Galo was the sort of person Lio’s mother would’ve called a big, boofy boy, while meaning it as a compliment. He was handsome and artless and relentlessly direct. He had tufted, fluffy ears and a silken tail that left fur everywhere. His purr was like a race car engine, constantly idling. He was ridiculous and Lio liked him.
“Hey what are you thinking about?”
Lio looked up from the report he hadn’t been reading. Galo stood over him, his smile as bright as it always was. One fang peaked over his lip.
“The new urban building plans,” Lio said.
Galo flopped down beside him, on the fire station’s ratty, old couch. He curled up into a little loaf with his head on Lio’s thigh. He didn’t ask for permission, never did, and likely never would. His ever-present purr started up and it rumbled through Lio’s entire body, overwhelming but… nice. Lio flicked an ear as he accustomed himself to the sensation.
His own, softer purr started up without thought. He grumbled a little when Galo cuddled closer, but he didn’t push him away. Since they’d met, Galo had passed through Lio’s bubble and made a home there, as though it had never been otherwise. It had been a surprise to find that he liked the change.
Safety had long been a foreign land to him. Lio could trust his people, but he couldn’t be with them. He had lived with the looming threat of Kray and his vicious machinations and the weight of his own responsibilities. While the Burnish had triumphed, the world hadn’t fully welcomed them in the wake of saving it. Lio retained his informal leadership in a divided political environment.
But in spite of that, Galo had delivered on every promise he’d made, at the end and the beginning of it all. No harsh word against a Burnish could be spoken without Galo coming out hissing. Just as he’d said, he took the haters head on, and they didn’t last long against him.
For the first time since childhood, Lio didn’t have to go on as if every waking moment were a battle to be lost.
Lio put the report down. He leaned down until his chin sat neatly over the curve of Galo’s cheek, then he closed his eyes. He wrapped his body around Galo’s and curled his tail over Galo’s thigh. Galo rubbed the soft base of his ear against Lio’s, before he settled again. Lio’s eyes blinked slowly as he fell into sleep.
Lucia took pictures. In her photos they were twisted together like pretzels, in a way that would have been deeply uncomfortable if they’d been anything but cats. Lucia had taken great care to stick copies on every flat surface she could find in the station.
Which included the front door.
“I’m sharing the love,” she said, as Galo pulled photos down from the entryway.
“That was private!” Galo hissed.
He’d puffed up like an angry kitten. His tail was bigger than his biceps.
“You were on the breakroom couch,” Lucia replied. “Besides, it was cute.”
“I’m a world-saving firefighter!” Galo whined. “I’m not cute!”
Aina walked in from the garage, a photo in her hand. Her pointed ears were drooped, and a wistful expression was on her face. She’d been quiet since the inquiry had been announced. The trials weren’t due for months, so her sister was stuck in holding with the rest of the war criminals. Lio had no sympathy for Heris, who had pulled the metaphorical trigger on so many, but he understood the pain of betrayal. People that you cared for could hurt you.
All the worse for Aina, given that her sister had chosen her life over the lives of countless men, women and children. She was the survivor of the world’s most vile trolley problem.
She looked up from the photo and found a smile for him. He returned it. He suspected that they were friends, which was new for him. He’d spent his adulthood as more of a boss than a companion to anyone he knew.
“You guys are sweet together,” she said, as she held up one of the photos. Her tail wagged gently.
“We’re not sweet!” Galo bellowed.
Galo lunged at her, but he was too incensed to be agile, and she simply stepped around him. Galo tripped over his own feet and through the door and found himself face to face with yet another wall of paper taped to the fire engine. This time, their photo had been blown up and cut down to individual pieces of paper. Galo and Lio’s faces were a metre tall each.
It sent a flash of warmth through Lio’s body, to see the two of them so peaceful and content, out there for the world to see. The end of his tail flicked back and forth happily, as Galo set about hastily dismantling the collage. Galo’s energetic yowling was its own reward.
Galo didn’t know what he was doing either, but that was fine. It hadn’t stopped the both of them from trying to figure it out.
Lio plucked a photo from the communal message board and tucked it into his pocket. Later, when he was alone, he would take it out and run his finger over the muddle of their bodies. He would sleep easy.
Rebuilding the city came with a priority list. Housing was surprisingly low. Kray’s ruined spaceship still contained a gated city block and basement full of dormitories. Some of the structures within the city had survived, so people had places to stay while the rest was worked out. Water had been reconnected with little issue. The reservoir was far enough outside the city bounds as to be untouched.
The bigger issues were food and medication. Distribution networks were down, and hungry bellies made for angry citizens. Mad Burnish had dedicated itself to the resupply effort, out of a sense of responsibility, altruism, and a sincere desire not to die violently.
“For someone who still gets called a terrorist regularly, you smile a lot,” Gueira said.
“Yeah, you never used to smile much at all,” Meis said. “What changed? Aside from the obvious…”
Lio dropped another sack of rice onto the back of a pickup truck. Galo ran up beside him, a sack over each arm, and rubbed their ears together before dropping his rice and running back to the supply depot again.
“Oh,” Gueira said. “I think I can see it now.”
They followed Galo at a much more sedate pace, happy to be lapped by him. Galo had more energy than ten people combined and if he didn’t wear himself out, he’d get twitchy and weird about it. Lio had once seen him spend half an hour chasing a laser pointer when they were stuck on call and the treadmill was broken.
“So, you going to do anything about that?” Meis asked.
“He needs time. Feelings make him nervous,” Lio said.
“For real?” Gueira said.
“You’ve read his bio,” Lio said.
Communications had been another quickly sorted priority, and once the safety announcements had aired, entertainment shortly followed. People needed something to distract them from the complete collapse of their government. Galo was a popular target for articles and think-pieces, and radio interviews. He’d smiled and gritted his teeth through a thousand questions about his tragic childhood and homicidal father figure. The world was now painfully aware of the dearth of cruelties Galo had lived through, most, but not all of them.
“I can’t remember what my parents looked like,” Galo had told him, two weeks ago, on the bank of Prometh’s empty reservoir. “All the photos burned up with everything else.”
“I don’t know if mine are even alive,” Lio had replied. “They disowned me after they saw my first flare.”
“Guess we’ve all seen some shit,” Meis said.
Gueira nodded. Lio didn’t argue, it was the truth, after all.
“What the hell!”
Varys had a hand held over his face, his long rabbit ears pinned back in horrified betrayal. Galo had his back arched, lips pursed as if he hadn’t just nipped Varys on the nose and batted him in the face immediately after. Galo had this blank look on his face like he couldn’t believe what he’d just done either.
With a slow, cautious hand, Galo reached over and pulled Varys’ pizza over to his own plate. The rest of the squad followed the path of his hand with wide eyes. Galo growled lowly as he downed the entire slice in one bite.
Vinny, who had been sitting on Lucia’s shoulder, squeaked in surprise, only to find himself on the receiving end of Galo’s very pointed attention. Galo opened his mouth. He chittered.
“Hey!” Lucia said.
She cupped her hands over her mouse, tense and incredulous. She looked about ready to smack him. Galo’s shoulders started to move, side to side, up and down and back again. His pupils went from a pencil-thin line to enormous, black disks.
Lio tackled him off his chair.
Galo yowled at him fangs bared. Lio smacked at him, soft pawed, and hissed loudly. Galo was bigger than he was, but he lacked Lio’s commitment to the brawl. When Galo grasped him by the waist, Lio twisted over him and sunk his teeth into the nape of his neck. Lio growled warningly as his claws lightly clasped against Galo’s bare back. Galo went limp. Lio didn’t let go until he heard Galo panting, the fight in him gone completely.
Lio sat up, Galo flat on the ground like a puddle. When he looked up towards the kitchen table, he was surprised to find that everyone had gone. The room was empty save the two of them.
He turned back to Galo, only to find the other man looking up at him with heavy-lidded eyes. His chest was still working, a heavy flush across his cheeks, down to his chest. There was a reverence to him.
It didn’t last. Galo blinked as if he were waking from a dream and just as quickly, he was on his feet and rushing out of the room, down the hall and out of the station entirely. Lio stood up, walked back to his seat at the table and took the last slice of pizza off the centre plate.
“Hey,” Galo said, the next day.
“Hey,” Lio replied.
“So that was weird,” Galo said.
“It was,” Lio said, carefully.
Galo bit his lower lip and tapped his loosely clenched fists against the side of his thighs. It was the first time Lio had ever seen him look embarrassed. Galo flicked his eyes up to Lio, so Lio blinked slowly in reply. Galo’s shoulders loosened, just a little.
“Do you remember when we met, and you burned down that pharmaceutical building?” Galo asked.
“I thought we agreed not to talk about that,” Lio replied, tersely.
“We did!” Galo put his hands together and tilted them forward. “But it’s relevant.”
“Turns out they made the entirety of this city’s birth control.”
Lio’s eyes widened.
“And I am now out of birth control.”
It was like Lio’s life was flashing before his eyes, only he hadn’t lived any of it yet.
“So, I’m gonna go into heat like, now. Nowish.”
“Alright,” Lio said.
“I was hoping you’d help me with, you know…”
Lio closed his eyes tight against the sight of Galo thrusting his index finger into the loop of his thumb and the fingers on his other hand.
“What is wrong with you?” Lio asked.
“I keep sprinting up and down the fire station because I get antsy when I’m horny and I can’t turn well at high speed, so I keep smacking into stuff. That’s one thing.”
Galo did have a jumpy cast to him that Lio had never seen before. His tail had a perpetual twitch and his ears flicked back and forth every moment or so.
“So, will you?” Galo asked, his voice tight.
Lio had wilfully repressed any amorous thoughts of Galo for the months they’d known each-other. It was too soon, too foolish. There was too much to do in the wake of Kray’s attempted global homicide. But the possibility had always been there. The idea that one day, there would be time, and they could try to make something of their potential.
Mercenary fucking could only be a step back.
“I don’t know if it’s a good idea,” he said.
Galo’s entire body drooped, from ears to tail. His pretty, blue eyes shone in the daylight.
“Oh,” Galo said.
“It’s not that I don’t—” Even the thought of upsetting him…
“No, I get it,” Galo replied, his voice jittery. “I made it weird again. Sorry, man.”
“I told you, it’s not that!” Lio grasped Galo’s wrist before he could turn away. “I like you.”
Galo’s eyes widened. His ears popped up again.
“And there’s risks, you could get pregnant—”
“Oh, you don’t have to worry about that!”
Lio’s face twisted into something incredulous.
“What?” he said.
Galo reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of condoms. They were a rainbow of colours and, seemingly, flavours.
“Yeah, condom factory didn’t burn down,” Galo said. “We’ve got tonnes.”
Lio put a hand over his face. He needed a moment.
“This one’s liquorice,” Galo said, unhelpfully.
“Alright,” Lio said. “Let’s get some protein bars from the kitchen, and then we can go to your apartment.”
Galo slumped his body over Lio’s, his arms wrapped around Lio’s body. A relieved grumble passed through Galo’s chest.
“Thanks,” he said.
Lio hadn’t asked if anyone else could help him. He hadn’t wanted to. It was a thought he interrogated as he walked with Galo down the road to his apartment. He didn’t think he was ready to sleep with Galo, but he realised that he wasn’t prepared at all to see Galo with someone else. The entitlement of that thought wasn’t ideal, but it was better to know that part of himself than it was to act it out thoughtlessly.
Galo strutted beside him with no evidence of any similar internal conflict. The man’s tail was pointed perfectly upright, like a little flag. Before he’d come to know him well enough, Lio would have interpreted that as satisfaction that Galo had gotten his own way. He now knew it to be a sign that Galo felt secure. Of course, Galo also felt secure when he was fighting fires or saving the world from inside a robot, so the mileage was variable there.
His energy seemed to dip after he opened his apartment door, and Lio took that as his cue to step in and make himself useful. Lio closed the door behind them, took the grocery bag from Galo’s hand, and put it on the ground. Then he stepped in close and rested his head in the curve between Galo’s shoulder and throat. He purred softly, until Galo’s deep rumble answered back.
“Thanks,” Galo said, after minutes had passed.
And then, “I’ve never done this before.”
Lio nodded into Galo’s chest. He’d suspected.
“That’s okay,” Lio said. “I have.”
There was a faint tremor in Galo’s arms, and it occurred to Lio that he’d never even considered telling Galo that he could help him, would help him, whether they had sex or not. That they didn’t have to jump into it as a matter of course. Lio had assumed that Galo had wanted him as a convenient and familiar avenue for a fuck, but that wasn’t the case at all. Galo, number one fire-fighting idiot, hadn’t known what else to ask for.
“Let’s watch a movie, okay?” Lio said.
“I only have Ladder 49 and Backdraft…” Galo replied, sheepishly.
Lio huffed out a short laugh, “of course.”
They curled up together on Galo’s floor, on top of the inflatable mattress he used instead of a sofa. Lio groomed the soft fur behind Galo’s ears and felt him relax by increments into Lio’s arms. When Galo began to fidget, an hour in, Lio tilted his head up, and kissed him, gentle and sweet.
It was for the best. Ladder 49 was a truly terrible film.
Galo was eminently kissable. He wasn’t passive, but every so often he would yield to the press of Lio’s tongue, the nip of his teeth. Lio had maybe wanted him that way, if he ever thought about it. Galo’s thighs fell open, and Lio took the opportunity slide between them. His movement made mattress dip so far that his knee hit the ground. He hissed lightly at the unexpected pain of it.
“Sorry,” Galo said, an apologetic smile on his face.
“Doesn’t matter,” Lio replied.
Galo was hard and squirming, a gentle blush on his cheeks. Lio dipped his hips, pressed them together and let Galo feel him.
“This okay?” Lio asked.
Galo nodded, his lips open on a quiet whimper. Lio had no choice but to kiss them.
He rolled his hips and both knees hit the floor, that time.
Lio groaned and pressed his forehead into Galo’s shoulder. Galo giggled a little. He wrapped his arms around Lio, his body warm and broad and welcoming. Galo’s claws kneaded lightly at his tshirt.
“Stop that,” Lio said, with a kiss to Galo’s throat.
“I have a bed, you know,” Galo whispered.
“Yeah that, that might be a good idea.”
They rolled up and off the floor. Galo took Lio’s hand and led him further into his apartment. His bedroom was small, but tidy, and it occurred to Lio that Galo must have cleaned it up before coming to him. The bed was made and there wasn’t a single shirt on the floor.
“So,” Galo said, as he ruffled a hand through his gravity-defying hair.
Lio had an intrusive thought about fluffy little kittens with green fur and purple eyes. He took a deep breath and waved it away.
“Let’s just lay down and see how we go,” Lio said.
Later, Galo came apart on Lio’s fingers, became slick and open and sensitive, as Lio stroked against that sweet little spot inside him. He wailed so loudly, when Lio put his mouth on him, that the neighbours banged on the wall to shut them up.
“Sorry!” Galo shouted, a laugh turning into another moan as Lio sucked him off.
Lio took his mouth away and swallowed Galo’s unhappy whimper with a kiss. He kissed him quiet, lips gentle, fingers persistent but not pushy. He didn’t want to overwhelm him. He wanted it to be good. He wanted Galo to come back to him again.
Still, he couldn’t kiss Galo, finger Galo and stroke Galo off at the same time. He pulled his lips away for a moment.
“Touch yourself,” Lio said. “It’s okay.”
Galo pressed his hand down and rocked himself against it. It pushed him on and off of Lio’s fingers, like he was fucking himself on them. Lio gasped at the feel of it. He was rock hard in his pants and he wanted inside. He wanted to replace his fingers with his cock, cum inside where Galo was wet and clenching.
But you didn’t do that in the middle of sex, when it was all so new, and you hadn’t said a word about it. He’d never give Galo any cause to regret him or anything he did.
“Can you come for me?” Lio asked.
Galo’s back arched and he came white and sticky, up to his chin, like a good boy.
“Oh, wow,” Galo said afterwards, as they lay panting on their backs in the afterglow.
“Uh huh,” Lio replied.
He hadn’t come yet, but there’d been something immensely satisfying about bringing Galo off. He’d cleaned Galo up with a corner of the bedsheet and then slumped down to watch Galo’s chest work. The muscles that wrapped around his ribs kept tensing and loosening, falling in and out of sharp relief. He was so beautiful, like he’d been carved out of marble during the renaissance. He couldn’t help but kiss him again.
“What about you?” Galo asked, as they parted.
“I’ll keep,” Lio said.
It went like that, with hands and mouths, not chaste, but not burning either. It wasn’t how Lio feared, there was no awkward distance between desperate rounds of sex. He felt closer to Galo than he had before. Knew some softer part of him, that Galo had been willing to show.
“Why me?” Lio asked, when they were both tired and sated, ready for sleep.
“I trust you,” Galo said, like it was obvious.
It was like an arrow through Lio’s heart. A bruise he couldn’t help but press upon.
“Go out with me,” Lio said.
Three days later they were both exhausted but ready to be back at work. They walked the way to the station, hand in hand, purring at an embarrassingly loud volume, to the amusement of passersby. When they made it into the common room, Lio stood half a step back with bared teeth and flattened ears. The entire team snapped their mouths shut and kept their pre-prepared (and admittedly, well-spirited) amusement to themselves. Galo looked entirely relieved. Lio returned his expression to its usual coolness before Galo turned around.
“You were right about everybody being nice about it,” he said. “I’m sorry for doubting you!”
Lio gave them all a dry look when Galo bounded off to get his gear on.
“Sorry,” Remi said, while everyone else nodded bashfully.
Lucia looked the most disappointed out of all of them.
“What am I going to do about the cake?” she asked.
She pointed to the ping pong table. Upon it sat a white cake with bright blue frosting that said, ‘congrats on the sex’.
Lio sighed deeply.
“He’ll probably like that,” he said.