Author's Note: Effectively, this is just a (hopefully) better version of Family Ties. I have changed a few details, and the way the story ends. I am also going to be working on Quest for the Cup and Staying Strong, as well as renaming those two like I have done with this one. On the topic of renaming, I'm taking this opportunity to thank Parchment Quill over at Fiction Central for coming up with the title. It really fits with the new story. I'm still working on the ending, so I can't say how often the updates will be taking place.
Disclaimer: I do not own Cars.
Making It Through
Lightning McQueen sped across the finish line with a grin plastered on his face. The new Piston Cup season had started just three weeks ago, and he'd just come in second place behind Chick Hicks. It hadn't been easy either. The two stock cars were battling each other for first place the whole time, and more than once one or the other had been forced into the wall or onto the grass. Chick seemed spurred on by his win at the end of last season, despite not having many, if any, fans after that final race. Four hundred laps against the green #86 car had really taken it out of Lightning.
The grin stayed on his face as he rolled into the pit lane and stopped by his team.
"Hey, that was a great race, boss. Congrats on the second." The large, red rig greeted him.
Lightning let Guido and Luigi change his tyres and waited patiently while Fillmore topped his fuel up. He felt Doc's eyes on him the whole time, which wasn't quite normal, but then neither was the slight ache behind his left front tyre.
"You okay, kid?"
"Yeah, I'm fine, just a bit tired. Chick never makes racing easy." Lightning looked up at his crew chief and friend. That time in the previous season, he would have just completed his first race without a crew chief. He'd gone through three or four before he found Doc.
"You ran well out there, but we need to get you back in shape ready for the next race."
"I know, Doc."
The Hudson Hornet continued to watch him for a moment.
"You sure you're all right, kid? You took some hard knocks out there today."
"I'll be fine. I could just do with some sleep."
"I'm not surprised," Doc turned to Mack, "Go on ahead, we'll clear up here and follow on. Sheriff said he'd meet you outside."
Mack nodded and led Lightning across the pits to where the trailers were parked. He waited while the racer got into the trailer and shut the door before hooking himself onto the trailer.
Inside the trailer, Lightning dozed off almost before the trailer door was closed. He was soon sleeping deeply, and didn't even notice when Mack set off.
Meanwhile in the pits, Doc watched them leaving before he turned to the rest of the crew. He had a feeling something was wrong with Lightning, something that wasn't just tiredness.
By the time the team got back to Radiator Springs it was dark. Mack parked the trailer by the café and went to open the door. It was very quiet in the back for the entire journey.
Within half an hour Doc and the rest of the crew returned. They gathered in Flo's Café, the best place to discuss the race with the cars that hadn't gone to the track. Doc looked around when Sally arrived.
"Where's Lightning?" He looked worried.
"I know where he is." Mack spoke up from the side. "He looked kind of peaceful. I didn't want to disturb him."
Doc followed the semi back to the motel. A smile crept onto his face when he saw the sleeping racecar.
"Let's leave him be. We can always get Mater to tow him into his room later."
"Stickers? Hey, Stickers?"
Lightning blinked wearily in the bright sunlight. He yawned widely as his surroundings came into focus.
"Hey, Sally." He looked passed her, expecting to see the open door of his trailer, and instead looking through the open door of his Cozy Cone. "How did I get here?"
"Mater towed you in here last night. Doc's orders." Sally replied casually. "We all thought you could do with remaining undisturbed. You looked really tired after the race yesterday. We decided you should be left to sleep it off."
"Well, me, Doc and Mack mostly."
So Doc is more concerned that he was telling yesterday. Lightning thought, used to his mentor's strange way of showing his feelings. He smiled at Sally and thanked her.
"Don't mention it." Sally backed out of the room.
Lightning followed her slowly. He often found he was a bit stiff the day after a tough race.
He'd been living in Radiator Springs just over a year, and loved it. There he had found his first real friends, with the help of Sheriff, Sally and Doc. Mater was the first to befriend him, and they had remained good friends ever since.
"What are you thinking about?" Sally noticed the dreamy expression on Lightning's face.
"I was just thinking about when I first came here. I though I'd be stuck here forever, I never even considered living here until…well, until you took me up to Wheel Well."
"It's a nice place, full of nice cars."
"Yeah, not the 'hillbilly hell' I first thought." Lightning agreed. "Why don't we take a drive up to Wheel Well? We've hardly spent any time together recently."
"Um, well the thing is, Doc wants you to rest after yesterday's race." Sally looked uncomfortable. "He said you took some hard knocks from Chick."
"Ah come on, I'm fine."
"Doc is your doctor." Sally said, before adding, "And your crew chief."
"And I'm not racing at the moment."
"Look, he knows what he's doing. He's Doc Hudson after all – "
"The Fabulous Hudson Hornet, yeah, I know." Lightning interrupted. He'd heard it all before.
"Look, why don't we just drive up and down the street for a bit if you're that desperate?"
"It's not the same. I want open spaces, just you and me." Lightning sighed, gazing at the tourists flocking into the various shops around the town. A small queue had already formed outside Doc's clinic.
"Yeah, I know. Sorry, Stickers, but you wouldn't be the only one in trouble if you disobey Doc. I've got strict orders to keep you off the road."
"I guess I'll just have to obey him then." Lightning turned to face Sally, a soppy look forming on his face.
She laughed, grinning broadly as he drew closer to her.
"McQueen and Sally, parked beneath a tree – "
"Mater!" Lightning jumped and span around.
Sally laughed again. "Nice timing, Mater."
"I swear there's more than one of him sometimes," Lightning grumbled playfully as Mater drove off, laughing as he went. A small grin on Lightning's face gave him away. "He may be my best mate, but he can get seriously annoying sometimes."
"That's Mater for you." Sally glanced along the street at the Curio shop. "Lizzie can be annoying sometimes too, but I wouldn't change either of them."
"I know what you mean," Lightning drove up to the road and paused at the end of the street, content to look through the town for a while. "I wouldn't want to change any of this." He sighed happily, watching the cars driving along the road with ease.
The road was well cared for now that customers had returned. Of course, most of it was down to four Delinquent Road Hazards that often gave Sheriff a reason to chase after them with his sirens going.
The town was kept clean too, and the buildings were regularly redecorated, even the ones not in use. The pretty flowers along the side of the road were thanks to Red, and Guido and Luigi donated the old tyres they were in.
"Why don't we go for a drink at Flo's?" Sally suggested after a while. "I know it's not exactly going for a drive, but we can still spend time together, right?"
"I want to say last one there buys, but I don't think Doc would be too happy, or Sheriff."
"I wouldn't suggest it, kid." Doc pulled up to the pair in time to hear Lightning's comment. "Sally, we're needed in traffic court. Sheriff brought a couple of troublemakers in last night."
"Okay, Doc." She turned to Lightning as the Hudson drove off. "Sorry, Stickers, looks like the drink will have to wait."
Lightning shrugged. Since customers had returned to the town, traffic court had been very busy. It meant Sally, as the town attorney, and Doc frequently had to change the times of his clinic because of his judge duties.
As Sally followed Doc, Lightning turned and headed towards Willy's Butte. He drove slowly, enjoying the freedom. Despite having lived in Radiator Springs for a while, he still loved the surroundings. It was vastly different from the city, and he had so much more that he had done.
When he got to the Butte he sat in the shade of a large cactus and let his mind drift and wander freely.
"Hey, kid, what are doing out here?" A voice interrupted his thoughts some time later.
"Just thinking." Lightning replied.
"Sally's looking for you. Something about a drink I think."
Lightning turned to head back with Doc and stopped.
"Listen, Doc…thanks. Thanks for everything."
"You've helped a lot of cars in this town, it's only fair that we help you in return. It's thanks to you that we're back on the map."
"Stickers? McQueen?" Sally's gentle voice roused Lightning from his stupor.
"Eh, what?" He shook his head to clear it.
"Are you feeling okay? You've been really quiet all day." Sally peered at him from the stall next door.
"I'm fine, Sal." He glanced at her. "I'm just tired."
"Are you sure that's all? You've hardly touched your dinner."
"I'm sure," Lightning yawned widely. "I think I'm going to head back, get an early night."
Sally watched him closely as he drove off down the street.
"Maybe you should take a look at him, Doc. Something doesn't seem quite right."
"I'm keeping an eye on him, Sally. Why don't you go with him?" Doc said, returning to his own dinner.
Sally shot a grateful smile in his direction and shot after Lightning.
As the sky faded from inky-blue to black and darkness crept in on them, the other cars began to head off one by one until the town was almost silent. Soon all the neon signs were turned off, and the only lights visible along the road were at the junction.
Doc was just about to turn in for the night when Sally crashed through the doors of his clinic.
"Sally, what – "
"You've got to help, Doc, please!" She gasped. "Something's really wrong."
"Go and wake Mater. I'll meet you at the cone." He said, calmly and firmly.
She nodded, biting back tears, and sped off down the road. It was a good job Sheriff wasn't around. Even in urgent situations, the old patrol car didn't like speeding.
Author's Note: This first chapter might seem pretty much the same as the original version, but from here the changes are going to appearing. They might not be obvious, but they are definitely there.
To anyone waiting for me to update Staying Strong - you won't have to wait too much longer.