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the trials of galo thymos-fotia

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Sleeping with Lio is the best part of his day. That's crude—he knows, that's not all Lio is, that's not all their life is, that's not the thing he couldn't live without, but it is the best. Once a night, sometimes twice, sometimes more. Sometimes midday when they're both fresh out of the shower from training. Sometimes before the shower. Sometimes during. 

Lio gets a look. Galo can't define it. From under his bangs, through his pale eyelashes, he catches Galo's gaze and it's all over. Galo will pick him up or drop to his knees; Lio will pull him down or climb him and that's it. They're experts at it. Fast, slow, take-their-time-lazy with the late heat of summer blowing in from the open windows. 

That's today. 

Galo groans and presses more of his weight on Lio, moving in slow, shallow thrusts. Lio stopped complaining about it ages ago. Galo reaches down to wipe the sweat-damp hair out of his eyes to check on him and is treated to the sight of Lio's mouth half-open and wet with drool, eyes unfocused. He'll have marks on his cheek from where it's pressed into the mattress later, even though they're doing this on soft sheets. 

"Lio? You there?" Galo backs it up with a tighter thrust, one that makes Lio's whole body twitch. He's so small; it doesn't take much to move him. "Lio?"

"Hnng," he replies, always articulate. 

Galo huffs a laugh and leans down to kiss his shoulder, covering the bite mark that's already bruising there. "You look good."

He picks up the pace, holding Lio in place because he's clearly not up for holding himself anywhere at this point. His arms gave out about the time his voice did. The faster pace gets Lio twitching again, little involuntary motions like he isn't sure if he wants to rut against the floor or get away or press back—or all three. He wipes his face against the sheets, mouthing at the cloth. Galo moves one hand from his waist and grips Lio’s face, giving him something to bite down on, something to suck. Mostly, he wants as much of Lio as he can have at once. 

"You wanna come again?" Galo asks, pulling almost all the way out and slamming back in so hard it makes Lio choke around his fingers. "I know you do. You always do." Lio hates this. His running commentary. The second time they had sex he stopped in the middle of sucking Galo off to tell him to shut up. Galo had, for a moment at least, and returned the favor in excess. 

Now he knows better. It’s not that Lio hates it. Or, he doesn’t only hate it. It riles Lio up. Galo pulls his fingers from Lio’s mouth and feels a thrill when Lio tries to chase them. Instead, he fists his hand in Lio's hair and pull his head back. There—that's the look. His eyes are watering. He wants to come, but he doesn't want this to be over. He never does. He would let Galo fuck him like this for days.

But Galo is only human. "I'm close," he moans, using Lio's hair to pull him back on the next snap of his hips. Lio is unintelligible. "I bet this would be enough. I bet you could come like this."

"N—no—" 

Oh. Nice. Galo slows, but keeps it deep. "No?"

Instead of answering, Lio moans, and Galo realizes he's got a hand on himself. Galo releases his hair and grabs the offending arm and pulls it behind Lio’s back, using it for leverage as he chases his own pleasure. He's as close as Lio but it’s the principle of the thing. His hair is ruined and hanging to one side; he keeps have to flip it back, cock his head so it won't fall in his eyes, but he gives that up now, letting it obscure half his vision as he moves and moves, faster now, the rhythm mindless though he's so well trained that even without meaning to, he knows he's hitting everywhere Lio wants him.

"Galo—Galo please—" 

Three words. He must be more desperate than Galo thought. 

"Come like this or wait until I'm done," Galo bites out. "Sorry," he tacks on the end, not meaning it. Lio was much meaner to him to start; he made Galo this way. They both love it. 

Lio is crying now. His breaths are labored, almost like he's not able to take air in deep enough. Maybe he can't. His body is so small... 

Galo pushes Lio's head down into the sheets and leans over him. His hair drags over Lio's back, drawing a trail across all the marks that will be angry-red for days. It’s hard to feel guilty for that when every move reminds him of the welts Lio scratched into his back during their first round. That's why he's on all fours for this one—or was. His knees are all he has under him at this point and his thighs shudder every time Galo releases his hold on those narrow hips. Right now, the shake is so bad Galo worries he really will collapse.  "I can come inside, right?"

Lio doesn't let him do that often. Such a mess, he always says, with the edge of his accent making the words stick every time. But today he asked, and Galo was nothing if not willing. This is the second go though; he's not sure how much he has left to give as he presses deeper and harder, not sure what he's chasing that he doesn't already have. Maybe just…

He changes the angle and kisses Lio's spine so he can feel the vibration of his cut-off cry when Galo hits his spot dead on. "Come for me," he bites against Lio's fevered skin. He repeats the same motion. The cry this time is more pronounced, more desperate. He's going to be a total mess. A shower after this is out of the question unless Galo wants to hold him up the entire time, so a bath it is. "I know you can." Again. "I need you to do that for me." His own voice doesn't carry much weight now, too ragged. He can't hold out but he knows how he wants this to end and Lio's body is pulled taut, ready to break; on the next thrust the only sound he makes is a sob. 

"Come for me." Galo bites the nape of his neck, hard. 

Lio snaps. Galo tries to keep moving through it, but the way Lio clenches around him is more than enough; he's gone, too, spilling deep, and Lio is still coming. Galo groans at the overstimulation but doesn't pull out until Lio starts to come down, relaxing inch by inch as they both pant. 

At last, Lio’s legs give. Galo lets him go, pulling out with a wince, and then slumps down next to him. He reaches out to intertwine their fingers. 

"Good?" 

Lio mumbles into the sheets, still face down, so Galo half-rolls him, half-pulls him over so Lio is lying on his side, against Galo's chest. 

"I said thank you," he murmurs. "Needed that."

Needed it twice. "I live to serve."

Lio snorts.

"It's a firefighter's honor to—"

Lio's flailing arm catches him in the forehead. "Don't talk about work in bed."

"How can I not?" Galo rises over him and pins him, trapping him on his back as Lio rolls his eyes and struggles to get away, but Galo bends and pushes their foreheads together, making sure his words are the appropriate level of extreme. "My burning soul belongs to you. When I go to the big firehouse in the sky, it will be you I dream—" 

Lio kisses him to shut him up. It doesn't usually take that long. The kiss is sweet, with a little bite, like him. When he pulls back he replaces his lips with one shushing finger. "Can you go again?"

"Go where?" Galo asks in genuine confusion.

"No, can you…" Lio looks up, at nothing but the wall behind the headboard. "You know. Again."

"But you're already so full."

Lio goes so red so fast, Galo is worried his hair might singe. It almost seems to puff out. His mouth opens but no words come out for the first few seconds. In a strained voice, he says, "Well if you think you can't do it…”

This time, Galo is the one that kisses him to shut him up. It really is an effective tactic.

 

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That day isn't notable. Not at the time, not anymore than all the other days they've spent together.

Or so he thinks.

 

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"That's the third time you've thrown up this morning," Galo yells from the kitchen. "Can I get you anything?"

The only response is the sound of the toilet flushing, followed immediately by another round of… expulsion. That's a word Lio taught him. It's a good one. Five minutes later, Lio comes ghosting into the kitchen, his every movement labored like that of the old and decrepit. A vision of Lio hunched over a cane, tottering around in his uniform makes Galo bite his lip and turn away. "Water?" he asks. 

Lio shakes his head, slowly, and continues his stumbling trajectory until he collides with Galo's chest and slumps there. Galo puts a hand in the center of his back to hold him up. "That bad, firebug?"

He doesn't respond, even to tell Galo off for the nickname—which he loves, but in the way he loves all of Galo's annoyances, like he can't bear not to.

"This is your fault," Lio croaks. "It's the hot dogs."

They got a midnight call. It was two hours of total chaos in which ended in Galo free-climbing a still-burning building and tossing children down to Lio. The morning paper has a picture of Lio standing akimbo with five separate kids, each one latched onto a different limb and one to his head. If someone hasn’t already cut it out and pinned it to the board downstairs, Galo will. By the end, they were both starving, and the siren’s oasis of the local hot dog stand had seemed almost too good to be true. Evidently, just so.

"Are you sure it was the hotdogs? I didn’t get sick."

"You could eat a dead horse and not get sick." The croak makes him oddly monotone. 

"Why is there a dead horse?"

"There isn't but if there were, you could eat it. And be fine."

"But I would never do that."

Lio wipes his face against Galo's chest. "I'm going to… I'm going to…"

Go back to bed? Throw up again? Cry? Galo wouldn't mind the crying. It's rare he gets to comfort Lio, and he’s twice as pretty with his eyelashes wet. 

"...I'm going to burn the hot dog man alive." Lio nods faintly to himself, eyes half-lidded, and releases Galo to stumble toward the front door. He runs into the couch on the way, bounces off it, trips over the rug, almost hits a side-table—Galo cringes. It's like watching a drunk cat. 

Then Lio's words catch up to him.

"No, no, nope." Galo walks over and hooks him around the waist, picking Lio up and tucking him under one arm. He flails for a moment before he goes limp. Galo sets him down back in the kitchen and bends, knocking their foreheads together. "No killing, remember?"

Lio grimaces. He mumbles, "I didn't say I was going to kill him. I said I was going to burn him. Alive.” The bags under his eyes are cute. They’re red, either from sleep loss or praying to the toilet all morning. Galo wants to kiss him—after he's brushed his teeth. 

Instead, he wraps his hands around Lio's waist and moves his thumbs in little circles over the soft band of skin that’s exposed by his black uniform shirt. "Do you want me to help you feel better?" He glances down and dips his thumbs under the waistband of Lio’s pants to make his offer clear.

Lio considers it for a long moment, but shakes his head. "I just want to burn something," he says, voice breaking on the word burn.

"But don't you know? You've already set my… soul on..." Lio's face is changing. It's turning grey, sweat beading on his forehead, eyes going wide and—without a word, he spins away from Galo and sprints for the bathroom.

 

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That's not a notable day either. The opposite, in fact. It doesn’t come up until three days later. It’s rare that they fight—Galo is too stupid to be offended at most things and Lio is used to settling his anger with fire and a stack of whatever confidential forms need disposoing of that week, usually one by one, burning each individual piece of paper while maintaining eye contact with Galo until the appropriate apology is issued. 

There are exceptions.

Today is an exception.

Lio screams at him and launches himself from the wall at speed. Galo dodges, dancing away, but Lio already has his feet again and he’s doing that hunched-over aura-of-evil thing Galo has only seen him do twice since they got married. The door. He has to make it to the door. They have freeze guns downstairs—Galo sprints for the exit and hears something, maybe Lio, crash into the wall behind him. “I’m sorry!” Galo screams, taking the stairs two at a time. “I thought it was expired!”

“Your life is forfeit.” Lio’s voice is the deep roar of a forest fire. 

Galo hits the bottom of the stairs still running, leaps Aina’s couch with a considerate, “Look out!” to Aina, who’s staring at him like he’s already on fire—he might be—and heads for the lockers. The one on the end is full of spare gear. He can feel bad about the mess later; it’s full of fire retardant goo, extra hats, flares and… 

“Where are the ice guns?” 

“Why do you need a gun?” Varys asks. 

The answer becomes apparent the moment Lio enters the room. All the lights in the garage seem to dim as Lio’s internal glow brightens. He hurts to look at when he gets like this. 

(Galo still wants to look.)

“Oh,” Varys says. “Lio… I’m sure he deserves it, but can you avoid my stuff?” 

“Bastard,” Galo mutters.

Varys shrugs one shoulder and steps back to give Lio a clearer path. Galo glances back to the locker and starts pulling out everything, organization be damned. More fire retardant, more vests, granola bars—no guns. He’s fucked. He’s going to die. He backs up against the lockers as the heat rising off Lio crests, his approach deliberate and unstoppable.

“We can talk about this, angel—”

Someone muffles a laugh. 

Don’t,” Lio growls from another dimension. A worse dimension. A dimension Galo never wants to see.

He’s feet away. Galo is not shaking, because it’s not hot, it’s not hot, he mutters to himself internally as Lio’s image starts to blur with heat. Blindly, he reaches into the locker behind him, pulling out the first thing he can get a grip on. Inches away, Lio stops, and begins to raise one hand, alight with flame.

Galo dumps the fire retardant over his head.

The result is instantaneous—horrific.

Steam, in what might be the form of Lio’s spirit, rises from his body, which is frozen in place, hand still outstretched. He… sizzles. Green goo slides down his hair and drips off his chin, 

“Lio…” 

He doesn’t reply. He doesn’t twitch. His eyes are shadowed, unseeing. 

“Lio, I’m sorry. I was just trying to clean out the fridge. I didn’t know that was your stuff. I’ll buy more, okay?”

No response.

“Lio? Babe?” 

“...Oh my god, you killed him,” Aina says unhelpfully.

“I didn’t—he was going to kill me! He said so!” Galo waves a hand in front of Lio’s face and then, when that doesn’t earn him even a glance, starts wiping the goo off his hair with a ginger touch. He succeeds only in spreading it around.

Aina clicks her tongue. “Yeah, but said it, but he never would. You dumped fire retardant on your husband, who’s made out of fire. That’s harsh.” The shutter sound as she takes a picture with her phone diminishes the sense of outrage a little. Galo chances a look at Varys, but the man has both hands over his mouth, eyes opened wide with what’s either mirth, horror, or schadenfreude as he stares at them. 

“Hey, come on. He’s just wet. I’ll get him cleaned up and he’ll be fine. Right, Lio?” 

Lio doesn’t reply. Galo picks him up and carries him back toward the stairs without making eye contact with anyone in the room. Upstairs, he sets Lio in the tub, strips his clothes, and gets a bath started at the right temperature—always blistering. As an afterthought, he throws some bubbles in and the rubber duck someone bought before heads back downstairs. 

The trail of goo from the lockers to the stairs is damning. A tiny, miniscule twinge of guilt takes him by surprise. He fists a hand in his shirt, right over his heart, and vows to make it up to Lio. 

“What’s been up with him, anyway?” Varys asks, a few minutes into clean up, as he hands Galo another roll of paper towels. 

Galo scrubs at a particularly stubborn smear of green. It’s the worst once it’s dried on. “What do you mean?”

“He’s been really moody this week.” 

“Puberty,” Aina offers from the couch. 

Galo knew the headphones were for show.  “He’s in his twenties. It’s not puberty.” 

She shrugs. 

Galo sighs and sits back on his heels. “I think he’s just had a hard week. He was sick yesterday morning and you know how he gets when he’s hungry. I thought I could go through the fridge and throw out all the old stuff in case it made him sick again, but... “ He waves to the room at large, as if to say, you can see how that went. 

Varys laughs. “Morning sickness? Moody? Food cravings? Maybe you finally knocked him up.”

“That’s—that’s not funny. He can’t get pregnant. We use protection.”

There’s a beat of silence. Varys’s face changes, the spot between his brows wrinkling. “No, he can’t—Galo, you’ve had the talk, right?

“What talk?” 

Varys looks like he would rather be anywhere else. “The talk about stuff.” He winces. “You know. When a boy and a boy love each other and they—” He groans. “I know you guys have sex, so I know you know how it works but have you ever been educated about it? No?”

“No. Why would I need that?”

“I’m writing a letter to the Promepolis department of education.” 

“Anyway, he can’t get pregnant, so what does it matter? We’re always safe.” 

Varys cocks his head and squints at Galo. “Buddy,” he starts, but then seems to think better of it after he can’t seem to find the words. They stay that way, Varys staring down at Galo in confusion, Galo staring up at Varys in equal and opposite confusion, for what must be a full minute before Varys stands the rest of the way and shakes his head. “If he’s acting weird, maybe you should ask his friends about it.”

It’s the first thing he’s said that made sense.

 

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As an apology, he spends the evening eating Lio out on the couch, and then makes chocolate pudding from scratch and feeds it to him while they watch one of the television shows about people in castles drinking tea that Lio can’t get enough of. It does the trick, but Varys’s words won’t stop nagging at him. By two in the morning, it’s clear he won’t be able to sleep without some answers. He pulls his phone out in bed and runs a quick search, just to put his mind at ease. 

can burnish get pregnant?

Yes, people with Burnish powers are just as likely to get pregnant as any other human. Flares will not affect the unborn child, but having a Burnish parent does make it more likely that the child will be born Burnish, too. Interestingly…

Oh. Galo scans the rest of the article and clicks the related link at the bottom. 

Symptoms That You Or Your Partner Might Be Pregnant

Symptoms include morning sickness, headaches, food cravings, mood swings, fatigue, dizziness with fainting…

The words blur before his eyes. A montage plays in his head: Lio the morning after the Burning Rescue party, throwing up, whining about his headache. The constant mood swings. Morning sickness, again—and they thought it was hot dogs, but Galo hasn't been sick once. And then two nights back when they fucked in the shower, Lio had gone glassy-eyed and unresponsive after the first hour. Galo had to carry him out of the shower. Dizziness and fainting. Morning sickness. The words manifest around him, spinning, fading in and out. Food cravings. Fatigue. Lio loves sleeping. Lio is sleeping right now. Galo chalked it up to him being like a cat, but…

We're always safe.

That's what he said, but it's not true, is it? That night. The one he still jerks off to in the shower when Lio is otherwise occupied, because the memory of being bare inside Lio three times in one day is still so good. 

Galo sits up and pushes the blankets off Lio. His stomach is already bare, his shirt pushed up over his ribs. It all looks the same, but—Galo runs a finger over his navel. Maybe it's because he's been getting regular meals, or maybe it's the hundred sit ups and curls Lio does every day in the gym, but it feels different. 

For a moment, Galo forgets how to breathe. 

"I'll take care of you, Lio. No matter what."

Lio mumbles something. Galo leans closer. "Lio?”

"...Go the fuck to sleep."

 

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In the morning, he waits only the requisite hour before texting Gueira, who is the only one of the two Generals who will reliably answer a message from Galo. Meis seems to think Galo is some kind of mutated cockroach. Though he's polite enough in person, he won't acknowledge Galo's existence at any other time unless under dire circumstance. The last time he did, it was only because Lio had gotten gum in his hair, and because Galo had threatened to cut it out himself if Meis didn't care. Meis cared. Meis always cares when it comes to Lio, so it's no surprise when he joins Gueira for their meetup.

In fact, Galo is barely in hearing disease before Meis starts toward him, Gueira's phone in hand, waving it in lieu of his fire. "What's this?" 

The text Galo sent was: something's going on with lio. can we talk? The only text back was a time and place, so Galo had kissed Lio goodbye and relied on his terminal need for sleep to keep him out of the loop. 

"Keep it down," Galo says. He tried to go incognito with a full jacket, sunglasses, and his hair tied back. "Lio doesn't know I'm here."

Nearby is a park bench where Galo can sit, fold his hands, and hunch over so his sunglasses catch the sun and obscure his eyes. The proper pose. "He's been acting weird. Getting sick in the mornings, tired all the time—"

"Isn't that because you guys are out until three in the morning lately?"

"—eating weird pudding with lumps in it and then trying to burn me alive when I throw it away by accident—"

"Tapioca. That's tapioca pudding, you idiot. You know how he gets about sweets."

"Oh." Tapioca. Who knew. "Anyway, I have a question."

Meis brightens up. "Is it about how to get a divorce? Do you need me to pick up papers? I can go right now—"

"Can male Burnish get pregnant?"

A single leaf falls from the nearby tree and taps the ground before the wind carries it up and away. The pair of Burnish stare at him for the full moment it takes for the leaf to make its journey and then share a look. 

Meis sighs. "Yes. Yes, they can."

"Wait, seriously?"

They both nod. 

Galo stands because he needs to walk in a circle and hold his head now, right now. “You—you're not fucking with me? He could really be pregnant?"

"Yes." Meis shares a tragic look with Gueira.

"Should I tell him I know?"

"No!" they both say at the same time. 

"You know Lio," Meis starts, voice tight. "It's so hard for him to—" he coughs into his hand once and then twice, almost looking on the verge of tears, and when he speaks again, his voice is shaking, "—share these things. Wait until he's ready." 

Gueira nods in agreement and pulls him in with one arm, tucking Meis's face against his shoulder, because the man can't seem to bear to look at Galo another second, so overcome with emotion that his shoulders are trembling. "That's right," Gueira says. "And I'll say this. These next few months are going to test you as a man and a husband. You'd better be ready to take full responsibility."

His gut doesn't know what it wants to do, but he steels himself. Whatever happens, whatever Lio needs, Galo was born ready to give it all. "I will. I swear, I will. The honor of a firef—wait few months?" He read a lot last night. Humans are pregnant for eight to ten months. By no definition is that “a few” and the night in question was just a month back. Math was never his strong suit, or his suit at all, but still. 

Gueira freezes for a second and blinks at Galo before understanding dawns and he nods. "Burnish have higher metabolic rates, right? Pregnancies usually only last—" Meis shudders against him, making a hiccuping sound, and Gueira wraps both arms around him with a shushing sound, keeping Meis's head tucked tight to his chest "—three months on average."

That makes sense. Sure. Galo needs to think. "Can I text you guys if I have more questions?"

Meis pulls from Gueira's hold. His face is red, his eyes glittering with emotion, and his voice still shakes with some nameless emotion that must be too complicated for even him to understand, but he's serious when he says, "You should text us first about everything."

"Everything?"

They both nod. "Everything."

 

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So begins the greatest trial of Galo Thymos-Fotia's life.

 

Chapter Text

Lio smells good. It’s odd, because they use the same shampoo, the same soap, the same toothpaste and dryer sheets, and work and sleep in the same place. Nothing about him should be so different that Galo can smell it on him, but he does. He has for all the years they’ve been together.

“Oh—”

It’s like rain on hot asphalt, Galo decides, pressing his nose deeper into Lio's hair as Lio mumbles something mindless into his neck in turn. He's on his back tonight, or was, until Galo pulled him up into his lap. Not because Lio asked, but because it seemed less taxing, and this way he can see everything Lio might otherwise try to hide. 

Galo pulls his fingers out and Lio winces as if in pain, though he’s not. 

“Are you ready?”

Lio rises on his knees and braces himself on Galo’s abs. “Just go.” 

Galo lines up and pulls him down, pushing into him slowly. Lio’s grip on his waist turns bruising as Galo starts fucking up into him at a languid pace. He transfers his grip to Galo's shoulders and tries to use that as leverage to meet each thrust, almost bouncing in place. It's so good, Galo forgets himself and ups the tempo again, until they're meeting so hard that the sound of skin-on-skin is louder than Lio's soft groans.

If he doesn’t pace himself, it’ll be over too fast. He pauses and tries to catch his sanity back, but Lio has other plans. He puts a hand on his own stomach and rises in a small bounce, shuddering through it. His eyes close as presses down. 

"I can feel you here," he murmurs.

Of course he can. Galo bites back his grin—but something knocks at the edge of his consciousness. Some specific truth that he can’t quite remember but makes his stomach run cold. At any other time, at many other times, this would be a point of greater pride, and Galo would delight in flipping him over, palming the thinly muscled small of his stomach to feel himself inside as he takes Lio apart breath by breath. 

But—

Oh. Oh, god, no. 

Galo lifts Lio off of him. Lio makes a sound between a moan and utter indignation, which is relatable because Lio's body was tight and unbearably hot and the room is cold and unforgiving. Life isn't fair. "What the fuck, Galo—”

No matter what they say about Galo, he is good at thinking on his feet. Or bed, as it were. He can’t fuck Lio like this. That’s the immediate, heartrending truth. Pregnant people can’t fuck, but he can’t stop, so he lies back and pulls Lio up over his face, so he has to balance both hands on the headboard to keep his balance, sounding out his disagreement as he goes. "Wanna try something,” Galo murmurs and widens Lio’s stance for him, hands keeping his thighs spread-eagle and low over Galo’s face. 

Lio starts to object, but Galo’s in takes him deep and swallows and gets the pleasure of hearing any argument die on Lio’s lips. You’ve got a big mouth, Lio told him once and he’d meant it to bite but now it’s a point of delirious pride between them. He has got a big mouth, and he’s very good at using it. He swallows Lio’s dick rhythmically, until Lio is shaking with the effort of holding himself up, barely managing it at all, overstimulated and too exhausted to fight it, relying on Galo to keep his awkward grip on Lio and hold him up. 

That’s fine; it’s all fine. Galo has a big mouth and big arms, too. Maybe he was made for this.

Galo stops when Lio tightens. He pulls off to press a kiss over his stomach. Lio keens out a, “Fuck, Galo, please,” and he’s never so polite as he is at times like these. Galo kisses the spot again and bites at the juncture of his hip until Lio hunches over him, almost smothering, begging muzzily.

He keeps Lio there, right on the edge, for what feels like hours but can’t be more than minutes that stretch and stretch, because everything with Lio feels like more. When they’ve both had enough, he lets Lio rut into his mouth and knows his voice will be wrecked in the morning and the team won’t be able to meet his eyes but it’s a small price to pay if Lio won’t question why Galo is suddenly not interested in fucking him in the truest sense of the term. He doesn’t let Lio off when he’s come but flips him over instead and bites down his back, leaving marks in places that will have Lio glaring at him for at least half the next day, and Lio becomes docile and hazed. Galo jerks himself off over his back and spills there, over pale skin and dimples and the round of his ass that’s painted in red marks.

All Lio can muster is a discontented sigh and a vague, admonishing slap behind him that connects with Galo’s hip. “What’s with you?” Lio mutters, but it’s barely a question. 

In answer, Galo kisses his shoulder and then draws his hair aside to kiss the back of his neck and keeps going until he’s worried he’ll pass out, too, right there. By then, Lio is already out, so Galo rolls to the side, pulls his phone from under the sheets, and thumbs out a quick text to Meis.

does sex hurt the baby?

The answer comes almost instantaneously. Who is this? it reads. 

Galo? he replies. Meis has his number. He’s had it, for years. 

Sorry. New phone.

Hmm. Maybe Lio has his new number. He thinks about borrowing Lio’s phone but realizes he doesn’t know how to delete texts—anyway, Lio would know. Somehow, he would know. 

The internet suffices. An hour of searching yields more results than he knows what to do with, complete with diagrams which he does know what to do with and has to resist waking Lio up to test out. He's tuckered anyway, sprawled across two pillows and Galo's waist. He'd laid there like a dead man as Galo wiped him clean and tucked him in, only to come alive again as soon as Galo slipped in next to him, drawn to heat like one of the desert lizards Remi keeps vetoing as a firehouse mascot.

Galo reaches down and pushes Lio's blond head up with one hand, the grip pushing his bangs into his face. His hair is longer than it was when they met. Long enough to grip. Soft as the skin at the small of his back. All the weight in his cheeks is gone now. He was cute to start with but lately he’s been tumbling past handsome and toward stunning—which he always was, but now it’s extreme. Ice blonde, fine featured, whip strong. The team jokes about the honeymoon being over when the two of them have their little squabbles, but that never lasts. It’s more of a honey-year at this point. A honey-life.

Lio makes a sound and pushes into his hand, sending Galo’s heart spinning in his chest. 

Will the baby have his hair? Blue hair, maybe, and Lio’s lavender eyes. Maybe Lucia would make him—or her—a little firefighter uniform. Can babies fight fires? Once, Galo saw a man on the street with a baby strapped to his back, and that seems viable. 

It could work.

Lio blinks at him and pushes up until his face is in Galo’s chest. His phone he abandons under the pillow to bring both arms up around Lio’s shoulders. He’s going to be impossible to sleep with—too hot, by far, and Galo will wake up at four sweating and sore—but it’s not like he can do anything else, so he tucks Lio against him and lets himself fall into blissful sleep.

 

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Let’s talk!

A text comes in at six. It’s from Gueira and includes four hug emojis—excessive, even for him—but at this point Galo is willing to take anything he can get in the help department. They get together at the coffee shop down the street from the apartment the two of them share, and Gueira answers every ridiculous question Galo can come up with. He categorically refuses to talk about anything below the belt but insists that everything for Burnish is different, and it would be better to err on the side of caution. The internet said sex was fine in most positions, but Lio is so small, and as soon as Galo brings that up, Gueira’s eyes go pinched and distant. No. Best not to risk it. Never has he contemplated a sacrifice so great as not fucking his husband for months.

“Maybe you could talk about it less?” Gueira suggests.

Galo can’t figure out if it’s a genuine thought or some kind of insult. The man exudes charm and good nature, so he sighs and scrubs both hands through his hair with a groan. “Lio is going to be mad about it, though.” 

This seems to hit Gueira like a physical blow. He doubles over for a moment before he gathers himself. “You’ll manage.” 

"I still don't feel right not telling him I know."

"We had a thought about that. Maybe it's just that he doesn't feel safe yet, you know? That is a big shock; how can he know you'll stay with him through it?"

"I," Galo stands, crumpling his coffee cup in one hand as he goes, "would walk through the fires of Hell for Lio—" 

"No offense, but fire doesn't really—"

"—the ices of Hell for Lio."

"Okay. Sure." Gueira waves at someone behind Galo. "There’s Meis. He'll tell you."

Meis is doing what appears to be laundry with an apron on and a scarf tied around his hair. He sets down his load and walks over with the specific look he reserves only for Galo pasted on his face—something between murder and a sort of affection he’s never going to acknowledge. Galo smiles and waves, and the expression darkens. 

"What do you want?"

"Meis," Gueira starts, look pointed in way Galo can’t interpret—play nice, maybe— "Galo here was trying to think of a way to make Lio more comfortable with the idea of them starting a new family."

Meis frowns in confusion, until Gueira catches his gaze and mouths a word Galo doesn’t catch, but Meis must, because his eyes light up and he snaps his fingers. "That's right," he says in his smooth voice, visage transformed, open and welcoming. "Maybe you just need to prove you’ve got what it takes to be a dad."

A dad. Galo never had one and has never been around one except for the Captain, whose dad qualities seem to be sunglasses, reliability, and his mustache. The sunglasses Galo has a pair of already, Lio-approved, and reliability is what Galo embodies as a way of life. The mustache might be a loss; Galo is forbidden from attempting anything in that category since the last time he went three days without shaving and ended up giving Lio beard-burn in a place that had him glaring at Galo through the next three shifts. "But how?"

Meis rubs his chin. “I think you should try calling yourself that in front of him. Dad. It'll make him feel safe."

“Dad…” Galo says, and then mouths the word to himself. Too hard, too old. Not him at all. He rolls the sounds around in his mouth until it comes to something friendlier and tries, “Daddy?" 

They both flinch. Galo feels the first brush of apprehension. The word sounds a little off, but it’s not as though Galo has experience with calling parents anything at all. Maybe the words are more familiar to Lio. He’s mum on the past unless he can help it, but he grew up in a home with two parents and love at least at the start. And if anyone would know what Lio’s comfortable with, it’s Meis and Gueira. Galo frowns at them. “I don’t know if that’s going to…”

“Daddy. Yes. Of course.” Meis reaches out and puts a finger to Galo’s lips when he tries to object again. “It will absolutely work.” 

The gesture is the most affection Meis has ever showed him without threat of Lio’s fire licking at his back; with confidence like that, how can he go wrong?

 

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He waits for the right moment to try it out, like one of the animals in Lio’s nature shows—one that hides from its prey, camouflaged to best effect at the bottom of a river or behind a wall of grass. The setting? The pizza shop. The hide? Galo wears his uniform. The formal one rather than the working one, and only the jacket. It has the first desired effect, which is that Lio can’t take his eyes off Galo’s pecs through most of his first two pieces of pizza. 

After his third, Galo excuses himself to the bathroom to practice the line in the mirror. Hey, let Daddy get that for you. Or: You know, some people have called me Daddy. Some people think I’m a Daddy. At no point does the word get easier to say. Something about it is wrong on an intrinsic level, but he can’t put his finger on it and Meis's satisfied grin weighs heavy in his mind. What does Galo know about where the Burnish have been, about everything they’ve seen? Only what Lio has told him and stable father figures weren’t exactly a feature of his life. This might do the trick. 

He’s lost in that thought when the waiter comes back around. “Can I get you all another round?” he asks. 

The only three who aren’t drinking are Remi, because he’s designated driver, Galo, because he doesn’t see the point, and Lio, whose reasons are enigmatic as ever. He drinks. He drinks a lot, but he hasn’t recently, which is why Galo thinks he’s misheard when Lio catches the waiter’s arm and asks for a double scotch.

Scotch. That’s the one that tastes like smoke and bitter heat. Galo got him a fancy bottle of it for their second anniversary, because Lio had commented once that it reminded him of home, and given the chance Galo would give him a hundred horses and men in furry hats if it would make Lio feel more at home here with him, in this place. The one undeniable fact is that scotch is alcohol, and if Galo has learned one thing in his days and nights of intrepid internet sleuthing, it’s that a pregnant person should not drink. Drinking, while pregnant, is taboo.

But for the first time he wonders: does Lio even know? Does he know he’s pregnant? In no universe could he order Lio to do something. To not do something. That’s out of the question; if he could have, it would have saved them both a lot of trouble over the years. So he can’t tell Lio not to drink, and he can’t ask if he’s pregnant, and his options are cutting down to the quick. In bare seconds, the waiter returns, drinks in hand. 

He makes one of the split-second decisions Galo is known for. The waiter sets down their drinks, and Lio reaches for his glass.

Galo beats him to it. 

Scotch. He downs it, and it burns all the way, hotter than Lio’s fire in his throat the few times he’s had hte pleasure of tasting it. After the first swallow he knows it’s a mistake. Alcohol is not his friend. Lio got him to drink, once, shortly after they were married. It ended in tears, and more than a few, culminating in a night he can't recall save for Lio's hand in his hair and his face in Lio's lap, warm and heady and enjoying the scent of Lio after a long shift more than he should have.

When all that’s left is ice, he slams the glass back down. Everyone—everyone, even the waiter—is staring at him. 

“I can’t figure out if that was supposed to be hot or disgusting,” Lio murmurs.

“Both?” Aina ventures. 

The room swims perilously, but he can handle his alcohol. He doesn’t drink often, and never that fast, and never a substance that seems to be pure fire retardant, but he can—

“Oh, god,” he hears Lio say and then a warm hand cups his cheek. “What is going on with you?” Lio asks. Galo smiles at him and at his perfect hair and pale cheeks which have lately started to sharpen up into something dangerous. It’s not so much the alcohol as its effect on the entire pizza he ate too fast. He doesn’t realize he’s leaning forward until Lio’s eyes blur because they’re too close. The kiss is clumsy; Lio pushes him away after a moment, but his face is red now. “That’s gross, Galo,” he says without meaning it.

“Maybe you should take him back,” someone says. Galo isn’t looking. He can only see Lio. How could he look at anything else? What else could possibly exist? He seems to glow. The earrings wink from behind his curtain of pale hair, a pair of cut sapphires Galo spotted in a shop last spring; he was never much for shopping before Lio, never much for luxury or money or things that glitter but it all suits Lio.

“I think you’re right.” Lio pushes his chair back and stands, pulling Galo up with him. He teeters and Lio shakes his head. “I can’t believe one drink was enough to do this to you. We need to work on your tolerance.” Everything in his voice is fond, though. He makes their goodbyes for Galo and pulls him out the door and down the sidewalk, until they get to Galo’s bike. With one small hand he fishes the keys from Galo’s pocket. Galo feels his smile split his face at the contact. 

“Oh, stop that,” Lio tuts and mounts the bike, pulling Galo on behind him. “Hold on,” Lio orders with a growl.

Galo rests his entire body against Lio. “I love you,” he hears himself say. 

Lio laughs as he kicks off, going slower than usual. “Good. I would hope so.” 

“Do you love me?”

“Yes. I always have and I always will.” 

The answer is honest. Maybe he only says it because he thinks Galo won’t be able to hear with the wind whipping by them, but Galo’s ear is pressed to the back of his chest and the words echo through his whole body.

 

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So operation Dad Mode is a wash that night, but Galo isn’t one to give up. The operation doesn't really commence until two days later. In the meantime, they save two cats and one dog from a tree, teach a group of school kids how a firetruck works, stop one from driving off with the thing, run a bake sale, and collapse into bed at three in the morning without enough energy to do more than fumble through a mutual hand job. Beggars can’t be choosers. Lio told him that, once. Now he understands what it means. 

Unlike the first ill-fated attempt at using the D-word, this one is unplanned. It happens in the downstairs office. Lio has desk duty because his phone voice is the most exquisite out of the entire stable. His ability to calm down a stranger is uncanny. Maybe it's the accent or maybe it's that he's used to backing up his words with real and fiery consequences.

Galo comes in to check on him after nine, third cup of coffee in hand. Lio insists on drinking it, no matter how many hints Galo has dropped about caffeine and health in the last few days, but he figures that’s a fight for after Lio is comfortable enough to admit to his… condition. The most he can do now is keep Lio happy—and happy means coffee.

When he walks in, Lio is standing on the desk. 

Galo does a triple take and then rushes in. “What are you doing?” he asks, ready to catch him but not sure if he needs to be physically moved to a safer location

“This stupid book—” Lio grunts, trying to reach for the highest shelf on the wall next to desk. Galo’s vision blurs with an image of Lio falling, of soft-touched agony and Lio’s pained cry echoing in the air, the rush to the hospital, Galo throwing a long coat he doesn’t own to the side of a hospital bed as he rushes to Lio’s side. Unacceptable. 

Galo lifts him off the desk and sets him on the safe, carpeted floor. “Let Daddy get it for you.” The word slips out in the space between thoughts. So many bathroom breaks spent practicing it in the mirror have taken their toll, but if he had to choose, this would be the moment to use it. Reliable, private—all their relationship is meant to be at its best. 

Lio says nothing. 

Galo reaches up, grabs the book in question—black and red spine: Firefighting ESSENTIALS—and pulls it down. He hands it to Lio with a flourish.

Lio doesn't take it.

He tries again, bumping it into Lio's hand. Lio moves, finally, but only to slap it out of Galo's hand at speed and with force. 

"What did you say? I think there must be water in my ears."

Lio never takes showers in the morning. His hair is dry. But maybe there was an accident in the breakroom. 

"I said, let Daddy get it for you," Galo repeats.

On the back half of the sentence, time slows down. His voice deepens as it goes, and he can see the exact series of micro expressions that dawn across Lio's face: shock, ferocity, terror. Something that isn't anger but isn't not anger and might be—lust? More anger. 

A beat of silence reigns after the words leave his mouth and drop to the floor between them before Lio stalks forward, stepping into Galo's space like he’s just bought those inches, and Galo too. His eyes are almost black and Galo registers only at the edge of his consciousness that he’s made a Mistake.

"If you—ever—call yourself Daddy in front of me again, I'll kill you." 

Each word has its own emphasis. It’s almost a song.

"Is that—” Galo puts his hands on Lio’s shoulders, as if that could keep him at bay, “—is that one of your real threats or is it more like, Oh, Galo, I'll kill you?" he asks in a falsetto. 

He realizes as he's doing it that Lio would never use that tone, and that Lio has never made false threats either.

Lio sneers and reaches up to pull Galo’s hands off of him and then steps impossibly closer. He must be on tip-toe, or no—Galo has sunk down the wall, his legs gone to spaghetti, he realizes and flinches as Lio cups his face in both hands. 

"If you ever call yourself that in front of me again without my permission, I will live as widower." His voice is low and soft, and his touch may be gentle, but it's beginning to burn.

"Lio, that's a little harsh."

He releases Galo and steps away, grabbing the book Galo retrieved for him as he goes. "Then don't test me on a Tuesday morning." 

He leaves without another glance, but halfway to the door he stops and turns back, like he's forgotten something. Galo backs into the wall once more, because Lio isn't walking so much as stalking towards him. He pins Galo to the wall with a look, both arms bracketing him in as he leans close. His breath puffs over Galo's ear. 

"But If you want me to call you that… We can talk about it later... Daddy."

The word rolls off his tongue with his peculiar brand of accent sharpening its edges. He rises, pausing only long enough to stare down at Galo with an unreadable expression that Galo has come to learn means Lio owns him, body and soul, and will be happy to remind him of that reality if he ever forgets, using whatever means necessary. 

He doesn't even have to touch Galo to ruin him for the morning.

Chapter Text

"I thought we were going to—" Lio cuts off on a cry.

"We have patrol. Unless you want to go around wet,” Galo murmurs. Even in the dark, he can tell it's not a no. It’s been a week since Galo was inside him and Lio isn’t known for his patience.  Galo clicks his tongue at the unspoken argument. "Sure, it sounds nice now," he says, drawing his fingers between Lio's cheeks, parting them, making Lio go on tip-toe. "But can you imagine sitting in the truck like that the whole time?" He hooks his thumbs in the band of Lio's briefs and pulls them down. "I mean, what if it got on the seat? Everyone would know."

"They already know," Lio says, breathless. He’s leaned back against the boxes in the storeroom they’re hiding in, staring down at Galo with eyes so bright, sometimes Galo thinks he catches a flash of actual light in the moment.

"...But do they?" Galo pushes his nose into the soft, pale curls below his bellybutton. There isn't much. Most of his hair is like dandelion down and only visible when it catches the sunlight but here… Galo presses a kiss to Lio's dick and slides a hand into his own pants and doesn't wait for permission to take Lio in his mouth and go to town.

Lio whines. His muscles convulse. Already, he's dripping with precome that Galo wishes tasted worse, because it can't be normal to like it this much. Lio puts his hands on Galo's shoulders, bracing himself, and starts working himself into Galo’s mouth in little thrusts. 

Galo breathes through his nose and tries not to choke on the feeling, though that’s part of the pleasure of it, too. 

As soon as Lio’s breath starts to pitch up, Galo pulls off, and it's worth it just for the sound Lio makes. 

"See?" Galo murmurs, his voice wrecked for the moment. "No one else gets to see you like this. What would they think?" Galo stands and pulls him around by the elbow, pushing him forward into the wall of boxes full of spare gear and unused forms. Lio arches into him, and now it's easy to pull him back by his hair and bite at the thin column of his neck. "Thighs together,” Galo orders.

Lio chokes back a whine and tries to comply in the cramped space. Ass up, back arched, uniform pants pooled around his ankles, black shirt punched around his ribs. A shame it's dark, but the sight is familiar enough Galo can paint over the shadows with the image as he draws his hand up to thumb at Lio's chest and then palm his stomach. 

"Why do you keep doing that?" Lio asks between breaths.

"Hmm?" 

"My abs—am I gaining weight—?"

He doesn't know. He doesn't know and that's okay. Galo will be right here to catch him when he figures it out. Before the thought can complete in Lio's mind, Galo hooks his thumb at the corner of Lio's mouth and makes his jaw work to accommodate the invasion instead.

"Nah. But you could. It'd look good on you." It's actually a little worrisome he hasn't gained more.

Lio can't talk, so he manages a sound part frustration and part appreciation and pushes back. With one knee, Galo nudges his thighs closer still and slides between them. In the beginning, he was too skinny for this—the Promare and years on the road burnt him out, but now he has muscle. Galo spares a moment to thank the him of twenty minutes ago for pocketing the bottle of lube as they were going out the door, just in case. Better safe than sorry—that’s the motto of every good fireman.

The friction is delicious. He steadies Lio with his spare hand as Lio tries to maintain balance on the tight footing. It would be easier if he didn’t insist on wearing the same boots he always has, but Galo can’t be mad for it when he looks that good in them. 

"It's a good thing your legs are so long."

Lio huffs disbelief around his fingers.

"Well, you're so small. If they were normal, we couldn't do it like this."

Lio tosses his head and Galo pulls his fingers from Lio's mouth, only to fist around his dick. "That—" Lio moans when Galo pumps him,  "—makes no sense. You're so—haah—so weird—"

Galo squeezes him and picks up a rhythm. "It's just science."

"Stop talking."

He doesn't mean it, and Galo doesn't stop. He picks up the pace and murmurs every word and praise that comes into his mind. Though it's hard for Lio to get off like this, there's at least some friction. The trick is not to let him finish first, at least, not when the overstimulation will make him teary, not when they need to be presentable in minutes. It's just good manners, and Galo is nothing if not polite. Lio has trained it into him. 

He pumps Lio faster, and Lio reaches back his hand to cover Galo's on his hip. He arches until his hair is dragging across Galo's neck and shoulder. Patrol starts in minutes, so there isn't time to linger or get too messy about it; Galo pursues climax with single-minded intensity, losing track of what he's muttering against Lio's hair in the doing, world narrowing to the taut muscle under his hands and the effervescent heat that follows Lio wherever he goes—and here, most of all. 

The peak of it rises up Galo’s spine and breaks over him; his voice cracks in his throat with it. Lio's breath is as heavy as his own. Galo brings him off a moment later and his cry is softer, weaker, muffled against one hand. 

"It's wet," Lio sighs. They both are, but it's nothing that can't be cleaned away with a little tissue and Galo came prepared. 

Lio helps, with a haphazard go at whatever spilled onto the boxes. Nothing they can do about the smell, though. When they're done, he puts Lio's clothes back to rights, gets down on his knees, kisses Lio's hip and then the spot below his belly button as he goes, or tries. Lio tolerates it for a moment and then shoves Galo’s shoulder away, with force, and a disgusted sigh.

"What is with you?"

Above him, Lio's arms are folded. Even in the dark, his eyes flash. 

Galo rocks back on his heels. "What?"

In answer, Lio fists a hand in the collar of Galo's shirt and pulls him up to eye level. "You won't fuck me."

"I do too fuck you!" 

"No, fuck you, Galo, you know what I'm talking about!" he says in a manic whisper.

"I mean you can do me if you want," Galo offers magnanimously. Lio has a few times, but it's never really that simple between them; Galo is down with whatever he wants, save this one specific thing for the next, oh, eight to nine months.

"Is this a game to you? Is this—are you edging me or something?" Lio snarls. the way he says it implies he might not really be sure of what the term means, though.

Galo smiles at him. "No that's when I'm—" he makes a fist and pulls it back and forth, a convenient and subtle innuendo that Lio taught him after one too many accidental uses, "—and keep stopping until you want to kill me."

The fist at his collar tightens. "We're getting there. Even if you won't tell me what's going on, you know I'll just get it out of you later."

Cold settles in around Galo, the sweat under his shirt going clammy as he fights a shiver. 

"Wait, Lio, come on."

"Don't Lio me," he snaps, dropping Galo like there's a trashcan below that he intends Galo to fall into, and steps toward the door with the smallest flip of his hair. 

"But that's your name!" 

Lio snorts and opens the door, leaving Galo with nothing but the slow sinking in his gut and no choice but to follow.

Outside the storeroom, the breakroom and garage are both full. Aina looks up when they step out. Her eyes narrow and the corner of her lip draws up in old distaste but that's the worst of it—everyone knows what they were up to and later there will be words about their apartment being right there and those are everyone's boxes, Galo, come on, we're trying to have a society over here. They know better than to admonish Lio—he'll be contrite and apologetic and eloquent and then turn around and drag Galo back in the next time the whim takes him. Galo at least can be shamed for a week or two. 

Lio walks straight to his locker and starts arranging gear, too cool. Only Galo can pick out the slight tremble of weakness in his legs. Galo slides in next to him and discreetly puts away the tissues and bottle of lube, the attempt at subtlety drawing a crooked grin from Lio at least. 

The upshot is they're both by their lockers when the siren starts blaring.

Galo is first on the engine always; he makes a point of it—and Lio is only a step behind, settling into his casual lean against Lucia's console as Galo fits himself into the mech and the rest pile in. Lucia taps at the screen and does a lot with the buttons—maybe too much, at least some of that has to be for effect. 

"Big blaze in old town," she mutters. "Biiig-big."

"Biiig-big," Galo repeats, "or like big-biiig?" There is nuance to this.

"The former. We'll need the mechs. Everyone read?" 

They sound off, skipping Galo when he draws in too big of a breath and clues them into an impending proclamation. 

Lio is last. A spark flares in his hand before he closes his fist around it. "Ready." It will never not be hot, but maybe he could choose a better place, or a time when Galo isn't strapped into a solid cage of metal. 

The sirens and lights and pounding roar of the engine taking off doesn't help. It gets him riled up and for some reason Lio thought it would be totally fine and not a problem for anyone if his "uniform" was actually just his leather pants that are more strap than not, a black station-issue t-shirt, and Galo's uniform jacket with the oversized sleeves and everything topping it off, all of it perfect.

Lio must feel his gaze; he glances at Galo and shifts in a way that exposes his midriff and hip and the red kiss mark on his throat. Galo chokes. Lio grins. This would be the time for a wink, but that’s another skill Galo can’t quite manage. He swallows instead and lets himself regret leaving his shirt on for once.

They’re interrupted by the clearing of a throat. "Have you ever considered you guys fuck too much?" 

Remi is in the mech beside Galo, staring between them with the weight of a man deciding whether his lowly subordinates are getting a raise this year. Probably not. Probably going to be a no, since he was the one that last had the dubious honor of finding them in the engine after hours, in the middle—or really the back half—of what was a few discarded articles of clothing beyond the bounds of a simple make out session. 

Fuck too much though? Galo blinks and wonders if those words are even allowed to go in one sentence in that order. "What?"

"The closet?" Remi prompts, his glasses flashing. "Again?" 

Galo gives Lio a helpless look, but Lio folds his arms and looks out the window, which means this is Galo's fight. Anything for love. 

"We were looking for those new T-10 forms—"

"Oh, really, Galo? The T-10 forms? Did you expect to find them up his ass?"

"Don't talk about him like that!"

"Like what? Like he has an ass?"

Perhaps in warning, a single pale spark rises from Lio's hand where he's tapping his arm now, as if bored. It's enough to light the relative darkness. 

Lucia pulls her headphones off and turns to him. "Not inside, please. And we're here,” which is her way of saying she is the most capable of ruining Lio’s day if he comes at her electronics, and also it’s go time. Lio nods; he’s first out, before any of them can take a breath. He hits the pavement running and the last glimpse Galo has of him is from over his shoulder: Lio’s hands outstretched, fighting the native fire with the Promare, making a barrier between the two. But even if he still has the power, it's not what it was. Not enough to save him from a building that's about to come down, which is what he’s running toward, full-bore. 

"Shit," Varys says as Lucia engages their mechs. 

Leave it to Lio to run into a burning building. Maybe, in a life, Galo assumes a person would need to be told not to run into a burning building once, or maybe twice. Even for firefighters like them, even for Galo, there's a limit. Run into burning buildings, sure, to save people, but the only people still in danger are on the roof and about to be air evacced out by Aina according to the feed on Lucia’s console. 

Yet there he goes. There he goes, again. 

"Lio!" Galo starts but the radio on his ear comes to life. 

"There's a couple stuck on the sixth floor. Can anyone get in there?"

"On it," Lio's voice crackles over the line. 

Sixth floor. Lio Thymos-Fotia is going to launch himself to the sixth floor of a twenty-story building that's moments from collapse. On any other day, Galo would cheer him on—or, better yet, join him—but now that cheery image is overlaid with one of Lio lying on a bed of ash, his body floating away centimeter by centimeter, Galo leaned close and begging him to stay. 

I was going to name the baby Matoi, Lio whispers in his mindscape as a single bright tear falls from his dewy lashes and wets the growing pile of ash—

"No, I've got it!" 

Galo launches the mech into the air, bursting past Lio and into the wall of flame. 

A chorus of, "Galo!" comes over the radio, with Lio's shout by far the clearest, maybe because he can hear it in real time, too, as Lio runs up behind him—god, he's fast.

"Stay out of this," Galo tells him. "I've got it. I'm the world's number one firefight—"

Lio has more heat to give than he thought. That was Galo's fault, Galo’s miscalculation, he realizes as Lio rides a spike of solid flame past him and straight up to the sixth floor, like nothing, like magic. It's hot, in more ways than one, but two can play at that. Galo scales the building in a manner of seconds, mech rising hand over hand, ripping away chunks of heat-blasted concrete as he goes and then busts into the window with the heat map overlay showing him where to land to be closest to the door where the couple is trapped. 

But again, Lio is already there. 

He's tearing the door open, heedless of the heat of the handle, letting the Promare's fire whip around him to stop any flashover fire from catching the backdraft into the room and setting everyone inside on fire. It's how he was trained to handle fires, how they both were, down to a science—even Ignis wouldn't find a flaw in it—and yet all Galo can see in his mind is the room collapsing on Lio as he steps in, an explosion sending him flying for a six story drop, and having to administer oxygen to his lifeless body as he lies supine in the ash, that single tear rolling down his cheek, those words slipping from his greying lips—

Galo is compromised. On every level. 

He doesn’t let himself consider what he’s doing. He simply reaches out and plucks Lio up from the floor with one of the mech’s hands. 

Lucia designed all the mechs’ hands with full range of motion; Lio fits in his left palm nicely. In any other moment, Lio would already have a black sword burning at his throat for the slight, but maybe years with Galo have created a buffer of disbelief. For whatever reason, he doesn't move or talk until after Galo has found the couple—an elderly woman and her husband, who seem surprised to hear there's a fire at all—and bustles all three back out the door. He jumps down the side of the building, letting the matoi copter them to a safe landing.

As it happens, once they’re all safe on the ground, Lio has plenty of objections. 

"Put me down, Galo Thymos." 

No Fotia. Ouch. Galo’s hand is getting warm, the armor informs him, so Galo does put Lio down, without looking at him, aware in a distant way that his life is probably over, but too relieved Lio is safe to feel bad about it. Varys and Remi are keeping the fire off neighboring buildings while Lucia uses drones and the old anti-Promare fire systems to put out the worst of it. It won't be enough to save the building, but no casualties is more than good enough. Aina touches down to unload her cargo of civilians. 

And through it all, Lio burns against his back. 

Galo steps out of the mech and takes a deep breath before he turns to Lio—but Lio is right there. 

He shoves at Galo’s shoulders. “What the fuck was that?” he bites out. 

Galo catches his hands and holds him there, forcing him to stay close, to see the sincerity in Galo’s eyes when he says,"You could have gotten hurt.” They’re making a spectacle like this, but that’s okay. Some things are more important. And it’s not like it’s the first time today.

For seconds, Lio's mouth works. "I can always get hurt,” he says. “That's the job. So can you, but you don't see me stopping you from—"

"It's different."

"No, it isn't."

It's on the tip of Galo’s tongue to say it. Wrong place, wrong time. He'll regret it later if this is how everyone finds out—and Lio, too. So he doesn't say a word. He pulls Lio in for a hug and shoves his words down as deep as they will go, imagining himself a vault for this one secret. It will be worth it. The burden of this knowledge is a sacrifice he must bear until Lio is comfortable enough to accept the truth for himself, and for Galo, too. 

Until then, Galo's mind is a door that will never open.

 

Page Divider

 

"Where is that dumb head of yours at?" 

Lucia is at her console, Aina by her side, reviewing footage from the engine's forward camera. Damning is a harsh word, but as he watches himself beat his way past a very collected and graceful Lio, scale the side of a building, and emerge a few seconds later laden with two terrified passengers and Lio, who looks almost catatonic with rage over being held like a baby… Yeah, it's damning. As soon as they got back, Lio had roared off on his bike after muttering something about needing to see Meis and Gueira. Never a good sign. He'll either be back in five minutes, ready to burn answers out of Galo's worthless hide, or in a week. 

Or never.

Both Aina and Lucia turn to stare at him as the single minute of footage repeats behind them. None of it is fair. If they knew, they would understand. 

"Dude, you were acting crazy out there. He totally had it handled."

"He can't pick up two people at once," Galo snipes and fiddles with the stupid coffee maker to have something to do. 

"Yes, he can. He's, like, super-human or something. I've seen him throw a car."

Pregnant people can't lift weights greater than twenty-five pounds, though they may lift weights up to fifty without complications and Galo might suck at math, but the weight of two whole old people is pretty far above that. He imagines a zipper on his mouth. Imagines it's been sealed shut like some ancient tomb as they both give him looks of equal and great disgust. 

"You better watch it with him," Aina starts again. "You know I think you two are some match made in weird heaven, but he won't put up with that from you."

That is his burden, though. "I know. This is my test, as a man."

The look she gives him is somehow even more disgusted. "Oh… kay?"

"Are you a fortune cookie now?" Lucia chimes in to ask.

"No! It's just some things are more important than what Lio thinks of me, that's all."

Lucia turns fully in her chair. "Are you dying?"

"No!"

"Did you join a cult?" 

"No." He scrubs both hands in his hair. 

"Well you're keeping something a secret." Her voice goes sing-song on the something, the way it does when she's determined to figure out exactly what that something is. She'll bug their rooms at this rate. No—Galo's phone. Maybe she won't even have to. Knowing her, all his search results are a few button clicks away already. The vault door creaks open in his mind.

"Fine.” He sighs. “But you can't tell anyone." 

They nod and lean closer. 

Galo leans in too, drops his voice to a whisper. "We're having a baby."

Whatever he expected, it wasn't the blank stare that settles over both their faces.

"You're adopting?" Aina asks. "Like, a whole baby? A human baby? Now?"

Lucia elbows her. "Maybe it's a surrogate."

"No, no," Galo waves his hands, "Lio is pregnant."

Their gazes go vacant again. Galo tries a smile. "I know it's unexpected, but we can handle it. I really think we’re ready." He searches their faces for any response, but something that isn’t a smile is creeping its way across Lucia’s face. She looks at Aina, Aina looks back, and moments drop past them as Galo’s stomach drops with them. 

At last, Lucia looks at him, her mouth working, still twisted into that strange parody of a grin. “Did Lio tell you that?"

"Nope! Figured it out on my own." He lets a little pride into his voice. "I don't even know if Lio knows yet. You can't tell him."

"Hey Aina, can we just—" Lucia grabs Aina’s collar and drags her into a huddle, faced away. Whatever discussion they have is hurried. He catches the words need to tell him and don't you dare, and it's sweet their first concern would be that Lio doesn't know and should. 

They turn back as a united front, smiles plastered on. It's a start. 

"We're s—so happy for you, Galo," Aina says.

"Can't wait," Lucia adds, maybe a bit less enthusiastic.

The two of them will make great godmothers. Of course, the baby will have—Galo counts it out—five godfathers. And maybe Lucia really will make gear for the tyke, or maybe even a mini matoi… The possibilities are endless. The door opens across the room, probably Varys back from picking up the last dregs post-fire. 

Galo preens but stops short of bringing them both in for a hug. "When our baby is born, I want you to—"

The air sucks out of the room. 

It's a physical sensation that sets his hair on end. The air comes flooding back as fast as it went, buffeting him from behind. He knows what it is. Aina and Lucia look curiously terrified, but they aren't looking at what's behind Galo—they're looking at him, as if he's already dead on the floor before them and they were helpless to stop his senseless murder.

"What baby?" Lio whispers from behind him.

Galo turns on legs made of water. The initial burst of fire has died; not a lick of flame rises from Lio, and that's worse somehow. Lio mad at him is old hat; Galo might as well have a second degree in that. Lio heartbroken is another thing entirely. In his chest, Galo's heart almost seems to tear on its own.

"Our baby," Galo says confidently and meets his eyes as he does.

Lio's eyes slide to the pair behind Galo. His voice is almost gravel when he asks, "You and who?"

Oh, no, wait— 

"No, no no!" Galo waves his hands and then motions between himself and Lio. "Our baby." 

At last, Lio's brow cinches. Some of the light comes back to his eyes, but he blinks hard and it's gone again. "Do you think I'm stupid? Tell me who's pregnant, or this is the last time you will ever see me." Again, the broken-rock tone suggests he will disappear anyway, that Galo has managed the one thing neither of them thought him capable of: smashing Lio's heart. 

So Galo takes both of Lio's hands in both of his own, leans close, and says softly, "You are. You're pregnant."

He brings Lio's hands to his mouth and brushes his lips over each knuckle. Lio watches him do this, eyes blank in the same way Aina and Lucia’s were, frown still lining his forehead and deepening still. "I'm—what?"

"Pregnant. We're going to have a baby."

Gueira and Meis have been silent and stationary until this moment. Now Meis huffs into his hand. They’ll be against Lio knowing like this, finding out like this, but it’s more important to Galo that he know. Galo can shoulder whatever consequences result.

"You—” Lio blinks hard and shakes his head. “You actually think I'm pregnant?" he asks, voice a little lighter at least. Galo nods. Lio pulls his hands free of Galo's grip, closes his eyes, and sighs. "Galo. I cannot now, nor have I ever been able to get pregnant."

Oh. 

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. Do you think that you can get pregnant?" he asks in the patient way he reserves for the days they get saddled with taking care of second graders. 

Galo laughs, a little strangled. "No, of course not. I'm not that stupid, Lio."

"Then why," he murmurs, eyes like brands, "did you think I was pregnant?" 

The pair still standing by the door both raise their hands to their mouths. Galo leans the slightest bit to the side to catch their eyes and beg for help. This, somehow, causes them to cover their faces, too. No help then. 

"B—because you're Burnish?" Galo stutters. Now, okay, several things are falling into place. Or out of place. Galo winces and tries to reorder everything in the way that had made this make perfect sense. "Are you sure you’re not pregnant? All month, I thought…”

Wrong words. Absolutely wrong, in every way. At last, Meis speaks, except it’s not talking, and it’s not in defense of Galo. It’s laughter. He’s laughing.

"You thought I was pregnant,” Lio whispers, not a question. His eyes betray no spark, not the least shred of emotion. This is it. "You thought I was pregnant,” his gaze widens and he steps forward, “for a month."

Meis is doubled over now, Gueira patting his back soothingly.

Now is the time to beg.

"Please don't divorce me. Please. Lio." Galo gets on his knees right there, right in front of all of them, nothing but a supplicant begging for forgiveness before a god that has no reason to offer it. He imagines never holding Lio in his arms again, never waking up sweaty because Lio somehow needs six blankets and still runs hot, and never pulling him in for a hug after a tough night on the job, never wiping chocolate off his cheek or getting a surprise kiss for something stupid he's done by accident.

Lio stares down at him, eyes bright and wide. "You thought I was pregnant for a month, and you didn't ask? You just—" and oh, there's flame starting to rise off his hair, at least it's a small comfort that Galo won't have to worry about winning Lio back when he's dead at Lio’s hands, "—didn't say anything? You just waited for me to talk about it?"

The tone isn’t what Galo expected. It’s softer, less instant death, more an honest question. Galo nods and bows his head.

"You wanted to have a family with me?"

Galo nods again. He’s so beyond the ability to hide anything here. Lio steps forward, fists a hand in the collar of his shirt for the second time in a day and pulls him back to his feet. 

The hand that touches his cheek is livid with violet fire. Galo closes his eyes and readies himself as Lio murmurs, "You really are the stupidest man alive," and then he kisses Galo. 

It’s sweet. It’s biting. Galo is sure he’s dead and imagining all of it, but then Lio makes a little sound, like he almost never does, and Galo opens his mouth in response. Lio takes it as an invitation, but he’s never this clumsy, and it can’t be Galo’s imagination because it’s never been like this and he wouldn’t know how to imagine it.

"No, wait," Meis says, "hold on."

The kiss deepens. If he is still alive, if this is Galo's last rite, he needs to make it count. He grips Lio's waist tight with both hands and licks into his mouth, notes the heat rising around him as no more than his own blood running warm. Lio tears away from him after a few seconds, but keeps the grip on his collar as he fights for breath. 

His eyes look lost, like he wants to say something, but as soon as he looks at Galo again, his mouth closes. He doesn’t look at anyone else but reasserts his grip on Galo and turns to drag him toward the stairs. "We're taking the day off," he says to no one, and the entire room.

“But—but wait—” someone starts. 

Someone else mutters, “Come on, this is a work day, we have to be down here all day, you guys can't put us through that."

"Then leave," Lio says. "You've got five minutes."

Galo sends a silent apology to all of them. 

 

Page Divider

 

Lio doesn’t seem to know what to do with him once they’re alone. They stand just inside the door with Lio’s arms wrapped around him and Galo helpless to do anything but hold back. 

“I’m really sorry,” he tries again.

“Oh, shut up,” Lio says into his chest.

“But—”

“Is this why you haven’t fucked me lately?”

Galo scratches his head. “Yeah?”

“Idiot. If you want kids later, we can just adopt. Or get a dog or a plant or something.”

“All three?” 

“Yeah. Be more selfish.” 

His voice sounds a bit off. Galo feels something cold and strange against his chest. He’s wet.  "Lio? Are you crying?" 

"Yes. Because you’re stupid," he snaps wetly, pulling away to scrub at his eyes with his sleeve. "These are tears of laughter. I can't believe you. How long have you thought I could even get—that way?" He can't say the word now; Galo doesn't blame him.

"You remember that one night? No condom." Galo lowers his unconscious grip around Lio's hips to cup his ass through the uniform pants, rubbing a circle at the dimples in his lower back, and hopes that's enough of a reminder. Lio had bruises there for days after. 

It's enough. Lio glances off to the side, at the pile of movies stacked on the coffee table. "Yeah."

"And then you kept getting sick. And you were tired. And that thing about the pudding—"

Lio holds up his hand and closes his eyes for a sigh. "Stop. You know I get that way about desert. And I was tired because we had double shifts for two weeks—Remi was on vacation and the Captain had that thing, remember?"

"I guess."

"And I was sick—" Lio pushes at his chest, moving Galo back a step toward the wall, "—because this city doesn't have any food safety regulations now. Wait, is that why you wouldn't let me drink?"

"Yes," Galo mutters and has to resist hiding his head in his hands. 

"So you drank for me? Galo, you can't drink, at all." 

He can’t argue for himself anymore after this. The reality of his assumptions is still settling in, and he’s a hard mark to embarrass, but this might do it. 

Lio doesn’t let him dwell on it. He reaches down and cups Galo through his uniform pants. He isn’t hard yet, but then, Lio is right there. It won’t take much.

But Lio pulls his hand away and tugs at Galo’s short sleeve. “Come on. I told them five minutes. And you owe me.”

He does. And he’ll make it up to Lio, no matter what it takes.

Chapter Text

As far as fires go, it's not bad. A panicked call from a woman who left rice on the stove while she was out for a walk—"You can cook rice on a stove?"—and came back to a smoking apartment occupies them for the entire nightshift. Two apartment units are caught up in the blaze, and part of an alley, but it could have been worse. The apartments are cleared in a few minutes, and Lio goes to secure the alley while Galo finishes taking statements and calming the crowd. They take turns on that, technically, but it's been Galo's turn the last three, since the time someone made a comment to Lio asking him if it was Bring Your Kid to Work Day. 

"Got it?" Galo asks as soon as he sees a flash of blond hair out the corner of his eye. 

Lio stops a few steps away without answering, and Galo turns. Something about the way he's holding himself is wrong. The crowd hushes but they're all secondary to the sight of Lio clutching oddly at his stomach. 

Galo starts toward him. "You—you're hurt—"

He's half a step from gathering Lio up in his arms before Lio sticks out his hand. "No, I'm… I'm fine. It's just…"

He looks down at his stomach, which he's still clutching as if in agony. It’s hard to tell what might be wrong; the oversized jacket hides everything. "I wanted to keep it a secret, but Galo… It's time. I'm with child."

It would be more convincing if he weren't about to lose it laughing. What looked like tears of agony are Lio trying to talk around what he seems to think is a really, really great joke, though it really isn't. Galo should leave him right there. Let him deal with the public while Galo gets himself a pizza. A personal pizza. Extra-large, for one, with all the mushrooms he wants because so what if Lio hates them? He's not getting any.

Maybe someone will offer Lio a ride back or ask him where his parents are and bring him to the station, because Galo isn't. "That's not funny."

Lio doubles over all the way. "No, Galo, I'm s—serious. It's really—it's really happening—" 

And then his stomach moves under the jacket. 

Three things happen at once: Galo screams, the laughter Lio's been fighting bursts out of him in a hideous sound, and a white head pops out of the jacket's collar. A dog. A white dog, and objectively cute—but that's beside the point. Galo shakes his head. It's a sad day when he has to be the adult in this relationship.

"Look," Lio tries to say, but can't quite manage it between his gasping laughter and the tongue the dog is trying to get on every square inch of his face. "He's got your hair!"

He does not. The relief that Lio isn't dying goes to war with the leftover stress of finding baby clothes in his locker once a week for the last six months, ever since the misunderstanding. "Whose dog is this?" he asks the crowd.

A man shrugs, which is helpful. Usually someone is already running toward him, tears of gratitude streaming, but all he gets are a series of blank looks and a few fond glances—not at him as much as the dog Lio is unsuccessfully trying to hold his virtue against. Galo sighs and helps him pull it free, and then holds it at arm's length. It kind of looks like a dandelion fluff with eyes and a nose and a tongue, which it's now using to lick Galo's arm as it wiggles in mid-air.

"See? I can tell he's your son because he kisses like you," Lio mutters, unfairly. "Seriously, does anyone recognize this dog?"

Blank stares. Shrugging man shrugs again, but harder. Wonderful.

“Come on,” Lio sighs. “We’ll figure it out back at the station.”

 


 

The dog spends the entire ride back on Lio’s lap in the passenger seat of the truck they’ve only recently decided to let Galo drive unsupervised—and no, Lio doesn't count as supervision, wasn't bringing down half the city enough for one lifetime? The dog stares at him. At first, Galo thinks he’s imagining it, but every time he chances a glance in Lio’s direction the dog is eyes-on, unblinking. They sparkle with—something.

“He’s watching me,” Galo whispers, the fourth time he looks over and finds a pair of beady, soulful eyes staring back at him. 

“He’s watching the window.” 

Galo moves his head back and forth—and no, it’s not in his head, the dog’s head moves with him. “He’s watching me. He knows something.”

“Yeah. He knows you’re an idiot.”

“I’m—” Galo sighs. It’s not worth the argument. "I'm just saying. You wanna rock paper scissors for who has to tell the Captain?” he asks as he steers into the garage.

Lio’s head rolls toward him. “No deal. I’ll do it. You had a hard day.” He opens the door to jump out as the truck lumbers to a stop but pauses long enough to toss over his shoulder, “They say childbirth can be just as stressful for the dad.”

The dog yips in agreement. Galo sets his forehead against the steering wheel briefly. He will live it down, one day. He has to believe that. By the time he drags himself out of the truck, after a solid three minutes of psyching himself up, the dog is already settled on the daybed that Aina usually uses as a couch and snack receptacle, looking like he belongs there.

“I always said we needed a dog around here,” Varys is saying.

“Yeah. A dog,” Lucia says without turning from the console in front of her, tap tap tap. “Not a…” She gestures at the animal with a sweep of her hand and it cocks its head in answer, pointed ears swiveling in her direction. Its tongue is sticking out the side of its mouth a little. It reminds Galo of something he can’t put his finger on, but then Lio bends down next to it, putting them both on eye-level and it clicks. It’s the exact expression Lio makes when he’s focusing on something: hair tied back, nose wrinkled, tongue peeking out between his lips.

Lio ruffles the dog’s ears. “It’s not as though we’re keeping him. We should put up an ad. Make signs." 

"Shouldn't you wash him first?" 

Varys is right. For all that the dog is white, he's also at least thirty percent soot and ash and it's leaving a spot on the bed that Aina will have something to say about. Galo sighs. "Rock paper scissors?"

Lio wins, of course.

 


 

Galo has never washed a dog, but he has washed Lio under various circumstances and levels of compliance, so it's not all that different. Tub, soap—the good stuff he uses on his own hair, of course—a lot of water, and a reward after. It only takes him a half hour because the dog has more hair than any living thing should, and it spends every moment of it licking him, licking itself, licking the wall of the tub, and spreading water to all four corners of the bathroom. 

They both come out soaked to the bone, though Galo likes to think he wears it better. The dog just looks—sad. Naked. It’s not a good look, so Galo spends an extra half hour with the hair dryer, running a brush through the dog's hair. Lio’s brush, but what Lio doesn’t know won’t hurt him. The hair is almost the same color anyway. 

“Did you guys drown?” Lio’s voice comes from the door Galo didn’t close as he knocks for politeness' sake. Galo shoves the brush in the nearest open drawer as Lio peeks inside and freezes. 

“What… what.” 

“What?”

Lio looks the both of them over—Galo, shirtless, pantsless, really just in his underwear, dog held in front of him—and puts a hand over his mouth in an expression Galo recognizes as if I laugh right now, I’ll snort, and I can't do that and look cool

It’s good Galo doesn’t have any dignity left to lose in front of him. “What?” he asks again, feeling even less guilty than before for using Lio’s brush on the dog. 

“You did his hair like yours.” 

Galo looks over at the mirror. The dog looks with him, and fuck if Lio isn’t right, except, on the dog, the spikes look like a mohawk. It looks ridiculous. “He looks great!”

"Sure, just like you." Lio pulls out his phone. “Hold still.” The picture is taken before Galo can object, not that he would. If the world wants to see his abs then it’s only right. “This’ll be great.” 

“Did you tell the Captain?”

“Yep.” Lio doesn’t look up from his phone, tapping away with both thumbs. “We can keep him here until we find his owner.”

“What are we going to feed him, though?”

They both look in the direction of the pizza, and then do the thing everyone hates, where they talk without talking but by arching specific eyebrows in specific ways until they come to a solid agreement:

“Pizza?”

“Pizza.”

 


 

“You can’t feed a dog pizza.” 

You can, it turns out, but not without the judgment of the rest of the station, and not without creating a monster. They didn't give him pizza, they're not stupid, it was just the pepperoni and some of the cheese, and yet this argument doesn't seem to convince anyone of their competence as dog-guardians. 

"We're just letting him try it," Galo explains, but Aina's frown only deepens. 

When she got back to the station and saw the dog, Galo got to see her go through all five stages of envy. Now she's settled on acceptance and it's trying to backseat-dog.

"He weighs twenty pounds! You eat his weight in pizza every week." She points at the piece the dog is licking the cheese off. "I'm pretty sure that's more than he's eaten in the last month, total."

Galo scratches behind the dog's ears. "Well, yeah. He needs to eat more."

She throws up her hands. "Not that much!" 

Oh, suddenly everyone's a dog expert. Great. Galo looks to see if Lio is going to come through as his lawfully ordained husband and the only thing standing between him and the rest of the station dragging down his vibes. Not today. Lio isn't backing him up, because Lio is busy checking his phone and grinning.

"Anyone recognize him?" Galo asks. 

In answer, Lio turns his phone to—Aina, who barks a laugh and slaps a hand over her mouth. They share a look and then Lio shows his phone to Galo, almost as an afterthought. 

It's Burning Rescue's infosite, and what's posted on the front page is not their Fast Five Facts About Household Fires but a picture. The dog, hair spiked above his head, tongue wagging, and Galo's body behind him. Galo's very much unclothed body. The caption reads simply: Anyone recognize this dog? 

None of the replies are about the dog. 

"Lio…" Galo takes the phone and cocks his head. "I look amazing in this."

Lio gives him a lazy grin. "You look amazing in everything." When he's right, he's right. 

 


 

Despite Lio's advertising genius and the dozen signs they print and make Varys hang around downtown on his shift, they don't get any substantive leads on the dog. A few callers offer to take the dog if Galo comes with, and though they give it serious consideration, they decide the dog is too sweet to subject to a stranger's home. In the meantime, Remi comes through with "real" dog food in the form of three dozen cans of the stuff that he won't explain why he had lying around. Aina finds a spare leash and glittering collar at a local shop, though as far as Galo knows, there's no pet store between the station and her apartment. At some point a bed appears in the garage, the same color as the dog, and who brings that in is anyone's guess, though when Ignis catches Galo using it as an extra cushion, the glint in his aviators is particularly sharp. 

It's not like the dog needs it, anyway. He spends most of the time in Lio's lap or under Galo's arm, like he was born there.

Meis and Gueira come by for their weekly, bi-weekly, every-other-day check in to make sure that Lio for sure has decided he wants to stick with this marriage thing, as they have every few days since Lio started living there. They take one look at the dog and burst into tears. 

"That?" Meis says when he's done guffawing. "That's your new dog?"

Lio wraps his arms around the ball of white a little tighter. "Yeah." It comes out a little defensive, but the unspoken argument loses a few points when the dog worms his head out from the cocoon, shakes his head, and sneezes so loud it comes out as a yip. 

He's just not very… elegant, at times, as Kray would have said. But then, neither is Galo, so he feels a sort of moral obligation to stand up for him.

"You could just take him to a shelter," Gueira offers, not unkindly. 

Somewhere by the lockers, Varys drops his coffee. 

It's the only sound anyone makes for a solid thirty seconds. 

"No, we can't," Galo says finally, decisively. "We don't know if he's trained. What if he bites?"

"It would be irresponsible," Lio says in his best I'm The Boss and Always Know What's Best voice. Galo nods at him, and at the dog who is cocking his head now at them all and their discussion he shouldn't be listening to at all with his pure-as-the-freshly-driven-snow ears.

Varys leans in from around the corner and adds, "What if he's bad on a leash?" 

Galo nods at Varys, who nods at Lio, who nods back and nods at Gueira as if to say, See? The logic. The maturity. We are all adults, here in this room, and though, yes, we ate the rest of Aina's three day old office birthday cake for breakfast, we are capable of good decisions. 

"You're going to—" Meis scratches the side of his head with one finger, "—train him, before you give him to the shelter? Is that how it works?"

Sure… Sure it does.

 


 

Training isn't so bad. Galo has been trained to do lots of things he didn't know how to do before, and it's not a stretch to think the dog will be motivated by the same things: the promise of fun, food, looking pretty cool, and saving as many people as possible. Dogs are man's best friend, after all.

At first, they try actually putting the leash to work, for starters. Galo figures it'll be a cinch if he keeps a few treats in his pocket, and it is, except that the dog keeps tripping over himself trying to turn around in front of Galo on their walks to get his attention. The third time, Lio takes pity on him and picks him up. They get a few extra waves with the dog around. They get a few more when they realize the sun might hurt the dog's eyes and borrow without permission the Captain's extra pair of sunglasses and let the dog wear them. 

Lio snaps a quick picture of the three of them out together and posts it. It doesn't get them any closer to finding the dog's owner, but at least now an even number of people in the comments are hitting on Lio, too. 

 After leash training, they move on to what's really important. Sit the dog knows by heart, and though half the time it ends up sitting its front half instead of the back, the spirit of the command is there. Galo crosses it off the list. Lie down also comes preloaded, but that one is a surprise, too, because the dog has perfected the art of the shuffle and can scoot along on his belly like a sort of fur-covered hoverboard. 

Come they don't bother with since the dog, left to his own devices, likes to follow Lio around and take cheap shots at his shoelaces—though they end up playing themselves with that one when he goes missing one afternoon between shifts. They find him an hour later, cornering Vinny in one of the lockers.

The dog's not trying to eat him so much as do what he does to everything that moves: lick him. A lot. They rescue the rat, dry him off, and give him some crackers as a bribe. Lucia can never find out. 

With the basics out of the way, Sunday morning finds them on their knees in the break room, treats in hand, murmuring encouragement as the dog tries and fails to understand their commands. It really does seem like he’s trying, though.

“If we teach him to stand on his hind legs, Lucia can make him his own Matoi Tech.” Galo has made this point at least twice, but both times it’s gotten nothing from Lio but an incredulous look. “Up!” Galo tries, again. The dog rolls over on his side. 

Lio snorts. “He doesn’t have the upper arm strength for a Matoi. We need to teach him how to roll over. You know. Stop, drop, and roll?” He has a point, but the fact that he’s totally unmoved by the image of the dog in his very own robot is unbelievable. 

“Roll over,” Lio murmurs softly, and then, as if to demonstrate, lists to one side. The dog lists in unison, and they both go down on their sides. Galo’s heart goes soft in his chest, and he can’t stop himself from reaching out and setting a hand on the dog’s soft side and Lio’s soft cheek as they both blink up at him in confusion.

“Hey guys, what part of training is this?” 

All three of them turn a glare on Remi, who sticks up both hands. 

“Just asking.” 

 


 

That night, in the quiet of their bedroom, with nothing but the sounds of the city outside their window and the soft play of streetlights across the ceiling, Galo nudges the body beside him. “You awake?”

Lio sniffs and pushes his face into the pillow and mumbles something unintelligible that has a good fifty-fifty chance of meaning he’s actually awake and not talking in his sleep.

“I was thinking.”

“Hnmg?”

Galo nudges him harder. “Yes, I know how to think. Geesh.” 

With a sigh, Lio rises on his elbow and looks down at Galo, his eyes no more than a gleam in the dark, his pale hair a curtain that frames his face. Galo reaches up to tuck a lock of it behind Lio’s ear. “I was thinking… Maybe we should ask the Captain if we can keep him.” 

The dog in question is curled in a ball between them, down by their legs, where they’ve gotten used to making room for him. Lio doesn’t reply, and his expressions is unreadable in the dark—until he exhales, softly, and bends down. The kiss is chaste by their usual standards, but no less welcome for.

“I already asked,” Lio whispers when he pulls away, the edge of a laugh coloring the words. “Like, a week ago.”

“Oh. What did he say?”

“Mmm, he’s going to get half your pay, but as long as you don’t mind…”

Galo pushes at him. “He didn’t really say that.”

“No. Oh my god. Yeah, we can keep him. You just have to come up with a name.”

Luckily, that’s the one thing Galo’s best at.

 


 

Unfortunately, everyone has an opinion. 

"Abraxas.” That’s all the Captain says, and maybe his word should carry more weight than the rest but—no.

"That's—no. That's not a dog name. That's not even a name-name. Is that even a word?" Remi is right. Galo has never agreed with him more.

"This says: a dog's name should be two to three syllables. He should be able to recognize the sounds and they should reflect his… personality. What does that mean?" Aina frowns at her phone. “Maybe we can name him after Burning Rescue?”

“Too many syllables.” Even Galo knows that much.

The dog stares at them all, from his spot on the center of the table, angelic and watchful. His little sweater has a 3 stitched on the back. 

It’s Lucia who finally comes up with something logical. “He’s not our mascot. We have a mascot.” She motions to Vinny, who maybe nods sadly, maybe is trying to lick bits of cheese flavored cracker off his chest. Who knows. “And I’m not feeding it. He’s your son. You name him.” She points to Galo and Lio both with one hand. 

Your son. 

“Tanpopo,” Galo says decisively. It rolls off the tongue. It’s three syllables. Lio frowns at him, so Galo mimes holding a ball with hands. “You know. Tanpopo? Like, the flower?” 

Evidently not, but part of marriage is acceptance, and Lio knows that better than anyone. He nods, and then smiles softly. “Sure.” It’s his smile that means he has no idea what Galo is talking about, is charmed anyway, and will absolutely kiss Galo for it as soon as they get a moment alone. 

“Wow,” Aina says. "I can't believe you guys are parents at this age."

Galo flashes her a smile and a wink. "Young love," he says, like, you know. Young love. Who can say what will come of it? Who knows, on the winding road of life? Maybe you wake up one day and by the end of it your husband has kind-of-birthed but not really a fully-grown dog from his shirt, a dog who is your son. Maybe a family can be one ex-terrorist, the best firefighter that ever lived, and their son, who is a dog. Who knew? Not Galo, that's for sure.

"Hey… I've been meaning to ask for a while, but you guys know that dog is a girl, right?"

Galo shrugs, wraps his arm around Lio's shoulder, and rolls the other in a shrug. "Yeah," he lies. "Of course. Right? We’re not stupid.”

"Right," Lio lies. “Of course. He can still be our—son. It doesn’t matter. Right, Tanpopo?”

“Yeah,” Galo answers for him.

Yeah.