Author's Note: points to whoever can name the song the title comes from.
When she was six years old, Letty watched her father walk out of her life with his hand in the back pocket of a blonde girl barely out of high school, a duffel bag hanging from his other hand. She stood on the front stoop of their dilapidated little house and listened to her mother alternate between sobbing and cursing in the kitchen, watching as her father never looked back. Two years later, she saw him in a gas station when she ducked inside with her friends to avoid the sudden rain that had started to pour down. He paused momentarily when he saw her, and she glared at him with all of the rage she could muster at eight years old, flipped her middle finger up at him and his new brunette girlfriend, and bolted back out to brave the rain instead of facing him.
Her mother worked two jobs after her father left. While Letty was at school, she sat at a phone terminal in a giant room and badgered people about upgrading their homeowner's insurance; four nights a week, she cleaned offices until midnight and brought home the overpowering smell of industrial strength bathroom cleaner and rubber gloves. The other three nights of the week, she brought home a case of Coors Light and sat watching reruns of Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune until she passed out, either on the couch or the floor of the bathroom. Letty lost count of how many times she spread a blanket over her mother's unconscious form, sprawled drunkenly across the couch, or cleaned the vomit up off of the dirty vinyl floors in the bathroom, or had to go knock on the neighbor's door and ashamedly ask for a sandwich because her mother had drunk away the grocery money and all that was left in the fridge was a bottle of mustard and a few beers.
Eventually, she stopped spreading blankets or cleaning up vomit, and then she stopped asking the neighbor for help, and then she stopped living at home altogether. She crashed on whoever's couch was open for the night, sneaking back into her mother's house in the dead of night to pick up some of her clothes until she had her entire meager wardrobe stuffed carefully into a small bag she hid in a locker at school. Her mother never looked for her, and Letty never stopped to care.
More often than not, she stayed with her friend Maria, who lived a few blocks from school. Maria's house was as dirty and rundown as Letty's own had been, but there was always some food in the fridge, and the bathroom and sofa didn't hold the lingering odor of stale beer and vomit. Across the street from Maria's bedroom was a garage, and Letty lay awake at night, listening to Maria's steady breaths and the sound of car engines floating in through the window. Occasionally, she and Maria would circle the block when they were supposed to be walking to the school bus stop and come back to hang out at the garage; Maria liked to flirt with the drop-out son of the owner and Letty liked to go in back with the owner and learn how to rebuild engines. While Maria was giving hand jobs in the bathroom, Letty learned the differences between imports and American muscle, the fastest way to change a tire, how to take a dying engine and turn it into a gem of a machine. When Maria was losing her virginity in that same bathroom, Letty was out with the owner in a '67 Plymouth, learning how to speed shift and handle a skid.
When she was fourteen, she was hanging out with Maria outside the garage and saw a group of older kids piling out of cars across the street. A weedy boy in a beanie was talking animatedly, a cigarette between his fingers as he gestured wildly with his hands; a stocky boy was strolling along behind him, the stubble on his chin desperately trying to become a beard. Behind the both of them was an older boy with shoulders like a tank and a shiny bald head, his huge hands shoved into his pockets. The three of them crossed the street and sauntered into the garage, exchanging high fives and greetings with the owner's son. Letty sat quietly in the garage, rubbing grease off of her fingers with a dirty rag, and watched suspiciously through her eyelashes as the three of them conversed easily with the owner. The quiet one with no hair and intimidating build wandered into the garage while the others talked and started inspecting the cars, popping hoods expertly and running grease-stained fingers over engine blocks.
He was back a few days later to trade cars. As he was about to drive off in the Plymouth she'd learned to race in, he saw her watching him and paused, a dispassionate look on his face. She smirked and blew him a kiss, then strode back into the garage. Later that afternoon, the owner told her who he was, and she filed the information away in the back of her mind for another time.
She saw them next at a street race. He was driving her Plymouth and she felt him watching when she took an easy three grand from a suburban kid who thought a girl couldn't handle a ten second car; she watched as he walked away from a race with ten grand and a pink slip for a new Corvette. As the races ended, she followed the line of cars to a party and watched him from across the room until he finally made his way over to where she stood by the stairs. He introduced himself and said that she looked a little young; she said that he looked a little young to care how young she was. He raised his eyebrows at her, and she moved up two stairs so that she was taller than him, hooked a finger in the collar of his shirt, and pulled him in for a kiss.
The next day she found her way to the garage he worked out of, and he greeted her silently with a smile in his eyes and a kiss on the cheek. She just as silently picked up a wrench and started working on the Chevy he was rebuilding with him. They worked all day in comfortable silence, speaking only when his friends showed up and he introduced her in a low rumble to them. The day after that, she left Maria to her hand jobs, packed up her clothes, and started crashing on the couch at his house.
His name was Dom, and his sister was Mia, and they were a family after that. He was seventeen and Mia was twelve; he made Letty finish high school and Mia taught her how to cook. It didn't take long after she moved in with them for her to move from the couch to Dom's bed. She would follow him to hell and back, and he would always have her back. Mia became a younger sister to her, and Letty was as protective of the younger girl as Dom was; there wasn't a person in the world who could mess with Mia without the threat of Dom ripping their arms off with his bare hands or Letty running them over with a truck.
As young as they both were, there was a quiet mutual respect that kept things simple between them. The simplicity of their relationship kept the complexities of their questionably legal activities from overtaking their sanity. People drifted in and out of their lives, but the three of them remained a family, with Vince and Jesse and Leon always hovering on the perimeter.
Then Brian drifted into their lives, with his pretty blonde hair and charming smile and good-guy charm, and he got all of them wrapped around his finger until everything went to shit. Then Jesse was running away and Tran was on the warpath and Letty found herself wrapped in a little black Civic as it tumbled down the road, end over end over end until it came to a stop. There was pain and dizziness and confusion, and she couldn't move until suddenly Leon's face appeared in her line of vision, a godsend with greasy hair and spaghetti arms as he helped her out of the wreckage. She drifted in and out of consciousness in the backseat of Leon's car, barely noticing when Dom and Mia joined them, Mia crying and shaken in the backseat with her. Letty slumped down, letting Mia cradle her bruised head on her legs, and drifted off into blissful unconsciousness.
When she woke up, she was in her and Dom's familiar bed; Mia was cleaning the scrapes and cuts on her arms and shoulders gently and crying silently. Letty sat in silence as Mia recited the disastrous confrontations between Jesse and Tran and Dom and Brian, all culminating in the destruction of Mr. Toretto's old Charger and Dom escaping custody. For the first time in a decade, Letty felt as alone as she had every time she came home to spread a blanket over her drunken mother.
It was six months later that things came back together. Six months of keeping the garage open, an uncomfortable and awkward endeavor with a heartbroken Leon and a healing Vince; Vince eventually drifted away, taking his anger and his crippled hip with him. Letty was working late one night, a half-empty Corona on the floor by her hip while she lay under some yuppie scum's BMW sedan, when a pair of heavy boots appeared next to her beer bottle. She rolled out from under the car to see Dom standing there silently, stoic apologies in his eyes and a fading scar on one shoulder. He helped her to her feet, and she wrapped herself around him, kissing him desperately, and swore that she'd never let him leave her again.
They left the country a week later, an angry but understanding Mia staying in the house they left behind. They went to Mexico first, then continued south to Brazil. Street races and clever heists kept them flush with funds, and Letty picked up one language and dialect after another. Two years after they left California, they found a small house on the beach in the Dominican Republic and that became home. During the day, they found work in a repair shop down the beach; at night, they made the majority of their cash betting on new drivers who thought betting against a girl was an easy payday. The house gradually became as comfortable a home as the house in LA, and Dom surprised her on her birthday with a beautiful teak bed frame he'd built himself, with a brand new mattress set. She hung framed pictures of their family and friends on the walls, and they stocked the kitchen with expensive cookware for the nights they alternated in cooking meals.
Then there was the last gas truck run, and it came apart again. She slipped away from the party that night, finding her way to the quiet of the beach and waiting for him to come find her like he always did. His shoulders were slumped and his eyes tired as he spoke of police and danger, and they had the closest thing to an argument as they'd had in years. She kissed him heavily, thinking desperately that if she could keep him from thinking about leaving then he'd forget it had ever crossed his mind. They walked the three miles down the beach to their house and she fell asleep with an arm thrown possessively around his waist, a leg over his and her ear over his heartbeat. She woke up alone, to a stack of cash and a short letter in his familiar hand
It only took her two days to get back to LA and Mia, who was simultaneously thrilled to see her and furious still at being left behind. The broken carcass of the Charger was still in the garage, and Letty set to rebuilding it when she wasn't working down at the old shop, which Leon had sold to some cranky old punk who liked to slap her ass when she was working. One night as she was taking apart the engine block, she thought of Brian O'Connor, and sat silently in the garage until the reddish light from the sunrise flooded the room. After Mia left for classes that morning, Letty climbed into the Plymouth she was driving—a bit of reminiscence to simpler times, in her mind—and went in search of Special Agent Brian O'Connor. A week later, she found herself standing in a driving range and listening to Campos ramble on about Arturo Braga.
When the shooting started, Letty made it to safety by luck alone. Swearing nonstop under her breath, she fumbled for the spare cell phone Brian had given her, and was about to press the call button when Fenix's car appeared beside her as she sped around a turn. Then she was once more wrapped in a car is it tumbled end over end, and there was nothing but pain and dizziness and confusion as what had been her beloved Plymouth landed wrong side up on the pavement. There was blood between her teeth and slicking her fingers as she tried to push herself out of the remains of her car, her vision blurred with pain as the smell of burning fuel burned her nostrils.
A figure appeared in front of her, huge and solid and burly, silhouetted by headlights behind it, and for the briefest of moments her concussed brain thought it was Dom, here to pull her to safety and take her back to their familiar bed with framed pictures on the wall and waves outside the window. But the moment passed, and her vision cleared, and it was Fenix standing there with a gun and a sneer.
There was no moment of clarity and thought, no flashing of her life before her eyes. She didn't think of her past, or the sister she'd found in Mia, the brother she was finding in Brian, the father who had walked away or the mother who hadn't cared; she didn't even think of Dom. There were no thoughts. There was just pain and fear and the barrel of a gun five feet away.
Letty closed her eyes and wished for heaven.