Fearless on My Breath
It’s been a year and Dom still isn’t used to waking alone most mornings.
Used to be, Letty was right there with him, plastered up against his side, running as hot as he does. The two of them used to feed off each other’s heat until something caught fire.
Fighting, fucking, screaming.
With Letty it was all the same, all passion, all fire that needed to go somewhere. And then the fire went out and what was left was a girl ten years younger than him, looking at him with worn, scared eyes, blood smeared on her face. He’d known it was over then, by the side of the road, known it had been over for a long time. They’d been running on fumes for an age.
Brian’s different and it starts with her sleeping patterns. She’s up late and rises early, too much energy to contain for long. But her energy isn’t fire and she doesn’t spark off Dom like Letty always did. She’s cool, collected. Smooth like water, like ice.
When Brian wants Dom’s attention she tells him so to his face. She doesn’t need to make him angry, or horny, or play games. She just gets right up in his space, runs a hand over his shaved head, smiles and says, “Hey, there.”
She calms him down.
And she always flees the bed before he’s even close to being awake, leaving him alone with the cooling sheets. Goddamn!
He grunts as he rolls to his feet, snatches up his discarded jeans before trooping into the bathroom. He brushes his teeth, runs wet hands over his head, decides that shaving can wait and goes in search of his deserter.
He makes a pit stop by the front door, looking at the board he put up there years ago, a simple, deep blue with half a dozen nails driven into it. House Rules: You come home, you leave your keys on the board. It’s the only way to keep track of this many people. Three sets of car keys hang there now, his, Brian’s, those for the Charger.
They’re alone in the house. It’s a rare treat, and it explains why he found most of Brian’s clothes still scattered across their room.
He meanders into the kitchen and finds her hypnotized by the coffee maker, wearing – yep – only panties and his wife beater. For someone who tends to hide in oversized men’s clothes, she’s surprisingly unafraid of showing off the goods when she wants to.
His shirt is way too big on her, knotted above her navel and he can see, even from a bad angle, the fading, rounded pink of the scar in her abdomen. She doesn’t seem to notice it most of the time, but he tends to get transfixed by it. Utterly.
So close. She came so close.
The first thing Dominic Toretto learns about Brian O’Connor – Spilner then, but that doesn’t matter – is that she’s fearless. Well, that and the fact that she has a weird kink for crappy tuna.
He doesn’t really pay attention to her when she comes in to have lunch. Nothing more than nice ass, small tits, gorgeous eyes, would take a ride on that.
The race is the first time he actually notices her and she gets right in his face after she loses, grins at him all teeth, and says, “Dude, I almost had you!”
Unafraid. Unabashed. Uncowed. She stands there and back-talks to him even though he could break her in two with one hand. Even though everyone else, including his own crew, keep their distance. You don’t mouth off to Dom. Not ever.
Apparently, Whitebread didn’t get the memo.
He laughs at her sheer balls and doesn’t realize he’s flirting with her until Letty is there, running interference. She snarls and spits at the blonde, the kind of rage that sends grown men scrambling, and Brian just keeps grinning.
Fearless, crazy, white bitch.
Brian turns to look at him over her shoulder. Her hair’s a mess, bobbing around her chin in impossible curls, all golden and bright. Angelic, almost, except Dom knows better than to believe the package. It’s not the blonde hair and lithe build, it’s the eyes. They give her away. No angel at all.
She yawns and tucks a strand of that hair behind her ear only for it to spring back immediately. She glares at it, almost going cross-eyed with the effort, and it’s so cute he almost feels sick. Pass the insulin.
But it doesn’t bother him. That’s how far gone he is on that woman, damn her.
She gives up on her hair and the coffee and walks over to him, coming to a halt way too close, one hand on his chest. “So,” she says conversationally, in lieu of a ‘good morning’. She’s way too awake. “We’re alone.”
“I noticed,” he rumbles, fighting the smirk that’s already threatening to take over because he knows that faux-casual tone. He may wake alone, but he rarely stays that way for long. “What’cha gonna do about it?”
She shrugs, grins right back at him, like sunshine, and hooks two fingers into his waistband, drawing him backwards until her hip hits the counter. “I was thinking kitchen sex.”
The way his dick reacts to Brian saying ‘sex’ is almost Pavlovian but, hey, it works just fine for him. Let her lead him around by his dick. At least it’s a happy dick. He palms her hipbones, shifts his hands, lifts her up onto the counter. It’s not actually necessary since she’s kind of tall, but he likes his access and he likes her wrapped around him.
She obliges, pulling him into the V of her legs, kissing him good morning, finally. She’s smiling into it, easy and sloppy, and he grips her tighter, pulls her toward the edge of the counter.
At this point, Letty would have tried to wrest control back from him, to gain the upper hand. But Brian, Brian is content to let herself be directed like a doll, let herself be lifted and moved and shifted. Letty was intimidated by his strength. Brian doesn’t even seem to notice it.
They keep it clean for a good while, just kissing, just touching. Lazy Sunday morning in the kitchen. They’re in no hurry. That’s probably a good thing, because when Roman comes stomping in the front door and finds them making out, they’re still mostly covered and not actually having sex. Yet.
“Shit, man,” the younger man howls, slapping a hand over his eyes. “I do not need to see my girl’s tits this early in the morning, cuz!”
Brian, laughing, grabs an apple from the fruit bowl sitting next to her and throws it, asking candidly, “You’d rather see Dom’s dick?”
Dom looks over his shoulder just in time to see the apple smack a seemingly paralyzed Roman directly in the chest. It bounces and drops, rolling to a halt in the middle of the floor. Somewhere behind him, in the living room, Vince roars with laughter. He knows better than to enter any room unannounced.
Roman starts spluttering and pointing and fumbling and finally settles for, “You watch that mouth, girl! That’s…. you don’t go round sayin’ filth like that!”
He sends her an indignant glare and then turns tail and flees the room, yelling at them to disinfect the fucking counter, rude people! Vince sounds like he’s going into fits, laughing so hard he can’t breathe.
Brian presses her forehead to Dom’s shoulder and dissolves into giggles.
At first, Dom has no idea what to make of Roman. Or even why he agreed to put the man up. Oh, no, wait. That has something to do with Brian flashing those damn baby-blues of hers at him and saying ‘pretty please’.
The first week, he ignores the other ex-con. A man fresh out of jail is an animal with his instincts all fucked. The natural fight or flight is all turned around, twisted up like a pretzel because in jail, there ain’t no running. All that’s left is fight.
Dom remembers where the kid is, remembers entering rooms ready to fight, taking every comment as a challenge, feeling trapped by all kinds of walls.
Brian has no idea how to deal with a newly minted ex-con, but she knows Roman better than he knows himself. They have most of their meals outside, in the yard, and it helps. She sits on him a lot and that helps, too, because for some reason he doesn’t register her as a threat even when she’s holding him down.
Dom grinds his teeth about that one for a while, but he gets over it when he realizes it’s automatic behavior. Brian sits on ‘her boy’ all the time, like he’s just a very squishy kind of chair. Mia says Brian says they’ve been doing it since primary and it’s always ‘her boy’ and ‘his girl’.
Eventually Roman calms down enough for Dom to get an actual read on him. He’s cocky. He’s mouthy. He’s loyal to the point of being stupid, but only to Brian. He pushes people like he breathes, constantly testing limits, and he takes a beating with a grin and a devil-may-care attitude. It scares Dom a bit, thinking of what he and Brian must have gotten up to as kids, two fearless idiots together with no supervision.
He’s also smart and, when he wants to, he’s kind. And he’s a damn good mechanic and a decent driver. Probably a good racer, when they get that anklet off him.
He treats Brian like she’s gold and cars like they’re Brian and Dom figures a man with priorities like that can’t be all bad.
Races are… interesting, since Brian healed up enough to get back on the streets. It’s a rare thing for anyone to challenge Dom these days since he just doesn’t lose, but Brian’s a whole ‘nother story.
She doesn’t lose either, not to anyone but Dom, but she’s a girl and she’s so easy going and smooth that most people don’t seem to realize they just lost. She accepts their cash, usually makes a show of giving a couple hundred of it right back, says it’s an investment for future wins. They laugh and take their own money back like it’s a great gift and the next time, they’ll be right back at the starting line, waiting to have that cute blonde rip them off again.
Watching it is like watching Discovery Channel, Dom finds. Hector and his own crew are the only ones who seem to have caught on to the magnetic pull of Brian O’Connor and how it’s going to make her rich, and they often stand on the sidelines, getting their kicks off watching her work the crowd.
Today, she’s won two races and Dom counted six large going into her pocket, eight hundred of which she ‘invested’ again immediately. Hector’s lounging next to him against the hood of his car, smirking. “Your little girl’s a shark, Dom,” he says and then makes a hissing sound. “Ice.”
Brian hears him over a lull in the general din and comes ambling over, fanning herself with a couple of greens, grinning like the cat that got the extended canary family and the cream.
She’s wearing tight jeans and a tank tonight, and Dom knows he’s not the only one appreciating the way her hips sway as she comes closer. She stops in front of Hector, tongue in one cheek and asks, “You scared, big boy?”
“Freezing,” he shoots back easily, not rising to the challenge. She dips into a mock-bow and spins to face Dom.
“You scared, too?”
He reels her in by her belt loops, pulls her onto the proof of how he’s feeling about the show she’s putting on and whispers, “Scared ain’t the word I’d use.”
She hums and shoves a bit closer still, going for his neck, when suddenly silence falls. He taps her side to draw her attention and then looks over her shoulder at what’s got the crowd so quiet all of a sudden. Brian tenses in his arms, ready for action, but playing oblivious. Her hand is inside his jacket, on his gun, waiting.
Vince and Jesse are there suddenly, on either side of him.
In the middle of a hole in the crowd, Tran Sr. stands with an expression of cool distaste on his face. “Good evening, Mr. Toretto.”
Johnny Tran is dead. Shiv’ed in prison, bled out in the showers. Dom can’t say he’s feeling sorry, especially since his, Mia’s and Jesse’s testimony is what put the fucker in there in the first place.
But daddy Tran doesn’t seem to share his opinion. He seemed to not give a shit while Junior was still alive, but now that he’s dead the old goat has the balls the demand compensation.
If Dom hadn’t known the man was a shark before, the way he wants money to make up for his son’s death would have probably tipped him off. According to his screwed up logic, Dom and his ‘clan’ are to blame for Johnny’s death and they’ll either pay the ‘compensation’ or daddy will take it out of them, old testament.
Dom wants to bash the fucker’s face in when he threatens them so casually, introducing Mia to the conversation, mentioning how pretty Brian is, really. The threat comes through loud and clear and Dom sees red.
Brian’s still standing with her back to the crowd, curled up in Dom and she shoves her hands under his shirt, presses them into his skin, anchors him. He sucks the cool right out of her, borrowing it, stealing it, and she lets him. He agrees to Senior’s terms – not like there’s an alternative – and makes like he’s more interested in getting back to fucking his woman standing up than talking to daddy Tran. It works. Ice against ice. The old guy pulls away, his goons in tow. Dom stays standing there, letting Bri work on him, until the crowd picks up again and no-one pays attention to them anymore, except maybe Hector.
He nods to the guy, out of respect. Hector stuck close when the old man showed up and that takes balls and loyalty. Hector nods back and Dom flicks his gaze at Vince and Jesse, both of whom get the hint. They get in their cars and pull out. Brian and Dom are right behind them.
They drive caravan to the house, troop inside and lock the door behind them. Mia and Roman are sitting in the living room and they look confused when everyone stays silent. Right up until Dom picks up an empty mug from one of the end tables and throws it at the nearest wall with a roar of rage. It splinters into a thousand shards and he can feel himself shaking, quivering like a race horse with the need to hurt someone.
Mia screams, Roman curses and Vince laughs like a hyena. “Shit, man,” he says, watching Dom heave like an angry bull, “I’ve been waiting for that to happen. How the hell did you not break that old fucker’s neck?”
The answer comes in the form of Brian, who tugs him to one of the chairs and plants herself right on top of him. Calming him down instantly. Fire and water.
How the fuck can she be calm like this? How can she not want to commit murder?
Jesse’s been explaining what just happened to the others and they’re both off, cursing like sailors, looking worried and angry. Dom feels his own rage rising again. But Brian simply shakes her head and says, “I got this.”
The surveillance starts up almost as soon as the ambulance takes off, Brian loaded into the back. Dom is still sitting on the sidewalk, Vince’s and Brian’s blood mingling on his shirt, his hands. Mia tried to drag him inside, to get him to wash off, but she eventually left him, taking care of Jesse instead. The cops… he has no idea why there aren’t any cops yet.
Leaving him out here, to stare at nothing and see everything that’s lost. Letty is gone. He doesn’t need to hear her say it to know it’s over. It’s always been want between them, rather than love, and after today, she can’t want him anymore. Not ever again. Leon went with her. Might be back, might not.
Vince is in the hospital and now so is Brian. Who’s a traitor. Who’s a cop. Who took a bullet for Jesse and jumped a truck for Vince, who fucked with evidence for them all. It was those words that pulled Dom out of his rage. Her standing there, yelling about how she’s just fucked herself out of a life. For him. For this family.
And then, bang bang, she was lying on the ground, bleeding. Bleeding and worrying about him landing in jail, of all things.
So he sits there, blood stained, and digests all that, tries to make sense of a life that went belly-up in less than six hours. He’s so distracted that he doesn’t notice the plain blue sedan at first. But it rolls to a stop across the street and stays there, no-one getting in, no-one getting out. Two guys sitting inside, cop written all over them. Funny, how Brian never even pinged his radar.
They stay there. Long after he’s showered, long after he gets back from the hospital. They’re still there when Vince gets out, when Brian gets out. It seems like they’ll never leave, some days.
Brian shrugs it off, says it means they’re desperate because they have nothing on him. Thanks to her. Thanks to her and two Hondas that mysteriously blew up out by the highway.
One day Brian fixes two mugs of coffee, large and sweet. “It’s cop coffee,” she says with a wink. Then she carries the mugs across the street and knocks on the window, passing them inside. It’s a quiet morning and Dom can hear her all the way up on the front porch. They tell her they can’t accept the coffee and she tells them she knows how boring stake outs can be, and her and Dom can’t be very entertaining.
One of the pigs shoots dirty, says he doesn’t accept anything from a dirty cop and Brian fires right back, says she isn’t likely to poison the coffee, so shut up and drink. By noon, the two mugs stand empty on the porch steps and the surveillance is pulled. Apparently someone finally figured out that Dom isn’t going to do anything stupid when he knows they’re there.
They stay gone for almost a year until, one morning, he goes outside to fetch the newspaper and there’s another car with two guys inside parked across the street. “We got cops,” he tells the others over breakfast.
Brian looks outside, shakes her head. “Feds, not cops.”
She fixes two mugs of coffee and goes outside. The others watch from behind the curtains, see her gesture wildly, see her fight with one of the feds, a big, black guy. In the end, she screams, “NO!” in his face and stalks back inside. Mia takes one look at Dom and wisely herds everyone out of the room, ignoring Jesse’s protest that he’s not finished yet. Vince just grabs another pancake to munch on the way to work.
“What did they want?” Dom asks Brian.
“For me to work for them again.”
“I got this,” she says, like a major crime lord didn’t just threaten their entire family with a fate worse than death if they fail to pay his dead son’s weight in dollar bills.
Everyone’s talking, over and under and above each other, until Roman, who still knows Brian best, cuts in by asking simply, “How?”
And Brian says, “I’ll work for Bilkins.”
Her plan is insane. Bilkins, the black fed, who just so happens to be the guy that was after Dom like a pitbull, wants Brian to drive for him in Miami. They’ve been trying to bring down a drug lord but the guy’s slippery as hell. Can’t tie the money to him.
They want to get Brian in as a driver, because she’s the only one they know who has the skill to pull it off and the balls to go undercover in the racing scene. She’s done it before, after all. They want her to drive for the guy, tie him all up with his dirty money, hand him over to the feds. She said no when all they had to offer her was her job back.
Now that everyone’s ass is on the line, she wants to accept the deal. Her driving for the feds helping them out with Tran. Letting them have enough of the drug lord’s money to pay off the crime lord. Huh. Put that way, it sounds almost logical. Until you get back to the part where Brian, female, sexy, scrappy but not bulletproof, fearless, cocky, arrogant Brian, wants to infiltrate a drug lord’s organization.
They fight about it. For hours. Roman is in because he’ll go with Brian, back her up, get rid of his tracker that way. Jesse has no opinion and Mia knows better than to get between them by taking anyone’s side. Vince shrugs and walks away, knowing he’s not going to tip the scales. That leaves Dom, who’s angry and scared and frustrated because he knows that Brian’s plan is the best – the only plan – they have.
But everything in him, every single fiber of his being, is against the idea of letting one of his, his woman, his lover, his, take such a risk. He’s the leader of this family. He’s the one who makes things right.
He complains sometimes, that everyone wants something from him, but in truth he wouldn’t know how to be - who to be – if he didn’t have his family to define him. Dom protects what’s his and Brian…
Brian just won’t fucking let him.
“I’m not one of your people,” she says in the end, calm and collected still in the face of his raving and ranting.
She’s not one of his people. He stops, stares. She hasn’t said that in a long time, content to let him steer.
She’s not one of his people. She’s his equal. His partner. And she makes her own choices. If he tries to stop her, he’ll lose her. He knows that, but it’s hard to accept that he, Dominic Toretto, the man that always gets his way, has finally found a wall he can’t bulldoze his way through.
Brian’s stronger than him because she has faith. All Dom has is fear.
He palms her head, clenching fingers in her hair, golden blonde and bright, and pulls her close, holds her tight enough to hurt as he bites and licks into her mouth. He kisses her because it’s better than chaining her up and locking her away.
She has to know that he’s punishing her for being so stubborn, for not listening, but she meets him right in the middle, her arms around his neck, her legs so tight around his middle he thinks he can’t breathe.
Maybe, if he’s lucky, she’ll fuck the fear right out of him.
They meet with Bilkins in an empty office building, Brian, Roman and Dom, who refused to be left behind. Bilkins has two suits with him, both of whom glare at Dom like they’re getting paid for it.
Oh, wait, they are.
Bilkins has the contracts drawn up ready and while Bri studies them, Dom leans against the wall by the door, staring down the man. He’s big and he must have been fit once, but age has taken its toll. He’s wearing dress pants and a shirt, no tie. Relaxed. Aging. On top.
He gives Roman a cursory glare for fidgeting, then looks Dom up and down and back, not dismissive, but like he thinks he knows everything there is to know. Suits Dom just fine.
What doesn’t suit him it the way the man’s gaze lands on Brian, studying her like she’s a bug under a microscope. She’s slouched in her seat, legs spread too wide for a woman, bouncing one of her feet as she reads. She’s wearing jeans with a grease stain along the left thigh and a t-shirt with a picture of a vintage Camaro on the front. She’s got a handful of those shirts, all with different cars. She and Mia brought them home one day from a girl’s day out, doing whatever, and Brian loves them. Loves them so much that they’re the only shirts she doesn’t actually wear in the garage, so they won’t stain.
Bilkins, who doesn’t know that, only sees a slouched, disrespectful woman, too lazy to even change out of her work clothes before meeting with one of her former bosses. Which is probably exactly what Brian intended when she pulled on the ratty jeans and too big shirt.
“Brian,” Roman eventually whines from where he’s been prowling by the floor length windows, glaring at the LEOs in turns. “What’s taking so long?”
He still doesn’t do well in cages.
Brian doesn’t even look up. “I’m making sure our asses don’t get arrested the moment this is done, Rome, so shut up.”
Roman huffs, but like a good little lapdog, heels. Dom would be amused, if he weren’t sure that he’s much the same. At least he’s got the excuse of being led around by his dick. What’s Roman’s?
“What happened to you, O’Connor?” Bilkins suddenly asks. He sounds honestly curious, which is why Dom doesn’t stalk over there and punch his lights out.
Brian’s eyes flicker up to him for a moment before she goes back to reading, casually turning a page. “Could ask you the same thing, Bilkins. Last year, you would have been doing bad things to your blood pressure by now. And yet here you are, calm as can be. Your priorities have changed. Want to tell me why?”
The fed obviously recognizes the challenge. Show me yours, I’ll show you mine. Surprisingly, he accepts Brian’s taunt with a simple nod, lets things rest. “You could have been great,” he says instead, like a disappointed parent and shit, that’s not going to go down well with Brian.
But all she does is smirk. “I am great.”
Then she slaps the contracts on the table, calls Rome over and gets him to sign.
Mia and Jesse show up at the hospital around dinnertime. Dom, who has been swinging between Vince’s room and Brian’s room like a pendulum of guilt and worry for hours, appreciates the break.
Jesse, calm and quiet and strangely collected, tells him, “I’m seeing Brian,” and slinks off. Mia grabs her brother’s hand, pulls him into one of the hard plastic seats in the waiting room by Vince’s station. They wheeled him out of ICU half an hour ago. Brian is still in there, tubes and wires and too pale skin.
“Sit,” Mia commands and he does, trying not to feel relieved that someone else is taking control. The cops have finally been through him twice, leaving him feeling raw every time, and Brian and Vince and god, just… fuck.
He closes his eyes and waits for his little sister to tell him it’ll be okay. That they’ll get through it, as a family. The way they always have. But what Mia says is, “This is your fault.”
He jerks, head shooting up, eyes opening, to find her gaze, calm and red-rimmed. Cried out. “This is your fault,” she repeats, like a prayer, like a fact.
He knows that. Has known it since he spent an hour sitting on the bloody sidewalk, trying to figure out where everything went wrong. The answer: When Dominic Toretto decided he could outrun life. Every thrill, every heist, he was half hoping to end in a pillar of flame and adrenaline, crashed against some wall.
A blaze of glory. An ending.
Some days he feels like he never left Lompoc, not really. He’s still running against walls at every turn and he gets so tired.
He knows it’s his fault. Knows his hunger, his desperation, his greed for speed, caused this.
He didn’t expect Mia, gentle, caring Mia, to throw it in his face. Letty and Leon are gone, Vince and Brian almost dead, Jesse and Mia scared so badly. It’s a wakeup call, his sister’s truth in his face.
He deserves much worse.
“I know,” he says, remembers saying the same two words to Brian only a few days ago, by the beach. Maybe this was a long time coming. Crash and burn, but he doesn’t get a blaze of glory. Doesn’t deserve one. “Help me fix it,” he begs.
Mia smiles and she’s crying again, gentle, sobless tears. “Of course,” she says.
This time, he’ll make it right.
Mia’s waiting for him when he gets home alone. Brian and Roman are flying out right now with Bilkins. Beyond a two minute goodbye at the airport, Dom got nothing. They signed and suddenly it was all movement, all hurry.
There wasn’t even time to go over the plan again.
He closes the door behind him, hugs Mia hello, kisses her forehead. It’s one of those things he does more often now. Show her that he loves her. Appreciates her. He listens to her and he doesn’t try to run her life. Sometimes it takes an elbow in the gut for him to remember that, but he’s getting there. He’s letting his little sister be her own person and instead of leaving them further apart, it’s made them closer.
Some things you love you need to let go, his father once said. If it loves you back, it’ll come home.
“I called Leon,” she says as they pull apart. “He’ll help Vince and Jesse at the garage while you’re gone. He doesn’t know, but he thinks Letty will come, too. I packed your bag and the Supra is ready to go.”
She smiles her Mona Lisa smile at him and Dom feels nothing but gratitude. “They’re okay with coming down?”
They both have work up in Washington, somewhere. A small town, where Leon has family. It suits them both, even if Letty complains about the constant rain. They come down sometimes, on the weekends, for barbeques and sunshine. The hurt is fading and the rifts are healing.
“Family,” is all the answer Mia gives.
Dom rolls into Miami just as the sun sets, after a grueling week of doing nothing but drive, eat, sleep and repeat. Because he’s not going to let his woman face down a drug lord on her own and she needs her car anyway. He’d take any bet that the government sponsored vehicles they gave Brian and Roman are bugged six ways from Saturday and that just won’t do.
This whole thing is a slippery slope and one misstep will end with them all dead. They need to play dirty to win. That’s why Dom’s here. That’s why he just drove the Supra across the continent. That’s why he rolls directly into what’s shaping up to be Miami’s version of a race night, complete with half-dressed groupies and posturing kids.
He climbs out of the Supra under appreciative noises and stares, both of which he ignores. He’s not here to pose. He’s here for his woman and finding her isn’t actually that hard. He could just follow the trail of disgruntled people until he finds Roman, but the easiest way to find Brian before a race is to find the starting line.
She doesn’t care about the see-and-be-seen portion of a race night, only about the speed. She’ll be up front, somewhere.
He locks the car, slips the key into his pocket and sets out. It takes him all of five minutes to find her, exactly where he thought she’d be. She’s wearing cut-off jeans that barely cover her ass, miles and miles of tanned legs on display, and a tanktop along with her trademark Chucks. She says she’s tall enough for a woman without wearing heels, but he suspects she just can’t walk in anything but flats.
She’s got her hands hooked into her pockets, shoulders hunched, all cool, all Brian. There are two guys standing across from her, Latinos both, and both with big mouths.
One of them gets halfway in her face, says loudly, “You know what I think, chica?”
Dom doesn’t need to see Brian’s skeptic eyebrow to know it’s there. “What?” she asks, all sugar and spice.
“I think you’re bullshitting, chica. You say you got a man, but I don’t see none. You say you’re a racer, but I don’t see you racin’.”
“Man,” Brian says with a shrug, ignoring the fact that the guy is close enough to kiss. Dom’s fists itch. “I told you, Julius. I only race with one car.”
The asshole laughs, raises one arm, giving his buddy the cue to laugh, too. Dom takes a few steps closer as the asshole closes in even more. He’s trying to crowd her. It won’t work, but he doesn’t know that. Still. The little shit needs his ass kicked.
“Yeah? What car’s that? Your dream car? To go with your dream man? How about you let a real man take you for a ride, chica?”
He grabs his dick, swivels his hips at her and laughs loudly. His minion joins in, as do a few people around them. Dom can hear the smile in Brian’s voice as she bounces a bit on her toes and drawls, “Let me know when you see one, pendejo.”
There’s a moment of stunned silence while the asshole works out the insult and then, just as he’s about to blow up in Brian’s face – stupid, reckless, fearless bitch - Dom decides it’s time to make himself known.
He closes the gap between himself and his girl, slings and arm around her shoulders and pulls her back against his chest. She stiffens for half a second until she recognizes him and then goes pliant, grin splitting her face. He rumbles lowly, “Someone asked for a real man?”
The ass barks a laugh, “Careful, man, puta’s toxic. Comprende?”
Dom looks down at Brian. “You toxic, babe?”
She shrugs and he turns her around, hooks the fingers of one hand into her waistband and pulls until she’s plastered to his chest. Then he bends down the few inches that separate them and kisses her until her toes curl. When he pulls back, the crowd is hooting and hollering around them. Dom looks over Brian’s shoulder at this Julius guy. He looks gob-smacked by the fact that Brian didn’t knee Dom in the balls like she probably threatened to do him. Dom smirks. “This is how you treat a woman,” he says. “You racin’ tonight?”
The guy nods.
Dom pulls out the Supra’s keys, throws them to Brian and orders, “Smoke him.”
She throws her head back and laughs. He gets a full ten for Best Entrance.
He’ll never again say Brian O’Conner is shit at following orders because she beats the guy by half a mile and an entire bridge.
Which, fuck. Dom’s only met Tej an hour ago, but he’s going to have to kick the man’s ass. Pulling up the bridge? What the fuck was he thinking? If Brian had come down only an inch differently than she did, if she’d been just a bit faster or a bit slower, she could be dead.
She could be dead and she’s… she’s smiling. Laughing like a maniac, actually, almost dancing next to the banged up car, her entire face lit up with the thrill and the adrenaline of pulling off another death defying stunt and never mind that she just took another five years off his life expectancy, that crazy, fucking bitch.
“Did you see that?” she yells as soon as she lays eyes on him. She takes a running leap, climbs him like a tree and wraps her limbs around him like she plans to stay. “Did you fucking see that, Dom?!”
He nods, wordlessly, because she really doesn’t care. She doesn’t give a shit how close she just cut it, or how worried he was. She’s just high. High on her skill, on her luck, on her car, on her win, on her money. High, high, high.
Brian like this has led to some of the best sex he’s had in his life but it scares him, too. Because one of them should be scared.
And because one day, she might not come down.
The first time they fight is kind of inevitable and surprisingly late.
They’re both the most stubborn people on the planet, according to Mia, who is in a position to know, and when the blow-up happens, it is over something utterly ridiculous.
It’s been a few days since Brian was officially declared healthy, even though she’s still weak as a kitten. Dom understood ‘healthy’ to mean ‘not in danger of keeling over dead’. Brian apparently understood something different when the doc cleared her because one day he comes home from the garage to find her cleaning out what has become her part of the closet. Most of her shit is still in boxes since she hasn’t gotten around to sorting through it yet and, apparently, three days after getting a clean bill of health is the perfect time to start.
“You sure you should be doing that?” Dom asks on his way to the bathroom and it’s on like Friday night.
She tells him she’s not a fucking doll. He tells her he’s just worried. She trots out the old spiel about not being one of his people.
Brian goes quiet when she’s really pissed, he learns that that day. Really, really quiet. As long as she’s yelling, there’s hope, but she can make her voice so cold it actually fucking freezes you.
Dom, on the other hand, gets loud. Really, really loud. As long as he’s quiet, he’s still in control. But once the yelling starts, all bets are off.
Brian gets quiet first. And then Dom gets loud.
The kind of loud that scares the neighbors’ dogs.
Letty would back down at this point. So would Mia. Or, hell, anyone else with the survival instincts of a lemming. Somehow, he expects Brian to be like anyone else, even though he should know better by now.
He yells until his voice snaps, vaguely aware of the front door slamming a few times downstairs as the sane people abandon ship. Then, when he’s done with his tirade, heaving, fists clenched, Brian looks him up and down very slowly and says, all fucking Ice, “Are you done?”
She slips around him and out the door before he can draw enough breath to start again. She’s the one running away. She’s the one giving up.
She’s the one who just lost.
Somehow, it doesn’t feel like it. Alone in their bedroom, feeling like a fucking asshat, Dom deflates like a balloon with a hole in it.
There’s a woman in the crowd, dark-skinned and sharply dressed. She keeps popping up in Dom’s peripheral vision and makes him feel itchy for reasons he can’t name until Brian says, “That’s Fuentes.”
“You’ve met her before?” he asks, already knowing the answer.
She shakes her head, sending blonde curls flying. Automatically, she grimaces. She’s been talking about cutting her hair for months and he’s been finding creative ways to stop her, but he’s fighting a losing battle, especially in Miami’s humid heat.
“Nope. But you can tell, if you know what you’re looking for.”
He turns around to check Fuentes out again, to try and find what lets Brian identify her as a cop so easily, but she’s already disappeared.
Brian leans into his side and his hand automatically slips into the back pocket of her jeans.
“Guess that means the game’s about to start.”
The cops gave Roman and Brian a nice little condo that they couldn’t really explain to their new racing friends, so they found some digs of their own. Tej, the apparent Miami equivalent of Hector, has a houseboat out back, behind his garage and they’ve been crashing there.
Now that Dom is here, Roman makes some gagging noises, grabs his stuff and vacates the premises at high speeds, informing them that he’ll be crashing at Tej’s.
Dom has absolutely no problems with that, letting Brian give him the nickel tour and then squeezing himself into a shower built for smaller men than him.
By the time he feels halfway human again and turns off the water, Brian is leaning against in the doorway to the tiny bathroom, playing with her phone. “Fuentes just called,” she says as she watches Dom wrap a towel around his hips and pull out his razor.
“She have anything useful to say?”
Brian’s reflection shakes its head at him. “Nah. She was playing it safe, sticking to her role. Only told me that Rome and me are invited to audition for a job and if we want it, she’ll call us with a time and a place in a few days. Standard stuff.”
He frowns. “She’s keeping cover even when she’s away from the guy? Isn’t that…” he has no idea what that is, but it seems dangerous to him. The potential to forget who you are if you’re constantly playing… Dom knows what it’s like to be buried under layers of faces and masks. It’s hard to breathe down there.
But Brian gets it anyway, stuffs her phone in her pocket and starts fiddling with her hair. “Nope. You go under, you stay under. If you start jumping between what’s real and what isn’t, you mess up.”
“Like you did?” He doesn’t say it meanly, doesn’t mean it as an insult and she knows it, shrugs it off.
“My problem wasn’t mixing up the characters. My problem was that I wasn’t acting at all.” She smirks at him, hot and dirty, tempting him with the unspoken and see where it got me.
He drops the razor in the miniscule sink and spins to face her instead of her reflection. Her smirk grows sharper still as he crowds her, moves her backwards until she hits a wall. “Oh, yeah?” he asks, nonsensically.
She nods, biting at her lip.
“Did ya miss me, babe?”
She nods again, one hand coming to rest on the edge of his towel.
“Wanna show me?”
She bites her lip harder and then lets it slip from between her teeth, red and shiny and already swollen, flutters her eyelashes at him like a hooker and says, “Mhm. You are so lucky I dig the corny pick-up lines.”
He leans in, wedging a knee between her thighs, licking a broad strip up her bare shoulder and neck. “I am?”
“Uh-huh.” To prove her point she flicks her wrist at his hip. The towel hits the floor with a wet, heavy sound. She smiles at him like the devil herself, licks her lips and follows it down.
He thought he’d miss home, miss the crew, but surprisingly, he doesn’t. Not really. Or rather, he misses the people, but not the responsibilities that come with them.
They’re risking life and limb in Miami, but Brian can look after herself and Roman is still more hers than Dom’s and he’s… free. No-one to clean up after, no-one to look after. No Jesse to keep calm and on track, no Vince to police.
He gets daily updates from Mia and Vince, but the things they tell him seem distant. As twisted as it sounds, this is almost a vacation.
The go-call comes two days later, just after breakfast. Brian jumps into her clothes with her cell phone jammed between her ear and her shoulder, yelling for Rome to wake the hell up and get going. Dom watches her from the narrow bed on the boat, knowing better than to get in her way when she’s in a hurry. Then, when she’s done hopping through the place like mad, he rolls to his feet, slips on jeans and a t-shirt and tells her not to bother calling the customs guy.
They peel out at the same time, him in the Supra, her in her shiny new Spyder, sponsored by the US government. He heads for pig central, she toward the address Fuentes gave her.
He pulls into their parking lot with a bit too much gusto and way too much flash, but who cares. Once the engine is ticking in the early morning heat, he pulls out his phone, dials Brian’s number. She answers on the first ring, like she was waiting for it.
“I love you,” he says, without fucking around. “Don’t fuck up.”
She laughs in his ear, low and dirty, the way she sometimes does, drawls, “Yes, dad.”
She hangs up without another word, cocky and dismissive, like she needs to be, and he slips out of the car and into the building. It takes him five minutes to find Markham, who Brian says is a dickwad, and Bilkins, who Dom knows is a dickwad.
They glare at him, shoulder to shoulder and Bilkins says, “I don’t remember inviting you over for breakfast, Toretto.”
Dom shrugs. “Brian got the call. She’s on her way there now. Thought you wanted to know.”
Markham glowers but Bilkins relaxes slightly. “Thanks for telling us,” he mutters, sounding almost sincere. Then he gives Dom a look, one that very clearly says he can go now. Right. Like fuck. There’s no way he’s leaving the one place where he’ll find out first when shit goes south. And it is ‘when’, not ‘if’.
Smirking, he tells them, “I think I’ll stick around for breakfast anyway.”
Markham waves a hand in the air, angry, sharp. “Like hell are you staying here, getting involved with – “
“Or,” Dom cuts him off, “I could go out there where you can’t keep an eye on me and accidentally fuck up the entire sting. Your choice.” He tags his brightest dumb-thug grin to the end of that and watches the customs agent turn a charming shade of red.
Bilkins looks amused more than anything now. “I hope you like donuts,” he says.
Dom does, in fact, like donuts. What he likes more is getting to sit in a room full of computers, all of which are geared toward making sure Brian and Roman don’t get shot in the back of the head and buried in a shallow grave.
“This coffee fucking sucks,” he proclaims, just to see Markham blow up again. By now, he’s absolutely positive that Bilkins is amused by him. If he didn’t know how badly the guy tried to fuck over Brian after she blew Dom’s case, he might almost like him. Almost.
Markham’s lapdog, a tall, dim looking guy by the name of Dunn, looks like he’s trying to hide a smile, too. He’s kind of like an eager puppy, slobbering all over Dom. Kid has dreams of moonlighting as a street racer and since this whole surveillance thing is actually shit boring, Dom has been entertaining himself with the kid.
Jesus. If he understood Brian right, they wanted her to drive with this guy at first, before she brought Roman in. That would have gone so, so wrong.
Dom opens his mouth, possibly to add something about the shitty service in this joint, when the entire room suddenly explodes into action. “They’re heading out,” he hears someone call and then a lot of muttering and Markham is there all of a sudden, glaring down at Dom, “You’re girlfriend’s running. What a fucking surprise!”
Dom, who is really starting to want to bash this guy’s face in, raises an eyebrow. “She’s running and leaving me behind. Sure. What the hell is going on, Bilkins?”
He intentionally looks around the other cop. He can have his pissing contest with someone else. Dom’s all about keeping his urges in check these days. If he reminds himself often enough that the walls have doors now, he doesn’t actually try to bulldoze through everything. It works. Mostly.
“They’re out on I-95, moving fast,” the fed says, and he sounds calm. At least someone is.
Relaxing back into his seat, Dom grunts. “Do you people have any clue how this sort of thing works?” At their blank looks he elaborates, “Verone is testing them.”
Bilkins looks like he’ll take that at face value, but Markham has to be a dick. “How the hell would you know?”
Okay, that? Really fucking stupid question. “Because that’s how it works. Send up one of your fancy choppers if you don’t believe me.”
Unsurprisingly, they do exactly that.
He isn’t sure what he’s going to do when he picks Brian up from the hospital. She gets into his car and he still doesn’t know what he’ll do, or where he’s taking her. It’s kind of amazing, how much history, how much emotion they’ve managed to amass between them in the few short weeks they’ve known each other.
Some days he’s angry with her. Most of the time he isn’t. It’s confusing the hell out of him. One day, on the way home after visiting hours, Jesse says, “Brian thinks you hate her.”
Dom grunts and the kid asks, “Do you?”
He doesn’t know how to answer. He almost doesn’t go to pick her up, but Mia shoves him out the door, tells him to fix it. Just like that. Fix it. Somehow, when he asked for her help fixing their lives, he didn’t think Brianna O’Conner would be included in that.
Apparently, he was wrong.
So he picks her up and he takes her home and finds that it’s not a home at all. He’s seen hotel rooms with more personality. It’s all either necessary stuff, or police crap. He leaves her on her ratty sofa, stalks into her bedroom, looks around.
He sits on her bed, closes his eyes, tries to figure out what the fuck he’s doing. In the end, he pulls out his phone and types I’m bringing her home.
Then he deletes it and writes instead, Can I bring her home?
Because that’s how he and Mia roll now. He’s learning.
Obviously, she sends back.
Alright then. Okay. Maybe he can do this.
Then another message comes. She sleeps in your room.
That one, he thinks as he starts digging for a bag, might be trickier.
Watching Brain drive is art. Watching her drive from a chopper’s perspective is fucking impressive. She slips in and out and around traffic like the other cars are nothing but cones, making her bright yellow Spyder blur. She’s easily ahead of the rest of the pack, with only Roman close on her heels, where he always is.
Dom doesn’t know yet if Roman follows Brian because he wants to, or because he can’t lead. He suspects it’s a bit of both.
Dunn is sitting in front of the screen, Dom, Bilkins and Markham leaning in around him, watching the test race. Dom chuckles as Roman does some fancy steering, slipping between two semis like it’s nothing. Brian follows and then a red Mustang tries. The truck drivers, shaken up from the other two cars passing through, are wavering, the gap between them growing and shrinking unpredictably.
“Don’t,” Dom mutters under his breath when he realizes the Mustang is going to try anyway. “Stupid fuck.”
Markham opens his mouth like he’s going to start bitching again, but then the red car gets caught between the semis, bouncing around like a ball. It gets pulled under one of the big vehicles and then it’s gone. Crushed.
Dom waits with baited breath until the car comes out from under the wildly fishtailing semi and cringes when he sees what’s left of the car. “Skimped on the roll cage, goddamn!”
“He might still be alive,” Bilkins snaps, sounding tense. Probably didn’t expect there to be bodies on the ground on day one.
Dom shakes his head. He’s seen enough wrecks, enough bodies, to know what a human being can walk away from. Racers don’t die in their sleep and this guy’s dead.
And then, just to prove his point, another car, black this one and he can’t make out the model, slams into the wreck and they both roll spectacularly before blowing up. Two dead.
Two dead, one interstate choked up and Brain and Roman in the lead. Markham barks something into his phone and the chopper pulls away from the wreckage, catches up with the others and finds –
“Fucking showoff,” Dom drawls, smiling despite himself. Brian’s driving in reverse at full throttle, slipping through the other cars like she’s going the right way around at cruise speed and probably whooping with the joy of it.
“What the fuck is she doing?!” Markham looks so angry that, for a moment, Dom thinks he’ll draw right here, in the middle of his own headquarters, because he’s pissed at Brian and wants to shoot Dom for being available.
“Just playing around,” Dom says and knows it’s the wrong answer almost before the words leave his mouth.
“This isn’t a game!!”
He chuckles darkly, the way he learned in Lompoc, the chuckle of a fatalist, a realist, a pragmatist. The chuckle of someone who’s seen his life in pieces and lived to tell the tale. He may be scared as hell, but at least he knows he’s alive.
What do these guys live for?
“Of course it’s a game,” he says, his voice as dry as asphalt. He waves one hand at the scene on the screen. “You don’t risk your life for anything but a game.”
Markham pulls up short, utterly blindsided and uncomprehending. Dunn just looks blank. It’s Bilkins who shakes his head. “That’s insane.”
“It’s the only way to live.” Quarter mile at a time, never look behind you, never plan beyond the adrenaline, never slow down to let all your demons catch up with you. Brian says it’s not running when you’ve got someone there with you, but Dom knows that’s idealist bull.
If they ever stop, they’re going to rip themselves apart.
If they ever stop, it’s gonna kill them.
Better to go out without a roll cage under a semi than to live and have all your sins and fears catch up with you. Racers don’t die in their sleep and when it comes right down to it, they’re all professional escapists.
He smirks darkly at the fed and the look he gets in return is mild and amused and maybe, just maybe, a bit understanding.
Then Brian smashes through the gate of an impound lot and no-one has time for an existential crisis anymore.
Letty calls sometimes, usually during the week and only at the garage. Like she’s scared of having Brian answer the phone at home or something, which is bull, because Brian works at the garage, too.
Dom wastes a thought or two every week over how much of Letty’s space Brian is filling up, but then he tells himself he’s being paranoid. Brian and Letty are nothing alike. He slept with them both, worked with them both, but Letty is one of his and Brian, as she likes to remind him, is not. She’s his equal, the thorn in his side, the voice at the back of his mind. His sanity and sometimes – always-, the wall he can’t crack.
She’s his lifeline.
Letty was… is… integral to his life, but not to who he is. So he lets her play her game of phone tag, talks to her, asks her about her new life and listens to her carefully. Because he cares. Because he’s sorry. He’s sorry she never stood a chance.
Sometimes she asks how the cop is. The first time, he said, “Almost dead from saving Jesse’s life.”
After that, he always contents himself with pointing out, “Not a cop anymore.”
Beyond that, he never answers the question, until, one day, Letty says, conversationally, “If I had thrown my life away for you, would you’ve loved me more?”
“No,” he says. Because he would have still loved Brian if she’s stayed a cop. He would have hated her, too, but that wouldn’t have changed anything at all. “Probably not.”
He can hear her nod, can practically see her tug on her ponytail in frustration, angry with him and herself and the world.
“Fuck you, D,” she barks and hangs up the phone.
The moment Brian and Roman walk through the door of Markham’s super secret club house, the man is at Roman’s throat, yelling for him to put up his gun, put it up, or he’ll fucking throw him back in jail.
Dom puts himself between Brian and the maniac, even though he knows she’ll bitch about it later, and lets Bilkins talk the two men down.
In the end Markham gets pushed up against a wall by Dunn, who has obvious trouble manhandling his boss, who keeps struggling and yelling about how Roman’s packing, and what the fuck does he think he’s doing.
Brian slips around Dom, angry and strutting like she’s got something to prove. It’s her cop walk, Dom has learned, the one she puts on when she’s playing with the big boys. “We’re doing our job, Markham,” she snaps. “The one you gave us.”
“He shouldn’t be carrying,” Bilkins cautions, playing peacemaker.
Dom bites back a snort with little success. An unarmed racer. Now that would really stick out. They all carry. It’s their very own brand of insurance and screw that shit about ‘once you carry a hammer, all your problems start to look like nails’. When you get right down to it, racing is a crime. It’s not as dirty as some of the shit happening in the streets, but it’s dangerous and it’s high stakes.
The only reason he’s not packing right now is that he didn’t think it was a good idea to walk into a police station with a nine millimeter in his waistband and he can see, just barely, the outline of Brian’s own piece in the back of her shorts.
“If he weren’t, we’d be dead. You were watching, you saw.”
The fed nods and turns to Roman, all smiles again. “I saw,” he confirms, then adds, “Still need your gun, though.”
Roman grimaces and Brian says his name, low, in warning. Don’t put up a fuss. They’ve got more guns between them, and giving this one up won’t hurt anyone. Show of good faith, as empty as it is. Markham finally stops straining against Dunn but mutters something about Roman being Brian’s bitch. The black man slams the gun down on a fold out table hard enough to make its spindly legs buckle and takes three steps back, fury in his every movement. Dom grabs him by the back of his collar, hauls him backwards with him until they’re leaning against a wall. Let Brian do the reporting, now that the excitement is over.
He keeps his hand on Roman’s neck, the way he’s seen Brian do sometimes when the man gets out of control. He’s not holding, just letting it rest there, solid, heavy. “You did good,” he murmurs out of the corner of his mouth.
Roman takes a deep breath and leans his head back into Dom’s hands. He relaxes.
“So what about Fuentes,” Bilkins asks half an hour later. “She flipped?”
Markham, who just about got his blood pressure to even out, snaps to full attention again, “That’s ridiculous!”
“She’s living at the compound with him, Markham. Brian?”
Sure. Ask the flipped cop about whether or not another cop has flipped. Nice move. Asshole. But Brian, cool as ever, just shakes her head. “No.”
“She is sleeping with him,” fed man adds, leaning forward.
“He’s a control freak. She’s just keeping her cover.” There’s an edge there, all of a sudden, something ugly niggling at the edges of her words that Dom has never heard before.
Bilkins raises both eyebrows, disbelieving, condescending.
“She’s doing what she has to to survive,” Brian gives back, too hard, too fast. Angry.
“You can’t know that.”
“Yes, I can. Give it a fucking rest. She’s doing what she has to, nothing more.” With that she pushes to her feet, spins on her heel and stalks away. Dom looks at Roman, who shrugs and gets shifty-eyed. He knows, whatever this is about, he knows. And he ain’t sharing with the class. Knowing that Roman’s loyalty lies now, and always will lie, with Brian, calms and infuriates Dom in turns.
“We’re not finished, O’Conner!”
“Yes, we are. I’ll call you when we got more.”
Bang, boom, and a deep purr as she slams out of the place and takes off without a look back, leaving Dom staring after her. What. The. Hell?
It takes three texts before Brian answers, and even then all he gets is a brief Be home later.
No where, no when, no how. A life sign, nothing more. Roman makes himself scarce as soon as he can get away with it, knowing full well that Dom is about to hang him over a fire pit and make him talk. So, with nothing else to do and no-one to hit, Dom ends up in Tej’s garage, helping Jimmy mod some wannabe racer’s car.
They work in peace, with Jimmy babbling on about some race or another and cars and engines and whatever he can think of. He reminds Dom of Jesse with less chemicals in his blood, so he mostly ignores the guy until Tej comes up, long after dinner time’s come and gone, and sends Jimmy packing.
Dom bows out of a beer and a game, settles himself on the deck of the boat, watches the Miami skyline. Waits.
If this were Letty, or Vince, or Jesse, even Mia or Roman, he’d be out there now, ripping the city apart, getting angrier by the moment. He’d turn over every rock until he found them and then yell their problem out of them. Vince he’d probably beat the shit out of.
But not Brian.
He wants to go looking for her, no question. He wants to rant at her and yell and tell her to never again walk out on him. It’s how he worries. Out loud and with his fists.
But he knows what Bri would do. She’d stand there and just take it, take everything he throws at her, silently. And then she’d say how sorry she is for worrying him and walk away again. Because she sees right through him. Because she’s his by choice, not by default. Because she chooses what to share and what to keep. Because he gets scared all the time and she never does.
He used to listen to the guys talk about how women were mysteries, and he never got it. The girls before Letty were never serious and Letty herself was… she was Letty. Basically a guy without a dick.
But Brian is not. She hangs with the guys and she talks with the guys, but she’s so very female and complicated and layered that it makes his head hurt. She’s more complex than any engine he’s ever taken apart and he keeps waiting for the day he fucks up, for that feeling in your gut, that sinking ugly feeling you get when you finish putting an engine back together and find a few leftover screws in your pocket when you’re done.
He keeps waiting.
For Brian. For the day he fucks up. For that feeling.
All of it, maybe.
Dom never noticed how much space Brian takes up, as clichéd as that sounds.
He’s aware that she’s tall for a woman, all gangly limbs and impossibly long fucking legs. But it’s more than that. Brian just takes up space. Sitting next to her in a car, he can feel her energy against his skin.
Her voice, her laugh, her gestures, her presence. She fills rooms. Even the few times she fell asleep around him, she was still noticeable, still there.
Now, lying in a hospital bed, all pale skin and ugly tubes, she’s small. For the first time since he met her, she takes up exactly as much space as she physically should.
The room feels empty and he stands at the foot of her bed for an age, just staring at her.
Cop. Pig. Traitor. Friend. Companion. He kissed her. Had her pressed into his lap in the Supra, had her grinding against him like a bitch in heat, like she wanted it as much as he did. Does.
Maybe it was all a lie.
Maybe it wasn’t. She’s too small now, too fragile to be mad at.
Jesse, who’s been hanging in the doorway like a cloud of guilt, makes a sound and Dom jerks. He looks back at the kid and then stomps out of the room without a word.
“Did I ever tell you about my dad?” a voice comes from the dark and then she slips into view, long legs first, then the rest of her. She looks tired.
He shakes his head, takes his feet off the chair he’s propped them on, offering her the seat. She stares out across the water instead, like she’s contemplating it.
“Let’s go for a swim.”
“Swimming,” she repeats, already pulling her shirt over her head. Apparently, they’re not actually talking. She shimmies out of her shorts next, leaving her in a pale blue bikini that matches her eyes. She must have worn it all day underneath her clothes. She’s adapting pretty damn well to Miami living. “Come on,” she says as she scrapes her curls into a ponytail, twists a scrunchy around it.
Then she stretches her arms above her head, tits bouncing, and dives into the ocean. Dom considers following her, but he doesn’t really feel like getting wet. He’d rather enjoy the view from out here.
Her bikini is a beacon in the dark, glowing almost white as she dives, sticking her ass in the air for a moment. He watches her play mermaid for a few minutes, lets her blow off steam. When she’s done, she comes climbing out of the water, dripping all over him.
He raises an eyebrow at her in silent question and she shrugs, unties her top and lets it drop to the deck with a wet sound. Next she undoes the strings on either side of the panties, one, two. They fall where the top landed. The scrunchy goes last and suddenly there’s a naked Amazon standing in front of Dom, all smooth, tan skin and glistening water drops.
He puts down his beer, spreads his arms in silent invitation. Whatcha gonna do, little girl?
She cocks her head to one side, expression strangely intent, and climbs in his lap unceremoniously. Just bam, there, lap full of wet girl. She digs her knees in on either side of him, looms above him. He tries to put his hands on her, but she grabs them by the wrists, twists a bit. A warning. He lets his hands drop limply to his sides and gets kissed as a reward, hard and dirty and with too much teeth.
Something is definitely up.
She bites his lower lip, pulls on it to the point of pain, releases it with a pop. “Don’t fucking move,” she hisspers in his ear as she wraps one arm around his neck, shoves his board shorts out of the way with the other. She grabs him, gives him a few strokes and then levers herself up.
He starts to say something, to tell her to slow the fuck down, but she kisses him again, tongue in his mouth like a gag and he doesn’t dare move his hands. He’s never seen Brian like this.
She’s fresh out of the water and there’s absolutely no foreplay but ask her if she cares as she rears up and sits right down on his dick, bottoming out in one go. She chokes on a yell and Dom bites his own lip hard enough to taste copper but she doesn’t let up, doesn’t stop or even wait for a moment, just starts riding him.
Dom only remembers his own father through a haze of flames. Maybe, one day, it will dim and he will see the man as something other than a body in a burnt out shell of metal, but for now, he doesn’t. He can’t.
He thinks of his father and he recalls all the facts. Sunday barbeques and how he helped Mia with her homework, but he doesn’t see the man, the person. He sees the curse. He sees his life ending in less than a week.
His dad, the fire, the funeral, Kenny Linder.
But even through all that, above and below and beyond it, through the fire, he knows that he was loved. His father loved him.
Dom can’t imagine a world where he doesn’t have his father’s strength, his lessons, his faith to fall back on. Everything good in him is there because of his father. Brian and Mia and the others may remind him of it, but what’s there, the very root of him, lies with his father.
He has no idea what to do with Brian bringing up her father and then losing her shit like this. His life may be a broken, jagged mess, but his family is not.
His family is whole. It’s good. It’s solid.
It’s the one thing in the world he still has faith in.
The last words – the very last – he said to his father before the crash were, “Good luck.”
And his old man rubbed a hand over Dom’s scalp, smirked and said, “Love you, too, kiddo.”
No-one can ever take that away from him.
It takes an age for them both to come and when they finally do, Dom’s glad more than anything else. Brian shudders and shivers on top of him, suddenly small, fragile. No more Amazon, no more Brian O’fucking Conner.
This is Brianna, the girl, and she buries her face in his neck like a child. He stands awkwardly and she whimpers. He pulls his shorts back up with one hand and carries her inside, puts her on the bed and wraps her in the sheets. She’ll be salt-crusty tomorrow and hate it, but there’s nothing he can do about that now.
He tangles a hand in her curls, tugs them out of her face and smoothes them down uselessly. Then he straightens, intending to go back outside. There’s no way he’s lying down next to her after what just happened. Shit, she practically just used him to rape herself. And he let her. He needs a shower and a drink and then someone to scrub his mind of the lost look on her face and the helplessness that still squirms in his belly.
But she’s fast, even with her eyes closed, her fingers finding his wrist and holding on. He tugs, she squeezes. He’s trapped.
“My dad used to grab us,” she whispers, eyes still closed. “Just like this.”
She tugs on his arm to illustrate her point and he finds himself lying down after all, pulling her into his arms because he can’t not when she draws him closer, when she seems to want him there. Before was for her, for her headspace, but she’s back on planet Earth now, and he’s ridiculously grateful that it’s him she wants. She curls into a ball, practically burrowing into his side. He waits. Then, after a few minutes of nothing, he gets rewarded.
“Nothing else. Never hit us, or anything. He just… held on. He was Navy, did you know that?”
He bites back a snort. No, he didn’t know that. He knew, intellectually, that Brianna Marilyn O’Conner didn’t step fully formed from a pod, but beyond that, she’s never mentioned family at all. Just a mother, who died when she was practically still a kid. No father.
He shakes his head.
“Met my mom during Fleet Week. I was an accident. He married her to do the right thing, sent her to live in Barstow with his folks. He finished his service when I was two or three and came home. He was a control freak. Everything had to be exactly as he said or he’d get mad. And sometimes, he grabbed us. Whatever part he could reach at the time. Arm, leg, even around the waist.”
Sounds like a charming fellow.
“He grabbed us and held on. He didn’t do it to hurt you, you know? Didn’t even leave bruises half the time. Just held on. And on, and on. Letting you feel his power. That he was in control. My mom used to start crying when he did it, begging him to let go. Sometimes she struggled. Didn’t matter. He just kept holding on until he was sure he’d made his point. Screaming, crying, fighting, pleading. He didn’t give a fuck. Just held on until you felt absolutely helpless. And then he’d let go like nothing happened.”
She tells the whole story without stopping, without looking at him. Just tells it to the darkness and he listens, almost as if by accident. When she’s done, there’s a long silence. Dom plays connect-the-dots in the dark.
“Verone reminds you of your father.”
“He loves power,” she says, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. Just stating. Verone loves power and he has it over Fuentes, makes her feel it. Makes her play his game, dance to his tune. Brian knows how that feels.
“Do you have your father’s address?” he wants to know.
She laughs, thinking he’s joking. He’s definitely not. If he finds the man, he’s going to beat the living shit out of him and he knows Vince and Roman will help. Mia’ll probably want to get in a few licks, too. Girl can be vicious. The fucker deserves much worse, for hurting his wife and kid, for fucking Brian up so badly that she has to regain control by taking it from Dom. Wife beater. Child abuser. The lowest kind of shit there is.
“Don’t bother,” Brian offers, not sounding very concerned. “I was only ten when he died. Car crash. He didn’t… he didn’t actually do it to me much. I was just a kid when he died. Verone and Fuentes just brought up a few memories.”
A few memories, his ass. Brian is raw as ground meat and she just spent all day running away and then came home and punished them both with that fuck. Unaffected looks different.
He pulls her closer, squeezing with the arm he has around her middle and then stops, something ugly dawning on him. “I grab you, too.”
Constantly. He’s a physical person and manhandling Bri has become one of his favorite pastimes and she’s never complained, but knowing what he knows now…
Very calmly, Brian says, “Let me go.”
He pulls his hands away like she’s hot coals, feeling sickness pooling in his gut as he spreads his arms wide as far from her as he can get them while she’s practically on top of him. Fuck. He just… fuck!
“See?” she asks, perfectly calm. She twists so she’s looking him in the face. “I say let go, you do it.”
She was making a point. She was… he keeps staring at her, feeling like he’s at sea, everything fucked up and twisted and, God, he wishes her sperm donor were still alive so he could kill the fucker half a dozen times over. Slowly, so very slowly and carefully, he relaxes. But he doesn’t put his arms back around her. Can’t.
Brian looks at him, long and hard, as if she’s trying to figure something out. “You okay?”
“Am I… should you be asking me that?” She’s the abuse victim here and fuck, that word, even in his head, makes him see red. Abuse. Grab and hold on. Power trip.
No wonder she freaked after meeting Verone, after hearing Bilkins accuse Fuentes, who she sees as a fellow victim, of flipping. Not that he believes, for one second, that Brian thinks of herself as a victim. But no matter how tough she is, no matter how big she talks, there are people out there who can hurt her. People who have hurt her. And today, she found herself in Fuentes and freaked the fuck out.
And then she came back home to him.
He thinks that means something, but fuck him if he can figure out what.
Brian shrugs and puts her head back down on his chest. She’s asleep before he dares touch her again and he feels like he failed her, somehow. Like he should be taking care of her, but all he can do is lie in the dark and listen to her breathe.
The next morning, over a very late breakfast where it’s like nothing happened at all, she says, “We need more cars.”
And then she goes and plays chicken with a Yenko that could eat her little Spyder for a snack and she’s absolutely fucking fearless and Dom gets so mad at her he wants to hurt someone.
He kisses her instead until she’s breathless and eager, pliant and willing and still riding the adrenaline high from the race. He tries to be careful with her, tries to be sweet, but she glares at him until he stops and even though he’s still going down to Barstow to piss on the man’s grave, she’s okay again. They’re okay again.
Brian scares him like nothing else ever has, but God, he loves that woman.
It takes ten days before Roman and Dom end up in the same room without anyone around to run interference.
They putter around at opposite ends of the room for a while before Dom takes pity and fetches two beers, holding one of them out in offering. Roman accepts the bottle with a nod, starts, “Man, I’m really grateful for all this. Y’all are giving me a home and a job. I ‘ppreciate it.”
Dom shrugs. “You’re Brian’s family.” And thus, by extension, his own, but he’s not quite ready to say that. He likes the guy well enough, kind of like Vince with a bigger motormouth, but they simply haven’t known each other for very long.
He suspects Roman knows it anyway, since he’s almost as big on family as the Torettos are.
“But,” he continues, after a long pull from his bottle, “If you hurt my crazy white girl –”
“You will hurt me?”
“No,” he says and right then he looks like a guy who just did three years in Chino. He looks likes someone you don’t fuck with. “I’mma shoot you in the face.”
Dom could mock him. Should mock him. But he knows the kid will do it. All Brian had growing up was Roman. All Roman had growing up was Brian. They lost each other once already.
“You copyin’?” Roman asks, sounding tense. His shoulders are bunched tightly, expectantly. Like he’s waiting for Dom to throw down right here, right now, over a promise Roman has every right to make.
Dom puts down his bottle, raises his hands to shoulder height, lets it all go. “Loud and clear,” he tells the other man. “Loud and clear.”
Roman relaxes visibly, blows out a breath. “Whew,” he says, wiping at his forehead.
Dom shakes his head. “You ain’t scared of nothing either, are you, dog?”
He gets a startled look and a laugh. “Dude,” comes the disbelieving reply, “You scare the shit outta me.”
Then Roman hides behind his beer and the conversation is over. Sort of.
When he comes back from a round of poker at Tej’s to have Brian practically fling herself at him, he just stands there like an idiot, holding her close for a minute. She has her face buried in his neck and is breathing very carefully, holding herself perfectly still.
Then she says, with a whole lot of feeling, “Fucking rat. A goddamn, fucking rat.”
He pries her off him and sits her ass down on the edge of the bed, turning to fetch them both a beer. She shakes her head when she sees which way he’s going and says, “Something stronger.”
He goes for the tequila instead and she just grabs the bottle from his hand, taking a long, unladylike swig that has to burn all the way down to her toes. She passes him the bottle, kicks off her shoes and flings herself backwards, arms spread. He takes his own swig from the bottle, knowing that whatever this is about, he won’t like it one bit.
She starts telling about her evening in the same voice she uses to tell funny anecdotes at the dinner table at home. Verone’s club. How he likes her, keeps flirting with her, keeps getting in her space. Dom grinds his teeth but says nothing, lets her keep talking. A dirty cop, she tells him, who didn’t want to play ball anymore. A rat and a bucket and fire and how Verone made Fuentes hold the cop still while they tortured him and Brian and Roman had to watch and pretend they didn’t care.
How Verone used the same hands he tortured the cop with to touch Brian, to lead her around the club.
“I’m going to kill him,” he bursts out as soon as she trails off, his fists clenched so tightly he can feel his heartbeat in them, can almost hear the bones creak in his fingers. The desire to destroy is almost too much and it’s all, all of it, directed at Verone.
Because the fucker tortures people and gets off on it, because he’s like Brian’s father, who is out of reach, because he gets off on power games, because he wants Brian, because he touched her. Without her permission, against her will, with hands that have killed and injured and broken lives. Dom knows he’s not much better, knows his hands have blood on them, too, but he’d never… never…
Brian’s hands are bracketing his head all of a sudden, pulling him around so he’s looking in her face. “No, you won’t,” she says, very calmly. Like it doesn’t matter. Cool as ice.
Only he knows that’s a façade, something to hide behind and he hates her, for one flash-bright second, for being such a good actor.
“Give me one reason,” he growls, so angry. So, so angry. This is the same anger that made him shred Kenny Linder, the same anger that made him almost shoot Brian in his driveway. The kind of anger that’s not anger at all but love and grief and fear, so much fear.
Brian holds him tighter, her short nails digging into his skins. The sensation grounds him marginally. “Because they’d catch you and lock you up and I’d never see you again.”
Lompoc. Jail. Murder. Four walls and no way out, not ever again.
That does the trick, just like Brian knew it would. Telling him Verone’s henchmen would kill him wouldn’t have done anything, but prison is his kryptonite. Prison, and the absence of the one person in the world to ever really get him.
Carefully, he uncurls his fingers, feeling the blood roar back into them. “This guy,” he says, very carefully and clearly, “is going down.”
She nods at him, releases her hold. “Fuck, yes. He’s going down.”
But not through his fists. “Your gun,” he repeats the words she screamed at him in their driveway a year ago, when he was about to go and put holes in Johnny Tran. Who, come to think of it, is to blame for this whole mess. If the stupid fuck hadn’t gotten his ass killed inside, they wouldn’t be here at all. Brian wouldn’t be putting her ass on the line to save him. Again. “Your gun. Your badge.”
She laughs, short and honestly amused. “Yeah. Except my gun ain’t registered anymore and my badge is gone.”
Never mind. She got the message anyway. She’s the one in control. She leads, he follows. Because she knows what she’s doing, knows how to play the game. And because she’s the only one he can follow. When she’s around, he doesn’t need to lead.
It’s dangerously codependent, the way they are, but fuck it. It works. He’s good. She’s good. And Verone is going down.
For a moment, Dom thinks it’s the wind that wakes him, or the feeling of Brian slipping away at dawn, yet again. But it’s more than that. Brian slips out of bed, alright, but the sound he hears isn’t the wind, it’s hissing. Voices.
Dom rolls onto his back and opens his eyes, finds a dark-skinned woman in shorts and a cut-off t-shirt standing in the middle of the room, hissing at Brian urgently. “Don’t make the run. Verone plans to kill you once you deliver.”
“What the fuck?” Dom asks before Brian has a chance to, and the other woman – who has to be Fuentes – jumps and stares at him, wide-eyed.
“Who’s he?” she asks Brian, like Dom can’t hear her. He rolls his eyes, fishes his boxer shorts out from under the nightstand and politely puts them on under the sheets.
Brian, who is, yet again, wearing nothing but his shirt, smirks at Fuentes. “He,” she says, hooking her thumb at him over her shoulder, “is my backup plan. We knew this deal would turn dirty.”
They expected it, Dom corrects quietly. From the pigs. They don’t really have a contingency plan for the bad guy putting a gun in anyone’s mouth. But he knows better than to say that out loud. Brian’s show. Brian’s gun and Brian’s non-existent badge.
Just then Roman comes barging in the door, wide-eyed and breathing hard. “Y’all stop fuckin’ around, we got compa- guess that explains what Verone’s dogs are doin’ sniffin’ around,” he changes what he was going to say when he lays eyes on Fuentes. Her eyes widen and Dom wonders how, exactly, she’s survived an entire year of undercover work when her face is such an open book.
Brian doesn’t look surprised, just shoves the other woman toward the small bathroom, slipping out of Dom’s t-shirt as she walks. She’s suddenly buck naked in a room full of people and Roman cringes, slaps a hand over his face and mutters something about, “Not again, damn woman.”
The folding door closes behind the two of them and a moment later the shower turns on. Okay. Dom grabs his jeans and motions Roman ahead, out onto the deck. He can work with what Brian just gave him.
They wanna flip the place? Whatever. But they’re not walking in on his girl naked in the shower. Perfect excuse. Maybe, if he’s lucky, he’ll even get a few licks in. His doctor keeps telling him not to internalize his emotions. It’s not good for his blood pressure.
An hour later Fuentes is long gone and Brian calls in her report of the night before, getting back some sympathetic noises from Bilkins and absolutely nothing from Markham. He refuses to call the thing off, much like she expected and Dom hoped he wouldn’t. What’s it to Mr. Customs if a few ex-cons and ex-cops get shot in the middle of his sting?
She hangs up the phone, slips down to sit on the deck of the boat, leans back against Roman’s legs and says, very succinctly, “We need an exit strategy.”
If you tell a normal person that they’re cordially invited to something that involves hassling an entire battalion of cops, property damage and potential jail time if they get caught, they’ll run screaming for the hills.
You issue the same invitation to a racer and they’ll ask you for a time and a place.
It’s something in their blood, Dom thinks. Something that makes them utterly unable to resist the chance to poke a bear with a stick. Anything for the thrill.
Brian is right in the middle of it, of course, tinkering with the Yenko in Tej’s garage while all around her, people are scurrying to organize the scramble.
She’s got a drug lord after her ass, cops she can’t count on, another drug lord waiting for her at home, and she’s happily singing along to the radio and fucking with the fuel injection of a car she just won off a guy who’d like to put a bullet in her, too.
“Do you ever get scared at all?” Dom asks before he can stop himself.
She stops what she’s doing, looks up at him, a faint smile still on her lips and her eyes impossibly blue, made bluer by her bikini top. She shrugs, calls Suki over for an opinion on this or that and Dom lets himself be distracted by the picture two beautiful babes and some vintage American muscle make.
Letty is scared all the time. Her bravado, her cussing and bitching and smacking people around, that is fear and Dom is the only one who knows it.
She gets scared that he’ll leave her, so she goes to cut a bitch up.
She gets scared of not being good enough, so she plays tougher, harder.
She gets scared of not being seen as a girl anymore so she wears shorter skirts and tighter shirts.
She gets scared of being too girly, so she cusses and spits on the floor and drinks beer she doesn’t like all that much.
She keeps telling him, late at night, that she just likes being in control. But the opposite of that is the fear of not being in control and he understands that all too well, especially after Lompoc.
For the longest time, he thinks that makes them the perfect match. They fear the same things, hide the same way. But fear plus fear equals more fear and it’s not until Brian appears out of nowhere that he considers the opposite.
Bilkins is at pig central, Markham at the airfield, Roman and Brian are en route to meet their would-be executioners and Dom is stuck in a dark, dusty warehouse with a hundred racers, waiting for the signal.
He’s glad, ridiculously glad, that he gets to do something, that he isn’t forced to watch from the sidelines because he’s never been good at that, but still, his part in this whole thing feels too small, too meaningless.
He should be between Brian and the guy with the gun, between her and the fucker who tortures people with rats and can make her unravel with memories. No-one makes Brian unravel. Absolutely no-one.
Except Carter Verone. Except his power games. And Dom is as far away from being of any fucking use as he can be. It feels like he’s failing Brian again, like he can’t ever protect her from anything. Not from bullets, or cops, or drug lords, or her father, or fucking traffic.
“They gon’ do this?” Tej asks from Dom’s side, Suki hanging off his arm. They and Jimmy are the only ones who know what’s really going on. They had to tell them to get their help, and Tej’s talent for organization.
“Yeah,” Dom agrees, flicking his gaze between them, the police scanner in front of him, and the walkie-talkie in his hand. He’s as connected to Bri as he can be and it’s not nearly enough.
“They gon’ rock it?” He looks at Tej, trying to figure out of the man is trying to cheer him up or honestly asking. All he gets is expectant eyebrows and Suki’s little pout. They’re good people, those two.
“They don’t lose, dog,” he says. Tej nods.
Then the walkie-talkie, connected to Brian’s and Roman’s, cackles to life and he hears his woman say, “Let’s do this.”
And it’s on.
“Be careful,” Mia says when he calls her the night before the whole thing goes down. “I’d like you back in one piece.”
There are various hollers of agreement in the background and Letty curses someone out for beating her at GTA. Again. Dom smiles into the receiver, relaxes a bit.
“Do my best,” he promises.
“And bring Brian home, too.”
“Good. I love you.”
He echoes the sentiment and hangs up, feeling ridiculous for feeling better. Such is the power of little sisters. Or maybe the power of the faith other people have in him. Some days it stifles him. Some days it gives him strength.
“What’s Mia say?” Brian asks, bouncing into the room, Roman hot on her heels.
“To be careful and rock that bitch.”
And Roman’s chorus line, “Hell yeah!”
So much faith.
Half an hour later, the police scanner explodes. Sirens, barked commands, tire screeching that’s audible even over the tinny connection. Brian and Roman are whooping and laughing and being the fearless, crazy idiots they are while the cops are so close on their asses, they can probably see Brian’s tan lines.
Dom is thrumming with adrenaline he can’t work off, stuck sitting at the back of the warehouse, staring at the two pieces of wire and plastic that are his only connection to Brian. He can’t even yell at her to stop fucking playing and get down to business because then Verone’s henchmen riding shotgun would know something’s up.
Passive. Dominic Toretto doesn’t do passive worth shit.
It feels like an hour passes between the first howl of a siren and the moment when Brian finally speaks to him directly, but it’s less than twenty minutes.
“Incoming, baby,” she hollers, laughter in her voice.
Dom raises his head, finds Tej already moving, arms waving in the air, yelling for the two guys manning the central bays to be ready. Suki echoes him and everyone slips into their cars. Engines rev all around but then, surprisingly, the large room grows almost completely silent. Dom jogs up to the front and waits, walkie-talkie in hand.
“Five,” Brian says, and he echoes her, loudly.
“Three,” she says and he calls, “Up!”
By two he can make out the Spyder and the Evo and by one they pull into the warehouse, gates slamming shut behind them. Brian and Roman pull one of their more impossible stunts, moving in the tight space between the other cars, switching places and turning their cars around at the same time. Then they hit reverse and stomp on it, making room for the tricked-out pick-ups that’ll be their first wave. Once they’re in place, the rest of the cars move up.
Brian is out of the Spyder like a shot, jumping Dom, more adrenaline than blood in her veins. She’s always at her best when she’s half a second from dying a fiery death and sometimes Dom resents her for how easily she pulls him under with her.
Today isn’t one of these days because he’s so very fucking relived that he finally gets to do something, even if he’s only, literally, driving the get-away car. He catches her under her thighs and kisses her fast and brief and dirty. She pulls back, gives him one of her supernova smiles and drops her legs back to the ground.
Then she’s gone again, popping the trunk to get the money bags. And damn if three large, unmarked bags of cash don’t tickle him pink. Roman does the same with three more bags from the Evo and they both jog to the back of the room, their shadows in tow.
“What’re you doing?” one of them, a bald guy who still, somehow, manages to be greasy without any hair to speak of, finally asks.
Brian grins widely at him. “Dude, we’re switching cars.”
She catches the keys Dom throws her, slams the bags into the trunk and spins to look at her bulldog. Cheeky bitch that she is, she pops his door for him, holding it open. “If you please,” she simpers. He growls but gets in.
She rounds the Yenko, bumping fists with Roman on the way and then moving on. Except he suddenly catches her around the waist, reels her in and hugs her tightly. She returns the embrace, easy as can be. Dom notices Tej looking at him, but hell, it’s Roman. He’s as dangerous as a poodle. He shrugs at the other man, watches as Roman mouths something that might be, “No stunts,” into his best friend’s ear and then releases her.
Brian catches Dom’s eye as she gets behind the wheel, quirks a grin that’s part challenge, part ‘I love you’. “Ten seconds,” she yells.
See you on the other side, is what she means.
Dom flashes her his own smile and Tej returns to the front, gets in the Spyder. The whole thing takes less than sixty seconds and then it’s go.
Someone steps on the horn and Dom gives in to the urge to laugh, too, finally.
He can do that.
The scramble is, even before Brian calls for them to break, possibly the most whacked-out, amazing shit Dom has ever seen.
And he’s seen a lot of whacked-out shit in his day.
The words, “There’s a new plan,” are like ice-water down his back.
He’s sitting at the meeting point, the Supra idling under him, a soothing purr, when Brian calls for Roman to follow her to a new meeting place. Not the airstrip.
The implications are fucking bad. Really, really, fucking bad. It means customs is in the wrong place. It means Verone has caught a scent. It means Fuentes is probably about to kiss a bullet. And Brian, who probably worked all that out faster than Dom does, won’t let that happen.
He has no idea whether that’s the cop in her or the girl, but Brian never thinks before she risks her life for someone else. Like she doesn’t believe she’s worth as much as anyone else. When someone says ‘danger’, normal people get scared and it saves their asses. When someone says ‘danger’ to Brianna O’Conner, she grins and steps on the gas.
All of which boils down to how she’s going to do something heroically stupid and stupidly heroic and it’s gonna be up to him to bail her dumb ass out. He repeats the directions she gives Roman out loud to himself and kicks the car back into gear. He’s about to make tracks when Roman comes peeling into the little side-street, spraying gravel. He slams on the brakes and yells out the missing passenger-side door, “Brian is –”
Dom cuts him off with a wave of his hand. “On it. Follow me.”
Apparently, he won’t just be driving the get-away car today.
Vince is the first to figure it out, surprisingly.
That Brian is trouble, that is.
The night after Dom has his little blow-up at the after party, he shows up at the garage with a six-pack as an apology, sits down next to Dom on the fucked-up lawn furniture that has to be older than either of them.
“So that chica saved your ass.”
“Yeah,” Dom agrees, leaning back, relaxing.
“You plannin’ on keeping her around?”
“She owes me a ten-second car.”
Vince snorts. “She’s gonna be trouble, man.”
Dom eyes his friend, asks, tersely, “You mean Letty?” Because he and Letty ain’t no-one’s business but his and Letty’s. And Vince makes a shitty yenta.
“I mean everything,” Vince corrects mildly. “We don’t need trouble now, D.”
Dom, who is already way more fascinated with the fearless bitch who saved his ass from the pigs the night before, shrugs. “Maybe it’s exactly what we need.”
Fuck ten seconds, Dom feels like he’s flying, he’s pushing the Supra so hard on the way to save Brian from the power-hungry asshole she’s just willingly offered herself to. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
And he’s even more stupid because he loves that she is this way as much as he hates it.
He gets to Verone’s meeting point a good ten seconds before Roman and what he sees when he slams to a halt makes his blood boil.
Goons with guns everywhere. One of them is shoving Fuentes toward a yacht none too gently while another has his gun on her. Verone is standing close to the dock, a shotgun in hand, muzzle pressed into Brian’s temple.
She’s on her knees, a bruise blooming on her face, the fingers of his free hand clutched in her hair, pulling her head back, rendering her helpless.
Dom could guess what happened, if he gave a shit. Maybe Verone tried to touch Fuentes and Brian got in the middle. Maybe he wanted them both with him, a bit of leverage until he’s in safe waters, and Brian put up a fight.
It doesn’t matter now. All that matters is that Brian is hurt and has a gun shoved in her face.
She’s hurt, she’s in danger and Dom is going to murder the fucker that hurt her. He climbs out of the car just as Roman pulls in after him, making straight for Verone, who’s smirking and jerking on Brian’s hair some more. She snarls at him, tries to elbow him in the balls. He dances away from her arm, digs the muzzle harder into her skin.
Dom sees red.
He’s vaguely aware of the leftover goon coming at him from the right, but Roman’s there, taking the guy down in a tangle of limbs.
“Careful!” Verone calls, tightening his grip on the shotgun meaningfully.
Dom doesn’t even slow down.
Twenty feet and Verone is still smirking.
Fifteen feet and Fuentes is finally doing something other than being a docile victim and slamming her elbow into the face of the guy who has a bead on her.
Ten feet and Verone is yelling for him to fucking stop or else.
Five feet and Dom sees the muscles in his arm tense. He foregoes walking and simply throws himself the last few feet, slamming the fucker into the ground. Brian yells as she’s pulled backwards, too.
A shot goes off but Dom isn’t paying attention, too busy slamming his fist into Verone’s face. For hitting Dom’s woman. For putting her on her knees, for grabbing her hair like she’s some sort of dog, some sort of whore. For ever laying fucking eyes on her in the first place, for reminding her of things better forgotten. For being a sick fuck, for getting off on hurting people, for playing power games with women who can’t ever match him physically.
For being fucking born.
Again and again and again. He’s vaguely aware of Brian rallying enough to make a grab for the shotgun, hears yelling as she and the others take care of the goons. He doesn’t give a shit.
He just hammers and hammers until Verone’s face gives under his fist, until there’s blood and snot and tears. The sack of shit stops twisting in his grip eventually, stops struggling. He whimpers, like a baby, gurgles.
Dom doesn’t slow down until he feels a small, hot hand on his arm, feels another wrap around his forehead, soothing, cooling, holding him back. Taming him.
“That’s enough, Dom,” Brian says, her voice rough from screaming, or maybe she bit her tongue. She doesn’t yell, doesn’t command. She simply tells him that it’s enough, her body pressed against his back, like she’s not afraid of him at all.
“Stop,” she says, and he remembers what she said, only a few days ago. They’ll catch him and he’ll be locked up and never see her again. Stop, she says, and he does.
There’s blood on his fists and sirens in his ear and he feels sort of dizzy.
Neither Bilkins or Markham appreciate what he did. They both look at him like he’s a rabid dog, but the guy had a gun to Brian’s head and he knows they won’t touch him for this, too happy to finally lock Verone up.
Dom feels no regret, except for not getting there sooner.
He’s got ice for his busted hands and his arms feel like lead. Compared to Verone, who has quite a few broken bones in his face, he’s golden.
Brian, who apparently took the butt of the shotgun to the face when she refused to go silently onto the yacht, has a fractured cheekbone, a spectacular bruise and a bloodshot eye.
The EMTs keep badgering her to let them get her to a hospital, and she keeps telling them she’s okay. In the end Dom throws Roman his keys, asks him to find a way to get the Supra back to Tej’s and climbs in the ambulance with her.
“Settle the fuck down,” he says. The EMT nearest him, who got a good look at Verone’s face before they rushed him off, flinches. Brian smiles and then grimaces and then flinches, too, for different reasons.
“Yes, sir,” she quips, reaching for his hand and then stopping mid-air when she remembers that his knuckles are raw meat at the moment. Fuck this shit. The doors slam shut, the ambulance pulls away from the scene and Dom drops one of his icepacks and takes her hand, squeezing gingerly.
“What would you’ve done if we’d already taken off?” Brian asks, conversationally.
He shrugs, says honestly, “Found another way to get to you.”
“My hero,” she simpers, but he’s pretty sure she means it, even though she hates being saved. “You’d have probably driven the car onto the boat and ruined my baby in the process.”
“Dukes of Hazard style?” he offers. She nods, weakly and already woozy with drugs.
“You need to stop getting into shit like this,” he informs her.
“Hey,” she protests, “Didn’t get gutshot this time, did I?”
No. She almost got headshot. Stupid, fearless bitch. He laughs, presses a kiss to her knuckles, almost as scraped as his own. “Love you,” he tells her, low and secret.
She grins and finally passes out.
He’s fetching himself ratty hospital coffee while they’re patching Brian up and when he gets back, Bilkins is standing at the edge of the little curtain-cubicle they’ve left her in. Dom stops ten feet away and waits.
Bilkins is rattling off the laundry list of new crimes they can pin on Verone, thanks to his little kidnapping attempt and Brian tries to nod along and flinches. Her whole face feels like a busted melon, she candidly informed the doctors earlier when they carted her off for an x-ray.
“And because he had a gun on you, we’re calling Toretto’s little… outburst justified. No-one’s going after him and we’ll make sure Verone’s lawyer knows not to touch you.”
As if that’s going to work. But hey, at least no-one is threatening Dom with jail time. He’s counting the small favors these days. Brian mutters something that might be a thankyou, might be a curse. Bilkins shrugs. “You heard about Verone? Most of his face is broken.”
Brian shrugs, too. “I know,” she says, slurring her words just slightly, the way she always does when there are chemicals involved. “I was there.”
She sounds calm about it and Dom loves her more for it. Bilkins, silent, watches her for a moment. Then he says, “You don’t have to stay with him.”
Dom’s heart stops.
“He did this for me,” she tells the fed, voice low and careful. Ice. All Ice.
“Maybe this time. But all that violence?”
Dom is clutching the paper cup so tightly he’s afraid it’ll explode. Because that thought, that very same, forbidden, shameful thought, has been bouncing around his head since Brian said he used to grab us. He never would, he tells himself, but he’s lost control before. He never meant to almost kill Kenny Linder, did he? He never meant to do half the shit he’s done in his life and sometimes Brian pushes him, so very far beyond all limits.
“He lets me go when I tell him to,” Brian says, like it’s some big secret. Like it means something, really. Bilkins stares at her for another beat, then nods and turns away.
He nods at Dom as he passes, like nothing just happened. Dom nods back. His knuckles burn and ache.
He gets transfixed by her bruise, so dark it’s almost black, spreading across half her face, leaving her distorted, leaving her looking like a victim. He should have gotten there sooner, driven faster.
“I’m sorry,” he mutters against her palm as he sits by her side, watching her sleep. “Sorry I was late. I failed you.”
He almost jumps out of his skin when she opens her eyes and looks straight at him. “You didn’t.”
She says it like it’s the easiest thing in the world. Faith.
Maybe it is.
Brian says things like, “Let’s get back to the house.”
Or, when Dom’s a bit more wasted than he planned, she slings an arm around his waist and whispers, “Let’s get you home.”
And he accepts the words as what they mean – his home. The house they live in. Not her home. He wonders, sometimes, what other home she’s holding out for, if she ever had one at all. The place he cleaned out for her was not a home, but she must have grown up somewhere. Maybe home is people, he thinks, thinks of Roman, who is still faceless these few months.
He feels he knows the kid, but he’s never met him at all, except through Bri’s tall tales.
Sometimes, when she’s feeling horny, Brian will jump him and hiss in his ear, all hot and bothered, “Take me home, baby.”
He always understands the distinction, even if she lives there now.
The day they pick Roman up from the gates of Chino is sunny and hot, like all days in California are and Brian hugs him, squeezes the stuffing out of him even while he tries, half-heartedly, to resist. She rubs a hand over his scalp, something she sometimes does to Dom as well and he guesses that’s where that came from, and tells him, very decisively, “You’re coming home with me.”
Dom’s grin is almost as broad and stupid as Roman’s that day.
Since they have three cars to get home instead of one, Brian and Roman both smile when Bilkins forks over two airline tickets and tell him no thanks.
They can’t exactly take their time, what with Tran Sr. still hanging over their heads like a not so metaphorical cloud of doom, but it’s relaxing anyway. Instead of stopping at tourist traps, they stop at random junk-yards along the way and, in one of them -cunningly camouflaged as a used-car-lot - Brian falls in love with a right-side Skyline. Roman, who is still high on being rid of his anklet, whores off with every woman who smiles at him, so they don’t see too much of him. He’s happy. Whatever.
They part ways for a while after sifting through the cars and when they meet up again in their motel room, Dom has bought the Skyline for Brian and she has cut her hair.
It’s short now, ridiculously so. The fringe falls messily into her eyes, darker now that the bleached length is gone, and the back is as short as a man’s haircut. It’s asymmetric and chaotic and it’s very Brian and he doesn’t like it much at all. It makes her bruised, fucked-up left side stand out even more.
Roman mimes taking her picture, then lunges at her, trying to get her into a chokehold. When in doubt, Roman Pearce rough-houses. “But you were so pretty,” he wails at the top of his lungs when Brian kicks him off and threatens to knee him in the junk. He pretends to cry into his bandana until Dom smacks him upside the head, tells him to get his dramatic ass out of their room.
Once the door closes behind the lunatic, he tilts his head, looks at Brian’s new ‘do from all angles. It’s not ugly, this haircut, but it makes her look harder. Stricter. Older, too.
But he saw how Verone fisted his hand in her curls, used them to force her on her knees. She’s not a victim and she’s not scared, doesn’t jump at her own shadow, doesn’t have nightmares. But she cuts off her hair so no-one will ever grab a hold of her again.
“Looks good,” he says, rubbing a hand over the stubbly back of her head. She grins at him, her eyes impossibly brighter with her hair gone.
“I have you money, Mr. Tran,” Dom says, low, controlled. He swings the bag by his side, wordlessly drawing attention to it.
Tran smiles thinly, reaches out a hand. Two of his goons start forward. Dom shakes his head, pulls the bag back. “Not so fast,” he warns. “First I want some assurances.”
He gets a regal nod and a patronizing smile.
“If I give you this, you stop harassing my family and my businesses.” It’s not exactly harassment what Tran’s goons did while Dom and Brian were gone, but Mia and the others all noticed them hanging around, watching the garage, the market, the house.
Tran nods again and Dom stares blankly at him until he verbally adds, “Yes.”
“You stop threatening my sister and girlfriend with bodily harm.”
“You never try to extort money from me again in any way.”
On the inside, Dom feels giddy. On the outside, he smirks, slow and dangerous. “Thank you,” he drawls, “That’s all I need.”
The feds burst into the warehouse, guns drawn, yelling for everybody to hit the fucking ground, now, and a minute later, Tran Sr. and his monkeys are all in handcuffs.
Bilkins stops in front of Dom, taking back the bag with the money and the wire. “Good work,” he says, and while it’s not as friendly as it was before Dom rearranged Verone’s face, it’s nice enough.
“That enough?” Dom asks, because frankly, this new habit of theirs of making drug lords their enemies is sort of worrying him.
Bilkins nods. “Enough to get us a warrant to turn over every rock this roach ever hid under. We’ll get more.”
Some of the cops are manhandling Tran toward the door, right past Dom. He steps in their way, levels a stony glare on the man. “You tried to fuck with my family,” he says, very carefully.
Tran looks blank.
“So we’re free, huh?”
“Yeah,” Dom agrees, slinging an arm over Brian’s shoulder, the other one around Mia. “we’re free.”
The girls grin at each other around him and chorus, “Good.”
Brian is sitting at the edge of the tub shaving her legs while he showers. When he’s done, he turns off the water, grabs for a towel, steps out of the stall. She keeps concentrating on her legs, scraping in neat lines from her ankle to her knee.
“Fear is useless,” she tells her moving hand and Dom stops dead in the middle of the room.
“You asked me if I ever get scared. I don’t. Because fear is useless.”
He makes a point of stepping around her, grabbing his toothbrush, looking away from her.
“The first time my dad grabbed me, I got so scared I couldn’t think straight. But every time he did it, I got a little less scared and once I’d figured out what he wanted, just the right combination of emotion, I worked on faking it. And once I had that down, I knew how to escape.”
No need to ask where her acting skills came from, he guesses, carefully putting down the toothbrush so he doesn’t snap the brittle plastic from clenching his fists so hard. He still has that grave to piss on.
“Fear is useless. It doesn’t help you get safe, or get away. So I don’t get scared.”
So I don’t get scared. Like it’s that easy. Like that’s all it takes.
He lowers his head, stares at the white of the sink, the silvery glint of the drain. Shamefully he says, “I’m scared all the time.”
She puts down the razor, stands and wraps one arm around his middle from behind. Hooking her chin over his shoulder she tells his reflection, “That probably makes you the sane one.”
He laughs and when he raises his head, Brian’s reflection is grinning right back at him.
He’s out of Lompoc. He’s fixing his life. The walls have doors and he’s not failing Brian. She has faith in him. He has faith in her.
She’s not one of his people but she’s still his and she’s utterly fearless and he is, by God, not. She has her hang-ups and he has his anger management issues, but she’s learning to ask for help and he always lets her go when she tells him to.
They don’t get nearly enough alone time and his ex still hangs around, just like her past life as a pig does, and sometimes she gets very, very quiet and he gets very, very loud.
They’re a mess.
A big, fucking, convoluted, complicated mess.
And somehow, they’re okay.