By daybreak we’ll be gone
The first time Han meets Brian is in the middle of Nowhere, Mexico. He’s lying spread-eagle on a bed that’s too big for one person, dead cigarette dangling from his left hand, staring at the ceiling.
There’s stuff strewn around the room, his stuff. Half of what was there last night. Dom’s half is gone.
Han almost chokes on that thought, snorts laughter through his nose like bitter smoke. Dom’s gone. What is he? Some sort of girl? Oh woe is him and his poor, abandoned ass!
He met Dom during a race six months ago and something he did must have impressed the man, because a week later he showed up again. Two weeks after that, he offered Han a part in a job. Small fry, he said, a simple hijacking for a guy who wanted one specific item off a truck. Needed a good driver, he said.
Danger, speed and fun in the shape of Dominic Toretto, living legend, offering him a ten grand cut? Hell yeah, Han was in.
The job wasn’t quite as easy as Dom made it seem, but all the more thrilling for it. After that, they hung. Screwed around with their cars. Drunk a lot of beer. Fucked a lot.
Eventually, Han stopped going back to his cheap rent-by-the-week and all the stuff he usually kept in the back of his car started accumulating in Dom’s small apartment.
Fast forward to today. Dom gone, Dom’s stuff gone, Dom’s car gone.
Han knew that Dom was on the run from more than the law. Knew he was a pit stop, a casual fuck at best. Knew Dom was going to leave, one day. That was fine. Han was only here on vacation, officially. Nothing more. But the fucker could have at least said goodbye. It wasn’t like he would have cried and clung and made a scene. But some respect… yeah. Respect.
So he’s lying there, feeling half sorry for himself, half sorry for Dominic Toretto, who needs to make everything a grand gesture, needs to be the hero in a world where there are none. Probably thought he was doing Han a favor. Thought he was being a bad influence.
If anything, the shit Han got up to with Dom around was less dangerous, not more so, than the shit he gets up to on his own. There’s a reason he hightailed it out of LA half a year ago, and it wasn’t the crappy weather.
And then there’s a sound at the door and Han stills, clutching his cigarette so tight it crumbles. It’s not Dom coming back because… it’s just not. Also, the person on the other side of the door obviously has no key. They seem pretty handy with a lock pick, though.
Han drops the butt of his smoke, reaches under the pillow and pulls out the gun hidden there, clicks off the safety and places it by his hip, where it won’t be obvious from the bedroom door. He wastes a moment on wondering whether Dom left the gun for Han specifically, or if he simply couldn’t get to it in the night without waking Han.
The person at the door finally turns the last tumblers in the lock and sneaks inside, closing the door quietly. Han relaxes a bit when he hears no telltale click of a gun. The light switches on and the guy – and it is a guy – curses under his breath. In English. Nice California accent. Looks like Dom’s past caught up with him.
The guy is probably staring at the empty room much like Han did a few hours ago, wondering who to be more pissed at, himself or Toretto.
Footsteps toward the bedroom and then the door is pushed open roughly. The guy obviously thinks he’s alone in here until he catches sight of Han, who doesn’t move a muscle. The guy freezes and Han has a moment to take him in. Tall. Really tall. Blonde and stereotypical American Whitebread under his deep tan. His eyes are kind of pretty, Han decides detachedly.
Wouldn’t kick that one out of bad.
He’s dressed like a surfer, shorts, t-shirt, sunglasses hooked into the collar. Might be packing, might not. He’s definitely fit enough to put up a fight. Han wouldn’t actually might a fight right now. Blood and bruises sound as good as anything.
Instead shakes Whitebread out of his shock, says, “If you’re looking for Dom, you missed him.” He sounds a bit more cynic than intended, but that’s neither here nor there.
The guy sighs and rubs a hand over his hair, which is somewhere between a crew cut and growing out. “Shit,” he says, with feeling. Then, “By how much?”
“’Bout twelve hours,” Han supplies, expecting Blondie to run for the door. He doesn’t. Instead he slumps in the doorway like he knows there’s no catching up with Toretto. Half a day might not be so much for anyone else, but the man was born with road under him. He’s long gone.
He was long gone when Han woke ten hours ago.
Blondie looks away from Han, around the room. He takes in the clothes, the other shit lying around. Eventually, he turns back to Han, shoots him half a grin. “He run out on you?”
He seems wryly amused by the whole situation, more than anything.
Han, who still hasn’t moved, attempts a shrug. “What’s it to you?”
The smile he gets as an answer is as brilliant as it is empty. “You’re not the only one. I’ve been trying to find him, but...” He waves a hand to encompass the small apartment.
Han laughs. What is this? The Club of Jilted Lovers? What the fuck? This day is getting shittier by the minute. “Man, if he ran out on you…”
Blondie shakes his head and Han expects an Epic Tale of Love and Doom. Dumb, white boy. But all he gets is, “Shit got hot. I owe him.” Another gesture of long limbs. “Or, hell, he owes me. Dunno. Just wanna get even. Say some shit.”
Sighing, Han finally sits up. His joints creak alarmingly. He grimaces and thumbs the safety back on the gun. If Whitebread is startled by the weapon, he hides it well. “Not today, you ain’t.”
Blondie nods and then hangs in the doorway, obviously not sure what to do, now that he’s reached the Promised Land and it turned out to be the demo version. Han gets that. He does. But he’s kind of thinking of getting really drunk, so he needs the guy gone.
The other man’s faster though. “Listen, man, I took a week off for this and I got four days left.”
Eyebrow. “I ain’t fucking you to stave off boredom, Whitebread.”
The guy rolls his eyes, cool as anything. “I was thinking about buying you a beer, actually.”
Han raises the other eyebrow, too, just for symmetry. “I still ain’t fucking you.”
Whitebread snorts. “I see,” he says, “You’re one of those girls who like playing hard to get.” He pretends to think for a minute, then adds, “Two beers?”
Guy thinks he’s a comedian.
Han considers the offer, nods to himself and grabs a clean shirt off the floor. Well, he thinks it’s clean. He stands and shoves the gun into his waistband, then flashes Whitebread a grin. “Deal,” he says.
Blondie grins back. “Brian,” he offers, holding out his fist for a bump.
“You know,” Han says conversationally as he slips into Brian’s booth without so much as a by-your-leave. “When you said you took a week off to find Dom, I didn’t expect you to have taken a week off your job as a fed.”
He glowers dramatically at the man, who flashes him the sunshine smile right back.
He goes on, pretending to be unaffected by the super nova across the table. “I told you a lot of shit that night.” Illegal shit, mostly.
Brian shrugs. He seems supremely unconcerned with the fact that they come from opposite sides of the law. “Yeah. I was on vacation.”
Han snorts as he finally plops down comfortably. “Dick,” he drawls and flags down a waitress. The place is posh, but not very, for LA. An after-work place for business men. Brian blends in in his fed-costume. Han does not. The waitress glares haughtily at him until he flashes Easy Smile #34. Then it’s all smooth sailing. Brian rolls his eyes.
They watch people come and go until Han’s drink arrives and then sit around for a while longer, doing nothing.
“What brings you to my corner of the world then?” Brian finally asks, rolling his beer bottle between his hands, sprawling like he’s auditioning for a magazine, not trying to unwind after work.
Han shrugs. “Can’t a guy visit an old drinking buddy?”
Brian’s gaze, for all the intensity its color brings, is mild. “Can he?”
Four hours ago, Han got off a plane from Costa Rica, where he helped Dom pull a job. They celebrated. They drank. They crashed spectacularly at opposite ends of the house. See, it’s not all about the sex. Dom disappeared in the dark of the night, leaving a wet towel in the bathroom and a lot of empty bottles in the living room. Han is starting to detect a certain… pattern here.
“I got him drunk,” he says, apropos of nothing. “Got the whole sob story out of him.”
Brian does an impressive job of holding himself too still to flinch. Han smirks at him. “Busted him. Let him go. Saved his ass. Sold him out. Epic Tale of Love and Doom, man.”
The other man peels a part of the label off his bottle, rolls it between his fingers, flicks it at Han. Dismisses him. Steering the conversation away from the places they don’t go. The secret of not giving a damn is working hard at avoiding anything you do give a damn about. Pretend until you buy your own act.
Shit, they don’t know each other at all. The only thing they have in common is Dominic Toretto and his dramatic, brooding ass. That, and the inability to either let go or hold on.
“You still looking for him?”
According to Dom’s ramblings, it’s been three years since LA. A long time to chase after anyone. Brian shakes his head. “Nah.”
“Did a job with him in Costa Rica,” Han offers. He thinks he might be trying to bait the Whitebread. Doesn’t take.
“I know. Sloppy execution, but the plan was solid.” The way he’s looking at Han out of the corner of his eye says he’s baiting, too.
“You’re keeping track of Toretto.”
Another flick of his fingers, another small wad of paper thrown at Han. This one lands in his scotch. He scowls.
“Nope. Keeping track of you. Much easier.”
“Nice to know my tax money is well spent.”
Brian laughs, head thrown back, long line of his throat exposed. Han can see why Dom needs to be drunk to talk about this guy. He could fuck a man up in so many different ways.
“You pay taxes?”
“Don’t you already know that?”
The laughter fades away and the mildness returns. Brian is all about zen, all about cool. Snowman, Dom called him. It fits. Matches Han’s Inscrutable Asian. Probably trumps it, actually. “Why’re you here?”
So many reasons to pick from.
“You know what tomorrow is?”
Brian rolls his shoulders, suggests, “Your great-aunt Edna’s birthday?”
Han has no great-aunt Edna. But he figures tomorrow can be her birthday. Whatever. “Sure,” he agrees. “But besides that?”
“Tomorrow is the morning after.”
He doesn’t explain. Either Brian will get it, or he’s not the man Han thought he was. He gets another laugh as the other man finishes off his beer, taps the bottle on the glass top of the table. The sound carries and he doesn’t care. Bright and flashy, for all the ice. Look at me, look at me. Don’t look at the man behind the curtain.
He flags the waitress for another beer, suggests, “Making tonight the night before the morning after?”
He gets it.
Night before the morning after. Anything goes and thrills come cheap. Blow your mind and lose your car, forget your name and wake naked in a cornfield. Remember nothing, care for nothing, live now. It’s the only real way to live forever. He gets it and Han smiles, nods.
Brian says, “We gonna need more booze for this.”
Despite their deal, they didn’t actually fuck in Mexico. It would have smacked too much of the Club of Jilted Lovers thing. They also had a lot more than three beers apiece.
But tonight Brian takes them to his empty little condo, invites Han inside with an exaggerated hand motion and gathers what booze he has. He comes up with half a bottle of tequila and some Kahlua, which tastes like coffee and molasses and makes Han run his tongue over his teeth compulsively to see if they’ve already rotted away. He smokes to cover the taste and gets distracted by the way Brian seems hypnotized by the smoke wafting through the room.
He holds his cigarette in the other man’s face. “Want one?”
Brian shakes his head, then snatches the smoke from Han’s hand with skilled fingers. He inhales deeply, deep enough for the crisp sound of burning paper to be audible, and then dumps the butt in an empty glass. He exhales like some ancient dragon, slow and careful, nostrils blowing. It’s possibly sexy as fuck.
“That shit kills you,” he says.
Han rolls his eyes. “One hundred percent of all non-smokers die.”
Then he drinks more of the Kahlua, until his lips are sticky with it and leans across the length of the sofa to stain Brian’s cocky mouth with sweetness and before he knows it, they’re naked, Brian straddling him, one hand on Han’s cock, the other in his mouth, sucking on his fingers like he means business. Judging by the way he’s staring down at Han, all cold fire and intensity, he probably does.
Han grunts and shifts, smacks at his thigh. “You gonna get a move on some time tonight?” he asks.
Brian rolls his eyes and sucks harder, his cheeks hollowing out with it. Han bites his lip, still tastes that goddamn coffee shit and knows he’ll never drink it again without flashbacks.
Then Brian leans back on his haunches, muscles in his thighs straining, lets go of Han’s cock, says, “Turn over.”
Han groans at the command and gets a laugh, low and dirty. Instead of turning, he grabs for Brian’s hair, tugs and reels him in, bites at his neck until he squirms and pants. Then, and only then, does he let himself be manhandled on his stomach.
Han dresses with most of his mind still fuzzy and asleep, stumbles through the darkness of Brian’s shitty not-home toward the door, lighting a smoke almost on autopilot. It feels good, to be the one walking away for once. He feels vindicated and vindictive, angry and satisfied and aching all over.
There is a small square taped to the front door, right above the door handle, shining white in the faint glow of the eternal LA light pollution. Han rips it off, squints at it.
It says Asshole, in what he assumes is Brian’s scratchy post-fuck-marathon handwriting.
He crumbles the note, tucks it into his pocket, hollers into the darkness, “Fuck you!”
The last thing he hears before the door shuts behind him is Brian laughing like a hyena.
He fucks Letty up against the wall of Dom’s house in the Dominican Republic three days after the man bails.
At least this time, Han wasn’t the one left in bed alone. At least Dom never put money on his nightstand, like a whore. Letty; he left her all the money he could spare, his cross and the ghost of his absence.
She screamed a lot the first day, cried the second and, once Tego and Rice cleared out, scared of the senorita loca, she went quiet.
Han watched it all from a distance, intimately familiar with the aftermath of Dom. He made a list once, in his head, of all the people Dom left. His sister, somewhere in LA, with a whole life to patch up around his absence. Letty. Han. Brian. Half a million girls on three continents, probably. More Han will never know about.
Club of Jilted Lovers.
Letty calms down. Outwardly at least. There’s a fire burning in her that Han will never understand. She’s one of those passionate people, burning to the heavens. He’s never been like that. He doesn’t rage and rant, just keeps moving.
There’ll always be a morning after.
If he’s lucky, the night before is worth it. If he’s not… well, the sun sinks once every twenty four hours and it rises again just as regularly. Lots of mornings. Lots of nights.
But Letty has no patience for sunsets.
She finds him on the third day of her spanking new membership in the Club and shoves him against the wall hard enough to make him bang his head. She claws her way into his shirt, kisses him so hard he has to bite back just to keep her from chewing up his tongue. He twists them around, intent on letting her go, but she clings to him, wraps him up with her arms and legs and heat and refuses to let him go.
He slams her into the wall in return, lets her pull his shirt off, helps her with his pants. Unbuttoned, tucked down. He tucks her panties aside and sinks his fingers in deep, making her throws her head back. She groans, cusses, bites at his mouth again, angry, so angry.
He finds a condom in the back pocket of his jeans and she scrambles with it, madly, and then he’s inside her and it’s hot and violent and ugly and it’s the first time he’s ever had angry sex when he wasn’t the one his partner was angry with.
He hurts her, he knows he does, but she doesn’t care and neither does he, really.
He lets her go as soon as they’re done, pulling his pants back up, reaching for his shirt. She tucks her skirt down, bites her lip, snaps something at him in rapid-fire Spanish that he doesn’t bother to work out. Cursing him, most likely.
She stalks away like a wounded lioness and he goes for a drive.
Two days later she’s suddenly in front of him, packed bag over her shoulder, Dom’s cross dangling between her tits. They haven’t said a word to each other since they fucked, just worked around each other in the big house.
He thinks she might resent him for staying, for not taking off like the others. For being used to this.
“LA,” she says, curt, tight. “I’ll find away to get him home.”
Han nods, thoughtfully. She’ll need to cut a deal, probably. Buy him off. Dangerous, that kind of thing. He motions for her to wait, finds pen and paper and scribbles down a number he’s only called a handful of times when he was in LA and looking for a hook-up. Brian won’t mind this. None of them ever do, when it’s about Dom.
“Call him,” he says as he hands over the paper. “He’ll help.”
Letty frowns but doesn’t ask who ‘he’ is, just tucks the paper away. She makes an aborted movement toward him, like she wants to hug him, or kiss him. He’s glad when she just turns around and walks out.
In a way, Letty doesn’t know what it’s like, being like them. Being outside. She slipped in under the wire, before Lompoc, before whatever killed Dom inside. She slipped in when he still knew how to let people in. Han and Brian both came after, long after.
They get to look inside, get to see what Dom might have been like when he was whole and capable of more than life in ten second increments on the fast lane. But Letty was there. Letty knows. She remembers.
Maybe it keeps her warm at night.
When he sees Dom’s mug shot on national TV, Han stops breathing for a moment. When Brian’s face follows immediately after, he starts laughing so loudly that his neighbors start banging on the walls and still he can’t stop.
His phone is already in his hand when he realizes that Brian either dumped his phone by now, or has left it somewhere for the feds to find, in which case Han doesn’t really want to call.
He puts the phone down again, waits.
For six months, he waits. Dom will call. Dom always calls. He has no reason not to, since no-one has ever said no to him.
While he waits, Han listens, finds that Mia, the sister, is in LA again and still, living in an empty house, renting out two shops. Letty is dead. It’s jarring but half-expected, the way deaths always are in their line of work. You expect someone to die, just not this someone, and then they do, and you shake your head and think that maybe, you knew.
He wonders if she saw Dom again, before some asshole put a bullet in her head, ruining all that beautiful hair that felt like ropes and chains when Han wrapped his fingers into it. Strong enough to ensnare and trap a man, any man. All but one.
The phone call comes in the morning, Dom’s voice like gravel, like no time has passed and nothing has changed. Has it? Rio, he says. One last job, he says, for those with nothing left to lose.
Han packs his bag and goes.
Dom gave him a time and a place and when Han arrives, Dom’s rag-tag group of loyal dogs is already there. All the people he collected, all the poor idiots that follow him around the world.
Han’s not bitter. Really.
Tego and Rico nod at him and go back to bickering at each other. Some black guy eyes him and the bombshell in high heels shoves a gun in his face, which is hot as hell and also a bit too crazy for a first meeting, maybe.
Dom finishes introductions and Brian holds out his hand, palm up. Han slaps it and reels him in for a half-hug. Brian sniffs him like a dog and then lets go. “Man, you finally stopped smoking.”
Han slaps at his shoulder, draws back and waggles his eyebrows. “Heard that shit kills you.”
Brian laughs and Dom deduces, “You two know each other. How come?”
They look at each other and for a moment, they both remember a too big bed and an empty apartment in Nowhere, Mexico. Then Brian shrugs and Han says, “LA isn’t all that big.”
Dom either doesn’t notice they’re bullshitting, or he doesn’t care.
The night before the job, they get fucked. Really, really, really fucked. As in, so drunk they can’t see straight.
Han wakes with Giselle’s fully dressed and impossibly long limbs wrapped around him and is sort of glad he didn’t hit that last night, because he thinks it might be worth remembering when he finally does. If he ever does. Talk about mixed signals.
He stumbles out of the room in search of water and a place to piss and finds Brian sitting in their little command central, his feet propped up on the railing, head tilted back, half asleep.
When Han gets back from taking his leak, he’s sitting up straighter, eyes open. “Night before?” he asks, wryly.
Han shakes his head, makes a show of tasting the inside of his mouth. “Nah. This is firmly ‘morning after’ territory.”
He perches on the railing next to Brian’s feet, leans back on his elbows and tries to make his head stop spinning. The fact that he’s only mildly dizzy tells him that he’s still too drunk for this – or any – conversation.
Brian, who seems way too sober, has no mercy. “So, you came,” he starts, innocently enough.
Han, too tired to play it slow, goes in for the kill. “You threw away your life.”
“Wasn’t much of one.”
Thinking of a little condo that looked like no-one lived in it, Han has to agree. Doesn’t mean it was the sane thing to do.
“You ever ask yourself why?”
Brian rolls his head, one way then the other. Contemplating. Finally he says, “No.”
Han hmphs. Probably better that way.
Suddenly he gets angry. He remembers Letty’s hurt rage behind yet another empty house, in the DR, remembers her fury burning into him as he fucked her because Dom wasn’t there to do it. And he gets angry like a flash fire.
“Fuck,” he snarls, regrets it immediately, clutches his head. “I’m tired.”
Brian takes his elbow, steadies him and deliberately misunderstands his words. “Let’s get your ass in bed,” he murmurs. “We’ve got a police station to rob in less than twelve hours.”
Han lets himself be led into the maze that’s the back of the factory, which he’s pretty sure someone once tried to turn into apartments, if the beds are any indication. He thinks he catches sight of Dom in the shadows of one corner, but he doesn’t look and doesn’t ask.
Brian pours him into bed efficiently, neatly, looking serene as any saint. He may be a few steps ahead of Han in this whole… process. Grieving, maybe. Club of Jilted Lovers.
The last thing he remembers before the lights go out is a warm hand on his head, in his hair. Brian sounds almost gentle as he murmurs something that Han can’t be bothered to make out anymore.
Forty-eight hours later, it’s all over. They lost Vince, killed Rio, fucked over the entire Brazilian police force and the DSS and got away with a share of over twelve million each. Well, eleven, in Han’s case. He lost that race against Brian.
They’re still together in one of Dom’s endless bolt holes, this one barely two miles from the border, on the safe side. Tego and Rico took off immediately, Roman and Tej hightailed it to their airport. Giselle stuck around for half a day before she, too, made tracks.
Only the three of them now, sticking together for no reason Han wants to voice.
He has eleven million reasons to get the fuck out of here and none to stay.
And yet here he is.
God, he’s, like, a secret masochist or something. But Brian’s right there with him and that probably says something about him. About both of them.
They’re leaning against the rotting porch railing of the ratty hut they’re staying in, beer in hand, watching Dom inside, counting money. Again. It’s getting to be compulsive. Or maybe he can’t believe that he can finally buy his way to freedom.
No more running he said.
Doesn’t mean he’ll stay, though. Doesn’t mean he’ll want to.
Club of Jilted Lovers, Han thinks, and is surprised at how little of the old bitterness still remains. How little of that brief flare of anger. He’s never been a hothead. Never had a temper.
Never given a damn.
Looks like he’s finally remembering that.
He raises his bottle in a quiet toast and Brian clinks his against it. The sound is loud in the quiet, humid night. Dom doesn’t look up.
“What you gonna do now?”
He shrugs. “I’m thinking Tokyo.”
“Didn’t you say that a year ago?”
He pulls a face, takes a long drink of lukewarm brew. “Long way to travel.”
Brian hums his agreement and slouches further against the railing, making it creak ominously. Han asks, before he can think about it, “Wanna come?”
Brian hums again, tilts his head, watches Dom. Han puts his bottle down, crowds him, licks at his lips. All he tastes is beer, but he remembers sweetness and thinks that maybe, this might not be so bad.
So many nights before still ahead of him and Brian… Brian isn’t so bad with mornings after.
Not bad at all.
He knees Brian in the thigh to get a reaction out of him and earns himself a startled laugh.
They leave in the middle of the night, their bags stuffed with money and no essentials. They leave a note by the door, which is kinder than anything Dom has ever left them with.
By daybreak they’re gone.