It wasn't love at first sight. It was love at first drive.
Han had already seen women race, but watching Gisele trying to beat the chronometer in the factory training circuit for their heist was definitely something else.
They were supposed to stay low key, but they had to eat – something more consistent than the snacks Han ate all day long and anything would be better than what Leo and Santos tried to cook. Being on food take out duty was the official reason for Gisele to tag along every morning and every evening. She didn't speak much. She didn't need to because Hand had figured out enough by watching her: former Mossad agent, bike rider and car expert. There was just one thing he really wanted to know.
"You want to race me?" she repeated without hiding her amusement as she glanced over her shoulder. She shook her head and kept checking the engine of the car Dom had brought back for her the night before. Sitting in a worn-out sofa, Han admired the view as she moved around her new toy.
Mia and Brian had called it a night already, Leo, Santos, Roman and Tej had left to hit the club while Dom had run off some place he had kept to himself. There might have been more interesting things to do while they had some private time for once.
"Give me a good reason to say yes," she demanded with a smirk.
"The satisfaction to prove your point about how women do everything ten times better than men?"
She laughed and closed the hood before turning around, giving Han a chance to let his eyes travel up her body until their gazes locked. "First to Ipanema Beach?"
That night, he won the race. Easily. Maybe too easily, he thought when she arrived at their meeting spot 18 seconds after him.
"Took you long enough," he commented, leaning against his car as she was walking up to him.
She smiled. "You won. So what do we do now?"
Han glanced away. Somehow the answer seemed to hold a meaning that could change everything. There would be no turning back. And it had to be her choice too. "Anything you want."
She kissed him.
There was no such thing as forever. Han knew it but had tricked himself into thinking that this could last. So what was he doing now? His bank account was full and his heart was empty.
There was no nightmare, no dreams about her, not even tears. It was like nothing made sense anymore, nothing was important. Yet, chilling on the veranda of a one-story villa overlooking a beach of Sint Marteen could have been the perfect life before he met Gisele. It would have been enough.
The sea seemed even silver under the bright sun. The wind carried in the sound of the waves from time to time. It was beautiful. And he hated it. Still, he snapped a picture and sent it to Mia to do his morning check in. She had promised to call every day if he didn't let them know one way or another he was alive.
That was what family did. They cared for you, they worried about you and made sure you were okay even though they knew you weren't. His second day on the island, he had contacted Dom to ask him to talk to Mia about it. If anyone knew what it was to lose someone you loved and the need to remain alone, it was Dom. There was no way Han would go through another one-minute phone call Mia filled with anecdotes about Brian and their son.
"She's not ready yet," Dom had simply said.
"Ready for what?"
"Ready to say goodbye. Just send her a picture once in a while and I'll make sure she gives you some space."
Instead of popcorn, Han could still count on a bag of peanuts while listening to Roman and Brian's banter over their next move. Tej and Dom were splitting the money they had just stolen from the biggest drug dealer of Rio. There were only a few hours left before they would all go their separate ways and probably never see each other again. At least not under such circumstances.
"What's your plan?" Gisele asked him, sitting next to him on the worn-out sofa.
"I don't know. Europe, maybe?"
"I love Paris at this time of the year."
Han looked at her. "I've never been to Paris."
"Are we flying first class?" She smiled, not that seductive way he was sure most of men couldn't resist to. It was a genuine smile that lit up her eyes.
The casino was crowded. Han had been there three nights in a row. Someone made sure his glass was always filled and that he had a wannabe Rihanna by each side. Luck wasn't with him tonight. 50,000$ was his limit. So at 2 AM, Han was out. His rental BMW wasn't fast enough as he sped down the road longing the coast with a girl playing with his hair and caressing his neck.
"It's getting chilly," she slightly whined, although her voice full of promises as he leaned against the hood of the car and stared at the ocean.
It was a night of full moon. The waves came crashing on the shore. Han let out an impatient sigh as he avoided her kiss. He didn't remember her name, wasn't even sure he had actually asked. She sucked on his neck as she unbuttoned his shirt. The way she moaned, pressing herself against him, everything felt unfamiliar. Han stopped her hands when she touched his belt.
"Not here," he said. "Let's go back to my place."
She grinned and quickly got back into the car. Han snapped a picture of the ocean, sent it to Mia and drove off. The thrill was gone.
Gisele took the lead. It turned out she was full of resources because there was already a set of new clothes waiting for them when they put down their bags in the hotel suite with a view on the Eiffel tower. Han couldn't not notice there was only one bed. That pretty much settled everything.
"So which restaurant are we..." Han forgot about the question as Gisele walked in from the bathroom, wearing a red gown that emphasized her slim figure. "Wow."
"That's what I was going for," she said. She unbuttoned the first button of his white shirt and smoothed out his black jacket. "You look good too."
"Just so you know, I don't put out on the first date."
"I like challenges."
If it weren't for the Tupperwares full of food prepared by the housekeeper Mia had hired, Han wouldn't have bothered to go out for food. After two weeks on the island, he had settled on what Mia called a vampire routine. Sleeping during the day – except on Mondays which was the housekeeper's day – and going for a ride at night until dawn. Now that he had explored the island, maybe it was time to move to another location.
A black and white Supra that had been behind him for five minutes flashed its lights. They reached a portion of this countryside road large enough for the other car to move to the opposite lane. There would probably be no car coming their way at three in the morning, but he did slow down when he spotted a young woman in the driver seat. She smiled and passed in front of him, forcing him to slow down even more for a few seconds until he moved to the opposite lane. This was when she started speeding again, so Han followed her. They drove for nearly an hour on the countryside narrow roads before she pulled over once they reached the top of a hill overlooking a creek he didn't know. The woman turned off the engine but only got off her car once he was out of his.
"So is this your thing? Following strangers around late at night?" she stated. Despite her French accent, English seemed to be her first language.
"Only the pretty ones," he replied. The lights of their cars were enough for him to notice her curvy body emphasized by her tank top and capri pants as she walked up to him. "Really pretty."
She smirked, looking straight into his eyes. "So I should feel flattered?"
"I know beauty when I see it." He smiled and nodded at her car. "And that one is a true beauty."
She chuckled as she quickly wrapped her long braids into a high ponytail, her bracelets quietly clinging with her movements. "So should I feel insulted now?"
"The car is just the perfect match with its owner."
"I guess it is," she agreed, her gaze meeting his after looking him up and down. "Probably not what you're used to, though."
"I have an eclectic taste."
"I wasn't talking about the car."
"Me neither," he replied after a short hesitation, unable to push back the image of Gisele in a corner of his mind.
"That's good to know... So, do you have plans for tonight?"
"You mean for the two hours we have until dawn?"
She grinned. "Yeah. And maybe a couple of hours after dawn too."
"So why did you quit smoking?" Gisele asked, sitting at the edge of the two-sink bathroom cabinet and eating an apple.
"Because I felt like it," Han lightly replied, going out of the shower and wrapping a towel around his hips.
She rolled her eyes but couldn't help a little smile as he came to stand between her legs. "I bet it was for a woman," she tried to guess.
"Do you really want to bet on that?" He gently pulled down one thin strap of her summer dress. "You might lose."
"I'm pretty sure it was for a woman."
"What would you do if it's not?" he whispered, pulling down the other strap. She pulled him in for a kiss that let them both breathless. "You won," he admitted and leaned again, but she laughed, slightly pushing him out of her way.
"Save it for later. We have a job to do, remember?"
More like she had a job to do. Once in a while, Gisele would accept to do some "consulting" for rich clients who wanted her expertise to test their home security system or deliver packages they didn't want to send by mail. Han was merely making sure she stayed safe if she needed to be on the field. They didn't do it for the money, although getting to stay in fancy hotels for free was always nice. It was for the thrill.
"You're a tease," he sighed as he readjusted the towel around his hips. Slightly bent over, he dried his hair with a towel and let out a small "hey" of protest at the light squeeze she gave to his butt.
"I'm not the only one," she replied with a smirk and made sure he was checking her out as she left the bathroom.
"You don't look like a tourist," the woman said once Han snapped a picture of the rising sun they watched together in his car. He didn't even know her name and she hadn't asked for his. Her presence didn't feel like an intrusion, though. It had been a while since he had been around someone that didn't make him want to run away.
"And what do I look like?" he asked, putting back down his cell phone in his drink holder.
Something in her gaze changed. It was the same painful look Mia gave him when he left Los Angeles. Han looked away.
"Someone who could use some fun," she said with a smile and got off his car.
"That's it? You're going to leave just like that?"
"I never said you couldn't follow me."
The books lying around the main room made her two-room apartment looked smaller.
"So what does an American guy like you usually have for breakfast?" she asked from the kitchen as she looked into her refrigerator.
"Anything you have."
She glanced over her shoulder. "You're not complicated."
"I'm not that hungry." The cat on the sofa hissed but moved away to let him sit down. "Coffee is fine."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah," he said as he put back down a math book on the coffee table. "So, what kind of job do you do?"
"Oh, so we're going for personal questions now, aren't we?"
"I'm already in your home, so..."
Once the coffee machine was up and running, she moved the cat to sit by his side. "I'm a teacher."
"Technically, I will start in fall. I just got my master's degree."
"And I assume you were majoring in mathematics."
Han let out a low whistle. "If I had a teacher who rides like you do, I..." He paused at her amused expression. "Wait, that kind of came out wrong. I didn't mean it like..."
"You really didn't mean it like that?"
The answer was pretty clear as he let her straddle him.
Macau was his choice. What was supposed to be just a week-stay for a race turned out into full vacation. Gisele enjoyed walking around the old town, taking in the mix of Western and Eastern architecture. Sometimes, Han came along and listened to her tourist guide rambling over small details he had never heard of and didn't really care about. After two months, she showed the first signs she was ready to move. Although she didn't say anything, she had lost her appetite and looked more exhausted. Maybe it was time to go.
"How about Singapore?" Han suggested, eyes on his laptop as Gisele walked into their hotel suite. She tossed her purse on the table as she made her way to the bed. "Dom said he might come down and visit." She sighed as she sat on the bed, closing his laptop. "No? So somewhere in Europe, then?"
"I have to go back to Israel."
"Because...?" She looked away but didn't answer. "Okay. So when are we leaving?"
"Right now. But I'm going alone."
There were dozens of questions running through his mind as she stuffed tank tops and jeans in a duffel bag. Han forced her to look at him.
"What's going on?"
"You know I can't tell you." She stepped aside, but he blocked her path again. "Don't make me hurt you, so move."
"Can I at least know when you're coming back?" Her silence was enough of an answer. Han hugged her. "I'll be waiting, so you better be coming back."
Yet, the passionate kiss they shared felt like a goodbye.
Han woke up to a sweet smell. No headache, no dizziness. It took him a few seconds to figure out where he was. Heavy curtains barely let in the sunlight. His cell phone rang. It took him a few seconds to find it on the floor.
"Hey Mia! What's up?" he quietly said.
"Is there something wrong?"
"No..." He cleared his throat and sat back down on the bed. "I'm fine. What about you? How's the baby?"
"Everyone's doing great. We—"
He cut her off as the door slowly opened. "Look, can I call back you later? I was in the middle of doing something, so..."
"Are you sure you're okay?"
"Yes! I will send you a picture later today. Bye." He hung up and looked at the woman carrying a breakfast tray to the bed. "That was..."
"Hey no question asked," she said and rolled up the blind stores, letting in the afternoon sunlight. Her white short tunic seemed even brighter. "Do you like banana bread?"
"I don't think I've ever eaten this before?"
"Well, today is your lucky day." She motioned him to sit down on the bed with her, seemly oblivious to the fact that he was still naked. "Careful. It's still hot because I just took it out from the oven... It's really good," she insisted, forcing him to take the plate she was handing him.
"It is," he agreed after the first bite, although he wasn't sure if it was the bread or the gesture that gave him a warm feeling.
"By the way, I'm Sabrina."
"Nice to meet you."
He returned her grin as they shook hands.
Two months passed before Han received an email with a phone number and an address in Hong Kong. So he took the next flight. Gisele looked exhausted and her body had a couple of new scars he didn't ask her about. She was alive and that was all that mattered.
Sabrina never seemed to run out of energy. Even when they just chilled at her place. Sometimes, when Han woke up in the middle of the night, she would be reading in the living room or cooking one of her secret recipes for tomorrow morning. She never asked questions about his life but never denied him a college anecdote or descriptions of the Caribbean islands she had visited.
There was a guy in most of her pictures taken in the past two years, but she didn't bring him up, so Han did the same. One night, though, the picture of the same man appeared on the screen of her ringing phone while she was taking a shower. Han ignored it the first time, but the man called again.
"Hey Sabrina, there's a Simon calling you," he said after a light knock on the bathroom door.
She snatched the phone from him but let the call go to voicemail again. "That was..."
"No question asked."
"Wait," she said. The towel she kept around her body fell to the floor as she lightly grabbed his arm before he could walk away. "Stay."
Things weren't the same. When Gisele managed to fall asleep, she had nightmares she refused to talk about. As days went by, Han played tourists with her to get her mind off whatever happened during these two months. It didn't work, though. The fire in her eyes was gone.
Han woke up to an empty bed. His first movement of panic turned into a sigh of relief when he spotted Gisele leaning against the window wall, contemplating the sea of building lights at their feet. He held her from behind and a little bit tighter when she relaxed against him.
"We don't have to stay in Hong Kong, you know?" he said after a kiss on her bare shoulder.
"And where would we go?"
"Anywhere. Just name the place."
Gisele remained silent. Maybe Hong Kong wasn't the answer. Maybe this life wasn't the answer, Han thought as he switched lanes to keep up with her as they maneuvered their bikes through the flow of cars and trucks.
Their date ended with a dinner in a street restaurant. He had seen her dealing with rich businessmen in fancier set-ups, but this was the real Gisele who sat in front of him with her noodles ordered in fluent Cantonese.
"Have you ever thought about settling down? Starting a life together?" he asked as she slightly smiled, leaning back in her chair and playing with her chopsticks.
"Aren't we doing that?"
Her answer was left unsaid as they were surrounded by cops. Without putting down his gun, he picked up the call on the cell phone an officer had tossed him. Time for another mission.
This couldn't last forever. Han knew it was over as soon as she showed up unannounced at his villa, although she had always refused to stop by in the four weeks they had spent together.
"Nice place," she quietly said as she walked around the living room. "I thought you were rich, but not that rich."
"A friend hooked me up," he half-lied. He was definitely richer than what she could ever imagined. "But my time's here is almost up."
"Yeah... I think I should."
She hesitated as if she wanted to say something but decided against it. "So you're going back to the States?"
"Sunday," he decided on the spot.
"So we still have four days left."
She motioned him to come closer.
Except for that two-month interlude, they had been together nearly 24/7 for more than a year now and Han couldn't see his life any other way. If they pulled off this last mission, they'd get a clean record and could really settle down.
"Look, either you sit your ass down or you take your ass to bed," Tej said, glancing over his shoulder.
"I'm just standing there doing nothing," Han protested.
"Exactly. Making me nervous and shit. I can't work with a shadow lurking around."
Han smiled and sat on the stool next to Tej. "So what are you working on?"
"You'll see," he replied, checking his tablet, then the micro-chip under the magnifying lamp. "By the way..."
Han took the tablet Tej handed him. There were several designs for a wedding ring.
"Are you proposing to me?" Han smiled at Tej's annoyed glance. "What do you want me to do with this, though?"
"Well, shit, let me know when you figure it out," Tej mocked him. "I'll make you a discount because you're family."
"Why not doing it for free?"
"Dom got the best man spot secured. Am I number one to be the godfather of your first child?" Han really had no comeback for once. Tej shook his head. "Thought so. Discount it is."
"We're not getting married."
"Yet. But just so you know, I got your back for the ring."
Han looked at the designs. No one said he'd have to make a decision tomorrow. Somehow, it still felt that everything was already set because it was just right.
Goodbye wasn't Han's forte, but Sabrina had insisted to take him to the airport. They barely spoke, just exchanged awkward smiles once in a while. At the first call for his flight, he picked up his bag.
"So this is it," she said, facing him. She held out her hand. "It was nice meeting you, Han."
"Take care, Sabrina." He lightly squeezed her hand but didn't let go. He should have thanked her, let her know how much she had helped him.
She smiled and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "You're welcome."
He let her go and never looked back.
Spain. This was where everything ended instead of being their new beginning. It just wasn't the ending anyone of them expected. They no longer had to run, but Han no longer had a reason to stop because Gisele was gone.
Dom was planning to open back the garage. Brian had already met a couple of potential partners to open his own racing circuit. Tej was back in Miami and Roman back to his women world tour. Life went on. Han just had to figure out what his would be now.
"You're from L.A, right?" Letty asked as she joined him on the steps leading to the Toretto's house. They had worked together in Dominican Republic but never really got the opportunity to talk to each other.
The sun was setting down, the streets were quiet. This Kodak scenery held another truth, memories and secrets he had left behind years ago. This was no longer home.
"Listen, I never got the chance to say that I was sor—"
"It wasn't your fault," he cut her off.
"It wasn't yours either."
They looked at each other. Han didn't blame Letty. If it hadn't been for this mission, it might have been for another one. They were who they were. It was about making choices and never looking back.
"You do what you gotta do, man," Letty sighed and went back inside.
Tokyo seemed even more alive at night. Leaning against the rooftop railing of the building he had purchased in the morning, Han closed his eyes. He took a deep breath as he listened to the city sounds.
It was time to settle down.