The kid transforms from urchin to angel after his shower. He swims in one of Dan’s old t-shirts, inhales two pepperoni pizzas, destroys a huge bag of potato chips, washes it down with a liter of Pepsi.
Then as if someone flipped an invisible switch in him, his hips sway, his eyebrows lift slightly, and he and looks up at Dan with hard dark eyes. “Thanks. Dan, was it? Yeah, I guess now…I have condoms -“
"Now you sleep on the sofa," Dan finishes quickly, feeling sick.
The tensed shoulders drop a little, the wary expression and darting eyes ease up into something like weak jauntiness. When Dan holds his gaze, though, those big dark eyes waver on his, tremulous as flowing water, and Dan’s stomach twists with violence, an impotent rage at the world for taking beauties like this and turning them out.
"You sleep on the fucking sofa, kid,” Dan repeats.
"Name’s Nas. And I’m nineteen,” the malnourished little mutt hisses. “I ain’t no fuckin kid.”
"Sofa," Dan barks.
Dan turns away fast when those brown eyes go fully liquid.
Dan is resigned to finding a few things missing in the morning, although with those thin arms and chest, Nas doesn’t seem like he could lift Dan’s large-screen, the only thing of much value Dan bothered to put in the living room.
(“Hey, mister. Spare any change?”
"Don’t have anything on me, sorry." But Dan hadn’t kept walking, he’d stopped and stared, because the boy was a beauty under the thin layer of grime painting his face, because that jacket was really too thin, because the hungry look in those eyes went beyond food or drugs or whatever it was discarded children sustained themselves on.
"Hey, mister. Wanna fuck?"
And ten minutes later Dan is shoving a towel and washcloth into overgrown puppy hands and shoving a strange teenaged boy into his bathroom, slamming the door closed on his narrow little ass.)
Dan shrugs it off, though, while he shrugs off his jacket, his pants, his shoulder and ankle holsters.
Ever since that one job in Rome went to hell six months ago and Ande crumpled full of lead, bleeding out in Dan’s arms, Dan hasn’t felt a thing.
Except the rage that makes him put a few extra bullets into his targets’ faces, loses him money when a client has to go to the trouble of identifying them by dental records or fingerprints.
Always hesitating before squeezing the trigger so Dan had to focus quick and save both their asses, always asking what about their families?)
And then this long-haired boy with feral eyes stared out at him from a recessed doorway, and Dan feels like everything at once.
"Go back to the sofa," Dan growls when he feels the weight on the bed beside him.
Dan puts away his Glock, silently tucks it back into its little pillow in the bedside table’s open drawer. It’s pure reflex on his part to sleep light, to snap awake at any unfamiliar sound, to roll over quick and reach for a weapon at even the slightest off vibe.
He’s learned to hone his ears and body to a razor-edge quickness that belies his size and has saved his ass more than once.
How this pup managed to get so fucking close and be so quiet, Dan will never know, and Nas will never know how lucky he is that Dan didn’t squeeze the trigger.
"I - I just wanted to thank you."
Fuck if Nas isn’t naked and fuck if his skin isn’t shimmering in the thin moonlight seeping in from the drawn blinds.
And fuck if Dan doesn’t kiss him, slow and soft, biting gently on that fat bottom lip, his signal for Nas to slow down. Dan bends over that shaking needy body, skim his hand over that fat curved cock and lap at those small dark nipples.
Dan breathes out, “Nas.” The boy stiffens in his arms while a block of ice forms in Dan’s guts.
"Pana. My name is Pana."
Fuck if that doesn’t make Dan melt.
Dan can barely get it in Pana, has to ease his condom-covered dick out and go back to using his fingers while Pana whines and thrashes underneath him.
And fuck if tears don’t leak from Pana’s eyes when Dan finally pushes in, shuddering with the effort not to ram it all inside at once.
Pana falls asleep in a tangle of long sweat-dampened curly hair pillowed on Dan’s chest, face pressed into Dan’s armpit.
Dan stays awake, strokes his knuckes over the silken skin of Pana’s back, watches him sleep (Twice Pana startles awake with fierce frightened eyes, and Dan whispers, “Pana,” and Pana’s eyes focus on his face for a moment before his head thumps back onto Dan’s chest.)
And fuck if Dan is going to close his eyes for even a moment, because he’s never letting this boy slip away anywhere but with him.
Dan’s soul should be dead, cold and shriveled in the ground like Ande, but from the moment he stopped under that flickering streetlight and peered into the dark of that pissy doorway a stupid idealist drumbeat has been slowly flaring up in his chest, thrumming painful through the knife-scar over his heart (a surprise birthday gift care of Lucy from New Zealand).
And the flint in Pana’s eyes has softened to raw pig-shit fawning love and his spare body is filled out, and he willingly eats vegetables and Dan loves him more than anything, would kill the men who made Pana into the half-frightened, half reckless little man in his arms, in his dreams, and in his life when has he ever been so lucky to profit from someone else’s terrible luck?
Pana won’t name names, but Dan finds out everything on his own.
(Dan has never told Pana, but the kid’s got to have figured it out by now, why Dan has no friends or soft edges, why sometimes they have to move and move quick - and Pana is only allowed to pack one bag, but he always manages to pack something of Dan’s.)
Dan puts away his rifle, looks away from the telescopic sight where he sees crimson and vengeance instead of the usual cold contract life-snipe, and Dan sighs, and Dan takes Pana in his arms and hurts him with how strong his arms need to hold his boy close and doesn’t care because this is a hurt Pana craves.
Dan throws the folder down on the coffee table of the little place they have now in New Mexico. Pana looks up, startled.
"Read it," Dan growls.
Pana’s face goes blank, and the granite slides back into his gaze, and Dan should have known, it’s been months and how did he not-
"I’ll read it to you," Dan says, gets Pana into his arms and nestles in while he ticks off the names, aliases, and current locations of some two-bit Roman pimps who passed Pana and his brother around between them like they were a couple of worthless sex toys. Fucking Romans.
"I’ll kill them all," Dan promises. "For you and your brother." Pana stares up at him, pushes his big hand against Dan’s chest and shakes his head. Then he reaches into Dan’s open button-down shirt, gingerly hefts the weight of his holster.
"It’s heavy," Pana breathes.
"Yeah. And it kicks back," Dan laughs. "But I’ll help you shoulder it."
From the first time Pana squeezes the trigger (Dan standing patiently by Pana’s side as that cowardly Roman fuck who sold two orphaned boys into slavery begs for his life) he transforms.