2011 - Dominican Republic
‘So, why’d you leave LA?’
Dom stared at the empty bottle hanging from Han’s fingers, swinging to and fro like a pendulum. He focused on it, the movement keeping his mind calm, adrenaline tempered by tequila. Ten feet away, the water lapped at the shore.
‘Shit went down.’
Han sat forward in the deck chair, bare feet sinking into the fine sand. ’Letty said it was an undercover cop.’ The words crawled under his skin. He really didn’t want to talk about Brian. ‘Said he should have arrested you but instead he let you go.’
‘I totalled the Charger racing him.’ Out of context, he knew Han wouldn’t understand. Wouldn’t understand with context either. ‘He gave me the keys to his car.’
‘So… an undercover cop knew you were guilty but he just let you walk?’
Han shook his head, a wry smile on his lips. ‘Guy must have had some hard on for you.’
Dom’s head snapped up. ‘He betrayed me.’
‘Seriously? Do you even know what it takes to get into the LAPD? And once he’s in, it’s a couple of years as a beat cop; shitty pay, shitty hours, shitty places, shitty uniform. All just to get his hands on the holy grail, the shiny detective’s badge. Better pay, better hours, out of uniform. And then you come along, a crazy petrolhead who races the streets illegally, hyjacks trucks in his spare time. And suddenly that one thing the guy’s been working for his whole life, suddenly it’s not so important anymore?’ He laughed. ‘Hate to burst your bubble but you’re not that pretty.’
‘He probably just told them I threatened him at gun point.’
Han shrugged one shoulder. ‘Maybe. If the traffic cameras didn’t pick up what really happened and there wasn’t a single witness. Otherwise, he’s either on the run or in jail. And God help him if he’s in jail.’
Even in the heat, Dom felt cold, skin prickling. ‘He’s not in jail. I saw news reports. They were looking for him: LAPD, the Feds….’
‘But you never asked yourself why he did it?’
Dom looked out over the rolling waves. ‘Every day.’ Which was true. ‘I just don’t think I want the answer.’ That was a lie.
Present Day - Las Vegas
The team rolled in to town over a day, leaving brightly coloured imports and dark American muscle with a selection of valet parking attendants up and down the strip, to be stowed in the basement parking lot of various hotels and casinos. Brian and Dom were staying back at Aria. Mia was treating herself to a room at the Bellagio, somewhere Brian refused to go because he said the memory of Dom’s proposal still brought him out in a cold sweat.
Han and Gisele had a suite at Caesar’s Palace. Han said it because that to him was old Vegas and refused to listen when Dom tried to explain why it wasn’t.
Rome and Tej were at Luxor. Dom hated the place because the slanted elevators and sheer drops from the balconies outside the bedrooms freaked him out.
Vince and Leon checked in to Venice, mostly due to Leon misunderstanding, misinterpreting or possibly misreading the name of the hotel. Still, they said the rooms were lush and that the recreation of the canals and St Mark’s Square were insane.
They came together in a sports bar on the ground floor of Aria, ordering burgers and beers, talking about nothing much while the Pens beat the Flyers on the screens behind the bars.
A couple of months had passed since their last visit to Sin City. Brian hadn’t been joking in his refusal to have a shotgun wedding without Dom’s extended family being at least invited, even if they hadn’t for a moment imagined that Vince would grace them with his presence. But Vince, like the others, could still surprise them.
For weeks after they got back to LA they didn’t say a word. Brian wasn’t even sure Dom would hold him to his ‘yes’ once they were back in the real world. But after a month, Dom cheerfully called across the garage and asked him when they were going back to Vegas.
Vince picked up on it in an instant. ‘Why do you want to back to Vegas, man? You’ve only just got home.’
‘It’s Vegas, Vince,’ Dom retorted, ‘Why wouldn’t we want to go back? Besides, Brian and I have unfinished business.’
He was instantly suspicious, probably thinking he was missing out on something illicit at worst, illegal at best. ’What kind of unfinished business?’
Brian looked up from under the hood of a Nissan, caught Dom’s gaze and his wry smile.
‘He made me a promise he still needs to follow through on.’
‘Oh, yeah?’ Vince’s leer was so familiar it barely registered with Brian any more. ‘What did you promise, snowman?’
‘He promised to marry me.’
There was a muted crash from the open office, and Leon stuck his head around the doorframe. ‘Dom’s getting married?’
Vince just stared at them. Brian was fairly certain Vince’s concept of marriage was stuck in the fifties, he didn’t expect whoops of joy, but he had thought they’d got over the whole Dom sleeping with another guy thing fifteen years ago, when Mia had first caught them fucking on the hood of the orange Supra at the house in Echo Park. Lot of water under the bridge since then, a lot of other stuff too, just like Bob Dylan sang.
They’d taken different roads. No choice. Dom had taken the out Brian had offered him a lifetime ago; out of the life he’d built that had come crashing down around him, out from under the falling net, out from the crushing expectations of his family. Brian had watched him go, never expecting to see him again. But their roads ran parallel, and they were fated to cross paths time and time again until they finally realised there was little point in remaining apart when they were stronger together.
The adrenaline fuelled fling they’d had in LA was lost in the past. But an uneasy alliance had quickly become an unbreakable friendship and everything had changed in Rio. Danger was an aphrodisiac for them both. Running from bad guys dead set on killing them, jousting with the cops, ducking bullets; it all got the heart rate racing and the blood pumping. And all the gorgeous cars they’d boosted in the early days of planning the heist…. Well, they were no good for precision driving with an eight by seven by twelve wall safe hitched to the back of them, but those long, sloped hoods were made for sex.
Vince growled. ’Are you fucking serious?’ and Dom nodded, happy, chilled. Not a care in the world.
‘I got down on one knee and everything.’
Brian groaned, shook his head, ducked back down under the hood like he hoped the engine might eat him.
‘Fuck.’ He sounded more awed than disgusted.
‘In the bar in the Bellagio.’ Brian couldn’t help himself. Vince and Leon pissed themselves laughing. It almost felt like it had been worth it.
Now Vince and Leon knew, Brian made Dom tell Mia - he’d been the one to ask after all. As far as Brian was concerned, this was on him. She demanded to know when, because she needed a new dress. Maybe from Rodeo Drive. Dom had blanched at that. After they’d returned to California, Dom bought an old farm house with a substantial barn, at the outer edge of LA’s sprawl. Money wasn’t a problem; what they’d stolen was well hidden, and the deal they’d made in Rio meant no one was on their tail.
He and Brian had converted the barn and fitted it out with everything required to make a go of a legit, above board garage, fixing everything from a basic family four by four, to a fully tricked out Japanese racer. Dom’s name attracted the street scene and no little curiosity, and their reputation was still gathering momentum. They even paid their taxes.
‘Whenever Brian agrees to come back to Vegas with me,’ Dom said, in answer to his sister’s demand for timescales.
‘Because that’s where the chapels are?’
She was on her feet in a second. ‘Oh, no, Dom. If you think my only brother and my ex-boyfriend are getting married at a cheap strip mall, you’ve got another thought coming.’
‘They’re just words, Mia! It’s a five minute thing.’
‘Maybe. But they’re words that mean something, you of all people know that. Brian’s the one and only person in the world you’ve ever wanted to say them to, so you’re going to do it right.’
‘Right’ still meant Vegas, Dom and Brian were adamant about that. But not a wedding chapel, Mia was adamant about that. Vegas had bought into same sex marriage with the vivacity of a gambler seeing a whole new line of credit opening up. Mia called the Mandalay Bay Hotel and they fell over themselves in their desire to help.
‘I told Mia, you have to tell Roman,’ Dom reminded him a couple of days later. Or maybe he wasn’t reminding him, its not like Brian had forgotten and Dom would have known that. ‘Don’t tell me you’ll happy come clean in front of someone who’d still like to pound you into the pavement, despite everything you’ve done for him, but you’re scared of telling a guy who worships the ground you walk on.’
Brian scoffed at that. ‘I thought we were talking about Rome? Peace? About yay high.’ He lifted his hand, and the wrench it was holding, about a foot above his own head.
‘He adores you.’ Dom shrugged. ‘Not that I can’t see where he’s coming from....’
‘You are dreaming.’
‘I’m not saying he sees the same… attributes I do, but he’d die for you, and I appreciate that.’
‘Are you sure we’re talking about the same guy?’ He asked like he couldn’t quite believe they were having this conversation across the garage.
‘You know we are. Leon!’
Leon popped his head out of the office. ‘What’s up, bro?’
‘How does Roman feel about Brian?’
‘Rome? That guy loves you, dude. No question.’
Dom smirked. ‘Told you.’
Brian stood, stretched his muscles and popped his spine. ‘In which case, I’d probably better tell him in person.’
That made Dom sit up and take notice. Just like he thought it would. ‘Road trip to the beach? I can dig that.’
Roman had embraced the high life. He and Tej owned a place in south California that specialised in custom bodywork mods, expensive paint jobs, that kind of thing. Work which meant he didn’t have to get engine grease under his manicured fingernails. He’d bought a shack on the beach. He called it a shack, the Realtor called it prime oceanfront real estate. He didn’t look surprised to see the silver Skyline pull up on the garage forecourt, he looked pleased.
‘Hey, Bri!’ Dom bristled the way he always did when Rome called him that. Like he had a monopoly on shortening his name. ‘What’s happenin’, bro?’
The moment Brian stepped out of the car, he was enveloped in a hug that smelt like glue. ‘Good to see you, man. And look, you brought your bear!’
Dom closed the passenger side door and leaned on the roof. ‘Nice to see you too, Roman.’ They’d always been wary of one another. Or something. Brian was never sure what it was that had them at one another’s throats when he wasn’t around to keep them apart. Dom had never come clean about it.
Brian had told Rome why he’d left LA, one long, hot night in Miami after the thing with Verone had almost got them killed. He hadn’t mentioned any names but the moment the guy had laid eyes on Dom in Rio, he’d somehow known who he was, what he was to Brian. His hackles had been almost permanently ip in Dom’s presence ever since.
‘Whatcha doin’ this far south?’
‘Just passing through. Got a couple of beers?’
They sat out on mismatched lawn chairs, drinking cold imported beer too floral for Dom’s tastes. After a half hour of small talk, Rome repeated his earlier question.
‘What are you really doing here? Is it a job, cos… I’m not sure I need the money but I could sure as hell do with the excitement, if you get my drift.’
Brian laughed, shook his head. ‘Not a job. Sorry, man.’
‘You could try surfing,’ Dom suggested, ‘I hear that’s a thrill ride.’ Brian hadn’t been able to convince Dom of the joys to be found on a surfboard. He guessed the man just wasn’t built for ocean. Rome laughed the way Dom had when Brian first suggested it.
‘Yeah. No, thanks. So… not a job. A favour?’
‘Sort of. We need you to come to Vegas with us, in a few weeks.’
‘Vegas, baby! Absolutely! That will not be a hardship. I’m assuming we’re gambling and not planning an Ocean’s 11 type deal?’
Brian shook his head. ‘More like… a Hangover type situation.’
‘Like, the morning after the night before?’
‘More like the stag party movie.’ Brian glanced at Dom, smiled, smiled at Rome. ‘We were there a few weeks back. Dom proposed.’
Rome looked blank. ‘Proposed what?’
Dom leaned forward. ’Marriage.’
‘To who?’ Neither of them felt the need to respond to that. ‘To you?! You two are going to…. No way. Are you serious right now?’ He looked from one to the other. ‘Bri… come on, bro, this isn’t funny.’
‘I’m sitting right here,’ Dom protested, although there was no heat in it. Even Vince would begrudging admit that Dom was happier with Brian around.
Rome ignored him. ‘You really want to hitch yourself to this guy?’
‘This guy,’ Brian started, and there was a hard undertone to his voice, ‘is the guy I fell in love with so long ago, I can’t remember what it was like not to have him here.’ He tapped his chest. ‘You know our history, Rome. You think I’m asking for your approval? Hell, I don’t even need you to like it. But I want you to be there.’
‘Shit, Bri… of course I’ll be there.’ The tension left him and he relaxed. ‘Kinda hoping I’ll be your best man….’
‘We’re not doing any of that,’ he tried to sound apologetic. ‘Sorry, man.’
‘My fault,’ Dom explained. ‘If I had to choose between Vince and Leon, they’d break each other in half. I’d sooner ask Mia.’
Rome shook his head. He still looked utterly perplexed. ‘I don’t get it.’ Brian was ready to punch him, but when Dom glanced up it was him Roman was looking at. ‘You already have him, heart and soul, why add paperwork?’
Dom smiled. Brian had asked him the same question, almost word for word, in the Petrossian bar in Vegas, after the gawkers had gone away. Hell, he’d asked himself the same thing when he’d blown off a meeting with an old friend to go buy the rings.
It was an idea that had been sitting at the back of his mind for months, ever since the afternoon the phone had rung in the garage office and it was MIA, telling Dom Brian was sitting in A&E at the hospital she was interning in.
Leon had driven, worried Dom would kill himself or someone else if he got behind the wheel. They took the fastest most agile thing in the garage: their beloved Supra, salvaged from obscurity at the back of the police impound on their return to LA. A bit of TLC and twenty grand later she was every bit as good as when he and Brian had first restored her back in ’01.
Only the two of them drove it. Their shared history started with that car. That afternoon, Dom made an exception.
At the hospital reception there was a moment of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object when Dom had a run in with the duty nurse. But Mia had anticipated that and stepped in just in time, took him through to where Brian was sitting on a gurney behind a white curtain looking like he’d had a run in with a wall at high speed.
Even with one eye swollen shut he’d managed to look pissed. ‘I told them not to call anyone.’ It didn’t come out quite as eloquently given there was blood sticking the left side of his mouth closed, but Dom got the drift.
‘They jumped me leaving the yard. Wanted your engine.’
‘His crew?! And you didn’t just them have it because..?’ He asked, but he knew the answer.
‘It was your engine. No one touches your stuff.’
No one touched the people he loved either. He stepped forward, touched a very gentle hand to the only place on Brian’s face that wasn’t coming up in a purple bruise.
‘Engine’s replaceable, dumbass. You’re not. And once we’re out of here, you’re going to tell me why you thought they shouldn’t call anyone.’
He had to step back then, let the doctor check Brian over, let the nurse patch him up as best she could before he could take him home. Leon checked in then called Vince and got him to pick him up. Dom made a couple more calls too.
A couple of days later, late at night when absolutely no one was around, there was a fire at Mikel’s storage facility. Five hundred grand’s worth of cars destroyed. Fire report blamed a faulty acetylene torch. No one believed the report except the cops: Dom had made his point.
‘Paperwork makes it official,’ Dom said by way of an explanation. If Mia hadn’t called him that afternoon from the hospital, no one would have. Committing to one another gave them legal rights they wouldn’t otherwise have, rights Dom was starting to feel like he needed where Brian was concerned.
‘Like car insurance,’ Brian quipped with a grin. Dom kicked him in the shin.
The closer the date got, the more on edge Brian got.
A couple of nights before they left for Vegas they managed to get to bed the right side of midnight; no race to win, no last minute adjustments to make to their cars or late working to meet an unreasonable customer deadline. They had time to talk, so Dom called him on it.
‘What’s up?’ For a second it seemed he was going to have to work for an answer, but Brian responded in a manner of speaking.
‘Can I ask you something that’s gonna sound a bit chick-like, without you kneeing me in the balls?’
Dom’s laugh tumbled through his chest. ‘Kinda depends what you’re going to ask. Come on, spill. Something’s been eating you for days.’
‘You’re gonna think I’m crazy.’
‘I know you’re crazy. Can’t imagine anything you could say to me at this point is going to change that.’
He heard a sigh, Brian’s back to him. ‘What are you wearing, you know, on the day?’
Brian stepped out of his shorts and turned. The sight of a naked Dominic Toretto had never failed to set his pulse racing, blood rushing south. All over tan that he’d got soaking up rays on the South American coast not too long ago. Every muscle defined, strength and power held in check. Dom knew, and used it mercilessly.
‘I said, there are two monkey suits hanging in the guest room I think Mia’s expecting us to wear.’
Brian shook his head. ‘Not a chance.’
‘Don’t think she’ll be too happy if you turn up in surfer shorts.’
‘I sort of wish I’d let you talk me into the wedding chapel when you first asked.’
‘Mia would not have been happy.’
‘I can’t wear a suit. It feels like a uniform, reminds me of being at funerals, and of being a cop.’
Dom closed up the space between them, reaching for Brian’s hands. It felt odd, all that naked flesh on view and just their fingers touching.
‘I like you in uniform.’
‘You like getting me out of uniform.’
‘Seems like I did that often enough.’ In more ways than one. ‘Don’t sweat it. When was the last time you saw me in a suit?’
He thought about it. ‘Never.’
‘I get this should be what we want it to be. You wanna not do it, we don’t do it.’
‘It’s not that I don’t want to do it. I just want to do it our way.’
Dom smiled, leaned in and touched a deliberately chaste kiss to his mouth. ‘You want to wear shorts and a T, that’s fine with me. Just make sure they’re clean or Mia will beat you to death with your own severed arms.’
Brian nodded. ‘Thanks.’ There was real relief in his voice.
‘Can’t believe that’s what’s been bothering you.’
‘Hey, you know me. I only stress the important stuff.’
‘Yeah, which is why....’ He didn’t get to finish. Brian pulled his hands free, put one on Dom’s chest, one on his dick, and dropped to his knees.
After a month of knowing one another, Brian had thrown away his career and his life to save Dom’s. Four years later he did it again, committing a felony that would have seen him rot away in jail if he’d been caught. If he’d lasted that long.
He’d shown Dom the kind of loyalty above and beyond what everyone else would consider normal, and he’d never asked for anything in return, never mentioned it unless Dom brought it up, dismissed it all with a shrug and an easy, happy smile.
It meant that if Dom could do anything to repay even a tiny bit of what he knew he owed Brian, he did. If that meant returning the suits Mia had rented, he had less than zero problem with it. He took a drive the next day, found the place on line and ended up at an outdoor shopping mall called The Grove. It was a family friendly weekend jaunt; ice cream parlours, a Cheesecake Factory and a multiplex as well as a lot of overpriced branded clothing stores. But it did have a nice market; he and Mia had been a couple of times, years ago. Before Brian.
The guy in the rental place was happy to take the return early, gave him back Mia’s deposit and some of the hire cost. He said he hoped it didn’t mean the big day was off and Dom reassured him they’d just had a rethink about clothing.
The obviously appreciative assistant looked Dom up and down and agreed. ‘You don’t look like the formal suit type. Hey, it’s your day. Maybe something more... you? And your man?’
Dom bought a milkshake and stood at the railing that surrounded the dancing fountains, watching the water. Across from him, on the other side of the square, the familiar red logo of Levi’s caught his attention, and the more he stared at it, the more the rental shop guys words coalesced in his mind. He texted Brian, then went to get a burger.
‘I hate this place.’ Dom looked up as Brian stole a couple of fries off his plate and sat down in the empty seat opposite him.
‘Blame Mia. I took the suits back.’
The expression on Brian’s face was complicated. He looked down at the table. ‘You didn’t have to-‘
‘Bri,’ Dom pushed his plate away and reached across the Formica surface, ‘our day, remember? Besides, I had a better idea.’
Mia never asked what happened to the suits she’d rented. They walked into the Mandalay Bay hotel, Brian in black Levis with a crisp white shirt, Dom the opposite; white jeans and a black shirt. It was a short, simple ceremony. They’d written some words, promising to support one another no matter what, to trust and be worthy of that trust, to remember what they were to one another and to act accordingly, not to take stupid risks when they weren’t necessary. If the clerk found any of it a little odd, he didn’t comment. They swapped gold bands as they repeated the ‘I take you’ part and that was it. Mia and Roman witnessed the marriage, signing the paperwork.
Then it was champagne, photos snapped in the lobby, burgers and beers on the strip. And when darkness fell, the roar of NOS boosted engines, flying along the desert highway at well over the speed limit, moonlight sliding over candy coloured paint jobs and hand polished chrome.