Roman's pretty much used to feeling jealous around Brian. Cause everybody loves Brian and Brian loves everybody, that's just the way it's always been. So being jealous of this Monica chick, that wasn't weird at all. Watching Brian flirt with her, like he'd never seen a woman before, that wasn't anything new and different.
"I think I'm going to have to stick around Miami," he'd told Brian. "Keep you out of trouble. You know what I'm talking about."
But Brian probably didn't know what he was talking about. Brian was dumb sometimes. So later that night, when they were alone on the boat, also maybe half-drunk, Roman showed him. Grabbed him by the shirt and kissed him, a full open-mouthed kiss. And Brian pulled away, took a step back, looking at him, but not like he was freaked out. Just curious.
"Whatcha doing, Rome?"
"I'm keeping you out of trouble."
So Brian nodded, and kissed him back. And then they finally sorted some things out.
And it was good. It was fucking excellent. And it's only way after, after they've done it twice, and they're crammed into the boat-sized bed trying to sleep, that it occurs to Roman that Brian has obviously done this before.
"His name was Dom," Brian answers when Roman asks.
"Dom?" Roman repeated. "What kind of wack name is that?"
Brian's blue eyes flew wide open with a look of murder. Only that look prevented Roman from asking more questions, like who was he? Was it hot?
Did you love him?
That was the same feeling, a hot stab to the chest. Like watching Brian kiss Suki hello. Nothing new.
So Roman thought he knew jealousy. He was starting to think that he'd got jealousy beat. That was until the day that the stranger drove into the garage.
It was a green 53X, and you could hear the engine revving from down the street at the traffic lights. So Rome steps into the blazing Miami sunshine just as the car is pulling up and says, "can I help you?"
The stranger gets out and gives him the once over. This guy is big, mostly muscle, and he's got a deep voice, rumbly, like an engine turning over. "I'm looking for Brian."
Rome looks the guy up and down and right away, he doesn't like him. "Brian ain't here." Says it slowly, slow enough that the guy knows he's full of shit.
"Why don't you just tell him I'm here?"
"Why don't you just get in your car and drive back where you came from?"
But the guy's not looking at him anymore. He's got his eyes fixed just over Rome's left shoulder. "Hey, Brian." He says it soft, like a kiss.
Rome turns around, and Brian is standing there, pale and staring like he's seeing a ghost. "Jesus. Dom. What the fuck are you doing here?"
The stranger just laughs. "Brian. What the hell kind of hello is that? I came a long way. Can't I even get a drink?"
They're in the bar across the street, drinking Coronas with the after work crowd, and Brian can tell that Rome is pissed. He can tell from the way that Rome won't fucking shut up. He's running his mouth like usual, jumping in on Dom's every second sentence. And Dom's just looking at him, and if Rome's not careful then Dominic's just going to let go and hit him. Which, come to think of it, is maybe what Rome is going for.
Not knowing that Dom's well-exercised biceps are only half the story. Not knowing that Dom's got a temper, not one like Rome's running hot and cold, but a real temper, running so deep that Dom barely knows about it. Running so deep that he won't even realise that he's snapped until long afterwards.
Brian knows that Rome is pissed, and he's got a vague idea that the way he's staring at Dom can't really be helping. But he can't seem to stop. He's missed looking at Dom. He's missed the curve of his head, and the way he stares at Brian like he's the only person in the room. He's missed the sound of his voice, deep and cool. He's missed the hell out of Dom, and he didn't even realise it till just now.
Twilight is coming on when they leave the bar, the sun dropping like a stone out of the sky. "Hey, Rome," Brian says as they head back to the garage, "didn't you promise Suki you'd drop off her car tonight? I finished working on it this morning."
"Yeah," Rome says, "and I better go doublecheck that before I bring it back. Make sure you didn't fuck it up or nothing."
"Yeah, whatever," Brian says, cause Rome's glaring but at least he heard the dismissal and he's leaving. Brian and Dom stand on the quickly cooling asphalt, leaning against Dom's car. Now that they're alone, Brian doesn't know what to say.
Dom crosses his arms and says, "how long have you been fucking him?"
Brian smiles a smile that doesn't mean anything, even though Dom's not looking at him. Both of them are staring out at the road, watching the streetlights come on. "You come here to ask me that?"
"All right. You ask me something, then."
"Something like what?"
"Like, I don't know. Ask me how I've been. Or ask me how Mia is."
Brian doesn't imagine for one second that he can really ask Dom that. He's silent for a bit. "I've only got one question, dude."
"Can I drive your car?"
Dom breaks into deep laughter, like he's relieved. "Yeah. Yeah, you can drive my car."
So they go for a ride, and Dom doesn't talk for a while, which Brian is glad of cause he's busy getting to know Dom's car. He drives past the quays, heading north of the city along the coast. He drives till he's tired of the silence, then says, "it's kinda nice to drive without me chasing you, right?"
Its the wrong joke to make, he knows right away that it's the wrong joke to make. Dom just shrugs and says, "you broke my heart, Brian."
There's something about the way he says it, something cold. Involuntary shivers run up Brian's spine. "I was doing my job, you know?"
"And luckily for you I wasn't that good at my job, anyway." Brian says that like it's a joke too, but it's not really. He doesn't know why he wants it so bad. Dom's forgiveness.
"I know." Dom's shrugging, looking down at his hands, almost like he's sorry. "You broke my heart."
Brian doesn't know what to say to that, so they fall quiet again. And Brian's just enjoying driving, enjoying being with Dom even though they're not talking. It was never about talking.
They're driving past Buena Vista, Brian's just thinking to turn around, when Dom puts his hand on Brian's thigh. It's not a casual touch, because nothing Dom does is casual. It's strong and warm and definitely a question.
Brian slams the brake. The car comes to a sudden violent stop, in the middle of the empty street. "Dom, what are you doing?"
"You asked me why I came," Dom answers quietly. "This is why I came."
"You..." Brian's gripping the steering wheel, like it'll help him stay calm, "we...this is over, Dom. It has to be."
Dom is shrugging, he's doing that a lot tonight. He doesn't remove his hand from Brian's thigh. "Do you want to see my boat?"
Brian said yes, like Dom knew that he would. Dom knows Brian better that Brian knows Brian, although Brian would never admit it. So Brian turns the car around and follows his instructions to the slip where Dom's yacht is docked.
"That's a fucking nice boat," Brian says when they get there.
Dom just smiles a little, cause he knew that Brian would like it. He thought of that when he bought it. "You should see the inside."
"Where'd you sail from?" Brian asks as they board.
Dom shrugs, because the answer to that is off-limits, like asking about Mia. They stand side by side on the deck, watching the boats moving along the harbour.
"So I guess you're living large now," Brian says. "Retired."
Brian raises blond eyebrows. "Only sort of?"
"Yeah, only sort of," Dom answers roughly, and it's Brian's cue to stop talking. He runs a hand up Brian's spine, along skin that's tanned golden from working in the Miami sunshine. Then down again, stopping just in the crease of his waistband. He can feel Brian, warm and breathing underneath his touch, can feel the thoughts that are coming faster than Brian knows what to do with.
"Brian, you know that this is it, right?"
"It?" Brian asks blankly.
"Decision time. Your last chance. If you don't want to do this, then tell me now. And get out of here." He spits out the last words, like an insult. An order.
Brian turns around, practically in Dom's arms now. Brian smells good, he smells the same as always, like sunshine and motor oil.
And certainty. Dom knows that Brian isn't walking away. But Brian doesn't know it, not yet. Brian is saying, "the thing is, Rome and I go way back."
"Yeah?" Dom asks, still stroking Brian's skin, he doesn't want to let go. "How far back?"
"Pretty far," Brian says, breathing just a little bit faster.
"Me and Vince went pretty far back too," Dom says, as his mouth brushes against Brian's neck.
"Yeah?" Brian's mouth is curving into that smart-assed smile. "What happened?"
"I met some guy. He asked me if I needed a ride."
"Yeah? Then what?"
"That's what I'm trying to figure out," Dom says, and kisses him. Brian melts into his mouth, almost like he never left. Dom is gentle at first, tasting him, and then he's got Brian up against the railing of the deck, Brian's mouth hot and sure, kissing him back.
And Dom knows that Brian knows that he isn't walking away.
Station to Station
Two days. That's how long it's been, and Rome is seriously considering setting Brian's car on fire. Or maybe just smashing the windows in, all of them, one after the other. He knows that it won't fix anything, but it might make him feel better. Cause Brian still hasn't shown up, and it's not like Rome doesn't have a pretty good idea where he's at.
"How's Brian?" Suki had asked him two nights before, as she drove her car around the block, testing the new transmission.
"I think Brian's leaving," had been Rome's slow answer.
"Yeah? Whatcha going to do about it?"
Rome had shrugged, because the idea of doing something about it hadn't actually occurred to him. "Not a damn thing, girl. He'll come back."
Suki had frowned, and flipped long hair off her shoulders. "You sure?"
Rome was sure. And either way, he had never had to chase Brian down before, and he wasn't fucking starting now. Brian got distracted sometimes, but he always came back. Like a boomerang.
So now he's staring at Brian's car, yellow Mustang, sitting on the tarmac, that Brian's almost done tricking out just the way that he wants it. He's even picked up the crowbar, lifted it above his head and then changed his mind and dropped it again.
That's when the taxi rolls up to the street, and Dom gets out. "Brian around?"
"Brian ain't here," Rome says with a scowl. "Figured you knew that already."
"Nah, I haven't seen him since this morning." This guy speaks slowly, so slowly like he's still working something out. "He's borrowed my car, but it turns out that I'm going to..."
Rome says, "stay the fuck away from Brian."
Dom cocks his head to one side. "I don't know you," he says quietly. "And you don't know shit about me and Brian."
"I know you're the reason he almost went to jail. Reason he lost his job."
"Brian wasn't meant to be a cop," Dom answers, eyes narrowing like Rome just said something funny. "Anymore than he was meant to be a two-bit mechanic. You know that."
Rome knows a lot of things. He grabs the crowbar up off the ground and swings without thinking. That is, he tries to swing, but then a punch to the face knocks him off balance. Dom hits him, once, and Rome hits him back then takes another punch to the gut, doubles over, and drops the crowbar. He raises up, swings with his bare fist, connects with solid bone, crunch and then he goes down again on the dirty asphalt. The thwap of Dom's leather boots against his chest and stomach ring out on a quiet street, as Rome struggles to get up, struggles and can't quite make it.
"You don't know shit about me and Brian," the gravely voice says quietly, and then Dom disappears.
Dom's Nissan comes to a stop outside the garage around three. But the garage is locked up, it's quiet. Brian gets his key ring out of his pocket and shakes out the one for Rome's apartment, right above the garage up the stairs at the back.
Rome's watching TV, with a cold Corona balanced between his fingertips. He doesn't look up when Brian comes in. But Brian can see the cuts on his arms and face, the bruises just starting to swell black around his mouth.
"What the fuck happened to you?"
Rome takes a sip of his beer. "I had a manicure. What does it look like?"
"It looks like you got your ass kicked, is what it looks like. Who did you piss off this time?"
Rome shrugs, and Brian goes cold as the realisation hits.
"Jesus. Did you fight Dom? You fucking idiot."
Rome gets out of his chair, so slowly that Brian can guess he's got at least one broken rib. "Thanks for your concern, man."
"I'm concerned," Brian says. "He could have killed you."
"Thanks, man." Rome answers sarcastically. He pulls away when Brian reaches for him, with a grimace of pain. "Bro, don't do this.
"Don't do what?" Brian asks, as he reaches out again. Rome stands still this time, and Brian's fingers gently trace broken skin around his mouth.
"Fuck, Brian. You know what."
"Yeah, I know." Brian slides forward, inside Roman's space now, feeling the heat from his body. Hating to see him like this, wishing hard that Rome had stayed the fuck out of Dom's way. "I'm sorry, alright? This is me trying to tell you that I'm sorry."
"That's not always going to work."
"So kick me out," Brian answers gently, as his hands slide along Roman's hips, underneath his shirt.
"Get out," Rome whispers. Then the pressure of Brian's lips part his own, and Brian's tongue slips warm inside his mouth.
It's slow and sticky and gentle, tangled together on Rome's bed. Brian doesn't know any other way to explain himself to Rome, though he wishes he did. Then they lie together afterwards, damp with sweat in the afternoon heat but unwilling to pull apart.
Rome says, "he asked you to go with him, right?"
Brian doesn't say anything. He doesn't know how Rome knows that.
Brian licks his lips and stays silent. He can't answer that one right now.
"It's a bad idea. He's going to fuck you up, bro."
Brian just nods, because he knows that's the closest that Rome's going to come. To asking him to stay.
Brian drives up to Dom's yacht around sunset. Dom was on deck, expecting him.
"You hit Rome," Brian says, calmly but like that's not going to last long.
"He hit me first."
Brian draws in a deep, sharp breath. "That's not what I saw."
Dom crosses his arms, with a shrug because he can't understand why they're talking about this. "Look. I lost my temper. Brian, you know who I am. Just like I know who you are."
Brian falls silent. He runs both hands through his hair, roughly with a sigh. Dom's watching him closely, cause he recognises that look, Brian deciding something.
"Offer's still open, Brian," he says gently. "We could pull up anchor right now. I got a crew waiting for me in Mexico. I wasn't kidding, there's money to be made. Lots of it. And fast cars. You'd love it."
Brian doesn't say anything, staring out at the water, reflecting the light of the setting sun in red and pink and gold.
Dom reaches out and touches him on his bare arm, gently enough that Brian doesn't flinch. "What are you doing, Brian? You running away?"
"I..." Brian takes a deep breath. "You know me, Dom. I don't always think everything through."
"I do know you." Dom's massive arms curl around Brian, heavy like the sinking sun. "You think everything through. So tell me what you're thinking."
"I always thought that if I saw you again..."
"When you saw me again," Dom corrects him without thinking.
"When I saw you again. I always thought that when I saw you again, I would do everything I could to make you trust me. I thought that that was all I wanted."
"That shit is all in the past, Brian. I do trust you."
"Yeah, I can."
"No, Dom," Brian is shaking in Dom's arms, with the effort to explain himself. "You can't trust me. You shouldn't. That guy in LA, the guy who broke your heart, that was me. That's still me, that's always going to be me. I gave you your ten-second car, we're even now, and I don't owe you anything. And you can't trust me."
The truth of that hits Dom hard, in the chest, and he doesn't know what to say. Being wrong about Brian had been the hardest part of the whole thing, worse than Vince almost dying, worse than the look that Mia gave him when she finally knew. He wasn't used to being wrong about anything, had never imagined being wrong twice. But maybe this was it. Maybe he was stuck on the wrong side of Brian, and always would be.
"You know where I was this afternoon?"
"Yeah, I know," Dom answers, because he can smell the other man, all over him. The anger rises up, for just a second, before he can control it. Dom wishes he'd swung just one more time.
Brian feels it, and says, "you know I'm right."
"You're going to get bored here," Dom says, kissing the back of his neck, missing him already.
Brian grins. "Yeah, maybe."
"You know where to find me. When you change your mind."
"Yeah, I know," Brian says, and Dom holds onto him, doesn't let go.
Rome is finding that it hurts to sit, and that it hurts to stand, but most of all it hurts just being inside, in his apartment. The air is hot and damp, and the bed, still unmade, smells like Brian. So he gets in his car and goes for a drive.
Without really thinking, he ends up in Miami Beach, just after dark. The boardwalk is almost quiet, as the girls throw sundresses on over their string bikinis and head off to the evening parties. He's walking along the beach, kicking the sand up, with a sandwich in one hand and french fries in the other, when Brian gets there.
"How'd you know where to find me?"
"I always know where to find you," Brian answers with a shrug, as he steals a fry out of the paper cup. He falls silent for a moment, munching on it. "I've been thinking about something."
"Try not to hurt yourself, bro."
Brian laughs easily, and steals another fry. "I was thinking of taking off for a bit."
Suddenly Rome isn't hungry. "Yeah?"
"It's the same old shit around here every day, you know? Hot weather and hot girls."
"Ain't nothing wrong with that."
"Nah." Brian shrugs. "I could just use a change. Different weather and different girls."
Rome nods, expressionless, and drops his sandwich on the ground in disinterest. "So, when are you sailing out?"
"Sailing?" Brian frowns, the same look that makes Rome want to hit him sometimes, that look of pure blond confusion like he's just wandered into the middle of a brand new conversation. "I'm not sailing. I figured I'd drive. The 'Stang. If you haven't wrecked it already."
Rome ignores that and tosses the last of the fries behind him, plop on the sand. "You mean you ain't taking off with the master criminal?"
"Nah," Brian said, and then stops walking, a grin spreading over his face. "I'm taking off with you."
Rome stops too, faces him, and now he's smiling too. He can't stop smiling. "Is that right? What if I want to stay? I like Miami."
"We can come back." Brian shrugs, and smiles again, tongue touching his lips. "But if you don't come, who's going to keep me out of trouble?"
And that's it, right there. Brian needs looking out, he always has. Stuff happens to Brian when Rome isn't around, like with this Dom guy, and Rome isn't letting that kind of shit go down on his watch. Rome isn't letting Brian out of his sight, not ever again.
And judging by the look on Brian's face, big dumb smile, Brian knows it.
Rome turns around, and starts walking, back towards the burger place because he's hungry again. "We're not taking your car, bro. We'll take my car."
"Fuck, no. Your car is shit."
"We'll take my car," Rome repeats firmly, and reaches out, so that the back of his hand brushes against Brian's hand, just a hot whisper of a touch and then he pulls away. "But if you behave yourself, I might let you drive."