“Beer?” Dom asked, tapping the cold bottle against Brian’s shoulder. The blond blinked against the sun, half-blotted out by Dom, like a Titan above him and then looked down his front, to where baby Jessie was sleeping on his chest, safely out for the count and suckling on her thumb.
“Got a straw?” he asked, since he very obviously wasn’t moving any time soon. Jessie had been colicky all night the night before and Brian was not going to wake his daughter up before he absolutely had to, if only for his own sanity.
“I can aim,” Dom offered, tilting the bottle slightly above Brian’s face.
Brian smacked at his leg in retaliation and huffed a quick, “Don’t you dare.”
Dom laughed and backed off since they both knew the threat wasn’t real. There was no horsing around when Jessie was within range. Ever. And it hadn’t even been Mia that had instated the rule, but the men themselves.
For all that Jessie had been a mess-up of epic proportions - what with Brian and Mia falling into bed together for comfort exactly twice during the uncertain months before Dom’s trial and bam, pregnant - the girl had never, ever been unwanted. The news had put a definite crimp in their comfortable life as Dom-and-Brian and Mia, but they’d gotten through it like they’d gotten through so many other fuck-ups.
None of them were looking forward to having to one day explain that Mommy and Daddy didn’t love each other that way and never really had, that Daddy was in love with Uncle Dom and always had been. And then there was Rome to figure in, who’d shown up at their little beach condo a few months after Rio, with the law on his ass again and nowhere left to run.
He’d been making cow-eyes at Mia ever since and now, six months after the baby was born, it was really only a matter of time before Mia finally gave in. They fit together well, loud and impatient Rome and quiet, patient Mia. She liked being in control and Rome liked having someone to keep him from getting too stupid. And since Brian had his hands full with Dom, poor Rome had been left to run wild, which had led to aforementioned clash with the law. Mia was good for Rome. Would be. Semantics.
It was almost too easy, two siblings and two best friends, falling in with each other like this, and a baby to tie them all together. But it worked, somehow.
But that wasn’t the point. The point was that Brian and Dom both treated Jessie like she was made of spun glass, and so did Rome, for all that he liked to act the big, dumb brute. However Jessie had been created, and however incompatible her parents were, romantically, the little girl was loved like few other children in the world. Possibly more.
Dom sat on his own lounge chair next to Brian and Jessie and watched them for a few minutes while sipping his own beer. After the fifth time Brian tried to unnoticeably shift into a more comfortable position without jostling Jessie, the bigger man sighed and put down his beer.
“Pass her over,” he ordered, sounding more annoyed than he was.
Brian grimaced at the thought of potentially waking the baby, but he’d been lying with his kid on his chest for close to three hours now and he needed to move. He nodded and awkwardly shifted to a more upright position, catching Jessie as she started to slip down his chest. He pressed a quick kiss to her forehead before handing her over to Dom, who cradled the baby in his big arms like she was a doll, weightless and tiny. Brian already had trouble not feeling like he was breaking his fragile, perfect daughter. He didn’t want to imagine how handling her made Dom feel, who was much bigger than Brian.
With a relieved sigh Brian reached for his beer and took a sip as he watched Dom get comfortable with the baby because they both knew from experience that the moment there was no skin contact anymore between Jessie and at least one of her multitude of parents, she would wake up and bring down the house.
Yes, Jessie was a terribly spoilt baby. Yes, they felt bad about it. Sometimes.
They just sat there, enjoying the quiet as they waited for the kid to fall fully back to sleep after being shifted. They both knew that she was probably going to be up all night after sleeping all day, but by now, they were mostly nocturnal anyway. They took peace and quiet whenever they could get it, no matter the time of day.
A few moments later a shriek down the beach caught their attention and then Mia came skidding into view – as much as one can skid barefoot in the sand. She was wearing a sundress it was technically too hot for - still not completely over her stretch marks - and big, ridiculous sunglasses. She was running full tilt toward them when Rome popped up behind her, wildly waving his arms and spitting sand as he tried to catch up with her. Apparently, he’d lost a wrestling match with a woman less than half his weight. Again.
Their laughter rang for miles along the coastline and Brian couldn’t help but grin like an idiot as Mia came stomping up the stairs to the porch he and Dom were sitting on. She grinned at them both, pecked Brian on the cheek in a preemptive apology and then ducked behind him, hands on his shoulders to keep him in place.
“What’d you do now?” Dom asked, rumbling with laughter.
“I may have made him eat sand,” Mi confessed, out of breath and giggling. She’d never been one for giggling before they’d found this place, free of worries, cops, races and people dying and wanting them dead. These days, she couldn’t seem to stop.
Rome finally hit the steps, made to throw himself over Brian and at Mia, and then saw Jessie nestled in Dom’s arms and deflated instantly. “No fair,” he complained, “Usin’ the kid as a shield, mama.”
Mia grinned over Brian’s shoulder and shrugged, unapologetic. She slunk around him and plopped herself in his lap. Meticulously, she started brushing sand off one foot with the other and then repeated the process on the other side. The sand made an almost imperceptible noise as it hit the floorboards. Rome sunk down on the topmost step, still pouting.
Brian passed him his half-drunk beer to console him. Rome downed it and then went back to pouting. “Totally not fair,” he complained. “Feeding me sand, woman, that’s just nasty.”
“You dared me,” Mia informed him, succinctly.
“Did not,” he shot back, “Dared you to do it to Bri.”
Brian laughed. “Thanks man. Real nice of you.”
Rome waved the beer bottle at him. “Stop bitchin’. Life ain’t fair. You got him in your bed,” he hooked a thumb over his shoulder at Dom, who was watching, amusement dancing in his eyes. “An’ her on your lap, and a beautiful baby girl and what do I got? Huh?”
“Awwww,” Brian cooed around Mia’s side. “You poor baby. You wanna borrow Dom?”
Both Dom and Rome abruptly turned two shades paler and grimaced in disgust. Mia and Brian, who got the full frontal view of the synchronized movement, laughed out loud, making Jessie stir but not wake.
“Maaaan,” Rome complained out loud. “That’s just… you can’t just…”
“Bri,” Dom agreed, more quietly, “You’re sleeping on the couch.”
“Would you rather I offer up your sister, man?”
Dom tilted his head, considered for a moment and then said, very gravely, “Yes.”
Mia gaped at him but Brian just shrugged, stood, and dumped his baby mama more or less on top of Rome, who caught her awkwardly and sent them both rolling down the stairs. They landed in the sand with a dull thud and immediately started right back up with trying to feed each other sand, swearing and spitting loudly.
“How’d we end up with three kids?” Dom mused as he watched his sister flirt-wrestle with Rome.
Brian sat next to him, far too close for this heat, and stole Dom’s beer, since he’d sacrificed his own for the cause. “No idea,” he confessed, not quite able to draw his gaze away from his two best friends, both happier, more open than he’d ever seen them. Dom, too, was so much calmer, so much less high-strung out here.
New life, for real this time. It was a mess, still, underneath it all. They were still criminals on the run, with a bunch of complicated relationships between them and so much ugly past, but it was cool. Here, now… Brian bumped shoulders with Dom, got an arm slung around his back and a kiss pressed to his temple as a reward.
Right here, right now, it felt like home.
Brian exhaled on a smile and relaxed.
Five inches from his ear, Jessie inhaled and started screaming.