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It’s a million fucking degrees outside.

Lio remembers the way he used to revel in the heat, how it slid off his skin in comradery. He was a million degrees, back then. He was a thousand suns, all at once. It had been terrible. He had been beautiful.

Galo tells him he’s beautiful.

Galo says a lot of things, actually. Lio can’t get him to shut up. Galo walks around the city with no shirt on, grinning, baring teeth like he was born to do it. And what’s that all about, anyway. He’s not Burnish. He has no right being so bright. Lio looks at him and feels the urge to put some glasses on. To put on some sunscreen. Go inside, put on the air conditioning. Summer takes her knife and drives it into Lio’s lungs; there’s a satisfaction, when it happens, because at least then, there’s something to do.

He thought he would feel satisfied, when this was all over. And he does, he supposes. But he doesn’t know where he’s supposed to go anymore, where the roads are supposed to lead. He sleeps in now. Goes and buys ice cream. He can do that now, buy ice cream. He passes through a park, kicking stray aluminum cans with his feet. He gets a lot of stares, but they’re nice ones. Sometimes he gets a thank you. Cleaning up the city, saving the world, etcetera. He doesn’t know what to do with it all, so he kicks cans at pigeons and feels guilty about it.

Lio strolls aimlessly until he finds a completely empty bench to stretch all over. He licks at his popsicle emotionlessly, eyeing the passerby. He’d been taking so many walks, these past few weeks, studying the city he’d never been able to properly enjoy. What’s he catching up on? Can you miss something you never even had?

A younger couple strolls by, laughing. Lio stares at his popsicle. He walks back to the apartment and waits for Galo to come home so he can pretend he wasn’t waiting for Galo to come home. Glamorous, all of it.

He’s tapping angrily at the buttons of the TV remote when Galo crashes through the door. He’s always crashing or banging or yelling and Lio has spent so long being subtle, being crafty and afraid and so now he’s not sure what yelling really sounds like. Instead he pretends he’s engrossed in the reality show buzzing in front of him.

He’d woken up extremely early a couple days before when some construction had started outside their building and some asshole had decided to start up a jackhammer. He’d been in the middle of a dream of similar noise level. Blue hair and everything- it was all very embarrassing. And he had no one to talk about any of this with, not Guiera or Aina or anyone else, because they would’ve been supportive and nice about it and could you imagine anything more horrible?

“This is a weird choice,” says Galo suddenly, gesturing at the screen, mouth full of what looks like toast. Wait, it is, Lio could see the other piece of it in his hand. Galo could often be found rifling through the fridge for any sort of spread he could put on bread, and he would eat slice after slice no matter the time of day. An easy meal! he would say. Lio despises it. Lio is trying very hard to watch the TV, thank you. All that crunching.

Galo all but pummels into the couch cushion next to him. “Aina says this show is stupid.” He is chewing so loudly.

“Does she,” says Lio, voice a line.

“Yeah,” says Galo. “I mean, no offense or whatever. I didn’t know you liked this kind of stuff.”

Lio shoots him a look. “I don’t, I was just surfing through channels, all right? I’m going to put something else on.” He smashes his thumb against the remote before Galo even begins to protest.

“Did you have a bad day or something?” Galo has a smile living inside the way he’s speaking, because he usually does, and he knows that Lio has had a perfectly normal day. Lio sometimes goes to Galo’s work with him. Not that there’s a lot of work to do, now that it’s all over.

“Yes. I went to get a popsicle at that one stand near the park and they were all out of strawberry.” Lio still doesn’t spare him a glance.

No ,” says Galo, horrified.

“Yes. I had to eat peach.”

“I can’t believe this,” Galo says. His eyebrows are furrowed. There are crumbs all over the couch. Lio eyes them irritatedly. They have a moment where all they can hear is the switching of sitcom to sitcom as Lio batters the up button on the remote in his futile search for distraction. Galo goes on a heartwarming rant about how he’s going to get Lio his strawberry popsicle first thing tomorrow and then says, “Why is it so hot in here?” like they haven’t been living in what is basically an oven for the past few days at the peak of July.

“It’s beyond me why you don’t have air conditioning.” Lio is not watching that bead of sweat slither down Galo’s neck. He isn’t.

Galo groans loudly. “Nobody told me that was a thing I had to get! My last apartment had it-“ Lio lost track of what he was saying and instead focuses on another trail of sweat forming on Galo’s bicep.

“Are you even listening to me?” Galo’s voice is amused.

“No,” says Lio. He turns off the television.

“I like the ponytail. Very cool.” Galo gives him puppy dog eyes. Lio watches him suspiciously.

“Thanks. But I’m not cool at all. I’m very hot, in fact. And sweaty. It’s the absolute worst, Thymos.” Lio adjusts his rolled-up sleeve. “You. Need. Air Conditioning.”

“I’ll ask Lucia about it,” says Galo, breezy, you can feel the air whip past you, and Lio doesn’t point out that Lucia doesn’t actually need to be involved in such a thing because Galo also says “you could just take off your shirt like me”.

“Ha!” says Lio. “No. Some of us have a sense of style. And common decency.”

“Nah, some of us just have such a rocking bod that we have to show it off to the world.”

Lio lowers his eyebrows at him. “Sometimes you just say words and I have to hear them.”

“Whatever,” cackles Galo. “I’ll be here, shirtless and less hot and therefore suffering the least.” He gives a little waggle of his eyebrows and Lio smiles, despite himself. Galo lights up, delighted.

“Wait, gimme the remote,” he says, and Lio grins and does not give him the remote. Instead he swings it out of reach and pretends to give it to him before faking him out. He feels so young around Galo, laughing like this. It’s dark outside but he feels the sun on the inside of his bones, in the places that light has never even touched. He has had to grow up so fast, a leader of something he just knew he had to lead. And now he has none of that. He has popsicles and couches full of crumbs.

Galo watches him deflate. “Oh, no no no,” he says as Lio moves to leave. “What’s wrong with you? You’ve been acting like this for days now. You have to talk to me.”

“I don’t have to talk to anyone,” says Lio venomously, getting up. Galo practically barks at him, pulling his arm down towards the couch again. They are so close that Lio can see the sheen of sweat on Galo’s nose. High definition, that’s what this man is, a sea of roaring color. A scream for all the right reasons.

“You don’t have to,” says Galo passionately, earnestly, “but you can. I’m right here, Lio Fotia. Talk to me.”

Lio lets Galo’s breath hit his face, and it smells so horrific but the back of his neck has all the hairs on it standing up nonetheless. He drops his gaze to Galo’s chest, just for a moment. Galo’s eyes widen before Lio pushes away, not red hot but pink and purple, even hotter.

“I’m going to bed,” he says sourly, stomping over to the door that used to lead to Galo’s “gaming room” (it had actually been a couple bean bags with a shelf containing exactly three board games, according to Aina).

“Fine! Okay! Cool!” Galo springs up and slams a glass onto the kitchen counter, filling it with orange juice Lio knows is expired. A siren rings outside their windows, glorious and out of place in the middle of the cars honking amiably through the slowing 10 p.m. traffic.

“Good night.” Lio tries for something kinder and finds it lacking. He closes his door, crawling into bed. He had waited almost an hour for Galo only to reject his attempts at conversation. He feels on fire, again. Does he enjoy it? Is that what it has to feel like? The city’s so hot, so full of people, and Lio feels so empty. He feels sticky and sad and nervous in this home that isn’t his.

Galo had put his mouth against his, that day. That’s the heat that truly haunts him, a ghost he can’t manage to be angry at. They haven’t really talked about it.

Lio tosses and turns and falls asleep.

——

Lio tosses and turns and realizes he won’t be able to go back to sleep.  His dreams were full of forest fires and the rain water running over them, putting them out. His neck is basically in a puddle of sweat, sheets abandoned.

He teeters into the living room/kitchen area of the apartment and plugs in their tiny, singular fan into the outlet, squatting in front of it, delirious. Wisps of blonde hair brush against his cheeks as he sighs. It’s not even cool air, it’s hot air that’s moving around.

“I’m sorry it’s so hot.” A silhouette has appeared, the only light coming from the windows without blinds.

“It’s okay,” says Lio, raspy. He rubs his eyes and feels like a child. “I’m sure you’ll fix it.”

“No, you’re the guest and I’m sure this sucks ass.” Galo is sheepish. Almost quiet. His indoor voice is everyone else’s outdoor one. His whisper is another’s outburst.

He’s whispering.

“It’s not that bad. I’ve been in a volcano. Come and sit here.” Lio pats the dirty rug next to him in show of a truce.

“Ah,” breathes Galo, and Lio smiles at him. Galo beams back.

They sit in silence for a while. Lio picks at his fingernails and then resorts to vulnerability, at long last. “I don’t know who I am anymore.”

Galo studies him, chewing the inside of his mouth.

“My life has been a war. I don’t know what it’s like to relax. I don’t know what I want, now that I’m allowed to want things.”

Galo nods, thoughtful. “You get to figure it out. You have all the time in the world, Lio Fotia.”

“I know. I just-“ Lio picks at the rug, now. “What if I’m over? If I’m nothing at all? I have no fires to start, no people to save. Nothing makes me unique anymore. I’m not- I don’t have anything to run from, and part of me is bored, but I shouldn’t be-“ his voice is wavering, loud, uncomfortable- “I should be happy that it’s over! And I am, Galo. I am. But I’m so scared that everything I am is just a battle. A battle that has ended.”

“That’s deep,” says Galo after a moment, and Lio punches his arm. He fake-yelps, laughing. “No, no, I’m joking! No. Lio. Lio? I’m bad at this sort of shit.” He clears his throat. “I don’t think you’re a war. Or a dragon. Or whatever poetic thing you’re thinking of. You’re a great, brave person.” Galo looks straight at him, unblinking. “I have no fires to put out anymore, either. You know that, I guess. But I know how you feel. But this is better than those days, okay? Sometimes you go through something for so long, you think it’s what you are, but really, it’s just something that shows the best sides of you. You know what I mean?”

“I do.”

“Good. I know it’s hard, but this is the fun part, Lio. We get to figure out what happy feels like. We can have anything we want.”

“Sure. And what do you want?”

Galo chuckles nervously. Hesitates. “Ah, man. That’s the thing. I want you.”

Lio stares at him. “Oh,” he says, and scoots closer so he can press his lips against Galo’s.

There’s a lot of tongue.

“Wow,” says Galo, with that stupid expression he gets when he eats his favorite kind of pizza. Lio can’t bring himself to be insulted. He does love that pizza.

“How many times have you been kissed?” Lio notes that the fan is on full blast, but the skin pressed to his own is still blazing. He places his mouth against Galo’s neck. “Tell me the truth.”

“Once or twice.” Galo is gulping. “They were nothing special.”

“Really?” Lio looks up at him.

“Shut up, you fuck. I’ve been waiting for the right person.” He’s probably blushing. How sweet. Lio is flattered.

“Am I the right person?” he says, measured but coy, climbing into Galo’s lap, feeling the size of his cock through his apparently thin boxers. He almost jumps, swallowing thickly.

“Yes.” Galo is panting, eyes glistening. He’s staring at their crotches, touching through layers of fabric.

“You’re so big,” says a shocked Lio, who then almost dies on the spot of embarrassment before Galo whines a little and shifts eagerly.

“Lio,” he says, breathy and eyes so fully of want that Lio is almost repelled by it, this blatant show of desire. He almost wants to push away, jump out a window. But the night is a part of them now, it seeps into the moisture gathering along Galo’s thighs and Lio’s own heartbeat, thudding louder than the fan creaking in circles next to them.

Galo whimpers as Lio licks a stripe down his neck. He tastes like sweat and metal. A firefighter. A man with a heart too warm for this earth.

“Mm,” says Lio, uninhibited. His legs hook around Galo’s hips, wanting more friction. He’s hard, he’s been thinking about this for days, in between streets and elevators and on the roof of this building as he watched the sunset, all the skyscrapers ablaze. His hips are grinding down, Galo’s hand is underneath his shirt.

Lio cups the front of Galo’s boxers slyly. Galo moans. He’s so loud. Lio is so in love with him, it’s upsetting. “You can be louder than that,” he says, mouth a dagger. He’s nothing but a throb between his legs. He’s nothing but want, want, want, a million degrees, burning the whole solar system.

“Lio, Lio,” Galo keeps saying, and Lio keeps grinning at him. “Galo Thymos,” he says evenly. He takes his cock in his hand, slick and full, pumping it slowly.

“Yeah,” Galo says with reverence, fumbling to get Lio’s shirt over his head. “You’re just so pretty,” he continues. “Jesus.”

Lio replies, “I know,” and Galo shudders, feeling clumsily around for his nipples, brushing against them with the ends of his fingernails. Lio is made of sparks, matches, Galo is tinder, gasoline, everything, anything.

“Look at you,” says Lio fondly as Galo rolls his hips into his hand. The heat isn’t a hazy fog anymore around them and instead has turned into kindling with the rest of what they have become. Lio stands up slightly to slip off his own briefs. Galo stares at his bare cock, wide-eyed.

“Oh,” says Lio, examining him. “You want to suck it?” Galo inhales sharply, and then he does, sloppily and with all the force he can muster, like he does everything else in life.

Lio let himself groan as Galo’s tongue works its way around his cock. It feels so good, like nothing he’d ever felt before. “Please, oh-“

Galo comes off with a pop of a sound. “Will you rub your dick against me?”

Lio starts. “Against yours?”

“If that’s all right.” Galo’s completely teeth. He’s got spit glistening on his lips.

Lio leans down against him, presses him against the floor. “It’s more than all right.”

“Yeah, like that-“

They moan, their cocks rubbing against each other, Galo moving his hips up to meet Lio’s. Lio moves his hand down to grip them both, squeezing.

“Fuck,” whines Galo, and Lio wants him to make that sound every day until he dies.

“Galo,” he groans. “You feel so good.” His hips snap unevenly towards him. “That’s right, give it to me.”

Galo stutters all over. “Yeah, yeah-“

“I’m going to come,” says Lio, head thrown back. “Faster, please.” Galo obliges. Lio rubs his thigh with his palm, then his abs, the tops of his arms. He cups Galo’s chin with his hand. They’re so close. He recalls those first days when they had met, getting right in each other’s faces, Galo yelling every other word, furious and heartbreaking.

He gives him a slow kiss, biting the edge of his lips. “I want you too.” He swivels his hips just so, rubbing their tips against each other. Galo’s eyelashes flutter, and Lio knows he’s coming. He isn’t far behind, pushing his cock slower and slower along Galo’s length, precome dribbling onto his skin.

“Oh,” he exclaims in the middle of it, coming all over Galo’s dick, fisting his hair and pressing himself close to him as they ride out the last of it, jaw bones knocking against the other’s in the process.

When they slow to a stop, they’re silent before Lio bursts into giggles. Galo looks at him in concerned amusement.

“Stop, no, you were fine, it was great, I just-I won’t be bored anymore, I guess,” he laughs, aware he’s incomprehensible.

“If that’s what it takes,” says Galo, aiming for hurt martyr but landing at appreciative lover. He buries his face in Lio’s shoulder, smiling. “I love you.” It’s a garbled, weighted sentence.

“I love you too,” says Lio, because he’s not afraid. “But only if you get me that strawberry popsicle.”

“Anything, babe!” Galo is placing pecks all along Lio’s chest, practically exuding light.

Lio knows how he feels. He squeezes his bicep. “Let’s get off the floor. Let’s share a bed. Let’s watch a movie. Fuck, you’re right. The world is ours. We could get ice cream right now if we wanted to.”

“Three a.m. adventures are the best ones!” Galo whoops, a corny online post of a person.

Lio reaches over and presses a hand over his heart. He doesn’t say it, but that’s where the warmth comes from, that’s where the sun is, right there, right there.