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Ever After

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Lio Fotia is the newest recruit of Burning Rescue, the city of Promepolis' volunteer firefighting-rescue team. He's only been around for about 2 weeks, but he's quickly proven himself to be an invaluable asset. He's too quiet, sometimes even more silent than Captain Ignis, but he's caution without paralysis, sheer determination to make up for his lanky frame, a sharp mind, and a willingness to learn and cooperate all rolled into one. The team will get him to open up eventually, whether he wants to or not, but for now they're simply happy to have him.

 

On only his second mission, Lio encounters the Mad Burnish, long-standing terrorists who burn the world around them for unknown reasons. Only 3 of them haven't been imprisoned yet, and they're all there: a hulking red-and-black one, a tall yet equally powerful blue-and-black one, and a pink-and-black one that could be called a mix of the other two. They're muscular, but not nearly as much as their red ally. And their armor has no horns, stilts, spikes, or anything like that.

 

But in their hands is a huge, light-blue spear. Oddly enough, it looks ornamental in nature, not like something that could or should be used for combat.

 

That hypothesis is immediately disproven: The damn thing is no joke, able to create strong, fiery gusts with no warning and break through even the sturdiest pieces of Lio's Matoi tech without much issue.

 

Again, unlike their compatriots, the pink leader of the Mad Burnish really doesn't say much. But Lio can tell, from afar and up close, that they're sizing him up intently.

 

(Not having anything that he can go off of to discern their motivations is frustrating, but he presses on.)

 

Eventually, and not without giving it absolutely everything he's got, Lio manages to capture all the Mad Burnish. As it turns out, their leader is a towering, well-toned, dark-skinned man with electric blue eyes and hair. He's wearing a black shirt that looks almost too tight on him, black armbands, and baggy red sweatpants.

 

For a short while, he remains quiet, but then something seems to come over him, because he suddenly smirks and asks:

 

"So, what's your name, Burning Rescue rookie?"

 

Lio only allows his mouth to twitch, but the question catches him completely off-guard. How could he know about that?

 

(Also, is he seriously asking him for his name this nonchalantly, like he didn't just beat him and arrest him? The gall...!)

 

... Well, honestly, what does it even matter? They'll never see each other again. So he can indulge him, before he can't be indulged anymore. Plus, somehow... he seems harmless enough. Like he'd keep fighting him if he could, but his mood isn't aggressive or violent.

 

(Just smoldering, still, because of something. But what?)

 

"... Lio Fotia. Remember it well. I may indeed be new to firefighting, but I'll do whatever it takes to protect Promepolis and her people from your flames."

 

"Fair enough!" Now he's grinning. It's not maniacal or malicious, but it is sunny. "I'm the great Galo Thymos! Our fight has set my burning soul ablaze. You're really skilled! Maybe we can have a rematch sometime!"

 

Lio barely blushes, not used to his enemies speaking to him like that. But a rematch? Is he really planning on...?

 

Before he can prod him any further, Freeze Force appears. After some backtalk from him and Captain Ignis coming to his defense, Freeze Force takes custody of the criminals, and the two units go their separate ways.

 

Lio can't shake the feeling that this isn't nearly the last he's seen of Galo Thymos.

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When Lio successfully sneaks into the Burnish's new cave hideout, he's utterly shocked to see Galo Thymos smiling reassuringly at, beaming towards, and laughing with the rest of his people. Nothing during their fight would've suggested to him that Galo is so... kind.

 

While he's distracted by this revelation, Galo happens to turn in his direction and spots him. So does everyone else, after which point most of them opt to hide behind Galo. For a couple of beats, the only sounds anyone can hear are their own breathing and the flickering of the Burnish bonfire before them.

 

Then Galo manages to swipe one of his legs under both of Lio's, sweeping him off his feet. He also shoots his flames at him, creating scorching bindings for both them and his hands.

 

Dammit, so quickly?! How did - ?!

 

"Sorry, but if you could not give us a hard time right now, that'd be awesome." Galo's expression is serious, but it looks wrong on him: His face looks too-tightly-drawn or too stern, or something. But just as quickly, he grins again. "If you don't, I promise we won't hurt you!"

 

Incredibly enough, he believes him. Hell, he isn't even trying to interrogate, torture, and/or kill him, even though now would be his best chance to.

 

"... Alright," Lio acquiesces. Galo looks a little surprised. "We're not in any position to fight here, so I'll have to overlook this for now. ... But I won't later."

 

Something flickers in Galo's expression, but it's gone in an instant and he's beaming, maybe even more widely than before. "Thanks, Lio!"

 

"Didn't I tell you that my name is Lio Fotia, Galo Thymos?"

 

"Oh, you remembered! But you can call me Galo, y'know? You don't have to call me by my full name, it's kinda long."

 

"No thanks. We're not friends, in case you're forgetting, we're enemies. I'll refer to you as such."

 

Galo looks like his words have physically struck him. He becomes sheepish, but then his expression hardens. (Again, that looks wrong on him. He can't explain why.) "You're right. Sorry. I shouldn't be acting friendly with a civilian, but..."

 

Galo mumbles, forlornly, dejectedly, "... sometimes I wish things could be different."

 

Lio somehow can't help but empathize with him and the plight of the Burnish in general, more than he ever has before. He guesses that Galo is the type of person who'd love to be friends with everyone around him, but just because of an ability he'd been given without his say-so, that can never happen.

 

"Ahhh, sorry, sorry, forget I said anything!" Galo smiles, but tersely. "We're definitely still enemies. The Burnish will be free, and I won't let anyone get in the way of that. Not even you."

 

Not even him, huh?

 

Lio stays silent as Galo can't help but go back to being his cheerful self with his friends/family. He grabs a bag of food and shares its contents with everyone, and still he can't say anything. He has no idea where he'd even begin or what exactly he wants to do right now.

 

Galo, however, can't seem to help himself: "... You're really weird, Lio. Not gonna badmouth us or anything? Seriously, not even gonna try to escape?"

 

(Galo Thymos could act like and be a fool, but even he isn't that much of an idiot.)

 

He shakes his head. "... No. Don't misunderstand me, Galo Thymos. I don't hate or even dislike you Burnish. I can only imagine all the terrible things you've been subjected to simply because of your flames."

 

There it is again: Galo's intense, burning stare. Even Lio has a hard time not cracking in the face of it, so he just keeps going.

 

"The reason why I fought all of you the other day was because you snuck up behind us. And I wasn't sure what you were going to do. My utmost priority was to make sure that everyone we were rescuing was going to be safe. As long as you don't get anyone killed or kill anyone, I can live with you running around even when I can't stop you."

 

And he stares back at Galo, resolutely. That is his burning firefighter soul, his pride. He won't let anyone tarnish it either.

 

Galo breathes deeply, in and out. Swallows thickly. "Then, would you - ?"

 

And then the old man brings Thyma's condition to his attention, and whatever he was about to say no longer matters.

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Thyma passes away. Lio grimaces, but he doesn't turn himself from her. He needs to see first-hand, as much as possible, the trials that the Burnish are going through if he wants to keep trying to fight for them.

 

[Like he has been all these years, alone, under the radar. His former mentor Kray Foresight's carefully-measured, no-promises responses to his requests for everyone to treat the Burnish better, they're people too, eventually caused him to stop respecting and trusting him. But he knows much better than to let on about things like that.]

 

Galo, on the other hand, slows to an almost-complete standstill. He looks away from Lio and what's left of Thyma's body, sniffs once, quietly, and wipes his face harshly. The expressions of the other Burnish don't change much, but Lio can imagine they've all fallen a little lower.

 

"... Boss, the trucks are ready," mumbles the blue-and-black Burnish from before. "There's room for everyone."

 

"... Then let's go, right now. It's too risky to stick around here."

 

As everyone files out of the cave, Lio simmers until he can't help but shout:

 

"Galo Thymos!"

 

Galo's eyes are blazing. (Yes, that's more like the leader of the Mad Burnish.) There's definitely anger in them, but pain is more prominent and deeper.

 

... What a burden for a man like him to carry. He's kind of curious how he does it.

 

"I'm sorry for your loss."

 

Something in Galo almost breaks then and there, with Lio's genuinely remorseful tone for something he didn't even do, but he holds himself together, just barely. "... Thanks. Don't die or anything until our rematch, alright?"

 

A tiny bit, just enough, of the warmth from before has returned to him. Oh, distracting himself, hm? He supposes he can understand that game.

 

Despite everything, Lio chuckles dryly.

 

"You mean my next clean sweep. I don't intend to."

 

Galo sits in the back of one of the Burnish's trucks. He tries his damnedest to stifle his sobs.

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Galo Thymos has known he's different ever since he became a Burnish. For once, he isn't trying to be cocky, but he's always known that the power of his flames is on a different level than anyone else's. (He's always reasoned that this is due to his burning soul, his consistent passion for fighting fires and saving people.) Hell, when he'd first met Gueira and Meis, he'd been holding back.

 

(It was mostly the same with Lio, if that makes sense. He tries to intimidate civilians so they won't get caught up in his, their war, but Lio hadn't been one to cower from him.)

 

Now, the bullet lodged in his chest HURTS. And after so long, he's truly alone again, his loved ones stolen away -

 

- being killed at this very moment.

 

So he's gonna do it. To scare off someone like Kray Foresight, he's gonna let his burning soul fully shine for the first time.

 

But he won't change. No killing or hurting anyone else. His only targets, the only ones (currently) responsible for the Burnish's suffering, are Kray and his goons.

 

In an instant, he becomes a dragon.

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He knows as soon as he sees him outside, sees the blue flares spouting from one of the eyes of a dragon that hasn't even been touched by anything.

 

"Galo Thymos... is crying."

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"Lio! You bastard!!"

 

Galo is furious, still engulfed in blue flames as they exchange blows in the back of Aina's chopper. Perhaps shockingly, or perhaps not, he has the upper hand from the start.

 

"What the hell did you do that for?! I had him!!"

 

"You were probably walking into a trap!" Lio strains to answer as he begins to feel the impact of Galo's beastly assault. "Do you really think Kray Foresight of all people wouldn't have been expecting you to retaliate against him somehow?! If you're captured, then it's really over for all the Burnish! And what did I say before about not killing anyone?!"

 

Galo freezes completely. "... I... I..."

 

"That's why we did this. I was saving your life so we could come up with a better plan." And Lio smiles. It's a small gesture, but considering he hasn't seem him doing or acting like this before, it still takes Galo aback. "Together."

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"Wait, wait! Before we go..."

 

Galo grins brightly as he closes his eyes and concentrates like he never has before, using his fire to coat the Deus Ex Machina in all black, with pink and blue flame-like motifs. Very much like a Mad Burnish. "When a cold-as-ice firefighter and blazing fire-starter come together like oil and water, they form... the LIO DE GALON!"

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In the core of the Parnassus' engine, Galo eventually starts to spiral out of control. And every time he tries to regain that control, neither his body nor his powers will do what he wants them to.

 

Everything begins to burn. He's turning into a star. He's singing his own hair, his left arm feels like it's being ripped away...

 

He tries to hold in his pained screams, but he can't even manage that either.

 

Soon enough, everything fades to black.

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Something warm and soft is pressing up against his mouth, desperate yet unyielding. And life's being breathed back into him, fanning his flames again.

 

Galo manages to slowly open his eyes only to see Lio smiling gently down at him.

 

Huh. Despite everything, he really likes that expression of his.

 

"Welcome back... Galo."

 

"Hey... You used just my first name...!"

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"Through spark and flame, I've got your back."

 

Galo wholeheartedly believes him.

Chapter Text

Several months have passed since Galo Thymos and Lio Fotia defeated Kray Foresight and saved the world, although it feels like it’s been much longer.

 

Today, it’s late. Lio Fotia is home, trying to fall asleep between a comforter and several blankets. His Promare had kept him warm always; without it, he’s always freezing.

 

(Among other things.)

 

[He’d decided awhile ago that, because he somehow can’t choose between living with the rest of the ex-Burnish or Galo, he’ll live on his own until he can. Both of the other parties are a little hurt by this, but completely supportive anyway. Everyone knows he’s gone, going, through a lot.)

 

He usually has the TV that Galo gave him playing in the background in an attempt to distract himself from this searing pain. He doesn’t tend to actually pay it any mind. But today, he suddenly realizes he’s listening to an evening talk show. He’s about to switch the channel to something much more worthy of his time when he makes out the following:

 

“… So firefighter extraordinaire Galo Thymos has been the talk of the town lately, huh? People love him. (Lio smiles softly.) They think he’s so attractive and so wonderful. But today, on The Promepolis, we’re gonna speak up for the minority and say: No! None of this is right! Because first of all, how could Galo not have known about everything Kray Foresight was planning?!”

 

What.

 

“I mean, he was practically glued to his hip, right? There’s no way he shouldn’t’ve!”

 

“Yeah, buuut lots of people have called him an idiot for a reason.” Infuriatingly, that earns several laughs from the audience and co-anchor. At the same time, he can’t help but feel a little guilty for having insulted him just like everyone else. “Maybe he really wasn’t in on it.”

 

“And he did help save everyone, the whole world…”

 

“He did all that because he felt bad!”, a random audience member shouts. “He felt guilty at the last minute!”

 

“And second of all, now he’s working hand-in-hand with the ex-Burnish, who caused this whole mess in the first place! Both Kray and Lio Fotia should stand trial for their crimes, and instead, he helped get Lio off for everything! That’s not justice!”

 

“Yeah!! Yeah!!”

 

The audience cheers, louder and louder. Lio feels as though his Promare has somehow returned to him, an inferno raging in his gut.

 

What is this…?!

 

Nothing, not even the blizzard that is the outside world, can stop him from throwing on something warm and launching himself beyond his front door.

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Galo Thymos, who’s dozing off, is startled into awareness by 3 hard raps at the door followed by the loud, incessant tapping of small feet.

 

(Everyone, including Galo and Lio themselves, have quickly discovered that they’re more alike than they ever would’ve imagined.)

 

He’d recognize that anywhere now. Lio.

 

But why is he here so late?

 

Galo rushes to the door, opens it, and looks down to see Lio’s eyes blazing, like they did when he was still a Burnish (dragon), seething at the world.

 

It sets off alarms for him. “Hey, what’s – “ He tries to ask softly, having learned that Lio responds better to de-escalation techniques when he’s furious.

 

“Galo. We need to talk. Now.”

 

He storms in without waiting for permission. Galo only tenses up more. “Lio, what – “

 

“Did you know about the nighttime shows talking about you recently…?!”

 

Oh. Oh.

 

“Huh? What are you talking about?” Galo tries asking nonchalantly. But Lio knows him enough by now to tell without even looking at him: His smile and tone are both strained.

 

Galo.

 

Galo keeps smiling for a couple of beats, until he sighs, like all the happiness has been drained from him. “Alright, yeah, I know.”

 

“Why didn’t you tell me?! You’re being slandered just because you’re working with us!”

 

“Because it’s not a big deal!” Galo bit back. “I didn’t wanna bother you, we – you and me – have way bigger, much more important things to worry about than a bunch of gossip.”

 

“Oh? Would you say that to me, or any of your Burning Rescue friends, or any of the ex-Burnish, if we were in your position?”

 

He sighs again, grumpily. “No.”

 

“That’s what I thought. If it can be important for them, it can be important for you, too. And…” Lio breathes in, deeply. “… I consider you my friend, at the very least. Friends help each other, even if I may only be able to hear you out.”

 

Finally hearing Lio confirm that out loud causes Galo to grin, but before he can respond, Lio flares up again:

 

“And why are you letting them talk about you like that?! You’re this city’s hero, you saved everyone, and they have the gall to insult you like that?!”

 

“Lio, it’s fine! Seriously.”

 

“… What?”

 

“Listen, Captain Ignis personally asked those crews to knock it off a couple of weeks ago. They haven’t, so what are either of us gonna say to convince them to?”

 

Dammit, he has a point. Even Lio has come to understand that Captain Ignis of Burning Rescue can be very convincing when he wants to be.

 

“But also… look. Everyone in Promepolis doesn’t have a lot of trust in anything right now. The ex-Burnish have been mistreated by everyone else for years, and… that’s still happening.” Galo lets that silence hang a short while. It’s an absolute sore spot both for the ex-Burnish and the members of Burning Rescue that the public is being this resistant to re-integrating the former into society. “And everyone else’s lives were turned upside-down in a night: The earth started dying, really fast, and the one guy they thought they could believe in was out to destroy anyone expendable or who wouldn’t comply with him. So maybe words won’t be enough to convince them that all I wanna do is fight fires and save people. That’s OK! I’ll keep doing both until everyone knows or remembers that that’s what I’m here for!”

 

Galo’s simplistically insightful reasoning catches him unawares. “Galo…”

 

“Besides… they’re probably right,” Galo mumbles, abruptly turning away from him to face the wall next to them.

 

“Right about what?”

 

“I really am an idiot, aren’t I?”

 

Lio and his wrath freeze over. Galo sounds… disappointed. Angry. Hurt.

 

Hurt? Galo Thymos can be hurt?

 

(He’s like the sun, how is that possible?)

 

“What red flags, what warning signs did I miss with Go – Kray? Why didn’t I know that he was gonna hurt and kill so many people? Why didn’t I know…”

 

A couple of drops of water suddenly disturb the floorboards.

 

Incredulously to Lio, Galo Thymos is crying.

 

And he’s holding himself back. Not looking at him, not sobbing, not sniffling, nothing. There’s just a slight hitch to his voice as he continues.

 

(Oh.)

 

“… that he’s always hated me? That he tried to get me killed…?”

 

“Galo!”

 

Abruptly, his face is being craned upwards by petite, warm hands. Lio’s looking him right in the eye, with determination.

 

He stills. (His tears do, too.)

 

“Remember that I was there when Kray Foresight admitted all that to both of us. I witnessed your reaction. You genuinely looked like you’d been stabbed in the back.” (Galo physically flinches at the thought of how open he’d been. Lio kindly chooses not to say anything about it.) “Kray is a snake, there’s no way you would’ve known what he was up to before that moment, when he was ready to tell us.”

 

“… You really think so? You’re not just saying that to make me feel better?”

 

Lio smirks, but good-naturedly. “Am I the type of person to do that?”

 

Galo chuckles back. “No. You’re not.”

 

It is at this moment that Lio realizes that, in his desperate desire to get his point across, he is now holding Galo Thymos’ face in his hands. He blushes and lets his hands drop to his sides.

 

“Also, you’re not actually an idiot.”

 

“Huh??? But you call me an idiot all the time???”

 

Oddly enough, Lio smiles fondly. “Yes, well… I honestly learned that from Gueira and Meis, that’s how they mess around with each other. Up until I met them, I’d been almost entirely on my own. I guess you could say that they taught me how to socialize with others.”

 

That self-assured look returns. “All that aside, I haven’t considered you stupid since the cave.”

 

“… Why?”

 

“Well, who was the one who took longer to recognize that the Promare dragon was me than it did for them to realize that I was crying? After only having known me for about a week and spoken to me for maybe 10 minutes of that time?”

 

(Yes, they’d discussed what had happened for both of them when Lio became a dragon. After all, it was one of the most badass parts of their story.)

 

“… Me.”

 

“And who was the one who saved my life after only having watched me use that CPR-like technique once unsuccessfully? You’re a firefighter, you know any number of things could’ve gone wrong back then. But they didn’t.”

 

“That was me, too.”

 

“Do you think a true idiot would’ve been able to pull off either of those things?”

 

“… No, probably not.”

 

Lio nods. Then his expression tightens, and he adds, “Also, it seems like you have a history with the word ‘idiot,’ so I’ll try my best not to use it with you anymore.”

 

Galo looks genuinely shocked. Lio’s disappointed that it takes so little effort that no one else has put in before to help support him. “… That would be awesome! Thanks, Lio!”

 

Lio nods again.

 

Galo’s expression slowly morphs into a sheepish, hesitant one. “… I’m sorry. I don’t normally get like that, and with the ‘idiot’ thing… I know it’s stupid, but… it’s what Kray called me the first time he told me about his plans. Then he slugged me and locked me up for a week, and I couldn’t do anything about any of it. So it just… reminds me of that bad taste in my mouth.”

 

“Bad taste,” indeed.

 

“It’s fine, we’re friends, and that makes perfect sense. It’s a painful reminder for you, so I’ll try to avoid it.”

 

Galo’s smiling, a small thing, but they’re finally getting back to normal. “… Seriously, thanks, Lio. I’m really glad I met you and we’re where we are now.”

 

Lio beams back at him. “Same here, Galo.”

Chapter Text

About one year after Kray Foresight's fall from grace and The Second Great World Blaze, Lio Fotia, Gueira, Meis, and some of the other ex-Mad Burnish are arrested without warning.

 

It's not unexpected, plenty of people still hate them, but it stings anyway. So they hadn't done enough to prove themselves to society, huh?

 

Galo is with Lio at the time, so he tries to get them all out of Promepolis' jail, at least for the night. (However he can help with what he sees as a slap to the face, he will.) But their bails are set so high that he can't manage it.

 

Captain Ignis is able to call in a favor, but only for one of them. "They have no intention of forgetting or forgiving the things that Mad Burnish has done."

 

Everyone insists that Lio take advantage of this. He protests vehemently: "You want me to leave the Mad Burnish behind again?! I've already had to, against Vulcan!!"

 

His voice eventually breaks down, and he turns away from Galo, grimacing. Guilt and regret glint in his eyes.

 

For once, Galo doesn't know what to say to make things feel better. He eventually finds his voice and says, with a serious tone, "... No, we don't. But, and even though you may think I'm an idiot [Lio snorts], I'm pretty sure all of you have to get a defense or something ready for this, right?"

 

"... So you all simply assumed I'd be the best fit for the job," Lio snarls. "Just to give you an idea, Gueira and Meis alone have been right by my side for a reason: They're definitely reckless, but they're not stupid."

 

(Lio's suddenly reminded of Galo himself.)

 

"We're not saying they are! ... I guess we did do that. I'm sorry. Then how do you wanna do this?"

 

Lio's struck a second time by the sincerity in Galo's voice.

 

(He tries calming himself down by counting his blessings: Galo [and his friends who don't even know them!] is still here, still fighting for all the ex-Burnish, when he has every reason not to be doing either.)

 

Gueira and Meis abruptly interject with, "Boss, we've got this!" and "Yeah, get out of here, Boss. We've got you covered."

 

"But - !"

 

"We're leaving the heavy lifting to you, the Boss. That's how it's supposed to go, right?", Meis observes with a bit of a smirk. Gueira grins right along with him.

 

"... I'm sorry, you two. Everyone. I'll do my best by you."

 

That night, Lio's body leaves Promepolis' police station, but part of his heart remains, and he does not forget it.

 

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Lio spends the next couple of days consulting with Remi, Aina, Lucia, Ignis, and even Dr. Heris. He hasn't forgiven Heris for her role in his people's suffering, no matter how much he understands her desire to protect the person she loves - because she got to play God with them and they didn't - and he may never, but he'll do what he must.

 

The ex-Burnish try to go for a plea agreement. The prosecution and defense readily inform everyone involved that they probably won't be able to have a trial by jury because they can't find enough unbiased citizens to form one in the first place, and they don't want to take their chances on a bench trial for similar reasons. They have to agree to some pretty steep conditions, depending on the individual in question: House arrest for several months, mostly meant to prove a point, or being released on someone else's (e.g., Burning Rescue's) recognizance for as long; up to 1,000 hours of community service; and up to a lifetime of probation, in addition to lengthy criminal records. But they don't have to pay anyone reparations - they even those out with the ones they should've been receiving because of everything Kray put them through, which pisses Lio off to no end, but he knows he probably can't push this any further - and they don't have to be locked up for any extended period of time.

 

However, it's not the victory they feel they have earned for all their hard work repairing Promepolis or deserve, and so the ex-Mad Burnish are in a bitter mood when they're released, especially because reporters and the public alike immediately try to hound them. Freeze Force grudgingly holds everyone back.

 

"What are your plans with your newfound freedom?!"

 

"Spineless bastards! How could they let you out, after everything you've done?!"

 

"Murderers! You killed my husband, my son's father!"

 

It gets so bad that Burning Rescue is called as back-up. Lio had asked Galo not to be here to avoid him being pitted between them and everyone else, but suddenly seeing his back towards him, hearing him yell back at everyone about how wrong they are as they keep things moving along, that the ex-Mad Burnish aren't killers, that they've always wanted to live out peaceful lives free of bothering anyone, is more comforting than Lio will ever admit.

 

Eventually, they make it out of there in separate vehicles, a couple of decoy ones headed one way and the ones they're actually in headed another, just in case. Galo's with Lio, as has become the norm lately. He looks torn between so many different emotions - anger, disappointment, pain, and sadness - that Lio allows himself a distraction (because he's always been better at helping others than himself) and tries to smile at him reassuringly. "It'll be alright, Galo. It just needs more time."

 

Galo's mouth drops and hangs open for what feels like a minute before he forces it closed with some effort. Then he stumbles on some words until he gives up and doesn't say anything.

 

Lio chooses not to comment on it.

 

They later learn that an unknown group tried to run the decoys off the road, then blow them up. They're taken into custody, but the ex-Burnish make plans to move to the outskirts of the city, ruins from the Parnassus that they're now being allowed to use for housing and the like so long as they rebuild them with their own time and funds. Galo and, really, the rest of Burning Rescue want to try to convince them to stay where they are because they belong here, dammit, but they know they don't have a leg to stand on where their safety's concerned, so they leave well alone.

 

Lio, being the de-facto representative of the ex-Burnish, is voluntold to stay with Galo until their lives are no longer in danger (and because they have a prior relationship). He hates feeling so weak, so useless and helpless, like such a burden, and he says as much to Galo every day with his body language or when he thinks he isn't looking. So Galo tries his absolute damnedest to make him feel welcome in his home - their home. Lio really resists his efforts at first, but eventually, they grow on him. It's nice to have some things of his own for once, that aren't needed for anyone else, that won't suddenly have to change or disappear after use.

 

The future becomes a little brighter, slowly but surely. Some days are rocky, steps back; a lot of them are. But it's like Galo said:

 

Through spark and flame, he has their backs.

 

(Lio and Galo can face anything if they have their friends and each other.)

Chapter Text

Several months after Lio and Galo have saved and begun restructuring and repairing the world, there comes a time where everyone involved in those efforts can begin to take meaningful breaks and just think over everything that they've been through recently. So it goes with the former, and he asks the latter a question he's been waiting to pose all this time and Galo's been dreading:

 

"Hey, Galo. You saved me from fading away by breathing my fire back into me, right? Like I did with Thyma in the cave?"

 

Galo, who's eating the third Inferno Volcano Margherita Mega Max Pizza pie he's had in a very long time (his favorite pizzeria has only just reopened), chokes on it and starts coughing up a storm. Lio moves to get up, both confusion and concern glinting in his eyes, but Galo unsteadily raises a hand, takes a deep breath, and chugs some water. His breathing eventually settles down again. Lio snorts with relief.

 

Soon Galo opens his eyes again, which are reddened but also, and surprisingly to the blonde, hesitant.

 

He's noticeably blushing.

 

"... How much of that do you remember?"

 

"Nothing, actually. When Kray forced us Burnish [he stumbles over the word just a bit, but keeps going] to reach our limits using the Parnassus' engine and Prometech pods, several of the Promare, for whatever reason, began synchronizing with me all at the same time. I started scorching everything, or, at least, it felt like I was. Then I blacked out."

 

The red in Galo's face is disappearing as his gaze becomes sharp, then soft. He looks down, opens and closes his mouth to speak a couple of times.

 

(He feels like an utter failure. If only he hadn't been such an idiot and seen the Go - Kray for who he really was sooner, if only he'd done better at standing his ground against him on that cliff, if only he'd gotten to Lio sooner...

 

... then he wouldn't have gotten hurt.

 

The rest of the ex-Burnish wouldn't have been as badly injured as several of them ended up being.

 

Some of them might not have died.

 

But this is not about him.)

 

Finally, he looks back up at him and settles for:

 

"... I'm sorry."

 

Lio is struck a second time by Galo's absolute sincerity. He can't help but smile softly.

 

"I know. Thank you." His smile fades as he remembers that Galo had abruptly cut himself off. "Please, continue."

 

"Oh, right."

 

(His blush is gone.)

 

"Yeah, I was trying to save you. A lot of it was instinct, and some of it was from watching you with... Thyma, you said?" (Lio's expression darkens as he nods.) "When you did that, it seemed like regular CPR, except you were trying to give her some of your flames and... wavelength? Wavelengths? Instead of just oxygen. But back then, your flames were already in your lungs, I guess. When I had them, they stayed outside of my body, so I had to... put them in my mouth to try what you'd done. Luckily, it worked out."

 

("By the way, I swallowed a whole fire for you! Do you know how crazy that was for me, a firefighter?!"

 

"I can only imagine.")

 

"You were afraid it wouldn't? I thought you said you had emergency medical training," Lio joked with a smirk.

 

But Galo doesn't take his bait. "Well, yeah, I was. You were dying, and you were still a Burnish. I mean, you could use fire seemingly however you liked. I didn't know if that had done anything weird to your cardiovascular system. If things had been different, I wouldn't have been able to save you... or I could've killed you."

 

There it is. The crux of this utterly foreign gloom now hanging over Galo Thymos. "But you didn't - "

 

"I could've broken your ribs, too. I did compressions on you, and that happens a lot. Plus I was a little nervous with how long you were taking to wake up and be back to normal - " He gestures to Lio's arms, abdomen, and face. " - so mine were faster and rougher than they should've been. I'm assuming you're not hurt right now because I gave your flames back to you after the fact."

 

"Galo - "

 

"And I forced you to lock lips with a guy while you were unconscious. Me, specifically. That'll make things awkward from now on, huh?" He chuckles awkwardly, mirthlessly.

 

Lio hates the sound of it.

 

"Galo, hey, stop. You're putting words in my mouth."

 

Lio Fotia knows that Galo Thymos is strong, not only physically but also mentally. Ever since they met, he's proven that to him over and over again.

 

But now, he appears to be shaken and upset. In fact, he's looking away from him again. Seeing Galo like this, in such stark contrast to his usual self, alarms Lio more than he'll ever admit.

 

So he presses on, determined. He owes Galo this much, after all. For everything he's done, is doing, for the ex-Burnish and him.

 

"I'm not disgusted or anything by the fact that you gave me the so-called 'kiss of life.' You had to do what you had to do in that moment to bring me back. If you hadn't, I wouldn't still be here. So... thank you."

 

"... S' no problem," Galo mumbles, a bit sheepish, some of his warmth returning to his voice.

 

Lio smiles again. Galo may not 100% believe what he's telling him right now, but given this reaction, he thinks he can one day. They're gonna be OK, and it's OK if they're not in these moments.

 

That belief causes him to want to indulge himself in a whim like he hasn't been able to until now, to take things one step further with the confidence that Galo will make it out of this alive:

 

"I wonder if I would've enjoyed it had I been awake."

 

Galo sputters again. "What?!?!"

 

"I'm not opposed to that kind of thing, Galo Thymos." Lio's grin looks a little predatory.

 

"Oh... Uhh, uhhhhh..." He's short-circuiting. How exactly is he supposed to respond to that?! 'Yeah, that was the best kiss of your life?!'

 

Thankfully, Lio himself cuts him off. "Would you do it differently, if you could?" He's fully aware of how nosy he's being, but given everything, he can't help but wonder about Galo's... preferences in people.

 

"No," Galo answers immediately. "First of all, you were, y'know, dying. But also, the world was dying, and a bunch of your friends were dying. And I'd just finished punching the daylights out of someone I'd respected and admired for as long as I could remember."

 

Ah, that's fair.

 

"Second... maybe, maybe I would, if it was with anyone but you. But you and I have only known each other for a couple of months now, and before, that was a couple of weeks. And we started out really rocky with each other. And look at us now! You're in my apartment, lounging. We don't wanna fight or capture each other. Heck, now we even trust each other, eat together, try to have fun when we can together, sleep over each other's places, fight fires and people's crappy attitudes together, save people together. You're my friend and, no offense to everyone else in Burning Rescue, the best partner I've ever had. No way am I gonna risk ruining how far we've come for anything."

 

Wow. Leave it to Galo Thymos to cause his jaw to drop.

 

He really can be blindingly brilliant, when he wants to be.

 

"... I apologize, Galo. I was just joking around, maybe your friends [and soon to be his, if the past couple of months are indicative of anything] are rubbing off on me or something. But I see that you're serious about this, so I won't anymore. And don't worry." Lio's smile widens. Whatever Galo actually thinks of getting into a relationship with Lio, he has to admit that that expression of his can be ridiculously radiant. "No matter what you do, through spark and flame, I've got your back."

 

It takes him a second, but Galo Thymos beams.

 

"Yeah, that's what I'm talkin' about! Thanks, Lio, my firefighter's soul is burnin' up again! I was a little worried about how talking about this with you would go, but I think we're good now!"

 

"I'd say we are. And I'm happy to help." Lio smirks softly, raising his fist to Galo. "Let's finish our mission, to save the Burnish and the world, together."

 

"Yeah! When this oil and water come together, we're unstoppable!"

 

Galo fist-bumps Lio again.

 

For both of them, and only for an instant, it feels like the Promare are still with them.

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Epilogue

 

When Lio Fotia returns that evening to the ex-Burnish base of operations (a newly-abandoned Freeze Force compound, since they were disbanded), he relays his interaction with Galo to Meis and Gueira. After all, they can have those kinds of relatively carefree conversations now, so why not?

 

But when they share a look, he realizes that he's going to regret that this time.

 

Meis, without skipping a beat, asks:

 

"So, does that mean that Galo already likes you more than anyone else he'd kiss, because he doesn't wanna ruin his relationship with you but he doesn't care if that happens with anyone else?"

 

"Yeah, Boss, Meis is onto somethin' here! I felt like he was sayin' the same thing!"

 

... Ah. Shit.

 

Finally, finally, Lio blushes fiercely.

 

"No, I'm sure he didn't mean it like that! Meis, Gueira, get back here! And QUIT CACKLING!"

 

Galo sneezes.

Chapter Text

When Lio awakens, he jolts violently. Because where the hell is this colorful, outdoorsy, empty place that is decidedly not his room?

 

However, before he can assume a battle-ready stance, a familiar voice booms right above him, "Oh, hey, Lio, you're finally awake!"

 

Lio glances up. It's Galo, of course, kneeling so he's as close to his eye level as he can be.

 

(His expression is an interesting one that he only displays at certain times. Relieved, soft, even warmer than his usual grin.

 

It always catches him off-guard, makes him feel weak for some reason. He tries not to think about it too hard right now.)

 

"Galo."

 

"The one and only!", he grins. But his expression soon softens again. "You know, you gotta stop doing this kind of thing. I was starting to get worried about when you were actually gonna wake up."

 

Lio sits up and Galo rises a bit. Lio’s expression unconsciously flickers between various emotions as he remembers that last time. He decides not to think about it too hard either (as both of them were acting like it’d never happened), settles for his usual neutral expression: "... I'll try not to. I'm sorry."

 

"No harm done!" Galo replies easily, perhaps sensing Lio’s discomfort with this topic.

 

Lio's fingers happen to brush against soft fabric beneath him. He looks down and questioningly sees Galo’s firefighter jacket, all crumpled.

 

"Oh, I just propped your head up so your neck and head wouldn't hurt so much when you got up. I woke up a little bit before you did."

 

Lio can’t help but smile fondly at it. (He recalls for the millionth time that Galo has this effect on him quite often.) "Thank you." Then he smirks, because he can't help his nature, and he turns his face up towards Galo's again. "I'm honestly surprised to see you so bundled up even without it."

 

Galo is wearing a form-fitting black T-shirt, black armbands, and his firefighter pants and boots. For the first time since he's met him, his arm sleeve is nowhere to be found, and he's confused to see nothing unusual about the arm that's been hidden beneath it.

 

(That probably hasn't always been the case, he can ask later.)

 

"Hey! I have plenty of shirts and stuff! They just burn away while I'm working!"

 

("Have you ever considered getting some flame-retardant tops, then?"

 

"Well, yeah, of course! But they're super expensive because they're not standard issue for us, much more so than just buying new shirts!"

 

Ah, fair.)

 

They're interrupted by a whoosh whose sound echoes around them as something begins to appear from nothing in the air above both of them. It’s... a giant gloved hand...?

 

"Like a cartoon," Galo mutters, utterly enthralled. Lio quietly snorts.

 

When it's fully before them, it loudly exclaims:

 

"Hello, Galo Thymos and Lio Fotia! My name is Master Hand. Welcome... to SUPER SMASH BROS.!!"

 

"... What," Lio deadpans as he finally stands up. He positions himself next to Galo, tries to square his shoulders and look as tall as he can to at least attempt to replicate the confident, intimidating aura of the now-former leader of the Mad Burnish.

 

"OK, just double-checking, but is that giant floating hand talking?"

 

"Unfortunately, yes." He’s already expecting this to be a pain. "And I’m assuming you have no idea what 'SUPER SMASH BROS.' is."

 

"Nope, never heard of it."

 

"SUPER SMASH BROS. is a fighting tournament!", Master Hand’s voice booms again. "We bring fighters from all across the galaxy and universe together to determine who is really the best of the best!"

 

"Woah, that sounds awesome! My burning firefighter’s soul is getting pumped just thinking about it!" Galo's grin widens. But Lio's annoyance doesn’t fade, and he asks:

 

"What do you mean, a fighting tournament? I didn't sign up for anything like that." Lio dials down his glare a tad as he glances over at Galo, then back at Master Hand. "And even though he’s an idiot - " "Hey!" "- I very much doubt that even he would be stupid enough to have registered for it either. We're still very much in the process of... fixing a lot of messed-up things."

 

Although he was being intentionally vague because he couldn't yet ascertain the intentions of this "Master Hand," he was being truthful. To neither Galo’s nor Lio’s surprise, once they'd finally managed to evacuate all the ex-Burnish and Promepolian citizens from the Parnassus, it was estimated that it would take a year or more to reconstruct the city itself and about as long to fully, physically reintegrate the former into society. They were only about a month into all that, so there was never a minute to waste (let alone breathe, or feel exhausted, or feel much of anything at all).

 

"Don’t worry about that, I know all about what Kray Foresight and the Parnassus did to Promepolis and the rest of the world!" Galo stills, curiously but a bit hesitantly, and Lio's eyes almost narrow into draconian-looking slits, but Master Hand continues, unfazed, "Time works differently here. When I send you back, no one’ll even know you were ever gone!"

 

Seriously? It expects them to buy that?

 

Then again, it's a floating talking hand. Is that really so unbelievable at this point? Should he even be surprised anymore?

 

"Regardless, the point remains that I didn't sign up to participate in any such event. And I don’t intend to."

 

"Aww, are you sure, Lio? This sounds like it could be a lot of fun! A nice break, we've been working really hard!" Lio almost facepalms at the fact that Galo is of course believing all this without so much as a question. "Our burning souls up against other people's burning souls! Like the Lio de Galon and Galo de Lion!"

 

That last line is the only one that makes him pause. Being Lio de Galon and Galo de Lion had been... indescribably incredible. Definitely like nothing else he'd ever done in his life, even with the full power of his and the other Mad Burnish’s Promare behind him on their best days. How many people could say that they'd witnessed the grand majesty of entire galaxies in but a few instances, for example? That they’d been of one mind with so many people, who they all cared about and who all cared about them, for so many moments in time?

 

So, yes, dammit if he doesn't miss being them all the time, and dammit if that isn't one of the shockingly bigger things that's left a hole in him since they defeated Kray. But...

 

But.

 

"No, Galo. I’ll spar with you if you want and fight alongside you as needed. But the Mad Burnish… no. I have, had, been fighting constantly for years just for all of us to be able to survive. Now that I can decide if I want to or not, I have no interest in fighting any more than I must."

 

Lio's expression hardens until it's as sharp as his Burnish blade. But Galo can readily tell that it's also tinged with weariness, the weariness he's trying not to show that he's feeling lest this unknown entity potentially take advantage of it.

 

Galo's earlier excitement fizzles out as he gazes at Lio. Lio feels a little guilty for being the cause of him becoming so uncharacteristically muted, but he doesn't have the energy or wherewithal to call him out on it.

 

However, he does notice when something seems to click in Galo's brain. He looks back at Master Hand. His stare is steadfast, unyielding, fiery in a way he's never (had a chance to see) seen before.

 

Like a cool flame. Like him.

 

"... Welp, you heard him. Sorry, but we're not gonna be part of this SUPER SMASH BROS. thing after all. So if you could please just send us home already, we'd really appreciate it."

 

The significance of all this is not lost on Lio. His eyes sting a little, and now he's a touch nervous about what they've brought onto themselves without him having his Promare and Galo being unarmed, but dammit if he doesn't feel like it's with him for the first time since it left. (And also ridiculously happy, but he will only tell Galo that over his dead body. The man does not need anyone to stroke his ego any more than it already has been and is because of their newfound fame/infamy.)

 

"Hmmm, are you sure?" Master Hand is a hand with nothing resembling a face, but even with that, they can tell his tone is starting to become smug. "There is one other thing I haven’t mentioned yet related to if you two win... about the Promare, that is."

 

At that, Galo and Lio both startle. Galo glances at Lio to gauge his reaction in terms of how to proceed.

 

Lio becomes absolutely lost in thought. The sudden disappearance of the Promare had undoubtedly left the biggest hole in him. Sure, there was nothing to help him constantly feel warm anymore, which was whatever, but much more so than that...

 

... he had lost his strength. And he had lost the constantly-chittering voice in his head that had not only been a comfort like a warm fireplace, but also one of the biggest things giving his existence purpose.

 

Suffice it to say that he hasn't been and will never be the same. Or, at least, it always seems to feel that way.

 

"... What is it?", Lio eventually acquiesces with an unconcealed grimace.

 

Master Hand doesn't answer. Instead, he snaps his own fingers, and a pink-and-green flame with a smiley face phases into existence before Lio.

 

"Holy crap!! Is that – ?!?!"

 

The world around Lio falls away. He slowly, cautiously, reaches out to it and cups it in his hands. It lets him.

 

As it chirps, Lio's set ablaze. He tears his teeth into his bottom lip to keep himself from crying, but a tear slips down his cheek anyway.

 

"... Hello again. I... missed you."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As Lio and his Promare are reunited, Galo can't help but beam at the sight. He's known, even if Lio's been trying to hide it all. That's just what happens when two burning souls are on the same exact wavelength for a hot minute! (Although it'd helped that that Gueira and Meis had confided in him about what they thought was going on too.) He's been trying to be a new constant in his life, a new kindness and purpose with a place he can call home and mean it, and he knows it's been really hard for him to take it all in. That Galo hasn't actually been all that helpful to Lio sometimes, and that that in turn has made him feel helpless and just terrible. But he's never said anything, either, because it's never been about him and even someone as impatient as he is realizes that Lio's adjustments are going to take time. Potentially, a very long time.

 

But now, for the first time since the incident, things might be starting to be OK for him.

 

So he's completely caught off-guard when an almost-inaudible chittering rings in his own ears.

 

Because he could never forget that sound, where it comes from, but – what?

 

A warmth in his palm gets him to glance down, and it's a Promare half the size of the one Lio has. Suddenly, he's glowing blue like before, when he faced off against Kray...

 

Lio's Promare.

 

"Huh?! What are you doing here?!"

 

His distressed shouting grabs Lio's attention unconsciously. Galo’s only sounded like that once, during their fight with Kray on that cliff...

 

Lio glances over at the spectacle, and where he was smiling widely before, now he stills.

 

Galo's... glowing with what he guesses is the Promare's power?

 

Instinctually, he feels the absence of part of his Promare and mentally beckons it back to him. But it refuses to return, remaining in Galo's hand, looking to be about as joyous there as the "main" one is with him.

 

What?

 

"Lio, something weird's happening with your fire! I'm trying to send it back to you, but – !" He shoots his arm towards Lio and even shakes it up and down, but nothing happens. "C’mon, little... flame alien! Go back to Lio! – See, it’s not working!"

 

"... The same thing happened with me."

 

"It did?! Why?!"

 

There's only one explanation for this that he can think of, and it slams into him as hard as Kray’s flames:

 

He's in love with Galo Thymos, isn't he?

 

The Burnish had, as far as he knows, rarely ever shared their flames with each other except when signaling camaraderie (like he had with Meis and Gueira) because they'd otherwise never needed to. But he'd heard the stories of the ones who had, whether voluntarily or not. Tales of what appeared to be sparks jumping in the blink of an eye from one Burnish to another, sometimes to increase their power. But usually...

 

... that happened because the Promare chased ever-more-compatible hosts who could burn more, hotter. And between old and new hosts, it actually wasn't anger that made people more likely to become Burnish. Hell, he knows that firsthand, because wrath wasn't what had normally fed his flames before. Plus, that would explain how Galo was able to easily knock Kray out with only the dredges of his fire at a time when he hadn't been able to so much as damage him with the full force of his might (because in that moment, it had been ire and hate driving him).

 

Justice, determination, compassion, devotion...

 

And then there was love. No one had had a chance to test out his theory, but given all that, it made sense that love would make someone most compatible with the Promare.

 

So his love for Galo is probably being fed continuously from the "main" body to the smaller fragment, and then, he supposes, Galo's affection for him is fueling the latter directly.

 

(Not love, because why would he love him? A man he barely knows who tried to maim/kill him before and turned his world upside-down without his permission, among other things? Impossible.)

 

Does he consciously love him, by the way? No, he doesn't think so. Well, not that he knows what love like that is. And who has the time for that kind of thing right now? His people still need him, desperately.

 

But could he? Oh, yes, without a doubt in his mind.

 

Galo Thymos is nothing short of a force of nature. He's pretty strong to have been able to at least keep up with him when he was still a Mad Burnish, and he has his steadfast burning firefighter soul that he doesn't necessarily dislike. (It just gets on his nerves when he's very loud.)

 

But more than that, that same soul is trusting, helpful, kind. When Galo had nothing to go off of but his own word (which he now knows was competing against Galo's previous perception of Kray Foresight), he decided to believe him about the Burnish's struggles. He's idealistic, he can recognize injustice when he sees it, and all he wants to do is support people. It doesn't matter who. And not only that, he fought for them after their meeting in the cave and was imprisoned, by Kray of all people. And then he fought for them again! Fought with him, his former enemy, and immediately stopped being hostile towards him, started being... friendly. Pushed himself to the brink and managed to save his life after Lio saved him first.

 

(Plus, he's not an idiot. Galo Thymos is incredibly attractive, with how muscular he is but also with how he constantly radiates warmth and how bright or fiery or both his blue-pink eyes, smiles, and grins can be. How surprisingly gentle he can be, helping him get upright from his lap as he returned to life on the Parnassus –

 

His looks aren't Galo's most attractive feature to him, though. Not by a mile.)

 

Lio eventually sighs. He's exasperated, but in a "What am I going to do with the two of you?" kind of way.

 

Galo isn't understanding anything that's going on right now. The Promare with him makes a sound that somehow reminds him of chuckling, and he gives it, then Lio, dirty looks.

 

"OK, seriously, why won't it go back??? Do you know???"

 

"... I have an idea, yes. If I'm right, then that Promare will be staying with you for a while longer."

 

"Huuuuuuh?!?! But I'm a firefighter!!", Galo outright whines. "I told you before, I'm supposed to stop fires, not start them!!"

 

"Unfortunately for you, my Promare seems quite content with you being a pyromaniac bastard for the time being." Lio means it in jest, but the jab hits too close to home for Galo’s liking. "If you'd like, you can take that up with it."

 

"How?!"

 

"A-hem," Master Hand interrupts gleefully. Lio whirls back towards him, trying to reconstruct his mask of strength and apathy as quickly as possible, dreading what's going to come next after his display. Galo moves in a similar way, somewhat frustrated at the lack of clarity from Lio or his Promare.

 

(But dammit if he isn't as careful with it as he was the first time, and dammit if he can't help but hold it just a little bit closer to him.

 

It'd only been for a short while, but Galo realizes that he's missed this, too. The physical and mental warmth that the Promare provides him, because these flames are Lio trying to keep him safe from the world around him, whether it be head-first dives from cliffs or huge stalagmites digging into his body on the way down and lowering his temperature or the inferno of a madman... Yeah, he's missed this connection between them. Basically, it's not like any other relationship he's ever had, ever.)

 

"... As I was saying, I can return your Promare to you if, and only if, you join SUPER SMASH BROS. And if you win... I can try to see about you keeping yours with you instead of it having to return to its own dimension."

 

Ah, shit. Of course. Of course it's something awful like this.

 

Lio knows what he should say, as the still-de-facto leader of the Mad Burnish. Immediately, he should reemphasize that they have important work to do, that there are people truly counting on him/them for their survival and why are you being so selfish, floating hand

 

But what he wants to say is completely different. He has to wrestle with it, he only does for a couple of seconds, but it’s still a heavy, painful weight inside of him, threatening to crush everything that makes him him to ash.

 

Galo sees this dilemma playing out in Lio’s eyes, and strangely, he can just feel it, too. He guesses that's his Promare at play, because somehow his little one's still connected to Lio’s bigger one? Of that, he's not at all sure.

 

It doesn't matter. This is important to Lio, and dammit if he isn't allowed to be selfish for once in his life!

 

But only if...

 

"How can we trust you about that whole 'no time will pass while you’re here' thing?"

 

"Well, I’m glad you asked, Galo Thymos!" Master Hand snaps his own fingers again, and a portal appears in front of them, showing off a desecrated Promepolis in the middle of the night. Just as they’d left it when they were magically transported here after going to bed following another long day of fixing everything.

 

"If you want, I'm more than happy to show you how your reconstruction efforts are -not- proceeding as often as you like!"

 

Galo's fine with that. But is Lio?

 

Indecision and anxiety filter through Lio's Promare to him. For his part, Lio sighs again. The only evidence he has in favor of this Master Hand being trustworthy is that he isn't forcing them to do anything yet and that he gave Lio (and Galo) his Promare back in the first place, intact and unchanged. Is that enough to take such a huge risk of weeks, months, years passing by in their world while they're fooling around here?

 

Galo decides on a compromise. "Actually, never mind what I said before! We're good to go to be in SUPER SMASH BROS.! But..." His gaze becomes cool and fiery again, but now that he’s holding Lio's Promare and glowing even more brightly than before, the image becomes a lot weightier, even more serious. "... if anything happens to our world while we're gone, the Lio de Galon or Galo de Lion is gonna put your flames out."

 

He smirks. It takes Master Hand a couple of moments, but he suddenly starts howling with laughter. Galo hotly asks, "What’s so funny?!"

 

"Ahahaha, you're just as outrageous as I was hoping you'd be, Galo Thymos...! Crazy Hand will love you! And, I imagine, so will everyone else!" His tone becomes infectious: "Welcome, once again, to SUPER SMASH BROS.!!"

 

Meanwhile, and unbeknownst to either of them, Lio is still processing that Galo has signed them up to do this without even double-checking with him. But much more so than that, he's filled with admiration, some sort of second-hand pride, happiness, and, finally...

 

Maybe he already does love Galo after all.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

B-side

 

Galo startles as several powerful sensations abruptly take a hold of him, Master Hand and his anger towards him already forgotten. He can't help but whip his head in Lio's direction, but thankfully, he seems to be too distracted by seemingly nothing to object to him observing him.

 

And he sees - confirms - it. There's a warmth in Lio's eyes that's unfamiliar even to his Promare, and to them, him, it feels like...!

 

Holy crap. Does Lio like-like me???

 

In his mindspace, Master Hand's positively smirking.

Chapter Text

“Hey, Galo?”, Lio Fotia questions just a couple of days after the Promare have vanished from their lives. Their hands are busy, busy, busy with the reconstruction of Promepolis (now that they've finished freeing all the ex-Burnish and citizens of Promepolis from the Parnassus, or discovering the ashes of some of the former): It’s been estimated that it’ll take anywhere between months and years to be done with it all, depending on the specific area. However, that does make mindless small talk easy to pull off, as a way of killing time.

 

Still, it takes Galo a couple of seconds to really realize that Lio’s talking to him where he’d been completely silent moments ago. “… Yeah?”

 

“There’s something I’ve been wondering about for a while now… How did you defeat… Kray Foresight?”

 

There’s a sting of hatred to his tone still, when he mentions him. Galo hasn’t even given himself the time to really feel the smack of the Go – Kray’s betrayal, because now’s not the time to more so than later when he doesn’t know if he can even handle it, so he keeps sidestepping it.

 

“I used your flame, what else?”

 

Lio really wants to be able to think for this, so he reluctantly sets aside the rescuing tools Burning Rescue has loaned him and settles himself on a piece of rubble, putting his elbows on his knees and threading his fingers in such a way that they cover his mouth. “… That’s what I thought you’d say. The Lio de Galon was still damaged, I imagine. And yet it’s impossible.”

 

“What?!”, Galo yells indignantly, turning to look at him. (Is he suggesting that his burning firefighter soul is too weak for him to have beaten Kray without him or something?!) But Lio just shakes his head.

 

“Relax, idiot. I’m not saying that as an insult to you.”

 

Galo flinches. Has he read his mind?

 

“Then what do you mean?”

 

“Remember. You were there when… Kray Foresight and I fought. I can tell you for sure that he wasn’t bluffing about his power: No matter what I tried to do to him, it felt like he was just draining me of all my strength. I was completely at his mercy.” Lio’s gaze turns downward, becomes vulnerable out of Galo’s line of sight as he remembers the one and only time he’s truly felt helpless, or so he thinks. But Galo will never think of Lio as weak, so he doesn’t say anything about it. “And then I gave you the last dregs of my Promare that I could still summon to protect you from him.”

 

Lio uncrosses his fingers and lays his arms on his thighs. His eyes are staring up at him now, become steely like that flame sword of his.

 

“In other words, there’s no way you should’ve been able to beat him with it alone.”

 

“Huh?! Then how – ???”

 

“I felt it while I was… unconscious [he avoids “dying,” for both their sakes].” Galo is struck unawares by Lio suddenly smiling, a small, soft thing that this is only his second time seeing. (He realizes that he likes this expression of his much more than any of his other ones, doesn’t know what exactly to do with that, and files the whole thing away for thinking about later.) “Very suddenly, a flame like mine, like the Promare. It exuded a warmth even I could feel that was somehow…” To Galo’s confusion, now he looks to the side. Is his face… turning red???

 

“… comforting. Safe. Hopeful. Determined.”

 

Galo raises an eyebrow. Lio turns towards him again, and his gaze pierces him.

 

“I felt you, Galo Thymos.”

 

“You felt… me???”

 

“Yes.” And now he’s smirking, but not in a mean way… “I think you became the shortest-lived Burnish ever.”

 

“WHAAAAAAAAT?!?!”, Galo’s shout echoes as he drops his rescuing tools, not even the resounding “CLANG!” that follows from them causing him to look at anywhere, anyone, but Lio freaking Fotia. (Lots of people glance over in their direction, but once they realize that it’s Galo who’s shouting, they get back to whatever they’re doing. Whether they knew him before this incident or not, now they're all on the same page about him: he's always like this.)

 

“But how’s that possible?!?! I’m supposed to put out fires with my burning firefighter soul, not start them!!”

 

“I wonder about that sometimes,” Lio admits. (In another life, he can easily see Galo Thymos having been a Mad Burnish from the very beginning.) Galo moves to protest that, but Lio’s follow-up interrupts him: “To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. I think one of the biggest contributing factors was that you were the most open you’d ever been to the flames. … To the Promare. Before then, your ‘burning firefighter soul’ may have dissuaded them from trying to synchronize with you: you would’ve tempered them.”

 

Lio smiles again. Huh, is today a special day or something and nobody’s told him?

 

“But when you accepted my flames, you wanted to save the Burnish… me… everyone, and the Promare themselves.” When he gets to himself, he stumbles on his words a bit, and he blushes faintly. Wait, what, why??? “However you could, however you had to. And so they latched onto that chance.”

 

(Galo at least has the sense to look a little embarrassed at Lio’s indirect compliment.)

 

“Also, you got caught up in several Burnish flames last week alone. That’s how Thyma…” Now Lio falters. “… the girl from the cave, that’s how she became a Burnish. And she’d only been one for around a week.”

 

(While Lio takes a moment to mourn her as he often does, Galo’s mind slowly but surely catches up with him. He’d thought she looked familiar, he couldn’t be sure, but Thyma really was…

 

Disbelief, heartbrokenness, anger, and a good bit of guilt rapidly flicker through his expression. He settles on the second feeling.

 

“… That’s terrible, what she went through,” he states, his voice small.

 

Lio notices that the way Galo’s talking about her has abruptly changed, like something about her and her alone is different than the rest of the deceased Burnish. He narrows his eyes a bit. “… Did you know her or something?”

 

“Oh, uh, yeah. I guess.” Lio follows his eyes, which have settled on the sleeve covering his left arm. Why does he wear that, anyway? “She turned into a Burnish right in front of me, on my first day as an active duty member of Burning Rescue, actually. She burned my arm by accident, hence this sleeve.”

 

… Oh.

 

It seems like Lio will never stop learning new things about Galo Thymos that impress him. Because he’d used his flames unflinchingly where anyone else in his place might not have out of fear, resentment, or both.

 

They’ve come quite far together in such a short period of time, haven’t they?)

 

“… I’m sorry, Lio.”

 

“Don’t be. You helped make things right, and now the… ex-Burnish may have a bright future ahead of them yet.” This time, Lio’s smile is nothing sort of brilliantly blinding. “Thank you.”

 

Galo’s face reddens for an instant, but then he replies, somberly, “… It was nothing, really. Just the least thing the ex-Burnish deserve.”

 

“You’re somewhat right, but no, it was everything,” Lio readily disagrees. Galo looks him over closely, his body language somehow telling him that that’s how he really feels. “This is their… our… second chance. And we wouldn’t even have it if not for you.”

 

“Well, and you, too,” Galo’s quick to correct. “For me calling you a cool flame, your fire protected me through and through. … I don’t know if I ever said it before, but thanks. For saving my life, and saving the world with me.” (Even he understands now, because of Kray and Galo de Lion, why there was a part of Lio before that wanted to burn the world down.)

 

“… You’re welcome.”

 

“… A Burnish, huh?”, Galo murmurs. He glances down at the palm of his left hand and remembers the way Lio’s Promare looked and felt there. If he’s being honest with himself… he didn’t entirely dislike the experience.

 

(But as a firefighter, he vows to never do something like that again.)

 

“That might also explain why you were able to synchronize with the ex-Burnish and me in the Galo de Lion. Why we needed you to. Because you were the only person in the world who still could.”

 

Galo nods in agreement; given Lio’s guess, that makes sense.

 

“Well, whether I was a Burnish or not,” he says, starting to grin, “it’s good that things are back to normal. I’m a firefighter at heart, and that’s never going to change!!”

 

Lio smirks right along with him. “Of course not, Mr. World’s #1 Firefighting Idiot.”

 

“Hey! Only I can call myself that!!”

 

And as they both eventually get back to work amidst their squabbling that devolves into smiles and laughter, they both think, in sync, that things are going to be OK. They weren’t 100% sure before – who could be, given how unknown the future is right now? – and it may take a while, and there might be lots more valleys than there are hills, but…

 

Well, no matter what and no matter how, they have each other to get them through, don’t they?

Chapter Text

When Lio accidentally discovers that Galo’s birthday is coming up, courtesy of Remi and Varys asking about his plans (“I don’t have any, honestly! Being with and helping everyone’s good enough for me!”), he’s shocked. Galo Thymos with a year’s worth of growth? How unlikely.

 

He smirks at the thought, but not unkindly.

 

However, he’s also left lost. Galo doesn’t seem like the type of guy who really cares about material things (besides his bike, of course). Sure, he’s been to his apartment multiple times by now, and sure, he does have stuff lying around, but it’s all sentimental knick-knacks, mostly photos with Burning Rescue and more and more with Lio, Gueira, and Meis. (They’ve quickly grown on him, and he them, albeit more slowly. Sometimes it seems like Gueira and Galo should’ve been the ones to use the Lio de Galon, they’re so similar, but Lio always thinks better of it:

 

The way Galo looks at him is not the same way he looks at them, for whatever reason.)

 

Otherwise, he has a gaming console and firefighting memorabilia from that far Eastern island of his. But Lio already knows that Galo has all the games he currently wants for the former, and he’s pretty sure it’s the same with the latter. And his bike’s in perfect condition – he checked.

 

(He doesn’t have Detroit anymore, but he still enjoys imitations of it.)

 

So then, what to get him?

 

He knows Galo will say that he doesn’t have to do anything. But he’s indubitably indebted to him – he may well be for the rest of his life – and he wants to.

 

He eventually figures that Aina, who seems to be the closest to Galo of everyone in Burning Rescue (besides himself), is probably a good first source of information and seeks her aid.

 

“Hmmm… He pretty much has everything I think he’d ask for already…”

 

“So I figured correctly.”

 

“But…! There is something I saw recently that I know he’d love, especially coming from you!”

 

“L-Love? … Well, what is it?”

 

“You’ll have to come with me to find out! They only sell them in one place!”

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A… Hot Topic?

 

Lio stares. This seems like the kind of store he’d like, not Galo. But Aina’s infectious energy and smile are similar enough to that idiot’s that she manages to coax him inside.

 

(For the millionth time, he realizes how severely one Galo Thymos, whom he really hasn’t known for all that long, has come to affect him and compartmentalizes this discovery.

 

Because he still isn’t 100% sure how these feelings developed or what they actually mean, and Lio Fotia is nothing if not an analyst and perfectionist.)

 

“What… are we trying to locate, exactly?”, Lio asks as he drinks in the sights and sounds of this unfamiliar place. The walls and floor are black; metal music is blasting; and there are rows of cartoon clothing items, all manner of cutesy products, CDs with song titles that appear to be similar to the one playing right now, and all sorts of other objects referencing topics that he doesn’t know.

 

“You’ll see in a bit!”, Aina replies as she immediately starts making her way to the back of the store. Lio follows slowly behind her, taking the time to soak up everything along the way (because luckily he can do that now). He finds her as he pops his head out from behind a display, and in her hands is a leather hoodie that’s surprisingly large.

 

Lio stares at it, then her again.

 

Aina sweatdrops. “Oh, sorry! I got so caught up in my excitement that I never explained. You see, Galo collects mementos that he keeps in his locker.” Her expression suddenly becomes somber, and she stumbles, “Something… happened to him when he was a kid.”

 

His subconscious abruptly supplies, “A fire, right?” Aina looks taken aback. “… Kray Foresight mentioned it during our fight.”

 

She nods, “Gotcha.” They both refuse to go into any further detail about it unnecessarily, out of respect to Galo. “… So he says he holds onto things that remind him of the people he cares about, just in case. And he keeps them in his locker because he knows they’ll be safe there no matter what. [This may not fit in there, but it’ll still work.]”

 

When everyone else from Burning Rescue had had a chance to steal a look into said locker, Aina, Remi, and even Lucia had poked and prodded him to the point of getting him to open up about it. [After their first meeting, he’d done so with a grimace only to act surprised when no one had teased him about it or laughed at him. Of course, no one had dared to, wanted to.] Despite his previous shenanigans, that was but one of the moments when they decided, knew, that he was one of them.

 

Aina smiles softly as she sees that same kind of expression flicker on Lio’s face. (He really is one of them now, too, huh?)

 

Oh.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Galo looks at the shiny black hoodie with fascination, turning it every which way, checking for pockets… His reaction somehow manages to catch Lio completely by surprise, enough to where he can’t even hide it.

 

Galo beams.

 

(Now, with enough time for him to really look at him, he realizes that he could never have hoped to even dislike Galo Thymos.)

 

“Thanks, Lio! This is really cool!!”

 

“N-No problem.”

 

“And now we can match!”

 

Lio closes his eyes, huffs, and smiles. “Yes, I suppose we can.”

 

Just like this, they -all- make a really good team.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

B-side, for the shippers

 

Galo ends up leaving the hoodie at home when he isn’t using it. He still doesn’t feel secure enough to bring the rest of his mementos back with him, you never know what can happen in this uncharted world… but for the hard days, and when he doesn’t want to bother or be a burden to him (which is never), it’s nice to have even one physical reminder of the person who can most understand how he’s feeling. The person who he feels the closest to, after everything they did with the Lio de Galon and Galo de Lion.

 

He’s not an idiot, he knows that it doesn’t make sense for him to play favorites with Lio over Burning Rescue when he’s known them longer, but he also isn’t really sure about his feelings for one Lio Fotia in the first place, so he leaves it alone.

 

(For the moment, so does everyone else.)

Chapter Text

Ever since The Second Great World Blaze, Galo Thymos hasn't become any more capable of understanding the actions of one Kray Foresight. It's frustrating him to no end, especially because the Go - Kray's been refusing to meet with him while he's in jail and is otherwise being just as mysterious as ever.


 
He feels like he can't get any closure until he knows what was going through his head with everything. Because depending on Kray’s answers... could he have prevented his plan from ever kicking off, for example?


 
(Although even he realizes on some level that none of this actually matters anymore. Kray's done what he's done, and now he's locked up, probably never to see the light of day again. And nothing will erase the changes he's forced in so many people's lives, the ones he's injured and killed no matter how, all the destruction he’s caused.

 

Still, he can't help how he feels. Oh, he tried, he tried really hard to! But he just... can't let this go. Not yet... not until...)


 
"I just... I just don't get it. I 'ruined all of Kray's plans?' How...?"


 
He runs his hands through his hair a little less roughly than usual, but his fingers still get caught on knots and ends. (He hasn't been able to take, or felt like taking, the best care of himself over the past several months. Between the ex-Burnish and the rest of society, there’s still way too damn much to do before even someone as optimistic as him can claim that Promepolis and the rest of the world will be alright.)

 

[Enough to where he pulls 12-hour shifts every 2 days at most. Captain Ignis set that limit when he’d discovered him one day having literally knocked out in his rescue mech.]

 

He doesn’t ask the much more obvious question, “Why’d he do it…?” He doesn’t clarify, “Why’d he think he was so much better than all the other Burnish?” (because he for instance has his burning firefighter spirit, but he’s not a jerk about it!) or “Why’d he do so much for me [besides get him this job, obviously] if he hated me and wanted me dead???” or “Why’d he give up without a fight after we set the world ablaze with the Galo de Lion?”

 

To be honest, he doesn’t think Aina, who’s accompanying him right now, can answer those, and even if she can… he’s not ready for her to. Because after all the suffering outside of himself and all the hurt sitting around in his chest nowadays that he still can’t seem to shake off, no reason would be good enough. Inevitably, he’ll still feel guilty, sickened, heartbroken, utterly disappointed and backstabbed.

 

That’s why he’s made his starting question a much easier one than any of those. As he’s come to learn from one Lio Fotia, facts are facts are facts.

 

Yet he can’t help but also slip out:

 

“… What did I do to make him hate me so much? To want me dead…?”

 

“Nothing, at least, not on purpose. And really, nothing ever that I know of,” Aina murmurs, trying to reassure him. Galo had asked her to meet up with him during one of their mandatory break periods at his once-frozen cool-down spot: unlike with pretty much everything else, he feels like he can’t talk about this with Lio because Lio hates Kray back, and he… well… can’t bring himself to. Maybe not yet, maybe not ever.

 

He tries to give himself grace with his reaction. It feels like a betrayal of all the ex-Burnish for him not to hate Kray, plus he has every reason to on his own, so… why doesn’t he? Then again, he’d been the one who’d been with him since he was a kid up until the Second Blaze… and something the aftermath of the Blaze is teaching him is that some things can take a really, really, really long time to fix.

 

Also, Aina has seen bits and pieces of his previous relationship with Kray, like his award ceremony, and Lio hasn’t.

 

“I mean, you said yourself that you came here every time you got really mad at something to avoid doing anything else that could get you, and by extension Kray, in trouble. And I know you’re not the kind of person who would intentionally cause problems for people, especially people you’re loyal to or care about.”

 

Galo physically recoils. Where Kray’s concerned, that’s past tense now. It all leaves a bitter, disgusting taste in his mouth.

 

“… Galo, I don’t know if this’ll be helpful or not, but I think I at least need to put it out there. I really don’t think you ever got in Kray’s way, except with Lio and the Promare.” She smirks for a second, then frowns again. “I think Kray just doesn’t like you for you.”

 

“… What?”

 

“You’re an idiot.” Unlike the last time, her voice is telling him that she means this in a non-insulting way. “Kray’s what some people would consider smart or even a genius. You’re loud, and you rush into things, and he’s quiet and calm. You… have a big heart. He clearly doesn’t. I could go on, but hopefully you know what I’m getting at.”

 

Galo just nods, because he does understand all that but still isn’t entirely sure where she’s trying to end up.

 

“My point is, yeah, maybe it seemed like Kray had all this stuff going for him before. But now, knowing how he really is and knowing how you are, is being hated by him really such a bad thing?”

 

… Huh. He’s never thought of it like that. And when he does, a little bit of the pain weighing him down lifts.

 

Maybe she has a point.

 

“… Thanks, Aina.” He smiles again. It’s an infinitesimally small thing compared to his usual grin, but she’ll take it hands down.

 

“No problem! That’s what friends are for, right?”

 

His smile slowly widens as he thinks about all of his, old and new. “Yeah… you’re right!”

 

She can’t help but notice that Galo’s also easy to fire up where Kray isn’t nearly so.

 

She – and Burning Rescue, and Lio Fotia, and arguably the rest of the world – wouldn’t have Galo any other way.

Chapter Text

After the Second Great World Blaze, Galo Thymos, the de-facto leader of all the ex-Burnish, goes through some ups and downs that are different from the ones his counterpart in another space and time experiences.

 

1) Galo hasn’t been a leader for long, but he’s never liked it, for lots of reasons. For example, he’s never felt comfortable with the extreme pressure of being responsible for so many people’s safety, well-being, happiness – and the opposite in the face of failure. He takes it in stride without noticeable complaint, but he’s sometimes struck by the thought that it and his burning spirit are almost incompatible. It’s to the extent that, although he’d never imagined making it out of his conflict with Kray and co alive, he had dreamed about finally becoming a firefighter and passing the Mad Burnish torch back to Gueira and Meis (who clearly are more deserving of and better with it than he is). But he’s always reconsidered, because that’d be super selfish of him and there are still things that he can do to help the ex-Burnish.

 

As another example, Galo’s not an idiot – he has average intelligence, and he’s fairly street smart – but he’s not very book smart or whatever it takes to be a good leader. He’d become a Burnish when he was a kid, so he’d never really gone to school. He can usually cheer people up just fine, which has helped so many of the ex-Burnish that wouldn’t have otherwise survive through the Second Blaze, but he’s had to consult Meis and Gueira about almost everything else since he joined up with them. He’d been fighting Kray and co on his own before, so they’d had to teach him about the best kinds of food to grab during raids and how to hunt when raids were too dangerous (which he usually felt terrible about doing, he either tolerates or likes almost all animals). How to use their powers in ways he’d never thought of before, to move, destroy, create, fix things ranging from pieces of wood smashed through roofs to shirts full of holes to pillows, to make water potable, to clean fabrics without disintegrating them, how to use their powers without attracting anyone’s attention. How to take watch without falling asleep.

 

About periods and menopause, because they’d had young girls and women of all ages traveling with them that they’d never dare turn away and they couldn’t afford to be blissful because of their ignorance. About different cultural groups, because the (ex) Burnish have never claimed to be perfect but dammit if they don’t always try their best to build bridges between people for the sake of peace. About different religions and ideas about spirituality. About different romantic and sexual orientations, dead names, bindings, gender dysphoria, and much more. How to address substance abuse. How to break up fights and dissent without anyone still wanting to kill each other afterwards. How to address suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

 

(How to do what Galo ends up calling “fire CPR.” Meis hates the name and hates him for it, but only for a little while. Then, as everything goes with Galo, it grows on him.)

 

Galo’s dependence on Meis and Gueira, when he doesn’t want any of the ex-Burnish (let alone them, he’s painfully aware of how much they’ve given up for everyone to make it this far) to continue to have to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders if he can help it, only increases as the months pass. It frustrates him to no end, he hates how useless he feels without them, but he’s tried navigating all kinds of documents and conversations – about housing, food, schools, reparations – only to get massive headaches for his trouble.

 

So he thanks them every chance he gets, with coffees, energy drinks, freshly-cooked meals, blankets and space heaters, his spot on the housing list they’d at least worked together to make.

 

Also, Galo asks Lio for help in the form of books, tutoring if he can manage it, or both. Lio happily provides him with as much assistance as he can. They have study sessions either at his apartment or the one Galo snags once the rest of the ex-Burnish have been situated until around the end of their first year in this new world. He begins taking on more and more of the logistical aspects of rebuilding Promepolis and the world plus reintegrating the ex-Burnish, splitting said responsibilities more evenly with Gueira and Meis so that they can finally start taking some time off away from it all. Gradually, and through his hard work, the support of friends old and new, and his determination, Galo becomes fairly knowledgeable and confidently (not cockily) outspoken in several spheres: finances, infrastructure, politics, social justice, and more.

 

2) Without realizing the full extent of this, Galo himself continuing to act as the representative of the ex-Burnish proves to be very helpful to the world’s acceptance of them. Yes, his being very attractive doesn’t hurt (he soon develops a fanbase, which he loves). But this much more so happens because he’s energetic, passionate, persistent, unconditionally kind, great with kids, animals, and the elderly, unfailingly cheerful.

 

And yet he still has an air of mystery to him, he’s also intolerant of justice, capable of righteous anger. (He also gets a sleek new motorcycle courtesy of Lucia.)

 

For most everyone around the globe, he hits all the right boxes, which in turn humanizes the ex-Burnish to them.

 

However, one aspect of the ex-Mad Burnish Galo’s and the ex-Mad Burnish Lio Fotia’s new worlds is basically the same:

 

1) Galo uses his physicality and burning spirit to intimidate anyone who singles out any of the ex-Burnish and deserves it, just like before. Like people who bully them just because they can. But he takes the hits from those whose lives have been changed beyond recognition either by the ex-Mad Burnish or Kray Foresight. He takes their glares of hatred and resentment and heartbreak, their insults, their hurled objects head-on with a solemnness that no one ever really expects. And all he does is murmur, with blue eyes shadowed by deep pain and a bowed posture, “I’m so sorry.”

 

Because he gets it. Gets what it’s liked to have your whole world ripped out from under you while you can’t do anything about it. Gets that even when you learn to withstand that, it never goes away like it didn’t happen in the first place.

 

All of this is especially true of the funerals of non- and ex-Burnish following the Second Blaze.

 

In the face of his genuine empathy, most of his naysayers can’t help but let up. There are some who can’t let go, but they focus on Galo, and with Burning Rescue’s protection, nothing too bad ever happens.

 

But where Lio’s concerned:

 

On Lio’s end, although Burning Rescue quickly welcomed him into their ranks, and although the people he’s saved from Burnish (and now non-Burnish) fires can attest to his patience and compassion, most of the citizens of Promepolis still aren’t familiar with him. Moreover, he’s very controlled, serious. His expression tends to be neutral, and he usually keeps to himself. And other than his coworkers, Galo, Meis, and Gueira, he has no friends. In other words, he hasn’t gone out of his way to ingratiate himself to anyone. That hasn’t mattered, until now.

 

Now, people give him the same looks and hurl the same biting comments and things at him as the rest of the ex-Burnish. To the public, and for better or worse, he’s become their ally, and nothing more.

 

On Galo’s end, he becomes a different person. The inferno inside him that constantly changes shape (e.g., as inviting as the sun or as dark as coals), that to his surprise hasn’t disappeared since the Promare left the Earth, burns just as hotly as if his was still with him. He never retaliates against anyone – he learned a long time ago that if he really wants the (ex) Burnish to be able to live alongside everyone else, he can’t do that – but he was and is still the leader of the ex-Mad Burnish for a reason. When people glare at and/or insult Lio, Galo’s eyes turn into electric blue flares, and when they throw, say, rocks at him, he catches and crushes them without breaking a sweat.

 

Of course, Lio moves to protest this immediately. “I’m not a child, Galo, or a pushover. I can take care of myself. You should know that by now.”

 

Galo twitches. He looks troubled, conflicted. “I do, Lio! I do. Of course I do.” He will never forget his first fight with him, his second, the Lio de Galon, or the Galo de Lion. “But…”

 

“But?”

 

“Aah, geez…!” He becomes frustrated and combs his hands through his hair. “Look, all these people are targeting you because you’re helping us!” Then his gaze becomes steely, like that Matoi spear of his. “You’re not going to deny that, are you?”

 

Lio huffs, crossing his arms. “… No.”

 

Galo nods sagely. “And you’re not going to stop helping us.”

 

“No.” There’s no hesitation and a bit of heat to his reply, as if he’s offended that Galo would even suggest otherwise.

 

Galo grins for a second, but his expression becomes serious again. “That’s what I thought. Then as the ‘big boss’ of the ex-Burnish, I’m going to take responsibility for this and protect you. And anyway…”

 

He sighs and scratches his head, finding the right words and blushing faintly when he does: “… I know we haven’t known each other all that long, but… you’re as important to me as any of the ex-Burnish, OK? So if I can, I want to make sure you’re safe.”

 

Lio stares at him incredulously. Internally, his heart clenches, though not in an uncomfortable way. Again, he’s not used to companionship. He’s wanted to be a firefighter since he was young, and he’d worked himself to the bone to become one, particularly because of his short and previously-weak constitution. That didn’t leave a lot of time for socialization, and when he’d attempted to make some, most people hadn’t understood him. They’d claimed that he was obsessed as opposed to passionate, that he was too selfless and needed to take better care of himself (he’ll admit that this was/is at least partially true), that he reached out to or hung out with them too infrequently. That they couldn’t relate to the primary or secondary trauma he developed from watching buildings, prized possessions, animals, other people burn. Crumbled livelihoods and legacies, disfigured bodies, the burdens of caretaking, crushed dreams, corpses. (The horror of his own crime scene.) That it was difficult standing beside him. So he’d never built any impactful or long-lasting relationships.

 

And yet one Galo Thymos, in a casual and unflinching way, is telling him that he cares about him as much as his tribe, the ones he has sacrificed and continues to sacrifice everything for. That he almost died, twice, trying to protect, that he would go through all that for all over again in a heartbeat. Lio became aware of the inkling that they may have a deep connection when they brought their fists together again aboard the Parnassus, but hearing as much from the other party is an entirely different and unexpected matter. And even someone as “aloof” as he is recognizes the weight, the warmth, of Galo’s sentiments. His own in response.

 

“What?!”, Galo booms, flustered, confused by Lio’s silence. “Got a problem with that or something?!”

 

Lio returns to himself and, to Galo’s immense surprise, smiles a second time, more widely than he did during their first sunrise together.

 

“… Thank you, Galo.” His expression becomes smug, and he adds because he can’t help himself, “If you’re so insistent, I suppose I can accept you hanging over me so you can feel better,” and Galo protests because he knows that’s a jab at him, but.

 

But neither of them forgets how that moment began, with that smile.

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Bonus

Lio has Galo try Inferno Volcano Margherita Mega Max Pizza. It becomes his all-time favorite thing to eat, ever.

 

He thinks that he could kiss him. That he loves him.

Chapter Text

One day, not very long after the Second Great World Blaze, a single pink petal suddenly bursts out of Galo Thymos’ mouth. Luckily for him, no one else happens to be around to see it.

 

He looks it up and finds out that it’s from an iris, and he can’t help but think how fitting that is.

 

Galo begins to die.

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Galo Thymos loves Lio Fotia. He’d tried to deny it at first. They’d only known each other for a couple of weeks. More importantly, Lio still has a ton of stuff to deal with, like helping the ex-Burnish, fighting against the discrimination they’re still facing, and figuring out his place in this new world of theirs. He hadn’t nearly realized how badly that last one’s affecting him until he’d asked him what he’d wanted to eat their first night together. What his favorite colors were, what kinds of tops and bottoms and footwear he liked for when he was going to buy him new clothes (they’d been worried it could be too dangerous for him to do so himself yet), because his one and only outfit had pretty much been destroyed during the Second Blaze. Why he was still shivering even though he was wrapped up in Galo’s way-too-big-for-him jacket plus two of Galo’s fluffiest blankets, just as a joke.

 

Each of those times had been one of the few times he’d seen him stop moving, stop thinking. And each time he’d answered, not at all sure of himself like he’d always seemed to be, “… I don’t know.”

 

So Galo doesn’t want, hadn’t wanted, to become a burden to him. Didn’t want to risk the same thing happening with Lio as what happened with Kray: He thinks the former would be so much harder to recover from. And, honestly, he’d have been more than happy just to be able to stand by Lio’s side, to be his friend.

 

Also, he isn’t sure how Lio feels about them. There hasn’t been a good time for them to sit down and talk about what they are to each other now. And he sure as anything isn’t going to ask or force him to fall in love with him just to save him.

 

… He doesn’t deserve that. Not at all. Not after everything he’s been and is still going through, not after everything else he’s given up.

 

(And, again, Kray.)

 

But he hadn’t been able to stop himself from thinking about them becoming something more. And each and every time, it was – is – like Lio’s flames had never left him. The feeling’s all-consuming, and even he and his burning firefighter spirit can’t put it out.

 

(Not that he wants to. It’s thrilling like squaring up against the Mad Burnish was, and it burns hot, but not in a painful way, and it casts so much light. It keeps him going on their toughest days.)

 

And his dormant hanahaki had awakened. He’d tried to hide it and sort everything with Lio out on his own, because all he’d wanted before he passes away was closure, but his flowers spread through his body too aggressively, and now he’s dying in a cold white room in a stiff hospital bed after only a couple of weeks.

 

The doctors treating him don’t seem to know what’s wrong with him, which makes sense since he’s only ever heard of it once. And everyone knows he’s not going to last much longer, they just haven’t told him yet. He does regret that even though he tried his best to protect them from this, he couldn’t. Aina’s tight smiles, Lucia’s pursed lips, Varys’ frown, and Remi’s scowl are some of the worst things he’s ever caused in his life. (Captain Ignis’ face never changes, so he can’t be sure how this is affecting him.)

 

What he’s done to Lio is even worse. Every time he visits him, his expression is constantly shifting. He smiles like Aina does; he barely grimaces, digs his teeth into his bottom lip or his nails into his hands, sometimes to the point of bleeding; he tears up a couple of times when he thinks he isn’t paying attention (which is never, now, he has nothing better to do). Mostly he simmers, furious at whatever unknown medical issue is leading his body to tear itself apart from the inside out.

 

Galo keeps trying. He beams when everyone spends time with him, he’s happy with them and he’s going to miss them something fierce. He asks about the reconstruction efforts, about how the ex-Burnish are doing, about how they themselves are doing, even about Kray and everyone that helped him. He pours all the energy he has left into this one thing.

 

When everyone leaves, he sinks into his bed and sighs. The light in his eyes is fading day by day. This isn’t how he ever saw himself going out, and it’s not how he wants to, but…

 

… but he still hasn’t been able to bring himself to tell Lio yet.

 

… What do I do?

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Around one week later, he himself makes it so that the choice is out of his hands.

 

It happens to be Lio who walks in as he’s waking up from another round of morphine plus some other drugs. The branches of his irises have grown so much and so far that they’ve shredded through his lungs: he’s on a respirator now.

 

“Never said… hanahaki… so bad…”

 

Lio’s eyes widen at this unfamiliar, foreign-sounding term. As Galo eases into consciousness, he asks him, “Galo. What exactly is… hah nah hah ki?”

 

Oh, no.

 

“Hana-what? What are you saying?” Galo laughs. But it doesn’t reach his eyes, and he quickly looks away from him: he’s always been a terrible liar.

 

Lio glares at him mercilessly. “Galo.”

 

Galo’s grin slowly sets into a line. Lio’s caught off-guard, but he doesn’t show it: he’s never seen him like this before, not even when they were attempting to beat back Kray, when at least he knew why he looked like he’d been stabbed in the back. He’s never seen him looking like him, like Lio Fotia, and he doesn’t like it. Doesn’t like that this is what’s causing him to take things seriously for once.

 

“It’s pronounced hanahaki. With Japanese, you’re supposed to make all the syllables of a word flow together like there’s only one of them.” He smiles, sincerely, but he schools his expression again. “Basically, I love someone, this someone being my soulmate, and they don’t love me back. So an iris, which is supposed to symbolize them, has sprouted in my body and will keep growing until it kills me.”

 

“… What??? That’s… are you serious???”

 

“That’s what my grandpa from Japan told me once, yeah. Apparently it runs in my family. … Not that I can confirm that anymore, he passed away a while ago and the rest of my family lost their lives in the fire Kray started.” Galo mutters the last part kind of bitterly, and Lio can’t blame him what with the rage that immediately lodges itself in his chest. But he swallows it down: Kray can’t hurt them anymore, and this is not about him, this is about Galo and his survival.

 

“Besides, I probably wouldn’t be able to come up with such a specific lie,” Galo quips.

 

“No. You probably wouldn’t.” Lio smiles faintly at the thought, then remembers himself and follows up with a, “Well, who is it?!” Impatience, oddly enough to both of them, and a hint of hope flash through his eyes. “I’m sure we can convince them to enter into a relationship with you – ”

 

“It’s not that simple.” Galo’s chest rises and falls. “… This isn’t something that can be faked or pretended at, and I don’t want it to be. I have to be convinced that my soulmate feels the same way about me as I do about them.”

 

“Do you really think you can afford to be picky about this?!”

 

“It’s not me, that’s how hanahaki works. Like I said, it’s not that simple.”

 

Lio sighs, threading his fingers together. “But you at least know who your soulmate is, right?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Can we start from there and see how things go? Their involvement is the only thing that will improve your condition, correct?”

 

“Yeah, but… it’s someone we both know.”

 

Lio raises an eyebrow, but that’s all the shock he’ll allow himself to display. “So?”

 

“‘So?’ After everything that happened during the Second Great World Blaze, it’s not fair for any of you to feel pressured into falling in love with me to save my life!”

 

“You’re dying! Don’t you think your soulmate will be able to set that aside?!”

 

“Of course they will! But it still wouldn’t be right!!”

 

“So after everything we’ve all been through, you’re just going to let yourself pass away because you don’t want to be a bother to someone who already cares about you?! You really are an idiot!!”

 

Galo’s not surprised at his outburst, but he is. No, Galo’s dying, he’s not going to convince him of anything if he simply yells at him (and that’s all he wants to do right now), and he shouldn’t be stressing him out anyway lest his health worsen. So he moves towards the door with a muttered, “… I’m sorry, I think I should go.”

 

“Lio, wait!” Lio pauses, only because he sounds so plaintive. “… I’m sorry. I really am. I just… I don’t know what to do. Messing around with the love life, the future, of someone I really care about is… pretty hard.”

 

Lio turns around. “… I can understand that. But again, I think any of us can and would be willing to make those kinds of concessions for you. Also, you’re making it sound as if it would be terrible to be your partner.”

 

Galo tilts his head. A small smirk plays on his lips, and he adds, “… It wouldn’t be so bad. I can think of bigger idiots. Worse people. Being with you could be tolerable.”

 

Instead of laughing along at his jab, Galo smiles fondly at him. Lio’s heart stops.

 

… Wait.

 

“… You never answered my question. Who’s your soulmate?”

 

Galo turns his head away from him again. Lio’s about to walk over to him and grab him by his face when he murmurs:

 

“… It’s you.”

 

“… I’m sorry?”

 

“It’s you. You’re my soulmate.”

 

Now he’s looking right at him, maybe even through him. His gaze is steadfast, unflinching.

 

He’s waiting for his reaction.

 

… Oh.

 

“… Are you sure?”

 

“Yup!” He cracks a grin. “As sure as I am that I’m Galo Thymos, the world’s #1 firefighting idiot!”

 

Lio doesn’t join him and/or rib him like he usually would. Instead, he takes in a short puff of air and puts his hand over his mouth, looking lost in thought.

 

“Hey, look, I get it, I figured you wouldn’t – ”

 

Don’t jump to conclusions, Galo Thymos. Considering everything, that’s unbecoming of you,” Lio snaps back.

 

Well, now he’s confused. So he waits him out, ready for an apology and/or an explanation.

 

What he gets is, “… I’ve never been in love before.”

 

Oh.

 

“My Burnish awakening occurred when I was still a child. My family comes from nobility and had a reputation to maintain, so they kicked me out, mostly leaving me to fend for myself. I’ve been on the run ever since.

 

And as Burnish, it was dangerous to take on a lover. You never knew when you could be separated, one of you could become too injured to continue onward, one of you could be captured and never heard from again, one of you could die. If it happened naturally, it happened, but… for some of the Burnish, getting into a relationship was considered a waste of time, and having a partner was looked at as a weakness. … Also, I’ve never met anyone that I could see myself being with like that.”

 

“Really? Not even Gueira or Meis?”

 

Lio laughs. “Those two? No, never. They’re…” He mulls it over, because this is the first time in a long time that’s he’s being asked to label circumstances involving ever-volatile human elements. “… my confidantes. Best friends, or maybe even family.”

 

Galo nods. He completely gets that. “If it makes you feel any better, I’ve never been in love before either. I guess I just hadn't met the right person.”

 

“… How do you know it’s me, then?”, Lio murmurs. “Or, rather, Galo Thymos, what do you like – no, love – about me?”

 

“There’s lots of things!” Galo sits up, beaming.

 

“Really?” Lio blinks owlishly.

 

“Yeah!! Where do I even start…? Well, I do love how soft your hair is and how pretty it looks when the light hits it just right. Same with your eyes. And you have a really nice smile!”

 

Lio narrows his eyes. He’s heard pretty much all of that plenty of times before, from leerier, more disgusting individuals who he made short work of if they wouldn’t take no for an answer. “So you’re just physically attracted to me?”

 

“No way, not even close!!”, Galo protests as vehemently as he can on his respirator. “Geez, let me finish!”

 

“Ah, sorry. Please, continue.”

 

“And you’re always telling me not to rush into things…” Galo huffs, but then he smiles. “That’s just the stuff you can see, on the outside. For the stuff you can’t see… I love you because you have a burning spirit like mine! You’re not afraid to say what’s on your mind, and you can put up a heck of a fight! So I know you can have my back.

 

You want to help people, especially when they’re being treated unjustly. You care about the stuff they’re having a hard time with, you feel their pain right along with them. You fight for them when they can’t or when they don’t have a voice to. And you go out and do all that. You’re the leader of the ex-Mad Burnish, even I realize you’re maybe not supposed to be on the ‘front lines’ of everything. But you are anyway. You don’t think you’re too good to work alongside the other ex-Burnish who distribute supplies, make calls to shelters, go to court, and all that other important stuff.

 

You’re forgiving and you do whatever you need to do to get positive things done, because you’ve been working with us too. You’re great with kids, which… bad people aren’t. Kray wasn’t, if I really think about it, he only ever visited me for photo ops or whenever else he needed me while I grew up in an orphanage and I know you would never do anything like that.” His voice cracks a little there. Neither of them comments on it. “I could go on, but I don’t think I need to.”

 

“Oh! I almost forgot! You’ve helped me become a better person and firefighter. I don’t know what you saw in me in the cave from before; you didn’t have to tell me about what Kray was doing to your people, you didn’t owe me an explanation that it must’ve hurt you to give. But you took a chance on me, you believed in me, or at least that’s how I see it, and you did anyway. Which, we wouldn’t even be here right now if you hadn’t, so that evens out!

 

And! And! I want you to be happy. More than I want Inferno Margherita Mega Max Pizza!”

 

“… You can make most of those claims about any number of other people you know,” Lio manages, absolutely dumbstruck. Galo feels kind of smug knowing he’s swept him off his feet in a way he probably never expected to be.

 

“Yeah, maybe. But there are things that I can only say about you, things that Remi says prove that I love you.” Because, knowing he’d used to have a girlfriend and being ever-curious, he’d asked him once what love was like long before Lio Fotia had had a chance to crash into his life. “The way I care about my squad, and the way I used to care about Kray, is totally different from the way I feel about you, Lio. I want to spend the rest of my life with you, but I want for us to live together, too. I want to start and end my day with you. I want to make you home-cooked meals, all of them. [Wants to watch his face maybe light up when he has fresh pizza instead of Kraft Mac ‘N’ Cheese. Not that he doesn’t like that, too, but it’s not the same!] And I want to be there for you, after everything you’ve and we’ve been through. I don’t make promises to just anyone to have their back through spark and flame… and you weren’t there for this, but I said I’d save you, too.”

 

Holy shit. He really is in love with him, isn’t he? Lio tries his absolute best, but he can’t help the warmth of embarrassment and knowing that someone who used to at least dislike him cares this much about him from creeping up his face all the way to the tips of his ears. He even goes so far as to pull up one of the two sweaters he’s wearing over his mouth while it twitches incessantly, not sure what shape it’ll take on, if he wants Galo to see it.

 

Galo’s smirk is smarmy, but soft. “Do you believe that I love you now?”

 

Lio snorts. Then he pulls down the collar of his first sweater and smiles softly. “Yes, I believe you and profusely apologize for ever having doubted you.”

 

Now Galo’s the one who’s blushing. “Oh, uh… thanks.”

 

Lio sighs deeply. Then: “… Galo, I will do whatever I have to do to fight for you to live. At the very least, my people and I owe you a debt that we may never be able to repay, and allowing you to pass away when I can prevent that from happening would be like spitting in the face of that debt.”

 

“Well, like I said, I don’t want you to make yourself do anything you’re not comfortable doing. I want, need, you to want this just as much as I do. I really am fine with you not liking me back.”

 

“I do want to do this.”

 

“But do you love me?”

 

“… Once again, I don’t know. I wouldn’t know.”

 

A couple of beats pass. Then Galo asks, “Look, why don’t we call it here for today? I’ve dumped a ton of stuff on you. Think about it and let’s talk again tomorrow.”

 

His proposal sounds cheerful as ever, but Lio can hear it in his tone: he’s resigned himself to his fate.

 

And he won’t accept that. But he can’t push him too hard, either, he is still dying.

 

“… Alright,” he concurs, scraping his chair against the floor of Galo’s hospital room. “Then I’ll see you tomorrow. Goodnight, Galo.”

 

“’Night, Lio.”

 

And off he goes.

 

Galo eventually cards his hands through his hair, frustration mounting. Now, all he can do is wait.

 

He hopes he hasn’t ruined whatever they still have before he can no longer see him again.

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That same evening, while he works on consulting his own heart and Meis and Gueira and Remi himself, Lio considers another very important variable to this dangerous equation he’s trying to resolve. 

 

If he were to try to cure Galo’s hanahaki, would he be deserving of such happiness?

 

No, probably not. Scores of his own people’s, not to mention innocent non-Burnish bystanders’, lives have been ruined on his watch. Their homes, families, friends, sense of security had or have been taken away from them. The former had barely survived, subsisting on disgusting food, water, living conditions, nightmares. And he hadn’t, hasn’t, been able to do much of anything for any of them. 

 

Moreover, some of them have lost their lives because of his actions or inaction. They will never be able to spend even another second with their loved ones again. They will never know love again.

 

But… this isn’t about him. It’s about Galo, and if Galo wants him, then he’ll make it work and dedicate every other portion of his existence to atoning for those sins.

 

(This isn’t even about him. He’s not going to let anyone else die if he can do something about it. Not anymore.)

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The next morning, Lio waits something like 30 minutes in advance of the hospital’s visitation hours to be able to enter Galo’s room and lock the door behind him. He may be willing to have this discussion with him now out of necessity, but he does not need any interruptions, or his courage will falter.

 

(Even he has his limits.)

 

Galo stares at him while he’s doing so, probably because he isn’t even bothering to be subtle about it, but he thankfully doesn’t make a comment. Instead, he grins. “Morning, Lio!”

 

“Morning. How are you feeling?”

 

“Better than you, maybe.” Galo’s expression becomes troubled. “You don’t look like you slept at all last night, you know that?”

 

Lio chuckles mirthlessly. “Is it that obvious? … I did only manage to rest for a couple of hours.”

 

“Because of yesterday.”

 

“Yes.” Lio breathes in and out deeply, then drags his chair right next to Galo’s bed. When he gently grabs one of his hands and holds it in both of his, Galo jolts and turns red but doesn’t pull back.

 

“Galo Thymos, I think I love you too.”

 

“You think?” Galo chuckles deprecatingly, but his heart is pounding like it was when they were Lio de Galon and Galo de Lion.

 

“Must I remind you a second time that I’ve never been in love with anyone before?” The corner of Lio’s mouth slides upwards. “However, I do know that I made a list of reasons why I could love you last night.”

 

That gets a full-on laugh out of him. “Seriously? You would!”

 

“That’s when I realized that your and my list are practically the same.”

 

“… Huh?”

 

“Galo. I think I love you because…” Lio ducks his head. “… you could be considered handsome. Your physique’s ridiculous, anyway.” Galo’s about to ask if he’s complimenting or insulting him, but Lio looks up and interrupts, “I also like the color of your hair and eyes. They’re calming, and yet they remind me of blue fires… the hottest kind.

 

I like how joyful, energetic, and genuine you are as well. You balance out my trepidation about our future and… give me hope that things can truly be better than they ever have been, for my people and our world both. That you are incredibly kind, still, considering everything Kray’s done to you.” Galo flinches, but Lio puts a bit of pressure on his hand, and it’s just enough to get him to not stay stuck on the bastard. “Your strong character, and that you can somewhat keep up with me too.” He smirks, but just for a moment. “That you love children and they in turn love you. To an extent, that you will throw everything away without hesitation to help, save, someone in need without a second thought.”

 

“… And I want you to be happy. Not just because of the debt I owe you, but also because… I care for you. Much more than I could’ve ever expected to, and very differently from the way I care about the ex-Burnish, Gueira, and Meis. I want to live with you as well, begin and end my days with you, cook alongside you, take the time to enjoy each other’s company, and be there for you. … I think we could both find happiness that way.”

 

Galo’s been frozen while he’s been talking, although his entire face became flush at some point. Lio finds this both amusing and endearing.

 

“So, Galo.” His smile takes on a determined glint, and he squeezes Galo’s hand again to bring him back to the present. “I won’t lie to you, it’ll take time for me to sort out these feelings. But in the meantime… will you stay with me?”

 

Galo’s never loved him more.

 

“Yeah. Yeah, that works for me.”

 

Suddenly, the irises in his insides disappear. His lungs clear up, but he’s still having trouble breathing right.

 

That’s OK. Lio’s still holding his hand is all.

 

He wouldn’t have it any other way.