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The very first time Brian O’Connor finally felt alive was when Dominic Toretto told him subtly that he loved Brian too. They were on the other side of the hill, counting down the time when the government agents would come to catch and separate the both of them after chasing down Fenix and Braga, when the words came.

 

*   *   *

 

I feel in the beginning when we're living
We were tripping, we were so high

 

 “He owns you now.”

That word would always haunt Brian till the day his life ended. When Mia said that to him, Brian had no reaction other than the little fluttering in his stomach. Still, he did not think of it as he had his own main purpose of being there.

Working on the garage had become Brian’s new daily job now. It was much more fun than being in the station or undercover. Racing? Hands down the most beautiful way to gain adrenaline. Spending time with Dom, though? It was the first time in Brian’s life that he could feel like he belonged. From the second Dom told Brian about his life, Brian knew, he would hate himself for what he had done and would do.

Still, nothing could stop him anymore. He tried to memorize every single thing and moment in the undercover assignment.

Anything.

Anything to tell himself that he could live with his lies.

 

*   *   *

 

When you tell me that you love me were you bluffin?
Was it nothing? Now you're so dry

 

They did not know who started it but the next thing they knew was that they were touching each other.

Letty and Dom had had a fight that evening. No one knew exactly what it was about. They only knew there were screams before the sound of Dom hitting the wall of the garage repeatedly on his rage and Letty cursing at him as she walked out the door was heard. Everyone scrambled around trying to do something and slow down the tension.

It was almost midnight when Brian, for the fourth time, tried to coax Dom to stop drinking the ninth bottle of Corona.

“Hey, Dom, come on, man. You’ve drunk enough for tonight,” he said. Dom just gave him a hum and drank more. “I don’t even know that you have this many Coronas in your office,” he continued. “Man, it’s enough for the night. You’ve drank enough to have a killer headache after passing out like a log after this. Come on.”

The others had gone away. Mia tried to find out more from Letty by calling her, Vince had taken his car to look for Letty who he presumed to be in a bar somewhere in the city, Leon tried to save the car that Dom had hit using a wrench in his third bout of anger, and Jessy had hidden himself, away from all the tension that made him nervous too.

Brian was calling Dom’s name again when their mouth suddenly mashed together. He was pretty sure that Dom was the one who started it, but his brain just could not remember anything anymore as Dom stole his breath away. There was so much skin on skin contacts between them. With mouths mashed together and words whispered intimately, they stayed that whole night together in Dom’s office.

“Dom! Fuck! What are you—“

“Shut up, Brian! With the way you’re calling my name, you sounded like you begged me to fuck you!” Dom slurred. Annoyance flared up, Brian tried to push Dom away from him. Still, that was the keyword: tried. It was a useless attempt, though as Dom just pushed Brian harder to the couch then sat on Brian’s leg like tons of brick. Protests went unheard as clothes were shed. Brian did not know how it went after that. He could only remember sensations and snippets of words until he said the words he should not have said.

“Dom! Fuck, Dom! Oh, God, I love you… I lo—“

“Shh, Bri.”

“Dom…” Brian moaned then sobbed. He was mortified. All other sensations went away, being replaced with a feeling of dread so strong it could kill him. I can’t fall in love with him, he has Letty! Shit! I can’t fall in love with him. Period!, he thought frantically.

“Hey, shut your brain up, Buster, I love you too… You, Brian… Shit—” And the sensations flared back as a relief he had never known before lit up his body after hearing Dom’s slurred words. It might be drunken words, but Brian’s unconsciousness chose them to douse the dread that he felt.

And hopefully it would be enough.

 

When morning came, Brian was awoken by the quiet sighs and rustles of the body that had been spooning him from behind. Trying to act like he was still asleep, Brian wondered of how it was possible for them to sleep on the couch without falling to the floor. Several curses and clanking sounds later, Brian finally decided to just open his eyes and see what happened to Dom.

“Uh… Morning,” Brian yawned and stretched himself. Dom was sitting on the floor, heads on hands as he cursed slowly. “Alright. Let me see if you have enough coffee left.” With a nod from Dom, Brian put on his clothes as fast and neat as possible to help Dom let off some hangover he had.

“Thanks,” Dom grunted as he accepted the cup of coffee. Seconds and minutes passed, an awkward silence filled the room. Dom himself did not know what to say or do in this kind of situation. He did not usually feel guilty and satisfied at the same time.

“Uh… So…”

Dom lifted his head, looking fiercely at Brian’s eyes, and it was enough to stop whatever Brian was going to say. A sharp inhale of breath was shown and Dom said,”Whatever happened, happened.” He then proceeded to stand and walk out of the room, knowing that he had been an asshole for using Brian like that. Yet he was too prideful to turn back and say otherwise. Hell, an apology would be the right thing to do.

A churning feeling filled Brian’s stomach up to his chest. He gave a sharp nod to himself, kept silent, and concluded that it was Dom’s way to say that last night did not mean a thing and that it was a mistake.

It was not one for Brian, though. For it was the day he found out that he had fallen in love with his mark.

 

*   *   *

 

You can tell me that you're sorry
But I know that you don't mean it, baby don't lie
Don't lie, baby, don't lie

 

In the silence of the night Dom had called him out for a trip for more bottles of Corona. There was another fight that day but this time it was not Letty; it was Vince. Letty was there too, of course, but she took Vince’s side and went away together with Vince. At least Brian knew what the fight was about this time; him being close to Mia and Dom. He was tempted to just call bullshit on Vince’s insecurity but he knew it would not bring any good results on them.

Sighing inside, Brian pulled at his hair and faced Dom to ask what he wanted and why he stopped the car on the side of the empty road. Yet his voice was stuck in his throat as he looked at Dom’s expression that was full of war; a war of confusion, regret, annoyance, and want. The night of the first time they had sex flitted through his mind. He wanted to make it into the last night of it if it was possible. Since he knew that:

  1. He is a cop doing undercover work.
  2. He knows he won’t be able to live with a broken heart forever.

Still, what can he do when he was faced with the desire of his heart?

 

When morning came and they woke up in the backseat of the car all cuddling up and naked, Brian knew that Dom would just subtly state that this was all a mistake. Bracing his mind and heart for it, he put his head on Dom’s shoulder and tried to sleep again. Peacefully, if possible.

And he almost managed to do so if not for the soft whisper in his ear,”Sorry to do this to you again.”

 

*   *   *

 

And I can't blame myself for getting lost inside the promise of you
And I can't blame you leaving
'Cause what's meant to be will always be true

 

“Nah, man, he already thinks of you as family,” Jesse said as he gave Brian a bottle of Corona. “He said that before, right?” Jesse continued without noticing how Brian had stood still, struck by those words. Thinking that it was a reaction of shock because no one had considered Brian a family, Jesse just patted Brian’s shoulder and left for more Coronas after placing the unopened bottle on Brian’s other hand.

Brian turned the words over and over in his head, convinced that he had misheard it again after all this time. Sure, he knew and remembered that Dom had said that before. But it was before! Like… before that happened… Brian thought carefully as his chest tightened to the point that he felt like he was having an asthma attack.

Taking deep breaths a couple of time to loosen whatever pressures he felt on his chest, Brian then walked silently out of the party that was still blaring fully. He went to his car which was parked quite far from the house then sat inside. With a heavy heart he looked at the house.

Family, Brian snorted. Of all the people to consider me family… Hitting his head on the wheel, Brian sighed heavily once more. Of all the family I want to stay with… Some more head hitting on the wheel and Brian finally settled on placing his head on the wheel. This is so fucked up, huh? Being cozy with the family, falling in love with my mark, what else after this? Guess this is where I’m gonna die, he laughed sarcastically at himself.

Thinking back, Brian remembered what brought that statement out. For the past two weeks, Brian had been actively trying to avoid Dom. He had come to the garage and house just as usual, but he would not face or talk with Dom without anyone else nearby. Based on what he had overheard, there were different reactions and opinions.

Letty and Vince were glad that Brian tried avoiding Dom. Who am I kidding? They were glad that I know my place and they got Dom’s attention on them back, Brian chuckled flatly. Good to know Leon’s indifferent. Pretty much thinking that I wanna avoid anymore fighting, I bet, he thought again. Then, Brian’s thought moved to the rest of the family. Family, eh? Not thinking of them as a gang no more, huh? Brian snorted. He forced himself to remember Mia and Jesse’s reaction, which seemed more like concern than any other things.

Huffing, Brian drank up his Corona and placed it on the seat beside the unopened bottle. Deep inside, he knew that Dom’s reaction was the most disturbing of all. At one time he would act indifferent but at another time he would act so annoyed and disturbed by it. As slow and quiet as he could, Brian drove his car away from the house.

Arriving at Harry’s place, Brian dragged his steps to his temporary room in the back of the building. He gripped the two Corona bottles in his arms, hugging them like they were his lifeline. After locking the room, Brian sat heavily on the bed. Placing the empty bottle on the floor and opening the full one, he took a sip of it as he stared at the wall in front of him. Feeling down for the first time after almost a year he managed to beat that feeling out of him, Brian placed the bottle away and lied down on the bed.

-You think you smart, boy?-

Then everything slowed down. So slow that Brian found himself stuck in a loop of words and voices.

-Yeah? Trash like you?-

-Go ‘way, you kid!-

-Liar!-

-You betray us!-

And they were as heavy as a lead. Hitting his chest like someone played a High Striker on his chest. Brian sucked in a breath harshly. Gritting his teeth like that was the only thing he could do, Brian felt like he was drowning.

-Fuck you, rat!-

-Waste o’ breath, you, kid.-

-Kill him.-

Brian was going down.

-Hey, he’s a pretty boy.-

-Sell ‘im off.-

-That body could be delicious.-

He was sinking deeper and deeper and he could see the ugliness of the darkness of the bottom of whatever it was that tried to pull him in harder and harder and everything just pushed him down deeper and that was the only thing he could hear—

-Drown him!-

-Throw him to the lake!-

-Just get inside and sink, boy!-

-Die at the bottom of that lake, Brian.-

-Dea-

“—up! Bri—! —breath! —an! Breathe!”

The command registered in Brian’s brain directly and he snapped his eyes open as he tried to take a breath. A blurry shape was trying to prop him up as well as directing him through a motion of inhaling and exhaling. Trying hard to follow the motion, Brian stopped thinking for a while to concentrate on ‘just breathing’.

“Do you want a drink?” the shape, which turned out to be Dom, asked after Brian managed to control his breathing. Nodding shakily, Brian whispered a weak thank you as he settled back on his bed. “Wanna talk about it?” Dom then asked as he walked around the room, trying to find a bottle of water.

“Nah…” Brian breathed out. “The past is the past.”

“Well, you know I’ll be here,” Dom countered after a few seconds of silence. Brian gave  him a half-hearted smile and nodded. “Always,” Dom said again although softer, half-meaning it as an apology to making Brian as a rebound. Then Brian’s smile turned into a grimace before he drank the water that Dom found in the room. Whispering to Brian to close his eyes and stop thinking, Dom sat on the edge of the bed.

Brian fell asleep not being able to stop his heart to want to believe in Dom’s words.

 

Brian looked directly at Dom’s eyes when he called for help. Although his mouth was moving, telling the operator any kind of information he could see from Vince and his surrounding, his brain, eyes, and heart was focused on Dom. The man who had stolen his heart and now looked at him with a huge disappointment in his eyes. Disappointment which pushed him down to the very ground of earth and felt as heavy as a building to Brian.

He knew it was time. Dom would very likely kill him for this. Yet Brian could not stop hoping. He could not stop hoping that Dom’s word of always being there for him would be true; truer than any other promises he had had from his late-mother, his ex-bestfriend, his soon-would-be ex-mentor.

And one look at Dom’s expression confirmed it, leaving Brian with the cracking voices of his unconsciousness that sent him down.

“Should’ve known Vince told the truth, huh?”

He then turned his back, preparing himself to go away to wherever he could go, leaving Brian who waited for Vince’s help.

 

*   *   *

 

There isn't enough love in the atmosphere
To keep you here, ah
There isn't enough love in the atmosphere
Don't leave me here
All alone

 

The sound of siren and police announcement reinforced Brian’s unconsciousness to send him deeper down. Inside he was trembling. Breathless. Still, he could not stop himself offering Dom his car key. Brian had sworn sometime in his life that he would not do the same thing his mother did. He would protect those that he cared of and no matter what, even if he needed to ‘sacrifice’ himself to do so, he would do it.

And this was the time that he would do so in a heartbeat.

“I owe you a ten second car,” Brian said. His heart was thundering inside his chest; nervousness because of the what-ifs in his head. What if Dom did not want to accept it? What if Dom chose to face the police? What if— He gotta be safe! Brian shouted in his mind to stop those whispers.

Dom looked at Brian with a frown and then to the key. Brian gritted his teeth, silently praying for Dom to take the key. And he did. A wave of relief that he had never experienced before hit him like a tsunami. He knew he would sink, though, because there was no way anyone could run away from a tsunami. Still, he accepted it. He accepted the fact that he would be the one who take the blame as he watched Dom driving away, that he would sink deeper into his former depression and PTSD that he had tried so hard to get rid of, and that he could hear his heart broke into pieces as he saw that Dom was another one of empty promises.

At least he’ll be safe, Brian whispered to his broken heart and prepared himself to run away too, burying the desire to shout at Dom to bring him away together with Dom.

 

*   *   *

 

I ride for my baby
I died for my baby
I'd die for my baby, no lie
There isn't enough love in the atmosphere
In the atmosphere

 

When Letty came to him with an idea to bring Dom back home, Brian jumped into the wagon of agreement like there was no other vehicle around to bring him to the end line. Brian suspected that Letty knew about his feelings for Dom. Yet, as his heart thundered away, fear of being discovered building up in his chest, Brian could not say anything but to agree. He wanted Dom to come home too.

“I need to make sure everything is prepared, Letty,” Brian said when Letty inquired him about how long it would take for the police to agree.

“And how long will it take?” Letty countered. “What if Dom was caught by the police first? He’ll be sent to prison the second the police has their hands on him!”

“I know! I’m concerned about it too!”

“Then do it quick! Be—”

“We gotta make it safe!” Brian roared. “We gotta make it safe for your undercover! If something were to happen to you, what do you think Dom will feel? What do you think Dom will do?”

The awkward silence that followed was the switch to Brian’s consciousness. He could not believe that he had shouted at Letty in his own nervousness. Guilt weighed him up as he realized that he had no right to say those words to Letty for he felt the same. Still, Brian realized, Letty was Dom’s and Dom was Letty’s. It did not matter what his heart felt, Brian had decided that he would always place that knowledge above everything. Depressing, yes. Destructive, yes. Yet Brian would not change a thing.

“Be patient, please. Let’s get all the details written down completely and I’ll call my boss for this,” Brian finally begged. Letty gave a quick nod and sat on the couch of Brian’s choice of living place this month. He turned to go to look for papers and pens to write down the plans and back-up plans that they could come up with when he heard Letty’s whisper.

“He’ll still have you.”

 

The news of Letty’s death hit him hard. Not only because it meant he needed to tell Dom about it and he dreaded doing it, but also because it meant that there was another person who he could not protect. Brian wondered how he would tell Dom about this and realized that he could not; not without causing grief and guilt at Dom’s heart. That failure hit him hard. Another brick on the pile of bricks that weighed him down. Another set of hands that pulled him deeper in his depression. The news had literally punched the breath out of him and now he could not breathe. Not even a gasp did he manage to get.

“—im to hos—, ca— the am—“

Voices went through his ears. He wanted to know more, he needed to understand what caused this failure. Still he could not breathe. He could not get the air inside his lungs and he could not function. His body was heavy, his chest hurt so much, and he knew there were hands trying to hold him down. People were talking and he wanted to answer, but then the hands came back and he let them dragged him down to the darkness.

 

“Stress Cardiomyopathy, Mr. O’Conner. We would like to st—“

Brian did not hear anything other than that. He did not care. No, he did not WANT to care. So he kept silent, looked at the doctor, and vowed to finish what Letty had planned even if that would cost him his life. He hoped he could at least do right for one thing.

 

*   *   *

 

Remember we were running up and down
And getting messy in the hallways

 

Brian knew that Dom did whatever they had done for revenge. A revenge for the love of his life who had lost her life because she wanted him home. He did not want to say a thing at first, but he did not know how much time left for him to stay with Dom. As he looked at Dom’s eyes which was full of concern and fear for his well-being, Brian remembered the conversation that he had had with Mia weeks ago after Dom found out that Letty’s death was a sacrifice for Dom.

 

“Shit, shit! I shouldn’t have said that! Fu—“

“Stop, Brian,” Mia said forcefully. Her voice was trembling and her eyes were wet. Brian then realized that she had hurt not a person only but a whole family, the family that he should have protected. It was another failure that Brian did to the family; a reminder to the previous failures that he could not quite forget.

“I’m so sorry, Mia. I didn’t mean to—“

“—say it out like that. Yes, I know, Brian. I know,” Mia sobbed. “But it’s the truth. Dom and I know it. Your words are just a confirmation.” Brian stopped saying anything. Too upset in his failures to pay attention to anything. It felt like his Mom’s words came true; he was just a failure, should not even exist in anyone’s life.

“I lied to you two again…” Brian said weakly.

Mia shook her head and hugged Brian tightly. “If Letty wanted to tell me, she would have told me, Brian,” she said.

Brian was silent for a while. He could see the logic in it; Letty was close to Mia, after all. Yet he could not stop feeling like everything was his mistake. He might sound selfish for acting like he was the most pitiful guy in this story, but he did not want the pity. Brian did not even want to be forgiven. He just wanted to stop making mistakes and failures.

“I’m gonna see how Dom’s doing, ‘kay? You need to rest. Dom has done quite a number on you,” Mia said as she looked at Brian with concern.

Brian just nodded and walked slowly to the bedroom in a daze, not realizing Mia’s look of intense concern and worry.

 

Now Brian was on the road, following Dom away from Fenix. He did not know whether they were trying to run away from Fenix or catch him. It was quite confusing for him but for now, he would follow Dom, especially after Fenix tried to goad Dom by mentioning Letty. As he drove, Brian wished that he could be that precious to someone. His life suddenly flashed in his mind, reminding him of his shitty childhood and now broken adulthood. Brian huffed and set everything aside, though. He needed to keep his eyes on Dom and made sure he was safe. For now.

 

“—an! No! Bri! —on, Bri, com—.”

Brian could hear a voice calling his name but he could not remember whose voice it was. Still, his chest felt lighter, a feeling he associated with feeling happy. Although he was pretty sure a part of his body was bleeding profusely, Brian could not feel the pain. He could only felt some wet patches on his body which he guessed the parts and places where he bled. Still, for now, all he could concentrate on was the feeling of relief. It might be because the voice sounded so afraid of losing him as the voice begged him to wake up.

Uh… Wake up? I’m awake… pretty sure I’m awake… Brian thought.

“Hey, hey, Buster, come on, open your eyes. Open those blue eyes for me, Bri,” the voice said. It was trembling like the person was trying to hold back a sob.

Brian tried. He tried as hard as he could to open his eyes. There was no way he would let the concerned voice sounded even sadder. The voice should be happier because he felt happy and he did not want someone who cared for him felt or sounded so sad.

“Brian… Come on, B. Come on. Can’t lose anymore, man. I’ve lost Letty, Bri. Can’t lose you too.”

Letty? Losing… Letty…? Brian stopped thinking. The words set a chain reaction inside him. Somewhere in his body, desire to be free bloomed and it coursed throughout his body, making him warm and giddy. Someone said that he could not lose Brian! Someone wanted him to stay alive! With determination and desperation rolled up in his mind, Brian tried harder to open his eyes and look at the person who held him so tightly. Need to… Need to see him… Him… Who…? Him… Him… See him… Him— “—Dom?” Brian rasped.

“Fuck! Brian! Keep your eyes open. Come on, B, come o—“

“Dom…” Brian rasped as he gasped for breath. He could feel Dom’s hands moved on his body, tied up some parts with something that he could not recognize. Still, he could at least pull his concentration on the fact that Dom needed to go. “Dom, g, gotta… go…”

“No—”

“You… gotta—“

“Shut up! I’m not gonna leave you. I’ve left Letty behind and she’s gone,” he took a deep breath and lifted Brian up.

Coughing harshly, Brian tried to push Dom away, trying to ask Dom to save himself from the feds that would come soon. He could feel how Dom tightened his hold on Brian’s body instead.

“Yeah, not gonna happen, B,” Dom said.

“D, Dom—“

“—Look, there’s a usable car and it can even race, so shut up and we’ll find Mia,” Dom stated as he put Brian on the back seat.

Brian inhaled and exhaled harshly a few times before he gave a tired nod and tried to find a comfortable position on the back seat. Oh, God, at least I have him… Brian thought before he finally fell into a somewhat peaceful darkness this time.

 

*   *   *

 

Told me that forever was the time we'd be together, baby, always

Months had passed since then. Brian felt like he could finally laugh freely. Rio had never felt as free as what he felt now. For years he had waited and searched for someone who he could live with as freely as this. Now that he had found Dom, he could not remember the life he had without him.

Freedom has never tasted so sweet, huh? Brian mussed as he cooked dinner. Tonight was his turn to cook dinner as Dom and he had concluded that there would be no way any of them would take the responsibility fully. If he were to be honest to himself, Brian had never thought that playing home or being domestic had so much appeal like now. Laying low and keeping things safe from the feds had brought out that side of him that he did not know he would like.

Brian remembered how the first few weeks were rocky for them. It started when Dom had stubbornly driven Brian and himself back to where Mia stayed and continued with how the story of Brian’s past had been laid bare to Dom; being abused, almost being sold, almost being raped, and the likes. Being shocked with his own honesty, Brian was only able to trust that Dom would not do anything to betray the trust that Brian had given.

 

Mia was both shocked and amazed at the sheer stubbornness of the men that she almost could not move to help Brian. Luckily, Mia had managed to snap out of it enough to methodically clean the wounds and suture them close. She had even helped taking care of Brian by buying the medicines needed while Brian was very much far away from consciousness and Dom was trying to take care of the necessities they would need to hide away.

As Brian got back to being healthy, Dom moved them out of Mia’s current staying place and hid away, moving every few weeks to different places. That was how Brian found out the extent of Dom’s mother-henning. He was even prohibited of helping Dom bringing their things into their house-of-the-week, which triggered an argument in their fourth house-moving. However, Dom was surprisingly patient as he explained to Brian that he did not mistake Brian as a girl, he was just trying to make sure that Brian could get healthy as soon as possible without complication. He even went as far as bribing Brian with sex, which Brian fell for in the end, of course.

Thank God Dom wasn’t against sex. Injured or not, I’ll kick his ass for it, Brian mused. Still, it was weeks ago. Now they had finally been back at Baja and Brian was alright. Better than alright, even. Guess I’m getting sappy, huh? he chuckled as he set the food on the table. Brian was grateful and happy everyday. It did not matter if they had any argument about anything, Dom would never left Brian and neither would Brian. The most any of them left the other was for half a day to cool themselves down before they got back home and talked their arguments out slowly.

“Oh, look, who finally get crazy after hours with himself alone.”

“Fuck you, Dom!” Brian stated as he threw the dishes washcloth at Dom.

“Nah, I’m the one doing it to you all this time, O’Conner,” Dom stated as he moved out of the kitchen before Brian decided to throw other things at him.

Brian huffed and took the washcloth from the floor as he heard Dom’s laugh trailed off. He was tempted to make Dom sleep on the couch, but he knew it would not happen well as he still had nightmares and Dom was the only thing that helped him calm down so far. The one time he did send Dom to the couch, Brian woke up screaming and leaping to the bathroom for blades. Lucky for Dom who had not gone to sleep yet as the couch was very uncomfortable. He managed to catch Brian in time and got rid of the blades.

Fucking nightmares, Brian sighed. Because of that incident, Brian had had no choices but to tell Dom the complete story of his past and its consequences, including his recent heart complication. He had been so afraid Dom would leave him, but Dom had hold him for the whole day and not let Brian got more than five steps farther from Dom for the whole week. It turned out that Dom was also afraid that Brian would fade away if he left Brian alone for too long, which was enough proof for Brian that Dom would not leave him. Then he started to stay close to Dom for another whole week before they both concluded that they could finally function normally without being clingy to each other.

“You alright?” Dom asked as he hugged Brian from behind. Dom’s voice sounded so worried in Brian’s ears.

“Yeah, just being sappy,” Brian answered as he leaned backwards to Dom’s chest.

“If being sappy means you’re repeating ‘I love you’ in your head, I’m used to that,” Dom snorted.

“Hey! I’m not—”

“Yeah?” Dom asked, his right eyebrow went up and expression amused.

“Fine.” Brian narrowed his eyes. “You want it that way?” He stepped out of Dom’s arms and smirked. “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I—”

“Alright, stop it!”

“I love you, I love you, I lov—“

“Bri, come on!” Dom barked as he tried not to laugh. Brian just grinned as he kept on chanting the words, knowing that Dom actually did not mind it. He went on as he walked quickly around the kitchen, placing things on the dining table, not minding Dom’s hands which tried to catch him. Dom let it went on before he finally caught Brian and put his big hand on Brian’s mouth.

Who cares if I’m being sappy? I’m happy, Brian laughed out loud as he thought about it.

 

*   *   *

 

Now you're saying that you're sorry

But I know that you don't mean it cause you won't stay
No you won't stay, you won't stay

 

Letty’s existence was a surprise for them all. No, ‘surprise’ was not the right word. ‘Shock’ is. In just a whole sentence of news, the whole family’s feelings were turned upside down. Mia was crying with relief, Dom was still in the mixture of shock and surprise, and Brian, himself, he did not know what to feel. He was partly relief because it meant one of the people that he thought of as family was still alive, relief that he was not a complete fuck-up. Still, he was afraid that Dom would go after Letty because no matter how or what, Brian could see it in Dom’s reaction every time they reminisced the past, every time they talked about Letty.

Brian was brave enough to admit that he was jealous. However he could understand it. Letty would always remind Dom of his home. Of his dream, parents, Los Angeles. That did not mean that Brian was not a home for Dom too; there was a different sense of home in it. Sometimes, when Brian hit his low, he would think that he was only a reminder of what Dom had lost. When that happened, it felt like Dom had radar and he would do whatever he could think of to stop Brian thinking about it; and Brian was so grateful that he had Dom now.

Still, now, Brian had a feeling that things would be different and it would not be in a good way. His mood this morning had dropped completely and it felt like he was submerged in a deep dark liquid that he could not identify.

Stop this, Brian! This is fucking ridiculous! Have faith in Dom! Brian shouted in his head as he cleared his throat. The sound broke the others’ thoughts and they all went back to try to say something; questioning, planning, anything which felt so much like the calm before the storm. So Brian exhaled, strengthened his façade, and tried to plan too.

 

On his fears Brian counted the hours to the end. He did not want to pray for or on it but with the way everyone was tip-toeing around everyone else, Brian felt like ‘the end’ would be inevitable and it would be for him.

 

For the sixth time Brian caught Dom sat on the porch and stared at the two cars on their house driveway. At times like that, Brian would sit on the couch of the living room which faced the porch and watched Dom. He called Dom out of it a few times before but Dom just smiled before he apologized.

Sorry for having your thoughts everywhere else, huh? You’re a bad liar this time, Dominic, Brian huffed as he threw his head on the back of the couch.

They had made an agreement that they would buy ordinary cars with no upgrade to remind themselves to lay low. Dom had even said that they could try to modify the cars but only in their mind, on papers, anywhere as long as they did not do it. Still, now, Dom was looking at those cars like he had the upgrades in mind and he was ready to do it. Brian caught Dom looking at their money a few times, like Dom was trying to find out if they had enough to do all the modifications. Sometimes, Dom would even drive the cars and hold the wheels so tight as if he was trying to force himself not to accelerate.

Brian was tired. He wanted to remind Dom of their agreement.

 

*   *   *

 

And I can't blame myself for getting lost inside the promise of you
And I can't blame you leaving
'Cause what's meant to be will always be true

 

Where the fuck is he? Brian thought frantically as he drove along the road, trying to find Dom’s figure among the people on the road. Come on, Dom, where are you? Dom had been gone for two nights and there was no news of him. Not for Brian, not for Mia. They both had scrambled around to find any clue but there was nothing. Brian suspected that he went by his own initiative, though, and when he told Mia about it, Mia’s expressions were a mix of understanding and pity. Don’t want Mia to go alone bullshit! If you wanna go somewhere you just gotta tell me! Brian thought frustratingly as he drove around. Mia and he swore when they found Dom or the man came back to them, they would skin him alive.

 

Dom did go back. After almost a week being gone.

Brian was so angry that he punched Dom once he saw him got out of the car. Even Mia slapped Dom a couple of times afterwards as she screamed at him. Then, after almost an hour of awkward silence because no one wanted to give in, Brian sighed and decided to ask the dreadful question.

“You went to Letty, right?”

Dom was silent for a bit before he nodded. The man put his head on his hands and exhaled heavily.

“I just needed to know,” Dom said gruffly. Everyone waited for the continuation. “She doesn’t remember… anyone…”

“Amnesia?” Mia asked after a few seconds of sad silence. A nod from Dom was all the answers that they needed. They all slouched down on their seats on the living room couch.

Brian felt terrible, though, for he was relieved that Letty could not claim Dom back. Still, it would only sadden Dom and he did not want that, especially after Dom took off without a say only to find Letty. Brian could feel that the end was very near but he would try to avoid making it sooner. For now, he could only hug Dom.

 

Days had passed and it was nearly a month now since Dom went back to him. Still, Brian knew that Dom’s mind and heart were not there with him. From the looks that Mia occasionally gave him when Dom got lost in thought, Brian could see that Mia knew too. He would just smile sadly at Mia, though, and proceeded to sit beside Dom until Dom would deem it time to notice and hug him.

There are times when Brian would wake up in the morning with slight shivering as the remnants of a forgotten nightmare. And if Brian knew that Dom was mostly no longer there at night because Dom no longer helped him through the nightmares, it was alright too for him. As long as Dom was alright through the day, Brian was sure he could bear it.

And if Brian had trouble breathing or chest ache again lately, he could bear it because Dom’s life was much more complicated and harder.

 

*   *   *

 

There isn't enough love in the atmosphere
To keep you here, ah
There isn't enough love in the atmosphere
Don't leave me here
All alone

 

The only clue existed was the little note Dom had left for Brian and Mia on the dining table.

“I’m sorry, I just need to know that she could remember. Felt like everything would be alright if she could at least remember us. I’m sorry, Brian. Dom.” Mia put the note back on the table before she sat on the chair, her face on her hands.

Brian was stuck, though. It felt like he was starting to be submerged in the dark pool of depression, the hands were pulling him down, and everything was shattered. It did not matter that he had predicted this, how Dom would leave him, but he did not think that Dom would leave Mia too. He could hear Mia tried to apologize for what Dom did but it was all just an echo in his ear; a ringing noise filling his ear with nothing.

He exhaled heavily, feeling and hearing his exhale came out shakily, then his surroundings was spinning. Trying to put his hand on the back of the dining chair did not work well as he missed the chair and went through the air instead. Everything was nauseating and air was scarce. Brian coughed and gasped a few times before there were dots filling his eyes. Before everything went dark and a scream was heard he thought, I thought I could be your home, Dom.

 

*   *   *

 

I ride for my baby
I died for my baby
I'd die for my baby no lie
There isn't enough love in the atmosphere
In the atmosphere

 

There was a sound of sobbing on his ear and he could not pinpoint who did it. Brian could feel himself rising and falling, like a lifebuoy on the water surface. The sound changed to a woman voice begging for him to wake up but he felt like he was awake. He was aware of what he felt and how the water around him dragged him down. Still, there was the lost feeling of panic of being sunk and he did not care about it. He enjoyed the feeling of being able to let go and not care. Yet the voice was getting louder and the woman was calling his name; although she was also cursing someone else as well as saying a Latin phrase. Brian knew that phrase. He just could not place and find it. The hands trying to drown him were calming, though, so he accepted the invitation and let go.

 

*   *   *

 

If there's winners and losers
Then I'll be the loser
I'm still here I choose you

 

Brian had made Mia swore that she would not say anything about the Cardiomyopathy which had came back. It took Brian almost two weeks in the hospital before he remembered that he had to take care of Mia. That thought had hit him hard before he decided to just stay in the darkness. He could not leave Mia alone. Dom had left them to take care of each other and he would damn well prove to Dom that they could. So Brian strove to get well. He would not do what Dom did. There was no way he would abandon those that he cared about. Brian willed himself to get better.

 

When the sound of a foreign car reached their ears, Brian and Mia looked at each other with mix emotions; wariness, anger, and confusion were there. They waited until the sound was gone before they both moved. Mia stayed near the kitchen counter, holding a knife, and Brian stepped forward to the door of the kitchen to find out whose car it was. Then, the sound of the front door of the house being opened was heard.

“Mia?” A voice called out to them from the living room.

Brian and Mia sighed, both in relief and anger. They looked at each other and Mia stomped her feet as he walked to the living room. Brian just sighed. He knew an inevitable fight would happen anytime now and he prepared himself just in case the fight turned bloody; Mia still clenched the knife tightly in her fist.

“What are you doing here, Dom?” Mia’s angry voice was heard.

“What do you mean—”

“What do I mean?” Mia screeched. Just as what he had thought, Mia had lifted the knife and shoved it on Dom’s face.

Dom stepped back for a bit, bumping on a body behind him, and raised his hands in surrender. He tried his best to calm Mia down but the girl kept on screeching. Brian was ready to interfere when he finally caught who was behind Dom and stuck still on the floor.

“Letty?” Brian whispered.

Everyone and everything stopped. Time seemed to slow down dramatically like the one in the Hollywood movies and noises sounded off. Brian stared at the woman who finally stepped out of Dom’s back and smiled warily to each other. By seeing her eyes Brian knew that Letty had not had her full memory yet but she knew enough to come with Dom. Then the strange silence was broken by Mia’s shouts.

“Get out!” she shouted as she tried to hit Dom with the knife. “Get out!” she stated again even when Dom’s hands caught her wrists. “Get out, Dominic! How could you do this to him?”

“Mia, stop it!” Brian finally said. He walked forward and placed his hands on Dom and Mia’s and looked at them pleadingly. “Stop it. Let her go, Dom.”

Dom did what Brian said then looked away. He seemed like he did not know what to do or how to act. It seemed that he had just now realized what he had done and tried to figure out what to do.

Brian just sighed and took Mia’s hands, pulling her to the couch and making her sit before he took the knife back to the kitchen. Leaning on the kitchen counter for a while before he sighed again, his fingers pulled on his hair as he tried to listen if there was any indication Mia was going to start again. A few well-placed breathing exercises later, Brian straightened himself and walked toward the living room. He ignored the twinges in his chest and looked straight at Dom as he walked into the room.

“If you wanna say something, Dom, just say it. I’m tired of waiting,” Brian said softly. He could see from the corner of his eyes how Mia kept on glancing nervously at him.

“I’m… being unfair…” Dom said gruffly.

Mia snorted and sneered,”Unfair he says.”

“Mia…” Brian sighed. His body started to feel heavy and he decided to sit beside Mia. “Look, Dom… I just want you to say it, to tell us from the start when you had any kind of plans. And kept us updated. You left us with a note and we had to worry over whether you were safe and not dying or being imprisoned somewhere. It’s just…” Another sigh came from his mouth as Brian placed his head on his hands. There were so many words he would like to say to Dom, shout them out if possible. Yet those words were a big jumbled mess in his chest that he knew he could not get out unless he ripped open his chest and showed it to Dom.

“That’s just how Dom is, huh?” Letty suddenly said. It was said really awkwardly like she was not sure whether she had any rights to say it but her memory of Dom was there, demanding her to say it. Brian lifted his head and gave Letty a tired and empty smile.

Dom caught on to that and his eyes widen. The very first time he had seen that smile was when Brian had told him about his past and how he had given up living. It hit him hard in his sternum that he felt like he would keel over and lost consciousness. For the first time for months, Dom finally realized what he had done to Brian. He had been single-mindedly pursuing the woman that was a reminder of a home for him that he forgot that Brian was a home too. Still, there was Letty beside him now. Dom could do nothing but thought over and over again how he had fucked up; he hoped beyond words that he had not made Brian remembering the past or even thinking of dying again. Then and there, Dom could only glance back and forth at Brian and Letty.

Mia narrowed her eyes at Dom and gritted her teeth. She looked like she would skin him alive and burned him over for dinner anytime now if Dom dared enough to say the wrong thing. Of all the stupid things that Dom could do, this was the one decision she hated the most. It was not like she knew completely of Brian’s past. They had talked about it briefly in the hospital. That only made Mia’s anger worsened, though, as she could not comprehend how someone could abandon a person in their present for a person in their past. She had let go of the past, Brian had let go of the past. They had moved on, accepted that they would just take care of each other without Dom when her brother came back like he did not do anything wrong. Now, she could see that Dom finally remembered and realized how messed up Brian’s mind was.

“Bri—“ Dom’s words were stopped as Mia slapped her hands on the coffee table.

Brian again sighed and wondered if he should get out of the house and brought Mia with him. They might not have any kind of relationship beside one akin to siblings, but that did not mean that he would not be ready to defend Mia like a lover when she needed it. She might be annoyed, but it would be worth it if they could avoid any kind of bloody fight in their present and future. Mia looked at him with narrowed eyes that made him wanted to roll his eyes and lift his hands because the look meant Mia was set on doing something. However he then realized that Mia was concerned. She was afraid that he would collapse again and this time there would be no way for him to come back. Brian knew that would happen eventually, but for now, he wanted to be as strong as possible to make sure Mia would be alright before everything crashed down. They both knew about it and Mia kept on staring at him, begging silently.

 

*   *   *

 

I don't want another if we can't have each other
'Cause baby I love you

 

“I really hope there will be no bloody fight around as we’re trying to stay safe for now until far in the future, so please, let’s just rest it out for now,” Brian softly pleaded. Mia looked at Brian once before she glanced at Dom and looked away toward the sky which had changed into orange-red color of the sunset now. Dom himself just nodded and sat silently on his seat. Brian felt himself calming down then stood up. “I’ll prepare dinner,” he said then shuffled to the kitchen.

A while later, Mia walked inside and started helping him. They worked in silence as they both knew that Mia came to check on him. None of them tried to figure out why there was no sound heard from anywhere in the house. After some time, a sound of awkward shuffle was heard and they both turned toward the door.

“Hey,” Letty said. Brian and Mia both gave a nod and went back to cooking dinner. “Anything I can help?”

Brian moved slightly away from Mia, showing Letty what they had been doing, as Mia took some potatoes out of the fridge and put it on the counter. No one said a thing after that but Letty diligently peeled and washed the potatoes.

“It’s all weird for me,” Letty finally said. “Like I’m two different people inside.”

“Not your fault,” Mia said softly yet briskly.

“It is when I agree to go back to the past.” Letty’s admission was an apology in its own. It was uttered for Brian and they knew it. As a respond, Brian only smiled softly and emptily at Letty. She knew that Dom’s silence was a bad sign but she had just realized now how bad it was when she finally took a complete look at Brian. The guy was quite thin and pale. Brian had quite a soft expression shown on his face and in his eyes but it did not hinder Letty to see the emptiness and brokenness behind it.

“I’ll prepare your room,” Brian stated when he realized that Letty had been staring at him.

“Bri—”

“Mia,” Brian said warningly. “It’s Dom’s room,” he continued as he walked out of the kitchen.

The statement was clear for the women. Letty and Mia could only stare at Brian’s back and continued their activities silently. Mia could only hope that Brian could survive all this. She did not want to acknowledge the traitorous voice in the back of her mind that a Stress Cardiomyopathy would not be nice when it was mixed with Broken Heart Syndrome.

 

Brian walked slowly to the room that he had been occupying. Seeing Dom and Letty today had been a surprise for him. Of course he knew that the moment they heard how Letty was alive that the end was coming. Yet he never thought that it would be this sudden. Brian had thought that he would have enough time to come to terms with it. Still, here he was, stepping slowly into the bedroom that he had shared with Dom and readying himself to pack his things.

Perhaps I should find another place to live… or I could call Rome… Brian mussed as he started packing up the little trinkets that were scattered in the room. He took a deep breath to calm his heart, chanting on and on that he was alright to will away the pain he felt in his chest. The pain felt like it was digging inside his chest, carving it out to make him bleed. It had been pulsing steadily from the time he saw Letty. The calmness and determination that he felt when he was at the hospital slowly seeped away, draining his desire to stay alive.

He felt like he was being dramatic; that he compared his life with a soap opera too much. Perhaps I should refrain from watching too much soap opera with Mia, he snickered. Putting the little trinkets away in his bag, Brian continued with his clothes. Damn. I became so much like the soap opera star who’s desperate for attention and try to kill herself, he snorted. Brian wished so much that he could stop collecting broken little promises that people seemed to keep on throwing at him. He had sworn that he would be stronger. If it meant not being bothered by his past and feelings so much, he would do so in a heartbeat. Trying and hoping that he did not fail to convince himself that he was stronger than this, Brian did not hear the footsteps that stopped on the doorway.

“Where are you going?”

Brian stopped on his track. He stood still without any indication of wanting to turn and see Dom. Hoping that his heart could keep on beating long enough to ensure at least Mia’s happiness, Brian opened his mouth.

“This is your room.”

“It’s yours too,” Dom countered. He could see how Brian shoulders slumped before Brian turned to see him emptily. An echo of the soft smile that he loved so much was plastered thickly on Brian’s face.

“It’s yours, Dom,” Brian stated again, wishing Dom to stop stringing him along like this. The man that he still and would love was filling his heart with hope; painful, empty hope of still being loved by the man. Still, the other woman in the kitchen, the one that Dom had gone for was inside the house as a reminder that Brian had actually lost Dom. Resolutely, Brian got back to packing up his things.

“Brian…” Dom called again.

“Hmm?” Brian answered without stopping this time.

“Don’t, uh… I…”

Brian sighed and looked at Dom. “Dom,” he called out.

Dom looked at Brian desperately. He was torn. Parts of him was grateful for Letty being here, parts of him blamed himself for hurting Brian, and parts of him wanted to gather Brian in his arms and never letting go. Unable to admit how torn he was between the two people that he loved, Dom stared at Brian, half-begging for an answer that he knew would never exist unless he found it himself.

“Dom, this is your and Letty’s room. It’s inappropriate for me to have my things here,” Brian said softly and sadly. He put the last of his clothes in his bag then gathered his things up and walked out of the bedroom.

 

*   *   *

 

Maybe in a different world
Baby I could be your girl
Maybe then I'd be with you

 

He could not sleep. And he knew none of the people in the house could sleep this night. The shuffling sounds were heard clearly in the whole house. Brian had been tossing and turning on the couch; and it was not because the couch was uncomfortable, Dom and he had bought the couch because it was big and comfortable. Still, his thought was full with today’s event. The dinner had been so awkwardly silent. Mia had been glaring at Dom every time Dom opened his mouth to say something and Letty had looked at Brian guiltily.

And Brian himself? He had been desperately trying to suppress his dramatic reaction that the world had ended with Letty’s existence in the house for being able to think and notice anything else. For the rest of the day, Brian had tried to reign his feelings. On one hand, he did feel like the world had ended and that he had nothing else to live for. However, on the other hand, Brian knew that he was being a drama queen and the world did not revolve around him.

Sighing for the umpteenth time, exhaling heavily to shake loose the feeling of heaviness and dull pain in his chest, Brian buried himself under the cover. He attempted to stop himself from reaching for his cell phone again and check for the time.

Only minutes had passed, moron, stop looking at the time! Brian berated himself. Turning to lay on his stomach, Brian reached for the pillow instead and hugged it tightly under his head.

Not long after, memories of his life with Dom in the house started to haunt his mind. It did not matter what topic he tried to think of, his mind would always crawled back to Dom. Every single little thing would remind him of Dom. Even when Brian tried to think of his past instead.

This is bullshit! Brian raged in his mind. My life with Dom has ended! Can’t my mind shut up about him for a bit?

Agitated with himself, Brian sat up and decided to take a drink to calm down. He walked as silent as he could to the kitchen and picked up a glass of water. Bringing it back to the living room, Brian placed it on the coffee table. He had to stop himself before he threw himself on the couch and make unnecessary voice in this restlessness.

Sometimes I thought… I’ll be enough for him… Brian thought. Thought since Letty had gone, I would not have to fight for him anymore. Huh… He dotted on me so much, Brian chuckled sarcastically at himself. This is what you get for getting dependent on people, Brian O’Conner. You change into the worst man-child who throws a tantrum once people no longer pay attention at you.

Placing his head on his hand, Brian sighed again and coughed slightly. Feeling so much like the worst asshole, drama queen, man-child ever in the world.

See? Those words are a proof how bad you had become, he snorted. Wishing that there was a world where you could be with Dom forever is useless, you fool. Might as well wish that you could be a girl who is involved in Dom’s society like Letty does. Oh, O’Conner, you could wait for a falling star and pray to be Letty instead.

Brian laid himself down on the couch, could not stop being so angry at himself for wishing before his mood went down the drain completely in a sudden. Feeling his consciousness ebbed away, Brian surrendered to the hands of the darkness and voices of his past that called to him. Whispers of how he was a failure who did not deserve to live caging himself, pulling and drowning Brian deeper. Half of his consciousness tried to force him to wake up because the voices were wrong yet Brian suddenly felt too tired to go against them.

Promised myself that Mia would be taken care of… Just a bit more time before I leave… Gotta make sure she’s okay first… were the thoughts that accompanied him falling into slumber.

 

*   *   *

 

If there's winners and losers
Then I'll be the loser
I'm still here I choose you

 

No matter how, Brian did not like this. He had no desire to make things this awkward. Letty had been saying that he was going back to where she lived before Dom came and Dom was helpless to say anything because he had been shooting Brian a guilty look lately. It had only been days since Letty came and things seemed to go downhill.

Perhaps I need to look for another place to live… Another town sounds good… Brian thought guiltily. There was no doubt in his mind that no matter how he did not like the situation, he would not want to break a relationship, especially Dom’s. He only wanted Dom to be happy, as sappy as it sounded, and if it were to be with Letty then he would accept it, yes, as sappy as it sounded.

Brian could see and understand the looks Dom sent to Letty when Letty talked to Mia. It was full of gratefulness and relief that she was there, alive and well. He could understand it ‘well’. He would do the same if he was in Dom’s place, after all. And if the dull pain sometimes roared in the middle of the night, Brian only hoped that he had enough time to do right as well as make sure everyone and everything was alright.

Well… I’ll start looking tomorrow, Brian thought and went back to paying attention to the news, just in case there were words on them.

 

*   *   *

 

There isn't enough love in the atmosphere
To keep you here, ah
There isn't enough love in the atmosphere
Don't leave me here
All alone

 

Finding his own place felt both satisfying and unsatisfying. Brian had found a small beach house in the next city which was only a day over. It was satisfying for him as he would finally be away from the one that he had dubbed to be ‘the torture’ in his mind; Dom and Letty had been caught having themselves re-acquainted by Mia in not-so-hidden places. However, it also meant that he would be far away from Dom and only the thought of it had made him felt really sad. Still, Brian knew that one of them had to do something soon and he decided to be the one to take the first step.

 

“So…” Brian started as he scooped his dinner which he did not recognize because Mia had been butchering their dinner to show her hostility to Dom; nice to know it still tasted good. “Uh… I’m moving out.”

A clatter of utensils was heard and Brian did not look away from his food. He was waiting to see who would scream at him first, which he bet Mia, and who would feel guilty the most.

“You… moving out?” Dom asked. It had been days since their last interaction. He knew that lately Brian had seemed determine to do something, and he liked it better than seeing the empty looks and smiles Brian had before, but he did not think that it was this.

Brian lifted his head and looked at the others before he gave a nod. A wary smile which covered up the actual emptiness was presented.

“No, you’re not moving out, you’ll stay here and if there’s anyone who should move out, it will be my asshole of a brother and his girlfriend!” Mia stated icily.

“Mi—”

“You. Will. Stay.”

Brian gulped and looked around, finally realizing Letty who looked away and Dom who stared at his food. Both of them had frowns on their face and Brian was confused. He thought it would be better to do so. The house had felt like a war zone with bombs ready to explode. With him out of the way, Dom would not need to act so awkwardly at him and Letty would not look at him with guilt on her face.

“Mia—”

“No.”

“Mi—”

“No!”

“Mia, I’ve rented the house,” Brian finally blurted the words before Mia could stop him saying anything. The silence started to become more prominent.

“Where is it?” Mia glared at him.

“The next city. It’s only a day over…”

“When are you going to go?”

“Soon as possible…” Brian answered, having a feeling of what Mia intended to do. Dom and Letty were now paying close attention to them as well as trying to figure out something to say.

“I’m coming with you,” Mia stated and stood up. She walked quickly to her room with Brian hot on her heels.

Brian felt like the biggest fuck-up in the world. If Mia coming with him, then her relationship with Dom had no chance to be repaired. It would always be cold like this and it was because of him.

The world doesn’t revolve around you, O’Connner, but at least you gotta admit that having Mia with you is gonna make her hate Dom more, Brian thought as he rushed.

When he got to Mia’s room, Mia had started piling her things into groups and she had pulled out her bags.

“Hey, hey, Mia. You shouldn’t do this, you can’t leave Dom!”

“He’s a big boy who makes his own decision, he doesn’t need me to be with him,” Mia countered.

“But, Mia—”

“—He’s my brother, yes, but he’s not my responsibility.”

“I’m not too, Mia,” Brian said desperately as he ran his hand on his hair in frustration. He did not mean to make things like this.

“The hell you aren’t!” Mia shouted, cutting Brian’s musing. “Do you think I don’t know that you have dizzy spells lately? Or that you fainted yesterday but you were lucky that you reach the couch first to make people think you were asleep? Do you think I don’t see how you have to stop doing things every few minutes to take a breath?” she continued agitatedly through gritted teeth. “I’m not letting you leave with a bomb in your chest. The doctor said it was your second time having Stress Cardiomyopathy that means you’re prone to have another one which would be fatal. I read enough. I know enough the symptoms and you’re having them.”

With a huff, Brian ran his hands on his face before he opened his mouth to say something. Still, he did not find any word to say, so he kept silent. That was when he noticed the shadow in front of Mia’s door.

“Uh…” Brian stated as he opened the door, showing Letty who was fidgeting on the other side. Looking at Mia found her with a similar expression on her face. They both hoped fervently that Letty did not hear anything that they had talked.

“Yeah… so… I’m… leaving too,” Letty said nervously.

It was still weird for Brian to see Letty nervous as he remembered clearly a desperate, stubborn, and sarcastic woman who made a deal with him to make sure Dom could go home. Still, this was Letty with parts of her memory stolen from her and this Letty was confused of how to act.

Seems that those who found her are great people, Brian mused.

“Told Dom already.” Letty’s voice cut through Brian’s thought.

“And?” Mia asked, his annoyance seemed to come back in full force.

“Didn’t stay to hear his answer,” Letty shrugged. It seemed that Letty knew that she had to tread carefully on this, unlike the other days where Mia seemed to be able to accept Letty’s existence in the house. “Thought that being apart might help us all, you know? Think things through and decide carefully this time,” Letty said as he looked at Brian at the end.

Brian was gaping. He would very much like to say that she did not have to do that but he could see that stubborn glint in her eyes. With a sigh, Brian gave them a jerky nod. There was logic in Letty’s proposition. Although his mind still pulled at him to just fall into the darkness and not care about logical proposition; the voices kept on telling him that Dom would never choose him.

 

Should just tell them as I load up my things to the car, I guess, Brian thought as he laid down on the couch. Thinking again, it seemed that he had dropped the ‘bomb’ of his moving rather than telling them. Not that time apart will help, Brian thought again dejectedly. He had been feeling like a bipolar lately. Feeling alright at one time then all depressed the next. It was stupid, he knew, as again, the world did not revolve around him. Still, he just could not stop feeling and thinking like that.

A series of harsh and suffocating cough wrecked through him. Brian curled himself up and closed his mouth using the pillow to minimize the sound. Gritting his teeth until the dots in his eyes and the spinning feeling were gone. He did not want to admit it, but he knew he was running out of time.

 

Their first decision together was that Dom was going to send Letty back to the family who had saved her first then accompanied Brian to his beach house next. Brian found it funny that their first decision together after a long time was to send them apart instead of gather together. Mia had come up with the suggestion and Letty had seconded it without hesitation. A glare from Mia was all Brian needed to shut his mouth and just agree. With two people against one, where Brian refused to be counted in, Dom had no choice but to agree on it. He seemed to try to go along with it so that he could start patching his mistake.

Thus, today was the day Dom would drive Letty back. They were standing on the porch, looking at each other awkwardly as they waited on Mia. When she came up, Mia gave Letty a few boxes of food which she hoped could make Letty remember more of them. Letty gave Mia a tight hug before she did the same to Brian, both with an apology whispered to their ears. Mia got back in to check if there was any of Letty’s things that was left as it would be quite a hassle to go back and forth since they were still wanted by the feds.

Ah… An incorrect time to take a look, Brian thought when he looked at Dom who was kissing Letty as if he was afraid that Letty would not come back to him. Letty seemed surprised before she melted into it. That was a cue for Brian to just sit in the living room, letting them go. Yeah… Prove enough that he wants Letty more. All this time apart is just a bullshit with a clear result from the start, he snorted in his mind. Hands gently massaged his chest as he took deep breaths with every stroke of his hands.

Closing his eyes, head laying on the couch’s hand, Brian sent a silent wish to God with a broken, hopeful heart. A tiny hope that Dom would do the same when he accompanied Brian, perhaps just to prove that what they had was not a lie.

 

*   *   *

 

I ride for my baby
I died for my baby
I'd die for my baby no lie
There isn't enough love in the atmosphere
In the atmosphere

 

Dom had been back in the middle of the night. Brian knew because he was still awake, although he tried to act like he was asleep. The sound of Dom’s footsteps were so heavy with mixture of feelings that Brian knew the whole ‘time apart’ idea was useless. Suddenly the sound of a heavy thump on the sofa was heard and Brian’s heart skipped. Oh, more like his lungs did. Acting like he was still asleep, Brian tossed and turned a couple of times before he curled on his side, facing the back of the couch. He then gasped and coughed heavily, trying to lose the tightness on his chest.

“Hey, hey, easy. Come on.”

Dom’s voice was heard on his ear. There were hands encircling him and Brian turned his face to Dom’s chest, burying himself there for a moment. Relief spread through him and even when he was still having hard time breathing, Brian could feel his body went lax. Dom’s hand was on his back, caressing him softly.

“Dom,” Brian whispered. For the first time since days he finally felt like being loved again.

“Yeah, it’s me, Bri,” Dom answered. His hands did not stop moving as he both marveled on the feeling of having Brian in his arms and cursed himself for not realizing Brian’s condition. He’s been sleeping on the couch while you have fun with Letty. What if he had nightmares? You left him alone, Dom.

“Dom…” Brian whispered again, tightening his fingers on Dom’s shirt. He could feel his heart breaking a little more. His eyes felt hot and damp with tears. He buried his face deeper on Dom’s chest, trying not to care if there are stray tears on his face. There was a time when you’ll call bullshit on my act, but you don’t realize it anymore, huh?

 

When Brian gained his consciousness, he could feel his body curling up on the sofa. The light was trying to punch through his eyelids, signaling that the day had moved on to almost noon. Brian pushed himself upright before he laid his head on the back of the couch and closed his eyes again.

“Hey, Bri, breakfast’s ready. Come on,” Dom said as he hugged Brian from behind. When he had looked at Brian this morning, he finally realized how pale Brian had been. There were dark circles around his eyes and his face looked so tired. Brian had been sleep-talking, calling Dom’s name and whispering ‘I love you’ as well as ‘don’t leave me’ almost the whole night. Dom then remembered there were times when Brian looked like he was going to faint these past few days. However, it was only this morning that he really understood everything fully.

“Yeah, thanks…” Brian answered, looking at Dom as he gave him a grateful smile, wishing that the sadness that he felt was completely hidden.

Still, Dom hit himself in his mind when he saw the empty eyes that attempted to tell him how grateful the owner was. Half his mind kept on telling him that he was losing Brian, not to someone else but another different entity completely; death seemed to favor Brian the most lately. Not to mention his conversation with Letty before.

 

“Dom…” Letty called nervously. She opened her mouth but then closed it again and repeated the whole motion a few times before she looked away.

Dom knew she wanted to say something but was unsure if she had the right to do so. Placing his hand on Letty’s, he waited for Letty to make up her mind.

“Dom…” she called him out again. “I heard Mia and Brian arguing the past two days…” she sighed. “And there’s this term Mia threw around so much that I… finally decided to search.”

Keeping his silence, but not stopping his hand as it made calming motions on Letty’s hands, Dom stared ahead. He only wanted to indicate that he was waiting for Letty to continue. Then Letty inhaled and looked at her hands.

“Stole a chance when Mia was away for groceries. Uh… was hoping blindly that she had something in his room about it,” Letty stopped again and another inhaling movement as if to calm herself down was made. “There are printed articles, parts saying that there are five to ten percent chances of reoccurrence were underlined…”

The silence trailed off until Dom had to stop to fill the gas.

“Do you know that Brian suffered a Stress Cardiomyopathy twice?” she finally asked, her eyes looked straight at Dom as his heart started to thump loudly in his chest.

“Twice?” Dom asked. “Again?” he whispered to himself. His mind gave him reminder of it. The only time Dom was not there to know what happened to Brian was when he had selfishly gone after Letty. His hands clenched the wheel tightly.

“Again?” Letty asked. His brow furrowed in curiosity.

“Told, told me ‘bout it ‘fore,” Dom answered hoarsely. He gritted his teeth, trying to keep his focus on the road. “It was once…”

“…was, Dom…” Letty whispered too.

The rest of the journey was spent in guilt and concern and silence on both sides.

 

Admitting being a coward, Dom could not brave his heart to confront Brian about it. Deciding to just ask Mia, he tried to get Mia to give him enough time for the conversation.

 

Brian was standing on the porch, waiting for the cab. He knew they had had an agreement that they would go to the beach house together. Dom would drive him, just like he did with Letty, and Mia would drive Brian’s car. Still, Brian could not bear it if he had enough time alone with Dom like how they used to have, being together in a car. Not to mention the fact that Dom would leave him after that to mulling over something which answer was obvious. So when Dom asked Mia to go with him for groceries, Brian decided to just call a cab, move out, and get everything done.

Who cares if people call me a pessimist or stupid? Everyone with eyes could see how Dom acts around Letty, he thought. Brian had been jittery for the past few minutes, hoping that Dom and Mia would not be back before the cab came. The nervousness had made his heart thumping loudly in his chest. Praying that it was purely nervousness, Brian took deep breaths a couple times and brought his things to the driveway.

Minutes later, when a cab stopped in front of him, Brian gave the driver the paper with the address on it, and got in.

 

“You okay?” the driver asked with stilted English.

Brian gave the driver a smile and a nod, though he had been feeling like he would lose consciousness any time soon. For the past few minutes Brian had felt so tired, especially his somewhat swollen ankles. Drifting in and out of consciousness, he tried to place his head on the cool window to at least stop the light-headedness.

Gotta go to hospital… Brian thought. The doctors would be so amazed that someone could get this illness three times in a lifetime, he snorted. From the corner of his eyes, Brian caught the concerned look of the driver and smiled his thanks as he straightened himself on the seat.

“Need hospital?”

“Uh…” Brian was so tired now that the driver’s voice sounded like it was coming from far away. His mouth could not open properly to answer and he did not have the strength to nod either.

“Hey!” the driver called out again. “Hey!”

The last thing Brian remembered before he was plunged back into the darkness was the world tilted sideways and the driver cursed loudly as the car swerved around.

 

Dom could see Mia tried to hold in her sobs as they drove as fast as they could to the hospital. The frantic voice of the cab driver telling them that their ‘American buddy’ had fainted in the cab and got driven to the hospital was heard again and again in their mind.

They were on their way back from the market when they saw a cab driving carelessly toward their house. Dom was ready to call the driver out when the man quickly walked to them and told them about Brian. Mia had asked which hospital it was and also paid the man before they got into the car and drove as quickly as they could get without attracting the police to the hospital. They held hands tight, praying to God that He would be gracious enough to give them another chance.

 

Dom cleared his throat nervously to take Mia’s attention.

“Sorry…” he said. Mia snorted and kept her eyes on Brian. They both knew that Dom was talking about his leaving. “I was selfish…”

“Yeah? What clued you in?”

“Brian,” Dom answered after a few seconds. Since there was no reaction from Mia, Dom continued,”His eyes…”

“…You hurt him bad, Dom,” Mia finally said. Her expressions softened as if she had no more energy to hold her contempt.

“Did he… Did something happen?” Dom finally asked. Mia sighed and slumped on her seat. They had promised to drive on sixty this time and Mia had glared at the men until they agreed to it.

“What do you actually wanna ask, Dom?” She knew Letty must have heard her conversation with Brian. However, she did not know how much Letty knew or how much she had said to Dom.

Stress Cardiomyopathy,” Dom gritted his teeth. Mia’s reaction then told him that what Letty said was true.

“He fainted, Dom,” Mia said slowly. “I had to drag him to the car. The doctors told me it wasn’t only Stress Cardiomyopathy…” Her voice got smaller and more desperate. “He was broken-hearted, Dom. Broken Heart Syndrome they say. Said the two affected each other.”

Dom held his breath. His ears were ringing. Images of Brian in the hospital, dying because of his decision, filled his mind. He kept his eyes on Brian’s form in the car in front of him.

“He’s not fully healed, Dom… He shouldn’t leave!” Mia said in louder voice. “He’s been having the symptoms back! How are we going to know if something happened to him?” Mia asked hysterically. She was openly sobbing now, finally having her walls down after Dom had left them to support each other for his own selfishness.

“We will convince him…” Dom said. His eyes showed a determination he had never felt before for he realized that without Brian, he would not be able to function. Mia gave him a nod as she realized that they were talking about convincing Brian to stay in this world and not only with them in the house. “We can convince him, Mia,” he said again forcefully, not lying to himself that he said it to convince himself too.