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Torque

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Letty made a pass through the house without finding anyone home -- which seemed odd for a Friday night -- before giving up on it and knocking on Mia's door. She poked her head in and said, "Hey, girl."

"Hey! What's up?" Mia always acted like she was happy to see you, even if she wasn't.

"Where is everybody? I couldn't find anyone downstairs." She came in and sat on the edge of the bed. Mia was studying, as usual, and she looked really tired. Letty wondered briefly if Brian was keeping her up too late for school and work. Poor kid had a lot to deal with.

"I don't know. Vince and Leon left a while ago, I think they probably went to some strip club or something. They were feeling a little... frisky." She smiled knowingly. "How's your mom?"

"Okay. Bitching about everything, but that's nothing new." Letty had been spending more time than usual at home taking care of her mother, ever since she'd injured her back a few weeks before -- and Letty was definitely feeling stir crazy. She hadn't spent as much time with Dom as she wanted to; she hadn't raced or been out at night in what felt like forever. Even with the money from the truck haul, she still had to hang around and do her duty; in Letty's family, you didn't pay someone for caretaking. "So, where's Dom?"

"I think he and Brian are out in the garage. Unless they're just out back working on the car. I wasn't paying attention." They smiled at each other, both knowing that wasn't true. Mia paid attention to everything Brian did or said.

She wasn't sure why they'd be out in the garage, since Dom didn't exactly spend a lot of time out there now that the Charger was finished. But then, everything seemed a little odd these days with Brian around. Dom was always showing him something, taking him somewhere, like he had a new pet. But Dom left him a pretty loose leash, if that was the case.

"Huh." Letty got up and looked back at Mia, who was already bent over her book again, frowning at the page. Maybe it didn't wig Mia out that much, but it was starting to annoy Letty just a little that Dom spent so much time with Brian. Maybe that's why Vince and Leon were gone; they were tired of trying to compete, too. Though, really, she had been pretty preoccupied lately what with her mom being laid up. Dom just didn't like being bored.

"I'll go see if I can find them." Mia didn't even notice she'd left.

She stopped in the kitchen for something to drink, looking outside to the back. The light was on in the garage, but she couldn't see anything. Letty was restless and bored, but more than anything, she was frustrated. Mia might have been happy that Brian and Dom were getting along so well, and Vince might have been really pissed off for the same reason, but until now Letty had felt somewhere in between the two of them. Only it was getting more toward irritating these days, the sensation that she constantly battled to get Dom's attention, and how Dom had so quickly latched on to Brian in a way she'd never seen him do before -- not with Jesse, not with anyone. Took him on in a way even Mia had never seen, at least she said as much.

They'd talked about that once when the guys were out, how weird it was that Brian had practically walked in the door like Dom was letting him own the place. But Mia thought it was cool in a way, that her brother liked her new boyfriend so much. But it wasn't something she could really talk to Dom about, so she'd kept it between her and Mia. Dom hated the way everyone depended on him. Sometimes she thought he hated the way they loved him, like he was tired of being the center of their universe. Maybe that's why he liked Brian -- someone new and different, someone who didn't pay him the kind of attention that smothered Dom most times.

Letty went out to the garage, sneaking up toward the door, not totally sure why she felt the need to sneak, but doing it anyway. The door was open only a sliver; she couldn't see anything at all, just the light from the bare bulb overhead, a section of the wall with the trophies. Then she saw the back of Dom's head, but it was...weird. Like he was doing something physical. Not just standing there talking.

Kissing. That's how his head and neck moved, like he was kissing someone. When he shifted she could see Brian on the other side, his hands on Dom's chest. And Dom was kissing him and laughing.

Her body felt empty, as though everything had left it except air -- blood, bone, muscle, all gone and she was hollow inside. Almost as if her heart wasn't even beating. Letty wanted to run away, scream, do something, but she was paralyzed.

Dom pushed Brian against the pole, his head knocking into the fan belts hanging there. Brian grinned at him, ducking his head down to take Dom's lower lip between his teeth. God, they were playing with each other, making out and playing and she couldn't seem to move from the door or look somewhere else. Then Brian pushed Dom's undershirt up all the way to his shoulders, touching him like it was normal and right for his hands to be there.

There. On her boyfriend. Her boyfriend for years.

All those times she'd chased away the girls who went after him. She'd sometimes wondered if he'd grow tired of her and go look for someone girlier, less fierce and more accommodating. But she didn't think on it much, not really, because Dominic was always too loving and giving for her to feel real doubt. There were people who thought he was just a thug, but she knew better. Never once had Letty felt that he was in need of anything or anyone but her: when they made love, when they raced, when they just were together.

And now she wondered if Dom had just been looking all that time -- not for a girl, but something else. Something he seemed to find in Brian. She hadn't understood how or why he'd let Brian in so quickly and easily. Mostly Letty had been confused, and Leon, too. She wished she could have had Vince's pissed off attitude. Maybe it would have been easier to have started out that way when he first showed up at the store, or maybe it would have made it easier to have gotten rid of him. Only Mia had thought it was cool, but she could never have imagined this...

Before, whenever she'd caught Dom flirting with anyone -- serious or not -- it had just pissed her off. This was different; she felt ill, dizzy. Not even a little bit of anger; just shock and pain and confusion. And still she couldn't turn away, as if she was watching Dom and how he was with her, as if she was seeing him for the first time, only it was all wrong. Completely wrong.

Was it just Brian that made this happen, or had Dom always hidden this? No one would ever believe he was a faggot, least of all her. Nothing in their experience together would ever have made her believe she could find him here like this. Not just cheating on her, but cheating on her with a guy.

Only it wouldn't ever be any guy, would it? Everything was swirling around in her head with a kind of neauseating clarity. Brian was the reason. It wasn't that Dom would suddenly decide to kiss a guy. It was about Brian.

At the beginning something had been off; everyone knew it but they all wanted to trust Dom's judgment. If he was willing to let someone into their circle, they wanted to believe it was the right thing.

Except this was her reward for believing in Dom,.

Dom was grinding himself against Brian and they laughed in between the kisses. He touched Brian the same way he touched Letty -- hands greedy and strong, always roaming as if searching for something. And then Brian raked his fingernails down Dom's bare chest, right over his nipples, and instead of the pissed-off response she expected from Dom, he threw his head back and laughed, loud and low. He liked it because Brian had done it.

The whole thing jarred her so much that she could move, at last. Letty thought about going in and grabbing a wrench or a hammer and swinging at Dom. Or punching the shit out of Brian and kicking his pretty-boy teeth in. But somehow she couldn't find it in herself. Her will had disappeared; her ferocity was overwhelmed by panic. All this time trying to defend her status in Dom's life and now... she couldn't fight back. There wasn't anything to defend, she could see it in the way Dom looked at Brian, how different his face was from anything else. He'd never looked at anyone with that fascinated pleasure, least of all her.

Just as she turned away she heard Brian say, "We're gonna get caught if we stay here. We could go to my place."

"Your place?" Dom said, and it sounded like he was grinning. "That little closet at Harry's?"

"It'll do. If you want it. Wussing out now?"

And that was enough; she walked back into the house, numb. Angry, hurt, betrayed, all that too. And pissed at herself for not even considering the possibility that Dom's interest was something else.

How could she have, though? Who would have thought about this, even if they'd noticed how weirdly close the two of them had gotten? It was too wrong to even think about.

Letty remembered Mia saying "He owns you now" when Brian had brought the Supra in. And how she'd laughed at the look on Brian's face, kind of stunned and scared, kind of hopeful, too. Letty looked at the beer bottles sitting on the kitchen counter: four of them. Theirs. She could imagine the whole thing, the two of them eating dinner, then Dom dragging him out to the garage to talk about the Charger... but then it all started to unravel in her mind. Had this been going on before? It didn't seem possible, the way he'd been in bed with her just a few nights before. Letty swung her arm across the counter, sending the bottles and some glasses and plates crashing to the floor.

She ran upstairs, wanting to smash more things. It felt good to hear the crashing and it pushed the sounds of their laughter and their words out of her head. But that would make Mia wonder what was wrong, and then Mia's heart would be broken, too. Mia wasn't as tough as she was.

Shaking, sweating, she took the few things she kept in Dom's room out of the closet and dresser drawers, then shoved them in a pillow case. In the bathroom she took her few personal things, stared at her face, hollow and pale, in the mirror. When she turned around, Mia was standing there.

"What's going on? What are you doing?" Her face was panicked, probably exactly how she looked herself.

It wasn't often Letty was speechless, but she didn't know what to say. It was one thing to realize that everything that mattered in her life was shit, but it was another thing to drop it on Mia, too.

She snatched up the pillow case. "I have to go. I just..." She looked up at Mia and tried to get a grip, but she could feel the sting of tears at the edge of her eyes and the tightness of her throat choked her. "Don't put all your hopes on Brian, okay? You can't trust him."

And then Letty stumbled past Mia and down the stairs, out the door of the house that had been the center of her life for so many years. Her insides were twisted and torn. Like too much torque, she thought. Pull and twist until the frame bent and ripped apart.

She didn't glance back at the garage with its sliver of light coming through the open door. It was late night now, the street lights on, car headlights passing by on the street. Everything was too dark to see, but that was good, because she didn't want to see anymore.