Brian ran away a lot after his mom died, but he’d always ended up back home, because he never had anywhere else to go.
Brian’s birthday was about a week away, and he’d been saving his money for almost a year. He finally had a destination and a plan, now he just had to wait for his dad to leave and go out drinking again. Of course, that happened every night anyway.
Brian was going to try to join Dom Toretto’s crew in Los Angeles. He had intimate experience with repairing cars, whether they were new or old, foreign or American muscle. But if Dom didn’t let him in, he’d be forced to come home.
Brian heard about Dom from a group of girls in the diner while he was working. They told him about how hot Dom was and about some of his rumoured jobs.
“My brother tried to join but he’s an idiot when it comes to cars. My mom wanted to kill him when she found out.”
Brian went to school with these girls, so he sort of knew them, but he couldn’t remember any of their names, let alone this girl’s brother. Regardless, he sort of owed them for introducing him to the world of Dominic Toretto.
Brian’s dad left later than usual for the bar, but it still gave Brian time to get out. The trip was going to be rough, but Brian had his mom’s old, beat up car so he wouldn’t have to walk.
As quickly as possible, he began to load his things into the car. He didn’t plan on coming back, so he took as much of his stuff as he could. He took some of his mom’s things, too, because he couldn’t leave them behind.
He was struggling to find a good way to arrange everything, both in a way that made sense and for his convenience. He packed his mom’s things into the back of the trunk, since he wouldn’t need to take them out until he had somewhere to stay permanently. He tried to pack so that the things he wouldn’t immediately need went into the trunk and the things he would went into the cab. The last thing he did was leave a note on the fridge. His dad wouldn’t see it for a few days, if he saw it at all, but Brian had a guilty conscience about leaving without a word.
He had two stops to make on his way out of town. First, his mom’s best friend, Noelle, who lived down the road. She was also his best friend’s mom. He had known Roman for as long as he could remember. Noelle was rarely home, but he knew she would be tonight because Roman had called to tell him a few days before.
He knocked a couple times before she finally opened the door. She let him in without a word, and they walked to the kitchen table.
“Noelle, I’m leaving.” Brian assumed telling her immediately was the best way to do it, plus he didn’t have a lot of time.
“Right after I walk out the door.” She nodded in understanding and sat across from him with her newly filled cup of coffee.
“Can you tell me where you’re going?”
“Does Roman know?” Brian shook his head, unable to look at her directly, for fear of changing his mind.
“He’d want to come with me. I figured you wouldn’t want that.”
“Actually, I think it’s a better idea for him to go with you. For the both of you. He gets in so much trouble around here. And you need someone to ground you, sometimes. You should call him. There’s something I need to go get, so call right now.” As she disappeared down the hall, he grabbed the house phone from the counter and dialled.
“It’s Brian. I’m going to L.A. Your mom thinks you should go with me.”
“What do you mean you’re going to L.A.?” Roman was driving, Brian could hear the car through the phone.
“I can’t stay here, man. I have a plan. Are you in or out?”
“I’m in. You know I’m always here for you, bro.” Roman hung up and a moment later, Brian heard his car pull up to the house. Just as Noelle was walking back into the kitchen, Roman was through the front door.
“Your mom wanted to give you this for your 18th birthday, and since it’s tomorrow, I figured I’d give it to you now.”
Brian opened the box, not expecting much, but, instead, was greeted with his mom’s favourite leather jacket. She had bought it from a thrift store when Brian was in kindergarten. It had been intended for a man, but still had a slightly feminine frame to it. He immediately pulled it on, feeling a new sense of confidence and a deeper connection to his mom.
Roman packed his stuff while Brian caught up with Noelle, and it was well after midnight when they finally left. The guys mutually agreed that taking separate vehicles would be better, so that they’d have both in L.A.
The second stop that Brian had wanted to make was the gas station, for gas, obviously, and for snacks. He didn’t want to waste his money on the trip, but grabbing small things to eat and drink on the way was better than stopping more than he needed to. Realistically, the trip should only take a couple hours, but Brian is a cautious driver, so it would take closer to three hours, especially since they’d have to find a motel.
Brian was nervous about meeting Dominic. The girls had described him like some sex god, all muscle and dominance, and while Brian didn’t doubt that, he also assumed that Dominic was something unique, too. Not just strong and intimidating, but someone with a purpose. At least, Brian hoped so.
Brian and Roman took their first snack break leaning against their cars in the darker part of the gas station parking lot. Brian told Roman about his plan to join Dominic’s crew, and Roman wanted in, too. Brian knew their motivations were slightly different, but he was appreciative that they had some semblance of a goal to their trip. Of course, their objectives list went jobs, then apartment, then Dominic’s crew. This list also gave them time to scope the crew and get themselves familiar with the street racing scene. Brian had never raced before, but Roman had, many times.
“So, you want to join this Toretto dude’s crew, but you’ve never actually seen the guy?”
“I’ve seen pictures online. The girls also talked about a sister, Mia and some friends. Obviously the crew is bigger than that but that’s the inner circle, which is exactly where we wanna be.” Roman nodded in agreement.
After chatting over some more details, they decided to leave. Brian took off first, since he knew where he was going. He couldn’t help but glance in the rearview mirror, looking one last time at all that he was leaving behind. It wasn’t much, but he’d grown up here. The family he had once had was no longer there though, and that was something he needed to come to terms with. He had to find a new family.
The drive was long, and Brian’s only company was the music from the radio. He’d landed on an alternative style station at the moment, but he was expecting to switch it soon. The radio was unreliable when it came to good music.
At the moment, the woman’s voice filling the car was singing about being bad at love. Brian remembers hearing this song more than once, and he quickly wrote down her name on a napkin so that he could find more of her music in L.A.
Halsey is the name that eventually comes from the radio and Brian is quick to messily scrawl it across the napkin, his eyes never leaving the road after he was sure that he’d written an H. The next song that played was about the death of a bachelor and while Brian had no idea what the song was technically about, he could appreciate the beauty of it.
Throughout the trip, Brian hears Halsey plenty more times, as well as more Panic! at the Disco, and some other groups he hasn’t heard before. The songs are mostly repeats, but he doesn’t mind, just enjoys the quiet hum of the speakers, lulling him into a state of calm.
Driving has always been something he’s enjoyed. When his mother was alive, they’d go for drives together, talking and just being with each other. It was hard without her. She didn’t get to be there for all the important things he’d done in the past three years and she wouldn’t be for the rest of his life. He’d never be able to come to terms with that but there was nothing he could do except continue to live.
Barstow was behind him and L.A. was in front, a new life waiting to begin. The lights of Los Angeles at night were something ethereal. He wasn’t sure if he was seeing them as they were or as all that they represented, but they meant something to him. The lights were still in the distance when Roman and Brian pulled into a dingy motel, checking in for the week until they found a cheap but decent hotel in the city.
The first night felt more lonely than Brian ever thought it would. Roman was asleep in the other bed but Brian couldn’t shake the feeling that he was suddenly alone. He quietly slipped out to the walkway and stared at the lights of the city.
His new home was just a few miles down the road and even that wasn’t certain. Brian leaned against a column, lost in thought. So lost, in fact, that he didn’t realise that another man had walked up to stand beside him.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Brian jumped at the deep voice, hesitantly looking over. He lost his breath when the face he saw was the one in the pictures he’d been looking at all week.
“Uh, yeah. I’ve never been to L.A. so I’m admiring from a distance before I get too close.” Brian hesitated to look at Dominic, for fear of giving himself away.
“What are you in L.A. for, then?”
Fuck , Brian thought, what do I say?
“I’m trying to find something.” Dominic let out a small chuckle.
“It’s an awfully big city. What are you looking for?” Brian was at a loss for words once again, this time looking at Dominic directly. He must have looked like an idiot.
“It’s, uh, hard to explain.” Brian finally looked away, his face hot. He hoped that Dominic couldn’t see the red staining his cheeks in the pale light.
“Well, I’ve got all night.” The older man began to walk away but Brian wasn’t sure that he was meant to follow. When Dominic motioned for him to come with, Brian was hesitant, but obeyed.
They ended up sitting at a table by the pool, the moonlight dancing off the water giving the area a different aura than the one they were previously occupying. They sat in silence for awhile, somewhere between comfortable and uncomfortable, both of them staring at the water.
“So, what is it that you’re looking for?” Dominic finally asked.
“A family.” Brian couldn’t meet the other man’s eyes, continuing to stare at the pool.
“How do you plan on finding one of those?” Brian sighed, contemplating whether to come clean or not.
“I have a plan.” Dominic laughed and shook his head.
“You can’t use a plan to find a family. Family is made up of people who care about you. Not just some group of people you find. They find you.”
They sat in silence for awhile after that, Brian unable to find words that would even come close to proving Dominic wrong. Brian knew he was right. Family is more complicated than he ever thought. They find you .
“Why are you looking for a family?”
“I haven’t had one in years.” Brian suddenly wished he had something to drink; his mouth felt like it was filled with cotton.
“What happened to that one?” Dominic asked gently.
“My mom died and my dad stopped caring. All he ever does is drink. I’m here with my best friend. He and his mom are the closest thing I have left to a family.”
“If they’re your family, then why’d you come out here looking for one?” Brian was running out of answers, but he couldn’t admit the truth to Dominic.
“His mom travels for work all the time and Roman isn’t around much. When he is around, we fight a lot. He got in with the wrong people a few years ago. He’s my best friend and he always will be, but he hasn’t been the same since then. I guess I’m just looking for more people that’ll care about me the way I care about them.” Brian sighed. Rome got in trouble just before Brian’s mom died. He stopped hanging around with that group when Brian started running away from home.
“It was just me and my sister after our parents died. I had to make my own family. I’d ask you to join us, but it doesn’t seem like you’d like our scene.” Dominic had this grin that Brian assumed he used on the women he met, and though it made Brian feel something, he wouldn’t let it deter him.
“And what is your scene?” Dominic chuckled.
“Street racing, mostly. Like I said, pretty boy, not your scene.”
“I can’t race but I can work on any car. My mom used to say it was a talent. Rome can race, though. I used to go watch him smoke everyone he went up against.” The older man laughed again, raking his eyes over Brian.
“I have a 1970 Dodge Charger R/T that I’ve been working on. If you can help me fix it up by the end of the month, I might consider letting you and your friend into my crew. I’ll have to see him race, though.” Brian nodded, stunned by the idea that Dominic Toretto was giving him a chance to join the crew.
“You gonna teach me how to race, then?” Brian flashed Dominic a smile.
“If we fix my car, I will show you how to race, pretty blue eyes. You have to fix up your own car to drive, though, because it ain’t gonna be mine.” Brian laughed and nodded, expecting that from Dominic.
“Fair enough. As long as you don’t tell me that I can’t even sit in the passenger seat, we’ll be okay.” A breeze swept through, making Brian shiver, dressed only in a thin, cropped t-shirt and sweatpants.
“We’ll see about that.” Dominic moved Brian’s chair closer and wrapped his arm around the younger man’s shoulders. Brian moved into the touch.
“Oh, come on, you wouldn’t want this in your passenger seat?” Brian laughed, moving his body in a way that was meant to be mockingly sexy. Dominic grinned back, shaking his head.
“You’d probably have a heart attack if I had you in my car. What’s the fastest you’ve ever gone?”
“Rome won’t race with me in the car, so maybe 100? 110?” Dominic laughed at that, truly laughed, making Brian smile.
“I think your friend has the right idea. You couldn’t handle being in my car while I’m racing.” Dominic rubbed his hand along Brian’s arm, which was covered in goosebumps.
“How would we ever know? I’ve never raced.”
“You seem more like a cruising type. Not racing.” Dominic was still gently running his hand over Brian’s arm, making a weak attempt at warming him.
“We’ll just have to test your theory, then, won’t we?” Brian curled his legs up onto the chair, lifting his body up and into Dominic even more. They looked at each other for a long moment, not realising until just then how close they were.
“I don’t have my car, but I could still show you a good time.” Brian grinned at the innuendo and agreed to go with him.
“You ever going to tell me your name?” Brian asked on the way to Dominic’s car.
“Dominic Toretto. Usually, I tell everyone to call me Dom, but I’m sure you’ll come up with something else,” Dom said as he opened the door to his Chevelle.
“I like Dominic. Dom suits you, but Dominic is cute.” Brian smiled at Dom, teasing.
“I’m not cute.” Dom was smiling now, and they were leaving the parking lot.
“Technically, I only called your name cute, but you are, too.” Brian flashed his award-winning smile, knowing he’d get away with calling Dom cute. Dom smiled, too, shaking his head.
“Are you going to tell me your name or am I going to have to call you pretty boy?” Brian rolled his eyes, smiling the entire time.
“Brian O’Conner. Although, I like the nicknames. Pretty boy, pretty blue eyes, whatever you’d like.”
When they reached an empty road, one that Brian assumed Dom had been on before, Dom started to speed up. Brian was fine at first, but the speedometer was going up, and so was his nervousness about the situation.
Fuck, fuck, fuck, Brian repeated internally. The car jerked and Brian wasn’t ready for it. Before he knew what he was doing, his hand was wrapped around Dom’s wrist.
“Trust me,” Dom’s deep voice rattled from the other side of the car. Their eyes met for a second, then Dom’s returned to the road. Brian gave a single nod and took a deep breath, leaving his fingers around Dom’s wrist. Brian looked ahead again.
He was starting to calm down, so his grip on Dom loosened. He took another breath, focusing on the feel of the car around him. Running through the Chevelle in his mind provided more of a calming effect than he thought it would. Understanding how the car worked, feeling the car as Dom drove it, and getting out of his head made him enjoy the speed and the adrenaline rush he felt from it. Brian smiled, meeting Dom’s eyes.
“It’s addicting,” Dom warned.
“What isn’t?” Dom just grinned, looking at Brian in his passenger seat. Brian looked back, feeling like there was no other place he’d rather be.
By the time they pulled back up to the motel, the sun was rising. Roman was still asleep when Brian reentered their room. Brian lied down, hoping to catch a couple hours of sleep before Dom would be expecting them at his house at noon.
“Where were you all night?” Roman asked.
“With Dominic Toretto.” Brian heard Roman sit up so fast he was surprised he didn’t get whiplash.
“We’re meeting him at noon, so I’m going to sleep.” Roman sighed but lied back down.
Brian fell asleep, reliving the night in his dreams. The speed, the car, and most importantly Dominic Toretto.