Fifty miles outside of Mazatlan, Brian finally speaks up over the whirring of the engine and the claustrophobic chaos of his thoughts coasting on burnt-off adrenaline. He’s been putting off the inevitable conversation that is looming closer and closer to biting them on the ass with each passing second. It’s a matter of control that gives him a convenient license to keep quiet the fact that he needs to concentrate, in order to restore his internal maze of psychic walls and emotional shields while Dom shores up the juice to keep them going. With his hand on the dash, eyes squeezed and shuttered hard, Dom pours all of himself, weaves his mind around the central nervous system of the cars, to keep them driving in a tight line like three loud little duckies.
It’s easier said than done actually with gas having been exhausted many miles back, and the cars driving on the ghosts of fumes, cresting on Dom’s sheer force of will to keep them moving. Brian doesn’t have to look over at Dom to know that he’s flagging; Brian feels him waning inside his head, shuffled in between the strands of his own stress and worry. The arm Dom has wrapped around his middle just proves Brian stubbornly right, even as his mental shields are taking a pounding from the waves of strong emotion, unrelenting like steel-tipped battering rams as Dom bunkers down deep inside the cars.
“Dom,” Brian says and receives no response, so he looks over and says, “Dom” again just a bit more forcefully. All the while, he’s readying to brake at the start of the unavoidable slowdown should he penetrate Dom’s focus.
Brian has done this enough times to know that being careful is how this works. Fishing Dom out slowly begins with the voice, calm and clear, and then the infusion of awareness inside his head. Just a little though, too much will spook him and all that effort to get them to a safe stop will lead to them flying off the side of the road, fishtailing into a ditch with no way out.
The car jerks slightly, swaying right before correcting into its previous straight path, and Dom mumbles gravelly, “Yeah?”
“We gotta stop, man,” Brian insists. “Gotta get off the road soon.”
Brian watches as Dom’s body begins to fold--sag with relief, and Brian almost regrets opening his mouth, because the letdown is going to be brutal, and it’ll be all his fault.“Didn’t know we were so close to Guadalajara.” Dom says after a long relieved breath. “The car’s got more in her, but my side’s too fucked to stay on it.” And the latter is Brian’s fault.
Brian tries to absorb some of that pure relief into his own chaotic system, but finds it hard to grasp since he’s so wound up. They’re making phenomenal time—epic time, like the damn space shuttle cruising on land, because it’s all happening according to plan, and that’s the problem.
Thinking back to the bus flip, he watched as the bus began its first arch through the air. It was then that he reached out, finally opened up his perpetually boxed-in mind and saw through the layers of steel and plastic to reach Dom. In his head, he thought about a bubble, tight, solid, and unbreakable around Dom as the bus flipped over the road. And he held on until the bus stopped flipping and twisting with screams of shattering glass and released the bubble. The moment the bubble dropped, he doubled over with his head on the wheel as mental over-exertion recoiled and ricocheted inside his head like bullets bouncing off steel. The small trickle of blood from his nostril was his only reward for being so ambitious with such a large moving target to focus on.
It was the first time he’d ever attempted to use his latent telekinesis—to push anything as large or as fast as bus with a target as specific as one human being among many. Let it not be said that Brian takes baby steps; his natural tendency to leap with both feet earned him a skull-pounding migraine, a nosebleed, and a quizzical look from Dom when his slid stiffly into the Charger’s passenger seat.
So he knows to consider his next words carefully, because he needs as little mental blowback from Dom as he can get. His nerves have barely moved past running raw and ragged, but he’s not fine either, and the longer he waits, the more stressed out and paranoid he’s likely to become. It’s his hands on the wheel; if there’s too much blowback then he won’t have to worry about Dom pitching them into the dirt—he’ll do it himself.
“We’re not,” Brian says. “But we have to stop.”
Dom shrugs one big shoulder. “Why? I’m good to Guadalajara before I need to be stitched up and Tego and Rico got the shadowing covered.” He swings his eyes Brian’s way. “And you’re feeling out the route so unless you’re feeling something that I can’t then I think we need to keep on going--unless you’re cutting out on me, O’Conner?”
“No,” Brian says, squinting against the combined effects of the low afternoon sun and the shift and slide of mental locks, like tumblers, in his head.
Any other day of the week and Dom’s answer is right-on-the-money correct, but in this time of finely calculated risks and narrow escapes looming ahead, Brian has to be honest and finally fill Dom in on the big picture he’s missing.
Without sparing another glance, Brian hazards, “Because if we keep going like this, then they’ll know exactly where to find us.” Those words are bitter and sour on his tongue like old sick that just won’t leave him alone. But they are just as real as the road-warn signs and sparse thistle-less trees cradling the road ahead of them.
Dom straightens in the seat beside him. A little flicker of disbelief passes through his head and Brian feels hurt at the not again he senses from Dom, because betrayal isn’t something Brian will do to Dom or Mia ever again. It’s a sensation, which once felt, never goes away. What he has to share is the antithesis of betrayal; it’s a way to salvation.
“How?” Dom asks. “Because they can’t find us, not without phones or GPS, and we’re rollin’ about as low tech as it gets. So tell me, how’re they gonna to get the jump on us?”
He feels Dom’s eyes on him and then he turns to hold Dom’s gaze. The connection, fluid and shifting between them, becomes intensified when their eyes meet. It’s tense, but frees his head of some of the stress and pushes the headache away. There’s no easy way to say that’s he’s been bagged and tagged like a Thanksgiving turkey, but he has to anyway. It’ll be an exercise in trust and humiliation, as of late two sides of the same coin.
“You think they let Specials become agents like everyone else? I’ve been microchipped like a pound puppy and the longer we wait to get it out, the more we risk--” Brian trails off; sure that Dom can imagine all the various scenarios that will come their way.
With a considerate nod, Dom looks away and furrows his brow as he concentrates on the dash, “Call it out, but we’re getting to Mazatlan first.” He remains silent after a long second, brokering no argument from Brian who pushes a walkie-talkie closer to his hand.
“It’s a plan,” Brian agrees and the pressure in his head drops suddenly, giving him room to lose the stress that held him bowstring tight.
They ditch their cells well before they hit the road to intercept the bus. Each car has a set of shortwave walkie-talkies, and Brian makes quick work of relaying the change in plans. He kills his end before questions can be asked, because he’ll get to that soon enough. For now, any moment of strained peace is helping him to keep from flying apart. He can’t crack now, not ever really, and Brian knows that.
Ignoring the almost tangible demand on Dom’s part for answers is distracting, but he simply continues to hold the wheel, ticking off the miles and feeling their surroundings for trouble.
He can do that much without difficulty.
Exiting National Road 15, they head south beyond Mazatlan. They find a series of vacation bungalows just south of the Marisma marshes. It’s an ideal place to burn off a few hours sleeping; just crowded enough to blend in with the other tourists, and spaced far enough to keep the inevitable screams from being heard.
Mia goes inside and drops the cash for two houses. She butters up the old woman behind the counter with her sweet smile and polite manners that’s just about lost on most tourists that pass through. She leaves a nice impression that grants them the last two houses, which have more tree cover for the cars, and are closest to a back road, as Rico and Tego discover, that can get them back to Casa Redonda and headed to 15 South towards Guadalajara.
Before they go their separate ways for the remainder of the evening, Brian leans against a post calculating how long their downtime can last. He considers the time it will take for the crash to be reported, factor in taking stock of who’s missing, combing the area and looking for known associates and getting cars on the ground to block the border, and he thinks they have a twelve hour head start, but it’s the distance that matters most.
“Guys, we’ve got, like, five and half—six hours tops before we have to clear out.” The more distance between them and the States the better. In Guadalajara, they’ll split up with Rico and Tego hopping a flight back to the DR and them heading south to Tapachula, and finally the border to Guatemala.
Rico’s already arguing, half-hearted as it may be with Tego, who’s insisting that five and half hours will mean that he has to drive, while Tego shadows. Brian catches Dom’s eyes and smiles; they already know how that situation will turn out. There’s a reason Tego always drives, and it has little to do with Rico’s bitching.
Brian does a quick sweep of the bungalow before following Dom and Mia inside the house. The cars are hidden well from many random passerbies, while the bungalow leaves a lot to be desired. It’s above the sand on an elevated platform with one set of stairs, one entrance and too many windows for Brian’s liking. There’s always going through the floor, if the worst should come their way. The sand beneath the house assures an easy fall and short crab scramble to the tree line.
As soon as Brian closes the door, he finds Dom without his shirt in one of the chairs from the kitchenette with Mia’s hands on his side, contorting and snapping bones back into place. His roving glance is more concerned than appreciative this time.
Dom hisses under the pressure, while Mia makes a sympathetic noise. “Almost done.” She moves her hands higher along his ribs, presses out, then in as Dom jolts in his seat. “The cracks are the hardest to fix. Just give me a second and I’m almost….There, got it,” she smiles and draws her hands away.
Dom takes a deep breath, happy that she’s done fixing him. It takes a lot to hurt Dom and the bubble was supposed to further reduce the chance for injury. It looks like Brian failed, because Dom almost ended scrambled bald side up inside the bubble instead.
As he slips on his white t-shirt, Dom stretches and Brian can see that every bump and groove is where it’s supposed to be, and Brian smiles. Dom kisses Mia on the cheek in thanks. She waves him off like the dutiful sister that she is before her eyes cut to Brian, watching him in a way that has always seems too focused for a non-telepath. “Either of you gonna to tell me why he stopped here?” Brian has learned the hard way not to play poker with Mia.
Dom’s gaze flits about until it lands on Brian, who’s been waiting his turn to have the attention of the seemingly shrinking room.
Brian moves up beside Mia and drops a small black canvas bag on the table without a word. He removes a towel-covered bundle that once unfurled contains surgical tools wrapped in sterile padding. “Had this stuff for a while; just never had the opportunity to use it.”
It’s Mia, who asks the key question, as she turns the sealed packages over in her hands. “Why did you need this?”
Brian flicks his gaze to Dom, who now has his arms folded over his chest and looks back with stoic curiosity. Brian allows himself to just feel the connection for a moment before turning back and dropping his head slightly, eyes on the tools and the invasion of forthcoming pain.
He rubs the interior of his wrist absently as he starts, “After I let you go, I decided to cut and run. Drove across the country and ended up in Miami. Got a new car, new plates, ID, everything and laid low. I barely did any racing and never let on that I was a Special, and the Feds still managed to find me.”
Mia’s face clouded in concern “Then you weren’t low profile enough.” She argued. “Did someone turn you in?” Because turning in a wanted Special means a paid off mortgage or permanent retirement for some dutiful citizen. His luck had been better than that.
“No.” He rubs the warm smooth skin adjacent to his vein and reins in those old feelings of simmering anger. “They didn’t have to. I found out that I’d been chipped by the Feds or somebody else and that’s how they found me.” He runs a hand across his face, tiredly. “Just flipped a switch and…Boom, I’m on a map and they know exactly where I am.”
The Fed chip had been implanted by syringe like a dog’s adjacent to his shoulder blade and he hadn’t been any the wiser until he found the files. The other one was older, larger and he couldn’t remember how it ended up inside of him. He has some clues and just the thought of the how shakes him to his very core and makes his tight ball of control unravel at the edges.
“So you need me to remove it.” Mia realized. “And you didn’t tell me this earlier because?”
“If you had taken them out earlier then whoever’s watching me would’ve known the score and this,” he makes an effusive gesture, “wouldn’t be happening. Dom would still be on the bus and I’d be disappeared—a freaking ghost like Jimmy Hoffa.”
Mia’s eyes dart from the tools to Brian to Dom and back to the sharp sterile ends that will be covered in blood in a matter of minutes. “Give me five to clean up and I’ll get those out of you.” She takes a step, pauses, and looks back up at him, and says, “Next time, let me know if I need to cut, because I don’t like cutting.” Mia’s a real Stitch, a healer through and through, and the opposite really isn’t her way.
“Thanks,” Brian says before she walks into the kitchen. She doesn’t say anything, but her eyes look a little less sad than the normally do when she looks at him. Even now among the quivering exhilaration that radiates from her, there’s echoing whisper of regret that gives him a shiver and makes his heart beat just a little faster.
He turns to Dom, who is regarding him fondly, his expression broadcasting curiosity as clear as day. “Didn’t know you were a Mover? Always thought you were just a strong Empath,” he pops his tongue and smiles, “But I gotta admit that bubble thing was kinda cool, even if I did feel like the world’s biggest chicken inside of an egg.”
“Yeah, first try. Sorry the landing was rough.” Smiling, Brian scrubs his hands over his head, digging his fingers through the short hair that still doesn’t feel quite like his. Everyone who knows that he’s a Special knows that empathy is his thing; it’s just his other abilities are the ones that no one knows about. “That used to be a big secret.” One of many.
Dom smirks, making the hard edges of his face smooth away, bringing wide stream of happiness into the connection. “Then I guess I should feel honored. Not too shabby, but I think you should practice before trying again. Not on me.” Dom wagers. “Not on Mia either….Maybe a cat or a houseplant.”
He can’t torture a poor cat like that, so he counters, “I wouldn’t go that far. It was my first time using it on something larger than a pencil or an egg.” Just like that the smirk’s gone, as Brian expected. “I’m just glad that I didn’t scramble you like one.”
“For a beginner, you did pretty well.” Mia comes back then with towels she managed to find and a bowl full of hot water. “What else have you got?” Mia asks, proving that she’s been reading Brian as good as he thought she had. “Something tells me,” she says with a coy look, “that we’ve barely scratched the surface.”
Brian smiles, shakes his head and pulls off his shirt. The answer to that question can wait. He’s never been so forthright about his abilities before and even with Dom, who gets him, and Mia, he can’t let it all go just yet.
He drops into the chair without further preamble. “The first one is small, about the size of a thumb tack.” He guides Mia’s hands to the spot just southwest of his right shoulder blade. “And the other is here on the bone.” He rubs a two-inch line along the inside of his wrist, and swears that he can feel it just below the surface. Brian knows that the chip belongs to him--the Man that Brian has been searching for all his life. The Man who’s haunted his dreams like the damn bogeyman since he was a child.
Mia makes quick work of swabbing his skin with alcohol, prepping to make the cut and stitch him back up. Dom remains just out of reach silently watching. “Think you can scramble it?” Brian asks. As soon as the chip comes out, it has to be fried, so the signal dies.
Dom does machines, can get any sort to dance, move and obey, but systems are more complex and that had been Jesse’s thing. The official handbooks provide lengthy definitions for it, clinically calling it Perceptive Comprehension; among Specials, they were Infiltrators. Not too many of them around, but they were there, and were hard to miss, leaning either towards the extremely twitchy or the extremely introverted with no real in between existing among them. Jesse’s hyper energy clearly signaled which one he leaned towards.
Dom tilts his head slightly, considering the idea. “Yeah, I can send a shockwave back to the mother system.” Which greatly impressed Brian. “Give’em something to chew on for a while.”
Brian grins; that’s exactly the sort of distraction they need, but he still feels a thread of worry, not Dom’s, purely his own, because he knows what will come their way and just how far they’ll have to run to get clear.
Mia wields the scalpel like it’s a natural extension, even if she hates it. She makes a moderately deep cut and pulls up a smooth corner of skin. He feels her pause, knows that she’s can’t quite see it, but it’s there, almost invisible on the surface, but there. She drags the forceps over the exposed muscle and Brian flinches, gnashes his teeth and tries to concentrate on a point not clouded by pain or the heat and cold rushing through his body.
His head is all out of whack. Brian doesn’t want to strain Dom either; he’s holding onto the connection, not tightly, but securely, feels it wrap around his mind and tries to center his focus there, and not on the pain or the pulse inside his head or chest. He’s so close to being free, if he can only hold on, then he’ll have it.
The moment, Mia says, “Got it,” he releases his breath. His lips part purple rather than pink and a stream of air visible to the naked eye carries chips of ice and winter frost into the humidity of the room. A shadow passes over Dom’s face and Brian looks away. Explanations can wait; the chips can’t.
Mia places her palm over the weeping spot on his back and commands him to relax. He can feel the pulse of energy passing through her to him, if only in a whispery tickle as sinews tighten, close and knit back to perfection. She sweeps her fingers over his back and pulls back sharply, hissing. “God, you’re--”
Dom looks her way questioningly and Mia shakes her head, brushing off his silent question.
But Brian knows what it is. The moment he sees her rubbing her fingertips together and wringing them open and shut, he knows that he’s burned her. Without tight control, he literally runs hot and cold, from freezing to scorching.
“Are you sure you’re ready? I don’t mind waiting a couple of minutes. It’s not too much.” She asks with the scalpel back in hand, a patient look on her face. He watches her fingers try to wiggle away the sting. He shakes his head.
She takes his wrist and runs her thumb along the faint puckered line. It’s one of the few touches he’s ever allowed there. The gentle sweep of her thumb and her calming thoughts are enough to get him from an eight to the four on the explode scale. “Okay?” He nods. “Alright, let’s take this one out,” she says.
Brian trains his eyes on the floor made up of scuffed wooden panels and holds his body stiffly as he digs deep, finds source of that burning coldness and shivering heat and tries his best to bring it down and under control. Soon enough he’ll be free until then he needs to do his best to not burn, freeze or shock the hell out of Mia. “I’m good,” he croaks, his throat too dry all of a sudden. “Go for it.”
Getting the arm chip out is far worse, bloodier, deeper, and excruciatingly awful.
Working inside the system got Specials certain privileges. By working inside by becoming a cop, he got out of the chipping, just added his name to national registry without the invasive exploration of his abilities. Then, he met a family of Specials, who weren’t on the registry’s radar, let Dom go and took off, and lost all those privileges he worked for when they finally dragged him back. Then they stabbed him in the back with a syringe, acting like they had done him some saving grace by lojacking his ass, which might as well been their ass as far as the Feds were concerned.
It’s hard working with Mia now as she tries to dislodge the chip that’s fused and screwed into bone. Instinct demands he lash out, just give over to the pulse radiating under his skin. When the chip went in he was out like a light, and probably had no abilities to speak of, he suspects, and only the pain in his wrist and the jagged pink scar spoke of a difference. The chip is a lojack for Specials capable of pinpointing location, power usage and brings the collection units down in a blink of the eye.
Brian’s seen more than his fair share of collection units. Several, in fact, called in after one of his empathic sweeps, and he couldn’t feel more like a traitor if he actually tried. Those teams made up of Norms and Specials, Ferals usually, with noses more powerful than the average bloodhound chasing down the troublemakers, protesters, literal freedom fighters, and those determined too powerful to not be controlled by the government—alphas, omegas and S-omegas. Ferals hopped up on rage and unerring loyalty to the very government that practically enslaves them, hunt the rest down. They’re dogs; big loyal dogs that don’t even realized that they’re chained up worse than the rest of them. At least, the rest of them can feel and see the collars choking them; Ferals just yank harder and smile around the loop pulling tighter around all their necks, all the while laughing at the sensation of going breathless.
He has his reasons for going cop and later, haltingly agreeing to be a part of the Fed Specials Unit—not that he actually had a real choice. Meeting Dom and Mia and the others just reinforces his mission; keeps him from letting on that there’s far more beneath the surface than just his empathy.
As soon as Mia pries the chip off, Dom fries it and in between Mia dropping the scalpel and passing over the chip, his blood spills across the table and his instincts demand the pain stop now. Just one touch—Mia’s hand, anything, and he can absorb all he needs to heal himself. He never fought back before, even with the means to do so, he just stores it all and dwells on the problems, pain and the sweet victory when he finally finds who he’s always been looking for. Then, he’ll explode and bring the whole thing down, brick but fucking brick, but not a minute sooner.
Mia’s hands hover above his skin, just out of range for him to absorb or her to heal him. They begin to still and she says cautiously, “Brian, I need you to calm down. Focus.” Focusing is hard. His ability to focus is shattered, shot through with holes and sweating with anger.
“Please,” she pleads, without putting her hands on him.
Then his vision is filled with Dom, who’s got his hands around his face, bringing their eyes into alignment. Dom grits his teeth when Brian touches him the same way without a hand to the face. He sees it then the rolling lines of white lightning curling across his skin like vines up a stone wall. Sees the blue underneath that spreads back from his fingertips, creeping up his arm as ice spreads through his veins, ready to make him into the ice man everyone claims him to be.
“Focus,” Dom demands, thunderously. Dom grips his face tighter, holding on despite the heat and the cold eating at his skin. That incredible strength shows with each second that he remains attached to Brian without flinching. “Pull it together, O’Conner. Right now, dammit. Look at me and focus.”
For once, Dom grabs their connection, pulls it tight like a rope around a fist and tugs so hard mentally that Brian is forced to close his eyes and focus on it.
When he opens his eyes, he can see their strange reflection, popping and twinkling like neon LCD Christmas lights in Dom’s eyes. Dom has his face and the connection within the same unyielding grip and Brian stares back, allowing Dom’s control to bleed over his, forcing him into an induced haze of calm.
Mia heals his wrist with one hand while the other heals Dom’s hands. Brian lists gently in his mind, knowing that exploding will happen one day. Just not in Mexico.
Later when he rises from the chair, he sees the parts with the earliest signs of char, while the legs stuck to the floor are bogged down by ice.
Once the house settles into silence and the roll of emotion in the immediate area is lulling, signaling the transition to smooth sleep, Brian heads outside. He’d kill for a beer or one of those old school frosty bottles of Coca-Colas in pictures across a million and half slop-joints around the country.
Fresh air gives him all the space he needs to think. His thoughts and emotions need to roam by a long shot. They’ve settled into a normal state, and after a long breath, he sinks inside his head to count off all the abilities that remain and which have taken flight.
Even among Specials, there’s no word for what he is. He has four abilities at his core that will never leave him: empathy, temperature distortion, electric manipulation, and what the files have rarely recorded as power reproduction, he calls siphoning or sponging.
A touch is all it takes to give him a little of Mia’s healing, Dom’s strength or Rome’s terrakinesis or quaking. They stick around for a couple of usages, but float off into a part of his mind that’s gunked and inaccessible. He wakes up to find that sometimes, they’re just not there anymore. Some abilities come and go as they please like the telekinesis or precog dreaming. The moving sits up at bat, while the dreaming is blessedly silent. He regrets the day he ever met that smarmy old woman in New York. His dreams haven’t been the same since.
He picks up a faint trace of mildly annoyed and remains idling in his spot. It’s just Dom, and he smirks softly and rolls his eyes, as if it could’ve been anyone else.
Standing in the shadowed doorway, Dom watches him with the faint annoyance turned amusement of one watching a late night infomercial. “You’re thinking some heavy thoughts over there. Woke me up, they were so loud.”
Bullshit, he calls through the connection and Dom chuckles huskily in the darkness, taking sure deliberate steps across the old wooden porch to stand beside Brian. His thoughts aren’t loud. His emotions have settled into their usual cool order, and Brian’s shields might as well have been Fort Knox; they were that impenetrable. So him bleeding through the connection hadn’t woken Dom up.
“Sorry,” Brian says reflexively. He smirks knowing full well that Dom sleeps in hard, short bursts, and then walks between each cycle. It’s a habit he hasn’t been able to shake since coming out of Lompoc.
Standing shoulder to shoulder, Dom shakes his head, “No, you’re not,” he says, without any heat in his voice, just thick sleep.
“Yeah, I’m not.” They look out at the sand and the quietness of the lake, allowing the slight breezes and the faint songs of crickets and restless night birds to fill the silence between them. Brian sighs, “Just needed a little space to think.”
Without his existentialist crisis in front of him, he take really see what’s coming at them and it’s all bad.
He exhales a whistling breath, flicks his eyes to Dom, who’s watching him carefully, and shakes his head. “We’re in No Man’s Land, Dom. Rogue Specials ? Once it gets out that one is an ex-cop and the other is wanted across international boundaries, we’ll be lucky if we’re just blasted on sight by our own and not black bagged and cubby-holed by one of the units.”
“Then, we split up.” Dom says without hesitation. “You and Mia head down to Rio and I’ll catch up. Vince is down there; you can meet up.”
“No,” Brian says, already imagining what will happen to his head without Dom being close by.”Can’t split up.” The connection vibrates then, snaps back like a stressed rubber band and Dom looks at him sideways. There’s no going to ground like Dom thinks.
“Ferals love to divide and conquer. It’s easy to take down one. Harder to take down several. You could easily fuck up their tech, but you’ve got to concentrate to do it and that’s when they’d get you. Mia’s got a passive ability. You’ve got the strength and the technopathy--”
“And you’ve got everything else,” Dom acknowledges.
Brian shrugs, “ Just the surprises.”
Dom sits on the railing with his back to the sand and the water, alternating his watch between the front door and the direct line to the table, still partially bloody and cluttered with the remnants of their escape. His thoughts are rolling over as he slides his gaze back to Brian, who he can see outlined brightly against the darkness like the golden halo of a streetlight.
Brian’s in his head. He’s not complaining though, just curious as to how Brian has gone so long without being noticed for what he really is. Because Dom has never seen any shit like what Brian just did at the table. “That’s a nifty set of skills you got,” he says as he turns his hands cover, marveling at the skin that Mia has taken from red and blistered to perfect again. “Just how do you get away with something like that? As locked-down like you were that must be damn hard to hide.”
It takes a shit ton of pretending. Lots of hard fucking work and dedication to playing along with the higher ups until he had all the information he needed. So damn close he could actually feel it—her, if he tries hard enough.
Brian traces the skin on his wrist, now clear and scarless for the first time in years. The day he crosses paths with the Man in the glasses will be the best and worst days of his life, and hopefully, not the last one.
Dom watches the pattern his fingers trace and projects concern, knowing Brian will feel it. “I know they don’t come after you unless they think you’re powerful enough. That’s why they wanted you to get at me.” Bilkins hadn’t been sure about Dom or if he’d had abilities in the beginning. Though Dom’s disappearing act after getting the Supra solidified the Fed’s theory that he did. “How much are they going to throw at us?”
“They’ve got a hard on for catching Specials. Criminal Specials? Well, shit, they might try to bring the sky down on you.” Brian shakes his head, frosts the bottle in his hand only to melt it away. “Abilities are rare. Multiple abilities even rarer. Mia’s is strong class beta, meaning she can heal just about anything, but she can’t affect more than two people at once. You’re an extremely strong alpha, probably omega level, capable of making them shit bricks without much effort.”
“And you, O’Conner? Where do you fall on their list?”
“Me? I’m a damn contradiction, shouldn’t even exist. But I do. And if I don’t keep my head together, I’ll explode all over the place.” Literally, they both know. “I’m a freaking S-omega and if they catch me…Bro, seeing the sun again will be the least of my problems.” He’d seen it once after he absorbed a dreamer. For weeks afterwards, he’d woken up drenched in sweat with visions of him blowing up entire cities if he cracked just an inch, let his control falter too much. Then there are other dreams of cold slabs, tubes in his nose with steel walls so thick, he can’t feel himself think. He can always remember feeling slow and detached and trapped, and when he wakes up the images are so clear in his head he has to wonder if he dreamed them at all, or if they were put there by someone else.
Sometimes, he thinks, almost hopefully, that the dreams are her way of reaching out; cutting across all the years and the distance to reach out for him by letting him know that she’s still there and the possible consequences of his failure. Even now, she tries to protect him.
Brian looks skyward, then back to Dom. “What do you remember of your dad, Dom?”
He shields the connection as Dom talks, weaving stories of Papa Toretto’s late night tutoring sessions with Mia, and epic barbecues that united the entire neighborhood. All points that would’ve put him miles ahead in the race for World’s Greatest Father over Brian’s mysterious XY progenitor, whose ability must have been teleportation, because he disappeared the moment Brain was conceived.
There’s a spot of jealousy that glosses the connection, flares dark and ugly against the normal brightness; it’s easy enough to shut down, but reminds him of what he never had and what he still has to hold onto yet. What he has he keeps close to the chest and buried deep to keep out of the mental sweeps of other Readers and Listeners.
He longs for a beer; something he could focus on other than the relaxed look that softens Dom’s features so infrequently. Instead his eyes are drawn to Dom’s and hold. “I remember shit all about my old man. Nothing, just a blank space. But I remember my mom though.” He smiles at the ghost of her laughter and the connection vibrates with it. “Everything about her …until they took her. Came in and just tried to take her down, but--I was six, D--Six.”
There’s a house in Barstow where his memories of her start and end. A place that holds memories twisting and dangling like her big kitschy earrings that were never popular again outside of the eighties. He remembers her hands creating art from ice and fire, statues beautiful and sparkling of cold ice in their little house at the edge of the desert. When she worked her tattoo flowed, mixed and swirled together, fighting and chasing the ends of blue and red stripes until they looked like dragons battling each other on the surface of her upper right shoulder.
“They came one afternoon, just kicked down the door, barged into the house and started shooting and she just…lit them up.” He remembers the bubble of fire and ice surrounding them and the men in black protective gear burning or freezing over. How she fought them all off until that one snuck up behind her—the man in the glasses. “They tried to make me forget, but I can’t. I touched her before they dragged me out and felt it. I guess my abilities turned on then. I think I took her fire and ice manip and made it my own.”
Then, Dom is there, clapping a heavy hand around the back of Brian’s neck, drawing him close. Comfort rushes into the connection, washing up against Brian’s shields until he lowers them and allows the steady flow of Dom’s emotion to wash over him.
Dom doesn’t drop his hand after getting his message across, just holds on and gently twisting his fingertips along the hairs at the base of Brian’s neck. “It’s been years and that’s the last time you’ve seen her. How do you know she’s still alive?”
An easy smile rolls across his face, “Easy--I haven’t felt her die yet.”He goes deep in his mind feeling for that place that’s so faint but always there. A pinprick of light surrounded by darkness; it remains always lit for him to find. It’s there. “I’ll find her one day.”
Dom sees it all across the connection. Hazy memories dizzy with the flurry of action too much for a child to understand. Dom tightens his fingers briefly as clouds cut across the high moon. With the stream of comfort is righteous anger and Brian takes Dom’s contribution and adds it to the neat little stack of his own.
“Then we’ll burn it all, find her and disappear,” Dom says and Brian feels the guarantee and excitement for the day it comes crashing down. Dom understands about family, being hunted and the codes that can’t be unbroken though the world throws terrible things their way.
“Why don’t you try to get some sleep, without waking me up this time,” Dom teases.
Smiling softly, Brian says, “Yeah, in a minute.” Close like this, he gets a small stirring low in his belly all thanks to Dom. Maybe another time though, he’s a little too spent to wade into the murky waters of that other connection between them.
Shaking his head, Dom hooks a couple of fingers around Brian’s wrist. “Naw, time’s a wastin’. You can borrow some of mine.”Brian gets the implication without searching the connection to really dissect it. Dom tends to just derail his plans. This time, he’ll just go with it.
Dom tugs him back into the dark house, moving smooth and silently through the darkness. The room he snagged for himself sits closest to the door—always the protector he is, putting himself between danger and his family. He pushes Brian towards one side of the bed and kicks the door quietly shut. “This way I can keep an eye on you.”
Brian huffs out a breathy laugh as he pulls his shirt over his head. “I’ll keep that in mind, Dom.”
Brian settles down into sheets that smell faintly of sweat and that spice that’s definitively Dom. The mattress sinks behind him, heat radiating like a furnace along his back.
Dom mutters, face half-buried into a pillow. “Now just shut your damn eyes, O’Conner and go to sleep…” He grumbles at Brian’s bed-shaking laugh. “Jesus, they say I’m stubborn.” Dom wraps an arm around Brian’s waist, anchoring him to the bed, and slides his hand under Brian’s shirt to provide a good deal of skin-on-skin contact. The surface of the connections thrums with plenty emotions, most all insistence that Brian take his ass to sleep, and a slow burning sense of satisfaction wrapped in comfort.
So Brian closes his eyes, his thoughts downshifting to the pace of Dom’s and sinks into sleep. They’ll wake up tomorrow to a whole world full of chaos, eager to see them with their backs against the wall and nowhere else to run. His lips quirk and he feels a slight thread of Dom’s amusement, because what else is new.
Tomorrow, they’re done being chased; they run on their own terms now.