Brian stirred around in bed, talking unintelligibly but forcefully in his sleep. Mia shook him until he woke up, and they laid next to each other for a minute in the dark before Mia said “You okay, baby?”
Brian didn’t scream or yell, and he didn’t say Okay, how could I possibly be okay. He just started in with that tight control of his, saying “You know, I’m just not sure Dom wants me here.”
“Now why would you say that?’
“This is your house. Your house and his house. Not my house.”
“But it is your house too, now.”
“Everywhere I look, there are ghosts of the damage I caused. I look out at the driveway and see Jesse lying there. Every time I sit down at the table, I see Vince lying out on that table in Brazil. Every time I close my eyes, Gisele is falling off the bridge. And I can’t even look at Letty.”
Mia knew that anything she said wouldn’t put a dent in the noise in Brian’s head, so she didn’t try. Instead, she curled up around him, tucking his head into her chest and resting her chin on top of his head. While they were working on getting the house put back together, she and Brian and Jack were in Jesse’s old room, with the crib in the corner near their double bed. We have got to get some real furniture in here, she thought, as she scratched the top of Brian’s head and made soothing noises until he drifted back off to sleep.
“You know, maybe Jack and me and Mia should get out own place.”
The next morning, Dom was wrenching on something on the Charger out in the garage. Brian wasn’t sure that anything needed to actually be done to the Charger, but he was equally sure that Dom was bored. Retirement had sounded grand, and Brian loved being a stay at home dad, but… it was awfully quiet.
Brian had Jack in something called a moby wrap, wearing the baby on his front (babies, it turned out, were complicated, and it’d been a learning experience for all of them). Dom looked over at the two of them and smiled, despite what Brian was in the middle of saying – Dom loved seeing Brian and Jack together. My brother and my nephew, and damn, did I ever think I was going to be saying that.
“Now, why would you say that?”
“I just don’t feel like I belong here.” Brian took a deep shuddering breath and Dom could see it all just waiting to spill out of him. “I’m having nightmares, Dom. They replay the same scenes over and over. Jesse getting shot, Letty’s funeral…” Dom could see tears in Brian’s eyes, something that Dom hadn’t thought he’d ever see, and suddenly Dom realized just how bad Brian had gotten. Damn him. He never stopped being that undercover cop, covering up everything. No wonder he’s been wound tighter than tight lately.
“What does Mia say about it?” Mia and Letty were out at the Social Security Administration, again; it turned out that bringing someone back from the dead was a lot of work, even with Hobbs making things as easy as he could. Letty hadn’t wanted to bother (“What do I need a driver’s license for, are you kidding me?”) but Mia had insisted (“We don’t know what Jack is going to want to do in the future, which means that we all have to be clean. For that matter, we all need to be clean for us. These pardons are not get-out-of-jail-free forever cards.”) Getting Letty legally resurrected was taking a lot of time, paperwork, and sitting in government offices – chores that everyone in the family but Mia were allergic to.
Brian was saved from answering by the police cruiser that slowly pulled up to the house and the two uniformed officers that got out. A solidly built male and female pair strode authoritatively up the driveway. “Brian O’Conner?”
“Yes, officers?” Brian’s voice took on that ultra-polite tone that meant that he was barely holding on to his temper.
“We’d like to have you come down to the station with us for a little chat.”
Dom sighed. This was the second time in the month they’d been home. “What is it now, some blonde knocked over a liquor store? He was home the entire night last night, folks. We ate some dinner, watched a movie, played with my nephew here, and all of us were tucked up into bed early.”
The man swiveled his head towards Dom; with the mirrored sunglasses, Dom couldn’t see the dude’s eyes. “That’s nice, Torreto. This is between us and O’Conner here, though.”
Brian was already shrugging out of the moby wrap, carefully hanging onto Jack and handing him off to Dom. “Here, take Jack, please. I fed him his mid-morning bottle, so he’s due in about an hour. I’ll call you when I’m done?”
“Didn’t Mia have a lawyer friend for us to talk to?” Mia had been talking about filing a harassment suit against the city after the first time this had happened, but Brian had been reluctant to do it – for all that he was a smartass, he also didn’t particularly like trouble. You didn’t survive undercover by making waves, and Brian had been a cop for a long time before he’d been on the run. Also, a harassment suit wouldn’t do any good about the other folks keeping an eye on them – it turned out that the LAPD and local federal offices were slowly cleaning house, based on what Braga had told Brian about the government being infiltrated at the top levels. This had resulted in dark cars with tinted windows cruising by the house at odd hours. Never mind all the folks that Brian had legit put in jail or prison when he’d still been a cop… Dom didn’t like it, but damned if he was going to be run out of his own home now that he was back home. They’d quietly installed a top of the line security system their second night in the house, though, and Dom didn’t even want to think about what it was going to be like when Jack went to school.
“She did, but for the moment…” Hobbs had warned them that this might happen in the phones calls he’d made a habit of since they’d gotten back into town. Once a week or so, he’d call Dom or Brian to check in and see how things were going. Hobbs had said “You’re pardoned and free and citizens again, but I can’t do anything about anyone who might have bad feelings towards you out here. You guys be careful, okay?” If Dom didn’t know better, he’d think Hobbs actually cared and wasn’t just protecting assets.
Dom watched them put Brian into the back of the cruises – no cuffs this time, at least – and something wrenched around in his belly. Old Dominic might have grabbed a wrench and might have threatened to bust around the cops a bit, griped about harassment and trespassing and called 911 on the cops themselves. New Dom knew that all of those actions were a bad idea. Logically, he knew that the best way to protect his family was to get the moby wrap on and snuggle Jack into his chest and wait for Brian’s phone call, but he didn’t have to like it.
“Brian, did you ever hear that expression ‘Blood is thicker than water’?”
Brian flew another spoon full of soup into Jack’s mouth and side-eyed Dom. “Well, yea, duh. Everyone has.”
Dom split his “I’ve got one on you, buster” grin and took a swallow of his beer. “Do you know the full expression? Without Google,” he added, as Brian started to paw his jeans pocket for his iPhone.
(Setting up the cell phone accounts had been a pain in the ass. When someone who was dead, someone who’d been on the lam for several years, and someone who was a cop who had jumped sides and then gone on the lam for a few years set up housekeeping together, things got messy, pardons or not. Luckily, Mia – the smart one – had maintained her credit while they’d been gone, setting up a couple of unused recurring services like Netflix on autopay and then autopaying the credit card bill from a U.S. checking account that she’d somehow managed to route money into from one of their untouchable overseas accounts – it got messy. Mia had tried to explain the whole thing when they’d first gotten home, along with how she’d paid the property taxes and maintained the title on the house, but it’d gone right over Dom’s head. He had handed over management of his money to her the next day.)
“No, Dom, I don’t.” Brian was also clearly wondering where this had come from, in the middle of an otherwise peaceful Friday night family dinner. When Dom had picked up Brian from the station, Brian had been tired and pale. (“What’d they say?” “Not much. String of convenience store hits. Guy’s pale and lanky and blonde, they’ve got crappy surveillance camera footage. They let me sit in a holding cell for awhile, then blustered at me for awhile, then turned me loose, with the normal cautions about not even picking up a speeding ticket in this town.”) Dom hadn’t said anything else after that, but pointed the car towards their favorite Italian restaurant to pick up a huge takeout order; he certainly hadn’t felt like cooking, and neither had the girls after wrangling with Social Security all day. Dom couldn't fix a lot of the other current crap in their lives, but he could make sure everyone was eating.
“The full expression is ‘The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.’ The most important family is the family we choose. You chose us, and I chose you, and we chose you. I’m going to say this for the last time. You’re family. Hell, I voluntarily entered a police station this afternoon to pick up your sorry ass. Stop mooning around and not worrying about belonging here. You do. You didn't do anything to anyone. We all made our choices - and one of our choices is that you're here, now, with us. Got that?”
Brian swallowed hard and seemed to relax just a bit. “Yes, sir.”
“Now eat your dinner, it’s getting cold.”