The last voice Brian ever expected to hear when he picks up the phone in the bullpen, snaps out “O’Conner” and carries on flipping through rap sheets with one hand, is Letty’s.
It’s been four years since he heard it, but he could never mistake her for anyone else. She’s seared into his memory with Dom, with Mia, with everything else he had for a too short moment and let slip through his fingers.
“Letty?” he asks, for form’s sake, sitting up straight and dumping the files. “What’s happened?” He’d heard when she crossed the border, the not quite strictly procedure alerts he’d set up on her and Dom, Vince and Leon, sending him an updated photo and notification of her current whereabouts, an address he knows all too well, but there’d been no sign of Dom, and he’d assumed she wasn’t staying. “Is something wrong?”
“No,” she says through gritted teeth. “Everything’s fine. Can we meet?”
He doesn’t ask why she wants to, just asks her where. It could be a trap, but four years is a long time to wait for vengeance, and she surely wouldn’t have phoned the switchboard at the FBI if she had hostile intentions. Four years have passed, and he’s on his last second chance, but if they need his help…
He changes out of his suit into jeans and a t-shirt, meets her at the dive bar she suggested. She looks good, tanned and healthy, but her eyes are sad and she’s picking nervously at the label on her beer bottle.
“I’ve got information,” she says, no pleasantries, cutting straight to the chase. “What’s it worth?”
“What?” he asks stupidly, thrown by her brusqueness despite himself. “Information on what?”
“Arturo Braga,” she says, staring at him stonily.
He sucks in a breath and cracks open his own beer, glad of a moment to gather his scattered thoughts. He’s only been assigned to the Braga case for a month, and it’s hush hush, no one should even know about it. The racing community was always well informed though, and Letty’s obviously slotted right into it like she never left.
“What do you know?” he asks carefully. “And what do you want?”
“You know what I want, Brian,” she says. “And I know everything you need.”
“I can’t get the warrants dropped against Dom,” he says helplessly, and he knows, he’s tried. “If he comes in himself, maybe, but not for a third party.”
“He’s not coming in,” Letty says coldly. “He’s not setting foot in the States till you get me a deal in writing.”
“Then tell me what you know,” he says, “and I’ll see what I can do.”
Her information is good, though it’s not good enough. Dom gave the Bureau a black eye they haven’t forgotten, and Bilkins might have warmed up to Brian enough after Miami to support his application to Quantico, but the wider grudge lingers. After the second agent they send in gets made, though, things start to move. When Letty agrees to join the cartel, send information out from inside, Penning promises to do what he can. Brian’s honest with her, tells her it’s not guaranteed, but she’s willing to take the chance.
They meet regularly after that, at the same bar, split a plate of wings and drink a few beers, shoot a few rounds of pool and talk. It’s small talk at first, to keep up appearances in case anyone’s watching, but inevitably it turns to the old days, to cars, to people they both knew. He doesn’t mention Dom unless she does, but he asks after Mia. He’d driven by the house a couple times when he first got back to LA. Carefully; he didn’t want to freak her out. Letty says she’s okay, takes a certain pleasure in telling him she has a new boyfriend. He doesn’t react, just says he’s glad she’s happy, and Letty smiles, her first real smile, and says the guy won’t last.
He’s surprised by how much he enjoys her company. They’d never spoken much before, and maybe that makes it easier, because unlike Mia and Dom, he hadn’t ever lied to her, except in the most obvious way. They’re meeting for the first time, almost, and discovering that they actually like each other. She beats him four games out of five, and the first time she kisses him goodbye, leaning in to slip an envelope inside his jacket, he has to smoke half a pack in the alley outside before his hands are steady enough to drive home.
When he gets the call she’s dead, the ripped raw feeling inside isn’t for Dom, though he knows that’ll come. It’s for his own sister, the sister he never had, who’d been bold, and beautiful, and kicked his ass at pool; who’d shyly showed him photos of the Charger she’d rebuilt herself, and talked about how beautiful the Dominican Republic was, though he’d told her not to tell him anything that anyone could use against her, proving to him once and for all that she trusted him, that she’d forgiven him. He cries in the shower for everything he’s lost, all over again, then puts on his poker face and his fancy suit, and goes back to work.
Letty figures out she’s pregnant a month or so after they put Shaw away. In hindsight she should have realised a lot sooner, but her cycles have always been irregular, and who has time to count days on a calendar when your big finding yourself road trip gets interrupted by a mountain chase, a heist in a desert kingdom, and playing dodgem cars on the streets of LA with a bunch of freaking psychos. It’s only when Dom opens a letter from Mia and Brian and spends the rest of the afternoon sprawled on the bed in their hotel suite, surrounded by photos of Jack and a blurry black and white ultrasound of his little sister, and she tries to work out how far along Mia must be, that it hits her like a ton of bricks just how late she actually is.
It’s a shock to say the least.
She doesn’t tell Dom right away, but it’s not because she’s worried how he’ll react. Remembering him, knowing him, is still wonderfully new, but this, this she remembers. This she could never have forgotten if she’d been away a hundred years instead of two. He talked about having kids before he ever talked about getting married. Always in some far off future, always when she was ready – he was good from the very beginning about acknowledging the age gap between them, years of practice as a big brother giving him a rare gift for understanding she had a journey of her own to complete – but she knew from the moment she switched out her baggy t-shirts and coveralls for midriff baring singlets and low rise pants what being a Toretto woman would involve. He stopped talking about it after his dad, after Lompoc, but watching him with Jack these last few years in LA has brought it all back.
She waits because she wants to know for sure how she feels.
Brian’s the one who said he missed the bullets, but they’re all of them in their own way adrenaline junkies. There might be half a dozen drivers in the world who could have had their car there on the cliff’s edge to catch Brian as he fell – less now that Han’s gone – and she isn’t sure she’s ready to give that up just yet. She loves what she can do with her body just as much as what she can do with a car. It wasn’t because Dom’s a better driver that she climbed the tankers in the DR; he could never have done the things she did. Running along the back of that truck, jumping from tank to tank, had been a bigger rush than anything she’d ever done. The thought of being still, anchored, heavy, is terrifying.
The thought of being a mother is even more so. Her own mother died when she was just a baby, and Mrs Toretto, the closest thing she’d had after, when she was ten. Mia’s her best friend, always has been, but she’d lost interest fast in the elaborate games of house they used to play, and abandoned their dolls to go watch Dom and his dad in the garage. She’s always been more comfortable being one of the guys, Mia notwithstanding. She doesn’t know how to be someone’s mom. Will she have to start wearing dresses? Baking cookies? She burns water when she tries to make pasta. Dom does all the cooking. That thought makes her laugh, throws her out of her panic. Dom can make the cookies. Hell, Dom can do the bathing and feeding and diaper changing too.
The day she has it confirmed by a doctor – she’s even further along than she thought; she doesn’t have long to make a decision – she phones the house in Gran Canaria, prays Mia rather than Brian will pick up. She does, but she’s obviously half asleep, yawning. Letty totally forgot the time difference.
“Dom?” Mia asks quietly.
“It’s me, girl,” Letty says. “Is Brian there?”
“He’s asleep,” Mia says, and she sounds worried. “Should I wake him? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Letty says, and it’s true, she realises, no matter what, as long as they’re all in it together. “Nothing’s wrong. I just wanted to hear your voice.”
Mia laughs. “It’s good to hear yours too. It would have been better in the morning.”
“I know.” Letty laughs too, ruefully. “I’m sorry. Just tell me… Are you happy there?”
“Of course!” Mia says quickly. “Are you sure nothing’s wrong?”
“I’m sure. And Brian? He’s happy too?”
“He is,” Mia says. “You know I worried about him, but he really is okay. He’s teaching himself carpentry so he can build his little princess the bedroom set she deserves.”
“Her room’s not pink, is it?” Letty demands. “Sounds like I better come out there and make sure Jack’s ready to share his cars.”
“You should,” Mia agrees, stifling a yawn. “Come out here, I mean. I know Dom said you’d come when the baby’s born, but I miss you. The house is great but I miss knowing you guys are in the room down the hall.”
“I just might do that,” Letty agrees. “Okay, Mia girl, get back to bed. Kiss Jack for me, and tell Brian he better have a pool table set up in that mansion of yours, I’m gonna kick his ass.”
“I will,” Mia says. “Love you both.”
“Love you too.”
In the end she doesn’t need to tell him. They’re making out on the couch, plans for the construction work on 1327 abandoned on the table in front of them. She’s sitting on his lap, legs folded over his, and Dom has his hands on her hips like he always does these days, holding her tight like she’ll vanish if he lets go. He strokes her hipbones with his thumbs, slides his hands up under her shirt, then freezes as his palms cup the slight swell of her belly. She knows it’s there, she’s been seeing it for days in the bathroom mirror. He hasn’t noticed though. Hadn’t. He looks up at her and she meets his eyes, doesn’t flinch.
“Yeah?” he says carefully, uncertainly.
“Yeah,” she says, laughing. “Yeah, Dom.”
His arms wrap around her waist, tight, and pull her close. She throws her own arms around his neck and holds him just as hard.
“Do you want this?” he whispers into her neck. “I know you feel like you only just got yourself back.”
“Yes,” she says, no hesitation. “I got me back, I got you back, and now we’ll have our baby too.”
“It’s all or nothing,” Dom says, still shaky. “I can’t lose you again. Especially not after this.”
She pulls back to look him in the eye. “And you? Are you okay with that?”
“Yes,” he says, and this time he’s certain. “I’ll never do to our kid what my father did to me.”
“Then let’s do it,” she says. “Ride or die.”
“No,” he says, and it has the weight of a vow. “No riding. No dying.”
It takes no time at all to pack up the little they have with them, mostly just clothes, and they fly out to Madrid the next week. Dom leaves a blank cheque for the construction company with a post-it note attached, EXACTLY AS IT WAS scrawled on it in marker. What’s the point in having ten million dollars if you can’t rebuild the things that matter?
She contemplates calling ahead as they wait for their connecting flight, but decides against it. It’s about time someone got a good surprise for once. It’s strange setting down in Gran Canaria for the first time, knowing that Dom and Mia and Brian all lived here without her, that Dom lived here with Elena. She’s never been jealous of her, just grateful for everything she did to help keep Dom alive and happy, but she doesn’t want to see the house they lived in together. Dom seems to know without her saying anything; he gives the taxi driver directions to Brian and Mia’s house and they head straight out from the airport, even though they could both do with some sleep before the inevitable excitement.
Brian’s looking back into the house even as he opens the front door, shouting, “Jack O’Conner, get down from there right now!”
His eyes bug out of his head when he turns around as she and Dom both crack up laughing, dropping from their faces to her rounded belly and back up again. She feels like she’s doubled in size the last week, and knows she looks it.
“Are you gonna let us in?” Dom asks, grinning like the cat that got the cream. “Can’t you see she needs to sit down?”
“What I see is you finally put a proper ring on it,” Brian says, reaching for cool with both hands, but missing by a mile as he stares at her left hand on the curve of her belly.
“You never married my sister at all, you asshole,” Dom counters, shoving past him and dragging Letty behind by her other hand, bags abandoned outside. “Mia!”
Mia appears, a sulking Jack perched awkwardly on one hip, her own huge belly sticking out in front of her. She bursts into tears immediately, and Letty blames the hormones for the fact that she’s welling up herself as she awkwardly tries to manoeuvre into a hug around the both of them. In the corner of her eye she can see Dom and Brian hugging too, slapping each other on the back and pretending to be manly and unaffected, then giving up and just holding on tight. She breathes in Jack’s talcum powder scent and knows everything’s going to be okay.
In the end the kids are born six weeks apart, Gisele Maria O’Conner and Nicolas Han Vincenzo Toretto, and they couldn’t be more trouble if they actually were twins.
Dom agrees to take Nicky along to Race Wars because he’ll never hear the end of it if he doesn’t. They already spend half their time fighting about how he should just admit Jack’s the son he wanted; he gave him the Charger and he should stop pretending to be interested in anything Nicky has to say. “And it’s Nick, by the way, stop treating me like a baby, Dad.”
It isn’t true, not a word of it. He loves his son more than anything in the world, more than life itself, but sixteen year olds know best, he remembers that well enough from being sixteen himself and angry at the world for taking his mom away, and giving his own dad hell, not dreaming for a moment how much worse things could get and how much he’d regret every moment he’d spent sulking rather than making the most of family while he had it.
Letty, bless her, suggests Brian go too, so that she and Mia and Gisele can have a girls’ weekend, and Brian agrees easily enough. It still amazes Dom how easily he took to being a father after all his uncertainty and doubt. He’s so good with all the kids, his laidback cool exactly what Nicky needs sometimes, when Dom’s temper flares and they can’t be in the same room without yelling. They’re too alike in all the ways that count, which makes it even funnier that Nicky can’t tell the difference between a cam shaft and a carburettor. Two parents who love cars, and he got his Aunt Mia’s book smarts instead.
He’d never shown a lick of interest in the Charger, and it’d honestly never occurred to Dom how badly he’d take it when he gave it to Jack as a twenty-first birthday present. Jack’d been the one who put in the wrench time though, spent nights and weekends in the garage with Dom rebuilding it for the fifth and hopefully final time, and if Nicky wants to drive it but not take care of it, that’s not good enough. Their grandfather would want a real mechanic to have it, and that’s why Jack’s going to inherit the garage as well, because he’s spent every waking moment down there, apprenticing at Dom’s knee, and that’s the way life goes, no favouritism about it.
Nicky refuses to drive with him, getting in the Charger with Jack instead. His resentment is utterly reserved for Dom, hasn’t spilled over to his cousin at all, who he idolises just as much now as he did when he was a toddler. So he’s sitting in the passenger seat of Brian’s latest baby, antsy as always when he’s being driven, and finally he slaps his hand on the dash and demands, “Spill it, O’Conner. How did I wind up with a buster for a son?”
Brian laughs so hard he has to let up on the gas and steer with his knees as he dashes tears from his eyes. “I don’t know, man,” he gasps at last. “Karma, I guess. All those times you told Jack that imports were no good and I just didn’t have the stones for American muscle?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Dom says moodily. “Just you wait till Gisele brings home some asshole stockbroker and then we’ll see about karma.”
“That’s not funny, man!” Brian snaps. “That’s not funny at all.”
“Oh, I think it is,” Dom says, good humour restored.
“Like you won’t be right there with me, threatening to break the guy’s neck,” Brian says savagely.
“Amen, brother,” Dom agrees, because he can’t deny it, even to get a rise out of Brian. “Guy won’t know what hit him.”
Jack cleans up the competition, as expected, bringing in 20K and the pink slip to a garishly painted Subaru Dom wants to junk on sight but Brian will probably insist has potential. The big surprise comes when Nicky pulls up to the start line in Brian’s Nissan, and when Dom shoots him a look of betrayal Brian just smirks, and pleads uncle/nephew privilege. Dom can’t argue with that. It’s close, really close, but Nicky just manages to pull it out in time, crossing the finish line a fraction of a second before his opponent. The prize money’s only two thousand, junior division, but Nicky’s incandescent when he gets out of the car. He slaps Brian’s hand as he passes him, but his eyes are on Dom, and Dom grabs him, hard, and hugs him tight.
“Good job, Nick,” he whispers in his boy’s ear, and Nicky hides his face in his neck like he hasn’t in years, and hugs him back.
The proudest moment of Mia’s life is watching Gisele walk across the stage at her graduation, blue uniform pressed and starched, blonde hair neatly pinned at the nape of her neck, eyes shining. Brian could be made of granite where he’s sitting at her side, fingers clenching hers almost painfully, but he finally breathes out, relaxes, when the silver shield is pinned to Gisele’s shoulder and the police chief shakes her hand, pronouncing solemnly, “Congratulations, Officer O’Conner.” Gisele winks at them both as she turns to go back to her seat, and Jack, to Mia’s other side, whistles and cheers.
The champagne luncheon afterwards is excruciating, but Gisele is so excited as she drags them round introducing them to her friends and classmates that Mia smiles and makes small talk with the mothers, keeps a hand on Brian’s back as he shakes hands with the fathers, and kisses him hard in the corridor when he breaks and flees the heat and clamour of the reception room.
“Do you miss it?” she asks while he gets his breath back, wipes furtively at his eyes.
“No!” he says fiercely.
“You haven’t lied to me in twenty years, Brian,” she says sternly. “Don’t start now.”
He shrugs and looks back into the sea of blue uniforms. “Maybe a little,” he sighs. “But I don’t regret anything.”
“Okay,” she says, taking him at his word. She’s known him too long now, loved him too long, to do otherwise. “Let’s get out of here, go for a drive.”
They head up the PCH and out of town, driving just to drive, Brian’s jacket and tie tossed into the back seat, her own shoes kicked off and toes flexing, getting comfortable. They don’t talk. They don’t need to. Brian focuses on the road, and she looks out the window, watching the miles whip by, and thinks about everything that brought them here.
Brian had been dead set against Gisele applying to the academy, breaking out his rarely used paternal authority and expressly forbidding it. That had only made Gisele more determined, which he really should have known, her combined Toretto-O’Conner stubbornness more than a match for his. It was the first time Mia ever saw him shout at her, yelling about safety and responsibility and unacceptable risks, and didn’t she want to go to college like Nicky, she had perfect grades, she could go anywhere, do anything she wanted, law, medicine, whatever.
“This is what I want, Daddy,” she’d said quietly, locking eyes with him, her own the exact same icy blue as his. “You wanted it too once, can’t you understand?”
He’d stormed out of the house at that, gone to hide in the garage, and Gisele had turned pleading eyes on Mia. “I’ll talk to him,” she’d sighed, and followed.
He was sneaking a furtive smoke from the pack he kept hidden in the toolbox and thought she didn’t know about.
“Brian,” she said gently, closing her own hand over his empty one.
“They won’t take her, Mia!” he said, anguished. “Am I the only one that sees that? They’ll roundfile her application the second they see her name. There won’t be enough room on the page for known criminal associates.”
“Dom’s never put a foot wrong since the pardon,” Mia said, wondering that she hadn’t thought of it herself.
“Not Dom, Mia,” Brian said, leaning into her and whispering hoarsely in her ear. “Me. I turned my back on everything they stand for. Twice.”
He’d come back into the house though, and phoned John Tanner, who’s captain of a precinct now, swallowed his pride and asked for advice. Tanner’d always had a soft spot for him, had been good to Mia too, in the months immediately following the original crack up, when Dom was in Mexico and Brian in Miami, and he’d promised to do what he could. Recommendations from Hobbs at DSS, and Elena Neves who’d wound up at the Bureau, had done the rest.
They head back to town an hour or so later, and Brian’s smiling when they take the exit for Echo Park. “I guess we just have to hope she doesn’t go undercover with a gang of charming jewel thieves,” he jokes.
Mia laughs, and pats his hand on the gearstick. “She’s a daddy’s girl, Brian,” she says, “but she did get some common sense from me.”
By the time they pull into the drive at 1327 the party’s in full swing. Dom’s holding court at the grill, showing Nico, who’s in the States for the summer, how Americans do it. Nico looks nothing like Vince, his hair and colouring all Rosa, but he has the phoenix tattoo on his arm, Vince’s silver rings on his fingers, and there’s something in the set of his jaw as he takes a drink of his beer that’s definitely his dad’s.
Rome and Tej are sitting on the rebuilt back steps, just as weather beaten now as the old ones, calling out instructions as other people work, just like always, and bitching about how the Terror Twins turned out so square, Nicky a med student – Dom got his doctor in the family at last, and he couldn’t be prouder if he tried – and Gisele a cop, for the love of God. Letty cuffs them both round the side of the head, one hand each, and calls everyone to the table.
Gisele, still in her uniform, though her collar’s open and her sleeves rolled up, sits in the place of honour, Dom’s old spot at the head of the table. Jack sits at the foot, and everyone else piles in as and where they can. There’s a momentary silence as everyone waits for someone else to make a move, the rules well known to all by now. Jack dives for a bread roll, takes a huge bite, then stands up unprompted.
Mia holds Brian’s hand tight, under the table, and they both turn to watch their son, the new head of the family, say grace.
“I want to toast my beautiful sister,” he starts, raising his beer, and everyone charges their own glasses, “Officer Gisele Maria Toretto O’Conner, may she have a longer and more distinguished career than our dad.”
The laughter at that is raucous, Rome catcalling, Dom winking, but Brian just leans in and kisses Mia’s cheek, all his doubts behind him.
“And also to absent friends. To Aunt Gisele who died saving our mom’s life, and to Uncle Vince and Uncle Han, and to everyone we’ve lost along the way.”
There’s a chorus of agreement and the clinking of glasses, and Mia knows she could never have been happier than this. All the long and painful roads they took brought them here, and like Brian, she wouldn’t do anything differently.
“And to us,” Jack concludes, “every one of us. Salute, la mia famiglia.”