Chapter 1: The Long Road Home
Across the street from Toretto's, there’s a kid sitting on the hood of a beat-up Honda civic with both hands cupped over his ears.
Dominic sees him through the open-air window in the market first, from where he’s hanging behind the counter looking over the billing for the month. Letty’s leaning against him, flipping through last year’s January issue of Road and Track. She’s still catching up from her missing months and refuses to let Dom help her with her memories unless expressly asked. It’s such a Letty thing to demand that he can’t even try to fight her on it. Don’t try to tell me what I know until I know it, she’d said, and then she’d kissed him extra hard right after she’d said it, no tenderness and all teeth, and he was so stupid in love with her his chest still ached with it. He hasn’t said a word about it since.
A girl is making her way around from the passenger side of the Honda on the street, using both hands to pull her tangled hair up into a bright yellow scrunchy that Dom’s pretty sure he remembers seeing Mia wear back in high school. She’s sweet looking, all freckled with her sunshine hair and long legs—sticking out like a sore thumb on a street filling rapidly with Latino locals now that the church on 14th was letting out.
Dom can’t see the boy’s face from this angle, but the line of his back is too tense and sharp from where he slumps, exhausted, against the girl’s chest when she gets close enough, forehead touching her sternum soft as a prayer. She starts running a hand through his hair and whispers something, and his hands drop from his head like cut strings. He nods without looking up, a jolted movement, and the girl moves to cover both her palms over his ears like earmuffs as she leans in again, swaying like an aborted dance, new grass in the breeze. Dom watches as her head tilts to the side, turning towards the sun coming up behind the shop, eyes shut tight as she pulls the boy close. Her hands aren’t shaking, but Dom feels like they should be.
And the expression on her face—childlike and ancient all at once—and Dom can’t help but think its familiar.
He doesn’t know how long he’s been watching them hold each other up, still swaying slightly, when Letty punches his arm to get his attention. He winces, because regardless of how much she loves him, its Letty, who’s never pulled a punch in her life.
“Hey, Dom—c’mon, you even listening to me?”
Dom glances back down at her to see her pointing at the page on the left, the layout of a V8 printed in glorious technicolor schematics in front of his face. “Yeah,” he lies, distracted, but Letty’s already turning to follow his gaze.
The girl hasn’t moved, but the boy has sunken farther into her embrace, and the look on her face is tight as she watches him. Letty’s dark eyes narrow, and she doesn’t say anything for a long minute.
“Dom.” She says his name like a warning that he willfully ignores.
“They look like they’re on the run to you?” he says when she looks back up at him.
She twists her mouth, shrugs. “Look a little young for it.”
He raises a brow dubiously and glances down at her. “When has that ever mattered?”
She snorts and turns back to watch the two figures curled on the hood of their car. They still haven’t moved an inch. The boy looks like he’s shivering. Dom feels something in his gut hurt just to watch.
Letty nudges his arm again, where its crossed over his broad chest. “You know, we still have that extra cot in the garage. And the couch, too.”
Dom grunts, noncommittal, and Letty rolls her eyes. “Don’t pretend you’re not thinking about it, Dom.”
“Depends on what they’re running from. Don’t need any more heat,” he throws back halfheartedly, one last ditch effort to pretend she doesn’t know his goddamn ticket better than anyone else alive. She cackles, and pats his arm, and Dom resigns himself to the fact that he loves her so goddamn much that he’ll have to deal with her shit forever.
“Yeah?” Letty pushes off the counter and kisses his cheek, “and when has that ever mattered?”
Baby’s CD battery gave up the ghost somewhere outside of L.A., which made sense considering she’d bought the thing for 5 bucks at a Shell station somewhere in the desert after his last childhood MP3 player fizzled out, so by the time they’d rolled into the city his migraines were so bad he wasn’t even able to hold the steering wheel straight.
“Baby?” Debra ran a hand through Baby’s hair again, the soft strands finally grown out from the close-cropped head she’d seen through the glass in Chino. They’d made it somewhere into downtown L.A., maybe Echo Park district, she thought, glancing around under her lashes. They were parked across the street from a garage, Torretto’s emblazoned on the front in faded black lettering. It had a few signs plastered in the windows in Spanish, and thankfully she’d kept up with it after high school, but her brother was always better at it.
Her brother was always better at everything—except, well.
When she’d sent him the postcard last year, it was right after the verdict had been announced. She’d been standing outside the courthouse with Joe in his wheelchair, her prettiest blue dress and matching cardigan soaked through with nervous sweat. The verdict still rang through her head, echoing louder and louder like the hum in Baby’s ears—maximum 10 years, with the possibility of parole after the first. Somewhere in the courthouse parking lot, Joe had left the duffle bag of cash in the trunk of her car and made big eyes at her when she vehemently declined, signing slowly through her protests, for when he comes back to you.
She’d tried to make him take it back, futilely, and when that didn’t work, she tried to make the argument that they should just get rid of it, burn it, something, but part of her knew that she couldn’t afford to let it go. She wasn’t just a baby-faced waitress from Barstow anymore—Debora O’Conner was an accomplice. Baby was a convicted felon, a million-dollar heist taking bank robber nonetheless, but he’d flipped easy on his scary old boss’s operation just to stay out of Lompoc. No matter what happened, no matter what the judge said, no matter when Baby came back to her—they had nowhere left to go from here but gone.
Joe had taken her hand in his and patted it gently, reassuring. Good girl, he’d signed, then, a bit sorrowful, too good.
Debora laughed at that. “If you say so,” she said, enunciating. As the care home van pulled up in front of them, she leaned down to kiss the dark, leathery skin of his cheek, and so she felt the smile that pulled across his face before she saw it.
Her chest hurt. How cruel did life truly need to be, Debora thought, bitter, that it gave her so many beautiful things to love and yet it only ever showed her how to lose them.
Where will you take him, Joe asked, as they waited for the wheelchair attendant to make his way to their spot near the steps. She squeezed his hand, once, before pulling away to sign back clumsily.
She feels Baby’s shoulder’s tensing up hard before she hears the man walking up behind them. Debora’s back is to the street, so when she turns her head, she’s surprised for a moment that someone so large could be so quiet, before she recognizes his face from the reports she read online.
The man looks exactly like the kind of man she should be afraid of, no question, but the longer she looks at him, the less concern she has. Maybe that’s stupid, Debbie thinks, but Mama always did say she couldn’t never get less stupid with age. Debora’s fine with being called dumb. She’s never needed to be all that smart to do her job anyway. Besides, if a dumb blonde is what someone thinks they want, all it does is make her job that much easier. Making people happy? Making people trust her? Why, that’s the easiest job in the world for sweet little Debbie O’Conner.
“Morning,” she says, smiling her best bright how can I help you, mister! smile, and doesn’t take her hands away from their position over Baby’s ears. He’s trembling, just barely, and stares hard at the man without saying nothing. Debora runs her nails through the soft hair behind his neck again, soothes some of the shakes.
The man comes to a stop a few feet away and crosses his distractingly huge arms over his even more distractingly huge chest. Jesus, she thinks, hoping she’s right in that he’s kinder than he looks. She doesn’t wanna turn away from Baby right now, not with him like this.
The man raises a dark brow at her greeting, glances once at Baby, and nods. “You kids lost?” His voice is deep, but not unfriendly. Debora keeps smiling just in case.
“Not really. Just looking for a friend, you might know him?” Debora tries to remember which ID he was using last, but can’t quite remember. His postcard was only signed by “B” and then this address, because he loves to make her life harder than it needs to be. “Goes by Spilner?”
Dominic Toretto, because that’s who he is, who he has to be, raises his brows ever higher, and narrows his eyes. “Not sure I know any Spilner’s in the area,” he rumbles, very obviously lying. She doesn’t know if he realizes how bad he is at it, or if this is just another game they’re supposed to play first, or if he really just thinks she’s that dumb. Men can be so silly sometimes. “You sure that’s who you’re looking for?”
She blinks, widens her eyes earnestly. “Oh, well, I’m sure I couldn’t be positive, sir, but you might know him as an O’ Conner, or an O’Brien?”
“Your friend’s got a lot of names, huh.” Toretto tilts his head at her, and starts to take a step closer when Baby jerks upright in an attempt to stand before she pushes his shoulders back down. Toretto stops, uncrossing his arms and lifting both hands up, the universal no trouble sign.
“You know, sometimes my head gets a little jumbled after a long trip,” she says, not really bothering with the lie anymore. If Brian would’ve just left her a number— Debora sighs, keeping one hand on Baby’s shoulder, happy he’s still letting her talk for them even though he’s tighter than an old bow-string. They need food, water, gas, and sleep, but they still have to get through this bullshit first. “And to be quite honest, I can’t really be bothered to know what he calls himself anymore, mister. But I’d really like to talk with him about that, if you happen to know where he might be.”
Toretto is watching Baby from where he’s glaring at him from his spot on the hood. She twists her body around, one hand still on Baby’s shoulder, the other reaching back to grab the postcard from her back pocket. It’s been folded several times, and the writing on the back is almost illegible, but the address is still there in faded blue ink, Brian’s handwriting just as shitty as it was back in school. She hands it to him. Toretto glances down, frowns, and looks up at her again, evaluating.
“Yeah, you know,” he says slowly, still assessing, ”I think I might have a pretty good idea.”
His voice is quiet, but the look in his eyes is about as subtle as a gun to the head. And she would know now, wouldn’t she.
Dom is observant. He doesn't like it very much.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
They’re sitting at the bar in the front of the shop when Brian’s suped up little Miata rolls cautiously into the lot, engine silent. Dom had casually shoved two ham sandwiches and two mugs of coffee into the kids’ hands and left them to huddle up against the counter as soon as they deigned to come inside while he made the call. The garage had been too loud in the background to really explain the situation, but Brian had heard just enough to catch the underlying tone of urgency in Dom’s voice.
“Blonde and skinny, smile too big for her face,” Brian repeated back over the phone, the heavy sound of machinery in the background muffling his words. “What’d she say her name was again?”
Dom had shrugged, before remembering Brian couldn’t see it. “She didn’t. Just that she’s looking for you. Seems to know you pretty well, too.”
Brian’s silence on the other end of the line was telling. “Well, that’s… ominous.”
“Yeah, no shit. You got any ex’s Mia should know about?”
Brian’s voice goes warm and sly, and Dom can almost see the stupid smirk on his face over the phone. “Come on, now, Dom. You know blond has never been my type.”
Dom rolls his eyes. “Yeah, okay, and so does everyone else this side of the date line. Darse prisa, asshole. Dunno how long these two will stay still.”
Brian’s affirmative was lost to him, as Dom looked up and caught the girl with her hands back in their strange position over the boy’s ears, thumbs rubbing his temples like she was easing a headache. It didn’t look romantic. He didn’t know what it looked like, but it made him uncomfortable, like Dom was catching a glimpse of something extraordinarily intimate. The boy’s eyes weren’t closed this time, either. Instead they were wide, alert, if a little bit blank.
They didn’t have to wait long, less than ten minutes, but it felt like an eon with the tension in the air. Dom wasn’t a talker, and neither of the two seemed like they wanted to chat.
The girl, at least, had introduced herself after a while. Debora, she smiled, like a Zebra, as if that was the kind of name normal people still gave to their kids these days without being arrested for that fucking crime. The disparity of such an old-fashioned name placed on such a young face should’ve been stranger than it was, but bizarrely, it seemed to fit.
Her eyes were very old, Dom thought. Like Letty.
The girl, Debora, hadn’t turned to notice the car as it pulled up. The boy had, though, his pale face hard behind a cheap pair of semi-transparent shades, mainly because he hadn’t taken his eyes off the street anyway. The steady downturn of his mouth said something, and Dom didn’t think it said anything good. He couldn’t be more than 20 at best. No one that young and soft should know to be that vigilant.
Dom watched silently as he slid out of the girl’s grasp, blank faced, letting her hands slide down to his neck. A curly-haired statue, uncomfortably cherubic, vibrating with movement on a frequency Dom just couldn’t tap into.
“Hey, kid,” he said, trying to pull that unnerving gaze to the side. The boy didn’t acknowledge him, and for a moment Dom was a little annoyed at the blatant disrespect before Debora turned and tapped the boy’s hand.
“Baby,” Debora said, soft like a wake-up call. Dom didn’t roll his eyes at the pet name, but it was close. The boy twitched and then turned to meet her look. Dom watched the way he lit back up, soft-eyed and sweet with it all, regarding her like a glimpse of the sun on a dull grey morning. It was the most expression he’d seen on the kid’s face since he’d brought them inside to sit down. Debora brushed his dark blond curls back with a gentle hand, and he leaned into it thoughtlessly before he turned to look at Dom, expectant. He still hadn’t spoken a word.
Dom wished he’d take those stupid fucking sunglasses off.
Instead, Dom leaned his sizable arms on the counter, trying for casual. Brian still hadn’t gotten his ass out of the car yet. He kept that pansy shit up any longer Dom was gonna drag him out of that stupid fucking import by the roots of his pretty boy hair.
The two were still watching him warily over the counter, although Debora was better at pretending she wasn’t. The boy looked familiar, but Dom couldn’t quite place him.
“What’s your name again, kid?”
The boy tilted his head, birdlike. “Baby.”
Dom stared back, thrown by both the answer and the soft, surprisingly deep voice that gave it. For a ludicrous moment, he’d thought the kid was calling him Baby, before it clicked. “Your name is …..Baby.”
“B-A-B-Y,” he nodded, spelling it out quick, quiet, rushed, as if Dom was confused as to the phonetics. “Baby.”
Debora giggled at Dom’s face. She hadn’t moved her hands.
“Right.” Fucking weird-ass kids, Dom thought. He wished Letty would hurry back. Or Mia. He wished Mia were here. His sister loved weird-ass kids, that’s why she was fucking around with Brian in the first place. “Baby. Sure. Whatever. You want another?”
He gestured to the almost empty mug in the kid’s white-knuckled grip. Baby looked down at the cup in his hands, surprised for a moment, before he looked back up and nodded. He gently pushed the mug across the counter but snatched his hand back before Dom reached out to pick it up. The kid had scars on his hands, Dom noted, pale lines bisecting the skin around his knuckles, the kind you only got when you didn’t let the wounds heal. Dom recognized the scarring because it mirrored his own.
Stupidly, he thought about saying something, but before he’d made a decision one way or another, Brian had finally made his way out of the car and into the doorway of the market, hunched over and looking increasingly uncomfortable. His eyes were glued to the girl, and when she turned at the sound of the screen door opening, Dom watched as his eyes widened perceptibly.
Debora shoved her stool back, and before Brian could get the word out of his mouth, she’d stomped over to where Brian had stalled in the doorway and cracked one right across his face. The smack echoed. The force of it caused Brian to stumble to the side, holding his jaw. Dom thought about getting in the middle of it, but one look at the surprised delight on Baby’s face had him pausing, so instead, Dom took a noisy sip of his coffee and leaned back on the counter to watch. Dom believed in letting people deal with their own shit for the most part. At least until someone started breaking tables.
But the kid had even tilted his stupid shades down so as not to miss anything. Dom couldn’t blame him.
Brian was rubbing his mouth, face red. “Ow, jesus, what the fu—” Debora swung at him again, but by some virtue, he caught her wrist before it connected.
“A postcard?” the girl was shouting, and she tried to hit him again but Brian, showing a slight inclination towards staying alive, refused to let go as she jerked against his hold. “a fucking gas station postcard? Not even a letter? You start a whole new life on the other side of the country and you don’t even give me your home address? Not even a phone number? Even Mom left me a number, you piece of—” she tried to swipe at him again but he dodged, smirking a little bit and not letting go, and Dom could’ve warned him not to gloat but figured he deserved it when she kicked him in the shin instead.
“Fucking—ow, motherfuck—what are you, Debbie, would you just quit—”she finally ripped her wrist out of his grip and glared at him as he put his hands up to block her just in case. Dom took another noisy sip. Brian glanced up and met his gaze plaintively.
“Dom, a little help?” Both Dom and the kid just glanced at each other and shrugged. The kid (Dom patently refused to call him Baby in his own head, what kind of fucking name) was watching it all like this was the best thing he’d ever seen, the blankness in his face dissipating, with none of the urgency to interrupt. Now that he knew it wasn’t more of that FBI bullshit, Dom took his lead and decided he probably wasn’t needed as he leaned his bulk back against the counter. Besides. Brian made really funny sounds when he got hit. He tended to yelp.
“You’re doing great,” Dom lied. He took another sip.
Debora seemed to have calmed down enough that Brian let his hands fall. The expression on his face was vaguely sheepish, and although Dom couldn’t see Debora’s, he had a feeling it was something to behold. Dom felt a twinge of sympathy unravel underneath his curiosity—Brian didn’t talk about his family, only mentioned a deadbeat dad in passing, and so Dom hadn’t pressed. But from the looks of it, maybe he should’ve.
“Hey, okay,” Brian was saying, warily. His self-preservation instincts seemed to have returned somewhat in the face of the girl’s rage. “I’m sorry. You’re right, I should’ve left you more than that but things were—there were circumstances outside of my control, and I couldn’t—” Debora huffed, turning away, but he kept on. “I’m serious, Deb, I’m sorry, this past year has been a lot and it was too dangerous,” here, Dom could see how she rolled her eyes as she copied his position, arms crossed, “and I had to—Deb, you know I still work active cases sometimes, I’m sorry. I didn’t want you getting hurt.”
At that, Debora turned a burning look back at Brian and started to speak, before she glanced at the kid still perched quietly on the stool. She caught herself. Dom wondered what she’d been about to say.
Looking at Brian’s flailing, Dom decided now was as good a time to intervene as any.
“Hey, kid. Debora,” he corrected. “Let’s take it down a notch, huh? Sometimes we get paying customers.” When both Brian and the girl turned to stare at him, he couldn’t escape the fact that it felt like staring at two versions of the same person—long-limbed and sunshine bright, just manic enough in their movements to suggest they didn’t know how to stay still. Then the girl blushed.
“Sorry,” she exhaled, then added on, like an afterthought: “Mr. Torretto.” Behind her, Brian rolled his eyes.
“Dom, this is,” he glanced at her from where she was settling back onto her stool, where the boy was pulling a pair of headphones from his jacket pocket and handing her an ear. She was studiously not looking at anyone else. Brian sighed again and rubbed his jaw, where her handprint was starting to redden. “This is my little sister, Debbie. She’s not usually this mean.”
Debora sniffed. “And how would you know?” The question seemed incredibly rhetorical. The kid lifted his arm and she settled under it. Brian, suddenly seeming to notice the whole entire other person in the room as well as his proximity to Debora, narrowed his eyes to slits.
Jesus, Dom thought. Where the fuck was Letty.
Brian took a seat on the corner, across the counter from Dom so he could angle his seat to a better position to glare at the kid. The kid didn’t seem to notice or care, but Debora sure did.
“So who’s this?” The kid still didn’t look up. Dom had a niggling feeling he might be deaf, but he didn’t see any aids in the boy’s ears so he wasn’t sure. Before Brian got snippy, Debora answered.
“What kind of friend?”
“A quiet one.”
Dom took another sip of coffee as Brian’s eyes narrowed further. Madre de díos, save him from sibling drama. And he’d thought teenage Mia was a little shit.
Brian leaned over the table just so. “Your quiet friend got a name?”
At this, the kid looked up and said: “Baby.” It still hadn’t gotten any less ridiculous.
Brian blinked, nonplussed. “Baby?”
“B-A-B-Y.” He pushed those dumbass sunglasses up his nose with a single finger. “Baby.” He put his headphone back in and seemed to tune out of the conversation right there.
Brain looked at Dom, helpless. Dom shrugged again. Debora released a gusty exhale before she pushed forward against the counter again and blocked Brian’s view.
“I’m not here to bring a boy home to meet the family, Bri.” She turned back to the kid, tapped his hand and gave him the extra headphone. Baby blinked, met her eyes, and put it in his ear before he tuned back out.
Debora kissed his cheek sweetly before turning back to her brother and Dom. Her gaze was serious, and suddenly very tired. Dom didn’t like how much it reminded him of Brian in those terrible early days; hunted and hollow, like she'd been burning away days on a desperate hunger for anything that even vaguely looked like rest. “Okay. Okay. I’m real sorry— about earlier, Mr. Toretto. It’s been a long week. We’re here because we need somewhere to rest for a while, just a bit, if you happen to know anyone who might need an extra hand because, you know, I’m real good in a kitchen and I been waitin’ tables since I was 15, and I don’t need barely any training,” here her accent was starting to bleed through with nerves, and she sat up straighter like she was being interviewed, like she might be turned away. A practiced smile stretched across her face, fake as half the VIN numbers packed away in his garage. “And Baby, well, he’s real good with cars, you know, real fast, real good with driving and mechanics, I’ve seen it myself, trust me, and we’d be sure to pay our way and everything, just a few days—”
Brian cut her off with a wave. “Stop, Deb, hey, slow down.” He waited while she took a quick sip from her mug, a darting, nervous movement, before she exhaled, settling. Brian furrowed a brow in concern. Dom couldn’t blame him.
“You can stay with us, Christ, Dee—of course you can, you know that.” He flicked a glance at Dom, who nodded, before continuing. “We’ve got the room. You can stay as long as you need.”
They both watched as Debora closed her eyes and brushed a shaky hand through her hair, the dirty blonde curls frizzing out around her head like they couldn’t find a way to settle either. But when she opened them, taking another deep breath, her gaze was steady and brutally grateful.
“Thank you. I know it’s sudden, but if someone had given me actual contact information instead of a secret code—” she scowled at Brian, who threw his hands in the air. Dom couldn’t help but think it was especially funny that after living in the barrio his whole life, he still hadn’t met someone more physically expressive than a white boy ex-cop like Brian fucking O’Conner.
“I said I was sorry—besides, Mom should’ve given you my—”
“Mom left.” The girl said it with no particular emotion in the statement, and that alone made Dom raise a brow. Brian froze between one motion and the next.
“What do you mean she left, when did she—” he cut himself off, confused.
Debora glanced at Dom as if just now remembering he was there. He kept his face stone blank.
Brian shook his head like the thought and its consequences would lay straight in his skull. “Wait, why would she—she doesn’t answer my calls, anymore, but I didn’t know…”
“It’s fine.” Debora took another drink, before shrugging. “She left last December.”
“Last December?” Brian stood up sharply, chair screeching on the floor. Dom winced. “Debbie, that’s two years!”
Debora’s hand on the mug tightened, thin fingers going white-knuckled. Her other arm was under the countertop, pressed against the kid’s side, and Dom would’ve bet the whole Charger and all its embellishments that they were holding hands tight right under the lip. The kid still wasn’t all there, just nodding gently to whatever was playing in his headphones, but Dom had already noticed he seemed more present when the two were in some kind of soft contact.
Dom didn’t like that he’d noticed it. It wasn’t a good thing to notice.
“And I said it was fine, Brian. You know I can take care of things myself.” Dom raised a brow, incredulous, but stayed quiet. If he hadn’t seen her land that hit on Brian, whose left cheek was bright red even now with four distinctly feminine fingerprints, he would’ve put some real money on her being picked up by a stiff wind.
“Not when you’re 16! And not legally!” Oh, and Brian's tone now had an edged quality that made Dom think he'd be texting Mia an S.O.S. sooner than he thought.
“Oh, it’s not legal? Thank you, officer," Debora bit back," but what else was I supposed to do?” She sighed. “I’m not 16 anymore, Brian. She left. It’s not like I was real surprised. She only moved us because she thought Dad was there, anyway.” The way she said it made it sound just as futile as Dom thought it was. From what he knew of Brian’s father, he'd never stuck around anywhere for long. Whatever that said about Mother O' Conner wasn't anything good.
Brian grimaced. He ran a hand through his hair, unconscious of his mirroring his sister with the act. “Okay, fine. I get it. I just—I wish.” he clenched his jaw tightly and went silent. Debora watched him over the rim of her mug, and Dom could see the exact moment she softened.
Ah, Dom thought fondly. Sibling guilt in action. Can't quite hurt 'em without feeling it echo back.
“It’s not your fault. You couldn’t know.”
Brian didn’t answer. Dom didn't expect him to. The man's guilt complex was wider than the California coastline, and it hadn’t gotten any smaller over the years. Dom watched him clench his jaw tightly, hardness in the thin line of his body.
Dom cleared his throat, trying to steer them back to safer ground. “You said its been a long week. What’s your rush? Where you headed?”
Debora pursed her lips. Dom thought she looked too young for the look on her face, suddenly missing the fake smile from earlier. “It's not…a rush, not really,” she said. “We’re just being cautious. Baby just came home from…a long trip, and he maybe made some people angry right before he left.” Her tone suggested this trip was not voluntary. It also suggested the question of her involvement was none of their concern.
Brian didn’t seem to agree with that suggestion. “You wanna spell that out for me a bit?”
Debora glanced up from under her lashes, impossibly golden, impossibly long. It was not a sultry look. Brian frowned. “Not really,” she said.
“No, I’m pretty sure you should,” said Brian, firmly, blue eyes gone hard. Sometimes it was easy for Dom to forget Brian’s job used to be a lot more than just blending in and lying his skinny little ass off. Sometimes it was easy for all of them to forget how Brian O’Conner’s new life here was built on the burnt ashes of government-sanctioned information-gathering. Maybe sometimes it was easy to forget because they tried.
“Well, mister officer, you can take your ‘pretty sure’ and stick it up—"
Dom took another moment to think about it, and then tapped the counter with his left hand. When the kid glanced up, Dom spoke before the conversation could deteriorate further.
“How long?” he asked.
Baby blinked, slow, coming out of his stare. “18 months.”
“Lompoc or Chino?” Dom was sure to keep his voice very flat, very steady. Like it was nothing. He waited. Debora and Brian had both gone silent.
“Chino,” said the kid, neutrally. Through the cheap, thin, lenses of his dumbass sunglasses, Dom noted clinically that the boy’s eyelashes were just as long as Debora’s. He was soft-faced, full-mouthed. The dark blonde curls looked Botticelli-esque in the morning light, made Dom think cherubs on a church room wall. Without the glasses, it might’ve been the first thing anyone would’ve noticed when he walked in a room.
Dom felt something tighten in his chest. “That right,” he said, very distantly, very intently not thinking about this sweet-faced fucking kid locked up in Chino for a fucking year and a half. Where the hell was Letty, jesus fuck.
“Baby,” Debora murmured, saccharine, and leaned over to place her lips against his temple, less of a kiss and more of an act of artless affection. Dom envied the ease with which she gave it, and he watched closely as Baby turned to meet her look, eyes brightening again. Noting the way the curve of the boy’s mouth went slow-syrupy and soft-boned, the awe on his face staring at her as if to say, is this real? Dom very decidedly didn’t think about how familiar that look was. He definitely didn’t see it every morning, as Letty walked up behind him at the bathroom mirror and stood on her tiptoes to press her mouth against his neck - it was a look that belonged to someone who was feeling too big for his skin.
Brian cleared his throat pointedly. Dom sighed. Fucking unbelievable.
“So." Brian leaned in, smiling in a way that strangely reminded Dom why his streetrace tag was Bullet. Maybe it was something in the expression that felt like a threat. "Debbie says you like cars? Domestic or import?” Jesus, thought Dom. Once a buster always a buster.
Baby’s face doesn’t change, but he does turn his head to meet Brian’s stare with a kind of focused intensity Dom can recognize, one he understands a lot better. Someone catching the asphalt stink of a challenge being thrown down. If Debora’s secret grin is anything to go by, it might even be fun.
"I can drive anything," says Baby, easy.
this chapter was an exercise in me forgetting how human people speak to each other. anyway. everyone is traumatized! they can't help it. next up: baby helps out.