Sooner or later, it had been inevitable they'd have a moment to themselves. None of Toretto's crew in earshot, no Neves watching him, no one for either of them to perform for. Hobbs waited and watched, the raw anger and pain of his team's murders simmering under his skin to tangle with older, still healing wounds, and seized the opportunity the moment it arrived.
"So. Five years in deep cover, huh?" he said, tilting his chin up as he stared down Toretto's partner in crime. "Brian O'Conner." Spilner. Cole. Whatever. He could still hardly believe the shit that had come out of the man's mouth about being a hero, after everything.
O'Conner's mouth twitched unhappily at the corners, but he stared right back, those electric blue eyes of his unyielding and unapologetic. "Luke," he acknowledged with a nod. "When I heard what they were saying about us and the DEA agents, I figured you might be the one they'd send."
He sounded genuine. But then, he always did, the lying asshole. How the hell was Hobbs supposed to believe his instincts where Brian was concerned anymore? Part of the draw of Brian had always been the fire he let Hobbs kindle under that cool, slick surface; provoking him and watching the reactions had always been part of the fun. But then the news had broken, and the file had crossed Hobbs' desk, and he'd realized he'd never really known anything about the incandescent adrenaline junkie he'd picked up during his last rotation back to headquarters.
"Fool me twice, shame on me," he replied, narrowing his eyes at him. Wasn't going to happen.
He'd seen the notes in O'Conner's file from the Feds-- from Trinh, an agent who'd worked closely with him in the LA office, and Bilkins, the one who'd facilitated his application to the FBI in the first place. Trinh had known he was a troublemaker, and Bilkins had had every reason to distrust the former cop-- and O'Conner had still charmed them into letting their guards down. But both agents had met the man on a professional level. The thing between him and O'Conner was a little more personal than that.
O'Conner finally winced a little, shifting his gaze somewhere out over Hobbs' shoulder. "Listen, man, when I found out you were DSS, I asked my handler if I could clue you in," he said, quietly.
Right. That might even be true. But both men knew why they were there, and the unspoken undercurrents burned like acid on Hobbs' tongue as he finished O'Conner's excuse for him. "The security of the investigation was paramount, and they didn't want to read in another agency."
"Yeah. Sorry, man." O'Conner's eyes met his again, acknowledgement in them but no hint of regret. Hobbs was glad. He didn't think he could have taken that hypocrisy, on top of everything else.
"At least now I know why you never stuck around, or let me help out." He shook his head. "I thought you just didn't want to get out, or that you had something to prove."
He'd known Brian was involved in some deep shit in the underbelly of the nation's capital, but he'd been far too careful to leave any actual proof for Hobbs to find. He'd never even taken Hobbs back to his place; they'd met in bars and garages more often than not. So Hobbs had done his level best to persuade Brian loose of that life before the cops could catch up with him, before he became just another face on a Wanted poster. What fucking irony.
Of course, that bulletproof stubbornness had always been part of the draw, too. People had been backing down to Hobbs all his life-- there was always a fascination for him in the ones who didn't.
Hobbs thought back to the first entries in O'Conner's file, and wondered darkly if the day of that last truck heist had felt anything like this to the rookie cop he'd been then, or if Brian had just been born an ice-souled son of a bitch.
"Fucking job," O'Conner muttered roughly, sweeping a hand over his head. He'd had it longer when Hobbs knew him before, all blond-tipped curls; it looked wrong on him now, a dirty washwater shade of brown and hacked close to his skull, just starting to bronze in the South American sun. He was tan, too; sweaty, scruffy around the edges, and more gorgeous than he'd ever been tarted up in city polish.
"I never planned on any of it, you know. You really messed with my head."
"Yeah, I can see that." Hobbs tipped his chin toward the far side of the room where Toretto was bent over a car, low murmurs carrying as he discussed some aspect of their reworked plan with Seoul-Oh.
O'Conner's gaze briefly followed his; then he flushed, jaw firming as he deliberately focused all his attention back on Hobbs. "It isn't like that," he said, no hesitation to the words at all.
Right. If he thought Hobbs would buy that, then he hadn't really known Hobbs, either. A blind man could see the similarities. And the differences.
"Isn't it?" he asked scornfully, crossing his arms over his chest.
O'Conner's gaze flickered down, drawn by the motion, then back up again, and there was a wariness in the lines around his eyes that hadn't been there before. "I'm with Mia," he replied, baldly.
"Yeah, and?" Hobbs chuckled sourly. "She wasn't the one gave up your job for. Twice. Like I said, I've seen your file, O'Conner."
He didn't add, nor did you bend the rules, even a little, in DC. He'd just disappeared one day, nor had he contacted Hobbs when it was all over. Habit, maybe; according to the file, he hadn't seen the Torettos for five years either. But that didn't sweeten the taste at all.
O'Conner seemed to get that; he looked a little green around the edges, though there was still no give in his spine, no pulling back to leave Hobbs ground to meet him on. "Luke, man...."
"It's Agent Hobbs to you, O'Conner," he cut him off, making the line clear.
O'Conner ground his jaw again and shook his head, grease-stained hands drawing up tight into fists. Hobbs didn't think he needed to worry about a physical fight like the one with Toretto, though-- which was a good thing, since he wasn't sure it would stay a fight at all.
"Luke... when I met them...." O'Conner began, then threw an arm out as though to encompass the cars, the people, the entire situation they were currently in. "This is about family," he continued, shrugging helplessly, as if that explained everything.
"Yeah, I got that, thanks," Hobbs snorted in response.
"I'm sorry," O'Conner replied, voicing rising a little as his anger started getting the better of him.
"You expect that to mean something to me?" Hobbs demanded of him. "I'm here to do a job. And I'm going to do that job, after we're done here."
Something about that took the wind out of O'Conner's sails, though; he pulled back a little, hackles lowering. "I never expected anything else," he said.
"There a problem here?" a third voice growled. Toretto's; he'd finally noticed their conversation.
"No, no problem, Dom," O'Conner said, without even turning to look. "I was just-- trying to say I was sorry about what happened to his team."
"Thought you knew better than to prod a wounded bear, Brian," Toretto told him, but the hand he dropped on the back of O'Conner's skull belied the grimness of his tone. "You're the one who warned us about him, remember?"
O'Conner relaxed-- just a fraction, but Hobbs could see it in him-- at that touch.
Something in him faltered at the sight; the noxious cocktail of emotion that had kept him on his feet since the ambush started to ebb, leaking out of him like water from a cracked vase.
What had Brian told Toretto about him? Did it even matter, in the end? Hobbs had barely had a chance to mourn his team, and their friend was still cold on the table. There were more important concerns.
"They were good men," he said gruffly. "I appreciate the sentiment. But what I'll appreciate more is seeing Reyes dead. What happens after-- we'll deal with then."
"We'll see," Toretto nodded to him, gravely. Then he turned to leave. Brian followed right behind him, one last searing look thrown over his shoulder.
Only one thing in Rio had gone like Hobbs had planned: tracking down Toretto and O'Conner. He'd told Neves they were just names on a list; as pissed as he'd been, he hadn't wanted to hear her justifications. But things were always more complicated than that.
Life was simpler in their world; you made choices and didn't look back.
Hobbs sighed, then rubbed a hand over his face. They'd settle this another day. In the meantime, there was justice to be had.