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Painting with Fire

Chapter Text

“You know you have to learn the rules before you can break them, son,” Professor Kray Foresight said as he stood on a drawing, smudging charcoal into the linoleum tile with a perfectly polished shoe. He stared down at the student, Lio Fotia, who was standing between him and a young woman with brilliant red hair on the verge of tears. His titanic presence exuded wealth and success in the art world. “What makes you think you can survive being an artist without knowing that?”

“What you’re doing is bullying,” Lio protested. “We’re here to learn, not be pushed around by some arrogant artist who’s the hot-shot dujour.” He clenched his fists staring up at his professor, unafraid. The class sat in silent terror from the rage seeping from Lio’s words and into the air. Only moments ago, Kray decided he did not care for someone’s class assignment, and wanted to make a point. Lio was not having any of it.

“Aren’t you admirable,” Kray cooed as his eyes darkened. To the outside observer, it seemed like a thoughtful exchange between professor and student. Lio knew otherwise. “I’d be careful if I were you. The art world is a small but dangerous place. That’s why I’m here to guide you on the path to success.”

Lio looked around the studio. None of his peers stood to speak with him. He frowned and gathered the fire in his belly. “Oh? So it’s not because of the salary?” Lio quipped sharply, spitting sparks into the air. The oxygen in the room vanished and a red aura washed over the class. He hit a nerve. Promepolis School Of Art was renown in the country, made famous by its successful alumni. It was expensive and difficult to get into.

Kray raised an eyebrow and hummed, unphased. “You have a lot to learn, young man,” he coolly replied. “You talk a big game… typical of students accustomed to living on a trust fund. Please be considerate to your peers, Mister Fotia. Not everyone is fortunate enough to transfer to here as easily as you.” The towering man then stepped off the now damaged drawing and nodded to the other professor. “Thank you for having me participate in your group critique. It was a pleasure. As for you Master Fotia, I’ll see you later in my class.” With that, he gave a polite smile before striding out of the studio classroom.

Oxygen rushed back into the room, allowing the class could breathe again. All except for Lio, who was high on anger and adrenaline. He glared daggers in the direction where Kray made his exit. Their instructor let out a sigh and motioned for the students to silently retrieve their work and leave for their next class

“Bastard,” Lio huffed to himself finally, adjusting his fringe before picking up his classmate’s ruined project. “I’m sorry, Thyma,” he said with a small smile, wishing he could do more. “Are you okay?”

Thyma nodded and silently took her artwork from Lio. She looked it over, deflated. “Thank you,” she said, moving her red hair from her face before placing the damaged artwork with a dusty footprint into her portfolio. “You didn’t have to do that. I mean, this place is tough…”

“Tough is one thing. It’s another to be cruel,” Lio stated, throwing his belongings over his shoulder as they made their way out. “I don’t see what’s so great about him.”

“You know he’s head of the painting department, right?” Thyma asked innocently as they walked out into the city street where Lio’s friends stood waiting.

Lio felt ice wash down his back. “The PAINTING department? As in the entire painting department?” Lio asked. Thyma nodded, and the adrenaline he was riding on evaporated. Lio was a painting major. “Of course, of course,” Lio said, covering his panic as he looked at the two patiently waiting. “Well, looks like my friends are here for lunch. Want to join us?”

Thyma looked over at the two. They were tall, slim and intimidating, echoing Lio’s casual biker aesthetic and taking it to another level. Despite Lio’s attempts to look tough, his gentle features betrayed him. “I have a class over the lunch break, so I’ll pass, thank you,” she said politely. Waving him off, she scampered down the street towards the next class in another building. “See you later!”

“Yeah, later,” Lio trailed off as she blended into the crowd. He turned to his friends, Guiera and Meis sculpture and metal majors. Throwing his bag at them, he curtley said, “Hold this,” and dug furiously until he pulled out a crumpled paper.

“What’s gotten into you, Boss?” Guiera asked as he watched Lio cringe at the papers in his hands. Lio shuffled through them again, squinting close before letting out a frustrated groan.

“I just picked a fight with the head of my department in Ignis’ foundations class,” Lio growled, cramming the paper back where he found it. “Fucker was picking on a classmate, and I called him out.” He knitted his brow beneath his fringe, hoping to push the creeping anxiety down through sheer force of anger alone. Lio began to walk with the two following close behind. “He thinks he’s all that because he’s Kray Forsight, painting genius of our time. It’s a load if you ask me!”

“Lio,” Guiera said emphatically. “You told off him? HIM?! Everybody’s scared of him. The whole Foresight Foundation nearly writes all the school’s checks! You’ve got balls of steel.”

“Don’t be gross,” Lio huffed, stomping down the sidewalk. “Worst part is he’s my advisor AND I have his class this afternoon. I’m fucked.”

“What about something to eat then?” Meis asked, finally speaking up. “You barely touched your takeaway yesterday after we got you settled in. You need to eat.”

“I’m fine, really,” Lio grimaced as he stared ahead. He was too proud to admit he was exhausted. “You Guys worry about yourselves, I need to get ready for Foresight’s class next.” His stomach twisted at the thought, chasing away the very idea of eating. Kray was not going to go easy on him after that display.

“You always skip breakfast,” Meis went on. “Fuck, man, you haven’t eaten since a few bites the day before! Here! Take this and just fucking eat it in class. THEN you’re having dinner with us. No excuses!” With that, Meis grabbed Lio and shoved a protein bar into his hand. “If I find that thing untouched, Guiera and I are going to beat the shit out of you.”

Lio stared at the bar and a small grin crept across his face.”Like you guys would even try,” he said with a laugh. “I promise to eat something soon as I get out of Foresight’s class, promise.”

“Which class is Foresight teaching, anyway?” Guiera asked, leaning on Meis as they continued to escort Lio back to his apartment.

“Figure drawing,” Lio replied. “He’s going to be out to get me, I’m sure.”

“Maybe,” chimed Meis.

“Maybe?”

“Maybe. Depends on his mood. He brings in some real wild looking models. Guiera! Remember the dude with three balls?” Meis laughed, recalling a memory. Lio stared at him horrified.

“Yeah! And the one old dude who insisted on ballet poses but had a beer gut! He couldn’t hold a pose to save his life! And then the one prissy boy from the dance majors dropped out of the elective after that!” Guiera added, slapping his companion on the back.

“That’s mean,” Lio chided. “They’re doing us a favor.”

“Sixty dollars an hour,” Meis said. “I saw the invoice on Foresight’s desk. “Decent money if you can do it. And then there’s rumors about some of the models hitting on students! You might be Raptor Toes’ type!”

“Guys, no,” Lio protested, annoyed at the names they were giving models. “You’re being mean now.”

“We’re kidding, KIDDING,” Guiera said with a laugh. “If it’s with Foresight, you’ll be fine. He only uses those models when he doesn’t have his boy toy to show off.”

“His boy toy…? Lovely,” Lio puffed his cheeks, being reminded of the altercation earlier. “I’m still fucked.”

“You’ll be fine, promise!” Guiera assured once they reached their destination. He draped his arm around Meis and grinned. “We’ll meet you here after work, got it?”

“As long as I’m not crashing on your date,” Lio quipped as he rushed into the building before they could react. “I’ll see you after class! Bye!” With that, he rushed to the steps of his apartment to prepare for Kray’s class. The protein bar Meis gave him was quickly forgotten as Lio ran back out to class, hoping to calm his screaming nerves.

Chapter Text

Lio rushed to the figure drawing studio. He concluded he was better off coming in early to spite Kray rather than being late or not showing up at all. The hall was nearly empty while most everyone was still out to lunch. Anxiety and frustration was the only thing on Lio’s mind as he reached the classroom door, finding it open. Cautiously he peeked into the doorway, and let out a sigh of relief. The studio was arranged with drawing horses neatly surrounding a stage with a chair, podium, wooden pole and drapes. Kray was nowhere to be seen. Maneuvering to the front row, Lio wanted to take advantage of the best spot to work.

With his large, cumbersome sketchbook out, he looked over to a fellow early bird- a young man who looked to be a little older than him. Although Lio was new, he was at least familiar with the other art majors floating around campus. This man didn’t look like the traditional art student. They straddled the drawing horse while paging through an EMT handbook. The man dressed in gray sweatpants, a shirt, and a leather jacket to hide his muscular build, and Lio watched him, entranced. He was strikingly handsome despite the near comical faux hawk and brilliant azure hair. It worked for him. Now that was a man Lio could only imagine having in his bed fucking him senseless. Lio found his eyes tracing the contours of the man’s features from his strong arms down to thick calloused fingers and back when the stranger finally glanced up from his book and laid eyes on him.

“Hi there!” the man said, beaming wide. “I don’t think I’ve seen you around. I’m Galo.” He stuck out his hand to Lio who was startled stiff by the introduction.

“Nice to meet you. I’m Lio Fotia,” Lio trailed off, taking Galo’s hand to find his own trapped in an enthusiastic double-handed shake. His heart froze and caught himself staring at the way Galo’s muscles moved under his shirt. Lio felt like he stepped into an alternate universe. Never in his life had he met someone so physically fit.

“Are you here for class?” Galo asked.

“Yeah, I am in fact,” Lio struggled to free his hand, shaking the circulation back into it. He stared at Galo, still bewildered at his presence. “You must be auditing it then?” he asked, trying to ignore the anxiety from his day.

“You could say that,” Galo said with a smile. “These classes are fun. I’m always excited to see everyone’s results.”

“At least one of us is,” Lio said with a nervous laugh. “I’m sort of on my professor’s bad side at the moment.” He looked over at Galo, waiting for a response when he motioned Lio to continue.

“I’m listening,” Galo said using a scrap piece of paper to mark where he left off in his book, and storing it away in the duffel bag at his feet. “You seem like you need to vent. Let’s hear you get it all out!” He flexed to exaggerate his point before leaning on the front of the drawing horse.

Lio stared, confused by Galo. “I couldn’t,” he declined. “I’ve only just met you, and I don’t want to bother you with it.”

Galo nestled his chin on his arms and gave a kind expression that obliterated all of Lio’s resolve. It was gentle and genuine, something Lio hadn’t run into often. “You’re not bothering me at all,” Galo reassured. “I’m a good listener.”

Softening, Lio relented. “Fine, I guess it couldn’t hurt,” he said. “Well for starters, I stood up for a classmate today. One of our professors was bullying her.”

“That’s very admirable of you,” Galo smiled. “What were they doing?”

“Oh the professor was saying their work was shit when it wasn’t. My classmate was in tears, and I couldn’t just let him get away with it. I mean, sure, he’s the great Kray Foresight, avant-garde painter of our time! He has people pay millions for his work! It doesn’t mean he can have free license to push young people around.”

Galo paused and nodded. “Ah, I’m sure he’s not all that bad,” Galo said calmly. Lio stared at him, annoyed. “It’s probably a misunderstanding. Something to learn from, right? He’s your teacher after all, so I’m sure he’ll forgive you.”

“I doubt that.”

“Can’t jump to conclusions too quickly,” Galo beamed. “But your frustration is valid. I can’t give you grief for that.”

Lio frowned and finally opened his sketchbook to a blank page, readying for the class. “I guess,” he huffed, looking for his graphite and charcoal. He pulled out the blackened nubs, dirtying his fingertips. “He could have just handled it better than stepping on someone’s work…”

Galo hummed and nodded, remaining quiet as Lio continued to go on about Kray while the classroom filled behind them.

“...and then they say he’s got a boy toy he has model for his classes all the time,” Lio added, crossing his arms.

“Is that what they say?” Galo chuckled. “That’s funny. Did you ever meet them?”

“No,” Lio huffed, looking away and down at his supplies for class. His stomach twisted in knots, reminding him that he left the protein bar at home. “Matter of time, I guess.”

“Good afternoon! I’m happy to see everyone made it,” Kray said entering the room. Lio snapped his head around to look at Kray and glare. Lio’s angry telepathic morse code proved useless as Kray strode gracefully to the front of the class. “Welcome to Advanced Figure Drawing. If you will pay attention, I’d like to go over the expectations of the class...”

Kray’s voice faded into a din as Lio tuned him out, adjusting his oversized sketchpad and grip on his charcoal. The class was going to be torture, Lio knew it. Wondering what his new friend was thinking, Lio glanced towards Galo… who was nowhere to be found.

“Galo?” Lio whispered as Kray went on about the class and final painting assignment due at the end of the semester. Lio looked around the class from his seat, looking for him. “Galo?” Where did he go? Lio internally panicked as the class lights went out and the spotlight turned on. He looked at the drawing horse where Galo was sitting earlier and to the platform. His stomach dropped.

There was no sketchbook. There were no drawing supplies. It was only Galo, a book, and a duffle bag. Cold panic rushed through him as he saw a familiar silhouette approach the stage.

Galo stepped onto the platform and into the light wearing only a robe. The lamp cast dramatic shadows, caressing every curve of Galo’s body as he approached Kray.

“I’m ready, danna,” Galo said, giving Kray a chaste kiss on the cheek before removing his robe and placing it on the nearby chair. Galo stood before the class naked for everyone to see. Lio sat stunned. The man before him was more than he imagined naked. Galo stood there shining brilliant like the sun, and Lio sat frozen staring at the pectorals and impossible abs before him.

“We will begin with croquis at thirty seconds apiece,” Kray continued. “...And then I will up the time. We will end the class with an hour study. Keep those drawings loose. We are focusing on gesture and fluidity, not perfection…” He put a timer on and motioned to Galo. The man stepped over and took the pole to rest on his shoulders and draping his hands over it. It was a simple, elegant pose.

Lio’s mind short-circuited and emptied onto the floor. Galo Thymos. The beautiful man he sat lusting for while he complained about Kray was the boy toy. Kray’s boy toy. Lio wanted to run, scream, vomit- anything. Whatever was remotely considered fight or flight was gone. He found himself staring at Galo, unable to focus on his sketch. His hands trembled. The timer went off in the background, signaling the first pose was done. Lio snapped himself back to earth, and looked up to see Galo change his pose to face him.

Raising his arms, Lio watched Galo’s muscles stretch and pull, exaggerating his abdominals, and creating what Lio perceived to be a straight path to Galo’s dick. Lio’s mind rushed from eating off of Galo’s stomach to the idea of Kray fucking Galo. -It then immediately went back to Lio trash talking Kray only moments before class started. He fucked up. Oh how Lio royally fucked up as the room began to close in on him, getting dark. The last things Lio could see was his charcoal drop and Galo’s face before making contact with the cold concrete floor.

The world around Lio melted away into the darkness like a long needed, restful sleep. Exhaustion from the day before and no food finally caught up with him. Lio felt his body levitate as though on a cloud and something gentle touch his lips. Without thinking, he reflexively reached his arms out and deepened the contact on his lips into a kiss, sliding his tongue towards the source. It pulled away and Lio’s eyes flew open.

“You’re awake! Thank goodness,” Galo beamed, in close proximity to Lio’s face. “I was about to perform CPR!”

Lio looked around, dazed with the entire class circled around him and Kray standing in the back, watching. Galo was bare-ass naked and holding Lio close in his arms. A red flush ran through Lio’s body and his stomach growled loud enough to echo off the walls of the studio. FLIGHT! Pushing himself out of Galo’s arms, Lio leapt to his seat and frantically grabbed his belongings before tripping over several drawing horses in his panicked scramble out of the room.

Running as fast as his feet could carry him down the steps and out the building, Lio rushed to his studio apartment, and dove headfirst into the covers, screaming into his pillow. He rolled into his comforter like a cocoon, and planned to die from embarrassment. His art life was over. Galo was sure to tell Kray everything. He’d be kicked out of school and blacklisted from everywhere else for his transgressions.

Lio gasped, his head emerging out of the covers in need of fresh air. He pulled out his phone, contemplating calling Gueira and Meis. Then he saw his reflection… a large black smudge of charcoal stained his cheek. He must have fallen on his drawing first before hitting the ground. Great, he thought to himself as his stomach dropped again, replaying the moment he regained consciousness.

“Fuuuuuck,” Lio groaned, rolling over onto his stomach, realizing what he had done. “I fucking tried to make out with him! What the hell is wrong with me?!” He screamed into his pillow again, mortified. Galo’s touch, albeit brief felt sweet and gentle. Lio found himself wanting more. -No no no! He thought to himself. That was CPR! What the fucking hell, self?! Springing up again, he glared at his pillowcase, frustrated at his thoughts. Charcoal smudges were everywhere on his crisp white bed sheets.

“Fuck,” he muttered again, disgusted at the mess he made. On the count of three, Lio forced himself out of bed to clean up and wash the offending charcoal off of his bedsheets. He cursed himself as he fought the stubborn stains.

Giving up on hand washing, he resigned himself to the hallway laundry room and the likelihood of having to sleep either on the mattress without sheets or not sleep at all. The washer/dryer system in the building was ancient and notorious for taking hours to complete the task. He grimaced at the thought. Neither option for the evening was appealing. He sat himself on top of the washer and scrolled through his phone when he saw the time. -Class was technically over, and he had to meet Guiera and Meis before they conspired to break down his apartment door and force feed him. Laundry would have to wait.

Chapter Text

Lio leapt off of the running washer and abandoned his sheets, resigned to the washer/dryer combo would still be working on them once he returned. After rushing to his apartment and getting his coat, he flew down the steps to only find Guiera standing there waiting for him.

“Where’s Meis?” Lio asked, looking up and down the street, searching for their missing friend.

“At work,” Guiera said motioning in the direction they began to walk in. “They asked him to stay for the dinner rush tonight. We’re eating for free.”

“Pizza again?”

“What? You expecting me to be working at the pub on a Wednesday?”

Lio shook his head and smiled. “Nah, it’s fine,” he said with a sigh, pushing his mood down into his stomach. They headed down several blocks in silence, both tired from their respective classes.

“So, how’d figure drawing go?” Guiera asked, making Lio’s heart jump.

“Great, great,” Lio said, decidedly lying. He didn’t want to face the wrath of Guiera by telling the truth. Lio couldn’t bear the thought, let alone making him and Meis worry more. “He pretended I wasn’t even there.”

“Good,” Guiera nodded as they arrived at the pizzeria. They entered and Lio’s stomach howled in hunger as the euphoric combination of cooking tomato sauce and garlic reached his nose. He inhaled deeply and his stomach did flips. The place was moderately kitsch with a mural of rural Italy adorning the dining space. By the register in back was an aged vending machine full of stale chocolates and a lovingly maintained pinball machine blinking “Flames of Fury” adorned with sleek motorbikes in front of a volcano and wildly colored flames of teal and pink.

“God, I could eat a whole pie,” Lio whined, holding his stomach as they walked past the booths. “You think Meis can hook us up with something fast to hold us over? I’m finally hungry.”

“That’s the spirit!” Gueira laughed as they approached the back of the shop to sit at the bar while Meis worked the counter.

Taking their seats, Meis greeted them. “Hey losers,” he grinned. While handing Lio a water, Meis winked to Guiera, getting him soda. “Oh the house, hot stuff.”

“Who said you could be gay on the clock?” Guiera teased, helping himself to a swig of the sugary drink. He leaned forward, grinning at Meis who blew him off.

“What do you assholes want? My boss is out, so I’m in charge,” Meis said, wiping down the counter. “Lio. Did you eat that protein bar?”

Lio stared blankly at Meis and quickly off to the side, feigning innocence. Meis frowned, familiar with the response.

“Okay, ‘no,’ then,” he said, jotting down something on a notepad. He sighed through his nose and tied his hair back into a low ponytail again. “Bottomless Magic Fries, coming up. If you don’t eat them, you’re dead.”

“That sounds disgusting,” Lio protested, looking up at the menu graphic advertising concoction. A dated image of fries smothered in cheese and tomato sauce topped with a comically large meatball stared Lio down. “Who eats something like that?”

“Don’t knock my Magic Fries,” Meis scolded, waving his pencil at Lio like a sword. “They’re the hottest menu item here after the pizza.”

“Hey, Meis, add a large pie on that for him, too! Boss said he could eat a whole one when we were coming in!” Guiera grinned at Lio, signaling he wasn’t going to get away from them easily.

“If I’m sick, I’m gonna make sure I puke on your boots,” Lio warned in dry sarcasm. “...and It’ll be your fault.”

“Fuck you too, man,” Guiera laughed and gave Lio a friendly shove.

This was exactly what was needed, Lio felt. His horror of the day was melting away when the bell over the pizzeria door rang open. Casually Lio looked over while he laughed with Guiera until he laid eyes on the entering patron. Lio’s face dropped and went white as a sheet. Fuck. It was Galo.

He quickly turned around and hunched over the bar in a weak attempt to hide his face. Maybe Galo didn’t see him.

“Lio! What are you doing?” Guiera asked.

“Don’t say anything, I’m not here,” Lio said sharply.

“What the fuck, dude, you look stupid,” Meis chimed in.

“Shut up! Guys, I don’t want him to-”

“Hey, Lio! Funny seeing you here,” Galo beamed, too cheerful for Lio’s panicked state wearing the same outfit and leather jacket he was in earlier that day. “How are you feeling?”

“Who’s this, Lio?” Guiera asked, blinking. “He doesn’t look like an art student.”

“No, I’m not, but I’m a big fan,” Galo beamed. “How are you feeling, Lio? I was worried after you passed out in class.”

“YOU DID WHAT?!” Guiera cried, looking over at Lio.

“Yeah, he passed out in the middle of class,” Galo continued as Lio’s face went from pink to a dark maroon. “I’m an EMT in training, so soon as I was checking his vitals he came to and ran away!”

“He did what?” Meis’ voice carried with a clink of a heavy plate. Lio could smell the fries that were freshly made and now forever associated them with the rage of Meis. Lio dared not look up for the thought of Meis mad was something he couldn’t handle at the moment. “You little shit! That’s what you get for not eating!”

Lio laughed nervously and grabbed the plate and his water. “Oh Meis! Just in time! This is Galo, a… classmate! I’m going to eat this like you said to and talk to my classmate here ...in private.” He then looked Galo straight in the eye and motioned him to follow.

“Okay… just a second,” Galo replies, turning to Meis.

“What do you want?” Meis asked, eyebrow raised and still upset at Lio.

“Can I get a large Volcanic Margherita Megamax, please?” Galo asked, pointing to the menu.

“A cheese pizza with peppers. Got it,” Meis grumbled, jotting it down. He watched Galo wave a thanks and happily trot back to follow Lio. “I fuckin’ hate the pizza names here,” he said to Gueira.

Finally reaching the booth, Galo found Lio tucked in the furthest booth from the bar, violently stabbing at the meatball half the size of his head, tearing it into smaller pieces over his fries, making the Italian equivalent of chili fries. When Lio looked up at Galo, he felt his face go red. “Well? Sit,” He said and Galo obeyed, eyes wide and head tilted to the side, waiting for the next command.

Lio pursed his lips and looked away for a second to gather his thoughts. “So,” Lio began brushing the hair from his eyes before looking at Galo. God, Lio couldn’t stand looking at Galo’s face. It was impossible to stay mad at him. “Did you tell him?” he asked.

“Tell him what?”

“That...you know, about how I talked about him,” Lio stated. “Why didn’t you tell me you were… you know!” He gestured wildly in the air, motioning one way and then another in hopes Galo would understand.

“I didn’t tell him anything,” Galo said calmly. “I told you, I’m a good listener. You were venting. What kind of person would I be to do that?” He leaned back in the booth and crossed his arms. “Also, your teacher and I have an arrangement. I’m not a ‘boy toy.’”

“What kind of arrangement is that?”

“Nothing you need to concern yourself with.”

“Are you dating him?”

“No.”

Lio squinted at Galo, annoyed. He wasn’t sure what to make of this person. Who would have an arrangement with Kray? Why? “Why did you even bother to say hi after everything I said about Kray?” he asked, stabbing a fry with his fork.

“I was worried about you,” Galo said ernestly. “You passed out pretty bad there for a moment. I was ready to take you to the ER when you came to and bolted out of the room. Look, I’m in school to be an EMT. I care about people. You can’t shame me for something that I’m passionate about.”

“Oh,” Lio said as his face fell. “...sorry.” An awkward silence fell between them and Lio peeked over the booth to see Meis glaring in his direction. Wordlessly Meis pointed to the Magic Fries photo and then in Lio’s direction. He ducked back down, getting the message that by the time his pizza would arrive, the fries should be gone.

“Just so you know, I’m not mad,” Galo said finally, breaking the silence. “I was just worried about you.” He smiled again, letting out a small laugh that felt like a knife in Lio’s heart. “Promise me you won’t faint again next time I model, okay?”

Pushing the plate of fries to Galo, Lio sighed. “I promise. Here, peace offering?” he said, motioning to the fries decorated with the slaughtered meatball. “I can’t eat these all by myself…”

“Fine,” Galo conceded, letting the awkwardness slide to the wayside. “By the way, you missed this in class. -Kray is having a gallery opening this weekend and he’s expecting your class to be there for participation credit.”

“There it is,” Lio sighed, fighting congealed cheese off of a fry. “Figures that he’d pull that.”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” Galo said as his pizza arrived. His eyes lit up wide and his smile became too brilliant for Lio to stare at again. Galo was like an overgrown kid at heart and it was adorable as he thanked the server before digging in. Taking a moment, he took one of the plates he was given a placed a slice in front of Lio. “You know about it now, so that’s better than nothing.”

Lio looked at the pizza and then to Galo, surprised. “You’re weird,” he said gently as he took a bite. It was so much more welcoming the the fries to his stomach. “Thank you.”

“Anytime,” Galo beamed stretching his arms. Out from underneath the jacket Lio spotted purple and green discolorations around Galo’s wrists. They weren’t there earlier in the day when he modeled for the class. Lio sat mid-chew, staring at the marks. Quickly Galo noticed and pulled his jacket sleeves back down, covering the discoloring. “Actually, I was wondering. He’s already invited your class to opening night. ...Would you like to go with me? ”

“For real?” Lio scoffed between bites, feeling a blush come to his cheeks. “I could just go with my class if that’s the case. I wouldn’t want to get in your way.”

“No, really it’s fine. Kray’s often busy with events like these, and I always end up alone and bored,” Galo said, waving a slice of pizza around before placing some of Lio’s fries on top of it. “I like your company so far, shit talker or not. Besides, somebody has to make sure you don’t pass out again.” He winked obnoxiously, eliciting a small laugh from Lio that only made Galo’s smile only brighter.

Don’t fall for him, Lio thought to himself. Don’t fall for him. It’ll only mean heartbreak. “It’s a date,” he said with a half smile, feeling his heart warm in Galo’s presence. Oh fuck.

Chapter Text

The room was dark as Lio traced the silhouette of Galo’s perfect frame with his fingertips. Lio couldn’t believe his luck. Galo laid naked, vulnerable in his bed. He clung to the sheets with his knuckles turning white while Lio worked his way down his body, kissing and tasting Galo as he went. He finally reached Galo’s cock and began to kiss at the base, making it twitch in frustrated anticipation. Lio drank in Galo’s presence, unable to remember how he got him into his bed in the first place, and wanted to take his time worshipping at his alter.

It was one thing to study Galo’s body for art, but another entirely for pleasure. Lio took in every gasp and moan that Galo let out with his touch. He was pliable to Lio’s whims and neither one could get enough of it. At that moment, Lio didn’t care how or why Galo was involved with Kray. He wanted Galo all to himself -his own personal muse. He gently ran his fingers up the shaft followed by a kiss on the tip, leaving deliberate kitten licks against his slit. The next painting Lio imagined would definitely be of Galo -treasuring the moment he’d lay exhausted, eyes glazed in post-orgasmic bliss and body tangled in sheets.

“L-lio,” Galo moaned while the blonde casually continued toying with him, taunting, edging him to the point of tears. His cries were music to Lio’s ears, and he wanted more. “Please, I can’t-”

“Mmn, not yet,” Lio purred, taking Galo into his mouth and worked his tongue on the underside of his cock. Galo cried out, arching his back upwards, fighting the urge to thrust into Lio’s throat. The sounds only urged Lio on further, bobbing his head and taking in as much of Galo as he could. He pulled away, and shot Galo a hot look as he applied a generous amount of lube onto his own erection. “Are you ready?” Lio asked, his eyes heavy with lust as he adjusted Galo’s legs over his shoulders. Galo nodded, reaching his arms out towards Lio as he pressed his hips in, and his alarm clock went off.

Lio woke with a start and felt an uncomfortable wetness in his bed. “Oh no,” Lio whined, realizing it was all a dream. He sat upright and looked under the covers before throwing them back down. “Godamnit.” Lio hopped out of bed and stripped out of his soiled clothes. “I can’t even!” He peeled off his bedsheets once more and after a quick shower, Lio found himself sitting on top of the washer/dryer combo once more.

Rubbing his face in his hands, Lio groaned, wondering what possessed him to have such a vivid dream about Galo. The class week had come and gone finally with one additional class with Kray. A small laugh escaped Lio as he remembered Galo striking an absurd pose to reference a sentai show they both enjoyed growing up. The only one in class who wasn’t amused was Kray, and Lio didn’t care. Galo clearly did the pose as an inside joke for he and Lio alone. It was amazing that Galo didn’t even crack a smile the entire time. As a class model, he was excellent, and a terrible show off, occasionally trying over ambitious poses during the croqui session.

Lio stared at Galo’s number. Today was the day of opening Kray expected his class to attend. He sat as the washer switched cycles and began to rumble beneath him. Flipping to his texts, Lio glanced over Guiera and Meis’s messages. Most of them asking to come join them for drinks and if he was eating. Thinking back to the night at the pizza place, Lio wondered what he was doing, accepting a date with Galo. Wasn’t it weird he was involved with Kray? Lio could put his finger on it, but it all seemed strange. Going back to Galo’s number he leapt as it started to ring.

“Hello?” Lio said into the phone trying to calm his jolted nerves.

“Hi Lio!” The voice on the other end sang. It was Galo and Lio couldn’t help but crack a smile. “Good morning!”

“What are you doing calling at this hour?” Lio teased, looking up at the clock. It was only eleven on a Saturday, but it didn’t matter.

“Wanted to see if you wanted to get dinner before the show,” he replied happily. Lio could almost see the smile on Galo’s face on the other end of the line.

“Do you think Kray is going to mind?”

“It’s just dinner. He’ll be busy shmoozing, and won’t want me around.”

Lio felt his cheeks warm and a smile crept across his face. “You’re so weird,” he said with a laugh.

“Is it a yes or no? Opening’s at seven.”

“What the hell, sure, I’ll meet outside my place at five. Sushi?”

“Perfect,” Galo trailed off. Lio leaned forward, pressing his phone closer to his ear. There was something else he wanted to say.

“Is there anything else I should know?” Lio asked casually, trying to be playful.

“Yeah, um, about the opening,” Galo began, searching for the words. “Don’t get weirded out by the paintings, okay?”

“Is there something you think I’d object to?”

Silence fell between them as the washer thumped beneath Lio. The seconds crept slowly past as Lio heard people open and shut their apartment doors before Galo continued.

“I don’t know. I just don’t want you to get upset, okay?” Galo breathed, uneasy. “I mean, it’s one thing to help model for your class. This… is different.”

“I promise.” Lio held his hand up in reassurance though he knew Galo couldn’t see. “I will not think any different, or make teasing comments about anything I see tonight.”

“Thanks. I’ll see you at five!”

The phone hung up on the other end and Lio stared at the screen and frowned. “What’s there to be so worried about?” he asked himself. He perched his chin on the top of his phone and sighed. It was sweet though, Lio concluded. Galo had been nothing but nice, wearing his heart on his sleeve through their conversations outside of class. Lio conceded that they were certainly on the track towards, well, something. “Damnit,” he grumbled some more to himself as he remembered other projects he had to do. Mulling his feelings while on the washer was on spin would have to wait. He set his phone’s timer for the wash load and set off to make better use of his time.

After some chores and finally making his bed with freshly washed sheets for the third time that week, it was time to get ready. Lio flipped through his closet, freshly showered and fussing over his outfit. He took out a frilly batwing shirt and tried it over his trademark pants, striking a pose in the mirror before slumping.

“I feel ridiculous,” he muttered to himself as he leaned against the wall. “Galo is a friend; what the hell am I thinking?” Lio stopped and paced his small studio apartment, trying to think. His assignments were caught up and the rest of the day was his, so that wasn’t the problem. The dream from this morning was resurfacing like the tide as the time to meet Galo approached. “What’s Kray going to think if he sees us hanging out? What’ll the class say?” Lio shook his head and marched back to the mirror, his head muddled with the battle between his head and his heart.

“I am going out to a nice dinner with a friend,” he said out loud in affirmation. “Then we are going to my professor’s art show and will have a nice time hanging out. That’s IT! I don’t care what Kray thinks, and everyone else in class is too shy to talk to Galo. He’s a nice person who loves to help! Nothing is weird about that at all! That’s right, everyone else IS too shy to talk to him because he’s the model.” Lio nodded to himself and looked at the clock. His heart fluttered and he took a deep breath to calm his nerves. “Just a friend… just a friend…” he repeated to himself over and over again until he stepped outside. “Just a... “

Lio stopped short as his eyes fell on Galo waiting outside in his leather jacket, a nice sweater and jeans nicer than what he often wore to class. “Hey, you look great,” Galo said, brimming with his usual charm. It was near impossible to not smile near this man as he extended his arm for Lio to take.

“What are you doing?” Lio asked, taken aback.

“Didn’t you say, ‘it’s a date’?” Galo asked, recalling the conversation from the pizza shop. Lio’s heart did a backflip into his stomach.

“I did say that, didn’t I?” Lio asked, embarrassed, and motioned Galo to lower his arm.

“Can we… keep it low key for now?” He looked away with a pout screwed to his lips. “Not to be rude…”

“I get it,” Galo said, letting it go. “Don’t want it to look weird since it’s school related, huh?” He grinned, seeing he read Lio’s mind successfully.

“Yeah, that,” Lio nodded, headed in the direction of the sushi shop. “You’re okay with sushi, right?”

“Of course! Did you know it started out as street food?”

“No,” Lio said, trying not to laugh. “How do you know?”

A dusting of rose crossed Galo’s face and he let out a shy laugh. “I’m kinda into Japanese culture I guess you can say.”

“Wait...Are you a weeb?” Lio teased. “I didn’t have you pinned down as one!”

“What? No, no! I’m just really into it, that’s all. I was obsessed with firefighting as a kid and wanted to learn about how it was done around the world… then one thing led to another, and here we are.”

“Yeah, sure,” Lio grinned, bumping shoulders with him as they reached the restaurant. It was nice, Lio thought to himself as they found themselves seated. Galo fully embraced everything he was into, and Lio was somewhat envious -Galo was so carefree while he wasn’t.

“So,” Galo continued as the conversation went on. He had already gone over the finer points of chopstick etiquette and how to properly eat sushi at this point and decided to get a little more personal. He took some sake they were sharing and poured themselves another round. “What brings you to art school?” he asked.

“Ah yeah, the transfer…” Lio trailed off. He looked around the modestly chic decor of the restaurant and back to Galo. “My other school wasn’t working out for me,” he said. “That and my parents and I made a deal that if I get this ‘art thing out of my system on my own dime,’ I’ll go into finance with them.”

“Is that something you really want to do?”

“Not exactly, but depending where things go, it may not be a bad idea.”

Galo smiled warmly as another round of unagi arrived at the table. “I’m all in or go home,” he said, taking piece from the plate and offering it to Lio. “Ever try eel?”

“What?” Lio laughed, turning pink. “Yeah, I’ve had it before what are you doing?”

“Their unagi is great here. Come on, open your mouth,”

“Just like that?”

“Yeah, come on, one bite,” Galo coaxed, motioning with his mouth for Lio to follow suit.

“Okay, okay, fine,” Lio said with a laugh, conceding to Galo’s whim. The sake had worked its way between them both, and Lio threw his inhibitions to the wayside, opening his mouth. He was greeted with the salty sweetness of the eel and Galo’s fingers. Without thinking, Lio instinctively closed his mouth and wrapped his lips around Galo’s thick fingers savoring them for a brief moment before he took them away. Lio looked up at Galo, his face flushed and mouth full.

“So what do you think?”

Lio chewed and swallowed before replying. “It’s great,” he said, taking a piece of unagi and putting it in Galo’s lips. “Your turn, now.”

Galo tilted his head away bemused, before turning around and quickly taking the food from Lio’s hand and lingered on Lio’s fingertips. Galo’s teeth scraped gently across his skin and Lio suddenly felt hot looking into the others’ eyes. Just friends, my ass, Lio thought to himself as he watched Galo smile in slow motion.

Chapter Text

“Well, here we are,” Galo said. He and Lio stood before the entrance to the art gallery. The opening had just begun and they could already see people beginning to mingle from the windows. “So, what’s the plan? You’ll meet your classmates, and I’ll meet Kray? We can regroup and talk over free wine and fancy cheese then in some corner.”

Lio stared at Kray in the window, and looked down at he and Galo’s hands, barely touching one another. The heat from Galo’s radiated outward and into Lio, making him feel all the more nervous. “So like, make our appearances and bolt after some freeloading?” Lio asked.

“Yeah, something like that. Maybe go bar hopping if this gets too boring.”

“Deal,” Lio said as they entered the crowded showing. Lio looked to Galo and nodded as they parted according to plan.

“Lio, you made it!” Thyma beamed, giving him a hug. “We were getting worried when you didn’t meet up with us.”

“We were meeting up?” Lio blinked, taken aback as he looked to his classmates.

“Yeah, you were there, weren’t you?” Thyma asked. “When you didn’t meet up, we waited a little, but it was getting too late. We assumed you ended up sick again or didn’t want to show up because of… you know.” She then motioned to Kray who was warmly welcoming Galo to the show, introducing him to some of the more wealthy patrons attending.

“No, what?” Lio asked, snapping himself back to reality. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Oh no. Lio internally panicked.

“Well, asides you talking back to Kray, there was the… you know, the fainting?” Thyma motioned towards Galo. “It’s just weird and talk about super awkward coming with him in at the same time. That’s the worst timing.” She paused for a moment and pressed her finger to her lips. “Oh that’s right, we had made plans to meet that day too… sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Lio sighed as he looked over at his classmates. “It takes more than that to freak me out.

“True,” Thyma laughed as she turned to the gallery paintings. We’re hanging for like, ten minutes so Professor Foresight sees us and then go for Karaoke. Come with us!”

“I’ll think about it,” Lio said before turning his attention to the paintings on show. “What the fuck?” Lio’s face contorted and stomach did flips as he stared at the works hanging before him.

Galo, fully nude stood depicted in the painting before him. Palms outward, fully on display, and palms out with only a sheer cloth precariously draped over him, failing to provide any modesty. The painting was beautifully rendered, intimately, with an explosion of cubist rage. Lio stepped closer, trying to register what he was seeing. The spirited look in Galo’s eyes were missing, replaced with fatigue, devoid of the luster he’d warmed to.

“Weird, right?” another student snickered awkwardly. “You should check out the rest of the paintings.”

“What do you mean?” Lio asked, wrinkling his nose in distaste for his peers’ immaturity.

“Seriously, take a look for yourself.”

Lio shrugged quietly separated himself from his class chattering amongst themselves about the work, making inappropriate comments as they went. The next painting depicted deep purple and greens in an array of squares, rectangles and dissipated outlines against fleshy canvas. Lio winced as his stomach wrung itself into knots so terribly he helped himself to the available wine at the refreshments.

Painting after painting Lio saw depicted Galo in various stages of undress, poses and closeups of various parts of his body attacked with garish cubes and sickly purples. “Jesus,” Lio muttered to himself as he explored the gallery. Nearly every piece had a large red dot next to the title - all sold, likely for thousands. Lio stared hard at one piece titled “Solace” - a closeup portrait of Galo’s face wrought in an expression he struggled to discern. Was it lust? Shame? He stepped closer, squinting to study the strokes of Galo’s half-lidded eyes. Was it… sexual? He swallowed the dry lump in his throat he leaned forward to study the rendering of Galo’s eyes further.

“Enjoying the show, Fotia?” Professor Foresight’s smooth voice flowed from behind, jolting Lio from his thoughts.

“It’s interesting,” Lio said, trailing off.

“Is that so? Do tell.”

“Yeah, first your composition is lacking and your color choices are weak,”

“...”

“Second, off you made his dick too small. Our class could have spent their time elsewhere and not your ego-stroking gallery showing.”

Slowly Kray opened an eye and peered down towards Lio, anger seeming to bubble underneath the cool facade. “Trust me, my choices were made purposely, unlike amateur mistakes done by certain students. Remember the rules, Fotia…”

Lio pursed his lips into a frown as he watched Kray turn his back towards him and walked off to greet his other patrons with a smile so fake it made Lio want to vomit. Looking around further and feeling slightly disturbed, Lio downed another glass of free wine before stepping outside. The space in the gallery was tight, and the air quickly grew stale with the heat of bodies and warmed finger foods.

The brick felt cool as Lio leaned his back against it, taking a breath free of gallery air as he pulled out his phone. The late winter air hung low and chilled Lio to the bone. There hadn’t been snow for weeks and the cold dried everything it touched. Letting out a sigh, he scrolled through his group text with Meis and Guiera.

M:
Lio. are you eating

L:
yes mom

M:
Fuck you too. who was that douchebag you were talking to at work

L:
Nobody you need to worry about.

M:
A;lkdsjf Lio dude just no. dish. he aint my type but he sure seemed yours

L:
I promise it’s nothing you need to worry about

M:
if he pulls shit let me and Guiera know so we can bury the body

L:
NO

He shoved his phone back into his pocket and looked up and down the darkened streets followed by small trails of steam. Leaning forward, Lio peeked into the gallery show window to see Galo graciously saying good-bye to Kray Foresight’s patrons. Finally after what felt like an eternity, Galo hopped out of the building and a wide smile returned to his face as his eyes met with Lio’s

“There you are,” he said, beaming with a tone of relief as he approached. “I didn’t see you there.”

“Yeah, I’m still here,” Lio smiled nervously, brushing his bangs away and giving a smile. “It’s a big reception. I started to feel a little suffocated in there.”

“Fair enough. I was scared you were going to run off on me with your friends or something after seeing those paintings,” Galo began as they began to walk down the street. “You still want to hang out, I hope?” The fidget in his earlier confident movements gave him away.

With a clasp of hands and a gentle squeeze, Lio reassured, “I know. It’s only been what, a week? I think you’re alright.” The small laugh he let out was light, lifting into the air as they exchanged warmth through their fingers. “I can think for myself, you know.”

A red dusted Galo’s face as they walked onward, feeling the additional flush outside of the cold air. “Thanks,” he said visibly more relieved. “I wasn’t sure what to think of them either at first when I saw them.” He rubbed the back of his bare neck as they went on. “Are you still up for bar hopping?”

Lio snorted into his smile and looked around, trying to ascertain their location. “Not too many bars in this area,” he trailed off. “Mostly smoky dives with loud music and shit. I don’t know if that’s my thing.” Not completely, he thought to himself, often finding the stories of patrons interesting, and after seeing Meis’ messages, he wasn’t interested in having Guiera ask him twenty questions about Galo, either. He hummed, adjusting his hand in Galo’s so they would intertwine. The feeling of that alone sent his heart racing. Lio’s hand nearly was lost in Galo’s as he thought of the muscles in their shape in size in comparison to his own.

God, he was hot, Lio allowed himself to think. It wasn’t even because of how attractive Galo was at first blush, but the kindness he exudes in his simple nature. It was refreshing, and Lio felt like he wasn’t in any form of competition with him, either. They walked together in comfortable silence hand in hand as Lio continued to mull on what they could do as the evening crept later into the night. Another huff through his nostrils sent Lio’s brain nearly into overdrive, feeling stuck until he heard Galo hum intermittently when inspiration struck.

“How do you feel about karaoke?” Lio asked, turning to face Galo.

“Karaoke? Like bar karaoke?”

“No, I actually know a place that does proper karaoke in private rooms! I don’t know why it didn’t come to mind earlier. I want to blow off some steam there.”

“Is it nearby?”

“Just a few blocks down! What do you say, Galo Thymos? Do you have stage fright for an audience of one?”

“You wish!” Galo laughed, bumping shoulders with Lio as they headed in the direction Lio pointed to.

A little further down, they finally reached the karaoke bar Lio described, tucked away in a dusty alley surrounded with shops closed for the night. After settling in and receiving their orders, Lio felt himself warm to Galo as he leaned over his shoulder, paging through the song options they had.

“How about this?” Galo said, pointing to another Jpop song after Lio turned a new page of the catalog.

“Dude, another anime opening?” Lio laughed, looking at a poorly aged 90s metal cover. “You’ve already sang two! They weren’t even good shows to begin with!”

“So?” Galo pouted, leaning forward. His breath was heavy with some independent craft stout he ordered mixed with whatever wine was at the earlier opening. It was grainy and heavy with alcohol, infiltrating the oaky aura he carried. Lio closed his eyes and inhaled deeply as he felt the flush returning.

“I’m glad to see you having fun,” Lio said as he turned to Galo. His expression was soft, warmed by cheap drink and good company. It wasn’t much for Lio to admit to himself that he needed this just as much as Galo probably did. There was something about screaming death metal and clapping along to Galo’s cutesy anime opening tunes that felt like the cathartic escape the both of them needed. He leaned back on the couch, finally feeling relaxed, bumping foreheads with Galo. “I kinda get the feeling we both needed this.”

“Thanks,” was all Galo could manage out before tilting his head just enough to make soft contact with Lio’s lips. He lingered, not wanting to pull away as Lio let out a soft gasp and returned the motion, leaning forward as he placed the book down to cup Galo’s face in his hands.

Fuck it, Lio sighed into Galo’s mouth. It hadn’t even been a full week, and he wanted this. It was happening now regardless in spite of himself. Any and all sense flew out the window, leaving impulse unsupervised. Lio went in again, tentatively sliding his tongue into Galo’s mouth and running his hand through his buzzed hair, coaxing a moan from the back of the man’s throat. Getting into a better position, Lio found himself guided onto Galo’s lap. Something inside lit a fire in his belly and Lio dove in again into Galo’s waiting mouth, their tongues moving in time together.

Lio soon felt a hand cradle the back of his hand and another on his ass, gripping for dear life as though he was going to float away. In response, Lio gave a gentle roll of his hips, making a point to apply additional pressure on their clothed erections. Lightning coursed through their bodies with a simultaneous stuttered gasp. Everything in Lio was ablaze, ready to consume his entire body. He rolled his hips again, feeling Galo press his hips into him as they made contact again. Pleasured moans poured out in harmony between them when Lio pushed himself away, yet kept their hips pressed against one another.

“Ah! Galo, no, not here,” Lio said, coming up for air. “We can’t…” He was breathless as he looked up at Galo, eyes still dreamily hooded.

Galo paused, studying Lio quickly before giving a reply. “No, you’re right,” he sighed finally, giving Lio’s ass a firm squeeze making Lio reflexively grind into him harder.

“Hng- ah, We should probably take this slow…,” Lio said, catching his voice as he kissed Galos jawline and releasing a rumbly moan. “...can’t let Professor Kray know.”

‘Y-yeah,” Galo sighed. “Let’s do that…another round of PreCure okay?”

Lio nestled his head into the crook of Galo’s neck and his shoulders began to shake as he laughed. “Sure,” he said, feeling the anxious knots from the gallery in his stomach melt away. “Let’s do that.”