nightrider101 (nightrider101) wrote,

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FIC: Along the Way (7/11?)

Title: Along the Way
Author: NightRider
Rating: PG
Fandom: The Fast and Furious
Characters: Dom, Brian, Mia, Rico, Tego, and Leon
Spoilers: All four movies
Beta: The forever amazing souleswanderer and fantastic raynedanser. Also, a huge thanks goes to kylielarabee and kari_hermione for listening to me ramble and for the needed reassurance.
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Fast and Furious and no money was made from writing this story.
Summary: Dom has questions. He hopes Brian has answers.

It was early the next morning when Brian pulled into the driveway. Dom got up from the couch where he’d been attempting to doze and sat at the kitchen table, waiting for Brian to come inside. Shadowed by the hazy morning light, he watched Brian carefully. He seemed no worse for the wear which was a relief after all the hideous images Dom had conjured during the night. He swore he never used to be such a damn worrier. Of course he also hadn’t spent a lot of time with Brian. After Brian got a bottle of water out of the refrigerator, he twisted the cap off and took several slow, measured sips.

“That was some phone call.”

Brian coughed several times and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. “Sitting in the dark isn’t as mysterious as you might think it is.”

Dom leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. So that’s how he wants to play it. “I wasn’t going for mysterious. I was going for annoyed.”

Brian pointed at him and nodded. “Now you look annoyed.” Smart ass.

“Good, glad I’m not mixing my signals.” Dom kicked a chair out from underneath the table. “Have a seat, O’Connor.” At the moment, he didn’t give a shit if Brian was tired.

Brian eyed the chair for a moment then sat down, fiddling with the label on the water bottle. When Dom didn’t say anything, he lifted his head and said, “Well?”

“A sixteen hour phone call?” Dom prompted. He didn’t expect Brian to tell him who he was talking to, it wasn’t any of his business, but he’d like to know what was so important that he’d spent the better part of a day wondering if Brian had been arrested, shot or burned alive in another house fire. All were plausible outcomes considering Brian’s history.

Brian kept his eyes on the water bottle. “Just shit at home, you know?”

Dom shook his head. “No, I don’t know. I don’t know a damn thing about you, remember?”

It looked like Brian was considering this for the first time. Finally, he looked at Dom, his gaze level and his expression open. “What do you want to know?”

Dom leaned forward and tapped his fingers against the table. He hadn’t been expecting an open invitation. He also knew if he went charging in bullheaded, he’d get nothing. He’d tried that tactic before. He started with something he already knew the answer to. “You left that car at Jesse’s grave.”

It wasn’t a question, but Brian answered him anyway. “Yeah.”

“So Leon could find it.”

Brian nodded, reaching for the water bottle again. He had to keep his hands occupied. “I guess, yeah.”


Brian looked at the ceiling as he struggled to find the words. “I don’t know. I wasn’t even sure it would work.” His gaze drifted back to Dom. “Are you saying you’re not glad he’s here?”

Dom shook his head. No, Brian wasn’t going to ask the questions. Not now. “This isn’t about me.”

Brian chuckled, and his chin dropped to his chest. Apparently it was a private joke. “That’s where you’re wrong, Dom. It’s always about you.”

Dom narrowed his eyes. Despite Brian’s candid response, it wasn’t flippant or sarcastic. “What are you talking about?”

Brian shook his head, his eyes creased as if he was still laughing. “You really don’t see it, do you?”

Dom waved his hand, gesturing for Brian to continue. “Enlighten me.”

“Never mind. It doesn’t matter.”

As quickly as the conversation had started, Brian ended it, his posture visibly shutting down. Dom dropped his elbows on the table hard enough to cause Brian to jerk his head up, his eyes wide and his attention temporarily focused. “Bullshit. Tell me.” Brian stared at Dom’s arms, his eyes unfocused as if he was a thousand miles away. “Fine. Something easier then. Why’d you let me go?”

Brian rolled his eyes. “Yeah, because that’s so much easier to answer.”

“You could just tell me, you know,” Dom pointed out. Why did everything have to be a fucking mission where Brian was concerned? He was used to Letty or Vince who just said what they were thinking, and fuck the consequences or who got hurt in the process. It might not always be pleasant, but it beat calling in the cavalry every time he wanted a damn question answered. He longed for the days when he could tell Letty was pissed by the way she flipped her hair, or he could count Vince’s heart rate by that bulging vein in his forehead. Not Brian, though. It was like trying to read a brick wall.

Brian lifted his head, his eyes accusatory. “Why are you so obsessed with getting an answer? Not everything fits in a perfect little box, Toretto.”

Message sent and received. Maybe there was nothing he could do to get Brian to give him a straight answer. There damn sure wasn’t anything he could do to make their situation any less complex. “You’re right,” Dom said. “You don’t owe me an explanation. You don’t owe me anything.” He pressed his hands to the arms of the chair. He’d had his fill of mental gymnastics.

“No – no, wait,” Brian said. “It’s not like that. I didn’t mean it like that.” Brian rubbed his forehead, his jerky movements mirroring his frustration.

Dom resituated himself and waited, his eyes not leaving Brian, who was studying everything but Dom. He had to know. He had to know something, anything. He wanted to feel like he wasn’t having a conversation with a complete stranger.

“I don’t know,” Brian said quietly, picking at the label on the water bottle again. “I guess I didn’t want to imagine a world without you in it.”

Dom swallowed his shock, and the questions that were hanging on the tip of his tongue. Leave it to Brian to set him back a few paces. “Prison isn’t death,” Dom replied cautiously.

Brian shrugged. “For you, there would have been little difference.”

Dom had to give it to him, he was an astute observer. “It wasn’t like we were going to stay friends. After you told me you were a cop, you had to figure that was the end of it.”

“Yeah, but you would have still been out there, you know?” Brian said. “It wasn’t like I’d have to wake up everyday and live with the knowledge that you were in some shithole prison somewhere.” Brian spoke with bitterness and disdain that said if Dom had gone to prison it would have somehow been his fault.

“I’ve done a lot of wrong things in my life, but letting you go, that –“ Brian looked away, his fingers tapping on the table, but his voice didn’t waver – “that was right.” There was conviction in his voice. When Brian had tried to hand him the keys and Dom asked him if he was sure, yeah, he was sure. He was still sure.

It was never about where Dom deserved to be, and it had little to do with him breaking the law. It was far more complex than that. “I would have gone back. After Braga, I would have gone back.”

“I know.”

Dom met his gaze across the table. “But that wasn’t good enough, huh?”

“You’re saying I should have left you in prison?” Brian shook his head, his fingers closing into fists. “No, never would’ve happened.” Brian wasn’t a big guy or particularly imposing, but there something in those steel blue eyes, something that Dom wouldn’t want to cross.

Dom leaned back, his leg brushing against Brian’s. He didn’t bother to move. “Who died and made you blessed protector?”

“I could ask you the same question.”

Dom shook his head. No, there was a big difference between him and Brian. He stuck his neck out for his family, for people he’d known for years. He didn’t go around throwing his career away for people he barely knew or putting his life on the line for complete strangers. Even worse, for people who wouldn’t piss on him to put out a fire.

“So why’d you become a cop?” Dom asked.

Brian rubbed his forehead. “I’m going to need a lot of beer before we have that conversation.”

Dom pointed to the refrigerator. “Beer’s in the fridge.”

Brian’s eyes widened. “I’ve been up all night.”

Dom repeated Brian’s words from two nights ago. “You’re joking, right?”

It was a challenge, and Brian raised his eyebrow. “I’m not drinking alone.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Dom replied, watching as Brian pushed away from the table and ambled to the fridge. He pulled out two Coronas, reconsidered, and grabbed the six-pack.

Twisting the cap off, he passed a bottle to Dom and opened one for himself. “Cheers.”

“Yeah,” Dom said, taking a leisurely sip while Brian took his down in three gulps.

They drank, talked about cars, drank, talked about racing, and drank some more. Brian pulled another few beers out of the fridge and stumbled on his way back to the chair. Normally he wasn’t a lightweight, but after being up all night, Dom wasn’t surprised by his reaction.

It was inevitable that the conversation would drift to the past. “I still can’t believe you and Vince went at it outside the restaurant,” Dom commented, grinning at the memory. “You held your own.”

“Yeah, and you tried to get me fired for my efforts,” Brian replied.

Dom smiled, recalling his phone call to Harry. “Not like it worked.”

“Good help is hard to find.” Brian laughed, rubbing his hand over his face. “God, that feels like a lifetime ago.” So much had chanced since then.

Dom leaned forward, remembering Vince and the team following Brian out of the restaurant, and Mia yelling at him to intervene. “I kept wondering what Mia put in that sandwich.”

Brian snickered, his eyes glassy. “It was some tuna.”

“The tuna was shit. You’re the only one that ever ordered it.”

“It was good!” Brian objected.

“Not as good as getting to Mia,” Dom commented.

Brian’s expression changed, the humor dissipating from his eyes. “It was never about Mia.”

Dom nodded, wishing he could take back his previous statement. For a second, it had felt like those precious few weeks they’d spent together before he knew Brian was a cop, before Jesse got shot, before all of it. “I know you never wanted to hurt her.” He could say that now, and he believed it. He knew enough about Brian to know he genuinely cared for Mia.

“Never wanted to hurt you either,” Brian muttered, twisting the cap off another beer and tossing it in the general direction of the trash can. It hit the tile floor, and Brian didn’t bother to get up and throw it away.

“That was your assignment, wasn’t it?” Bring down Toretto, whatever the cost.

Brian shook his head. “Wasn’t supposed to be you.” He drew his knee up and rested it against the table. “Why do you think I was at Hector’s that night? Tell me you didn’t buy that bullshit Race Wars story I gave you.”

Dom’s eyes widened. “You thought Hector was hijacking those trucks?”

Brian shrugged. “Hector, Tran, anyone but you.”

Dom wasn’t sure what to say to that. To him it would have been obvious. Most of the people he’d associated with didn’t have means, the reason or the wherewithal to pull off what he’d done. It wasn’t like he was proud of it, not now. Now it seemed stupid, immature and reckless. The price had been too high, way too high.

“You were a cop. You can’t tell me you couldn’t piece it together,” Dom said. Surely Brian had a mentor, some backup helping him work the case behind the scenes. Hadn’t they known?

“Maybe I just didn’t want to.” Perception was a tricky subject, and made the observer see what they wanted to see. After all, Dom didn’t believe Brian was a cop, even though it should have been obvious. Vince had Brian pegged right out of the gate, but Dom had refused to see it.

From the way Brian was lounging in the wooden chair like it was a recliner, Dom figured it was as good a time as any to ask some questions of his own. “So, O’Connor, why’d you become a cop?”

Brian smiled and took a long pull from bottle that was loosing hanging between two fingers. “Simple. To catch bad guys.” Brian pointed his bottle in Dom’s direction. “I used to be good at it too.”

Dom lifted his hand and gestured with his beer bottle. “Never said you weren’t.”

“It used to be easier. The bad guys were bad, and the good guys were, well, cops.” Black and white, wrong and right - simple, easy and clean.

“So what happened?”

“I’ll tell you what happened,” Brian snapped, but there was no real malice behind his words. “Dominic fuckin’ Toretto happened.”

The way he said it actually made Dom laugh. He knew if Brian hadn’t taken that case, if it’d been assigned to another officer, chances were Brian would be climbing the ranks of the force or working for the Bureau somewhere keeping the streets safe with a nice retirement and full benefits. Hell, he’d probably have a big house with a white picket fence to boot. Brian would not be sitting in some shitty border town with no future and no job.

Brian rolled his eyes and flicked a bottle cap at Dom’s head. It nailed him right between the eyes. “Quit brooding. You’re going to wrinkle your forehead.”

Dom glared at him, rubbing two fingers over the red mark on his brow. He’d punched guys for less. Brian, however, didn’t seem concerned, judging from his boneless sprawl. “I don’t brood.”

“Yeah, and I’ve never won a street race.” Brian leaned back, his gaze level. “I’m serious, Dom. You think I don’t know what you’re thinking? You think you’re that different? You think I haven’t gone over that day over and over in my head and wondered what I could have done differently? You think I don’t regret what happened to Jesse, to Letty? You think I don’t wish I could change the past? Well, I do. Everything fuckin’ day I do.”

Dom swallowed, Brian’s candid honesty throwing him off again. Brian had just summed up the last five years in less than a minute. It was like he’d just revealed some deep, dark secret Dom was attempting to hide. Brian’s words weren’t disrespectful or callous. He was simply stating fact, a summary of a conglomeration of events that were neither pleasant nor uplifting.

“And you live with that?”

Brian shrugged, tipping his head to rest on the back of the chair. “Quarter mile at a time, remember? You never forget, but you learn to live with it.”

Dom shook his head. There were things he’d never forgive himself for.

“You see,” Brian said, pointing his bottle in Dom’s direction without bothering to lift his head. “That right there. That guilt. It’s written all over your face.” Yeah, the beer was definitely taking its toll on O’Connor. He wasn’t mincing words.

“I’m not going to tell you how to live your life,” Brian said, his head rolling to the side so he could see Dom. “I’m not going to tell you what you should feel. That’s not my place. I am going to tell you that no one here blames you.” Brian wouldn’t tell him it wasn’t his fault because that wasn’t his style, and chances are Dom wouldn’t buy it anyway. “You listening to me, Toretto?” He knocked on the table twice, adding emphasis to his words. “No one here blames you.”

Dom breathed out slowly and rubbed the back of his neck. He hadn’t been looking for absolution, but he managed to find a little peace. He also wondered how this conversation became about his demons, and when the hell did Brian become so good at reading him?

He knew it wasn’t all sunshine and roses on the other side of the table. Yeah, O’Connor might tell him he was dealing with it, he was over it, but actions spoke louder than words. “Maybe you should learn to take your own advice.”

Brian stared him for a second. “Easier said than done.”

“I finished it, though. With Braga, that ended it,” Dom said. When he’d smashed his Charger into that bastard that was going to kill Brian, that had been closure for him. Sick and twisted as it might be, it ended there. With Braga in cuffs, Dom had done what he’d gone there to do. Now he just had to process the emotions, and he was doing it slowly but surely.

“Yeah, it did,” Brian said. He didn’t sound so sure.

“There something you want to tell me?” Dom asked.

Brian’s head lolled to the side, and he gave Dom a sloppy grin. “Nope. It’s in the past, right? It should stay there.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.” Dom eyed the empty bottles that were strewn across the table and pointed to the fridge. “You want another?”

Brian yawned, his eyes glassy and heavy lidded. “I’m beat, man.”

“Why don’t you get some sleep?”

“Yeah, good idea.” Brian pushed away from the table. Dom felt like there was more, like he should say something. Like he should give Brian some type of affirmation or thank you or something. Hell, he wasn’t very good at this.

He watched Brian pad over to the couch, kicking off his shoes as he went. “What are you doing?”

Brian pointed to the couch, lifting his eyebrow in confusion. “I was going to lie down. I figured Leon took my room last night.”

“Take my room,” Dom said, remembering he’d told Leon to crash after 3:00am when they came to the realization Brian probably wasn’t coming home.

Brian was quick to object. “No, you’ve slept on the couch the last two nights. I’m not going to kick you out of your own room.”

Dom rubbed his forehead. Why couldn’t Brian just do what he said and be done with it? “Just take my room. I’m not tired anyway.” That much was true. He wasn’t tired. His conversation with Brian didn’t answer all that much, but it did leave him with more questions and a lot of food for thought. He distinctly remembered thinking a lot less before Brian came back into his life.

Brian twisted around, his posture showing he wasn’t going to back down. “The couch is fine. Better than what I’m used to. Just take your –"

“Why does everything have to be a fight with you?” Dom interjected. “For once, let someone do something for you and shut up about it.”

“I did let you do something for me.” Brian pointed at sneakers that were lying in the middle of the living room. “You gave me those, didn’t you?”

Dom shook his head. “Didn’t realize you were keeping count.” Now he realized Brian was doing just that. He wouldn’t take anything from anyone without trying to repay it somehow. He wanted to tell Brian he’d paid, more than paid, more than once. That was a conversation for another day. “Take the room,” Dom repeated, his voice firm.

“Fine,” Brian said, bending down to retrieve his shoes. For a second Dom thought he was going to fall over. Brian’s exhaustion worked in his favor this time around. He stopped at the bedroom door, his hand splayed against the wall. He didn’t turn around. “I’m just used to doing things on my own, you know?

Yeah, Dom knew. More than knew. Trust yourself above all else because in the end, you’re all you’ve got. That got old, though. It grew weary, tiresome and lonely. “I hate to break it to you, O’Connor, but you’re not alone. Not anymore.” Dom was surprised by the force behind his words, by how much he meant it.

Brian looked over his shoulder and watched him for a moment, considering. “Night.” It was short, concise, and all but screamed ‘I don’t believe you.’ Still, Brian was here, and that meant Dom had time. Words were cheap anyway.

“Night, Brian.”


Brian laid on Dom’s bed and counted the lines on the ceiling. He wasn’t entirely sure there were lines in the ceiling, but it was something to keep his mind occupied. Something that wasn’t Dom’s unique smell on the pillow or the dip in the middle of the bed from the weight of Dom’s body.

Yeah, he was going to get a lot of sleep if he kept this up. He rolled over, pressing his face into the pillow. No, that didn’t help either.

He resisted the urge to growl. Everything he’d told Dom tonight had been the truth. Sure, it might have been paraphrased, but it was the truth. Normally he would have kept his mouth shut, avoided the question, but Dom was persistent and Brian didn’t have much to lose, not anymore, not after his conversation with Bilkins.

He’d let Dom go because he didn’t want to picture the world without the knowledge that Dom was out there somewhere being Dom, taking care of people, racing cars, looking out for his sister, living his life. It made Brian’s life survivable.

Now, lying there surrounded by Dom, he realized there might be something more to that.

Not that it mattered because he had a job to do, a man to catch, and if he was going to realistically analyze the situation, there was a chance he might not succeed. He wasn’t stupid. That’s why he had Mia’s papers sent to an attorney for verification. Brian wanted Mia’s immunity to stand regardless of the outcome with Verone. He’d never tell her it was him. Chances were she’d figure it out, Mia wasn’t an idiot, but by the time those papers came, he’d be long gone, and she’d have a chance at the future she’d wanted. He only wished he could do the same for Dom.

Brian was extremely good at evasion and avoidance. Somehow, somewhere along the way, he’d mastered those skills. He became so good at it, he lost himself in the façade and surrounded himself with the knowledge that he was helping someone else. It was just another case, just another job, just another race. He could do it again, one more time.

When he rolled over a final time and pulled the cover over his shoulders, he didn’t imagine Dom was lying behind him no matter how badly he wanted to. Brian would pretend for everyone else except himself.

Chapter 8
Tags: along the way, fanfic, fast and furious

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