Title: Exit Freeway Right, Accompanied

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Disclaimer: The world belongs to Justin Lin, Vin Diesel, et. al. The words are mine.

Rating: T

Spoilers: Fast and the Furious (2001)

Summary: Vince's sudden, darkly amused laughter cut him off. "Mia? You think any of that was about Mia?" 5800 words.

Notes: In partial fulfillment of a meme prompt, specifically the part, "How about Brian springs Vince before heading to Miami." A little handwavy on the medical details.

It took Brian more time than he'd have liked to get his shit together to leave Los Angeles after detonating his career. In retrospect, he was pretty sure he should have been more prepared for the inevitable- but he'd managed to persist in believing that he could somehow do his job and keep his new family right up until the critical moment when he'd stared into Mia's eyes and demanded she give Dom's cell phone number to the Nextel operator.

Something had died in her expression then, as it really sank in for her that she was giving her brother up. That Brian really wasn't just her mechanic boyfriend with a crazy story, but a cop who'd been lying to them all from the start, and that Dom could very well go to jail because of her cooperation.

She'd done it anyway, because she'd still trusted him enough to believe he was right: that the truckers were arming, and that someone might die if they didn't catch up to them in time. But he'd broken her faith- and the last of his ability to detach from the situation at the same time. There'd been too much of the real Brian O'Conner bleeding over into his cover identity already; when Mia had looked at him like that, with wounded eyes he remembered all too well from his last fight with Rome in Barstow, he'd lost what still remained of his objectivity.

Everything else he'd done had been pretty much a foregone conclusion after that. Recklessly jumping onto the truck to save Vince. Calling in a lifeflight chopper without informing the dispatcher that the victim was also a suspect in the truck heists. Avenging Jesse, and indulging that one last race with Dom.

Giving Dom the keys to the Supra. That was the last straw. He couldn't even imagine the string of lies he'd have to tell Bilkins and Tanner after that; he was done.

So, yeah. He'd bolted for his actual home first, clearing out just enough necessities for the next step and leaving his badge on the bathroom mirror. Then he'd gone for the back room he'd been borrowing at The Racer's Edge and collected the leftover pieces of Brian Earl Spilner's life. If he was going to escape ahead of the aiding and abetting charges undoubtedly coming down on his head, he'd need a racer's way out, and Harry's place was the first step down that road.

Not the last, though. Harry was a CI, after all, even if he'd liked Brian enough to give him a head start before calling Sergeant Tanner. Brian hadn't told him any more than he'd had to, nor any of the other people he'd spoken to over the next couple of hours, tying up every loose end he could think of before moving on. He'd had to move fast to get it all done before his face showed up on the news or someone spread word about his betrayal- but he'd found all the help he needed, and then some. Just because he was one of Dom's, one of their people in obvious need.

Lying to them one last time on his way out was like taking a fist to the gut. But Brian had no other choice. The only choice he did have was what direction he'd head in when he left the city.

...And whether he was going to take anyone with him. He didn't even try to call Mia; he knew the cops would be all over her, and he doubted she wanted to hear from him, anyway, after everything that had happened that day. But he could check up on the others, and did. Leon and Letty were long gone, like Dom said; if they'd stopped to seek treatment for Letty's injuries, either it hadn't been in L.A. or they'd used another name. Jesse was still in surgery with three gunshot wounds to the torso, and not expected to survive; and there was a police presence there, too. Vince, though...

Vince had gone to a different hospital, admitted as a John Doe in the rush to get him under the knife. They'd run his prints after, but something must have fallen through the cracks somewhere, or not finished processing back at HQ. They hadn't connected Vincent Matthews to Dominic Toretto yet, or the heists, or the Officer O'Conner newly wanted for questioning by the F.B.I. And better yet, neither the cable cuts to his arm nor the gunshot wound to his side had been quite as bad as Brian had feared. He'd been lucky. It would be hell on him to move him while he was still in serious condition- but he'd made it through with a decent prognosis, and that left Brian with a narrow window of opportunity.

Stealing Vince out from under Tanner's nose wouldn't help his case with the LAPD when the evidence came back from the truck and the wrecked Honda. Nor would it endear Vince to him; he'd refused to give Brian the slightest benefit of the doubt since the first day he'd laid eyes on him, and that would probably only get worse now that he had confirmation of his suspicions. Brian really was the wolf in sheep's clothing Vince had tried to warn Dom about, and the violent shattering of that brotherhood would weigh heavier with a guy like Vince than any mere life-saving rescue. But Brian couldn't not do it, any more than he could have let the cops take Dom when he had the means to stop it.

He parked his red GT as far away from the emergency lanes as he could, ducked into the waiting room at the tail of someone else's family, and put his undercover skills to use one more time: charming a nurse for Vince's location, lifting a set of scrubs, collecting enough to supplies to care for Vince's wounds on the road for at least a few days, and then sneaking into Vince's room to steal the man himself.

Even with a wheelchair ready, that proved to be a fairly time-consuming process. Brian had never really appreciated, until he found himself manhandling Vince's weakly cursing, mostly-inert form off the bed, just how big the guy was; around Brian's height, but bulkier, muscled more like Dom and heavy as hell. With the bandages and all carefully taped to his flank, the miles of gauze wrapping his freshly stitched right arm, and all the drugs in his system he made for a really unwieldy burden, worse than he'd been on the truck when the rush of the moment had blurred everything.

On the other hand, at least he wasn't fighting Brian as much as he could have been. And, okay, so Brian would be lying to himself if he said he'd never appreciated Vince's form; he'd had it pressed up against him a few times in their squabbles over Mia's tuna those first few weeks before he'd lost the Eclipse to Dom and earned his way into the Torettos' good graces. He was built, with nitrous in his veins just the way Brian tended to like them when he went for that flavor. But he'd had all too much of Vince's blood on his hands that day already, and every heavy footfall in the hallway made him twitch in anticipation of discovery. Not the kind of adrenaline rush he appreciated.

Finally, though, Brian managed to get them moving. A little more distraction here, a little more manhandling there, and they were in the GT and on their way out of the parking lot before anyone twigged that something was up. Thank God for the speed of bureaucracy.

They were still fucked. Utterly and completely fucked, and the only thing he could think of was to head east for a few hours, find an out of the way motel that would take cash, and fort up with Vince until he was sure it was safe to move him farther. He knew a nurse out that way that he thought might be willing to help for a few days. But there was no fucking way Vince would want to stick around any longer than absolutely necessary, so once he was tentatively back on his feet, they'd have to race their way toward the other coast. With luck, Brian could make enough money to buy another car and fix it up while Vince finished healing, then send him off to find Dom or some other bolt hole of his choice.

After that... well. Brian would have to check when Rome's house arrest was up; that reunion was a long time coming. He'd probably find a niche somewhere, wait out the news bulletins, then head for Barstow. There was no point in making plans for after that yet, though.

It was his turn to live life a quarter mile at a time.

Vince slept hard that afternoon, which was a blessing. He woke only enough to ask where Dom was once or twice, or to complain viciously when Brian had to move him or change his bandages. The penny didn't seem to have dropped yet, though, about who Brian really was, which came as an unexpected shock. He must've been too out of it to hear Brian make the call as Officer O'Conner, and none of the doctors or nurses had told him the circumstances that led to his being airlifted in time to save his life.

The guilt Brian had been choking on ever since that conversation with Mia solidified like a rock in his stomach when he realized he was going to have to do the dramatic reveal all over again. Vince grasped briefly at Brian's hand with his still-strong left during one of the brief times he woke, intent on thanking him for pulling him off the truck; after he drifted off again Brian nearly put that fist through the drywall of the dingy little motel bathroom in frustration.

He shouldn't even be feeling guilty. Maybe for lying to Mia, since she'd been an innocent in all of it except for the fact that she hadn't been reporting her brother's suspicious behavior, but not for lying to Dom, and especially not for lying to Vince. For all they'd been using hijacking methods calculated to risk only themselves, not the truck drivers, Dom and his crew had deliberately and repeatedly broken the law- Brian had not been in the wrong. If it hadn't been him, some other cop would have been sent in, and God only knew what the fallout from that would have been.

He couldn't help it, though. He really had gone native; he'd started to care, started to crave Dom's respect, Mia's warmth, Jesse's admiration, Letty and Leon's amusement, and even Vince's snarling attempts to keep him in his place. Maybe even especially that last; of all of them, Vince was the one who reminded him the most of home, of fighting with a teenaged Roman Pearce like two feral cats in a sack before they'd finally realized they had more in common than not and joined forces instead. And maybe that was the real problem: the thought of watching Vince's face when he told him the truth was giving Brian flashbacks to the day he'd told Rome he was going to the Police Academy.

Not that he thought Vince would ever have actually gone soft on him; he'd had Dom to look to. Unlike Rome, he hadn't needed Brian's approval or support, to the point he hadn't even tried to mend fences out of Dom's line of sight before Race Wars. That didn't seem to matter to Brian's gut, though; it kept stubbornly anticipating a new influx of eviscerating pain, making everything taste like bile and leaving him far too restless to even consider joining Vince in sleep.

He was gritty-eyed and wearily resigned to it by the time Vince finally woke up properly in the middle of the night, staring at him with a pained, puzzled blue gaze.

"Brian?" he asked, lines deepening between his brows, after the silence had drawn out several seconds.

Brian winced, but held his ground where he was seated on the room's second bed. "Vince? How you feeling, man?" he asked.

Vince blinked at him again, then looked around at the room and shifted his unwounded arm, carefully laying a hand over his bandaged side. "What's going on? You break me out of the hospital?"

Brian sighed. "Yeah. I don't know how much you remember of what happened on the truck-"

Vince grunted. "Enough; couldn't get free, and the trucker had a shotgun. Dom and the others tried to run interference, but they got jacked up. Then you and Mia found us. You jumped on the truck?"

"Yeah." Brian nodded, jerkily. "I got you out of there, called a chopper, let the dispatcher think you were a victim of road rage or something. The others took off, but they had to leave one of the cars behind, so they knew it was only a matter of time- I'm pretty sure Letty and Leon were long gone by the time the rest of us got back to the house. Dom had gone back for Jesse, but-" He winced.

Vince shifted on the bed like he was going to try to sit up at that, then went still, suppressing a grunt of pain. "What-"

"Hey, hey, lie still, man." Brian abandoned his attempts to sit the conversation out, crossing to crouch next to Vince's bed and press a hand against his unwounded shoulder. "I'm getting there. It's just- Jesse showed up just after I arrived, but before we could settle anything Tran and his cousin showed up. Driveby, automatic weapons. The rest of us were fine, but Jess-"

"Aw, man, no," Vince whispered, closing his eyes.

"He took three to the chest; he's not dead yet, but they're not sure he'll make it," Brian told him.

"Is he- can we-" he fumbled for words.

"Sorry, no. There's guards there. Pretty damn lucky they didn't already have you under observation, too. I'll try and call Mia in a couple of days, let her know you're safe, see if she'll tell you how he is. Dom and I took care of Johnny and Lance, but he wrecked the Charger, and I had to give him the keys to my Supra to get him out of there before the cops were on us." That was- the less complicated version, but Brian wanted to cover everyone else's news before backtracking to drop his part of it. "I have the GT; and that one's damn near as noticeable, so we'll have to lay pretty low until we can get out of California. Probably past there, too. I'm pretty sure the FBI will be running the manhunt on this one."

Vince's expression changed several times as he explained: puzzlement at Brian's comments about Mia, a fierce clenching of his jaw at the remark about Tran, worry about Dom's wreck, then back to puzzlement with the news about the FBI.

"The FBI? For a couple of truck jobs that didn't even hurt anyone except us?" he asked.

"For a string of very costly interstate trucking heists," Brian clarified. "To investigate which, they created a joint task force with the LAPD and drafted in a rookie undercover officer. Who ended up giving his keys to his mark, kidnapping his mark's second, and going on the lam in the middle of the case. Yeah, I'd say the FBI will be hunting us."

"Who gave his..." Vince's eyes went wide, fixed on Brian's, as the rest of the sentence sank in. He jerked his shoulder away from Brian's touch, his free hand clenched into a fist as his face flushed with anger. "You are a cop. I knew it!"

Brian swallowed. Yeah, there it was: the pit opening up under his ribs. Damn it. "Was, Vince. Or didn't you catch the part where I mentioned aiding and abetting in the commission of felony crimes."

"You're a cop!" Vince roared again, then clenched his eyes shut again, hissing in pain as he flattened a hand over his wound. "I told him!"

Brian didn't try to touch him to calm him down; he knew exactly how well that would go over. "Yeah, you did," he replied. "I probably should have waited to fill you in, but I'm done lying, Vince. So if you think you can put up with me for a few more days, I'll see what I can do about getting you a clean car."

"I don't want shit from you," Vince hissed, turning his face away.

Brian took a step back and ran a hand over his face. "I get that," he said. "But you're going to get it anyway."

"Why?" Vince asked, darting a wounded glance back in his direction. "Why rescue me. Why bring me here. Why fucking help Dom?"

Brian gave him a faint, bitter smile. "'Cause I might not be family, but you are," he said, with a shrug. "Go figure. I'm going to get out of your air for awhile, but Linda'll be here in a few to re-wrap you and top you up. Don't scare her off, all right? I don't have any other nurses on tap."

He couldn't stand there a moment longer. He snagged his wallet off the nightstand, then headed out the door for the nearest bar to try and put Vince's last, flat stare out of his mind.

He didn't manage it. But he did succeed in getting drunk enough to sleep at last.

By mutual consensus, they didn't talk more than absolutely necessary over the next few days. Vince was still spending a lot of time asleep, and when the pain wasn't screwing with his head, the medications were. By the third day, though, he'd healed to the point Brian was pretty sure he wasn't in danger of dying on him, and he'd picked up enough from Linda to take care of anything Vince wasn't recovered enough to do for himself for the next couple of weeks. He told her they'd be leaving the next morning, then started packing their bags around dusk.

"Thought you told that gal we were leaving tomorrow," Vince growled as he watched Brian stuff clothes and supplies into duffels, half-reclining up on his pillows with a furrowed tension in his brow.

"You talking shit, or have you really not figured out why I would do that?" Brian scoffed at him, then jerked his head toward the TV. It wasn't on, but they'd both seen his face on the news the night before. "I didn't tell you before- but I met her on the job. She likes me, but I don't want to risk her changing her mind and reporting us."

Vince's scowl deepened at that. "Fucking cop."

"Former fucking cop," Brian snarled, abandoning his packing as he stood and turned to face the wounded man. "You know, I don't get it, man. No, not why you're angry." He waved off Vince's immediate, indignant attempt to reply, advancing on him with a finger pointed at his chest.

"That, I get. You've been loyal to Dom since you were kids, and even though you were the one pissing all over your own future, I'm the trespasser here for interfering. Forget the fact that I saved your life. That, I get. What I don't get is why you fingered me for a cop before all this went down. They picked me because no one ever expects me to be fuzz, but you've been on my ass since day one. What I can't figure is if it was just jealousy over Mia, or..."

Vince's sudden, darkly amused laughter cut him off before he could go any further. "Mia? You think any of that was about Mia?"

That brought him up short. "Wait- what? Then what the hell was it about?" he asked, throwing his hands in the air. "I wasn't even doing anything back then. All I did was come by for lunch!"

"Yeah, and watch Dom," Vince snorted. "You'd flirt with Mia, yeah, but you watched every move my boy made, like you were starving and he was the tuna. You think I don't have eyes? I knew something was up with you. I just couldn't figure whether it was him you really wanted and you were using Mia, in which case you didn't deserve either of them; or if you were a fucking pig and using all of us. It was both, I guess. But Dom liked you, God help us; I could never get him to listen."

Maybe it was the frustration still burning under his skin, maybe it was Vince's bout of honesty, maybe it was the fact that it didn't fucking matter anymore, but Brian didn't bother filtering his reply. "Dom? I love him like a brother, but I don't trespass on other people's turf. I have eyes, too; you think I was going to risk Letty adding me to the skank list? I'd sooner have chased you, if you hadn't been throwing down with me since the first time you laid eyes on me. Did you think I handed him my keys because I was pining or something? This isn't a chick flick!"

A flicker of something like consternation in Vince's expression reminded Brian that his voice was raising, and he took a calming breath. "I did care about Mia, not that it'll do me any good now that she'll never speak to me again; and I gave Dom my car because in that moment I respected him more than I did myself. Yeah, maybe I did mean to turn the heist crew in when I got started. But I never let myself believe it was you guys until after that next to last job, a couple of days before Race Wars."

"And why the hell not?" Vince asked, more calmly than before- like he was almost starting to get through to him. "What made us so special?"

Brian looked away. "Because you were a family, man. How could I eat Sunday barbecue with you guys and believe half the shit they put in your files? I couldn't believe you'd risk all of that for what, a thrill? Some extra cash? Hell, if Rome and I'd had what you all had, I doubt I'd be here, and he probably wouldn't have ever gone to prison. I should've never left him behind." He'd probably said too much, but it had been bugging him for awhile; hanging out with Dom's team had reopened a lot of old wounds.

Vince was quiet for a moment, processing that with a frown. "Who's Rome?"

Brian snorted. "Roman Pearce. Old friend. I guess you could call him my Dom, or maybe vice versa. Met him in juvie, and we kept each other sane until he fell in with a bad crowd and I wouldn't go along with it for once. I left for the Academy, he got his ass arrested, and we haven't spoken since."

Vince sighed then, a guttural, disgusted noise. "You know, some things about you are finally starting to make sense to me."

"Yeah?" Brian looked back over at him, trying to read his expression. It seemed more open than usual; but it was hard to tell, as pale and worn as he was. "That a good thing or a bad thing?"

"Don't know yet." Vince shrugged with the shoulder not in a sling, then offered a hand. "Help me up, would you? If we're going, I'd better old-man my way to the john."

"Sure, man." Surprised, but a little hopeful, Brian crossed the shaggy ancient carpet and gave the other man a careful heave up, careful not to jar his wounds.

"Hey," Vince commented, when they finally had him upright. "What's your real name, anyway? You really a Brian?" He stared at him, not moving, facing him from only a few inches away; it made Brian's skin prickle, standing that close to him without adrenaline or anger firing him up.

"Yeah, the Brian part's real enough," he replied, staring back; he'd rarely seen Vince this close without his face twisting in a smirk or a snarl, and it was kind of fascinating, the way his features softened. He actually had kind of pretty eyes. "It's O'Conner, though, not Spilner."

"Huh. Suits you better." Vince turned abruptly away at that, turning to shuffle toward the bathroom.

Brian stood there a moment longer, trying to figure out exactly what had just happened. It would be nice not to have to fight his co-fugitive all the way across the country. But- no, no, that was probably all it meant.

Over the next few days, as they began their slow trip across country, Brian caught Vince watching him more and more often, a thoughtful expression on his face when it wasn't pinched with pain. They didn't spend full days on the road, though Brian would have liked to; oddly enough, though, he thought it was helping them avoid the manhunt. They weren't where anyone would have expected them to be.

They hit their first race in Arizona, which was pretty appropriate, considering. Vince watched from the sidelines, and collected their money from the racerunner before Brian even pulled back up to retrieve him, wearing a smug expression as though he'd expected no other outcome.

It did unexpected things to his innards, looking over to meet that warm look on Vince's face; it threw him back to boosting cars with Rome again, when he'd have done anything to make his friend's eyes glaze over with a certain kind of hunger. It was different from what he'd wanted from Dom; he'd looked up to Dom, despite everything. Vince was on his level. Vince...

Vince was driving him crazy. No way did he mean that look the way Brian was taking it. Getting up in the man's personal space to help him with the medical necessities hadn't been helping, either. Brian just raised his chin at him, doing the snowman thing, and opened the door to let him slide in; but that image stuck with him as they drove on.

There were more races in New Mexico and east Texas, enough to fund their motel stays and meals with the bulk of it left over for the car fund. Vince started talking again, tidbits about his and Dom's childhood in L.A. and the petty trouble he'd been picked up for occasionally before Dom went inside. He'd cleaned up then to watch Mia for Dom; which was apparently when his habit of always keeping an eagle eye on any newcomers had started. Brian talked about Rome a little more in turn, the parts that hurt least to remember, and some of the funnier anecdotes about being a cop; the stupid shit rookies sometimes got up to, getting to mod that Eclipse on the government's dime, things like that. They stayed away from charged subjects, and more or less got along; it was weird. Brian kept expecting it to end, but even when Vince got into a temper over something stupid, he never got prickly as before.

Some of that, Brian blamed on the news. He'd checked papers in every diner they stopped at, looking for sightings of either him or Dom; and at one stop, they'd found an article about his disappearance that said his car had been found abandoned. That meant Dom was still free. It hadn't all been for nothing.

He'd also found a payphone for Vince to call Mia at that stop. As he'd expected, she hadn't wanted to talk to him at all; she'd barely had words for Vince either, given the likelihood that the phone was tapped, but they managed enough cryptic conversation to convey that Jesse was still alive, though in intensive care. Another huge weight off Brian's shoulders. Vince was wearing a disgruntled expression when he came back from the call, but brightened up as he passed on the news; Brian thought about asking which tidbit he hadn't passed on had pissed him off, but decided in the end not to press it.

Instead, he suggested they pick up an electric razor to take care of Vince's enthusiastic beard growth and a box of dye to at least make a gesture at disguise; and in exchange for making him blond, Vince insisted on taking the razor to Brian's head, too, leaving only the dark roots that had been previously buried under his sunny surfer's do. It felt strange at first, being only a quarter of an inch or so away from baldness; and it must have seemed strange to Vince, too, because it kept attracting his touch.

Brian didn't complain. It kind of reminded him of the way Vince rubbed Dom's head: one of those reinforcing gestures of family. And it kind of turned him on, too. Not that he planned to explain that part. It made him wonder if Mia would have done the same.

He supposed he'd never know. Mia had become as unapproachable as the moon, but her loss was already- unexpectedly- fading. When they found a right-side Skyline like buried treasure at a car lot just east of Houston, his first thought wasn't how amazing it would be when he got done with it- it was that he was pretty sure he was going to regret turning Vince loose as much as watching Dom drive away, or telling Mia about his real identity. Talk about your unexpected discoveries.

They found a place in Texarkana next to hole up for a few days, so he could borrow a garage to repaint the GT and mod the Skyline; Vince was doing a lot better, enough he'd be able to drive again with at least the one arm by the time Brian was done. But that was another subject they'd been avoiding.

"So," Brian said, gesturing to the new silver-painted Skyline, and the metallic blue repaint he'd done on the GT. "What do you think?"

Vince circled the Skyline slowly, nodding as he trailed his fingers over the hood, then popped it to have a look inside. "I'm not the gearhead Dom is, but I think the mad scientist would give you props for this one," he said with a little half-smile. Then he nodded to the GT. "Nice color. You pick that to match the Maxima?"

"Figured you might appreciate it," Brian shrugged, returning the smile. "She's all yours."

Vince snorted. "Figured, the way you've been drooling over the Skyline since you found it," he said, lowering the hood again and turning around to lean against the car. He was still moving stiffly, but the wounds were closing well; red and painful still, but not inflamed. Brian's eyes dropped to the thick new scars on Vince's right arm as he carefully crossed it over the other, then back up to Vince's face- where he intercepted a look he couldn't explain, one he'd have called heated in any other person.

Okay. So maybe Vince had meant things the way Brian was reading them.

He swallowed and approached slowly, edging up into Vince's personal space. "So where you planning on taking her?" he asked, staring down at the total pain in his ass who'd started to become the center of his world over the last couple weeks.

"Where you think, buster?" Vince smirked, carefully untangling his arms to reach out again and snag the hem of Brian's worn grey tee shirt. He pulled a little, coaxing him a few steps closer, then shifted that hand to Brian's hip. "Miami sound good to you?"

Brian's mouth went dry at the heat of that hand, inches away from where his body really could use a little more attention lately. He dropped his own hands to brush over Vince's flanks, carefully avoiding the wound, and watched the other man's eyes dilate: yeah, they were really doing this.

"So maybe the Skyline's not the only thing I've been drooling over," he murmured. "Didn't think you'd be interested, though. I'll be honest with you, man. This last week or so has been seriously surreal."

Vince shrugged a little, tugging Brian still closer, until they were flush up against each other: no arguing that either of them was uninterested from here. "I've always had my eye on you," he said. "It's just I'm finally figuring out what I'm looking at. And I like what I see."

"Thought for sure you'd want to go find Dom," Brian tried again, though he couldn't seem to stop his hands from moving: tracing up and over the muscled swell of Vince's shoulders and down the firm planes of his pecs, just learning the layout of the landscape.

Vince had an answer for that one, too. "Dom's a big boy, and he's not going to want to be found. He knows he's the one they'll want- besides you- so he'll wait 'til the heat dies down to tell anyone where he is. He'll be way down Baja somewhere by now; anyone trying to trace him will be shit out of luck."

"Even you?"

"Even me. You got any more reasons I should go, O'Conner?" Vince chuckled.

Brian hissed as the sound vibrated through both of them: it made him feel hungry, and in that moment he was done fighting it. It couldn't possibly end well: he was reminded of Rome, again, and the flames that had accompanied that crash. But he was living the quarter-mile life now: making choices and not looking back.

He made the choice, shifting his hips to grind his groin across Vince's. "Nah, man. You?"

Vince answered in time-honored fashion: by putting an end to the possibility of further words.

The next morning, Brian woke with sore knees, a bitemark at the base of his neck where no tee shirt would cover it, finger marks on his hip, and a sense of well-being he hadn't felt since before the whole undercover mess got started.

He didn't know how long the new developments would last. 'Til Dom came back? Brian thought they'd made peace there at the end, but there was still Mia's broken heart to answer for, and there was every chance he wouldn't think Brian was good enough for Vince, either. 'Til Rome showed up? Brian hadn't even cleared the air with Rome himself yet, and Rome was volatile at the best of times. 'Til the first racebunny made a slur when they stood too close, or celebrated at a finish line, if Vince was even willing to go for PDAs? They just didn't know each other well enough yet to say.

But he did know one thing: he wanted to give it a try.