Summary: Sequel to The Art of Running. Brian’s never scared and Dom sometimes feels like he’s forgotten how to be anything else. Or: Fear and Loathing in Miami.
Rating: Crunchy, hard R for sex, violence and my potty mouth, which tends to bleed over into the characters.
Pairing: Dom/Brian, (Verone/Fuentes).
Warnings: Sex, violence, mentions of child abuse, swearing, slight angsting and genderswap. Also, this won’t make a lick of sense without having read the other story first.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything at all, except some aspects of girl!Brian and this computer. Even the title is stolen from Massive Attack’s Teardrop.
A/N: Okay, who to thank. First of all, everyone who cheered me on with The Art of Running and motivated me to write a sequel. Secondly, jedibuttercup for being the most, pardon my French, fuckawesome cheerleader there is. She’s got talking me down down to an art form. Thank you so much. Also thanks to everyone on my flist for listening to me whine constantly. That said, comments make me muchly happy. Enjoy!
He’ll never again say Brian O’Conner is shit at following orders because she beats the guy by half a mile and an entire bridge.
Which, fuck. Dom’s only met Tej an hour ago, but he’s going to have to kick the man’s ass. Pulling up the bridge? What the fuck was he thinking? If Brian had come down only an inch differently than she did, if she’d been just a bit faster or a bit slower, she could be dead.
She could be dead and she’s… she’s smiling. Laughing like a maniac, actually, almost dancing next to the banged up car, her entire face lit up with the thrill and the adrenaline of pulling off another death defying stunt and never mind that she just took another five years off his life expectancy, that crazy, fucking bitch.
“Did you see that?” she yells as soon as she lays eyes on him. She takes a running leap, climbs him like a tree and wraps her limbs around him like she plans to stay. “Did you fucking see that, Dom?!”
He nods, wordlessly, because she really doesn’t care. She doesn’t give a shit how close she just cut it, or how worried he was. She’s just high. High on her skill, on her luck, on her car, on her win, on her money. High, high, high.
Brian like this has led to some of the best sex he’s had in his life but it scares him, too. Because one of them should be scared.
And because one day, she might not come down.
The first time they fight is kind of inevitable and surprisingly late.
They’re both the most stubborn people on the planet, according to Mia, who is in a position to know, and when the blow-up happens, it is over something utterly ridiculous.
It’s been a few days since Brian was officially declared healthy, even though she’s still weak as a kitten. Dom understood ‘healthy’ to mean ‘not in danger of keeling over dead’. Brian apparently understood something different when the doc cleared her because one day he comes home from the garage to find her cleaning out what has become her part of the closet. Most of her shit is still in boxes since she hasn’t gotten around to sorting through it yet and, apparently, three days after getting a clean bill of health is the perfect time to start.
“You sure you should be doing that?” Dom asks on his way to the bathroom and it’s on like Friday night.
She tells him she’s not a fucking doll. He tells her he’s just worried. She trots out the old spiel about not being one of his people.
Brian goes quiet when she’s really pissed, he learns that that day. Really, really quiet. As long as she’s yelling, there’s hope, but she can make her voice so cold it actually fucking freezes you.
Dom, on the other hand, gets loud. Really, really loud. As long as he’s quiet, he’s still in control. But once the yelling starts, all bets are off.
Brian gets quiet first. And then Dom gets loud.
The kind of loud that scares the neighbors’ dogs.
Letty would back down at this point. So would Mia. Or, hell, anyone else with the survival instincts of a lemming. Somehow, he expects Brian to be like anyone else, even though he should know better by now.
He yells until his voice snaps, vaguely aware of the front door slamming a few times downstairs as the sane people abandon ship. Then, when he’s done with his tirade, heaving, fists clenched, Brian looks him up and down very slowly and says, all fucking Ice, “Are you done?”
She slips around him and out the door before he can draw enough breath to start again. She’s the one running away. She’s the one giving up.
She’s the one who just lost.
Somehow, it doesn’t feel like it. Alone in their bedroom, feeling like a fucking asshat, Dom deflates like a balloon with a hole in it.
There’s a woman in the crowd, dark-skinned and sharply dressed. She keeps popping up in Dom’s peripheral vision and makes him feel itchy for reasons he can’t name until Brian says, “That’s Fuentes.”
“You’ve met her before?” he asks, already knowing the answer.
She shakes her head, sending blonde curls flying. Automatically, she grimaces. She’s been talking about cutting her hair for months and he’s been finding creative ways to stop her, but he’s fighting a losing battle, especially in Miami’s humid heat.
“Nope. But you can tell, if you know what you’re looking for.”
He turns around to check Fuentes out again, to try and find what lets Brian identify her as a cop so easily, but she’s already disappeared.
Brian leans into his side and his hand automatically slips into the back pocket of her jeans.
“Guess that means the game’s about to start.”
The cops gave Roman and Brian a nice little condo that they couldn’t really explain to their new racing friends, so they found some digs of their own. Tej, the apparent Miami equivalent of Hector, has a houseboat out back, behind his garage and they’ve been crashing there.
Now that Dom is here, Roman makes some gagging noises, grabs his stuff and vacates the premises at high speeds, informing them that he’ll be crashing at Tej’s.
Dom has absolutely no problems with that, letting Brian give him the nickel tour and then squeezing himself into a shower built for smaller men than him.
By the time he feels halfway human again and turns off the water, Brian is leaning against in the doorway to the tiny bathroom, playing with her phone. “Fuentes just called,” she says as she watches Dom wrap a towel around his hips and pull out his razor.
“She have anything useful to say?”
Brian’s reflection shakes its head at him. “Nah. She was playing it safe, sticking to her role. Only told me that Rome and me are invited to audition for a job and if we want it, she’ll call us with a time and a place in a few days. Standard stuff.”
He frowns. “She’s keeping cover even when she’s away from the guy? Isn’t that…” he has no idea what that is, but it seems dangerous to him. The potential to forget who you are if you’re constantly playing… Dom knows what it’s like to be buried under layers of faces and masks. It’s hard to breathe down there.
But Brian gets it anyway, stuffs her phone in her pocket and starts fiddling with her hair. “Nope. You go under, you stay under. If you start jumping between what’s real and what isn’t, you mess up.”
“Like you did?” He doesn’t say it meanly, doesn’t mean it as an insult and she knows it, shrugs it off.
“My problem wasn’t mixing up the characters. My problem was that I wasn’t acting at all.” She smirks at him, hot and dirty, tempting him with the unspoken and see where it got me.
He drops the razor in the miniscule sink and spins to face her instead of her reflection. Her smirk grows sharper still as he crowds her, moves her backwards until she hits a wall. “Oh, yeah?” he asks, nonsensically.
She nods, biting at her lip.
“Did ya miss me, babe?”
She nods again, one hand coming to rest on the edge of his towel.
“Wanna show me?”
She bites her lip harder and then lets it slip from between her teeth, red and shiny and already swollen, flutters her eyelashes at him like a hooker and says, “Mhm. You are so lucky I dig the corny pick-up lines.”
He leans in, wedging a knee between her thighs, licking a broad strip up her bare shoulder and neck. “I am?”
“Uh-huh.” To prove her point she flicks her wrist at his hip. The towel hits the floor with a wet, heavy sound. She smiles at him like the devil herself, licks her lips and follows it down.
He thought he’d miss home, miss the crew, but surprisingly, he doesn’t. Not really. Or rather, he misses the people, but not the responsibilities that come with them.
They’re risking life and limb in Miami, but Brian can look after herself and Roman is still more hers than Dom’s and he’s… free. No-one to clean up after, no-one to look after. No Jesse to keep calm and on track, no Vince to police.
He gets daily updates from Mia and Vince, but the things they tell him seem distant. As twisted as it sounds, this is almost a vacation.
The go-call comes two days later, just after breakfast. Brian jumps into her clothes with her cell phone jammed between her ear and her shoulder, yelling for Rome to wake the hell up and get going. Dom watches her from the narrow bed on the boat, knowing better than to get in her way when she’s in a hurry. Then, when she’s done hopping through the place like mad, he rolls to his feet, slips on jeans and a t-shirt and tells her not to bother calling the customs guy.
They peel out at the same time, him in the Supra, her in her shiny new Spyder, sponsored by the US government. He heads for pig central, she toward the address Fuentes gave her.
He pulls into their parking lot with a bit too much gusto and way too much flash, but who cares. Once the engine is ticking in the early morning heat, he pulls out his phone, dials Brian’s number. She answers on the first ring, like she was waiting for it.
“I love you,” he says, without fucking around. “Don’t fuck up.”
She laughs in his ear, low and dirty, the way she sometimes does, drawls, “Yes, dad.”
She hangs up without another word, cocky and dismissive, like she needs to be, and he slips out of the car and into the building. It takes him five minutes to find Markham, who Brian says is a dickwad, and Bilkins, who Dom knows is a dickwad.
They glare at him, shoulder to shoulder and Bilkins says, “I don’t remember inviting you over for breakfast, Toretto.”
Dom shrugs. “Brian got the call. She’s on her way there now. Thought you wanted to know.”
Markham glowers but Bilkins relaxes slightly. “Thanks for telling us,” he mutters, sounding almost sincere. Then he gives Dom a look, one that very clearly says he can go now. Right. Like fuck. There’s no way he’s leaving the one place where he’ll find out first when shit goes south. And it is ‘when’, not ‘if’.
Smirking, he tells them, “I think I’ll stick around for breakfast anyway.”
Markham waves a hand in the air, angry, sharp. “Like hell are you staying here, getting involved with – “
“Or,” Dom cuts him off, “I could go out there where you can’t keep an eye on me and accidentally fuck up the entire sting. Your choice.” He tags his brightest dumb-thug grin to the end of that and watches the customs agent turn a charming shade of red.
Bilkins looks amused more than anything now. “I hope you like donuts,” he says.
Dom does, in fact, like donuts. What he likes more is getting to sit in a room full of computers, all of which are geared toward making sure Brian and Roman don’t get shot in the back of the head and buried in a shallow grave.
“This coffee fucking sucks,” he proclaims, just to see Markham blow up again. By now, he’s absolutely positive that Bilkins is amused by him. If he didn’t know how badly the guy tried to fuck over Brian after she blew Dom’s case, he might almost like him. Almost.
Markham’s lapdog, a tall, dim looking guy by the name of Dunn, looks like he’s trying to hide a smile, too. He’s kind of like an eager puppy, slobbering all over Dom. Kid has dreams of moonlighting as a street racer and since this whole surveillance thing is actually shit boring, Dom has been entertaining himself with the kid.
Jesus. If he understood Brian right, they wanted her to drive with this guy at first, before she brought Roman in. That would have gone so, so wrong.
Dom opens his mouth, possibly to add something about the shitty service in this joint, when the entire room suddenly explodes into action. “They’re heading out,” he hears someone call and then a lot of muttering and Markham is there all of a sudden, glaring down at Dom, “You’re girlfriend’s running. What a fucking surprise!”
Dom, who is really starting to want to bash this guy’s face in, raises an eyebrow. “She’s running and leaving me behind. Sure. What the hell is going on, Bilkins?”
He intentionally looks around the other cop. He can have his pissing contest with someone else. Dom’s all about keeping his urges in check these days. If he reminds himself often enough that the walls have doors now, he doesn’t actually try to bulldoze through everything. It works. Mostly.
“They’re out on I-95, moving fast,” the fed says, and he sounds calm. At least someone is.
Relaxing back into his seat, Dom grunts. “Do you people have any clue how this sort of thing works?” At their blank looks he elaborates, “Verone is testing them.”
Bilkins looks like he’ll take that at face value, but Markham has to be a dick. “How the hell would you know?”
Okay, that? Really fucking stupid question. “Because that’s how it works. Send up one of your fancy choppers if you don’t believe me.”
Unsurprisingly, they do exactly that.
He isn’t sure what he’s going to do when he picks Brian up from the hospital. She gets into his car and he still doesn’t know what he’ll do, or where he’s taking her. It’s kind of amazing, how much history, how much emotion they’ve managed to amass between them in the few short weeks they’ve known each other.
Some days he’s angry with her. Most of the time he isn’t. It’s confusing the hell out of him. One day, on the way home after visiting hours, Jesse says, “Brian thinks you hate her.”
Dom grunts and the kid asks, “Do you?”
He doesn’t know how to answer. He almost doesn’t go to pick her up, but Mia shoves him out the door, tells him to fix it. Just like that. Fix it. Somehow, when he asked for her help fixing their lives, he didn’t think Brianna O’Conner would be included in that.
Apparently, he was wrong.
So he picks her up and he takes her home and finds that it’s not a home at all. He’s seen hotel rooms with more personality. It’s all either necessary stuff, or police crap. He leaves her on her ratty sofa, stalks into her bedroom, looks around.
He sits on her bed, closes his eyes, tries to figure out what the fuck he’s doing. In the end, he pulls out his phone and types I’m bringing her home.
Then he deletes it and writes instead, Can I bring her home?
Because that’s how he and Mia roll now. He’s learning.
Obviously, she sends back.
Alright then. Okay. Maybe he can do this.
Then another message comes. She sleeps in your room.
That one, he thinks as he starts digging for a bag, might be trickier.
Watching Brain drive is art. Watching her drive from a chopper’s perspective is fucking impressive. She slips in and out and around traffic like the other cars are nothing but cones, making her bright yellow Spyder blur. She’s easily ahead of the rest of the pack, with only Roman close on her heels, where he always is.
Dom doesn’t know yet if Roman follows Brian because he wants to, or because he can’t lead. He suspects it’s a bit of both.
Dunn is sitting in front of the screen, Dom, Bilkins and Markham leaning in around him, watching the test race. Dom chuckles as Roman does some fancy steering, slipping between two semis like it’s nothing. Brian follows and then a red Mustang tries. The truck drivers, shaken up from the other two cars passing through, are wavering, the gap between them growing and shrinking unpredictably.
“Don’t,” Dom mutters under his breath when he realizes the Mustang is going to try anyway. “Stupid fuck.”
Markham opens his mouth like he’s going to start bitching again, but then the red car gets caught between the semis, bouncing around like a ball. It gets pulled under one of the big vehicles and then it’s gone. Crushed.
Dom waits with baited breath until the car comes out from under the wildly fishtailing semi and cringes when he sees what’s left of the car. “Skimped on the roll cage, goddamn!”
“He might still be alive,” Bilkins snaps, sounding tense. Probably didn’t expect there to be bodies on the ground on day one.
Dom shakes his head. He’s seen enough wrecks, enough bodies, to know what a human being can walk away from. Racers don’t die in their sleep and this guy’s dead.
And then, just to prove his point, another car, black this one and he can’t make out the model, slams into the wreck and they both roll spectacularly before blowing up. Two dead.
Two dead, one interstate choked up and Brain and Roman in the lead. Markham barks something into his phone and the chopper pulls away from the wreckage, catches up with the others and finds –
“Fucking showoff,” Dom drawls, smiling despite himself. Brian’s driving in reverse at full throttle, slipping through the other cars like she’s going the right way around at cruise speed and probably whooping with the joy of it.
“What the fuck is she doing?!” Markham looks so angry that, for a moment, Dom thinks he’ll draw right here, in the middle of his own headquarters, because he’s pissed at Brian and wants to shoot Dom for being available.
“Just playing around,” Dom says and knows it’s the wrong answer almost before the words leave his mouth.
“This isn’t a game!!”
He chuckles darkly, the way he learned in Lompoc, the chuckle of a fatalist, a realist, a pragmatist. The chuckle of someone who’s seen his life in pieces and lived to tell the tale. He may be scared as hell, but at least he knows he’s alive.
What do these guys live for?
“Of course it’s a game,” he says, his voice as dry as asphalt. He waves one hand at the scene on the screen. “You don’t risk your life for anything but a game.”
Markham pulls up short, utterly blindsided and uncomprehending. Dunn just looks blank. It’s Bilkins who shakes his head. “That’s insane.”
“It’s the only way to live.” Quarter mile at a time, never look behind you, never plan beyond the adrenaline, never slow down to let all your demons catch up with you. Brian says it’s not running when you’ve got someone there with you, but Dom knows that’s idealist bull.
If they ever stop, they’re going to rip themselves apart.
If they ever stop, it’s gonna kill them.
Better to go out without a roll cage under a semi than to live and have all your sins and fears catch up with you. Racers don’t die in their sleep and when it comes right down to it, they’re all professional escapists.
He smirks darkly at the fed and the look he gets in return is mild and amused and maybe, just maybe, a bit understanding.
Then Brian smashes through the gate of an impound lot and no-one has time for an existential crisis anymore.
Letty calls sometimes, usually during the week and only at the garage. Like she’s scared of having Brian answer the phone at home or something, which is bull, because Brian works at the garage, too.
Dom wastes a thought or two every week over how much of Letty’s space Brian is filling up, but then he tells himself he’s being paranoid. Brian and Letty are nothing alike. He slept with them both, worked with them both, but Letty is one of his and Brian, as she likes to remind him, is not. She’s his equal, the thorn in his side, the voice at the back of his mind. His sanity and sometimes – always-, the wall he can’t crack.
She’s his lifeline.
Letty was… is… integral to his life, but not to who he is. So he lets her play her game of phone tag, talks to her, asks her about her new life and listens to her carefully. Because he cares. Because he’s sorry. He’s sorry she never stood a chance.
Sometimes she asks how the cop is. The first time, he said, “Almost dead from saving Jesse’s life.”
After that, he always contents himself with pointing out, “Not a cop anymore.”
Beyond that, he never answers the question, until, one day, Letty says, conversationally, “If I had thrown my life away for you, would you’ve loved me more?”
“No,” he says. Because he would have still loved Brian if she’s stayed a cop. He would have hated her, too, but that wouldn’t have changed anything at all. “Probably not.”
He can hear her nod, can practically see her tug on her ponytail in frustration, angry with him and herself and the world.
“Fuck you, D,” she barks and hangs up the phone.
The moment Brian and Roman walk through the door of Markham’s super secret club house, the man is at Roman’s throat, yelling for him to put up his gun, put it up, or he’ll fucking throw him back in jail.
Dom puts himself between Brian and the maniac, even though he knows she’ll bitch about it later, and lets Bilkins talk the two men down.
In the end Markham gets pushed up against a wall by Dunn, who has obvious trouble manhandling his boss, who keeps struggling and yelling about how Roman’s packing, and what the fuck does he think he’s doing.
Brian slips around Dom, angry and strutting like she’s got something to prove. It’s her cop walk, Dom has learned, the one she puts on when she’s playing with the big boys. “We’re doing our job, Markham,” she snaps. “The one you gave us.”
“He shouldn’t be carrying,” Bilkins cautions, playing peacemaker.
Dom bites back a snort with little success. An unarmed racer. Now that would really stick out. They all carry. It’s their very own brand of insurance and screw that shit about ‘once you carry a hammer, all your problems start to look like nails’. When you get right down to it, racing is a crime. It’s not as dirty as some of the shit happening in the streets, but it’s dangerous and it’s high stakes.
The only reason he’s not packing right now is that he didn’t think it was a good idea to walk into a police station with a nine millimeter in his waistband and he can see, just barely, the outline of Brian’s own piece in the back of her shorts.
“If he weren’t, we’d be dead. You were watching, you saw.”
The fed nods and turns to Roman, all smiles again. “I saw,” he confirms, then adds, “Still need your gun, though.”
Roman grimaces and Brian says his name, low, in warning. Don’t put up a fuss. They’ve got more guns between them, and giving this one up won’t hurt anyone. Show of good faith, as empty as it is. Markham finally stops straining against Dunn but mutters something about Roman being Brian’s bitch. The black man slams the gun down on a fold out table hard enough to make its spindly legs buckle and takes three steps back, fury in his every movement. Dom grabs him by the back of his collar, hauls him backwards with him until they’re leaning against a wall. Let Brian do the reporting, now that the excitement is over.
He keeps his hand on Roman’s neck, the way he’s seen Brian do sometimes when the man gets out of control. He’s not holding, just letting it rest there, solid, heavy. “You did good,” he murmurs out of the corner of his mouth.
Roman takes a deep breath and leans his head back into Dom’s hands. He relaxes.
“So what about Fuentes,” Bilkins asks half an hour later. “She flipped?”
Markham, who just about got his blood pressure to even out, snaps to full attention again, “That’s ridiculous!”
“She’s living at the compound with him, Markham. Brian?”
Sure. Ask the flipped cop about whether or not another cop has flipped. Nice move. Asshole. But Brian, cool as ever, just shakes her head. “No.”
“She is sleeping with him,” fed man adds, leaning forward.
“He’s a control freak. She’s just keeping her cover.” There’s an edge there, all of a sudden, something ugly niggling at the edges of her words that Dom has never heard before.
Bilkins raises both eyebrows, disbelieving, condescending.
“She’s doing what she has to to survive,” Brian gives back, too hard, too fast. Angry.
“You can’t know that.”
“Yes, I can. Give it a fucking rest. She’s doing what she has to, nothing more.” With that she pushes to her feet, spins on her heel and stalks away. Dom looks at Roman, who shrugs and gets shifty-eyed. He knows, whatever this is about, he knows. And he ain’t sharing with the class. Knowing that Roman’s loyalty lies now, and always will lie, with Brian, calms and infuriates Dom in turns.
“We’re not finished, O’Conner!”
“Yes, we are. I’ll call you when we got more.”
Bang, boom, and a deep purr as she slams out of the place and takes off without a look back, leaving Dom staring after her. What. The. Hell?
It takes three texts before Brian answers, and even then all he gets is a brief Be home later.
No where, no when, no how. A life sign, nothing more. Roman makes himself scarce as soon as he can get away with it, knowing full well that Dom is about to hang him over a fire pit and make him talk. So, with nothing else to do and no-one to hit, Dom ends up in Tej’s garage, helping Jimmy mod some wannabe racer’s car.
They work in peace, with Jimmy babbling on about some race or another and cars and engines and whatever he can think of. He reminds Dom of Jesse with less chemicals in his blood, so he mostly ignores the guy until Tej comes up, long after dinner time’s come and gone, and sends Jimmy packing.
Dom bows out of a beer and a game, settles himself on the deck of the boat, watches the Miami skyline. Waits.
If this were Letty, or Vince, or Jesse, even Mia or Roman, he’d be out there now, ripping the city apart, getting angrier by the moment. He’d turn over every rock until he found them and then yell their problem out of them. Vince he’d probably beat the shit out of.
But not Brian.
He wants to go looking for her, no question. He wants to rant at her and yell and tell her to never again walk out on him. It’s how he worries. Out loud and with his fists.
But he knows what Bri would do. She’d stand there and just take it, take everything he throws at her, silently. And then she’d say how sorry she is for worrying him and walk away again. Because she sees right through him. Because she’s his by choice, not by default. Because she chooses what to share and what to keep. Because he gets scared all the time and she never does.
He used to listen to the guys talk about how women were mysteries, and he never got it. The girls before Letty were never serious and Letty herself was… she was Letty. Basically a guy without a dick.
But Brian is not. She hangs with the guys and she talks with the guys, but she’s so very female and complicated and layered that it makes his head hurt. She’s more complex than any engine he’s ever taken apart and he keeps waiting for the day he fucks up, for that feeling in your gut, that sinking ugly feeling you get when you finish putting an engine back together and find a few leftover screws in your pocket when you’re done.
He keeps waiting.
For Brian. For the day he fucks up. For that feeling.
All of it, maybe.
Dom never noticed how much space Brian takes up, as clichéd as that sounds.
He’s aware that she’s tall for a woman, all gangly limbs and impossibly long fucking legs. But it’s more than that. Brian just takes up space. Sitting next to her in a car, he can feel her energy against his skin.
Her voice, her laugh, her gestures, her presence. She fills rooms. Even the few times she fell asleep around him, she was still noticeable, still there.
Now, lying in a hospital bed, all pale skin and ugly tubes, she’s small. For the first time since he met her, she takes up exactly as much space as she physically should.
The room feels empty and he stands at the foot of her bed for an age, just staring at her.
Cop. Pig. Traitor. Friend. Companion. He kissed her. Had her pressed into his lap in the Supra, had her grinding against him like a bitch in heat, like she wanted it as much as he did. Does.
Maybe it was all a lie.
Maybe it wasn’t. She’s too small now, too fragile to be mad at.
Jesse, who’s been hanging in the doorway like a cloud of guilt, makes a sound and Dom jerks. He looks back at the kid and then stomps out of the room without a word.
“Did I ever tell you about my dad?” a voice comes from the dark and then she slips into view, long legs first, then the rest of her. She looks tired.
He shakes his head, takes his feet off the chair he’s propped them on, offering her the seat. She stares out across the water instead, like she’s contemplating it.
“Let’s go for a swim.”
“Swimming,” she repeats, already pulling her shirt over her head. Apparently, they’re not actually talking. She shimmies out of her shorts next, leaving her in a pale blue bikini that matches her eyes. She must have worn it all day underneath her clothes. She’s adapting pretty damn well to Miami living. “Come on,” she says as she scrapes her curls into a ponytail, twists a scrunchy around it.
Then she stretches her arms above her head, tits bouncing, and dives into the ocean. Dom considers following her, but he doesn’t really feel like getting wet. He’d rather enjoy the view from out here.
Her bikini is a beacon in the dark, glowing almost white as she dives, sticking her ass in the air for a moment. He watches her play mermaid for a few minutes, lets her blow off steam. When she’s done, she comes climbing out of the water, dripping all over him.
He raises an eyebrow at her in silent question and she shrugs, unties her top and lets it drop to the deck with a wet sound. Next she undoes the strings on either side of the panties, one, two. They fall where the top landed. The scrunchy goes last and suddenly there’s a naked Amazon standing in front of Dom, all smooth, tan skin and glistening water drops.
He puts down his beer, spreads his arms in silent invitation. Whatcha gonna do, little girl?
She cocks her head to one side, expression strangely intent, and climbs in his lap unceremoniously. Just bam, there, lap full of wet girl. She digs her knees in on either side of him, looms above him. He tries to put his hands on her, but she grabs them by the wrists, twists a bit. A warning. He lets his hands drop limply to his sides and gets kissed as a reward, hard and dirty and with too much teeth.
Something is definitely up.
She bites his lower lip, pulls on it to the point of pain, releases it with a pop. “Don’t fucking move,” she hisspers in his ear as she wraps one arm around his neck, shoves his board shorts out of the way with the other. She grabs him, gives him a few strokes and then levers herself up.
He starts to say something, to tell her to slow the fuck down, but she kisses him again, tongue in his mouth like a gag and he doesn’t dare move his hands. He’s never seen Brian like this.
She’s fresh out of the water and there’s absolutely no foreplay but ask her if she cares as she rears up and sits right down on his dick, bottoming out in one go. She chokes on a yell and Dom bites his own lip hard enough to taste copper but she doesn’t let up, doesn’t stop or even wait for a moment, just starts riding him.
Dom only remembers his own father through a haze of flames. Maybe, one day, it will dim and he will see the man as something other than a body in a burnt out shell of metal, but for now, he doesn’t. He can’t.
He thinks of his father and he recalls all the facts. Sunday barbeques and how he helped Mia with her homework, but he doesn’t see the man, the person. He sees the curse. He sees his life ending in less than a week.
His dad, the fire, the funeral, Kenny Linder.
But even through all that, above and below and beyond it, through the fire, he knows that he was loved. His father loved him.
Dom can’t imagine a world where he doesn’t have his father’s strength, his lessons, his faith to fall back on. Everything good in him is there because of his father. Brian and Mia and the others may remind him of it, but what’s there, the very root of him, lies with his father.
He has no idea what to do with Brian bringing up her father and then losing her shit like this. His life may be a broken, jagged mess, but his family is not.
His family is whole. It’s good. It’s solid.
It’s the one thing in the world he still has faith in.
The last words – the very last – he said to his father before the crash were, “Good luck.”
And his old man rubbed a hand over Dom’s scalp, smirked and said, “Love you, too, kiddo.”
No-one can ever take that away from him.
It takes an age for them both to come and when they finally do, Dom’s glad more than anything else. Brian shudders and shivers on top of him, suddenly small, fragile. No more Amazon, no more Brian O’fucking Conner.
This is Brianna, the girl, and she buries her face in his neck like a child. He stands awkwardly and she whimpers. He pulls his shorts back up with one hand and carries her inside, puts her on the bed and wraps her in the sheets. She’ll be salt-crusty tomorrow and hate it, but there’s nothing he can do about that now.
He tangles a hand in her curls, tugs them out of her face and smoothes them down uselessly. Then he straightens, intending to go back outside. There’s no way he’s lying down next to her after what just happened. Shit, she practically just used him to rape herself. And he let her. He needs a shower and a drink and then someone to scrub his mind of the lost look on her face and the helplessness that still squirms in his belly.
But she’s fast, even with her eyes closed, her fingers finding his wrist and holding on. He tugs, she squeezes. He’s trapped.
“My dad used to grab us,” she whispers, eyes still closed. “Just like this.”
She tugs on his arm to illustrate her point and he finds himself lying down after all, pulling her into his arms because he can’t not when she draws him closer, when she seems to want him there. Before was for her, for her headspace, but she’s back on planet Earth now, and he’s ridiculously grateful that it’s him she wants. She curls into a ball, practically burrowing into his side. He waits. Then, after a few minutes of nothing, he gets rewarded.
“Nothing else. Never hit us, or anything. He just… held on. He was Navy, did you know that?”
He bites back a snort. No, he didn’t know that. He knew, intellectually, that Brianna Marilyn O’Conner didn’t step fully formed from a pod, but beyond that, she’s never mentioned family at all. Just a mother, who died when she was practically still a kid. No father.
He shakes his head.
“Met my mom during Fleet Week. I was an accident. He married her to do the right thing, sent her to live in Barstow with his folks. He finished his service when I was two or three and came home. He was a control freak. Everything had to be exactly as he said or he’d get mad. And sometimes, he grabbed us. Whatever part he could reach at the time. Arm, leg, even around the waist.”
Sounds like a charming fellow.
“He grabbed us and held on. He didn’t do it to hurt you, you know? Didn’t even leave bruises half the time. Just held on. And on, and on. Letting you feel his power. That he was in control. My mom used to start crying when he did it, begging him to let go. Sometimes she struggled. Didn’t matter. He just kept holding on until he was sure he’d made his point. Screaming, crying, fighting, pleading. He didn’t give a fuck. Just held on until you felt absolutely helpless. And then he’d let go like nothing happened.”
She tells the whole story without stopping, without looking at him. Just tells it to the darkness and he listens, almost as if by accident. When she’s done, there’s a long silence. Dom plays connect-the-dots in the dark.
“Verone reminds you of your father.”
“He loves power,” she says, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. Just stating. Verone loves power and he has it over Fuentes, makes her feel it. Makes her play his game, dance to his tune. Brian knows how that feels.
“Do you have your father’s address?” he wants to know.
She laughs, thinking he’s joking. He’s definitely not. If he finds the man, he’s going to beat the living shit out of him and he knows Vince and Roman will help. Mia’ll probably want to get in a few licks, too. Girl can be vicious. The fucker deserves much worse, for hurting his wife and kid, for fucking Brian up so badly that she has to regain control by taking it from Dom. Wife beater. Child abuser. The lowest kind of shit there is.
“Don’t bother,” Brian offers, not sounding very concerned. “I was only ten when he died. Car crash. He didn’t… he didn’t actually do it to me much. I was just a kid when he died. Verone and Fuentes just brought up a few memories.”
A few memories, his ass. Brian is raw as ground meat and she just spent all day running away and then came home and punished them both with that fuck. Unaffected looks different.
He pulls her closer, squeezing with the arm he has around her middle and then stops, something ugly dawning on him. “I grab you, too.”
Constantly. He’s a physical person and manhandling Bri has become one of his favorite pastimes and she’s never complained, but knowing what he knows now…
Very calmly, Brian says, “Let me go.”
He pulls his hands away like she’s hot coals, feeling sickness pooling in his gut as he spreads his arms wide as far from her as he can get them while she’s practically on top of him. Fuck. He just… fuck!
“See?” she asks, perfectly calm. She twists so she’s looking him in the face. “I say let go, you do it.”
She was making a point. She was… he keeps staring at her, feeling like he’s at sea, everything fucked up and twisted and, God, he wishes her sperm donor were still alive so he could kill the fucker half a dozen times over. Slowly, so very slowly and carefully, he relaxes. But he doesn’t put his arms back around her. Can’t.
Brian looks at him, long and hard, as if she’s trying to figure something out. “You okay?”
“Am I… should you be asking me that?” She’s the abuse victim here and fuck, that word, even in his head, makes him see red. Abuse. Grab and hold on. Power trip.
No wonder she freaked after meeting Verone, after hearing Bilkins accuse Fuentes, who she sees as a fellow victim, of flipping. Not that he believes, for one second, that Brian thinks of herself as a victim. But no matter how tough she is, no matter how big she talks, there are people out there who can hurt her. People who have hurt her. And today, she found herself in Fuentes and freaked the fuck out.
And then she came back home to him.
He thinks that means something, but fuck him if he can figure out what.
Brian shrugs and puts her head back down on his chest. She’s asleep before he dares touch her again and he feels like he failed her, somehow. Like he should be taking care of her, but all he can do is lie in the dark and listen to her breathe.