"For he who lives more lives than one, More deaths than one must die."
- Oscar Wilde "The Ballad of Reading Gaol."
* * *
John Wick stared at his beautiful and seemingly very real wife and tried his best to process what was happening.
"You're not real," he whispered as he touched Helen Wick's face in something far more than awe. "And even if you are...you would be dead if you were."
She cast on him a look of pure pity laced with genuine amusement. "Poor baby. I told you not to eat those anchovies on your pizza. They hardly looked edible. Even by anchovy standards."
John remembered sitting in the restaurant; he could taste it and recall what Helen and his' discussion had been clearly. Those memories, along with millions of others, suddenly crowded his mind. They seemed so very authentic yet no more so than the ones he had just experienced where Helen Wick and the Excommunicado had been only an illusory punishment. Or the ones before that where it had been real and his wife was dead and he should be running for his life, the former assassin thought.
With all of the memories inside of his head, John Wick felt himself begin to inwardly scream. It was too much. He lay back down on the bed, his hand still on his wife's soft cheek.
"You're okay?" he asked, deciding to focus on the good in the hope it would overshadow his agony.
"Yes," she answered grabbing his hand and kissing the tip of his thumb. "It was all a bad dream."
The bearded man turned his eyes to the ceiling and tried to believe her words. To his disappointment, he found that he simply could not.
They felt no more real than the woman whom had spoken them.
* * *
The days passed and John Wick found himself once again becoming accustomed to a life he had been exiled from and told was nothing more than a lie. It seemed so easy in a way; exactly as it had been before Helen's illness. The memories inside of his mind told him that here everything had progressed in the same manner only that they had been spared from the disease that had torn them apart and had been allowed to remain blissfully together.
Blissful, that was, until he had awakened one morning with memories of two other existences woven into his brain. But which were real and which were false? John Wick could not say and simply tried to outrun them and no longer question it.
It should have been easy in this Eden. He had all that he needed on the surface. Helen had once more been given to him; no longer was he a servant to Viggo Tarasov or the High Table.
Yet everything felt slightly off, like a jigsaw puzzle where the edges never quite linked up perfectly as you knew that they should, so spaces were left and the image became warped.
To leave this paradise, however, John feared would destroy whatever magic still existed here and could only lead to his own damnation.
So John Wick tried his best to pretend.
His work now again was the restoration of old and damaged books. With great care he attempted to repair them in a way he could not do with his own fractured psyche.
He would spend time with Helen when she wasn't at her studio or away attending to some other work as her job as a photographer and artist. They ate together at home or visited any number of restaurants in the area or city. They watched TV together or just walked here or there, their hands linked as they talked.
John found to his relief that he was just as much in love with her as he had ever been.
They also spent a great deal of time making love. Such moments when he was lost inside of her, the hitman became blissfully ignorant to the problems of his existence, John knew. Although even here there was something that felt slightly amiss and unsettling, whereas before it had been perfect.
He found himself having difficulty coming whenever they made love.
Erections were simple, John Wick had no trouble being stimulated by his sexy wife and she, in return, was willing to offer a willing hand or mouth to help him out.
It was the usually simple act of release that proved to be somehow elusive. The assassin would manage it but it was prolonged and hard and he kept on praying she would only believe him to be enjoying himself too much to wish the act over.
After each time he had managed to finally come, John Wick would hold on to the beautiful and healthy body of the wife that he so desperately loved and would wonder, her falling into a peaceful sleep long before he did, what was making the moment of release such a struggle for him to obtain...
* * *
"What are you thinking of?" Helen Wick asked as she wrapped her arms around her husband's waist from behind him.
John had been staring out of the large picture window in their living room. It was the same one he had stared out of during the wake following his wife's funeral in the punishment, dream, reality or whatever it had been which was not now. The forecast had been calling for rain and he had been waiting to catch the moment that it began.
"I was just wondering where I would be right now if I wasn't here," he answered truthfully for the thought had occurred to him seconds before.
"Probably whacking somebody," she teased.
Wick smiled; it was probably the truth.
Either that or spending time with the Administrator.
The first drop of rain hit the window pane as he thought of the other man. He usually tried to block all thoughts and contemplation concerning the small bureaucrat. Something always made him feel slightly sick to his stomach when he thought of his former friend.
The rain was falling more fiercely now. Just as it had done when the Administrator had shot him.
And when they had confessed that they loved one another too.
"I never asked you before, John... but how easy was it for you to kill another human being? I guess, I never wanted to know," she asked, her voice both sad and curious.
"It was as easy as pulling the trigger," he answered remembering the Administrator with the Luger.
She held him a little more tighter. He could feel her breath on his back, warm and damp through the thinning material of his often worn T-shirt. "Yet each man kills the thing he loves, By each let this be heard," she whispered thoughtfully, her voice so low her husband needed to strain his ears to hear her words; each one was almost as inaudible as the sound a butterfly makes with each flap of its wings.
"Who said that?" John asked as he shivered.
"Oscar Wilde," she answered. "Poor old Mr. Wilde."
John snickered. "Poor old Mrs. Wilde, you mean: finding out her husband was in love with another man."
Silence except for the sound of the rain outside.
"Let's go to bed," Helen Wick stated as the first clap of thunder started and John frowned, hoping that his wife would not see it in the reflection.
* * *
The bedroom was dark as John continued to pump away inside of his wife in growing frustration. Beneath him, Helen moaned and writhed in complete ignorance of her husband's struggle. Wick delighted in the woman's familiar curves, the softness of her skin and the small mounds of her breasts. Still he could not climax and end his frustration, Helen already having come repeatedly.
The rain continued its downpour outside along with the sound of thunder. Suddenly lightening began to light up the bedroom where the husband and wife were having sex.
John gasped as he saw the Administrator now underneath him and not Helen. The metal of his piercings caught the flash at the window. The bureaucrat's tough exposed body displayed the intricacies of his tattoo work. There were no curves, yet Wick felt his balls tighten and the glorious familiar feeling of being close to release.
Another flash of light and it was Helen again, though it no longer mattered, he was on the verge of orgasm.
When the room lit up the next time, once more John Wick saw the Administrator lying on the bed and he ejaculated violently and gratefully.
"Th-th-thank you," he found the breath to say the words as he lay down beside his lover. His penis was sore and raw but he felt better than he had in weeks.
"No, thank you," Helen purred as she took her husband in her arms.
John Wick tried to pretend he was happy it was her voice that he heard in the dark and her small delicate hands caressing his sweat drenched back.
He tried and he failed.
"And, though I was a soul in pain," he thought, as he held on to his peacefully sleeping wife. "My pain I could not feel."
* * *
The next morning, in the shower, Wick thought of tattoos and piercings. He thought of snake bites and the cold metal feel of them when he had touched them with his lips. He remembered how the metal became warmer the longer he had kissed the only male lover he had ever taken and he found his hand going to his penis, which had become warm and long also.
In shame, but in stronger need, John started to attend to his desperate member as he thought of the Administrator. He ran it frantically up the pulsating shaft and then down again, praying Helen would not walk in and find him pleasing himself after they had spent the night making love.
It was so easy to think about the bureaucrat and become painfully aroused. He came again without difficulty, trying to wash away his seed quickly, as he felt it becoming sticky on his skin.
Guilt surged through him as he thought of Helen, his wife, cheerfully making him breakfast while he was jerking off in the shower thinking about another man. He should never have fallen in love with the Administrator; it had been an accident, Wick believed, and he should not be thinking of the High Table servant at all.
Still he could not drive the pierced and tattooed man from his thoughts.
Where once John Wick had tried not to think of the love that he had lost for even the briefest of moments, the man now found that the Administrator was the only thing that he wanted to think of.
* * *
Three books lay on the table in his office, waiting to be restored. Placing them before him, the former assassin frowned at the titles.
Three stories of obsessive love: one of a grown man's for a nymphet, the other of a man and a whale and the third of a man for a dead woman. Two had bad outcomes.
It occurred to John Wick that too many love stories did not end well. The best to be hoped for was a mutual death and union like Heathcliff and Cathy. Not Humbert whom felt himself so damned by the novel's conclusion that he could never share any afterlife with Lo, besides his testament to her.
His thoughts returning to the Administrator, John compulsively knocked all three novels to the floor in a blind rage of regret, pain and lust.
In the paradise he was still trying to find peace in, the man suddenly felt an Adam, whom had not betrayed God but rather Eve by falling in love with the serpent.
He could never be with the man. And why should he want to, John thought bitterly. The Administrator had killed, betrayed or deceived him in some way. His dream or reality had proven that. Still he found himself constantly thinking of him. He had become obsessed, Wick knew. Often he would steal away so he could jerk himself off to memories real or imagined. And while at first he had tried not to think of the Administrator while making love after the night of the storm, he found it far too easy to fall into it, imagining that it was the bureaucrat and not his wife he was inside of.
Helen deserved so much more than a husband who's mind was filled with too many conflicting memories and whom could not easily come without thinking of a man he had loved and possibly been murdered by.
But was the Administrator, his Administrator, even real? John Wick did not know for sure. Helen had been portrayed as an illusion during the past reality. The small bureaucrat may, likewise, not exist here. Thinking of the bureaucrat's unwanted solipsism, Wick found it oddly ironic that he was the one wondering if the Administrator were in fact real or not.
Cursing him regardless, John leaned over and collected the books from off of the floor. He had started to believe that his life with Helen could be perfect except for one thing: The Administrator.
Moby Dick opened, as he placed it back on to the table, and an illustration was now revealed: Ahab attempting to slaughter the object of his torment.
Yet each man kills the thing he loves...
"Maybe you could forget him if you knew for sure that he wasn't real," a voice whispered inside John Wick's head and he recognized it as the voice of the killer he had once been before he had forsaken that life. "Or if you were the one to end his life, if he is."
John Wick shook his head in horror as he tried to turn away from the horrible suggestion and also how hopeful it had made him suddenly feel.
Still, seeing if the man existed could not be that bad of an idea, Wick pondered. He took his phone out and stared at it, knowing that all he would need to do was make one simple phone call.
Standing abruptly, the former assassin placed the phone on the table and paced the floor, counting to fifty before sitting down again. Knowing it would be to much temptation to know that the man truly existed, John put away the phone.
It was better not to know and to let sleeping dogs lie. One small puppy had taught him that lesson.
* * *
One day at the post office, shipping off the restored copies of the three tales of obsession, John Wick ran into Jimmy the cop. He was a common sight in town and the former assassin had the suspicion that the man had been asked to keep an eye on him. The policeman was a part of the world he had left behind, yet what role he played had never been exactly clear to him. Jimmy made no false act of claiming ignorance to Wick's past and John knew he was always quick to believe that he would fall into it again.
"Keeping your nose clean?" Jimmy asked.
"Trying," the bearded man replied.
"What you mailing there?" the law enforcer inquired and John knew that the man had probably already half convinced himself that it was bombs, guns, bullets or body parts.
"They're just books Jimmy," he answered.
"That's good. I'd hate to hear that you're working again. Helen wouldn't like it much."
"No, she wouldn't," John Wick agreed.
"Not sure you would either," the policeman laughed derisively. "With all of the red tape and forms the new Administrator has officially legislated, it's a nightmare."
The man formerly known as the Baba Yaga throughout the whole underworld felt his heart stop its beating inside of his chest, just as he had stopped the beatings of so many others. John tried his best to forget what the other man had said, to leave it unopened just as Pandora should have with her box.
However, when the cop was halfway out the door, John could no longer fight and win.
"Jimmy," he called out, stopping the man in his booted tracks. "The new Administrator...he isn't a short guy with long black hair done up at the back is he? Snake bites, black smudge under his left eye...green eyes."
Jimmy smiled humorlessly. "Yup. That's him."
John Wick nodded at the man before he left and knew that he was lost.
* * *
That night John held his wife in his arms and sadly wondered why, when he had wished for so long the moment to wake up beside her again, he was preparing himself to deceive her.
"I'm thinking of going into the city to take a look at some of the book markets," he lied almost effortlessly.
"That's a good idea," Helen said, nuzzling up next to him. "I have to go into the studio. They're thinking about doing a show on my work next month in Dallas."
John nodded, kissed the top of her head and tried his best to fall asleep, while ignoring the bitter, yet increasingly common, pangs of shame and guilt.
* * *
The following morning, while Helen Wick went to her studio, John drove into the city; in search of the serpent which had abandoned him in Eden.
He would find the Administrator, John Wick vowed to himself with resolve.
And then, once more donning the role of the feasome assassin known as the Baba Yaga, he would kill him.