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Prices We've Paid

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Arden perked up as someone entered the body shop. Her large brown eyes widened at the familiar face, granted she hadn't seen him in nearly seven years she knew that gait & brooding face anywhere. It was the infamous John Wick. She straightened herself, quickly yelling for Aurelio just as he reached the counter.

"What woman!?" Arden snickered as she heard what sounded like tools loudly clash with the floor. She returned her gaze to the raven haired male before her.

His dark eyes focused on her. John's face was void of most emotion, however his brow twitched as he studied her. And she studied him shamelessly. Their eyes met & Arden could see something begin to dawn within the nearly black pools. She smirked, causing him to raise a curious brow.

"John? What are you doing here?" Aurelio said, ruining their moment much to Arden's displeasure. "You, outta here." He shooed her away, she retaliated by sticking her tongue out & reluctantly moved out of the way.

"I need my car fixed," John explained. He was soft spoken just as she had remembered him. His responses curt & vague, but somehow they were always polite.

Aurelio leaned on the counter, "What happened, John?" He questioned lowly.

Arden leaned forward a bit from where she was stationed behind the shop owner. Her gaze keen on the taller male, giving him her undivided attention. John took noticed & momentarily glanced at her, before looking back to his long time friend.

"Business." He finally replied, causing Arden to roll her eyes. She didn't understand why she worked for an assassin with assassin friends when they never spilled the beans.

Typical John.

"What's that suppose to mean?" Arden stared at John & Aurelio who looked at her. Aurelio looked generally annoyed with her, as per usual, & John was a bit confused by her words.

She laughed awkwardly, "You were always so vague when it came to your work is all." Arden explained as his brows furrowed.

"Do I know you?" John asked bluntly. It was Aurelio's turn to look at him oddly.

"You don't recognize her? She's only the pipsqueak who would run up to you, even when covered in blood, to hug you every time you brought your car in." Aurelio reminded, a smug smile pulling at his lips at Arden's blush.

John's eyes shifted to meet her own once more. A glimmer of realization shining through the dark brown pools. Arden smiled softly as the corner of the hitman's lip twitched.

"Anyways, I'll start on your car right now John." Aurelio said, not waiting for a reply as he strode off.

John moved forward, past the counter. Arden didn't move from her place, she merely watched the tall male close in on her. The young woman took notice to his hands clenching & unclenching at his sides as he neared her. He stopped two feet from her. Peering down at her as she held his gaze.

John reached out slowly, hands- littered in cuts- rested on either of her shoulders. The pressure they provided reasurring if anything as they lightly squeezed them. Arden lifted a hand, very lightly she patted the hitman's side.

He took a hand & ran it through her short, curly hair, "Arden?" John questioned softly.

"Hello John," Arden said with a nod.

Arden squeaked softly as he pulled her in for a hug. She wasn't ready for the affection, this was unlike John. But Arden gave in, she hadn't hugged him for years & his warmth, & smell was comforting. Her looped her arms around his neck & buried her face into his chest.

"It's good to see you..." He murmured softly as he nuzzled her hair. Reluctantly, they pulled away from one another. Good timing considering Aurelio walked into the small office.

"Your car will be done by tomorrow night," Aurelio began, "Arden, take John home will yah? I know it's almost time for you to clock out."

"Okie dokie," Arden replied with a nod. With that he exited the room once more, "So, you hungry?" She questioned as she grabbed her backpack.

John nodded, "Famished."

Chapter Text

Oddly enough the silence between the two was far from awkward. They used it to their advantage. Studying one another more closely than they were able to at Aurelio's body shop. Dark eyes analyzing equally as dark eyes. Taking in one another fully.

John took notice the her features. Seeing the little girl from years ago in them, but of course more mature. Her hair remained short just as it had when she was younger. The curly brown- nearly black- strands barely reaching her ears, giving her a mousy appearance. Her eyes were still owlish, & held a perceptiveness that only someone of his profession should possess. John knew she was no longer a naive child anymore.

Arden immediately picked up the brooding, & ever mysterious aura that was John Wick. She had sensed upon first seeing him again that he had changed. And not for the better. Arden had heard Aurelio mention his wife, Helen. She also had witnessed what Iosef had said upon showing up at the body shop with the once retired hitman's car. His aura was darker. And oddly tainted in a sense.

"How have you been?" John was first to speak. He lifted his coffee cup to his lips, sipping its contents before setting it back on the table top.

Arden smiled softly, "Good... Better than I have been in awhile actually." 

He nodded at the answer, remembering how she ended up in Aurelio's care. Well, more like unceremoniously thrown into his unready, but oddly enough, awaiting arms. John had been there the day it had happened.

"You?" She questioned back, eyes widening more than either thought possible. Arden's gaze dropped to her french toast as she toyed with the pieces on her plate.

"Great for awhile..." with that he glanced outside the window, "not so much now." John concluded.

They fell into another bout of silence. Both at a complete loss of where to steer the conversation. To an extent, they barely knew anything about the other. Aside from the basics; name, age, occupation, & some family life. Other than that, they were complete strangers.

"When did Aurelio tell you about my job?" Arden raised a brow at the odd question.

What did it matter?

"He told me after the last time I saw you. The day you retired." Arden answered truthfully. Eyes showing no sign of deceit.

John nodded, "What did you think? About my job? About me after that?" His questions were ones even he himself did not know the reason behind asking; it wasn't like he cared.

"I really had no opinion of it all," she admitted, "Some people are cashiers, others busboys or taxi drivers. It's a job at the end of the day." Arden said.

"And me?" John seemed incessant about it.

"You were a friend of Aurelio's," the brunette spoke, "I didn't look at Aurelio differently, why would I look at you different? You were the man who'd always come in tired & covered in blood. The man who'd look at me annoyed when I hugged him, but..." Both chuckled at the memory.

"But?" The raven haired male inquired.

Arden grinned, "But you never pushed me away. You stood there, unyielding, until I let go of you on my own." She finished.

"Indeed. Now look at you," John said gesturing to her person. "All grown up. Do you know where you want to go from here?" He asked.

"I'll probably stay working for Aurelio, maybe become an assassin myself. He said I had the makings of one, said; You might even surpass John Wick one day." She quoted with a snicker.

"Is it really an occupation you want?" He took a bite of his hash browns, "It has its... hazards." John said, eyes flashing what appeared to be a murderous look at her.

She shrugged, unfazed by said look, "All jobs have their occupational hazards, just not with such good pay." Arden replied curtly. "'Sides, I'll see the world a hell of a lot more than I'll ever get to if I continue working for Aurelio. No offense to him, the pay is good, just not good enough to travel to foreign lands."

He scoffed, "Traveling's not all it's made out to be." 

Arden rolled her eyes, "Says the one whose traveled many times probably." She retorted playfully. "Also, you can't say that because it's always business when you did. And you don't know how to relax even if you did have a couple hours to yourself to explore." Arden added.

"Well, when your job is one of my caliber, relaxing is a bit hard to do." John pointed out with a hint of disdain. Arden leaned back in her seat, raising her brow as she smirked at him.

"You chose the job, I don't think you have much of a right to complain." Arden said bluntly, noticing the way his jaw momentarily clenched. "Anyhow, it looks like both of us have had our fill. Should we be heading out? You're old, I wouldn't want you falling asleep on me." She teased.

He frowned for a second, "I'm not that old, & ignoring that, you are right. I have some things to finish tomorrow, & I'll need to sleep." John said standing, offering her a hand. Arden took it & he pulled her swiftly to her feet.

"I wonder what things entail." She thought aloud, causing the older male to glanced at her as they exited the diner.

Chapter Text

NIne Years Ago

It was four in the afternoon when a loud, frantic pounding interrupted the hitman's & assassin's verbal exchange. Aurelio glanced at John, nodding to the man as he moved to the door. He turned the doorknob, & slowly opened the door.

"Take her, please. They'll kill her!" A young boy, no older than sixteen pleaded. Green eyes darting around as he held the girl close to him. "Please. They're coming." He begged.

Aurelio looked back to John. The hitman merely watched the entire thing, hands laced together. His eyes focused on the young male who was clutching at the small girl, jade colored eyes wild. Aurelio turned back to the boy, nodding reluctantly & pulling the girl into the building.

The boy froze for a moment. Looking at the girl he smiled, it was warm & reassuring. He released a soft breath, lifting his gaze to both men. He bobbed his head to them in appreciation before running down the street.

Aurelio closed the door until there was a silver of light left. Seconds later men can sprinting by, shouting as they passed. Their shouting was followed by gunshots & then silence. The girl gripped tightly to her savior, eyes shut tightly as she attempted to block out the sounds.

"You're a pushover." John said from his seat, arms folded over his chest.

"Oh be quite, they were going to kill her John. Besides, I knew the kid, he used to come over bugging me every day for work when he got outta school... He is- was a good kid." Aurelio replied dryly.

"Fair enough."

With that both gentlemen looked at the little girl. She stared back, oddly enough she wasn't noticeably scared of them. Aurelio crouched in front of her, slowly reaching out to rest his hands on her small shoulders.

"Where are your parents?" He questioned.

"They're dead. Those men killed them," the girl replied softly, voice trembling slightly.

"Do you have any other family?" Aurelio asked, eyes intent as the girl shook her head. "Mmmm, is there anyone we can take you to? A friend's family maybe?" One more she shook her head. "Alright, uh, you stay right here. I'm gonna make a couple calls.

"Okay."

Aurelio walked off.

John & the now orphaned girl blankly stared at the other. Her eyes flickered over him, eyes narrowing as they focused on the shoulder holsters beneath his suit's coat. He raised a brow at the child's keen eyes. She was unusually attentive for someone her age. He stood. The hitman moved & stopped in front of the girl, towering over her;

"What's your name?" His tone flat as his seeming bored eyes bored into hers. She remained silent, eyes dark as they looked up at him; he sighed. "I'm John."

"Arden." The brunette informed with a smile akin to a sneer. John's brows furrowed at the odd child before him. Aurelio's return shifted John's attention to him.

"No one can take her," he said quietly to John. "Guess you're staying with me kid."

"Arden." John corrected, "Her name is Arden." He ignored the look Aurelio had given him & turned to leave, patting his friend's shoulder before departing.

Aurelio turned to Arden & held out his hand to her, "C'mon, we need to go buy you new clothes & other things for school." He explained to her. He smiled softly as she slid her smaller hand into his.

"What's your name?" Arden asked as they exited the body shop.

"I'm Aurelio."

That was the day Arden met two men that would change her life; Aurelio & John.