Characters: Dom, Brian
Rating: Will vary. May include slash at some future point. Winging it right now.
Author Note/Warning: Don't own them, obviously. Written in first-person narrative style resembling "stream of consciousness", for the purpose of sinking into a character depth that the movie(s) obviously cannot convey. All crits and comments welcome.
My first clear memory of Brian is the day I broke up the street scuffle between him and Vince.
He was sitting there at the counter, his flirting interrupting my concentration on the books. Crunching numbers ain’t easy when you’ve got a soundtrack of innuendo going nonstop. So I got up to grab a drink. Needed something to cool my nerves before I said something that Mia would just tear me up for.
I turned around, and he was watching me. Intently. Not just a casual glance to acknowledge my presence, but a piercing, searching look of curiosity and something else. Like he was taking my measure and didn’t have a problem letting me know it.
It wasn’t his first time showing up for lunch, but it was the first time I’d bothered to be there. In fact, the team’s bitching (or rather, Vince’s odd behavior and moping about) about the stranger was what goaded me away from the garage. I wanted to see him for myself. Especially since he’d become an unknown – and a source of unwanted drama – in the team’s dynamic.
Last thing I wanted to do was get involved in breaking the two of them up. Their scuffle was entirely testosterone-driven, and I wanted no part of it. Public domain, they weren’t about to damage anything inside the diner, so what did I care? If delivery-boy couldn’t hold his own against Vince, it was better off to let the team run him off as opposed to me doing it. And if he could? Well. I guess you could say I viewed it as a test of sorts.
But then the girls both got up in my grill, and there was no way I’d get to finish my soda in peace. If I insisted on it, I’d never hear the end of it. I’m not a big fan of drama. Vince’s shit kinda pisses me off, and I had no problem at all letting him know it. Took it out on Brian, too. Didn’t care what he thought. I just wanted a couple hours of quiet, and the lot of them had spoiled it.
Not to mention that Letty and Mia wanted Big Bad Dom to flex his muscles. So it was all on them if I took it beyond what they wanted. I hoped maybe it would teach them not to try telling me what to do. Like I’m some Rottweiler on a leash, and all they gotta do is sic me on whoever they want.
It wasn’t really that I wanted him gone. Far from it, really. I’d seen something in his gaze back there when he was staring at me. I didn’t scare him. Not even when I got in his face, he didn’t flinch, didn’t show the faintest hint of being intimidated.
And that’s why, when I saw him that night, I was willing to indulge him. Told him so. Not in so many words, but he met my gaze and saw it.
Cocky punk, standing there with his hands shoved in his pockets. Shaggy, sun-bleached surfer-boy curls. Flashing a million-watt smile, “yeah, that’s my car.” It’s so obvious he’s desperate to earn respect. It’s also pretty clear he knows it doesn’t come easy. Did he know he was so easy to read?
He’s so country-bred American, he’s like cornbread. Varsity jackets and Friday night lights on the football fields and all the rest of that cliché jazz you see on television these days.
Bet he was a quarterback in high school. Bean sprout, whip thin. Long fingers perfect for wrapping around pigskin. (Hey, what can I say? I’ve always been a Raiders fan. And yeah, they do suck pretty bad. Most of the time.)
His confidence hadn’t dimmed the slightest when he pulls to a stop a few paces from my RX7 after the race. If anything, it’s got an extra glow thanks to the contact high of the NOS-punch. Really? A turbo-virgin? He never had me. I tell him as much. But he’s earned a wedge of respect from me, just for how he’s handled himself. He’s got potential. And more than that, he’s hungry for something. Not sure what it is, though. Definitely not the money, going by his car. Easily worth $80k the hard way – parts, labor, and tuning; tweaks, paint and decals.
And he didn’t hesitate to put up his pinks for a $2k buy-in. Is he that stupid? Maybe the sun bleached all the brain cells out through the roots of his hair. I mean, being a speed-junkie is one thing, but this boy takes it to a whole different level. His vibe has changed, just in the ten seconds it took to get from one end of the quarter-mile strip of asphalt, to the other.
He reminds me a bit of Jesse. Seems so young and vibrant, fresh and full of life. Like there’s more behind those vivid blue eyes than his body can contain. He listens to me rant at him, criticizing his driving and ripping it to pieces like an engine in the middle of an overhaul, and has a grin curling his lips the entire time. Even when the crowd cheers in agreement of my assessment.
I barely even have a chance to register the neon green color of the car when he skids past me. Cop sirens wailing nearer with every passing second, adrenaline thick in my blood and my pulse pounding in my ears, I manage to bring my hands up to keep from body-slamming into the passenger-side door. Door flies open, “Dom, get in.”
Calling it shock would be an understatement. He’s the absolute last person I expected to see. Where’s my team? Damn them, for bailing without giving me a second thought. It should be Vince’s car I’m clinging to the seat in, as he guns it and whips out of the alley into the street, drifting through the turn. Easy as taking a spatula to a bowl of brownie mix.
But God am I glad to see him. And what a sight for sore eyes. I can’t decide what to watch, the intensity of his focus as he slaloms around a pair of cruisers, or the scowling patrolmen scant inches away. He might have a lot to learn about racing in a straight line, but he makes the rice-burner dance down the street without breaking a sweat or missing a beat. Downshifting to whip past them, shifting again to roar off and leave them breathing his dust.
Slides through another turn, does it again. Not the slightest hesitation, not a breath of wasted movement as he works the steering wheel, pedals, the stick. Tendons cording in his forearms and neck, his gaze flicks from mirror to mirror, back to the road. He wrings every bit of torque and sprint from the fried engine that it has to give. And not a drop of sweat on his brow – he’s in his element, no doubt about it.
The respect-o-meter inches up a few notches, and I can’t begrudge him that. Don’t know how much to trust him though. So I try to get a bit of background out of him. I know where the driving prowess comes from, bits and pieces of his past. Wanted to see how honest he’d be though.
Gotta put a stock engine on the dyno before you start to tweak it, right? Know what you got to work with.
He glances at me when I mention his juvie record. Tension around his mouth. “Supposed to be sealed,” was all he said before he went back to staring at the road. One chilly cucumber, let me tell you.
Even when the pack of crotch rockets swarms around us and Lance brandishes a semi-automatic pistol at him. No smart quips or sarcasm that would set off what was to him an unknown. Ice smooth, goes with the flow.
And damn, that’s impressive. None of my crew would have been so cool, but they know the history behind the tension weaving around the car right then. Brian doesn’t. He takes his cue from me just as easily as he read me before the race.
I don’t know what drove me to deny I’d taken delivery of the car. Part of me was hoping to save such a beautiful piece of automotive artwork. Especially after watching Brain make it dance down the road like that. Anyone on the streets could appreciate the amount of time and effort he’d put into it – even if it wasn’t his money. I mean, if it had been, he could have come up with a couple G’s for the race, right? Maybe that had just been about upping the ante to be sure we – I – wouldn’t refuse him the chance.
But if I admitted to ownership of the car, Johnny wouldn’t have hesitated to rip it up. Deep down, I’d known the odds weren’t in the car’s favor the minute Johnny and Lance led us back to the heart of their turf.
The way Lance hardly even looked at the car, gaze locked on Brian, “yeah, it’s an amazing machine.” That got my hackles up. The only way for me to recoup anything was to make sure Brian still owed me a car. He wouldn’t fight me on that. I could read that much when I looked at him over the roof of the car. Snowman, cool customer, hands crammed in the front pockets of his stonewashed jeans. Just looking at me. Eyes a little wide, surprised I pulled that one. He’d honor his bet, pay his debt. And if he managed to pull a smooth one on me in the process, well. At that moment I didn’t much care. Not his fault he drove right into the Tran territory helping me evade the cops.
He owes me a car; that makes him mine. My mechanic. Much as it annoys me, slapping that look off Lance’s face won’t get me and Brian out of the situation unscathed. So I keep a good grip on the temper that’s making the vein throb in my temple.
The most remarkable thing about hoofing it toward the closest taxi… Having him there beside me was relaxing. Soothing. Them boys get me worked up way too easy, guess you could say. Too much history, and they’re just way too damned unpredictable. Takes me back to my days in Lompoc, trying to watch every direction at once. Of course you can’t manage it, right? But strolling down the middle of the empty road with Mr. Arizona, damn. I could use that cool of his. Like aloe on a fresh burn. Team needed something, that’s for sure. Him and Vince might not have gotten off on the best foot, but that didn’t mean much. I mean, hey. This is Vince we’re talking about right?
Letty thought he was too pretty. Jesse’s input, “there’s no such thing, girl.”
Leon just kinda shrugged off the whole confrontation. He knew his opinion would count, but like me? He knew it was way too soon to say for sure. He wouldn’t begrudge the possibility though. Hell, him and Jesse just showed up one day for crying out loud. And never left. Wouldn’t be strange if it happened again, just when we needed it.
There are moments when I wonder what does frighten Brian. He asked what the display of machismo was all about. When I told him it was a long story, anyone else would have taken that for the dismissal it was. If there’d been any doubt, I’m sure the attitude rolling off me just then should have clinched it.
But not Mr. Arizona. Nope. Smooth as you please he jumps right back in with, “humor me.” So I give him the short version. What’s bad blood ever about, right? Money and family and women. One way or another. Just turns out this situation had all that rolled up in there. Honor and loyalty and trust, a fragile balance to maintain to say the least. Crush them all, and there’s no hope for redemption.
He listens without comment, and I glance over at him. Wondering why it feels like he’s reading between the lines.
Poor Eclipse. Talk about collateral damage. I’m just relieved I managed to get myself and Brian out of that intact. Cars? Replaceable. Limbs and lives, not so much.
Not that I felt he was my responsibility – but I was the reason why he’d been at risk to begin with. If it had just been him cruising through Tran territory, Johnny would have left him be. No doubt about it. They didn’t have a grudge against him. Course, they probably will now. Guilt by association and all that.
So now? Now, he’s kinda under my wing whether I planned it or not. My mechanic. Got a ways to go yet, but I’m liking the numbers I’m getting. Never know when some unforeseen weakness will crop up and set you back though.
My mind’s on the crew for the rest of the way back to the house. Brian doesn’t seem inclined to be chatty, which is fine with me. The gears are too busy churning in my head. If the nights actually bothered to get cold at all round here, ya might’ve seen steam rolling out my ears or something.
It royally pisses me off that not a single one of them showed face to make sure I didn’t end up in cuffs somewhere. Don’t know why I told Brian I wouldn’t go back. Not that it wasn’t the honest-to-gods truth. It was. It’s been almost ten years, for fuck’s sake, and I still have nightmares. Nobody knows that though. Nobody knows about the times I wake up covered in sweat, every muscle in my body clenched so tight I may as well be a statue forged from solid steel.
Guess I told him because I felt a little guilty for digging around in his past. Only a little – ya learn real fast to be cautious, know what I mean? But I think I meant it as a peace offering.
Fuck, I could really use a Corona. Pretty-boy Snowman looks like he could use one too.
And it kinda startles me when he calls out “see ya,” makes off down the sidewalk.
Can’t hurt to show him a little gratitude. Whatever his motivation for saving my ass, he did it. And the fucking team – and Vince – could use a little reminder of who the big dog in the house is.
He trails after me up the steps.
God, this pisses me off so much. Party in full swing. Even Letty, sprawled on the floor playing GTA, without a care in the world. I could be sitting in jail right now, being charged with gods-know-what, and they’re all sucking face, sucking beer, and kicking back.
I want to punch something. Torque a few nuts loose. Without the assistance of an air wrench.
Vince mouths off, predictably. And he sees something in my eyes when I lick into him. “Cuz the buster kept me out of handcuffs.” Know there’s more Coronas elsewhere – taking the one Vince just opened wasn’t necessary. Convenient, yes. I did it because Letty and Mia aren’t the only ones who seem to have taken up the “Rott-on-a-Rope” mindset. Brian ain’t stupid. He could see that, played right along and rubbed salt into the wound for me.
The moment Brian takes off for the second-floor bathroom, Vince descends on me. All sound and fury, and I offset it with a long swig of Corona while he does the po-po accusation skit for what seems like the hundredth time.
Gotta hand it to him, he’s got some dogged persistence. Damned pit bull is what he is. Grabs a hold of something, and you can’t break his grip to save your ass. Pisses me off that Vince can keep after that when he wasn’t there when I needed him, and doesn’t really even know the guy from Adam.
Then again, that’s exactly Vince’s point. I don’t know Brian either. But you gotta give someone a chance now and then. Take a risk at getting to know them. Don’t know your car’s potential if you aren’t willing to punch the gas – or the NOS – hang on and let her rip.
Circle stays pretty small when you just stick to the people you know though… “There was a time I didn’t know you, Vince.”
“Yeah, that was the third grade.” Motherfucker. He’s got me. I laugh, shake my head, and the tension between me and the nervous collection of team snaps and fades away. For now. Them and their fucking drama. The peace won’t last long.
Letty laughs when I remind Brian he still owes me a ten-second car.
And that look is back in his eyes. Same one he lit on me at the diner. Did he think saving my ass balanced out? Well. It does, actually. He doesn’t need to know that though. Don’t need to know that I’m doing him a favor. Someone needs to teach the boy a few things. Hate to see all that potential go to waste.
Hate to miss the opportunity to see him more. Can’t put my finger on why, though. And that’s got me curious. Mr. Arizona. As much a mystery as any other snowball in Hell.
Letty drags me off up the stairs for a quick fuck. Just the thing to take the edge off the irritation still cranking through me.
Does it even matter that it feels like I know all I need to about Brian, simply because I’ve seen him drive? Details are just window dressing.