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Ad Memoriam

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Lio wakes up again.

The oxygen refuses to enter his lungs; he fights for every drop of it, every beat of his heart. The past claws at his skin, and he can still feel the frostbite tearing into him as if he was just hit with a bullet, as if he was trapped in the ice once again. 

He sobs soundlessly as he remembers them all. One would think that with all the Burnish Lio has under his command it would be hard to keep count, let alone memorize their faces and names, but he does. He remembers the middle-aged man with ice sticking to his fingertips even as he faded to grey, he remembers the girl with the long hair that didn’t have the chance to utter a word when she was hit by the bullet that pierced her skin and extinguished her fire. He remembers the ones that screamed and the ones that were quiet, and he remembers the ones that chose to leave on their own rather than wait for a day when they, too, would be the ones to freeze.

He remembers the first time he saw scars on the Burnish’s stomach, left by researcher's scalpel. He remembers Promare whispering to him when he thought all was lost, their voices pulling him back, feeding the fire, talking him out of estinguishin himself on his own terms. He remembers the need to run, because he’s in the dark, and it’s quiet, but it’s always quiet before they attack, and they can’t be caught off-guard, not again-

A light blinds him momentarily. The nightstand lamp.

“Bad dream?” Galo says, and Lio wants to laugh. But there’s no irony in Galo’s voice, only concern, and Lio lets go.

“Yeah.” He doesn’t oppose as Galo’s arms encircle him, pulling him closer.

“It’s going to be alright,” he says, and Lio believes him. “It will get better. You are safe now.”

Lio hugs back.