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Stay Alive

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It was the final race in the Piston Cup series. Everyone was gathered at the Los Angeles International Speedway to witness the end of another season. For Lightning McQueen, this season came with multiple challenges. With the next-gens entering the sport, he was faced with the sudden reality of retirement. Although many of his former colleagues were replaced with their high-tech counterparts, Lightning was determined to hold on to his definitive moments of glory. He made steady progress in the beginning of the race. He passed several next-gens with ease as he attempted to catch up to Jackson Storm.

With 40 laps left, Lightning was right on Jackson's tail as they entered into pit road. Sally looked on with concern as she saw her husband harshly tell Guido to speed up the process of changing his tires. She's never seen him under so much pressure. She was under some pressures of her own as she tried to keep their little Hudson McQueen out of trouble. The young toddler who just turned three years old was beaming with excitement when he saw his dad's car pull into the pits.

"Papa!" the young boy cried as he tried to run out to his father.

"No sweetie, daddy needs to focus," Sally said in a gentle tone as she grabbed her son's arm.

"I got him," Mater said as he scooped the young boy into his arms.

"Thank you Mater," she said with a smile.

Sally's mind was still on her husband. She could see the surge of fury in his eyes. His mind was miles away from the racetrack. He was too upset to concentrate. She took a deep breath as she held her stomach. She was already three months pregnant with their second child and Lightning had no idea about it. She was surprised that he hasn't figured it out by now but judging by his concern with Storm and the other next-gens, she knew that he was too stressed to notice. She wanted him to focus on his career and not get distracted by the idea of having another child so soon.

He was barely prepared for the news of Hudson's arrival, so she didn't know how he would react to having another child. He was already occupied with facing the rapid changes in the racing world, he didn't need to have an additional issue to worry about. Although she was making all the excuses in the world, Sally knew deep down inside that Lightning wasn't that kind of guy. If anything, he would be thrilled to know about his second child and would be upset at her for keeping the news from him. As much as she tried to keep it a secret, she couldn't deny the inevitable. He was going to find out about it once she starts showing in the next few weeks.

"Come on, come on! Faster Guido, I have to get back out there before he does! Guido hurry up!" Lightning yelled as Guido finished putting on the last tire.

With that, Lightning flew past Jackson as he made his way back onto the track, taking the lead.

"Papa's gonna win, mommy!" little Hudson exclaimed as Sally held him in her arms.

While Hudson was sure of his father's success, Sally couldn't help but anticipate the worst. She watched as her husband struggled to maintain his lead. A few moments later, Jackson cruised right next to Lightning, passing him with no effort. She didn't quite hear their brief conversation, but she knew that whatever Storm said had a profound impact on her husband.

"Storm takes back the lead," Bob Cutlass exclaimed.

"Unbelievable! McQueen is fading, fading fast!" Darrell Cartrip yelled as everyone witnessed Lightning falling behind.

"What happened to papa, mommy?" Hudson asked as he tugged on his mother's blouse.

Sally was at a loss for words as she saw her husband hassle to keep up with the other young racers. His car was trembling under the pressure and his exhaust pipe created sparks in the asphalt.

"No," she whispered to herself as she turned Hudson's face away from the scene.

", no, no...NO!" Lightning yelled as he slammed his foot on the gas pedal.

His car continued to tremor wildly as it swerved from left to right. The car veered into the wall, causing it to fly off the track. Sally pressed Hudson's head into her bosom. She could feel the burning in her eyes as the tears began to form. She clutched Hudson's head as the shock rippled through her nerves. She gnashed her teeth at the sight of Lightning's car barrel rolling into the pavement. An array of sparks scattered with every hit. The car scrapped the ground as it continued to roll down the track.

It eventually landed right side up, surrounded by smoke and ambulances. Sally, forgetting that Hudson was still in her arms, ran out to the track to see the state of Lightning's condition. Police officers and ambulance workers blocked her from coming too close to the crash site. She, Mater, Luigi, Fillmore, and Guido and rushed over to the gory scene. Sally eventually lost her grip on Hudson's head, causing the young child to see his father's body being hauled off into an ambulance. The boy's eyes widened with fear at the sight of his unconscious father.

"Mommy, what happened to papa?!" the boy cried as tears flowed from his eyes.

"Papa had… he had... an accident," Sally whispered as she choked through her sobs.

A few weeks later, Lightning was still in the Intensive Care Unit. He had swellings in his face and arms, with multiple scars on his legs. He sustained various bruises on his face, including a scar over his left eye. The cuts were deep, almost splitting his calves in half. Fortunately for him, the five-point seat belt harness and the window nets prevented serious injuries. Although his body remained in tact (aside from the scarring and bruises), Lightning was still trapped in a deep coma. His head, forearms, and calves were wrapped in gauze while the IV tubes were connected to his body.

Sally was headed into the hospital for her usual visit. She was still overwhelmed by her husband's condition. He's been in that unconscious state for weeks, and her mind keeps gravitating toward the worse case scenarios. Many of the townies and his closest friends came to visit him, including Bobby, Cal, Brick, the King, and Tex. Mater was always a regular visitor, often using his time to tell Lightning stories about the past.

Sally paused as she approached his room. The door was half open with a nurse checking his heart rate. She bumped into the nurse as she tried to open the door.

"Oh hello Mrs. McQueen," the nurse said as she greeted Sally with a smile. "You here to see your husband today?"

"Yes," Sally said in a faint tone. The image of Lightning's motionless body made her queasy. "How is he?"

"He's the same," the nurse said with a frown. "His heart rate is steady, and he is able to breathe without the respirator. His bodily functions seem pretty normal but he's still unresponsive."

"Thank you," Sally said as she walked passed the nurse and into the room.

The constant beeps from the Holter monitor were piercing her soul. Each chime got louder in her mind as she tried to calm herself down. She pulled up a chair and sat close to his bed. She sat there in silence, watching her husband's inflamed countenance. She missed staring into his vibrant, blue eyes. She missed hearing his laugh. No one knew how much she yearned for his smile and the touch of his lips on her cheeks. She longed for his romantic gestures and cheesy pick up lines. She longed to see him play with Hudson, take him out for drives, and tell him stories about the great racing legends from the past. She wanted her Stickers back, she needed Lightning to come back. After reflecting on these desires, she took a deep breath and took his hand in hers.

"Stickers, I don't know if you can hear me, but I need you to really listen to what I'm about to say. I need you to stay alive. Do you hear me? I need you to fight through this. I really miss you Lightning and I can't afford to lose you like this."

The tears came rushing like a flood. She held his hand tighter as she tried to speak through the sobbing. "Stickers, I need you. Hudson needs you. Your friends need you. We all need you. I guess now is the only time that I'll get to tell you this, it's something that I should've told you earlier: we're having another baby. I don't know the sex of the baby yet, but whether it's a boy or a girl, this baby needs you," she said as she placed his hand on her stomach.

She started to sob uncontrollably. She couldn't stand the thought of losing the man that gave her a second chance at happiness. The man who stepped into her life and changed her perspective on love. She couldn't stand the thought of Hudson losing his father. She sat there as she continued to sob on Lightning's arm. A few moments later, she felt his fingers move in the palm of her hand. She immediately jumped in shock as she tried to stop herself from crying. She continued to stare at him, hoping that he would open his eyes or move his fingers again. Nothing happened. She bent over at his side, continuing to weep.

"Ugh, Sal why are you crying?" Lightning said in a groggy tone as Sally looked up at him with astonishment.

She immediately ran out of the room and called for the nurse. Doctors arrived to give Lightning his proper treatments.

A few minutes later, Lightning was completely conscious, looking at his gleeful wife, who was sitting right next to him.

"How long was I out?" he asked as he looked around the room with confusion.

"You've been out for over a month. That's not important right now. I'm just happy that you're alright," she said as she kissed his hand.

Lightning blinked slowly as he continued to stare at her. Although he was excited to see his wife again, he couldn't help but give her a glare.

"What's wrong?" she asked as she saw the look on his face.

"When were you going to tell me that we were having another baby?" he asked as he tried to sit up straight in the bed.

Sally was stunned. She couldn't believe that he actually heard her. She took a deep breath and tried not to upset him more than he already was.

"Look Stickers, I didn't want to tell you because I didn't think you could handle the news of having another child," she said, refusing to make eye contact.

"What would make you think something like that?" he said as he continued to glare at her.

"I saw how stressed you were about the next-gens and trying to beat Jackson. I didn't want to ruin your focus," she said as she looked down at the floor.

"Sal, are you kidding me? You and Hud are my family! I don't care what's going on in my career, my family comes first and you know that."

"I'm starting to think that maybe you would've been more careful out there if you knew about the baby," she said with a frown.

"Who knows?" Lightning said as he shrugged his shoulders.

He knew that he couldn't stay mad at Sally forever. She had her reasons for keeping the news a secret and as mad as he was, he knew that he was going to find out sooner or later.

"Where's Hud?" Lightning asked in an anxious tone.

"He's fine. He's back at home with the others."

"I want to see him," he said in a stern tone.

"Lightning, I didn't want him to see you like this," Sally pleaded.

"Sal, I want to see my son. He needs to know that his dad is okay," he said as he held her hand tightly.

"Alright. I'll bring him here tomorrow."

As promised, Sally brought Hudson to see his father. The little boy was jumping around at the excitement of finally being able to see his dad. Before the entered the room, Sally sat Hudson down on a small couch near the door.

"I can't wait to see papa, mommy," the boy beamed.

"Now sweetie, papa is not as strong as he used to be. He got hurt really bad so you can't jump all over him okay?" Sally said as she tried to explain the situation to him.

"Okay mommy," Hudson said with a bright smile.

Sally took a deep breath as she took her son by the hand. They entered the room and Hudson ran over to Lightning.

"Papa!" the young child exclaimed as he ran into his father's arms.

"Hey, buddy!" Lightning said with a smile as he placed his son on his lap.

Hudson's excitement wore off as he saw all of the bruises on his father's face. "Are you okay papa?" he asked as he poked at the scar on Lightning's left eye.

"Yeah, buddy. I'm better now that you're here," Lightning said with a warm smile as he hugged the toddler.

Sally watched as the two shared their warm embrace. She smiled at the sight of Lightning finally getting the chance to reunite with his son. Of course, he started telling Hudson stories of his early racing days. She didn't know what the future held in store for her husband, but she was able to rest in the notion that he would always have his family by his side.