Thanksgiving in another country was weird. Brian wasn't entirely sure why they'd decided to celebrate it at all; it probably had something to do with the sad look on Mia's face, a look both he and Dom were complete pussies for.
They weren't able to find a turkey, at least not one that didn't need more work than either of them were willing to put into it, so they made a chicken instead. The mashed potatoes and yams were pretty easy to come by, but no one had a pumpkin at the market, so they got a squash instead.
Mia's face transformed when she walked into their little sublet, and it was worth all the trouble of going online at the internet cafe just to figure out how to cook everything.
"Thank you," she said, curled under blankets on the threadbare couch after dinner. "I really--we needed that. Thank you."
Brian squeezed her hand, and left her watching a dubbed episode of The Simpsons to help Dom with the dishes.
He picked up the towel and started to dry; Dom was humming something soft and pretty.
"You know, our mama used to make tamales for Thanksgiving," Dom said, handing Brian a cheap plastic plate.
"Oh yeah?" Brian said.
"She would only make 'em once a year, on Thanksgiving morning, because she said they were too much trouble," Dom continued. "She was a nurse, didn't have a lot of time for cooking. She'd make like a hundred, freeze a bunch of them for later in the year so we'd still have some. We'd all line up in the kitchen, helping put everything together."
Brian swiped at an errant soap bubble and put the plate on the counter. "Were they good?"
A hint of a smile crested Dom's face. "They were the best tamales in the neighborhood. Letty and Vince would start showing up the next morning, looking all hungry like their parents hadn't just stuffed them full of food, begging for a Mama Toretto tamale. She'd make 'em work for it, get them to promise to help with the yard and stuff, but she was just teasing."
Brian watched the line of Dom's shoulders, hanging comfortably, no stress. He knew all the signs of it in Dom by now. He took a breath and said, "I would have liked to meet her."
Dom turned to him and smiled. "She would have made you work for her tamales, too."
Brian smiled back. "I would've raked all the leaves, man. Bagged 'em, even."
Dom laughed, a low rumble in the small room.
They fell silent again, and Brian finished wiping down the last of the dishes as Dom drained the sink and swept at the water on the counter with a towel. Dom turned, crossing his arms, crossing his feet at the ankle; he was wearing boots, like he was still waiting to run, even though they'd had clean cover in Guatemala City for six weeks now and were planning on moving south in another two.
"She made gnocchi on Christmas," Dom said. "She liked Dad's Italian-American side, picked up all these recipes from Grandma Toretto before she died. She said we were Mexican on Thanksgiving, and Italian on Christmas, and American every day of the year."
Brian huffed out a laugh, tucking his towel into the oven handle and wiping his hands on his jeans. "Your mom had a sense of humor."
"Yeah, she did," Dom said, and he didn't sound sad, just reflective. "You know she put herself through school, didn't let Dad pay for a dime of it. Said she wanted to do it herself to prove that she could."
"So you get stubborn from both sides," Brian said lightly, pleased to win another smile out of Dom. They were in pretty short supply these days.
"They couldn't agree on how to get married for eight months," Dom said. "They both wanted to have the ceremony in their families' churches, and neither would give in. Finally the churches got so tired of the argument that they agreed to have one of the priests from Mama's church do the wedding at Dad's church, and told them that it was that way or the highway."
Brian raised an eyebrow. "Your parents got told how they were going to get married by the priests?"
"And a nun," Dom said. "For some reason there was a nun there too."
Brian laughed, and so did Dom, but quietly; they could hear Mia's soft snores from the front room.
They sat down at the small table, four long legs carefully splayed beneath the formica. Dom's eyes fell to the corner of the table, where a photo of them--all of them, taken at Race Wars years ago, right before everything had irrevocably changed--had fallen out of the files they were using to plan their next leg.
"Ever since my mother died, I've known there's only forward, no going back," Dom said, and Brian's breath caught in his chest like it always did when Dom spoke to him like his friend, his confidant. His equal. Dom's respect meant so much to him, too much. It always had.
"When my dad died, when my dumb ass landed in jail for the stupidest thing I've ever done in my damn life, I learned that lesson again, and I learned it hard." Dom looked up, met Brian's eyes. "I thought I knew it, but then I lost Letty, and I went through it all over again."
Dom's hand crept over the table and took Brian's own, gripping it tightly, gaze never wavering. "I don't want to learn it again," he said softly, with steel underneath. "Please don't make me learn it again."
Brian's free hand fumbled up to cover Dom's. "You won't, Dom," he said, hushed and fierce. "You won't. I won't let it happen again, I promise."
Dom searched Brian's face. "You can't promise that," he said, something harsh in his voice. "No one can."
"We'll promise it for each other," Brian said, full of conviction. "We're here. We've got Mia, we've got each other, and we're going to keep going forward. Together."
Dom let out a breath that was sharp and loud, covered by the laugh track crackling from the television. They sat there, in the light from the living room, until he'd calmed, and Brian never let go of his hand.