"Don't fucking touch me."
It had started with a shoulder touch--Galo was moving in the narrow walkway of the locker room, and out of politeness, had lightly brushed his hand on Gueira's shoulder as he squeezed past him. It was the end of a long day and Galo had gone to get his things to find Gueira-who was temporarily volunteering to help with clean-up after all the shit hit the fan-to be the only one left grabbing his coat on and getting ready to leave. Galo had touched him in order to try and not scare him. The visceral reaction from the smaller man was not what he expected, however.
Gueira had whipped around, eyes wide in anger-or something close to fear?- bristling, and clenching trembling fists. While Galo had a few inches on the redhead and was physically much bigger than the thin man before him, he instinctively took a step back, pressing his back against the lockers and putting his hands up in defense.
"Hey man, I just wanted you to know I was behind you, y'know." Galo explained, cocking an eyebrow in confusion. He saw Gueira's shoulders physically relax a little, but noticed his jaw clench in an unspoken reply, finally lowering his intense gaze. "H-Hey, you good?" Galo asked earnestly.
"No." The redhead retorted, sinking into himself. He looked back up at Galo, but this time, all of the ferocity was gone, leaving only a somewhat pained expression. Galo tilted his head and examined the man as much as he could without prying too much with his eyes in order to try and read his body language. Gueira was small-especially when was wasn't purposefully trying to hold his shoulders back to make himself appear larger, and he was wearing only a t-shirt that hung loosely off his wirey frame. The way his bones poked out at every joint and jutted out from where the shirt hung off gave him an almost vulnerable look. Galo swallowed as he looked back away, suddenly feeling like he was violating the smaller man in some way by observing him like this. He sighed and combed his hand back through his messy blue hair, trying to seem casual in the tense moment.
"I'm sorry if I caught you off guard," Galo sighed."I didn't mean to scare y-"
"Can you just leave me alone?" Gueira cut him off. He turned back around, shoulders hunched back up, and gently closed his locker before shrugging his coat on. Galo snapped his mouth closed. Was Gueira actually pissed off because of this? Galo hadn't interacted with Gueira much, like, ever apart from before he met Lio and had gotten in a few scraps with him, but didn't really think that they were on bad terms. At least, until now.
Before Galo could say anything else, though, Gueira was out the door. Great.
"Why does he hate me?" Galo groaned as he flopped backwards into bed. Lio was already curled up on the other side of the bed, gasping softly as Galo's weight on the mattress almost flung him skyward. The blonde tsked as he moved to rest his chin on Galo's broad chest.
"Galo, you have to understand that he doesn't exactly... Trust people like you. Yet." Lio hummed, looking up at Galo's troubled expression.
"...Like me?" Galo frowned.
"Firefighters, burning rescue. Basically anyone associated or working for capital h 'Him'."
"But that was all because he was lying!" Galo practically shouted. Lio shushed him softly before starting to gently card his fingers through Galo's long hair. "I mean...Right? I know I hurt people, but... I was always just doing what I thought was right."
"Even so, after all that's happened, it's incredibly difficult to just put everything we've been through behind us. He's lived a very hard life, and it's going to take a while for him to trust you. Especially since you've personally shot at him and Meis on multiple occassions." Lio pointed out. Galo furrowed his brows in thought.
"Me 'nd Meis get along just fine though... I thought he was a little cold as first, but he seems to like me. I always thought Gueira would be the more easy-going one, and since you always say me 'nd him are so similar, I guess I assumed we'd get along too..." Galo pouted.
"Different people heal at different paces. Even then, while Meis and Gueira spent so much time together, they have largely differing experiences." Lio shifted to prop his pointy elbows up on Galos chest, making him wince slightly, but he immediately stopped caring about that as he saw the serious look on Lio's face. "You know, it's not really my story to tell, but it was Burning Rescue that turned Gueira over to Foresight at one point before I met him."
Galo felt his stomach drop and he swallowed loudly at the mention of his name. "Wait, the Gov?" He asked, his mouth dry. Lio nodded.
"It was about two years before I became leader. Gueira had been caught, and months later when Meis finally found him, he was as good as dead. They fucked him up pretty bad." Lio explained, a slight trembling in his voice. "He's never opened up about what happened there, and he still has night terrors on a regular basis."
"Wow..." Galo breathed. He was at a loss for words. "I- That's terrible." Lio just nodded and laid his head back down on Galo's chest.
"Yeah." Lio sighed. "And for what? Because society saw us as just evil mutants to use for their own gain and sick pleasure?" Galo could feel Lio's shoulders trembling, and wrapped his arms around the smaller man's torso. "Gueira and Meis were the closest thing I had to family for a long time. They are basically my family, and I love them, so, so much. To know Gueira went through that, it just-" Lio's voice cracked and he stopped talking, silently pressing into Galo's embrace.
They stayed like this for awhile, and Galo was mostly sure Lio had dozed off. Nevertheless, he continued, talking more to himself. "I mean, if they're your family, they're like my in-laws then, right?" Lio looked up again suddenly, a funny look on his face.
"In-laws? Galo, did you just propose to me?" Lio cocked an eyebrow, eyes back to their usual cocky glint.
"N-No! Not yet..." Galo blushed furiously. "I just- I mean, they're kinda like my family too then... And I care about Gueira too, and I wish he could be comfortable around me."
"It'll take time. Be patient." Lio sighed and pressed his face into the crook of Galo's neck.
The next day passed rather quickly and uneventfully, Galo bustling around to keep his mind off the side glances that he started noticing Gueira giving him. By the end of the day, Galo was practically jumping with anxiety in getting ready to confront Gueira once their shift ended, but as soon as Galo found that he had the time to, the door was swinging shut with Gueira's exit. Galo sighed loudly.
It took a few days for Galo to finally talk to Gueira. After their shift had ended, Galo and Lio were outside idly chatting since it was actually rather warm for once. The door opened and out came Gueira along with Meis, who pulled out a cigarette and handed it to the redhead. As Gueira reached down to pull out a lighter, Galo cleared his throat loudly.
"Hey guys!" Galo cheerfully greeted them. Meis turned around and smiled softly. Gueira did not. He lit his cigarette and put his lighter away, taking a long drag.
"Hey, what's up?" Meis reached up to tuck a long strand of hair behind his ear. Galo smiled widely and put his arm around Lio.
"Me 'nd Lio are just hangin' out! The weather's great today, isn't it?" Galo grinned.
"You always think the weather is nice. I swear, your body temperature just. Does not change." Lio noted, playfully jabbing Galo in the ribs with his elbow. Meis laughed.
"Just 'hangin' out', huh? You two are livin' together now, right?" Meis asked. He reached to gently grab Gueira's hand, who finally turned around and gave a half-hearted grin.
"Yeah!" Galo beamed. "You guys should come over sometime!" Lio flushed.
"Oh, of course! If y'all'd have us." Meis smiled and reached over to pluck the cigarette out of Gueira's mouth to take a drag on it himself, to which Gueira puffed out his cheeks in a pout.
"We'd love to." Lio said, looking up at Galo. Galo, however, had gotten distracted by remembering the elephant in the room.
"Hey, by the way Gueira, do you have a second? I wanna talk to you." Galo took his arm back from where it had been around Lio's shoulders. Gueira blinked.
"Me? Why? What's up?" He narrowed his droopy eyes. Galo immediately felt himself begin to sweat as he looked from Meis to Lio and back to Gueira. Meis just looked slightly confused, and Lio had a look of concern cross his face.
"Can we...?" Galo motioned with his thumbs to go somewhere else to talk in private. At this, Gueira crossed his arms and furrowed his brows.
"Anything you wanna say to me you can say in front of them." The redhead stated bluntly. Galo gave an exasperated sigh and took a few steps toward where he and Meis had been standing. Lio began to reach out to stop him, but stopped himself.
"I just- I wanna talk about how... I think we got off on the wrong foot." Galo scratched the side of his neck, anxiety crawling up straight from his stomach. "I want you to know that- I would never hurt you, you're my friend and-"
"You've shot me before." Gueira's tone dripped with bitterness. Meis reached up to put a hand on his shoulder, but Gueira shrugged him off, eyes dark.
"I-I'm sorry, I was just doing my job, you were burning down buildings!" Galo felt a pang in his chest. This wasn't going too well.
"Your job? The government was systematically slaughtering us. You didn't stop to think for a second that maybe you weren't doing the right thing? Because you had such a hard-on for that fuckin' murder-hungry bastard just like everyone else did?"
"Gueira." Lio's voice had an edge of warning to it. Gueira bit his lip.
"I didn't- I didn't know... I thought that he could, I don't know, help you all in some way?" Galo tried to catch eye contact with the redhead, but he wasn't looking anywhere near him.
"And what did you think happened after you'd hand one of us over to them?" Gueira hissed. Galo found himself looking at the ground now.
"I guess I just thought they knew what they were doing." Galo sighed. Gueira instantly tensed up at this, eyes suddenly burning.
"Thyma. You remember her, right?" Gueira's voice came out quiet. Meis exchanged a pained glance with Lio. "Your big scar. The girl you were seconds away from handing over to your people." Galo instinctively moved his hand to touch the twisted scar that ran all the way up his left arm. He recalled the events of that moment in full detail- especially the deep horror he saw on her face.
"Yeah." Galo swallowed. "You two took her and ran off."
"To keep her safe... From you." Gueira took a step towards Galo, bristling. "You were going to give her right over to them. And you know exactly what happened later, just that. Some other Burning Rescue bastard took her and handed her over, and you know what? You saw her die. They fucking-They killed her." In a few more steps, he was now practically face to face with Galo. The redhead was quite a bit shorter than Galo, but his demeanor made up for that in moments like these. "She was- She was scared, and she didn't do anything wrong. She just wanted to survive, like the rest of us. And they killed her."
"Gueira..." Galo leaned away from the smaller man. Lio took this moment to practically pull Gueira off of Galo, to which Galo let out a breath he didn't know he had been holding.
"S-Shit. Sorry." Gueira said to no one in particular. He turned around and Meis was there to pull him close, rubbing circles into his trembling shoulders. This... Did not go well. The four eventually parted ways after a few awkward goodbyes, and Galo felt much so much worse than he did before. Shit.
Chop. Chop. Chop.
Awkward silence filled the room, and Galo felt like he was about to suffocate.
Lio had invited Gueira and Meis over for dinner a few weeks after their 'confrontation', and despite Galo's silent protests, Lio and Meis left to go pick up some groceries, leaving Galo alone with Gueira. The redhead had started cutting up vegetables for a salad, and not wanting to disturb him, Galo sat on the couch, pretending to be occupied by the television.
Galo bounced his leg, anxiety coursing through his veins at the heavy atmosphere in the room. Should he say something?
"Hey, you like football, right?" Galo leaned back, looking Gueira's direction. A pause.
"I used to play. Heart issues took me off the team though." Gueira didn't look up as he continued to cut up carrots. Galo frowned.
"Heart issues?" He asked. Another long pause.
"Mhmm." Gueira hummed. Galo bounced his leg higher. This wasn't going anywhere. The silence interrupted by the knife hitting the cutting board continued for another seemingly long time. Galo huffed and crossed his arms.
"Look, man, about the other day-"
"I just-" Galo rubbed the back of his neck. "I just wanted to say I'm sorry for... Everything, I guess."
"If I hadn't blindly trusted the Gov so much, maybe things would've been different."
"And like." Galo slumped his shoulders. "I know you don't like me. At all. I can tell. But I think of you guys as my family-" The cutting stopped. Galo cut himself off by the immediate silence following, until he heard a soft-
"Fuck." Gueira muttered. Galo immediately stood up, and felt a massive drop in his gut when he heard the dripping of liquid.
"Hey, you good?" Galo swung into the kitchen, jaw nearly hitting the floor upon noticing that there was indeed, blood dripping off the counter and onto the floor.
"It's fine. The knife just slipped, it's nothing." Gueira hugged his arm to his chest, but even at this angle, Galo could tell that it really wasn't nothing. There was a pretty deep cut along the underside of Gueira's palm and arm, and Galo instinctively reached out to grab it before stopping himself.
"Gueira. Let me help you." Galo lowered his voice in an effort to sound calm, but could feel panic welling in his chest. Gueira shook his head.
"D-Don't." He hissed, taking a step away from Galo. He could tell that Gueira was scared as well, and didn't want to further this so he stood his ground.
"If you don't take care of this, you're going to lose a lot of blood. I'm EMT-certified, please, just-"
"No. P-please." Gueira took a few more steps back, and Galo knew that the smaller man was having a panic attack. Tears collected at the corners of his bright eyes, and he was visibly shaking. With his thin, delicate frame, he looked like he could fall apart any second.
"I'm not going to hurt you, okay?" Galo held his hands up, trying to look as unintimidating as possible. "I promise. I need to bandage that, or you're really going to be in trouble and I'm going to have to call an ambulance. Please." With this, he took a single step towards Gueira, and watched carefully to see if he didn't want him to come any closer. Gueira just bit his lip and looked down, trembling violently. After a few more steps, Galo was now right in front of the smaller man.
"Can I touch you?" Galo asked, voice low and quiet. A moment passed, and then Gueira nodded. Galo reached out to gently hold Gueira's arm, examining it. It was pretty bad, but not as deep as he expected from the amount of blood that was coming from it. "Here, let's go to the washroom."
Galo gently guided Gueira to sit on the edge of the bathtub while he knelt in front of him, examining the incision further. "One sec." Still holding onto Gueira's arm to apply pressure to the wound, he stood up and fished around in the cabinet under the sink for a second before pulling out a first aid kid and opening it. Gueira looked... Bad. But no longer as terrified as he just was. His droopy, bruised eyes looked more tired than usual as he looked off to the corner of the room. Galo knelt back down and fished around in the first aid kit before pulling out a tube of antibiotic cream.
By now the wound had mostly slowed its bleeding due to the pressure that Galo was applying to it, and he hummed in relief as he stood up and dampened a washcloth in the sink. As gently as possible, he got to work cleaning the wound and getting rid of all of the dried blood around it.
"You doing okay?" Galo looked up to try and meet Gueira's eyes. After a second, Gueira met the eye contact and nodded. "Okay. This is going to sting a little bit, but bear with me for a second." Galo twisted open the bottle of antibiotic cream and squeezed a small amount onto his fingers, before going in to rub it on the wound. The second he made contact, however, Gueira immediately pulled his arm back, hugging it close to himself with his other arm and nearly falling backwards into the bathtub.
"P-please, don't." Gueira hissed out, eyes wide with fear. Galo felt his heart clench.
"H-Hey, no, it's okay, it's just to disinfect it." Galo said softly. "I'm not going to hurt you, okay?" Galo gently took the hand of Gueira's non-injured arm, which he gingerly gave up, and gave it a squeeze. "Here, hold onto my shoulder and focus on that feeling instead of the wound, okay?" Galo looked back up into Gueira's bright red eyes. He nodded, and gently put his non-injured hand on Galo's shoulder.
Galo continued to put the antibiotic on the wound, and this time Gueira didn't pull away, but dug the fingers rested on Galo's shoulder in. Once he was satisfied with disinfecting, he gently set the injured arm down to rummage back through the first aid kit, pulling out a roll of gauze.
"Alright, all that's left now is wrapping it up." Galo smiled softly. Gueira just looked away again. The two sat in a sustained silence for a few minutes while Galo took his time making sure the dressings were secure. Breaking the silence, Gueira spoke up.
"Regeneration." He stated.
"Huh?" Galo blinked, pausing in wrapping the wound to look up at the redhead, who was still staring at the floor.
"That's what they used me to experiment. After I was given over to Foresight." Gueira's voice was steady, but Galo felt like he just got punched. "It started with figuring out how long it took broken bones to heal-usually less than a day, depending on the break. Eventually they got bored and turned to amputations and literal flaying."
Galo swallowed. What the fuck?
"I guess I can thank them for having a pretty high pain tolerance now, but I still- I get scared. It's stupid." Gueira laughed dryly. Galo shook his head.
"It-It's not stupid." He frowned, still holding the redhead's now fully bandaged hand softly. "No one should ever have to go through that. You- You should never feel bad for what they put you through."
The two held eye contact for a moment, before a tear slipped down Gueira's cheek. In an instant, Galo wrapped the small man in an embrace. Gueira didn't know what to do for a second, caught off guard, but eventually returned the embrace, pressing into Galo's large shoulder. After breaking apart, Galo wiped Gueira's tears gently with the back of his hand.
"You're a good guy, Galo. You know that?" Gueira gave a crooked smile, eyes locked with Galo's. "I'm sorry if I've been a little hard on you, I guess I just. Have a lot of shit built up. It's really, really tough sometimes."
"Hey no, you have a right to be mad at me. I was on the side of the people who did horrible shit to you. But I really do mean it when I say you're like family to me." Galo gently put his hand on Gueira's shoulder. "Even if we don't always get along, just remember I'm always here for you guys."
Now it was Gueira's turn to embrace Galo. A small, awkward hug of boney joints, but nonetheless, Gueira pulled away with a smile. "A family..." the redhead repeated. Galo stood up, offering his hand to help Gueira stand up as well, which he took. Galo knew that all their issues weren't instantly fixed, and that they would probably have a lot more sorting out to do in the future, but at the moment, his chest felt warm.
Just as the two stood up, they heard the front door close, along with loud footsteps. Above everything else, they heard Lio enter the kitchen.
"What the fuck happened here?"