I decided the fanfiction world needed another Brian Soldier Fic, so here you go! Hope you like it, I'm too tired tonight to write out a whole long note, so I'm going to keep it short. I don't own the Fast and the Furious franchise, nor any plot or any characters. Oh, I realize some of the realism about the army and Brian's consecutive tours and his not having a duty station are incorrect, but for the sake of the story, let's pretend they are ;)
The noise amongst the plane was loud, and was fraying one man's tense nerves. Brian O' Conner ran a rough calloused hand through his short crew cut hair. His army fatigues were weighing heavily on every muscle of his body. He was trying to listen to the older lady who was chattering on and on beside him, but his brain had other ideas. He remembers it was once so easy for him make small talk, with whomever about whatever, be that easy going guy that everyone liked. War had stripped that piece of his personality away, that and more, he was not the same person he use to be eight years ago.
Eight fucking years...
That's how long it's been since he left, left Miami, left Rome, hell since he left his car.
Since he left Los Angeles, left Dom, Mia, Letty, Jessie, Leon and Vince.
If he was being honest it was 10 years since they left him, well Dom left him, standing in the middle of the road faced with a lot of heat coming his way. The others just followed and didn't bother to check if he needed an out as well. He did, need an out that was, but when it didn't come in the form of a Toretto, he found it on his own. Left his badge sitting on the kitchen table, and took off to Miami before he could be arrested.
Being dubbed the 'King of the Streets' there had been fun, but it was also a dumb move. It's how the Feds were able to track him down, and pull him in on a case. Well he couldn't call that part dumb since it got him, Rome, and the Toretto team their freedom back, but a wanted criminal making an infamous name for himself was still not one of his wisest choices.
Taking down Verone not only lead to his freedom, but also the realization that he still wanted to do some good, just not as an officer anymore, or an agent, not that FBI didn't try.
It only took two days...
Two days to pack up his shit and tell Roman goodbye. The look on his friend's face when he said he was leaving was heartbreaking, enough so he almost thought of staying, but he didn't. He handed Rome all of the team's official pardons, and asked if he could hunt them down, and deliver them. It was the coward's way out.
That's a word that describes him to the fullest. It was the coward part of him that couldn't deliver those papers himself, the coward who didn't want to see the family he lost, and the coward part of him that left Roman in Miami, with not a clue of where he was headed next.
He wasn't sure why he didn't tell Rome his plans of joining the Army, maybe he was afraid Rome would have asked him to stay, and if he had Brian would have never left. So he lied, said he just needed to travel around, find the guy he was before all the shit went down in L.A. It was more lies than just one, not only did he know what he going to do next, but where he went certainty didn't help him find who he once was, it stripped away what was left.
It was an easy out...
Signing up, taking that oath to defend, going to basic training, and then on.
The Special Forces Qualification test wasn't easy, it wasn't the easy way out, but it had nothing to do with personal business. That seemed to be the only area that Brian ever chose to take the easy way.
It was easy however to deploy, easy unlike what it was for every guy in his unit. The ones who had family and friends, people they were sad to leave behind. People that were in photographs hanging above cots, people who sent cards and packages, people that they missed with every fiber of their being. Brian didn't have the same ties, he didn't have a family who was waiting for him to come home, no one to write to, and no one that cried because he was missing Birthdays, Thanksgiving, or Christmas. So he left for a 12 month deployment, and when that was over, he extended, and then kept extending. He always swore each time he did was the last, that he would go back stateside and make a life somewhere. He never did, every time it was close to the end of tour he would look around and see everyone's excitement about going home, seeing their families and it made him keep pushing a little bit longer.
He was a prisoner...
A prisoner to fear, to the hate that he felt for himself, but this last tour he was also just a prisoner, one of war. The last mission he participated in Iraq led to the capture of his unit. He spent five long months being tortured and starved, watching two of their own die from infections. Die in a cold, dark, damp cell, and all he could think about was their families. How they would never again have another hug, smile, no holidays, no birthdays, nothing ever again. He felt that pain deep in his bones, and it made him angry. Angry that he wasn't the one to die, angry that his life was wasted as a screwup with no one. Angry that he unlike them had this chance to return back to the states, and there was nothing for him. He was also angry that he was being forced to return in the first place, forced to face all of his wrong doings head on. The words of Sergeant Major Cullen were still playing in his mind on repeat.
"Master Sergeant O' Conner I am canceling your current extension, it's time for you to head home."
Brian had been floored; he had fought it with everything he had, argued that he wanted to stay for his unit that he needed to stay. His pleas fell on deaf ears however, Sgt. Major had made up his mind and it wouldn't be changed.
"It's time for you to find a family son, outside of the Army. You've done more for your country than anyone should ever have to."
Find a family...
He wanted to tell the man, that he once had one, but he messed it up, and there was no fixing it. He wanted to explain that he couldn't go out and just find a new one; it was the type of family that would be impossible to replace. The look of fear and uncertainty must have shown on his face, he knew because of what Sgt. Major said next.
"That's your new mission Sergeant O' Conner; if you give it time and still can't complete it then you can come back. It has to be some real time O' Conner, away from the bullets, and the danger. You need time to rest, and recover."
Time was a scary thought for someone who spent the last 8 years of their life being told exactly what to do with it. He wasn't the same free thinker he once was, another one of those personality traits scraped away. He did what he was told, when he was told no questions asked. Now he was being thrown back into the civilian world to make his own decisions, something Brian was sure would just lead to more mistakes.
Brian ran his hand over his pockets and felt the outline of a chain, the rest of their conversation playing in his head.
"I also have a job I need you to do son, and it's not fair of me to ask you, but there's a wife with two kids in L.A. that need these brought home." He said while placing a pair of dog tags in Brian's hand. "You know our unit, we do these things in person, check in on the family, help where you can."
"Yes Sir," Brian said while looking down at the dog tags in his hand and read the name Sergeant Tony Sanchez.
"Ladies and Gentlemen we are beginning our final descent, please buckle your seat belts, stowaway any carry on items, and make sure your seats are in the upright position."
Brian felt like he couldn't breathe, felt every nerve in his body tense up, and it was all he could do to keep himself from shaking. It would be just under 30 minutes and he would be back on solid ground, ground in America, ground in Los Angeles. He knew that going back was a mistake, a very bad idea, but he wanted to see them. He wanted to know that they were alright, that they were truly free. He needed to do what he should have done 8 years ago, and see for himself that they were living just fine without him. He thought that maybe if he saw them happy without him, he could let go all the pain he felt, let go of the hurt. He knew that Rome did what he was asked, he found them gave them their pardons, and then he chose to stay.
Something Brian had never been good at, or good enough for, but Rome was. He knew without a doubt that his friend got a taste for family, and chose to hang on to it with all he had. Tanner had told Brian of Rome's location just a few days ago, when Brian had called. When he knew for sure he would finally be going back he knew he had to go see Rome, but he had no clue where the man might be. So he dug out the number he hadn't dialed for 10 years and called his old boss. Tanner had been shocked to hear from him, and even more shocked to find out where Brian had been all this time. He had tried to look Brian up, but it was like he had disappeared. It was the beauty of Special Ops work; he could stay off the radar. When Brian asked him to track down his friend he told him that Roman Pearce stayed in L.A., lived at 1327 Echo Park, and worked at DTs.
1327 Echo Park...
A place Brian thought he would never return to, but he knew he had to do it. He owed Rome an explanation, even if he didn't really have one. He was hoping the flight might give him time to think one up, but it only gave him time to panic. At first he thought he would show up at the garage a few days after he landed, but then he realized that everyone in that shop might still be angry, and anger mixed with tools wouldn't be a good combination for Brian. That wasn't fear that was just using his brain. In the end he decided the house would be best, and nixed the idea of waiting completely, he would go straight there. He needed to get it over with, so it could stop taking up so much space in his brain, he needed room to figure out his next move.
The minute he left the plane the world felt like it was crashing down on him, the noise, the amount of people, it was just too much. He quickened his pace to the baggage claim, located his duffle easily, and sprinted to the exit. The fresh air had a calming effect on him, and he felt like he could breathe again. He flagged down a taxi, threw his duffle in the trunk, and climbed into the backseat.
"Where to son?"
"1327 Echo Park."
"Yes sir, Iraq."
"You going home? Don't see many soldiers coming back, their families usually meet them at the airport."
It was just another reminder of how different he was, how much of a screw up he was to not have either of those things. Brian didn't speak for the rest of the drive, and the driver must have realized his mistake because he didn't push.
When the taxi pulled up to the house Brian thought he was going to have a panic attack, he wanted to tell the driver to leave, but by the time he had caught his breath again the driver was already out of the car getting his duffle. He opened the door, and Brian had no choice but to numbly get out of the car and slip on his ACU cap.
"Here you go son," the cab driver said while handing over his duffle.
Still feeling quite numb, but able to speak Brian asked, "what do I owe you?"
"On the house, consider it a thank you for your service."
Brian nodded in thanks and threw his duffle over his shoulder; he stared at house for a moment. Telling himself to not be a coward, and to just get it over with. Just to go in see Rome, see how happy they were and get out. Then he could spend some time recovering from his wounds that were from his prison stay, and get back to his unit. The longer he stood there the more he noticed how quiet the house looked, and saw the smoke rising from the backyard. Of course, he had to get back on a Sunday, had to show up at the worst possible moment when everyone would be there. He looked back to see the cab was long gone, and there was no other choice but to complete the task he showed up to do.
He forced himself to move, every step of his foot weighing more than the last, he could hear the increased labor of his breathing, feel his body tense like it did when preparing for a battle, it was like he could feel the blood coursing through his veins and his heart beating outside his chest. When he finally reached the gate he saw them all, Dom, Letty, Vince, Mia, Jessie, Leon, and Rome, there were a few more faces added in that he didn't know. A guy who had his arm around Mia, who had a noticeable baby bump, and another man he didn't know. The whole group looked up at once when they heard the gate squeak, the same sound it made when Brian had been there 10 years ago.
"Can we help y..." Mia started to ask but was cut off by Rome standing and yelling out, "Brian!"
The look of shock was hard to miss on every single person's face that was sitting at the table; he wasn't sure if the shock was from him suddenly showing up after 10 years in an Army uniform of all things, or if it was from his appearance. He guessed it could be a little of both, Brian knew he didn't look the best. His stay in an enemy prison didn't do anything for his looks, he was thin almost malnourished looking, and bruised, he even had a couple of cuts on his face. He let out a little sigh of relief that they could only see his face and neck, the rest of him looked worse, and he didn't want them to see that.
Rome was still standing there, opposite of him, just staring in shock and Brian didn't know what to say, he didn't know what to do. This wasn't some mission that was perfectly laid out for him and all he had to do was act it out. He had to force his breathing from picking up to back to normal. In all his uncertainty the only words he could force out of his mouth were, "I'm sorry, I didn't know what day it was, I didn't mean to interrupt your family barbecue."
"Brian..." Rome said again, and then he started walking, almost running to the place Brian stood. If Roman was going to punch him he wasn't going to act like some scared little girl, he didn't when he was being tortured and he wouldn't now. He placed his duffle on the ground and braced himself for the hit. He was ready for it to come, but when it didn't and Rome wrapped his arms around him he flinched. Brian couldn't help but think of the word pathetic.
He had to be the most pathetic man to ever walk the earth, he could take torture, bullets, IEDs, even a punch, but a hug was going to put him in full panic mood.
When he looked back up from his inner hateful monologue he noticed everyone was standing and staring, and Rome had pulled back from the hug and was talking with his hands on Brian's shoulders. Oh, Rome is talking.
"Brian did you hear me?" Rome asked concerned.
"No, I'm sorry, uhh...I just got back from...uhh its just a bit, umm...overwhelming."
Rom nodded and Brian watched him look around to everyone else.
"Like I said I uhh...didn't know the day, umm...I can come back later, or you could find me, if you want that is, I have a cell now. One of the guys from my unit told me it was a must before coming back stateside," he said sheepishly while rubbing the back of his head. He knew he was rambling, but everything was just so off kilter, he didn't know what else to say.
"You're leaving?" A voice that Brian couldn't have been happier to have heard asked. Last time Brian had seen Jessie he had been lying on the ground with a bullet in his shoulder. Brian had tried to push him out of the way of Tran's attack, but he wasn't quick enough and they both ended up with matching gunshot wounds.
He looked over at Jessie, and gave a small smile and a nod, "Yeah I just touched down, and umm...came here, it was dumb, should have looked at a calendar or something."
He stepped out of Rome's hold picked up his duffle and threw it back over his shoulder. He held back the wince from the pain radiating through the area where the strap laid. He had done it, he saw them all, and they did look happy, everyone looked healthy and good. Mia was pregnant, and obviously found love somewhere else. Dom still looked like he was the same calm cool collected leader Brian once knew, Jessie was alive, Vince was alive, Letty and Leon looked good as well, and Rome, Rome looked like he just belonged there. They were happy without him, no one needed him, and now that he knew that maybe he could finally let go. In the back of his mind he did wonder if this is what he wanted to see so much, why did it feel so bad.
He turned around to walk back out the gate he came in and got two steps before he felt his duffle being grabbed off his shoulder. He jerked around thinking it was Rome, but came face to face with Dom.
Dominic Toretto, the person he was suppose to arrest for the truck jackings, the person that he gave up the keys to his car to, the person that he gave up his whole career for, hell gave up his freedom for. The main person he spent all this time running from, just seeing the man brought a whole flood of emotions back, that Brian would have preferred be kept buried. He didn't want to think about the anger he felt against himself for betraying Dom, the betrayal he felt as he watched Dom leave without him, and most of all the love that Brian felt for the man, and knew would never be returned.
"Are you hungry?" He asked in a very soothing tone of voice.
Brian reeled back in shock, why was Dom of all people asking him to stay, why would he want him here after all he did.
"Did you hear me?" He asked again a little louder, but still in the same nice calm tone.
Brian took a small step back to add a little space between Dom, Rome, and him. He wasn't comfortable being surrounded it was something everyone in each of his units knew and took extra precaution to not do. "Uhh no, I mean yeah I heard you, I'm not hungry. Thank you though."
Dom narrowed his eyes and looked over Brian from head to toe, "you look like you should be hungry, your awful thin Brian."
Brian didn't know what to say to that, he didn't know what the right answer was, ''well deployment food sucks' or even, 'Iraqi soldiers don't exactly give you a five course meal when your their prisoner'. He thought back to another time when he could say even one of those and laugh it off as joke, but that wasn't him anymore. He decided maybe the best move was not to answer; maybe he should just try to grab his duffle and make his way out of there. He didn't get that chance however, Dom must have seen the way his eyes strayed to his bag, and he called Vince over and had him take it inside the house.
"Now I can ask again Brian, or you could just walk over and sit down at the table, you know me well enough to know both ways will end up my way."
Brian gave a nod of his head, and let Rome grab his arm and lead him to the table. When Vince came back it was with another chair, showing he had no doubts about Brian staying for dinner. He tugged at the brim of his hat like he tended to do when his nerves got the best of him.
"Man it's hot outside you got to be sweating in that uniform Brian," Rome said like he was trying to break the ice.
"I'm alright," and it really was the truth, L.A. heat had nothing on Iraq.
"I'm just saying homie, take that top thing off before you have a heat stroke on me."
"That's against regulations," Brian answered automatically without even thinking about it.
Everyone stared at Brian in a calculating manner, not that he noticed he was busy looking down at his hands.
"Vince say grace," Dom finally said.
"Dear heavenly sprit we thank you for another Sunday together as a family, and another day of freedom, thank you for this meal, and for granting my brother with amazing skills on the barbecue. We are also thankful for the return of our buster. Amen"
"Amen," everyone said around the table.
Brian looked up in shock, no one should be grateful he was here, this wasn't suppose to happen, they were still suppose to hate him. He couldn't do this he couldn't take it, especially not with Vince of all people being nice to him. Everyone noticed Brian's breathing picking up, and his hand being brought up against his chest. Everyone but Mia stood frozen in shock; she started to walk around to the other side of the table.
"Brian what's going?" Rome asked while moving his hand to Brian's shoulder. When Brian felt Roman's hand hit a wound on his back everything flashed white. It was like he was experiencing the pain of the knife sliding down his skin all over again. He stood up and knocked his chair back and frantically looked around. "No, no, not him...not him." He said quietly almost like he was whispering.
"What's going on man?" Rome said as he stood back up to try to reach for Brian again.
"Don't touch him!" Mia said loud enough for Roman to hear her, but not loud enough that Brian thought it was yell.
Dom turned to her sister, "what's going on?"
It wasn't Mia that answered however it was her husband Trent, "He's having flashbacks, I would say flashbacks of something very frightening if the panic on his face is anything to go by." Trent was a doctor, something that was needed in the Toretto household, when everyone that lived there wouldn't go to a hospital unless they were dying.
"Flashbacks?" Rome asked.
"Yes, I'm assuming he has PTSD, he said earlier he just touched down, I'm guessing he just got back from war." He answered while stepping in front of Mia, Brian was nowhere close to her, but with him not being fully aware of his surroundings he didn't want to take any chances.
Pain, Blood, Vomit, Death...
It was all Brian could see, he felt lost in a sea of memories that felt too real, too raw, and he couldn't find his way out of it. He dropped to his knees, "you can't die Sanchez, what about your wife, your kids you can't go!" Brian mumbled over and over again.
"What can I do for him?" Dom asked terrified about what the man was seeing at the moment.
"We can let it play out, and see if he comes out on his own." Mia glared up at her husband, she may not be in love with Brian, but she still loved him and that was not a good answer.
"You can also try coaxing him out," she said with a glare in Trent's direction.
Dom stood and walked over to Brian. "Crouch down Dom, you don't want him to think you're going to attack," Mia instructed.
Dom did as he was told, and held his hands out in front of him, hoping that seeing he had nothing to attack with would soothe Brian a bit. "Hey Bri, It's me Dom, you're at the house remember?" When he got no answer he continued, "you're in L.A. here with us, you're not wherever you think you are. Come on Bri, talk to me, and let me know your okay yeah? Come on Bri, I'm with you."
Brian could hear a voice cutting through his thoughts.
Bri, I'm with you...
That was Dom talking, he thought. He shook his head and slowly started to come back.
Dom noticed the change in Brian immediately as he came back into the present, his eyes became clearer, and lost that far away look. When blue eyes met brown Dom could see panic and embarrassment in them.
Brian stood and looked at everyone that was now standing, "this was a bad idea, I'm sorry, just gonna get my stuff and go." He was stupid for thinking even for a second that he belonged there, that he could do this. He had made too many mistakes; he was too broken, too touched by war.
Now it was Dom that started to feel a little panicked he didn't want the man to leave, not when he just came back to them, not when it was so obvious that he needed them. He had to do something, say something, "come on Bri, remember I said I was going to get my way. You're not leaving your going to sit down and eat."
Brian froze Dom had spoken in his calm 'you're going to do what I say' voice. The one the Brian knew he couldn't say no to.
Dom didn't give Brian a chance to start thinking anymore he gently put his hand on Brian's back and guided him back to the table. When he made sure Brian was in his chair he looked up at everyone, "let's eat."
No one had to be told twice they filled their plates up, and were just thankful for something to distract them from what was going on. Distract them from the thoughts of how different Brian was, how broken he seemed.
Dom watched Brian sit incredibly still, not reaching for anything to put on his plate. The not grabbing food was disturbing enough, but how still he was being is what really bothered Dom. The whole time he had known Brian he had never seen the man sit that still. Brian was a ball of energy wrapped with skin, and he couldn't not move.
Rome looked over and saw the same thing Dom did, but didn't comment. He just grabbed Brian's plate and threw some food on it. He could figure out why the man didn't do it for himself later, right now it was just important that he ate. Dom was right, Brian did look too thin.
When Brian saw the plate of food being sat in front of him he didn't think twice, just grabbed a fork and started eating.
Dom saw Brian start to eat like he was running a race and frowned, "woah slow down Bri, it's not going anywhere."
Brian looked down in embarrassment, "Uh yeah sorry, just learned to eat fast I guess."
Dom nodded but it was Mia that spoke, "no one is judging you Brian, you don't have any other place you need to be right?" Brian gave a shake of his head as answer. "Then there's no need to rush," she said with a smile.
Everyone sat in an uncomfortable silence, they had so many questions they wanted to ask, but were afraid to do so. They didn't want to scare Brian off, and they had no clue where to begin. In the end it was Jessie that broke the silence.
"So Brian do you get to drive any fast cars in the Army?"
Brian's eyes flashed in surprise at being spoken to but he still answered, "Uhh no, haven't actually driven a car in like 8 years, I have driven a tank though, and an artillery truck. I drove a humvee once on my first tour, but Sergeant Major said I scared him shitless by going too fast on a turn, so he didn't let me drive it again."
Everyone let out a chuckle, now that sounded like Brian. Roman was the only who didn't laugh, he zoned in on the first part of the story, and had to ask.
"8 years? That's right after you left Miami, did you know you were going to join up when you left?"
Brian started to study his hands; he knew he needed to tell the truth, he knew Rome deserved to know. "Yeah I knew, I didn't tell you, because I knew if you asked me not to do it, if you asked me to stay I would have."
Rome looked at Brian, "your damn right I would have, this whole time I thought you were driving your way through other countries, racing, living it up. I thought you were finally out enjoying life, since you have had a shit lot in life. It kept me from going crazy, knowing you were out their enjoying yourself, I mean yeah it hurt after the first couple months when you didn't come back. It hurt even more after a couple of years, when I was pretty sure you weren't ever coming back. I was angry at first, but then I thought Brian deserves some happiness, maybe he found it, and I was okay with it. Now I find out though that you didn't go out to find anything to make you happy, you went a signed up for something else that took away your freedom. You're always thinking about others, and never yourself, I just wanted you to be selfish one time."
It's what's been eating him alive since he called the chopper in that day to rescue Vince, since the very moment he blew his cover and saw the look of betrayal on Dom's face. He felt it again when he said goodbye to Rome, felt it every time he signed up for another tour, when he watched one of his men die, and now he was feeling it in abundance.
Rom didn't understand that joining the Army was being selfish; that it was just another O' Conner takes the easy way so he doesn't have to deal with any deep issues.
Brian tried to eat a few more bites, but he started to feel nauseous. Dom looked over and noticed Brian was finished eating and couldn't believe how little he had ate. They use to joke that Brian had a hollow stomach, and could eat even more than Vince. "You didn't eat very much Bri."
"Uhh yeah...the thing is I haven't had anything that could be considered real food in a while, chow hall food isn't all that great, and you get sick of eating the same thing over and over again, all starts tasting like dirt. Most days I just had an MRE anyways, saves time. So I guess I'm just not use to real food anymore."
"How long is a long time?" Vince asked.
Brian looked surprised that Vince was speaking to him, "about 5 years."
"Five years?!" Vince barked out, "You're saying you went five years without any real food?"
"Well I had food, just not good food you know?"
Just then Brian's phone started to ring and he stood up and walked away from the table to answer it. Every single person at the table didn't make a sound so they could listen in on Brian's half of the conversation.
"Master Sergeant O' Conner speaking."
"Yes sir," he said again
"I just touched down sir."
"I cannot give you an address; I haven't had a chance to find a place to stay yet sir."
"Stopped into to visit some people I knew years ago."
Everyone couldn't help but wince at how Brian referred to them, it was sad to know he didn't consider himself apart of the family anymore.
"Do you have a minute sir, and permission to speak freely?"
"Snake was having trouble sleeping before I left, I think he needs
to talk to someone, Buzz found out that his girlfriend was sleeping with his best friend while he's been deployed, and Shooter was falling into a bit of depression, he misses his kids."
"Yes sir that is my job sir. They are my soldiers my responsibility, that is why I said I should have extended again sir. So I could do my job, and be there for my men."
Dom was blown away by the absolute conviction Brian spoke with.
"Yes sir, I understand sir."
"And if it doesn't work out? When can I go back? How long do I have to stay on leave?"
"Two months sir?"
"Yes sir I understand sir, if I don't find a family to settle within two months and I get cleared by the medic team I can go back to Iraq." Brian said so relieved that he had become oblivious to what he saying out loud, and in front of whom.
"I'll see you in two months sir." He said so sure of himself and then hung up the phone.
Dom thought two months was a pretty short amount of time for them to work with. The only had two months to convince Brian to stay. Dom was thinking that it couldn't be done, but when he looked around and saw everyone looking back at him full of determination he allowed himself some hope.
Brian placed his phone back into his pocket and returned to his seat. "Sorry that was Sergeant Major he was calling because I hadn't checked in to let him know I was on the ground and where I was."
"So let me get this straight you're suppose to check in with this guy, like report to him about your whereabouts?" Rome asked in bewilderment.
Brian got a confused look on his face, he had no idea why that would be a weird thing, "uhh yeah, I mean usually I would have flown into the state that the base I was stationed at was in, and signed in. That wouldn't really work for me though."
"Why not?" Han asked. At seeing Brian's raised eyebrow he realized the man had no clue who he was, "Han, old friend of Dom's."
Brian nodded, "I've been gone for so long, don't really have a home base right now. My enlistment term is also coming up, so I probably won't get one until I reenlist. It might not even happen then, when I go back to Iraq I'm there for at least another 9 months, so I might not get one until I'm stateside for a longer period of time."
Reenlist, go back to Iraq, 9 months at least...
Those were all phrases that made Dom feel terrible inside, he didn't want Brian to go back, he wanted him to stay. He wanted to voice these thoughts out loud, but he didn't think right now was the best time. He needed a bit to think of a plan to make Brian see he still had a family here.
"How long you been over there?" Leon asked
Brian shrugged, "five full tours, this was the start of the sixth."
"Five?! Is that five years Brian? You haven't been in America in for five years? I thought the Army gave you leave to come home for a bit." Mia said looking concerned; no wonder the man looked exhausted.
Brian shifted uncomfortably in his chair, everyone was waiting for his answer and he felt like he was under a microscope. "Yeah they do, but you kind of need a home to go home to, plus my unit needed me."
"No home?" Roman asked clearly bothered by Brian's admission. Dom was shaking his head no frantically he didn't think it was a good idea to have this conversation so early in the game, but as usual Rome wasn't paying any attention.
Brian didn't say anything, didn't rise to the bait, he just let it go. It seemed like Rome let it go as soon as he spoke because his eyes lit up and he blurted out, "Tej!"
"I gotta call Tej, he's been looking for you online every since you left."
Great another reason to fill guilty, Brian thought
"I searched for you too Brian, I couldn't find anything about you." Jessie said.
Brian nodded, "comes with the job, when you join Special Ops you become like a ghost. We don't even refer to each other by our real names to anyone outside our unit. Everyone has a nickname."
"What's yours?" Dom asked.
Brian gave the first real smile they've seen since he got there and looked at Rome, "Bullet."
"Are you kidding me? They gave you the same name you used for street racing in Miami."
"That's not why they call me that though. Your name is usually a description of your personality or a trait. Like Snake, we call him that because of how he moves, he's like a snake in tall grass you don't see him coming till he strikes. Oh and Buzz, he had this long crazy brown hair, but when he joined up they shaved it off, just like the rest of ours, he never got over losing his long 'gorgeous' hair as he refers to it." Brian smiled a bit while he spoke of his men, "and Shooter, he's a bit trigger happy. Smoke we call him that..." Brian's smile faded, "we called him that because he had a bit of a mouth on him and was almost always getting smoked."
At seeing everyone confused glances Brian explained, "Getting smoked is like being disciplined, through push up, burpies, running, stuff like that. Sanchez would mouth off, and then get smoked without a complaint take his punishment and then be right back to doing what got him in trouble in the first place."
Dom noticed that Brian was starting to go back to that dark place that pulled him into a flashback, so he tried to steer the conversation off of this guy Sanchez, "so why Bullet for you?"
Brian looked a little shocked at the question, and a little like he didn't want to share the answer, but he did. "It was no secret that I had already taken a bullet or three before I joined up, and after a few more the guys started to joke that I was probably made more of bullets than anything else. More bullets than blood, they say, and so they started to call me Bullet, because they said I practically was one."
They only thing anyone could do is give a tense nod of acknowledgement, that was a deeply disturbing thought to them all, but even more disturbing was Brian's easy going tone about it. Like the fact he had a bullet in his body more than once was no big deal.
Rome wanted to wait, wait till he was sure that Brian would stick around for a bit, before he asked any hard questions, but he needed to know the answer. "Why now Brian, it sounds like you didn't want to leave, so why did you now? After 8 years of being gone, why did you choose this time to finally come back?" The to me, to us was left unsaid.
Brian blanched at the question, he wasn't dumb, he knew Rome was bound to ask, and he had promised himself that he would answer; he would answer everything the man asked. It was so hard though, with everyone staring at him like they also wanted to know the answers. It would have been easier to come back and be hated, not wanted, sure it would have been painful, but it would have been easier than answering all these questions.
Brian took a deep breath, "I was going to come back after my first tour, but I...I couldn't, couldn't..." He trailed off, damn it he was such a coward, such a coward that he was thinking about lying, making up some reason why he couldn't come back, like he was ordered to extend.
It's what started all this mess in the first place, lying to Dom, lying to the team, even lying to himself. He couldn't lie again, he came here to right some wrongs, and prove that he was strong enough to not make the same mistakes.
"You can tell us Brian," Mia said in a gentle voice.
That voice washed over Brian and allowed him to relax some, "Every guy in every unit has been so unlike me, they had pictures of family hanging on the walls above cots, when mine was empty. They got cards, packages, full of cookies and letters, I never got one in five years. They had this overwhelming urge to make it back home in one piece, where I just was, I was fine living in the moment, if I made it to tomorrow that was one more mission I could do. Maybe one more kid I could save from a bombing, one more soldier I could rescue from behind enemy lines. My situation was my own fault I know I screwed up everything in my life, I don't need any pity, it's just the way it is. There was something about the end of a tour though that made everything raw, watching my soldiers pack up, talking about going home to their wives, brothers, sisters, partners, and I couldn't face it anymore. So I extended and I extended again, and kept doing so with the thought of 'this is my last time'. It never was though, I was just lying to myself, I didn't have any plans of coming back, I was going to stay there until..." I went out with my boots on didn't need to be said. They all knew Brian never planned on coming back alive.
Brian saw tears had started falling from Mia's eyes and blanched, "Shit, Mia don't cry, I'm sorry...shit." Good going O' Conner, make a pregnant woman cry why don't you, he thought.
They all noticed Brian's expression and started to laugh, even Dom.
Brian looked around confused, I just made Mia cry shouldn't someone like punch me or something.
Mia let out a chuckle and wiped her eyes, "They are laughing because I am always crying these days Brian. Hormones."
"Always, I did the dishes for her the other night, and she started balling like a baby," Vince said.
Mia reached around her husband and smacked Vince on the head.
Brian let out a quiet laugh, and everyone beamed at Mia for being the cause of it.
"Oh I'm being so rude, Brian this is my husband Trent, Trent this is Brian O' Conner."
Brian reached his hand out over the table and shook Trent's. He looked over to Dom who gave a smile and a nod, and sat back in his chair.
"It's nice to meet you Brian, I have to say you're the first man I've met at this table who hasn't threatened to break my neck, if I hurt Mia."
Brian looked over at Dom once again and knew what that smirk meant, so he decided to play along.
"Oh I would never threaten to break your neck." He leaned up and put his arms on the table, "Maybe I should introduce myself better."
Mia's husband looked a little confused, but Mia didn't she gave Brian a mock glare with an eye roll.
"Master Sergeant Brian O' Conner of the United States Army, Special Forces, trained in hand to hand combat, weapons and artillery warfare, also a trained Sniper, and I'm an excellent marksman."
Mia's husband looked a little startled, so did everyone else for that matter, they didn't know much about Army life, but that was a pretty impressive resume. Trent looked at Brian smiled and nodded, he understood the message, don't hurt Mia, or I'll kill you and I have more than one way to do it.
Dom finally came out of his shock enough to laugh, and it was loud and followed by everyone else at the table. "Who would have thought," Vince said shaking his head. "Never thought I see the day, the buster has better threats than we do."
Brian let out another small laugh, "now you know what it's like for every teenage daughter that has a father in our unit. You think one of me is bad, imagine having to tell your boyfriend that there is a group of 30 or more of us out there ready to hunt him down if need be."
Mia winced, "and here I thought growing up with Dom as a brother was bad."
Dom gave her a glare, he resented that remark, for saying that she thought it was bad, or for saying it wasn't bad enough no one but him knew.
Rome was laughing and smiling with everybody else until he realized something, "you still didn't tell us why Brian and I feel like there a big why."
"Why I left Iraq?" Rome nodded. "We had a mission, pretty straightforward there was a group of women teaching young girls how to read and write. We got a tip that they were going to bomb their make shift school, so we were sent in to rescue the civilians. When we got there, there was no children, no women just a trap, a trap we willingly and easily walked into. We were outnumbered, and outgunned. There was a small scuttle and two of my men were injured, If we had chosen to put up even more of a fight no one would have made it out alive, so I made the call. The call to put down our weapons and surrender."
One fucking call...
The one that changed everything, it left Brian with more guilt, from not being able to protect his men, from watching two of them die.
"It was the right call, but that doesn't make it a good one. We were taken to a prison, buried underneath the hot sand in a remote part of the desert. We were there for five months; I had to watch my soldiers suffer for five months!" He said in a whispered like yell. "The torture wasn't bad for them, at least I was able to protect them from most of it like a good leader is suppose to do, but the place was filthy. There was never much food to go around, and I went hungry most nights. Smoke and Country were the one's that had been injured in the fight, before we surrendered. The bullet wound on Smokes leg, and the slash on Country's back were just too deep, to infected, they died in that shit hole."
"How did you keep them for torture Brian?" Letty asked, it was the first time since he got there that she had spoken, and Brian couldn't help but notice she was sitting at the table in her own chair, and not on Dom's lap. Brian decided to file away that oddity for another time, right now he had to finish this, get it all out and over with. If they hated him when he was done, and turned him away it would just be that much easier to leave, go back to Iraq.
"I identified myself as the higher officer, why torture the underlings for information when the man in charge is there. They didn't get anything out of me, and on the rare occasions they got tired of trying to get me to talk, they didn't get anything out of anyone else. I'm glad our unit got us out when they did, I'm pretty sure they were going to kill us soon, prisoners who didn't talk are of no use."
"You could have died Brian, you could have died, and we would have never known!" Roman spat out with anger. "Why didn't you tell anybody where you went? Damn it why did you leave in the first place?"
"God damn it Rome, because I needed to go alright!"
Brian didn't answer the want to get up and leave was burning deep inside of him.
"Tell me why O' Conner! Tell me why!" He screamed.
"Because I fucked everything up okay! It's all I'm ever doing, is fucking up families. Mine was screwed up from the beginning, but I just had to get popped for stealing a car, and while I was gone my father shot my mother! If I hadn't landed my ass in juvie she would still be here! I fucked up with you, became a cop something you hated more than anything, and when you needed me I couldn't help you! Then I came here and once again left devastation in my wake. I lied for my job, lied about being a cop, and the worst part is I wasn't actually lying so much. Fuck! After being on my own for so long it was nice to be a part of a family again, to feel wanted, accepted and shit. So much that I was actually going to turn in my badge, I was going to come clean to you, and warn you not to do the last heist, I was going to turn in some false information, and get the cops off your tails. By the time I got here though you were already gone, and shit just hit the fan over and over again after that. Then I started burning bridges with the force, killing Tran as revenge for shooting Jessie, making sure a buddy of mine was there to intercept Vince at the hospital instead of an actual cop who wanted to take him to jail, and then handing Dom my keys. Once he left I was surrounded by cops, and I realized really fast they wanted to pin it all on me. They wanted everyone to know that being a dirty cop has penalties, so I ran. I knew I was alone again, had nobody, and once again I took the easy way, I left instead of facing the consequences."
Brian started to breathe hard, and Dom instantly stood he placed his hand on Brian's face and pulled his head in the direction of his own. "Hey Bri, calm down alright, deep breaths." Brian looked like he was still struggling with his grip on reality, so Dom kept talking. "This is a safe place alright, you need to yell, yell, no one here minds, but you gotta stay with us alright. We just want some answers Bri, and you might want some too, and we can do that. Just finish talking alright, tell us what happened." Brian nodded into Dom's hand, and then Dom removed it from his cheek and pointed at Rome, "you watch your shit! Don't yell at him again!"
Rome nodded and sat down and no one looked surprised but Brian, he was surprised that Dom cared if he got yelled at, and also surprised that Rome just sat down and did what he was told.
"I didn't want to leave, no, I'm actually not even finished with this tour yet, but my Sgt. Major turned down my request to extend, and if that wasn't bad enough he sent me back before I could finish the tour I'm currently on."
"Why he send you away?" Dom asked.
"Because of these," he said while pulling out a chain with dog tags on it. Brian sat down and looked at the tags. "These were Sanchez's tags, he was looking them over when I walked in, and then he gave me this whole speech about needing to find a family outside of the Army, that I've given up enough for my country, that I needed to rest and recover, and that's why he was sending me out."
"What does that have to do with the dog tags?" Mia asked.
"Were a close group, you have no privacy when you're deployed, and you hear and see a whole lot of things, that can either drive you insane or bring you close. For most it's the close one, these are the guys who would step in front of a bullet for you, so when one of them passes it's your duty to check on his family. I was Sanchez's commanding officer; it was my call that led to his death, so his family is now my responsibility. I was asked to bring his tags back home to his wife."
Everyone sat back, and stayed silent they weren't sure really what to say to that.
"Even by the time I was leaving his office I didn't understand, family, a home it's not something Sgt. Major was ever worried about me having before, but then he spoke one more time as I reached the door. "If you do find a family and want to leave the Army I'll be happy for you, son, and if you try and don't find one I'll welcome you back readily. But you have to try Brian, because if you come back and keep going on as you have been those are going to be your dog tags in my hands, and it will kill me son when I have no one to give them to.' I didn't know what to say, so I just nodded and left."
Mia started to cry again, and Brian was really hoping someone would punch him this time. "Mia I know you're pregnant and you said it's the hormones, but you always make me feel like such an ass for making you cry, please stop."
Mia gave a watery chuckle, "you are an ass," she huffed.
Brian gave out a small laugh and looked around. The unease started to creep back in, and suddenly he felt like it was time to go, he couldn't get comfortable around these people again, he didn't belong there.
"Well it's getting late, and I need to find an address to put on my leave form. Uh thank you for dinner; it was nice seeing everyone again." He looked at Dom, "do I just go get my bag, or..."
It was Dom who was a little angry this time, Brian was just going to take off again, he thought. "That's it huh?" He said while crossing his arms. "You don't come home for 10 years, 10 fucking whole years of no contact, and now you're going to walk out of our lives again. Well nice seeing you, maybe I'll see you again in 10 more years, maybe not if I get killed in some foreign country first!" Dom was pretty proud of himself for not yelling, he might be pissed at Brian, but he didn't want to frighten him.
"Why would any of you care?" He asked sounding so confused that it downright floored Dom.
How could Brian not know he was family, how could he think they would just throw him away like that. "Your family Brian, and you don't turn your back on family, you certainly don't let them walk out of your life after they come back from being missing for 8 years."
There was that word again, that word that bothered Brian so much, could they really still think of him as such. After everything he did it couldn't be that easy. "How could you still think of me as family after what I did?"
"After everything you did buster? You mean saving my life, Jessie's, keeping me out of jail, giving Dom your car, and worked so hard to get us pardoned, you still think we would hate you?" Vince asked.
"It was my fault you were all in trouble to begin with; I brought the LAPD into your lives!"
Dom shook his head, "no Brian, it was my fault I'm the one who went ahead and pulled the last heist, even when everyone disagreed. If I hadn't ordered for everyone to go through with one more, the cops would have never caught onto us. That one is on me, not on you. I tore up the family, you brought us back together."
"But you left me." He said it in such a sad desperate tone, like he was trying to convince himself that every thought he held onto for years about them hating him wasn't just thrown out. "You left me."
"And I shouldn't have, I guess part of me just thought you would be better off. You were pretty banged up, and I thought you would convince the cops that I beat the keys out of your hands, made you give them to me. I thought you could salvage your life here, and not have to live on the run as a criminal."
"Never occurred to me," he said with a grimace.
"I know that now Bri, but by the time we found out you were wanted by the cops you were long gone. Mia went looking for you, tried to find you so she could tell you where to go, where to meet me."
"You looked for me?" Brian asked Mia.
"Yes, but your apartment was empty, there was nothing left in your place except your badge lying on a table."
Brian let out a shaky breath; the world was so different from how he thought it was when he woke up this morning.
"We kept looking for you for two years, never found a trace of you to help us track you down." Vince said to Brian.
"It wasn't till Roman showed up on our doorstep looking for the team, that we even knew if you were alive, or even if you were locked up somewhere or not." Mia said.
"I gave the papers to Mia like you asked, and was going to hightail it out of here. She called Dom, and told him about the pardon, and he asked if I would stay for a few days until he got back. He wanted every piece of information I could give about you." Rome said to Brian.
"When Rome told everyone that you left to go find yourself again, we were relieved, we figured you would make your way back home when you did." Dom said.
"I decided to stay here, so when you went looking for me, you found all of us."
"Wait a minute you only stayed here, on the off chance I ever came back, I would have to come here?"
"Yeah brah, what you think I like living with bossy alpha man over there?" He said pointing at Dom. "I stayed here waiting for you Brian."
If Brian thought about it, it was a pretty smart move on Roman's part, "I called Tanner a few days ago to ask if he would hunt you down."
Rome nodded, "he knew where I was, I told him. After a year everyone started to get worried when you didn't come back, so I asked for Tanner's help. He couldn't find a trace of you, and we didn't know if that was more of a good sign or bad. He always thought one day, when you were ready you would call, he refused to change his cell phone number for years now just in case you still had it. After about five years, we all had pretty much given up hope you were ever coming home, but we just thought maybe you found a race bunny on the coast somewhere, and were living it up, it was a better than thinking you were dead."
"You would have known if I died." Brian said on autopilot his brain was trying to process all the information he had just been given, and he wasn't thinking about the words coming out of his mouth.
"And how is that Brian?" Roman asked.
"I have two life insurance policies, one in your name, and one in Dom's. I knew Dom would use it to take care of everyone here, so I just put his name down."
"You spent all this time thinking we hate you and you still put my name down on a life insurance policy?"
"Yeah I never said that I thought the hate went both ways...shit...my mind is so fucked up right now."
"It's alright Brian, just talk to us about it." Mia said in her overly affectionate mother tone.
"I came here to find Rome, to explain why I did what I did; I thought I owed him that. I also came here so I could see if you were alright, I needed to see that everyone was fine, and happy. Happy without me, so I could finally let go some of this shit in my head, so that I could go back and maybe be free of this nice little bubble of hatred I have for myself."
"We are happy Brian, just not complete; you complete this family, that's why we never stopped looking, never stopped wanting you to come home."
Never stopped looking...
"Shit...shit...shit." Brian stood up and started to pace. "You've been wasting your time looking for me and I've been hiding like a coward!"
Dom stood up and stopped Brian, "none of that matters Brian, and for the record I don't think signing up for the Army was being a coward."
"We're just happy your home Brian, we got you back." Jessie said with a grin on his face.
He wasn't him anymore; he wasn't the person they once knew.
"Fuck!" Brian yelled in frustration and pulled on his cap once again.
"Not exactly the loving words of a family member coming home, but that's okay." Leon said trying to lighten up the mood.
"No you don't get it, I'm not me anymore. I've changed."
"We've all changed Brian, it's been 10 years, I doubt any of us are the same people we once were." Letty interjected.
"No it's different; I didn't go on some self discovery to find myself like I said I was going to. I signed up and was shipped of into war. I went into the Army and let it strip away every bit of my personality, I let it happen. I was sitting on a plane beside a woman who wouldn't stop talking to me; I had no clue what to say! I was always good a talking to people, even if it was about absolutely nothing I could do it, I can't anymore. I was once a guy who did whatever I wanted, when I wanted to do it, but now I live my life by the book. Wake up, PT 0500, shower at 0745, put on my uniform at 0750, breakfast at 0800, and that's just my morning. If I get off my schedule even just a little bit, I start to panic. If I'm given orders I follow them, no questions asked I do what I'm told, because that is my job. I haven't had a full day off in over 5 years, and I don't have a clue what to do now that I have two months leave. I use to sleep like a rock, but now I'm the lightest sleeper in the world, if I hear someone breathing and I wake up. Loud noises can throw me into a panic, and I reach for my gun even when it's not on my side. I had to adapt every aspect of my personality, and I don't know if that guy you once knew is even around anymore. I don't know if I'm built for family life, hell I don't know if I'm built for civilian life anymore. So it's great that you want me around, I never expected it, it makes me feel happy that you do, but I can't help but to wonder what's going to happen when you see that's not who I am anymore."
Dom placed his hand on the side of Brian's face again, "then we will love this you, because it doesn't matter, you might be different, but your still you Bri."
Your still you...
Brian felt like he was about to break open, it was all too much, to unlike what had been playing in his head for 8 years now, he needed some time to process everything, he needed a safe place to do it without being stared at.
Dom seemed to notice Brian's need for a moment, "come on, I don't want you to leave, but how about you go inside and wash up. While you're in the shower we'll clean up and get a movie ready alright?"
Brian gave a shaky nod and followed Dom into the house. It was just like how he remembered it, down to the car magazines sitting on the coffee table. He saw his duffle leaning against the living room wall. He pulled out his shower bag, a clean uniform, shirt, socks, and underwear. He then closed the duffle back up, and turned around to see Dom staring intensely at him.
"Something wrong?" Brian asked.
"I'm afraid I'm going to blink, and you'll disappear, I'm a little scared I might actually have gone crazy and I'm just imagining you here. I never stopped hoping you would come home, never gave up on you, and now your here."
Brian felt his heart start beating faster, he didn't know what Dom was trying to say, did he possibly have feelings for Brian, or did he just miss him like a brother, like he would miss Vince. He didn't have much time to dwell on it however since Dom interrupted his internal confusion.
"Go ahead and get cleaned up, you remember where the shower is right?"
Brian nodded, like there was any detail of this house, or anyone in it that he would ever forget. He started to walk up the stairs when he heard Dom call his name.
"I understand what you were saying outside, I know not everyone else did, but I heard you. You were trying to tell us that you didn't know if you could do this, come back that is. After everything you've ever done for me, it doesn't seem fair to ask you to do anything else, but I'm going to. Please try Bri, for me."
Brian nodded his head, and started to once again make his way up the stairs. He started the shower and stripped out of his uniform. He let the water run down around him, before he thought about Dom's words.
Try Bri, for me...
Brian continued to wash away all the airplane grime while he thought. Could he try, if he tried and it worked out he could be a part of something again, if he didn't try he would have nothing, and if he did try and it didn't work out he would be left with nothing. Two options would end the same no matter what, so he didn't see the harm in trying, he really had nothing to lose.
Brian got out of the shower with time to spare, he used the shirt he had just taken off to dab himself dry, since there was no towel. He slipped into his briefs, threw on his clean shirt, slipped into his pants, and bent down to remove his belt off the other pair. He tucked in his shirt and then buckled his pants and belt. He threw on his socks, and then put his boots back on and laced them up. He looked at himself in the mirror, for a moment he had the idea of just going out like that, he was in the house after all, he could get away with not wearing his top. One look at his arms however had him shrugging into his clean top. He took his patches off the dirty one and stuck them onto the velcro of the new one. He grabbed his hat and stuck it in his side pocket of his pants. Folded his dirty clothes and stacked them in a neat pile with his shower bag on top.
He left the bathroom, and decided he would do it; he had two months before he had to make any decisions, so he would stick around and try to make this work.
When he walked down the stairs everyone was sitting in the living room waiting for him. They all had blankets, pillows, and popcorn and Brian couldn't help but smile at the familiarity of it all. He use to love movie night, sitting next to Dom letting his leg occasionally bump against his. Stop! Brian thought. You can't have those thoughts, you're trying to get your family back, not push them away by thinking about Dom like that.
After internally reprimanding himself he walked past everyone and threw his dirty clothes back inside his duffle, and put his phone that he had taken out of his pants pocket and put it in the pants he was currently wearing.
When he turned back around everyone was staring at him and all he could do was awkwardly stand there, he wasn't sure where he should sit.
Dom frowned from his place on the couch, he thought Brian was going to stay, he thought his nod meant he would try. Guess I was wrong, he thought. "So that a no then?" He asked trying not to let the bitterness he was feeling creep into his tone.
Brian reached up to tug on his hat only to realize he was inside and didn't have it on, "huh?" He asked more unsure of himself than he had been minutes ago.
"Your back in your uniform, your leaving again without giving us a chance, you're not going to try." Dom said with anger.
Brian's eyes flashed with recognition. "Oh no, I'm not leaving I'm going to try. I changed into a clean uniform that one wasn't really dirty, not in the sense of dirt and grime like it has been, but I was still on a plane for hours and I wanted to put on something clean."
Dom nodded in relief all the anger and bitterness had left him in an instant and now he was left with just confusion, "why wouldn't you put on regular clothes that uniform can't be very comfortable to watch a movie in, or even to sleep in." He knew he was pushing it with the sleep comment but he wanted Brian to know he expected, he wanted him to sleep there in the house.
Brian's nervousness came back and he tugged on his top to straighten it even though it was perfectly straight. "I umm...don't have any civilian clothes with me, haven't worn them in over five years. There all in a storage unit in Georgia left them and my car there when I deployed out of Fort Bragg."
Dom's face lit up in understanding, "that's okay we can fix that tomorrow, and you could borrow something of mine tonight if you want. They might be a little big, but probably more comfortable than that."
Brian shook his head, "no it's fine, I'm use to sleeping in this, it's part of the job be ready at a moment's notice even if you're sleeping. If we get called out in the middle of the night we only have two minutes to get ready, so everyone sleeps in their uniform and boots. I take off my top and untie my boots, so they aren't too tight and then I just have to lace them up, throw back on my top when I wake up and I'm ready to go."
Dom wanted to argue, he wanted to tell Brian that wasn't necessary here with them, but Brian was going to stay and he had won that big battle, so there was no sense in arguing over a small one. In the end he just nodded, and everyone else took from his reaction and did the same.
"I have to call my Superior and give him an address for my forms; you can go ahead and start the movie."
"That's okay Brian we don't mind waiting, why don't you go into the kitchen and make your call. You could get you a drink while you're in there," Mia said with a smile.
Brian nodded and walked into the kitchen he pulled out his phone and pressed the send button twice.
"Sergeant Major Cullen speaking,"
"Yes sir, this is Sergeant O' Conner I have that address for you now sir."
"Good, what is it I'll fill it in on your leave form myself."
"1327 Echo Park sir."
"Alright done, have you checked in with a doctor yet O' Conner? I realize you were checked out by our medics, but an eye needs to be kept on all wounds to make sure there is no risk of infection."
"I have not sir, I will go see a doctor tomorrow, before I go speak to Mrs. Sanchez sir."
"See that you do son, I expect to have a fax on my desk tomorrow with a write up from whatever doctor you see."
"Are you alone again son?"
"Umm no sir, I mean no sir, sorry sir."
"It's alright O' Conner I imagine it's been a long day for you, your allowed an umm every once in a while."
"Thanks for understanding sir, if that's all, I have people waiting on me to start a movie."
"That's all Brian, enjoy yourself."
Brian hung up the phone and put it back in his pocket, when he turned around he saw Dom leaning against the door frame. He wanted to be angry at Dom for listening in on his conversation, but he couldn't find it in himself, so he just asked. "Eavesdropping?"
Dom gave him a huge grin, "caught me, although I wasn't exactly hiding what I was doing. I just wanted to make sure, that you were really going to stay Bri."
"I know it might seem like shit to you after everything I've done, but I do keep my word."
Dom walked over to Brian and placed his hand on his shoulder, "I know it's going to take time, I'm probably going to have to say it 100 more times, but no one holds that against you Brian. I trust your word; it's just still new to me as well, like I said earlier I'm afraid you're going to disappear on me."
"If I'm going to leave, I'll tell you first, deal?"
"Deal," Dom said with a nod. "Come on let's go watch the movie before Rome starts whining and I have to punch him because he's getting on my nerves." Brian let a small smile show through, it was still guarded though like the rest of them they've seen. I'm going to bring his old smile back, if it's the last thing I do, Dom thought as he pushed Brian into the living room.
"It's about damn time homie, hey where is my beer Dom, you said you get me one..." Rome said when they walked into the room.
"Did I? Must have forgotten." Dom said with a smirk.
"Not cool Brah, not cool."
"Oh just shut up and start the movie Rome," snapped Vince.
Brian took a look around and noticed two empty spots on the couch beside Mia and her husband, he watched Dom sit down in one and didn't know if he should follow or if he should sit on the floor. Before he could stand there to long looking like an idiot Dom grabbed his wrist and pulled him over to the couch.
"Were you able to get a hold of your Sergeant Brian?" Mia asked.
"Yes I gave him the address and he gave me my orders."
"Orders? I thought he told you that you weren't going back for at least 2 months?" She tried her best to keep the worry out of her voice but it didn't work.
"Oh not orders to leave, orders to see a Doctor tomorrow, I'm still recovering from my Iraqi holiday, and he doesn't want any wounds to become infected. So I have to go see a doctor tomorrow, and have him fax paperwork to my Sgt. so he knows I actually went."
"Still have a thing about doctors huh homie?" Rome asked with a laugh.
"Yeah Army couldn't change that any."
"You know Brian I'm a doctor, and I could give you a check up right here, and then fax the paperwork from my office."
"Uhh...I don't...I don't know."
"Brian no one is pushing you, but just so you know Trent gives everybody here medical attention when needed, and anything said or seen is strictly confidential between the two of you."
"She's right, well strictly confidential between you, me, and your Sergeant that is."
Brian nodded in agreement, and Trent flashed him a smile.
"So what's the movie?" Brian whispered to Dom who rolled his eyes, "it's Trent's night to pick."
"And you are in for a treat let me tell you Brian, were watching Thor."
"Thor as in comic book Thor?"
"Yes, they've done Iron Man, Captain America, and there is a rumor about an Avengers movie that will be out soon."
"Oh," Brian said, "sorry don't know quite what your taking about haven't seen a new movie in a while."
"They didn't have movies for you to watch, you get shot at, no movies, and crappy food. You would have been better off in jail man." Leon said without thinking.
Brian winced at the thought and shook his head, "ex-cop remember? Not a great descriptor in prison. Plus I spent some time in a jail, the Army is a better choice, trust me. They had movies they would show for everyone, but I just never went." He said with a shrug.
"Alright enough yapping at the poor man, he hasn't seen a new movie in like five years let him relax and watch it." Letty said with a wink in his direction.
The movie had started and was about 20 minutes in when he started to become uncomfortable. Brian had been in his full uniform all day, and it was starting to rub his wounds in a bad way. He reached up to pull it away from a bad cut on his shoulder, the weight of his shirt was still there, but it made it a little better. Brian saw Dom hands reach over and make a grab for Brian's top. Brian looked around and noticed that everyone was focusing on the movie, and wasn't looking at whatever was happening on that corner of the couch. Dom undid the velcro as quietly as he could, which was apparently quiet enough since no one even glanced their way. He then reached up and pulled down Brian's zipper. Brian looked over at Dom's face but the man didn't give anything away with it, he was only staring at the TV. If Brian hadn't felt his hands near his chest he would have thought the man was just watching the movie. When Dom was finished unzipping him he grabbed the hem of his sleeve and tugged. Brian decided he was tired of being undressed like a child, and pulled both of his arms out of his sleeves. Dom turned and smiled at him, and tugged the ACU top out from behind Brian, and placed it on the arm of the couch.
At first Brian tensed not only from the loss of layer that separated him from heat he could feel generating from Dom, but also about knowledge of how his arms were now visible, every bruise, cut and burn laid out for everyone to see. After about five minutes of panic and convincing himself they would eventually see them all anyways, and it's wasn't like it was going to happen this second with the lights off, he relaxed. He started to pay attention to the movie and even laughed when Thor threw the glass on the floor and hollered for another.
They were about half way through the movie, and Brian didn't think it was too bad; he shifted and tried to get comfortable and felt his leg brush against Dom's he jerked it back like he had been burned. Dom just turned to look at him with a small frown, Brian thought it was because he touched Dom in the first place, but when Dom moved his leg against Brian's he was confused.
Dom left his leg in the same spot for the entire movie, and Brian was in a daze trying figure out what it meant.
Did it mean something more, or was it casual support from a friend. That latter seemed more likely. It was probably nothing more than worry on Dom's part, concerned about how Brian flinched away. He probably thinks it's from the torture I received, that I can't handle touch now. He's just trying to make me feel comfortable around him again, Brian finally settled on.
When the credits started running Brian was happy, he felt exhausted and was ready for bed. He leaned his head back on the couch and closed his eyes. He wasn't sleeping, too much noise for him to be able to sleep, he couldn't sleep with that kind of noise anymore; noise meant he needed to be aware of his surroundings of possible danger. He was however relaxed enough that he didn't think about his arms or covering them, so when the lights came on and he heard several gasps he was not expecting it.
"Brian," Mia called out in a whimper.
Brian lifted his head off the back of the couch and made eye contact with her. "Shit...this is like the third time today I've made you cry Mia, I'm really thinking someone should have punched me by now."
"It looks like someone beat us to it Brian." Vince said in concern.
Brian risked a glance at Dom and saw that the man looked murderous.
Trent walked back over to the couch from the light switch and looked down at Brian. Brian raised an eyebrow at the man, but he stood still eyes unmoving off of Brian's skin.
Dom was the next one to talk, "are there more?"
At this point Brian wanted the couch to swallow him, he thought the hard part was out of the way, he didn't realize this would be worse on so many levels. This was shame.
Brian thinks he wears it more than he does his own uniform, shame for not being good enough, for not doing the right thing, not being strong enough, quick enough, for not being just over all better. To him every bruise, cut, and burn shows failure. He failed to get his team out of a trap, he failed to come up with an escape plan, he wasn't able to keep them from all of the torture, wasn't able to go hungry every night so his team had more food to split between them, he failed at keeping Country's and Smoke's wounds clean enough, and failed at keeping them alive.
He wanted to tell them to stop looking at him with pity he didn't deserve it, but instead he just said, "yeah."
"Everybody but Trent out, now," he growled. They all ran out faster than Brian had seen them run from the cops. It makes sense though, no one argues with Dom when he uses that voice.
"Dom," Trent said, trying to remind Dom he should leave as well so Brian would have some privacy.
Dom didn't budge though, he looked over at Brian with a look that says, 'please I need to know' and Brian just nodded his head yes. Because that's what Brian always does, gives Dom his way, he may bark and growl at first, but the end result is always the same. It's how he got into the whole blown cover thing in the first place, falling in love with his mark. Fuck my life, thought Brian.
Brian didn't even realize that Trent had been examining his arms while he was throwing his little inner pity party. "Brian can you take off your shirt for me?"
Brian stood up, and took a deep breath; he slipped the shirt over his head and held it in his left hand. At first he didn't want to look up at Dom, he didn't know what he would see, but he did anyways. Dom had a look of total concern on his face, and he was looking frantically around like he was trying to memorize every wound, every old scar, and every bone you could see popping out on his thin frame. Like knowing about every single one would fix everything and erase them from Brian's body.
Brian let his gaze fall off of Dom and looked at Trent who was looking at his chest. "Looks like your stitches are doing fine Brian, and it doesn't look like any of the cuts or burns are infected."
Brian nodded, "you might want to listen to my lungs, my Sgt. will want want that information."
Trent's eyes widened, "what am I listening for?"
Brian looked to the side, "water."
The only sound that was heard next was Trent walking out of the room, and then back with a stethoscope in hand. "Go head and sit down Brian."
Brian did as he was told, but when he sat down and was once again making eye contact with Dom he wished he hadn't.
"Look Dom," he started.
Dom held his hand up and tried to soothe the tension in his face out before speaking, "not right this second Bri, please. Just give me a moment to let it sink in, I'm trying to understand."
Brian didn't understand a lot of things, he didn't understand why despite the team's early words he was still here, he didn't understand why Dom seemed to care about his wounds, and he certainly didn't understand any of Dom's behavior since he walked through that gate.
"Alright Brian your lungs sound alright to me, are those the only things he will want to see in my report?"
Brian thought about for a moment, "my weight probably, but can't do that without a scale."
"I'll get it," Dom said and left the room. He brought back a thin black square and placed it right in front of Brian's feet, he looked like he was going to grab Brian's arm for a second, but at last minute decided against it and drew back. Brian stepped on, and didn't bother to look at the scale he knew what it said the last time the medics checked his weight.
"133 pounds," Trent said in concern.
"I'm up by 3," Brian said.
"That's under what is the minimum for a healthy weight for your height Brian."
"I know like I said earlier not a lot of food to be had in that prison."
Trent nodded, "I'm going to want to keep a check on that, make sure you start gaining again. We should get him some high calorie foods Dom; he should be eating more calories than he burns."
"That it?" Brian said wanting to put his shirt back on.
"Yes, if you give me the fax number in the morning l'll fax this out first thing." Trent grabbed the paperwork he was taking notes on and started to leave the room, "night Dom, Brian."
Brian lifted up his shirt to pull back over head but was stopped by Dom. He had a look on his face that Brian couldn't quite place. "Don't hide it, not from me."
Dom placed his hands on Brian's chest and looked at him like he was asking for permission, Brian wasn't sure what it was for but he said yes anyways. Dom moved his hands all around Brian's torso, studying every mark. "I did this, the day I left and didn't take you with me, I did this to you."
Brian knew what the look on Dom's face was now, it was guilt he was so use to walking around with it, but not actually seeing it anywhere but in his own reflection in the mirror. "Shit...no Dom you didn't, I chose my path, I chose to runaway instead of facing you, and I chose to keep prolonging my deployment in the hopes that I wouldn't ever have to face you, this one is on me."
Dom nodded and looked up at Brian, "why were you so afraid to face me?"
Brian felt like his head was being dunked back into the water tank he felt like he was going to drown in his embarrassment, "I didn't think I could stand to see hate in your eyes directed at me. Hate in anyone else's eyes either, I convinced myself that I was doing fine with being alone, and I knew if I ever saw any of you again that lie would come undone."
Brian lifted up his shirt and raised his eyebrow at Dom. Dom nodded but didn't step out of Brian's space. Brian tugged his shirt back on and tucked it back into his pants. He backed up to the edge of the couch on the far left side and sat down; he placed his head on the back and closed his eyes. He knew they should talk, they had tons of things that needed to be said between the two of them, but tonight wasn't the night. Brian's brain had already had enough for one day.
Dom sat down beside him, "you tired?"
"Little," Brian answered.
"If I offered you my room, you would?"
"Turn you down flat."
Dom chuckled, "thought so. Want a blanket, pillow?"
"No not necessary." Brian answered, "I sleep sitting up like this most of the time, a chair is more comfortable then that thin cot we're assigned.
"I'll get the light for you okay?"
Dom got up and turned off the light then walked back to the couch. "Can I stay with you for a bit Bri, or will I keep you up?"
"You can stay, it takes a good hour for me to usually fall asleep anyways."
Dom sat back down right in the middle of the couch beside Brian. Brian turned his head towards Dom, "I don't get what's going on here."
"I know, but I don't think it's a good idea to explain tonight, you should try to sleep."
Brian looked down and saw the feint out line of Dom's hand twitch like he wanted to touch him, like he wanted to make sure he was real, and make sure he didn't leave.
"I'm pretty sure my confused brain is going to hate me in the morning, but you can touch me you know. I get it; you still think I'm going to leave."
Dom let out a big sigh from beside Brian and placed his hand on Brian's knee, even though Brian knew it was coming he still flinched. The flinch made Dom jerk away his hand away.
"It's okay Dom, I'm just not use to being touched anymore, it has nothing to do to with you okay?"
Dom nodded, but instead of putting his hand back he put his whole arm around Brian's shoulders. Brian only gave a slight flinch, and Dom took that as progress. He pulled Brian into his side and held him there.
"You sure it's not a good idea to talk about this now?"
"We can talk about it in the morning; just let it be for tonight Bri, please?"
"Okay, in the morning then." Brian couldn't help but think that was somewhat unfair, left him on a tightrope of what can I dos and what can't I dos. He would never say it out loud however, just another thing Dominic Toretto got his way on.
"Can I hold you?" That request was a little shocking, and nerve racking.
"I thought that's what you were doing, this isn't holding me?"
"Not how I want to do it," he whispered.
Brian wasn't sure what to say, if he told Dom yes then he would be wrapped up in Dom's arms, a place he certainly always wanted to be, but if Dom doesn't mean anything romantic by it, then Brian could fall deeper than he was already. Be even more screwed, although he didn't see how he could fall for the man anymore than he already had, and even without being held by him he would be devastated if Dom's feelings were just that of a friend. It was another one of those two have the same answer type things, so what was the harm, if Dom didnt return his feelings he had at least one night.
"Yeah you can."
Dom moved to the other end of the couch and put his legs up, and grabbed for Brian. He pulled him onto his chest in between his legs. Dom then laid his head down and wrapped Brian into his arms.
Dom's arms, Brian loved them, he loved the muscle definition in, the strength of them, and now he knew he loved the feeling of them. Dom was the most comfortable thing he has laid on in years, and even if he woke up the morning and his hopes of Dom having feelings for him gets blown to pieces, he knows this will be one of the best nights he's ever had.
Brian woked up at exactly 0445 apparently not even jet lag could mess with his internal alarm clock. He was half tempted to stay where he was wrapped in Dom's arms and the feeling of warmth, but he was wide awake, and he didn't want to make things more awkward then they were already bound to be. So he eased himself out of Dom's hold and got up from the couch without waking the man. He slipped on his PT shorts, shirt, and belt out of his bag, and dug for his running shoes. He crept his way to the guest bathroom to change, and then made his way back out to place his uniform and boots on top of his duffle. He gave one last look at the man sleeping on the couch and then walked out the front door.
The minute Brian stepped out the door he felt tension, and it confused him. He should have felt a bit of relief instead, being away from worrying eyes, away from questions, and away from conflicting thoughts about Dom. He didn't however feel any relief; he felt more like he was leaving a safe haven. Stepping out in to the civilian world left him with a distinct feeling he was quite use to feeling, he felt alone once again.
He should be okay with being alone, he's been that way for 8 years now, even craved it on several occasions. Never getting close to anyone, even the guys in his unit, he would talk to them be there for them, but any time they tried to return the favor he would always pull back. Always kept everyone at arm's length, and he preferred it that way, but after getting a taste of family once again alone didn't quite have the same appeal that it once had.
Brian started to run in the direction of a gym that he remembered being about two miles from the Toretto house. Chances are it wasn't there anymore, but Brian figured he might as well give it a try.
Brian stoped running when he stepped on the curve of the Toretto residence and put his hands on his sides and took a deep breath. He hadn't meant to be gone for so long, he was running about five minutes behind his usual schedule and he couldn't help but to feel like the whole day was going to be out whack. He rubbed his hand over face trying to calm his nerves, and tried to remind himself he wasn't on a tight schedule. He couldn't do it however, so he decided he better get a move on to make up time.
The first thing he noticed when he walked into the door was Dom was no longer on the couch. He heard noises coming from the kitchen and made a beeline for his uniform that he left out. He grabbed it and sent up a silent prayer that no one was in the shower. He turned around to walk towards the stairs and saw Dom leaning against the doorway with several people behind him.
"Hey," Dom said looking relieved at seeing him.
"Hey...I'm late...I'm off schedule." Brian told him in a slight panicked voice.
"That's okay, just go up and shower; breakfast will be ready at 8, that will get you back on time right?" He said calmly like he was trying to reassure a small child.
Brian nodded and made his way to the shower. He didn't waste time he turned the water on and didn't even wait for it to warm up. He didn't stop for a minute to let the water just run over him; he just started to tend to the important things washing his hair, and his body. He rinsed off quickly and shut the water off. He jumped out and had an oh shit moment when he realized he had forgotten to ask for a towel, but then noticed there was one folded on the sink. He grabbed it dried off and threw on his uniform. When he opened the door and came face to face with Dom he lost his senses and almost punched him. Dom noticed the twitch of his arm and only raised an eyebrow.
Brian scratched the back of his head, "sorry it's just reflexes."
Dom nodded but made no comment, "let me take your dirty clothes and I'll put them with mine."
Brian nodded and handed his PT's over to Dom, "I need to put my boots on," he said pointing to his bare feet.
"Okay go get them on, then head to the kitchen."
Brian nodded again and walked past the man, he went into the living room grabbed a fresh pair of socks, and put them and his boots on. He had just finished tucking in his laces when Dom came back down. Brian followed him into the kitchen and noticed most everyone sitting at the table, Mia and her husband were placing the last bit of breakfast things on the table. He made note that the table was bigger than it had been 10 years ago, something he didn't know how he missed it last night.
Everyone gave a smile and said good morning when he sat down. Dom put his hands on Brian's head and gave it a kiss, something Brian had seen him do to Vince, Leon, and Jesse several times, so he didn't try to read too much into it.
"Hey brah, why does he get special treatment, you usually just snap at me in the mornings."
"Cause he doesn't irritate the shit out of me Pearce."
Everyone gave a slight chuckle, and then listened to Dom say grace. Brian reached out and filled his own plate this time and Dom and Rome made eye contact and nodded, it was a good sign meant he was probably just too nervous yesterday.
"Oh I forgot," Mia said as she got up, "here Brian I made you a piece of toast with peanut butter on it."
Brian took the plate that held the toast and looked at it in confusion, but still thanked Mia nonetheless.
Trent laughed, "We talked about high calorie food, remember Brian? Peanut butter is very high in fat content."
Brian nodded and took a bite, he grabbed the coffee pot and poured himself a cup, and then chugged it down.
"Woah man ain't coffee a little hot to be chugging like that, and since when do you drink just straight black coffee." Roman asked.
"I've chugged so much coffee that I probably don't have that much feeing in the back of my throat anymore," he said with a laugh. "You drink it when you can, and as fast as you can. Don't have much time for adding anything to it, so I got use to it until I eventually preferred it that way."
Dom smile broadly at Brian, it was good to hear him make a joke.
A snore came from the other side of the table and everyone turned to see Leon asleep in his chair. Mia who was sitting beside him gave him a slap on the back of the head. When he shot forward she chided, "Manners Leon, manners."
Leon grunted and made a grab for the coffee pot, "ugh I hate getting up this early, why do you got to eat breakfast this early Brian?"
When Brian looked up in shock and tension started coming off him in waves everyone in that room could have punched Leon.
"You didn't have to change your normal schedule for me; I'm not trying to mess anything up." Brian said.
"You're not messing anything up Brian, you said you've been living on the same schedule for years now right?"
Brian nodded, "yeah but..."
"But nothing Bri, look I know that this is all way more overwhelming for you than you're showing or telling, and we're just trying to ease some of that for you. It's not a big deal, and it's what family does. You gotta ease into this Brian, if we just try to make you do everything the way we do right off the bat it's never gonna work for you. This is our way of showing you how much we care, how much we want this to work so you can stay okay?"
"Yeah okay, thank you." Brian said while taking another bite of his toast, still looking a bit unsure of himself.
Dom leveled Leon with a glare. "I'm sorry Arizona; I'm just a bastard in the morning."
"Arizona?" Rome questioned.
Brian tensed once again before letting out a small laugh; if they had really forgiven him like they said then they wouldn't get mad. "You know I'm not really from there right?"
"No shit?" Leon asked incredulously.
"Nah man, Rome and I are from Barstow."
"I knew you weren't from no Arizona, California all the way with those sun bleached curls." Vince said with a laugh.
Brian decided that he needed to know now before things went any further if they were really okay with what he once did, so he went for it. "You knew I was cop too."
Everyone but Trent, and Rome laughed, they didn't know about all the times they had heard Vince yell about Brian being a cop.
Vince smiled, "what can I say I have a nose for cops."
Brian let out a chuckle, "nah I was just a shit cop."
"That too buster," Vince said with a smile.
"You know Brian I've always wondered if you even liked being a cop, it must have been hard to give it up, but you did it." Mia said, hoping she wasn't pushing into uncomfortable conversation.
Brian leaned back into his chair and thought, "at first yeah I liked it okay, the chase, running from bullets and shit, all exciting. Taking down some bad person, that was just a bonus for me, my Serg. says I have a bit of adrenaline addiction if you can believe it." Everyone laughed, they could. "By the time I went undercover for the truck jacking I was already losing interest and the want to keep going. I had a string of shit undercover cases before I came here, that led to some close calls where I almost never had any backup. I felt like they were playing Russian roulette with my life a bit, and I was more than a little sick of it. When I met all of you I had a bit of a moral dilemma, you all weren't bad people, you were a family. Guess something in my brain is fucked up like that; taking down bad people doing bad things I'm fine with, good people doing bad things though..."
Everyone smiled at him, and continued eating. "Where did you go this morning?" Dom asked.
Brian winced when he realized that he should have left a note or something, "shit, sorry went for a run down to the gym, worked out, ran back. Should have left a note so you knew I didn't take off."
Dom nodded, "your bag was here, I knew you didn't just up and leave."
Rome was staring at Brian in shock, "homie it was impossible to ever get you to go to a gym with me. Now you're running to one?"
Brian laughed, "PT every morning except Sunday's man. If I'm being honest though, I do my own PT on Sundays."
"What are your plans today Brian?" Mia asked.
"I need to call a couple of people, find someone to move my stuff, call my storage unit and let them know someone is coming to pick it all up, this is if that's okay with all of you." At seeing everyone's nod he continued. "I also need to go talk to Smoke's family; I need to get that done as soon as possible."
Everyone nodded but Dom he turned to face Brian. "You need a ride?"
"Nah that's okay, I'm sure you got work to do, I can always call a cab."
"Vince can handle the garage for a day," he said while watching Vince nod in agreement. "I can take you, and then we can go get you more casual clothes." He watched as Brian made a slight face, "unless you don't want to go get some other clothes."
"No it's not that, I can't go around in my uniform everywhere it's against regulations. I just haven't worn civilian clothes for a long time, it will be weird."
He was having serious doubts he could adjust to this life. The idea of a t-shirt and jeans made him fill uneasy, and that was a ridiculous thing to feel nervous about. The idea of not having structure for the next two months was daunting, today he had a lot of things to do, but what about tomorrow.
"Yeah Rome?" Brian said blinking slowly.
"You went off in your own head space there brah, it's going to be okay, alright?"
Brian smiled, "alright."
Maybe he could do it, with the support of his family.
"If it's alright with you, I'm going to go ahead and find a moving company. I can go into the living room if you like."
"Nah man," Leon said with everyone shaking their head to let him know leaving wasn't necessary.
Brian pulled out his phone, opened the browser, and started searching for moving companies, when he found one that did across state moves he pressed the call button.
"Yes I calling to see about getting my things moved out of a storage unit there in Georgia."
"Yes sir, to Los Angeles."
"There isn't enough boxes to possibly fill anything but a small truck. I will also need a car moved with it."
"Yes sir I would like it here as soon as possible."
"The boxes are mainly just clothes, a few military items, some photos, and few other personal items."
"No sir, there is no furniture, no electronics, nothing of serious money value. The only thing worth a large amount of money is the car."
"Yes sir I have picture of the car the day I put it in storage, they have a time and date stamp on them. Alright, my email is .14 , that is Bravo, Romeo, India, Alpha, November, dot, Oscar, Charlie, Oscar, November, November, Echo, Romeo, dot, one four, at Mike, India, Lima, dot, Golf, Oscar, Victor. I will send you a return email to confirm that I received the pictures."
"The storage locker is on Fort Bragg sir, its number 1432, located in the last row." Brian then rattled off his banking account information from memory.
"Thank you, I will call them now to let them know you'll be coming to pick up the items."
He hung up the phone, "how soon did they say they could get it here?" Mia asked.
"For a hefty rush charge, they can have it here in three days."
"Not bad, you got the money to cover that alright?"
Brian gave a chuckle at Dom's question, "the only things I ever take out of my check is the payment for my storage unit, and some for basic necessities, the rest goes in the bank. Even before I was deployed I lived in the barracks ate in the defac. So I've saved up quite a bit these last eight years."
Dom nodded as Brian picked up his phone and scrolled through his contacts and hit send when he found the one he was looking for.
"Yes this Master Sergeant O' Conner I have locker number 1432. I have hired a moving company to load everything out of it tomorrow morning."
"Yes sir, you can cancel the unit once it's empty."
"Thank you, you as well."
"Well that was easy," Brian said with a shrug.
"Well I have to get to the office, can I get that number from you Brian?" Trent asked while handing Brian a paper and pen.
Brian grabbed the two things and scribbled down a number, "it should be written to Sergeant Major Cullen, that's important." Brian said the the doctor.
"I know Brian, I work with quite a few Military, I volunteer down at the VA hospital."
"Yeah?" Brian asked.
"Yes, my father was in the Air Force, supporting the troops is very important to me. You could come with me next time I go."
Brian nodded, "yeah I'd like that," he said to the man as he walked out the room, "I like him," he told Mia after Trent was gone.
Mia beamed at Brian, "I'm glad."
Dom looked over at Brian, "man has never even gotten a speeding ticket."
"What?" Brian said loudly, and all the guys and Letty started to laugh.
"I actually like that he isn't into cars thank you," Mia said.
Brian looked guilty for a second; he knew why that was, less chance of him being more caught in her brother's web than hers.
"It's okay Brian," Mia said with a smile. "Help me with the dishes?" Mia asked.
Brian nodded, and everyone cleared out of the kitchen so Brian and Mia could have a long over due talk.
They both cleared the table in silence, started the water and put the dishes in before they started to finally speak.
Brian picked up the first plate and started to clean it, "I'm sorry."
"I thought it would hurt more, when we saw you again, and I saw how you looked at Dom the way you use to look at me, but it doesn't. I could lie and say it's because I love Trent, but that's only half of it. Truth is I've always known you were never mine." Brian's face showed he was shocked at her words.
"I didn't mean to, everything I said to you, I thought it was the truth."
"I know, you didn't lie, well maybe to yourself, or maybe you just didn't know."
Brian looked at the kitchen doorway when it was clear he whispered. "Towards the end I did," he admitted.
"He pulled you into his gravity," she said happily. "More importantly you pulled him into yours. The rest of us gave up hope you were coming back years ago, honestly I thought you had gotten yourself into trouble that you couldn't talk your way out of. Not him though, every grace was ended with him asking to bring you home. Guess the man upstairs was just waiting for you to be ready."
"Not sure that I am," he said while handing Mia the next plate. "I don't know if I can do this Mia, I feel…so out of place. I feel like I'm defined by the Army now, my job, what am I suppose to do now if not that?"
Mia put the dish she was drying into the cabinet and turned to look at Brian. "I think it might take some time, to find who you were. I'm not saying you won't be somewhat different then you were, but I think there is still some parts of you that haven't changed. You've always faced every challenge head on, it's like you love them, crave a good challenge even and this is just another one. I'm not going to lie, I want you to stay, Jesse wasn't lying either yesterday when he said this family wasn't whole without you. We need you Brian, Dom needs you, and I think you need us to."
We need you...
Those words sent a shock through Brian's system and warmed something he hadn't felt in a long time. Maybe Mia was right, readjusting to civilian life, to family life was just another challenge, one that he could handle like everything else he's done.
"Hey Bri," Dom called out while walking into the kitchen. He had his keys in his hand, "you ready to go?"
"Yeah, just let me hit the latrine and I'll be good to go," he said after handing Mia the last dish and kissed her cheek.
He dried his hands and walked past Dom. "You two good?" He asked Mia.
"Yes," she said with a smile. "I was thinking."
"Oh no," Dom said with a groan.
Mia lightly hit him with a dish towel. "I was thinking," she started again with a mock glare. "That maybe this Sunday's barbecue should be a bigger event than just family, put the word out, maybe Hector, Louis, and some of the other crews that know Brian. Have a welcome home party."
"I think that's a good idea, want me to get anything?"
"I'll take care of it; your only job will be manning the grill, as always.
"Of course, I'll have Leon put the word out, maybe invite Harry, Brian use to work for him, and Roman might call that guy Tanner."
Roman walked into the kitchen at hearing is name, "I'll give Tej and Suki a call, I bet they'd be up for the drive to surprise Brian.
Mia nodded, "That would be great, I have the day off so I'll get the shopping done while you two are out."
Brian walked back into the kitchen, "I guess it's time," he said while pulling his hat out of his pocket.
"It's going to be okay," Mia told him while Rome ruffled his short hair.
Dom and Brian both walked outside, and Dom led Brian over to his black and red Camaro. He watched as Brian walked around the car and took in every part of it. Dom didn't even wait for the man to ask, he just popped the hood, and Brian bent down inside to check it out. He ran his fingers over every part, and Dom felt like that was possibly more intimate than if Brian had been touching him.
"It's been so long," Brian whispered. "I mean I've worked on a few tanks and things, man did I piss off the mechanics, they didn't like being told they were wrong." Dom snorted. "But I haven't had my hands on anything like this in so long; I had myself almost convinced that I didn't miss it."
"Want to drive?" Dom asked the man, he was offering a lot, he never let anyone drive his car, but he would let Brian.
"Yes," Brian said, "more than you can possibly know, but I better not. I don't think I could force myself to drive the limit in this thing, and if I get caught speeding, on leave, and in uniform, my ass is done."
Dom nodded, it was too bad, he wanted to see Brian drive again, but he understood.
Dom shut the hood and Brian and he got in the car. Brian rattled off the address while taking off his hat and Dom started to drive.
Brian was mostly quiet on the way, commenting every so often when Dom asked him a question. The other man knew that Brian was probably just distracted with his thoughts about where he was going, what he had to do, so he didn't push too much.
When Dom stopped the car he looked over at the blue eyed man, and saw his hands shake as he reached for his hat. Dom reached over and grabbed his hand. Brian looked down at their joined hands, "we going to talk about it?"
"After," Dom said, "we'll talk; right now you need to go do what you came here for."
"Alright," he said while getting out of the car.
Dom opened his own door and stepped out, he didn't walk towards the house however, he only leaned against the side of the car. When Brian walked past him he said, "I'll be right here if you need me."
Brian nodded and kept walking; he stepped up on the concrete walkway that led to the door. He stopped only for a minute and then kept going up the path, up the stairs, and didn't pause; he just knocked on the door.
Dom watched as a woman opened the door, and then launched herself into Brian's arms. It took a moment for Brian to get over his temporary shock before he wrapped his arms around her. When she pulled back she said a few words to him and Brian looked over his shoulder in his direction. Brian turned back to her and nodded, he looked back at him again only this time he motioned with his hand for Dom to join him.
Dom walked up the path to the two people on the stairs. "Hello," the woman said with a bright smile. "I'm Kimberly."
"I'm Dom," he said with a smile of his own.
"There's no reason for you to wait in this heat while
Brian and I chat." She said while ushering them into the house. "Can I get you both anything?" She asked.
Brian and Dom both answered no. She led them to a large spacious living room with a rather large couch and a love seat. Dom sat on the love seat when Kimberly told them to take a seat. Brian however stood still, eyes locked on the mantel above the fireplace, where a row of pictures sat. He walked over and looked at one in particular of man in the same uniform he was wearing.
"I took that before he deployed this time around," the woman said with tears in her eyes. "Wanted the kids to have a current photo while he was away."
Brian's shoulders sagged, "I'm so sorry." He whispered in a rasp.
"You have nothing to apologize for." She told him while wiping her eyes.
"I made the call, he was my responsibility, and I couldn't save him."
"You made a call that saved more men than you lost; Sergeant Master Cullen told me what happened Brian. You tried to save them all, you did your best."
"It wasn't good enough though, he had you and your kids it should have been..." me.
Kimberly grabbed Brian's arm and pulled him into another hug. When she was done hugging him she motioned for him to take a seat. Brian sat beside Dom who scooted closer so their legs and shoulders were touching.
"Our first born was due in the middle of Anthony's first deployment; I believe it was your second tour?" Brian nodded. "Two days before I went into labor, you were both in different humvees headed behind enemy lines to rescue a unit that was being held hostage." Brian's eyes lit up with surprise, while Dom stared at the woman in curiosity. "The vehicle ahead of the one Anthony was in hit an IED, and his was blown back and lit on fire from the close proximity. A solider ran and ripped the door open with out any thought of the fire that was burning his hands." Brian looked down at his scared hands. "He pulled every man out of that vehicle, and ran to the first to see if there was anyone else he could save." She looked at Brian in awe, and Dom knew who that solider was. "Because of you my husband was able to hold our first child, and then later our second. If you hadn't saved his life that day I wouldn't have had more time with him, he would have been lost to us sooner."
Brian wiped at his eyes, and Dom placed his hand over Brian's that was closest to him.
"All of the wives in this area and the one we use to live in that have had husbands deployed in your unit call you their hero. You've saved so many of their husband's lives. When I found out Anthony was deploying the second time, I prayed that it would be with you again, and he came back home to me once again."
Brian looked back at the picture on the mantel, "not this time, I'm not a hero."
Kimberly walked towards Brian and knelt down in front of him. "Yes you are, it was Anthony time that's all. There wasn't anything you could have done differently, and it would devastate Anthony to know you blame yourself. He worshiped the ground you walked on, always talked about what a great solider you were, person, how you didn't know it though."
Brian looked at her in disbelief and she stood up. "I think there is someone you should meet." She walked to the doorway of the room, "Brian Anthony can you come in here please?"
Brian gasped in shock, and Dom looked a bit surprised as well. A young boy about the age of four walked into the room, and his mother put her hands on his shoulders and walked him towards Brian. Both Dom and Brian stood up in front of the kid.
"Brian, this is Master Sergeant O' Conner, he was one of the soldiers that deployed with your dad." Kimberly told the young boy.
"What was your nickname?" the kid asked.
Brian knelt down in front of his name sake. "Bullet."
"Your bullet?!" The kid asked surprised. "That means you're the guy I'm named after."
Brian nodded, "I guess so."
"Dad use to say that you were his lucky charm."
Brian laughed a little, "he wasn't the only one, I've never quite understood it though."
"He said that you once stepped on a..." he looked to his mother for help.
"A pressure-plate that was rigged to 25 pounds of explosives." She filled in.
"Yeah that, but it didn't go off."
Dom tensed and looked at Brian in disbelief.
Brian didn't notice he was to busy laughing, "Only Smoke would call that lucky, I would call not stepping on it in the first place lucky."
Kimberly smiled at the man in the uniform, while her son beamed at him in awe. "My dad has a special room, where he kept all his pictures of his deployments, you want to see?" He asked.
Brian looked to Mrs, Sanchez for permission and saw her nod. The younger Brian grabbed the older's hand and pulled him quickly down a hallway and into an office.
Dom and Kimberly followed at a slower pace. The room had a modest desk and chair in it, and pictures were taped and framed all around the room. Brian walked around slowly, and looked at every one. When he got to one spot in the room Dom saw his knees almost buckle.
Dom walked behind him and laid a comforting hand on his back. "These are all the men we lost his first tour and second."
The kid walked up and nodded at the older man, "I taped Dad's picture up there, and the guy named Country, mom helped me. Before dad left he would come in here every morning and salute them, that's my job now."
Brian put his hand on the boy's head and smiled at him. It wasn't hard to see the tears in his eyes. He looked back at Anthony's wife, "can I...have..."
She smiled sadly, "of course, we will wait for you in the living room."
She placed her hand on Dom's shoulder and gave him a gentle push when it was clear Dom didn't want to leave the man alone. "He'll be alright dear," she said when the door was shut behind him. "Just needs time to honor his brothers."
Dom nodded but casted a worried glance at the door anyways.
Brian Anthony left the adults and went into his room to play, while Dom and Kimberly went back to sit on the couches.
"Anthony always said Brian didn't have any family,
He worried about him constantly while he was home. Always afraid he was going to get that call in the middle of the night from one of the guys telling him Brian had died in combat. At the end of his second tour, he asked Brian to come back with him, stay with us, I would have loved to have him here, but he said no. He told Anthony that L.A. was too painful for him, that it held to many mistakes he had made. I'm honestly surprised to see him here, especially with someone."
"We had no idea he was in the Army, he's been gone for ten years now." Dom said while he put his arms on his knees. "We looked for him, but couldn't find him. We wanted him to come home, but all we could do is wait for him to be ready. Honestly we weren't even sure if he was alive, well everyone else wasn't sure, I always hoped he come home. He's here now, he said his Sergeant Major told him to find a family, that's us always has been even if he didn't know, but he might go back, two months."
"The Army," she said with a far away smile, "it's their mistress, every good Military wife knows when it calls she has to let him go. It's hard to do, the moves every three years, packing up your home, ripping up the roots you made and starting over new, it's hard but manageable. The deployments are the worst though, not seeing them, touching them, not having them next to you every night. Every good solider's wife knows that's the days are rough, but it's really the nights that are unbearable. The times where you need that tight hug, that strength that their warmness gives you, you crawl into an empty bed each night without. Then you find it in you to wake up and do it all over again. I learned a lot about what I was made during those times, how tough and strong I could be. Taking care of finances, the children, even something as simple as getting new tires put on the car, and not letting someone rip me off because I was woman. The strength that I found then is what I have to tap into now that he's gone. Even with all that pain, all the loneliness, I wouldn't do it any different, I fell in love with a man who loves his country, who spent his last breath defending other's freedoms, and I'm damn proud of that. Proud of him, my children will grow up without their father yes, but they will grow up with pride for what he did. I can already see it in my son, waking up each morning to salute those that gave their lives for others. That's what my husband left behind, a legacy of what the word sacrifice means. I made my choice to be the one waiting for him to come home, the one that holds everything together. They are the protectors, the ones they leave behind well we are the pillars that hold them up. They leave knowing everything will continue moving because we keep it that way, they keep going because we send them that card, letter, or package. They keep fighting because we give them something to fight for. I guess I'm telling you all this because I see the way you look at him, the way I looked at Anthony, you don't want him to go. What you have to understand is it is hard wired into their DNA, to go, to give when they have already given so much. The call to go back and finish this tour might cause him to leave again, and it's what you choose to do that will be the deciding factor on what he does after that. If you become that pillar, he might just come back to you. Anthony told me that Brian didn't have any pictures of family, never got mail, he told me about the broken look on the man's face when the deployment came close to the an end. The broken look he tried to hide so hard, the look of someone who knew he didn't have anyone that would be waiting in that terminal once he landed."
Dom nodded, he understood, if Brian chose to leave at the end of the two months, it wouldn't because Dom failed, it would be because Brian felt like he needed to go. If he did go, Dom and their family would have to show him he had something to come home to, that they wanted and needed him. "Thank you," Dom said quietly.
Kimberly opened her mouth to speak again, but she heard the sound of a door opening and smiled at Dom. Brian walked back into the living room and the other man noticed his eyes were a little red; he had to resist the urge to grab Brian in a tight hold. Brian had always been a proud person, and Dom knew he wouldn't appreciate the gesture right this second, maybe later when they were alone.
"I always thought your son's name was Anthony."
Kimberly laughed, "I think he didn't want to scare you away with his hero worship."
"I have his dog tags," he told the woman as he reached in his pocket to pull out the chain. He placed them into her hands. "Thank you, for giving me that time to say goodbye."
Kimberly stared down at the piece of metal in her hands, "thank you, you've done so much for this family."
Brian nodded, and looked around the house. "Speaking of doing things, can I help you with anything?"
Kimberly scoffed, "not unless you fix the sorry motor in my car."
Dom and Brian both grinned, "I think we can handle that."
A couple of hours and a few trips to the part store, and they had Kimberly's car running like it was brand new.
"We have a barbecue at the house every Sunday for
family, you're always welcome," Dom told her. "There is always plenty of food, and space for the kids to play."
The message wasn't lost on Brian, he had told everyone several times over that the family of his lost solider became his responsibility, basically his family to take care of. So in true Toretto fashion Brian's new responsibility became his, the Toretto family just gained three new members.
"Thank you, I'm sure both of the kids would love that."
"I can tell them stories about Smoke," Brian said with a grin.
"Yes," she smiled as well, "I want them to grow up knowing all about him."
"I hate to leave, but I don't really have any civilian clothes, so a trip to the mall is in order."
"Oh," she said like she had forgotten something. "Follow me for a second."
Both men followed her into the kitchen, where there was a box sitting on a counter. "I was going to donate these to the VA hospital, but I think Anthony would have liked this better." She said pushing the box closer to Brian.
Brian opened it and pulled out a couple of shirts, he noticed immediately they were all shirts that had something about the Army, wounded warriors, being a veteran, and some other military type things on them. "I couldn't take these," he said.
"I've already taken out what I want to save for the kids, and they would just be donated to people that didn't know him. Them going to you is the best thing that could happen to them. I really feel like he would have wanted this Brian."
"Thank you," he told her while holding onto one of the shirts, it had a riffle on it with the words 'but first coffee'. "Black Riffle Coffee, you know he got me addicted to the stuff right?"
Kimberly laughed, "My day doesn't start without a cup of caffeinated as fuck."
Dom looked at the woman in confusion while Brian laughed. "It's a type of coffee they sell Dom, there is caffeinated as fuck, better than a blow job, combat fuel, and some others. I have some in my bag; I'll make you a cup in the morning."
Dom nodded, he wasn't sure what kind of company named their coffee better than a blow job, but if what they were claiming was true, well it had to be damn good coffee.
"So we will see you Sunday right?" Brian asked her, when she nodded he asked another question. "And you have my number in case you need anything?"
"Yes," she said while walking them to the door. She pulled Brian in for one last hug, "he would be so happy to know you have someone now," she whispered in his ear.
When they made their way to the car Dom paused with his hand on the door handle, "so the mall?" He asked.
"Yeah, the mall," Brian agreed.
When Dom had pulled out and was headed in the direction of the mall Brian grabbed his hand off of his lap and pulled it into his own and held on to it.
"So the talk," he started.
"Yeah, the talk," Dom said while giving Brian's hand a squeeze.
"My first question I guess is if this is okay," he asked while squeezing his hand back.
"More than okay."
"Then my second question is what does it mean?"
"What do you want it to mean Bri?" He asked while glancing over at the other man.
Brian realized right then and there in that moment that Mia's earlier statement about Brian loving a challenge couldn't have been more fitting.
It's what Dom is, what Dom does. He challenges Brian in every which way. He once challenged him to be a better driver, a better gear head. He challenges Brian's stubborn way of never rolling over for anybody, because nine out of ten times Brian will do just that and let the man have his way. He challenged Brian's sense of right and wrong, he once firmly walked the side of the law, but Dom changed all that, and Brian handed over the man his keys and let him escape. He challenges his comfort zone, pushes Brian into the family zone, a zone that Brian is like a fish out of water in. Right now he's challenging Brian to be open, about what he wants, and what he feels, and if it had been anyone else, well Brian was sure he would close off, and he wouldn't say a word. But this wasn't someone else, it was Dom, and every time Dom challenges him, well Brian doesn't fail to meet it head on.
"I want it to mean you love me too."
Dom doesn't let go, but he doesn't speak either, and Brian starts to think that maybe it was the first challenge that he should have tapped out on.
Dom pulls the car over to a shoulder on the side of the road, and Brian is sure that the man is going to tell him to get out, but he doesn't, so Brian waits.
Dom pulls his hand out of Brian's, and it's like the world is crashing down on him. Brian can't take the silence anymore, doesn't look at Dom because he doesn't want to see the look of disgust or anger on the man's face, so he reaches for the handle instead. He pulls it open, and quickly gets out of the car, the fresh air should have made it easier for him to breathe but it didn't. He shut the door, and by the time he looked up and in front of him Dom was there.
"Look, I'm sorry, if you want to punch me just do it already," he said quickly.
"Idiot," Dom said as he grabbed the sides of Brian's face. He pulled Brian in close and pushed their lips together.
Brian was pretty proud of himself for only freezing from shock for a few seconds before he started to kiss Dom back.
He was lost in the kiss for a moment, in the feel of Dom's lips, the strength of the man's hands on his cheeks, the taste of his mouth before he realized what he was doing, and what he was in. He pushed Dom back and saw a hurt look on the other man's face. Brian gave him a small kiss on the mouth to wipe that look off. "In uniform," he said quickly before the look could return. "No PDA in uniform."
Dom smirked and removed one of his hands from Brian's face; he kissed his cheek, and walked back around to the driver side. Brian got back in the car as well, and stared dumbly at Dom.
Dom turned to Brian and smiled, "of course that what it means, you think I hold Vince's hand?"
"No, I uh..." Brian stuttered. "You always had Letty, so I just..."
"Letty and I have been over for a long time now. Every since a blonde haired blue eyed buster came into our lives to be exact."
"Really?" Brian asked shocked.
"Yes, really. I liked you even back then, and after you gave me your keys I realized that I wasn't even mad at you for lying about being a cop, because I was in love with you."
"Oh," Brian said, the surprise wasn't helping his brain supply his mouth with words. He shook his head a bit, and tried to get his thoughts working again. "When you didn't say anything I thought you were disgusted."
"No Bri, I was a little shocked, I thought there was a possibility that you liked me, but to find out you love me back, and also the fact that you've been hiding this for ten years."
Brian hung his head in shame, just another thing his cowardliness robbed him of, he could have had something with Dom this whole time, but he chose to runaway.
Dom put his hand on the back of Brian's neck, "that's not what I meant Brian. The whole family knows how I feel about you; I never tried to hide it. You though, I'm guessing not a single person knew, hiding that kind of thing, must have been lonely.
"Mia said she knew," he said with a small sob.
Dom wrapped his arms around Brian and pulled him into his chest, "yes well my sister is a know it all."
Brian let out a tearful laugh, "I'm so telling her you said that."
"Traitor," Dom called him, but there was no heat behind it, just happiness.
Brian pulled back from the man's chest, "so this means you and me?"
"Yeah Brian, you and me, were in this together." Brian smiled and gave the man another small kiss. "Let's go get you some normal clothes then, so we don't have to worry about PDA."
Brian laughed loudly, "alright then."
Dom pulled into the parking lot of the mall and Brian slipped his hat back on as he got out of the car. "I still really hate shopping, that hasn't changed." He grumbled.
"Well most of your stuff will be here in a few days, so you don't need too much."
"I'm not sure how much of that is going to fit right now," he said grumpily. "I always bought my shirts a size to large anyways; I'll swim in them now."
Dom looked over at Brian the man was right, the muscles in Brian's arms had definitely filled out more while he was away, but his stomach area was very thin. None of his old pants would fit, that was for sure. "Do you think any of that stuff is even what you would want to wear anymore?"
"You mean are the too large shirts and shorts really me anymore, I don't think so, I don't know."
"Then let's just start over yeah, you said money isn't an issue, so start fresh."
"But..." he started.
"Brian, this thing between me and you, I don't love you for who you were. I love you for who you are, you don't have to try to mold yourself back into the person you once were. All the things I fell in love with the first time, they are still there, I can tell. What you wear, how you act, it doesn't matter when it comes to the bigger picture."
Brian sighed, "Guess we should get shopping then."
The shopping trip lasted a lot longer than both men had planned; picking out an entire new wardrobe was a large task. Socks, briefs, pants, shorts, sleep pants, workout clothing, two belts, a pair black boots, tennis shoes (not converse, Dom noted), a pair of sunglasses, and a few plain back shirts. It felt like they were buying out the men's department.
"Is that enough shirts?" Dom asked curiously. "I know Kimberly gave you a few, but even with those it's not very many."
"Oh, there is a site all the guys in my unit order shirts from, it's a Veteran owned company, I was thinking about ordering a few from there."
Dom nodded, he was sure they would be military shirts, and if that's what Brian wanted to wear most of the time, then Dom was happy with that. Brian needed to be comfortable in his own skin, not try to be something he wasn't.
"Sounds good, is there anything else you can think of?"
"A few things," Brian said a bit unsure. "They're not clothes or things like that, so I could always come back later."
Dom smiled at the man to try to reassure him a bit, "We can get whatever you want Brian, I'm not in any hurry here."
"Okay, I was thinking a watch, I wear one all the time now, but it's just a plain black cheap one that meets regulations, I was wanting something a bit more..."
He didn't have to finish that sentence Dom knew what he meant. "Alright, what else?"
"Some headphones, I can use them when I run when I'm not in uniform, might help block out some of the loud noises when I'm out, this morning..."
It happened so fast that in retrospect Dom knew there wasn't anything he could have done to prevent the whole ordeal. A worker across from them was pushing a huge cart full of large boxes, and two rowdy teenagers running around caused the whole thing to go toppling over. The bang of the metal, the crash of the boxes, those sounds ripped through Brian and sent him right into a flashback.
Dom had turned his head to where the sound came from to see what had made such a large noise, and when he looked back to Brian he saw the man had dove for the ground.
"Shit," Dom said out loud, "Brian," he tried calling.
Brian didn't hear him though he had his back up against a counter and was looking around like they were no longer in the mall; he had a look on his face of someone looking at mass destruction.
There had been a large bang, and Brian watched frightened as the leading vehicle flew up in the air and landed on the other side of the road, it went up in heavy flames immediately. Another loud sound went off as the second in line got hit by the blast.
Brian flew out of the humvee and started to run to the second.
There was fire, and blood, the sicking smell of burning gasoline and flesh. Brian looked up and saw that the humvee in front of him was no longer sitting on four wheels, it was laying on his side. The side in the air available for escape was covered in flames, and if he didn't do something soon, everyone inside would be lost. He reached into the flames and wrapped his hand around hot metal.
It was excruciating, and Brian didn't know if the screams he heard were from those trapped inside or if they were his own. It felt like hours that he held his hand in those flames, watching it burn his skin before he finally got the door open, but it was only seconds. He reached in and started pulling the four men out, "hurry," he yelled. He was able to get three of men safely out, and when no hand reached for his he stuck his head inside.
"Smoke," he screamed. "We got to go; it's going to hit the gas tank soon."
"I'm stuck," he yelled back.
Brian straightened his back and dropped in feet first. The computer system that was built into the passenger side had fallen over on the other man. It wasn't hard to push it off when you had two people working together, but it was heavy enough that one person alone wouldn't have been able to manage it.
"Push," Brian yelled. They pushed the whole system off and Brian pulled Smoke up and pushed him through the open door. He climbed on the seats and painfully grabbed onto the metal outside of the vehicle and pulled himself out. He jumped down, took one look at Smoke to make sure he was fine, and ran off to the first humvee.
The charred remains of those soldiers would haunt Brian for the rest of his life.
Dom looked around and glared at the crowd that was surrounding Brian. "Mind your own business," he told them all.
Some of the people came to their senses and realized they were being rude, others didn't they stayed and stared at Brian like he was an alien.
"Have some respect!" An older man called out, and started to use his cane to warn the stragglers away.
Dom figured the guy had the crowd taken care of, so he turned his attention to Brian, and started to try to talk him back.
"Hey Bri," he called gently and he knelt down. He put his hands up once again before scooting closer. "Bri, it's me Dom."
Brian still wasn't responding, and Dom didn't know what the man was seeing, reliving, but just the look on his face was enough to break Dom's heart.
"Hey love," he tried. "It's okay, come back to me Bri."
Brian still looked faraway but he reached his arms out, and Dom gladly scooped him into his own.
"Dom?" He asked quietly.
"Yeah it's me, I'm here, I got you."
"There gone, all gone, they burned to death." He whispered.
Brian picked up his hands and looked at the scars; they weren't that noticeable until you studied them close up, even then they could have been a whole lot worse. His fingertips and right palm had gotten the majority of the damage. He flipped over his right hand and looked at the door handle shaped scar on the inside.
Dom looked down to see what Brian was looking at. "Shh, Bri, your not there, your here with me. Come on love." He removed one of his arms and moved his hand on top of Brian's he pulled the hand to his mouth, and kissed the scar.
The kiss seemed to break the trance Brian was in because he was able to meet Dom's eyes, clearly. Dom moved both hands to Brian's face, and watched the man as he blinked slowly, and gave a small head shake.
"There you go Bri," Dom said relieved.
"I'm sorry," he said so quietly Dom almost didn't hear. "Guess this was a bad idea."
"No Bri, it wasn't a bad idea, we were having a nice time before, can still have one after. Just a little hiccup alright?" Brian nodded, still looking guilty, if he was feeling guilt over what happened in his memory, or from having the flashback of it, Dom couldn't tell.
He stood up, and helped Brian stand as well. He put his hands on Brian's shoulders and made sure the man was completely okay before letting go.
"Now you said a watch, headphones, what else?" Dom asked hoping to get Brian's mind off whatever he just saw.
"Umm a laptop, I think."
Dom placed his hand on Brian's shoulder and squeezed. "Might have to stop at a Best Buy or something for one of those, might want to check out the headphones there as well, but the watch we can do here." Dom took his hand off of Brian's shoulder and grabbed a hold of the cart that had laid forgotten after the crash.
The older man with the cane approached them and Dom really hoped the man didn't say anything about what just happened.
"Hello son," the man greeted Brian while sticking out his hand.
Brian's eyes flickered up to the man's head where an Army Vet hat sat. "Hello, sir," he said while shaking the man's hand.
"You just get back son?"
"Thank you sir," Brian said honestly.
"It will get better," he said while looking Brian in the eyes. "It looks like you got a good support system."
Brian smiled, and Dom was happy to see it looked relaxed. Like the man's words had ease some of Brian's doubts about adjusting.
"Thank you," Brian said again and reached out to shake the man's hand one more time.
"Anything for a fellow Army man son."
He walked off after that, and Dom looked over at Brian and noticed he looked better after the man spoke to him. Some tightness in his own chest loosened. "So watches," Dom said.
"Watches," Brian agreed.
Brian picked out a dark gunmetal Fossil watch; Dom thought it suited him nicely.
They walked to the counter, and loaded up the large amount of items on it. The woman behind the register looked at them like they were a little crazy, but that didn't bother Dom. What did bother him was watching her flirt with Brian. Dom looked over at Brian, it looked like the man didn't even know she was flirting with him; he just kept his eyes on Dom, and never even gave her a second glance. When Dom looked up at her face, and saw it held anger because Brian would only look at him, he thought Brian had possibly picked up on the flirting after all.
When she was done ringing everything up Dom winced at the total. A brand new wardrobe wasn't cheap, and Brian hadn't really looked at prices, he just picked what he liked and didn't give it a second thought.
Brian didn't even blink at the price, just pulled out his wallet and handed over his card. The woman swiped it and handed Brian a receipt to sign, he signed it handed it back and grabbed his card. "Thanks," he said nicely while loading the bags into the cart. There were too many to carry themselves.
When the bags were loaded up into the trunk and backseat Dom took a look around the parking garage to make sure they were alone. He pushed Brian up against the car and put his hands against the door and blocked Brian in with his arms. "You have a decision to make Bri."
Did Dom want Brian to decide if he would go back to Iraq in two months. Maybe he needed to know before they started a relationship together. What if Dom gave him an ultimatum, stay or they couldn't be together. Could he do it, could he decide to stay and not go back. He wanted to stay with Dom, with the others, but he also felt the call to go back, finish the tour, take care of his men, come back with them.
Brian looked at Dom nervously, "what's that?"
"Where you're going to put all this stuff."
"Oh," Brian said with relief, and then confusion. He honestly didn't know where he could store his things. He was pretty sure all the rooms in the house were taken. "I uh don't know."
"I know a place; there is a room in the house with half of an empty closet, and half a dresser."
"Yeah?" Brian asked with a smile.
"Yeah, but half of a bed comes with it, you want me to share my closet space, then your going to be in that bed every night." He said while leaning over to suck on Brian's earlobe.
"I feel like..." Brian gasped. "You might be cheating by distracting me."
Dom moved to Brian's neck, "is it working?"
"Yesss," Brian hissed out. "God," he moaned when Dom stared licking and sucking.
"A yes it's working, or a yes you'll move into my room?"
"I'll move into your room." He said sounding like he was out of breath.
Dom lifted up his head and smiled. "Easier than I thought it would be," he reached up and rubbed his fingers down Brian's neck. "Looks like I found your spot, huh? I'll have to remember that the next time you're less than agreeable."
Brian narrowed his eyes at the other man and opened his mouth, but Dom cut him off with a kiss.
They heard the sound of footsteps and Dom pulled away, he chuckled at Brian's flushed face, and red lips. He grinned and pulled Brian's door open and then walked around to the other side.
When they pulled up to the house Dom noticed Brian was full of tension from the day he had, it had been a long emotional one after all.
"Why don't you go for a run, and I'll get those slackers in there to help me unload the car."
"You sure?" Brian asked.
"Yeah Bri," he looked at the blue Best Buy bag at Brian's feet and smiled. He pulled out his phone from his pocket and handed it to Brian. "Here, why don't you take this and try out those new headphones huh?"
Brian took the phone and nodded he pulled his phone out and handed it to Dom. "Just in case if anyone important calls."
"I'll give them my number; we can add music to your phone tonight alright?"
"Alright," Brian said with a grin. "I'm going to go change." He grabbed the sack with his headphones and went to the trunk. He ruffled through the bags until he found some of the workout clothes he had bought and grabbed them."
He walked past Dom, but stopped, he walked back over to the other man and grabbed his hand and gave it a squeeze, he dropped it and then he was gone.
Dom smiled and grabbed a few bags out of the trunk; he walked into the house and saw Vince, Rome, and Leon sitting on the couch. "There are a lot of bags in the car, get them and bring them in and up to my room."
"I didn't hear a please brah." Rome smarted off.
"Please would mean that I was asking Rome, I wasn't, I was telling."
Brian was changed and walking down the stairs when Dom started up. Dom smirked when the man tried to pass him, and moved to block Brian's path. "You're forgetting something," Dom told him. Brian threw a questioning glance down to the three men standing in the living room staring up at them. "I told you they already know nothing to worry about." Brian nodded and leaned his mouth into Dom's. It quick since large amount of bags in Dom's hands didn't allow him to pull Brian into anything deeper. "Have a good run," Dom told him when he pulled back.
Brian smiled and put his headphones into his ears and walked out the door.
Brian shook his head when Mia held out a spoonful of more spaghetti, "I really can't," he told her, "I've ate to much as it is."
Mia nodded and emptied the spoon onto Roman's plate, the man didn't look surprised, or even like he noticed the increase of food on his plate, he just kept eating.
Mia stood up from the table and reached for a container on the counter, she set down in front of Brian and opened the lid.
Brian looked up at Mia and smiled, "these what I think they are," he asked while reaching into the container.
"Thought you were full cuz?" Rome asked looking up for the first time.
"You can never be too full for Mia's peanut butter cookies Rome."
Mia laughed, "The boys already had some earlier, those are all yours Brian."
Brian smirked at Rome's gawk, "why does he get a whole box all to himself, your going to share right?"
Brian grabbed two cookies and put the lid back on, "because I'm the favorite of course, and no these are mine man."
Dom let out a loud laugh and grabbed the back of Brian's neck. He left his hand there and looked over at Roman, "I wouldn't touch them if I was you, he almost stabbed Vince with a fork once for Mia's cookies."
Brian laughed, "I forgot all about that."
"Some of us can't forget it," Vince said gruffly.
"So how did it go today?" Trent asked Brian.
Brian gave a small smile, "good, I uh met Smoke's son. Future Army Solider if I ever seen one," he said proudly.
Dom nodded in agreement, "he is named after two very brave soldiers after all," he said looking at Brian full of pride himself. "He looked around and say the questioning gazes, "Brian Anthony is his name," Dom told them.
Mia smiled, "aww, you invited them over for Sunday right?"
Brian nodded, "Dom told Kimberly her and the kids were always welcome."
"Good," Mia said. "This place could use some children running around."
"Shit," Brian said suddenly, "I forgot to ask, what are you having Mia?"
Mia smiled, "a girl," she said proudly.
Brian grinned, "Bet she's going to be gorgeous, just like her mother."
Mia smirked at Rome, "and that's why he gets his own batch of cookies."
Dom smiled and stood up, "come on sweet talker," he told Brian. "I saw those three yawns, bed."
Brian grabbed the hand that Dom had outstretched and chuckled when everyone started hooting and hollering.
"Like they're going to sleep," Rome yelled out when they started walking up the stairs.
Dom stopped walking and smirked at Brian with a wink, "your right Rome, and since your bedroom is next to ours I suggest you wait a while before coming up. Wouldn't want to scar you with all the times your brother is about to be calling out my name."
"Ahh hell no Dom, that shit ain't right cuz."
Dom laughed and pulled Brian up the stairs behind him. He closed the door and pushed Brian up against it.
Brian felt his breath leave him, and every muscle tense. It had been so long since someone had touched him like that; even kissed him like Dom had earlier. The kissing didn't bother him, but this was on a whole different level. It would be the first time with the person he loved, and unfortunately Brian wasn't sure that it would be good for Dom. The brief moment of panic on Brian's face had Dom pulling back. Brian looked at the concerned look Dom was giving him and knew he had to explain. He took a deep breath, "I umm, it might just be quick alright, I haven't had...sex in eight years."
Dom had a look of surprise on his face momentarily before it disappeared. He leaned in and gave Brian a kiss on the neck to try and calm his nerves. "Shh it's okay," he whispered. "Let me take care of you alright love?"
Brian grabbed the back of Dom's neck and pulled him to him. "Love you," Brian whispered.
Dom grinned and put his forehead against Brian's, "love you to Bri."
Brian watched as the movers lowered his Skyline onto the ground. The sound the truck was making was grating harshly in his ears. He took extra precaution in keeping his breathing slow and steady. He looked around the yard for Dom, but noticed the man wasn't there, only Vince stood next to him.
"You alright Buster?" Vince asked concerned.
Brian nodded, "loud noises," he pointed at the truck.
Vince nodded and moved closer to Brian, he crossed his arms and grabbed Brian's arm with the hand on top. "It's alright Buster, I got you okay?"
Brian looked over at Vince and nodded very seriously, "thank you," he told him.
Dom walked back out the house and saw both Brian and Vince standing close. He noticed the tension in Brian immediately, and when the moving truck made a loud clang he saw the flinch that rippled through Brian.
Dom walked over and wrapped his arms around Brian's waist, he noticed Vince left his hand on Brian's arm and smiled approvingly at the man. "It's okay Bri, let's talk about when you want race now that you have your car."
Brian frowned, "I can't race till I'm out of the Army, if I get caught," his frown turned into a grimace.
Dom nodded, "racing can wait," he said carefully trying not to push Brian at all.
"I want to," Brian said, "man do I want too." He had missed everything about racing over the last eight years. Honestly he wasn't sure how he went without for so long, maybe the bullets gave him his fill of adrenaline.
Vince whistled at the sight of the Skyline, "You know you're going to have hell keeping Jesse away from that thing."
Brian laughed, "as long as he doesn't paint it orange."
Dom let out a chuckle, "I'll hide the orange for you."
"Thank you," Brian said gratefully.
Brian looked around the yard nervously and watched as everyone was setting up for the barbecue. He was shifting from foot to foot, and was really hoping someone would give him a job "Are you sure I can't help?" He asked Mia.
"Dom!" Mia called while glaring at Brian.
Brian held his hands up in surrender, "alright I get it, I can't help."
Mia laughed and watched as Dom walked over to Brian anyways.
Brian felt Dom wrap his arms around his waist and sighed. "You're supposed to be relaxing," Dom told him before kissing Brian's neck. "This is a party for you."
"Is there going to be a lot of people here?" Brian asked worriedly. He didn't want to ruin all the hard work that was going into this party for him, but he had a bad case of nerves about being around so many people.
Dom looked over at Brian and saw the tension on his face and nodded, "only people you already know though." Brian had been doing really well the last couple of days, only the occasional panic attack, but even those were short with Dom around to help calm him down. He had nightmares most nights, which worried Dom endlessly, and embarrassed Brian. Dom always made sure to let Brian know there was nothing to be ashamed of, and did his best to comfort him through the pain he felt. Even with those two set backs Brian really was doing well adjusting to being back. He was playing games with Letty and Leon again. Vince and Brian even took a trip to the gun range together, something they discussed becoming a regular occurrence. Working in the backroom of the garage with Jesse again, mapping out designs for cars. He and Dom found a beat old Mustang they were building up together, just like the Supra. Having medical discussions with both Mia and Trent, it was surprising just how deep his knowledge on the subject went. Rome had taken to going to the gym with Brian each morning, and they both always returned with a smile on their faces.
He was more playful and open with the family. Dom was happy to see that the amount of flinching when a family member touched him was down dramatically, and nonexistent when it came to Dom himself.
Even with all the improvement Brian had made, he knew that the solider was worried about the barbecue. Dom was a little worried himself; he didn't want anything to frighten Brian enough to throw him into an attack, he didn't want Brian to possibly run into a setback.
Brian nodded, "okay."
Dom knew Brian needed to do something to keep his mind occupied. "Why don't you go shower, let us finish, before Mia ties you to a chair."
Brian laughed and gave a Dom a kiss on the cheek before doing as the man asked.
When he came back downstairs Dom stood in the doorway just staring at the man. Brian was wearing an all black shirt with a faded flag on the front. Dom knew it was one of the shirts Brian had ordered from an online store called Grunt. He had on dark blue jeans with a pair of black boots. The shirt laid tightly over his chest and showcased all the muscle he had gained in his arms.
"You look good," Dom said with a dry mouth.
Brian let his eyes trail up and down Dom's body. The man had his usual white beater on with a pair of jeans, his cross hung from his neck. He looked as good as he usually did to Brian. He smiled and walked over to him, "so do you."
Dom wrapped his arms around Brian's waist and kissed his ear, "Hector and the boy's just got here."
Brian nodded, "how do we? I mean..."
Dom looked at Brian fiercely, "your mine and I'm yours Brian, and they can accept or leave."
Brian smiled, "best get to it then."
Dom watched as Brian turned for the door, he pulled Brian back by his shirt to read the back.
If I charge,
If I retreat,
If I die,
"I would you know," Dom said while kissing Brian's neck. "Avenge you that is."
Brian smiled and grabbed Dom's hand and pulled him out of the house.
"Snowman!" Hector screamed out at seeing Brian.
"Hector," Brian grinned while pulling the man into a hug. "Haven't changed a bit man."
Hector laughed, "You have though blondie," he said letting his eyes go up and down Brian's body.
"Taken," Dom growled at the man while placing the front of his body up against Brian's back.
Hector held up his hands, "I ain't trying to move in Dom, always knew you two would end up together. They way you both drive always had that chemistry."
"Oh Bullitt!" A female voice yelled out.
Brian's eyes whipped around to see Tej and Suki enter the yard. He grinned and walked over to both of them and pulled them into a hug. "What are you two doing here?" He asked clearly excited.
"What you think a little drive down from Miami could stop us from coming to see you homeboy?" Tej asked.
"Missed you both," Brian told them.
Suki punched Brian's arm, "we've missed you and you should have called."
Brian looked down at his shoes, "I know, I should have done a lot of things. I'm just surprised everyone has forgiven me for disappearing for so long."
"Nothing to forgive," Dom said walking up. "We are just glad to have you back."
Brian looked over the fence and saw Kimberly pull up, "I'm going to go help her with the kids," Brian told Dom and ran off.
Dom let out a chuckle. Both Tej and Suki watched him go. "Rome said he was having a bit of trouble adjusting, but he looks good." Tej told Dom.
Dom nodded, "he was at first, still has his moments, has PTSD. It seems like things have gotten easier for him last couple of days though. He's been so open and happy," Dom said with a huge smile.
He watched Brian enter the yard with the smaller Brian on his shoulders. "Tej, Suki this is Brian," he told them while setting the kid down, "and this is Kimberly."
"Hello," she said.
It didn't take long for Mia to notice the baby in her arms and waddle over to ask if she could hold her.
"You mingle alright," Dom whispered in Brian's ear, "I got to get back to the grill, I'm right over there if you need me."
They were surrounded by friends and family and Dom wasn't worried about Brian's safety, but there was still times the man felt uncomfortable being surrounded by large groups. If he needed a break he knew he could come to Dom.
The last of the food was being placed on the table when the last of their guest had arrived. Brian stayed glued to Dom side in shock before he walked over to the man.
"Tanner?" Brian said in surprise.
The man didn't say anything just pulled Brian to him and held on. "I've missed you son," he whispered.
"I'm sorry," he told. Sorry for ruining the case, for disappointing the man that was his mentor, sorry for not calling, he was sorry for all of it.
"Doesn't matter," Tanner said.
Dom nodded approvingly at the man, "let's eat."
Brian started to make his way to a chair but was pulled into Dom's lap instead. He smiled when everyone didn't act like it was big deal, he smiled even bigger when he saw Rome reaching for some chicken. "He reached first," Brian called out with a laugh. "You say grace house rules man!"
Dom chucked at Brian's antics and hugged his waist. "You heard the man Roman, grace."
Rome grabbed Letty and Suki's hands and bowed his head. "Father thank you for the gathering of friends, Father we give thanks for all the choices we've made because that's what makes us who we are, let us forever cherish the loved ones we have found; thank you for the little angels we have gracing our table today, the newest addition to our family that we will be meeting soon, thank you for bringing Brian home, and most of all thank you for fast cars."
"Amen," everyone chanted.
Dom laughed as Kimberly told the group about some of Brian and Smoke's crazier antics.
"So here was this group of privates washing this tank that hadn't been touch in oh what fifty years. When the Sergeant Major walks up and asks them what the hell they were doing. Smoke told me it looked like they were going to piss themselves."
Brian laughed, "It was just to easy man, those baby soldiers will believe everything you tell them."
"Like how to check your bunk for bugs with a book?" Kimberly asked Brian with a smile.
"Brian smirked, "you should have seen all them, running a book down their bunk slowly. You would think one of them would have questioned it."
"Still a prankster then," Tanner said with a nod.
"He was like that as a cop too?" Vince asked remembering some of the pranks Brian had pulled when they first met him.
"Yes," Tanner said. "He once wrapped everything in my office with cling wrap, the amount of time he had to have spent doing that."
"Those damn cupcakes," Rome hissed out and Tej cringed. "He put mustard on some cupcakes and made it look like frosting; homeboy and I over here took giant bites out of that shit."
"Let's not forget about the exploding Ketchup bottle!" Suki yelled out with a glare, "My hair smelled like Ketchup for days after that, no matter how many times I washed it!"
"Trouble maker," Dom whispered in Brian's ear.
Brian grinned, "You love it." Dom just chuckled because he really did it love it, and he really did love him.
Kimberly walked into the kitchen and saw the woman named Mia at the sink. "I have something for Brian," she said holding her purse; she pulled out a stack of photographs and handed them to Mia. "It's pictures of all the men he's lost, I made copies for him. Smoke hung them up in his office and payed tribute to them every day, he said it helped."
"Thank you," Mia said with a smile reaching out for the photos.
Kimberly nodded, "your family knows he will go back to finish this tour yes?"
Mia frowned, "yes Dom warned us he would."
"If you need help with care packages please call me, I always loved sending them to Anthony. I have the address that you will need to send them to. Brian probably won't give it to you, wouldn't want to be a "bother'."
Mia took the piece of paper from the woman and smiled, "thank you so much, Dom told us what you said, and I just want you to know we plan on making him want to come home."
Kimberly nodded with tears in her eyes, "that's good dear. He deserves this, a home, family. Smoke would have been so happy for him, wish he could have seen it."
Mia gathered the woman into her arms, "you're our family now too," she whispered.
Brian gave everyone one last hug and walked out the door to Dom's car. It was agreed that Dom would be driving Brian to the airport; he wanted some time alone with the man before he left.
The family knew it was coming, they knew Brian would be returning back to Iraq. So when the call came from his Sergeant asking his decision, no one was surprised when Brian told him he would see him in a week.
Brian set in the passenger seat tugging at his uniform anxiously. He looked back at the house when Dom pulled away and frowned. He didn't want to leave, but he felt like it was his duty to go back and finish what he started.
The last two months were more than Brian could have ever expected, he never thought on that airplane that he would be welcomed back with open arms. He was so unbelievably happy, that it still shocked him sometimes when the guilt and loneliness no longer haunted him.
"I'm going to miss you," Dom said quietly while grabbing Brian's hand.
"I'm going to miss you," Brian repeated. "You, the family, home," he added.
Dom raised Brian's hand to his mouth and kissed it, "then you make sure you come back home, okay?"
"I promise," Brian told him fiercely.
That promise was something that Brian O' Conner had no attentions of breaking. He would go in, finish his tour, and then come home for good.
"You know I'm going to need a job when I get back." Brian could feel the tension running through Dom, and he wanted to do anything he could to make the man feel better.
Dom laughed, "I might have a position open, you'll have to interview however."
Brian got a mischievous look on his face, "we have an hour before we get to the airport, how does road head sound? I get you off, I get the job."
"Fuck," Dom growled, when Brian reached for his zipper.
Ten minutes later and Dom was still shocked he hadn't wrecked the car with what Brian's mouth did to him.
"I get the job?" Brian smirked.
"Better," Dom said. "You get to be co-owner," he said seriously.
Brian smiled, "and they said my smart mouth wouldn't do anything but get me in trouble one day."
Dom laughed and slipped his hand onto the back of Brian's neck, "I mean it though."
Brian placed his hand on Dom's thigh and smiled, "when I get back I can race finally."
Dom just smiled at that, because those words meant everything to him. He knew that it meant when Brian came home it would be for good.
"I have something for you," Brian said nervously. He pulled a pair of dog tags out and handed them over to Dom. "They are one of my extra sets, you don't have to wear them or anything but I..."
Dom smiled and took the tags, "thank you," he told Brian while undoing the clasp on his cross necklace and putting the dogs tags around his neck.
"Here," Dom told Brian while handing the necklace over to Brian. "I know you can't wear it, but keep it with you for good luck."
"You think this is lucky huh?" Brian asked with a warm feeling in his chest.
Dom nodded, "I was wearing it when I met you didn't I? When you came home again, pretty damn lucky."
"Master Sergeant you have a package!" Snake yelled out running into the barracks.
"What?" Brian asked in shocked turning around to look at the man.
Snake nodded and handed Brian a big box with his name on it, "right here sir."
Everyone in the barracks couldn't help but stare over in shock; Brian hadn't ever received any mail before.
Brian nodded in thanks and took the box from the man's hands. He looked down at if for a moment, checking the name on the label more than once to make sure it wasn't a mistake. It wasn't, it was definitely his name on that box, and it was in Mia's handwriting, he would know it anywhere. He stared at it a few more minutes, before finally moving. He snapped his eyes up and around the room noticing that everyone was staring at him, he glared at all the men in hopes to scare them away for a little privacy.
When it looked like everyone was going to mind their own business Brian opened the box and smiled, he pulled out a container filled with cookies and immediately opened it to grab one and place it into his mouth. He pulled out a couple of car magazines and smiled, he knew Jesse had been the one to put those in there. He let out a barking happy laugh when he read the cover of one, Imports vs. American Muscle, he knew the black circle around the words American Muscle had been all Dom.
Everyone had turned away at Brian's glare, and tried to give him as much privacy as possible, but still trying to watch covertly as well to sate their own curiosity. At the sound of his laughter they gave up the pretenses however and just openly stared again. No one had ever heard Master Sergeant O' Conner ever laugh like that; no one had ever seen him smile like that.
The next thing he pulled out was a group of photos and a roll of tape. He looked at the photos one by one and laughed again. The first one was of Rome and Tej, Rome was scowling and Tej was laughing, Brian could just hear the sarcastic insult Tej had flung at Rome to make him scowl like that. The next one was of Mia and Trent both smiling at the camera, Mia had her hand laid lovingly on her baby bump, and Trent had his arm wrapped around her. Brian smiled when he picked up the sonogram; he turned it over to see the writing on the back and grinned at the words, your niece. The next picture was of Vince flipping off the camera with smile on his face. Brian let out a loud laugh at the picture of Jesse bent over his Skyline. He flipped it over to see if the kid wrote anything, no worries Brian I'm getting it ready for your first race.
There were so many more pictures, a picture of the skyline, picture of Letty, a group photo they took at the party the family had thrown for him. His favorite picture was the one of him and Dom standing in the garage together, with Dom's arm around his shoulders. He sat there staring at the photo for a minute, trying to let the wave of loneliness pass over him before he moved again.
Brian grabbed the tape and started to tape up all the pictures over his bed, all the men in the barracks walked over to watch in amazement.
"That your family sir?" Snake asked curiously.
Brian grinned at him, "yeah that's my family."
"Hello?" Dom answered.
"Hey Dom," Brian said kind of quietly.
"It's Brian!" Dom called out through the house, and chuckled when he heard the sounds of several pair of feet thundering towards the living room.
Brian chuckled, "I don't have much time, breaking a few rules to call right now, but I missed you."
"I've missed you too Bri," Dom said and rolled his eyes when Mia kept pointing at the phone and mouthing speaker.
Dom pulled the phone down and pressed the speaker button, "your on speaker now Brian, everyone is here."
"Hey," Brian said happily. "Thanks for the last package by the way, I mailed off return letters to everyone today, you should get them in about a week and a half. Mia do you think you could send some more cookies, the guys found my stash. You've gotten three serious marriage proposals by the way, no worries Trent I told them the score."
Trent laughed and Mia snickered, "you already have a box coming your way with some Brian."
"You're the best Mia, is everybody doing okay?"
"We're fine brah," Rome said. "What about you?"
"I'm doing okay; the guys think I've gone soft now that I get regular mail, no respect around here. Snake keeps talking shit about my Skyline, says classics are better."
"Smart man," Dom said.
"Watch it," Brian told him, and Dom only chuckled. "I just wanted to call and tell you all that love you, and I miss everybody." The sound of alarms blaring could be heard through the phone. "Shit," Brian said.
"Brian you okay?" Dom asked panicked.
"I'm fine, I gotta go, Love you Dom." He said quickly
"Love you Bri."
Brian sat in the uncomfortable seat, crammed next to Snake and Shooter; he listened to the instructions from the flight attendant and buckled his seat belt.
He tried his best to stay calm, but the noise, the closed in space, the nervousness he felt, it was all a little too much. He looked down at his hands and noticed they were shaking and threw them down to his sides to hide it. It felt like he had been gone for years once again, when it had only been 9 months.
Since he had seen his family, seen Dom, and he missed them, more than he did the first time he made the trip from Iraq to L.A., the anticipation of seeing them again was making him antsy.
It was also making him nervous; he couldn't help but wonder if everyone would really be there when he stepped off that plane. They said they would be, but 9 months is a long time, and they could have easily decided he wasn't worth the trouble. He wasn't sure what he would do if that was case, if they didn't want him around anymore. If Dom didn't want him around anymore, he might have decided that Brian wasn't worth the wait. That was enough of a thought to put him into a small panic, after having Dom, life without him didn't seem like much of a life anymore.
Brian flinched when he felt a hand lay heavily on his shoulder, "sorry Bullet," Shooter told him noticing Brian was breathing harder since their upcoming arrival had been announced. It wasn't hard to figure out why the man was so nervous, it was the first time he would be returning back home with one of their units. The first time he would be at the airport surrounded by tons of Soldiers and their families, and he wasn't sure if his would be there. "They said they were coming right?"
Brian nodded, "they did."
"Then they are going to be there." He told him firmly, hoping that he was right, Brian deserved a family, and he deserved happiness. Every single man on that plane wanted that for him.
When the plane touched down Brian took a deep breath stood up and squared his shoulders, sitting on the plane hiding wasn't an option. They were either there or they weren't, and he needed to find out.
He looked around at all his men and smiled, they were like hyperactive puppies bouncing in place waiting for the doors to open. It was hard not to see their excitement and be just happy as well.
When they stepped out of the terminal the rounds of clapping were immediate and Brian grinned as he searched through the crowds. He felt Shooter's hand clap down on his back and looked to where the man was pointing. There in the center of the crowds of families, was his. Mia was holding a baby girl, while Trent held up a sign that said, "I've waited three whole months to meet my Uncle Brian!'
Vince was holding a sign up that said, "Welcome home Buster!'
Brian laughed loudly when he saw Jesse's sign, "lets race!' In giant block letters with a picture of his Skyline underneath.
His eyes roamed through the group, he saw a smiling Rome, Tej, and Han. His eyes finally stopped when he saw Dom, and his legs started working faster than they ever had before to close the distance between them.
Dom grabbed him tightly and pulled him into his chest, "god I've missed you," he whispered to Brian.
Brian held on like Dom was his lifeline, and he needed the man's presence to ground him into reality. Like Dom was his rock.
That was exactly was Dom was to him, everything that Brian needed to be whole, safe, loved, everything that Brian needed to stay strong. The thought of being in Dom's arms again had pushed him through the worst of days in the last 9 months, and being in them again just reminded him that it had been worth it. Not giving up, never surrendering when things got too hard. Dom, them, his family, they kept him strong.
"I've missed you," Brian whispered while clawing on to Dom's shirt tighter.
"Alright, stop hogging my brother Dom," Rome said with a laugh.
Dom growled a bit but stepped back so everyone else could welcome Brian home as well. When Brian had been hugged by every member of the family he walked back over to Dom and touched the dog tags on the man's neck. "Never took them off," he told Brian.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out Dom's necklace. "It saved my life," he told Dom who looked at him in surprise and concern. "We were walking into a building to save some civilians and I dropped it. Two of ours walked ahead right into an RPG," Brian looked to the side for a moment," if I hadn't stopped to pick it up, I wouldn't have gotten this chance to see you again," Brian said with slight tears in his eyes.
Dom lifted his hand up to Brian's cheek; he took the necklace out of Brian's hand and undid the clasp. He put it on the man's neck and wrapped him back up in a hug. "It's yours, just like I am," He told Brian while tightening his grip on the man.
"It's good to be home," he whispered happily.
Because he had one now, and it wasn't the army, it wasn't Iraq, wasn't L.A., it wasn't even 1327 Echo Park. It was right there where was he was, in Dom's arms surrounded by his family.
Two weeks later...
"Did you get it?" Brian asked Snake while he watched Dom mind the grill.
"Yeah," Snake answered with a grin, "buddy of mine from Texas got me a six pack."
Brian nodded and pulled his hands out of his pockets, "I got the rest, let's get them set up."
The family watched as the five men from Brian's unit walked over to a table that Brian had insisted be set up. They pulled bags out from underneath and started to open several cases of beer.
They took eight beers out of the cases and Dom's eyebrows drew together at seeing the types. Brian was a Corona man through and through, and those beers were definitely not Corona.
A Shiner Bock, Dos Equis, a Bud Light, Guinness, Blue Moon, a Budweiser, Miller Lite, and a Sam Adams all set in a row.
Dom watched Brian look around like he was looking for something and he called for Vince, "man the grill," he told him and went to get Brian a beer.
"Here Bri," he told him with a smile. Brian grinned and leaned in to kiss the man's cheek. Dom looked over at Brian in shock and then looked over to Brian's friends.
Brian just laughed, "They know," he told him. "I told them about you in Iraq, don't ask don't tell doesn't work in our group, bunch of nosy bastards."
The men behind Brian laughed, one of them named Buzz threw his arm over Brian shoulders, "and were completely cool with it, we're just happy for Bullet here."
"And if we weren't cool with it we would never tell him," Snake said with a laugh.
"Because there is no question about who would win in a fight, he would kick our asses," Shooter smirked.
Dom placed his hand on Brian's neck and squeezed, "I'll be at the grill," he said with a smile.
Dom walked back over to the grill and shooed Vince out of his way. It was obvious the men were doing something important, and Dom didn't want to intrude on whatever it was. He also didn't want to risk Vince burning the food. He kept an eye on Brian though as all six soldiers opened their own beers and turned to face to the table. Six black shirts with the American flag on the back faced them.
Brian's voice rang out clearly through the yard as they all held up their beers,
"May your glass always be full,
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven,
half an hour before the devil knows you're dead."
All of the men clanged the neck of their beers together, "hooah," they all said together loudly.
That's an interesting toast," Vince commented to Dom.
"It's what they always say to each other before going out on a mission," Kimberly told them with a fond but sad look on her face. Tears gathered in her eyes as she watched them salute the table, "feels like he's here with them."
Vince pulled Kimberly into his side for comfort, "I'm sure he is," he told her.
The barbecue was a prerace party that night, Brian had been waiting for the chance to race since he had gotten home, the minute his Separation from the Army paperwork went through he drove straight to the garage to announce that Bullitt was back.
Everyone at the party was standing on the sidelines waiting to see Brian race, his men were all very excited about seeing their by the book Sergeant doing something so very illegal.
Brian sat in his Skyline in front of the starting line. Dom looked over at him threw his open window. "You sure about this?" He asked with a smile.
Brian looked over with a grin, "quarter mile at a time right?"
For a second Dom saw that same blonde hair blue eye kid from 11 years ago, with that same bright big beautiful smile. He felt his heart flutter at the sight and smiled, "for the rest of our lives."