By the time they finished taping Brian up at the hospital, he already had a pretty good idea how the next several months would play out. For him, there'd be leave-- maybe disciplinary, maybe just medical, depending on whether Penning decided his having brought Dom back with Braga counted as fulfilling orders-- and then probably an extended period of desk duty. For Dom, there'd be County, while he waited through his trial and sentencing. And for Mia-- whatever she'd put up with from him while all three of their lives were in limbo, until the gavel came down and it was time to make a decision.
He already had a pretty good idea how it would go down, though he planned to fight for Dom's freedom as far as he could within legal lines first. But when they did write Dominic Toretto a return ticket to Lompoc-- Brian intended to make sure he never got there.
Which meant money. Cars. A team. And whatever extra leverage he could scrape up. And considering where he'd been for the five years before the FBI sent him back to Los Angeles...
Brian paused for a moment to rest a hand on the hood of Mia's Honda NSX when she arrived to pick him up, just testing the feel of the warm metal under his palm. It thrummed with the subtle vibration of the car's well-tuned engine, that familiar sensation that had been in his blood since he was a kid in Barstow. But there was also just a hint of something extra: that strange new twinge he'd picked up during the catastrophic conclusion of his deep cover assignment. His fingers tingled, a prickly sensation like his hand had been asleep for awhile and was just waking up; and through that connection, he could practically feel the shape of the whole car like a living image in the back of his mind.
The contact was a heavy drain on his energy, though, even just those few seconds of focus, and he was still aching from the crash in the desert. Brian lifted his hand again and watched a pale blue shimmer dissipate into the shiny black paint. At that rate, it would take forever to affect an entire car. And he wasn't sure just what the results would be; he wasn't exactly an expert at dealing with the effects. He didn't think anyone was, not even the surviving Sector Seven chiefs. But he had a pretty good guess. And it was going to take months for him to rebuild Dom's Charger, regardless, while they all waited through the fallout from the collapse of Braga's empire.
He felt the back of Mia's hand against his forehead, and realized that sometime in the last minute or so he'd closed his eyes, listing like a weary statue in the hospital parking lot. He gave her a wan smile, one hand pressed his side, and let her guide him to the passenger side of the car without a word. The argument about just how crazy he wasn't could wait until he was feeling a little healthier.
The risk would prove worth it, or it wouldn't, but either way this new gift of his was hope, an extra edge; he'd take it and be grateful. If there was one thing the rough road he'd trod since first swearing oaths to constitution and country had shown him, it was that doing right by people mattered far more to him than legalities. Nothing he'd lose by acting was worth more to him than the happiness of the woman in this car... and her brother.
Her brother. God, Dom. Brian leaned back against the headrest and pressed the heels of his hands to his face. Time to stop running, Dom had said out there in the desert. But what Brian thought he'd really meant was: I can't do it alone anymore.
"Just one more time, Dom," he promised under his breath. "Just one time more."
Five years ago, he would have sworn there was nothing Bilkins could say, no possible angle he could play with Rome's record cleared and Dom far out of reach, to convince Brian O'Conner to pick up another badge. Especially under the auspices of the FBI, the agency whose investigation into a series of truck heists had thrown Brian into Dominic Toretto's path in the first place and proved to him he hadn't left his roots as far behind as he'd thought.
A home where his father was gone so much, Brian could barely remember him. A mother who could hardly cope with her wild, loudmouthed son; and the street culture that had raised him instead. Barstow had nothing on Los Angeles, but he'd still got into enough trouble there to land him in juvie-- where he'd met Roman Pearce, and opened up a whole new chapter of chaos. If it hadn't been for a couple scrapes with the drug scene-- shit he'd seen happen to good people as a result of other men's greed-- and a desire to impress a couple of his hotter teachers, he probably wouldn't have had the grades or inclination to apply to the Academy after that. But he'd picked up some stupid idea that someone who knew the environment might have a leg up in protecting the people who lived in it, and let a career counselor talk him into giving it a try.
It had gone wrong from the beginning: he'd been totally blindsided by Rome's reaction. And it hadn't ended any better: he still didn't know how much of that original decision to hand Dom the keys to his Supra had been prompted by his feelings for Dom himself, or from guilt over that festering years-old breakup with Rome. And in between-- well. He'd been a motivated cop, sure, but nothing all that special in the scheme of things. What did he have that Bilkins couldn't find in someone more suitable?
The answer, in the end, had surprised him: his name. The surname he'd shed so easily to go undercover turned out to be a passcode into a government black hole called Sector Seven. Current membership was hard to pin down, but seemed to follow family lines, so Bilkins figured Brian's name might get him in where all previous infiltrators had been rejected out of hand. If his father had lived past his twelfth birthday, he'd probably have been recruited eventually anyway, so they'd be predisposed to think of him as theirs. And the FBI would thereby get the chance at clandestine eyes inside an organization that made a habit of stomping all over their turf and refusing to share their toys.
Something had overturned a hornet's nest in Virginia just a couple of months earlier, something referred to by the code name "NBE Two," and they were engaged in a massive cross-country operation to track it, cock-blocking every other agency along the way. The O'Conner connection was the only one the FBI had, and it had a limited window of usefulness before it started to stink of a setup.
Bilkins had the paperwork ready to sanitize Brian's recent history and make it look as though he'd been overpowered, rather than aiding and abetting, in Los Angeles-- and that the FBI had used Dom's escape as a convenient cover to secretly transfer him and set him to tracking other criminals in the car scene. But now that Verone was in jail and he'd blown that 'cover' in the process, Bilkins would naturally have transferred Brian to other duties... where he would just so happen to show up at a scene Sector Seven was investigating. They'd surely recognize his name. And it would be up to him to take it from there.
Brian would have considered doing it just for the chance to learn more about his dad's background, and to stick it to some arrogant assholes in the process. But Bilkins sweetened the deal by promising to clear the outstanding warrants for every one of Dom's crew bar Dom himself. Letty and Leon, whose prints had been found all over the car crashed at the last heist site-- and Vince, who'd broken out of the hospital as soon as he was mobile and disappeared. They'd be able to come home again, if they should choose to do so. And the FBI would leave them and Mia alone, unless Dom reappeared again.
Or unless Brian fucked up. What was given could always be taken away.
It wasn't everything Brian wanted, but it was more than he knew he had any right to expect. He signed on the dotted line, asked Rome to take care of his money, and asked Tej and Suki to watch over Rome. Then he put on a suit and headed for the scene of an unusual 'traffic accident'.
Sector Seven did in fact find him there. And that was the last time Brian O'Conner had breathed free air.
The kicker was, Brian had actually made a place for himself inside the Sector. He'd connected with cousins and uncles he hadn't known existed, and learned secrets about the space race and what Jesse would have referred to as 'car gods' that had totally blown his mind. And where competing oaths were concerned, he'd also discovered a new priority: family still first, but planet next, before nation.
He'd assumed Bilkins understood that, too, because none of the information Brian passed back-- a lot of it couched in vague terms, because seriously, as if the guy would believe him about 'possible evidence of extraterrestrial mechanical life' over the simpler 'advanced experimental tech' anyway-- ever surfaced in a way that would point back to him. His fourth life seemed charmed, lived in a new, wider world where cars could drive themselves and he wasn't so much tracking criminals as dangers to all mankind. He'd known he'd never forget Dom or Mia, but he'd finally started to move on.
But then the attack on Qatar happened. NBE Two surfaced as a Camaro and picked up a couple of teenaged friends. Brian got his first glimpse of the base under Hoover Dam where NBE One and the artifact the entire organization had been built around were kept, and discovered just what the administration had been doing with it. He watched a kid defend a giant yellow and black 'bot as though it was family. And finally-- sick to his stomach with the implosion of yet another worldview-- he fought at ground zero during the knock-down drag-out battle through the streets of Mission City.
Yeah, he would never be entirely copacetic with how that had gone down. In the aftermath, rather than assigning him to NEST along with all the other odds and ends of organizations who'd been caught in the conflict, the FBI simply kicked him over to the Los Angeles offices. His Sector Seven badge, false or not, apparently made him persona non grata to the folks in charge. After all he'd done, when his chance had arrived to work with actually friendly beings who'd come all the way across the universe to take the forms of fast cars-- that was when the FBI finally decided to fuck his life up again and pull him.
His first disciplinary leave really shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone involved, after that. And he'd barely returned from that when he'd been hit with the Braga investigation and Letty had turned up at his front door. What was right and what was legal had parted ways on him once more.
In the meantime... interesting little tidbits had started popping up in the news, warnings of 'viruses' that manifested as electrical discharges and made computers appear to be alive, or 'pranks' where people suddenly found ordinary home appliances replaced with hyperactive little machines. Brian had been close enough to see a brilliant blue wall of fire expand from the encounter between the Witwicky kid and NBE One, passing through anyone and everyone in its path, animating things that had no business being alive and making his body convulse like he'd just been tased full power. His cell phone had spontaneously upgraded itself to the newest model without his input. And before the FBI had bogarted him from the group of Sector Seven agents awaiting debriefing and dispersal, he'd watched a military guy that looked a lot like Rome bang on a pop machine-- and then swear, as a blue discharge surged out from his fist and it abruptly started skittering away from him.
Fast forward to the Toretto's garage, where Brian laid hands on the twisted frame of a badly damaged 1970 Dodge Charger and poured his hope into it along with every spare cent he could muster.
He'd earned a place for himself there, too. And that one he absolutely refused to abandon.
"That thing is a curse, you know," Mia told him the Saturday after the wreck of the Charger arrived. She'd brought out a tray of sandwiches so he wouldn't have to stop to make food: tuna, of course, accompanied by a sweating bottle of Corona.
Brian looked up from his salvage efforts under the Charger's hood and gave her a tired grin, wiping ineffectively at his hands with a greasy rag. She was gorgeous, even with the worried frown drawing lines between her brows and the tight set of her mouth: as similar and yet different from her brother as the cars they chose. Both were capable of giving him a run for their money, powerful and compelling in their own right, burning under the surface with a passionate fire-- like an agile little import parked next to good old fashioned American muscle. Both fine bodies, regardless of make.
"I know," he told her. "This is, what, the third time someone's rebuilt it? And it'll always carry memories of your dad, and of Letty. But Dom's invested so much meaning into it-- we'll need a powerful car for the stop I have in mind anyway, and at least this way I'll know exactly how much it can take."
He dropped the rag atop the nearest toolbox, then walked over, gathering her loosely against him with hands at hips and a soft kiss against her mouth. She melted against him in return for just a moment, skimming one slim hand up over the front of his stained tee-shirt and licking against the seam of his lips-- then pulled back, shaking her head with a rueful smile.
"No. No, you know I love you, Brian-- but I'm not going to let you do this."
He pulled back again, staring at her in bafflement. He'd thought she'd forgiven him; they'd been sleeping together, mostly sleeping but definitely together, since that first evening she'd brought him home. Holding her in his arms had been such a balm-- he'd almost forgotten what it was like to belong in his own skin again, to be loved by someone who loved him for the guy underneath the Agent armor he'd worn for so long. And the way she'd hungrily traced him with careful fingertips and intent, dark gaze-- he'd thought she'd been just as much with him as he'd been with her. "What do you mean?"
"I'm not going to let you mix your feelings for Dom up with your feelings for me," she said, firmly. "No, don't make that face at me; I think I know you better than that by now. When you're out here, I know I'm not the one on your mind, and I've seen the way you look at that car."
She sounded bitter, but not angry about it, the corner of her mouth tugged up in a weary half-smile. Like the day she'd told him she didn't date her brother's friends-- or the day she'd told him that Dom owned him now. As though that was simply the natural order of things in her universe.
"Mia-- Mia, no, that isn't what this is about," he protested, capturing one of her hands when she tried to pull away, shaking her head. He buried a brief flash of guilt and focused on the bit about the car; that part of it, at least, she was really getting the wrong impression about. "I'm serious-- there's something I've been meaning to show you. C'mon."
He pulled her toward the door, out into the sticky warmth of the evening, cast in orange light where the setting sun shone through the smog. Mia's NSX sat at the curb, the slick, slinky black shape so much more her than the commuter car she parked in the clinic lot at work every morning.
"Here-- you picked up any scratches lately?" he asked, giving it a once-over.
She rolled her eyes at him, but she seemed a little more interested, a little less resigned to whatever he might have to say as she gestured toward the rear driver's side door. "Some asshole keyed her a couple of days ago. I haven't had a chance to get it taken care of yet."
Hector had taken over the old Toretto garage several years before, when his brief legit racing career came to an end; Brian was sure he'd have helped Mia out free of charge. It was a pretty simple cosmetic problem, though-- one that would make for the perfect demonstration. "So, check this out," he said, kneeling next to the door and bracketing his palms on either side of the ugly scratch. "Watch this."
Then he closed his eyes, and reached for that place of zen that he'd found worked better than actual focused concentration. It flowed better that way, whatever the it was that had worked its way into his system like a shot of NOS in Mission City, and tired him less-- and the more he worked with it, and the healthier he felt, the more he seemed able to channel it. He'd accidentally shorted the radio in his own car the day the tow truck showed up, but he hadn't made any mistakes like that since.
"Brian, what are you-- oh my God. What is that-- Brian." A hand fell on his shoulder: Mia's, gripping tightly as he breathed deep, letting the calm blue sense of purpose crackle through his fingertips into the free air family open road the steel shape in front of him represented to her.
When he opened his eyes again, he was sweating, and the shadows were long over the yard-- but the paint was whole again. And under the solid surface of the finish, faint off-black lines had spread out from the point of contact; hard to see unless you were looking directly at them, like the spots on a black jaguar. "Hmm, you like that, huh?" he murmured to the car as he sat back on his haunches and then heaved up to his feet. "Racing stripes."
"Brian," Mia repeated, her voice a little strained.
He turned toward her, then leaned back against the car, reaching out to grasp one of her hands. "Yeah, so I'm not quite Brian O'Conner, original model, any more than the Charger is," he shrugged. "But it'll get the job done. And maybe it'll be a little more insurance toward keeping Dom in one piece, when I'm done with it."
"What happened to you?" she breathed, searching his face with wide, alarmed eyes.
"Five years, and some pretty classified stuff," he shrugged, not sure where to start. "But there at the end-- you saw the stuff on the news about the industrial accident and the experimental robots, and people being exposed to some kind of weird radiation?"
"Yeah-- and?" she frowned.
"Not so much an industrial accident. And, yeah. Radiation." He waggled his fingers. "Not the kind that'll kill you, though, so far as I can tell. I'm still working it all out."
"And it, what. Lets you heal cars?" She raised her eyebrows in disbelief.
"Not totally sure yet. I'm sure the government knows more, but I kind of fell between the cracks of the official roundups-- they don't know I can use it yet, and I'm not inclined to point it out to them."
Mia digested that a moment, biting her lip as she studied him further, minutely examining his face like she was comparing it in detail to some older memory. "So all of this," she finally said. "This crazy plan-- that's why you don't care about having an alibi for the breakout. You expect to be a fugitive."
"Did you think I was trying to martyr myself, or something?" Brian couldn't help but smile at her at that. "Mia, I would have wanted to come with you anyway. But no-- it wouldn't be a good idea for me to stay with the agency. There's a couple agents I'll miss-- I'd have liked to introduce you to Trinh, the agent I've been working with on the Braga investigation, you'd like her-- but the longer I'm there, the more likely it is that someone'll notice."
"And what would happen then?" she asked, apprehensively.
"Not sure." He might get assigned to NEST after all-- wherever they happened to be headquartered. Or they might still bounce him, and he might end up somewhere he really didn't want to be. "Let's not find out. We wait out Dom's trial. I fix the Charger. Then we pack up and go, one way or the other."
She sighed, then leaned in for a kiss. "All right. I'm not sure what to believe yet-- but then, what part of my life has gone how I expected since I met you? Come inside; I'll fix you something better than a sandwich, and if you're lucky, I'll let you pick up where you left off out in the garage."
After the little demonstration with the NSX, he wouldn't have been much use with the Charger that night anyway. "Okay," he said. "I love you, you know that?"
She snorted, then smiled again, a little more genuinely than before. "I know that, Brian. I'm just not so sure you're in love with me."
"No. Not tonight. Come on." She pulled him inside, then, as the sky darkened above them. It only took a few moments to toss together a meal of spaghetti and cheap wine-- and a few more to toss her into the sheets afterward, opening her up with fingers and tongue and loving her as well as he knew how.
The next morning, he woke to an empty bed and a cooling cup of coffee on the nightstand.
That night, fresh sandwiches waited for him atop a toolbox. But there was no other sign of Mia around.
As if by consensus, though they never spoke of it, Mia never came out to the garage again while he was working. Brian started staying over at his old apartment again about half the time, especially on days he went for visitation at the county jail. And they slept together less and less as the weeks rolled onward.
Once his leave ended, Stasiak made every day in the office a trial despite Trinh's best efforts, and Dom's increasing reserve behind bars just added to the building atmosphere of frustration. Brian took everything out on the cars: pouring all his frustrated drive into the Charger, all his protective hunger into oil changes and car washes and various unnecessary tune-ups on the other vehicles he and Mia drove. They all developed spontaneous additional detailing and a distinct decrease in gasoline consumption, so he knew it was helping a little; but that didn't help him figure out what to do about his problems.
Mia did make an effort to eat more meals with him, though, calling him in for lunch on the weekends and making the occasional hot supper on the evenings he spent there. He always did the dishes with her afterward. And they talked, about childhood memories, about favorite vacations-- and about Dom. That part of their rapport hadn't changed, despite the distinctly lackluster course of their romance.
"Mia," he asked her one day, towel draped over one shoulder and arms wet to the elbows with suds. "I'm not sure how to ask, but. Did I do something wrong? Or am I just imagining that you broke up with me when I wasn't looking?"
She stared at him, then walked up behind him and wrapped her arms around his chest, chin resting on his shoulder. "Kind of?" she said.
"What do you mean, kind of?" He looked up, meeting her eyes in her reflection in the window over the sink.
She smiled at him, mysterious this time rather than sad: a woman who'd made a choice, rather than wait for an outcome. "I think we make better friends than romantic partners," she said. "I won't kick you out of my bed, Brian, but I think we both know whose future you're planning, and it isn't mine."
He swallowed. But how was he supposed to argue with that? "Mia, he's giving up," he said, helplessly.
"No, he isn't," she said, turning her face so her cheek rested against the towel. Her next words were muffled, but distinct and full of conviction: "He's leaving the ball in your court, Brian."
Something quivered in the pit of his stomach, and he blinked to find his eyes warm and wet. "I love you," he said, lost for anything more coherent to say.
She hugged him close for a moment, then let him go, still smiling. "I know."
The first day the Charger moved on its own was three weeks before the judge delivered Dom's sentence. It was a small thing-- the hood popping open just before Brian reached for it, as though anticipating his attention.
"Hey," he blurted, surprised-- then laid his hand on the engine block and concentrated. "Hey."
Something briefly sparked to life, reaching back for him: warm, not quite conscious but affectionate, eager-- and focused, determined never to see a set of taillights, as though all the emotions he'd poured into it had taken on independent life under its metal skin. Then the burgeoning awareness faded again, leaving a sensation of sleeping energy behind it.
He grinned to himself, wild and suddenly full of blazing hope.
Events progressed much more swiftly after that.
Brian had left his whole life behind four times already; the day Dom boarded the bus to ride from LA County to Lompoc was, in the end, just one more horizon line. The sole difference was-- this was a change he was looking forward to, thumb poised over the NOS rather than downshifting to give him extra time to prepare for upcoming curves. Mia had already done all of her grieving, too. When the day came, they were ready; they met Leo and Santos at the predetermined point along the route, then sped toward freedom, shedding their jobs and households like the empty shells they were.
Brian stroked a hand over the dashboard of the Charger as they approached the bus, murmuring low words of encouragement to the revving engine. "Remember," he said, "we've got to hit it just right. When they get the bus to swerve, we have to flip it right over us-- hard enough to toss the guards around, but not to kill anyone. You sure you can handle that much mass hitting your frame?"
A backchatter of static suddenly blared back at him from the speakers, and he smiled, accepting the indignant rebuke. "I know, I know, we've been over it already; I just had to make sure you weren't getting cold treads on me now."
The horn made a rude noise as he pressed the accelerator down, and he laughed. "Yeah, me neither. Okay, then. Let's do this thing."
He would forever remember the next few moments in slices of image and sensation: the amber shimmer of the dry fields spreading to either side of the road; the little smirk on Mia's face as she gunned by him to provide the initial distraction; the full-body jerk and deafening shriek of the brakes as he and Dom's car slowed at just the right angle in front of the prison bus to bounce it skyward. The pounding of his heartbeat as several tons of steel and prisoner tumbled by overhead, a hair's breadth from flattening them both. The slow grin curving Dom's mouth as Brian pulled up alongside him and popped the passenger door open.
They must have said something to each other then, but the car gods alone knew what it might have been. He was so juiced on adrenaline that it wasn't until he pulled over several miles later that he started experiencing linear time again, and Dom was still grinning, relaxing the tension in his frame by slow degrees.
"Why'd we stop, O'Conner?" he rasped, absently petting the seat next to him with a callused hand as he turned bright eyes toward Brian. "Cops'll be along soon, and I was enjoying the wind in my hair."
Brian could feel the car soaking that up, and snorted as he reached into the back seat for the second duffel. "I thought we could spare a few seconds for a change of camouflage," he said, tossing Dom the bag. "Mia grabbed a few of your favorites out of your closet."
"This day just gets better and better." Dom's grin widened as he reached for the fastenings of his jumpsuit, apparently ready to strip down right there in the car.
"No, no, out of the car first," Brian said hastily. Not that he really wanted to interrupt that free show-- but this really wasn't the time. "There's something that you really need to see."
"Whatever it is can wait until we get where we're going," Dom shrugged, peeling down the jumpsuit until he was bare to the waist.
Brian swallowed, eyes drawn to the sharply cut lines of muscle under taut, tan skin, then shook his head sharply and matched gazes with the other man again. "No, it can't. I'm serious, Dom. You have to get out of the car, just for a minute. It has to do with the Charger."
Dom frowned at that, the lightness in his expression finally fading as his brows drew together. "What have you done to my car, O'Conner?"
The radio blatted static again; Brian sighed and stroked a hand along the curve of the wheel. "Just trust me," he said.
Dom's scowl deepened, but he finally did as asked, popping open the door and dragging the duffel with him as he slid out. His gaze caught on Letty's cross as he moved, still hanging from the rearview mirror; he snagged it with a swift hand as his boots crunched into the dry grass of the highway verge.
Brian got out of the other side and shut the door gently, then took a few steps back to give the Charger plenty of room to move. "Dom," he said, instinctively using what he thought of as his cop voice: lethally serious, so there'd be no mistaking what came next. "I'd like to reintroduce you to your car."
At that cue, the Charger shifted a little on its wheels-- then stood, metal shifting in a noisy clanking whirlwind of parts that lasted for several endless, amazing seconds. Brian had only seen it a few times, and most of those back in Mission City; he watched the transformation with a soaring sense of wonder and pride, then reached out when the last part shifted into place to pat Bestia on the looming axle of its nearest thigh.
"Dominic Toretto, meet Bestia. Bestia, meet Dom," he explained, grinning over at the open-mouthed form of the other driver. "I told you about him. He's the one you belong to."
Bestia commented on that with a step to the side, the edge of the asphalt shoulder crumbling under its tread as it moved closer to Brian. It was still so young, weeks old and largely inexperienced; but it would learn. They had nothing but time and the open road in front of them.
"Oh, don't be shy," he chided it, patting again. "I'm not just going to abandon you. We both belong to him, remember?"
"Do you," Dom breathed, the words a low, barely audible rumble as he shifted his focus from the looming bipedal form back to Brian.
His pupils were blown, wide and dark and fixed on Brian's face, and Brian felt a sudden, crawling unease up his spine as his smile slid off his face. That wasn't really the reaction he'd been expecting. Though he didn't really know what he had been expecting. "Yeah, so. I'm sorry...?"
He didn't have a chance to say anything else, though, to attempt to finish an apology or explanation: because Dom moved, lunging toward him suddenly, pushing him back against Bestia's thigh. Brian felt his back hit metal-- then jerked as another sudden succession of loud crunching and shifting sounds replaced rods and wires with the smooth panel of the Charger's rear door. Bestia had retransformed. And Brian found himself trapped between it and Dom, arms like tree branches pressed into the metal on either side of his shoulders, bare, tanned chest rubbing sweat against his tee, boots bracketing Brian's battered Converse.
"You're sorry?" Dom chuckled, incredulously, from mere inches away, breath fanning over Brian's mouth. "You fucking resurrected my car. You gave it a name, and you broke me off that bus, and you stand here trying to tell me you're sorry?"
Brian swallowed, heart pounding double-time in his chest, and suppressed a groan as Dom's proximity started prompting the inevitable reaction. "Do you want me to be?" he asked, unable to stop himself from reaching out and sliding his hands down Dom's bare flanks.
"As if you ever let me tell you what to do anyway," Dom murmured, then pushed those last few inches closer, taking Brian's mouth like a starving man presented with a four-course meal. Brian found himself grinding against the offered thigh, every inch of his skin on fire, about half a minute from coming in his pants, and from what he could tell Dom was in no better shape.
Mia had been right, he thought vaguely, when Dom finally backed off a few seconds later, biting at his lower lip as he pulled away.
"Tell me I'm reading this wrong, Brian," he said, panting harshly under the baking sun.
Brian snorted, then grinned at him, reckless with resurging joy. "Nah, man. Don't tell me you didn't see it coming."
"You, maybe," Dom shook his head. "But this...?" he started to gesture past Brian to the car, then did a double-take, eyes widening once more. "You weren't kidding when you said 'change of camouflage', were you? Damn, O'Conner."
Brian turned his head, then patted the door at the sight before him. Bestia, whose name meant Beast in Italian, had followed their previously discussed program and shifted into a slightly less obvious version of itself: one gun-metal grey Charger, minus the blower and the shiny, reflective paintjob.
"Yeah, so get yours in gear before Mia starts wondering where the hell we are," he said, coming back to himself enough to check his watch. "Cops'll be here any minute now. We'll have to finish this later."
"Oh, we'll finish something, all right," Dom promised him, eyes glittering.
Later, he'll have to leave Dom behind for a couple of weeks-- coaxing Mia's Nesso into its first transformation while he trusts Bestia to look after Dom-- and they'll run into trouble with Vince in Rio, drawing the law back down on their tracks.
Later still, Mia will announce that she's pregnant, and complicate their world by several more degrees.
But all through the chaos that follows, car chases, shootouts, reunions, insane heists and a bastard in a Gurkha who damn near kills Bestia all over again, Brian O'Conner will hold that image in the back of his mind: Dominic Toretto, half-dressed and wanting, at the beginning of the rest of their lives.