Right after opening the front door to his own apartment, Galo found himself surrounded by scorching hot air.
“Oh, c’mon, again?” he mumbled as he rolled his eyes, locked up, and hurried to his room, where he found a rather familiar scene.
Cocooned in two blankets, Lio was sitting at the kotatsu table with his chin on its plain surface and face right against a loudly working heating fan. His hair was streaming and eyes were peacefully closed – at least until the moment the fan stopped working.
Lio lazily opened his eyes and raised them at Galo, who was standing across the table with his hands on his hips.
“Turn it back on,” Lio mumbled and wrapped himself tighter in the blankets. “It’s cold.”
“Dude, just how much heat did those weird alien-thingies use to give ya, if now you’re freezing without ‘em all the time?”
“Not ‘all the time’. It just..” Lio knitted his brow a little, “..happens in some occasional fits.”
“Yeah, if by ‘occasional’ you mean ‘daily’,” Galo scratched his neck. “The AC’s on too?”
After spotting the remote control on the table, he took it in his hands and stared at the display.
“Wow, what’s up with ‘91.4’??” Galo looked up at the air conditioner on the wall next to the window. “It’s freakin’ hot in here, but not the ‘burning flames all around’-hot. The damn thing broke or something?”
It took Lio a few seconds to realize that Galo was not joking and had indeed no idea what the numbers meant. Heaving a disappointed sigh, he shook his head.
“I set it to Fahrenheit.”
Confused, Galo unglued his eyes from the AC and turned them back to Lio.
“And you call yourself a member of the firefighting brigade, seriously?” Lio didn’t bother to stifle a scoff. “Did you even get some education or Kray just put you on the Burning Rescue team right away?”
“Hey!” Galo unconsciously raised his voice, which wasn’t exactly low at its usual volume. “I might’ve gotten a small career push thanks to that jerk, but just so you know, I went through the training just like everyone else!”
“The way you have to desperately underline this fact in words instead of proving it in action shows just how shallow the knowledge you gained there is,” Lio ruthlessly summed up. “In any case, it’s ‘Fahrenheit’. A scale different from the Celsius one.”
“..Never heard of it.”
“It’s uncommon now,” Lio admitted, “but years ago, some countries outside of Promepolis used it as a standard.”
“So.. your roots go back to those countries or something?”
Lio shook his head.
“No, my ancestors lived in the country that always used Celsius.” The right corner of his mouth turned up a little. “Actually, I think yours come from that same place too.”
“What, really?!” forgetting about the whole heat business, Galo flopped down on the floor and put his elbows on the table, all focused on the topic at hand. “My mom’s folks were from Japan, and dad proudly talked about some country with many islands that was like super important in the West long, long ago. Don’t remember its name, tho…”
“Yeah, that!” Galo snapped his fingers, then raised a surprised eyebrow. “But uh.. how’d you know that?”
Still smiling, Lio got his arms out of the blankets and leaned his elbows against the table.
“Your second name. I easily remembered it because it’s a concept with Greek origins.”
“And what’s that concept?”
“It means ‘enthusiasm’ and ‘passion’. Also, 'strong desire to get recognition',” Lio’s smile turned into a slight smirk. “All very fitting, if you ask me.”
To his surprise, Galo didn’t immediately get all puffed up but let out a sad laugh instead.
“Yeah, ‘recognition’…” Galo muttered, lowering his eyes to the table, and then ruffled his hair. “Since I was a kid, I’ve been always doing things that would help me get recognition of a fake hero. It’s almost like my whole life’s been a joke, huh…”
Unprepared for this kind of reaction, Lio somewhat regretted his recent remark about Kray’s role in Galo’s career.
“..You enjoy your job and the way things are for you now regardless of how much influence Kray had on everything,” Lio reminded in his calm voice after he took some time to find the right words. “That’s the important part. It doesn’t make your life any sort of a joke and simply means that Kray caused at least one good thing to happen.”
Galo was silent for a few more moments, but then cracked a smile.
“..Yeah. Guess you’re right,” He slowly raised his eyes back to Lio and forced a grin. “Well, what about your second name then? It has a meaning in that language too, no?”
“And what’s that meaning?”
For a second Galo didn’t react at all – and a couple moments later he was already banging his fist on the table while laughing like a maniac.
“..Stop it,” furrowing his brow, Lio felt a blush mantle his face, even though he believed there was nothing he should’ve been ashamed of. “S-stop laughing at my name!”
“B-but it’s just..” trying to recover from laughter, Galo lifted his face – still with a big yet no longer forced grin, “it’s just soo freakin’ straightforward, it’s hilarious!”
“It’s not hilarious,” Lio was almost pouting and didn’t even notice when he let one of the blankets slide down from his shoulders on the floor.
“Not your name, just the whole thing.”
“It’s not hilarious.”
“Alright-alright,” with a beam from ear to ear, Galo tilted his head to the side. “So hey, why’d you stick to that weird system then? I mean it’s not used in Promepolis and not related to you in any way, so what’s the deal with it?”
Lio gave out a sharp breath.
“I wanted to revive it in the city for the Burnish,” he explained.
“The one you were gonna build?”
“Cuz that woulda proudly separated you from the rest of the people or cuz these Faren-something numbers are crazy huge and sticking to them woulda gotten you guys high with more of that BURNing inside and around?” Galo let out a chuckle. “Or cuz both?”
Trying to keep a straight face, Lio could sense an embarrassed flush on his cheeks again.
“Just kidding – no way you’d have a reason so dumb and childish that I’d figure it out, hah.”
Lio lowered his head, trying to hide his face, and Galo blinked in surprise.
“Wait, did I.. guess right?”
“..So it’s both.”
“Then why’re you reacting like this?”
“I’m reacting just fine.”
“Yeah, but your face is-...”
“It’s just too hot in here!”
“Oooooh?” Galo smirked as if he’d been waiting for this phrase all along. “That’s super nice to hear!”
He took the AC remote back in his hands and turned it off. In a moment, he ruffled his hair.
“Y’know, uh, with how I spent most of my money on the kotatsu and the fan, I’m startin’ to feel like I’ll need some help covering this month’s electricity bills,” Galo said after putting the remote aside. “How’s it going with the part-time job search?”
Lio guiltily pressed his lips together. Remaining a freeloader hadn’t been his plan from the moment he’d accepted the offer to move into Galo’s apartment that had turned out to be much luckier than his own place in avoiding major damage during their large-scale battle. But finding a job in the city mostly focused on repair works appeared to be quite a challenge.
“You can do something besides burning places down and leading gangs of rebels, right?”
“Of course I can,” insulted, Lio lifted his head and knitted his brow. “As soon as the city gets back to normal, I’ll find a job and a new place to rent.”
He saw some strange emotion on Galo’s face but didn’t take time to decipher it and let out another soft scoff.
“And by the way, won’t you be soon out of commission now that the Burnish don’t exist?”
“Heh, fires’ve been a thing since like forever,” Galo waved the dig off. “Sure, there’ll be fewer of ‘em now, but Burning Rescue won’t be out of work anytime soon. Freeze Force tho – those guys already aren’t doing so well,” he sneered. A mere moment later his eyes suddenly lit up. “Oh, hey! How ‘bout working for our department?”
“You’ve.. got a vacancy?”
“Dunno, but we could use some hands, I guess.”
“Galo, that’s not how jobs normally work,” Lio sighed.
“The whole city’s in ruins, nothing ‘works normally’ now anyway,” Galo shrugged and then rubbed his chin. “So, uh, you think you can help with debris, rubble and stuff? We’re actually pretty busy with the repair works these days.”
Lio narrowed his eyes, trying to estimate his current level of abilities.
“..Not so sure about it,” he admitted unwillingly.
“You good with computers then?”
“Is this some sort of a job interview?” Lio raised an unamused eyebrow.
“Just tryin’ to picture you in any line of work I know,” Galo shrugged again. “So how’s it with computers?”
“..I can send emails?”
“Nah, not gonna cut it.. Hmm…” arms folded across his ever bare chest, Galo creased his forehead as he was trying to come up with something.
In a few moments, he snapped his fingers.
“Ever delivered a pizza?”
“That’s.. a responsibility in the Burning Rescue department?”
“Well, not really, but our productivity sure as hell depends on this!”
“I never did that, but,” still somewhat confused, Lio shrugged, “this sounds like something I can do.”
“Great!” Galo clapped his hands. “Then I’ll introduce you to the owner of some nice place tomorrow. Make sure your bike’s ready in the morning, ‘kay?”
Once Lio nodded, Galo got up from the floor and made a few steps toward the bathroom door, planning to take a shower.
He already touched the door handle when he stopped and cleared his throat.
“..Guess it won’t be easy to find some neat apartment when the city’s like this, so, er, it’s.. it’s cool if we just share the bills and all, y’know?”
Lio arched an eyebrow.
“I mean, it’s kinda, uh, nice to get back to this place when it’s not empty, and..” his eyes locked on the door, Galo was nervously scratching his neck, “..you’re kinda fun to be around all the time, so.. yeah.”
“..‘So yeah’?” Lio repeated and Galo finally turned his head to face him.
“So you don’t really need to move out so fast – that’s it.”
Barely hiding his satisfaction with how it was now Galo’s turn to get all flustered, Lio let one corner of his mouth lift to form a somewhat mischievous smirk again.
“I have to admit, you’re not so boring to be around either.”
“Heh, sure I’m not!” Galo smiled back at him. “So, we good?”
“Yeah. I won’t rush with the move, if I’m not in the way here.”
Content with the answer, Galo flashed yet another grin at him before disappearing in the bathroom.
After looking at the closed door for a few moments, Lio took the remaining blanket off his shoulders and unplugged the kotatsu.
Even without saying it aloud, he had to accept that his 'not-so-boring companion' was also an effective way to fight the annoying freezing fits. Ironically enough, the man who took pride in extinguishing fires seemed to be great at giving him his lost inner heat back.