Dom had asked “You remember this?”
And she had said, “It feels like home.” It had been a relief to be able to say that, in a quiet moment in the backyard of the Toretto house.
As she sat on Dom’s lap at the head of the table, Tej and Han to her left, Mia and Brian with little baby Jack to her right, and Roman at the other end of table, she realized she wasn’t lying—surrounded by friendly faces, that belonged to people who cared about her despite being entirely unfamiliar to her. It did feel like a home. She had yet to determine if it felt like her home, but it was nice regardless.
So, she wasn’t lying, and Dom did smile at her answer—but it was a sad smile, and Letty could see that it wasn’t the answer he was looking for. Better to tell him the truth and disappoint him up front, Letty supposed.
Letty couldn’t tell if the conversation purposefully skirted around her, or if she wasn’t expected to be very chatty. Very little conversation was directed toward her, and Letty couldn’t help but notice the awkward glances the others sent between the her and Han, who sat far down the table, elbows simultaneously propped on the table and held close to his body.
Mia was seated to their left, Brian on her other side and their chairs as close as physically possible with Jack on Mia’s lap. Brian’s arm over her shoulders, protective, head bent toward his son as Mia fed him. Letty felt a pang of guilt, one of many recently—it was because of her that Mia was taken, and that Giselle was hurt. She was the one making Dom sad, making him mourn her all over again.
After the homecoming barbecue quieted down, and the team started breaking off to their different ways, Brian and Mia gathered up the plates and headed to the kitchen. Hesitating for a second, Letty grabbed a few of the condiments off the table and tailed them.
Mia had already begun to fill the ancient basin sink, sudzing it up to wash the dishes. She noticed Letty sliding the condiments into the fridge. “Oh,” she said, clearly surprised to see Letty in the kitchen, “did you want to help clean up?”
Brian looked up from where he was fishing some ratty towels out of a cupboard and smiled that brilliant smile that she was already familiar with. She was still figuring him out, piecing together how he fit in with the rest of them, but she could see how that smile probably eased his way in.
“You can dry the dishes,” Brian said, throwing her the towels. “I’ll put ‘em away.”
Letty slid in between the two of them, glad to be included yet unable to shake the feeling that she wasn’t assimilating back into her old life the way everyone expected. It wasn’t hard to figure out that it she wasn’t part of their routine, and couldn’t figure out how to fit in more naturally.
The kitchen was too small with Mia at the sink, Letty at her elbow and Brian on Letty’s other side-- and Letty dried too slowly, falling behind as Brian swiftly worked through the cupboards.
She was grateful to their politeness, and how they seamlessly slowed down so she could keep pace better.
In return, Letty politely pretended not to notice when Brian snuck a kiss on Mia’s neck when he slid behind her to put away the utensils.
Just as Brian put away the last dish, Tej and Roman shuffled into the cramped kitchen to say their goodbyes. It was almost comedic to see the two of them, so well-dressed and polished, and hugging Brian, Mia and Letty in the dingy kitchen.
“You aren’t going too far away now, are you?” Mia asked.
Tej held his hands up, cocking his head to the side and reassuring her, “No, no we’re staying in the neighborhood for a while.” He glanced over his shoulder with a sly smile as Dom leaned against the kitchen’s door frame, Jack in his arms.
“Yeah, we gotta keep an eye on this boy,” Rome said, squeezing up against the fridge to make room for Dom, who was murmuring and reaching for Mia. She wiped the counter quickly and dropped the rag beside the sink before taking the baby from Dom.
Tej smirked, fist bumping Brian and ticking his chin up at Mia. “I’m gonna get going—but you call if you ever need anything, aight?”
“Got it,” Brian grinned.
“You too, girl,” Tej added, pointing at Letty with a smile as he slid out the door.
Letty just smiled back, silent and unsure.
Dom stopped Tej for a moment as he made his way out, but Letty couldn’t hear the exchange over Roman squeezing back in to coo over Jack. Letty figured Roman was the godfather and not experienced with young children, but enthusiastic nonetheless.
“Why don’t we go to the living room?” Mia suggested, looking to Brian to help usher Roman out. The three of them inched out into the living room, baby in tow. They left only Dom and Letty, leaning against the counter and door jamb respectively. He smiled at her warmly, crossing his arms and waiting for her to say something. When she didn’t, rather turning to look out the window over the sink, he crossed the kitchen and opened the fridge.
“Beer?” he asked, glasses already clinking.
He hummed, fridge closing and a cap popping as he opened his own can.
The thing about Dom was that he was genuine —he genuinely threw himself off a car to catch her, not knowing that there would be anything to break their fall, and it was genuine every time he checked on her—and Letty didn’t know what to do with that just yet. Those warm smiles felt like they were given so freely, but Letty couldn’t trust that they really were so free. She was waiting for the other foot to drop, even as she kicked herself for being so cold.
The kitchen floor creaked, announcing someone’s arrival. Letty, momentarily relieved to have something to break the tension building in the kitchen air, turned to the door and found Han. He was leaning against the fridge and looking entirely strung out—hair unkept and shirt an absolute mess, even more so than during the barbecue. He looked straight past Letty, straight at Dom with dead eyes.
“Tej said you wanted to talk?” he asked, voice inflecting the minimum necessary to make it a question. Dom smiled—genuine, once again, even as it was lined with sadness—and nodded. He glanced at Letty quickly.
“Let’s go outside,” Dom said, herding Han out the back door to the back porch. Left on her own in the kitchen, Letty bit her lip and hesitated for only a moment before inching toward the kitchen door, leaning toward the porch door enough to overhear their conversation.
“…where you’re going?” she heard Dom ask.
“I…” Han hesitated, or mumbled something, “Always on Tokyo.”
Dom hummed tersely, and Letty assumed he was taking a swig of his beer, mulling over his answer. “Stay with us a few days, until you’re ready to go,” Dom offered.
“That’s too much to ask,” Han protested.
“Not for family it’s not.”
There was a long pause. Softer, so that Letty had to strain to hear him, Han said, “I can’t believe she’s…” and swallowed the end of the sentence.
Nothing was said for a long moment, and Letty briefly considered taking a peek to see what they were doing, but she restrained herself. She didn’t want anyone in the living room to see her spying.
“Stay with us a few days. Get your plan set.” There was no protest this time, or any verbal response, but the knob on the door jostled and Letty scrambled to look like she was doing anything other than eavesdropping.
The two came in shoulder to shoulder, Han’s eyes on the ground as they passed the kitchen.
Letty didn’t know if she had known Giselle once upon a time, but she had heard her name whispered at dinner and the whole trip back from London, often paired with cautious glances in Han’s direction. Letty herself didn’t know what to do about the situation, or if there even was anything for her to do. Giselle died while the crew was trying to get Letty back, and Letty didn’t know if they made a fair trade. Han surely didn’t think so—he wouldn’t even look at Letty.
Dom interrupted her thoughts. “Hey, I’m just gonna track down an air mattress for Han, then I wanna show you the garage, okay?”
He retreated into the living room, leading Han upstairs.
Again, alone in the kitchen, the sounds of Roman still cooing over Jack drifting in the air. It was stuffy in the old kitchen—they had some work around the house to do before it was quite livable again—so she decided to wait outside. The fresh air would do her good.
The bug repellent torches burned low, the sunset and flames leaving the yard in a soft amber glow. Without the noise and bustle of earlier, Letty surveyed the space: the garage and driveway, the odds and ends of car parts left along the side of the garage a long time ago. A waterproof box was nestled against the garage wall and back fence. An old muffler and some hubcaps were stacked atop it. Curious, Letty got a closer look.
It was a plastic container, about three feet long and two feet tall with a clasped lid. It looked like it had sat right here for a decade or two, judging by the style and wear. Letty checked over her shoulder carefully before slowly removing the car parts sitting on top and cautiously unclasping the lid.
A few old plastic bags were thrown into the box, covered in a layer of fine sediment and holes gnawed into them. She picked one up and shook the dirt off. It was a bag full of clothes, and she recognized what was probably another bag of jewelry. She took a close look,—there were tank tops and jeans, shorts of various styles. Another glance in the box and she spotted a pair of thick-soled shoes. It looked like there was a full wardrobe in the box, from maybe twenty years ago.
Another look, and a nudge to move the other bags out of the way and she spotted the black coarse surface of a skateboard. She took hold of the end and pulled, shifting the other contents until the skateboard came free.
The wood was in bad shape and the polychrome orange-red wheels were chalk full of dirt, but it was a solid board. There was a lot of custom work—the wheels had been replaced, and new tape, and when she flipped it over the underside was decorated with what looked like a sharpie outline and cheap acrylic paint. It was a blue star with flames, shaded with the skill of a dedicated middle schooler.
It wasn’t surprising to Letty that a Toretto would put so much work into customizing their ride, even if it was from a time before Dom was old enough for a license. Still, the drawing made the back of her neck tickle, a weird sensation at her temple brought her to full attention as she peered down at the board in her hands. She remembered this board, for some reason it stuck out in the general darkness of her youth. She remembered it, but nothing about it. The memory was there, just barely out of reach. She grit her teeth and focused , wanting more than anything to just remember something .
Defeated and none too happy for it, she gave in. Still, she would remember, and she resolved to remember it all on her own.
Checking the back door once more to see that no one was coming, Letty replaced the bags of clothes and clasped the lid shut, quickly piling the parts back on top. She took the board in hand, getting one more good look at the painting underneath before stowing it behind the box.
Not a second after she strolled back to the porch did Dom come out the back door.
“Let’s take a look, huh?” he said, and that warm smile that was too genuine too fast for Letty was back in place.
Letty followed him into the garage. She stayed near the door and waited for him to flip on the light. When he did, the bulbs buzzed from little use over the past few years. Sitting just feet from Letty was a classic Dodge Challenger, a little dirty like everything else in the property, but beautifully restored nonetheless. She’d seen it in the profile Shaw had put together on Toretto, and she knew the story. It was the car his Dad died in, and it was the car he had escaped the cops in. The report didn’t mention that it was restored.
Seeing it in pictures was different than running her hand over its’ frame, which she did now. It was a beautiful car, lovingly restored from now two totalings.
A million comments and questions flew through her head at once, leaving her speechless. She bent and peered into the passenger side, marveling at the interior detailing before walking around to its trunk, around Dom’s side and running her hand across the hood. She knew Dom was watching her appreciate the vehicle, leaning his elbow over the driver side door; she let him have the moment.
“Why don’t you hop in, she probably needs a walk around the block,” he said.
Letty took a fraction of a second to get to the passenger door and open it. The interior was even more impressive up close.
“You did this?” she asked as he turned the key, the engine purring to life. Of course she meant to ask more elegantly—you restored this? She meant to comment on the details, the accuracy, but all that translated into ‘you did this’ when she opened her mouth.
“My Dad found her in a junk yard and restored her first,” Dom said, flexing his fingers on the wheel, “and I restored her against after that—after I got out of prison,” he said, watching her out of the corner his eye as he elaborated. She didn’t react, not fazed by the revelation of anyone’s stunts in prison after two years with Shaw. “But after that,” he paused again, “ you did.” He pulled out into the driveway. “So really, you did this.”
Letty fell silent again. Dom, too, didn’t seem to know what to say. No longer smiling, he was in his own thoughts—still lamenting the girl Letty used to be, perhaps.
They pulled onto the road.
“I’m sorry,” she said. They were cruising slow through the neighborhood, too slow for how concentrated Dom was on the road. The muscles in his jaw twitched, and he raised a brow at her.
“Don’t know what you’re apologizing for.”
A drive through town should be calming, darkness just starting to set in on the night, but it just made Letty anxious. Dom was not the kind of guy to take a nice slow drive with, even he thought so, probably. He was clutching the wheel like he was taking fast corners and shifting gears, but they didn’t even shift up to third before he pulled into a parking lot, the headlights illuminating a chain link fence. “Doc said they wanna see if your memory comes back by itself. Might come back in pieces, might help to bring you to familiar places,” he said, nodding toward the park beyond the fence and opening his door.
It was a muggy night, probably more so here than at the house, Letty realized. Around the fence into the park was a boardwalk that wrapped around a lake. Palm trees lined the lakeside, and there were only a few other people silhouetted by the park lamps. Though the sky was still illuminated by the light pollution of LA, the sound of traffic and the other bustle of the city was muted here.
They fell into a casual pace silently, shoulders knocking every so often. She caught his glances, his restrained smiles and bitten back comments. He was waiting, hoping possibly that she would suddenly remember some shared memory or in-joke connected to this lake. Letty didn’t feel a shred of familiarity with this place, though, rather just enjoying the soft smell and lapping of the water.
“We used to come here?” she asked finally.
Dom paused where he stood, heaved a deep sigh and looked out across the water. “Yeah, we all used to come here.”
He walked to the rail, leaning his elbows on it heavily. “I really shouldn’t tell you too much, y’know. We’re supposed to let you remember on your own.”
Letty clicked her tongue, annoyed, “So we had friends, big spoiler.”
Dom flashed her that side smile again.
“Someone once said—you start the shit I won’t, and I finish any mess you start.” He rubbed his hand over his knuckles. “We’d all have beef with a guy, for example, and you’d go start a fight with him ‘cause the rest of us didn’t wanna, and I’d come and knock him out for you,” he said. “When you didn’t yourself, ‘course.”
Letty chuckled at that. “Sounds like I set you up a lot,” she said.
“Maybe you did,” he ceded, matching her laugh.
She felt a lapse in conversation coming and intercepted: “So we met at a high school party?”
His smile tightened, running a hand over his nose and mouth, squinting a tiny bit and tilting his head.
“That’s what you said—and you were trying to impress me and you crashed your car.”
“Well, that’s a funny story. We knew each other for years before, I just never…” he grinned wide again, clearly a little embarrassed. “I never tried to make a move before that.” His grin widened further and he chuckled again, sounding more nervous than Letty had heard him yet. Endearing, really. “You came around to our house because Dad’s cars and barbeques and stuff.”
“Neighborhood troublemakers, then?”
Dom threw his head back to laugh at that. “Cops knew our names and addresses before high school.”
He pushed off the rail and they kept walking, only a few inane comments breaking the silence on their way back to the car. As they neared it, Dom said, “I don’t want this to be awkward, but you used to sleep in my room—it’s two smaller beds, so we can push them apart or I can sleep somewhere else if you want.”
Letty raised her brow-- the Toretto team was such a well dressed group to be moving into such an old, unkept house, she thought; there was a story that she was definitely missing out on—and shook her head. “We’ll see.”
They got in the car, Letty not deciding their sleeping arrangement quite yet. Again, a quiet, slow ride back to the house, but this time Letty watched the streets pass outside rather than focusing on Dom. She didn’t recognize a thing.
When they pulled into the driveway again, Dom didn’t move to open the door. He shut the engine off and turned to Letty, once again caught in his own head.
“You apologized to me earlier,” he said, short and simple. “I think I should be the one apologizing.”
Letty frowned. She was the one who was all but a stranger here, and who shot him a few day ago, and… the list went on. From her perspective, he was the one who saved her, threw himself off a car going full speed to catch her, brought her into their home when she may as well be a total stranger.
“I screwed up a lot, before. A lot of what you’ve gone through, I could have prevented it. I could’ve… I wasn’t good enough to you, at all. Not just as a—as a partner but as a friend.”
“That doesn’t matter anymore—“
“No, let me finish.” He pursed his lips, chewing on the inside of his lower lip. “I know you don’t remember any of that, but it’s important for me to apologize. I’ll tell you more eventually, or you’ll remember, but I just wanted to tell you that I apologize. I want to try again.” He smiled, laughing at himself, “Being friends, I mean.”
Letty stared at him. “Yeah I think,” she started, “that’s best.” She hesitated. “Right?”
He flashed another fond smile at her before growing serious once more. “Now, as far as everything else, remembering everything, don’t worry about it. We’re gonna go at this one day at a time, together. And you can talk to me about anything, alright? ‘Cause we’re friends.”
The yellow light in the garage flickered off, leaving them in the little pool of light seeping out of the house through the garage window.
“Yeah,” she said, near breathless. Her mouth was dry. “Actually, there’s something bothering me,” she said, crossing her arms. “I just don’t know what’s expected. Everybody refers to things I don’t remember at all, and I feel like I’m disappointing you.”
Dominic grimaced and considered how to respond. “I don’t want you to feel like that.” He rubbed his hands over the wheel. “The crew didn’t save you because we wanted you around, we wanted you to be safe.”
“I don’t see the difference,” she said, rolling her eyes, “but… thanks.”
Dom groaned, “See this is the type of shit I always needed help finishing,” he joked. “What I mean is, you’re family. You don’t owe us anything, we’re all tryna take care of you because you’re family. That goes for me, and Mia and Brian, and Han, too.”
The yellow glow backlit Dom’s face, his features obscured. Letty processed what he was saying—but it still didn’t solve the way his barely concealed sadness made her gut twist. She nodded. He nodded in return, and reached for the car door.
“Wait.” She reached over and grabbed his arm. “That goes for you, too, though. We’re friends, so you tell me when something’s wrong, too.” She bit her lip and hesitated. He lost a friend when she lost her memory. “You don’t always gotta be so tough.”
He looked at her like a deer in the headlights. He was perfectly still for a long moment before he looked down at the wheel, the light profiling him. His brows were furrowed, and his jaw set tight. Blinking, he nodded. He expelled harshly, his shoulders slumping with it before looking at her again.
He ran a hand over his face again, and Letty caught on to how he was holding himself in. She pulled on the arm that she held, pulling him across the low console and into a hug.
They moved the twin beds apart that night. Dom was gone when she woke up.
She stretched, slowly willing herself to get up. Although she had brought a duffle bag of clothes from London, Letty ventured a peek into the closet. Sure enough, with a gap dividing the two sides of the closet where the hangers were pushed apart, there hung shirts and jumpsuits that must have once belonged to Letty. The other side of the closet full of Dom’s clothes.
She grabbed a lacy red tank top, found a pair of gray sweats and headed downstairs.
The only sound in the house was the old stove top, working hard in the kitchen. She peeked in, spotting Brian through the window in the backyard. She leaned over the sink to see him pushing Jack on the swing set with one hand, holding a cigarette with the other.
She opened the back door as quietly as possible, but the jam squeaked and startled him, and he threw the cigarette down fast, with entirely too much force. He grabbed the chain of Jack’s swing, slowing him down before looking at Letty sheepishly.
“Morning,” he said, ticking his chin up. “Mia and Dom are out for a few hours—settling some real estate, or something.” He waved his hand in the air. “Han’s off somewhere, too, just you ‘nd me right now.”
Jack was kicking his legs out, trying to get going again. He was babbling at Brian, and Brian listened intently, picking the tot up and carefully putting him down on his feet. Jack walked awkwardly, Brian watching like a hawk as he made the journey to the porch steps. Brian squinted up at Letty.
“I made some breakfast burritos if you’re hungry—they’re in the oven. Mia found a box of old photos you can look through after I get this guy down for a nap,” he said with a nod to Jack who had gotten himself to the base of the swing and was patting the wood bar.
“Thanks,” she said, pushing off the rail to return to the kitchen before pausing, “And Brian?” He raised his brows, “Your secret,” she held up two fingers, alluding, “is safe with me. Just don’t do it around the kid, huh?”
He smiled sheepishly again. “You’re right.” He ran his hand through Jack’s hair.
After breakfast, Brian poured them both glasses of juice and plopped the filing box onto the table between them.
“I’ve never seen any of these, either,” Brian admitted, popping the lid off and swiping at the dust that filled the air.
Letty grabbed the first photo packet, an old looking thing with yellowed glue and oil stains. Pinching it width wise, Letty slid out the two dozen or so photos inside and spread them on the counter. They were yellowed, a handful of them black-and-white.
The photos here predominantly depicted one man, a mess of dark semi-coarse hair and a thin, wide smile.
Brian picked up one photo and check the back of it—“Luis Toretto, 1972, Cuba,” he read. “Their Dad.”
Letty nodded; she gathered them into a pile again, scrutinizing the photo on top. It showed Luis with a friend, bent over the hood of a car. She knew that she must have met him in his later days, when she was a child. His broad jaw was the same as Dom’s, but his eyes and nose were Mia’s. He seemed nice.
“Here we go,” Brian said, turning the new stack he pulled out toward Letty. This one was taken in the living room of the house, with five kids sprawled across the floor and couch.
Three kids sat on the couch: on the left was a boy with spiked brown hair and the beginnings of a mustache and a ripped up t-shirt, in the middle was a ten-year old Mia with a frizzy ponytail and wrists full of plastic bracelets, and on the right was a boy with almond skin and pubescent acne, thick dark hair and a neon green tank top. Dom was leaning against the couch next to the kid with the t-shirt, leaning down and whispering something.
Letty couldn’t help the affection she felt for the young, kind of dorky looking boy Dom had been—his hair was short, not shaved, and the t-shirt he wore was much too big. Dom wasn’t very broad yet, with a little baby fat sitting on his cheeks still.
Brian scooted closer to Letty so they could look together, and he studied the boy Dom was talking to before swearing under his breath. “That’s Vince,” he said, glee poorly masked. “And Mia, of course,” he continued, “and Dom looks maybe sixteen?”
Letty put the photo to the side to come back to. It was a good one.
Letty grabbed another photo from the pile—Dom posed with his arm over the boy Brian didn’t name from the other picture, this time wearing a red tank top instead of yellow. Dom’s hair was longer, a bit less baby fat in his cheeks, but still his shoulders seemed far too narrow. This photo showed off the other boy’s high cheek bones, his heavy-lidded eyes and the way his thick hair naturally swooshed to the side. He had a familiar face—but Letty couldn’t tell if he was just common looking or familiar .
“Do you know who this is?” Letty asked Brian.
Brian took the picture and took a hard look before flipping it over. “I don’t think I’ve met him. There’s nothing written.” He took another good look at the photo. “Does Dom look weird to you?”
Letty looked again. Dom was relaxed in the photo, his shoulders lower and more open than in any of the other photos, or even as far as Letty recalled seeing him. Though, a decade or two could do that to a person, Letty figured. “Younger,” she shrugged. Brian tilted his head, but nodded and put it back in the stack with the others.
“Oh, check this out, there you are,” he said, showing her the next one. It was a photo of the backyard during a high school party, by the looks of it. Letty spotted herself in the bottom corner, sitting at a crowded table, playing cards. Groups stood around, too, and Letty spotted Vince, then Dom and the other boy again.
Letty took a closer look at herself—her hair was long and frizzed, and she was wearing a long sleeve mesh shirt over a neon green tube top.
“Oh god ,” Letty said, grimacing at that outfit, holding the photo up to her face to scrutinize it and scrunch her nose up in disgust.
“Hey, that one’s got names on the back,” Brian pointed out. Letty flipped it, and sure enough there were just about twenty names, seeming unorganized, as if written in a stream of consciousness.
“Nate, Mia, Samantha, Sadie, Letty, Ally, Vince, Ben, Xander, Sean…” Letty trailed off. There’d be no telling what the recurring boy’s name was from this list. It didn’t even name Dom.
Letty studied the people at the table she was sitting at in the picture, managed to recognize Mia and only Mia. Brian continued through the pile, setting a few aside for Letty to look at.
“You aren’t in any of these,” she pointed out absently. “So what’s your story?” She knew he had been a cop, but she also knew he was real good friends with Dom. There had to be some real history.
Brian laughed nervously. “You’d punch me if I told you how I got in with the team,” he said, quiet like he had planned to say it under his breath.
Letty raised her brows, but could tell how uncomfortable he was. “Fair enough.” She reached back into the box to grab another stack of photos, but her hand hit hard plastic instead. She grabbed hold of it and pulled it out from under the other packets. A VHS, still in the generic white cardboard box it came in from the store. She read the label on its side, ‘ Tricks at the park- B. Vasquez’ before waving it in front of Brian’s face. “Whaddya think this is?”
He took at it, read the label, and shrugged. “I don’t know who B. Vasquez would be, but maybe I can find a VCR?”
“There’s one hooked up to the TV here still,” she said, pointing at the DVD VCR combo player under the little old television in the living room.
Brian looked, then grinned. “Sweet, let’s pop it in.”
Letty plopped on the couch, Brian checking the back of the TV to see if the chords were all plugged in before turning first the television, and then the player on. He hit rewind and sat beside Letty.
He’d turned the volume low, reminding Letty of the sleeping toddler upstairs.
The video started, shaky and silent save for the low sound of skateboard wheels rolling over pavement. The person holding the camera was also clearly on a skateboard, camera facing forward before swiveling first to the left, revealing Dom on his own board, and right to reveal Letty. Both were wearing tank tops and unbuckled helmets. Dom leaned forward and back, a soft zig-zag to his boards movement.
He was relaxed, his eyes all but shut. He looked so small compared to the Dominic Letty knew, with the big yellow t-shirt and cargo shorts, and thick flat shoes accentuating just how small his frame was.
Letty on the other hand still seemed pretty new to skating, her shoulders held tight and her focus firmly on the ground in front of her board.
“I didn’t know you guys used to skate,” Brian said.
“Alright,” the camera person said, close to the mic, “We’re heading to the park to try out some new tricks tonight.” He focused on Letty again, “Or tricks in general, for someone,” he said, zooming in on the back of Letty’s head. Her head snapped up to glare at him, holding her hand close to her face to make sure her middle finger was in the frame.
Dom and the camera person laughed, the camera shaking as the holder took a few strides to build speed.
They bantered, a lot of it incomprehensible because of the camera shaking and background noise, Dom and Letty both somewhat far from the camera for it to pick up their voices.
They got to the skate park, and Dom took a second to make a round, greeting the other teenagers that he knew, giving high fives and finger guns. Letty watched this all with one foot planted on the ground beside a bench. The camera person greeted people that didn’t show in the frame.
A car revved somewhere off camera, and Ben swung to find it in the camera, revealing a suped up gray Civic, which followed its revving with a series of honks.
“Hey, X!” Ben called, finding Dominic on the pipes once more. He got some air, showing off his board, and the painted blue sun star underneath before sliding to the other side of the halfpipe and grabbing his board midair.
“Yeah, I see ‘im,” he said to Ben.
The Civic’s passenger door opened, and a tiny, young Mia hopped out. She was holding her own board, helmet, elbow and knee pads secured.
“Dad told you to take me with!” she hollered at Dom as he skated up, mouth contorted into a serious pout. “You left without me!”
The Civic parked as Dominic laughed, “Sorry sis, I thought you changed your mind.” Behind the two of them, Letty rolled up to the car, leaning her elbows on the roof as the driver got out.
“Dad says you’re on thin fucking ice, Xander,” the driver said as he stood. Ben zoomed in on him, camera shaky, revealing… another Dominic.
Letty scrambled for the remote to pause. She stared at the television, not needing to look at Brian to know how he tensed up-- so he didn’t expect that either. Letty’s mind raced: were they supposed to know this? Where was Xander, then, if family was so important to the Torettos? Was this who the clothes and the skateboard in the backyard belonged to?
“ What ?” Brian all but spat out, breaking out of his trance.
Before Letty could get her wits about her, the front porch creaked and there was a key in the front door, and Mia and Dom were hustling inside.
“Hey, let’s have some beers!” Mia said, sweeping through the living room and into the kitchen, “We got the deed to the market back!”
Brian stood and followed her into the kitchen while Dom laid down the thick folder of documents on one of the stacks of boxes in the living room and sat beside Letty, making himself comfortable. He grabbed the photo of the teenagers on the couch from the ground next to Letty’s foot.
“Find some good ones?”
Letty just stared at him wordlessly, before he finally noticed the image on the television—she had paused it when Xander got to Dom’s Civic, the two of them and Letty all leaning against it.
Dom paled, not reacting when Mia and Brian came back with the beers.
“We were just looking through those photos you pulled down for us,” Brian said, too earnest.
“Oh?” Dom said, walking over to the table still covered in pictures. He picked one up, smiling to himself. “Check this one out, Mia—Ben Vasquez, you remember him?” Brian and Letty locked eyes at the name, Letty shifted minutely to see the photo in Dom’s hand. The long haired kid with the dark features and bright clothes, and in the photo he was standing shoulder to shoulder with the boy Letty had assumed was Dominic.
“Yeah,” Mia said, leaning over to see it as well. She took the photo and smiled, “He looks so young here. He’s still in the neighborhood isn’t he?”
“I don’t know,” Dom said. “Their family was pretty dramatic a while back. He might’ve moved downtown with his Mom after the divorce.”
“Damn,” Letty said, holding her hand out to take the photo too. She didn’t know what she was going to say about it, but somehow the shock she’d felt a moment ago was melting into something a little bit like rage. She wanted to believe it wasn’t malicious, the way that Brian had never learned about Xander, the way the discarded clothes in the backyard were almost certainly Xander’s. What happened?
She looked at the photo and asked, “Did I know him?” She took a hard look at the boys in the photo, studying ‘Dom’s face before deciding to take the plunge.
“Yeah, you and Ben were like cousins; your fathers were friends—“
“No, not him,” Letty said, jutting her chin at the photo. “Him,” she said, pointing at not-Dom’s smiling face.
Dom and Mia froze. Brian was looking at Letty hard, but Letty ignored him.
“Wh-“ Mia forced a big smile. “What do you mean?”
Letty just grabbed the remote, pressing play. Video-Dom pointed at the camera for a quick second, shaking his head, before he started talking to Xander again-- though Letty paid no attention to it.
“That’s what we were wondering,” Brian said.
Letty watched Mia’s eyes as realization dawned on her. First her eyes got big, then she opened her mouth and turned to Brian, like she was about to explain it all away before she realized that
Letty was possessed by something spiteful then as the video began to replay, though she couldn’t focus on it long enough to listen to what was being said. "So, am I missing something?" Letty asked.
"We're missing the same thing,” Brian bit.
“He’s really mad?” Xander asked Dom, tone halfway between concerned and sarcastic.
Dom rolled his eyes, “He said he wanted to talk when you get home.” He slammed the car door shut.
“That’ll just have to wait, ‘cause I didn’t plan on coming home tonight.”
“Xander, you’re really pushing—“
“What are you gonna do about it?” Xander ask, a laugh masked in his words, “Go cry to Daddy?”
Mia bit her lip, turning away from Brian and toward Dominic. Brian looked at him, too, and Letty crossed her arms to wait him out. He finally reached out for the beer Mia brought him and cracked it open, taking a sip.
"What do you want, then?" he said, a touch too loud. He was unnerved, but he still set his brow and jaw when Brian shook his head at him.
"We can start with who that guy is." Brian pressed, voice raising to match Dom's. Ah. Dom wasn’t unnerved by Letty finding out-- really, everything Letty learned about the Torettos was her ‘finding out’ about it. Brian, on the other hand, was part of their family. Actually apart of it. Like, so much apart of it that he shouldn’t just be finding out about things like this.
"Who do you think?"
Brian blinked, looked between him and Mia incredulously. He was upset-- angry, even. "Your brother." Mia chewed on the inside of her cheek.
"Smart buster, huh?" Dom said derisively. He ran a hand over the back of his head. "Twin brother.” He took another long swig from his bottle.
The video began playing on the screen again, and Letty muted it quickly. Still, rewatching Xander skateboarding, Letty beside him, while Dom stared at his half full beer bottle gave her a new perspective on it.
Dom took another long drink. “What do you want to know?” he asked them flatly.
“Well,” Brian started, his sarcastic edge grating against Dom’s ears, “Everything. Why didn’t I ever know ‘bout him?”
“We just,” Mia intervened sharply, placatingly, “don’t talk about him.”
Brian’s expression was even and dark, settling into an interrogation mode he hadn’t touched since his FBI days. “Clearly. Why not?”
Dom breathed in a deep breath, releasing it through his mouth before looking Brian in the eye. “Xander died about twenty years ago.”
Brian stared back, another bout of silence falling in the room. The boy on the screen was smiling.
Letty leaned back in her seat, leaned her head to the side, staring at the wall and piecing it all together.
“Not to—“ Brian hesitated, but his drive to always be cheeky pushed him forward, “Not to be insensitive, but people still talk about deceased relatives.”
Dom let out another stream of air. This topic was getting to him, Letty realized, and throwing him off his usual cool demeanor. “I found out that he… died when a family friend called to say they were sorry about it. We hadn’t spoken in years.”
There it was: Dom’s eyes fell back to his bottle and he picked at the label. He glanced back up to the television in time to see himself as a teenager, berating his brother over the roof of his car. “Could you turn that off?”
Brian, seeing that this was not going to be a good topic for an argument, crossed his arms and let out a frustrated breath. He relaxed his shoulders, letting them sag lower when Mia put her hand on his knee.
“But…” Brian said, but Mia interrupted before he could think about saying ‘what about family?’
“I was eleven when Dad died and Dom went to jail, and a few months later Xander packed up and left, too,” she said, fast and cold. “Next thing I heard he was dead.”
A pregnant silence. Brian was frowning at his hands.
“Police raid on his apartment. That was about, what, sixteen years ago?” Dom looked at Mia to confirm.
Letty closed her eyes tight, trying as hard as she could to remember a single thing about this. She would remember that, wouldn’t she?
“You were good friends with him.” She opened her eyes and found Dom looking at her.
“We were good friends and you weren’t going to tell me about him?”
Dom frowned, nodding his head to the side. “I hadn’t thought about it yet.”
“And when were you gonna tell me ?” Brian interjected.
“Why would I tell you?” Dom asked, first casual, then becoming irate. “It doesn’t concern you, Brian. You weren’t” part of that family he was about to say. Letty could hear it on the tip of his tongue, and chances are so could Brian.
“Aren’t we family?” he said, glancing at Mia and back at Dom, indignant. He scowled at Dom’s nonresponse. “After all the shit we’ve been through, really?” Finally, he found something he could fight over.
“ This family? You and me, man? Giselle, Han, Rome and Tej? This family ain’t that family. It’s not the same.”
Brian exhaled sharply like he was stung, shoulders rolling and tensing as he leaned forward, angry and incredulous. “Yeah?” He swallowed it down, absorbing what Dom was saying, Mia’s hand on his shoulder trying to calm him. “Good to know. ‘Cause I only got one family, and it’s this one , and I really thought I knew my family.”
Dom leaned his head back against the couch and considered Brian, scrutinizing him where he still sat forward. He was melancholic, more so than Letty recalled seeing him. Brian, under his anger and frustration, looked the same as Dom.
Mia, looking back and forth between the two, said, “It’s not that we didn’t tell you , or purposefully withheld it, it’s just that we don’t ever talk about him, really.”
That didn’t lessen the betrayal it seems Brian felt at discovering the third Toretto, though he did return her sympathetic smile.
Finally, Dom conceded, as if they’d been in a standoff. “Alright. We’ll tell you both, everything.” He wiped a hand down over his face. “I’m just not ready yet.” He worried his lip for a second before looking directly at Letty: “Is that okay?”
Seeing Dom, more unnerved than ever, asking for a grace period before they really opened this can of worms, it softened Letty. Brian was clearly still upset, but as far as Letty was concerned, that could be unpacked later.
When no one said otherwise, Dom got up and walked out into the backyard, the other three watching him go.
Brian clenched his teeth once he was gone, rounding on Mia, but once again she cut in first.
“Don’t start on it,” she said.
“On what? On how, I always thought I knew you guys, and I’m just finding out otherwise? How I pictured myself as part of the family for real, and--”
“You are , Xander isn’t . I barely remember him, really.”
Letty couldn’t listen any longer. She stood up and quickly went up the stairs, swinging the door to Dom’s room open and shutting it behind her with a resounding click. She sat heavily on the bed she’d slept in, just trying to clear her mind of everything. She made herself to breathe slow, measuring the air she let out and closing her eyes, hands balling in the sheets.
She remembered him. Xander, sitting on one of the twin beds in the very same room. Black eye, long face, and Letty was sitting at the foot of his bed. Like a ghost, she could remember him moving through the room-- maybe when she was in here with Dom and they were teenagers, maybe when Dom was gone. She remembered him showing off a stick-and-poke tattoo on his chest, his skin still puffy and red.
Most importantly, she remembered him.