Anthony Toretto believed in a lot of things. He believed in God and angels. He believed in love. He believed in family and friends and that there would always be good in the world.
He also believed in fate.
Everything seemed to work out perfectly that day. Got out of school early? Check. Football practice cancelled? Check. No homework, no college applications to work on, and getting an earlier shift work? Check, check, and check. Was that fate? Tony definitely believed so.
"Anthony!" Tony's boss, Elijah, was a tall, kind middle-aged man with dark brown skin and salt-and-pepper hair. "Your cousins here, up front. Says he needs to talk to you."
Tony furrowed his brows, standing up from his crouch near the stingrays. He worked at the marine life conservation center near the beaches of Los Angeles, helping feed and take care of the animals, along with some other small jobs and most importantly, interning under Elijah, the head marine conservationist.
"Weird. Dom or Mia?" He saw his cousins from his fathers side often, as they lived close and were always hosting family barbecues -although those didn't happen as much as they used to, with the dangerous jobs Dom and the rest of them had started doing- but they didn't usually come to his work. The last time he could remember them being here was when one of them would pick him up and drop him off sometimes when he had first started the job, back when he was fifteen and hadn't gotten his license yet.
"Dom." Elijah took Tony's place where he was feeding the stingrays. "Said there was some family trouble. Go on. I'll cover the rest of your shift."
Tony nodded and started towards the locker room where he grabbed his bag, then headed to the front desk, a strange feeling starting in the pit of his stomach. He was excited to see his older cousin, of course, but “family trouble” didn’t sound good to him. For other families it could range anywhere from a bad injury to a simple plan change, but Tony was no stranger to the kind of trouble Dom and his team could get up to. He didn’t really want to know what kind of issues they could possibly have this time.
Dom looked as confident and in-charge as ever, in a red leather jacket and work boots, leaning up against the front desk. He was chatting with Ava, the girl on dayshift. Tony felt he paled in comparison in his swim trunks, t-shirt and flip-flops, but, well. Not everyone could look as cool as Dominic Toretto.
“Hey, Dom, how’s it going?” Dom looked up quickly at Tony’s greeting, his charming smile turning into something more fond and brotherly. He turned back to Ava to say goodbye, and Tony gave her a casual two-finger salute as he and Dom walked out the front doors.
“Hey, Squirt.” Tony rolled his eyes at the nickname but felt a little satisfaction at the fact that Dom now had to reach up to ruffle his hair. He could remember a time when Dom was taller than him; now Tony had a good couple inches on him. Thank God for growth spurts. “How’s work?”
Tony shrugged, but smiled. “Not too exciting lately. Did just bring in a new stingray, though. Had a nasty gash from a fish hook. We fixed her up, now I’m taking care of her until she recovers.” He kept the explanation short and sweet, though he could go on about it for hours. He loved his job, loved the ocean and the animals in it. But he knew Dom wasn’t really interested in all that. He loved him for trying though.
Dom nodded along, trying to show interest, but Tony knew it was just a conversation starter until they could get to the real questions. “Any new cars? Races?” Tony laughed. There it was.
“No, no new cars, unfortunately. Did take the Mustang out to a race last Friday though.”
Dom came to a stop next to his Charger, parked next to Tony's car. After all the things Tony had heard about it, he was surprised it was still assembled and running. “You win?”
“Come on, Dom,” Tony said teasingly. “It’s me. What do you think?” Dom raised an eyebrow, and Tony laughed. “Yeah, I won. Just by a hair though. But, you know,” Tony shrugged, “winning is winning.”
Grinning and nodding, Dom leaned against the Charger. “That’s my boy.”
Tony leaned against his Mustang. "What is this about Dom? You said something to my boss about family trouble. What's happened?"
The thing about Dom is, when he gets serious, he gets very serious, fast. His eyebrows furrow, his eyes lose the warmth and go hard, and his mouth sets into a stiff line. When he looks like this, it's hard to believe he's capable of that goofy smile of his. It's like he becomes a whole different person.
"An issue we couldn't resolve popped back up," Dom says, his voice deeper somehow, more grim. "We need more help this time."
"What kind of help?" Tony pushes himself off his car to stand closer to his cousin. "What issue?"
Dom closes his eyes for a moment, then shakes his head and opens his car door. "There's someone who can explain it better than I can. Follow me in your car, we'll go there." When Tony stays where he is, biting his lip, Dom grabs his shoulder gently. "Hey. Would I ever purposefully put you in danger? Do you trust me?"
He looks earnest, and guilty, and a little bit desperate. It isn't a look Tony is used to on his strong older cousin. It makes him want to wrap him up in a hug, kind of. Tony looks at Dom's face, looks into his eyes, at the fear in them. He remembers Dom showing him the way around an engine, teaching him to race, helping patch him up after his first crash and not telling his dad. He thinks of Dom treating Tony like a little brother instead of a cousin.
Tony nods firmly, and the tense set to Dom's shoulders eases a bit. His face softens, and he squeezes Tony's arm.
"Let's go then."
The military base Dom led Tony to was in the middle of the desert, farther out than Tony had ever had any reason to be. It was huge, made of cement and bulletproof glass, and busy, too. They dodged military-grade SUVs and huge armored trucks as Tony followed Dom around to the back. There they pulled into a huge garage space. Tony parked next to Dom and got out of the car, slowly turning in circles.
There were so many cars, on the ground floor, up on lifts, on the second story ringing the edges of the garage. All of them expensive and high-end, painted a variety of colors. The garage was buzzing with activity, people chattering and tools clanging. The smell of gasoline and rubber and metal hit Tony's nose and he inhaled deeply, eyes closing.
"What is this place?" Tony didn't even try to keep the awe out of his voice. When he looked over at Dom he could see his eyes light up at the sights in front of him. His cousin had always loved his small family owned-and-operated garage, but this place was still every car junkie's dream, and Dom was no different.
"That guy I told you about, the one who'll explain the situation, his name is Mr. Nobody. This is his main base. He calls it Nowhere."
Tony raised an eyebrow. "His name is Mr. Nobody?"
"Well that's just what he has everyone call him. We don't know his actual name. Come on, we'll go see him. Everyone's waiting."
Dom started walking through the garage towards the huge double doors at the other end, and Tony hurried to follow. He was glad he had changed into jeans and sneakers in his car before they left. It was never a good idea to wear open-toed shoes in a garage, a voice in the back of his head reminded him. It sounded oddly like Dom.
When he came across a dark burgundy car being polished, Tony froze in his tracks.
"Holy shit , Dom, is that a Ferrari?"
Dom chuckled and dropped a hand on his shoulder, slowly forcing him to walk again. "Yeah, you'll see a lot of these here. Keep walking, let's go."
Even as Dom pulled him along through the doors, Tony twisted his head around to see the Ferrari one last time. When the doors closed and it was out of sight, Tony groaned. "God, I'm gonna have dreams about that car." He knew he was pouting, and he could see Dom smiling out of the corner of his eye, but he couldn't really bring himself to care about his cousin laughing at him.
The inside of the base looked a lot like the outside. It was a lot of glass and metal, computers everywhere and monitors lining the walls. Agents and military personnel in suits and uniforms were roaming around, usually in groups of twos and threes.
Dom took him to the end of the first hallway they came to. All the doors and walls were made of glass, so Tony could see right through into the room already. All of Dom's team was there, grouped around the long glass table, talking and laughing. The only people Tony knew out of the group were Letty and Mia, who he'd known his whole life, and Brian, Dom's husband who Tony had met only once or twice. He was really cool, and had given Tony a few surfing pointers.
He also knew Tej and Roman, but he'd only met them once. The rest of the people there he had never seen before. As soon as the door opened and they stepped in the room, all heads turned to look at them, and Tony was immediately uncomfortable. He had never liked being the center of attention.
Mia shot up from her chair and ran toward him, arms outstretched. She engulfed him in a hug that was tighter than seemed possible for a woman her size and strength.
"My God, you've gotten tall," Mia said when she pulled away. "And so handsome, too. I've always said you would be a heartbreaker."
Tony blushed, scratching at the back of his neck. Letty, who wasn’t far behind Mia, laughed at him. Letty ruffled his hair, reaching up on tiptoes to get to his head. “Hey, kid. How’s it hangin’?” She sent him a crooked grin that reminded Tony of his childhood crush on her, back when she was just Dom’s cool street racer girlfriend. Now she was older and mature, more of an older sister or aunt figure, but that didn’t stop her from teasing him about his crush every chance she got.
He got a nod from Rome and Tej. Brian got up from his seat long enough to give Tony a quick bro-hug and a smile. Dom clapped a hand on Tony’s shoulder and pointed out the rest of the group as he introduced them.
The pretty woman with the braids sitting on the table in front of Tej was Megan Ramsey. There were two huge guys sitting next to each other at the table, bickering amongst themselves. The one with darker skin and tattoos was Luke Hobbs and the one in the sharp blazer was Deckard Shaw. The blonde woman sitting next to Deckard was his sister, Hattie. Eric Reisner was the handsome, blue-eyed man leaning over the back of Roman’s chair to whisper something in his ear. He shot Tony a half-smile when he was addressed.
“So, how’s the job going,” Brian asked once the introductions were over and Tony was sitting down. Tony smiled as he told him about the stingrays and the dolphin they had rescued a week ago. Brain was really the only other beach person in the family. Sure, Dom and the rest of them had grown up around the water and liked the beach as much as anybody else, but Brian was the one who really understood Tony’s love for the ocean.
The only other person who ever truly shared his passion for the ocean had been Ashton, his best friend, but he hadn’t seen her in person for almost two years, and they hadn’t truly spoken for a few weeks. He tried not to focus too hard on the pain that stung his chest when he thought about her.
“Where do you work?” Luke sounded genuinely curious about his job. Tony looked around the table and shrank a little when he noticed all eyes were on him again.
Tony cleared his throat. “Foster Marine Conservation Center. Near Venice beach. I’m interning under Dr. Elijah Foster.”
“He’s a straight A and B student,” Dom announced to the room. He gripped Tony’s shoulders like he was trying to keep him from escaping. “If he keeps it that way, he’ll have a full ride to UCLA."
Sometimes Dom was just as bad as Tony's father. Tony felt his face heat up with a blush and tried to shrink into his hoodie. "Stop it, Dom."
They all laughed, and the conversation tapered off into other topics.
"I thought we were only bringing a few people to this meeting."
Tony turned in his seat. A man in a professional suit stood in the doorway. He had graying hair and wrinkles, but a commanding presence. It was obvious to Tony that he was the famed Mr. Nobody, the man in charge.
Dom shrugged. "It was just gonna be Bri, Eric, Mia, Letty and Hobbs. But then Rome heard from Eric and was offended he wasn't asked to come, and then Tej and Ramsey heard about it from Roman and tagged along. And Shaw found out from Hobbs and Hattie got it out of Shaw and now…" he trailed off, gesturing to the full room.
“Ah, I see," Mr. Nobody nodded. "Well the more the merrier! It's always fun to have the whole family around." His focus suddenly zeroed in on Tony, and Tony abruptly sat up straighter in his chair.
"Anthony Toretto!" Mr. Nobody stuck his hand out. Tony stood from his chair and shook the man's hand. "Dom's told me a lot about you, kid. How you doing?"
"I'm fine. And, just call me Tony. 'Anthony' is what my dad calls me when I'm in trouble."
Mr. Nobody laughed and clapped Tony on the back. He was deceptively strong for a man his age, and Tony lost his footing a bit. "Well, Tony, not that I want to rush through introductions, but I have a feeling you want to get a run-down of what's up."
At Tony's nod, Eric handed Mr. Nobody a tablet, which the man used to turn on the wall of monitors. Tony felt intimidated by all the tech, but he smiled at how much Ashton and his own little sister, Kitty, would love this. Ash had been fascinated by computers for as long as Tony had known her, and she passed the love of technology onto Kitty, who worshipped the very ground Ashton walked on and copied her every move.
A blonde woman and a dark-haired man with a scar over his right eye popped on the biggest computer screen. The man looked oddly familiar. Tony moved closer to the screen, brows furrowing as he thought back to where he’d seen the man. The scar was distinctive, hard to miss. There were only a few places a man like that would frequent, and even less places someone like Tony would also be at.
“The woman here is Cipher and the gentleman is-”
“Colt Langston,” Tony cut Mr. Nobody off. Everyone turned to stare at him. Dom raised his eyebrows looking surprised. Tony shrugged.
“I’ve seen him around, at a few of the more high-stakes street races. But he races dirty, cheats a lot. He only races the people who have no chance of winning, newbies and posers, and he always races for at least 500k or pinks. The only reason I know him is ‘cause he doesn’t like me much.”
“Oh?” Letty leaned against the table behind her, crossing her arms. “Why doesn’t he like you? You get into some trouble?”
Tony shook his head. “No, I just beat him a couple of times.” Silence fell over the room, and Tony scratched at his neck uncomfortably. “It’s really not that big of a deal.”
“He’s one of the best street racers in the world , Anthony,” Mia said.
“Not really. I mean, not if you’re paying close attention. He’s a little too tight around corners, his shifting is a bit off, he’s too tense. And he always hits the nitrous too soon. He’s good, but he’s not perfect. You just have to pay attention to detail.”
Mr. Nobody smiled. “Tony, you are already exceeding expectations.” He set the tablet down and rested against a desk. “What else do you know about him?”
“I know he hurts people. There’s talk all around the races of him drugging girls, selling weapons, kidnapping people. There’s never any evidence, so I can’t report anything.”
“That’s about the gist of it, yeah. Cipher is one of the best hackers in the world. She can slip in and out of anywhere, and no one has ever been able to catch her, including your cousin and his team. She’s a ghost. It’s nearly impossible to know who she’s working with and when. But, Ramsey has reported some recent communication between Cipher and Colt.”
Ramsey took Mr. Nobody’s place at the monitors. “I was doing some routine checks when I noticed Cipher’s name popping up more than usual, along with another name: Colt Langston. There are coded emails, texts and phone calls, all made within these last few months, between Cipher and a man named Michael Sterling.” A projection keyboard popped up on the desk in front of them, and when she started typing, a variety of windows filled the screens showing emails and phone call transcriptions. “It seems Sterling handles communication for Langston.”
“We don’t know what the big picture is yet, but we do know there’s talk of them stealing the codes to some high-tech superweapon, capable of taking out entire countries at once. The codes are hidden in a safehouse in a remote part of Iceland.” Mr. Nobody heaved a breath. “If they get their hands on those codes… there’s no telling what they’ll be able to do.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Tony swallowed hard, breathing evenly through his nose, hoping it would take care of some of the panic building up in his chest.
Dom stood in front of Tony, a serious look on his face. “Look, Anthony, the last thing I wanted to do was bring you into this mess. You’re too young, and you have such a solid future ahead. But there will always be threats, threats like these that only our team is capable of taking care of. But we’re all getting older, some of us have kids, and we won’t be able to do this forever. We need to pass the baton to someone new, someone we trust. But, hey.” Dom gently laid a hand on the side of Tony’s face, “you don’t have to do this. I know I have no right even bringing this up to you . You’re still just a teenager, and we can still take care of this job by ourselves.”
Tony’s chest constricted, but shockingly, it wasn’t in panic. He never realized how much his cousins and their team did, how much they sacrificed to save people. It was eye-opening, to know that this sort of thing is what they worried about, probably daily. Tony was surprised to realize that when this compared to everything else - school, football, work - they almost weren’t even a second thought. A superweapon capable of destroying entire countries took precedence over those things, especially when he wouldn’t have those things if the codes got into the wrong hands.
Besides, the fight was personal, too. Tony recognized the name Cipher. That was the woman who had kidnapped Dom’s son and murdered Elena right in front of his cousin. If he had the chance to help take her down, he would take it no matter what.
“You do so much for other people.” Tony rested his hand on Dom’s arm and looked straight into his eyes, so he would know Tony was serious about this. “It’s my turn to help our family. What do I need to do?”
The smirk on Dom’s face was almost devious. “That’s my boy,” he whispered, just for Tony. Louder, he said, “Well, first, you’ll need a team. People you trust. Is there anyone you can think of like that?”
Tony bit his lip worriedly. He didn’t have to think too hard to come up with a name. But he hadn’t seen Ashton in so long, he was scared it would be awkward and weird for them to be around each other. But this was bigger than them, and if there was anyone in the world who would be down to play superheroes… yeah, that was a no brainer. Another person popped in his head, and he smiled at the thought of those two in a room together.
“I may have a couple people in mind.”
“Perfect,” Mr. Nobody. “Let’s hear ‘em.”
“The first one is your little brother, Letty. Manolito Ortiz.”
Letty laughed. “Mano? The one who’s obsessed with musical theater and can’t keep a girlfriend for more than a month? That Manolito?”
“Hey!” Tony said defensively, but he was laughing, too. “Have some faith. That’s your brother you’re talking about.” He turned to Mr. Nobody. “He’s an amazing driver and a pretty decent fighter. And he’s an incredible actor. He can blend in anywhere. He’s the perfect man for undercover jobs.”
Mr. Nobody nodded. “Sounds good to me. And the second person”
“Ashton O’Conner. She’s been my best friend since sixth grade. I trust her more than anyone.” Tony shoved his hands in his pockets and felt his chest swell with pride as he thought of her. “She is a black belt in karate, she’s done a little jiu jitsu, and she’s been in gymnastics since she was a toddler. Ash is the one of the best drivers I have ever seen and a genius mechanic. I can’t think of anyone better for the job.”
When he stopped rambling, Tony was met with complete silence and shocked faces. “What?” he asked after a moment.
Mia hopped down from her seat on the desk. “Did you say ‘O’Conner’?”
Tony nodded. “Yeah. What’s the big deal?”
“Do you think you could describe this girl to us?” Roman said. “No reason, just-just ‘cause.”
“Uh, about yay high,” Tony said, gesturing to his shoulder area. “Dark blue eyes, long blonde hair, freckles across her nose, wears pretty much exclusively Converse and band t-shirts.”
Brain and Roman exchanged a meaningful look, and the rest of the room alternated between staring at them and gawking at Tony. Dom crossed his arms sternly, and Tony unconsciously copied him.
“What’s going on, you two?” Dom said.
Brian sank down into an empty chair, covering his mouth with his hands. “I think that may be my half-sister.”
“You have a sister? How come none of us knew about her?” Tej interrogated.
Tony blinked, confused. “No, that's impossible. She’s an only child. Always has been.” Ashton never mentioned any siblings, ever.
Brian looked at him sharply, almost desperately. “Ashton Brianna O’Conner, born December 8, 2002, right? Her mother was Kenna O’Conner?”
“Yeah, that’s all right. How the hell did you know all that?”
“Because Kenna O’Conner was my mother, too.” Brian stood up and started pacing the room. “Mom sent me a letter when Ashton was born, and Rome and I went to see her when we were sure our records were completely cleared. But I had to leave soon after to start my job with the FBI. I don’t know if she even knows about me or not.”
“Wait, your last name is O’Conner?” Tony asked dumbly.
“Yes. What did you think it was?”
Brian threw his hands up. “Why would you think my last name is Toretto?”
“You’re married to Dom!”
“I never changed my last name!”
“As much as I would love to continue this conversation,” Mr. Nobody cut in, “we still have a job to do and a team to set up. Tony, do you have anyone else in mind?”
From the corner of his eye, Tony saw Dom pull Brian off to the side. His hands were on either side of Brian’s face and they spoke in hushed voices. Tony looked away.
“No, not really.” Tony switched gears from one conversation to another, even though it was hard. Even though he knew it was none of his business, he still felt kind of hurt that Ashton never mentioned any long-lost brothers to him. “Ash and Mano are the only people I can think of.”
Eric spoke up from where he’s been standing toward the back of the room. “I might have someone in mind.”
“I do, too,” Mia added.
“And I have three people. Well, I think this concludes our meeting for today, it has been very productive.” Mr. Nobody straightened his tie rather unnecessarily. “Let’s make our phone call and get our people in. We’ll meet back here with our team on Sunday. How does that sound?”
With noises of agreement, everyone split up.
“I’ll go talk to my brother,” Letty said. Tony told her where Manolito would be, and Letty left with a nod. Tony walked out the door and toward the garage, flanked by Dom, Mia, and Brian.
“How do we find Ashton?” Brian asked, wringing his hands, an obvious nervous habit. It was odd to see him so worked up when the Brian he knew never panicked.
“Tomorrow’s Saturday, right?” When Dom nodded, Tony smiled. “She’ll be at a race.”