A/N: Thanks for all your support, guys! Enjoy the new chapter.
After returning to the warehouse, Deckard parked the McLaren close to the southwest corner, a good distance from where Toretto's Charger would be. Deckard stepped from it, shut the door behind him and casually strolled across the floor towards where Owen sat.
Three desks were set up in a triangle formation with one chair and computer per side; the monitors were excessively wide for reasons that became clear once Deckard saw what was onscreen. Schematics for a custom car. Of all his brother's ideas, this had to be the foremost self-indulgent waste of time. "Still working on it?"
"Yes." Little Nobody had arranged for him to take receipt of a retired Formula One car. Owen would proceed to strip it and adjust the seating for himself. The armour plates would then be modified and attached, not to mention the ramp mechanism itself required fabrication and installation. The pneumatics were the only thing he couldn't build; they'd be shipped within the week once he placed his order.
"You seen Beth?"
Did it look as if Owen was concerning himself with their sister's current whereabouts? He saved the schematic again, sent a copy to the upstairs printer and closed the program window. Besides the glass-walled meeting room, there was an office in the western mezzanine containing an industrial printer. If his instincts were correct, he'd also find a concealed biometric scanner somewhere which would lead to the facility's security hub. "No. I'm busy. What is it?"
"Toretto got into the plane."
He lifted his shoulder in a half shrug. "Good for them."
"And you've been here alone the entire time." Deckard frowned and scratched his jaw where stubble was beginning to grow. It all seemed too simple. Owen being left to his own devices, allowed to play out his little fantasies, while they did the hard work and Elizabeth put herself in an early grave. Neither Hobbs, Reisner or anyone else had approached Owen in an attempt to encourage him to work with the team. Beyond his few 'conversations' with Letty — and his scheming with Beth — Owen hadn't interacted with the group at all.
That was how he wanted to look at things? Owen wasn't here to play games or feed Deckard's old paranoia. Their enemies were dead for the most part and he had no reason to think they'd suddenly rise from the grave. "Where exactly are you going with this?"
Deckard fetched an empty stool and seated himself next to Owen. He then turned Owen's office chair around so they were at eye level. "I put it all on the line for you. Killed eighteen men because they stood between me and you in that hospital bed. Destroyed half a cell block to get you out of that prison."
"And you'd do it all again because that's the kind of brother you are." Owen gave the faintest smile in response. The loyalty and brutality he inspired in his siblings was somewhat of a fascination of his. He was still yet to figure out why they chose to go to such extents for him, but Owen wasn't about to complain. Sometimes he even enjoyed putting himself in situations where Deckard was forced to choose between morals, ethics and him.
There was no end to the lengths Deckard would go to for Owen. If it came down to it, he wouldn't hesitate to put a bullet in anyone who stepped between them. Blood and family mattered more than paperwork or spoken words. It went above and beyond duty of care, regardless of how many times Owen proved to be the one intentionally finding trouble.
"Exactly." Deckard had found himself slowly putting the pieces together while watching his siblings. He couldn't say with complete certainty that he knew what their plan was but Deckard had a fair idea. "So I'm going to let Toretto do his job, you play your little game, and we all disappear the moment Cipher's dead."
It was good to know Deckard had finally gotten with the program, or seemed to have. Owen inclined his head in a slight nod then reached for his glass of iced coffee. The first indication that something was wrong was a ripple disturbing the surface of his drink, then the building began to shudder. Overhead came the sound of a plane, growing rapidly from a dull drone to a loud roar, as if it were moments from landing.
A sudden flash of movement in his peripheral vision drew his attention: Owen looked down the aisle to see Hobbs moving towards the lift, and behind him their sister, sprinting like Koschei the Deathless were snapping at her heels. Deckard's head turned also, lips curving down into a disapproving frown.
"Keep an eye on him, will you?" Owen said. If Deckard was going to stand idle and feign ignorance of what they were up to, the least he could do was be useful. "He's playing the long game and I don't trust him as far as I can throw him."
"You don't need to worry about Hobbs."
"What about you, then?" Deckard's history with the Fed was an issue Owen couldn't risk neglecting. It wasn't his imagination that they'd moved from trying to bury each other to simply pissing the other off. Owen supposed that was what happened when your enemy helped to save your sister. "I thought we'd stopped lying to each other."
Deckard scowled and shoved his hands in his jacket pockets. Owen had him exactly where he wanted him: between their family and the people who'd harmed them. It was where Deckard almost always inevitably found himself. He'd taken the belt for Owen, finished his fights and settled scores. What more did his little brother want?
"I told you I'll handle him."
Of course he would, just like he handled everything. Owen scoffed and stood, sculled the rest of his coffee and tossed the styrofoam cup into the nearest trash can. "By doing what needs to be done or by appeasing your morals?"
"This isn't Kandahar, Owen." What he was suggesting wasn't impossible, but neither was it something Deckard might willingly do. The moment Hobbs disappeared, every set of eyes would be on them. Killing a civilian like Toretto was one thing, killing a U.S federal agent another. "You want Hobbs dead? Do it yourself."
They sat in silence for a minute, Owen staring at Deckard and him staring right back.
"Who said anything about killing him?" Owen finally said, breaking the tension. He raised an eyebrow as if concerned. Deckard sure did have some interesting ideas about how to handle people, even if there was kilometres of desert outside, stretching away in every direction. That kind of place sounded as good as any for a cemetery. "I suppose accidents do happen all the time though."
For God's sake. Deckard seized Owen by the bicep and pulled him close, fingers digging in as his grip tightened. Perhaps an accident did need to happen — one that would knock some sense into his brother's head. "The only reason I dragged you out of that prison was for Mum. Don't make me regret it."
Owen shrugged and pulled his arm free. "I would've broken out eventually, but thanks for the help."
"You were ejected from a moving plane. Comatose for months." If he needed a reminder of everything that happened, Deckard would happily provide it. He circled around Owen and blocked his path, lingered there for long enough that Deckard thought Owen would shove him out of the way sooner or later. "Sure, you would've broken out. Eventually. Assuming you survived Gen Pop."
"Have you said your piece yet?" As amusing as this was, Owen was bored now. He moved past Deckard and began walking towards the lift, a slow strolling pace that said he was in no hurry to go anywhere. The plane would take a while to offload so getting ahold of his car could wait. Other things, like locating the hole in Nobody's security, were the more pressing matter right now.
"We have a deal, Shaw."
Hobbs' voice carried from outside as he reached the hydraulic lift. The wide doorway through which the cars would be driven was open, and now the plane's engines were off, external noise was clear as day. Owen pressed the 'up' button and listened intently, standing in the shadow cast by the C-130 Hercules.
"I'm here. If that's not good enough for you, I don't care. I'm done for the day."
She sounded exasperated. Annoyed. Clearly Hobbs hadn't learned from the last time he'd pushed her buttons. Whatever had happened between them, it was enough for cracks to show in Elizabeth's facade.
"You have a job, so turn around and—"
"I said I'm done!"
A car door was slammed shut. Owen craned his neck as if to look but all he could see was the soles of Hobbs' boots. The lift took a good minute and a half to go from the warehouse floor to ground level. The hydraulics were slow but powerful and gave him time to listen further without detection.
"I'll be here tomorrow morning, bright and early, alright?" Elizabeth said. "In the meantime, all complaints can be lodged by shoving them up your arse."
Once the gap between the lift and the outside was closed, Owen walked towards the Marussia B2. Elizabeth sat in the driver's seat, fists clenched around the steering wheel, while the Fed stood at door's length from the SUV, out of striking range. Interesting. "Is there a problem, Hobbs?"
"Go back to your computer, Scarface," Luke snapped. He wasn't going to tolerate anymore of their bullshit, no matter who it came from. The clock hadn't even struck midday and here Elizabeth was shirking her duties already despite how much work there was to be done. "The adults are having a conversation."
"A conversation which involves you harassing my sister.
"Fuck off, Owen!" She didn't need him or his inflated sense of self worth coming to the rescue, let alone Hobbs' determination to see the job done dragging her back into the warehouse. What she needed was some breathing space and time to clear her head. Better yet, an open gate and directions back to Los Angeles. The more distance she put between them, the better.
Owen looked at Beth as if stunned. There was a bite of anger in her voice, frustration in her eyes. She and Hobbs had come from the same section of the warehouse, and here they were again, together . . . If she'd already talked her way into Hobbs' pants, he needed to know. The decision was a little premature in Owen's opinion but he couldn't blame her for getting it over and done with. Hobbs was about as useful as any two-bit government hack could be said to be.
In the seconds it took Elizabeth to start the car, put the stick in drive and pull away, Hobbs closed the gap and climbed onto the metal step, gripping the roof rack with both hands. The SUV gained speed once she reached the road and followed it northeast towards the motel, leaving Owen to stand there and gawk. The entire time, Luke fought to maintain his balance, wondering if she was going to suddenly swerve the car to shake him off.
Neither did the speedometer rise above forty as she drove. Shaw never glanced back at him but Luke was certain she had to have seen him in the side mirror. It wasn't easy to miss a tall muscled brown man clinging to your car, nor was he in a position to conceal his presence. The streets to either side of them went unnoticed while Luke concentrated on keeping a tight grip. His palms were sweaty, arms and legs beginning to ache after the first few minutes.
Finally, the SUV slowed upon reaching the motel parking lot, presumably so Shaw could read the numbers on the doors. A few feet from the end of the bitumen, she parked parallel to her room. Luke stepped off the car, landing on the ground with a thud. He rolled his shoulders, easing the kinks from his hands and arms.
"Alright, woman," Hobbs began when the driver's door was pushed open, "you want to tell me just what the hell that was?"
Hattie, he understood. She was Miss Independent, the lone wolf more than willing to do whatever was necessary, including putting her head on the chopping block. Elizabeth, on the other hand, was his worst nightmare. She had a violent streak, a certain way with words, and a penchant for causing him problems. Worst of all, she was a survivor fighting tooth and nail to stay alive.
For him, that spelled trouble with a capital T.
Elizabeth climbed out of the car, walked around to the passenger side door and eased it open. On the seat were three cardboard boxes. They contained her personal belongings, taken from the apartment in Santa Clara. Beth had torn off the tape after receiving them from one of the airmen, checked their contents matched the list on the manifest, and dumped them in her car.
"Do you not understand the concept of personal boundaries?" she said, hefting the boxes off the seat. "Or is your ego just so big that you can't see past it?"
There was a difference between personal boundaries and not wanting to do your job, and his ego wasn't that big. "There's seven hours of daylight left. When we're working, we're all working. You don't get to walk off the job because—"
"Maybe you haven't noticed but I don't answer to you, my brothers, or your shady boss in that piss poor excuse of a suit. I certainly don't need to explain myself either."
Luke chuckled, shaking his head in disbelief. Of course she didn't. What kind of Shaw would she be if she did? "You and Hattie must be a whole lot of fun at parties."
"Something like that." She circled around the car and approached the motel room, juggling the boxes to free her left hand. Elizabeth lifted her knee, rested her chin atop them and twisted the doorknob. The room would be unlocked, she reminded herself, and the keys inside on the table. At least that's what Owen had told her.
"Is this about what you said in the kitchen?"
She'd said what she needed to to get him off her back. Bile crept up her throat at the thought of repeating that incident, stinging it as if her stomach were ready to go through the whole process again. "I'm done, Fed."
This was Hattie's 'it's not over till I say it's over' thing all over again, wasn't it? God help him, Luke couldn't decide which sibling was worse to deal with. He ran a hand back over his scalp and leaned against the SUV, crossing his arms in an attempt to get comfortable. Luke watched in silence as Shaw maneuvered her way into the motel room — the room directly next to his, he noted — and set the boxes down to the immediate left of the door.
"You don't snore, do you?"
Elizabeth frowned and turned around to look at him. "Why?"
"Because that," Luke gestured at the door to her right, "is my room."
According to Dom, the walls weren't quite thin enough to hear Roman singing in the shower, but they knew something was going on. If Shaw was smart — and he didn't doubt she was — then all her private meetings with Owen would take place elsewhere. The only noise he'd be likely to hear coming from her side of the wall was her in the kitchen or moving things around in search of a landline.
"Your room." She feigned shock and surprise. That was the entire point of her being in this room. Despite how maddening Hobbs was proving to be, she herself still had that other job to do. One she wasn't quite sure she could even do.
Elizabeth kicked her motel room door closed, shut the curtains and flopped down on the bed. She dangled her feet off the edge, tried to shake loose the few small pieces of gravel that were still stuck between her toes. She tugged her hair free then rolled onto her back, staring up at the plain cream ceiling. A fan was mounted in the middle of it, directly over the bed. If she folded up all the sheets and blankets, stacked them on the pillows and balanced herself, would she be able to reach it?
Better yet, when had they last aired the rooms out? Elizabeth crinkled her nose and sat up, pulling herself to the edge of the bed. The sheets felt clean enough but there was a stale smell to the place. All electronics bar the fridge and microwave had been stripped — no radio, no TV, not so much as a portable DVD player. Was it just her room they'd stripped? Without a signal, there was little use for a TV in the first place, but its presence was what counted.
"This is going to be fun," she muttered, getting to her feet. Beth walked into the bathroom and cracked the window open, peering out to find a small garden bed and a gap of less than four feet between the window and the ground. This would be her escape route.
She opened the kitchen window as well, shoved the curtains aside to allow the not-quite-midday sun to pour in. It was better than nothing, she thought. Better than a prison cell or the storage room Hobbs had thrown her in.
"Thanks a lot," Elizabeth muttered upon finding the fridge to be stocked with only the bare minimum. "Cheap bastards."
I guess this is home now. As empty as it was, no one could say she wasn't used to worse conditions. Now she could cool off, get her head in the game. She was too rattled to function and it was only making things worse. The plane's interior—
Beth shuddered, forcing the image from her mind. She didn't need to think about that right now, but tomorrow . . . Tomorrow, she decided, she'd fumble her way around an apology. Presently, she was still too close to the edge. All it would take was one push, whether from Hobbs or her brothers or Letty, and she'd wind up doing or saying something she regretted.
Something she'd never be able to take back.