As John Wick stares into the night, propped up in bed, he solemnly watches the city lights outside his opulent hotel suite. New York has always looked peaceful from above—despite the fact that the legendary hitman has been intimately acquainted with the wars brewing in its underbelly for some time.
Still, from this height and framed by the Continental's floor to ceiling windows, the glittering metropolis is beautiful.
John's gaze shifts over to the table that is covered with various medical supplies. Among the mess of bloodied gauze and alcohol wipes is a half-empty bottle of bourbon. Beside those, a standard hotel ice bucket—a tried and true first-aid kit. The Continental's surgeon has come and gone mere hours ago, ensuring that John will survive his wounds(some nasty torso contusions, a few scrapes, and a deep shoulder laceration from a well-aimed Bowie knife). In a corner of the suite bedroom, Daisy rests on a provided dog bed. The beagle's side is taped up and her ribs are properly set despite her heavy breathing. Yet, seeing the injured pup still sets the assassin's teeth on edge. John's dark need for vengeance stirs low in his belly as a low whine escapes Daisy's muzzle.
However, watching the large pit bull curl closer around her is reassuring. Dog has been nothing short of protective over the last few days.
The silence of the suite is then interrupted by the shrill ringtone of a nearby iphone. John extends an arm, careful not to disturb his own recently-wrapped ribs nor his lover currently sleeping beside him. The protective position of his own bedmate softens the assassin's expression.
Recognizing the name on the caller ID, he takes the call. John puts the phone to his ear and says nothing.
He just listens.
Silence is heard for a few moments.
Then, a weary sigh.
The hitman answers the all-too familiar voice with more silence.
"I shouldn't be surprised to find you with my son at the Continental," Viggo Tarasov continues. "Still, I'm impressed that you have the balls to pick up his phone. Given the current situation."
John's expression only hardens.
After all, "the current situation" involves Viggo siccing his men on his former associate in an attempt to stop him from killing his younger son, Iosef Tarasov. The kid has always been a spoiled piece of work(a common commodity in John's chosen profession). But he was one that was easily ignorable, until now.
Until the entitled Tarasov heir decided to fuck with the wrong person on the one year anniversary of his wife's death.
Viggo had been far from happy to learn that his idiot son had unknowingly stolen John Wick's car and injured his dog, a final gift from his deceased wife.
Viggo had been even farther from happiness to learn that the bogeyman has come out of "retirement" with the one goal of killing said aforementioned idiot son in retribution.
So, when appeals to John's better nature predictably fell on deaf ears, the Russian sent his other son, Santino D'Antonio. The result of a one night stand with an Italian mob princess, the man was the closest thing Viggo had to a professional negotiator. Living among the Camorra and the D'Antonio crime family for most of his life, Santino knew how to diffuse tense situations to mutual beneficial terms. And in the worse case scenario, the Italian also knew his way around a grenade launcher and was savagely adept with a blade.
Everyone knew that sending in Santino was a desperate attempt to appease the Baba Yaga before more Russian blood was spilled.
So, it had only put the proverbial icing on the proverbial fucking cake for Viggo to discover that his other son had fucked with John Wick as well.
Just in a more literal sense.
To be fair, John is fairly sure Santino hadn't planned that outcome(most of the time anyway).
The sex that night had simply been a result of the spontaneous passion that ignited the moment they laid eyes on each other. To John it was, and still is, a purely magnetic attraction that is completely separate from his business with the Tarasovs.
Suffice it to say, the twelve-man hit squad that Viggo sent to kill John the night following their tryst wasn't unexpected.
Neither was the fourteen-man hit squad he sent tonight.
The knife to the shoulder one of the men managed to land before John removed it and used it to deftly slice the offender's jugular is a testament to the amount of money Viggo is spending. And from a different perspective, the Russian mob boss could almost be viewed as a loving and concerned parent.
Still, the entire affair was a bit of overkill on Tarasov's part.
One hit squad is mildly irritating. Two hit squads is just plain annoying.
Blood is hard to get out of tile grout and white marble countertops. Even for the cleaning crew, as skilled as they are, it will take all night to return John's house to normal.
But luckily for Tarasov, Santino had intercepted John before he had the chance to pay back the blood debt in full.
John looks down at the peaceful face of his lover as he shifts closer. The Italian's features have been relaxed and softened by sleep in a way that is innately incongruous with Santino's natural state.
Yet, for all of the Italian's scheming and ruthlessness, he has a way of grounding John. Santino could effortlessly cut through the violent haze with cool-headed reasoning and fearless touches that calm the bogeyman in a way no one else could.
Not to mention, the young mafioso is far more pleasing to look at.
John knows that his current location is no accident or coincidence. Santino D'Antonio makes plans, upon plans, upon plans. And earlier tonight, he had decided that Viggo and Iosef would be granted a reprieve from the Baba Yaga's wrath—for now.
So, John had allowed Santino's personal guardian, Ares, to lead him away from visiting his former employer. A suite at the Continental had been secured quickly in the way that only vast amounts of money could. And in the lobby, Santino had met the injured assassin while barking orders at Charon like he owned the connected hotel. Winston had entertained the demands with a knowing grin and raised eyebrow. Yet, the omniscient manager had granted every single one and even personally ensured that the two would not be bothered for the rest of the evening.
Admiring the head of thick curls currently settled on his chest, John's expression softens. He tentatively cards a bandaged hand through the dark locks, admiring the glossy strands. Even as Santino's father drones on, the Russian remains completely unaware that John's attention has been lost long ago.
Helen had liked to sleep on him as well.
It still surprises John that someone like Santino, who knows exactly what the hitman is capable of, lets his guard down in such proximity. After all, Santino usually has a contingent of bodyguards with him at all times, headed by Ares(a deadly assassin in her own right). The mute woman is standing guard outside the suite at this very moment, ready to cut down anyone stupid enough to try anything against her employer.
Yeah, trust isn't something the young mafioso doles out easily.
This budding infatuation is drastically different than the love John had with his wife, yet there are small similarities that come to light at the oddest times.
Helen had made him feel human. With her, he was more than the weapon that the Tarasovs unleashed on their enemies. She made him want to try to be a better person. Helen was the first person that inspired an emotion within John. She had seen a man, just existing, and gave him a reason to try living. She inspired him to ignore the darker parts of his personality, burying them down deep inside and far away from her light.
With Helen, he knew peace.
Yet Santino makes John feel like himself. There is no denying what John is, the sheer violence and brutality that he alone is capable of. However, Santino is the first person to not be horrified by that aspect of John. He has stared directly into the implacable face of the bogeyman with no fear and only intrigued to know more. He inspires John to embrace all that he is, and make his own reconciliation with it.
With Santino, he has a taste of harmony.
It has kindled a hope inside John that he hasn't felt in over a year.
So as Santino continues to sleep on, blissfully unaware of the aneurism he is no doubt giving his father, John basks in the familiar intimacy.
"Marcus seems to think you two are serious. He refused to take a private contract," continues Viggo. His harsh voice quickly returns John to the present. "Avi and Kirill think I am losing good men and good business to this affair between you and my son. So, I'm forced to acknowledge this development."
As Viggo goes on, John's gaze focuses on Santino. He watches how the moonlight dances along the seductive curve of his lover's back. Ignoring the ache from the healing shoulder wound, John extends a hand out to settle on the expanse of warm skin. His fingers brush over the marks that his own lips and teeth placed onto his lover's throat and shoulders. Then he trails down the alluring slope of Santino spine, watching as the skin prickles at the attention. John's gun-calloused hand rests on the dip just above the tempting swells that are hidden beneath the satiny sheets.
The Egyptian cotton is probably a high-thread count that John cared little about but Santino would insist upon.
And admittedly, the cool fabric does feel pleasant against his bruised body.
However, they are far from the warm silk that is the Italian's naked skin currently pressed against his side.
" —ohn. . . John?"
Another heavy sigh is heard over the receiver.
"Is my son that much of a distraction for you?"
The focused hitman takes a minute to think on that.
When Viggo had sent Santino to speak on Iosef's behalf, John had no real interest in listening. He still doesn't know what possessed him to fully open the door that night. However, Santino had crossed over the threshold like he owned it and cordially asked for an hour of his time.
Perhaps it was the mutual ferocity he sensed in the younger man or the clear body language that Santino could care less what fate befell his half-brother. Or perhaps it was simply the fact that Santino D'Antonio was not an unattractive man. Long story short, a token attempt of negotiation to quell John's brewing rampage had turned into a debate of another sort between the two:
Which drink was best to serve to smooth over tense conversation.
Whether a handgun or a blade had a better weight distribution.
Which side of the bed was best.
Whether photography or traditional art took more skill.
How many times it was appropriate to fuck in a 12 hour period.
Whether sex was better sensually in a bed or hard against a wall—
Well, John and Santino still haven't finished debating the fine details of those last two points.
Anyhow, that first night had recalibrated something in a grieving John. The same way that Daisy's arrival had triggered something in the man. Granted, Santino's effect was a more primal, carnal reaction. It sparked an insatiable need to feel the other man against him, to kiss the arrogant smirk off those full lips, and to completely own Santino as his. The first time their gazes had met, there had only been respect and fascination in those cunning celadon eyes.
It had been the first time John had ever felt a soul-deep resonance alongside physical attraction. That initial interaction was like an apex hunter appreciating a fellow predator, like a falcon meeting a viper for the very first time.
That instinctual attraction and curiosity had been reflected right back at him as John closed the door, isolating them—and shutting the rest of the world out.
"That boy is trouble, John. As intelligent as he is, Santino is young and impetuous. And as ruthless as you are, Baba Yaga, you are still methodical. With skill honed by years of efficient work, you attack hard and where it hurts most. Yet, you don't attack without reason or direction, without thinking and planning. I've always respected that about you. Even though it currently has you in my son's bed. If this is all part of your retribution against Iosef, and me, this is an unusual method for you."
"I have no vendetta against you, Viggo."
"You are gravely mistaken if you thought fucking my son would be construed as anything but that, John."
John takes another moment to consider that truth.
It hadn't been his intention that night.
And in regard to Viggo's own intentions that night, Santino had still managed to achieve the goal set out for him. He had tempered and redirected John's rage. In addition to his vengeance, to honor the last physical remnants he has of his wife, the bogeyman now kills for another purpose. Like that impossible task all those years ago, he cuts down men one by one to be able to stay with the one person that still makes him feel alive.
John hates to admit it, but he has missed having a purpose. His grief had occupied him for a while, but over time it has been steadily overtaken by boredom and a lingering aimlessness. He misses serving a will greater than his own. And as much as he may hate himself for it, John Wick is a killer.
A long time ago, before he ever met Helen and decided to start a life with her, John made the conscious decision to kill people for money—first for the military, then for the Russian bratva.
He was never forced into the criminal underworld.
He wasn't born into this lifestyle.
He chose it.
And perhaps that makes John the greatest monster of them all.
And while Santino himself is far from his pure-hearted namesake, he is the only one that has ever soothed the rampaging beast. The young mafioso understands the monster's motivation and needs in the way that few people(if any) ever have. John is an unstoppable, indomitable force that needs to be honed and directed, not restrained or confined.
Santino, in all his arrogance, had approached the man that most fear with nothing but his charm and good looks. John has to admit that the initial combination of thick dark hair, smoldering green eyes, and a confident smirk on his plush lips had been a deadly one. Then again, monsters always have a weak spot when it comes to beauty. Santino simply wields his like any other weapon in his arsenal—and the Italian certainly knows how to use it to his every advantage.
Then again, the devil always does.
John assumes that disarming looks makes it easier to distract the victim as they consume their soul.
"I've upped the amount on the contract and it is no longer private," Viggo states after a moment. The Russian sensing that he is getting nowhere with John. "I'm giving you a warning as a professional courtesy, John. You can still end this, if you choose. I'll even be kind. Have this night with Santino with my blessing. Then disappear and never go near either of my sons ever aga—."
John hangs up the phone with a click.
The following silence is interrupted by an amused chuckle. Looking down, John sees that Santino's peaceful sleeping expression has been replaced with one of mirth.
"He hates when you do that," murmurs the Italian, his accented voice raspy from sleep and their earlier activities. "When you say nothing then hang up on him mid-sentence."
Santino chuckles at that as he runs a hand through his hair. The dark curls are loose and tousled in a way that only adds to the Italian's appeal.
"Viggo must be fuming now. He knows that we're together. I wonder how many men will be in the next hit squad."
John says nothing at first. After all, it's a question he's already asked himself earlier that evening.
"We're at the Continental. So, no crew tonight."
"You don't know my father as well as you think, John. He'll bend the rules for Iosef. It would hardly be the first time."
"It'll be the last."
With a sound acquiescing the point, Santino leans up. His grey-green eyes meet John's as the two share a silent conversation that they've had before. The first night they started this mutually-addictive pleasure and every tryst since then to be exact. So, for not the first time, John thinks about what Santino is risking in this endeavor. The young Italian has been making quite a name for himself in the New York underworld over the years, carving out his own territory and pursuing his own ambitions.
John really doesn't have much to lose in comparison and ambition is a game he has long stopped playing. However, Santino—
"Stop, I can hear you overthinking," Santino interrupts. "We're both adults and we both know what this affair of ours would cause. I don't regret it. For once my brother's rash actions have lead to something extremely promising. His impulse control over shiny things, especially ones that are not his, leaves much to be desired."
"Your father just called you impulsive, as well."
The comment earns John an exasperated eye roll from his bedmate.
"What he calls impulsive, I call decisive. When I see what I want, I claim it as mine. Unlike my little brother, I have far more refined tastes and make the effort to research my quarry. I can be patient and bide my time, waiting for just the right moment to strike. Then, when I do make my move, it is far too late to circumvent it."
As he speaks, Santino reaches a hand out and strokes along John's face. His eyebrows knit together as his fingers graze over a small cut on John's chin before drifting down to examine the bruises on his chest. The hitman relaxes at the soothing touches.
"It pisses Viggo off."
"Pissing off Viggo is merely a fringe benefit, John. However, pissing me off is a deadly mistake that my father is going to learn soon enough. I am not some pre-pubescent child he has to protect. I fuck who I want, when I want. And I fuck you for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with him or my half-brother."
John raises an eyebrow at that, the silent request to elaborate on that point clear on his face. It prompts a lascivious grin to curl the ends of his lover's lips. Santino matches the assassin's heavy stare with one of his own. The Italian then breaks the contact to deliberately trail his heated gaze over the other man, making sure that the desire in his green eyes is palpable.
It ignites a now familiar heat.
"Well, one reason should be quite obvious, John," Santino informs, his gaze searing with barely-restrained passion. "Like everything else you put your mind to, you are relentless, focused, resourceful, and extremely detail oriented when we fuck. I could write odes about the dexterity of your hands alone. However, as pleasurable as our sex is, the most important reason is one that I've made purposely less obvious."
For a while, John simply stares at Santino. His dark eyes watch as the young mafioso leans up to inspect the injured shoulder. Focusing his gaze, the Italian tenderly removes the pad covering the knife wound. He inspects the stitches with gentle touches, trying not to further irritate the taut flesh. The deep gash is coagulating well considering that it had been inflicted only a few hours ago. John continues to watch as Santino takes in all of the physical damage in the low moonlight. The bogeyman is patient as his lover takes his own time, intentionally leaving his weighted statement unfinished.
John is beyond content to enjoy the gentle touch of the warm fingers trailing over his battered flesh.
"They'll pay for this, Amore Mio," Santino states suddenly, his green eyes hardening at a particularly dark pattern of bruises and scrapes on John's body. "The Tarasovs never did know how to appreciate true works of art."
The term of endearment alone shocks John into wide-eyed silence. His lover is not the type for sweet words—English, Russian, or Italian. Then again, Santino tends to switch to his mother language when he is, well, emotional for lack of a better word.
Or during sex.
Now though, there is a different type of openness before him. A vulnerability that Santino is using all his skills at subterfuge to mask with indifference and annoyance. The man chooses then to roll over to fetch more antiseptic and a fresh bandage from the bedside table.
John blinks once.
Then he takes a deep breath.
"After my wife, after Helen, died, I thought that I would never know that kind of love again. I thought that whatever shreds of human emotion left in me died along with her. I thought I was no longer capable of feeling anything, for anyone, anymore."
Santino's eyes immediately lock with his at the mention of Helen. Then again, the subject of Mrs.Wick is one that John doesn't like to talk about. Normally, Santino has no regard for most people's boundaries, emotional or otherwise. After all, the man's primary skill set is all about exploiting weakness and pushing until it hurts. Yet this is one boundary that even Santino knows to be hallowed ground.
John appreciates that. Truly.
"But that night, when I opened my front door—when I saw you, I was proven wrong."
Santino's eyes widen a fraction as he takes in the weight of those words. He drops the medical supplies on the bed spread in shock.
John then bears witness as a rare honest smile crosses his young lover's face. Leaning in, Santino presses his lips to John's as the two share a long kiss. It is one of genuine affection that quickly burns into a passionate exchange. Once again, they both shut out the outside world for the moment as they luxuriate in each other. Their mouths move in tandem, engulfed in a battle of heated lips, teasing tongues, and the occasional sharp bite of teeth.
A growl leaves John as nimble fingers find their way into his hair, blunt nails teasing the scalp as the kiss is deepened. Santino then gracefully swings a well-toned thigh over to gently rest astride his lover's lap. Their bare bodies are flush against each other, instinctively slotting together as they delve further into their passions.
The matching groans that both men produce as they each savor the intimate contact, causes Dog to raise his head. Seeing no danger, he returns to his guard over Daisy.
As John moves to wrap his arms around the lithe body atop his own, he grunts as the movement pulls harshly at the still-healing wound. A few droplets of blood well up through the stitches.
"Merda," Santino curses, pulling back a bit. "Your wound re-opened."
"Looks worse than it is."
Even though the kiss has been broken, the two are still close. Their breaths tease each other's mouths as they speak. The Italian's full lips curve into a teasing smile.
"It probably wasn't the wisest choice to try for a third round tonight," comments Santino, his eyes lidded as they gaze into John's. The younger man playfully runs a hand through his lover's hair, pushing the dark locks out of the assassin's face. "Well, at least not after single-handedly dispatching a fourteen-man hit squad."
John's lip twitches up at that, his uninjured arm curling tighter around the man on top of him. The bogeyman then affectionately nuzzles into the softness of his lover's throat. John makes a soft chuckle leave the Italian's lips as the rasp of his beard tickles the sensitive skin.
"But, I suppose it is a compliment to your skills that the hit squads are increasing in number and proficiency," Santino observes as his arms wrap carefully around John's neck and drape over the man's broad shoulders. "At this point, I'm not even sure if all this effort from my father is really just to save Iosef from his own stupidity. I truly believe he is more concerned with keeping you from fucking me."
"It would take more than that."
Santino laughs even though he knows John is being completely serious. Arousal begins to accompany his mirth as he feels John harden fully beneath him. The man's rough hands are an exquisite contrast as they run the length of his thighs before settling on his hips. The very same fingers that spent most of the night pulling gun triggers, now dig possessively into the swells of his ass. A low groan escapes Santino's full lips as he starts slowly grinding lazy circles into the solid warmth beneath him. The sinuous movements are a mere echo of their earlier activities.
"It appears that my father didn't quite get that memo, Caro Mio. He still thinks that this between us is somehow about him."
Stilling the tempting movements takes more will power than he'd like to admit, yet John holds Santino in place. His dark eyes then stare up into the bewitching green ones above him.
At the blunt question, Santino blinks before placing a hand on top of John's wider one. His fingers trace over the scraped and bruised knuckles. He then moves over the injured hand and up John's arm. Santino keeps trailing his hand upward until his palm rests on John's cheek, his thumb running the seam of the man's lips. Celadon green eyes then flicker up to hold his lover's dark, unwavering gaze.
"No, John," The Italian murmurs, with a quiet awe in his tone. "Ti ho cercato per tutta la vita, tesoro mio."
Santino reaches behind himself to grab the discarded bandage and antiseptic, leaving his patient to stare at him. The honest answer has John changing his grip, leaning back into the pillows and the headboard of the large bed. However, his rough hands remain on the Italian's hips, his thumbs caressing the crease where the young mafioso's thigh meets his torso. The touch is a sensual response that answers Santino's own confession. John watches as the other man gets to work redressing the wound, the sting of the cleanser a small price to pay for the rare, tender touches.
In the silence, John runs a hands up Santino lean torso. His fingers trail over the planes of warm muscle, reverently worshiping the body atop his own.
"Hold still. I don't want you bleeding all over me."
John obediently follows the order, waiting until the exact moment the bandage is properly sealed to his flesh to pull his surly lover down for another kiss.
"Fuck!" growls out Viggo as he hangs up the phone in his office.
The other occupants of the room watch the head of the Tarasov bratva with bated breath. His second in command stands in the corner, smoking a cigarette as his anxious brother sits on the couch wringing his hands around a glass of vodka. Meanwhile, his youngest son approaches tentatively.
A smart move, for once.
"Well, what happened?"
Looking at Iosef, the Russian snarls.
"You and your brother are going to send me to an early grave. You, figuratively. And Santino, quite literally."
"What's Santino done this time?"
With a heavy sigh, Viggo turns to Avi with a weary expression. He's too fucking old for this shit.
"It's not what he's done, it's who he's doing it with. Santino is with John Wick. They're at the Continental. What the hell did I do to have both of my sons fuck with the bogeyman of all goddamn people?!"
"It's just one guy. We expanded the contract. He's good but no one's that good."
Viggo crosses the span of his private office in quick strides and backhands Iosef. His youngest son stumbles back at the force of the strike, holding his jaw in pain.
"When will you fuckin' get it, son?! John Wick is not just some guy. John Wick is the reason we are here. Why our family now runs this city. He built us up overnight and if it is his will, it would take him less than that to raze it all down to the fucking ground. We are at the mercy of a monster of our own making."
Viggo takes a deep sigh. His anger and frustration melts into resignation as he stares at Iosef.
"You are a dead man, my son. I cannot protect you from him. He knows it. I know it. Now, only you need to accept it. All we can do is delay the inevitable. John Wick, the Baba Yaga, will hunt you down to the ends of the earth. He is walking vengeance."
Iosef's eyes widen with fear as he swallows nervously. He's never seen his father like this. Looking around the richly-decorated base of command, he searches his mind for options. For some way to rectify the clusterfuck he has caused.
"What about him?" Avi speaks up. "John's not going to kill the kid. He's the safest out of all of us."
"But he's with the old guy now, right? Just get him to slit the guy's throat with a knife or somethin'. This Wick guy has gotta be at least injured from those two crews you sent and Santino is already close to him—"
They are interrupted by the phone ringing. The shrill ring echos in the room for a moment before Viggo moves to answers it. He gruffly stabs the connection button, not caring that it is on speakerphone.
"This better be fuckin' good."
As the voice of his eldest son fills the room, Viggo, Iosef, and Abram all snap to attention. The three stare at the phone on the desk as if Santino materialized right out of thin air. Avi narrows his eyes.
"I trust your evening is going well," the Italian continues. His smugness is palpable through the phone.
"I sent you to negotiate with John. You were supposed to get him to stop this twice-damned rampage of his and to save your brother. And what do you do, Santino? You fuck him. Repeatedly. You could get any man in this entire goddamn city to fuck you and you have to choose the fuckin' bogeyman!"
"Well, contrary to what you think, I have more discerning tastes. And there is no one else like John Wick. Trust me."
"John is no longer your anything," Santino interrupts. "Well, perhaps he'll be your reaper."
"I see. This was your plan. This was why you insisted on negotiating with John by yourself that night," Viggo infers, his voice gaining a deadly amusement. "I'm impressed boy, you managed to seduce the Baba Yaga to do your dirty work."
Santino laughs at the accusation.
"If only. I'm afraid that you give me too much credit for once, Father. I didn't plan this. And you know better than anyone that John's will is not one to be easily swayed. However, this is a warning. My own professional courtesy. Call off the bounty and what is left of the Tarasov holdings will remain intact. Return John's car and I shall convince him not to kill my dear half-brother."
"Tch! How're you gonna convince him?" Iosef shouts, nearing the phone with an angry yet desperate expression. "You gonna bargain for my life with his old cock down your throat?"
For a beat, silence answers that insult. Then, Santino's amused chuckle fills the room.
"Careful, Iosef. I could just as easily do nothing. After all, John is rather intense right after a hunt. It's stunning."
"Do your big brother one last favor when you see John, will you? Make it a good hunt for him. I'd hate for all this effort to be anticlimactic."
"You fuckin' fagg—"
"Now, now, Iosef. That is completely unnecessary. As thoughtful as your efforts are, I really don't need further incentive to have you killed. Your mere existence is more than enough."
Iosef gulps at the cold tone of his brother's voice.
"You are turning against your family, Santino." Viggo interrupts. Tired of listening to his children bicker. "Betraying your own blood for a man you only heard stories of, a demon that you have only known for less than a goddamn week."
"That is more of an appraisal of my dear family than of me," Santino counters. "Besides, it is only half of my family as you are all so fond of reminding me. Zio Massimo is very interested in New York. I'm sure the D'Antonio's would love to have me if I were no longer welcome among the bratva. After all, unlike Iosef, I actually know how the Tarasov businesses run. I know where all your resources are and I know all of your associates. I've been paying close attention."
Swearing at the mention of Massimo D'Antonio, Viggo growls. The Italian crime lord has been looking to expand into America, specifically New York for some time. Viggo wouldn't put it past Massimo to use his bastard nephew to do so. For not the first time in his life, the Russian curses that he didn't use a condom when fucking D'Antonio's sister.
"Oh, and one more thing. Iosef?"
"Consider yourself lucky that you only managed to steal John's car in your moment of truly-inspired idiocy. You struck his dog and almost killed her. Pray that she makes a full recovery or I'll kill you myself. And I'll do it with a fucking pencil. An unsharpened one."
Iosef and Abram both visibly stiffen at the threat. Apparently, Santino can tell that his threat has had its desired effect by the tangible dark grin reflected in his next words.
The dial tone is the only thing that echoes in the room for a solid minute before the call is disconnected. Abram swallows nervously, his hands shaking. Avi takes a step towards Viggo.
"So what now, boss?"
Viggo sighs deeply. He pours a glass of vodka, taking his time to sip it as he considers this particular shitstorm of a situation from all sides.
"I'm ending this."
He reaches over and dials a familiar number. The room is silent once again as the call waits to be connected. It doesn't take long before a professional woman's voice fills the tense room.
"You have reached Accounts Payable."
As he disconnects the call, Santino has a contemplative look on his face. His eyes are sharp as they gaze out the window, the mafioso's own hardened expression is reflected in the glass.
"You think that'll work?"
Looking over his shoulder, Santino meets John's even stare from the bed.
Santino then returns his attention to his phone and begins texting. Most likely Ares. John watches as his lover moves about the room. The Italian is now dressed, wearing an emerald silk robe that ripples with Santino's every movement. It is untied, exposing his chest, and is paired with a matching pair of sleep pants that hangs off Santino's narrow hips. His feet are bare as he walks the hardwood floor to bend down to pet Daisy as well as Dog. The two canines wag their tails at the caresses and ear scratches, preening under the attention.
John watches the interaction with a softened expression.
Santino is an unrepentant dick to most people, but he has a soft spot for animals. And incidentally, both of John's dogs adore the Italian mafioso.
He doesn't quite know what to make of that.
"You really need to think of a name for your other dog, John," Santino comments as he stands back up and returns to his texting. "It's not right to name one child and not the other. It's favoritism."
"You can name him."
Santino quirks an eyebrow up at that.
John does not make the offer lightly. He honestly has no idea what to name the stray he had picked up a few weeks ago. Besides, John likes the idea that his dogs have been named by people that he cares about.
"Lupo is a good strong name," the Italian decides after a few moments.
Santino takes John's silence as the approval that it is intended to be. A comfortable ease settles in the bedroom as John watches his lover continue sending orders to his people. He takes a deep breath.
"I'm still killing your brother."
The Italian looks up at the sudden declaration. His green eyes gain an amusement to them as he smirks.
"I'm counting on it, John. It will save me the trouble of having to do it later. I do so despise loose ends. Besides, the purpose of that conversation was to get a read on their situation, not negotiate. And it is clear that they have no real plan. However, Iosef is properly terrified of you now. He'll probably piss himself at the sight of you. So, there's that to look forward to."
Santino finishes his texting and puts his phone on the table. He looks back over to the bed, where John is propped up, watching him. The Italian grabs the half bottle of bourbon and he walks over.
"My father is the real issue we will have," begins Santino, seriousness replacing his playful tone. He refills John's glass before he rests the bottle on the bedside table with a soft thud. "He enjoys his small kingdom, this city, and he'll protect it with everything he has. Iosef is his only legitimate heir, he represents his legacy. So, Viggo will protect him for as long as he can. But eventually, with some more convincing on your part, he will surrender Iosef to you to save his own skin."
John doesn't disagree with any part of that. He's worked for Viggo long enough to understand the man.
"He might come after you next. Retribution."
"Viggo doesn't want to start a war with the Camorra. He won't touch me for that reason alone. Massimo D'Antonio wouldn't forgive him for killing me as I'm all he has left of his beloved sister. My uncle has never forgiven Viggo for impregnating my mother and diluting the family."
As Santino's green eyes gain that dark edge to them, the same one he gets when he's about to shoot or stab someone, John reaches out. His hand settles on the warm skin of Santino's hip. He pulls the younger man closer and starts to pepper kisses up the middle of his chest. Santino buries his hand in John's dark hair, his fingers massaging the man's scalp as he hums in pleasure.
"Want me to kill him for you?"
The sudden question, as well as the rare moment of empathy, startles a chuckle out of Santino.
"Viggo or Massimo?"
"Such a romantic, Caro Mio," Santino murmurs as he leans down to meet John's lips. "Let's see how Viggo responds first. If my father and half-brother insist on being stubborn, we shall simply step over their corpses when the time is right."
John pulls back with a raised eyebrow.
"My dear cousin, Gianna, will soon ascend to the Camorra seat at the High Table. She adores me. And more importantly, like my uncle, despises Viggo. If you and I play our cards right, we may not have to worry about any Tarasov retribution. Gianna would delight in seizing control of New York, it would make quite the coronation gift. A gift she would be forever indebted to us for. And, if through some tragic, unforeseen happenstance, the D'Antonio seat becomes vacant again in the near future, it will pass to the last surviving member—yours truly."
"You want the seat at the High Table?"
Santino steps out of John's reach and rounds the other side of the bed. He stares out of the window, watching the city below.
"I might want it. Someday. I've considered it. I consider all possibilities," Santino ponders aloud in that flippantly arrogant way of his. Then his eyes narrow. "However, there's something else I want more."
John waits for the answer. Watching his lover's back framed in the large window. He is not left waiting long.
"I know Gianna has your marker. I know she helped you with my father's impossible task."
That was not what John was expecting to hear. Yet, knowing how possessive Santino is, he is not surprised. The last thing the Italian would want is someone else to outrank the ownership he has on the assassin—even if it is through a blood oath made to his own cousin.
John knows that Santino would kill to obtain that marker.
"Gianna knows not to use it."
Santino turns around at that statement.
"I would use it. Then again, I've never been very good at denying my temptations. It is a powerful, heady thing to be owed a favor from the infamous John Wick. Don't be surprised if she decides to collect what you owe her one day—what is rightfully hers."
The young mafioso sneers the last part of that out, his face contorting into an ugly expression—quite a feat considering the allure of those features.
John simply sighs as he considers that very real possibility of his lover's words—Gianna D'Antonio is a powerful yet dangerous woman. While Santino would be satisfied with just destroying his enemies, Gianna would go farther. She would attack her enemies' families and raze their homes. If her quarry goes to ground, she would leave them no ground to go to.
However, there's no need to think about what hasn't happened yet. John has always found it a waste of time. He deals in the present, the here and now, the tangible. He'll leave the scheming and plotting to Santino.
After all, that has never been the assassin's particular strong suit.
As if reading his mind, the Italian's lips curl into a grin when his gaze zeroes in on John. "I suppose that problem is best left for another day of machinations."
Santino walks back to the bed. Sliding into the rumpled sheets, the mafioso reclaims his spot next to John. However, he opts to settle on his side, a hand trailing down the center of John's chest. He leans in, kissing along the man's stubbled jawline. Santino's hand then slips underneath the blankets that cover the injured man's lap. A deep groan escapes John's lips as his lover's talented fingers slowly work him to full hardness. The digits working in a practiced rhythm and tortuous alterations of pressure to tease not satisfy. John tilts his head to connect their lips again, taking his time to return the favor and tease in his own way. The hitman's calloused hand cups the back of his lover's neck, keeping Santino's luscious mouth exactly where he wants it.
Once satisfied with his fill, and needing a break for air, John pulls back to admire his handiwork.
"I'll kill them all."
The words are said against Santino's kiss-bruised lips. So, it takes him a moment to comprehend the statement.
"Anyone that comes for us. All of them."
The dark expression on John's face has Santino pause. He pulls back a bit to slide his hands up the expanse of John's battered chest. He navigates the firm musculature while taking care to avoid the nasty bruises. Santino's hands continue until they rest on either side of John's face. His thumbs idly running along the edges of the man's beard.
"Amore Mio," begins Santino, with a soft, disarming smile. "As much as I enjoy your single-minded intensity you need time to heal. Calm yourself. You will have your vengeance, I promise you. Let your enemies simmer in their own fear. For now, forget my idiot brother, forget my father, and focus completely on me. Rest."
He leans in to place a kiss on John's brow. Pulling back, his eyes gain a fire to them as he meets John's gaze. His gentle smile curling into a dark grin.
"For tomorrow, we wage war."
With a show of impressive strength, and a complete disregard for his own healing body, John rolls them both over. He pins the slimmer man to the bed, both of his wrists in one hand. Santino grins, raising an eyebrow up tauntingly.
"Sei pazzo? You'll reopen your wound again with moves like that. I will not dress it twice."
Despite the chastising, John can't help but still count it as a win. The heated look in his lover's eyes paired with his heavy pants is a clear sign that he enjoyed the show of power. Santino is irresistibly tempting spread out beneath him, arranged in a way that is no accident. A practiced arch of his back has his lean torso exposed to John's dark gaze as the emerald robe pools around him. The jewel-toned silk sets off the pale green of the Italian's eyes.
"Well, as arousing as this is, I'd still rather not be bled on."
Santino rolls his eyes at the lack of sincerity behind the words. Yet, he allows John to press kisses to the curve of his neck. The Italian emits a low moan as those searing kisses are accompanied by John's teasing bites. A satisfied growl leaves the older man's throat at the trail of darkening marks he leaves on his lover, claiming the supple skin as his.
"You aren't sorry at all are you?"
"As sorry as you are angry, Santino."
Locking his legs around John, he pulls the man in closer in retaliation. Santino is not gentle as he tugs John's body to rest on top of his. A hiss leaves the older man's throat as the pain of his bruises is contrasted with the pleasure of being flush to the body beneath him. Santino offers no verbal apology, yet places soft kisses to John's cheeks and brow. Sliding his hands out of the strong grip, Santino then gently guides the battered body to his, allowing John to settle between his thighs. The Italian seems to revel in the feel of the heavy weight pressing him down as he runs his hands over the man's tattooed back. John locks his gaze with his lover as he grabs one of the toned thighs encircling his torso and begins a slow grind of his hips. Santino preens under the focused attention as his own hips start to move in counterpoint to John's. The silk of his pants adding to the sensations of their heated flesh moving against each other. For a good while, moans and grunts are the only conversation between them, until a challenging quirk of Santino's eyebrow silently dares John to thrust harder.
The filthy groan he earns is worth the pulling of his stitches.
For not the first time, John wonders if Aurelio wasn't right that night in the chop shop. Both John and Santino had went there together to get information from the car expert regarding where Iosef had taken John's stolen car. Aurelio had taken one look at Santino and known that the man was walking trouble. His exact wording had been tailored to the mechanic's unique vernacular, yet it had still been poignant:
"John, what the hell? I don't know if you can handle a sexy bitch like this."
As amusing as the statement was, in addition to Santino's swift punch afterwards, Aurelio had a valid point.
Maybe he's gotten in too deep this time.
Maybe getting involved with a man like Santino, one who is rarely satisfied and is always aiming for more, hasn't been his wisest decision.
Maybe Santino D'Antonio is the one person that he should be wary of above all others. The man that brings out some of his worst qualities while simultaneously cultivating his best.
A true devil in human guise.
John is distracted from that train of thought as his lover's hands once again find their way down his body. A primal groan escapes his lips that makes Santino grin as he seals their mouths together in another soul-claiming kiss. Then in sharp contrast to his nature, the mafioso's arms tenderly wrap around John in an embrace that promises more than simple sex ever could.
Well, at least it would be one hell of a ride.