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Love Is A Highway

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It should be the perfect day for a test drive.

It's Sunday, so he's got Mollie and Peter at the track to cheer him on, and he's always at his best when he's got his family with him. The skies overhead are cloudless and blue, the track is dry, the wind negligible, and the humidity in the air is at the optimal level to keep the tires sticking correctly to the road. The GT40's transmission has just gone through another round of upgrades and tweaks; at any other time, he would be over the moon at the prospect of taking it for a spin to test its mettle. In short, Ken Miles should be the happiest bloke in California right now.

But no, Carroll fucking Shelby had to up and ruin everything, the cocksucking tosser that he is.

Ken's spoiling for a fight when he slams on the brakes, bringing the car to a screeching halt at the edge of the track. He jumps out, banging the door shut behind him so hard it rattles the frame. When he yanks his helmet off, he hurls it at Carroll's feet (carefully aimed, of course, so as not to actually hit him). It bounces on the asphalt with a dull thud, then rolls aimlessly to a stop at Carroll's ostentatiously ridiculous alligator boots.

Phil and Charlie, the bloody cowards they are, don't even stick around long enough for Ken to open his mouth. Instead, they scamper off to the hangar, leaving Carroll to face Ken's wrath all by himself. Which suits Ken just fine. It's been at least a few weeks since he and Carroll have had a proper shouting match, and he's itching to get started.

Carroll glances down at the helmet, then drags his gaze up back up to Ken.

"Problem, bulldog?" he asks, mildly. Ken wants to punch that tiny smug smirk right off his stupid handsome face.

"What was your first clue, Shel? The big grin I'm sporting? My jumps for joy?"

Carroll rolls his eyes, unimpressed. "You gonna tell me or keep yammering nonsense?"

Ken jabs an accusing finger at the car's hood. "My problem is your fucking arsehole of a clutch is still sticking in sixth, which means you didn't bloody well fix it."

"My clutch?" Carroll points to himself, then lets out an inelegant snort. "Last I looked, you were right beside me helping me build the damn thing, so I'm pretty sure any problem is half yours."

Ken sighs in disappointment. Typical Shel, trying to inject logic into a dust-up. But then, Carroll's never had a sense for the proper way of doing things. (It's one of the many reasons they get on so well.) "No, no, that's not how this works."

"Oh, yeah? How's it work, then?" Carroll asks, with an insouciant lift of his eyebrow that absolutely should not be as attractive as it is.

Ken is too strong to be swayed, however. He's got a point to make. "When the car runs perfectly, then it's due to my flawless engineering and design. When it doesn't, it's due to your faulty engineering and design," he explains, with – to him – the patience of a saint.

The corners of Carroll's lips curve upward, and Ken's traitorous heart kicks up a notch in response. "Oh, is that right?"

"Yeah, that's right," Ken retorts, then sees his wife walking towards them, a concerned look on her face. "Mollie, my love, would you mind telling Shel the rules, please?" he calls out. "He seems to have it in his thick skull that the problem with the clutch is half my fault."

"Oh, I don't think I should get in the middle of your lovers' spat," Mollie replies, as she reaches them. "Feels a bit like it would be cheating for me to judge, wouldn't it."

"Our what?" Ken asks, just as Carroll starts cough-choking so hard he turns a very unattractive shade of red.

Mollie flashes a quicksilver smile that crinkles her eyes at the corners. Eyes the exact same shade of cornflower blue as Carroll's. "You alright there, Shelby?" she asks, in a honeyed tone that Ken knows from experience is a Bad Sign.

Carroll pounds at his heart with his fist a few times and jerks out a nod. "Yeah, I'm fine," he rasps, and coughs again. "Thanks for your concern."

Ken, after making sure Carroll is, in fact, going to live to see another sunset, whirls to face his wife. "Can we go back to where you called our argument a lovers' spat?"

She shrugs, elegant coolness personified. "I'm only stating the obvious, love," she says. "The two of you squabble exactly like old sweethearts."

"Sweethearts," Ken repeats, slowly, hoping to buy a few more seconds to think. There's a trap here, he just knows it, but he can't quite figure out what it is. (He doesn't dare even glance in Carroll's direction.)

She looks back and forth between them, and shakes her head. "Honestly, the two of you," she sighs.

Ken bristles at the long-suffering tone. "I'm not bloody sleeping with Shel, Mollie!"

She throws her hands up into the air. "Well, it's not for lack of wanting to, now is it," she snaps, then turns on her heel, heading towards the hangar.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Ken asks Mollie's retreating back and, when she doesn't reply, says again, louder: "Mollie, what's that supposed to mean?"

She pivots and marches up to the two of them, all traces of her earlier calm wiped clean away. "Don't play dumb with me, Ken Miles. It's as obvious as the nose on your face you're in love with him."

"I..." White noise roars through Ken's ears like the whine of an engine shifting into a higher gear. "I'm sorry, what was that?"

Mollie turns her attention to Carroll, who's just looking at her like he's never seen her before. "Really, Shelby?" she asks, peevish. "Of all the times to not have a pithy comeback on the tip of your tongue..."

Carroll swipes his hat off of his head, and pushes a lock of sweat-stained hair out of the way. "Jesus, Mollie, whaddaya want me to say?"

"The truth, if you please." She puts her hands on her hips, her gesture this time one of pure exasperation. "Are you or are you not in love with my husband?"

In love?! "I'm sorry," Ken sputters, "did you just say –"

Mollie holds up a hand in warning. "Hush, love. I'm talking to Shelby right now, not you."

Carroll exhales, long and deep, the sort of sigh that can only come from the deepest part of one's soul. It's not a sound Ken's ever associated with nimble-footed, silver-tongued Carroll Shelby. "You know the answer to that already," Carroll quietly replies.

"I do, yes, but he doesn't, and he deserves to hear it, " she tells him, and lays a hand on Carroll's arm. Both her gaze and stance soften as she adds: "You'll feel better if you just spit it out."

"I doubt it." Then Carroll lowers his head, as if in prayer. "But, yeah," he admits, quiet but as clear as the fire of a starting pistol. "I am."

The confession hangs in the air like morning dewdrops clinging to blades of grass.

"You..." Ken doesn't even know how to finish the sentence, so he doesn't bother.

"Yes, exactly." Mollie nods decisively, like he's said a lot more than one word. "Now it's your turn."

"My turn?" Ken wonders if he's spun out and crashed somewhere, maybe hit his head or something, because nothing is making sense. "Are you honestly asking me to tell another man I love him?"

"I am."

"But you're my wife!"

She rolls her eyes in the way she does when she thinks Ken's being, in her words, particularly stupid. "Yes, I am aware."

"Best decision you ever made, if you ask me," Carroll mutters, then holds his hands up when Mollie glares at him. "Just an observation."

"I don't see what me being your wife has to do with you being in love with Carroll," she says to Ken, and maybe she's the one who hit her head, because she's not making any sense, either. In fact, she's making less sense than Carroll usually does, which is saying something, as Carroll's made spouting bullshit into an art form.

"You don't –"

He snaps his mouth shut. Opens it. Closes it again. In a few short minutes, the entire world's gone utterly mad, and no one seems to care about this but him.

"You don't see what that has to do with it?" he finally asks, not exactly proud that his voice rises what seems like an octave on every word.

"No, I don't," she replies, cool as a cucumber once again, "I'm your wife. Carroll's...well, he's..." She waves her hand in Carroll's direction. "Something altogether different. It's apples and oranges."

"I hope so, because I sure as fuck don't want your job, Mollie," Carroll drawls, with a hint of his usual shit-eating grin finally tilting the corners of his mouth. Ken doesn't mind admitting that seeing it settles him. If Carroll's still capable of grinning like that, then maybe things aren't quite as topsy-turvy as he'd feared.

"Just so," Mollie states, and nods. "So what does one have to do with the other?"

"Oh, I dunno, maybe our vows?" Ken reminds her, his tone Movaje-dry. "You know, the ones we made in a church in front of God and our families and friends? When we got married?"

"Oh, pish, our vows are whatever we want them to be," she says, with a dismissive sound. "So, unless you two plan on hightailing it out of town in Carroll's ridiculously impractical Cobra –"

"Hey, that car's a goddamn workhorse –"

"– then I fail to see what you being in love with him has to do with us making a life and raising our son together," Mollie finishes, pointedly ignoring Carroll. Which just proves she's the smart one, even if she has lost her marbles.

"It's just –" Ken fumbles for the words. "When you say it like that, you make it sound like I want to run off with him."

"Shelby," she says, her gaze never wavering from Ken, "are you planning on running off with my husband?"

"Hell no," Carroll vows, with the sort of passion Ken's only ever heard when they've argued over transaxle assemblies. "No way I could handle the keeping of him full-time."

"Hey!" Ken exclaims, indignant. "Did I not just hear you admitting that you were in love with me?"

"Well, yeah, but you're still a mule-headed asshole who would drive a saint to drink, and we all know I ain't no saint."

"Precisely," Mollie says, with a pleased smile like Carroll's aced some sort of test. "So if that's your only objection, love, I'll leave you both to it."

Ken frowns. "Mollie, are you saying I drive you to drink?"

"Only every night," she replies, and kisses him lightly on the lips. "You two have fun. And talk to each other, for God's sake."

And with that, she walks away again, hips swaying, steps sure, a hurricane in human form. Ken's definitely feeling battered and bruised in her wake.

Carroll puts his hat back on his head as he steps up to Ken's side. "I'll say it again, Ken, you married way the hell out of your league."

"Don't I know it," he mutters, then gives Carroll a sidelong glance. "You know we don't actually have to talk..."

Carroll shakes his head. "Oh, fuck you, no, I am not giving Mollie any more reason to be mad at me, and if we go in there without us talking – and you know she'll know if we don't – she'll find some way to blame it on me."

"Well, we could tell her we did without actually doing it," Ken tries, but Carroll just scoffs, amused.

"And how's lying to your wife ever worked out for you?"

"Not too well," Ken grudgingly admits.

"Exactly. Trust me, there's a reason I've got more ex-wives than you."

"I don't have any ex-wives," Ken points out.

"Precisely my point, bulldog," Carroll says. "So, we're gonna do exactly as Mollie asked and stand here and discuss this situation like mature goddamn adults."

"I wish we wouldn't."

"You got any other ideas about what we should do instead?"

"Yeah, maybe," Ken replies, then raises both fists to his face, waving them playfully. "A good tussle should be enough of a distraction, y'think?"

Carroll immediately puts both hands up and backs up a step. "Uh-uh. You broke my favorite pair of sunglasses last time, and my finger before that."

Alright, fighting's out. There's got to be something else, something they can do...

Well now, wait a minute, Ken thinks, maybe there is. Mollie's just given him blanket permission to enter a race he's been dying to run for years, and he may not be the brightest bulb when it comes to most things, but he's always been a quick study when it comes to navigating the ins and outs of any track.

And Carroll? Well, he's the sort of track Ken could navigate on bald tires in a monsoon.

"Which finger?" Ken asks, taking Carroll's right hand between his own.

"Well, uh..."

"Was it this one?" Ken raises Carroll's hand to his lips and sucks Carroll's index finger into his mouth. The glazed look on Carroll's face is, Ken must admit, very satisfying.

"No, not, uh –" Carroll clears his throat. He's bright red again; this time, however, it's a far more pleasing look on him.

"No?" Ken applies the same treatment to Carroll's middle finger, lavishing all sorts of attention on it. "This one?"

Carroll makes a strangled sound that's pure music to Ken's ears, and shakes his head.

"Huh, I could have sworn it was," Ken replies, gazing right into Carroll's wide, cornflower-blue eyes. "I guess it must be –"

"Ken," Carroll says, just as Ken's about to put the tip of Carroll's ring finger between his lips.

"Yeah, Shel?"

"You tryin'ta kill me or something?"

"Or something," Ken admits, and grins, delighted his plan seems to be working. "You gonna let me?"

Carroll huffs out a soft laugh. "Like I ever had any say in you doing something." He brushes a few strands of hair from Ken's forehead, the touch lingering, soothing an ache Ken hadn't even known existed. "It's part of why I...well, you know."

"Yeah," Ken says, his heart beating double-time in his chest. "I do."

Carroll lets out a slow, long breath that sounds like it starts from his toes and travels all the way up. "Alright then," he drawls, nodding at Ken. "You're driving this thing, so just tell me where to go."

"Always knew you'd see it my way," Ken says, smiling, and leans in, touching their lips together.

It takes Carroll about a second to get with the program, but when he does, it's like everything around them speeds up and slows down all at the same time. Carroll tastes like cheap coffee and axle grease, addictive as hell, the thrill of it the same high Ken's only ever gotten from racing before now. The two of them move together as the kiss deepens, shifting and accelerating, taking each curve, gunning through each straightaway, completely in sync. Carroll's almost as good at kissing as he is at driving, all reckless skill and pure adrenaline, and Ken can't help but respond in kind, the competitor in him giving Carroll a run for his money.

They're both panting hard and fast when they break for air. Carroll's lips are all swollen and red and slick, an irresistible combination, so Ken just dives right back in, oxygen be damned. He stumbles, then bangs, into the GT40, Carroll following until he's plastered against Ken, hip to hip, chest to chest, the solid weight of him tethering Ken to the earth while those sinful lips and that wicked tongue send him soaring into the stratosphere.

Ken's got no idea how much time passes before they lift their heads again, but he can't find it in himself to care. Carroll's hat's gone flying off somewhere, and his hair's sticking up in all kinds of wild directions, courtesy of Ken dragging his fingers all through it. He's sure his own hair doesn't look much better. He doesn't care about that, either.

In fact, he doesn't care much about anything other than the way Carroll's looking at him, like Ken's a finish line Carroll's just itching to cross.

"You know, you still haven't said it back yet," Carroll comments, the corners of his mouth tilting up, showing off those distracting-as-hell dimples.

Ken toys with the hairs at Carroll's nape. "Didn't I?"

"Nope." Then Carroll leans in, pressing their foreheads together. "Nice as making out with you is, Mollie did tell us to talk."

"Shit," Ken sighs, without any real ire behind it. "You're right."

"So?" Carroll says, after a beat. "You got something you wanna say to me, bulldog?"

The words pour out of him a lot easier than he'd thought they might. (Mollie'll be insufferable about it, but Ken figures she's earned it.) "Fuck, Shel, you know I feel the same way."

"Well, I do now," Carroll replies, with another one of his patented butter-wouldn't-melt grins. "See, that wasn't so hard, was it?"

"It was a little bit hard."

Carroll lifts an eyebrow and drags his crotch against Ken's. "From where I'm standing, it's more than a little bit hard."

Ken shakes his head, but pulls Carroll even closer. "That's all your fault."

"I'll take it," Carroll says, and kisses Ken again, soft and easy, both of them grinning the entire time.

Turns out, it's a pretty perfect day after all.

***