Jackson Storm had watched in horror when Cruz Ramirez had passed him and crossed the finish line. He had seen the other competitors graduating her, not him. Even the press had ignored him. His pit crew were the only ones who had spoken to him, only to brought in bad news. Storm was given a warning from pushing Cruz against the wall, and if he dared to do another foul, he would be kicked out of Piston Cup season. After that, Storm had driven off the track area, not saying a word.
"Unbelievable...," Storm muttered to himself while waiting for his truck to arrive. "These rules suck... You cannot let someone else finish the race like that." He didn't see that Lightning was listening right behind him. Storm continued his rant. "And giving the victory for two racers... Ugh, I call favouritism."
"And I call you a sore loser," Lightning's voice interrupted. Storm turned around in a flash. Where did he come from? Seeing Lightning's face was the last thing Storm wanted to see right now.
"If you came here to give me a lame lecture about sportsmanship, then forget it," he said with a bitter tone. Lightning's expression was not angry nor mocking. He seemed to be thinking about something. Storm expected to hear an insult but was said a surprising thing instead.
"I heard that you got a warning. I hope you take it seriously and behave for the rest of the competition, 'cause if you won't... Your career stops there."
Like Storm didn't know it. He glared at Lightning. This whole mess wouldn't have happened if he hadn't given his number to Cruz. When it had been announced that No. 95 was not Lightning, Storm had felt a bit sorry for the old man. Picking a no-race car as a replacement had been a pathetic move. This definitely wasn't the same car Storm used to idolise in the past.
"Wow, you sound like my dad. Your retirement began a few minutes ago and it's already taking its effect. How about you leave and go play some golf?" Storm mocked but it lacked humour. He turned his back at Lightning who immediately drove right in front of him.
"Look, Storm-...Listen, as a rookie, I was just like you-"
"I know!" Storm shouted, "Now look how weak you've become..." He wasn't supposed to say it. Lightning went silent. Why did Storm call him weak? he thought to himself. Was caring about other racers a weakness?
"What do you mean...?" Lightning asked quietly. Storm closed his eyes to calm his nerves. "Don't you realise how much you have changed?" he started, "You could have won your first Piston Cup on your rookie year but you gave it up and for what? To help some old champion cross the finish line. Then you stopped caring about winning altogether. I see that as a weakness."
Lightning couldn't believe the words Storm was saying.
"You're completely wrong!" Lightning bared his teeth at him. He was slowly losing his cool with this rookie. "It's not a weakness, it's a sign of learning what's important in life! Geez, Storm... You're-, you're selfish!"
Storm didn't even bat an eye. He had heard the same thing a hundred times. But look where that selfishness got him. Storm remembered how determined Lightning had been before the crash happened, the one trait Storm could still appreciate about him. Too bad it was no longer enough. He gave a half-smirk in return. "You can't blame me. You're the role model here."
Lightning was ready to argue more but then it hit him: Storm got a point. He had been a show-off and rude back in the rookie years, especially whenever cameras were on. What horrible advice he had given for his fans before: do what you must for the victory. Lightning shook his head in disbelief. His bad influence managed to spoil someone's mind and that guy was now a racer. Lightning hated to admit it, but as much as Cruz was part of his legacy, Storm represented his past mistakes. He lowered his gaze in shame.
"I guess you're right... Man, if only I had cared about sending the right message sooner..."
"Please, don't start. I don't regret my decisions unlike you," Storm said but the small voice in his head told him it was a lie. He did regret one thing. Lightning raised his head, a questioning look on the face. Was he able to read his mind all of sudden?
"Okay, maybe I do regret something. Your crash was... shocking to say at least. You pushed over your limits because of me, didn't you?" Storm asked for a clarification. Lightning nodded. "And you did so because of what I had said..." Another nod from Lightning. Storm fell silent.
Car crashes were always nasty. Not even an hour ago Storm had tried to cause one on purpose without thinking rationally. He had panicked because he had never lost to anyone. Storm was relieved that in the end, he hadn't succeeded to push Cruz out of way.
Both Lightning and Storm wondered if it was best to end the conversation there. Storm was sure that he had upset Lightning by reminding him of the terrible crash and he didn't want to speak about it either.
"Aren't your friends waiting for you?" Storm asked to make the other leave. Lightning got the cue and began driving off, glancing at his direction. There was more to Storm than he had expected which meant not all hope was lost. Lightning suddenly stopped to speak up.
"By the way... I'm not retiring, Storm. I was promised to let myself choose when's the right time for it. This means we're still going to see each other."
Storm's eyes opened up but he kept staring into the distance. "Oh...Good."
"Yeah, so you better watch out for Fabulous Lightning McQueen 'cause next time... he will beat you!" Lightning teased with a lighthearted tone and chuckled while driving back to the others. Storm turned around to watch after him with an agape face. This guy is truly nuts, Storm thought amazed. He could hear his truck arriving from behind. A small smirk formed on his lips.
"Bright it on, McQueen..."