#FanficThursday: “Dating the Past” (Cars) – Chapter 1

1 – The return

Best part of "Cars" - when Lightning and Sally show their love for ...

Sally looked at herself nervously for the umpteenth time in the mirror. She wasn’t sure if the headdress she’d chosen for the night was the right one; she hadn’t been used to dressing up in a long time. But that night, everything had to be perfect.

Lightning had just won his third Piston Cup, and they had been invited, along with almost all the participants and their respective companions, to a lavish gala at the Pacific Design Center, organized by the great sponsor of the races – Dinoco. It was true that, before arriving, the couple had learned of a beginning of investigation about Tex, the owner of the company, although the details were still unknown. 

Sally was worried about the tycoon ― despite his bad jokes, he was a good car. And the lawyer who was still running around the young lady’s circuits was still wondering what could have caused such a misunderstanding – because it was just what it seemed.

“Wow–” She heard to her right, making her turn with some embarrassment.

Lightning was gawking at her from the bedroom door. He was wearing his ‘elegant’ or ‘summer’ outfit, as they might like to call it. Bright red. The white bands with the lightning over them and the number 95 in black on a white circle. For the occasion, he had also removed his spoiler and was wearing his favorite white wheels. Finally, he wore the edges of his body painted in black. Sally, on the other hand, took advice from Ramon. He outlined her in a light pink shade similar to glitter. Besides, she got some flakes on the doors and an ornament behind the trunk that conveniently hid her tattoo. Among friends, the young Porsche didn’t mind showing it off – but not at her first gala party in years, and certainly not accompanying someone like Lightning McQueen. Whether they both wanted it or not, he would be the star of the night, and she wanted to live up to it.

“You’re not so bad yourself,” she praised, approaching from the mirror. They’d been booked a spacious suite at the top of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, courtesy of Tex, and the views of the city at night were incredible. 

“Ready to be mobbed by vultures?” She joked, which Lightning gladly joined.

“I don’t think I’m ever quite there,” he replied in the same tone before adding in a quiet voice. “You look beautiful, Sal.”

She bowed her head, self-conscious.

“Thanks, but–” She drew lots at the side to head for the bedroom door and pointed, sarcastically, “save the compliments for your fans.”

Lightning laughed even more.

“C’mon, let’s go,” he pushed her slightly into the corridor before ironizing. “What this ‘evening main event’ doesn’t want is to be late…”

Wheel to wheel, Lightning, and Sally went to the elevator and descended to the ground floor, admiring the view again. Certainly, and although they said that about New York, Los Angeles was a city that did not sleep. When they came out, it was all bustle and hustle. And although Lightning would have preferred to take a quiet walk, in the absence of a not very party-loving Doc who had decided to return to Radiator Springs at the end of the race, claiming to be indisposed, Sarge and Ramon insisted on escorting them to the event site. 

Seeing him somewhat sulking, Sally offered him a brief smile of encouragement, which he half reciprocated. What the young racer could not imagine, however, was the dilemma that had been brewing in his girlfriend since they had put a wheel in town ― and Sally hoped he didn’t have to find out yet.

Fifteen minutes later – mainly because of the intense traffic to cross Chevrolet Hills, where the luxurious and expensive area of the city was located – Lightning and Sally managed to arrive next to the Pacific Design. It was a huge, multicolored glass structure where cars of all brands, sizes, and colors crowded to enter the photocall. 

Sally shook when a sudden terror assailed her. She almost thought she was used to the cameras, but–in Los Angeles? 

What if… 

Barely conscious, she drove back a few inches, but Lightning sensed it right away and turned with a worried frown.

“Hey, are you okay?”

Sally, for her part, looked alternately at the cameras and at her boyfriend, undecided for the first time on the entire trip. Even before leaving Radiator Springs, she had thought it was not a good idea. Nevertheless, faced with Lightning’s plea and her inability to give him a solid argument that didn’t look like what it wasn’t, she had ended up agreeing to go with him like a tartan on the way to the scrapyard.

“I…” She looked for an excuse to get out of it while laughing nervously. “You know I’m not good with cameras–and, I don’t know if, anyway–”

To her despair, he composed a sad grimace that broke Sally’s heart.

“Yeah, I know. But–since we came here together, I thought that–”

Sally noticed her two halves fighting each other to the death without reaching a clear decision. Finally, getting up the courage as on other occasions, she shook her nose and gave up.

“Alright. I’ll do it for you then.”

Lightning smiled, more relieved, but Sally could barely return a grimace with her lips tightened as the two made their way down the long red carpet. Suddenly the young female car was shaking and wasn’t quite sure why; where exactly did this fear of being exposed to the cameras come from.

However, when it was their turn, the girl disguised herself by sticking to Lightning to mitigate the shivers that ran through her every few minutes and forced her best smile. Luckily, they were only two seconds in front of the flashes before they called the next guest couple. As she returned to the gloom and her confidence, Sally snorted without being able to help it.

“Are you okay, Sal?” Asked Lightning again, and when he saw her face of trouble, trying to play the matter out, he added: “Come on, it’s over now, let’s try to enjoy the night, alright?”

“Yeah, sure,” she tried to be more animated, although she only half succeeded before whispering to herself. “Sure–”

It was then that Lightning stopped by her side and touched a wheel with his, making her brake as well and forcing her to look him in the eye.

“Hey. I know this can be complicated and more–knowing that you left here not to come back.“ 

Even though I never knew exactly why thought the racer to himself. 

It wasn’t a topic they had touched on much, and Sally seemed to be deeply upset every time the words ‘Los Angeles’ came up in a conversation. Knowing her, Lightning assumed that his girlfriend could cope with whatever came in the two days they were to stay in the big city if she had agreed to go with him.

“But–I’ll be there for you, okay?” He tried to comfort her, “and I’m sure there’s nothing here to remind you of your past,” he smiled convincingly, gesturing at the building with his nose. “Come on, let’s go inside. I’m sure everything will be fine.”

But Lightning was wrong, in part. And meeting her past in a distinguished place like that was what Sally feared most from that trip. 

For better or worse, a few yards away, when they had barely reached the first cocktail table and greeted a couple of the racer’s companions, a somewhat shrill voice came from behind them that Sally would recognize anywhere:

“By all my circuits! No way! Sally Carrera! What are you doing here?”

At that moment, the questioned car, and to the genuine surprise of Lightning and the couple who were talking to them, turned around with the windshields as plates and exclaimed, without being able to contain herself:

“Holy Almighty Car! Naya! Is that you?!”

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