The aftermath of everything was complicated, to say the least.
There was so much to resolve at once. Not only was there the destruction of the city to clean up and Kray’s ship to move, but there were also the Burnish prisoners to free from their confines – thousands of them, with many potentially already dead. Then there was public opinion. Many citizens were frightened and confused as to what had just transpired. Many would deny Kray’s involvement in such an inhumane project. Many were still prejudiced toward the ex-Burnish.
It would be hard work to resolve it all, Galo knew, but he was up for the challenge.
And as he snuck a glance to his left at Lio Fotia, his newfound partner in crime who was staring out at the distance ahead of them, he was comforted in knowing he wouldn’t be alone in rebuilding the world around them. When he and Lio had worked together in the end, there’d been a harmony between them. He’d felt like he could predict Lio’s next moves and depend upon them; there was almost a telepathic connection between them, as they shared one will and enacted it together. It was… intimidating, but also invigorating. Galo treasured it, to be honest, and he wasn’t quite ready to let go of that connection.
“What are you staring at?” Lio asked, looking at Galo out of the corner of his eye.
“I– nothing,” Galo said, stupidly, not ready to admit he’d gotten caught up in thinking about how connected he’d felt to Lio and how good it’d felt. He was afraid that Lio might not return the sentiment, and might even make fun of Galo for being a sappy idiot, so he kept his mouth shut. But still, the feeling remained in the confines of Galo’s mind.
“I can see your mind working, which is a surprise,” Lio fully faced Galo and gave him a wry but soft smile. “What’s on your mind?”
Galo also fully turned to face Lio and had to make an effort to not stare at Lio’s bare chest. He had been sneaking glances… respectfully. “I’m just thinking about how we’re going to have to clean the city up.”
“Mm,” Lio murmured thoughtfully. “It’ll definitely be work. We’ll have to free all the Burnish – or… ex-Burnish, now, I guess – first before anything else. I’m not willing to let my people suffer any longer than necessary.”
“Of course,” Galo agreed. “Speaking of ex-Burnish, can you still feel any of the Promare in you? Is it really gone?” Galo wanted to be as delicate as possible with the subject but he couldn’t help his curiosity.
Lio looked down at his hands while clenching and unclenching his fists rhythmically. “I feel cold.”
Taking that as an answer and unwilling to push Lio further, Galo nodded and resisted saying let me warm you up with my burning firefighter’s soul. The rest of the day was spent freeing the ex-Burnish from their cells and escorting them to a temporary shelter area full of first aid and hospital beds that Burning Rescue had set up next to the landed ship. The work was tedious and tiring, as there were tens of thousands of ex-Burnish to be rescued, but it was necessary nonetheless.
As Galo went cell by cell to account for each person, he felt his spirit wane. This was what he had inadvertently been supporting by remaining a loyal yet blind follower of Kray – the suffering of thousands of innocents. The first time Galo opened up a cell and saw a pile of ash instead of a whole person, he froze. Suddenly, Galo felt nausea sweep over him as he looked upon the horrific pile, and he had to hold a hand to his mouth to prevent himself from throwing up on the spot. They didn’t deserve this, he thought over and over again as he closed his eyes and staggered a few steps backward.
When he stepped back, Galo felt a hand land on his shoulder from behind. He startled and turned around to see Lio standing there, looking at the same pile of ash with a resigned but sorrowful gaze. Galo stared at Lio’s face up close, committing each delicate feature of his newfound friend to memory and forcing himself to endure the pain so clearly written across Lio’s face as reparations for his previous ignorance. He owed Lio and the other ex-Burnish his empathy and understanding of what they’d been through.
Lio tore his gaze away from the pile of ash and his eyes flashed up to meet Galo’s. There were no words between them for a moment, only grave understanding and a deep camaraderie. Galo saw something else there that made his breath catch – appreciation. He knew that he truly didn’t deserve Lio’s appreciation after what he’d unknowingly supported for years, so it hurt to see. Galo felt a wave of self-loathing come over him.
“Galo,” Lio murmured, his hand still on Galo’s shoulder and giving him a look. Galo huffed a laugh – though they hadn’t known each other for long, it was like Lio could already read his mind. “This isn’t your fault.”
“I–” Galo started, his voice cracking.
“It’s not,” Lio said firmly. “What matters is your actions once you learned what Kray was doing to us. It matters that you changed. It matters that you helped us. You were the turning point for us. I don’t know how to thank –”
“Stop,” Galo choked out. “You don’t have to say that.”
“But I do,” Lio insisted. “I’m not going to sit here and let you beat yourself up over supporting Kray for so long when you had no idea. Ignorance doesn’t equal guilt.”
Galo nodded, his throat tight, and reached up to grab Lio’s hand off his shoulder and grasp it tightly in his own, squeezing hard to let Lio know everything he couldn’t say in words at the moment: I’m sorry. I’m here to help now. Lio merely nodded in understanding with a soft smile on his face that said, I know, once again reading Galo’s mind. Galo had to wonder if their connection when fighting beside one another caused them to be so in sync or whether it was just fate that pulled them together, but he was grateful either way.
They stood together for a second, merely holding hands and looking at each other, until a hint of a smile began to grace Lio’s lips. “Well, we certainly can’t just stand here holding hands all day. There’s work to be done. Focus on that instead of what I know is going through your head right now.”
Galo squeezed Lio’s hand again and nodded. “Thank you,” he said quietly.
Lio let go of Galo’s hand and punched him lightly in the shoulder. “Come on, let’s get to work.”
They worked through the night with the rest of Burning Rescue, the police and civilian volunteers to free as many ex-Burnish as possible before Lio started to sway on his feet next to Galo.
“Whoa,” Galo said, holding out a hand to steady his friend. “You need to get some sleep.”
“I’m fine, let’s keep going,” Lio’s voice was faint.
“No, no, no, I’m not letting you run yourself into the ground. You need to be well-rested if you’re going to be working this hard,” Galo said firmly.
“Galo, I’m fine,” Lio said with more force, shaking off Galo’s grip. However, when he tried to take another step, he wobbled, and Galo had to steady him again.
“Nope, that’s it, I’m taking you home,” Galo said, leaving no room for protests.
“What?” Lio was looking at him with bewildered eyes.
“I said, I’m taking you home.”
“Um,” Lio started then closed his mouth again, unsure of what to say to that.
“You don’t have anywhere to stay, and I have a warm apartment with food and a change of clothes waiting for you nearby. Come on, let’s go.”
Lio nodded weakly and swept his hand out to say lead the way. After letting Ignis know they were heading in for the night, Galo led Lio to his place three blocks away, steadying Lio whenever he needed a hand. The walk was silent, but comfortably so. There was a certain tired warmth shared between the two men that did not need explaining – they’d worked hard together, their teamwork shining through the night as they helped person after person, and for that their closeness was ever pronounced. Galo had to smile to himself. It was nice, he had to admit, to feel this way about someone – this glow, this desire to both protect and serve them and make them happy. He could get used to it.
They reached Galo’s apartment within ten minutes and Lio’s eyes were noticeably falling closed every few seconds. Galo unlocked the door and entered, making a sweeping gesture with his hand and singing “ta-da” as he proudly showed off his home to Lio. Lio rolled his eyes at Galo’s dopey smile and walked in after him.
Galo could admit that the apartment truly wasn’t anything special, but it was home. The kitchen and living room bled into each other, separated by a bar countertop and table, forming one main living area that Galo loved entertaining guests in. Galo had gotten his couch from a garage sale so it was soft with loving wear, and it was a deep navy blue – one of his favorite colors, next to red (though the purple-pink of Lio’s eyes was now in the running for his top color). There were two lighter blue plush armchairs on either side of the couch and a dark wood coffee table at the center of the semicircle, all facing a TV that got more than enough use.
Lio immediately walked over to the wide windows on the far side of the apartment and perpendicular to the TV. He stood in front of the windows, placing a hand against one to steady himself as he looked out at the city below. “Nice view.”
Galo hummed in acknowledgement of the compliment. “Are you hungry?”
Lio was silent for a few moments. “Not really. I can go a while without eating.”
A furrow formed between Galo’s eyebrows as he scowled in indignation. Just because he could go long without eating didn’t mean he had to starve himself – but then, Galo stopped and realized that he probably often did have to while on the run. Fighting the rage that built up within him at what Lio and his people had endured, Galo resolved to never let Lio go hungry again. That meant regular meals, 3 a day, with snacks in between. He’d have to get Lio’s preferences before making a substantial grocery shopping trip the next day.
“I have pasta, frozen pizza, sandwich materials and soup. Which do you prefer? Or I can make all of them for you. Whatever you want,” Galo said.
“I told you, I’m not hungry,” Lio pushed back.
“And I told you I have pasta, pizza, sandwiches and soup. What part of that did you not understand? You’re eating,” Galo insisted firmly. Lio turned around and stared at Galo with an indescribable emotion on his face that Galo struggled to decipher. “What?” Galo asked, confused.
“You’re just so…” Lio shook his head with a small smile on his face. “I’ll have pasta, please.”
“Perfect,” Galo grinned, feeling triumphant at his victory. Lio was officially going to bed with a full stomach tonight. Next on the docket was clothes. Lio’s shirt had been ruined in the fight and his pants were filthy, so Galo would have to temporarily lend his clothes to him. “Follow me.”
Galo led Lio to a hallway with two doors in it and entered into the one at the end of the hall – his bedroom. The bed, with its gray comforter, was pushed into one of the corners. A nightstand sat next to the bed with a lamp on top of it that Galo went to turn on. Other than that, there was a door to a closet along one wall and a small desk with a few books on it on the opposite side of the room in front of a window. The rest of the space was taken up by a dark blue carpet. Galo could feel himself relaxing as he entered into his safest space, and he finally began to wind down after the ordeal he’d gone through.
Opening up his closet, Galo pulled out a pair of sweatpants with an adjustable waistband and his smallest white t-shirt. He was turning around to hand the items to Lio when he saw the man standing in the doorway staring at all of his belongings. Galo suddenly felt self-consciousness rise in his chest. Was his room good enough for Lio’s standards? He’d never thought much about how it all would look to an outsider before now.
“Hey,” Galo said as he walked up to Lio and held out the clothes. “This’ll have to do for tonight. I don’t have any smaller clothes for you unfortunately. When we go grocery shopping tomorrow we can also grab some new clothes for you to wear.”
“I didn’t know you could read,” Lio said teasingly, eyeing the books on Galo’s desk across the room.
Galo huffed out a laugh. “Is it really that surprising? I’m sure I could do a lot of things that would surprise you.”
Galo almost collapsed when he saw the faintest brush of red creep onto Lio’s cheeks at the comment as he looked away and kept staring at the rest of the room. The faint light coming from the nightstand lamp was casting soft shadows across Lio’s face, obscuring half of it from Galo. Still not meeting Galo’s eyes, Lio asked quietly: “Why are you doing all of this for me?”
“What do you mean?”
Lio rolled his eyes at Galo’s denseness. “We’re supposed to dislike each other for the most part, and instead you’re welcoming me into your home like it’s nothing.”
“Do you dislike me?” Galo asked, feeling like the answer was more important than he’d like to admit.
“No,” Lio admitted, finally meeting Galo’s gaze with a surprising amount of honesty. Galo looked deep into his eyes, trying to find an explanation as to why Lio would ask such a question. Of course Galo was going to help Lio. Galo would like to think they’d become friends in their time working together. A tiny voice in Galo’s head whispered that they could be more, the same voice that wondered whether Lio remembered their kiss, and Galo shoved it as far down as possible; he didn’t have the capacity to deal with that right now. “What about you? Do you still have prejudice toward the ex-Burnish? Do you judge me for what I’ve done?”
Galo scoffed. “Of course not. You and your people were hunted and exploited by Kray. You did what you had to in order to survive. I can’t possibly judge you for that.” Galo took a chance and reached out to put his hand on Lio’s shoulder, a mirror of the physical consolation Lio had given him earlier when they were rescuing ex-Burnish and he’d become overwhelmed. “I want you to be safe and happy. If that means giving you a place to stay and helping you out, I’m all for it.”
Lio’s eyes searched Galo’s face with weariness. Galo could tell he was looking for any doubt, or a catch to this offer – after all, he’d been trained to be suspicious of non-Burnish people for all his life, so of course he’d be wary of Galo’s no-strings-attached offer. Galo just waited patiently for Lio to find whatever he was looking for. After a moment, Lio’s face softened toward acceptance, and he gave Galo a hesitant smile. “Okay.”
“Okay?” Galo confirmed. Lio nodded.
Reluctantly letting his hand slip from Lio’s shoulder, Galo led Lio out of his room and showed him to the other door in the hallway, the bathroom. “You can shower and change in here.”
When Lio closed the bathroom door, Galo headed back into the kitchen to start preparing dinner for the both of them. The sound of the shower starting reached the kitchen, and Galo had to hold his mind on a strict leash to stop himself from imagining Lio showering only thirty feet away. He was only partially successful.
As he cooked, he reflected on all that had happened in the past day and thought about what would need to happen in the future. They weren’t completely finished with rescuing all the ex-Burnish, but the rest of Burning Rescue would continue to work in shifts while he and Lio were gone for the night. After that, they’d need to figure out rehabilitating injuries, housing the ex-Burnish, reintegrating them into society, what to do with Kray, electing a new governor, what to tell the public, etc. There was so much to consider that Galo could feel himself getting a headache from thinking about all of it. However, instead of dwelling on all of the unknowns, he decided to throw himself into making the best pasta dish possible for his guest.
Lio walked back into the room in the middle of a song Galo was humming as he took the pasta out of the pot and scooped it into bowls. Galo heard his footsteps and turned around to greet him, but when he did his mouth went dry. Lio was standing in the entryway to the kitchen looking at the pasta, and all Galo could think was fuck, I have severely miscalculated. He had not considered what it would be like to see Lio in his clothes, something that made him feel warm and thrilled and protective all at once. He had not prepared himself for how soft Lio would look in the oversized garments – the shirt was hanging off one shoulder and the sweatpants had to be rolled up a few times to fit correctly. Galo wanted nothing more than to walk over, fold Lio into his arms and never let go.
Lio caught him staring and cleared his throat. “Is the pasta ready?”
“Um,” Galo stuttered, trying to get his wits about him. “Yes, I just need to put the sauce on it.” Lio nodded and moved to the kitchen table to take a seat.
With sauce and some parmesan cheese, their meals were complete. Galo brought both bowls over to the table and set them down then returned to the kitchen to grab them both water. When he got back to the table, he was oddly touched that Lio was patiently waiting for him before beginning to eat himself.
They ate in silence, but it was a comfortable silence that draped over them like a soft, well-worn blanket. Galo was pleased to see Lio dig in heedlessly. Galo wasn’t sure if it was weird that he enjoyed watching Lio eat, but he did nonetheless; there was something about seeing Lio taking care of himself the way he deserved that was undoubtedly pleasing. Galo knew that the man across from him often put others in front of himself. He gave endlessly to his people, and while that was all good and well, Galo felt a minute sense of outrage at the fact that Lio was so dismissive of his own needs.
“Thank you,” Lio said into the quiet.
“Of course,” Galo grinned at Lio, helplessly charmed by him.
“The pasta is good,” Lio remarked idly, to which Galo thanked him.
“I worked hard on it for you,” Galo replied and sent a wink Lio’s way, which, to Galo’s delight, caused another blush to break out over his cheeks.
When they finished, they cleaned up the table and did the dishes together, and then Galo insisted that they go to sleep because of how late it was.
“You can sleep on the couch, or you can sleep in my bed with me, I don’t really mind either way,” Galo said.
Lio studied Galo’s face for a few seconds, calculating his options, before the corners of his lips turned up. “You’d really offer up your bed for me?”
“Yes,” Galo confirmed. “It’s big enough for the two of us, and while my couch is comfortable it’s not that comfortable. I want to make sure you’re getting enough rest before we get back to work tomorrow. I bet you tend to overwork yourself."
Lio laughed lightly. “You’re acting like my babysitter.”
“Or, maybe just your friend who cares about you,” Galo corrected. Lio paused, maintaining eye contact for a few heavy moments. Something unspoken passed between the two men, something that reminded both of them of all they’d gone through together – their rocky start, then getting to know each other’s character, then teaming up, then saving the world together. All of it was laid bare in their shared gaze. Galo broke the staring contest by smiling and leading the way to his room down the hall. When they stepped in, Galo noticed the lamp was still on and the room was bathed in its orange glow.
“Wall side or outside?” Galo asked as he stripped out of his clothes and put pajamas on.
“What?” Lio looked bewildered.
“Do you want to sleep next to the wall or on the outer edge of the bed? Which do you prefer?”
“Oh,” Lio said. “Wall side.”
With their sleeping arrangement settled, Galo pulled the covers back and crawled into bed. Lio still hadn’t moved from his place in the doorway, and he stood with his hands bunched into the hem of his t-shirt. He looked like he didn’t know what to do with himself, and Galo couldn’t help but laugh at Lio’s awkwardness.
“Well are you going to get in or not?” Galo taunted.
Lio’s eyes narrowed, then he took a breath and resolutely crawled into bed, pulling the covers up over himself and turning on his side to face Galo. He watched in silence as Galo reached over to turn the lamp light off. They were then bathed in the moonlight that was shining in through the windows across the room.
“Why don’t you have curtains?” Lio whispered, as if the darkness brought a code of silence with it in which speaking out loud would break the spell they were under.
“I like to wake with the sun,” Galo whispered back. He could just barely see Lio shake his head fondly in the dark.
“Idiot,” Lio murmured.
“You know you love me,” Galo replied.
“Go to sleep.”
“I will if you do.”
“Ok. Goodnight, Galo.”
Galo woke slowly. Instead of snapping awake, he drifted into consciousness, gradually becoming aware of his surroundings – first, the early morning sunlight filtering in through the windows, then the comforter draped across his lower half, and then the warm body snuggled up against his chest. Galo tried not to jolt in surprise. Sometime in the night, Lio had drifted over to Galo’s side of the bed and wedged himself in between Galo’s arms. Or maybe Galo had reached over and dragged Lio to him. Either way, the result was their bodies pressed up against each other with Lio’s face fitting into the crook of Galo’s neck. Galo breathed in and out, trying to calm himself and stay as still as possible, but he eventually gave in to his urge and reached up to gently run his hand through Lio’s hair. He couldn’t help but enjoy the position they were in, and that Lio subconsciously felt safe enough to be this close to him, so Galo relished the moment as much as possible.
Minutes ticked by, and Galo barely registered time passing. He had his eyes closed and kept running his hands through Lio’s hair. It was almost meditative, the way he was able to lose himself in this simple, sweet contact between them. However, too soon, his time was over, and he could feel Lio slowly starting to come awake in his arms.
Lio groaned and reached up to rub at his eyes. “Is it morning already?”
Taking a chance, Galo continued to run his hands through Lio’s hair. Lio hummed and leaned into the contact. “Yes,” Galo replied. Lio sighed.
“I guess we have to get up soon,” Lio said. Galo nodded in acknowledgement.
For the next few minutes, there were no words between them as Galo continued to play with Lio’s hair in the soft morning light. Galo felt exceptionally warm, both literally and metaphorically. The sleepy daze they were in was finally broken by Lio, who groaned and rolled away onto his back, staring up at the ceiling with tired eyes.
“What’s the plan for today?” Lio asked.
“I’m thinking a shopping trip,” Galo replied.
“What?” Lio shot up into a sitting position as his head snapped over to Galo. “Why would we go shopping right now? There’s still work to be done. I don’t think they could’ve possibly rescued all the ex-Burnish by now.”
“Calm down,” Galo sat up to be on the same level as Lio. “I talked on the phone with Ignis last night while you were in the shower. He gave us the morning off – he insisted that we take this break, actually, and said we could come back in the afternoon to help.”
A hesitant look passed over Lio’s face. Galo could tell he didn’t like this plan, which he understood, but at the same time he wasn’t going to go against Ignis’ orders.
“It’ll be fun,” Galo grinned.
Lio pursed his lips and shook his head. “Fine. But we’re going straight to meet up with Burning Rescue as soon as we’re done shopping.”
“I mean it, Galo.”
“I said ok!”
Lio got out of bed to stretch his muscles, and Galo fixated on the sliver of skin that was revealed on Lio’s torso when his shirt rode up. The view was interrupted too quickly when Lio finished his stretch and walked to the bathroom. Galo let himself fall back on the bed as he stared up at the ceiling, already planning the day ahead of him.
The two of them got ready quickly that morning. Galo could tell that Lio was eager to get the shopping over with so that he could get back to work, but Galo was oddly excited about the prospect of buying things for Lio – not that he would ever admit that to Lio himself.
They first drove to a clothing store near Galo’s apartment to buy normal things that Lio could wear every day. Upon first entering the store, Lio’s face scrunched up as he looked around.
“There’s no leather,” he complained. Galo smiled and shook his head.
“Of course you’re looking for leather.”
“What?” Lio asked defensively. “I like it. It’s comfortable and durable.”
The rest of the time was spent with Lio sifting through racks and racks of clothes, scowling more often than not at what he saw. Galo sighed internally. Of course Lio would scoff at normal outfits. The first time Lio picked out something he liked, he held the garment out to Galo. At first, Galo was confused, until a second later when he understood that Lio meant for him to carry all of his things around the store.
Wordlessly, Galo accepted the shirt as Lio turned back to the rack to continue his search. Galo didn’t mind carrying Lio’s things. In fact, it amused him. Leave it to Lio to act like royalty whenever he could. And leave it to me to voluntarily be his servant, Galo thought, slightly embarrassed at how willing he was in following Lio’s orders. He just wanted to make Lio happy.
Galo took a look at the shirt that Lio had handed him, curious as to what his counterpart had picked out. It was a simple black v-neck t-shirt that would fit Lio like a glove, so Galo prepared himself for the moment he’d have to see Lio in a tight shirt instead of the baggy one he was currently wearing. Galo also couldn’t help but smile to himself at the fact that Lio immediately went for black. Some things never change, he figured. The next few articles of clothing that Lio picked out were similar to each other – they varied in cuts and sizes, but they all had a simplicity to them that suited Lio. All were dark colors, such as black, navy blue and forest green, and all would surely look striking on Lio’s fair skin.
When they moved on to pants, Lio unsurprisingly went straight for the skinny jeans and leggings. Fuck, he’s trying to kill me, Galo thought, already imagining how amazing Lio’s legs would look in what he picked out. Lio went for dark colors for his pants too, opting for black and dark blue jeans along with a pair of gray leggings. The pile in Galo’s hands was starting to build up, but he refused to complain, because at least Lio was cooperating and not running out of the door to get to the recovery operations at Burning Rescue.
They picked up the basics, too – underwear and socks – along with a few jackets before heading to the fitting room at the back of the store so that Lio could try everything on before they bought all the clothes. Galo insisted that Lio show him everything that he tried on, to which Lio rolled his eyes but complied nonetheless (although he did hit Galo when he sang “fashion show time” before Lio entered the fitting room).
Lio dutifully showed Galo each outfit he tried on but threatened to stop when Galo pretended to catcall him when he wore a particularly tight outfit. What Galo didn’t know was that when Lio retreated to the privacy of the fitting room, he buried his blushing face into his hands and willed himself to calm down, refusing to let Galo know it had affected him.
In the end, most of the clothing fit Lio, which was a relief. However, when Lio exited the fitting room, he brought only one outfit out with him.
Galo frowned. “Where’s the rest of the clothing?”
Lio blinked. “This is my favorite outfit.”
Galo was still confused. “Okay,” he said slowly. “But what about the other clothes?”
“What about them? I’m only letting you buy this for me. I refuse to take further advantage of your kindness.”
It was now Galo’s turn to blink in silence. “How could you think that? You’re not taking advantage of me – I’m offering. I want to buy these things for you, because you need them and you deserve them."
A little furrow had formed in between Lio’s eyebrows, and he looked down at the floor as if the answers to all his questions resided there. “I still don’t get why you’re doing all of this for me.”
Galo went to go gather all the clothes Lio had left in the dressing room. When he came back out, he stood in front of Lio and waited for the other man to look up and meet his eyes.
“I told you before. You’re my friend. This is what friends do,” Galo stated simply. “Plus, why do you think one outfit would be enough? You’re going to have to change every day, you know.”
“I know that, logically,” Lio said, then let out a sigh. “It’s just… I was so used to being on the run that I became accustomed to wearing one outfit all the time. I’m not used to normalcy and… comfort.”
Galo smiled softly and reached out to squeeze Lio’s arm. “Well get used to it. You get to be normal now.”
“I’m not sure I know how to be normal,” Lio whispered, looking more vulnerable than Galo had ever seen him.”
“The last time I went clothes shopping was with my mother at 15. It feels so far away from me now. We barely had any money, but she was determined to buy me anything I could possibly want.” Lio smiled to himself, looking past Galo’s shoulder as if he could clearly see a mirage of the past there. “But we had to be… frugal. I’ve never been used to nice things – to excess. This is all new to me.”
Galo’s heart gave a painful squeeze, and he longed to reach out and hug Lio, but he wasn’t sure how that would be received.
“Lio,” Galo said, finally getting Lio’s attention and snapping him back into the present. “Thank you for sharing that with me. I want you to know that I can easily afford this, and it’s no trouble at all for me. Please let me do this for you.”
Lio searched Galo’s eyes for a few seconds before nodding slowly. “Ok.” Galo grinned in response.
As they were walking up to the register with clothes in hand, Galo saw something out of the corner of his eye that made him stop. Walking over to it, he felt excitement bubble up within him.
“Galo?” Lio inquired, trying to see what Galo was looking at from where he stood.
This is perfect, Galo thought. He turned around and brandished his prize to Lio – a black leather jacket, with silver zippers and a collar. Lio’s eyes widened when he saw it, and Galo swore he could see his pupils dilate.
“You’re getting this,” Galo said, leaving no room for argument.
“Are you sure–”
“Yes, I am absolutely certain. This is perfect for you. Here, try it on.” Galo handed the jacket to Lio.
Lio easily slipped the jacket onto his shoulders and proceeded to run his hands across the leather in awe, a youthful smile adorning his face. He was breathtaking when he became animated like that, and Galo was stunned by the force of Lio’s beauty in that moment. Lio looked back up at Galo, smiling broadly, and Galo couldn’t help but smile back.
When they checked out, Galo was unbothered by the total price of everything together. It was well worth it to see Lio happy.
Next, they went to a shoe store right next to the clothing store where Lio picked out an elegant pair of black boots with a heel on them that were stylish but functional for everyday use. Lio insisted that he had to start wearing the shoes right then, and though Galo rolled his eyes, internally he could feel the way his heart beat faster at Lio’s excitement. This was what he wanted: a Lio with no inhibitions or worries about being a burden – a Lio that was carefree and full of life. Galo felt determined to keep being the cause of Lio’s newfound demeanor.
The grocery store was around fifteen minutes away from the shoe store, so they had some time to just talk on the drive over. The trunk was already stuffed full of bags, so Galo would have to put all the groceries in the backseat to make it all fit. There was one thing that had been on Galo’s mind ever since they left the clothing store, but he wasn’t sure how to bring it up without putting Lio in an uncomfortable position. Fuck it, he thought, and decided to just be blunt.
“Lio,” Galo began.
“Hm?” Lio looked away from the passenger window he’d been staring out of to meet Galo’s eyes.
“Can I ask what happened to your mother?” Galo could see Lio tense up, and he silently cursed himself for even bringing it up. “Shit, sorry, I shouldn’t have–”
“It’s okay,” Lio said quietly. “I just haven’t spoken about this with anyone before.”
“I get it,” Galo replied. “I just want to know more about you, but if you’re uncomfortable talking about it, I completely respect that.”
Lio was silent for a few moments, and then: “My mother was the best person I’ve ever known.”
Galo’s breath caught. For a person to earn the high regard of someone like Lio was no small feat. Galo couldn’t even imagine how good of a mother she’d been.
“My dad left before I was born, so she was a single mother,” Lio continued. “But she never complained or seemed like she couldn’t handle things. She was like Superwoman to me, working 2 jobs and raising me at the same time. It was always just the two of us – a team, she would say. Somehow, no matter how tired she was, she managed to make every day fun. She was my best friend.”
Galo looked away from the road for a second to spare a glance at Lio. The other man had a glazed look on his face as he stared straight ahead. He looked so far away that it looked like he could see his mother clearly on the road in front of them.
“The problem was…” Lio looked down at his hands, clenching and unclenching them rhythmically as he spoke. “She was Burnish.”
Galo nodded in understanding. He could see where this was going, and dread filled his stomach.
“To make sure she had a safe outlet for the inherent need to burn, she’d light a small fire every night in our backyard, and we’d sit around it and eat dinner that way. One day, we were playing a board game when we heard a knock at the door. My mom went to answer it, and when she did, a dozen men swarmed our house and arrested her on suspicion of being a terrorist. She cried and begged them to stop and swore up and down that she had nothing to do with anything terrorist-related, but they didn’t believe her. Their only evidence was that she was Burnish and a neighbor had seen her lighting fires in the backyard.”
Lio took a shaky breath in, and slowly clenched his hands.
“They took her into custody, and I went into the foster care system at 15. A week later, she was found dead in her cell. Nobody would tell me what happened, and they tried to chalk it up to suicide, but I knew better. My mother would never kill herself. They killed her, and I knew it.”
Galo couldn’t summon any words at the moment. The fact that Lio had to endure something so traumatizing at such a young age – to be left alone in the world like that – was a sobering fact to face. Galo felt hurt for Lio, and did his best not to tear up at what he was hearing.
“So,” Lio sighed. “I went numb, and I started acting out. I bounced from foster home to foster home until I landed in a shitty group home at 17, got involved with the wrong kind of people, and eventually found the Mad Burnish. The first time I met someone from the Mad Burnish was the first time I had felt something in years – their fury matched mine and ignited something within me. They made me feel vindicated. I was so passionate that I quickly worked my way up the ranks until at 20 I became the leader. The Mad Burnish became my life. They were my family.”
Lio cleared his throat. “But, yes, back to my mother. She was always so gentle and loving to everyone she met, no matter how poorly they treated her. She’s the reason why I started the no killing unless absolutely necessary rule for the Mad Burnish. I couldn’t in good conscience run a group of murderers knowing what my mom would say about it. In the end, she made me a better person.”
“Some days I miss her so much I think it’ll kill me,” Lio whispered into the quiet of the car.
Galo held his breath for a few seconds, waiting for Lio to say anything more, until he realized the other man was done bearing his soul to Galo. Galo reached over and took one of Lio’s hands in his.
“Hey,” Galo said, glancing over for a second to look Lio in the eyes before looking back at the road. “Thank you. I’m glad you trust me enough to tell me all of this. What happened to your mother was wrong, and I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I bet she was a wonderful woman.”
Lio nodded tightly, blinking fast.
“And,” Galo continued. “I understand why you joined the Mad Burnish. I think what you did with the group and how you led them is incredibly admirable. You’re the strongest, bravest person I know.”
Lio laughed lightly. “Sure,” he said disbelievingly.
“I’m serious!” Galo replied, squeezing Lio’s hand to get his point across. “I’m lucky to know you.”
A small smile graced Lio’s face. “Thank you, Galo – for listening, and for caring.”
“Of course,” Galo said.
The rest of the car ride to the grocery store was silent. Lio continued to stare out of his window while Galo drove. Galo didn’t mind the silence at all; Lio had revealed a lot and clearly needed time to process.
When they arrived at the grocery store, Galo took a moment to sit before exiting. When Lio sent a questioning glance his way, Galo said: “We need a game plan.”
Lio was speechless for a few seconds. “What?”
“A game plan – what our goals are, what kind of food we want, what we’re getting first – stuff like that,” Galo explained. Lio stared for another second before breaking out into laughter.
“What?” Galo asked, a tad defensive. Was Lio laughing at him?
“No, no, I just – this isn’t a sports game. Who calls getting ready to go into the grocery store a ‘game plan’?” Lio was still giggling in between words. Galo wanted to be offended, but he couldn’t bring himself to be when Lio looked so lighthearted.
“I do,” Galo said, now starting to smile with Lio.
“Idiot,” Lio murmured, his laughter dying down.
“But seriously, what kind of food do you want to get?”
“I don’t really care either way. I’m not picky,” Lio said while shrugging.
“Come on, you must have some preferences,” Galo prompted.
“Umm,” Lio drew out the m, the pronunciation bringing out his youth. “I liked that pasta you made last night. I like any kind of pasta. I also like simple things – cereal, granola bars, chips. That’s really all I can think of. I never had much choice when I was with the Mad Burnish, we just ate whatever rations we could. I’ll be good with whatever you make.”
“Okay, we’ll get all that stuff and more then. Let’s go.”
When they were in the store, Galo grabbed a cart for them that he pushed along as they walked. Galo directed them up and down every aisle so that Lio could get his pick of everything the store had to offer.
“Whatever you want, just throw it in the cart,” he’d told Lio.
Galo also shopped like he would normally, grabbing foods that would make for good meals and doubling the amount that he got since he was now cooking for two. He got five different kinds of pasta for Lio, who’d insisted that was too much. Lio ended up hesitantly grabbing a few things of his own to throw in his cart, which made Galo smile.
“Lio, would you mind going to grab a gallon of milk?”
“I don’t know where the milk is,” Lio responded with a furrow between his brows.
Galo pointed out the dairy section, sent him off, and then quickly went to another aisle on the other side of the store before Lio could notice. When he found what he was looking for, he smiled in triumph and quickly stashed what he’d come for underneath all the food they’d loaded into the cart so that Lio wouldn’t be able to see. After he’d done that, he wheeled the cart out of the aisle in search of Lio. However, when Galo arrived at the dairy section, he was nowhere to be found. Galo quickly set off in another direction until a few minutes later when they ran into each other in the cereal aisle. Galo was surprised to see that Lio actually looked concerned, as if he was worried he’d lost Galo for good.
“Where were you?” Lio demanded. “I came back and you were gone.”
“I went to go get something else. Miss me?”
Lio smirked, rolled his eyes, and punched Galo in the shoulder. “You wish.”
When they were in the check-out line, Galo gave Lio the keys to the car and suggested he go get the car started while Galo paid. Lio paused then gave Galo a look that said “whatever you say” and left without another word. Thankfully, his departure meant that Galo could purchase the items he’d secretly gotten without the surprise being ruined for Lio. After paying and placing all the bags in the cart, Galo headed back to the car and quickly loaded all the groceries into the trunk.
The drive back was filled with casual conversation that was simple but pleasant. Galo enjoyed Lio’s company – he liked Lio’s observations of the world, his sarcastic comments, the way he’d throw a well-meaning jab in Galo’s direction just to see if he could get a rise out of him. All of it endeared Galo to him, and Galo could feel himself falling deeper and deeper in love with Lio with each passing moment.
The realization sank like a stone in his chest. Did Lio feel the same way? Did he even remember the way their lips had touched when Galo saved his life? Because Galo couldn’t get the feeling of Lio in his arms out of his head.
When they got home and began carrying the bags in, Galo made sure that he discreetly grabbed the bags with his secret merchandise in them before Lio could see them. They made several trips from the car to Galo’s apartment to get it all up, and when they were finished Lio insisted they get back to Burning Rescue immediately to check up on the ex-Burnish. Galo agreed, and Lio quickly got dressed in some of his new clothes. If Galo wasn’t mistaken, he caught a glimpse of satisfaction on Lio’s face as he looked at his outfit in the mirror. Lio’s happiness made Galo feel like he was glowing, and he couldn’t help but reach out and ruffle Lio’s hair in an act of simple affection. Lio scowled and batted his hand away, but Galo swore he saw a hint of a smile grace Lio’s features.
They then headed straight toward the fallen ship to check in with how recovery operations were going. When they arrived, Galo took a quick glance around and saw that they had doubled the amount of tents, beds and supplies set up in the area. Scouring the crowd of medical personnel and police officers all there to help, Galo was able to spot Ignis and Aina speaking to each other off to the side. Putting his hand on Lio’s back, Galo led him to where the two were deep in conversation.
“Hey,” Galo said when they were in earshot. Ignis and Aina turned to look at them.
“Hey guys, how’s it going?” Aina asked.
“Galo. Lio,” Ignis said in greeting, nodding at both of them.
“We’re here to pick up a shift to help,” Galo explained. “We took the morning off, like you asked, so we’re not taking no for an answer. Where do you need us?”
They ended up splitting up – Lio went to help free the last few hundred of the ex-Burnish still in captivity, while Galo used his first aid training to help tend to the wounds of the injured. Galo was sad to see Lio leave and disappear out of his line of sight, but he was comforted by the fact that he’d get to see him that night.
Galo was glad that he could put his first aid skills to good use, and he was able to chat with each ex-Burnish he patched up. It was refreshing, to speak with them in this way – to know they were okay after everything, when he’d been so worried before. Often, while he was working, his mind would drift to Lio. He couldn’t stop himself; he was enamored with the green-haired man who cared so deeply about the ex-Burnish that he couldn’t help but care, too.
After a couple hours, Galo was joined by Lio, who had helped the rescue team free the last of the ex-Burnish from their confines. A quick conversation revealed that Lio had also located Gueira and Meis and helped them set up a registry to account for everyone rescued so that they could begin a rehabilitation and housing initiative for ex-Burnish refugees.
Galo was glowing with pride at Lio’s leadership and compassion, and he knew it was showing on his face when Lio scowled and said, “What?”
“Nothing,” Galo replied, smiling to himself.
Galo started to teach Lio some first aid basics so that he could help, and Lio picked them up quite quickly, given that he already had a general idea of first aid from helping with injuries of the Mad Burnish during his time with the group. From there on out, they fell into a natural rhythm of working together to treat the wounded efficiently but thoroughly. Lio made sure to assure every ex-Burnish refugee they treated that they’d have a place to stay and food to eat when everything became officially organized.
When night started to fall, Ignis forced them to go home once again, claiming that they’d done more than enough and needed to rest. With that, they got into Galo’s car and drove the short drive back to Galo’s apartment.
Galo told Lio that he could shower while he made dinner.
“Take your time,” Galo encouraged, trying to give himself enough time to prepare dinner fully. Lio narrowed his eyes but listened nonetheless.
After Lio hopped in the shower, Galo started on dinner. For time’s sake, he made pasta again, but at least a different type than last time. He then began to set the table with nice plates and napkins and turned out all the lights in the apartment.
When Lio finally emerged from his shower into the living room area in fresh clothes, he froze.
“Galo… what is this?” He asked, with a breathless quality to his voice. Galo spun around from where he was putting finishing touches on their dishes and smiled.
“I figured since you lost the flames of the Promare, this is the next best thing,” Galo said, slightly sheepish as he realized how stupid that sounded coming out of his mouth. He shut his mouth and hoped that Lio couldn’t see the blush overtaking his face in the semi-darkness.
All around the kitchen table and surrounding surfaces, there were dozens of candles of varying colors and heights lit. They were the only source of light in the apartment, but their combined glow was enough to light up the set table and chairs sufficiently.
Galo scrutinized Lio’s face nervously, looking for whether he would laugh or outright berate Galo for such a gesture he’d gone to such lengths to make a surprise. Instead, to Galo’s pleasant surprise, Lio looked to be… in awe.
“You did this for me?” Lio asked quietly.
“Um… yes. I just– I thought about how you said you were cold without the Promare and I started thinking about how much loss you must feel and I wanted to think of a way to cheer you up so I figured that –”
“Galo,” Lio interrupted. “I love it.”
Galo stopped. “You do?”
Lio broke into a heart-wrenching, soul-stopping, devastatingly sweet smile. “Yes. Thank you. I don’t even know what to say, this is so thoughtful and beautiful–”
“You don’t have to say anything. I wanted to do this for you,” Galo said quickly.
“But still,” Lio said. “You didn’t have to. Thank you, Galo.”
Lio walked over and stopped for a moment in front of Galo, simply staring at him with a tender look in his eye. Then, he raised his arms and looped them around the back of Galo’s neck, pulling him in for a tight hug.
Galo returned the hug and wrapped his arms around Lio’s midsection, relishing in the closeness the two of them were sharing. Touching Lio made him feel a combination of electricity and calmness. It was as if their connection encapsulated every emotion possible, even the opposites. It made their relationship baffling but exhilarating.
When Lio pulled away, he turned and continued to survey the scene that Galo had set up with a smile on his face.
“Well, are you ready to eat?” Galo asked. Lio turned his head back toward Galo and nodded.
Once seated at the table, their conversation topics ranged from the future of Burning Rescue’s recovery efforts to Galo’s childhood memories to what they’d eat for dinner tomorrow. They went with wherever their minds led them, and the conversation flowed between them. Galo marveled at how natural it was to be with Lio after not knowing him for that long. It was as if there was a magnetic pull between them, and Galo hoped that Lio felt it, too.
Eventually, the topic of Lio’s future came up.
“I spoke to Ignis today, and he said he’d love to have you come work for Burning Rescue officially when all of this is sorted out,” Galo said. Lio’s head snapped up from where he had been looking at his almost-empty bowl.
“What?” He asked, eyes wide.
“We’d love to have you on board, seriously. You have enough skill that it shouldn’t be a problem to teach you about protocol. We think you’d be an asset to our team,” Galo explained.
“You mean, you’re not going to...” Lio trailed off.
“Not going to what?”
“I don’t know. I just figured that, despite everything, the Mad Burnish is still considered a terrorist group, so I’m technically a criminal–”
“Lio,” Galo said firmly, grabbing his hand to get his attention. “The world is going to know that you all were in the right. Once we expose what Kray was doing, no one will think of you as criminals anymore. I won’t let them.”
“I don’t think you can single-handedly change public opinion, Galo,” Lio laughed, his eyes light but sad.
“Maybe not, but I can try my damndest,” Galo said firmly. “Trust me when I say that at least Burning Rescue does not consider you a criminal. We want to work with you. We’ll do whatever it takes to keep you or anyone from the Mad Burnish out of jail. We’ll protect you. Let me protect you.”
Lio stared at Galo for a few moments with a searching look. It appeared as though he was looking for any sign of deception of Galo’s features, but Galo squeezed his hand tightly to assure Lio that he was being wholly honest.
Lio straightened and cleared his throat. “I think I’m done with dinner and ready for bed.”
The pair took their plates into the kitchen and did the dishes swiftly, with little words between them. There were simply no words needed after that conversation. Lio also looked like he was lost in thought the whole time they were doing the dishes, so Galo stayed silent.
Galo could only half make out the sink in front of him in the candlelight, but he didn’t turn on the lights, for he didn’t want to dare ruining the intimate mood between him and Lio. When they were done, Galo began blowing out all the candles while Lio watched from a few feet away. Galo left one candle burning and carried it to the bedroom as they walked down the hallway toward the closed door together.
Once inside, Galo set the candle down onto the nightstand and crawled into bed with Lio right behind him. They got under the covers and lay facing one another with a foot of space between them, just staring at each other and sharing air. It felt like something fundamental had shifted between them. There was a few seconds of silence, and then:
“You look beautiful in candlelight,” Galo whispered, and he wondered if his mind was playing tricks on him when he saw the beginnings of a light blush on Lio’s cheeks.
“So do you,” Lio whispered back.
Emboldened by that, Galo slowly reached up to cup Lio’s cheek in his hand. Lio’s eyes fell shut a second before Galo touched him and he leaned subtly into the contact. Lio sighed, and Galo felt his chest tighten as he thought about how content it sounded. The candlelight bathed the entire room in a soft orange glow and threw a mixture of light and shadows across Lio’s face, with just enough lumination that Galo could study Lio’s delicate features. The lighting made Lio look more tender than ever before. Lio’s beauty was otherworldly – unable to be described with modern language. It was something out of fairytales, when you read about bewitching young princes fighting with magic on their side. It was the look of divinity, something so pure that one hesitated to touch it for risk of soiling such beauty.
But Galo knew that beauty wasn’t the only thing that made Lio special; what placed him so close to Galo’s heart was his strength – the way he resisted valiantly against corrupt powers bigger than him without any fear on his face, the way he stood grounded in his principles and values, the way he continued to fight despite all the pain he’d endured in his life. All of it was captivating to Galo, and despite not knowing Lio for a long time, he felt as if he knew Lio’s soul through and through from what they’d been through together. Lio was someone you didn’t meet every day – he was a man poets would want to write love poems to and the protagonist that novelists wanted to write epics about. He was everything.
Galo, still cupping Lio’s face, slowly started stroking his thumb across his cheek in a gentle but reverent gesture. Back and forth he went, trying to convey in such a small touch how much Lio had come to mean to him. Lio’s eyes fluttered open, and he stared at Galo with an intensity that made it seem like he had been reading Galo’s mind.
“Hi,” Lio said softly, a small smile beginning to bloom on his face as Galo stroked his cheek. He shifted forward a little bit, still looking up at Galo, when Galo suddenly felt the undeniable urge to kiss him. Galo shifted an inch forward, too, and his gaze dropped to Lio’s lips. When he looked back up, Lio was still staring at him with wide eyes.
Slowly, so slowly, Galo leaned forward with all the delicacy he could summon in the face of the sheer want he was feeling, and rested his forehead against Lio’s. He didn’t want to scare Lio away, but the force of his feelings were brimming to the surface. He heard Lio take a shallow intake of breath, and then the other man finally closed the gap between them and pressed his lips against Galo’s.
It was gentle – just the slightest amount of pressure between their lips, before Lio leaned back and broke apart from Galo. Galo tried not to lament the space too much, because now that he’d had a taste, he wanted more. The two men just gazed at each other a moment, until a smirk graced Lio’s lips and he raised an eyebrow.
“Well?” He asked haughtily.
The second the word was out of his mouth, Galo was upon him. He crashed their lips together as hastily as he was willing to be now that he knew what Lio’s lips tasted like, and Lio let out a small gasp into Galo’s mouth when their lips met.
Their mouths moved together seamlessly, as if they’d done this thousands of times before – perhaps they had, in countless past lives together. Wherever you are, whoever you are, I’d find you, Galo thought passionately as he kissed Lio with all that he was. Lio was the one to deepen the kiss as he opened up sweetly, and Galo groaned against his mouth; it was too much to bear.
It was like nothing Galo had ever experienced. He’d kissed people before, but never like this – this slow but eager back and forth, where one moment he’d press forward only to have Lio push back with just as much force, as if they were transferring energy back and forth between their mouths in an endless feedback loop of dizzying pleasure. Lio was making these small noises in the back of his throat whenever Galo would kiss him particularly deep, and Galo was quickly becoming drunk on the feeling of it all.
Galo shifted his hand down from Lio’s face to grasp his hip and pull the other man’s body into his own tightly. Lio made an endearing noise of surprise that caused Galo to smile helplessly into their kiss. He couldn’t believe he was here, with Lio, being allowed this intimacy. This was Lio – Lio Fotia, leader of the Mad Burnish, badass in combat, tough as nails, the most resilient person he knew – melting into his arms like there was nowhere else he’d rather be. Galo felt like he needed to pinch himself.
All of the sudden, Lio placed his hands on Galo’s shoulders and pushed him onto his back. Lio then crawled over to straddle Galo’s hips as he took a moment to just stare down at Galo’s face. Mesmerized, Galo reached up and tucked some hair behind Lio’s ear that had fallen into his face; as much as he loved the disheveled look on Lio, he didn’t want to miss out on any expression he made.
Lio took the opportunity of being on top to gradually run his hands down Galo’s chest and abdomen, as if he was trying to memorize the shape of Galo with his fingertips. While Lio had his hands on Galo’s stomach, he pushed down slightly and Galo jerked underneath him, laughing a bit. When Lio gave him a questioning gaze, Galo explained: “Ticklish.”
Lio paused, and Galo watched as a devious look entered into his eyes. Just before Galo could say “don’t,” Lio jabbed both of his hands into Galo’s side as Galo yelled and laughed and tried to push him off.
“Lio, stop,” Galo gasped, finally managing to grab Lio’s hands and hold them steady after they’d tortured him for a good 10 seconds. “You’re a little shit, you know that?”
The breathtaking man in Galo’s lap merely threw his head back and laughed, and Galo enjoyed watching the elegant line of Lio’s throat as it was exposed to him. Getting an idea for payback, Galo wrapped his hand around the back of Lio’s neck and drew him down again, but not to kiss him on the mouth – instead, Galo pressed his lips to the pale column of Lio’s throat, right underneath his jaw. Lio gasped and then let out a shaky breath as Galo dragged his lips down the length of Lio’s throat, leaving wet kisses in his wake.
“Galo,” Lio whispered, letting his head fall forward. Almost instinctively, Lio’s hips began to move of their own accord, grinding down into Galo’s lap. Now it was Galo’s turn to gasp as he processed the pleasure jolting up and down his spine.
Although Galo was content to continue lavishing Lio’s throat with attention, Lio threaded his fingers into Galo’s hair and yanked his face back up so they could kiss each other once again while Lio continued to move his hips in small circles.
“Demanding,” Galo laughed against Lio’s lips.
“You like it,” Lio mumbled. He wasn’t wrong there.
Tentatively, Galo started to move his hips along with Lio’s. “Is that all you got?” Lio taunted as he pulled back from the kiss for a second. Narrowing his eyes, Galo called on his considerable strength from training with Burning Rescue and swiftly flipped their positions so that he was hovering over Lio, who was sprawled out beneath him looking like an angel fallen from heaven.
Galo told him so, and Lio responded by lightly smacking his shoulder: “Stop being cheesy.”
“I can be cheesy all I want when I’m on top,” Galo grinned down at Lio. Lio was about to come back with a sharp retort when Galo decided to cut him short by leaning down and sealing their lips together. Lio made a noise of indignation into the kiss but sighed into it nonetheless. The kiss was intense from the start and it immediately took Galo’s breath away. Feeling the need to prove something, Galo ground his hips into Lio’s with vigor, not caring about being gentle when he’d been challenged by the maddening man underneath him. Soon, they were both rocking into each other, and they continued like this until Lio pulled away and said “take my clothes off.”
Galo didn’t need to be told twice. He liked this – being bossed around by Lio. It awakened something primal in him. It made him want to please but also push back and prove himself. It was a heady feeling.
Taking his sweet time, Galo began peeling every layer of clothing off of Lio. He first grabbed for the hem of his shirt, and Lio sat up for a second so that Galo could maneuver it off his body. Galo had seen Lio shirtless before, but he was never allowed to truly look before now. Taking in the sight, Galo ran his hands down Lio’s chest, savoring the feeling of the smooth skin underneath his fingertips. On his path down his abdomen, Galo brushed his thumb over one of Lio’s nipples, which made the other man moan and arch his back off the bed sharply.
“Holy shit,” Galo breathed.
“Not one word,” Lio warned, his face red.
“I wasn’t going to say anything.”
“You just did,” Lio countered.
Grinning, Galo leaned down to kiss Lio silent while his thumb continued to toy with Lio’s nipple. He then began to kiss down Lio’s neck until he reached the other one and took it into his mouth. A harsh breath rattled out of Lio as Galo began to suck and lightly bit down.
“Galo,” Lio panted. “Take my damn pants off.”
“Yes, sir.” Galo regretfully stopped and reached for the hem of his pants. He looked up to meet Lio’s eyes, asking for one last silent permission, and the other man rolled his eyes and kicked Galo in the abdomen impatiently.
“Oof,” Galo laughed. “Patience, baby.”
Rolling Lio’s pants and underwear down at once, Galo couldn’t stop staring. Lio’s legs were long and smooth and mouth-watering, and Galo had the distinct feeling of wanting to eat Lio alive. Finally, Lio was naked in front of him. Galo reached for Lio’s right foot, held it up to his mouth, and kissed the inside of his ankle gently. Lio giggled a bit, a wonderful and unexpected sound, and Galo began kissing his way up the leg, adding in his tongue for extra effect.
Lio sighed when Galo reached the soft inside of his thighs as he spread his legs in invitation, and Galo groaned at the sight. Galo then alternated between each thigh as he pressed featherlight kisses across pale skin, making Lio shiver. Finally giving in to his urge, Galo opened his mouth and bit the flesh on the inside of one of Lio’s thighs, hard enough to leave a mark. Lio let out his loudest gasp yet and his hands flew to Galo’s hair. Galo smiled into the bite.
After leaving a matching bite on the other thigh, Galo kissed his way up to Lio’s pink cock and simply breathed on it, marveling at how hard Lio had become. Slowly, Galo licked a stripe up Lio’s cock and kissed the head. Lio’s breathing was deep and heavy, and his hands had become tight in Galo’s hair. After a few more licks and kisses, Galo took Lio fully into his mouth and sank down. A broken noise left Lio’s mouth.
Humming around the heat in his mouth and beginning to move his head, Galo made it his mission to make Lio let out more of those noises. And he was successful – Lio couldn’t go a second without gasping, moaning or whimpering. Sometimes he would whisper Galo’s name, to which Galo would moan in response. Gradually, Lio’s legs opened up even wider as he relaxed and became looser under Galo’s ministrations, and Galo began to massage the inside of his thighs with his hands. One time, Lio lost control and bucked his hips up into Galo’s mouth, but Galo was quick to catch him and hold his hips down as he took him apart. “You’re evil,” Lio had moaned. Galo merely applied himself even more after that.
Eventually, Lio started tugging on Galo’s hair to get his attention. Galo, at first, didn’t register the feeling; he was so caught up in worshipping Lio’s body that he had gone into a haze of lust and affection that distracted him from anything that wasn’t the feeling of Lio in his mouth.
“Galo,” Lio said. Galo hummed. “Hey.” Galo reluctantly abandoned his task and looked up at Lio’s face.
“I’m going to come if you don’t stop,” Lio warned.
“Isn’t that the point?”
Lio yanked on Galo’s hair so that Galo would crawl back up his body and they could see eye to eye. Pulling Galo’s head down more, Lio whispered into his ear: “I want to come with you inside of me, so take your clothes off.”
Galo almost fell off the bed in his haste to get his clothes off of his body. Lio laughed at him, and it was a beautiful sound.
Reaching into the nightstand drawer, Galo shuffled around a bit until he found what he was looking for: a small, mostly-full container of lube that hadn’t been used in months. Returning to his lover, Galo couldn’t help but ask: “Have you done this before?”
Lio nodded, but said nothing else. Taking that as answer enough, Galo ran his hands up and down Lio’s thighs for a few seconds before spreading some of the lube onto his fingers. Galo took his time preparing Lio, as the last thing he wanted to do was hurt him, but Lio quickly became impatient with Galo’s slow pace.
“Come on, I can take more than that,” Lio said.
Nodding, Galo leaned down to kiss Lio’s stomach as he added a second finger. He kissed his way up Lio’s body as he scissored his fingers, and by the time he reached Lio’s mouth Lio was moving his hips in encouragement.
“More,” Lio whispered into his kiss. Galo merely shushed him and continued to take his time with preparation. The kisses they exchanged were long and unhurried, just like the pace of Galo’s fingers. When Galo found the spot in Lio that made his whole body seize, he kept angling his fingers towards and brushing up against it just to watch the way Lio’s eyes rolled back into his head in pleasure.
“You look so beautiful right now,” Galo rasped out, startled at how low his voice sounded to his own ears.
“Fuck,” Lio stuttered out.
“Soon,” Galo promised, as he gradually added a third finger. They continued to kiss for long minutes as Galo teasingly slowed down his fingers even more just to watch the way Lio’s face scrunched up in frustration. As much as Galo liked being told what to do by Lio, he also liked this – the way Lio was putting himself into Galo’s hands, trusting Galo with his body fully. It made Galo feel honored to be the one in this position with Lio.
“I’m ready,” Lio said, and the words came out breathy. Galo nodded and put the lube back in the nightstand after spreading some of it onto his length.
Galo took a moment to take in the picture in front of him: Lio, spread out on the bed underneath him, flushed everywhere, looking up at Galo with heavy-lidded eyes that oozed pure want. Galo leaned down to kiss Lio while lining himself up.
When he finally began to push in, Lio gasped into Galo’s mouth. It was a beautiful sound. Galo took his time entering Lio, for he didn’t want to hurt the man underneath him. Inch by inch, he slid forward, with Lio making noises into his mouth as they kissed.
When Galo was all the way in, he leaned his forehead against Lio’s and whispered “fuck.”
“Yeah,” Lio whispered in response. “Move, idiot.”
Galo could do nothing else but obey. As he pulled out, Lio let out a small whine that Galo echoed with a groan. Galo pushed back in with a little more pressure this time, and Lio unclenched his hands from the sheets to wrap his arms around Galo’s neck.
From then on out, they fell into a rhythm together, with Lio moving his hips to meet Galo’s shaky thrusts. There were endless kisses between them. Their bodies were pressed together at every point, and Galo worried for a second about crushing Lio beneath him, but the other man seemed to be into feeling the weight on top of him, so he dismissed the thought.
After a few minutes of a steady rocking back and forth, Galo angled his hips and found a spot inside of Lio that made Lio gasp out a surprised moan. Encouraged by the sound, Galo kept his hips at that exact angle and pushed in with more force, causing Lio to jerk underneath him and let out a moan.
“Right there,” Lio babbled out. “Fuck, Galo, yes.”
Galo picked up the pace and started hitting the spot directly on each pass, and he delighted in the way Lio’s noises started to rise in pitch with each thrust. Not being able to stop himself, Galo leaned down and whispered in Lio’s ear: “You feel so good, you’re being so good for me.” Lio whimpered in response.
Lio panted out a “yes,” dragging his nails down Galo’s back as Galo picked up the pace even more. “Harder,” Lio demanded. Galo heeded the command.
Winding a hand into Lio’s hair, Galo pulled his head to the side, latched his mouth onto Lio’s neck, and began sucking dark bruises into the pale skin. He heard a sharp gasp, and then Lio was arching into him with such abandon that Galo couldn’t help but moan out loudly. Galo bit and sucked up and down Lio’s throat, determined to leave his mark on Lio so that everyone would know that Lio was his.
All of the sudden, Galo felt Lio pushing on his shoulders. Galo immediately leaned back in alarm, worried that Lio was hurt. Instead, Lio was staring up at him with a glint in his eyes. “I want to get on my stomach,” Lio said simply, and then he flipped over onto his knees with his elbows pressed into the sheets.
Galo felt like the wind had been knocked out of him at the sight of Lio presenting for him like that. He reached out and ran his hands over Lio’s back, his waist and hips, his ass. Not willing to waste any more time, he draped himself over Lio’s back, pushing Lio further down into the bedding, and lined up. As he pushed in once again, he swept Lio’s hair off of the back of his neck and peppered light kisses there, whispering sweet nonsense into Lio’s ear.
Lio was panting, and Galo could feel a slight sheen of sweat lining where their bodies were touching, but it didn’t feel disgusting to him – if anything, the evidence of their exertion together pushed him onward.
“Galo,” Lio whined, pushing back into Galo’s thrusts that were speeding up again.
Galo bit down onto Lio’s earlobe. “Yeah, baby, I’m right here.”
Lio stuttered out a “fuck” and spread his legs even wider until he was almost flat on the bed, continuing to meet Galo’s thrusts without hesitation. Galo leaned all of his weight onto his left elbow while his right arm grabbed Lio’s hand and laced their fingers together on top of the bed sheets. He pressed down into their joined hands and aimed for the spot in Lio that made him go wild.
“I’m gonna come, I’m gonna come,” Lio whimpered out, almost in a panic.
Galo openly groaned into his ear as he felt himself near the edge as well. “That’s right, come for me, baby. Come on my cock, you’re so good.”
And with that bit of dirty talk, Lio screamed as he let go and came all over the sheets. It seemed to go on forever, as Galo continued uttering dirty thoughts into Lio’s ear and angling his hips just right. Right when Lio’s orgasm started to wind down and he began twitching, Galo finally came, emptying himself into Lio with a moan and a sigh.
He slowly came to a stop, laying fully on top of Lio as he tried to catch his breath. After a minute, he rolled off and onto his side, facing the man who had just given everything to him. Lio’s face was pressed into the pillow, and his breathing had returned to normal, but he wasn’t moving.
“Lio?” Galo inquired, feeling worry rise within him. He brushed Lio’s hair away from his face gently. “Are you okay? Was that too much?”
Lio gradually turned to face Galo and took a deep breath. “No. I just… I think you fucked my brains out.”
Galo let out a startled but pleased laugh at that, and leaned in to kiss Lio’s forehead before getting a damp towel from the bathroom to wipe them both down with. Afterwards, he gathered Lio into his chest and held him tightly while running his hands through soft green hair.
“You’re amazing, do you know that?” Galo asked softly into the silent room, watching how the still-burning candle threw shadows over Lio’s face.
“You’re only saying that because I let you fuck me,” Lio said dryly, but kissing Galo’s shoulder nonetheless.
“Don’t say it like that!” Galo protested. “We didn’t fuck. We made love, Lio.”
“Oh my god,” Lio groaned, turning away and flipping onto his other side. “I cannot deal with you right now.”
Galo merely laughed and dragged Lio’s body into his until he’d molded himself to Lio’s back. He leaned forward and dropped a few kisses to the back of Lio’s neck and hummed while nuzzling his hair. “You love me,” he joked.
Lio’s body went rigid in Galo’s arms, and Galo swore internally. “I didn’t mean–”
“I do,” Lio said so quietly that Galo could barely hear.
“Wait, what?” Galo felt shock ripple through him.
“I know we haven’t known each other for that long, but I just feel like–”
“I love you,” Galo said quickly, before Lio could start to doubt his feelings. “I love you so much, Lio. I don’t give a shit about how long we’ve known each other. You mean everything to me.”
Lio was silent for a few moments, before a shy “okay” could be heard.
“Yes, okay, Galo. I love you. Thank you for loving me back.”
Galo scoffed. “You don’t have to thank me. God, you’re bad at this.”
Lio jabbed his elbow back into Galo’s stomach, who let out a shocked “oof” and then laughed. “Exhibit A,” Galo goaded.
Lio huffed and merely snuggled back into Galo’s embrace. “I just told you I love you, dumbass. Don’t go testing my patience now.”
“Mm, I wouldn’t dare,” Galo said, holding onto Lio as tight as possible and sighing contentedly.
After a few minutes of pleasant silence, Galo pulled away to blow out the candle and returned to cuddling Lio. “Thank you for loving me, too,” he whispered.
He could somehow sense Lio’s smile. “Idiot,” Lio murmured.
“Your idiot,” Galo corrected.
Lio sighed. “My idiot.”
After a little while, they drifted off to sleep together in each other’s arms. Galo’s last thought before he fell asleep was how lucky he was to have this.