Taking on Reyes.
It’s a dumb idea and Dom knows it. But at this point, the shit they’re in is stacked so high above their heads, that something dumb is just about their only option. And at least this way, if it works, the payout is going to put them up for life.
If you’re going to play, go big, or go home.
“You’re insane,” Vince says, and for a moment, Dom basks in the familiarity of it, of having his best friend by his side, being a cynical asshole at every turn. Only this time, Vince can back up his shitty commentary. He’s been down here for almost five years, knows the lay of the land. Knows Reyes.
Dom grabs his shoulder, hauls him in for a hug, Mia already against his other side. “Not much choice. Deus ex machine, Vince. You with me?”
Once, he needn’t have asked. But Vince has a wife now, a kid. A life that doesn’t include Dom anymore, and damn if that doesn’t sting. Another regret.
Vince rubs a hand over his face. “Of course I am, you stupid fuck. But… there’s someone you should meet, before you start planning.”
“Who?” Mia asks, perking up. Anything to raise their odds. She’s already given up so much for Dom. He has to do this, for her, if not for himself. To give her back the life she gave up when she got him off that bus.
Vince grins, that shit-eating one he always gets when he knows something Dom doesn’t, all the way back to third grade when he figured out the teacher’s testing system and wouldn’t tell Dom how he could predict when there’d be a quiz. “Reyes is the biggest fish down here, but he ain’t the only one. His main competitor is a guy outta Miami. He does decent business. I’ve worked for him a couple times. He’s clean. Well, cleaner than Reyes.” He scratches his beard, awkwardly. “If I’d know the train job came from Reyes, I never woulda taken it. But he filtered it through so many people, I couldn’t tell. It’s kind of a miracle those assholes didn’t shoot me on sight. But then I guess I’m not that big of a fish myself. Just a driver.”
He shrugs it off and Dom feels something ease in his chest at the knowledge that Vince didn’t dupe them with that botched job. The reason for half their troubles right now. An honest mistake. Dom was almost sure, but he was still afraid that after all these years, he might not be able to read Vince anymore. At least not as well as he did before everything went to shit.
“Anyway, if we’re hunting Reyes, Carter is a good starting point.” And there it is again, that grin, I know something you don’t.
“Call the man.”
The café they meet in is so painfully cartel owned that Dom wonders if there are any clean cops in this entire damn city. He sees three deals – two drugs, one weapons – go down before they reach their table. It’s like these people aren’t even trying.
Once Vince announces who they’re here for, they get shown to a corner booth on a raised dais, a throne consisting of multiple chairs. View of the entire room and the street outside. Sweet place without being exposed, thanks to some strategically placed potted plants.
Flashy but careful. Dom thinks he might like this guy’s style. The waitress bubbles at them, Mr. Carter will arrive shortly, would they like something to drink while they wait, they have cakes, too, how about chocolate for the lady?
They all take a coffee, Mia takes the cake. They wait.
The backdoor behind the bar opens five minutes after their order arrives and Vince slinks low in his seat, a smirk in his beard. The chick coming through is tiny, as skinny as Mia but an entire head shorter, despite heels. She’s in a pretty bit of air and nothing, a summer dress you’d only get away with in Rio, big sunglasses in her blonde, blonde hair.
The package says she’s all fluff, but the knife strapped to her thigh, not even concealed, and the look in her eyes says she’s here to fuck you up.
She’s blinding, which is why it takes Dom a moment to register her companion. Tall, lithe, board shorts and a loose button up, fashion disaster all the way, tan but white, shiny teeth and then his face registers and Dom feels his own freeze.
Beside him, Vince is howling with suppressed laughter.
Brian O’Conner makes his way over with a confident swagger in his step, his little killer friend following on his heel. Vince stands to greet him with a handshake and a clap on the shoulder, beaming like an idiot. Brian beams back and only rolls his eyes at the obligatory ‘Buster’.
Then he turns to Dom and Mia, who sit, frozen, staring.
“I take it you went for the shock factor?” he asks, dry as the desert.
Vince snorts. “Who’da believed me anyway?” he drawls as he drops back down with a wave at the girl. She nods back, civilly.
Brian shrugs, agreeing. “Guys, meet Anna. Anna, Dom and Mia Toretto. I’ve told you about them.”
“Your stint as a cop,” she offers, apparently trying to place them, head cocked to one side, studying them.
“Same as Vince,” Brian confirms, then sits, sprawling in one of the only two chairs left. Anna perches herself on his knee without hesitation, still staring at Dom, who stares back evenly.
He has no idea what the hell happened for Vince to be friendly with the cop who fucked up their entire family, but here it is. Twilight Zone.
“Thanks,” Brian’s girl finally chirps, staring contest apparently over.
“For what?” Mia asks, expression tight.
“Fucking Bri over badly enough to send him running all the way to Miami. Never would have met him otherwise.” She beams.
Brian rolls his eyes, jostles the knee she sits on. “Play nice.”
Dom opens his mouth, about to give the little bitch a piece of mind about who fucked over who, when Vince, of all people, puts a hand on his arm, restraining him. “Buster lost his job over what he did for us, Dom. Got his face plastered all over. I was mad at him, too, but the shit evens out. Besides, don’t start with those two. You won’t win.”
And just like that, Dom remember why they’re here. Swallows the rage that sometimes tastes like guilt and all the bitterness from a lifetime of fuck-ups, and asks, “So you’re the ones opposing Reyes?”
“Nah,” Anna supplies, shaking her head. “That’d be Mr. Verone. He’ll be out in a few. We just work for him.”
There’s a joke there Dom isn’t getting, but one look at Mia tells him he’s not the only one.
Five years, god knows how many thousand miles, on the wrong side of the law and down the rabbit hole and suddenly: Brian O’Conner. What are the odds?
Damn it, Brian looks good. All relaxed and grown up, no more curly hair. Instead he’s got stubble and new muscles, looks like a man. Those eyes are still killers, though. Mia’s expression says she can’t decide whether to smile or scream.
The waitress brings two coffees then, without them having been ordered, places them with a big smile, disappears wordlessly. In her wake, awkward silence spreads.
“So,” Anna finally offers, an ice-breaker. “Vince said you want to take on Reyes. What makes you think you can?”
They have the address of every stash house in the city, that’s what makes them think they can take him on. But Dom hesitates over saying it out loud, because, goddamn, it’s not like he’s never been burnt before. It’s not like he’s never been burnt by Brian before, no matter what last name he calls himself at the moment.
What if he tells them and they do the job themselves? What if they try to kill them to get rid of the competition? What is they hurt him, hurt Mia or Vince to get the information, get the chip? What if Vince is falling for an act?
Dom remembers a time when he was sure of every step he took, but that time has long since passed. Lompoc took away most of his cock-sure attitude and Brian Spilner took the rest with him in his fucking Supra. Dom still marvels, sometimes, at how he could have misread the kid to fucking badly.
And now here he is, all the puppiness of youth gone, a hardened man. Someone a lot more dangerous than the Buster ever was. Anna wears a knife on her thigh, yes, but Brian doesn’t bother to hide the piece in his waistband either. Casually armed is rarely a good look on someone you want to do business with.
In the end, the decision is taken from him by a man in his late thirties, tan, tall, in a bespoke suit, swooping in. He places a caress on Anna’s cheek as he squeezes past her, trails fingers down her shoulder and arm, takes her hand and pulls her into his lap as he moves to take over the last chair. She follows from Brian’s knee to his without a hitch, smirking secretively. Brian just snorts and slouches further in his seat.
“From what I have heard,” the newcomer – Carter Verone, has to be – “our friend Reyes is missing a small but valuable object, containing several secrets he would hate for us to discover.”
Brian raises an eyebrow. “How small?” he asks, like he already has an idea.
Verone grins. “GPS chip. With a certain route programmed into it, if my informant is right.”
Vince nods before Dom can make a decision, and the trio across from them breaks into laughter.
When they’re done, the man leans forward. “Apologies, I have yet to introduce myself. My name is Carter Verone and if you are willing, I think we could help each other out.”
Dom and his crew take the money. Verone takes Rio.
Dom provides talent and the chip. Verone provides hardware and as much protection as his pull in the city allows him.
It sounds like a good deal, until ‘protection’ shows up at their commandeered warehouse, a double feature of tan, blonde and Californian.
“Aw, hell no,” Vince mutters, although he sounds more like he’s dreading what’s next than hating Brian in general. Which might be the weirdest thing about all this. Vince and the Buster seem to be getting along.
Verone saunters in a beat later. The bespoke suits seem to be a thing. Dom wonders why. He’s dripping sweat in just a tank.
“Mr. Toretto. I like what you’ve done with the place. Now, I promised security. So here are my two most capable men – “ Anna actually kicks him in the ankle, Mia chokes – “people, at your disposal. They’ll take good care of you and yours until our business is concluded.”
And keep a very close eye on everything, Dom guesses. Keeps his mouth shut. Sets his jaw. “We appreciate it.”
Mia keeps looking at Brian and then away again, like she thinks the sight of him is going to burn. Verone nods, pleased, and hauls in Anna for a brief kiss, which she returns, along with a fond pat to his cheek. Old lovers, Dom guesses, which is a bit freaky because she looks early twenties at the most.
Then Verone turns and gives Brian the exact. Same. Treatment. This time he earns himself and eye roll along with a muttered, “Alpha male bullshit,” that’s loud enough to carry across the open space.
All three of them? Really?
Verone saunters back out, deus ex suit, leaving Dom’s crew of six facing the two newcomers.
“Dom, Mia, Vince,” Brian greets, nodding at them in turn. “Where’d you want us?”
Not here at all.
“You know what Bri does,” Anna pipes up, “and I’m pretty good with tech these days. And a semi decent driver, too.”
Brian winces, then chuckles, a story there. They’re damn familiar with each other and, well, now Dom knows why. He shakes his head, shakes off the thoughts of Brian, of betrayal, of all that might have been if things hadn’t gotten so fucked up. Waves them over to the drawing board, where they come to a halt pretty much on top of each other, Brain standing tall, Anna melting into him, his arm around her waist, perfectly at ease.
Bygones, Dom tells himself, shoves the sudden surge of grief down for later inspection. LA and everything that happened there is in the past.
For now, it’s time to make sure they have a future.
All of them.