A/N: Just for fun...except the serious parts just kept sneaking in there...
Sam should've known.
That plain, white envelope should've been an omen, but all he was really thinking when he saw it was turkey dinner.
Dean accepted the envelope from Mr. Miller without preamble, Mr. Miller being the gentleman whose old well they had just closed. Portents to another world in the backyard? Never a good idea.
"Hey, thanks," Dean said graciously. "We're just glad we could help."
"I do appreciate it," Mr. Miller said and gestured at the envelope. "It's not much, but I'm not going to use them and I figured you boys would enjoy yourselves."
Sam glanced at Dean curiously. Not money?
"Of course we will." Dean smiled and began to back away. "You just give us a call if you have any more problems with that well."
"Will do." Mr. Miller waved as they slid into the car.
As soon as they were out of sight, Dean threw the envelope at Sam.
"What is it?"
"I have no idea, but it feels pretty light."
"You don't know?" Sam shook his head in disbelief and pulled the envelope open.
Two dusty orange slips of paper fluttered out.
Dean frowned as Sam inspected them, finally growing impatient. "Well?"
"Two tickets." Sam held them up. "To the race track in town."
"No kidding." Dean looked just mildly interested.
"Says they're for tonight."
"Really?" Dean looked a little more than mildly interested.
"Yeah." Sam shrugged. "We could probably sell them or something."
"It's not like we're going to use them."
Dean snatched the tickets away with an exaggerated frown at Sam. He inspected them closely, before tucking them into his coat pocket. "Sam, they're worth twenty dollars, each."
"So, that's like forty dollars total for four days of work, eight hours a day…"
"More like twenty hours a day."
"Ten," Dean conceded. "So, that's like…"
The silence dragged on.
"One dollar an hour!" he announced happily.
"There's two of us," Sam replied dryly. "Fifty cents."
Dean shrugged like these were still favorable figures. "It's more honest money than I make in a month."
"What's your point?"
"My point," Dean said decisively. "Is that we're going. And I don't want to hear one single objection."
Wisely, Sam didn't object. And if he were very hard pressed, he would admit that it wasn't easy to not get excited when the roar of the engines started, echoing through the air.
They stopped at the family restaurant in town for some dinner. The place was oddly quiet, very few patrons, and no radio blaring the steel guitar rhythms that were typical of small town diners.
It was quiet at first, but gradually built to a steady hum. The roaring buzz of a fleet of engines in the distance washed through the restaurant door, propped open for a breeze.
Sam paused, forkful of mashed potatoes halfway to his mouth, and watched as Dean did the same.
The buzz rose and fell like the tide, well-maintained engines accelerating and downshifting.
Slowly, Dean grinned.
Sam realized why they had no use for a radio in the restaurant that night.
This was their Saturday night music.
The parking lot at the race track wasn't so much a parking lot as it was a large, grassy field enclosed by the kind of orange, plastic fencing that was supposed to control snow drifts.
At a gap in the fence stood a tall man in baseball cap and t-shirt collecting the three-dollar parking fee. When they pulled up in the Impala though, he just gave the car a once over and frowned at Dean. "Are you driving?"
For a moment, Dean looked genuinely baffled. He took his hands off the wheel. "Uh, I was kind of hoping to be parking."
The man laughed shortly and shook his head. "I meant, are you driving tonight? You're racing, right?"
"Oh." Dean laughed and Sam slouched down in his seat in hopes of hiding. "No. We're just watching, thanks."
"Really?" The man pushed back his cap to scratch at his head. "'Cause I've seen the driver's for tonight and you'd probably do in the best of them in this beast."
The laugh that burst from Dean was short and sharp in pleasant disbelief. He slapped Sam's arm. "I'd totally smoke them in this beast. Oh, man. He turned back to the window. "Hey, listen…"
"Charlie. Good man, Charlie. That is a fine compliment you've given us here, but we're from out of town. Just passing through, you know, and I wouldn't want to mess her up."
"Right." Charlie nodded, eyes grazing over the car again. "How many miles you got on her?"
Dean smiled and it was pride, Sam thought, definitely pride radiating through his teeth as he spoke. "We maxed out the odometer back in '95."
It had been a milestone more important than any of their stupid birthdays or Christmas, Sam remembered. Turning that last mile, watching all those nines line up in a row was like finally arriving and stopping time all at once. From then on, they just were.
"Pretty reliable," Charlie was saying and something else about rebuilding.
Sam wasn't sure if he should mention to him, all the cars that were slipping around them to park for free.
"Hey," Charlie said suddenly, eyes growing wide. He knelt down to be at their level. "They've got open slots later on in the drag races. Thousand dollar first prize. You could do that. It's bracketed."
Dean was nodding like he knew what this meant. "Really?"
"Yep." Charlie nodded.
"Dean," Sam cautioned.
Dean ignored him. "Where do we sign up?"
Three hours later, after watching a few amateur class races, and filling out a ton of paperwork, they were back in the car in a line that curled around the back of the track, waiting, as Dean said "to be dialed in." The sun had set and the stadium lights had come on, casting the entire area in sharp, artificial light.
"I can't believe this." Sam shook his head. "Dad would kill you."
"Dad would be so proud."
Sam couldn't help but smirk, figuring Dean was probably right.
Charlie hadn't been kidding when he said open slots. It seemed anyone that wanted to race and registered could. There was an old pick-up in line next to them, a regular sedan in front, and a ways back in the line, Sam thought he'd even seen a minivan.
"So, how does this work?" he asked. "We just beat the guy next to us?"
"Well, yeah." Dean shrugged. "Sort of."
"We have to beat the guy in the other lane but not ourselves."
"Somebody does it for us?" Sam asked very seriously.
"No." Dean sighed. "We race next to him, but we don't want to beat our own time, just to match it and if we do, or if we're closer than him on the high side, then we win. It's about consistency of performance," he finished and smiled.
Sam stared at him. "I don't get it."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means," Dean said carefully. "That you wouldn't get it."
"Thanks for spelling that out for me."
Sam sat back, trying to make sense of the whole system. He glanced at Dean. "Have you done this before?" It was the only way he could possibly imagine that Dean could have a grip on something that he didn't.
"No, but unlike you, I am male."
They inched around the corner and the track straightened out in front of them, the two lanes separated by a cement barrier.
"Hey." Charlie jogged up next to the driver's window. "You're keeping your passenger?"
"Sure." Dean shrugged and sent a shifty glance Sam's way. "There's nothing…really wrong with him."
Sam made a face at him.
Dean slugged him in the shoulder.
"Well," Charlie said, walking beside the car as they crept forward. "It's about two-hundred pounds you don't need."
"You know, I never thought of him that way," Dean said pensively.
That time, Sam slugged Dean.
Charlie laughed. "Don't tell me you've got a spare tire under this thing, too."
"Of course we have a spare. We'd be totally screwed if we got a flat."
"On a quarter mile?" Charlie raised an eyebrow.
"The man has a point, Dean," Sam remarked.
"You shut up," Dean muttered. "Excess weight."
"What did you call me?"
"Excess weight," Dean repeated with a smirk. "I called you excess weight."
"Last chance." Charlie stopped walking. "Getting rid of anything?"
Dean turned to him, one arm resting on the window. "I've got about half my life in the trunk I'm not about to unpack. I might as well keep the rest of it."
"Suit yourself. As long as you hang on to everything for the whole night, I guess." Charlie raised his hands as he backed off. "Good luck."
"Half your life?" Sam asked, once he'd gone.
"You heard me…excess weight."
Sam could never be sure how or why certain things happened. He believed in God and fate for the big things, but sometimes it seemed like someone was doling the cards out for everyday events, too.
How else could you explain Mr. Miller just happening to give them the tickets, and Charlie just happening to be working at the parking lot, and just happening to tell them about the drag races, and every other little domino event that led to them sitting behind the start line in the Impala, a mile of flat race track laid out before them.
Funny, Sam thought, these things only seemed to happen when he was around Dean.
"I feel like your co-dependent," Sam said to him. "It's very unhealthy." Against the hum and rumble of cars behind and next to them though, Sam could feel his words being lost in white noise even as they left his mouth.
"What?" Dean put a hand to his ear and revved the engine a few times. "I can't hear you."
Sam raised his voice. "I said you're insane."
Dean looked deeply offended. "What about my brain?"
Sam waved a hand at him. Never mind.
Between the two lanes stood a tower, two identical rows of lights running down it. Two amber lights at the top, three yellow, and at the bottom, the green light. The man that stood there operating the lights waved them ahead.
Dean dropped the car into drive and crept forward until the pre-stage and stage amber lights came on, signaling they were at the line. He leaned over to Sam. "Ready?"
Sam nodded and smiled and tugged at his seatbelt, just to be sure.
Dean revved the engine a few more times before holding the brake down with his left foot and pressing the accelerator down to the floor with his right.
Dean took his foot off the brake and the car shot forward.
After the first few runs, Sam couldn't even try to pretend like it wasn't the coolest thing ever. Dean was laughing too hard from the sheer joy of it.
They beat that first car they came up against and the second and Sam was finally starting to catch on to how the whole thing worked.
As Dean said, they had 'dialed-in' at twelve seconds flat, meaning that each time they went up they had to come as close to that exact twelve seconds as possible. If they were faster than that, it was an automatic disqualification, but if they went too slow, say twenty seconds, odds are their opponent would be closer to their dialed time, and they would be out.
Consistency was all they needed.
Sam figured none of these other drivers were sitting in a family heirloom they'd been driving since the age of twelve.
So, basically, things were looking good for them.
They went through a few more cars and the numbers were dwindling until it was down to just four cars, the finals. The fancy sports car next to them jumped the gun, red-lighted, and was disqualified.
Just two cars left and not until they pulled up to the line for the last run did Dean show any signs of being even slightly worried.
The car sitting next them was a 1970 Shelby Mustang Cobra, it's paint so red and dark it looked wet.
The engines roared and rumbled and Dean leaned over to yell to Sam, "I am not losing to a Ford." Then, he nodded and raised his eyebrows, like he was asking permission, or maybe reassurance. Okay? Not losing.
Sam grinned and held up his fist, pinky and forefinger extended. Rock on.
Dean threw back his head and laughed.
It was no doubt that the white envelope was considerably thicker than when Mr. Miller had first given it to them.
They waited until they got back to a motel room to actually take it out and count it though. With the window thrown open and hyped up on adrenaline and summer air, they laid the dirty, green bills out on the table like playing cards. It almost felt illegal, but maybe that was just the feeling Sam would always associate with their family and money.
"A thousand dollars," Dean said with no little amount of awe. "That's four days of work, ten hours a day…"
The silence dragged on.
"Twenty-five dollars an hour."
"There's two of us," Sam replied dryly. "It's twelve fifty and I don't think you can really divide it into hourly wages."
"I just did divide it."
Sam sighed and rested his head on his fist lazily. "I meant it's just not the same thing as actually earning by the hour."
Dean shrugged. "Even so, Sammy. It's more money than…"
"Yep. Ever." Dean straightened the bills into a pile and tucked them back into the envelope. "You know, if Dad had known about this, back in the day, we could've been…"
"Shopping at Wal-Mart instead of Goodwill?"
"Yeah." Dean glared. "And quit interrupting me." He held the envelope flat on his palm, weighing it. A particularly strong breeze from the window threatened to catch it, so he clamped his other hand down on top. With guarded eyes, he glanced at Sam. "I wish I could tell him. He'd, ah…you know, he'd get a kick out of it."
"Yeah." Sam nodded somberly. "He would."
Dean cleared his throat. "Sorry."
"Hey," Sam interrupted, sitting up straighter. "You wanna go to Wal-Mart?"
Dean paused. "Are they open?"
"Twenty four hours a day, I think."
Dean weighed the envelope in his palm again and then slowly tucked it into the inside pocket of his jacket. He stood and closed the window, took his time checking the lock, before making his way to the door. "Waitin' on you, Sam-o."
Sam grinned and led the way outside.