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Second Chances

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Buster’s a cop,” Vince grumbled the second the blonde left.

That made Dom freeze.  “Yeah?”  He turned to watch the truck retreating from Echo Park.  “You sure?”

Seriously  Dom?” the brunette grumbled.  “I know what the fuck I’m doin’ y’know.”  He hit their shoulders together roughly as he passed by to his car.  He needed to get the hell out of there.  “Have Jess run a background check all the same.”

Vince peeled out of the lot, heading straight home.  He needed to cool off.  It hadn’t been intentional to come to blows with the kid, but he just didn’t seem to know when to back off, when he was out of his league.  Though Vince wasn’t one to talk.  He’d been just like that back when he was in the very same position.

When he'd joined the DEA, given his knowledge of anything with a motor and being able to handle them, he was often used as an undercover agent.  It had started small- local dealers and chemists- but then quickly escalated when they found how well Vince blended in.  Soon he was slipping in with full-blown cartels.

Everything changed when Dom got locked up.  After that Vince lost his faith in the system.  It was just as well, as his last assignment had only helped to cement those feelings.  A crooked FBI agent, innocent people caught in the crossfire.  Not to mention being so deep in cover that he wasn’t there for his best friend when his father died.  If he’d been, maybe he would have been able to stop Dom.

There was no doubt in his mind Brian was undercover.  It was no coincidence he showed up at the store, or worked at Racer’s Edge.  They were close… too close.  The team would have to be extra cautious with their activities and try to weasel out what the narc knew.

By his calculations, they only needed two or three more good hauls before they’d have enough money to sit pretty on.  They would be in Mexico, living the good life.  Nothing to worry about but their cars and sunshine.  It sounded like as good a plan as any when Dom had brought him into his garage that day to talk.  The man would always and forever be his best friend, so there was no way he would have let him do anything like this without him.

Vince slammed the door of the Maxima as he got out.  He walked to the garage door, punching in the code that would open it up.  He’d learned long ago not to carry a garage door opener in the car- too easy for someone to steal.  Besides, he didn’t park the car in the single-bay garage anyway.

The door rolled up, revealing the still unfinished bike.  It’d been about two and a half years, yet he still hadn’t found the time to get it done.  He tried to chalk it up to being too busy at the garage or watching Mia in her brother’s absence, or helping Dom with whatever he needed once he got out almost six months back.  In reality, it was the memories it invoked that delayed the project.

When he’d be working on it sometimes he’d get a whiff of burnt rubber crossing his nose, or hear the whir of a crotch-rocket motor.  He’d get flashes of orange and black leathers, a pegasus on the back of a jacket.  There was warm laughter, eyes filled with fire, and a personality that was one part brave and two parts stupidity, and a healthy measure of dumb luck thrown in.

Today as Vince ran his fingers over the custom leather seat he’d had made, his lips quirked, remembering a particular taunt.  His prime target, Cary Ford, had just returned to town after disappearing six months previous just before the raid that would have caught him red-handed with the smuggled methamphetamine.  It had ended up extending Vince’s cover, and he hadn’t been happy about it, so he’d decided to dig the guy a little.

I dunno why you’re buyin’ a new seat Ford,” he graveled out.  “Looks to me like you haven’t broken in your old one yet.”

China spoke up, “Looks like Ford prefers to ride bitch to me.” Vince had to hold back a chuckle.

But then he was stepping in the way of a blade meant for Ford, grabbing China’s wrist to make her drop the butterfly knife aimed right at that pretty face of his because that damn girl Shane had snarked back.  It had been a good one, admittedly, especially considering she’d been right.  Just thinking of all the places China had been made him want to keep her at arms length, but she made for a damn good cover- just like Luther, the short-fused moron that he was.

Moving into Ford’s personal space the other man had to tilt his chin back slightly to remain looking Vince in the eye.  “Where are my Goddamn bikes?” he demanded.

You really want them ?” Ford mused, tipping back his Budweiser.

Vince smirked slightly, grabbing the neck of the bottle and putting it behind Ford’s head before dropping it.  As it shattered on the ground, he stepped even closer, nose to nose with him.  “You got ‘til sundown to hand ‘em over.”

Vince had taken off pretty quickly after that, not wanting to stay too much longer in Ford’s space.  He was sexy as sin and the bastard knew it too.  Vince hadn’t realized it until he’d laid eyes on him again after so long, but he was attracted to him.  And wasn’t that the rub?

Perhaps if he’d known then what he knew now he wouldn’t have wasted so much time trying to arrest Ford and could have worked other leads that led to the real snake in the grass- the damn FBI agent that nearly got him killed.  He could have helped Ford.

Sighing heavily, Vince tried to put the past behind him.  He wouldn’t be able to work on the bike.  Not today.

* * *

The race that night brought a particular blonde with it.  Vince just stayed close to Dom, scowling at the would-be narc.  Jesse had done the background search like he’d suggested.  It turned up minor things, including two years in juvie for boosting cars.  A good cover never read like America’s Most Wanted.  It was usually something simple, just like this.

Henry James had seen time for assault and battery, some public intoxication, but nothing drug related.  Any good player in the drug game never did.  They weren’t stupid enough to get caught with product.  It had been the perfect cover that immediately gave him a reputation as being both smart and deadly.

This kid was supposed to read as a small-time fish who knew his way around cars.  The part of the rookie suited him as it was clear he’d probably never dragged in his life with the way he drove.  Still, Vince had to give him props for his guts.  He was fearless- it reminded him of a certain brunette he knew.

Dom seemed particularly taken with the guy.  There was nothing his best friend could hide from him, and he saw that twinkle in his eyes, that smile on his face.  Letty hadn’t made him look that way since he got out of prison.  Then again, he supposed that was part of the reason Dom had broken things off with her.  Not that she didn’t continue to act the part to keep the race bunnies at bay- which Vince knew his friend was eternally grateful for.

If Vince were one to guess, he’d say Dom was more tired than he let on.  Prison had taken a lot out of him, as had the death of his father.  Hell, it had done a number on them all.  Yet, here Dom was, trying to take care of them, to give them all the lives that they could only dream of.  Part of him knew it was wrong, the part that still thought like a cop despite everything.  Vince tried to muffle that voice with a pillow- it had no place in his life anymore.

* * *

To say Vince was livid when Brian wandered in through the door of the Toretto home was putting it mildly.  “Why’d you bring the Buster here?”

Cause the Buster kept me out of handcuffs!” Dom roared accusingly.  Vince cringed a bit at the rebuke, but what could he have done?  “The Buster brought me back,” he continued, the tone of his voice saying that he didn’t believe him to be a cop.  Vince only growled in annoyance.

He and Dom would be having a talk later.

* * *

Would you listen to me?!” Vince bellowed after everyone else had cleared out.

Why are you so insistent about this?” Dom asked, leaning against the counter with a beer in hand.

Why are you being so blind?!”

I just don’t see it.  The kid’s harmless.  And he saved my bacon.”

It’s called a cover Dom.”  Before he could open his mouth, Vince was continuing, “Do you have any idea some of the shit I did to prove I ‘wasn’t a cop?’  I choked some kid out with a bike chain once.  Beat another guy half to death with one.  Strung up some punks and left ‘em there…  They weren’t found for three days .”  He looked at him hard then.  “So don’t tell me what someone can and can’t do to make you think they’re one a you…”

Dom didn’t know what to say.  It was the first time Vince had ever admitted any details of what he’d done while undercover.  He never wanted to talk about it, and now he got why.  The last assignment was an especially touchy subject, a complete no-go zone.  The team never spoke about it, not even amongst each other, out of respect for Vince wanting to forget whatever had happened to him.  It was kind of like how they didn’t talk to Dom about what happened in prison.  It was just better to ignore it.

Even so, now that Vince was talking, Dom had to know, “What happened that last case man?”  When Vince only looked at the ground, a scowl on his face, he prodded, “You changed after that V.  And don’t go sayin’ it was all ‘cause what happened to me,” he added quickly when the brunette opened his mouth.  “There were always cases that got you wired, made you keep to yourself and brood or whatever for awhile.  But you always bounced back.  This one though…”

Don’t ask me Dom,” Vince murmured.  “You won’t like the answer.”

Silence prevailed for awhile until Dom said out of the blue, “I got shanked inside, y’know…”  Vince looked at him in surprise.  Dom lifted his shirt, turning a bit so he could see the scar, right near his kidney.  He shrugged as he lowered the tank, sipping at his beer.  “Got ‘im back the next week, except I didn’t miss.  Not that the guards could ever prove it.”

And there it was…  a small piece of Dom’s pain in exchange for his own that he’d bared.   We’re pieces of work, was all Vince could think as he took a swig of his own Corona.

* * *

Dom had it bad.   He was head over heels for Brian and Vince knew he wasn’t the only one that could see it.  Leon kept throwing looks to him, speaking with his eyebrows mostly as he’d jerk his head towards the pair.  Vince would only shrug, sometimes scowl, but he never said a word- it seemed to be he was wasting his breath.

Likewise, Mia had clearly picked up on it.  She seemed to like the Buster too, scolding Vince whenever he’d talk shit about him or try to make his life difficult.  If Jesse noticed, it didn’t show.  Then again, the kid had always been a hopeless case in many respects.

It seemed the only one who shared his cold shoulder approach was Letty.  Although Vince had to wonder if it was for the same concerns he had, or simply because she was well and truly being replaced.  He was just going to guess the latter.

The day finally came when Vince was proven right, although it didn’t feel like much of a victory.

He’d practically forced Dom into coming with him, following Brian around in that work truck of Harry’s.  When it pulled into the back alley of Hector’s garage, Vince looked over at his best friend and raised a brow.  “Don’t mean anything,” Dom argued, getting out of the car, however Vince didn’t miss the waver in his voice.

They caught Brian shimming down the drainpipe and Vince slammed him into the wall before throwing him across the ground at Dom.  Brian went to get up but those baby blues widened as he looked down the barrel of a shotgun, then up to Vince.

Brian…”  Dom’s voice drew his attention.

Dom, what the hell’s goin’ on?”

Shut up!” Vince snapped, putting his boot on the blonde’s shoulder and shoving hard so he was sprawled on the ground.

Dom glared at him for it but didn’t comment.  Instead, he looked at Brian and said, “You need to be very careful about how you answer the next question…”  He waited until Brian was looking right at him and then asked, “Are you a cop?”

Vince was expecting denial, even some half-assed cover story, but that wasn’t what they got at all.  Brian’s face scrunched in pain and he couldn’t meet Dom’s gaze.  “I’m sorry, Dom,” he whispered, voice breaking like he was trying not to cry.  “I didn’t… I didn’t come to the store thinking it was you.  I swear I didn’t.  And then after you took me in…”  Brian finally looked up, tears coming down his cheeks.  “I wanted it to be anyone but you!”

The shotgun lowered and Vince couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  Brian sounded so… sincere.  Apparently Dom knew it too, as he knelt down to wrap the blonde in his arms.  “Shh, it’s ok, Bri,” he murmured, nose nuzzling into his curls.

I’m so sorry, Dom,” he repeated, clutching the back of Dom’s shirt.

Why didn’t you just tell me?” he asked, pulling back to wipe the tears from his cheeks.

And how exactly was he supposed to do that Dominic?” Vince questioned hotly.  Brian looked up to find the brunette’s scowl was directed at Dom for once. Vince defending him?  Now there was one to mark on the calendar.

We’ve been dating, V,” Dom grunted back.  Vince’s nostrils flared.  “I didn’t wanna tell ya ‘cause I knew what you’d say.”

What?  That’s it’s not a smart idea to be dating a narc?!”  Dom sighed.  “Or how about that he’s just moved in on his mark?  I’m sure his handlers will be thrilled.

Brian furrowed his brows.  “How do you know so much?”

Nevermind that,” Vince snapped.  “We need to figure out what we’re doin’ here Dom.”

Dom nodded, looking at the blonde seriously.  “What do they know?”

Not enough to charge you.  They heavily suspect the team’s behind it though.  That’s why they wanted me to start with you.  I didn’t care where I went- I just needed an in to the scene.  I wasn’t about to make assumptions based on your record like my bosses.”  Brian shook his head ruefully, giving a short laugh.  “Y’know, I just got done insisting to the FBI liaison that it wasn’t you guys.”

Feds?”  Dom looked up at Vince.  “We’re in deeper than we thought.”

Was only a matter of time,” Vince grunted.

You sure had me fooled,” Brian mentioned, though the corner of his mouth quirked up.

Fallin’ for a pretty face’ll do it every time,” Vince muttered in response, turning away before he could catch the pair’s curious looks.  “So… where do we go from here Buster?  Now that I can finally say ‘I told you so’ to Dom, and that you know what we’ve been up to.”

Ignoring the mumbled, “Fuck off,” from Dom, Brian replied, “I suppose I’ll have to figure out a way to stall them until you guys get the hell outta town.”

Vince was surprised by that but it seemed Dom wasn’t.  “V and I already talked about moving into our end game.  Two more trucks Bri.  We just need two more and we split to Mexico.”

Brian nodded, chewing on his lower lip a moment before saying, “Lemme help.”  Even Dom was surprised that time.  “Please, Dom.  I wanna help, wanna go with you.”

Dom looked to his best friend for permission.  No one else would know it, but they were equal parts masterminds and partners in this scheme.  Sure, Dom did the front work, taking the lead. However they didn’t make a move without both of them in agreement- that was why nothing had ever gotten anywhere regarding Brian before then.

I’m probably gonna regret this,” Vince muttered.  “Fine.”  He turned away to walk back to the Maxima as the pair traded a soft kiss.  “Save it for later,” he groused at them.  It wasn’t as though he were opposed to their relationship, but right now he didn’t need to see them together.  It nagged at something in the back of his mind.