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was waiting for (the world to end)

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Lio is aware of what went into saving his life. He's done the same to others dozens of times, sharing his Promare with someone on the edge of dying. Really, he gets it. CPR meets lighting someone's candle at a vigil. He knows that there doesn't have to be a deeper meaning. Maybe he's looking for something that isn't there.

 

Galo isn't subtle though. He must have had first aid training, there's no reason for him to be embarrassed about what happened. He was just returning the comfortprotectionsafety Lio gifted to him. Galo is earnest and stupid. He doesn't have to give it any extra meaning.

Lio, and these feelings from nowhere, wants there to be meaning to it though.

He feels the depths of it when the last of the Promare leaves him. It's not like the voice telling him to burn took up any space, but when it's gone there's some sort of emptiness— quickly filled by Galo's ridiculous requests for collaboration. The sunlight hits his face, and he has a million other things to think about, but an echo of the inferno in his chest looks to the stupid man next to him and wants to watch that soul light up. The echo is not taking “no” for an answer.

(Lio stays.)

 


 

There are Burnished who can't make a space for themselves in this new world, and it hurts. They're still treated as sub-human, shoved off to slums by worried citizens who think they'll somehow catch like dry tinder. Lio mourns the lost souls, dead trying to save a world that rejected them, but the living see no freedom for their sacrifice either. 

To their credit, the fire fighters are sympathetic, but it still feels stilted. The scales are tipped in the favor of humans who never felt the flame in their hearts, and his new team will never understand the intimate hurt he experiences when he sees his comerades still treated as lesser.

Early into his career, they go to a house burned to the ground by the neighbors. A family new to the community, and all they have to show for their time in this new world is scars.

His people aren't yet used to the way fire no longer warms them from the inside— it really truly burns now.

(Lio lit a candle once, held his hand over the flame, and felt his nerve endings spike with pain. He didn't cry, but it was a near thing. It wasn't the hurt, of course, it was the lack. He felt like something important had been taken from him.)

(It still feels like something has been taken from him. He wakes up cold, takes drinks cold, and he wonders if his family of fire feels this deep pain as well.)

Galo gives an angry, well-meaning speech to the street, gathered to watch the spectacle. Lio is too angry to talk to them at all, focuses on the family without a home once again, and sighs.

 


  

There are days when Lio remembers what faith looks like.

Entire communities coming together to protect their friends. Giving them work that suited their deep desire to burn, and not judging them for it. 

He's visited quiet suburbs where this or that family held the best barbeques. Crowded co-ops where this room threw parties that would blow your mind. Rowdy rural areas where someone was always counted on for the best bonfires.

Lio doesn't know how to smile at success sometimes. Humans understanding humans. Celebrating them.

He tries to send his family to these places when he can. Where he knows they'll be accepted.

His new team has a tendency to pat themselves on the back, and say, "Good work," when they look at the displays of kindness, as if they had something to do with the stability of a community. It's telling, of course, their discomfort when re-homing doesn't go to plan. He supposes Galo's worked-up, vocal disapproval is worth something, but that's probably just an increasing bias talking.

 


 

Galo is a beautiful idiot. He himself has admitted his stupidity, and Lio sees no reason beating around the bush about it. He has shared knowing looks with Aina, who seems sympathetic, whenever Lio reaches a point of exasperation (for whatever reason) where he just has to leave the room.

(Then again, smart people almost destroyed the world, so maybe Mr. All-Muscle-No-Brain is better off than the rest of them.)

The thing is, for every five times of being completely ridiculous, or comically missing the point, Galo does accidentally get perceptive. Or at least insightful.

 


 

It is a bad day.

It’s been months since a bad day at work, but it now stares Lio in the face and reminds him of every time he had failed before or since lighting the fire that burned the whole world.

He leaves the transport practically upon touchdown at the station, and holes up in one of the bunks while the rest of his team mills around the common area.

(And wasn't that a disquieting thought. His team. People who thought him a terrorist not too long ago.)

He wants to be left alone.

(He thought.)

He wants silence.

(He thought.)

He wants to seethe.

(He thought.)

He wants the flames back that had liberated the Burnished.

(He knew.)

Isn’t it something when Galo seeks him out, alone, silent, and seething, and doesn’t bring a rousing speech of platitudes, but a phone full of music Lio doesn’t hate. Galo reaches out with an earbud, and he lets the anger wash away.

(Lio burns from the inside out. The Promare is gone but he is a Burnished. They are all still Burnished. And he will aid them. The echo of emptiness lessens.)

His right leg is laying across the bed, and left knee is resting against the wall, and Galo has managed to unobtrusively find a place resting against the latter. He's kind of curled up, and Lio wonders if this is what testing the waters looks like. Giving his fire back aside, Galo and Lio don't really attempt intimacy in a general sense. They're close, on a wavelength separate from the rest of the crew sometimes, but this feels like a different sort of understanding. 

At some point, Lio realizes he's still wearing his jacket, and takes it off.

(It's sized too big for his tastes, but he needs it. They should still fix it though.)

It isn't that sort of moment, but he notices Galo's eyes wander.

(But his head is full of other things, and it isn't the right time for anything but the beat coming from the earbud, and the tumbling of his own thoughts inside of his skull.)

 


 

The team does put out actual fires of course. It feels less notable, but it happens regularly enough. They rescue cats from trees and take bodies to morgues, and all sorts of things become normal.

The kissing is new though.

(It happens like this. Simply.)

Lio should know the depths of Galo's heroics, they've saved the world, but the mundane makes you forget. So, a fire is going out of control and Galo's inside looking for some child's bunny, and of course Lio is worried. 

Galo emerges victorious, and Lio feels relief. There's a beat, and while Galo poses for the kid reunited with their fuzzy pet, Lio takes a moment to process. He trusted Galo in the first place, yes, but he only felt real ease when Galo was out and safe. The idiot is still posing, but has at least begun to talk about fire safety to the kid. Varys is talking about structural support and whether the house can be saved, and Aina is asking the family about accomodations while they wait for the insurance company. The relief doesn't leave Lio for a second though.

He makes the decision to kiss Galo while riding back to the station. They get to the station. Lio draws Galo away from the rest of the crew, and kisses him. Success.

(How it actually happened is this:

The crew dressed down in the lockers, and met up with Lucia who had been providing support from the base. In the reunion, Lio had turned to Galo and said, Come with me, in a way that was firm, but quiet enough to not disturb whatever flow of conversation was happening with the rest of their team. Lio had led him away, into the bunks, bypassing the common space and the kitchen. He had closed the door, locked it, and turned to Galo. He said, You did well today, without really knowing what he meant by saying that. Then he watched as a flush worked its way over Galo's face. He wasn't sure if it was from the praise, or the slowly narrowing space between them, but Lio continued, I am going to kiss you. Is that alright?

Galo’s, Absolutely had to be the most concise answer he ever gave.

It wasn't awkward per se, but Lio made an effort to keep things simple. He wanted to back Galo into the door and pin him there. He wanted to run a hand over Galo's... Everything. His hands held Galo's wrists, pulled him down while keeping either of them from taking things further. He pressed their mouths together firmly, deliberately. Then gentler, and moreso. They devolved into soft brushes of the lips, which Lio eventually trailed down Galo's neck. He wanted to mark him somehow. Instead he had drawn away, and looked up to Galo's face which was heated and red, and felt the deep satisfaction that came with watching something burn.

It had been so long since Galo gave him that breath of life, and Lio tugged him back down again to drag the quiet gasps out of his lungs and make up for lost time.

Then turned, opened the door, and left.)

You know, simple.

 


 

It begins to happen a variety of ways, in a variety of places. 

They start in the same fashion, Lio pulling Galo away to the bedrooms giving him some sort of reassurance, and kissing him soundly. Something that brooks no argument in where they stand.

He does eventually give in and press him into a door. Gives in and touches.

The two of them migrate to other parts of the station, and pull away only just before greeting proper company. Galo's face is still red, and Lio is probably a shade too smug.

(Lio was on the counter, would have been drawing even with Galo's face, but Galo was pressing into Lio's space instead, had been leaning up from between his legs. He felt the power of their position. And damn it if Lio wasn't entitled to feel smug-- drawing away last minute, and eyeing the not-so-steady rise and fall of the bare chest next to him, trying to look busy for whoever had come in to interrupt them.)

Their kisses start to come at different times. The times when Galo somehow knows to comfort him however he needs. Kissing just becomes a part of that.

(Lio was tired, and worn from their humanitarian project. Had seen too much suffering, felt too much for his family, and had holed up in his bunk as usual. Galo had brought snacks that were probably too crumbly to eat in bed, but exactly what was needed regardless. He had talked about inane things while Lio listened to the ridiculous strings of thought, which tangled more often than not.

He ran his hand through Galo's hair then, still in a ridiculous mohawk, had said, You did well, so much softer than usual, and Galo had leaned in and kissed him gently, and then curled into Lio's chest. Galo was heavy, and it was a wonder how much Lio needed that weight.

They fell asleep on the plate, still full of crumbs, but it was worth it.)

After missions where tension ramps up, and situations get serious, they eventually just kiss on the journey back.

(A clear question-answer without words: I’m here, are you? You’re okay, right? Short and straightforward.)

 


 

There is no rush to increase the physicality in any particular way. Long term. Short term. Some progressions are slower than others. 

Clothes are removed after a while, not like Galo has any predisposition to wear shirts in the first place. They've seen each other in various stages of undress at the station, but it's only when they're off duty that it is done with intention.

(Galo seems to think Lio's legs a religious experience with or without the pants, but Lio likes to feel the skin on skin as Galo runs his hands over his thighs. Lio hums approval.)

Clothes don't have to come off though.

(Galo's ridiculous hair is good for something. Stays out of his way when Lio goes for his favorite spot on that neck. Lio marks just lower and back from Galo's ear. He has graduated over time to the biting and sucking that makes something long lasting. It makes Galo shiver, makes Lio satisfied, and makes the crew roll their eyes, because neither of them are even making an effort at subtlety anymore.)

 


 

Aina is intensely supportive as time goes on.

"You're good for him. You give him what he needs." she says one day.

Lio finds it difficult to believe, because Galo will always voice his wants, but needs? Does he really know that sort of thing?

He thinks about her words until he lays Galo out that night, works him over with soft murmurs and firm touches. Then realizes partway through nuzzling Galo's inner thigh that they both need this.

Whatever this is.

He stops thinking so much after.

 


 

His job is a slow matter of progress which can never be measured and graphed, but now feels less like the tides and more like the steady filling of a reservoir. (But how can you quantify acceptance? Celebration? Community?) 

He watches the Burnished become folded into neighborhoods, loved by their new friends and peers. The work is never done, but every so often, he lets himself sigh in relief. His family becomes safer and happier day by day, and he knows it.

 


 

There's a place in Lio's chest that still echoes an inferno, in his hands, in his temples. It is the roar of a fire, the roar of a dragon.

But it is filled with the slow recovery of his people. 

And it is filled stolen moments which leave him warm and satisfied.

(Those are indubitably kisses.)