Chapter 1: John
A grey car with tinted windows pulled up alongside him as soon as John exited the park. What the fuck? It couldn’t have been an hour yet. He pulled a gun from his waistband, only getting it up half way before recognizing a familiar face through the opening window.
“Arthur says to get in the fucking car.”
Fuck it. John yanked open the back door of the nondescript sedan and ushered the dog in before throwing himself onto the seat.
“I’m Eames, seeing as we’ve never been properly introduced. Oh, hello sweetheart,” the dog pushed his head through the gap between the seats, allowing Eames to rub at his ears. Then he turned sharply and threw the car into gear, peeling away from the curb. “Took you long enough to run through the bloody park.”
“You need to drop me off.”
“You don’t do anything by halves, do you?”
“Eames-” John hadn’t really figured out where he was going yet, but far away from anyone he considered a friend would be ideal.
“There is actually a plan.”
“A plan?” Arthur had a plan for this? Jesus, what had the kid gotten up to that he thought he could take on the High Table?
“Arthur and Winston are two peas in a pod, really, and they’re both quite fond of you.” John didn’t like to accept that, it was too vulnerable a feeling, but he knew it was true. They put themselves too much at risk. Like Marcus had. “So, I’m afraid you have to die.”
“Pardon me?” There were no weapons in the car as far as John could see. Eames might have been carrying, but he was entirely focused on driving and John doubted he’d be announcing his intent when he could be strangled from behind with ease.
“Calm down, pet. We’re very good at killing people. You won’t feel a thing. And once we’re done, we’ll meet up with Arthur and another friend of ours who I think you’ll like very much.” Eames wove through traffic, less like he was making a getaway and more like he was as impatient to get where he was going as the rest of the drivers on the road. It was hard to figure out his intended route.
“One who doesn’t fuck around where loyalties are concerned, isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, and is very keen on working with terrifyingly competent men who look marvellous in well tailored suits. How’s your Japanese?”
"< Good enough >," John managed. It had been a while since he'd spoken the language.
Eames laughed and took the next corner hard. The sun was gone from the horizon. The hour must be up by now.
“You do know I’m-”
“Yes, yes. We’re well aware of the depths of your dilemma with your mad assassins club. We’ve got it well in hand.”
“Winston’s hands are tied and I’m not sure what Arthur-”
“Arthur may have learned a great deal from his father, but his truly outstanding talents are the sort that will bring you to your knees from afar long before you even know he’s coming. Takes after his mum that way I’m told. We’ll still be faking your death, if only to allow certain individuals to save face, but the major players now have more to worry about than you.”
“More than me?”
“Information is power, mate.” Well. It wasn’t the sort of game John was used to playing, but for now, he didn’t have much choice. Maybe Arthur did know what he was doing. John had never met Esther Cohen. He’d thought she’d been in banking.
“And the small players?” There would be a fair number of people who’d be happy to come after John, if not for money than for the prestige of being the one who offed John Wick. John scanned the streets as they passed, noting the way traffic moved around them. He was pretty sure they were being tailed, by a black SUV no less. Obvious as fuck.
“Well, that’s where we get to have some fun on our journey to the airport. Pull that tab will you?” Eames gestured at the seatback next to him. John tugged on the protruding tag. A panel popped open, folding down to reveal a small armoury worth of compact weaponry. Nice. He tossed a pair of handguns on the seat next to Eames before making his own selection.
“Aha,” Eames face lit up in the mirror as the SUV John had noticed a few blocks back pulled out beside them. “Right then. Let’s see what you can do Mr. Wick.”
Chapter 2: Arthur
The sound of several carrots meeting a particularly gruesome fate filled the kitchen. Marcus had been obsessed with juicing and wheatgrass since he’d turned fifty. Next year he’d be sixty and Arthur hoped whatever crisis that brought on would be as innocuous as the vegetable overload.
“You want a drink while we wait?” he tilted a glass at Arthur.
“Fuck no. Where the hell did you put the espresso maker I bought you?”
Marcus gestured as if to say fuck-if-I-know and poured his juice. The kitchen was sleek and gorgeous and had probably never been used beyond the microwave and the juicer. Arthur knew his dad couldn’t cook worth a damn.
“You know, now that you’ve gotten serious about bringing home a boyfriend, I’m glad it’s someone who knows his shit. Your last few flings weren’t exactly respectable.”
Arthur choked back a laugh while he dug through the cabinets. Respectable. There was a word he’d never thought would be applied to Eames. Marcus wasn’t wrong, though. None of Arthur’s previous lovers had been worth the effort involved in meeting family.
“Well, I didn’t bring them home, did I?” They’d arrived the previous night, late and missing half their luggage due to unforeseen circumstances. Eames was out raiding a storage unit he kept in the city.
“No,” Marcus grinned. “You were too smart to get invested in anyone who wouldn’t stab a man in the throat on your behalf.”
He didn’t think that was true, but thinking back he could only up with one name in his defense.
“I dated Pierre for a year.”
“Uh huh. Wasn’t that the year you-”
“You can stop there.” Marcus smirked. Okay, so he had gone a bit stir crazy and made some not entirely rational choices for work, but that had hardly been Pierre’s fault, had it?
“I’m only saying that you get bored. You need someone who can keep up. This Eames of yours seems like he might even get ahead of you on occasion. He never would have interested you otherwise. You’d have written him off.”
That was... also not entirely wrong. Arthur had written him off as unprofessional and unreliable at first, falling for the facade until he’d really seen what Eames could do, clever despite his dishevelled appearance. He’d quickly climbed Arthur’s list of preferred co-workers. Then he’d caught Arthur arguing that the forger was the only one capable of pulling off the Hong Kong job they were planning and Eames had switched gears. Their interactions had begun to spark. With smug jabs and layers of innuendo, he’d been insufferable and Arthur had been reluctantly drawn closer. He’d given in entirely after they’d been backed into a corner topside on a job gone wrong and Eames had shown his teeth, bloody and bruised and beautiful. The two of them had been nearly inseparable ever since.
“The complementary skill set is a definite bonus,” Marcus spun the custom passport Eames had brought him on the counter, a gift that was a thousand times more thoughtful and useful than a bottle of wine would have been. “Your mother would have adored him.”
“Yeah?” he found the dusty espresso machine behind an electric grill still in its box and lifted it onto the counter, taking a moment to pull out his phone to ask Eames to pick up beans. “I know he’s not exactly...”
“He’s exactly the sort of charming scoundrel she’d approve of.”
Arthur had inherited his mother’s love of organized chaos, bending streams of information to his will and making numbers dance, whether in ledgers or lines of code, and using that knowledge as leverage to get what he wanted. His Mom had been better with people, however, silver-tongued in a way Arthur would never be. Maybe she would have liked Eames?
“Though,” Marcus continued, “she would have wanted to make sure that he was as loyal to you as you are to him.”
Arthur nodded, unconcerned, focused on wiping down the machine. He and Eames had made a point, when they’d decided on being “together”, to share secrets. Or in Eames case, challenge Arthur to unearth them on his own. It was a way of sharing power, making a commitment by making themselves vulnerable to one another, building a trust that was more real than any other promises that they could have made. Eames could hurt him so easily and in so many ways. He’d put his heart in Eames’ hands and it made his pulse quicken to think about it, because Eames had done the same.
Fuck, he was so far gone.
“I did make a few calls. You’re aware that he’s a Winslow?”
“As in, Victoria Winslow?”
“Yes. I know, Dad.”
Eames was daunting enough on his own when he made the effort, that his family had British intelligence and military connections to spare, despite Eames having shunned the path laid out for him, had been another pitfall to consider. SIS assassin Victoria Winslow was Eames’ Aunt, a fact that had managed to surprise Arthur and terrify him just a little. Arthur had had the bad luck to meet Victoria professionally once and it might have been a fatal experience if she hadn’t ruffled his hair and dismissed him like a child, citing favour to his late mother.
Christ, he was still dying of curiosity over that.
“Well, you do like living dangerously. Though Marvin tells me she’s not quite as patriotic as she used to be.”
“Marvin Boggs? You’re relying on Marvin Boggs for intel?” The espresso machine turned on without difficultly when he jammed the plug in, ready for action when Eames return with the necessary beans.
Marcus shrugged, “He’s usually right.”
“He’s fucking insane.”
“Doesn’t mean he isn’t useful,” Marcus drained his glass, shooing Arthur aside so that he could open the dishwasher.
Useful? Arthur shook his head. He wouldn’t trust Marvin Boggs with a goddamned paperclip.
His phone vibrated in his pocket, informing him that Eames had stopped and was there was anything else they wanted from the store?
“So...” Marcus leaned against the counter. “Is he going to convert?”
“What, like you did? You can’t even spell kosher.”
Mom’s family had gone ballistic when she’d brought home a completely oblivious gentile anglophone American. The fact that they’d promptly produced a grandson for them had managed to soothe things a little and his dad had quickly added french to his collection of languages.
Arthur had learned that bit of family history from his Bubbe, who’d desperately tried to make a nice Jewish boy out of him. His mother hadn’t been especially devout or maternal, but once Arthur had grown old enough to reveal his Cohen genes he’d promptly been secured at her side in early apprenticeship. They were his favourite memories of his mom. He had a vivid recollection of sitting in her office and building a custom database together while she wheedled information out of some poor bastard on speakerphone.
“Hey, we had a proper wedding. And I drank that godawful excuse for wine-”
“Manischewitz.” Which, in all fairness, was pretty awful.
“Whatever. Hey, do you still know how to make those cookies?” his father asked hopefully.
So much for clean eating. Dad never had been able to resist a plate of rugelach and Arthur was the sole keeper of the family recipes now. Finding time to bake was difficult in general and their meetings were often in places without kitchens, let alone well stocked ones. The last batch had been at the cabin, right before Mal had died and things had gone to shit.
“Yeah. I’ll make them,” he texted Eames the necessary ingredients and got back an enthusiastic response to his planned baking. “But if I’m cooking while I’m here, you’re eating whatever the hell I make, got it?”
“I’ll consent to you feeding me up,” Marcus grinned and ruffled Arthur’s hair. “As long as you don’t completely block up my arteries.”
That visit had been three months ago.
Arthur stared out the window of the plane, shaking off the memory. Eames and Dad had devoured the cookies and Arthur had spent far too much time in the kitchen. It had been fun and they’d made plans for a New Year’s outing that would never happen. Instead, he’d be trekking out to the cabin with his father’s ashes.
He sucked in a couple quick breaths and pressed the heel of his hand between his eyes. Fucking Russians. He never should have taken the job in Zurich. Wouldn’t have if Bubbe had still been alive to emotionally blackmail him into going to Montreal for Yom Kippur, where he might have been close enough to do something when it had mattered.
And now Eames was out there, picking up John and dodging cut-rate assassins, leaving Arthur to go quietly out of his goddamned mind. He’d wanted to go himself, but it hadn’t made sense. He’d been careful to ensure that as few people as possible were aware that he was in the city. It was unlikely that anyone would recognize Eames, who was a good driver and more familiar with New York streets. Arthur had avoided jobs in his father’s city of residence and had never driven there. Why would he? Between cabs and Marcus refusing to cede control of any vehicle he was in, there was no point.
Waiting anxiously in one of Saito’s planes sucked, however. The hour of grace had passed and John’s excommunicado status was in full effect. Winston had done all he could. Arthur would send him a well disguised thank you in a few weeks. Until then...
Where the fucking, fuck were they?
Arthur began methodically running through the list of blackmail material he had on High Table members, trying to smother his emotions by considering whether it wouldn’t be simpler long term to engineer a coup and put other more amenable people in power. Nabiki would know. He’d gotten halfway through a rough outline before the headlights of the car caught his eye.
Shouting for the pilot to prepare, he watched as the sedan jerked to a stop just short of the staircase, scraped along one side and riddled with a handful of bullet holes. Eames and John tumbled out along with an energetic dog and hurried up the stairs, John and dog disappearing through the curtains towards seating with Eames bringing up the rear. They were both splattered with blood.
“Did you miss me?" Eames asked, locking the door in place behind him.
“Asshole,” Arthur blocked him in place, pulling Eames’ shirt up with shaking hands. “You got shot.”
“It’s just a graze.”
“Shut up.” Eames stilled. Arthur traced the shallow wound with trembling fingers that then skittered over other vital areas to check for damage. The graze was the worst of it, thank God.
He let his head fall forward onto Eames shoulder. Fuck. They’d been through worse than this. Why now, over a stupid scratch that probably didn’t even need stitches...
“Hey, I’m here,” Eames murmured into his hair. “I’m fine.”
Arthur pressed further into him and breathed. No more splitting up, he thought. Not until he finished putting the High Table’s balls in a vise. All the plotting in the world wouldn’t mean shit if something happened to Eames.
Arthur may have been his mother’s son most of the time, but deep in his psyche were the places his father knew best. Marcus hadn’t hesitated to involve fourteen-year-old Arthur in retaliating against the cartel that had killed his wife, making for a bloody weekend of father-son bonding. Arthur knew how to channel his rage and though it wasn’t the same, he would never judge John for his killing spree, only his faults in execution.
The dog whined as the plane began to move, rumbling and shifting to taxi to the runway. He kissed Eames’ jaw, trying to unclench, ready to be done with New York. Now if only his damned hands would stop shaking.
The seat belt indicator pinged.
“We should get seated.”
Arthur nodded and pulled his shit together. Eames lifted Arthur’s hand to his lips, smiling softly before tugging him through the curtain towards the seats and nudging him into the emergency row.
“Always be prepared, darling. That’s my motto.”
“That’s Boy Scouts,” Arthur collapsed into the window seat and buckled himself in.
“Indeed it is.”
“You’re no boy scout.”
Eames grinned widely, “I’m a bloody Queen’s Scout, I’ll have you know.”
“You’re just trying to distract me,” Arthur huffed. It was working. Eames laughed, snapping his own belt into place and entwining their fingers.
“Doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”
“Bastard. I expect to see badges.”
“Well, then you’ll have to come visit with Mum and Vicky, won’t you?”
“Oh God.” Eames was a wonder, having successfully given Arthur something more distressing to worry about than their precarious mortality.
The plane paused, the sound of the engines ramping up. Another moment later the noise peaked and they accelerated down the runway, pressed back into their seats as they lifted off. Goodbye, New York. They’d be clear for now and by the time they landed Arthur’s plans would have already hit the ground running..
“There. Safe as houses.”
Arthur slumped against him, “Go to sleep, Mr. Eames.”
“After you, darling.”
Chapter 3: John
“What’s his name?”
John startled away from where he’d been dozing at the window, an expanse of ocean sparkling below. Christ it had been a hell of a month. The dog that sprawled across his lap was fast asleep, worn out from their earlier escape.
“He doesn’t have one.”
Eames made a face, “Of course he does. You just haven’t found it yet. Where did you get him?”
“Stole him from a shelter,” he watched the slow rise and fall of the dog’s chest.
“Well, there you are. He’s Ill Gotten Gains, isn’t he?”
“Iggy for short.”
“Or,” Arthur added, rousing himself, “you could call him something normal like Buster or Buddy or Max.”
“Iggy has more cachet,” Eames insisted. The dog chose that moment to snuffle and wake, blinking up at them. “Doesn’t it, Iggy sweetheart?”
The dog wuffed and scrambled down to nose at Eames hand, likely in search of food.
“Iggy, huh? Anything for him to eat on this plane?”
“Yeah, should be,” Arthur nudged at Eames, who smiled softly.
“I’ll see what I can find. Come along, Iggy,” Eames said. He walked down the aisle to the galley, with Iggy trailing in his wake.
“He likes dogs,” Arthur offered.
“So I see.” The dog would be fine. John's fate was less certain. He had questions, but where to begin? “Who’s this Japanese mastermind I’m supposed to meet?”
Arthur chuckled, “Hideki Saito. You might have heard of him. He’s married to Nabiki Minamoto.”
“Minamoto?” The Minamoto family had held the High Council seat in their region for generations, since it had been created if what John had been told was true. “So he’s in?”
“Not directly. His wife handles that side of the business.”
“And she’s not going to want me more actually dead than theoretically dead?”
“Nabiki doesn’t give a shit about the D’Antonio family or what the Russian and Chinese seats think, and I’m dealing with them,” Arthur scowled. “Excommunicado status doesn’t matter if you’re dead to the business. The Owners won’t come after you. You won’t be “John Wick” anymore though, both to smooth things over and to leave most people under the impression that you’re well and truly dead.”
“I don’t have anything left to go back to anyway.” Helen was dead. The house was gone. He’d brought the only thing he was still remotely attached to with him.
John looked down the aisle towards the galley. Eames had pulled the curtain and aside and fastened it somehow, revealing Iggy, his tail whipping back and forth in excitement while he watched Eames fill a bowl.
“A new start then,” Arthur opened his laptop. “Is there anything you want?”
“Yeah. You’re allowed to want things John.”
He glanced back again at Iggy. What did he want? Christ, what did he have any right to ask for?
“Just think about it, all right?”
“Good,” Arthur tilted his head towards the back. “For now, I’ll do my best to keep Eames from spoiling your dog.”
“I heard that!”
John managed a smile. If the worst he had to worry about for the next few hours was his dog being over fed, he’d take it.