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to redness & sweetness

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Firo is a jumble of experiences that aren't his these days, Maiza can see it in his eyes – mostly because he's looking hard. Perhaps for one experience in particular.

Even the first time he met Firo, bright-eyed and whip-fierce and surrounded by an aura of innocence that seemed untouchable, Maiza could see Gerd in him. It was in the way he tilted his neck, the way he smiled, and it inched its way into Maiza's chest to find the places he'd thought had died years ago on the Advenna Avis with his little brother and his mortality. Now, though, through the strange cycle of "eating" that has come to define and shape their lives, he isn't just an echo of Maiza's brother.

"Hey," says Firo, shortly after the chaos of gaining his immortality. "Hey," he says, urgent, like it's something important. "Can we still get drunk?"

Maiza smiles so his eyes crinkle even further closed and he pilfers a couple of bottles of the Camorra's best whiskey while they're all around the card table. "Let's see," he says, though he knows the answer, and he knows Firo should know the answer, somewhere amid the jumble of all those lives Sziliard took.

They can.

"Do you still read poetry?" Firo asks, flushed and slurring. They've each managed most of a bottle, and the process of chairs and tables at some point became too complicated, so they sprawled on the rough wooden floorboards of the hide-out. (A point after Firo demonstrated his ability to cartwheel one-handed, but before Don came into the back room and shook his head at them, told them everyone was going home for the night and to stay out of trouble.)

The top two buttons of Firo's shirt had come undone, and the way he sprawls draws Maiza's gaze. "Poetry?" he asks, stupid with good booze.

"Yeah, I have a memory of-" he huffs a little laugh. "Well, it's not really my memory, I guess. But you used to read poetry to me- him."

"Gerd," says Maiza, and saying the name or the look in Firo's eyes takes all the breath from his lungs. He dips his head so the shadow of his hat falls over his eyes. "I did."

"Luck likes poetry," Firo tells him, as though they're talking about a mutual acquaintance rather than the boss of a rival family– which Maiza supposes is true enough now that they're all in the same never-sinking ship together. "He reads Poe."

"Hmm," says Maiza. Poe. Really. "Can you remember any of it?"

"Poe?" Firo asks, then: "Oh. Mm! And after, for pastime, if June be refulgent, with flowers in completeness, all petals, no prickles–"

Maiza kisses him.

It's not a chaste, brotherly kiss. He takes the words from Firo's lips: that hitching cadence that was exactly the way Gerd had read. He takes the poem, the next syllables already on the tip of his tongue, warm and wet over Firo's lips, because with all his talk of alchemy and forbidden love, Browning had always been theirs.

Firo's sort of tense, beneath him, and when Maiza pulls back his eyelashes are a sweep against his cheek. "I don't remember that."

"No," says Maiza, a little helplessly.

There's an awkward silence. Firo licks his lips unconsciously, and when he finally raises his gaze Maiza isn't sure who's looking out at him. "I didn't mind it."

So Maiza does it again, because he already sold his soul to a demon for an elixir of life and he's too much a man of science to really believe in heaven and hell. Firo makes a happy sort of noise, and wraps around him, sliding across the floor to tangle in his lap, careless of his clothes catching on splinters.

They're both more than a little drunk, and it takes Maiza a moment to remember his glasses as Firo kisses him with enthusiastic messiness. He also decides to take off his hat, use it to hold the glasses so he won't have to worry about breaking them, but when that means Firo reaches for his own green one Maiza grabs his wrist lightly. Firo's fedora stays on. Maiza doesn't let go.

It's easy, then, to mingle the burn of the alcohol with the burn of lust and shift with both of them, his other hand palming the crisp linen at the small of Firo's back – their jackets were lost with their sobriety, when the drafty room had suddenly seemed over-warm.

Maiza hisses with it, when he finally presses them all together, because it's good but it hurts. Not physically, but for a moment he has to break apart, press his face into Firo's shoulder and breathe in gunpowder and second-hand smoke. He doesn't smell like perfume, but then, that pretty Homunculus hadn't seemed like she'd wear any. He does smell like Firo, underneath it all, and it's familiar and grounding.

Firo seems to understand. He presses flutteringly light kisses over the curve of Maiza's ear, under it, his cheekbone, the line of his jaw, coaxing his way back to lips and teeth and tongue. Maiza acquiesces, lets him set the pace for a while.

Firo likes to lick into kisses, little kitten laps, and it's an unbearably sweet counterpoint to his wandering hands. He'd rucked up Maiza's shirt the moment Maiza had let him go and now his hands are sliding down the skin of his back, dipping below the waistline of his trousers, exploring with shameless curiosity.

When it's enough to lose himself again Maiza brings up a hand, cups Firo by the chin and pulls him back. Without glasses the detail's blurry, but it's easy to recognize Firo's grin, which starts out buoyant and fades into something like a blush as the moment stretches. "Oh," says Firo, and then it's concentration, though he doesn't look quite so serious as he probably wants with sparkling eyes and a spit-slick red mouth. "Your look, that pays a thousand pains?" He quotes, almost timidly.

Maiza aches with how hard that makes him, and the knowledge that Firo's probably never opened a book of poetry in his life. "What's death?" he adds to it hoarsely, can't finish, and pulls Firo back to him instead.