Disclaimer: See first chapter
Author's Note: Hi! First things first… I'm sorry about the delay; I promised by the end of 2004 and here it is April of 2005… I'm sorry about that. :(
Anyway, this is the last chapter. I combined the epilogue and the final chapter together. It took me a long time I know, but I've had so many other things going and quite honestly – I'm a little scared of ending this fic.
It is by far my most monumental work on this site and the first one I've actually given an end to. (Without counting one-shot fics)
The story is 39 chapters long and I've received 411 reviews for it… I don't even know where to respond to that kind of support. Thank you, doesn't seem enough, I would most definitely have abandoned this project if it hadn't been for all you urging me on and reminding me that I had to finish this. ;)
A very special thanks to The Phoenix1224, SugarHappy, Three Sisters, Tempest-races, Greenglowchassis, Pips24 and Nessie16 at one point or another your words of praise and encouragement, your suggestions, and your comments kept me working on this. Thank you.
I decided to combine it with the epilogue because that's just the way it flowed. From the mid-point of the story I knew I wanted at the end, to show what Dom and Letty could build together. I wanted to show the world they could create. So since I knew that… the characters (I know this going to sound weird) just wrote themselves.
I do owe it to all of you to warn you before you dig in… if you recall (I know it's hard, the story is long ;) but please remember that the story did not start with Dom and Letty…
Okay that's all I'm going to say, I know I've gone on and on but like I said this is a little scary for me…
Without further ado…..
Chapter 39 -- For the Best.
Letty smiled up at him, patting the tie she'd just adjusted, "No problem kid." She murmured.
Before she could move away,though, he held her by the forearms, his eyes -- so much like his father's -- were suddenly darker than usual, intensity radiating out of them, "No, not just for the tie... for everything... for everything you've done... and everything you've been... for being there... for saying yes."
Her eyes filled with tears immediately, "Oh Taylor..." she whispered, a knot in her throat, "... you don't-"
He shook his head, cutting her words, "I do. I really do, because... you didn't have to. And you did, and you did it so well... you raised me like… like I was yours."
Letty swallowed hard, "You are mine." She said fiercely before pulling him into a hug. He towered over her these days, but it didn't matter. "You're my own little boy." She added, the tears slipping down her cheeks.
Seventeen years earlier...
"Okay Tay, that's it, I want to know what's going on." Letty stated her voice quiet but exasperated.
The little boy looked up at from the sofa, his dark eyes wide, "Huh?" he asked.
Letty sat down next to him. "I want to know what's bothering you."
Dom frowned from the armchair, "Lett, what're you talkin about?"
They had been back for a week. But life hadn't exactly gotten back to normal. Leon had offered them his apartment until they could finalize the deal on the house. The one Sonya had told the girls about, it was down the street from Mia and Brian. Leon had moved in with Mia. It was easier to fit just Leon as opposed to three people.
Letty hadn't actually gone back to work yet, she been drawing a few things here and there but was reluctant to actually head into the office. And she'd also been getting weird vibes from Taylor, almost as if he were avoiding her.
"Something's going on and I want to know what it is." She said firmly, determined to have this discussion with the boy. He hadn't been acting normal around her and she wanted to know why.
"Going on where?" Dom asked and she nearly growled.
"Maybe you could leave us alone for a while Dom." She said as politely as she could manage.
He looked from Letty to his son and back again, "Uh, okay, fine, I'll be in the kitchen."
She nodded and watched as he left, then shifted to face Taylor, the little boy was looking down at his hands.
"I'm sorry," He said softly.
Letty sighed, scooting closer to him, "I'm not mad Tay, I just want to know what's wrong."
"Look at me Tay," she commanded softly.
"Come on, baby." She cooed.
He lifted his gaze to her.
"Are you mad because we didn't take you on the trip with us?" She asked him.
He shook his head, "No, I had-ed fun with Auntie Mia and cousins."
"Didn't you like the presents we brought you?"
"I liked them."
Letty took a deep breath, preparing to ask the question she'd been dreading. "Is it your mom? Do you miss her? Do you wish she was here instead of me?"
It was a hard question to verbalize, but she needed to know.
He said nothing.
"I know something's wrong. You haven't cuddled with me since I got back. You won't talk to me, only if I ask you somethin. You won't even sit on my lap anymore. I thought you and me were buddy's Tay."
His little face crumbled suddenly and her heart broke. She reached out and pulled him to her, he crawled on her lap and laid his head on her chest.
"What is it baby? Tell me, is it your mom?" She asked, her voice thick.
He nodded, Letty blinked back the tears that threatened to spill, she had to know what was going on… no matter how much it hurt her. And it did hurt to think that Taylor would rather be with his mother. It shouldn't because she was his mother, but it did… because even without realizing it, somewhere deep inside of her, she'd decided that this little boy was hers.
She forced her self to speak, "What is it?"
He looked up, his dark eyes wet and so sad, "She's not gonna see me too much." He said simply.
She waited, knowing there was more.
"She don't wanna be my mommy no more."
Letty jerked back, staring into his face; the tears were gone, replaced by a fire in her eyes that spoke of the slow, hot anger beginning to burn inside her, "She said that to you?" She asked him, carefully.
He nodded, "She can't... she said she's not goods at its..." the tears spilled faster, his breathing quickened and his gaze lowered, "... it's my fault..." he said so softly she almost missed it.
Her fist clenched, as the anger began to boil -- thank god the woman wasn't around. The urge to smash her face in was strong, the desire to protect this little boy so fierce it was almost overwhelming.
He didn't need that, though. He didn't need to hear how much of a jerk his mother was; because it didn't matter, she was still his mother.
She knew the feeling – intimately; remembered the feeling of resentment she'd felt when other adults had passed judgment on her father. He was a drunk, a bum, a jackass, a child-abuser… all were terms that applied quite accurately to her father, but it didn't matter… for a long time she didn't want to hear it. Much the way an alcoholic didn't want to be called an alcoholic; Taylor wouldn't want to hear the truth about his mother.
"Look Tay," she began uncertainly, "I'm sure you're mom..." she stopped though, trailing off. The truth was she wasn't sure of anything; especially when it came to that woman.
So instead of continuing she just held him, gently running her hand over his back. He took a shuddering breath after a few minutes, and she pressed a kiss to his temple.
"She said…" he began softly, "… she that maybe... that...maybe you'd." He stopped there -- didn't trail off or stutter he just stopped.
Letty pulled him back, so he was still sitting on her lap, but not leaning on her. She looked at him, the tear-stained face, the fuzzy hairs on his head, the little mouth in a pout.
How could that woman leave him?
How could she not want him?
She shook her head a little in disbelief.
Gently she wiped his tears away, "Maybe I would what?" she asked him.
His eyes went down to his hands again, "Maybe you'd wanna be my mommy."
Letty felt a small smile touch her lips, even as her heart clenched in sorrow. He was so unsure, so hesitant.
Doesn't he realize how wonderful he is?
The answer came quickly.
She took a deep breath, her heart settling into it's normal rhythm -- well he sure as hell would know now, she thought ardently, he would know how fucking wonderful he was if it killed her.
"Look at me Tay." She said firmly, waiting till he had, "First of all, it wasn't your fault... okay... your just a little boy and it's the adult's responsibility to make things right, so whatever it was that went wrong is not your fault, do you understand?"
When his mother had asked, he hadn't answered; mostly because he hadn't been sure. Because even though it had seemed okay... with her you could never be sure.
But this was Letty... and with Letty everything was always sure, so he nodded slowly without saying anything.
"Good, now - I don't want you to cry about this." She said, "Your mom must have a very good reason for the things she does and someday maybe we'll understand. In the meantime, I want you to understand that it's her loss, not yours. You are a wonderful little boy, the most wonderful I've ever met and someday you're going to be a wonderful grown-up and then a wonderful husband and then a wonderful father; because that's just what you are Taylor - wonderful." Her voice dropped to an almost reverent pitch, "And I'd be honored if you were my own."
His dark eyes hadn't left hers as she'd spoken, now his head tilted to one side, and his dark eyes lost the sad glimmer, "You mean it?"
She grinned, "Of course, I'll be your mommy and your dad is your dad and we'll be a family."
His eyes lit up, "And I can have a brother?" he asked excited, suddenly.
Her grin got wider, now there was a shift in subject, "Well... maybe..." she said teasingly, not wanting to commit to anything, "... a brother? Not a sister?" she asked.
Taylor shrugged, his eyes beginning to sparkle like usual, "I gots cousins, d'they g-w-irls."
Letty laughed, knowing he hadn't included Bria in that thought; he usually referred to her as baby. In that moment she had an insight into the future… the twins would always own Taylor's heart.
"So you'll be my Mommy, L-w-etty?" He asked again.
"Yes, Tay, I'll be your Mommy."
He grinned now too, flying off her lap, "Daddy! Daddy!" he called, his voice reaching a cyber-sonic pitch
Dom came out of the kitchen and Taylor ran into his legs, "Daddy!"
Dom looked down amused, "Everythin okay?"
Taylor raised his arms; Dom scooped him up, "Daddy, L-w-etty's gonna be my mommy! She said yes! She wants me to be her lil boy..."
"And you're going to be late..." Letty added, as she pulled away, wiping at the tears, "Christ Tee, it hasn't even started and you've already got me bawling."
He grinned, swallowing down the lump that had risen in his throat, "Aunt Mia's been at it for a week, you've got catching up to do."
Letty laughed, "You'd think she'd out grow the crying thing..."
He shook his head, "Some things never change." He said echoing his father's words to her all those years ago.
"Not the important ones," she added softly, sharing the lesson she'd learned.
They looked at each other for a few more moments.
"I've got to get out of here, I'm going to cry again."
He nodded, "Dad's already out there. We're getting started soon."
She nodded, patting his jacket down one last time, shaking her head, "I can't believe my baby's getting married."
"I'm not the baby."
"You're my baby."
Taylor laughed, again, before getting serious, "Always... your own little boy."
She nodded, wiping at the tears before they fell.
Dom smiled down at her as she slipped into the pew next to him.
"Mascara's smudged." He told her smugly.
She glared up at him; he'd spent a good portion of their married life teasing her about having lost her tough-ass image. She always argued that she hadn't, not really… all you had to do was look a little harder to find it.
When Mia had started her crying bout, Letty had been disgusted, claiming that this was a good thing and there was no reason to cry.
Dom had smirked and bet her twenty dollars that she wouldn't make it through the ceremony without crying.
"Ceremony hasn't started…" she hissed quietly, pressing her fingers to the edges of her eyes, trying to fix it.
He grinned, "S'okay, baby, you'll lose anyway…" he leaned in close to her and added quickly, "Press is gonna be appalled."
It was a phrase that earned him a light shove and another glare.
It endlessly amused Dom to see how his racer-chick was hailed as one of the fashion icons of the city. She always had swarms of people staring at her, waiting to see if the top designer in LA with fashion houses in Chicago, Austin, Miami, and New York City could look anything less than perfect; and he found it fuckin hilarious that just to piss him off – she never did.
In public she was always fashionable… little did the press know that the instant the door clicked closed whether in her home or office, the shoes came off and the skirt or dress pants slid down to reveal shorts…
The modeling agencies and boutiques had thrived raking in the cash and making Letty one of the most prominent, and rich, designers in United States.
Angelo and Letty had stayed friends, much to the chagrin of the entire family. He'd loved her and for a time after their almost-wedding had pulled away. It had been an uncomfortable time; Letty had felt horrible for her happiness... but was happy nonetheless. She hadn't returned to the office right away -- hadn't been able to -- in fact nearly five years went by before she once again took the day-day reigns of the company in hands.
Angelo had moved to Chicago anyway, the manager's were given more responsibility, and Letty had worked from home -- managing to design the entire showroom and all the articles of clothing that were to go up using the telephone, the internet, and faxes. It had worked and the fashion house had been a success. Austin, Texas had been next Angelo had moved there to open it up.
The partnership had ended after the opening of the fifth Boutique in New York City when Angelo died in a car accident. It had been sudden and Letty hadn't taken the news well.
He'd been so good to her, she'd cried, and she'd given him nothing.
The tears and grief had been amplified when the will had been read and it was found that he'd left her his half of the business. It was all hers now, the news had made her inconsolable for weeks.
The grief had passed though, and she'd emerged as strong as ever. Dom had let her cry, knowing that there were many ways to love a person. That he too, would always love someone else… in a different way.
After the grief, that's when she'd immersed herself in the management of the company, taking a firm hold on the business. She soon became one of the most successful business women in L.A. It turned out that when you polished up tough-ass it worked pretty well in the business world.
One year ago almost to the date she'd turned over the day-to-day management of the boutique's to Dolly and Jessa. She was retiring early she said, and the girls were more than ready - they'd been un-officially groomed for the take-over since about their tenth birthday. They were thrilled to finally have complete control in their hands.
Letty wanted to be a stay- at-home mom for awhile, she'd said. The sudden change had been necessitated by their boys... they were in need of guidance when they got home from school.
Someone to tell them "Hell no".
Someone toyell back.
Mia had always been the one assigned to baby sit. She'd loved the job, had relished baking cookies and pouring juice for when the kids got home. Unfortunately, as the kids got older, they started coming home later and later; and leaving before their parents picked them up. Being the sweet person that she is, and since Dom and Letty's boys were smart enough to not actually do anything remotely wrong in the presence of the loving aunt - she could see no wrong in them.
Letty and Dom could.
In fact they could see a lot wrong with their boys.
He smirked slightly at the thought of what their boys had dealt with this past year.
A new side of their mother.
The side he'd first known, the side that cursed and yelled and threatened... and that side had scared them straight.
The music started suddenly and he reached for Letty's hand, their fingers intertwining as they shifted to face the aisle. She turned to him and his breath caught. She could still do that to him, make his breath catch. But than again she did own him mind, body, and soul…
Her dark curls weren't worn loose often anymore, nor were they completely dark; instead they were pulled back in an elegant bun that suited her just as well. She was more rounded, softer than she'd been when he'd married her.
He'd changed too. They were older... middle aged, it had taken them both by surprise. One day they just weren't young anymore. They couldn't bend as low, or run as fast, or hell even drink the way they'd used too. It was okay though, because in exchange for their youth they'd gotten many more wonderful things.
They'd gotten an entire life, full of love and laughter and family.
He smiled slightly, remembering the day he'd been informed that his little family of two would be expanding to accommodate one more.
Sixteen Years Earlier…
"If you don't hurry the fuck up Letty, we're gonna be late!" He hollered up the stairs.
"Don't fuckin curse at me!" An aggravated voice screeched.
"Well if you hurried the fuck up I wouldn't hafta to fuckin curse at-"
"Would you two shut-up!" Mia cried in exasperation, cutting off her brother's tirade "You've been like this for two weeks already! You're supposed to be livin a fuckin happily-ever-after life! So stop cursing at each other and get freakin happily-ever-after!" With that said she whirled around and walked out, slamming the door in her wake.
A few minutes of dead silence later, and Letty poked her head out, "Is it safe?"
Dom nodded solemnly, "Yeah,"
Letty sighed, as she came out and descended the stairs.
She stood two steps up and Dom stood at the bottom, it made them almost eye-level.
"That was kinda scary," Letty said, peeking behind him, "I'm surprised the door didn't crack or something."
Dom smiled a little, "I guess we have been a little hard to handle recently."
"Yeah," she said.
"I hate to bring it up Lett, but, it's been kinda your fault…"
"My fault?" She cried.
"Don't' start!" He said holding up his hands, "I just mean that it's like I can't' talk to you anymore without you biting my head off."
Her eyes narrowed, "You're not the easiest person to get along with either, Dom. You're kinda stupid!" she hissed and pushed past him, headed towards the door.
He grabbed her arm, "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing," she said, pulling away, "We're gonna be late and I want to race tonight."
"Fuck the race; we're not goin anywhere till you tell me what the fuck is going on!"
"You're an idiot, that's what's going on!"
"Is this about that bet?" He asked, his eyes frantic as he searched in his head what he'd done to make his wife so angry.
"Are you still mad I didn't beat the shit out of them all for betting on our life…? I can still do it, if you want… it's only been few months, I can still beat the crap out of them. I'm Brian hasn't even spent all the money yet, I can make him give it to me. I mean we decided to let'm keep the sixteen-hundred 'cause Bria had just been born and we were excited 'bout bein godparents, but if you want it I'll get it and I'll beat the shit out of'm all… 'cept Sonya, cause I'm pretty sure she can take me, but if-"
"Just shut up!" Letty screamed at him, "It's not about the bet!"
"Than what is it? Tell me?"
"I shouldn't' have to, you should just know…" she said, her expression suddenly petulant.
"Know what? If you tell me, I'll know. Are feeling sick? Is that why you took so long to get ready? We could just not go, we can stay in-"
"My pants don't fit!" She yelled suddenly, cutting off his sentence, "That's why I took long… they won't buckle!"
Dom nodded, his expression would have been comical, had Letty not been feeling so offal and so… unreasonable.
He was trying hard to figure out just what was wrong. And maybe that was the problem… that nothing was wrong, not technically anyway, and she didn't know how to tell him… how to tell anyone. She'd be able to tell Mia, but she knew that Dom should be the first to know… but how?
They'd been married for almost four months now, they'd moved into their house earlier this week, she'd been getting ready to head back to work… and now this…
They were going to race tonight, to celebrate the house… but she so angry at him… how could he not notice? Was he blind? She was already heavier? And she hadn't had her period in three months! How hard was it to figure out?
"Okay, we'll get you new pants…" he said slowly.
"Ugh!" she screamed, and advanced on him like a hornet, "I don't need new pants! I need an entire new closet of clothes, because all I'm gonna do is get bigger and bigger and freakin bigger until I look like the Goodyear blimp!"
"Bigger?" he asked softly, his eyes going wide.
"YES! BIGGER! Because that's what pregnant women do! They get BIGGER!"
"You're pregnant?" he whispered.
"No, Dom, I'm just bringing up pregnant women for fun!" She screeched at him, "OF COURSE I'M PREGNANT! Did you think-"
Her flow of words was cut off suddenly, as strong arms wrapped themselves around her and pulled her to a large, strong chest. Warm lips claimed hers when she opened her mouth to argue, and all anger melted away.
When she was completely relaxed in his arms, and he was sure he'd finished her rant, Dom pulled back.
"You're pregnant," he said again, his voice husky and his eyes dark.
Letty nodded slowly; suddenly ashamed of the way she'd just behaved. It wasn't his fault; he was just a guy after all.
"I'm sorry, I yelled at you Dom… I just, I didn't know how to tell…"
She frowned at him, "Yeah, we've established that…."
The grin that covered his face took her breath away, suddenly she found herself scooped in his arms as he twirled her around in circles and yelled over and over that she was pregnant.
She couldn't stop the laughter that bubbled out of her, and suddenly she felt the same joy he felt.
She was pregnant.
He set her down suddenly, and she realized that he'd walked her over to the sofa and that she was now sitting on his lap. He drew her against him for a loving embrace, "I love you Letty," he said fiercely, pressing kisses to the top of her head.
She grinned again his chest, "I love you too…"
They stayed like that for a long time, neither one moving or speaking. Just relishing in the feel of the other.
Suddenly though, Dom tensed, and Letty looked up at him in question.
His dark eyes were angry and she felt suddenly sick…
"You were going to race tonight…."
The procession began, but he didn't watch it. His eyes were locked with those of his wife, remembering….
She smiled at him and gave his hand a squeeze. Slowly he focused on the scene in front of him.
The church was huge and elaborate, nothing like the small chapel he and Letty had wed in, and it was decorated to perfection.
The twins caught his eyes first, at twenty-four, wearing dresses designed specifically for them by Auntie Lett, they were breathtaking.
They made in an impacting presence everywhere they went. Identical features with contrasting coloring. He'd seen them stop traffic more than once. Mature and gorgeous, they sparkled with the same vivacity that had made them adorable when he'd met them.
They hadn't lost that enthusiasm for life, that eagerness for everything, that energy for adventure. Dolly had graduated first in her class - commercial advertising. Jessa had given tribute to her namesake and excelled at graphic design.
They were friendly and agreeable and usually - except for the years of 13 through 15 when they'd sought to be individuals - got along famously.
They shared an apartment in the business district of LA and kept at bay an ongoing stream of admirers.
Recently Jessa had shown a special interest in one the admirers, he was scheduled for inspection in two weeks.
Past evidence would've indicated that the most difficult critic of the twins' boyfriends' would be their seriously overprotective uncle or their doting father.
Past evidence would've been wrong.
Since the beginning, since the first crush, the first date, the first boyfriend, the harshest critic had always been Taylor.
The little cousin they'd bossed around for their entire childhood had loomed over them by age twelve and no one, least of all some grimy punk with a carnation in his hand was good enough for one of his twins.
Those had been his words when they'd gone out on their first date at the age of fourteen. He'd stood in the living room and glared at the two boys who'd appeared to pick them up and simply proclaimed that they weren't good enough.
The girls had thrown fits. The adults had laughed for hours.
It was different with Bria. His relationship with his youngest female cousin could only be described as tender. He'd never denied her anything and she'd never asked for much, but when they were together they were so sweet it made everyone roll their eyes.
He sought out his youngest niece, and grinned when he saw her. She too wore a dress designed especially for her, and the distaste of having to wear a dress at all showed on her face.
She was the only one out of Mia's children who'd inherited the mechanic gene.
The twins loved cars, knew everything there was to know about them - theoretically speaking. They liked racing and driving and dating mechanics... they didn't like grease or oil on their clothes or in their hair or under their nails.
Mia's youngest and only boy, Martin, Marty to family and friends, was a male version of her. Kind and slow to anger, he was the peace keeper of the younger generation. The voice of reason. At 17 he was interested in surgery and the profession suited him. He had a compassionate heart and his kind disposition often fooled people into thinking they could push him around. Unfortunately for them, they'd soon find out that although Marty had a long fuse, it blew loud and strong... just like his mother. He was like the twins... except for the dating mechanics part... although if he could find a female mechanic...
Bria was the only one of Mia's kids to relish working on a car and he adored her for it. His garage in New York City had been sold long ago, but the one here in L.A. was, and as far as he was concerned would always be, thriving. They all ran in collectively, and it was still the center of drama. Fights and talks, screaming matches and displays of temper were saved for the garage. It was something that none of the team -- no matter how grown-up they'd become -- could break out of.
If there was a problem, they naturally sought the garage to work it out and the younger generation had leaned from the older. Even the twins went there when they had a problem… they'd sit on a sofa and pretend to polish screw-drivers or go through the books. It provided a sort-of solace for the family and Dom knew that no matter what his family evolved into the garage would always be there, in the family, as integral a part of them as speed. It was in their blood, and they'd never out-grow it.
The music changed suddenly and his eyes went to the back of the church.
His son's bride.
His best friend's only child.
Vince and Sonya had married later that same year. Mia had gotten her way with that one though, and planned to her hearts content. She had also ensured that absolutely nothing marred the ceremony. It was her biggest responsibility according to Sonya... making sure the wedding was, for absolutely no reason, interrupted.
And although, the caterers had been late, and the maid of honor's heel had broken, and the flower girls - the twins - had been sick with the flu, and the wrong cake had been delivered, and the Champaign cases had been dropped - effectively shattering them and spilling the bubbly liquid in the reception hall kitchen - the wedding ceremony had not been interrupted.
They'd only had one child, born early the next year. Not that they minded, there were enough kids running around for them to get their full. The kids in this family had truly been and were being raised by a village.
Samantha was the last girl born in the family.
She'd turned eighteen last week; had graduated high school early, in December, and already had one college semester under her belt. It's what they'd been waiting for, her eighteenth birthday. She and Taylor had been dating since she was thirteen.
Of course Sam had never really been thirteen, as far back as he could remember – and he could remember pretty far back - the girl had been mature for her age. A miniature grown up with dark pig-tails that eyed you skeptically and asked why you were using that funny voice to talk to her.
His heart swelled as he watched, she was glowing; with her mother's dark brown hair, hazel eyes, and freckles and her father's attitude - she was a handful, but than again, she always had been. She fairly glided down the aisle towards his son.
He had other sons.
Letty had given him two boys. Tony and Alex. 16 and 15. They were so much like him and Vince it scared the shit out of him.
Tony and, Mia's boy, Marty were Juniors in the same high school. It had been a source of great drama recently, since both ran with different crowds and recently the crowds had clashed.
The cousins had risen to the occasion though, and settled the dispute.
His younger boys were into cars, racing, and girls... they were fast on the streets and Dom knew he had to be careful with how he handled them. They'd shut him out if he did it wrong. They were as volatile as NOS.
There was one thing though, one thing that set them apart from the way he and Vince had been... they weren't furious. They weren't dominated by the rage that had pumped through their blood in their younger days. And Dom was going to make sure it stayed that way.
Taylor... though, Taylor was different.
Taylor was controlled.
He'd carried that serious undertone that had characterized his early years into adulthood. His dark eyes tended to look at something critically, his demeanor solemn. There'd been no brawls in gym class when he'd been in high school. If he'd had a problem, if someone wanted to fight, he hadn't beat around the bush as oftentimes boys did, there'd been no tussling, no threats. Taylor would deliver one solid blow and usually his opponent ended up unconscious.
Of course, after the first time that had happened - without Taylor so much as breaking a sweat - there weren't many people who wanted to mess with him.
A reputation he'd used all four years of high school and used especially well on any and all males interested in the twins. It made no difference that the boys they dated were always older than him; he had his father's height and build and, thanks to his Uncle Vince, knew that he could beat the shit out of them. On more than one occasion he'd made great show of terrifying punks who dared to hit on the twins.
They'd balanced him.
They'd reminded him to laugh.
It was phrase that Letty had coined when he was eight and Kara had resurfaced for the first time. Letty'd said he knew how to laugh, but that it was easy for him to forget... that the twins reminded him. Quietly Dom had watched him deal with the mother he hadn't seen in four years and the aftermath of her visit... he'd realized she was right.
It wasn't that Kara was inconsiderate. It was more that she didn't think everything through completely. Dom had seen on her face the moment Taylor came downstairs that she knew she shouldn't have come, but she had and the visit had been dealt with.
Afterward though, he'd been so serious. Until Mia dropped the twins off one afternoon... he'd laughed that night... at something they'd said or done.
He'd been okay after that.
Dom watched as Taylor enfolded his bride's hands in his own and remembered the first time sparks had flown between the boy and Sam.
Taylor'd been sixteen and she'd been twelve. Of course Sam at twelve had had the mentality of a seventeen year old.
Taylor had walked in on her kissing a boy in the garage. Mostly out of habit he'd reacted the way he did when it was one of the twins... intimidating the guy until the poor kid was shaking.
Unlike the twins, who were used to it and who's boyfriend's were used to it, Sam hadn't stood for it. She'd inherited her fuse from her father, and it was short.
He chuckled softly to himself as he remember the way she'd chased him into the house with a wrench threatening to smash his big toe if he ever did something like that again.
Letty shot him a questioning glare as they sat down. The service was about to start.
His poor son had never stood a chance. Not when the small dark haired spit-fire had burst into his bedroom three days later and thrown a bucket of ice water on him and the girl he'd been making out with.
Payback, she'd said, her hazel eyes sparkling.
Yep, they were a good match those two.
It had been odd at first... when they'd started dating. Soon though the oddness had disappeared and the family had been ecstatic.
He had to grin every time he realized that he and Vince would one day be grandfathers together.
He felt a tap on his shoulder.
"Could you lean to the right, Uncle Dom?" Luke asked.
Dom smiled back at him and did as the boy asked.
Adam and Luke were the youngest members of his family.
As promised Letty had phoned Brian's sister and thanked her for passing along that beautiful piece of... literature.
Early the next year, a few months after Sam had been born; Tess O'Connor had finally traveled from London, where she'd been living, to LA to meet her brother's wife and family.
She'd never been to LA, hadn't made it to the wedding or any other special event. But that year she'd been transferred to San Francisco and the same day her plane landed she was at the house.
Brian's baby sister had not been what they'd been expecting. Strong-willed with big blue eyes and short blonde hair she'd had a subtle sense of humor that had had the room laughing in a matter of minutes.
It had been love at first sight for her and Leon.
Something that had amused the hell out of the family. Mostly because you'd be hard-pressed to find a more unlikely couple. She'd had a faint British accent and the only thing she knew about a car was that it should start when you turned the key.
She was a chenille type of girl and he was a corona type of guy. Still the attraction had been too strong for them to ignore.
And underneath the chenille and the corona they'd found two passionate people who were loyal and caring and liked video games. Two people who were a little wary of opening their hearts, frightened by commitment, and needing to go slow.
Two people who were perfect for each other.
Their green-eyed bachelor had finally met his match, and Mia most of all had been delighted to facilitate the process of them getting together.
The result had been thirteen years of marriage and two boys. Adam, 13, and Luke, 11.
Already they seemed to be following in the footsteps of their older cousins, Tony and Alex. Lucky for them, they had Marty to balance the examples out with.
They were a colorful bunch, this younger generation. Just like the one that had spawned them. Fate wouldn't have had it any other way. Mia often looked at her twins spending hundreds of dollars on clothes or his boys getting expelled from school for fighting every week and commented that they were getting a taste of their own medicine.
The ceremony passed in a blur and before Dom knew it, his son was married and they were at the club toasting to the everlasting happiness of the couple.
The music stopped and Taylor stood.
He had a beer in his hand and Dom frowned looking over at Letty, "I thought you said no beer bottles allowed." He whispered.
She shrugged, "I didn't say it, Mia did, I don't know where he got it..." she said referring to Taylor's.
"If he gets one I want one."
She stuck her tongue out, "Baby," she hissed back, her eyes taunting, even as she leaned in for a kiss. He smiled at her, his eyes tender, before obliging her by pressing his lips to hers.
"I know it isn't customary for the groom to make a speech at his own wedding..." Taylor began and Dom and Letty turned together to watch their son.
"... but considering I have two best-man's and they're not even men, I thought one more break of tradition would be okay."
There were giggles and chuckles around the room. The night club had been set up with round tables and chairs, decorated with flowers, and shut down for the night.
The tables were full of colleagues, old classmates, and business contacts.
Family friends and of course family were seated at the booths.
Taylor smiled as he continued, "I'm not sure how many people here are aware that I wasn't born in LA - I'm actually a New Yorker. My first impression of the city of Angels, as my father can tell you, was simply, is it always this hot?"
"Life is a strange thing, turning and twisting in so many different ways it's impossible to tell what is going to happen next, how one decision, one choice will affect any thing else. Most speeches at wedding's, besides not being given by the groom, tell the story of how the bride and groom met. Ours is very simple. I was pulled away from an exhilarating game of Playstation, buckled into a car-seat I considered myself much too old for, and forced to sit still for hours, only to be presented with a tiny bundle of pink with an egg shaped head."
He looked over at his wife, while the guests laughed; Sam stuck her tongue out at him.
"That was our first meeting, but I assure they got much more interesting as time went by. We are part of the same family..." the tone in his voice changed, the amusement turned serious, and everyone paid closer attention, "... a family united not so much by blood, but by something stronger... by choice. A family of friends. Nineteen years ago when my father and I made the trip from New York here we had every intention of going back, of going home. But things change; people make decisions, choices, sacrifices. All things that in some way brought me to this moment. The most interesting, and perhaps even alarming tidbit about this story is how little input I had. Yes, I was considered, but I had no way of affecting how these decisions, choices, and sacrifices were made. I was a child."
The audience was quiet, sensing that although they were privy to this speech, it wasn't in any way for them; the family was spellbound, as images of that long ago year assaulted; they watched him lift his beer bottle and smile.
"Only a corona will do for this toast..." he informed everyone, before the smile disappeared and he gazed over the tables towards the booths... towards his family.
"To those who made the heart-wrenching decisions," his eyes were on his father, "... the impossible choices..." his gaze slid to Letty, "... the ultimate sacrifices..." the gaze was transferred away from the booths, all the way to the back of the room, to the doorway - where a blonde-haired woman stood with tears obscuring her blue eyes and streaming down her face, "... I thank you from the bottom of my heart, because without you I would never have found the woman who filled it. My sincerest wish is that you've found the same peace and happiness in your lives that you've given to me."
With that Taylor tipped his head back and in true Torretto fashion drank the bottle of beer.
The applause was thunderous as the entire room stood. Women dabbed at there eyes, young girls openly fanned themselves commenting how sweet it was, men walked up to him and clapped him on the back.
It had been a beautiful speech, but only one group of people truly understood it.
Letty gave up all hope of winning the twenty and let the tears flow freely down her face, Mia openly sobbed, Sonya and Tess dabbed at their eyes, and the men all blinked furiously, trying to banish the tears.
Dom's eyes were still on his son, even though he held his wife securely against him. Slowly he let his gaze follow that of Taylor's to the back of the room.
He found Kara there, as he knew he would. An invitation had been sent to her last known address, but still no one had heard from her.
Somehow though, he'd known she would come. She'd never remarried, never had anymore children.
She'd traveled, headed to Europe and fulfilled her dream; turned out the girl was a marvel on stage – of course she'd always known she would be.
She was highly sought after and highly paid, and made her permanent home in Venice. Her trips to the United States were infrequent, erratic, and much too short, but no one could ever doubt the love she felt for her son. He was mentioned – never by name – in every speech she gave, every award she received, every recognition she accepted. Dom had followed her career as best he could, and had felt an undeniable thrill every time he saw her perform – because he, more than anyone, knew that it was all she'd ever wanted. He knew how strong she'd had to be to get there, how hard she fought for it.
Letty would tell him that she often got the impression Kara still fought. That she forced herself to stay away, for their sake – for Taylor's sake. It was something he didn't doubt.
Dom never commented on it though, never spoke of it, tried not to think about it; about the implications of her actions, the sacrifices she'd made; about how hard he'd made it for her.
She shifted suddenly, as if she felt his gaze on her. Across the room their eyes met.
Yes, he'd made it very hard for her. "Don't make this harder Dominic" she'd said when she'd first told him of her decision. He could still hear her, could still remember the tone of her voice - pleading yet so determined. He'd wanted to shake her, to grab her and hold her and never let her go, never, not until she'd admit that they were happy… that they could be happy.
He'd been so sure he could talk her out of it, so sure that she was wrong. But she'd been strong, she'd known somehow….
He watched as a watery smile touched her lips…
"Why do you have to make this so hard?" She'd asked him in desperation, fighting her own desire to give in; making him want to growl with frustration, with fury.
He'd hated those words, hated her assumption that she was right, her determination… yet she had been right, and it was that determination that had saved them all.
A smile touched his lips too, as he read the happiness in her eyes. Happiness fostered by the relief she felt. He could see it, maybe no one else could, but he could… he could see the burden of guilt lift from her shoulders. There would always be remorse about those years, but at least in this she could ease her misery.
She'd done okay by her son, she'd given him the chance to live good life; it was – as she'd once said – the best she could do for him.
His smile widened when he saw her release a breath, when he saw her wink at him, when she gave him a little wave; without further ceremony Kara backed away and disappeared past the doorway. It wasn't the last time he'd see her, he knew, she'd re-appear in a few years… always smiling, always laughing…
He looked down; Letty was saying something to him, pulling him along towards the front of the room. He let her, his fingers intertwined loosely with hers.
His family was larger than it had been17 years ago. But it was also a helluva lot happier.
He realized suddenly that he was being pulled toward a photographer and that he and Letty were the only ones' missing from the large group of family already there.
He smiled as Letty positioned herself in the crook of his arm, as his younger boys took their places in the front row, as the twins practiced what poses they'd use in the pictures, as Taylor situated his bride against him, as Marty tried to get Adam and Luke to stop arguing, as Mia tried to get her husband to fix his tie and her youngest daughter to stop scratching her pantyhose, as Vince and Sonya argued with Leon and Tessa over who got to stand on which end of the photograph…. it was one big turmoil of noise, it was the sound of family; of a close and happy family.
"It's for the best."
As the photographer snapped photo after photo of the large group, Kara's words of long ago floated in his mind…
And a deep-rooted peace settled over him; yes, she'd been right….
All the tears, the heart-wrenching agony, the despair, the confusion, the sacrifices, the fear… all of it had been worth it…
… all of it truly had been…
…..for the best.….