Chapter 1: in the beginning
Hobbs had just finished handing over the team’s walking papers and making open-ended promises to settle the score with Dom when he waved O’Conner down and directed him to follow him back to the big black truck in the driveway.
In the future Brian would recall the details of this short walk with the level of detail often reserved for textbooks: the spicy mingling of citrus and smoky barbecue, the regular thud of Hobbs’s heavy boots in his march down the drive, the magnetic catch of Dom’s eyes with his as he followed, a curl in his stomach twisting as he passed between the two shores of Letty and Elena with no clue where the light was in that situation, and just how much the air smelled like home.
The black Dodge Ram was much like Hobbs: big and wide, and from the glimpse Brian caught of the interior when Hobbs pried open the broad passenger door lethally clean.
“So, I’m assuming this is for my eyes only. I’ll try to prepare myself if you’re getting ready to hand me a job offer.” Not that Brian had thought in a million years that any branch of law enforcement, security, private contractor, or mall cop agency would offer him anything other than a complementary set of handcuffs and a tight fit.
He certainly didn’t anticipate Hobbs’s response—that response being a bright white grin and a belly laugh so deep that Brian dropped a discrete eye down to his shoes to make sure he hadn’t set himself up for Hobbs’s unending amusement. Inspecting all sides of his Converses, he came back with nothing incriminating.
Nope, he thought as Hobbs continued to laugh.
“Something funny, Hobbs?” Of course Dom wouldn’t be left out of the meet and greet for long.
Hobbs’s continued laughter sharpened just enough to cause Brian and Dom to share a strategic look.
You go high? Brian asked with a raised brow.
Dom tipped his head just so indicating, and you hit ‘em low. Then the laughter started to dry up quicker than a tank of gas on a cannonball run. Let’s wait and see, he added with a slight quirk of his lips that Brian translated fully.
Hobbs braced his elbows on the open mouth of the truck’s window. Brian suppressed a wince in sympathy as the door made a pained groan under his weight.
Then Hobbs held up his right hand which was large enough to blot out the sun without much prompting and wiggled his thick digits in the creepiest rendition of jazz hands that Dom and Brian had ever seen.
With his left, he pointed to the still too happy right hand. “On one hand I can account for everything in my life that elevates it above shit to two shades brighter than gold: my baby girl—the best thing to happen to me, this planet, and possibly this solar system, my mother—which goes without saying; getting paid to kickass; not having to reload; and my mother’s high protein, low carb spaghetti that tastes so goddamn good that I’m pretty sure she’s mastered alchemy to make it.”
Not clearly seeing where Hobbs was headed with this reel of self-revelation, Dom and Brian found it best to keep quiet until a path was opened through Hobbs’s rambling miles of bullshit.
Mia’s cool murmur momentarily cushioned Rome’s rising curiosity and politely yet pointedly redirected Tej’s attention back to the grill, because family or no, people would riot for less, and burnt food for a lot like theirs—having survived the impossible with the many loses in their tally shouldn’t be expected to toe the line well. He and Mia had settled into a comfortable space finally, where they were more than friends, definitely not lovers, and were family in a manner that was more expansive than blood and marriage would allow.
Hobbs gave his hands a rest from showboating, instead giving them the low impact task of fishing out his phone from a secret compartment in his camo pants.
“To cut the wheat from the shit: in my possession is a big goddamn surprise for you, Sundance Kid.” He flicked his unimpressed eyes to Brian.
“Why can’t I be Butch Cassidy?” Brian skirted around the insult to skate on his smartass charm. “Like, is there something you know that I don’t know?”
Then it was back to the laugh train where only Hobbs and Dom were invited to ride.
Dom clapped him on the shoulder drawing him into a brief brush of their sides. “Yeah, Bri, we can discuss that later. Right now, let’s see what kinda golden ticket our good buddy Hobbs is hangin’ onto.”
Brian bobbed his head, letting a small grin spread across his face. “Freedom, plus a trip to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory is my first bet or—,” he paused, “a trip to Jurassic Park is my second.”
From the grill, Rome’s voice picked up. “You’re on your own, Snow Flake, with that one, bruh. Don’t get eaten if that’s where he’s trying to send you.”
Hobbs made his fingers dance quite elegantly over the screen in an intricate pattern that was far too delicate for such thick digits. “Beach Boy, there’s only one thing that you’re gonna get up close and personal with and it’s not gonna be a good time, I can promise you that.” Settling on the right image on the screen, Hobbs put the mismatched twinset of Dom and Brian in his sights. “Your good friend—and you really need to remember that—Agent Monica Fuentes was contacted by an acquaintance you made at your final appearance on the right side of an FBI conference who really needed to find you, though you were out of the country playing Ex-Cops and Robbers with the rest of the twenty-first century lineup of Our Gang here.”
He flashed another overly bright show of teeth down at the screen. “When I was putting together the rest of your walking papers, your name popped up elsewhere and led to a long chitchat with, again, your good buddy, Agent Fuentes, who’d been monitoring your profile better than the NSA. There are only two things that you really need to know right now: one, Monica is a size six and a half—though I respectfully disagree and think she’s more of a seven. That’s in shoes, by the way, and two—”He dropped the sharpness in his smile down to an unsettling softness that neither Dom nor Brian could interpret. “—I’m about to hand you the only job that you’re both qualified for and not anywhere near ready for, Sunshine Band.”
The little phone that had formerly occupied so much of Hobbs’s time was delivered into Brian’s confused hands, and Dom’s due to proximity. The pair craned their heads over the small screen and, as always, Dom was the first to react.
He flicked his finger between the phone and Brian. “Are you sayin’…?” His voice came to a stop as if he’d run out of gas in the desert.
“I guess there was a slight miscalculation on my part, Toretto. There’s actually a third thing I need to tell you, O’Conner: it’s a boy.”
The last thing Brian would remember in the immediate future was Rome’s poorly disguised whisper asking, “Do we have anymore chips? Cuz this occasion really needs a ton of chips.”
Then things might have faded to black.
Immediately following the big announcement
Thank you to everyone who has continued to follow this story and waited patiently for me to update. RL is kicking my butt. The gauntlet of testing, clerkships, and research doesn't leave much room for fannish activity. Again, I appreciate your patience and willingness to read this fic.
This was the moment where the sound got turned back up, allowing Brian to realize that the crunch, crunch, crunch providing the backbeat to the sudden jackhammering of his heart was actually coming from Rome.
Brian was caught up listening to Hobbs but totally not understanding. Hobbs must moonlight as Charlie Brown’s tough love PE teacher because it was just wha-wha-wha-boots to asses-wha-wha. The previous smile on his face contracted down to a flat line that quickly turned into something alarming by the way Dom was looking at him.
Brian kept his voice steady when he asked Hobbs, “Are you…serious?” The rumor mill said Hobbs had a fucked up sense of humor, which Brian might have heard revolved around watching unlikely baby animal cuddle videos or gruesome bareknuckle boxing K-O montages. Despite feeling like quicksand had suddenly materialized beneath his feet, Brian was almost proud of himself for not betraying his panic.
“As serious as my mama on a church-going Sunday.”
Brian looked towards Dom who was already watching him back and apparently absorbing a contact high from Brian’s shock, so Brian called out, “Rome,” instead, now looking for a new stabilizer.
“Huh?” Rome answered, then gathered quickly that it was his time to shine and dropped his chips on the table, gearing up to cross the yard to get between Brian, Hobbs, and a big damn confession. “I’m here. We’ve got this.” He started like a pep rally cheering section. “Even though you always told me that I'd be the one in this situation…Karma is a b-i-t-“
“Rome!” The trio of Han, Mia, and Tej pulled the plug on his mouth’s motor before it could rev up to full swing.
He shot them a moderately offended look. “What? I got this. Just lemme me do my thing. Like damn…” Rome punctuated with a hard roll of his eyes before putting Brian back under the spotlight of his attention. “Okay, so, like take a deep breath in, right?” Which Brian did. “Huh-uh. Now let that sucker out.” And Brian complied. “Keep doing that so you don’t turn the same shade of white as that dude that first spotted the iceberg in Titanic.” Dom coughed into his fist, possibly suffocating a chuckle, though Letty's glare stated that she knew without a doubt that jokes were inappropriate.
Brian and Rome might have been the center of attention at the edge of the concrete driveway, but none of the eyes on them mattered. If Brian or Rome had peeped their audience’s reactions then there might have been a wave of consensus leaning towards disbelief that Rome was being the calm one in this scenario, while Brian was stepping into the role as the slightly panicked one.
Rome dropped his hands on Brian’s shoulders and held his gaze through another series of staggered exhalations. “So, you good?” He asked, flashing a concerned grin that Brian automatically returned.
“Yeah, I’m good. On a scale of falling out of that tree in fourth grade or getting busted joyriding in your grandmama’s car or telling …” he glanced back at Dom who was steadily watching his back and offered him a small reassuring nod that conveyed that even the hardest rock could crack. “—um, revealing that I was a cop, I’m thinking this is somewhere near that last one.”
Rome tried to restrain his laughter by burying it in a snort—a rather loud one, then squeezed Brian’s shoulder once more. “Naw, bruh, I know you’re clearly over exaggerating again. What our good friend Hobbs just said ain’t that dramatic, Sally Field, so stop prepping to go off like the flyin' nun.”
Behind them, someone that sounded a lot like Han whispered to Tej, “I’m amazed that he knows who that is.”
“Me too.” Tej agreed, quietly.
Letty’s raspy growl ended the side commentary. “I don’t know who that is but she can’t hold a candle to you two.” the eyebrow raise put a period on that exchange.
The little upturn in Rome’s wide grin Brian easily translated as impressed which wasn’t uncommon when it came to Letty. But Rome being impressed by Letty after the hell and literal high water they’d gone through to get her back…Oh, brother, Brian thought then tuned back into Rome undercutting his sudden nosedive into angst.
“—This is more of No-Knees-Denise situation, if you read it right.” Rome clarified.
Finding his cool fully restored, Brian chuckled while he pulled Rome into a brief hug that was grateful without skirting too closely to sappy. “So if this is a repeat of the Denise situation, are you saying that you’re gonna swoop in and steal my kid from me by trying to be super cool when you’re really not? Cuz I don't think that'll work a second time. ” Brian said, following a playful shove back.
The others appeared lost by this endless loop of backstory and inside jokes passing fast and furiously between Brian and Rome. But Rome didn’t look like anybody’s history teacher; for one, he was too damn fly, and, two, his and Brian’s history had a max share capacity of two which they were mutually satisfied as keeping as is. “Naw, you know what I’m saying…It’s not that serious, even though it kinda is. If anything this is the most normal thing you’ve done in recent history--” he raised his voice to gain the attention of the audience. “I mean, it’s true, right?” Various stages of head-bobbing said he was right again.
Having had enough of sitting idly by, Dom moved up to stand beside the pair, shifting enough to stand between Brian and Rome. In the few and far between moments in his life, Rome decided to take a step back to allow someone else to enter the sanctity of their little bro zone.
“Roman’s right,” Dom started to say, reverting back to old formality because, as Rome saw it, he was just a little green with jealousy by not being at Ground Zero for Brian’s ecliptic freak out. “This is actually normal. One of those things that people are generally supposed to do, so it’s just a matter of putting together what comes next.”
Being right versus knowing that someone was right were two very different things; yet Brian was certain that Rome and Dom were guiding him back to where he now needed to go. He gave them a little finally got it nod then turned to Hobbs who looked surprisingly neither annoyed nor cheerfully amused. It freaked Brian out to recognize that calm expression on Hobbs’s perpetually intense face was understanding.
Brian told them, “I think the first thing I need to do is contact Monica.”
Hobbs lowered his crossed arms to rest on his hips. “That would be an inspired choice: I agree. Then what?”
Rome interjected, “You don’t have to answer that cuz you could incriminate yourself.”
Mia sighed loudly. “Rome, we’re having a backyard BBQ and just received a side order of immunity, this is about as far from Law and Order as you can get.”
“It’s not Law and Order: Forehead Crimes that we’re dealing with at this moment.” Tej snarked, earning a glare that promised much retribution and trash talk from Rome.
Back to Hobbs, Brian squared up his gaze and breathed slowly. “What comes next is stuff I can only guess at, but I’m willing to figure it out and get it done.”
“We’ll figure it out,” Dom amended, “That’s what we do: we figure things out.”
Satisfied with the constellation of answers, Hobbs maneuvered his large fingers over his phone’s face in a rather intricate digital dance as he pressed down on a series of flat numbers and letters, the purpose of which making itself clear when Brian’s cell chimed in his pocket. As he reached for it, Hobbs said, “This is the cornerstone to getting started with figuring the rest out.”
Brian saw the phone number that Hobbs texted him and assumed it belonged to Monica.
Hobbs made a show of harnessing his phone into its super complicated cradle and then nonchalantly rapped his knuckles over the Dodge’s hood, surprisingly without leaving divots between his large knuckles, a code that caused Tej to slightly quirk his head bemusedly.
Of course Hobbs would tap out A-L-L-C-L-E-A-R prior to his exit. “Get in touch with Fuentes and good luck. Prepare yourself for some ball-busting, Beach Boy, but just know it comes from a place of love, or so I’m told. I think you’ve got the stones to make it work.”
“Thanks, Hobbs.” Brian replied, grinning.
“No thanks necessary.” Hobbs replied as he stepped up into the gargantuan cab of the pickup. “You’ve got more lives than a cat, O’Conner. Try to make this one count for something.” Gesturing at Elena, “Let’s roll, woman.” Elena mouthed take care of them, then offered the Team a departing wave.
Under the ground swell of panic, there existed a newfound confidence that assured Brian that somehow this was how his life was supposed to be. “I will.” An appropriate answer that allowed Hobbs to make his final exit.
Hobbs’s departure left a vacuum—a big empty space in the drive where his tank-like truck had previously sat and the literal song of crickets hissing that had suddenly started pouring from the backyard speakers. Moving on a single beat, six pairs of eyes swiveled to Rome.
Rome raised his arms in surrender. “Not me this time. Blame Mr. Robot for this one.” He pointed at Tej who shrugged albeit guiltily. “I know when my humor’s not appreciated. I’m not gonna ruin our Welcome-Back-Free-At-Last-Surprise-Bitches-You-Haven’t-Seen-The-Last-Of-Me-Baby Shower. I’ll leave that to other people, cuz I’m here to support and eat good grub. Especially the good grub part.”
Brian motioned towards the Charger’s garage. “I’m gonna go make a call…yeah,” he trailed off, already headed away with Dom on his heels like a six-foot tall breathing, scowling shadow.
As soon as the garage door closed, Han offered, “Now I think this is the time when we strategize how we bring our newest member into the team.”
“On it!” Mia said, standing beside Tej with a pair of screens between them, already scouring the most visited baby websites and blogs for information, and looked up to start making assignments, “Rome, you’ve got them--” she pointed at the garage doors.
Rome poured out a cupful of tortilla chips and a generous heap of salsa. “Ready.”
To Letty, Mia gestured at the speakers first which were silenced with a swift vengeance. “This, I’ll take care of gladly.” Letty flipped the on switch with the fury of an angry tide and stood ready for action. Whether her ready stance was based on muscle memory or not, Letty was waiting to step up.
“Han,” Mia started, though Han was already nodding along and smiling as he closed the grill. “Cars, information, and Jimmy Choos.” For the first time that day, Han wore a genuine smile. “I’ve got a guy for two of those already.” Then wandered off to fulfill his assignment.
“Right,” answered Mia and turned her concentration on the small screen in front of her. “—guys, let’s do this.” They had to prepare for a new member of the family.
World Championships had nothing on Dom’s experience watching Brian’s one-sided conversation. After the opening shot of Monica, hey--, Brian had been serving up a series of nearly one-word questions mixed with appropriate expressions of gratitude and pleas for forgiveness. Given that this was a state of emergency--one that was as exciting and crazy as anything they’d ever done multiplied by one hundred, Dom could forgive Brian for treating the Charger like a personal resting post. Cars were for comfort after all.
Dom watched Brian slide deeper into his shell of guilt as Monica’s voice warbled across the speaker. The conversation amounting to:
“When did you find out?”
“How did you know her?”
“How old is he?”
“Tomorrow?...Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ll be there…Thank you, Monica, seriously for everything….And a size six and half. ”
The end of the call left Brian with a dazed look on his face; the resulting quiet Dom respected until Brian shifted his eyes from the oil-spotted concrete floor to the phone clutched in his hand. “Monica says I can come by tomorrow,” he paused, scrubbing his hands over his eyes,his face a monument to bewilderment. “Jesus, Dom, I don’t know how this happens—there aren’t enough thank yous or I’m sorrys to give her for what’s she done. Hell, I think I owe her a whole factory of Jimmy Cho’s.”
Pretty sure that if he asked Han, he’d know of a guy with the hook-up, Dom confirmed the most crucial piece of information, “Size six and a half?” At a loss for words, Brian just nodded along until a text notification containing an image flashed across the screen which he tapped immediately. He placed the phone squarely between them to view the screen.
Mia had once told Dom that he was not the most expressive of men, usually wearing a variation of a scowl, amused smirk, or an ear to ear grin. She’d be impressed by the fast climb of his eyebrows and his silent impression of a Price Is Right contestant. “There’s no denying it: the kid’s got your eyes and definitely your hair.” Blue eyes were common; Brian’s blue eyes were one of a kind. “Already has your sense of style.” Eerily wearing a light blue sweater and jeans combo that was almost spot-on to Brian’s look.
“Yeah, he does,” Brian agreed fondly, voice going soft as more images added to the stream. “She calls him BJ.” Each picture showing the story of Baby O’Conner’s short life.
Already, Dom figured he’d remind Brian about the ten-second car still owed as collateral to change the poor kid’s name, thus saving him from a lifetime of terrible jokes and readily made embarrassment. “That’s—” Dom started.
“I know. Awful. But it’s short for ‘Brian Jr. His mom didn’t have a chance to, um, name him.” Which was the major sour to go with the sweet in this situation.
“What are you thinking?” Dom asked him.
Brian laughed nervously, “Honestly, I’m thinking about everything: his name—I’m not calling him BJ…”
But Brian continued, “—what he’ll be like, how to feed him, how to eat—shit, car seats and diapers!” As he spoke, his eyes flashed brightly.
Dom held up a silencing finger. “Okay, yellow light, red light, good.” Used to Brian’s temperamental shifts like the weather, Dom could do the icy drift of Snowman mode, the glacial burn of his fury, and the electric adrenaline of his limitless spontaneity. But this? No, Dom didn’t recognize an unsure, nervous Brian, and if he could fix it, then he would ensure that they would be set ride or die style to get through this, too.
Brian inhaled slowly, sinking deeper into a lazy slouch against the Charger. “You still remember what I said about my dad?” Like how he'd left before Brian could blow his first spit bubble; yeah, Dom hadn’t forgotten.
“Yeah.” Dom answered, slouching down beside Brian.
“I always promised myself that I would never do that to my kid. I always said I’d be there for everything—no matter how big or small or hell, how smelly—I’d be there. But look at me already repeating history.” Eyes burning bright with rising guilt. “I’m just like the bastard.”
“You’re not doing that.” Maybe Rome had a point about the dramatic part, like how Brian still felt guilty about Letty. Being a little caught up in his feelings was appropriate right now but falling down a well of bewilderment and seeming to blast it shut wasn’t going to make the circumstances for him or the kid any better. “Not today.”
“I missed every day of his life so far.” Brian continued to pile on the guilt.
Dom cupped the back of Brian’s neck, the tension training under the weight of his hand. “That won’t be the case tomorrow.” A little force got Brian leaning towards him and the contact reignited their magnetic pull that made them so good.
Dom had learned quickly that when Brian got quiet, it was never a good sign. He was likely to come up with something crazy like jumping onto a semi or coming back to face an assured arrest when Dom told him not to. “I’ve gotta make a list of stuff to get for the kid. Monica can probably get me started. But first I gotta find a place.” Proving Dom absolutely right about the crazy talk.
Despite drawing Brian closer, Dom’s voice dropped to an almost small whisper. “Why?”
“Um, because it’s not fair to you guys to deal with my problems—especially asking you, Mia, and Letty to live with a crying baby.”
Dom shook his head, almost disappointed by Brian’s response but knowing that he could change Brian’s mind. “Try again.”
“Dom, seriously, it’s only fair.”
“Dom—” Brian leveled his all-powerful puppy eyes on Dom. Anyone else would’ve given him his way but not Dom and definitely not about this.
Pushing off the door to stand in front of Brian, Dom took him by the shoulders and asked, “What are we, Brian?” Only one answer mattered and if Brian didn’t know that by now then Dom questioned the past five years and just who had played whom again.
It was an answer slightly difficult to qualify into words. They were friends but more than that. They were kind of like brothers but there was a chemistry between them that wasn’t quite platonic. They were a team that handled all situations together and defended their own. They were, by Dom’s words, a family. The moment Brian settled on that thought, Dom blinked at him expectantly, figuring that Brian had caught up once again.
“We’re family.” Answered Brian.
Now Dom smiled happily and broadly at the sight of Brian’s reflexive one. “Exactly, so your problems are my problems are our problems. Understood?”
There was futility in arguing, knowing that Dom was right and he would need all the help that he could get. “Understood, Dom.” So back to the easy path and the warm buzz of excitement and, as Dom and Brian continued to share the contact high of excitement, the spark that always defined their association flickered and flared to life, burning so damn bright that the light was just as potent as the California sunshine. This was the line they’d been straddling since that race long ago when Brian grinned in the face of public humiliation, declaring, I almost had you and when Dom tried to pull away from the line in order to let Brian and Mia cut and run while trying to take on the weight of a cartel and an international police squad.
Dom might’ve tracked Brian’s eyes dropping from his eyes to his mouth and back again, smile morphing into a smirk at getting caught doing the same thing. Moving closer meant the line would be permanently crossed. Just one more second until breaths mingled and lips touched, shorter than a quarter mile.
A half second...
Then through the faded painted woodened doors, Rome’s voice carried almost crystal clear, “You better understand we doin’ this family style, Bri.” Dom and Brian shared a knowing look, because the presence of doors certainly didn’t mean privacy and Brian’s assumption that he’d be alone was curb-stomped by Rome’s big mouth and Mia’s organizational skills.
Brian exhaled now that the weight of the afternoon had settled and the earlier tension released. “I have a baby.” He stated again, making the words fit into his mouth and finding that he liked the taste.
Dom touched their foreheads together. “No, we have a baby.” This was their next journey.
A small shift got them back into an eye to eye orbit. “Yeah, we do,” Brian smiled.
Offering Brian a final gentle hug, Dom inclined his head towards the door and the organized chaos beyond the door. “Here’s the plan, if you’re with me,” Brian nodded, “—We’re gonna see what’s waiting for us outside those doors, eat some barbecue, and then celebrate. Got more reasons than most to live it up.”
Brian accepted the plan with a smile. “The only thing I know is…” he trailed off waving the picture of the O’Conner Mini-Me, “I don’t think I’ll be getting my phone back anytime soon.” They shared around round of quiet laughter, knowing the phone’s battery would be dead by the time it came back to his hands.
“Damn right, Bri.” Rome chimed in and pounded on the door, “Let’s get the party started!” Which had only just begun.
Chapter 3: Three
Multiple meetings lead to important actions.
Pardon the (very) long break in this story's progression. I've had a lot of ideas that have been written down but not enough time to get them typed and edited.
The explanations of a few plot points are listed below.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
There were nerves and then there was whatever the hell was coursing through Brian’s veins at the moment. A little over twenty minutes separated Echo Park from Pasadena, though the trip was taking longer between the 110 traffic and Dom’s tail being deliberately too close to Brian’s nose for the duration of the ride.
A stabilizing influence was what Dom was offering, actuating Brian’s newly acquired lawyer’s recommendations by coming along. Though Brian suspected that Dom tagged along to be the official photographer. Brian had caught the tail end of Rome trying to bribe Dom with a pack of Corona to get the pic of the inevitable moment when Brian lost it. Dom didn’t make any promises, but Brian swore that he heard the slight thump and drag of a sly fist bump to seal their pact to embarrass him.
Brian gauged that he’d been worse earlier that morning before the momentum shifted them much closer to this earth quaking series of intersecting moments.
Still adjusting to the time changes from Western Europe to L.A. again increased the wattage on the electric current buzzing through his skin. An hour and plus from official daybreak saw Dom meeting him in the backyard where he’d parked himself on the tabletop as a last effort to keep himself still.
A cup of coffee had appeared at Brian’s shoulder. “Did you get any sleep last night or was all that marching you did your way of figuring out if the house was childproof or not?” Dom sat beside him to take in the incredible view of the downtown L.A. above the sightline of the fence.
During Brian’s night of pacing, he’d managed to find every squeaky floorboard or whiny step, and didn’t want his restlessness to be the reason Dom and Mia rescinded their offer. So Brian fled outdoors to the relative early morning cool and paced away the tension that used to be settled by a cigarette or two half a decade ago. Now Brian settled for a long drive instead to restore calm and order to his racing thoughts.
“Sorry. Nerves.” Answered Brian succinctly while using the hot cup in his hands as new focal point. “I think weeks of not dodging bullets or pulling off science-defying acts has made me rusty in the stealth department.”
Dom swallowed his coffee with a smile. “Don’t sleep on the gas just yet, Bri. I doubt the kid will be still for long, especially since it looks like the apple isn’t falling far from the tree.” Another mouthful down and Dom appeared percolated to a steady early morning state of readiness. “I thought I might’ve had to tie you down--”
“--I should’ve guessed that you’d be into that.” Brian interrupted after his first taste of coffee strong like a fist. Dom and Mia had a lifetime to absorb the potency of Cuban coffee but Brian was still a neophyte and equated each taste with an exponentially rising level of alertness. “No judgment, Dom.” Brian’s roving look over Dom’s customary dark jeans and white tee was met by Dom’s lifted brow that didn’t question but openly approved of the inspection. “I never assumed that you’d need to tie someone down if you wanted to keep them where you wanted them.” Because Dom had only had to speak to get Brian hooked.
Dom leaned forward onto his knees, barking out a laugh as he went. “See, now I know you’re gonna be fine.” Just nodding along as Brian chuckled. “You need to get it out of your system now, otherwise you’re gonna be swerving hard to avoid problems with BJ. Your mouth and hands might take you to unexpected places and you don’t want those slip ups to follow you.”
Making a disgusted noise, Brian dropped his chin to his chest. “We’re staying from away from BJ, remember?”
Dom sniffed hard.“I didn’t forget.” Another swallow followed letting Dom’s meaning sink in. “Yeah, exactly, you and a cute kid are gonna be a lightning rod for trouble since you and trouble are best friends.”
“Trouble with capital letters is what Rome and I got called when we were kids.” Brian grinned softly before taking a sideways glance at Dom. “I’ll call that smooth. Maybe a nine outta ten on the cool scale with a line like that. I’ll be generous and let you keep all the points even though BJs and my kid need to be miles apart. Those conflicts will mean automatic deductions in the future.”
Snorting, Dom replied, “If that’s how you wanna roll, then I’ll pity you and I’ll pray for you.” Since being a parent didn’t mean that Brian needed to become a martyr or a saint. He couldn’t, not after all that he and Dom had done—for each other and to each other—to get to this point.
Moments like this provided the perfect balance of what Brian wanted and needed. Only Dom could ply him with coffee and sex jokes to succeed in giving him a return to normalcy after his life had been obliterated beyond its foundation. Though they both knew Dom wasn’t just putting a line out there.
Brian lowered his cup to place between his feet. He didn’t need any more java courage. “If this is your way of trying to step up to defend my honor, then I don’t wanna disappoint you. There isn’t much for you to do.”
The only way Brian knew that he’d pissed Dom off was the rapid staccato of the muscles in his jaw as Dom swallowed his coffee. “The kid’s gonna give you a clean slate.” Dom stated firmly. “Just take it and don’t ask why. You’ll appreciate it more that way.” Dom wouldn’t try to dislodge Brian from beneath his tank-sized load of guilt. “You’re gonna be the only thing he’ll ever know. If he loves you as much as I loved my dad—and he will—then all the time you have with him still won’t be enough but it will be worth it.”
There was no jealousy creeping up inside of Brian as Dom mentioned his father; only a wistfulness that Dom couldn’t share this moment and gain advice that would ultimately be shared with Brian, too. “You’re wrong, Dom. Jack’s gonna have a big family. Aunts and uncles and a shitload of cousins one day to give his love to.” If there was one thing that Brian was certain of at present, it was that his son would never want for family.
Dom offered him a one-armed hug that served as a jumpstart to the morning. Lasting just north of platonic but cool enough to not instigate anything more. “C’mon, Mia’s making breakfast and you need an education. Jack’s not gonna survive on tuna fish sandwiches and NOS juice boxes.” Which lived on in dubious infamy since that long detour through Uruguay.
So much exasperation was laden in Brian’s eye roll. “That was one time, Dom. Once. Uno.”
Dom shook his head, “One time too many,” then hopped off the bench.
Breakfast ran smoothly since Mia assigned Brian to toast patrol. Mia was a half-page deep into the Jack Preparation Guide when the doorbell rang. For three people who’d been living as fugitives for nearly two years, a sudden knock at the door caused a not completely exaggerated reaction of stiff muscles—from Dom, and wandering hands beneath the table for weapons that weren’t there—from Brian. Despite much evidence to the contrary, a nugget of paranoia persisted that they’d been brought home only to be ensnared in a trap. If what was to transpire next turned sideways then at least Letty remained upstairs as a backup, a sleeping last resort to gather the others.
Mia took the initiative to answer the door while Brian and Dom followed closely behind. The door opened to a tall, thin black woman with a no-nonsense briefcase to match her equally take charge grey business suit. She scanned them briefly by giving Dom and Mia polite nods before zeroing in on Brian.
“Brian O’Conner.” Said deliberately without any room to question. “My name is Cataleya Lily and I’m your attorney.” Thankfully no one popped up behind her to reinforce Brian’s rights to be silent.
His lawyer, unbeknownst to him prior to minutes ago, was fully versed in the long winding song and break away dances from Brian’s stent with the LAPD to the FBI and his intermittent flights of poor professional and personal judgement. The biggest surprise came when his lawyer named-dropped who had referred her to him.
“Sophie Trinh told me that you’d be a challenge.” Ms. Lily smirked above her files, her keen eyes watching him for a reaction. “And I’m the person you want when you have a challenge.”
Brian acknowledged Mia and Dom’s twin questioning looks with a lift of his eyebrows that promised to further explain later. “She’s…ah friend. Definitely and probably the only friend I had at the Bureau.”
Later, Brian’s call to Sophie went unanswered when the meeting was over. But he wouldn’t be deterred in thanking her for what she’d done.
“Plain and simple: keep your nose clean. No more border-hopping trips or acting spontaneously.” Ms. Cataleya Lily laid down the law as she closed her portfolio. She folded her hands over the black leather case that held lines of client secrets and looked across the table at the three without the ubiquitous look of how does this picture fit together that was normally flung their way.
The lawyer’s coarse black hair was swept back into a razor smooth ponytail that flowed straight down her back, equally as straight as her spine. Instead, she leaned in closer without disturbing the neat lines of her suit that were several grades above the standard that the female agents that Brian had known wore and spoke plainly, “On paper, Agent Fuentes is fostering your son through a temporary guardianship. Now that you’re stateside and free of legal entanglements, you’re the natural choice for permanent guardianship as you’ve been named as the child’s father. You can contest the claim--”
Brian didn’t let her finish. “No, I won’t. He’s mine.”
Ms. Lily nodded once to affirm his wishes. “Good, Mr. O’Conner, then I think you won’t have many problems with receiving custody of your son.”
Now, Brian was even more thankful for the coffee as he didn’t have a delay integrating this information or accepting it as his new state of truth. None of them could have guessed that Hobbs’s departure would transform the afternoon celebration from a lulling siesta to a revved up welcome home fiesta at the El Gato Negro once word got out that the Torettos were back in L.A. So, neither Brian, Dom, or Mia were anywhere near well rested, especially Brian whose brain started turning haltingly like a rusted gear each time he thought about his son. His thoughts marching to a cadence of I have a son, I have a son, I have a son each time he closed his eyes.
Mia’s long hair was ineffectively swept up into a ponytail but rebelled against her desire as she directed her questions at the lawyer, “So you are expecting problems. Some or many from the way you phrased Brian’s road to custody.”
The quirk of Ms. Lily’s smooth black brow resulted in Brian sitting up, bracing himself for an impact that would presumably hurt. “The factors working in your favor are that you were formerly a member of the law enforcement community, no longer have an active criminal record, including being officially pardoned for all past crimes, and you continue to have friends in very high places, apparently.” She let the good settle in with enough breathing room to prepare for the bad. “As for the negative: as a former member of the law enforcement community, you have managed to—I may speak bluntly—piss off a lot of people of both sides of the law, particularly the ones in blue, as you’ve demonstrated at least twice to follow your allegiances elsewhere…”
Dom hadn’t said a word but bristled so hard that Brian felt the hairs on his arm rise when he brushed against Dom’s leg as a silent gesture to keep him calm. Dom’s jaw loosened just a tick.
The lawyer continued, “—you’re unemployed, single, and do not a have family.”
“Brian has a family, just like the kid has a family.” Finally, Dom spoke, a challenge underlining his words.
Ms. Lily’s dark brown eyes regarded Dom without a hint of judgement, possibly slotting into place the narrative in the file with her observations to make a deduction about this family and Brian and his son’s presumed places in it. She remained silent for a beat more, just examining the picture presented of the three across from her. Whatever she discerned remained trapped behind the schooled wall of her brown features.
She began again by leaning back into her seat to settle in as if along for a long ride. “Rumor has it that you tend to make the impossible always drift towards possible and that you always manage to escape improbable situations--” the latter including Dom as she shifted her gaze from Brian to Dom to Brian again. “Your history of risk taking may have consequences and I would be a bad lawyer if I didn’t try to anticipate what those consequences would include. Wars are won by being proactive, not reactive.” She placed one fine-boned finger in the air. “No, I’m not expecting a war, just preparing for one if that’s the case.”
“Anything that needs to be signed can be sent here.” Mia told the lawyer before the meeting concluded, which further solidified Dom’s decree of kinship.
After she left, the three sat with cups of strong Brazilian coffee and a big plate of toast, still too oversaturated from the night before to eat anything heavier. Brian’s lawyer, who he was definitely retaining, was right about preparing for the unexpected, which they’d become accustomed to at this point.
The other factors—re: single, unemployed, and no family—were modifiable.
Dom turned a triangle of toast between his fingers listlessly. “We’ll reopen the garage and the store.” The bread kept rotating as a small shower of crumbs rained onto his plate. “And I’m pretty sure you’re a much better mechanic than you are a cook,” which Mia seconded with a resounding nod of her head. Brian might have flicked a small corner of crust at her. Allegedly. “So, what are your thoughts on officially joining the team? I’ll have to ask my partner first,” causing Mia to grin broad and triumphantly because nothing cemented familial bonds or the recognition of equals like masterminding a prison break and stealing a hundred million—allegedly.
Mia returned Brian’s wayward crust. “I think he’s qualified.”
Dom continued chewing with a smile. “But I think you can skip the application. I’m just not too sure about the background check or the references.”
Then they laughed too loudly, bringing the consequences of the night before back with Dom stepping up to cook bacon while Mia started rehydrating them for the rest of the morning.
Coming back to the present where Brian was following Dom off the 110 and shaking out his hands at the first red light to catch them so far. He’d been white knuckling the wheel since they left the house. In the passenger seat, two shoe boxes were strapped down tight. Han’s source had come through with the Jimmy Choos and hooked them up with next season Louboutins which thankfully got Mia’s approval.
Once they had the green light, they followed Marengo Avenue towards downtown and the arena. Traffic in L.A. would never bother him again in comparison to the colossal gridlocks and urban anarchy of driving through the metro zones of Central America. So passing through the predictable stop and go of multiple intersections got him thinking about that last factor that had not been modified. His talk with Dom yesterday afternoon doomed even the thinnest chance of trying to reconcile with Mia and, as for Dom: after a beer and a game of pool that Brian won, he’d said, “We’ll figure it out.” Then the morning arrived to Dom leaving the door wide open to possibilities.
So here Brian was one turn away from the tall white and turquoise high rise, following too closely on Dom’s tail while Mia, with Letty’s help, made the plan for home.
Home, Brian grinned as they drove over the cobbled drive to the guest parking. His smile equaling the magnitude of his nerves when finally he strung the new pieces together. “I’m taking my son home.” Nothing had ever sounded better.
Dom had never seen Brian this nervous or so quiet and jittery as they took a clean glass elevator up to the sixteenth floor. The view of downtown Pasadena demonstrated that maybe being a Fed had its perks.
When the doors opened to the sixteenth floor, the wings slid back just as Brian blurted, “What if I can’t do this?” Which stopped Dom from exiting the elevator.
After hearing Brian’s confession about his old man, Dom knew Brian wouldn’t dare try to tuck tail and run.
Dom barred the door from closing with his right arm, giving them a ten second window until the ajar alarm whined, but more importantly, a window for him to get Brian’s head back into the right place. “You want him, don’t you?” Brian agreed with a nod. “Then why’re we still standing here?” Brian cut him a nervous smile that clued Dom into additional reasons for his leaden feet. “Something else you need to add, O’Conner?” Dom asked right as elevator let them know that it was officially done with their indecision.
“So we—I,” he course-corrected, “might’ve ended things abruptly with her.” Brian said as he motioned vaguely down the hall. “After she broke her cover for me—I mean, to save me, then we got the job done and…” His voice faded out.
“Then you split.” Finished Dom forcing the stubborn elevator door into submission.
Brian exhaled roughly, dropping his chin like he was ready for a fight. “Both of us know that when Uncle Sam comes knocking you don’t get many choices in the matter. After L.A.--” Basically, letting you go, filled the gap, “I was on the run. So getting caught in Miami was the last thing I wanted and my choices were work with the Feds or strap on orange to go back to California to face a laundry list of charges. After the takedown, the strings attached to my deal got pulled, so in order to remain free, I had to go through a long interrogation that would’ve made the Spanish Inquisition proud, then got frog marched into the FBI Academy. The only caveats being: don’t fuck up and no goodbyes.” Which explained some of the salt Rome slung at Brian every once in a while when Miami came up.
Gesturing at the boxes, Dom pointed out, “I guessing you didn’t all the way burn your bridges, cuz she did you a Jupiter-sized solid. But start with sorry, add in those, and then grovel, state your case, whatever. I’m sure they taught you something in that undercover training.”
The past had come full circle, so there were jokes now where only boiling blood and diverted gazes used to occupy the space. “I might’ve learned a trick or two.” Brian admitted now visibly hyped up.
The last thing Dom asked before Brian started moving, “You never said what kind of agent she is?” Because Dom figured hurt feelings would be served up creatively, well beyond the simplicity of the tried and true kick in nuts or pop-shot to the nose if she was really pissed.
“DEA.” Visibly, Brian relaxed with that admission. As if having a crazy, a possible DEA ex made the kick the nuts option the best of alternative.
Still not fully versed in Brian’s mental math, Dom simply replied, “Ok.”
Halfway down the first hallway, Brian exhaled a borderline whisper. “Still can’t believe I have a baby.”
Dom made an amused sound that harmonized with the jangle of his keys. “Yeah, neither can I; I didn’t think you had the hips for it.” Dom gave Brian a cursory inspection from Chucks to top, shrugging in the end. “Just sayin’.”
Beyond the doors of the elevator, the upper interior of the tower formed a hollow rectangle with broad sides containing the long line of odd and even addresses.
Dom walked beside Brian as he veered right, moving silently over the commercial carpet that matched the desert sky above the hilltops surrounding the western flank of Pasadena.
They ended up at the last apartment on the right, buttressed against the modern block of steel windows. Brian clutched the shoeboxes with a death grip as the designer pumps were literally like the Gift of the Maji.
Dom stepped aside. “Knock on the door,” he advised so that Brian didn’t fall back into overthinking. This was Brian’s show; Dom was just riding back-up, so no rushing, only following the pace that Brian had set.
“Yeah, yeah, right.” Brian passed the boxes to Dom then stepped up to knock, pausing briefly to clear his throat that had to have suddenly gone Mojave dry, or at least, Dom’s had when Brian pressed the doorbell and knocked a few times.
When the door opened, Dom’s first impression of DEA Agent Monica Fuentes was that it would be a mistake to get hung up on her gorgeous face and petite package. Anyone who could keep a white on beige spread like hers immaculate despite having an infant in residence was not be messed with.
Fuentes offered Brian a warm yet restrained smile. “It’s been a long time, O’Conner.” She reached up to embrace him.
“Too long Monica.” Brian hugged her briefly, releasing her to introduce Dom. “This is—”
“Dominic Toretto.” She stated, her large almond eyes staring up at him knowingly. “I’m familiar with your work.” She sized him up discreetly and offered a firm handshake in greeting, then ushered them inside with a welcoming gesture. “Though I thought you’d be taller.” Stated directly like the sharp layout of her apartment.
As Dom entered the apartment, he passed Fuentes and sized her up as well, realizing he was good head taller than her without the shoes already. Those stacked heels wouldn’t make much of a difference in this instance.
Dom smiled graciously, then answered, “I’ve gotten that a lot actually. Must be the perspective of the mug shot.”
She welcomed them beyond the entrance, directing them to the peaceful design of her big living room. A baby monitor on the glass end table between white couch and a plush recliner was the first sign of the kid.
Fuentes perched on the arm of the big comfortable chair. “A birdie told me that you’re free and clear which is good to hear because I cancel my trip to the Canary Islands and now use my vacation time to go somewhere…else.” Dom and Brian’s eyes locked, neither wanting to admit that Hobbs’s bluster on the bridge hadn’t been hot air, rather a statement of fact. No one had come for them earlier than Hobbs had because they just weren’t priority enough.
She leaned on the wide arm of the leather solo lounger, giving her the height advantage where they sat on the couch, again watching their reactions.
Brian extended the boxes to her. “Must be the same birdie that told me that you might like these.” Peace offerings, gifts of thanks, bribes—he’d let her interpret their value and meaning.
Monica eyed the boxes appreciably, a cool smirk blooming into a pretty grin as she accepted the pair of boxes. “That birdie is one of the good ones. Remember that.”
Then came the hard stuff. “How did you know Abigail?” Brian popped the cork for why they were here.
“We went to college together and ended up sitting next to each other in our first Poly Sci class and the rest was history. There might have been an epic game of beer pong that decided our respective futures.” Monica smiled fondly, letting the memories of well-spent youth wash over her face. “About fifteen months ago, Abigail texted between flights to tell me about the only FBI Conference that she would ever fondly remember. Described this mystery agent as a ‘down to earth Prince Charming’.”
Dom noted that Monica’s small grin clearly agreed with Abigail’s description of Brian. If any lingering feelings remained, then they blew away as soon as she meet his eyes again to reenter the present and out of an idealized past.
Cautiously, Brian treaded onward to questions that would hurt more with the more he decided to dig. “Why didn’t she find me?”
Monica pursed her lips as her arms locked over her chest defensively. “You do the math and tell me the answer.” Monica watched him expectantly.
Brian answered her challenge with the truth. “We didn’t talk much—or not deeply. We spilt up at the airport. I dropped her off before I drove back to L.A. She flew back to New Orleans.”
The defensive position Monica had taken relaxed, knowing that for once circumstance rather than inaction could be blamed for their situation.
Monica’s eyes shifted to the open window as she began to recount her last memories of her friend. “When I asked her about finding the guy, she said he was dealing with his own problems. So she’d contact him at a better time. After--” she paused, her words stalling suddenly, undoubtedly because there had been no after for Abigail, “he was born, the pieces came together, starting with your name on the birth certificate and a file and bulletins she’d been collecting on you. If she’d survived, Abigail probably would’ve found you before Hobbs had. I guarantee there would’ve been an ass-kicking that would’ve made Rio’s look soft.”
Dom pegged Monica right: she possessed a keen sharpness that probably made her proficient at her job with enough sweet to keep her down to earth. “So here comes the hard part, right?” Dom interjected, because Brian would be too polite to steer the general chitchat towards the burning questions.
Monica regarded him silently for a couple of seconds, a minute curl of her lips lifting her cheeks so naturally that most professional models would’ve been straight green with envy. Dom didn’t mind her sizing him up, enjoying the rare opportunity of having a face from the stacks interacting with the law wild and free, all civil like.
Finally, she exhaled low and gusty like a singer fresh from a warm-up. “Yeah, here comes the hard part. Brace yourself,” Monica told Brian, then took them on a play-by-play of the last fifteen months until their phone call yesterday. No punches were pulled; the story hurt badly, leaving Brian bristling beside him, vibrating with guilty nerves for circumstances far beyond his control.
When Brian’s knee started to faintly jingle, Dom happened to shift in his seat, casually enough to brush their shoulders together which left them too close for Brian to ignore. He picked his eyes up from the hole he stared into the floor, lighting first on Dom from his periphery then over to Monica before offering simply, “Monica, thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” The boxes remained between her hands as she rolled to her feet, inkling her head in the direction of the long corridor bisecting the apartment. Sunlight streaming out of the doors of the eastern façade.
Brian popped up onto his feet like he had springs in his shoes while Dom followed with a better display of outward calm. Since this was Brian’s show, he could be a showcase of nerves this time and Dom would hold down the cool, collected front by remaining quiet with no desire to be nosy until Monica stopped outside the second to last room.
Already Monica had swept across the gulf of the doorway, standing sentry like a guardian angel to an unexpected future that she had been given. “He’s sweet and maybe he’s been waiting for you. I think he understands that something big is happening. I think he’s figured out that I’m just a placeholder. Not the real deal.”
“Real enough when it mattered,” Dom conceded.
Another grin fluttered across her lips. Monica drummed her nails over the designer’s signature imprinted on the top box. “Abi always prepared ahead. Didn’t matter if it was Econ 201 or well, this. She was ready, so everything in inside,” she spoke softly, “I brought back with him. I packed most of it. When the time comes, I know you’re good for the heavy lifting.”
Brian grinned back with his nerves dialed down from ten to four. “I owe you a lifetime of elbow grease. Whatever you need, you’ve got it.” His grin wrangled Dom into the deal by proxy. “He’ll co-sign the same.”
“I’ll hold you to it.” Monica stepped backwards, putting her back on the last door that was partially cracked. “Go on, you’ve kept BJ waiting long enough, and we’ll finish up later. While you guys get acquainted, I’ll see if your style has improved.” Then she slid through the door revealing the outer terrain of a large bedroom and shut the door.
Now they were left outside the open door with no obstacles from entering. Brian’s idling was still mental rather than physical, and Dom would nudge but knew this wasn’t the time to slingshot around him. “You need a green light?” Dom asked. He was ready to present a white flag to get Brian going.
Squaring his shoulders, Brian met Dom’s eyes. “No, I’m ready.”
“Let’s ride.” Then Brian crossed the threshold. “And we’re still not calling him BJ.”
“Most definitely.” That Dom would totally co-sign, brand with fire, whatever, to keep from happening.
The kid had a nice room: warm sunshine filled every corner, making the walls seem wide open, absorbing the energy. Big enough to sit up, the kid steered his head to track the sudden intruders in his quiet space, taking in the pair without releasing his baby claw grip on a plush white car that rattled each time he waved it.
“He’s definitely got your sense of style.” Remarked Dom as the kid began to totter on his blue and white striped onesie butt as they got closer.
“He’s got the eye.” Brian replied quietly and proudly. Just outside the bars of the crib that didn’t look much like a baby jail, Brian bent low, bracing on the top bar to meet the kid’s eyes about a half-foot from one-on-one. “Hey Buddy.”
The kid reached up with the car still in hand, both arms held high and unsteady, and smiled at Brian. Nothing but pink gums and chubby cheeks and a singular focus on Brian, who reached in to lift him up with the careful handling of a glassmaker.
Dom asked him, “You ever hold a baby before?” Eying Brian’s juggling with a wary eye.
Once the kid was braced against his chest, Brian answered, “A few times on the job. Got a little more experience with Vince’s kid.” Though Nico was like a grown man compared to how little the Kid was. “I think I got it.” His voice carried softly as the kid watched him like he was the height of fascinating.
“I think you’re right, O’Conner.” Which must’ve been the phrase that paid, because the Kid waved the car up and tapped it on Brian’s chest like he was saying I have you just as much as Brian had him physically at the moment.
When the car lost the fight with the kid’s grip and gravity, Dom caught it before it made an impact with the ground, bringing it back within grasping distance. Now the kid blinked at him owlishly before taking the car, squeezing it until it squealed and replied with a happy shriek before launching it back at Dom. “He’s definitely your kid.” The baby was caught up in a whirlwind of where to look, bobbing his head from the one holding him to the one with the car.
“Sounds like you’ve had some adventures, too, Bud. Daddy’s listening. Uncle Dom is too, so you can tell us everything. Then we’ll share some stories, too.” The promise to share apparently made the kid more excited.
Love at first sight: this was it. His Pop had said Dom had skipped right over the jealousy of the new baby when Mia was brought home. The moment he saw her, she was his baby: his to love and to protect, even if he had wavered in future. But there were no arrows as far as Dom could see sticking out of his chest or Brian’s, but they’d been struck just the same, feeling like they were alive for this moment. Lived, breathed, would die for this one person.
Brian brushed the tip of his nose against the soft curls on his son’s head. “He can keep the name.” Now Brian’s eyes were clearer than summertime sky.
Everything was becoming tight all of a sudden: Dom’s throat, his eyes, and his chest. “There’s a big butt you’re still dragging.” Still focused on the baby’s growing smile as he swiveled between them.
Now, Brian dropped a small kiss on the baby’s forehead. It would be the first in an impossible count. “I don’t use my middle name. It never fit me well. I always thought it was too John Wayne for me. But maybe it’ll work for him.” Brian shifted the baby up so that they were eye to eye. Blue on blue. “How do you like that, Jack?”
The flash of dimples said plenty.
When Brian said, “What’s happening to your face?” his voice was distorted, now sounding hot and thick like tropic thundershowers saturated in humidity.
The pact with Rome was forgotten. “Mine?! What’s happening to yours?” Dom touched his face. It was wet, probably not as wet as Brian’s. Moments of eternal embarrassment were better left for other days. This was a once in a lifetime moment that had to be savored down the finest detail.
These were just tears of happiness. Like every moment had been leading to this one person entering his life. Brian smiled down at the baby—his baby—and held Jack closer between him and Dom, making sure that the kid knew the men who would always have his back and give him the family he deserved.
Because the past was past and the roads that they’d traveled had finally led them home and had given them a stake in the future. As Dom and Brian listened to Jack’s happy exchange, he pawed at the two of them, refusing to let them go. They accepted that this was the starting line that they’d been looking for.
A/N: Cataleya Lily was inspired by Zoe Saldana who joined Paul Walker in Takers and Vin Diesel in Guardians of The Galaxy. I think her character in Colombiana would've been at home with the Fast Family.
A/N 2: I apologize for fridging Abigail. Essentially I used the plot of Hours to advance the plot line of Brian initially being a single parent since Mia is not his mother in this fic.
A/N 3: This fic/fic series was based on three ideas. I wanted to explore 1) Dom and Brian parenting (together), 2) Dom and Brian making similar choices in different places, and 3) Dom and Brian forgetting the power of their individual/collective attractiveness.
Chapter 4: Four
Moving closer in the right direction.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters herein. The main characters as well as any supporting characters are the property of their creators and Universal Pictures. Any deviation (or deviant behavior) from the originals, however, is mine.
A/N: The song referenced is The Eagles' "Take It To The Limit", which is quite appropos for both Dom and Brian and their journeys in the Fast verse.
More family feels to come.
Of course what happened next was Rome’s fault. Not that Dom actually placed the blame on him.
They were back at the house which was an epicenter of calm these days since both Letty, and now Jack, had been installed safely at 1327. A cause to celebrate, even if shirts and jackets or full well-cut suits were required to apply the rightful shine to the occasion.
Dom had never liked suits. Rocking a good suit was easy when the body and attitude attached to it were at the forefront rather than the fabric and cut. And even an occasion like this where smiles and good spirits were the only acceptable mood, the suits still put a damper on the experience—or, at least from Dom’s perspective. Maybe it was all the negatives that came from his experiences while in suits being hemmed up around his neck into a choking Windsor knot that put him on edge.
Still, the day was stubbornly tuned to good, if not great, albeit just a little special if marked by the fact that Letty was in a dress. Perhaps taking a turn for strange since Roman Pearce had handed Dom a Corona, then tossed an arm over his shoulder before sequestering Dom over by the backdoor steps. An initial silence offered to Dom as the opening salvo to this exchange was enough to make Dom peak around at the various corners of the backyard. Mostly for emergency purposes if Roman was indeed having a stroke or was so overcome with genuine emotion that he couldn’t speak. Faced with Roman’s silence in either scenario was frankly horrifying.
Not as horrifying as Roman’s attempt to snatch the crown for the biggest, definitely not the best, gift that afternoon.
Or maybe Dom was the one who was out of sync since he was partitioning his attention between Brian and Jack and Rome, who had started speaking during Dom’s last look away.
“--I’m just sayin’, I mean, now that I’ve got these new Godfather responsibilities, it’s important we—or I—take care of business. Feel me?” Godfather. So Rome might have been the Godfather, and there wasn’t a drop of hostility after Brian made his choice. Not a bit. Mostly because Brian had come to Dom asking about family traditions since the O’Conner clan seemed to be lacking. I wanna start Jack off right and give him everything that I never had, Brian had said, about a week and a half ago, just shy of three days of Jack living with them.
Dom understood Rome’s eagerness to step up. All of them were tanked up on this sudden swell of responsibility and pride to do right by Jack and each other. “That’s not how the position works.” Dom explained with another fleeting glance at Brian and Jack in the far corner of the backyard with a neat swarm of people humming around their orbit.
But if Rome wanted to make the role of godfather into a Create Your Own Adventure experience, then let him. Dom had no genuine say in how Rome or the universe should handle this unexpected surprise. If anything, they, as a Family, were being restored to a balance, Dom bleakly thought. Get Letty and Jack, lose Vince and Gisele; don’t go to jail; get a pardon; don’t collect two hundred dollars, and if he looked at Han then Dom would see the hurt radiating off Han like a real grey corona.
No amount of smiling could camouflage it. To have that much hurt in the sphere of such happiness echoed a hollow reminder of the nature of balance.
That morning in the little Catholic Church that had reared him and Mia from cradle to now, Mia and Rome had stood up for Jack as the priest sprinkled his forehead and invoked the blessings of saints and another assault on Brian and Dom’s allergies. The shoulder spot belonged to Dom as he stood beside Brian with a hand under Brian’s as the holy water dripped over Jack’s downy soft curls into the white baptismal fount.
“Well, I’m making room in this position like a belly after Thanksgiving. I taking this Godfather thing to the max which includes getting you squared up and squared away.” To catch his breath, Rome paused but slyly rolled his eyes before snapping his fingers to wrangle Dom’s attention. “Naw, I’m pretty sure this falls somewhere in the realm of Godfather responsibilities. I mean, don’t act so ungrateful.” Said because Dom’s listening face had transformed into a don’t snap at me scowl. “I’m kinda throwing you an offer you can’t refuse.” Rome winked hard enough to crack a diamond. “Minus the horsehead and ambush shit.”
Dom took a deep calming breath. This was a Roman Pearce-engineered ambush, meaning no bullets were exchanged—yet, according to Brian’s history lesson, just words. A shit ton of words. Whose meaning was as confabulated as Rome’s choice to buy Jack a six and half foot tall teddy bear. “And this offer is?” Asked Dom, now prepared for Rome to produce his point.
Initially Rome grabbed Dom’s opposite shoulder to steer him frontwards like a gameshow host with a stage full of prizes but slipped away when Dom imparted a fraction of glare on him that warned of a curious mix of bark and bite.
But Rome plowed on: “You see that.” Indicating the far corner with the swarm of people. “That’s family. Grade A Good Family. The type of Family that always gets gifts at Christmas and not cards and phone calls.” Hopefully not more garage-sized gifts like the one Rome hauled over for Jack. “That’s a family that’s made to last if its foundation is solid.”
And Dom had to admit that Rome was not wrong. “Okay.” The shit they’d been through had laid the track but the willingness to ride it out from hell and high water back to home again made them family.
Rome made a disagreeable hiss, then bodily shook Dom to prove a point. “Not okay. We need to tighten up. We’re gonna keep this family together. Together like buttcheeks in the summer and you’re gonna be the one to do it.”
Dom’s eyes gravitated skyward, as if magnetically drawn to some invisible presence who would undeniably give him strength. So he took a stabilizing breath. “I’ll bite: what’s the plan?”
Despite the obvious superficial dissimilarities, Brian and Rome were so much alike. Case in point, the ultra-white, a half-step from manic grinning that they shared when on the cusp on a brilliant idea that most—possibly ninety-nine percent—would consider to be crazy.
“Simple, Dom, simple as the Jackson’s 5 ABCs. Over there,” he motioned at the happy scene of Brian, decked out in a smart blue suit, talking to an equally giddy Jack in a blue onesie at the back of the yard. “—is prime family material. No, make that DILF material, the only baby daddy that’s more acceptable than Visa, because you and I both know that wherever he goes, it’s exactly where you wanna be. That is now your job.”
Rome took a half-step to slide into Dom’s wide periphery, so that he could keep tabs on the scene while maintaining his spot as the tour guide through this exposition. “Look, Brian and Mia tried: three strikes and it was done. You and Letty tried it: three strikes, a presumed death, a resurrection, and y’all are still done. But you and him?” Rome shook his head with pursed lips. “You two keep spinning around the rim without committing to being in or out; now Jackie-O won’t give you a choice at this will-they, won’t-they soap opera nonsense.”
It was scary how Rome could focus in and be so insightful when least wanted. Not that he wasn’t right. Inching towards an inevitable line was where they were now as Brian had taken Dom’s offer to stay at the house as a permanent home and Brian had adopted a few milestone Toretto traditions as his own.
“If you’re looking for clues, then the Clue Godfather is in. Everything you need I got, like, don’t scorch your brain tryin’ to figure out my bruh. Because I’ve known him all of my life and I still don’t know him all the way around, but I know him inside. And he’s like an avocado: hard on the outside until he softens up. Then he’s all mush. But he’s got a core that you’ll see but never crack, because that’s just who he is. And you’ve been working at him too long to give up now.”
Dom might’ve inspected the Corona for insight into Rome’s burst of candor and revelation. None of them were dumb, even though it was easy to pigeonhole them with the gearhead label and keep moving; but Rome had never struck him as being the most perceptive, and certainly not an empathetic champ. Yet his observations held up without the elasticity of mental gymnastics: they were simple truths.
Dom had been certain of what he wanted when he watched Brian bleeding out into the dirt after they dragged Braga back. That was his moment of clarity. Yet, he wouldn’t trade the certainty of what he had with Brian—friendship and brotherhood—for the spin the wheel possibilities of more or less. Dom wanted more—more of everything, frankly, but it would kill him to settle for less.
So Dom offered Rome this much, “Being a good driver means you know your car just as well as you know yourself. Me and Bri—we can do amazing things. Couldn’t have pulled off Rio if we didn’t trust each other.” But he’d told Brian to go and yet Brian came back. “I can put my life in his hands but I still can’t anticipate him.” They kept circling but never gave into the follow through. Whose fault, Dom couldn’t say.
“Dom. Dom. Dom.” Rome repeated like a point of order could be reached by calling Dom’s name alone. Rome sighed tiredly until he took two hard pulls from his beer, finger up for another moment more, then continued,” I’m pretty sure Bri has already met you halfway, so I’m trying to lead you to the waters of shared parenthood, fatherhood, whatever, like a horse that should be thirsty as hell and in need of a drink.” Rome pointed discretely at Brian again with a finality of a point that would meet the final nail in the argument dead on. “Has Brian ever said no to you? Has he not gone everywhere for you and beyond? I’m his brother from another mother, and even we had our limits. I don’t think they exist for you.” Game, set, match. Point made and mic dropped. “Just think on that.”
No use in fighting city hall or Roman Pearce, especially when there was no lie to be detected in anything Rome had dropped on him. “I agree.” Dom confirmed after a long window of quiet. Already mentally shifting gears from now to later, Dom added, “Trust me, things are in motion…Stop and go, but they’re moving.” They’d been close in the garage after Brian had talked to Monica. Then they’d had to hug it out after they left Jack with her after the first visit. Going beyond the tight hold as each of them had tried to find firm ground again obviously hadn’t been the right time to go plowing ahead. But they were moving.
“I think y’all have been in motion for years, Dom. The next ice age will have come and gone by the time y’all finally get it together. Nobody wants you to miss out.” Mia had said just as much when they’d helped Brian move his stuff into Jack’s room.
So Dom’s previous glare smoothed out, falling to a four on the scale of amused to possible ass whooping. “Sundays are for families. I can promise it won’t be now but soon. Somethings take time and ten seconds or ten minutes aren’t enough to make them last, so I’m gonna take my time to make sure that we’re actually in the same place.”
“That’s good and all, Dom, really.” Rome motioned at the family assembled. “I think the rest of us already know that; it’s you two that’ve fallen behind.”
Dom settled into the post-church ritual of shedding clothes and assembling the various pots and pans for the type of celebratory Sunday dinner that would have made his parents proud.
He was juggling a set of mismatched pans for the selections for the grill and a scuffed bottom pot meant for beans and beans alone, according to his mother, when he heard Jack’s happy gurgle behind him.
“So, do you need a hand?” Brian asked from the kitchen doorway with Jack tucked half-turned in Dom’s direction. “You know I’m good for prepping stuff just not the follow through.”
Dom smothered a laugh in his throat which only earned a breezy grin from Brian. Facts were facts, right? “Trust me, I know, O’Conner. Your skills behind the wheel I can appreciate. Your skills in the kitchen…” Dom trailed off to fish for the most polite burn to describe Brian’s lack of culinary talent.
“Makes you question how I survived to adulthood?” Brian bounced Jack once against his chest, adding a burst of baby exuberant chortling to cement his total lack of offense. “Just a lot of tuna sandwiches.” He admitted, grinning wide.
Assembling the cookware on the counter, Dom replied over his shoulder, “I’d always wondered about that. It all makes sense now.”
“Back to my question: need any help?” Now Dom’s got the one-two combo O’Conner baby blues staring him down beyond his shoulder. “I feel like I need to do something right now and everyone else’s got a job to do, so I figured I’d ask.”
Technically, Brian had been right: Dom had given everyone a job. Mia would join him in the kitchen to get the pots for side dishes going while Rome and Letty were assigned to beer and grillables pick-up. Tej had the coveted position of manning Dom’s grill which was a high honor in itself and also had Han helping him out with quality control. But Brian had been benched.
Shrugging at first, Dom started in plainly, “I figured you already had your hands full with Jackie-O,” then moved in to let Jack snare his index finger inside a surprisingly strong two-handed grip. “Besides, it’s been a busy day—busy week, really, and I figured you’d earned some down time if Jack was willing to cut you some slack.”
Two weeks had passed in a blink since they’d dropped in at Monica’s place to now. They’d waged a war of attrition to move Jack’s things from Monica’s in addition to everything Tej and Han researched—and Mia okayed—that Jack would need sooner than later.
They could barely look at each other without getting red faced after the carseat-stroller debacle. “Hey, I still think those carseat instructions made sense if we read Mandarin.” Letty’s headshake haunted them along with the question of Did you really come up with the plan to pull that safe through Rio and tag team Shaw at the airstrip? Because I’m not seeing how right now.
Over the years, Dom had learned how to accept occasional defeat. But the car seat situation hadn’t gotten the best of him or Brian. “The fact is that we got it together and apart, so now the kid can go whenever we wanna take him.” He’d only acknowledge defeat if the transformer-esque device fell apart like an old clunker. “Or maybe, we should enjoy the fact that he can’t go very far right now and call it a win.”
“Maybe, just a tie,” Brian smiled once with a sharp flicker in his eyes as he looked from Jack to Dom. Then he shifted his grip around Jack’s back and belly then slowly pushed Jack into Dom’s chest. “Now, I’ll take the offer of a hand right now, so.” Which was when Brian escaped the kitchen, leaving Dom and Jack to blink after him.
Looking down at Jack, who wobbled at the sight of Brian’s disappearing back, was now looking at Dom with a miniature version of what the heck on his face, Dom offered reassurance with a gentle pat on the back. “Good luck with that for the next eighteen years and beyond.” He could hear Rome’s big mouth trying to push him to make a move or drop a word. Just figure it out.
“Don’t worry, Jackie-O,” Dom promised, “I’ll be there to smooth the edges.” No matter what position he ended up filing in the kid’s life.
“Damn right.” Brian called back as he reentered the kitchen. Dom opened his mouth to snark back but stopped as he looked Brian over, or mostly, at the crazy tactical vest that was strapped to Brian’s chest like he was preparing to take on Reyes, Shaw, and Braga that afternoon.
Brian waved his hand over the Harness of Doom. “Cool, right?” He took Jack back from Dom and deftly corralled Jack into the seat, and lowered his hands like he’d dropped the mic on the situation. “Hobbs suggested it.”
Of course, Hobbs had. But Brian didn’t leave it there. Because why would he. “Now I have more than one hand to give you.” Which brought them back to square one. From six years ago to now, this easiness buoyed them along a stream of possibilities.
Jack might have looked like Brian to a crazy degree but his expression was one hundred percent in line with Dom’s. “Call me old-fashioned. This might be the only time I think it’s important to keep both hands on the wheel.” Jack’s tiny jerky head nod totally agreed. “I think you’re out-voted two to one, Bri.”
Brian started to make a smartass gesture until Jack’s spit soaked fist caught him on the elbow. Like he was saying bad daddy, bad, so Brian churned through a series of grins until he landed back on mischievous.
“We’ll see how you feel about the awesomeness of an extra hand when you’re on diaper duty later.” Brian poked Jack’s soft belly. “Because that’s a situation that makes me believe in magic or extra dimensions.” The kid crapped like he ate dump trucks full of food.
“I think putting on that Daddy crown is making you a little crazy—or just a little crazier. It’s alright though.” Dom reached out to stroke Jack’s cheek. “Can’t blame it on the lack of sleep though.” Because Jack went down for the night like a champ.
“Jackie-O likes the classics.” Or just the song that Dom had yet to identify that Brian seemed to hum to him each time he got fussy. Brian took the large pan from the counter, holding it between his hands and below Jack’s line of sight with unwavering enthusiasm. “So far no colic and no sniffles, which were a real thing, according to Monica. So taking the ‘W’ while we can is definitely a part of the game.”
“Alright, you’ve convinced me. Start filling the pots with water so we can get the rice and beans going.” That task, Dom knew Brian could handle with or without Jack’s intervention.
From the front, they heard the counterpoint slams of car doors closing and Rome’s boastful bellow of “It’s on now!” from the drive, and knew that it was time to get serious.
Dom thought about Rome’s little talk, basically his attempt to tap Dom’s bumper to speed him up, and considered this moment: him and Brian side by side in the kitchen with Jack calmly watching the action and felt a flickering emotion like he was stepping through time. Hadn’t his Mami and Pop done the same thing all those Sundays ago?
He interrupted Jack’s attempt to fist a baby handful of rice into his mouth and received a warning hiccup in response. Brian shushed him then dusted off the rice sprinkling Jack’s small fist. He dropped a quick kiss afterwards, and started to hum the same familiar tune that was just out of reach.
“Is that--” Dom started, pausing when Brian passed him a pot full of water.
Brian stepped around Dom to find the salt and dropped an approved palm’s worth in the water. “The Eagles, yeah. My mom did the same when I was little.” A brief chuckled followed. “She’s gonna laugh so hard when I finally tell her.”
There was a memory associated with that song. Something old and dusty in his mind’s rearview mirror but Dom remembered his Pop singing off—key with the Eagles, promising between bars that Dom would understand one day.“ You’ll have to tell me what she says.” A better follow-up than you have a mother?, because this was only the second time that Brian had ever mentioned her or the fact that she was still around.
Brian brushed against Dom’s shoulder as he maneuvered back to his previous station near the sink. “Don’t worry you’re invited. I’ll need to keep the scales balanced, so I don’t get totally outnumbered.” A little color might have filled his cheeks as he realized that he’d asked Dom to meet his parents—or mom—in a roundabout way.
Choosing not to pick apart the moment any further, Dom motioned for the large sack of frijoles Tego’s ma had insisted he bring back to the States. “Just tell me when but only after we make sure that we’re actually eating this afternoon and not just staring at boiling water.” Dom emptied the bag. “I’m sure we’ll have plenty to talk about before then.”
“If there are any Corona left by the time Jackie-O goes down, then I think you’re on.”
“Where do you think you are, O’Conner? There are always Corona around.”
They hadn’t found the limit but they were rounding the bases for all the major points. But they were getting there in an order that made sense for them. The stops along the sequence of past, present, and future didn’t matter when it seemed that he and Brian were bound to do it together.
Jack made it easy to navigate the events of after dinner. He went down for a nap about five minutes after the grace which led to Brian waving off Dom’s offer to take Jack upstairs. Even without Rome’s less than subtle eyeballing, Dom had made a plate for Brian and left it waiting for Brian’s return, which received an approving nod volleyed back at him.
The smiles of varying degrees that he got from both ends of the table told Dom that they were definitely in go territory.
Brian took down the dishes with Han’s quiet help as the rest of them carted gifts into the house. Rome’s gigantic teddy bear riding in a drivable Ferrari was gently bundled off to garage until a permanent situation could be setup.
Letty helped Dom arrange the bear and the rest of its high tech entourage. “Rome realizes that we’ll be waiting a longass time for Jack to ride around in that car. But that bear isn’t getting near him. Poor kid doesn’t need to be scarred for life.” Memories or not, Letty was still fiercely protective of anyone deemed hers, and Jack had settled nicely into being her nephew.
“Don’t worry, as far as I’m concerned the bear decided to go joyriding and lost his car. Except the car came back and he didn’t.” Rome’s heart had been in the right place, but the bear was definitely the wrong size. It was less of a cuddly bear and more in line with the man-eating variety.
It was like they had fallen back into the brief period before he’d gone to Lompoc and Letty became his girl. They were friends who worked together like well-oiled cogs. Until Dom had it again, he hadn’t realized how much he’d missed just being simpatico with Letty.
By the time, they finally had summertime sunset, the house was nearly empty. Tej and Rome had gone off to their place while Dom had made a last ditch effort to get to Han before he went off to parts unknown before Tokyo.
Mia was the first to fall back into a regular routine. Bright and early would start her transition back into work at the hospital. Whereas Letty decided to head over to the old garage to work on her Interceptor. Dom was wary of the car in the same way that he had given the Charger a wide berth for years following his father’s death. This was one of the ways that he and Letty had always differed: he knew how to ride out the caution flag until he decided to stop whereas Letty kept going until she ran out of road and even then there was no guarantee that she would stop.
He was starting up the stairs when he heard the familiar tune that had been hovering at the edge of his memory. Dom stepped back down the stairs then hooked left until he walked into the cool sunset dark of the living room. When Dom entered the living room, his eyes were immediately drawn to Jack who had lifted his head up to look around from his position on Brian’s chest.
Jack pushed up from under the double net of Brian’s hands, lifting his cap covered head as if to say Extraction, please, and mouthed wordlessly up at Dom. It became apparent that after Brian finished cleaning the kitchen, he moved on to Jack who was clean and decked out in a new white and baby blue striped onesie with a matching cap. Apparently, Brian had a thing about caps, and even though it was far from cold in the house and definitely not outside, Dom wasn’t going to push the boundary so early by disagreeing.
Dom carefully extricated Jack from the firm confines of Brian’s hands that kept him steadily secured on Brian’s chest. “So, there’s not much I can do about the hat, Jackie-O, but I’ll spring you from the joint instead.”
Jack murmured a string of sounds that sounded grateful to Dom. “If you decide to keep yourself busy or just take a nap again, then we’ll can it even.” Dom said as he secured Jack against his chest. It amazed him at how small Jack was, even if he knew the kid had been smaller a little over six months ago.
Taking Jack’s gummy smile as confirmation that Jack supported the plan, Dom began to head towards the stairs when he looked down at Brian’s cell which was streaming the song that Dom recognized after hearing its chorus. A tune he should have recognized from his childhood in the backseat of his dad’s Charger; his father humming offbeat to the dreamy harmony of guitars and lyrics that were now hauntingly applicable to Dom’s life.
Dom left the music playing behind them as he carried Jack upstairs. “Let’s go check out the sweetest stash of toys in Echo Park,” and Jack gummed at Dom’s shirt in anticipation.
Jack went down easy as if completely in line with Dom’s plan. He stepped quietly into the living room again as the song reached its climax. Touching Brian’s shoulder triggered Brian to jerk awake with his hands immediately buckling down to clutch at the soft bundle of baby that had been previously attached to his chest.
Dom halted the rest of the impending freakout with a firm hand on Brian’s chest. “C’mon.” Dom said softly. “And before you get worked up, Jack’s upstairs already.”
Sleep made Brian’s voice raspier, almost a whisper as he yawned and stretch across the couch. “I hadn’t realized it had gotten so late. Jack wanted to nap, so I started the music and I guess…yeah, me too.” His white tee rode up during that last shoulder lift and leg stretch but Brian didn’t seem to notice, though Dom did, absolutely.
Now Dom huffed out a low chuckle, extending a hand to get Brian up and moving preferably upstairs as well. “Don’t worry about it, Bri. You’re on the kid’s dime now, so you gotta chase him until he shuts his eyes.” He thought about the Sunday spread they’d laid out and found another easy culprit of the Sunday-it is. “A plate full of rice and beans may have something to do with you going down hard.” Possibly harder if the gears going in Dom’s head stopped churning, let up of the throttle, and let him coast through the next part, a smooth-handling impetus of his own making.
Brian scrubbed his face tiredly until he was awake enough to make out the intention of Dom’s proffered hand. Brian rolled upwards now standing within inches of Dom who could smell the soft sweet scents of baby and baby shampoo on Brian. And suddenly Dom’s eyes became a little wider, breaths deeper, and the grip on Brian’s hand more reluctant to be released, like a magnetic mooring that just kept towing Dom closer and closer.
Dom blinked when he was close enough to deduce that Brian wore no aftershave. Then Rome’s words came charging back at him like a door to the face, because Brian hadn’t flinched or shifted, just stood there while Dom got up his grill, just shy of territorially, and hadn’t blinked. Even now without a word uttered, Brian was still saying yes.
So Dom backed off—just a little, didn’t stretch the natural gruff edges of his voice when he suggested, “Let’s head up. My mom said ‘couches are for sitting, not sleeping’. And we’re not breaking the rules now.” Not after today had been all about tradition.
The plan started off right as Brian climbed the stairs ahead of Dom, providing a substantial opportunity to look at Brian with unrestricted impunity. The final conclusion: Dom liked this make, model, and everything else included. No questions asked and wanted to experience for himself all of the special features—good and bad.
The plan followed the curve at the top of the stairs to Jack and Brian’s room where Brian could see that Jack was asleep again and comfortable under the honey glow of nightlights and a mural of an empty road leading directly into the smiling sunshine. Made possible by Tej and Han before Jack could be brought home.
But Dom didn’t let Brian cross the threshold; no, Dom pulled him back with a strong tug on his t-shirt. “This way,” Dom nodded at the door at the end of the hall: his room.
He waited out Brian’s long look until Brian started moving as well, following as Dom had hoped until they were inside of Dom’s room. Brian watched him expectantly as the door closed. “So.” Brian had only looked at the bed once.
So Dom dropped his chin and dug in. “Bigger bed, better mattress, better for your back,” Dom rattled off. Expecting resistance or questions from Brian now that they were faced with another grave intersection. “This is an invitation for--” Brian followed the path of Dom’s fingers as they unbuttoned his shirt. “—more or better. Your choice?”
After another beat, Brian joined him by toeing off his Chucks and pulling his shirt over his head before working on his jeans. It seemed right that they’d already drifted to their favored sides without conflict, with Brian going left while Dom settle into the right.
When they were settled in comfortably with only the groan of the springs to disrupt the quiet, Brian chose to break the peace. “I already have somewhere to sleep,” he stated with minimum transparency despite Dom knowing instinctually where he was headed. Because fuck transparency, right. They always figured their shit out.
Since Rome insisted that Dom needed to reach Brian half-way, Dom considered this moment just as dangerous as driving head on with no intention blinking or swerving. “And I said you had a choice of more or better and you chose to stay.” Dom had just stepped on the gas.
Brian lay on his side facing Dom, his voice finally free of the weight of sleep, though he was positioned for just that. “Why now, Dom?” Because there had been opportunities before. Miles of false starts before now without completion.
“Because I know you’re gonna take care of Jack, but someone has to take care of you, too.” A job that had been vacant for too long if Brian’s gleaned history and Rome’s exposition were to be believed.
Of course, Brian would try to deflect. “What about you, Dom?” Flicking his finger between them. “This can’t just be about me or Jack.”
Dom started moving, first by sitting up and eventually leaning over to slide into the potent stretch of eye to eye. So close that no lies would be seen. “I’ve been good for a while.” Every instance of self-sacrifice banked to earn interest. “Consider this me trying to make the situation more equitable. I had a reminder--” via the Godfather “that you’ve always looked out for me. No matter what. It’s been you and me. Just us. We fought like hell to get back here; why would we fight one of the few good things we’ve always had? And if there was ever a time for me to shake off the dust…” Obviously it was now.
Brian cracked a smile that was at its center soft and so genuine that Dom yearned to taste. “We’re definitely doing this wrong.” That smile still looked sweeter than candy, leaving Dom’s hunger to reignite now that it was so close. So sweet, it could all be so sweet.
Focus. Dom looked up from Brian’s smile that now slotted into knowing as he tracked Dom’s reaction. “According to whose book?” No rules had ever mattered, except theirs, which explained the circuitous choices that led them back to L.A. and this bed. They were as close to an end as beginning at this moment whether Dom got that taste or they simply laughed or rolled away to sleep; neither was leaving this bed.
Brian propped himself up on his elbow. “Everyone’s.”
Dom snorted rudely. “When have we ever played by the rules, Brian? Don’t start trying to clutch your pearls now that you’ve got a kid.”
“I know many kinds of clutches, Dom, so the last thing I’m gonna start holding are pearls.” Said just as Brain’s hand slid onto Dom’s bicep to cross the width of Dom’s chest then up and over the thick rise of Dom’s neck, bringing Dom the rest of the way.
If the day had started with a blessing, then it ended with a covenant—a promise never to be broken as they kissed until breathless, relying on the other’s forehead for support and air, finally moving in the direction in which they were always meant.
Brian breathed against Dom’s mouth. “Can you handle slow, Dom?” His tone dropping back into its sleep register.
“Whatever we need I can handle, just let it ride.”