set with a diamond.
"Lightning," she breathed, looking up to hold his gaze.
He grinned awkwardly, hoping he didn't look as foolish as he felt. "Sally... um, this is a bit overdue, but... would you marry me?"
She gazed at the diamond again. "Lightning, I... I don't know what to say..."
"Say yes, girl!" Jazz gushed, grinning from fender to fender and looking so pleased with himself one would have thought he had proposed to her rather than the racecar.
She laughed. "Yes, then." She leaned forward and kissed Lightning. "And it's about time, Stickers."
Lightning felt his fenders heat up. Thank the manufacturer he was already red and his blush wouldn't show...
"Whoo hoo!" hooted Mater. "I getta be lug-nut bearer!"
"Actually, I was thinking you'd be best man..." began Lightning.
"Shoot, Roddy can do that!" Mater replied, pointing a tire at Hot Rod.
"Sure," the Firebird replied. "That is, if you want me to..."
"That'd be great," Lightning replied.
Sally gave him one more kiss on the cheek. "I'm going to take Bluestreak to the Wheel Well," she told him. "Good luck with your meeting, Stickers."
"See you soon," he told her.
"G'night, soon-to-be-Mrs.-McQueen!" shouted Jazz as she led Bluestreak down the road. "C'mon, Lightnin' an' Mater, Prime's waitin'."
"See you in the morning," Hot Rod said, waving a tire. "Oh, and congratulations again on the cup. You ran a good race."
"Will you race again next year?" Lightning asked.
"Maybe," Hot Rod replied. "If the war lets us. We'll plan on it, anyhow."
Mater laughed as he and Lightning trailed behind Jazz. "McQueen and Sally parked b'neath a tree -- K - I - S - somethin' somethin' somethin' - T!"
Lightning followed the Porsche through town, weaving his way around piles of unconscious mechs and vehicles. Bumblebee and the Aerialbots were scattered beneath the awning of the V-8, all graced with brand-new pastel paint jobs courtesy of the Lambo twins. Said twins snored near the Delinquent Road Hazards, who had been released from impound in order to make room for the Stunticons. A cluster of smaller robots -- Blaster's cassettes, Hot Rod had explained -- were curled up in Hound's and Sarge's seats. Lizzie snored on her porch, flanked by Mirage and Ironhide. Everywhere he looked, it seemed, a vehicle or Autobot was sleeping off the effects of the victory celebration, some looking rather worse for the wear.
Jazz led them to the drive-in theater on the outskirts of town, stopping to transform once they reached the theater. Lightining scanned the gathered Autobots, picking out familiar faces. He knew Prime, of course, and Prowl, Jazz, Ratchet, and Grimlock, but the others...
"Come on forward, we don't bite," a tall red and orange mech invited, grinning broadly. "You must be Lightning McQueen."
"Yeah, that's me," Lightning replied. "And you are..."
"Blaster, leader of the cassettes," Prime answered. "You know my second-in-command and strategist Prowl, Special Operations officer Jazz, Chief Medical Officer Ratchet, and the leader of the Dinobots Grimlock." He gestured to the other unfamiliar Autobots as he named them. "This is Silverbolt, leader of the Aerialbots; Hot Spot, leader of the Protectobots; and Red Alert, our Security officer."
Lightning gulped. He was standing before the leaders of the Autobot army! He wondered what exactly they wanted with him...
"Why y'all got such funny names anyhow?" asked Mater, earning a solid thump from Lightning's door. "What?"
"And Lightning and Mater AREN'T funny names?" muttered Red Alert, earning a glower from Prowl.
Prime nodded down at the two vehicles. "Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater, the two of you should be commended for your acts of service and bravery toward the Autobots -- Lightning assuming leadership and planning strategies during the Dinoco 400 battle, and Mater defeating Megatron at said battle. I and my officers have spoken at length, and we agree that such behavior deserves to be recognized in some way."
Lightning felt himself blushing again. "We were just helping a friend out..."
"And risked your lives in the process, not something many beings are willing to do," Silverbolt told him, smiling slightly.
Prime turned and nodded to Ratchet, and the CMO stepped forward and bent low to apply something to Lightning's left front fender. He twisted his frame and squinted to see what exactly it was. A badge of some sort? No, it was a crest -- the red Transformer face that every Autobot wore on his frame.
"What's this for?" he asked.
"Congratulations, McQueen and Mater," Prowl told them, saluting. "We declare you honorary Autobots."
He stared at the decal a moment, feeling an odd pride swelling in his systems. Hearing that Prime and his troops held him in high enough regard to consider him one of them was more of an honor to him than anything, even winning the Piston cup.
"This fraggin' decal isn't going to stay on very long," complained Ratchet, slapping the Autobot crest onto Mater's door where the rust appeared to be thinnest. "When was your last paint job?"
"Hey, nice," Mater marveled, waggling his door. "Looks good, dun it?"
"Sure," Lightning replied, not having the heart to tell his friend the shining crest on his rusted door panel clashed weirdly.
Prime saluted the two vehicles, and the other officers present followed suit -- even Grimlock, albiet reluctantly. "Thank you for everything, including accepting Hot Rod as a friend," Prime told them. "If you or your town ever need help, contact us. We always protect our own."
Lightning raised and tilted a tire in a salute of his own. "And if there's anything we can ever do for you, give us a call. We watch out for our friends."
Prime nodded. "Autobots, time to turn in. We roll out in the morning."
"Hopefully after everyone has a chance to get over their hangover," quipped Blaster. "'Specially you, Jazz. You had more than the twins and Wheeljack combined."
"Heh, the Jazz-man don't get hangovers," Jazz fired back.
Lightning laughed and headed off for the motel, Mater not far behind.
For those of you reading my work for the first time, I always have to put in my two cents' worth at the end of a fic, so please bear with me. For those who already know the drill, kudos to you for actually reading this.
This story came to life via a combination of sources. I've loved the Pixar movies ever since Toy Story hit theaters, and though movie critics disagree with me, I think Cars is one of the best so far. The Transformers are a fairly new interest for me -- I watched some of the episodes as a kid, but I have fanfic author Roseprincess1 to thank for re-introducing me to the characters and their surrounding fandom. And after watching Cars for the umpteenth time and reading one too many TF fanfics, I was hit with the insane idea...
I first hoped to make this fic a one-shot, but as I wrote I realized there was no way I was going to be able to condense everything into a single chapter. So I expanded to three chapters, planning to stop there. Then my brother read the story up to Chapter 3 and announced that the ending needed work. The result -- three new chapters and an epilogue. If you read and enjoyed the action in Radiator Springs and the Dinoco 400 rematch, then thank my little brother.
Lightning's three rookies are my own creation -- I was hoping to give them a bigger role in the story, but unfortunately that never happened. Dirk Weathers takes his first name from Clive Cussler's "Dirk Pitt" book series, and of course his last name comes from Cars itself. Misty Firestone is named after the Firestone brand of tires, and Vince DeLorean's surname is a tribute to the time-traveling car in the Back to the Future movies.
The racer Hot Rod identifies as Steelie Dan in Chapter 2 is named after a 70s rock band. Medford, the racer wiped out by Dirk and Misty in Chapter 6, is an actual Cars character who makes a brief appearance in the film and is mentioned by name in the video game.
Yes, Prime's repaint and Jazz and Prowl's reactions in Chapter 5 are my own little dig at the upcoming movie. At least Prime's getting off lightly compared to Megatron...
As for canon... let's just consider this an AU. The Cars video game is the intended sequel to the movie, and I know this "sequel" completely contradicts it. I have no idea where this story would fit into the TF timeline. You can decide for yourself whether or not the 1986 Transformers movie happens in this universe, but I myself will happily pretend it doesn't exist in this timeline.
Thanks again to Roseprincess1 for beta-reading this fic and answering my questions, my brother for inspiring the new chapters, and Pixar and Hasbro for creating such quirky and fun characters.
Also thanks to the many people who have read and enjoyed this story. Keep an eye out -- this will probably not be my final foray into the TF world. Be afraid...