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The Acquired Inability to Escape

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Pana hasn’t quite caught on yet: Dan can’t tell the kid he’ll be here forever.

He can only tell Pana that he can’t get close enough, inside enough, wrap him tight enough.

But there’s one thing working against him, the invisible glue holding Dan back: Nobody could need him more, could want more to be loved so hard it hurts

(and not just the deep inside screaming hurt, the held down and whimpering stretched-hole full guts banging his head into the headboard hurt, but the other hurt, that deeper creeping hurt that love makes, that hole it drills inside the heart and refuses to keep full, the well it must replenish daily, hourly, minute by minute, second by second - not good love or bad love just so much of it that there’s no difference: Pana has to have it more than food, more than water, might as well not breathe without it)

so hard his stomach flip-flops when Pana looks up at him, covered in brain matter, breathing hard, eyes so innocent that Dan can’t, he can’t.

"If I die, that’s one thing -" How to say it? He can’t make promises, but he can’t not make promises. "You can’t die. You won’t die."

"You said I was your partner now. And now you just fuckin leave me here with this guy Liam?"

Dan ignores the tears; he still has to explain because there isn’t much time: Pana isn’t built for a job like this. He needs Dustin or even that fucker Manu for this one. Listen. Liam’s holding enough of Dan’s money that Pana won’t ever have to do another day’s work. Liam’ll take care of him.

"So you might die?"

Someday too soon Dan will die. Will crumple to the concrete with his intestines in his hand, or fall bleeding out from a six-story window. No matter how it happens he’ll be hoping Pana isn’t drinking milk straight from the carton, that Pana finishes learning to read.

"I’m leaving when the sun comes up," Dan tells him. "Liam’ll come get you by then."

Pana’s eyes fill and his lips tremble and his gaze leaves the room, goes somewhere else, and Dan knows that Pana isn’t trusting the future, can only see the present crumbling, but he can’t help that.

Pana doesn’t want to be held but Dan makes him, takes him, folds him up, holds him down, rocks him while Pana punches his chest, sad little ineffective strikes with no leverage.

"I love you too," Dan tells him.

*

Dan comes back two weeks later with a bullet in his thigh, one broken thumb, and a few million blood-soaked dollars. Liam’s private doctor patches him up enough that he can mostly stand upright.

"He okay?" Dan asks.

When Liam doesn’t answer Dan pushes him out of the way, knocks the doctor up against the exam room wall.

He finds Pana pacing back and forth in the spare room Liam keeps for Dan when he’s in Australia.

"You killed them all now!" Pana’s eyes are feverish eyes, his hands stroking Dan all over, face and torso and cock. He’s filthy, thin..The bottom of his nose is smeared with white powder. "It’s over. We can quit."

Dan shakes his head and Pana’s eyes go. Blank and dead and this is almost worse than if Dan hadn’t come back at all.

"Flush it. All of it. No more after this or you can’t be my partner."

Pana’s face works. “It was only this one time,” he starts to lie, but Dan cuts him off with a look that makes him clack his mouth closed.

"Bring me something so I can wash it off."

When Pana comes back from the bathroom Dan roughly wipes his face with his good hand, tosses the washcloth somewhere on the floor and pushes Pana down onto the bed.

"I was fine before I met you,” Pana snits.

Dan strokes Pana’s stringy hair. “No you weren’t.”

"Don’t leave me again?" Pana thumps his head into Dan’s chest, clutches and scratches at him, feral and pathetic. "Don’t do that to me?"

"It’s my job. You knew it," Dan says wearily. His painkillers are starting to kick in, he doesn’t want to lose his temper. "And if you do that again I’m sending you to rehab for three months. For six months. Come here and go to sleep."

"I won’t do it anymore," Pana says quickly. "I just needed something. I promise it was only a couple times. What time is it? What did you do? Where were you? I helped Liam do inventory but he won’t let me do any jobs. Did you tell him not to let me do any jobs? It’s boring here without you. What time is it? I can’t sleep yet. It’s too early." Pana rolls and kicks until Dan pins him down against his side.

"It’s three-thirty in the morning," Dan yawns. "Close your eyes and be quiet." Dan can feel the tension in Pana, a vibrating metal rod running through his spine and radiating outward, but Dan can hold Pana still in his sleep if he needs to.

"Will you still be here tomorrow?" Pana looks up at him, his eyes huge, face pale. He smells like sweat and terror and he’s finally caught on that this is more than Dan’s work, it’s what Dan is:

If there’s another big job Dan will leave him again tomorrow and Dan hates that he doesn’t hate himself for that.

"Tomorrow I’m giving you a bath." Dan pulls Pana’s jittery body closer but still can’t ever get Pana close enough to crush the killer lying between them.