The low-slung, well-upholstered seat of the Spyder cupped him like King Kong's fist. Dom was huffing like he'd run a mile and the crowded streets of his old neighborhood were making him feel enraged, helpless and claustrophobic. The steering wheel was brushed steel with artful cutouts that he'd had imported at some expense from Japan. Now it felt hot under his hands; it felt like it was giving him a series of static shocks. He jabbed it sharply to the right, nearly rear-ending an SUV. He was really in no shape to drive.
He wondered grimly if this was the first stage of a heart attack. This suffocating feeling of not being able to draw enough air, this tingling sensation in his chest. He had rolled down both the windows and cool air just gushed in, but he was still pulsing hot.
"God damn him," Dom muttered at the back of the white SUV. A Bronco, he noticed. OJ's car.
A cop car idled on the other side of the lights, Dom noted with a slight feeling of unreality. The car looked strange to his eyes, unfamiliar insignia. Dom glanced up at the road sign and realized that he was in Hollywood. He spared a moment to wonder if he'd ever gotten busted in Hollywood. The lights changed and the Bronco moved up to turn left while the cop car cruised past. Dom do-si-doed around the Bronco and moved unerringly up toward Sunset. He needed a little space for his thoughts and the city streets were nothing but a nostalgia minefield.
By the time he'd turned off into the quiet darkness of Laurel Canyon, his breathing had slowed. The road was almost pitch dark, a few house lights glowed through the overhanging canopy of scrubby oak and eucalyptus.
Dom felt around for the rage that had connected him in a single glowing strand to the car, to the earth. He'd driven for hours up to this spot with almost nothing in his mind but white, unalloyed fury. But now it appeared to be gone and he felt himself drifting through emotions as confusing and insubstantial as mist.
A tentative, non-threatening 'beep' sounded behind him. Dom blinked up to where the light glowed green. He turned left onto Mulholland, giving a small, and probably unseen, apologetic wave to the people stuck behind him.
The seat hugged him as he took some turns. The glow of the valleys on either side flashed from breaks in the trees. Traffic was light here. After dark, it wasn't much fun to cruise. He took another turn too fast and fought to keep his lane. He drove past the ruby-diamond chain of the highway and up until the paved road petered out. He got out of the car and let the cool, ocean-damp air wash over him.
He hadn't imagined it would be like that. The sight of Brian, in that familiar setting, like nothing had ever happened at all...it was disorienting. He felt...lost. Like he was driving through a dream landscape, everything he'd ever known, twisted, changed and made unfamiliar. He looked down over the sea of lights that ended abruptly at the actual sea. Dom took a deep breath, trying to pull some of the evening chill inside himself.
What am I supposed to be feeling?
He leaned on the car, feeling its reassuring solidity. The engine ticked softly, cooling down. He looked back to see if he could make out the vertical line of lights that signified downtown. He laughed humorlessly to himself. Homeless in his own freaking hometown. Pathetic.
Dawn was coming from behind the city, by the time he'd managed to gear himself up to act. He flipped open his cell phone and took a deep breath.
"So, who else is mad atcha?" Roman was enthusiastically chewing his In n' Out double-double while he asked this, but Brian had no trouble understanding him.
Brian regarded him wryly over his large Coke. "I have a feeling that you're gonna be."
Roman shrugged amiably. He widened his eyes at Brian and gestured impatiently for the rest of the story. "Tell me how it went down. Don't quite know how we never talked about it before."
Brian groaned internally; the reason they'd never talked about it before was because he'd actively tried to avoid the topic. "It's complicated."
Roman leaned forward and whispered theatrically. "Hey, man, you know that part I'd figured out for myself."
Brian leaned his head on his hand and looked out over the crowded parking lot. "OK, imagine...." There was just no good starting point. "All right, it's like this..."
Rome cocked his head, "I know it may not look like it, but I actually don't have all night."
"Fuck it, Rome," Brian tossed a french fry back onto the greasy paper that lined the table. "Remember what we did with Verone? OK, so it was like that, only instead of Monica, it was me on the inside."
Rome bobbed his head sagely for a while, sipping through a straw. He stopped abruptly. "Wait, so who were you fucking?"
Brian swallowed the bite he'd just taken the wrong way and spent a long moment coughing until his eyes stung.
Roman socked him a couple of times in the back obligingly. "This is gonna be good, I can tell."
"Mia," Brian gasped finally. "Dom's sister."
Rome whistled so loud that the crowd of teenagers loitering on the other side of the patio looked over as one. Rome made a comical 'whoops!' face. "Guess you know that was probably a strategic error."
"Yeah," Brian enunciated, dry as the Mojave. "Yeah, I figured that part out for myself, thank you very much Mr. Pearce."
Rome folded his arms and looked heavenward in a way that told Brian just how very hard Rome was trying not to burst out laughing.
"It's not funny," Brian mumbled. "Besides, it was just the once."
"Once is usually enough," Roman said, shaking his head sadly.
Brian gave him the finger.
"Big homie didn't waste much time now, did he?" Rome poked his straw further down in his cup of crushed ice. "Came boiling up outta nowhere like a swarm of killer bees."
"Yeah, there's something else I should tell you." Brian said, bracing himself like he was on a window ledge. "It was his. The garage, I mean."
"Our garage?" Roman's mouth actually fell open, and Brian might have laughed if he could have.
Rome didn't say anything for a long moment, just let his eyes dart around for a while. He kept looking back at Brian with little glances that felt like pinpricks. After a while he leaned forward and said, "You were right, now I'm mad at you."
"I'm sorry," Brian started.
"But you're not," Rome suddenly blazed with intensity. "You're not sorry, Brian. The way you've let this happen, it's...." Rome broke off, looking too angry to talk.
"It was just a coincidence." Brian said weakly.
"Bullshit!" Rome barked so loud, all the teens looked over again. Rome leaned forward and growled. "It's you all over, Brian. It's cool and intentional and it's just. Completely. Insane."
Brian just stared at him. He was so busted.
Rome stared back. After a long moment, he asked calmly, "So what were you on him for?"
"Grand larceny, robbery, hijacking," Brian cleared his throat. "He was a thief."
"Just a thief, huh?" Roman asked almost casually. Brian shifted on his chair and Rome made him drop his eyes.
Rome lowered his voice again. "Look, Brian, I spent three years in Chino and I learned quick how to tell who was dangerous and who was a loudmouthed punk. And that dude..." He jerked his thumb in some Domward direction. "...was dangerous. And I got enough stuff to think about, all right?"
"Yeah," Brian said, miserably. He felt like a dozen kinds of idiot.
"Jesus, man," Rome sighed. "You wanna wave red flags in front of bulls, move to fucking Mexico. And leave me out of it. Please."
Brian nodded at the table glumly. When he glanced up at Rome, he could see how pathetic he must look reflected in the worry in Rome's eyes.
Rome scanned Brian's entire face, looking like he was biting back his big brother lecture. Finally, Rome shook his head disgustedly. "C'mon crackerjack, you wanna play it like Evel Knievel, the least we can do is pull the Gs."
Rome pushed himself off his chair and jingled the keys. "Let's go find a race."
What with one thing and another, by the time he got to the quiet town they were calling home, the whole coast seemed to have sunk into a siesta. Even the sound of the waves seemed muted. He pulled up to the house, registering dimly that Mia's car was still there. Reflexively, he looked at the odometer. So many miles, gone in less than a day. He tried to recall exactly when he'd left. He'd practically flown to L.A, fueled by adrenaline and anger. It was a wonder he hadn't gotten himself spectacularly busted.
Mia was in the doorway, looking at him expressionlessly. He took his time extracting himself from the car, wondering how to play it off. He was cool enough now to realize that he'd acted like a fool and she had every right to be pissed. He was just glad she hadn't actually followed through on her threat to leave.
"Hey," he said hesitantly. She stood back and let him shoulder himself through the door. The temperature dropped appreciably once inside, the cool plaster blocking the bright sun. When he glanced back at Mia, the temperature dropped further still.
He wet his lips and strung his keys on the hook by the door. "You hungry?" he asked on the very slim chance she'd just write this off as temporary insanity.
She didn't say anything, just leaned on the counter. He noticed suddenly, that she'd put on clothes that she never wore down here. She looked sharp suddenly, hard-edged, very stylish. Very Los Angeles. She was wearing lipstick and Dom took it as an ominous sign.
“You said you weren’t going to get weird.” She didn’t sound terribly accusing. Just flat.
“I’m not…” Dom trailed off. He couldn’t really say that he wasn’t getting ‘weird’. He certainly felt weird.
“He’s just the exception that proves your rule, is that it?” Again, she didn’t sound like herself with all the warmth extracted from her voice.
"Mia..." Dom started. If she would just let him try to explain…better yet, if she would let him get by without explaining.
"I've been down here too long." Mia said to the ceiling. "The Spanish is messing with my head."
Dom felt himself pulled up short. That comment didn't seem to make any sense and in his universe, Mia always made sense.
"Mia, mia, mia," Mia almost lilted. "My, mine. Belonging to me. But you know, I don't belong to you. I belong to me."
"I...know that," Dom put the words down delicately, like a poker hand he wasn't sure was high enough.
"Do you?" Mia asked rhetorically. "You have a lot of misapprehensions, Dom."
Dom blinked. He was beginning to feel nauseated in a way that he hadn't experienced since his last conversation with Letty. Although that one had been conducted at a much higher volume, he was starting to detect some similarities.
Mia continued, "You know, do you remember how I took college English lit when I was a senior?"
Dom nodded, even though he didn't remember, not really. He didn't remember details like that, and sometimes that was a bigger deal than he ever realized. God, this was an awful feeling. He had an inkling that he might puke in the sink. He wished she'd stop being so calm, if she'd shrieked and wept, he could have held her.
"We had a section on Greek tragedy. I remember writing a paper about how the hero's fatal flaw was always his particular strength taken to such an extreme that it was a weakness."
He wanted to say that this was all way over his head, but he knew she wouldn't let him get away with it.
"Your tragedy is that you don't realize how much power you have, Dominic." Mia said softly. "How much people want to please you and how much they want to do what you want them to do."
"That's your fatal flaw, Dom. Because when what you want them to do is leave, that's what they'll do. Even if it breaks their hearts to do it."
Dom swallowed, trying to push down the wreckage where his own heart was breaking. "I never wanted anyone to leave."
"Yeah," Mia folded her arms implacably. Her voice was silver-edged with sarcasm. "Guess we all just grew apart."
"Mia," Dom could barely speak. "Be fair."
"I'm not mad," Mia said and she didn't look mad. "I'm...just really, really sorry."
Dom couldn't say anything so he sat down.
Mia came and put her hands on his shoulders. Such feather-light hands she had. "Dom, I hate to say this but you know we could have held it together down here. We were all hurt, in different ways maybe, but we could have helped each other...recover. But....you were a different person. I think maybe you still are. Something that happened up there changed you so much, it surprises me that you still recognize yourself in the mirror."
Dom blinked again. The edges of his vision were starting to get liquid.
"It took me longer than I thought to load the car," Mia pulled back. "And I stayed because I wanted to tell you this, so you'd know. I'll always be your sister, Dom. I love you so much. We all do. Me, Letty, Leon, Vince."
Dom pressed his hand under his sternum. He really was going to puke. He almost couldn't hear her last words, it sounded like he was underwater and she was in a boat pulling away. "We're going to be there when you want us back. When you've figured out who you are again. What you want."
By the time he could see, speak and move again, she was nothing but two long ruts on the driveway. He stared at them, then out at the curve of cliff that kept the sun from setting on the water. He stood there while the light softened, then went inside, found a bottle of tequila and crawled inside it.