"So, we haven't had much of a chance to talk since we all met up again," Brian said, finally biting the bullet and opening the conversation.
He'd been so fucking relieved to see Dom standing next to Vince when the side of that train had torn open to reveal the heist crew; two weeks had been a lot of time to be out of touch under the circumstances. There'd been no time to savor the moment, though; before he'd even finished explaining why he'd brought Mia out on a job despite Dom's orders to lay low, Vince's friends had started throwing sketchy vibes, and they'd been running one way or another ever since.
Dom took a pull from his bottle, then looked over at him, leaning against the porch rail in the sticky, still-warm air of the late Rio evening. He looked thoughtful; which could be a good sign or a bad sign, considering how much there'd been to think about since the last time they were alone together.
"You and Mia," he said slowly, as though testing the sound of the words.
"Yeah." Brian winced a little, glancing in through the barred window where his sort-of-ex girlfriend curled in a chair, dozing with a tiny little O'Conner growing inside her. "It's-- complicated. We talked about us while you were in county lockup; she pretty much told me she knew she wasn't the one whose future I was planning, and that she'd rather be my friend than the bitter other woman."
Dom's eyebrows arched up a little at that. "You mean--?"
Brian snorted. "Apparently I was pretty fucking obvious about it," he said, taking a pull of his own beer to avoid looking Dom in the eyes at that admission. "She told me she wouldn't kick me out of bed, though, in the meantime; and I guess at some point we must have fucked up the protection."
"And how do you feel about that?" Dom asked, still so careful. Brian already knew how he felt about the increasing size of the family; the surprised, open smile and the warm three-way hug at the foot of the favela had been a pretty big clue. But he was giving nothing away about his feelings for Brian, and what the situation with Mia might mean for what had started between them in the California desert.
He took a careful, shaky breath, and asked a tangential question, trying to divert the moment of truth a little longer. "Dom, what do you remember about your father?"
That question, surprisingly, coaxed another genuine grin out of Dom; the last time they'd talked about his dad they'd done so over the Charger, back before she'd been Bestia, in the garage of the house in Echo Park. The story had been a wrenching one; it had explained a lot about Dom to Brian, and broken through the wall of impartiality he'd tried to hold up between his real identity and the life of Brian Earl Spilner. Sometime over the last six years, Dom must've come to better terms with the memories.
He talked about Sunday barbecues, and about a hard working man that still had time for his children, nostalgia curling around the edges of his smile. It made Brian wonder what Dom's life would have been like if that car wreck had never happened; if he'd have joined the official racing world himself, and never crossed the path of Officer O'Conner. Or maybe, if Brian and Rome had straightened up rather than splitting to pursue the paths of law and property crime-- maybe they all would have met on the stock car circuit. His heart twisted a little at the thought.
But there was no point in might've beens. Only what will be's.
"See, that's just it," he tried to explain. "I don't know shit about my dad."
Dom let him go on a moment more, rambling around his fears that he might make a terrible parent, then interrupted, gaze intent and sure. "You ain't going to be like that, Brian," he said, firmly.
Something in Brian's back that had been wound tight ever since Mia's announcement loosened a little at that. He did want to be a dad; and for it to happen after he'd basically given up the idea of it was kind of amazing. It was just that the circumstances were a little nonstandard, even for their crazy lives. "So you're not going to break my neck for knocking her up when I'd rather have been knocking boots with her brother?" he quipped, only half-teasing.
Dom snorted at that, then set down his bottle and approached slowly across the length of the porch. Brian settled his weight more thoroughly against the plaster behind him, then spread his legs a little to accept Dom's solid frame as it pressed into him and set his own bottle on the window ledge in favor of wrapping a fist up in Dom's muscle shirt.
"I've seen you with Bestia and Nesso," Dom rumbled as he lined himself up against the stiffening ridge in Brian's jeans. "So I know you can do the dad thing with cars. A kid at least has less moving parts. And I said I'd break your neck if you broke her heart."
"Yeah?" Brian breathed against his mouth, shifting his hips against Dom's to sweeten the friction.
"I'm thinking that's only ever going to happen if you leave," Dom explained, dropping a biting kiss against Brian's exposed collarbone. "Woman knows her own mind; anyone with eyes can see she's happy. Not perfect, maybe, but happy. And you ain't going to leave. Are you, O'Conner."
Brian tilted his head back and groaned. There really was only one appropriate response to that.
The rest of the conversation could come later. After they did.
Mia smiled wistfully at them the next morning, eyes darting between them as though drinking in their faces. She still seemed so pleased to see them both together, regardless of the shifting relationships between the three of them; sometimes Brian forgot in the immediacy of everything going on that she'd been alone for the better part of five years while he'd been learning the secrets of Sector Seven and Dom had been pulling crazy shit south of the border trying to outrun boredom. She'd been the responsible one of the family all her life, but especially during those isolated years under police scrutiny, and she seemed so unburdened to have shed that role at last. He'd feel guiltier for dragging her permanently into the life if she didn't seem so glad to be there.
She made a face at the remnants of the greasy breakfast they'd put together, though, and shook her head at him, a little green around the gills. "I'm thrilled, really," she said, "but seriously, if you guys ever decide you want to mix genes again, one of you is going to have to carry the baby."
Dom's expression at that was a sight to behold. Brian chuckled, then got up to give her a good morning kiss on the cheek, and ambled over to brace a shoulder against Dom's where he was holding up the wall. "So what's the plan?" he asked. "You know we can't keep running. How do we get out of this?"
"We use this," Dom said, pulling Reyes' confiscated computer chip from his pocket. He turned it over in his fingers, then held it out toward Brian-- but Brian shook his head, holding out a cautionary hand.
"Better not, man; you keep hold of it. That thing's pretty damned small; I don't even want to know what might happen if I charged it by accident." He'd seen what even the tiniest devices could turn into in the Sector Seven lab under the Hoover Dam; he doubted anything created by personal touch would be that antisocial, but he couldn't guarantee it would be useful for its original purpose anymore.
Dom frowned, then tucked the chip away again. "Gotta get a better handle on that, Brian."
He ducked his head and nodded in response. "It's leveled off, pretty much; it's not going away, but it's not getting stronger any more, either. And it still takes awhile to do anything to a car. But the energy's pretty damn responsive to emotion; that's the part I'm having trouble controlling. I can keep my shit together 'til we're free of this, I just don't want to take unnecessary chances, you know?"
"Yeah, that's you all over, drawing the line at unnecessary chances," Mia spoke up, laughter in her voice. "You know, Jesse would have said you'd been blessed by the car gods. I can still hardly believe any of it's real."
"Don't say that around Nesso, you'll hurt her feelings," Brian grinned, acknowledging the hit. He'd coaxed the NSX into the less conspicuous form of a '72 Skyline for the drive through South America, but she'd kept the initial name, an Italian word courtesy of Mia that signified a connection or link.
Dom rolled his eyes, nudging his shoulder against Brian's, the solidity of his body a warm anchor along Brian's side. "Not caution, just sense. Not that we're known for that, either." He chuckled. "Or that it's even the craziest thing about you, O'Conner."
"Yeah, yeah, laugh it up," Brian smiled, elbowing back. Then he turned the conversation back to the original topic. He had a pretty good idea what was on Dom's mind: a hundred million could buy a lot of vacation insurance. Passports, new histories, the works. "We do this thing, we're going to need a team, you know; even I'm not crazy enough to think we can take all that with just the two of us."
"The three of us," Mia insisted, firming her jaw at the exclusion.
"The two of us out in the open," Brian countered; he didn't even need to look at Dom to know her brother would be in full agreement. Mia was tough, but her being out there would fuck with both of their protective instincts, even if she wasn't pregnant, even with Nesso to guard her. "You can investigate things for us, coordinate, but you've been in enough danger already since we got here."
Mia looked from his face to Dom's, then sighed at whatever she saw there and gave them a rueful smile. "All right. But if you try to send me somewhere safer, I'll castrate the both of you."
"Understood," Dom rumbled, tipping his head to her.
"So." That settled, Brian crossed his arms, eyeing Dom speculatively. "Let's run this down. Who else would you say we need?"
It was excellent to see Rome and Tej again; Brian had emailed both of them once or twice, made a few phone calls while he was undercover, but he'd had to keep it pretty minimal overall while he'd been with Sector Seven. The secretive government group had been extremely insular-- which he had known to expect going in, given how little his father had been around when he'd been growing up-- and the last thing he'd needed was any of his new superiors questioning his commitment. Rome hadn't liked that. But at least he'd handled it better than when Brian went to the Academy.
He seemed to be handling the Dom thing okay, too, once they got past the initial establishing of dominance phase. Watching Rome smart off at his partner, and Dom just coolly sidestepping the whole Alpha bullshit to rope him back in with a wry comment, was nearly as exhilarating as a race; he'd never expected the two vastly different segments of his life to ever meet, much less to get along. Or maybe they just hadn't been all that different, after all; it was the cop phase there in the middle that really stood out, if he looked back at it all objectively.
And that reminded him of something else he'd been meaning to ask his oldest friend.
"Hey, man, you got a cousin named Epps?" he asked when he and Rome found a moment to talk alone.
"Epps?" Rome frowned at him, lounging back against the leather couch someone had thoughtfully dragged inside the old factory building. "Yeah, a whole lot of 'em, on my momma's side. Not close, but I've met a few. You run into one of 'em somewhere?"
Brian snorted, remembering the soldier who'd inadvertently animated a pop machine in front of him. They hadn't exchanged more than a few words in the convoy from the dam to the city or during the running fight, but Brian remembered him pretty clearly given the resemblance. Until the uniform had registered, he'd thought the man was Rome.
"Yeah. Tech Sergeant in the Air Force. I didn't catch his first name."
"Bobby?" Rome straightened up at that, an affronted expression on his face. "And where in the hell did you meet Bobby Epps while you was undercover? I thought you were doing more drug cartel shit, Bri. Bobby is the damn good cousin my momma always throws in my face; you can't tell me he was involved in anything like that."
"Nah, don't worry about that, cuz. He's a goddamn hero, though more than that I can't tell you. But I thought he was you there for a few minutes. Kind of threw me," Brian grinned at him.
"Huh," Rome said, mollified. "Still the good twin, then. Damn. He recognize you if he saw you again? 'Cause I'm going to try and get him to narc on you next time I hear from him, don't think I won't."
"Good luck with that," Brian chuckled. Odds were Sergeant Epps had earned himself a promotion or two and a ticket over to NEST; Rome would never get anything out of him about Mission City or the NBEs. Far as Brian had been able to determine, pretty much everyone in government employ close enough to NBE One to pick up a tingle when it went down had been drafted, and most of the civilians too; the news stories about crazy robot pranks had started to die down. Brian had just fallen through the cracks, and then bolted from LA before anyone could clue in and pluck up the loose thread.
Rome frowned. "And why the hell can't you tell me, anyway? It's not like you still work for five-oh."
"There's secrets, and then there's secrets, Rome," Brian shook his head. "Trust me, this is bigger than national security-- if I talked, and someone found out, there'd be a lot worse coming down on us than there is already." The thought had occurred to him that the DSS team surely already on their asses might not be the only government hunters out to get them, and the idea was sobering.
Rome was the only family he had left from before Los Angeles, Take One, though; he did deserve to know that something had changed with Brian, at least. Enough had come between them already. "One thing I can show you, though."
"Yeah? And what's that?" Rome arched his eyebrows expectantly.
"You got a cell phone on you?"
"A burner, yeah. So?"
"Hand it over, brah," Brian told him, making a 'gimme' gesture with one hand. "You're not going to believe this shit unless you see it first-hand."
"It ain't an iPhone or anything," Rome cautioned, wearing a skeptical expression as he plucked a compact flip-phone from his left jeans pocket and handed it over. "Don't know what you think you can do with it that I ain't seen before."
"Shh," Brian replied absently, cupping the phone in the palm of one hand. Then he deliberately cleared his mind: picturing a wide golden beach lapped by low, curling waves the blue-green of summer. Warm sunshine beat down from above as he sped along a highway overlooking the scene in that sweet silver Skyline the cops had shorted out from under him in Miami.
There was another person with him in the car in that image: a calm, solid presence, soaking up the scene in quiet companionship. That had been his idea of peace, of 'anywhere but here', for years; the form in the other seat had changed shape from time to time, but he'd always been there, hand on Brian's thigh, projecting easy comfort. The visualization was Brian's quickest route to zen, and the best coherent channel he'd found for the so-called Cube energy that had sunk its roots under his skin.
Probably not coincidentally, he'd been feeling a lot less conflicted about his life since he'd started working on Bestia. He may have thrown his career under that bus when he'd pulled Dom off of it, but in every other respect, he thought he'd won more than he'd lost in the exchange.
"Shit, Bri. Holy fucking shit, what the hell did you just do!" Rome yelped.
Brian opened his eyes and smiled, watching the little metal critter uncurl on his palm like a sleepy kitten, blinking tiny green bulbs at him. "Hey, there," he said, then looked up. "Hey, Rome, hold out your hand. I want to remind him he's yours before he fixates on me; Dom's car took a little coaxing."
"He's-- what? What is-- I can't believe-- you did that to a car?" Rome flailed, cringing backward against the couch.
"Might've known that would be what got your attention," Brian chuckled. "C'mon, man. Hold out your hand!"
Rome stared at him wide-eyed a minute longer, then edged forward again and did as Brian asked, muttering under his breath about crazy-ass white boys and fucking metal spiders. He softened just a little when Brian sent the transformed phone tiptoeing tiny blunted claw after claw onto his palm, though; it tapped carefully at his lifeline, then turned to rub its segmented spine against the callous at the base of his thumb, and a wary smile broke over his face.
"Brah, did you just make me an iFriend?" he teased, carefully holding his hand level.
Brian knew a moniker that would stick when he heard one, and smirked. "Go on, ask him to turn back into a phone, and he will. Should work more or less the same as before, except now when you're not using him he might crawl back out of your pocket to keep you company."
Rome reached carefully over with the fingertips of his other hand, brushing against the small 'bot, and shook his head incredulously when it rolled over, grabbing at the pads of skin with its little wiry legs. "Brian says you know how to be a phone again?" he addressed it cautiously, then flinched when it stilled and began flipping and turning like a miniature metal cyclone. "That is some crazy shit, right there!"
"I know, right?" Brian told him, still smirking as Rome carefully eyed the reformed phone.
"Did I just see what I think I just saw?" Tej breathed from behind them.
Brian looked up to see a stunned look on his technically-minded friend's face; Han, standing next to Tej, seemed considerably more composed, but Brian noted his fingers had frozen in his ever-present bag of chips as though he'd forgotten they were there.
Brian winced. He'd forgotten they were in a public space and that the conversation might not stay private. No help for it, though, but to brazen it out. "Y'all heard about Mission City, right?"
"Rumors only," Gisele commented, sidling up next to Han. "The disturbance there took place while I was still working for Braga; the reports he had from his men in the city were very fragmented." She wore a curious, evaluating expression; watching her, Brian was reminded of the day he and Dom had met her, auditioning for a place as one of the drug lord's drivers. Luckily, she'd turned out to be principled in her own way, and as susceptible to Dom's magnetic lure as all the rest of them.
"Alien robots or experimental technology," Han shrugged, cool visibly settling back over him as he glanced Gisele's way. He did the snowman routine even better than Brian did, for all he didn't so much look the part. "There are half a dozen urban legends already, most of them a little on the fanciful side."
"You were there?" Rico put in, drifting over to the gathering group with Tego at his shoulder. He muttered something under his breath after that that sounded suspiciously like estás loco; Tego elbowed him for it and added, "You see any of them? Los coches fantasmas?"
So far, so good, Brian thought cautiously. "I was there," he nodded, then looked up past Rome to meet the knowing dark eyes of Dominic Toretto.
Dom crossed grease-smeared arms over his broad chest and gave a deliberate sidelong glance toward the corner where Bestia lurked, but Brian replied with a shake of his head. The Charger could wait for later. She and Nesso were an ace up their sleeves as things stood-- a pair of young, vulnerable aces that he'd rather not expose to public scrutiny until the current chaos had been settled.
"I can do some things with energy and technology because of it," he continued. "Not controlled enough to take over the surveillance electronics or anything, but like a backup, if we ever need to just turn their systems against them. And I can tune the shit out of a car now, better than I ever could with just tools."
"No shit," Tej breathed, shaking his head before leaning over for a better look at Rome's newly named iFriend. "You ain't going to put that back in your pocket, are you? All them claws, just waiting to pop out and nudge around any old time it gets bored?"
Rome looked down at the front jeans pocket he'd taken it from, visibly measured its proximity to his groin, then gave Brian a dubious look. "Maybe it oughtta stay in my jacket from now on," he said.
Chuckles broke out around him as he tucked the phone away, and Brian shared another long, relieved look with Dom. One more hurdle out of the way, and more easily than he'd expected. He'd bet most of the team were still wary about what they'd just seen, but they were willing to accept it, and him, as an asset without any further argument-- and really, that said it all.
Not just team: family. It was how Dom rolled, and something that Brian had really missed while he'd been gone.
The other thing Brian had missed since ditching his badge for the second time-- though really, it had been pretty unavoidable-- was a car of his own. He'd wrecked the last two cars he'd had worth driving, and they'd both been courtesy of FBI impound for the Braga case; before that, he'd been all black suits and SUVs, five years of mom-mobile after government drone car. He could blend with that, as well as he could blend with anything else-- but it had felt kind of like a straightjacket after awhile. He'd missed his old Skyline; hell, he'd even missed the Yenko he'd crashed into Carter Verone's yacht.
He did have Nesso and Bestia, of course; but they weren't really his, even if they did still look to him for attention as much as Mia and Dom. So when they got to the phase of the setup where they needed cars to test their approach to the police station Reyes had stowed his money in, Brian was more than behind the acquisition plan. He grinned over at Dom as the pair of them rolled up on the Rio version of a very familiar scene-- flashy cars, flashier girls, and strutting peacocks displaying their ownership of same-- and started eyeing the offerings for one he could seriously sink some love into.
There was no question in his mind that Dom would win whichever one he chose. Brian was better in traffic, but Dom was the acknowledged master of the quarter mile, and even before Bestia's upgrades she'd never seen a pair of taillights. As she was now, nothing from this Earth could catch her if she and Dom decided not to be caught. All Brian had to do was choose one, and it would be his.
His gaze caught on a little blue Porsche GT RS3, and he chose.
Luckily for them, the owner was proud enough to put his pink slip where his mouth was when Dom took the man's challenge. He seemed kind of reluctantly thrilled by it, in fact; he'd raced the infamous Dominic Toretto, after all, adding a new chapter to his own legend as well as Dom's. The street scene of Rio would be talking about the team's blitz through town for years, Brian had no doubt, and Diogo would be able to say he'd raced the renowned fugitive first.
Not last, though. Because in the end, the gorgeous little car still wasn't fast enough to hack their mocked-up track and they had to go back for several more. It was like taking candy from babies. The multiple trips to Rio's racing scene offered Brian more than enough opportunities to run his hands over attractive precision machines.
That included one particular organic form amidst the vehicular beauties. There were enough of them staying at the makeshift headquarters by that point that alone time was at a premium, and Dom was a little reserved about putting on a show for their friends. Brian didn't blame him; Letty climbing Dom in the garage was one thing, forgetting where he was with Brian could risk some pretty unpleasant reactions. He was pretty sure they weren't fooling most of them, though. When they rolled back with each new expensive car a little flushed and endorphin-high after a longer lag than could be accounted for by traffic or the race itself, they caught their share of amused looks, at least as many as Han and Gisele or the distinctly old-couple-y Rico and Tego.
The cars were the important thing, as far as the group was concerned. No else one touched the Porsche after Brian's first few laps with her, trying to wring more agility or speed out of the newer prizes. He kept coming back to her himself though, admiring her lines after he tested each of the others, to give her a searching touch. Whichever car he picked could decide on its own final form when he was done waking it, but that didn't change the fact that each one started out with a distinct personality-- and he just couldn't help but appreciate the potential he sensed in her.
He wouldn't be able to spare her much until the job was done. But he felt better for having chosen. And he made sure Dom, Bestia and Nesso all knew it, too. When they left, she'd be going with them.
That day was destined to be a little further in the future than they'd thought, though.
Dom finally lit on the idea of using police cruisers to sneak by the station cameras; Brian won three million extra bucks off Dom, Rome, and Han in a four-Charger race while picking them up; and the team welcomed Vince back into the fold. The news about the Toretto-to-be drew some raised eyebrows and a raft of bad jokes from Rome, but just as much celebration, and they were one hour away from freedom when Hobbs unexpectedly flipped their transmitter and found them.
Half the team was already out, finding their positions for the heist. But Brian, Mia, Vince and Dom were all still there, boxed into the factory by Hobbs' arriving team, while the lead agent himself barreled right into the factory from another opening. Before anyone could react-- before Bestia could transform to defend herself-- the Gurkha LAPV plowed right into her, jamming her up against the wall.
Dom went straight for him, part distraction and part rage as Brian and Vince tried to get Mia to safety. Hobbs' subordinates caught them, though, trapping them halfway across the building where they couldn't see the fight. They could hear it, though. Sounds carried well in the concrete-floored space: the thuds of fists hitting flesh, the roars of angry voices, the crashes of bodies slamming through walls and destroying old, flimsy furniture. And beyond them all, stressed whining metallic sounds echoed from what could only be Bestia trying to extricate herself from where she'd been pinned.
It took a moment for all of it to sink in, but once it did, that was it; Brian felt as though a relay in his mind had clicked. He was done cooperating; he lunged insistently toward the sounds, barely noticing the agents scrambling to contain him or Mia screaming his name. He'd barely made it more than a few steps, though, before Dom and Agent Hobbs crashed through the wall right in front of him, rolling across the stained concrete floor. They had blood on their faces and their knuckles; there was no way out of the trap, Bestia was hurting, and somehow Dom had got his hands on a wrench....
Raw terror and fury crackled out of Brian before it even registered that the energy building under his skin was more than just his own helpless anger.
"Jesus!" he heard the agent holding him choke as a flash of raw blue raised the hairs on Brian's arms.
He caught a brief impression of rapidly clicking metallic sounds, followed by the other agents starting to swear, but the only thing that really mattered to Brian in that second was that the man had let him go. He was off and sprinting the moment the agent's fingers fell away from his sleeve. Toward Dom, toward Bestia; toward the thinning hope that they could still make it out of there. Dom had dropped the wrench, staggering up and away from Hobbs; he briefly locked eyes with Brian as he ran toward him, expression echoing all the panic and helpless wrath Brian was feeling.
But in that moment of sympathetic resonance, both of them had stopped paying attention to Hobbs. And in that breath of time-- two or three footfalls' worth across the filthy concrete, heartbeat double-timing in Brian's chest and air rasping in his throat-- the agent seized his opportunity and surged to his own feet. Brian caught sight of a massive tattooed elbow approaching in his peripheral vision about a half a second before he felt the impact-- and then he was seeing nothing at all.
Brian groaned as his brain came back online in fits and starts, head throbbing in time with the bump of the wheels over the cobbles of the road. Someone had put him in a vehicle while he was out, and from the echoing throb in his wrists he was guessing he'd been cuffed as well. Hobbs had won.
"Brian! Are you okay?"
The warm, rounded shape under his right ear shifted, and Brian realized he'd been leaning over Mia's shoulder. He blinked slowly, squinting against the light as he straightened, and glanced around to find himself in the back of Hobbs' assault vehicle of a truck. Mia was seated next to him, and Dom and Vince were likewise cuffed on the opposite side of the cab. Vince was looking as disgruntled as he had most of the time since Brian's arrival in Rio; Dom wasn't bleeding any more, but he looked a little pale, half wrung out after the fight and clenching his jaw as he met Brian's gaze. Hobbs himself was guarding them, with one of his agents in the front seat and that cop who'd showed up at the meet wearing Letty's cross riding shotgun. She was watching the lot of them, but mostly Dom, her expression conflicted.
Brian remembered that feeling. What the hell was it with Dom and cops, anyway? There was no point being jealous, though; even if Dom eyed her back, she wasn't a threat. Nor was she family. He took a deep breath, then let it out slowly and answered Mia's question.
"Yeah, for a certain value of 'okay'. What happened?"
"You turned Chato's gun into a homicidal robot, that's what the fuck happened," Hobbs growled at him, dark eyes boring fiercely into Brian's face. "You were at Mission City, weren't you?"
"What the hell's that supposed to mean?" Vince griped, staring suspiciously between the pair of them. "And what do you mean, he did it? The buster didn't even touch the damn thing."
"He didn't need to," Hobbs replied, grimly. "He was touching Chato. Where are your gloves, boy?" he barked at Brian. "Or didn't you get the fancy Allspark training? Shit; you're not just a wanted fugitive, you're a goddamn threat to national security. Why the hell isn't any of this in your file?"
Training? They had training for his new 'talent' now? Brian raised his eyebrows at that; he'd have to have Tej... well, if he wasn't on his way to do serious federal time he'd have sicced Tej all over that line of thought. Records had to exist online somewhere.
"Five years of deep cover," he smirked at the agent. "I know that's in my file. Where'd you think they put me, a beach somewhere? Not my fault the details got lost when they tried to do a quick fill and cover on the disaster. How the hell do you know about the Allspark?"
"You were in Sector Seven," Hobbs said, deeply skeptical.
"Yeah. I had a 'do anything you want and get away with it' badge there for awhile, too. Scary thought, isn't it?" His mood was starting to lift even through the nauseating headache; it might not be the healthiest thing in the world to needle Hobbs just then, but it sure as shit felt satisfying.
"Why were you even in Los Angeles? Why didn't you get outprocessed with the rest of Banacek's suits?" Hobbs shook his head incredulously. "I had to chase a couple of them that did a runner, and I was briefed on the basics after I brought them back. I have to say, though, I didn't half believe it until I saw what you did to Chato's gun. Next thing you'll tell me that precious Charger of Toretto's was one of those NBEs; it certainly kept twitching enough after I smashed it."
"En-bee-whats?" Vince objected. "Are you saying he was in some kind of government experiment?" He frowned directly at Brian. "What the hell did you bring down on us?"
Dom kicked his old friend in the shin at that, though his jaw was also working in anger at Hobbs' taunting. "Vince. Don't get your shorts in a knot. Mia and I already knew."
"Color me unsurprised," Hobbs grunted, turning away from them to glare through the window. "Why not add two felony counts of disclosure of classified secrets to your record?"
"Make that eight," Brian informed him with a snort, remembering Rome's iFriend. "If you're talking about show and tell. I never told them any details, though; I'm not that much of a masochist."
Mia snorted at that-- but before she could add anything else, Hobbs interrupted suddenly, lurching toward the front of the Gurkha.
"Ambush!" he yelled-- just as the SUV in front of them jolted backward in an explosion of flame.
Adrenaline sharpened Brian's reactions again, distracting him from the continued throb at his temple as Hobbs and his agent bolted from the Gurkha. They were firing up at the rooftops, and the rooftops were firing back; more of Reyes' men surrounding them, out for revenge against at least half, and probably all, of the convoy's passengers. Neves seemed to get that-- that there were an awful lot of them, and that she'd be on the chopping block too if Hobbs went down-- because after a minute's pleading she pulled her knife and cut through their flex-cuffs. It was going to be too late, though; Brian knew even as the plastic binding fell away from his wrists that the goon with the launcher had to have at least one more rocket, and that it couldn't possibly take him that long to reload it.
"Guns, guns!" he chanted, scrabbling for the rest of the arsenal stored in the truck as fast as he could.
"Shotgun, Brian!" Dom prompted him-- then swore, diving for the door as another cacophony of sound erupted outside.
It wasn't a rocket, though, contrary to Brian's expectations. He scrambled for the back with two weapons in hand-- an automatic rifle for himself, and the shotgun Dom had asked for, jamming his shoulder against Vince's in his haste to get free-- and hit pavement just in time to catch sight of a swift-moving black shape barreling by.
"Nesso!" Mia screamed from behind them.
Then the expected smoke trail leapt from the rooftop-- just in time to impact against another fast-moving machine, this one running awkwardly past them on clawed metal feet. With a god-awful clang, Bestia flew at least dozen yards backward to collapse in the street again, chest panels dented and smoking. She wasn't down for good yet, though; she started picking herself up again haphazardly, at least two of her limbs still twisted from Hobbs' earlier attempt to destroy her.
"Bestia!" Brian yelled, horrified at the damage she'd taken.
But there was no time to see to her; one of the rooftop soldiers was making motions as though he had hand grenades to throw, and Brian dragged his attention away from Dom's car to put as many bullets as he could through the fucker. All of Hobbs' men were down, at least two of them dead, and Hobbs himself had been flattened by the blast wave when Bestia took the rocket hit in front of the convoy's second SUV; if Neves hadn't freed the team, they would all be dead.
Reyes' men couldn't be killed hard enough for that, as far as Brian was concerned. From the moment Dom had cautioned Mia on the train that something might be up, through the crazy fight on the heist truck, getting chained up over a sheet of roofing plastic, running from attackers over the roofs of the favela, and Vince rescuing Mia in the market, Rio's most powerful man had done his best to really ruin their trip to Brazil, and Brian was fucking tired of it.
"I'll ride with you, Toretto," Hobbs said some time later, after they'd temporarily cleared the street of their opponents, sent Hobbs' surviving pair of agents off to the hospital in Nesso, and gunned the Gurkha through the blockade with Bestia staggering at their heels. "At least until we kill that son of a bitch. If you make sure and keep that thing away from me. It belongs at Diego Garcia with the others of its kind, not in human society."
He pointed at the slumped form of the damaged robot, who was making groaning sounds with her radio while Brian tried to free some of the twisted shards of metal jammed into her left-side joints.
"She's not an NBE, you know. Nor's Nesso; you can stop worrying she dragged your men off somewhere to dispose of them," Brian said, tiredly. "They're NBTs. Homegrown."
"Whatever," Vince snorted, leaning against one of the tables with a bloody scrap of cloth wrapped around his bicep. One of the gunmen had winged him in the fight, the only human injury among Dom's team, thank God. "They saved our asses out there. They're creepy as fuck, but they're on our side, and that's enough for me. That one good to help me guard Mia while y'all go for the vault?"
"You're all crazy sons of bitches," Hobbs said, shaking his head.
"That we are, man, that we are," Roman sighed. "Aw, hell. Can't get much worse, I suppose."
Brian patted Bestia on the thigh, then stood and looked up. "So what's the plan, Dom?"
Dom nodded to him, eyes warm, as the others drew in close again. "All Reyes cares about is his money. We draw his money, we draw him."
Family. It was what had brought the team to Rio; it was what scattered them again afterward, dispersing their hard-earned gains in twos and threes to all the corners of the world. They wouldn't draw official attention by staying together-- but they'd always be ready to pull back together at the first summoning call.
Brian, Mia and Dom found a place with lots of sun and no extradition, and after a cautious trip back to the favela Vince brought his wife and son to join them. They didn't all stay in the big, airy house all the time; but they never drifted very far apart, either. Dom found a garage to operate, and the rest of them spent lazy days assisting him with mods and repairs. Not much different from the way things had been six years before, if you discounted the language shift, the different makes and models of their customers, and the marks of age wearing on all of them. The absence of Jesse, Leon and Letty ached like a missing tooth, but Rosa and Nico were a welcome addition, and they'd put out feelers to find Leon.
Bestia's repairs had taken nearly as long as they had the last time, but more because she was as sore a patient as her driver, not from the severity of the damage-- she was a lot tougher after her changes. She'd picked a Challenger shell, this time. Nesso was doing well, though she saw less action than she'd have liked since they'd settled. And Velocità had joined them. She'd settled on a silver Nissan GT-R form for the time being; she was a joy to drive, just as he'd imagined.
Brian knew one day he'd look up to find Rome's cousin the sergeant stepping out of a monster black truck, or Agent Hobbs rolling up with his team. But until that day came, he was happy.
They were happy. They were free.