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I Know What I Like

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Galo has very little to complain about as far as Lio is concerned, except.

Except.

The clothes.

They’re not bad, okay? They’re…very good, in fact. Visually. But like. Buckles aren’t cuddly, and Galo is a man who enjoys a good, long cuddle. He and Lio have been together long enough now that cuddling is a thing they do, but not quite together long enough for Galo to get in on some nighttime cuddles.

And there’s a very real and somewhat scary possibility that what Lio wears to bed also has buckles.

So this leaves him with a conundrum, see.

“Why not go shopping together?” Aina suggests. “Then you can, y’know, gently steer him in the direction of clothes you want to see him in.”

Galo hums. That’s not a terrible idea. He considers it for a few seconds, then wrinkles his nose. “What if he figures out that’s what I’m doing?” he asks.

“He will,” Remi says. He’s on the other side of the room face-down on the sofa, half out of his uniform and still covered in this afternoon’s soot. He claimed he was on his way to the shower about an hour ago, so that seems to have become a goal of the past. “Lio’s smarter than you.”

“Excuse you!” Galo splutters. He casts around for something to throw, but the closest thing within reach is a plush golden retriever puppy wearing a firefighter’s hat. He makes sure to chuck it with all his strength and smirks when it bounces off Remi’s head.

After a long pause, Remi says, “Ow, I guess.”

“You could order stuff and give it to him as a gift,” Aina says. “How attached do you think he is to the way he dresses now?”

“Uhhh.”

Galo gives a sidelong look through the glass at where Lio is helping Lucia take apart the hydraulic wedge spreader that they broke earlier. He’s long since showered and changed out of his uniform, which means he’s covered in skintight fabric, zippers, and buckles.

There could be drool collecting in Galo’s mouth. You’ll never know.

“Galo?”

“Mm.”

“Galo, you’re… Uh, Galo…?”

“Don’t bother him, Aina. He’s lost to us.”

Lio inspects a melted bolt, then tosses it onto the scrap heap.

Galo rests his chin on his fist and smiles, not a coherent thought in his mind.

Later in the week, Lio agrees to go shopping. He doesn’t seem to suspect anything, but that probably has less to do with Galo’s powers of subterfuge than it does the fact that Galo isn’t trying to trick Lio into doing anything. He just genuinely wants to go shopping, and he’d be happier if Lio did it with him.

And if Lio happens to see something he likes while they wander the soft and fuzzy areas of the stores in which Galo intends to spend the most time, then so be it.

Galo’s always enjoyed picking out clothes for himself. He never has any idea what’s considered “fashionable”, but he knows what he likes, so he’s usually pretty quick about making decisions. He can be in and out of a store within twenty minutes on a typical day.

Five steps into their first store, Galo strips off his jacket and swings it over his shoulder with a flair of heroism. “Lio!” he shouts.

“Mm?”

“Time me!”

Lio rolls his eyes but activates a timer on his tablet. “On three,” he says.

Galo smirks and makes a show of taking a starter’s pose, his fingertips braced on the floor. He expects Lio to count him down, but instead there’s a camera shutter and a snicker.

“Lio!”

“Yeah, yeah.” Lio calls up the timer again and swipes his thumb over the screen. “Go.”

Galo takes off with a whoop.

Eleven minutes and fourteen seconds later, Galo returns at a jog with a bag stuffed full with clothes to try on. “Done!”

Lio reports the time, observes Galo’s preening with clear amusement, then slides his tablet into the front pocket of his bag. “I’m not sure why you time yourself,” Lio says.

Galo tips his head to the side. “Thought it’d be fun. Wanna come with me while I try them on?”

“Sure.”

A staff person leads them to a fitting room, and Galo tries not to startle when Lio strolls in ahead of him. He wasn’t expecting that, but the staff person doesn’t try to stop Lio, so Galo rolls with it and follows him in.

The next ten minutes is Galo pulling off one article of clothing and replacing it with another while Lio gives a bland but balanced commentary.

“The neck looks too tight.”

“Yeah, a little. It’s not that bad, though.”

“The fit around the waist looks good.”

“Y’think? It’s not too loose?”

Intrigue flares in Lio’s eyes just before he extends his hand and palms down Galo’s stomach over the fabric. The phantom sensation of lukewarm flames somehow traces over Galo’s skin, bringing up goosebumps across his arms.

Perhaps Lio notices. He grins up at Galo with visible mischief and sneaks his hand quickly under the hem of the sweater. His frozen fingertips hover millimeters from Galo’s skin, teasing Galo with their close proximity. Lio has draped his body over the fitting room’s blue chaise lounge, his elbows perched on the arm behind him with his legs flopped over the other. He’s so relaxed that the skintight material painted onto him looks as unconstraining as if it were his own skin.

The sight of Lio so content calls a strong wave of serotonin rushing through Galo’s system.

“Can I see you in it?” Galo blurts.

“In the sweater?”

“Yeah,” Galo says.

Lio humors him, and after the few seconds it takes for the sweater to transfer from Galo to Lio, Galo is promptly presented with a brand new challenge to his willpower: Lio wearing something with sleeves too long for his arms.

Galo tries and fails to hold in a squeak.

Lio stops inspecting his reflection and meets Galo’s eyes in the mirror. “What was that?” he asks.

“What was what?” Galo returns, wide-eyed. “I didn’t say anything.”

A grin emerges on Lio’s lips. He turns and leans on the mirror, affecting a pose that absolutely isn’t natural and also puts Galo’s entire respiratory system in danger. No one should look so good in skintight pants, forty-seven belts, and a sweater. Then again, the fact that the neck of said sweater skims the curve of Lio’s shoulder and the sleeves are just long enough to cover most of his hands has a very, very significant role in giving Galo a serious concentration dilemma.

Galo doesn’t know what his face is doing right now, but whatever it is, he’s probably already given away his heightened interest by exploring Lio’s entire body with his hungry roaming eyes.

With utter candor, Galo says, “I’m not interested in shopping for me anymore.” While Lio grins and rolls his eyes, Galo beams and presents him with a denim jacket.

“All of what you picked are going to be too big on me,” Lio points out, but he takes the jacket without fuss.

Galo tries not to look too manically enthusiastic about that when he nods.

The next twenty minutes are the happiest minutes of Galo’s young life. He never understood the fun some people get in dressing up their partners but, oh wow, does he understand it now. And the fact that Lio just rolls with it and allows Galo to play around with each outfit, adjusting sleeves and hems and pulling the fabric this way and that, makes the whole activity twelve times more fun.

“This is the best date ever,” Galo tells him emphatically. He pops the collar of the forest green button-up Lio’s wearing and hurries to find the cream-colored suit vest from a minute ago.

When he turns back, Lio’s smiling at him with soul-deep amusement.

Galo tips his head, a little sheepish. “What?”

Lio shakes his head. “I was just thinking the same thing,” he says. Without waiting for a response, he turns his left wrist and unbuttons the sleeve cuff. “What do you think, should I wear it higher on my arm?”

Galo makes a note to visit a shrine after this and thank whatever god lives there for bringing Lio to him.

In the end, Lio agrees to put on no fewer than twenty-three outfits. He looks unreasonably handsome in everything, even the clothes too big for him, so Galo has a true crisis on his hands.

“Lio,” he groans, “this is the worst kind of problem. How do I decide? I can’t afford everything!

Lio shucks off a charcoal gray V-neck shirt and raises his eyebrows. “Why would you do that?” he asks.

“Because you look good in all of it!”

Lio makes a rude noise that sounds like a laugh.

“What? You do! Wait, why are you laughing?”

Lio cups the side of his face in one hand and kisses his chin. “Because I’d never wear any of this in public,” he says. “I just went along with it because it made you happy.”

Galo deflates a bit. “Oh.”

“Also, you haven’t put your shirt back on since you gave me the sweater, and it’s generally easier to get me to do things when there’s a pretty, half-naked man to appreciate.”

Galo frowns, then registers for the first time that he is, in fact, half-naked.

Huh.

Then he reflects on what Lio just said.

Huh!

“I’ll keep that in mind,” he says with solemnity.

He’s eager to see how far the power of this newly-introduced persuasion tactic extends. He didn't get cuddles, but this new information is far more valuable in the long term.