This takes place during Lightning's three months of recovery in Cars 3. I'm going to TRY and make it seem like it would fit, but there's going to be a little that might not because….they're all human in this, and I didn't really care for the whole three months later Sally has a 3 minute conversation with him and he perks back up nonsense…
Let me know what you think…
Chapter 1: The Wreck
His breath was coming in short, shallow gasps. He couldn't even hear his friends in his ear anymore. Distantly, he recognized the sounds of fans cheering in the stands, the announcers' voices echoing through the stadium. But he felt detached, like he was experiencing the race through a tunnel.
"Lighting McQueen is fading! He's fading fast!"
That one comment shot through him like a bullet, and he physically recoiled as it hit him hard. He blinked and realized he'd fallen behind, his speed decreasing rapidly. In a desperate attempt to catch up, he ground his teeth in fury and frustration and slammed his foot down on the pedal.
The frame of the car rattled with a speed it couldn't handle. "Come on," he snapped at it. "Don't do this to me now."
His eyes widened as time seemed to slow, both rear tires blowing simultaneously with a gunshot-like blast behind him. He remembered that sound, he knew immediately what it was and what was about to happen.
And then he was flying through the air, staring at the ground through his windshield. The car twisted as it landed on its roof and tumbled across the grass. Pain was all he felt as soon as the car hit the ground the first time, increasing with every impact. It was an explosion of pain and colors and sound. His arm, his leg, his hand slamming into the steering wheel, the dashboard, the door…
And then darkness…
Sally watched the scene play out in front of her in horror, fingers twitching helplessly in front of her as if by simply reaching out she could halt the scene in front of her. The crowd grew silent, some of the other racers not yet aware of what had happened. And then she took off out of the pit, sprinting across the field. Her chest constricted painfully and she couldn't catch her breath as she neared the wreckage and saw no movement from him, slumped in his seat behind the shatter windshield and bent frame.
The emergency vehicles were faster than her, people jumping out and running to the driver's side of the car. One paramedic moved to her and held her back gently, hands on Sally's forearms.
"Leave me alone," she yelled at him, pushing away. "Go help him!"
"Miss Sally," a new, frantic voice came up to her and grabbed her arm. "Just stay back here so they can help 'im." She tried weakly to push Mater away, but he held her wrists and kept them a good distance away to give the paramedics room to work.
Some crew members were cutting the wreckage of the roof away while a paramedic was ducked down into the window, working around them. Shouts to one another were drowned out in the roar of the cars still running around them, the crowd echoing beyond that. An ambulance whirred up behind them and a stretcher was laid out next to the car.
Sally clung to Mater, her hands fisted in his sleeves as they carefully lifted Lightning out of the hole they created in the frame and dragged the stretcher away from the car so Paramedics could swarm him. She broke away from Mater and ran towards him, peoples' hands still trying to keep her away.
All she could see was a shock of his red uniform on the stretcher, his broken helmet tossed aside. No bright blue eyes looked back at her as she made her way next to him, wanting to reach out and touch him but knowing that wasn't the best idea. She called to him, but he didn't even move. His face was screwed up in pain, eyes shut tight, but otherwise motionless.
"Oh, god," she breathed, scanning the red of his suit for blood but finding none immediately from her distance. A paramedic touched her shoulder, startling her, but she still watched distractedly as a couple of the men lifted up the gurney and slid him into the back of an ambulance. Several others worked on him as they went; while one attached a neck brace, another hooked up an IV, and a third strapped an oxygen mask around his face.
"Are you family?" the woman asked next to her, who knows how many times, fingers tightening on her shoulder.
"He has no next of kin," she managed through the fog in her brain. She latched onto that thought. "He has no next of kin." Oh, god, would they even let her see him? Surely she could legally work something out? How long had they been living together? What were Arizona's laws about domestic partnerships? Shit, what state were they even in right now?
"Hey." The paramedic bent down to be eye level with Sally, a gentle pity in her eyes that made Sally flinch. "Listen carefully." She quickly gave Sally a rundown of how to get to the hospital from the track, telling her where to park and where to meet them when she got there. She was a little upset, her chest tightening over not being able to ride there with him.
Sally watched the woman jog back to the ambulance before turning back to the wreck of a car, officials picking up pieces and unceremoniously tossing them into the open windows.
"Come on," she called to Mater, who was watching them close up the ambulance, the other paramedics jumping in. She could see several of them hunched over Lightning through the windows. She glanced in the other direction at Lightning's car before dragging Mater away.
He didn't know where he was. It was dim, shaky. He couldn't keep his focus. He could feel himself dipping in and out of an unconscious darkness and he was struggling to stay afloat. He fought to open his eyes, but all he got were blurry figures. Something on his face was smothering him and he could feel a panic building up before it ebbed away as he slid back down into the dark.
The next time he surfaced, he opened his eyes, still unfocused, and tried to remove the thing from his face. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest as panic took hold again. Someone grabbed his hand and squeezed it, but the sound in his ears was muffled. He thought he heard his name, but his mind turned hazy and he couldn't remember. He barely remembered who he was. Where was he?
The pain came and went, from a dull throb to a pain so sharp he couldn't breathe. Those were the times he welcomed the darkness when it took him again, just for the temporary reprieve from the pain. He was getting tired of fighting the darkness, or trying to focus, to see, to breathe. If felt like an eternity—hours, days passing so slowly. He felt like he was drowning and he wanted it to end, for the pain to end, the fighting, the tiredness, to sleep forever.
I didn't come all this way to see you quit.
The voice echoed in his mind and froze him to his soul. And then suddenly he was there and Lightning felt an emotion building up in him so quickly and so fiercely he felt like he would burst.
The word echoed in the darkness and wrapped around him, comforting and warm. He stood in front of him in the darkness just the way Lightning remembered. His dark eyes were narrowed at him, salt and pepper hair wind tossed from standing up in the pit. He was dressed in dark slacks and a button down, his usual attire at the clinic. He hadn't changed in the last several years. Since…since…
"What are you doing here?"
Keep fighting, Kid, keep fighting…
The darkness shimmered and Doc disappeared. He opened his eyes. It was brighter now, and the light hurt his eyes, but he still couldn't focus on the blurs around him. People were talking too loud and too quick around him. His head was pounding.
He closed his eyes to block everything out and wished the pain in his body would stop. It wasn't as debilitating as before, but everything in him was like broken glass.
And then Doc was before him again, his eyes narrowing further, a frown on his lips.
Lightning! he snapped, voice loud, reverberating off the walls of his mind. Those two syllables, the way Doc would say his name, like the crack of a whip when he was angry, when Lightning would push his buttons and his limits.
His eyes shot open as the pain hit him full force once more and he let out a yell, trying to scratch the suffocating contraption off his face again. Hands grabbed at him. His left arm was on fire, and he felt like he was breathing in glass, the drowning feeling returning.
Suddenly Sally was in his face and she was all he could see. She had a hand lightly on his cheek near his ear, she was saying something to him but he couldn't hear her, he couldn't pick her voice out from the sea of others rushing around her.
Sally's face began to blur and he could feel a deep, thick darkness slowly swallowing him, but it was different from before. It was warm, inviting. He fought it until he saw Doc again, taking Sally's place above him.
It's okay now.
And then everything was dark and nothing hurt. Lighting welcomed it.
Lighting was in surgery for four hours while they tried to put some of him back together. Sally sat in the waiting room the whole time, refusing to leave. She felt like the minute she stepped away from those doors everything would go to hell.
There were times when she honestly believed someone was about to push through those doors and tell her he was gone. At least twice nurses were sprinting in and out, all ignoring her as she begged them for an update.
Now he was in a private room, hooked up to several different machines making sure he would be okay. It was a scary sight. He was barely recognizable beneath the plastic tubing and blackened bruises. She was still worried about him. He'd regained consciousness a handful of times between the track and the hospital. The paramedics had wanted to keep him awake, but they couldn't keep him focused long enough.
It was terrifying if she were being honest…
He'd been out of surgery for a couple hours now, and nurses came and went every half hour or so checking in on him, checking his vitals and the machines and making notes on his chart at the foot of the bed. Visiting hours had ended hours ago, but the nurses seemed kind enough to let her stay, even if she wasn't legally family. She was grateful. The others had gone, Sheriff leaving behind some food for her that she hadn't had the stomach to even touch.
Sally was curled up on a stiff chair in the corner with a blanket and spare pillow a nurse had brought her when Lightning started to wake. She wasn't positive at first, a twitch of his fingers that she might have imagined, but then his head rolled to one side slowly, and she saw his eyes open, bright blue eyes staring at the ceiling.
She leaned over and switched on a lamp attached to the wall and stood, making her way to his bedside. "Hey," she greeting with a small smile, happy to see him looking a lot more coherent and mentally present than he had been the last few times his eyes had opened.
He blinked slowly and tried to reach for the oxygen mask again. She caught his wrist to stop him. "Leave that alone."
"I can't breathe," he mumbled beneath the plastic, sounding pained and tired.
"That's because you punctured a lung," she said softly, pulling a chair up closer next to the bed.
"I feel it," he said, looking at her now. "What happened?"
Her brows furrowed in concern. "You don't remember? You crashed during the race, Stickers."
"It hurts," he breathed, closing his eyes again. "Everything hurts."
She reached up to stroke his cheek with her thumb, wishing she could do more. She pressed the nurse's button to let them know he was awake. "Besides the punctured lung, you now have a couple screws in your left leg, and you broke your left arm in a couple places. Two broken ribs and a pretty severe concussion." She didn't even want to mention the surgery he would need on his knee once the leg itself had healed…
He groaned and looked at her again, reaching up sluggishly to find her hand on his face. His grip on her fingers was worryingly weak. She didn't like seeing him like this, blinded by pain and barely lucid.
"Where's Doc?" he asked and she froze, before catching herself and squeezing his hand gently. She thought he had called for Doc before, when they had been dragging him into the hospital from the ambulance, but she wasn't sure.
"He's gone, Lightning."
"Where did he go?" She didn't respond, trying to come up with a good response that wouldn't unnecessarily upset him. She didn't mean to leave him hanging, but she saw the realization take over his features. "Oh. I swear I saw him. He told me not to give up."
She smiled. "He always did."
A knock at the door caught Sally's attention before an older nurse walked in with a clipboard. "Oh, good, he's awake," she said, pressing a few buttons on a machine against the wall and writing a few things down on the clipboard. She looked down at Lightning. "How ya feeling, Hun?"
"Pain," was all he said. He reached up to try and remove the oxygen mask again and the nurse gently pushed his hand away.
"Keep that on for a little longer." She looked to Sally. "I'll let the doctor know he's awake, he'll want to make some assessments, and then we can give him a little more pain medication. Try to keep him awake a little longer."
The nurse left and Sally took his hand again, lacing her fingers between his. "Hear that, Stickers? Gotta stay awake."
He hummed, but his eyes were shut.
"You don't remember the crash?" she asked him, trying to keep him talking to her, but also trying to make her own assessments.
"No," he sighed, opening his eyes.
"What's the last thing you remember?" she asked, stroking the back of his hand where the IV was taped.
"Seeing red," he muttered, eyes far away and his nose scrunched in thought. "Storm pissed me off. Then nothing."
Sally swallowed. "You blew a tire. It was so fast."
Lightning blinked for a second and then his eyes darted back to her. "Where's my car?" he demanded with as much strength as she assumed he had, which was barely anything at all.
"Don't worry about that right now," she whispered, her free hand moving to tangle in his hair. "We need to worry about you first."
"Sally," he pressed. "Where is my car?"
"It's at Mater's lot," she conceded. "In several pieces."
He let out a sharp breath through his nose and squeezed his eyes shut tight. "Shit."
"I told you it was bad," she breathed. "But Mater promised it's safe for now, he got everything off the track. We can look for replacement parts when you're better, okay? But you have to get better first."
Sally noticed the soft beeping of one machine picking up pace a little and she continued running her fingers against Lightning's scalp. "Come on, Stickers, you gotta calm down, okay? I swear to you everything will be okay. We'll figure it out together. I'll be here with you."
He swallowed hard, but whatever he was about to say was interrupted by another knock at the door, a white-coated doctor walking in with the nurse trailing behind him.
The doctor reminded Sally of Doc so much she winced for Lightning. Maybe that's why he thought he'd been there before.
"Lightning McQueen," the doctor grinned, standing now at the foot of the bed. "I'm Dr. Meyer. It's nice to see you awake finally." He looked down at the clipboard in his hands that the nurse had given him. "Seems you're out of the woods." He prattled on a bit, listing off what they'd accomplished with the surgery, mentioning he would need a second on his knee a month or two down the line. "Your concussion is our biggest concern right now. How much do you remember?"
Lightning's head rolled to the side to glance at Sally.
She shook her head. "You have to tell him, he needs to gauge your functionality."
"Nothing," he said, looking back at the doctor. "I remember racing and then nothing."
"Not uncommon," he shrugged, marking something down on his chart. He walked around the side of the bed and removed the oxygen mask from Lightning's face. Dr. Meyer held up a pen light and shone it in front of Lightning's eyes one at a time, causing him to wince and blink slowly. "Do you know what year it is?"
"Yes," he grunted, still blinking.
"You have to tell him, Stickers," Sally chuckled softly.
Dr. Meyer nodded and returned to the foot of the bed. He reached down and flipped up the end of the blankets, revealing Lightning's feet, one wrapped heavily in a cast, the other with a hospital sock on. Sally watched as Lightning followed with his eyes, frowning at his own left foot like he just realized it was in a cast. "I want you to tell me if you can feel this." He reached down and squeezed the big toe in the cast.
"Yeah," Lightning breathed and Sally let out a breath she hadn't known she'd been holding.
Dr. Meyer squeezed the other foot. "Here?"
Dr. Meyer nodded, satisfied for now. He scribbled down a few notes and hung the clipboard back on the foot of the bed. "A nurse will be coming in to wake you up every hour or so because of the concussion. You may have memory problems for a bit—that's normal. You may not even remember this conversation." He smiled.
"Thank you," Sally said, standing to shake his hand.
"I'll have to get your autograph before you leave though. My kids would kill me if I didn't." He winked at Lightning who offered up a small smile.
"How long will he be here?" Sally dared to ask.
Dr. Meyer pursed his lips and crossed his arms, looking back over at Lightning. "Hard to tell. Couple weeks at best, two or three months at worst. It all depends on the next few days and how fast his recovery goes. He's going to need some rehabilitation for that leg, but that can't start until his arm heals. Once we get some basic rehab down, we can do another MRI on his knee and plan his surgery."
Sally nodded and frowned. He would be out for a good chunk of the season. It'd only just started, so maybe he wouldn't miss too much. Dr. Meyer put a hand on her shoulder. "We'll do everything we can, but it's really up to Lightning at this point."
"Right," she sighed. "Thank you."
The doctor murmured to the nurse about pain medications before leaving, and Sally returned to her chair at Lightning's side.
"I'm going to be out of the races for a while," he murmured, reaching up to his face for her hand.
She shook her head slowly, playing with his fingers between her own. "You'll need all that time to get healed up. Mater and I will help fix your car. The town will help, too, I'm sure. Lots of people are here for you until you're back on your feet."
"Doc was always the best mechanic," he frowned.
"I know." She stroked his hair again, this time trying to lull him to sleep. "And we'll do him proud, I promise. You always make him proud, too, you know. You make me proud."
Lightning sighed and closed his eyes.
So I had surgery when I was 12 and one of the things that I remember the most vividly was waking up after and having a panic attack over the oxygen mask on my face and being on my back. They literally fought me because I wanted the mask off and to lie on my side (which I'd just had surgery on….)