As expected, much has changed since the Promare left Earth. One month on, the clean-up process has been slow and messy and political and politically messy. Promepolis’ government leaders and other officials are being shuffled around; aside from the obviousness of Kray, whoever else knew about his migration plan had been very unpopular, some were arrested, and all were ousted from their posts. The Foresight Foundation’s name had been dragged through mud. All of Kray’s scientists had been arrested. Freeze Force had been disbanded, and Vulcan and his lieutenants had been arrested, too.
Burning Rescue is still fighting fires, occasionally being dispatched to aid the city’s regular firefighting squads against the bigger incidents, but given that they were formed to stop Burnish flames specifically in the first place, regular fires are child’s play. Their fastest rescue had been to a large apartment fire started by an electrical mishap, and swiftly put out in a record fifteen seconds from the moment they had arrived on scene.
There have been talks of disbanding Burning Rescue, too, and focussing more efforts and resources on the city’s other emergency services. Burning Rescue have also been kept busy in government politics; Ignis and Remi have been giving report after report, and attending meeting after meeting (Remi looks like a much older man each time, complaining about the incompetence of such-and-so bureau), with some of the others occasionally accompanying them. Aina, on the other hand, would frequently disappear off to support Heris whenever she had to attend court hearings.
Surprisingly, Galo has mostly been kept out of all the government nonsense, instead throwing himself into fire rescue work as often as he can, whether or not he’s been rostered on for shifts. Part of that is at Ignis’ insistence that he not be bothered or distracted by the politics, and part of it is because of Galo’s heroism and his reputation as a well-loved and well-trusted Burning Rescue member. The Mad Burnish also haven’t been in government courts as much as the others have thought.
“They’re embarrassed,” Lio had answered simply when Varys ponders this aloud. He sips from a mug of hot peppermint tea Remi had made for him. “They’re pissed at us for the fires and the damage we’ve caused, but they can’t deny that Kray has done a lot worse. Lives lost from Burnish fire was mostly because of people who lost control when their Burnish powers first appeared, not from what we Mad Burnish have done. So, they don’t really know what to do with us until they can get the whole Kray thing sorted out.”
Galo, who had been lying on the couch, stands up suddenly, and with a scratch of his neck, leaves the room. They watch him leave.
“He’s been quiet,” Aina observes. “It’s unnerving.”
“Well, I mean… given everything that happened with Kray,” says Varys. “He was his hero.”
Lucia swivels around in her chair nonchalantly. “And you all call me the mad scientist.”
There’s a beeping noise that comes from Aina’s pocket, and she jumps about a mile as though zapped by electricity. “I gotta go!” she yelps. “Heris has another hearing soon!” And she dashes out the door. As it swings slowly closed, they hear a thump and a “Sorry, Galo!” and then more sprinting footsteps.
“Feels like we haven’t seen the squad together in one place in a while,” says Varys with a sigh. “We should try to get lunch or dinner with everyone soon. Make sure we’re all okay.”
“Hey, Varys, wanna help me test this—”
“Aaand that’s our cue. C’mon Lio, I’ll give you a ride to where Gueira and Meis are.”
Lucia spins in her chair again, sulkily now. “Varys, you’re silencing my voice of science!”
Lio sets his mug of tea down on the table and quickly follows Varys out before Lucia gets any more ambitious.
Everyone is busy. Burning Rescue in general have been good to Lio and the other Burnish—when they aren’t attending to emergencies or meetings or other politics, they’ll joined Lio in helping to sort out housing solutions, meals, and basic needs for those who have been displaced. Motels, hostels, and the cheaper hotels had all been used as temporary housing with government subsidies (“Not like the tourism industry’s gonna be popular any time soon,” Lucia had muttered to no one in particular), but it continues to be a long and arduous process. By the time things settle down for the day and they return to the station after a late dinner, it’s usually closer to midnight. They would stay up a little longer, going over the day’s events, and discussing their plans for tomorrow. Then, they’d all go to sleep, dawn would break, and they would go through the whole process again.
It turns out that all members of Burning Rescue lived at the FDPP. It makes sense—they couldn’t really know when Burnish fires would happen, or when Mad Burnish would suddenly attack, and given how destructive the fires could be, they had to always be ready.
So it feels kind of ironic, residing here. There’s a spare room at the FDPP that Lio has been sharing with Gueira and Meis. Ignis had offered them all separate rooms to sleep, but Gueira had muttered something about ‘separation anxiety’, Meis had nodded in agreement, and Lio felt more comfortable staying close to them, too, so… that was that.
But, it has been hard to sleep.
Well, it’s always been hard to sleep, if Lio is being honest—being a wanted criminal on the run will do that—but in this new era of apparent peace, his restful nights are still few and far in between. When they do sleep, nightmares are a frequent occurrence for all three of them. There have been times when Gueira or Meis have woken up, hyperventilating loudly enough to wake Lio.
“Sorry, boss,” Meis mumbles one particularly bad night. Lio sits beside him on his bed, rubbing his shoulder soothingly.
“Don’t apologise,” he whispers. “It’s not your fault.”
It is at night, when the world is quiet, that Lio’s thoughts are loudest and keep him awake, even without Gueira and Meis waking up.
By some miracle, no Burnish had died as a result of being used in the Parnassus Project. Any injuries sustained as a result of the Project had been healed by the Promare, much in the same way that Galo had saved Lio. Even those disfigured and harmed as a result of Kray’s other human experiments had been healed. On the other hand, the city’s hospitals had been filled to the brim from people injured by Lio’s rampage or from being too close to the spaceship, so on Lio’s side, there was guilt, but the guilt tends to be overshadowed by the anger he feels knowing that there are still hate crime attacks against the Burnish. He hadn’t been so naïve as to think that they could immediately live peacefully after the Promare had left the Earth, but the reality is still a hard thing to stomach. Thirty years of fear-mongering and oppression had left a blight upon human history, and it would be a long time before the world could even begin to heal from it. The reveal of Kray secretly being one too had left the city in confusion, betrayal, disgust, pity, and everything in between. Neither the Burnish nor the non-Burnish would ever claim him as their own.
Both in sleep and in waking life, sometimes Lio hears screams, clear as if he was in the Parnassus’ engine core again. Sometimes, he remembers the Burnish he had watched turn to ash. Sometimes, he remembers the searing pain of having his Burnish flames ripped from his body. He remembers nearly dying.
Lio wakes up suddenly to a throbbing in his right cheekbone, and he realises it’s because he’d punched himself awake. Keeping his grumbling low, he rubs it gingerly.
Tonight, he had dreamt about watching a falling star that he was desperate to catch, but no matter how hard he tried to run, he never got close enough. He looked down to see ice freezing his legs in place. The star was still falling, and he was struggling, and yelling, and yelling—
“Galo,” Lio mumbles. It might have been Galo. Sometimes he thinks about nearly losing him, helplessly watching him fall from a height like Krazor X.
He looks over at the beds to his left and his right. Today had been a tiring day of helping various Burnish across town, and tonight, Gueira and Meis are sleeping more soundly than they have the whole week, but who knew how long that would last?
Lio pulls on a hoodie and leaves the room as quietly as he can. Ignis and Remi had told them to help themselves to whatever was in the FDPP’s kitchen, and Aina had taught him how to make a mean hot chocolate, so maybe…
The door to the medical bay is open, the light is on, and he can hear the crinkling of plastic and small things being moved around. He pokes his head inside.
Galo starts and looks up from the table he’s using. “Lio, hey! Couldn’t sleep?”
“Mm. Why are you up?”
“Oh…” Galo gestures to the mess around him: duffel bags, small machines, bandaids and bandages, small bottles, scissors and tweezers, paper boxes of varying sizes… “I’m just restocking the medical kits on all the motorbikes. Some of the medicines are nearing their expiry dates, some kits are low on bandages, and all the electrical stuff needs to be tested regularly… that kind of thing.”
It might be odd, for someone as boisterous as Galo could be, but Lio remembers him saying that he has emergency medical training. There was a certain finesse needed for that, and Galo takes his job seriously as a rescuer, so… it makes sense, honestly.
There’s a painful twinge in Lio’s chest. If he had let Galo use his medical training, would Thyma still be alive? His Burnish flames hadn’t been enough, and he hadn’t trusted Galo at the time—had no reason to—but if it were now, but would Galo’s help have saved her? Would Thyma’s screams simply have been added to the screams of the Burnish on the Parnassus Project? Could she have survived? Something stings at his throat, and he swallows uncomfortably, folding his arms tightly over his chest and close to himself.
“Lio?” Galo tilts his head to the side at his silence.
Today. The FDPP. Medical bay. Galo. Forward—the future.
Lio takes a deep breath. “It’s nearly half-past three in the morning.”
Galo gives a vague wave of his hand. “I’m almost done with most of the kits.”
Aina was right: he’s quiet. It’s unnerving.
“I’ll keep you company, then,” says Lio. He doesn’t want to be alone right now. “I was about to make some hot chocolate. Do you want some?”
Galo doesn’t answer, observing him for a little longer, and Lio frowns at him, feeling self-conscious.
“Do you want to go on a bike ride?”
Lio blinks in surprise. “Wh—now?”
“Did you hear the bit where I said it’s nearly half-past three in the morning?”
Here was someone Lio had put his faith in. He wonders when it started: when they teamed up in Deus X Machina? When Galo calmed him down during his rampage through the city? In the cave, as Thyma lay dying, and Galo had apologised for his insensitivity? Or even before that, during the first time they met, fighting by the burning building?
“Okay,” says Lio.
A few minutes later, they’ve changed into warmer and more practical clothes, Galo is on his usual motorbike, and Lio is revving up a spare one from the FDPP’s garage. He doesn’t ask where they’re going—he just follows.
The roads are almost empty, aside from the occasional car on a late-night drive, or the occasional truck doing its deliveries. Galo rides up ahead with a grace and ease so different to when he pilots larger mecha, and Lio follows as close as he can without crashing into him. Maybe they should’ve just taken one bike. Maybe they should’ve stayed at the FDPP.
They pass mounds of destruction around the city as a result of the Parnassus Project crashing and as a result of Lio’s rampage, and Lio tries not to look too hard. Guilt. Anger. Thoughts too loud to be drowned out by the air rushing around them. Eventually, they reach the city’s outskirts, riding through more greenery, more fields, cliff faces, boulders, wider roads and less streetlights, their way lit only by the lights from their motorbikes, and bright moonlight.
About half an hour later, it’s a valley that they arrive at: wide and sweeping, no river, just lots of grass and closed flowers, probably very beautiful and green and lush, but Lio can’t tell at this hour of night.
“Do you come here often?” he asks when they dismount and pull off their helmets. There’s a slight breeze, and the air is sweet and crisp.
“Nope. I found it randomly one day,” says Galo, setting his helmet onto his motorbike’s seat.
“Remember when we found Professor Deus’ secret lab? How there was that ice lake?”
“I was too busy preoccupied by the fact that we’d just been dropped from a plane and we were falling, so… no, I don’t remember.”
“Anyway, there used to be an ice lake that I would go to whenever I needed to cool my head. It was a good pun, too. But I think when Lio de Galon launched—”
“Deus X Machina.”
“—when Lio de Galon launched, it was destroyed.” Galo gives him a side-glance. “That, and I figured you wouldn’t want to be near ice.”
Lio stiffens. “How do you figure?”
Galo pulls out a small cube device from his pocket that Lio recognises as a solar-powered floating light source Lucia had invented. He taps a few buttons and then tosses it into the air, and it hovers a short distance above them, giving them light. He begins walking through the valley, the light follows him, and so does Lio. It’s an aimless sort of wander, and he has a feeling they’ll be here a while.
“The other day, when Binny knocked over Remi’s drink near you, and all those ice cubes spilled out, I saw you flinch,” says Galo. “So… no ice lake. You guys already had to deal with ice enough times.”
“That’s…” Lio falls back a few steps, his chest feeling a little tight, and his shoulders tense. He stares at Galo’s back for a moment, before he crams his hands into his pockets, and mutters, “Thank you.”
Galo doesn’t answer, and they continue walking. It’s cool tonight, borderline cold. It doesn’t seem like it bothers Galo much bit, but Lio wishes he’d worn another layer. It’s quiet, too, in a way that has nothing to do with the stillness of their surroundings. It’s quiet in a way that doesn’t work for someone like Galo.
“Hey, what’s bothering you?” he finally asks. “You’re not yourself.”
Not that Lio really knows what ‘yourself’ is; they’ve only known each other a short time, after all. But he feels like there are some things you can’t do together (beat each other up beside a violently burning building, uncover the massive underground laboratory of a dead scientist, pilot a giant robot, save the world) without forming some sort of weird connection to each other that others who have known them for much longer would not understand.
He finds his suspicions are correct when Galo stares at him in a startled silence for two seconds too long, before giving a little laugh that sounded fake, turning away, and saying, “What are you talking about?”
At that moment, Galo sounds small, alone, and lost, and something crumples in Lio’s chest—crumples, tightens, dies, flickers, and claws at his throat. Something is throwing Galo off, and right now, the world is all wrong, the world is terrible and horrible and awful and wrong, and Lio would set it on ablaze all over again if it meant that whatever was weighing Galo down would stop, if it meant that Galo just could be Galo.
“Galo,” he says. “What’s wrong?” Where have you gone, why are you so far away, what would it take to bring you back?
“Nothing’s wrong,” says Galo, not stopping.
“Everyone knows you’ve been quieter than usual.”
“Would they prefer I be louder?”
“I think so.”
Galo has stepped up a pace, and a gap is growing between them both, and for a moment, for the briefest of moments, Lio thinks about a falling star that he can’t catch. And maybe the world deserved to burn, maybe it didn’t deserve to be saved, maybe then he wouldn’t have to hear the screams of his fellow Burnish almost every night, maybe Gueira and Meis wouldn’t jolt so violently awake from nightmares, maybe whatever was hurting Galo would burn too, maybe—
He stops walking, heart pounding and breath short in a way that had nothing to do with trying to keep with Galo’s pace, shivering and cold in a way that had nothing to do with the temperature.
“Galo,” he gasps.
Maybe there’s something in his voice that makes him stop. Galo turns around, and Lio’s legs give out, and he sits—almost collapses—on the ground. He’d really like to keep walking to stay warm, but his legs aren’t having any of it.
“Lio?” says Galo, hurrying back and crouching beside him. “What’s wrong? Are you—”
He falls silent when Lio leans to rest his forehead against his shoulder, trying to calm his breath.
“Don’t go so far,” Lio mumbles. “I’m not gonna lose you again.” He had lost enough. The world wasn’t going to take Galo away, too.
Galo runs his hand up and down Lio’s back in a long oval shape, a slow, steady rhythm, and Lio realises he can match his breathing to it. Up, inhale: two, three, four; down, exhale: two, three, four; up, inhale, two, three, four—
And maybe Galo knows he’s got nowhere to run and hide, that no valley or ice lake or mountain or wherever would ever be big enough or far enough. When Lio raises his head again and looks directly at him, Galo stares back, and his shoulders slump before he makes an irritated growling noise and his hands mess up his already-messy hair, and then he gives a shout of frustration, and rocks back to sit down properly.
Now, they’re getting somewhere. Lio’s breathing is calmer.
“It’s Kray, isn’t it?” he says, and Galo nods. Even with just the light they have, Lio can see that the look on his face is more determined but not so tightly wound, like he’s beyond trying to keep his emotions in check a minute longer, like he’s accepted Lio’s quiet invitation to throw aside whatever’s weighing him down.
“My whole life,” says Galo. “Everything I ever stood for, everything I’ve done, was because I believed in Gov—in Kray. He was my hero, but then he just… he took everything that was good, and threw it all away! He lied to me. It turns out that he didn’t even save me when I was a kid. And I can’t stop thinking: what the hell was I really fighting for?”
“That’s not like you,” says Lio.
Galo scowls. “Yeah, and I hate it. Ever since we saved the world, I’ve been trying not to think about it, but it keeps coming back. My brain is meant for firefighting, not this. But then because of everything Kray did, I think: is it really meant for firefighting?”
“And then, I—” Galo stares at him. “What?”
Lio shrugs. “I think that, with or without Kray, you would still be saving people.”
“I’m…” Galo scratches his neck uncertainly. “I want to believe that too, but… why do you?”
Because Thyma might still be alive, because things might have been so much worse if Galo hadn’t stopped Lio’s rampage through the city, because Galo’s will helped save the world, because Lio remembers nearly dying—
“Because that’s who you are, Galo Thymos,” he says. “Because you save people. It’s just… you.” When Galo doesn’t reply, he continues: “If Kray was that important to your choices, then maybe you could’ve worked elsewhere but still maintained your connection to him. Maybe you could’ve studied to be one of his scientists—”
“A scientist?” says Galo disbelievingly. “Me?”
“—or you could’ve trained to get a position as a government official, or something. Hell, you could’ve joined the Freeze Force. But you chose Burning Rescue.”
“He set that up, though…” says Galo slowly. He’s less certain of his own uncertainty. He’s finding strength in Lio’s words.
“I think that even without him, you would’ve joined Burning Rescue anyway, or at least one of the regular firefighting squads. You were the one who trained for that. You told me yourself, you even have emergency medical training. You put all those hours of learning how to put out fires and how to save people from them. That’s all you, not Kray.”
Galo doesn’t answer, but his thoughts are loud enough to be words.
“If,” says Lio, “I told you that tomorrow, you had to quit firefighting, would you?”
“Of course not!” says Galo immediately. And his own words dawn on him. Lio fights back a smile.
“Kray might’ve been your past, but you are your own present and your future. What you do from here on, has nothing to do with him.”
He notices that the sky looks a little lighter. It’ll be dawn, soon.
“I’m here,” says Lio quietly, “because of you. Everything that happened was because of you.”
Because Galo was the first person in a long time who had lowered his head and apologised to him, and allowed himself to be humbled when it mattered. Because he loved the world more than it deserved. Because here was someone Lio had put his faith in, and he had never seen a fire burn brighter and warmer.
And Galo tilts his head back and exhales, long and deep, breathing the tension from his broad shoulders.
“Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, you’re right. I’m gonna continue firefighting. I’m gonna be a real hero, someone people can actually look up to, and I’ll keep saving everyone.”
Lio smiles. “Number one firefighting idiot.”
“Number one firefighting idiot!” Now, Galo flashes him a grin. “That’s what I do best! It’s the only thing I know how to do.”
There’s the Galo they all know. Maybe he’s not immediately completely free of his doubt and uncertainty, but given a bit of time, Lio thinks he’ll be fine. He can actually feel the tightness in his own chest ease a bit.
Galo hops to his feet with a “hup!” and offers Lio his hand. Lio takes it, and lets Galo pull him up. He isn’t shivering anymore, and his legs feel steadier. They resume walking, and he and Galo fall into a comfortable silence for a while, side-by-side, occasionally bumping lightly against each other. Galo has a slight spring in his step, and the world is… better.
“Hey,” says Galo. “Thanks.”
“I’ve been wanting to talk to someone, but everyone’s been so busy, I didn’t want to bother them. I’ve already caused them a lot of trouble.”
“Considerate of you.”
Galo puffs out his chest proudly. “My squad’s the best! I’m just the rookie they look after, but I can’t be more troublesome than that!”
“I think you being so quiet bothers them more.”
“Yeah, maybe… anyway—thanks.”
Lio shakes his head. “Things are tiring enough. You were so tense, and I needed a bit of normality back in my life.”
Galo throws him a sly sort of grin this time. “I’m normality in your life?”
“Ha… you could say that.”
He can feel Galo staring at him a little longer, before he asks: “It’s… been hard with the Burnish, right? There’s still so many people who need help, but the non-Burnish people are still…”
Lio’s lips purse. “Progress is slow. People are scared of what they don’t understand, and they don’t understand the Burnish, with or without our flames. They’re too caught up in their bigotry, and it hurts people way more than it protects them.”
Galo makes a frustrated noise. “I’ve been so caught up with my own feelings… but I’m fine now! I’ll do more to help you guys, too. The public likes me, and Ignis and Remi always used to tell me that I should use my name to do good, so—”
“It’s not your fight,” says Lio before he can stop himself, and he stiffens as soon as the words leave his mouth, and Galo stops walking. “I mean… it’s…”
It’s hard to look at Galo, harder still to untangle the mess of thoughts in his head, all pulsing at different levels of intensity. The world keeps turning, and it’s slow, but somehow just so fast at the same time, and there’s so much happening and he’s barely had time to really sit down and process everything, his moments of quiet are not quiet at all—
Lio turns to look at him. “I didn’t mean th—”
“It’s my fight, too!” says Galo, voice clear. “If people need help, then it’s my fight, too. And if you need my help, it’s definitely my fight!”
Idiot. Idiot, idiot, idiot. Lio would set the world on fire for him alone, but Galo would always, always be too kind to let the world burn.
What would things have been like if they had met much sooner?
What would the world look like today?
“Lio,” says Galo, voice clear, voice always so clear, and Lio exhales.
“It’s cold. Let’s keep walking,” he says. It’s not a rejection, and Galo seems to know this too, judging by the way he hurries over to fall into step beside him again.
They walk. Lio slowly untangles his thoughts.
“It’s,” he begins, hesitates, falls into silence for a few more steps. “It’s been hard to sleep. I’ve been having a lot of nightmares… Gueira and Meis, too.”
Galo scratches his neck absently. “Given everything you went through, I’d be surprised if you didn’t have PTSD or something.”
“Was that part of your medical training?”
“Yeah, we did a unit on trauma. There’s still a lot I need to learn, though…” Galo looks at him. “What do you have nightmares about?”
With a deep, slow breath, Lio tells him: about the Burnish he couldn’t save, the screams he can still hear, the feeling of the Promare being ripped from him, of both of them nearly dying.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to separate dream and memory,” he says. “I’m not sure it really matters in the end, though. And you’re right: it’s been hard, there’s still so many Burnish who need help.” He runs his hands through his hair, tilts his head back so he faces the sky, takes another deep breath of the crisp air. He can almost smell the dawn, and it reminds him of trucks rushing to move small groups of Burnish to safe locations before first light.
“I used to be powerful,” says Lio. “I used to be able to do so much. I could use my Burnish fire to fight, and to save people. But without that, I’m…” He gives a humourless little laugh. “I can’t do anything, and I feel so… weak.”
Abruptly, Galo stops walking again. There’s an indignant look on his face and it feels as though he’s trying to keep himself from exploding. He gives a muffled sort of sound—a mash of a yell, a whine, and a screech—and then, he flops down to sit on the grass, and pats a space beside him.
Lio stares at him. “Galo,” he says, but Galo just shakes his head and pats the grass even more urgently.
“Sit with me.”
“It’s cold,” says Lio. And then, “Okay, okay” when Galo ups the intensity. Lio moves to sit next to him, lest the idiot dislocates his wrist in the process.
He’s not sure how close they should be, so he leaves a bit of space between them, but Galo shuffles closer to him anyway, until their knees are touching and they are sort of diagonal to each other. Then, in one flowing motion, he takes off his jacket and throws it over Lio’s shoulders.
“I can deal with the cold better,” says Galo, ignoring his protests and swiftly buttoning up the collar’s snap-buttons. Lio very briefly entertains the idea of biting his hands. “You’re not as used to it, though, so you should stay warm.”
The jacket is warm, and smells like Galo too, and maybe that shouldn’t be as comforting as it is, but Lio clutches it close somewhat involuntarily, even as he glowers at him and says, “I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not,” says Galo. “And it’s okay to not be fine sometimes, no matter how strong you are. That’s why I’m here! That’s why everyone else is here—Gueira and Meis and Aina and captain Ignis and everyone. With or without the Promare, you can’t do everything by yourself.” He taps a finger to Lio’s chest, over his heart. Lio finds he can’t look away. “We didn’t save the world alone, and we shouldn’t have to face the world alone, either. So, let me help. It’s not my fight—it’s our fight.”
A new world they would build together, they had promised each other. Since then, Lio had caught himself wondering if all that optimism may have simply been the adrenaline of saving the world at the time, before the reality of the situation began to chip away at him. But now, he wonders if maybe it’s just Galo, it’s just how he is, it’s the only way he’s ever known how to live: burning brighter and warmer than any flame Lio had ever seen.
Because here was someone Lio had put his faith in. Here was someone he wanted to build a new world with.
He inhales and exhales slowly, slowly, morning air filling all his senses. Then, he slides over so he’s sitting next to Galo, leans over, and rests his forehead against his shoulder.
They stay there for a while, still and silent. Lio thinks it’s not so cold.
“I really like your company,” says Galo. He’s quiet, but not in a way that’s unnerving anymore. Lio smiles a little, thinks for a moment how to reply to that, how to untangle some more thoughts he can’t quite decipher, but—
“Ohh, the sun is rising,” Galo breathes. And then, after a beat, he gasps and straightens up his back abruptly, shoulder accidentally knocking against Lio’s forehead. “Oh, shit, that means I need to get back to the station!”
And Lio begins to laugh. No matter how much the world will change, Galo would still be Galo.
“Let’s go, then,” he says, and gets to his feet as Galo springs up. Lio thinks about returning his jacket to him but… he’ll hold onto it until they get back to their motorbikes.
“Hey, you know how I mentioned PTSD?” says Galo as they walk. “Well, we should starting looking into getting professional help for you guys.”
“What, therapists?” Lio says, throwing him a disbelieving look. “For us?”
“Yeah.” And Galo says it with such conviction, that Lio falters a little. “I can ask around for some good names, maybe some who specialise in trauma. I mean, I know the troubles that the Burnish had specifically will be hard to address, but… let’s try.”
Therapy and the like hadn’t ever even crossed Lio’s mind. They had been so busy trying to keep up with the world, trying to move forward, to rebuild, to live, talking about healing as a group, that they had, perhaps, forgotten about their need to heal individually.
“And if there are no good names?” he asks.
“Then, I’ll keep looking,” says Galo firmly. “I won’t let anyone else hurt any of you.”
Maybe they could give it a try. Maybe the nightmares would stop. Maybe the nightmares just wouldn’t be so frequent, maybe he would stop flinching at the sight of ice, and maybe that would be okay too.
“You can’t protect all of us, Galo,” says Lio.
“Not by myself.” Galo tilts his head back and stretches his arms up, like he’s trying to grasp the smattering of clouds in the sky above, and for a brief moment, Lio thinks he really could. “I’m not doing it by myself.”
As if things would be any other way. As if he would ever rest until the world was kinder and better and safer than yesterday.
“Number one firefighting idiot,” says Lio with a smile.
And Galo grins, sun-bright. “Number one firefighting idiot! I’m an idiot, but I’m not stupid.” When Lio raises his eyebrows at him, he adds: “Not completely, anyway. Not more or less than you.”
“I’m just saying! I think we wouldn’t have been able to pilot Galo de Lion as well as we did if we weren’t on a similar wavelength.”
“Galo de Lion, huh?”
“That was your idea that time.”
“What can I say?” Lio’s smile widens. “It had a nice ring to it.”
It’s another comfortable silence that they fall into as they walk back. Their pace is neither slow nor fast, but Galo’s steps have an impatience to them. He wants to get back to the station as soon as they can, and start working to heal the world, to be on guard for the first sign of a fire needing to be put out, the first sign of trouble, the first sign of someone in need of help.
“Galo,” says Lio. “I really like your company, too.”
And he breaks into a run. He can hear Galo’s surprised “Hey!” just a step behind, before he’s by Lio’s side again, and they’re both running and laughing. No matter what, the sun will always keep rising, the world will always keep turning, but it’s their world, it’s the new world they’ve promised to build and heal together, and they have so much work to do.