The phone rang as Hobbs stepped out onto the tarmac, and he almost didn't answer. He'd been having a really shitty day. But one glance at the caller ID was enough to tell him it wasn't the office.
"Travis," he said, a tired smile tugging at the corner of his mouth as he spoke.
"Beck!" Travis replied brightly, as irrepressible as ever. "Hey, how's Brazil?"
Hobbs sighed and rubbed at a point over his left eyebrow, where the ache of the last sixty hours or so had taken up shop. "A little too much like the first time," he replied.
"That good, really?" Travis didn't sound too surprised, more-- morbidly curious. Which was no wonder. The results of their first adventure together in this country might have been more positive than otherwise, but living through the actual experience had been a lot like visiting the armpit of Hell.
"That bad," Hobbs confirmed, as he slowed his pace toward the plane. "We were in the favelas, not the jungle, but Rio had its own Hatcher." He swallowed as a stab of grief speared through him again; he'd spent the morning seeing to their bodies. "I lost my team, Travis."
It took Travis a second to process that. "What? No, not lost, lost?" he blurted. "I mean, Fusco, and Wilkes, and...?"
"Chato and Macroy, too. All of them. We were ambushed, and outgunned."
He still didn't much trust the place guns took him to; he preferred a hands-on approach. But ever since his and Travis' attempt to walk away from Billy Walker had blown up into a federal-level clusterfuck, and the government had decided his record was worth recruiting for in the aftermath, he'd known he wouldn't be done with this business until it was done with him, one way or another. And he at least had the comfort of knowing the odds were anyone in his line of fire deserved what they got. He'd been accused of being real 'Old Testament' by the DSS gossips as a result. But for all his skill and hard-earned reputation, he hadn't been able to save his men from that killbox.
"Damn," Travis whistled, subdued. "Big guy, that sucks! They were good guys. We'll have to throw a wake in their honor when you get back."
"They'd have appreciated that." Hobbs nodded approvingly at the thought. The restaurant he'd bought in DC was under other management until he and the government parted ways and he could step into the kitchen himself, but he did sometimes cook for small groups there, and celebrations with his team had always made a good excuse. This one would be bittersweet, but it would be an appropriate closure.
"You got him, though, right?" Travis prodded him. "The Hatcher?"
"Reyes." The same exact kind of asshole: giving those less fortunate just enough of what they needed they had to always keep coming back for more, with no hope of ever achieving freedom. "Yeah."
"Option B?" Travis asked, expectantly.
"And then some," Hobbs agreed. He probably shouldn't feel so pleased about it; but there'd been no other way to be sure Reyes would face justice, considering all the fingers he'd had in the local pie.
"Booyah!" Travis replied, sounding as darkly satisfied as Hobbs felt.
"Yeah," he agreed.
A moment of silence fell as Hobbs reached the plane; but he didn't hang up, just trapped it between ear and shoulder as he walked up the ramp and ran a lingering hand over his battered Gurkha. It might not be as stylish as one of Toretto's speed machines, but it had done him proud in Rio; if he couldn't out-drive them, he could drive through them in this beast, and had.
He could hear the sounds of movement on the other end; he wasn't sure what Travis was up to, but he knew he'd have something else to say eventually. Sure enough, he finally settled down again, and spoke up.
"What about the guys they sent you after, though? Well, two guys and a girl-- she looked seriously hot on the news. So did they, for that matter; but not so much my type. Well, maybe Toretto... I wasn't much into the shaved skull thing before you did your little image makeover, but I'm really starting to see the appeal."
Hobbs snorted, smiling involuntarily at that. Pushing, always pushing. "Taken, Trav. Seriously. Everyone. Taken. So much so it ain't funny."
"So kind of you to reassure me, my man," Travis replied, cheerfully. "But my ego's not in danger. I know what I bring to your table. I'm just curious. Seriously. You got them?"
"Mmm, not so much, no." The smile soured at that. Twenty-four hours had come and gone, and he really should have taken his own advice and never let them get into cars.
"You're kidding me," Travis said. "My jaw is gaping wide open right now. A monkey could crawl in there and have a look around."
"Yeah, yeah, laugh it up." Hobbs rolled his eyes, then headed for the cargo stowage to secure his duffel. He was early-- the crew sent by the local FSO to get him back to DC hadn't arrived yet for the flight-- but he was more than ready to be out of the country.
"You're Luke, I Used To Be A Badass Rundown Artist Under a Previous Identity Hobbs, Who Is Still a Damn Badass Retrieval Agent Only For the FBI Now," Travis continued, unwilling to let the point go. "How did you not get your marks?"
The same way he always complicated matters for himself, Hobbs thought, rolling his eyes. Travis should know this by now. "We made a deal."
"Oh, you did not," Travis gasped, sounding seriously pleased about it for some reason. "Like, you get the Gato if I get to the airstrip kind of deal? What did they do, help you against this Reyes? Hey, no way! They were fighting him, too! They didn't even kill those DEA agents, did they?"
Travis had really never gotten over his wild wanna-be Robin Hood phase. "Don't sound so excited. They reached into the wrong guy's fridge, that's all. They're still criminals. Names on my list."
"And you let them go?" Travis added. He was getting really worked up about this; even sounded kind of short of breath.
Hobbs shrugged. "I gave them twenty-four hours. And I thought I had their hundred million payout."
And okay, maybe it had hit a little close to home, watching O'Connor and Toretto do their little testosterone-fuelled dance of courtship. O'Connor was fearless and unapologetically brazen in a way he'd only ever encountered in Travis before, and found really fucking irritating in a guy who'd broken the oaths he had; and Toretto reminded him far too much of his own early history. Never backing down when he should have, until he'd ended up trapping himself in the wrong room with the wrong guys' goods. The man who'd been Beck had eventually found a rocky road out. Toretto hadn't.
That life on the run could have so easily been him and Travis, if he'd been a little more reckless in his attempts to solve the Walker problem. The similarities had been fucking with his judgment all week.
"Only not so much?" Travis commiserated.
"Not so much," he agreed.
"Wow, that's a lot of payout." Travis murmured. "Ah, I'm sure you'll get them eventually anyway. You-- unh-- always do."
The penny finally dropped, and Beck froze, pulling the phone away from his ear for a brief second to stare at it in disbelief. "Are you doing what I think you're doing?" he blurted.
"Heh, keep talking, big guy," Travis chuckled, breathily, and now that he was paying close attention Hobbs could hear the slide of wet flesh through Travis' fingers. "Hmmm. I've missed you this week."
"Tell me you're not doing that in the kitchen." Hobbs closed his eyes, torn between outrage and instant arousal, and uncomfortably aware that this was not the place for this conversation. Travis knew better than to do this to him when he was on the job.
Travis sniffed audibly. "I can still smell that tortellini thing you made last Sunday," he said, laughter in his voice. "I think I left some dishes in the sink."
A hot flush started creeping up his neck, and Hobbs pressed his free hand over his eyes in disbelief. "Damn it, Travis," he hissed through his teeth. "If you get come all over my cutting surfaces...."
"Oh, yeah. I've missed that tone," Travis replied, succumbing to habit and running off at the mouth now that Hobbs had caught him. "You said taken, right? Which one's that undercover guy taking? The brother? Or the sister? The brother, I bet. Toretto looked nearly as big as you on the news. You have a fight with him? All up close and personal? In his face?"
Hobbs dragged in a breath, then took a look around to make sure he was out of public view. "Are you picturing that, Travis?" he asked, dropping his voice to the low and lethal range. "Me in my black tee shirt, pouring sweat in this damned heat, grappling with a guy as built as I am on a concrete floor?"
Travis made an incoherent noise, and Hobbs nearly groaned himself, adjusting the suddenly too-tight fit of his pants. God, he wished he could let the conversation play out; but Travis really should have known better. "You doing all this to distract me?"
"Is it working?" Travis panted.
Hobbs pictured the scene the kid must present, probably all spread out on the central island like the ingredients for a complex dish just waiting for the chef's touch. "Good try," he said. "But seriously, Travis. Hold that thought, all right?"
"Beck? Beck, you asshole..." he heard Travis gasp as he thumbed the End Call button.
Then Hobbs turned to find his seat, shaking his head as he put the phone away. And if his stride was maybe a little awkward as he walked-- he was smiling. Shitty timing, or not-- that one call had seriously improved his day. He'd have to plan a suitable reward when he got home.