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cause in your warmth (I forget how cold it can be)

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It starts small.

 

An ever-so-slight lean into Galo’s side when they’re standing next to each other, looking at the chore assignments for the week in the Burning Rescue headquarters. The barest brush of cold fingertips against a bright orange jacket hem. Sitting a little closer than usual on the couch in the rec room. Resting on Galo’s back a little more than necessary when Galo gives him a ride on the back of his motorcycle after work.

 

It’s not very noticeable, really, to anyone but Lio. Galo certainly doesn’t seem to notice a difference, or if he does, he doesn’t say anything. But Lio…

  

 Lio has come to a few realizations since the departure of the Promare.

 

Leather is not as warm as it was when you had millions of fire-based dimensional aliens inside your body. Getting into the habit of blowing on a hot drink before sampling it is much harder than one would expect (he has the burned taste buds to prove it).  Real motorcycles are not nearly as powerful—or stylish—as Burnish-flame ones. Getting stuck in city traffic sucks, and you can’t propel yourself hundreds of feet into the air with flames in order to pass it by. And some people, blast them, are lucky enough to run unusually warm, regardless of the weather, without the help of the aforementioned aliens.

 

As much as Lio teases Galo for constantly bringing up his “burning firefighter soul”, he’s starting to wonder if perhaps there’s some truth to the claim.

 

To Lio’s great chagrin, Galo is almost perpetually hot. Not hot in the physical sense, though his penchant for shirtlessness and intense workout routine permits that definition of the word to be applicable as well. But Galo’s physical appearance isn’t what occupies Lio’s thoughts (most of the time). It’s the fact that while Lio is constantly covered in goosebumps and ice-cold fingers and toes, gravitating to the nearest heat source and burying himself in the warmest of sweaters, Galo is radiating like a furnace at every moment of the day––to the point where when he stands within a foot of Lio, Lio has to fight the urge to drape himself against him.

 

That might not be solely due to Galo’s body temperature, but that’s beside the point.

 

Lio is always freezing. Galo is always warm. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the rest.

 


 

Galo has a problem.

 

Well, if he’s being technical about it, Galo has a lot of problems. Rebuilding an entire city and reintegrating a three-decade-long persecuted group of people into society probably could be considered a “problem” to most people. Finding housing, supplies, and medical care for hundreds of displaced people also isn’t the easiest thing to tackle.

 

Big problems like that, though, Galo can deal with. He knows how to handle them. His tenacity (“Pigheadedness,” Remi would usually insert here) has often aided him in finding solutions to seemingly impossible setbacks more times than he cares to count. He saved the world when everyone said it was impossible, didn’t he? Although…  he had some help with it all.

 

Galo’s always had help. But see— that’s the root of the problem. Galo likes to be helped, and he likes to help people. It’s his job. Yet in all the troubles he’s ever had to face, and all the people he’s ever tried to help, none of them have ever made it as hard for him as one Lio Fotia.

 

Don’t forget to eat. Wear a helmet when you take the bike out. Get some sleep. No, seriously Lio, put the paperwork away and go to bed. 

 

Since the Promare left, Galo has found himself more often than not trailing Lio around the Burning Rescue headquarters like a puppy, ensuring the ex-Burnish is properly taking care of himself in ways that seem basic to Galo, but are apparently impossible to remember for Lio.

 

It’s absurd that someone as rash as Galo has found someone even more self-sacrificing and reckless than himself. It’s frustrating, and annoying, and pretty stupid—and also feeds Galo’s hero complex like nothing else.

 

Galo once said he would save Lio Fotia, when they were surrounded by ash and smoke and rubble. He isn’t stopping now.

 


 

“Hey.”

 

Lio doesn’t look up from the tablet he’s carefully typing into. Galo huffs and flicks a wrinkled-up napkin in his direction. It might be from the McDonald’s Varys brought for lunch three days ago. He’s not too sure. It misses by several inches, sailing somewhere over Lio’s shoulder. “Lio. Hey.”

 

This time he gets a brief, unamused glance.

 

Lio.”  Another napkin. This one successfully nails Lio on his delicately upturned nose.

 

What?”

 

“I’m hungry. Let’s go grab dinner or something.”

 

“I’m busy.” Lio drops his gaze back down to the tablet, a furrow between his brows. Galo waits a moment, eyeing the clock on the wall and the paperwork Lio bends over. When Lio doesn’t make a move to get up, Galo gives a loud, obnoxious groan. It lasts a good few seconds longer than necessary. Lio sets his tablet down and rubs at the bridge of his nose.

 

Galo resorts to drumming the table with his gloved hands as loudly as possible. After about a minute of this, Lio slams his palm on the table and glares at Galo.

 

Galo never really mastered the whole “innocent smile” thing. He just goes for a wide grin. It broadens when Lio sighs and stands from the table. “Very well.”

 

With a happy whoop, Galo scrambles to go find his bike keys (“You didn’t have them when you asked me to come, you idiot?”). By the time he finds them, Lio is standing at the door, hands shoved into a borrowed leather jacket, possibly Aina’s, (does Lio ever wear anything but leather?) and leaning against the door with a bored expression.

 

“Got ‘em!”

 

Lio pushes off the wall and walks out the door, but not before Galo catches the hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth. “Hurry up,” he calls over his shoulder. Galo takes two large strides and falls into step beside him.

 

“So I was thinking we could maybe go get pizza, since Chief is back now and reopening and probably needs the customers, but if you’re tired of pizza maybe we could…”

 

Galo chatters away, mainly on autopilot, as they approach his motorcycle. He stops abruptly, trying to remember if he brought his spare helmet, and lets out a grunt as Lio bumps into his shoulder. He was walking closer than Galo had realized.

 

“Ah. Sorry.”

 

“It’s fine!” His helmet is hanging off the handlebars, something Aina gets onto him about with increasing exasperation, so he darts over to check the compartment in the back. It’s empty.

 

Galo turns around, rubbing the back of his neck. “So—the bad news is I left my spare helmet, so we probably can’t go too far.”

 

“I don’t mind riding without a helmet,” Lio interjects, but bites down on his bottom lip at the scandalized look Galo gives him.

 

“I’m a rescue team member,” Galo barks. He rips his helmet off the handlebars and marches over to where Lio stands, arms crossed, probably to guard himself from the gust of wind that bustles both their hair into their faces. Galo shoves his helmet onto the shorter man’s head with little preamble. “You can’t ask me to let someone ride around without a helmet! Safety first, Lio, jeez.”

 

He ignores Lio’s indignant spluttering and snorts instead at how the helmet has covered the entirety of the top of Lio’s face, covering his eyes. His blond bangs hang over his cheeks and nose. It’s kinda cute.

 

Galo lets Lio figure out the helmet as he straddles his bike and lets it roar. When he glances around, Lio has adjusted the helmet properly. His lower lip juts out in what––if Galo didn’t know better––might be considered a pout.

 

“We’ll just go check out the food trucks like 5 blocks down, okay? I’d say we could walk but it’s kinda cold.”

 

That it is. Winter is falling over Promepolis, and while after the Great World Burn snow has been rare, these days more of the icy precipitation has been spotted all over and Galo figured it was a matter of time before it showed up here. Lio huffs at him and swings a leg over the motorcycle, settling behind Galo. His weight presses into Galo’s spine, and Galo’s muscles clench in anticipation as Lio’s arms wrap around his waist.

 

“Alright,” Lio hums, and Galo kicks off.

 

The ride is brief, the wind biting into Galo’s face like sharp little needles. When he pulls into the little parking lot of one of the large office buildings still standing in the center of the city, he lets himself shiver once before turning the motorcycle off.  He kicks out the stand to park his bike and makes to get up, when he realizes Lio’s arms are still wrapped around him.

 

“Uh—Lio? We’re here.”

 

There’s a quiet sigh behind him and the arms tighten for a moment before letting go. Galo feels himself flush a bit—why?—and it takes him a moment to pull himself together enough to get off the bike. Lio has already slid off and is pulling off the helmet, shaking his hair out. Galo looks at him, eyes wide.

 

“So which one are we going to?” Lio asks, running a hand through his bangs. It takes Galo a moment to realize he’s being addressed.

 

“Oh—uh—whichever one you want really. There’s a lotta options—I might go for some stir fry.”

 

Lio eyes the food trucks lining the parking lot with a piercing gaze. He seems vaguely calculating in the way Galo remembers him being during their first meeting, their fight at the top of that Foresight Foundation building. He wonders if Lio has ever gotten food from a food truck before. Maybe he hasn’t. Galo might be introducing him to a first here. Somehow the idea sits well with him.

 

“Are we going?” Lio turns to look at him. Galo blinks.

 

“Oh, yeah. Let’s go.”

 

They wander the lot for a moment, stopping occasionally when a food truck catches Lio’s eye. He looks intrigued by the grilled cheese truck, and raises an eyebrow at the cupcake truck. Eventually they both pause at the stir fry truck, which has several people waiting in line already.

 

“Gonna get this too?” Galo glances at Lio, who once again has his arms wrapped around himself against the cold. Lio nods.

 

They settle into the line and Galo debates which menu item he’s craving today. As he flips between noodles and fried rice, he feels something push against his side and he glances down.

 

Lio is pressing into him slightly, mouth downturned and shoulders drawn up towards his ears. As Galo watches, he trembles, jaw tight, and that’s when Galo’s mouth drops open in realization.

 

Now that Galo stops to think about it, it makes sense that in the newly intensified winter weather, Lio would be more affected than most. The Burnish haven’t had to deal with cold unless it involved freeze-tech, something that, Galo thinks with a twinge of guilt, they probably don’t want to relive again. Regular winter cold is already unfamiliar to them.

 

Without a word, Galo unzips his jacket and draws it around Lio, pulling him into his chest. This close, Galo can feel how cold his nose and cheeks really are, and his guilt intensifies for not having noticed before. No wonder Lio had been so close before.

 

Lio is stiff against him for a moment before he relaxes entirely into Galo’s side like melting butter. “Thank you,” Lio mumbles against Galo’s chest. His arms wrap around Galo again, like on the bike. Galo nods, pointedly looking at the menu again when he feels his cheeks burn.

 


 

For Lio, the moment with the food trucks solidify a notion: Galo is always touching him. Years of being reverently regarded from a distance by other people—one of the quiet difficulties of being the leader of a troubled people—and all of that detachment is thrown entirely out a window by a blue-haired moron with big, feely hands and an even bigger heart.

 

Already, Lio can’t go two feet through Burning Rescue’s HQ without having his hair ruffled or his pack patted or his elbow grabbed because Lio take a break from paperwork and come look at the upgrades Lucia made to the Matoi. Every point of contact breaks into Lio’s skin like an itch, a burn, and Lio is no fool. He knows what the flutter of his heart has meant since he first gained consciousness with a gloved hand in his hair and a pair of not-quite-soft lips on his.

 

Galo is always touching him, which means it must mean less to him, which makes sense—Galo didn’t exactly spend years isolated from his peers by hierarchy and discrimination. He’s seen how casual Burning Rescue is with each other. And if Galo is always touching him, then logic says he wouldn’t mind if Lio touched him back, right?

 

So Lio starts.

 

For real this time. None of the subtle and subconscious contact Lio had been quietly seeking as temperatures dropped and Galo’s warmth became more and more tantalizing. The next time Galo sidles into the kitchen in the early morning, biting back a loud yawn and brushing a hand past the small of Lio’s back as he crosses behind him to get to the refrigerator, Lio succumbs to temptation and leans into it.

 

The heat of Galo’s sleep-warm body is a pleasant relief to the empty coolness of the morning. He feels more than sees Galo stiffen for a moment, as if just then realizing that he reached out to touch Lio on his way to pull milk out of the fridge. There’s no point in apologizing: Lio’s movement led to Galo’s entire arm practically sliding around him, and the kitchen was small enough that there really wasn’t many places to go. Lio was clearly welcoming the contact—pursuing it, even—and he knew Galo wasn’t so stupid as to not see that.

 

Carefully trying not to move the arm pressing against Lio, like one would try not to spook an animal, Galo yanks open the fridge and tugs out the milk carton. He turns to the counter only to have Lio slide him a bowl and the box of cereal. Lio takes a sip of his coffee as Galo pours his cereal one-handed. Lio leans against his arm with quiet calmness.

 

Neither of them acknowledges it for the rest of the day.

 

But there it is. Lio has his proof. He can enjoy Galo’s contact and Galo doesn’t mind.

 

He does it again. One particularly chilly evening, a couple of the team members are hanging out in the rec room, playing a video game that involves motorized vehicles on a racetrack and lots of sabotage. Meis and Gueira have even joined in. Like Lio, they’re also slightly more bundled up than the others, but unlike Lio, they’re pressed against each other, sharing each other’s warmth.

 

Lio is tired of trying to get anything done in the cold spare office they’ve taken over, so he marches with his tablet in hand and plops himself on the couch next to Galo. Galo plays with his whole body—leaning into turns and lifting his arms when he wants to jump like it’ll make his little pixelated character go higher. It’s wildly uncomfortable, and probably a great way for Lio to get smacked in the face, honestly. Lio doesn’t move anyways.

 

“You realize you aren’t going to go any faster by moving your arms, right?” Lio mumbles around the third time Galo’s elbow nearly knocks him in the nose. It’s also the third time Lio has tried leaning against Galo only to have to duck away at the last second to avoid a split lip.

 

He thinks his comment is lost to the noise of the crowd— or at the very least, Aina cursing out Lucia for using what looks like a giant smiling banana peel— but to his surprise Galo shushes him, lifts his hand off the controller and wraps his arm around Lio, tugging him into his side. His hand goes right back to the controller, but this time with Lio tucked into him. There’s probably more of a risk of getting smacked in the face with the controller like this.

 

But Galo is also soft, and so incredibly warm, and he grumbles down at Lio for making fun of his playing, and he seems to know what Lio is asking by leaning against him without Lio having to say it. So Lio stays like that.

 

Lucia wins, and Lio doesn’t get more work done, but he supposes it’s okay to take a break every once in a while.

 

Two days later—Lio sits between Galo’s legs when Ignis is giving a report on rebuilding efforts. It’s honestly more power to him that he doesn’t blush at the feeling of Galo’s very large, very muscular thighs on either side of his head, but that’s probably because he’s distracted by the feeling of Galo’s chin resting on the top of his hair. A week after that, the sky is grey and moody, and Lio feels that way too, so he hugs Galo from behind and breathes in his smoke-and-cinnamon scent and lets his warmth melt him from the inside out. It’s more intimate than he’s allowed himself to be in years— somehow it doesn't surprise him that Galo is the one to thaw him this way. 

 

It continues like this. If Lio were anyone else, he might be embarrassed by how easily he falls into the habit of touching Galo, but he wasn’t leader of the Mad Burnish for nothing. And if Galo were anyone else, Lio might’ve had trouble getting used to the contact, but Galo is nothing if not headstrong, and Lio craves the contact more than he knew.

 

One day, Galo has to take an emergency call across the city while Lio stays behind and meets with ex-Burnish to discuss workplace hiring discrimination. It’s a painful and frustrating job that Lio knows he has to do, but every time he looks at exhausted faces and prosthetic limbs from Kray’s engine, he’s filled with the urge to burn something—anything—to the ground. Old habits are hard to break, he guesses.

 

By the time he’s met with the last person, it’s getting dark out and the temperature has dropped to temperatures that, had he been at home, would have him burrowed under four blankets in front of a space heater. If Galo were here—

 

He stops the thought in his tracks, tempted to frown at himself but aware there’s no point in doing so. Galo isn’t here. And he’s a grown man, he doesn’t need Galo around in order to take care of himself. Throwing himself on the couch, he reminds himself, he’s perfectly capable of—

 

Smoke and cinnamon. He stops, turning to stare at the red and yellow hoodie draped over the back of the couch. It’s familiar in a way he wishes it wouldn’t be, but he’s also not foolish enough to ignore, and it makes him sigh. A minute passes as he huddles into the arm of the sofa and counts down how long it’ll take him to give in.

 

When Galo gets back twelve minutes later, he pauses at the door of the rec room. Lio’s eyes are nearly shut, sleep threatening to overcome him, but he still sees the pink flush over Galo’s high cheekbones and browned skin, and the sight of it sends a pleased flutter through him.

 

“Hello,” he mumbles. Galo lifts a hand to the back of his neck.

 

“Hi,” says Galo. Lio watches through half-slitted eyes as he shuffles over and sits at the end of the couch, near his feet. “Did’ya get cold again?”

 

It takes Lio a moment to realize Galo is referring to the fact that he’s wearing his jacket. He refuses to let himself be embarrassed about it. It’s not like Galo, the shirtless wonder, ever used it.

 

“I’m always cold,” he mumbles instead. It’s the first time he’s said it out loud.

 

Galo doesn’t respond at first. “That’s okay,” he says after a moment. “You’ve got my burning soul to keep you warm!”

 

Lio snorts. With a quiet grunt, he lifts himself up and turns himself on the couch so his head is now near Galo’s lap. He drops into it with a soft sigh. Galo’s hand hovers over him, uncertain, before lowering gingerly to rest on his hair. “Yes. I do.”


 

Aina has to pinch Galo seven times to get his attention, which is four times more than the last record. At the loud hiss of his name, Galo tears his eyes away from slender arms tying short blond hair into a tiny nub at the nape of a long, pale neck. “Huh?” he says loudly—stupidly—and Aina sighs.

 

“I swear to God, Galo.” She rolls her eyes so hard the ponytail at the side of her head flips with the movement. “Could you cut the pining for one second so I can ask you about training schedules?”

 

“Yeah,” Galo says, then blinks as her words process in his head. “Wait, what?”

 

The look Aina gives him is so unimpressed, Galo feels himself shrink a bit. His attention is pulled away when across the room, Lio lets out a laugh at something Gueira said. Isn’t that my shirt? Galo thinks. He looks so happy—and immediately is drawn out of the wistful thought by a flick to his forehead.

 

“Jesus fuck, Galo.” The thought that Aina really needs to stop using religious terms with such crude abandon passes through Galo’s head. “Are you really that far gone?”

 

“Far gone where?”

 

“Don’t bother,” Remi says, sliding into the chair next to them at the rec kitchen counter. “He hasn’t figured it out yet.”

 

“Figured what out?”

 

“That’s what makes it worse,” Aina mumbles.

 

“Makes what worse? Guys—”

 

Lucia pokes her head out from under the sink. No one seems to be the least bit surprised by this. “Oh are we making fun of Galo for being—” She makes a strange wuh-PSSSH sound, flicking her hand in the air sharply in Galo’s direction.

 

“What does that mean?” Galo cries out, tired of being ignored. Everyone just snickers in response, which normally would cause Galo to whine and annoy them all into submission, but he can’t do that because the moment he considers doing so, there’s a body leaning against his and Galo’s burning soul flickers in his chest.

 

“Are they bullying you?” He doesn’t know when Lio made his way over, but Lio’s low, amused voice thrums through the arm he is now leaning against and all through Galo’s nerves, up to his head. He swears he can feel his hair stand on end. It’s weird.

 

“They won’t tell me what they’re talking about even though I’m pretty sure it has to do with me.” Lio’s head leans against Galo’s shoulder as he studies the other members of Burning Rescue. Lucia makes the noise again, this time flicking her hand in Lio’s direction. A pretty pink blush covers the bridge of his nose. “Oh.” He clears his throat.

 

“At least both of you aren’t idiots,” Aina sighs. Galo is a bit too distracted watching the flush overtake the freckles on Lio’s face to notice the exasperated glare she throws in his direction. Lio notices Galo staring and the flush deepens, but one side of his mouth quirks up in amusement.

 

“Are you alright there?”

 

“Hm? Oh, yeah, sorry. Just—uh—”

 

Lio laughs again. Galo feels his own face grow red as cold fingers wrap around his hand, squeezing lightly. “I’m going to join Meis and Gueira on a visit to some old friends tonight. Don’t worry about driving me home.”

 

“Okay.” Galo tries very hard not to look at the hand around his. Something about the exchange feels very. Well. Galo doesn’t have the words for it, but his heart seems to have a lot of opinions on it.

 

Lio pulls away, giving the others a casual wave. Aina and Remi exchange looks. Lucia has ducked back under the sink. “See you all tomorrow,” he says.

 

“Are you wearing my shirt?” Galo blurts out.

 

Lio pauses just as he reaches the door. Galo doesn’t know why, but he suddenly regrets saying that out loud. He briefly considers how strange it would be if he changed the subject by trying to see how much whipped cream he can fit in his mouth.

 

Just before he actually lunges for the refrigerator to pull out the whipped cream, Lio glances over his shoulder—and winks.

 

Aina and Remi lose their shit.

 


 

Lio has to confess—teasing Galo is incredibly satisfying.

 

Something about rendering the self-assured, borderline-cocky firefighter confused and red-faced… it’s fun. It’s been happening more and more often, too, coinciding with the fluttering of Lio’s heart rate every time they touch. Lio supposes he’s lucky for two reasons: one, that he’s not oblivious of his own feelings; and two—that Galo is obvious enough with his own that Lio has no reason to feel doubt.

 

Lio has certainly gotten bolder, bolstered by Galo’s flustered stammering. Before, he had been careful to only place himself within Galo’s proximity, letting the other man pull him close when he noticed. Not anymore.

 

The next time Galo joins him on the couch at home, flopping himself with little grace on the end and immediately- and quite loudly-- demanding the remote to change the channel (“You’re not even watching this stupid documentary Lio, you’re just reading!”), Lio decides to enjoy himself. While Galo is distracted flipping between channels, Lio slides further down the couch and unceremoniously shoves his cold feet under Galo’s thighs, right where his shorts end.

 

“Gah!”

 

He jumps what appears to be two feet into the air and throws a shocked look in Lio’s direction. Lio doesn’t notice, of course, as he’s buried his nose in his book and is very pointedly avoiding Galo’s eyes.

 

“Dude,” Galo says, and Lio’s eyes flicker up before furrowing with even more concentration on his book. He’s been reading the same sentence over and over, but Galo doesn’t need to know that. “Your feet are freezing!”

 

“Yes,” Lio agrees and turns the page. “That’s why I moved them.”

 

Galo splutters a bit. Lio has to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from smiling. A quick glance up reveals a red-faced Galo glaring at the television. It’s quietly adorable.

 

“Give a guy a heads up, will ya?” Galo grumbles, still pink, and lifts himself up slightly, reaching under his legs to tug Lio’s feet out. Lio wants to protest, except then Galo lifts them into his lap, and, as if he did this all the time (which he does not, Lio would know), he cups Lio’s feet in his large hands and begins rubbing warmth into the toes.

 

Lio feels his own cheeks warm. “What are you doing?” He manages through the lump of surprise lodged in his throat. Galo grunts.

 

“What’s it look like I’m doing? You’re gonna lose your toes like this. Don’t you have any warm socks?”

 

Lio doesn’t answer for a moment, watching as Galo’s large hands slide up and down from heel to toe, thumbs rubbing gentle circles into the soles. “Er. Not really, no.”

 

Galo tuts and continues his ministrations. “You gotta take care of yourself more, man.” His attention is on the television, turned onto a baking show with soft, playful music.

 

Instead of responding verbally, Lio simply hums and lifts up his book once more. “Thank you,” he says instead.

 


 

Lio shouldn’t be surprised when, the next day, there’s a package of three pairs of thick, woolen socks tucked into his locker.

 

Lio tugs them out and stares at their stupid orange and red pattern, because there isn’t a universe where Galo understands the concept of understated. His mouth twitches. There’s a rustle one locker over and he looks up to see Meis staring him down with a raised eyebrow. The smile drops off his face.

 

Meis immediately throws his hands up in the air. “I didn’t say anything, Boss!”

 

“Meis,” Lio begins, a warning in his voice, but any intimidation he might have succeeded in establishing is immediately rendered moot when Galo materializes at his side, clapping a hand to Lio’s shoulder. Lio physically cannot stop himself from leaning into the warmth of the touch, like a flower following the sun.

 

“You found ‘em!” Galo exclaims, pleased. He rubs the back of his head and grins at Lio so brightly, Lio has to squint for a moment. “I didn’t know what color you’d like so I got some that match the ones I have.” And he literally yanks his foot up and tugs his boot off to show Lio his matching orange and yellow socks.

 

“I—” Lio toggles between asking Galo if he’s colorblind and focusing on the whole matching socks thing. It’s so fucking cute. “You didn’t have to do that. Thank you.”

 

“‘Course I did! Now you won’t be shoving your cold toes all over me, heh!” Something about that sentence must replay oddly in Galo’s head, because a second later he turns red, grabs something from his locker, and bolts out the door, shouting a goodbye over his shoulder. Lio stares at the door he left through.

 

When he turns back around, Gueira is standing behind Meis, both of them watching him with the same raised eyebrow Meis had before.

 

“Shut up,” Lio hisses, slamming his locker shut.

 


 

It all comes to head on a Friday, when emergencies and responsibilities are low.

 

Burning Rescue doesn’t often have time to let loose, but that isn’t to say they don’t like to. Not in a crazy way—they’re friends, yes, but above all they’re a rescue team that is almost always on duty together. They can’t exactly be off clubbing or whatever it is friend groups do these days. Now that there is no risk of Mad Burnish flames (and yes, the irony that the very instigators of eighty-percent of Burning Rescues emergency calls now work and share spaces with them is not lost on Galo), the team finds themselves more able to relax together even when on the clock. Regular fire emergencies are a piece of cake to them after all this, anyways.

 

If Galo is really lucky, he’s able to drag Lio—and Gueira and Meis—away from their Burnish-rights work and get them to take a break with the team for movie nights and the like. He succeeds only sometimes, like tonight, but every time he does it becomes twice as enjoyable.

 

Lucia has picked the film tonight, which means it’s probably something so convoluted and full of strange CGI effects that Galo won’t be able to keep up with, but it doesn’t matter too much ‘cause he mostly likes watching his friends watch the movie, as well as throwing in commentary that makes Varys and Lucia laugh, and Aina and Remi rolls his eyes. Even Ignis joins them on these evenings, settling a few paces away, pretending he’s only there for a moment and ignoring entreaties to just sit down and watch the movie.

 

Everyone settles in on the various couches of the rec room, the smell of popcorn permeating the air and giving the space a homey, lived in feel that Galo loves. He sits down next to Remi on the middle of the couch and pats the space on his right—as if he needed to; Lio was already plopping himself down gracefully in the empty space beside him.

 

“What are we watching?” Lio asks through a delicate yawn. Galo, whose yawns sound vaguely like a building groaning under three-hundred-mile-an-hour winds, doesn’t know how he manages to make such a thing look so elegant.

 

“I have no idea,” Galo admits, fully honest. He wasn’t paying attention to what Lucia described the movie to be.

 

Lio chuckles and draws himself closer to Galo’s side. He fits well there, against Galo’s waist. It fills Galo’s chest with a fluttery feeling. It’s nice.

 

Twenty minutes in, and Galo is squinting at the screen in the hopes something will make sense. He’s having a hard enough time following the plot without factoring in the insane CGI. He can’t even bring himself to comment on the movie ‘cause he really has no idea what’s going on.  

 

He casts a quick glance around the room. Lio is looking at the screen but his face reveals nothing of what he’s thinking, the blue-grey light of the screen dimming his warm eyes to a pale amber. It takes Galo a moment to look away. Aina has already fallen asleep against Varys’ shoulder. Meis and Gueira are whispering to each other and Remi is texting, while Lucia and Varys seem to be the only ones still watching. Well, besides Ignis, though it’s hard to tell behind the sunglasses.

 

Galo is considering sneaking up to get more popcorn when he feels his arm being lifted up and a slight figure duck under and burrow into his chest. His hand settles on a slender waist; soft blond hair tickles his throat. Galo feels his heart skip a beat as he looks down at Lio shamelessly curling into him and turning away from the screen to tuck his face into the fabric of Galo’s shirt.

 

Oh.

 

As Galo watches, Lio sighs. His body seems to melt with it, sinking into Galo’s side. Galo can only see the top of Lio’s head and the slope of his nose from this angle, but even that looks relaxed. Cozy. A far jump from the Lio who covered himself in pointed armor and hesitated at a fist bump. His fingers trace a wrinkle in Galo’s shirt before stopping and curling into a loose fist.

 

Oh.

 

Galo’s eyes jump back to the screen. He gets it now.

 


 

“I get it now!” Galo slams his palms onto the table Aina is sitting on. 

 

She doesn’t even jump, just rolls the lollipop she’s sucking on around in her mouth before popping it out and saying “Get what?”

 

It’s the next day. Galo slept on the thought for a long time—if sleeping on it means lying awake and staring at the ceiling wondering how the hell he missed these massive feelings throttling his heart in his chest—and now he thinks it’s high time he addressed it with someone. “What you all were making fun of me about! I get what you meant!”

 

Aina gives him a look as if to say “which thing we were making fun of you about?”

 

“Y’know! With Lio!”

 

“Oh…” Aina draws out the ‘o’, pursing her lips. “Yeah, it’s about time. All of us are getting tired of the sexual tension.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Galo says, a genuine apology. “I didn’t mean to make things weird.”

 

Both of you made it weird,” Aina groans, but she’s smiling in a way that makes Galo think she doesn’t actually mean it. “How many times did I have to see Lio drape himself over you while wearing your clothes before I completely lost it?”

 

Galo laughs. Her words process. He stops laughing.

 

“Yeah, but—I mean, he didn’t do that ‘cause of sexual tension.”

 

Aina stares at him with the air of a record scratching. “Are you serious?”

 

Galo stares back. The longer she looks at him, the more confused he becomes. His hands jump to his hair. “I mean—yeah, I—Like, I don’t know I thought it was just a Lio thing! He gets cold really easily!”

 

“It is a Lio thing,” Aina says slowly. “A Lio likes you thing. The other ex-Burnish get cold too, and you don’t see them laying all over you.”

 

Galo considers this. His hands drop. He gawks at her. “So you mean…”

 

“Galo.” Aina throws her hands up in the air. “You’re hopeless!”

 

“Holy shit,” Galo says, and takes off running.

 

When Galo bursts into the rec room, Lio is sprawled in one of the chairs, one knee bent up next to him, the other leg extended carelessly. He really doesn’t know how to sit like a regular person, Galo thinks, helpless, before promptly losing any semblance of working thought when Lio turns at the commotion, lips wrapped around a pen he seemed to have been chewing on while he thought. Oh, Galo’s brain supplies. Oh. He’s wearing my jacket again.

 

Lio takes one look at him and lets the pen drop from his mouth. It lands into his lap. “Ah, you’ve figured it out.”

 

“Yeah,” Galo says, on autopilot, then doubletakes. “Wait, what?”

 

Lithe as a cat, Lio drops his foot from the chair and stands, hair falling out from behind his ear as he stretches with a quiet hum. His shirt rides up.  Galo notices this, then feels incredibly stupid for caring when he’s seen Lio shirtless plenty of times before. He stares anyways.

 

Without answering, Lio saunters over to him, slow and measured, almost lazy. He comes to a stop far too close. Their toes are touching, and he’s looking up at Galo with far too much confidence for Galo to handle in his current state.

 

“It took you long enough, Galo Thymos,” Lio says, before he’s tugging Galo down by the back of his head and pressing their lips together.

  


 

Lio knows what it feels like to burn.

 

For most of his life, his body, down to his very cells, played host to millions of spontaneous combustions, destroying and regenerating him dozens of times every millisecond. He knows heat and fire more than he knows himself, but nothing he’s experienced compares to the complete and utter inferno of kissing Galo, and having Galo kiss him back.

 

Never mind that he’s known for weeks now that his feelings are reciprocated. He didn’t want to make a move until they were on the same page, until Galo was sure of it, and the longing had built up until he felt like he could explode. It’s not like their first kiss—if that even counted as a kiss—at all. For one, he’s conscious for all of it. He’s able to wrap his arms around Galo’s neck, pull himself up as Galo tugs him close. He’s able to move his lips against Galo’s, inhale his smoke-and-cinnamon scent, bury his hands in his wild, spiky hair.

 

Galo has to be right about his burning soul. Normal humans simply can’t contain this much warmth or passion, all this heat and intensity that Galo brings every day. Lio couldn’t help but be drawn to it, both physically and otherwise. It’s a different kind of heat than the Promare. More gentle, human. Lio can’t get enough of it.


 

Galo physically cannot stop from kissing Lio. He presses peck after peck to Lio’s mouth, digs a hand through Lio’s soft blond hair, pulls the arm around Lio’s waist tighter until it feels like there isn’t even air between them. He can feel Lio smiling against him and his obvious enthusiasm, but that doesn’t deter him. “How did you know?” Galo mumbles against Lio’s mouth, because he’s an idiot and determined to keep kissing Lio even as he talks. He doesn’t care if it’s not possible—he saved the world when everyone said it was impossible, too.

 

“You can’t kiss me and talk at the same time, idiot.” Lio chuckles, like he read Galo’s mind, and it wouldn’t surprise Galo if he did. He always seems to understand what Galo is thinking without needing Galo to explain himself. The idea delights Galo, so he kisses Lio again, because he can.

 

“Watch me,” Galo grunts. To his displeasure, Lio pulls back, arching so Galo can’t follow. He still tries, though.

 

“How did I know what?” Lio asks.

 

“That you should kiss me. That I liked you. That I figured out that I liked you. Any of ‘em, I dunno.”

 

Lio passes a thumb over Galo’s jaw. His hand feels very small, cupped around Galo’s jaw the way it is, Galo is certain but everything else about him feels larger than anything Galo can contain in his arms. “You’re very transparent, you know. Everything you’re thinking shows on your face. It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out.”

 

Galo considers this. He smirks. He opens his mouth only to have his waist pinched by an exasperated Lio. “Not here, you heathen.”

 

“You really do know what I’m thinkin’,” Galo says, pleased. Lio simply rolls his eyes. It’s obvious he’s not actually upset though, by the way his thumbs play along the sides of Galo’s waist, soothing the pinched spot even though it hadn’t actually hurt, really.

 

 Galo likes the touch, anyways. He likes kissing Lio more, though, so he leans down and captures Lio’s lips in his again. Lio smiles against him.“Is this what I should be expecting from you from now on?” He mumbles against Galo’s mouth. 

 

Instead of responding, Galo pulls back, breathing in the rose scent that always faintly emanates from Lio. He’s always loved that smell. Galo is always on the move, rarely giving himself the chance to stop and smell the roses, as they say-- but now there’s someone who keeps up with him and brings the set of roses with him. Galo’s no poet, but something about that sounds beautiful.

 

Lio shifts under the weight of Galo’s gaze. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

 

I really like you. The words don’t come, so Galo sticks to something he knows. “You make me feel warm,” he says, lifting Lio’s hand to his chest to rest on the point he always motioned to when he talked about his burning soul. He hopes Lio understands what he means. 

 

Lio blushes and leans forward against their conjoined hands on Galo’s chest. His arms squeeze Galo tightly, so Galo lets him get the emotion out, resting his cheek on the top of Lio’s soft hair. “Idiot,” Lio mumbles against him. “Me too.”