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take you down (with me)

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The bartender is about to top off Massimo's fourth glass of Scotch when Dominic slides into the seat next to him.

He doesn't turn toward Dominic, doesn't look at him, his gaze fixed on the overhead lights reflecting in the swirls of amber liquid, watching the bright spots move back and forth hypnotically. He doesn't need to see Dominic to know that he's there. Wouldn't even have to smell that signature scent of aftershave, the one Dominic's been using ever since they first met. Massimo can feel him. Whenever Dominic steps into a room, his presence fills up every bit of space, expanding into each corner, making the air grow dense and compressed and pushing everyone else aside. It gets harder to breathe when Dominic's around.

Massimo used to think that was power he could sense. Influence. Charisma. Now he wonders if it's not the oppressive presence of evil: the feeling when you're getting too close to the kind of malevolence that will either destroy or corrupt you.

Dominic waits until the bartender has moved on before he speaks. "Nina said you and I are too much alike. That it was inevitable it would end like this."

His tone is wry. Mild, like what happened was nothing worse than a friendly spat. Perhaps for a man who brings down countries and ruins millions of lives with the snap of his fingers, betrayal is easily dismissed.

Massimo presses the cool glass against his forehead and swallows the instinctive rebuttal. I'm nothing like you. But saying it doesn't make it true. Wanting it to be true doesn't make it true. A man isn't defined by his words, nor his intentions. Having a conscience that keeps him up at night and drives him to drink doesn't erase the suffering he caused or the blood on his hands.

"My father... He told me I destroy everything I touch." His tongue feels heavy, and the words come out slightly slurred, his accent more pronounced than it usually is. His father— Massimo shakes his head. "Or maybe it wasn't my father. Maybe I dreamed it. It doesn't matter. It's true."

Dominic doesn't bother denying it.

"I heard about Sofia," he says, and the pity in his voice makes Massimo's skin crawl.

"Don't! Don't say her name. You don't get to say her name."

"I'm not the one who got her killed," Dominic says, in that same infuriatingly mild tone, and Massimo wants to take his glass and smash it against Dominic's head until he shuts the fuck up. He imagines it. Blood splattering. The bones of his skull breaking. Dominic's unwavering smile, even as he lies still and unmoving on the ground. Knowing that he won, in the end.

Massimo needs to get out of here.

His hand shakes when he sets down the glass. He balls it into a fist and gets up, so fast that the stool screeches against the floor and wobbles precariously. Massimo grips it to stop it from toppling over. Or maybe it's to stop himself from toppling over. He almost wishes Dominic would try and prevent him from leaving so he'd have an excuse to punch him, but Dominic lets him go without a word.

Massimo doesn't turn, but he can feel Dominic's eyes burning into his back all the way to the exit.

Outside, rain hits his face and the cool night air hits him like a sucker punch, doing nothing to sober him up.

He arrives at home, soaked and freezing, unsure if Dominic was ever at the bar at all or if it was just his imagination playing tricks on him.

*

People at NYL all publicly and unanimously agree that Dominic went too far, but what they really mean is: Dominic went too far because he failed. Had he succeeded in crippling the Euro and made the bank some billions off the backs of the Italian people, he'd have earned himself a clap on the back and a big fat bonus.

Massimo was going to do things differently when he became CEO.

He was going to be different.

But it doesn't work like that. You can't change the system from within, no more than you can be someone you're not.

Sofia knew that when she left him. Maybe Massimo knew it too; he just fooled himself into believing that he would be able to walk the line.

*

"I'm glad you came," Nina says when Massimo steps through the gates of a private visitor's room at Bronzefield.

She barely looks like herself, having traded her usual designer clothes for prison coveralls and without any make-up concealing the shadows underneath her eyes. Her smile is tight and unconvincing, more like a grimace. But then, Massimo hasn't seen a real smile on her face ever since John died. She just used to be better at faking them.

When she called and asked him to visit her, Massimo's first instinct was to refuse. But even after everything, he still can't help caring for Nina. He's always wanted to protect her, and that hasn't changed. He would have kept her secret too, if he hadn't needed it as leverage against Dominic, and part of him regrets that she became collateral in their war. Even if she only has herself to blame for killing Ed. But Massimo isn't that much of a hypocrite to pretend he ever gave a fuck about Ed or Ed's death, beyond clearing his own name.

"Are they treating you well? Is anyone giving you trouble?"

Truth is, Massimo would have assumed that she'd never have to spend a single night in prison. The fact that the charges against her haven't been dropped already means that Dominic pissed off some powerful people. Enough that they won't lift a finger to help Nina, clearly. Enough to harm her? Who knows. The idea chafes uncomfortably against his guilt.

Nina shakes her head. "I'm fine. Don't worry about me. That's not why I wanted to talk to you."

She reaches out and covers his hand with hers. Her fingers are cold and frail-looking, but her grip is firm.

Something about the gesture makes Massimo wary. "What is it, then?"

"It's about Dominic."

Of course it is. Everything is always about Dominic. Even when he's miles away, Dominic keeps following Massimo around like a gloomy shadow, sticking to him like shackles he can't shake. He sneaks into every room, into every conversation, every thought, and Massimo doesn't know how to get rid of him.

When he pulls his hand out from under Nina's, her wedding band scrapes against his knuckles.

"I don't—"

"Please, Massimo. You have to forgive each other." Perhaps she notices the storm on Massimo's face at the idea that Dominic has something to forgive him for, because she immediately corrects herself: "You have to forgive him. He's lost so much. After John died, all we had was the bank and each other, and now..."

"Dominic did that to himself."

"Maybe. But I'm scared of what it'll do to him. Look at what loss did to me."

She's manipulating him, the same way she manipulated Carrie. Loss didn't make Nina push Ed Stuart to his death; it was her greed, her fear of losing influence and power, her love for Dominic. But despite being aware of that, Massimo can't stop seeing her standing on the edge of those cliffs with tears running down her face. Her windswept hair, the broken smile. The tremor in her touch when she reached for him. No matter what else Nina does, that moment will always be what he remembers when he looks at her.

He tries to shake off the memory. "I can't help him with that. Dominic fucked me over long before I made a move against him. He didn't need to forge my digital signature. He didn't have to involve Carrie."

"He just did what he thought was necessary. And he still loves you. Even now."

Bullshit.

"Dominic doesn't love anyone." Massimo pushes back the chair and gets up. "We're done here. Goodbye, Nina."

He's already at the door, waiting for the guard to let him out when Nina calls after him.

"You're wrong, you know?"

The squealing sound the door makes when it opens sends an unpleasant shiver down Massimo's spine. He hurries through, impatient to leave this place and its oppressiveness behind him, to get away from Nina's demands and the shadow of Dominic filling up the space between them.

*

When the doorbell rings, Massimo expects it to be the movers. "You're early. I'm almost done packing. You can—"

Dominic looks the same as ever. Clean-shaven, his tie immaculate, wearing a perfectly fitted peacoat over a perfectly fitted suit, and the smile of a man who's so slick that no misfortune ever sticks to him. The chatter on the floor is that he's got a new job at Goldman Sachs, CRO at the London office.

Get out, Massimo thinks, but doesn't say. He doesn't close the door in Dominic's face as he should.

"Moving into a nicer place, now that you got yourself a big promotion?"

"Something like that."

It has nothing to do with becoming CEO and cashing in a bigger paycheck. He's moving for the same reason he moved after Carrie left: he can't stand to live in a place filled with memories of happier times that will never come back. Whenever he looks at his bed, at the couch, at the desk, he sees Sofia. Sofia's soft smile. Her intense focus on her work. The naked lines of her body under the sheets.

He can't stay here, or the past will suffocate him.

He has no intention of sharing any of that with Dominic, revealing more things that Dominic can use against him. If Dominic wants to believe that Massimo's moving on to bigger and better things, why not let him?

Without waiting for an invitation, Dominic steps past him into the corridor, curiously eyeing the stack of boxes. If he notices that a lot of them are labeled donations, he doesn't comment on it.

"I heard you fired Harris."

Massimo smiles grimly. He wonders who told Dominic. It shouldn't surprise him that Dominic still has his sources inside NYL, people who likely denounced his actions in public and pretend to be loyal to Massimo now, but who wouldn't hesitate to stab him in the back if they believed even for a minute that it would work to their advantage.

"I did." No harm confirming what Dominic already knows. "After I made sure he received the kind of bonus that'll set him up for a few years, even with the baby on the way. Longer, if he invests well."

His good deed for the month. Oliver's a good kid. If he's smart, he'll find a better use for his talents, one that'll make him decent money without eating him up from the inside until there's nothing left of him but an empty shell.

Dominic gives Massimo a shrewd look. "What makes you think he won't just get a job at another bank after his non-compete is up. You can't save people from themselves, Massimo."

"No, but I can make sure I'm not the one ruining them."

He can try, anyway.

"You're too hard on yourself."

Dominic steps around him and claps him on the shoulder like he did a million times before, in the gym or at the office, or after sharing a drink.

But that was then and this is now, and there's something different about the weight of Dominic's hand and the brush of his fingers against Massimo's neck this time. Or maybe Massimo's the one who's different. The friendly intimacy of Dominic's touch is too much; he can't bear it, not after everything Dominic has done.

He snaps. Twists out from under Dominic's hand. Turns towards the other man and slams him against the wall.

His hand is around Dominic's throat, fingers digging into the vulnerable skin. Under his palm, he feels Dominic swallow. His breath is hot on Massimo's face, minty and fresh, mingling with the whiff of spicy aftershave.

The fury he feels is like a lump in his throat, and he can barely speak around it. "Don't. Stop acting like we're friends."

"What are we, then?" Dominic asks.

Even now, there's nothing but mild curiosity in his tone. Massimo could tighten his fingers until he chokes, and Dominic would just stand there and smile.

"Nothing." Massimo spits the words like they're poison. "You're nothing to me."

It's such an obvious lie that Dominic doesn't even bother to refute it. His raised eyebrow mocks Massimo, and Massimo wants to smash his face in, wants to choke him until he strains for air, wants to rip his facade of friendly cordiality apart.

He moves before he can stop himself, crashing into Dominic with every destructive impulse he's curbed for far too long. He slams their mouths together and bites at Dominic's lip, tasting blood. The kiss is all anger and punishment. Vengeance. Self-loathing.

He kisses Dominic until Dominic responds, until the slack, unresisting body trapped between Massimo and the wall goes tense and Dominic's hands clench in his clothing, ripping at the sweat-stained shirt.

Dominic pushes him so hard that Massimo hits the opposite wall, the back of his head connecting harshly with the bricks. Dull pain spreads across his scalp. Dominic's fingers dig into his jaw as he takes control of the kiss – except there's nothing controlled about Dominic now. He's punishing and vicious, and it feels like a victory to Massimo to see him so undone, to be the one who made him lose his composure.

Dominic ends up fucking him over a stack of two boxes full of things Massimo has no intention of keeping.

Somewhere inside one of those boxes is a suit Dominic once gave him after Massimo was promoted to Head of Trading, what feels like a lifetime and a half ago. It's safely packed away in a bag, protected by plastic and cardboard, but Massimo gets a kick out of knowing it's there. When he comes, he imagines spilling all over the expensive wool and staining it irreparably before he'll throw it out.

His fists clench over the edge of the box, his cheek resting on the smooth surface, the horse stable-like odor from the cardboard irritating his nose.

Dominic leans down, blanketing Massimo's back with his body. "Was this what you wanted when you fucked my wife?" he asks. "If you wanted me to bend you over, all you had to do was ask."

"Fuck you," Massimo snarls.

But he doesn't push Dominic off, even when Dominic's cock inside him feels like a brand of ownership, the relentless rhythm he's setting uncomfortable and almost too much in the wake of Massimo's orgasm.

Dominic's hand tangles in his hair, his grip rough. "Next time you want to tell me I'm nothing to you, just remember what this felt like."

He slams into him one last time, and Massimo can feel the hot, wet spurts of his release, marking him from the inside.

*

In his empty new house, Massimo pours himself a drink and stares at the new papers Terence had made for him.

His own face stares back at him from the passport photo next to an unfamiliar name.

Going away seemed so easy when he and Sofia were planning for the future. Start over somewhere new, a new life without Massimo Ruggero's baggage following him around. Become someone who never spent two years at a juvenile detention center, who never worked in the City, who never bankrupted Sofia's brother or drove his wife to overdose. Someone who never knew Dominic Morgan.

He could still do it. Take the passport and disappear where no one will ever find him. In a way, it would be easier now, because he's not a wanted man, and he'd be traveling light. Alone.

No one would come looking for him. He could vanish, just like that.

But what's the point? Even if no one knew who he was and what he'd done, he himself would always remember. You can run from the devil, but you can't escape the devil inside of you.

The alcohol burns down his throat. He refills his glass and toasts to the man on the passport photo and the life he would have led.

*

They find Nina hanged in her cell on the anniversary of John's death.

The prison calls Massimo to tell him about it. She left a letter for him, they inform him.

I'm sorry, she writes in her neat, steady cursive, and Massimo isn't sure if she's apologizing for what she's done or for what she's about to ask of him, because her next words are, Please take care of Dominic. He's going to need you now.

Promise me, she writes, underlined twice.

For a moment, Massimo hates her. Hates her more than he hated her when she told him about making Cassie leave. More than when he realized that she had thrown him under the bus to protect Dominic and herself.

It's too big a request to make of him, and if she was alive he'd tell her to go to hell.

But she's not, and he can't. Perhaps she's at a better place now, while he's the one stuck in his own private hell.

*

It's the smallest funeral Massimo has ever attended – and he's attended too many of them, lately.

Dominic stands rigidly with his hands balled so tightly that his knuckles are white. His face is like stone, but his eyes are red and sore. Looking at him, Nina's words echo in Massimo's ears.

When they let the coffin into the ground, he steps up next to Dominic.

"I'm sorry," he says.

I'm sorry for your loss, he means. But if Dominic hears, I'm sorry for the part I had in driving Nina to this point instead, Massimo thinks he can live with that. He isn't apologizing for fighting Dominic's plans at NYL, for outsmarting him and getting him fired, and he trusts Dominic to know that.

Dominic nods, once.

He doesn't turn towards Massimo, but he takes his arm, and he doesn't let go.

*

Dominic still lives in the same house he used to share with his family. It feels too vast and depressingly empty now, and when Massimo crosses the threshold, he half expects Nina to greet him with a hug and a kiss. Her presence lingers everywhere. He doesn't know how Dominic can stand it, why he stays here instead of selling the house and finding a new expensive property for himself. It's not like he can't afford it.

But perhaps, unlike Massimo, Dominic has accepted that he can't run from the past, that there's no such thing as a fresh start.

Massimo doesn't know why he followed Dominic home after the funeral instead of shaking his hand and taking his leave outside the cemetery. Now he's standing in the middle of the same living room where he made Nina confess to murdering Ed Stuart, and he finds himself lost.

Dominic's eyes never leave him as he pours them a drink.

He's loosened his tie, and the air of misery he wore wrapped around himself like a coat at the funeral is beginning to evaporate already.

"Nina wrote me a letter, you know," he says, and Massimo isn't surprised at all. He watches Dominic's mouth curl into a wry smile, and he already knows what Nina's letter said before Dominic continues. "She told me to fix things with you."

Massimo takes the glass Dominic hands him and quietly wonders if that was all Nina wrote or if she made Dominic promise to take care of Massimo as well. If she told him, too, that Massimo needed him.

But Dominic doesn't elaborate and Massimo doesn't ask. It doesn't matter. He's not sure if it's true anyway. Even less sure what it would mean if it were true. How do you deal with needing someone you despise? Then again, it's only a step further than loving someone you despise, perhaps, and Massimo has come to terms with that over the last couple of months.

He clutches the glass like a lifeline. "I'm not sure if this is fixable."

It's the most honest he's been with Dominic since he didn't get the promotion and they set out on this path of betrayal and deception.

There's nothing but certainty in Dominic's voice, not an ounce of hesitation. "Of course it is."

Massimo flinches when Dominic reaches out. It's stupid. Dominic isn't the kind of person who resorts to violence; that's not how he operates. His methods are far more subtle.

His hand curves around Massimo's neck. Steadying. Sure. He leans in and presses his lips to Massimo's cheek.

Massimo closes his eyes.

His father's voice echoes in his head: Tutto quello che tocchi, lo distruggi.

So be it, then.

He turns his head towards Dominic and catches his mouth in a kiss that feels like a harbinger of destruction. For once, Massimo doesn't mind. The idea is almost comforting.

End.