“Lio?” Galo rumbled.
“Yeah?” Lio mumbled sleepily.
“What do you want to do today?”
Lio sighed and leaned into Galo’s arms, letting his eyes flutter closed. “Absolutely nothing, for once.”
Today, Galo decided as he grunted a noise of agreement, would be a great day.
As his boyfriend was a totally hard-working paramedic and he himself was a totally awesome firefighter, for the past year they’d rarely had time to spend with each other outside of sleeping in the same bed at night. It had taken several months of taking on extra shifts to finally earn this shared vacation day.
As much as Galo wanted to take Lio out on a date at his favorite frozen lake and try digging through the ice together for hours on end, he could admit that there was nothing quite as romantic as eating from a shared bowl of Cheetos and cuddling on a dingy couch they’d fished out of the dumpster together during their college days and never really had a good reason to replace.
Doing nothing for a whole day sounded pretty sweet to him.
And they would’ve done exactly that -- that is, if Lio’s phone hadn’t suddenly started blaring hard rock music somewhere between Galo’s ass, the couch cushions, and the heaps of throw blankets piled in between the two.
Galo groaned incoherently and threw his arm over his eyes, wondering if he could just throw Lio’s phone across the room so that they could continue their cuddle session without interruption, but then Lio squirmed out of his arms to blindly grope for his phone.
When Lio’s ringtone continued playing for a few long moments, Galo opened his eyes and frowned at the fact that Lio had scooted further down the couch to squint at his phone screen through his tangled muss of hair.
“Oh, it’s the landlord calling,” Galo heard Lio grumble. “Screw him.”
Lio’s hard rock ringtone cut off midway through a guitar riff, but he still didn’t return to Galo’s arms.
Miffed, Galo scooted closer and loosely wrapped his arms around Lio’s waist. He rested his chin on Lio’s shoulder and saw that Lio was apparently furrowing his eyebrows at the fact that Gueira and Meis were in his private Discord server’s voice channel in the middle of the work day.
“What are you two doing right now ?” Lio asked in an adorably groggy voice after tapping into the voice channel.
“What are we doing on our day off? Well, this morning we ordered the spiciest pizza Promepolis has to offer,” Meis said.
“And I almost died!” Gueira chimed in helpfully. “I bet you two would have almost died two times harder, though!”
“Is that a challenge, Gueira, Meis? Well, challenge accepted,” Lio said, suddenly wide awake with a smirk spread across his face. “Send a pizza over and we’ll tell you how it goes in a few hours.”
“Hey!” Galo shouted, pressing his thumb to his chest emphatically. “I can out-eat all of you at the same time when it comes to pizza! No amount of spice will top this fiery soul of mine!”
“Oh, so you’re at the idiot’s place, Lio,” Meis said. “Done. The pizza should be over in half an hour.”
“Have fun almost dying!” Gueira jeered.
With that, Meis and Gueira exited the voice channel. Lio turned his phone off and crawled over to the TV to hook up his gaming console, grumbling something about working on a high score.
Around twenty minutes later, the doorbell rang. Galo jerked upright at the noise before remembering his arm was wrapped around Lio’s shoulders, so he leaned down to press a light, apologetic kiss to Lio’s forehead. Lio averted his gaze with a slight blush, but he leaned into Galo’s embrace.
“I’ll go get the pizza, okay? You stay here,” Galo said.
“Alright, alright,” Lio said fondly, swatting at Galo’s thick arm when he didn’t pull away after a moment. “Hurry up with it.”
The pink-haired delivery girl pushed up her glasses as soon as she saw the door open.
“Galo Thymos, was it? Here’s the waiver you need to sign before I can give this pizza to you.”
The delivery girl pulled out what looked like the entirety of Promepolis’s tax code from her delivery bag and slammed it down on top of the greasy pizza box in her arms.
“Ugh, more paperwork?” Galo groaned, throwing his hands up in the air. “It’s my day off!”
The delivery girl gave him an awkward smile. “Sorry. My manager’s usually a nice man, but he’s quite serious when it comes to legal stuff like this. The last time a delivery person forgot to get the waiver signed, he started tossing random objects around the restaurant with his robot arm and ranting about volcanic eruptions and aliens and space travel. Oh, before I forget, here’s a pen.”
Galo snatched it out of her hand and signed the waiver in one smooth motion, ending his signature in a scribble vaguely resembling a flame.
He looked up at the delivery girl for approval of his totally cool performance and found her staring at him with a vaguely impressed expression.
“You’re an absolute idiot,” she muttered with a vaguely familiar-looking expression, tucking the stack of paperwork back into her delivery bag, and for a moment Galo wondered if she and his coworker Aina were related.
Then he brushed it off. He was pretty sure Aina said her big sister Heris was a professor at MIT or some other bigwig university. Anyway, why would Heris be delivering pizzas at noon on a Thursday to her sister’s coworker’s house in the suburbs?
“Here’s your pizza,” the delivery girl said, placing the box gingerly in Galo’s arms. “Thank you for ordering from Krazor-X Pizzas. Say hello to Aina for me, will you?”
“Sure! See ya!” Galo waved, not really comprehending what the delivery girl just said to him. Before the Krazor-X Pizzas delivery van pulled out of the driveway, he wheeled around and sprinted back into the house.
“Oi, Lio, the pizza’s here!” Galo called.
No response. Galo raised an eyebrow. He was pretty sure he’d shouted loud enough, right?
He stepped back into the living room to find that Lio was crouched in front of the television madly mashing the buttons on his controller as his game avatar cocked a flamethrower at an enemy NPC.
“Not now, babe,” Lio grumbled when Galo tapped him on the shoulder before grumbling curses into his headset’s mic. An explosion rocked the screen.
Galo dutifully seated himself on the couch behind Lio for all of two seconds before he started to restlessly fidget. He tapped his finger on his knee and wondered just what this spicy-ass pizza actually looked like. He pulled a pizza slice out of the box and gave it a once-over.
There were slices of green and red peppers caked onto the gooey cheese coating the pizza. The pizza sauce itself was a dark, foreboding black, almost like a yawning void, betraying nothing of its supposedly spicy contents. He sniffed at the slice and scrunched up his face when a cloud of garlic dust assaulted his nostrils.
For a moment, a voice in Galo’s head asked if he was really going to do this. Then, he willed the voice away. His entire job description was withstanding and extinguishing flames! He could totally handle this!
In a move Galo would regret for the rest of his life, he stuffed the entire slice of pizza into his mouth in one smooth motion.
Before he could even dig his teeth into the pizza’s crust, what felt like a million blazing suns exploded in his mouth with a blast of pure heat.
“Mmmphhhh!!! Mmm mmm mmmm!!!” he cried, his tongue going numb.
Galo spat out the half-chewed pizza slice, but it was already too late. He clutched at his throat as he slumped back against the couch, thrashing and gurgling as he tried to fight against the intense flames burning his insides -- to no avail. All he could do was feebly reach out to Lio’s back.
If this is where I fall, Lio, he thought. You’re entitled to all the Volcano Pizza coupons I’ve saved up for the past 2 years. Also, my entire collection of Lego fire trucks.
He closed his eyes.
For the entirety of his life, Lio possessed an almost supernatural gut instinct that led him towards danger -- hence his day job as a paramedic and his side hobbies of playing action games and riding dirt bikes. So when the hair on the back of his neck stood up, he immediately knew something was very, very wrong.
“Galo?!” Lio cried, flinging his headset and controller across the room and running to Galo’s side.
To his horror, he found Galo splayed on the couch with a ring of dark spicy sauce around his mouth.
“Galo!” Lio cried, shaking his shoulder.
“Unnnhgh,” Galo groaned.
Lio glanced sideways at the opened pizza box and, in a flash, knew exactly what to do.
Lio made a mad dash for the kitchen, bounding up the stairs and skidding in his socks across the wood floor towards the fridge. He pulled two milk jugs, a half-empty bottle of Tums, and an unopened box of napkins into his arms and then ran back to Galo.
When he got there, he uncapped the Tums bottle and pressed a Tum between Galo’s lips. Thankfully, Galo was still lucid enough to chew it and swallow, which meant that Galo was also lucid enough to drink milk. He unscrewed the lid on one of the milk jugs and placed it in Galo’s hands, wincing when Galo chugged the milk so fast that milk splattered all over his favorite sweatshirt.
As Galo wiped his mouth off with a napkin, Lio gently brushed his fingers over his forehead.
“Oh, Galo, you idiot…”
“I’m your idiot,” Galo said weakly with a winsome grin, and Lio laughed.
Once Galo was out cold, Lio settled down cross-legged on the recliner with a slice of pizza in hand and cracked his laptop open. He clicked on the Discord icon on his desktop to find that Gueira and Meis were waiting for him in the private voice channel.
“So, how’d it go?” Gueira’s tinny voice asked.
Lio wordlessly took a picture of Galo snoring away open-mouthed underneath a pizza-patterned throw blanket with two empty milk jugs strewn next to him and uploaded it to Discord. A moment later, his laptop’s speakers exploded with the sound of Gueira and Meis’s laughing.
“Ahahaha! So the big boy really was hamming it up for nothing!”
“Did he crumple as soon as his lips touched the sauce?”
Lio let out a long-suffering, fond sigh. “Apparently.”
Soon, Meis and Gueira’s cackles and wheezes died down, and then there was nothing to talk about.
“Hey, whatcha eating, Lio?” Gueira asked after a long moment of silence.
“You don’t usually eat this sloppily,” Meis noted.
“It’s the leftover pizza.” Lio burped. He smacked his lips. “I don’t know why Galo couldn’t eat it. Maybe he didn’t drink enough habanero sauce in college. Tch.”
Gueira and Meis’s eyes widened in tandem. A smirk spread across Lio’s face as he crossed his legs.
“What, are you surprised by that?”
“...No, boss,” Meis finally answered, defaulting to the nickname they’d given Lio after seeing him pull off an honest-to-god Akira-esque bike slide on a modded dirt bike at 70 mph.
From then on, whenever Lio went out on a dirt-bike double date with Galo, Gueira, and Meis in a field somewhere, he ordered a Burning Inferno for himself and a regular supreme pizza for the others.
He would then perch atop his dirt bike and slowly eat a slice -- just because he could -- and meet the looks of fear that Gueira, Meis, and Galo would shoot at him as they looked into the eyes of a man who’d seen hell and then strutted straight into it.