Insert all the standard fanfic mumbo-jumbo here: don't own them, not making any money, it's all for shits and giggles, etc.
Not sure what I expected Brian to bring me, to replace that Eclipse. It had been a beautiful thing. Jesse practically drooled over it, was so upset when he saw the damage Brian did. Good thing he wasn’t there to see its death.
The sheer ingenuity of his choice shocks the hell outta me.
Blond curls haloing his face, smile so wide it’s gotta hurt his cheeks. Beyond me how anyone can smile like that. Brian’s whole body gets involved, “this… is your car.”
My shoulders shake, I laugh so hard. Brace one hand on the jam of the garage entry, take a drag of Red Bull while I study the charred deformity that was once a Supra.
“Just pop the hood,” still smiling, gaze challenging.
He’s right. There’s a 2JZ tucked in the carcass. Just like that I get it.
That Supra wasn’t just a replacement car, it’s Brian. Telling his story the same way his driving did. Beaten up and scarred, scorched and damaged by life. But the potential, it’s there to see, if ya take the time to appreciate it. Beauty waiting to be uncovered, repaired. Arms folded across his chest, Snowman stands at my shoulder with a smirk on his face. Waiting. I look him in the eye and nod. Tap his forearm with the crowbar in my grip. Let him know his ass is mine. When it’s not Harry’s.
I don’t touch him, not the way I do the rest of the crew. Never had a problem with Leon, Vince or Jesse getting physical. With him, it’s different. Intense. Found that out separating him and Vince outside the diner. Not something I wanna repeat any time soon.
Stirs things up like a whirlpool with an undertow. Dangerous territory.
I loaded him in the car with me for the drive down to Harry’s. Team fanned out behind us in morning traffic, looking like a rainbow in a gray sky. Beautiful sight.
Hot air whips in the open windows, plays in his shaggy curls, “I know that car is going to take a lot to get it race-ready.”
“Yeah.” Takes a lot of effort to keep the RX7 at the speed limit. “So?”
He looks over at me, straight face. Serious look in them unnaturally bright eyes. “It was the best I could do.”
“What?” Feel the line between my brows deepening. “You think I’m gonna tell you your best ain’t good enough?” I put my attention back on the road and the traffic. Makes it easier, somehow. “That engine has more merit than any car off a dealer’s lot.” I glance over at him, “with the exception of a Bugatti Veyron, maybe.”
He stares at the roof and laughs. That sound, it almost tickles.
“God, Dom. That’s not a stock car. But I’d do that just to see the look on your face.”
Can’t help but laugh along with him, it’s contagious. “Letty would have an orgasm just looking at the thing,” which only makes him laugh harder. That spark’s back in his gaze when he glances over and shakes his head. “Don’t stress about it. I’ve seen you drive. Up close, yeah? I got no doubt you can handle Race Wars. This stuff going on my tab at Harry’s? It’s just an investment, you know?”
“Beats having stock in General Motors?”
“Like to keep my assets a bit more liquid than that.”
He starts chuckling, shifts in his seat. “Right, that’s the reason for the NOS.”
Buster knew his way around a garage. Starting from scratch with a gutted car like that, it can be difficult. Overwhelming. Found a groove fast, though. There were moments when I swore he was reading my mind. Buried in the engine compartment, and I’d need a wrench – or a narrower hand, longer fingers – and he was right there. Tool tapping my shoulder, “here let me get that.” Always with a smile curling his lips. Like a kid in a candy shop. Grease smudged down the left side of his face. Sweat-damp hair stuck to his forehead.
Around three in the afternoon, Jesse is the only one with a t-shirt left on his body. Grab a six-pack of energy drinks from the fridge in the back and chase the boys out of the bay for a break. God knew I needed one. I could feel the sweat rolling down the groove of my spine.
Brian sprawls his long body on the hood of a parts-car. Leans back against the windshield. I grin at Jesse rambling from his perch on the roof, hand Snowman his drink. All I can do not to stare. Find myself wondering why he ain’t in New York being a model for some designer label they sell on Rodeo Drive, or something.
“How ‘bout you, Brian? Who taught you how to drive?” Jesse ruffles those sweat-darkened curls as he asks the question. I lean a hip on the quarter panel, rub at a rivulet of sweat trickling down over my breastbone, smile.
“Mother. She taught me. First day with my permit, out on Route 40? Wham, five car pile-up. Swear to God.”
The boys die with laughter, and I grin around another swallow of Red Bull. Makes me happy to see them getting along like this. Not that I really doubted it. He’s so… infectious. I crush my can in one fist and turn back to the bay, “couple hours more, boys. Dinner at our place tonight.” Something makes me stop and turn back, point a finger at Brian, “that means you, too.”
He rolls off the hood with a smirk, “better earn my supper then, eh boss?”
Jesse and Leon cackle, moving a little slower.
Heat’s rolling heavy off the grill when Brian comes out the back door with the platter of chicken. Footsteps tripping a light stutter-step on the pressure-treated wood. How he manages that, I don’t know. Only reason he don’t sneak up on me is cuz I was about to yell for Mia to bring the meat out.
“Mia sent me out with these,” and I wonder if the kid ever stops smiling. He slides the platter onto the side of the grill and uncovers two uncapped Coronas twined in his fingers.
“Now that’s a friend,” when he holds one out to me. I glance over at him a few times while I load the grill. He’s quiet, sucking beer and just … watching me. “So, your mom huh?”
He nods, “yeah.” Like the earlier conversation never ended.
“She still live in Barstow?”
“Government job, at the Marine Logistics Base. Something administrative. Up for retirement in another couple years, I think.” He doesn’t hesitate to offer the information, but there’s tension in his voice.
I was gonna ask about his dad, but the tension’s not just in his voice. Shoulders hunched, staring at the chicken searing on the hot metal, and I decide against it.
After the movie’s over that night, I drag Vince and Jesse out to hang with Hector. Vince caught a bad mood after Mia pulled a swift one on him. He needs a distraction. And Jesse, well… he behaved himself and sat still for an entire movie. Pretty impressive, even though it was because we were watching “Gone in 60 Seconds.” I swear he squealed every time Eleanor makes an appearance. Makes me laugh.
Just before we turn onto the block where El Gato Negro is, Jesse eases his foot off the gas and mutters, “shit.” Slides the car into neutral, taps the breaks. Stretches his arm out, pointing past me into the dark alley.
The red truck Brian drives lurks in the shadows. Harry’s emblem barely visible. But enough. Damn, Jesse’s got good eyes.
Vince leans forward, growls, “what the fuck is that?”
I ease the door open, look back at Jesse and point to the curb just past the mouth of the alley. “Out of sight, kill the lights. Pop the trunk.”
“I’m telling you, he’s a cop,” and he’s all but quivering with rage as I ease the shotgun out of the spare tire space.
I toss him the twelve gauge, “let’s find out, yeah?”
Been hearing him spout this shit ever since Snowman first showed his face at the diner. Wonder if his paranoia is rubbing off on me? Won’t hear the end of this without indulging him this once. And gotta admit, this is really damned suspicious.
I grab Vince by the front of his shirt and slam him into the brick wall of the alley. Get in his grill. “You take him down. You let me ask the questions.” I slam him again, to get his full attention. He nods, face blank. Studying me close. “If I’m satisfied with his explanation? This dies. Once and for all.” Another pat with the wall, for good measure. “You got me?”
“Yeah man, I got you,” he whispers.
I ease up and step back, and his grimace is back, grip white-knuckled on the shotgun.
“Over here.” I point to the shadows by the front of the truck.
We don’t have long to wait before Snowman shows up. Shimmying down the side of the building like a cat burglar.
I don’t like this, don’t want to believe Vince’s accusations. Despite our history. But why am I so reluctant? I think that bothers me more than anything, really. God, the third grade was such a long fucking time ago. That’s not just history, that’s a lifetime. Brian got in my good graces, keeping me out of handcuffs. Barely two days ago. Is that all it’s been? Why did it feel like years?
He keeps his cool, even with the shotgun on his head and Vince’s grip shaking with rage, “because Dom you know – I can’t lose again.”
I finally just ask him outright, have to force the words, “you a cop?”
Brian’s gaze holds steady despite the shaken look on his face. Like he’s horrified that I didn’t trust him. God, why does that hurt? He shakes his head like moving pains him. Doesn’t say a word.
It was in that moment, I realized it didn’t matter one way or the other. Whether I should or not, whether he really deserves it or not, I trust him.
Tran’s garage … clinches it. Huddled there behind the boxes while Johnny and Lance grease the gears of their fence. I can feel the heat rolling off Brian. So heavy I pull my hand off his back, have to move away. The sounds bring back unwanted memories of Lompoc, but Brian watches everything, attention never wavering. Not a single flinch.
Tran’s capable of worse, much worse.