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Cherry Lips

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The pay isn’t bad.

The forty-five minute commute is really kind of good, considering that this is LA. He loves the work, even if he’s not the best mechanic around. It’s quiet. His boss is nice. He gets free snacks and he can tinker on his car to his heart’s content. It’s a good job. It’s a nice job.

The pay isn’t bad.

Maybe, if he keeps repeating that mantra to himself, Han won’t get up, march over the main building of Frank’s Gas and Garage and set the whole place on fire out of sheer, mind-numbing boredom.


But Jesus Fucking Christ, he’s bored.

Frank’s has never been a beehive of activity, but on this sunny Saturday afternoon after a spell of pretty crappy – for LA – weather, no-one’s coming their way. Everyone with half a brain is on a beach somewhere, getting drunk and sun burnt.

Everyone but Han, who’s stuck in a rundown gas station at the outskirts of LA, about to become the first human being in history to die of boredom. The garage is spotless. His car is as tricked out as it’s going to get. Frank is manning the station. Even the dog is fed. Han has, literally, absolutely nothing to do but sit in the open bay of the garage and hope that someone’s car is going to break down somewhere close by.

He’s too young to die.

No, really.

Setting the place on fire sounds better with every minute that passes with nothing but chirping crickets to keep him company. Frank wouldn’t mind. He’s planning to relocate to Miami before Christmas anyway. Probably close the place down because no-one wants it. Too old. Too out of the way. Such a shame.

Han weighs having a job for another six months against alleviating his boredom. Sadly, the job wins out. He’s definitely not going back to playing errand boy for some wannabe mobster. This job, let’s face it, is the best he’s ever had.

But still –

Oh, sweet baby Jesus on a bicycle, that’s an engine he’s hearing. And not just any engine. This baby is a fully tricked out rice rocket and it’s slowing down, coming closer, closer, yes!

Han almost fist-pumps as a blue and silver right-side Skyline comes rolling into the gas station, bypassing the pumps completely to coast to a halt in the sliver of shade afforded by an old, gnarled tree. The driver’s door opens and what unfolds from the low seat is every man’s wet dream.

She’s tall and tan, electric blue eyes, dark blonde hair cropped short with barely enough length left in the fringe to hide her face a bit. Mysterious. Body of a bombshell. Small tits, tight ass. Denim shorts and a cut up shirt with a bikini top peeking out underneath. She’s wearing poison green chucks with the outfit and Han thinks he might be in love. With the car and its driver. He’s absolutely for polygamy in this case but, at the same time, he’s a bit apprehensive. This chick might be a wet dream come alive, but he’s always iffy of women driving race cars. Most of them are just cruising in their boyfriends’ rides, with absolutely no clue what they’ve got riding under their sweet little asses. Han doesn’t like posers and fakers, no matter how hot they are.

Blondie looks around the deserted place, spots him, nods in his direction. Then she bends back into the car, giving him an amazing view, and pops the hood. She wedges it open and digs right in, nimble fingers all over the engine. The fact that she’s not touching anything tells him she either knows enough about engines to know that she’s facing second degree burns if she sticks her hands in there now, or that she doesn’t want to break a nail.

Her inspection of the engine seems kind of aimless and she keeps muttering curse words loud enough that Han figures it’s time to do something against his impending death-by-boredom.

Besides, hot chick, hot car. He’d have to be dead to pass this up.

So he makes his way over, casually asking, “Can I help you?”

She looks up from the car and flashes him a blinding smile. He blinks away spots and shit, she’s kind of even more beautiful up close, all California girl, but with more edges. She’s older than he thought she was, too. Closer to thirty than twenty. Closer to his own age, then.

“Maybe,” she says, frustration obvious in her tone. He waits for a beat for her explanation when she suddenly slaps her palms on the fender and curses. “Goddamn!”

She reigns herself in and straightens, looking Han up and down and then smiling. She seems to like what she sees. “Something’s rattling,” she finally says, by way of explanation.

And there go all the hopes he had for her. Something’s rattling. Definitely girlfriend out for a joyride. He might just weep.

Blondie goes on, apparently not noticing his disappointment. “We messed around with the fuel injection and some other stuff this morning and I went to take the lady on a test drive. An hour outside the city, something started rattling. I’m guessing it’s just a loose screw or something and I seriously thought I’d make it home, but the noise is driving me up the fucking wall.”

She cringes a bit, flashes him an apologetic smile at ‘fucking’ and then goes back to inspecting the car. “I just can’t figure out what it is that’s rattling and it’ll be half an hour before I can stick my hand in there and check.”

And he’s head over heels again.

Love is such a fickle thing.

“Well,” he offers, “I can either offer you gloves or a coke, depending on whether you’ve got an appointment to make or not.” He flashes her his best good-boy grin and earns himself a good natured chuckle.

She brushes her hands off on her miniscule shorts, holds one out to him in a fist, “I’m Brian,” she says, “And if you don’t mind, I’mma take you up on that coke. Being pissed at the car ain’t helping.”

He pumps her fist, smirks, “Han. And no, probably not.”

He inspects the car for a moment, then says, “You better get this baby into the bay. It’s cooler in there.”

Not by much, but out here, the engine will never cool down. Brian – kind of a weird name, but whatever – frowns. “Don’t you have paying customers?”

He nods. “Yeah. Look around you.”

She snorts and shrugs, pulling the keys out of a pocket, dangling them in front of his face. “You wanna?”

He can almost feel himself blush. “Am I that obvious?”

Brian laughs. “What, you mean all that drooling was actually for me? I’m touched, really, but I’m taken.”

He pouts playfully but grabs the keys anyway. Even if it’s just fifty feet to the bay, he’s kind of stupidly happy that she’d let him drive even that far. Really.

“Our love could be a forbidden one,” he offers as he closes the hood and she steps back.

Head thrown back in laughter, she gets even prettier. “You only want me for my body work,” she informs him cheekily, smacking the hood of the Skyline to make clear just whose body work she’s referring to.

He sighs dramatically, shaking his head. “I am that obvious.”

She winks at him and gets in shotgun. So she doesn’t really trust him to not take off into the sunset with her car. He likes her better for it, he thinks as he lets the car roll into the garage. And yeah, that rattling is really kind of annoying. Turning off the engine, he listens to it tick for a moment before giving in to the urge and just asking, “What’re the specs for this baby?”

Brian snorts as she gets out of the car, taking her keys back. “You get me that coke, I’ll show you all her tricks.”

It’s a deal.


They shoot the shit for half an hour over cokes and ice, listening to her car creak and tick as it slowly cools down. He’s about to suggest they risk a second look under the hood, when her phone starts blaring some dance tune, heavy on the base. She picks up immediately.

“Hey, babe.”

So she really is taken.

“I’m sitting on my ass waiting for the engine to cool down enough so I can find out who the hell I need to kill.”

A beat. “Because one of you clowns dropped something in my baby. …You bet your ass it’s rattling. I’m not driving another inch before I found whatever’s causing it.”

She snorts, rolling her eyes like she’s not half as pissed as she pretends to be. Han sort of grins along.

“Yeah, looks like I might be late… So let Rome race. He’s good for it…. Yeah. Love ya. Later.”

Completely taken. Damn. Still, “You race?”

She gives him a long, searching look, like she’s trying to figure out how much to tell him, and then shrugs. “Yeah. Drag, these days, although I’m killer on an actual street.”

There’s nothing modest about the way she says it, simply fact. “You?”

He ducks his head a little and suddenly wishes he hadn’t stopped smoking, which is ridiculous, because they’re just talking cars. Still, he thinks he might be developing an actual, real life crush, all joking aside. “I drift sometimes.”

It’s not really a thing in LA, but there are places. Occasionally he’ll get in on a real street race, but with the way the cops have come down on the racing scene in the past year or so, long races have pretty much disappeared. Drag races are faster, less flashy and easier to organize.

“Yeah? Any good at it?” She asks good-naturedly. If she’d been a guy, it would have had his hackles up, but she isn’t, so it’s all cool.

He waggles his eyebrows at her. “Come watch me and find out,” he offers.

To his surprise, she looks like she’s considering it. “You know, I might take ya up on that. My scene’s getting boring.”

Before he can react to that, she puts down her empty can and walks over to the Skyline, still ticking away happily. Her ass is on his eye level and Han can’t really help but look. Damn, that girl is fine.

The hood’s already open, so she leans against the frame with her elbows, staring intently at the engine. After a minute he can’t help himself. “You telekinetic?”

She blinks at him, confused for a moment. Then she snorts. “Yeah, no, I’m trying my hand at deduction.”

He comes to a halt beside her, resisting the urge to let the condensation from his coke drip down her mostly-bare back, just to see what she’d do. “How so?”

“My boys are all pretty decent mechanics, which means they did this to fuck with me. I’m trying to remember who worked on what so I know where I’m most likely to find my prize.”

She goes back to staring for another minute. Then, “Hey, can you turn her over for me?”

With a nod, Han accepts the keys again and does as she asked. They listen to the soft purr of the engine for a minute, overlaid with the annoying as fuck clanking of something loose in there. Finally Brian waves her hand above the hood for him to kill it and as he gets back to his feet, he hears her say, “Rome, you are a dead man.”

By the time he makes it around the car, she’s already in up to her elbows, apparently sure where she needs to go now. Han helpfully kicks a tool box her way and then drags his chair over to sit down and watch her work and hand her stuff.

When she finally finds the evil-doer, she stares at it for a moment before starting to laugh helplessly. When he asks what the hell’s so funny, she throws him something small and deformed.

Except it’s not deformed at all. It’s made out of nuts, soldered together sloppily, but still obviously a figurine, head and two arms and legs, a bigger nut for a body. There’s a bit of wire wrapped around the head-nut to make hair. It looks like something a kid might make if they got trapped in daddy’s workshop. It looks like something Han might fuck around with, in a certain mood.

“That from your man?” he asks, handing it back. The way she puts it into her pocket tells him that she’ll keep the little guy.

“Nah, that’s from my boy.”

Since that’s what he just said, he gives her a weird look. She chuckles. “Rome is my best friend, has been since we were both in diapers. This,” she pats her pocket, “is the kind of shit we got up to as kids. I haven’t gotten one of those in a while.”

She shrugs sheepishly and a little misty-eyed and he doesn’t even call her on it.


Brian puts the car back together in record time, telling him anecdotes about her and ‘Rome’s’ childhood shenanigans while she works. He returns the favor with some of his own exploits.

But after another half-hour she’s done and ready to go. She puts a fifty in his hand for, “Putting up with her crazy ass,” and he doesn’t say the obvious, even though he really wants to.

Instead he puts it in the tip jar with a wink and tells her, “Anytime you feel like dragging your crazy ass out to bumfuck nowhere, you’re very welcome. And remember,” he runs his tongue over his teeth, “our love could still be a forbidden one.”

She laughs, hugs him briefly and blows away on the sunset to the sweet tune of a perfectly kept racecar.


He thinks about Brian for a few days, her curves, her car, the mouth on that girl.

Then he files it in the spank bank and thinks of other things, like the fondness in her voice when she spoke about ‘her boys’, or the casual ‘love ya’ on the phone. People making little stick-figures out of nuts and hiding them in each others’ cars and a place to go home to that isn’t a stale apartment above a bar.

He wonders if he’d be able to stand life like that, surrounded by people, by family. The noise and action and lack of privacy. He remembers that he hated ‘family’ when it meant him and his mom in a silent, oppressive apartment, still stinking of the cigarettes of a man ten years gone.

He ran when he was sixteen and never looked back.

Whatever. He’s never going to see Brian again anyway. So he files the ‘family’ thing away, too, and gets on with his life.


‘Never’ turns out to last a month.


She comes rolling in the same way she left, presumably, but Han doesn’t actually notice because he is, for once, actually busy.

There are two customers here to pick up their cars and he has to explain to both of them in dumb-speak what he did and why, no, he couldn’t do it any cheaper, no, duct tape would not have done the trick. He makes a whooping five bucks in tips and gives their tail lights the finger.

Behind him, someone laughs.

He spins on his heel, ready for some excuse, when he realizes it’s Hurricane Brian, back from the drawer he shoved her into, and isn’t that a surprise.

“What are you doing here?” he asks and yeah, Lue, real smooth sailing there.

But Brian doesn’t take offense, just shrugs, grins and asks, “Is that offer for a forbidden love still open?”

If he were a smart man, he’d say yes, offer her directions to his apartment and meet her there in an hour.

But somehow Han doesn’t believe that’s really what she’s here for, so he chuckles and nods. “Sure. Just gimme a minute to saddle my white steed and then we’re off into… well, I can offer rush hour traffic?”

She laughs and even though he hasn’t heard it more than once, he can tell that this time, it’s strained. Tired.


Is he doing this?

He’s doing this.

“Pull the car around back so my boss can’t see and meet me in the garage. If you’re good, I have beer.”


No Corona. She follows his instructions anyway.


“So,” he asks, half an hour later, watching her fiddle with her beet bottle, “What really brings you back out here?”

He could ask more, but it’s not his style. She shrugs, tucks a piece of hair behind her ear. It doesn’t stay there.

“Today’s a historically shitty day and I… I needed a little breathing room. I love my family, but I live, work and race with them. It gets crowded. So I ran and…,” she blushes, a bit embarrassed, “I realized about five minutes after bailing that I don’t actually have any friends outside of my crew anymore.”

She doesn’t say it like it’s a bad thing, but Han understands the need to run.

Every racer does.

Sometimes, you need to put road under you and miles behind you and how do you think he got from Atlanta to Los Angeles anyway?

So he simply latches onto the other thing. “Historically shitty?”

“Anniversary of my mom’s death.”

He winces because, yeah, great job not digging into the bad shit there. And also, Han never went to his own mother’s funeral, didn’t even know she died until three months after the fact, so, yeah.

“I’m sorry.”

Brian shrugs and settles her ass on the hood of the Supra she’s driving today. The paint job is eye-watering but he kind of really wants to get all up inside of that thang. “I didn’t even like the woman. Loved her, yeah, but I didn’t like her.” She grimaces. “She was a pushover.”

She shakes her head abruptly. “Anyway. I didn’t bail on the condolence-fest for this. What’s up with you?”


Han keeps Brian entertained until closing and then he takes her home because she makes no move to get back in her damn car and home to her man. They get pizza on the way there and he doesn’t even know what the fuck he’s doing, because he’s legit crushing on the woman and he’s not even trying to get in her pants and he might have to turn in his mancard.


He tries not to be an asshole in day to day life.

Brian falls asleep on his ratty sofa and he leaves her there, snagging up her phone as he flees into the bedroom, because, well, fuck. There’s a hot chick sleeping on his sofa and he’s not even going to tap that ass.

There’s a text on Brian’s phone from a girl named Mia, that says, Take your time, I’ll keep the boys down.

He figures it’s as good a place as any to start and hits dial.


He winces, realizing that this is probably not going to sound good. “Erm, no. This is Han.”

He expects the girl to ask who the hell that is, but after a moment of silence, she says, “You’re the guy who helped her out with the Skyline and Dickie last month.”


“She named the nut-man,” Mia says, half amused and Han kind of registers that Brian apparently went home and told everyone all about him. He blushes beet red in his dark bedroom.


“So Brian’s with you?”

He shrugs and then remembers to use his words. “Yeah. Said she needed some space. She wasn’t really… okay, so I fed her and now she’s crashed out on my couch.”

There’s a beat of silence and then a gravelly voice asking if that’s Brian. Mia covers the receiver to answer no, a friend of hers, and yeah, Brian’s fine.

“You want us to pick her up?”

It takes him a moment to understand that Mia’s talking to him again. He considers the offer. “Nah,” he finally says. “She can have the couch. Just… I figure you people are close. Don’t need to worry.”

“Oh.” And then, “Alright. Thank you, for looking after her. You’re a good guy.”

She hangs up on him and he sits there, staring at the too bright screen, wondering when someone last said something like that to him.

He can’t remember.



Brian’s gone when he wakes up.

Somehow, he’s not surprised.


He is surprised when she turns up at the garage again a week later and hugs him hello.

“So,” she says as she pulls back, tugging at her hair in something almost like a nervous gesture. “I’m sorry for angsting all over you the other day. You totally did not deserve that.”

He shrugs, remembering that he’s a cool customer just in time.

“And I’ve been sent with a message.”


Brian folds her hands behind her back like a school girl about to recite the constitution and rattles off, “Dear Han, you are cordially invited to Sunday dinner at our place because you kept Brian’s ass out of trouble.” He wonders who she’s quoting when she suddenly drops the stance and adds, “And also, everyone wants to meet you.” She rolls her eyes to make clear what she thinks of that, but it’s not malicious.

“We’ve met twice,” he feels the need to point out.

“Thrice now. And I’m awesome at reading people.” Her smile is impossibly bright and he feels honest to god dazzled by it.

“Awesome,” she chirps after a moment of silence, pulling a piece of crumpled paper out of the front pocket of her shots. “Here’s the address, be there six-ish, see you Sunday.”

And then she’s gone with a peck on his cheek and a bouncy wave.



The address Brian gave him is smack in the middle of Echo Park, which is territory he usually steers clear off. He knows who rules that corner of the city and it ain’t anyone he wants to get in trouble with.

He stares at the scrap of paper for half an hour solid on Sunday morning, trying to figure out if he’s going or not.

In the end he’s still not decided what he’s doing when his ass is already in the car, pointing toward Echo Park. He stops for two six-pack of Corona on the way, because he remembers Brian saying something about the only good beer being that beer. He has no real opinion on the matter, but why the hell not, right?

It’s five thirty when he gets there and he knows he has the address right because there’s a small fortune in race cars parked in the drive and along the road. Rice rockets mixed with some good old ‘muscle and each and every one of them making him a little bit hot under the collar.

After parking a ways off he dawdles on the front lawn until the front door opens and Brian comes skipping toward him, wearing cutoff jeans that barely cover her ass, a bikini top and a smile.

She hugs him again.

It’s becoming a habit.

“Oh,” she says as she pulls back, “Corona. You remembered!”

He did. He’s not embarrassed by that at all. Okay, maybe a little. Behind Brian, the door opens again and a bruiser in a muscle shirt comes lumbering down the stairs and holy shit, that’s Dominic Toretto.

That’s the man they call unbeatable, the King of LA and whatever other idiotic monikers the racing scene can come up with. Han’s only ever glimpsed the man from afar because drag isn’t what he does and the man has made himself scarce lately. But. No mistaking a guy that big.

And Brian is, apparently, one of his people.

Holy. Fuck.

Out loud, Han doesn’t so much as eep as the man comes up behind Brian, offering his fist to bump. “You Han?” he asks.

Han hits the fist and nods. “You’re Toretto.”

“Dom,” the man corrects. “around here.”

Han nods and opens his mouth to say something but doesn’t get that far, because suddenly another guy comes hurtling around the corner of the house. This one’s black, also bald, and wearing nothing but board shorts. He lets loose something that’s probably supposed to be a war cry as he ducks low and tackles Brian off her feet and slings her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.

He doesn’t lose speed at all, just straightens, whacks her on the ass and keeps on running, right back around the house with a screeching Brian in tow.

Han’s mouth clicks shut. Tor – Dom shakes his head.

“Fuckin’ maniacs,” he grumbles.

“That her boyfriend?” Han finds himself asking because, yeah, okay, he’s curious. Sue him.

Dom smiles and waves Han forward, starts walking even as he rumbles, “Nah. Brian’s all mine.”

Aaaand that’s the sound of Han’s crush quietly crawling into a corner and dying.

“And that was…?”

“Damn menace,” is the only answer he gets.

Behind the house, it’s pandemonium. Han just catches a glimpse of a squirming Brian before Menace drops her into a kiddy pool set up in the far corner. Judging by the splash, it’s probably empty now.

Brian kicks, shouts something and then Menace goes down with her.

A big guy – what do they feed people around here – turns the hose on them both, while two girls with dark hair cackle like hyenas from the steps by the backdoor. Two more men, Han’s weight class, are leaning against the side of the garage, trading a joint between them.

A bunch of black guys is trash talking a gaggle of Hispanics and usually Han would head the other way right about now, but they’re all grinning under the posturing and stern faces.

Everyone’s laughing and talking and, in Brian’s case, screeching. Most of the people in the cramped backyard are half naked and damp, if not outright wet.


Dom slaps Han on the shoulder in what feels almost like silent support and then makes a beeline for the grill, shooing away the guy that’s trying to fire it up.


Han decides to unobtrusively put his beer in the huge ice tub set up to one side and then loiter around the edges.

He watches Brian and Menace finish their battle royale and turn on the tattooed man with the hose, who goes down under the onslaught.

Finally, Brian disentangles herself with a smacking kiss pressed to Menace’s bald head. Han cannot be blamed for reading that wrong, and he’s still not sure Dom wasn’t fucking with him until she sneaks up on the man himself and jumps him from behind, wrapping her limbs around him in a hug that leaves him soaked. He turns his head, kisses her, and then dumps her ass on the ground.

The girls on the stairs holler and jeer, but it seems to be mostly in good cheer. Brian takes it as that, at any rate.

The actual eating portion of the day, when it finally happens, is surprisingly organized. Dom shouts for everyone to get their asses moving and they do. Within five minutes, a bunch of mismatched and randomly appropriated tables are set out in the yard in a wobbly line and people are dragging up everything you can possibly sit on.

Han, managing to grab an actual chair, meets Edwin, who is apparently a friend. Everyone here’s a damn friend. Edwin snorts when Han observes that, points out his own crew and then winks. “We’re the ones that go home at the end of the day.”

Well, him and Hector, who Han recognizes eventually. The man’s a mover on the scene. No way to get past him, really.

There are suddenly bowls and plates and cutlery being brought out, salads and chili and who the fuck is supposed to eat all this, and then there’s silence. Han somehow ended up sitting between Brian and the big guy with the tattoos and he looks at both and finds no clue as to why everyone’s gone still and unmoving.

After a minute, during which Dom’s lips are twitching wryly, Brian sighs, grabs a chip and chews it loudly.

Then everyone’s grabbing their neighbors’ hands and Brian ducks her head and says grace. Actual, honest to god – literally – grace.

The second she’s done, the volume gets cranked again and it’s a free for all battle for food.

Han blinks. “What just happened?”

Brian laughs and she slops a ladle of potato salad on her plate. “First one to steal food has to say grace. Somehow, it’s turned into a competition.”

She shrugs and digs in.


Dinner dissolves the way it started. By some signal, everyone grabs their stuff, returns it to where it belongs and then they’re back to fooling around and drinking. Someone cranks up a stereo and a few people dance and Han thinks that if this happens every Sunday, these people are insane.

He flees inside with a stack of dirty plates, in the end, and is greeted by the surreal sight of tattoo-guy and Menace washing dishes. Vince, he remembers, and Rome. There’s been way too many names these past few hours.

He must be staring, because Rome shrugs, sponge in hand and tells him, “House rule. Cooks don’t clean.”

Vince grumbles something under his breath that sounds a lot like, “Brian’s damn rule, you mean.”

But he doesn’t stop drying and stacking dainty plates. Han stays with them for a while, enjoying the reprieve and shooting the shit. He learns that Rome came here straight out of Chino and sometimes needs a little quiet, too, that Vince is a racer but a shitty mechanic and legit works in an office during the week.

He also learns that Rome actually has more tattoos than Vince. His are just barely visible. The two of them are like a couple of old women, nattering away and bitching at each other as they work and Han knows more about the people in this house after half an hour than he would have found out in six months without the two stooges and their running commentary on everything.

Like how Brian and Dom ‘fused’ about two years ago, how Rome came with Brian and the others were Dom’s first, how Dom used to be with Letty, the dark-haired girl that glowers at Brian sometimes, and how they’re all ruled by the iron fists of the alpha couple.

They don’t say it like that, but it’s obvious who rules this roost. No-one refuses Brian or Dom, apparently.

Looking out the kitchen window, Han can see why. Brian is constantly moving, classic social butterfly, and wherever she goes, the laughter gets a bit brighter, the smiles a bit wider. Everyone loves her.

Dom isn’t as obviously seeking people out. He’s holding court, really, sitting by the picnic table – the only table actually belonging in the yard – and letting people come to him. They talk for a few minutes, then move on and someone else approaches.

King and Queen.

Han doesn’t realize he’s said that out loud until Rome barks a laugh. “Mia catch you yet?” he asks and when Han looks confused, Vince explains.

“Girl used to give all the new strays this speech about how Dom’s gravity and there’s no escaping him.”

“Used to?”

“She’s modded the speech. You’ll hear it before you leave.”

“Not actually a stray,” Han points out.

He gets two hilariously identical looks of disbelief and a whack on the shoulder with a wet towel. “Believe me, man, my girl’s taken a shine to you. Ain’t no runnin’ now.”


It’s almost midnight when Han tries to sneakily make his exit. Edwin’s crew took off in bulk an hour ago and Hector and his people have been slipping away one by one. It’s pretty much down to Team Torretto at this point and Han doesn’t belong here.

He’s on his way to dump two fistfuls of empties in the recycle bin and then go, when Mia comes up to him, smiling.

“Here for that speech?” he asks and she scowls.

“Who told?” He grins but doesn’t give up his sources.

With a huff, she takes the bottles from him and gets rid of them. “Look,” she says, not really looking at him. “Someone’s gotta say this. My brother’s sort of like gravity and with Brian around… he’s worse. Those two are like a friggin’ planet. Once they draw you in, that’s it. So think long and hard about whether you want in, because once you are, it’s for real. No going back.”

She nods to herself, satisfied.

“I didn’t ask to come here,” Han offers.

Smiling, she shrugs. “Like I said, they draw you in.”

And the look on her face is a little sad and a lot resigned and Han tries to imagine living with a black hole for a brother and comes up empty, because what the fuck does he know about family?

He nods his gratitude and lets himself out the front door without setting foot back in the yard.


The next morning there’s a text from Brian on his phone, with a sad frown-y face and the sentence, you didn’t say goodbye.

Sorry, he texts back, and nothing more.


“Listen,” Brian’s voice implores from his voicemail, “I know you’ve been kind of staying away and Mia said to leave you alone, but I remember you saying that your job’s running out and we have a… thing here. Rome told you about Chino, right? He just got the anklet off a year ago and he’s been saving up cash because he wants to see the world or some such shit and as of next month, we’re down a mechanic. So if you still need a job, or just something temp until you get yourself sorted out, call me. I… call me.”

There’s a low, rumbling voice in the background, calling her name. Dom. Brian hangs up and Han stares at his phone. How the hell did she remember a throwaway comment he made the first time they met, over five months ago? And how’d she know what he, Vince and Rome talked about in the kitchen that night?

He dials Mia’s number. He has no idea how all the crew’s numbers ended up in his phone, but they’ve been there since the barbeque.

Mia answers on the fifth ring. “Yeah?”

“Hey,” he says, “it’s Han.”

“Oh, hi. Brian call you already?”

It’s a whole house full of chatty old women. “Yeah. That’s why I’m calling. Why… why’s she doing this?”

Drawing him in.

He can actually hear the woman shrug. “You helped her when she needed it. Brian repays her debts.”

All he did was offer her a bay, some coke and a couch to crash on. He’d have done that for any friend. Except, Brian isn’t a friend. Wasn’t.


“Can I come by some time? Talk it over?”

“Family dinner is Sunday at five-thirty,” she answers and hangs up.