One of Braga’s other drivers, the ones Dom didn’t know -- although whether he actually knew Brian was debatable at best -- pulled out a deck of cards a few minutes into their ride, and the group of guys were playing poker on his hood to pass the time. They offered Dom an in early on, but he’d turned them down with a shake of his head. He wasn’t here to make friends, and if they stood in the way of his vengeance on Fenix, well... it was always harder to fight someone after you’d shared a laugh with them. He knew that one from experience.
Brian wasn’t playing with them either, which was for the better, because it allowed Dom to pretend for just a few moments at a time that Brian wasn’t there. Out of sight, out of mind, and all that. As if Dom could ever forget him. He clenched his right hand around the wheel, the one stained wine-red on his fingertips and palm.
As much as Dom wanted to pretend otherwise, he knew exactly what the mark meant. It’s the first touch from your soulmate that means something to you, his mother had told him. The first time they touch your heart, painted onto your skin forever. Hers was a tiny streak across her forehead, where Dom’s father had brushed the hair from her face on their second date. His was from their first dance later that night, when she’d laid her palm on his chest, directly over his heart.
Dom and Mia grew up with those stories, that warm, gentle love floating through their household, full of the assurances that soulmates were always a perfect, beautiful thing. As a boy, Dom had fantasized about touching his date’s hand or arm and watching color bloom across her skin. But painted onto your skin was a lie. Dom’s mark looked more like a burn.
He still remembered, clear as day, that touch on his hand. “I owe you a ten second car,” Brian told him, so matter-of-fact and calm while Dom was still reeling from the crash and the fear that he would end up behind bars again. Then warmth as Brian’s fingers brushed his palm, cutting through the pain and fear and shock to leave Dom’s skin buzzing. His entire body felt as though he’d been dunked into boiling water, and only once it faded slightly did Dom see the utterly stricken expression on Brian’s face.
“Brian,” he’d tried to say, but maybe he never said it, or maybe Brian just didn’t hear him, because Brian was already shaking his head and backing away, hands up like he was getting ready to block a punch.
“You gotta go, Dom,” Brian told him, “you gotta go. Cops are coming.”
“Just take the car, Dom.”
And then Brian turned away from him, jogging back towards the wreck of the Charger. He left Dom standing in the middle of the street, right hand still burning hot around the cold metal of Brian’s keys.
That heat didn’t fade until Dom was more than a mile away.
Now, he could feel nothing but the cool leather of the steering wheel. Before, in Park’s apartment and after the race, he wanted desperately to take a swing at Brian, some dark part of his mind hoping when pulled his fist back he would find a mark on Brian’s skin, hoped that his rage would be meaningful enough to Brian to affect him.
Dom knew what the lack of reciprocation meant, of course. There were plenty of people whose soulmarks didn’t match because they cared about someone more than the other person cared back. Dom never expected to find himself among the ranks of the pitied few who were marked by a careless touch, but he also never expected his soulmate to be an undercover cop.
“Dom,” Brian said, looking in the passenger side window, “we gotta talk.”
“Fuck off,” Dom told him, making a not-so-subtle jab for the window button with his left hand, but Brian had already swung one leg into the car. There was no power, anyway, rendering Dom’s effort useless, and Dom cursed under his breath, both at Brian for cornering him and at himself, for letting himself be cornered.
“Roll up the window,” Brian replied, bright blue eyes cutting into Dom. His face was flat, blank -- a cop kind of look.
Dom snorted humorlessly. “Get out of my car, Spilner.” The name was reflex, and Dom tightened his hand on the wheel. Brian didn’t even have the decency to flinch or look ashamed, but he did finally take his eyes off Dom and fix his gaze firmly forward. Taking advantage of the lack of scrutiny, Dom looked him over. Brian slumped casually in the passenger seat as though he had every right to be there, posture screaming cool and relaxed. Dom was sure he was anything but.
“O’Conner,” Brian corrected, drumming the fingers of his left hand on his knee. A little crack in that perfect mask. Dom tore his gaze away, pinned his eyes front as well. Once again, he could almost pretend Brian wasn’t there, and Dom was just sitting alone, not being forced to confront his feelings for a man who managed to ruin his life and then save it in the span of a day. “Roll up the window, or I’ll start airing all our dirty laundry within earshot of those dickheads outside.”
The illusion shattered like so much lovely stained glass.
Dom started the car and jammed his finger into the window button. At the sound of the engine turning over, one of the guys came stumbling back to check on them, but Dom waved him off, already killing the engine. At his curious look, Dom shrugged, trying to convey, “I just want a little privacy, not trying to kill us all with carbon monoxide.”
After a long moment of looking over at Brian in the passenger seat, who flashed him a cheerful, toothy grin, and then back at Dom, the man smirked, tapped his watch, and walked away as quickly as the motion of the semi truck would allow.
At least they wouldn’t be disturbed, Dom thought with a sigh.
Brian looked over at Dom, gaze drifting from his face to Dom’s hand on the keys, and he followed the path of that marked hand as Dom crossed his arms across his chest.
“You want something, O’Conner?” Dom ground out. He was holding onto a desperate hope that this would be over quickly, and they could go back to their uncomfortable silence. Dom didn’t want to start a fight, not with a group of strangers at the other end of the truck, just hidden by the car parked in front of Dom’s, but he wanted Brian’s sympathy or pity or whatever the fuck even less.
“Said I wanted to talk.”
Brian was looking ahead again, gaze locked onto some nebulous point out there in the dim cargo container.
“I kept holding out hope it wasn’t your crew hitting those trucks.” Brian’s voice was tight and controlled in sharp contrast to the way he was sprawled out in the seat. Dom had a feeling that wasn’t what he’d originally meant to say. “I wanted it to be Tran, some other group we didn’t know about, anyone.”
“And yet for some reason you ended up undercover with us.”
“You were my only in!” Brian turned, eyes shining. “I’m not Vietnamese or Latino, there was no other crew I could run with that would get me close enough to their targets.” Their, he said, not our, as though he didn’t think of himself as a cop, as one of the people that forced Dom’s family into the shadows. “I didn’t know about… this.”
Ah, there it was.
“You played me,” Dom reminded him, before Brian could start with the self pity. Oh, woe is me, I was an undercover cop, I had to lie to people. “You lied to all of us, but especially to me.” Dom could hear his voice rising, struggled to keep his anger from spilling out through the cracks in his self control. He didn’t understand how Brian could open him up and expose the rawness inside him just by being there. He did it so easily before, wormed his way into Dom’s life and his heart before Dom had even realized what was happening. And then he was gone.
For the first time, Dom saw genuine remorse in Brian’s eyes as the mask he’d been wearing since they met again fell away. “I’m sorry about that part, Dom, I really am.” Brian tipped his head back and rubbed a hand across his chin, scrunched up his eyes up for a brief moment before turning to Dom’s direction once more, just to the left of meeting his gaze. “If it makes you feel any better, it was supposed to be Mia, not you.”
It took all of Dom’s self control to not grab Brian by the hair and slam his face into the dash.
The motherfucker kept talking. “She was my in, or at least she was supposed to be. I talk to the sister, get to know her, she opens up because she’s glad someone prefers her over her brother.” Brian spoke casually, clinically, as though he was discussing taking apart an engine, not dissecting the dynamics of Dom’s family. “But I wasn’t getting anywhere with her, and they were scrambling for some kind of evidence, and I needed more.”
Dom suddenly became aware he was holding his breath. He forced himself to exhale as Brian continued.
“And you kept looking at me like that.” Brian’s voice was so low Dom nearly had to lean in to catch the words. “I didn’t know. Not until the end.”
“So let me get this straight,” Dom said, because apparently he was a glutton for punishment where Brian was concerned. He had to be, to have not kicked the other man out of his car yet. “We fuck, and I tell you all that shit about my life and my family, and you figure I don’t really give a damn about you?”
Brian shrugged. “Plenty of people have sex with someone that isn’t their soulmate.”
“I guess, yeah. Like me.” Brian shifted a little, finally meeting Dom’s gaze directly. “Look, Dom, it doesn’t have to mean anyth--”
“Out,” Dom growled, “go sit in your own fucking car and stop thinking you can talk your way out of this.”
Brian just crossed his arms, mirroring Dom’s defensive posture. “No.” His gaze was harsh and flat. That controlled cold, like a knife that cut all the way down to Dom’s soul, crept back into his voice. “We’re soulmates, Dom, we’re gonna fucking talk about it like adults.”
“We are not soulmates,” Dom nearly shouted, “I have your mark, and you,” he jabbed a finger into Brian’s chest, “are just some jackass who feels sorry for me!”
The car was filled with an overwhelming silence, Dom’s final words echoing between them. Brian face was painted with an incredulous expression, and he looked as shocked as he might have been if Dom had slapped him. Actually, no, Brian was probably expecting violence. This had clearly caught him completely off guard.
It was probably the most open Dom had ever seen Brian since that day kneeling by the side of the road, Vince’s blood coating their hands.
“Okay,” Brian whispered, and for half a second Dom thought he might actually have the good sense to get out of the car while he was still breathing, but Brian O’Conner was born without a self-preserving bone in his body. “Okay, yeah. Fuck it.”
Brian took off his shirt.
It happened so quickly Dom didn’t have time to react. Just a flash of dark-colored cotton, and he was left able to do nothing more than gape incredulously at the now-shirtless jackass in his passenger seat. Just when he thought he couldn’t be any more shocked, Dom’s already slack jaw dropped to the floor as Brian twisted in his seat to expose a handprint on the back of his right shoulder.
A bomb could have gone off outside the car and Dom wouldn’t have noticed; he was too focused on the splash of color maring Brian’s smooth, even tan. But just as Dom nearly succumbed to the urge to reach out and trace the contours of that wine-red print, Brian turned back to face him.
He looked half angry and half terrified, like some kind of cornered animal. Brian’s mask, his cool detachedness, seemed to have been stripped off with his shirt, leaving him as exposed and raw as Dom felt.
Dom couldn’t bring himself to feel even the slightest bit happy about that.
“You have a soulmate.”
“Yes, I have a-- Jesus Christ, Dom, do I have to spell it out for you? Fuck! You’re my fucking soulmate!”
The words rang loud in the air around them, seemed to fill up the car with a presence of their own until Dom was almost claustrophobic from it, choking on his own revelations. He was frozen in a way he hadn’t been in years, body stiff and mind reeling, zero to a hundred in seconds with no brakes. Somehow Brian was still talking -- maybe he hadn’t even stopped -- was pouring his soul out through his mouth.
“The morning after,” he said, voice spilling over with earnest desperation, “when I was getting ready to leave, and you put your hand on me. I wanted to tell you, wanted to so fucking much, but I couldn’t, and after I finally could there was no time left.”
Dom remembered it, that morning. Couldn’t have forgotten it if he tried; it was a series of impressions on his soul. Sunlight through the gap in the curtains turning Brian’s mess of blonde hair gold while he slept, face mashed into the pillow and one arm thrown over Dom’s midsection, looking to all the world utterly at peace. Standing hunched over the counter with their shoulders pressed together, eating slightly burned eggs because Brian dressed in nothing but a pair of Dom’s sweatpants was a goddamn menace. The flash of a teasing smile as Brian pulled on yesterday’s jeans and shirt, far too soon than Dom would have liked but they both had to get to work at some point.
But he also remembered his tiny flicker of uncertainty when Brian’s expression shuttered as they stood at the door, a little hint of something flashing across his face as Dom pulled his hand away.
“I’ll see you later, yeah?” Brian said, but he sounded distracted. Confused.
That look was back in full force now, and Dom could read it for what it was: fear, anger, and maybe something like regret.
Exposed wasn’t Brian’s natural state. He felt everything deeply, torrential emotions crashing through his mind like whitewater rapids, but it was always metered out into the world through a cool gaze and a cheerful smile. Dom didn’t know whether anyone could handle Brian’s unfiltered rawness. Whether he could.
He felt as though he had reached a hand into Brian’s ribcage and pulled out a handful of his soul for examination. In that moment, Brian looked as though he wanted nothing more than to snatch it away, bundle his emotions back into his chest, and retreat to his own car to lick his wounds and slide his mask back into place in peace.
“Brian,” Dom said. He could hear the same quiet desperation echoing through his voice as the day he got his mark. Dom held his breath. This time, instead of leaving, Brian turned back towards him, and anything Dom might have been about to say died in his throat as Brian wrapped his right hand around the back of Dom’s neck and pulled him in for a kiss.
It took Dom a handful of seconds to wade through the swell of emotions and get his ass into gear, but then it was good, it was great, the press and slide of their lips together even more wonderful for all that Dom had missed it over the past few months. It was the kind of kiss born from being drunk or high or just purely desperate to touch: awkward and messy, their teeth clicking together as Brian tried to find an angle that would better accommodate the way he was half-sprawled over the center console.
Brian’s teeth caught Dom’s lower lip but then he was tracing his tongue over it in apology, spreading warmth through Dom’s body as he pulled him forward to mold the kiss into something softer, sweeter. Less I need you and more I missed you.
I missed you too, Dom kissed back, so fucking much it hurt.
With his left hand, Brian traced over Dom’s soulmark, leaving little trails of heat with his fingertips.
Dom shifted forward so he could reach Brian’s shoulder with his own left hand, sliding it up Brian’s arm until his fingertips aligned with the mark. He felt Brian shiver against him.
“When I saw your hand, I was fucking terrified. I felt sick,” Brian murmured, “I had hoped you didn’t feel that way about me. I didn’t think you could, after everything.”
“Why didn’t you say something?” Dom pressed their foreheads together, lips only inches apart, breathing the same air in a world made up of no one but the pair of them.
Brian breathed out a laugh, a touch of bitterness clouding his voice. “What could I have said at a time like that?”
Rather than answer, Dom pulled the other man forward, tucking Brian’s face into his neck and folding him into his arms. He felt Brian relax into the embrace, tension leaking from his muscles as Dom smoothed a hand over the warm skin of his back. He realized suddenly that Brian was still shirtless, the article in question lost somewhere between them during the kiss. It would be a strange scene for any of the other drivers to walk in on; two men who had seemed to hate each other, one half naked in the other’s arms, and Dom smiled a little at the thought. Still, Dom couldn’t bring himself to care much, and his eyes slipped shut as he breathed in the beachy, slightly floral scent of whatever shampoo Brian used.
When Brian finally pulled away, retreating back into his own seat but still holding Dom’s hand, Dom couldn’t help but chuckle at the picture he made. Brian looked far, far too pleased with himself, shirtless and flushed and utterly shameless, filling the space as though he had every right in the world to be there.
Brian laughed in return, a high pure note. “It’s been too damn long.”
Why didn’t you come with me? Dom didn’t let himself ask. This moment was something precious, too good to ruin with the kind of questions that would force them out of their own little world and back to the real one. There would be time for that later.
He could feel the truck slowing down, turning off of the main road onto a side street in a signal that they were nearing their destination. In lieu of any sort of formal goodbye, Brian gave Dom’s hand a final, firm squeeze, trailing his fingertips over Dom’s soulmark as he pulled away. He was already ducking out of the car door, shirt mostly back on, as one of the other guys rounded the corner, luckily more focussed on keeping his footing than the scene taking place in front of him.
Brian leaned his head back in, one hand braced on the doorframe. “Look Dom, we still-- there’s things we gotta talk about, okay?” It was that cop kind of voice again, tinged with affection but unmistakably serious.
“Later,” Dom promised him. “After this.”
“Yeah.” Brian’s face split into a grin, sharp-edged but happy in a way that was so utterly Brian it made Dom’s heart ache. “It’s a date, Toretto.”