The ornaments and lights get stapled and pinned on, and Dan watches Pana wind the twinkling green and red and gold stringed bulbs around the bottom of the tree, smiles when Pana grudgingly hands the reins over to Dan when he can’t reach any higher.
"I wanted to put on the star at least," Pana pouts. "You got to set up the tree.”
"Fine. I’ll get a chair." Dan rolls his eyes, but he can’t deny Pana anything right now, not on his first American Christmas, not on any of Pana’s firsts. He drops a smacking kiss on Pana’s lips.
"No, lift me up," Pana smiles, hands stroking Dan’s well-muscled arms and his ego. "I’d rather do it that way."
More than Dan’s pride is warmed by that. He takes Pana’s chin in his hand, that chin that can waver from resolute decision to softness in an instant. “Yeah. Together.”
"Wait!" Pana slips out of his grasp, runs into the bedroom and returns with…
Dan can barely look at it through the sudden bleariness in his eyes, has to shut his eyes hard for a long moment before he can look at Pana again.
"How’d you get this?" he asks.
(They move a lot, they go everywhere because nowhere is safe forever in their line of work, and sometimes they have to leave everything. But Pana is a hoarder of all things Dan, scurries around dodging gunfire to pack that duffel bag he insists on keeping by the bed.
"You need clean socks," he tells Dan while bullets whiz by his head and Dan is reloading. "Where’s your red hoodie?")
"That time in L.A. The first time we had to leave. It was under your mattress. I- I thought you’d be mad that I was looking under there. But I thought you’d want it now…"
Dan thinks of that time, hustling Pana out the window, yelling at him to just leave the fuckin bag. Pana. Just climb onto the fire escape and wait for me. Don’t worry, I’ll come get you. I promise.
In the firestorm and the rush to make sure Pana was whole Dan had shrugged it off the best he could. If he’d been alone, he’d have reached under the mattress and snatched it up like always.
"That’s why you took so damn long." Dan remembers snapping at Pana so loudly that night that Pana shrank into himself, eyes tearing up. He remembers relenting, fucking Pana to sleep on sketchy motel sheets
(How the fuck are you so tight?” he wonders, while Pana scratches a path down his thigh. It’s almost too tight, it’s torture to hold back and hold on to Pana, draw it out and out until Pana can’t take him, begs for him to come.
"Cause I give good head," Pana sighs.
And that brings out something inhuman in Dan, something hot and bestial, nothing like the coldness of the killer in him, but part of him that needs to have Pana all to himself, that resents that men stare at Pana until Dan cows them with a look that promises violence.
He doesn’t know he’s choking Pana until Pana flails and scrambles uselessly, and even then he doesn’t stop but only eases up enough that Pana can breathe, can let go of his panic and hold tight to Dan’s hands.
"Only you now," Pana rasps. "Dan. Only you."
And Dan shows his approval by sinking his teeth hard into Pana’s throat.)
"It’s your brother, ain’t it?"
"Yeah." Dan turns the photo over, finds the hook set into the little silver frame Pana’s set it into. "It’s Ande."
"Ready?" Dan turns down the lights, and Pana kneels by the tree, hits the switch on the power strip.
The room is awash in twinkling multicolored lights, their sparkle reflected in the silver and gold ornaments, in Ande’s photograph hooked firmly into the center of the tree.
"Come here." Pana can barely be distracted from the sight before him, but he stops staring long enough to take the big golden star ornament from Dan.
Dan wraps his hands around Pana’s waist, lifts him up so that he can carefully set the star atop the tree.
The tree threatens to lurch over to one side, but Dan quickly rights it, hammers the bottom of it more firmly into its base, tightens the tinsel-covered ropes holding it perfectly upright.
Then he stands back with Pana leaning back against him, head lolled back onto his shoulder. Dan rocks them gently from side to side while they admire the beautiful sight before them.
"How long do you think it’ll last?" Pana whispers.
"I dunno." Dan watches the rivulets of blood wind down Ferguson’s bruised and castrated body. Thinks of Pana’s years of fear, of violation by this man’s hand. "Not long enough. I’ll put it in the wood-chipper when it starts to shed."