Summary: Post 1935-D. After Ennis escapes from Melvi by herself and the chaos at Ra’s Lance is over, she and Firo discover a little more friction in their relationship than they had previously realized.
This idea has been bouncing around my head for a while, and since DB has expressed interest in actually publishing the next volume of Baccano (once Narita recovers–and hopefully takes a bit of a break, too? Is that too much to hope?), I have a limited amount of time to post this before it’s utterly annihilated by canon.
I really, really want
Ennis to save herself in 1935-E, not just because Ennis deserves better than the damsel treatment, but because given the significance of gender
roles (and role-reversal) in Firo and Ennis’s relationship, it opens up SO MUCH
So this little one-shot calls itself a fic, but it’s basically more of my incredibly self-indulgent
thoughts about Firo/Ennis’s relationship.
Be warned, there is a brief allusion to sexual assault.
Firo wasn’t himself, that much was certain.
Of course, Ennis wasn’t always confident in her ability to
read others, and with all they’d been through over the last several days, she
didn’t expect him to cheerfully regale her with stories. Still, she had never
seen him so quiet. During the journey back from Ra’s Lance, he had been
scanning the streets around him, constantly glancing at her as if she might
disappear in the next moment. She had nearly taken his hand to reassure him, as
she often did with Czes, but then she remembered how red Firo would get
whenever their hands touched and decided against it, figuring the gesture would
only upset him more.
He would notice her concern and give her what was meant to
be a reassuring smile, but the tension behind it was so obvious it had the opposite
Now, as she sat on Maiza’s sofa, watching Firo reach up for
two wine glasses, she began to think.
Just asking how he was feeling seemed like it would be the
simplest approach, but she had noticed that he was susceptible to a kind of
Szilard had explored the principle in his efforts to
understand the true nature of his immortality-granting elixir. Chemically, it
was indistinguishable from an above-average wine, and none of the known methods
available on Earth could detect the supernatural properties of the liquor
except by its effects on the one who drank it. Some attempts to observe the
essence of immortality ran the risk of spoiling the formula altogether.
Firo was not dissimilar. Last year, there had been a few
days when he had suddenly started staying late at Alveare, waking up even
earlier than usual, and pacing around the apartment until the sun rose. She had
tried to talk to him, but he had only smiled at her and deflected the topic of
conversation back to her. A few days later, he had disappeared, and she had only later learned about
his deal with the FBI from Victor. After his return, she had been plagued with
guilt and tried to apologize, but Firo would hear nothing of it. Nor would he
tell her anything about his experience.
Even so, he hadn’t had a good night’s sleep since, as far as
she could tell. It was as if her attempts to find out what was going on in her
friend’s heart were only making the situation simultaneously worse and harder
She had absolute faith in the fact that he cared for her, of
course. But a difficult question had lodged itself in the back of her mind
then, and even though she didn’t want to cast doubt on a relationship so dear,
she could not ignore it.
Did Firo not trust her?
She had only been a part of his life for a short while. The
Gandors, the Martillos, and Claire had been his family for much of his
formative years—years she still felt she knew little about despite all the
anecdotes Firo shared with her. It was only natural for him to go to them with
his worries first.
But after that nightmare in the Ra’s Lance casino had ended,
when Maiza had told them to go rest—when the others had chimed in, cheering for
him to spend a little time alone with her, his laughter (“Cut it out, you
guys!”) had come a second too late.
He was strong, she knew—his perseverance was one of the
traits she admired most about him—but he wasn’t invincible. He couldn’t be. And
maybe the people he trusted more would be able to provide better help for him,
but right now, she was the one who was here.
Firo might be susceptible to an “observer’s effect”
whenever she tried to understand his heart, but ultimately, he wasn’t a quantum
system. Plus, as she had told Melvi: “If there is no one around to observe
us, we may as well be dead.”
But before Ennis could open her mouth to speak—
“Do you want anything?” Firo wrenched the cork out
of an open wine bottle with a soft pop.
“Just water for me, please. Thank you, Firo.”
“Of course.” His eyes flicked to her again, and
his expression softened a little, as it often did. After filling her glass from
the tap, he nearly emptied the bottle into a generous helping of alcohol for
himself. “Guess I gotta add a bottle of wine to the list.”
“Of things I owe Maiza,” he said, handing her the
glass of water. “Wine, letting us stay here, Ra’s Lance…” He picked
up the blanket occupying the other end of the sofa and draped it loosely over
the back. “It’s a long list.”
Ennis remembered the explosion as Firo settled down on the
sofa next to her. “…I guess the apartment didn’t make it, did it?”
“Not really. Well, not at all, actually,” he
replied. “Good thing we can’t die, huh?”
“They probably used so much of the explosives because we’re immortal. In a way, it’s
easier to incapacitate us than it is a normal person. There’s no need to avoid
“…You’re right. It’s been five years, and I still
forget to think like an immortal,” he said with a short laugh.
“Well, it’s not a tactic you’ve ever had to use
yourself,” Ennis pointed out.
“Heh, yeah…” His eyes darted to the side rather
suspiciously—perhaps she was wrong? “…Well, either way, I’m glad you’re
okay.” He lifted his gaze slightly and glanced into her face. “Are you okay?”
Ennis was a little confused. Her being immortal necessitated
being “okay,” didn’t it? Unless he meant psychologically?
“…Yes. The most unpleasant part of my confinement was Melvi
Firo let out a little sigh. “Glad to hear it.”
Then his eyes widened before he frantically added, “Not that I’m glad it
was unpleasant! I just mean, I’m glad it wasn’t…worse.”
Normally Ennis would get flustered when Firo got flustered,
wishing she hadn’t made him so uncomfortable and unsure how to prevent it in
the future, but right now the pink flush in his cheeks was actually comforting
in its familiarity. She smiled at him, and he smiled back. Weakly, but
It also provided the perfect segue to circle back to her
initial question. “What about you, Firo?”
“Are you okay?”
“Do I look that bad?” he asked with a weak laugh.
His coat was torn and flecked with blood (not his,
obviously). His eyes were a bit bloodshot, with dark circles under them that
made his face look even paler than usual. And then there was the way he seemed
to be having trouble focusing. He probably hadn’t slept in days.
“Terrible, actually,” Ennis replied honestly.
“Yeah, well,” he said with a dry, self-conscious
chuckle and took another sip of wine. “I’ve been better.”
“Do you want to tell me about it?” Ennis ventured.
Firo tightened his grip on his glass slightly. Was that the
wrong thing to say? “…Not really,” he said. “It’s nothing to
worry about, anyway.”
The observer’s effect.
Should she let it go? Normally she did, figuring that Firo
knew what was best—after all, who would know him better than himself? But maybe
that was just her way of running away from the problem. Maybe she told herself
that because she didn’t trust herself to navigate Firo’s emotions, which seemed
far more complex and arcane than even her own.
And the fact remained that the last time she had left him to
his devices, Firo had spent months in prison protecting her. She couldn’t help
but wonder if he was trying to protect her again this time.
So she pushed—gently. “But I do worry, Firo.” She
searched for something else to say. “I…consider you my family. I trust
you far more than I trust any of my fellow homunculi. So…I hope you can trust
me, too. As family.”
Trust your family.
Firo couldn’t help remembering what Felix had told him all
those years ago when they were frantically trying to find Keith. In the end,
the eldest Gandor had saved himself, and they had all breathed a collective
sigh of relief.
Later, Firo had learned that his rash actions that day had
distracted that crazy priest so that Keith could burn down the church, but
Keith had never needed saving to begin with. Of course, Firo was overjoyed that
his brother was safe, but at the same time he had felt a quiet twinge in his
heart—gentle enough that he could pretend it didn’t exist, but not enough to
not to notice. He had helped, but he hadn’t been necessary.
Of course, he had let that stupid, selfish moment go—until
the same sensation had nettled his heart again today, as Ennis hurdled over the
debris of Ra’s Lance, calling his name.
Her singed black suit was hard enough to deal with without
the tiny pockmarks he had noticed later. He’d been in this business long enough
to recognize damage from barbed wire when he saw it. The thought made his blood
It was his fault she had gotten into that situation in the
first place, so why couldn’t he get her out?
He’d known for a long time he could trust his family, but
where his confidence sometimes faltered was whether he was trustworthy in
And now, after all she’d been through, she was still
worrying about him. “You don’t have to talk with me if you don’t want to,” she
was saying. “But I want you to know that I’m here.”
He owed her an answer, at the very least. Finally, in a
voice tight with emotion, he said, “I’m…I’m really sorry, Ennis.”
She waited for him to continue.
There were a million things he wanted to say, but what he
settled on was, “I shoulda kept you safe.”
“Firo, there was nothing you could have—”
“There was,” he replied before she could finish.
“I knew they’d gone after Maiza and Yaguruma, and I didn’t do anything.
They even put Edward in the hospital to get to me, and I just sat around
twiddling my thumbs.”
Ennis tilted her head. “I hardly think you’re to blame.
Even if you had come, they could easily have blown up all three of us together,
and the situation would have turned out the same. And you would have been
“But you don’t know that. Maybe I could have done
“Perhaps you could have. But why are you acting as if
it’s your sole responsibility? You can’t do everything on your own. You have
the Martillos and the Gandors and Czes and Isaac and Miria, and me. There are
so many people who care about you,” Ennis said, as if he somehow didn’t
Oh, he knew. They had proved it over and over, even when he
doubted them. Even when he had held his breath waiting for the other shoe to
drop, thinking this was it, this was the end of his streak of tremendous good
luck—they had always pulled through for him. He owed them a debt he could never
As a kid, he had always looked up to Molsa Martillo as the
picture of what he wanted to become. His confidence shone through in his
honesty, his strength in his compassion, and his wit and refusal to compromise
when it came to protecting their business—their family—had redefined Firo’s
understanding of what a father could
Yet, after Victor had exploited his weakness—and then Sham,
and then Huey—that lurking fear that he might somehow prove them wrong had
begun to resurface. Once again, he was just a child chasing after them with one
hand outstretched, helpless to catch up.
The casino party was supposed to be his chance to give the
faith they had in him some actual worth. To prove to them that he belonged
And, though he would never have wished for it to happen,
Ennis’ kidnapping was a chance for him to prove himself to her, too.
And he had failed on both counts.
The frustration bubbling up inside of him was reaching
dangerous levels of pressure. Not knowing what else to do, Firo reached over to
the wine bottle and drained the rest into his glass.
Maybe he was just
a helpless kid playing at adulthood.
Don’t be the protected. Be the protector.
You don’t need to be
You aren’t him
why can’t you prove it?
He could feel his thoughts veering in a dangerous direction,
but his grip on them was tenuous at best.
The night after Melvi’s phone call, Firo had barely slept.
His hands were completely tied, since the meeting with the Martillos hadn’t
been called yet, and he couldn’t take action against Melvi. He could hardly
think straight enough to come up with a coherent plan. He had only forced
himself to lie down so he could function the next day.
It was a mistake.
Firo hardly ever dreamed, and when he did it was usually
someone else’s memories. But this time, he had seen Ennis trying to shout
around hands big enough to cover almost her entire face. Lifted easily off the
ground as if she were so much paper, kicking uselessly and dragged into an
unfamiliar apartment. One arm twisted behind her. Pain radiating from her
elbow; hot breath that smelled like smoke; a leering whisper; relax, sweetheart—
The crash of falling off the sofa had woken him then, with
Maiza’s thin blanket wrapped around his legs and a wave of nausea he had only
barely swallowed down.
Their ordeal was over now, but the evidence of what she’d
been through was right there on the ruined suit she loved wearing so much.
There no way of knowing what else she’d endured. She had survived so much.
And yet somehow this conversation was about whether he was okay.
She didn’t need him. He couldn’t save her.
The Martillos were strong. Ennis was strong. And in the end
the only one who ever
needed saving was…
Firo’s reaction was not at all what Ennis had been expecting.
Ennis had only told him the things she had found comforting
for herself. She had once craved solitude, believing it to be freedom, but when
she had met Isaac and Miria, she had learned what a truly lonely existence she
had led. Living with Firo and Czes—knowing she would never be alone again—was a
blessing she was rediscovering every day. She treasured every time she was
reminded of it.
Apparently, Firo did not share her opinion. He had only
poured more wine into a half-full glass and was now staring at it as if he were
trying to evaporate it with his heated glare alone.
Ennis’ knowledge had prepared her for many situations, but
obviously Szilard had never considered “emotional support” to be an
essential addition to her skill set.
What should she do? She had thought maybe he was angry with
her, although she couldn’t understand what she had done that was offensive.
Now, she realized there was a telltale shudder in his breathing that suggested
he was trying not to cry.
She had asked him to trust her. Perhaps that was difficult
Firo always acted responsibly, sometimes overly so. He tried
to avoid anything that might hurt her, quickly changing the subject whenever
she talked about her own past. She had always believed he did so out of
consideration for her…but what if he was doing for her what he would want
others to do for him?
As he sat beside her trying desperately to pretend that the
tears welling in his eyes weren’t actually there—or maybe that heated glare was
an attempt to dry them—she couldn’t help but notice he looked like the child he
hated to be called. And she wondered if maybe her absolute confidence in him—the
unshakeable faith in his strength she had voiced to Melvi on that boat—might
have been a bit unfair to him.
She decided to start with what he had told her the first
time she revealed how she had come to gain her sense of self. “Firo… It
wasn’t your fault,” she began. “I appreciate that you want to protect
me. Truly. And I want to protect you, too.”
He shook his head. “That’s just it, though. You
shouldn’t have to.”
This was news to Ennis.
During the past four years with Firo, she had come to think
of their relationship as “mutual, but not reciprocal.” “Mutual,” because they
looked out for each other (and Czes) and took responsibility for each other’s
well-being. “Not reciprocal,” because they didn’t hold each other accountable
for the kindnesses they received.
Shaking off the sense of reciprocity had taken some time for
her, and Firo’s kindness had been disconcerting at first. Accustomed to cruelty
as she was, trust had taken some time to develop.
Even when she had held her breath waiting for the other shoe
to drop, thinking this was the end of her tremendous good fortune—he had always
come through for her. She owed him a debt she could never repay.
At first, she had wanted to. Even though she knew it was
impossible, she had wanted to pay him back. Even after she had become more
comfortable with Firo’s kindness, she had been driven by an urge to at least
attempt to repay him and plagued by the knowledge that she couldn’t.
But as she had spent her days building relationships—talking
with Isaac and Miria, working with Sena and Lia, cooking at home with Czes and
Firo—she had come to find that creating connections was far more complex than
creating an alchemic formula. The equations were unbalanced; the calculations
contained too many values that couldn’t be quantified.
At first, it was tremendously disconcerting. To be honest,
it still was, a little—her mind was best equipped to handle the black and
white; the subjective, often illogical reactions she’d come to identify as
“emotion” still knocked her for a loop sometimes.
She was feeling one of those right now, one that had been
arising more and more lately. She didn’t have a name for it, but it felt like
an ache in her chest—ill-defined, and she couldn’t identify its source—that was
only satisfied when Firo was happy. When he was safe.
She didn’t know what was going on, but she wasn’t going to
let him tell her not to satisfy it.
I want to know you, Firo. More of you. All of you.
“Why shouldn’t I protect you?” she asked.
“Because—” Firo cut himself off after the first word. She
wasn’t sure if his hesitation was due to uncertainty in his answer or the
tightness she heard in his voice. Perhaps both.
She waited for him, but no answer came. After a few moments
of silence, she continued herself.
“You know… I still remember that day. When Szilard attacked
the Alveare and killed the Martillos.” She turned her head towards him, and he
seemingly inadvertently met her eyes. “And when Dallas killed you.”
had never told Firo,
but she still remembered the sight of his bullet-ridden unconscious form from
the day both their lives had changed. At the time, she had felt nothing more
than regret at the death of an innocent person—one who had been kind to her, no
less—but the more she had come to care about Firo, the more the idea of such a
thing recurring frightened her.
“I never want that to happen again. I missed you so much
when you were in Alcatraz, and I was afraid I’d lose you again this time,” she
said. He was staring into his wine again, but he was probably listening. After
a deep breath, she continued hesitantly, “Firo…I hate feeling like I’m always
chasing behind you. Perhaps its selfish of me, but…I want to stand beside you.”
“I hate feeling like
I’m always chasing behind you.”
Was that how she really felt?
If anything, he had always believed he was the one chasing
after her. She was brilliant, and capable, and unbelievably honest and
straightforward, and ridiculously cute besides. Spending time with her was one
of the most consistent joys in his life.
But when he looked at the other men with amazing women in
their lives—Keith, Berga, Felix—they were all so much stronger than him. The
Gandors certainly didn’t have to dream up complicated schemes to hold hands
with their wives. Hell, Felix proposed to Chane on top of a speeding train—and
Protecting her was the one thing he could do—what other
option did he have?
“I don’t…I don’t want to lose you, either,” he said finally.
He knew immediately that the statement didn’t even come close to encompassing
everything he felt—but somehow I don’t
deserve you seemed overly straightforward. “I wanna be strong enough for
you.” Argh. It was basically an admission that he wasn’t
Once again, Ennis tilted her head in confusion. “You aren’t
weak, Firo. I’ve never once thought that.” A gentle, reassuring smile played
across her lips. “After all, you’ve shown me more kindness than anyone I know.”
Firo had no idea what he was expecting her to say, but it
wasn’t that. And, though he couldn’t articulate what or how in words, something
shifted deep in his heart, and an indescribable warmth burned in his chest.
It was like he’d been holding on to her hand this whole
time, fearful of letting her go, without realizing she had intertwined her
fingers with his.
It was just like that meeting with the Martillos, when they
had reaffirmed their devotion to him as members of his family.
…I wonder if that’s
what she meant when she said I was like a brother.
He could never see her as a sister, of course, but at that
moment, her assertion that they were family wasn’t a rejection of his feelings.
It was a promise.
“I’ll never leave
He smiled in spite of himself—and that was all it took for
the tears welling his eyes to spill over. Well, one of them, at least.
Shit. Firo laughed
weakly and dug the heel of his hand into his eye. “Dammit…” he
“Uh… I mean…I’m…y'know.”
“I think it’s wonderful.”
Ennis put a knuckle to her lips in thought—something she
usually did when she was struggling to put something into words. (It was also
hopelessly adorable.) “I was not created with normal emotions, because I was
not born to be an autonomous—er…independent being, as you were. Emotions play
a crucial role in decision-making, as a kind of subconscious reflex based on
prior experience and natural disposition. I didn’t need a sense of
self-preservation beyond the skills that could enable me to fulfill my orders,
and I didn’t have a personality, so my ability to ‘feel’ is still very new. My
personal experience—my experience as ‘Ennis'—is much shallower than yours, I
Firo struggled a little to keep up, but with the help of the
much more well-read people in his head supplying definitions for unfamiliar
words, he could parse what she was saying, more or less.
“I suppose what I’m trying to say is that without my
emotions, I never could have chosen to betray Szilard and save Isaac and Miria.
That choice changed my entire world, and changed me. They gave me strength I
never knew I could have.”
Ennis unlaced her fingers and relaced them again on her lap.
“So…I don’t know what your feelings are telling you,
but I think it could help you to try to listen. Or at least let them have their
place in your heart.”
For the past five years she had lived with him, Ennis had
never failed to impress him with her straightforward approach to difficulty.
She was incredibly smart—way smarter than him. She didn’t try to break through
the wall or go around or try to pretend it didn’t exist. She just took it apart,
brick by brick. He couldn’t explain why, exactly, but for some reason her
approach always struck him as incredibly brave.
“Do you know what you’re feeling now?” she asked.
To be honest, the answer was simultaneously no and kind of. He was certainly feeling something—a lot of things, and a
lot more than he was accustomed to. It took him a long time to answer, and he
was grateful that Ennis didn’t prod him or otherwise show she was impatient as
he decided what to say.
“Right now, I’m just…really glad you’re here. For a lot of reasons.
Thank you. And…I’m sorry.”
“I’m glad you’re here, too,” she said with a smile. “And I’m
Her hand approached his almost instinctively, before she
suddenly seemed to think better of it and hurriedly returned it to her lap.
For Firo’s part, the split-second action had doubled his
heart rate, and he had almost forgotten what they were talking about. “For
what?” he asked casually. Well, as casually as he could manage with a voice
that had jumped an octave.
“I forgot you don’t like being touched.”
She wasn’t wrong, to be fair—but there were exceptions to
every rule. And today was already full of unexpected changes. What was one
After an oddly comfortable silence, he said, “…I don’t mind, if it’s you.”
“Are you sure?”
A moment later, he felt her warm fingers curl around his.
He’d often imagined what her hand would feel like, but her
grip was stronger than he expected.
…Actually, that wasn’t so surprising.
He closed his hand around hers, and even though his face was
on fire, and he forgot to breathe for a second, and he could literally hear his
pulse in his ears at first—it was tremendously comfortable, and before he knew
it, the tension was draining out of him, and he felt more relaxed than he had
When Czes returned a few hours later, he found Firo and
Ennis had fallen asleep right where they sat on the couch—holding hands.
He raised an eyebrow and smirked. Yeah, they weren’t living
this down anytime soon.
Then, his expression softened slightly, and he let out an
Last night, it occurred to me that if I were getting into Baccano now, I might be skeptical upon hearing it’s 22 volumes long. 22 books and counting. Like…how does it stay good for that long?
And then I realized that Baccano’s DNA totally gives it that kind of longevity. One of the biggest things that causes stories (especially shonen manga and Western television) to run out of steam is the fact that stakes always have to increase season to season. And then when the creator intends something to be the Ultimate Last Final Arc (for real, guys), they aren’t allowed to actually end it there, which results in the story ending with a whimper instead of a bang. But Baccano really isn’t about increasing stakes at all. 1930 was pretty contained, 1931 was bigger and wilder…and then 1932 was contained again, and 2001 was like microscopic in scope. It’s not necessarily planned out from day 1, but it’s not a linear buildup. It’s not necessarily bigger and more impressive from volume to volume, because that’s not really what the series is about. It’s more about the emotional stakes of the characters we’re invested in. Things don’t have to get “bigger and better.”
It also helps that there isn’t really much of a central conflict. I’ve argued about why Huey’s conflict is the most central to the series, but it still isn’t the single driving force. Like, even after his story is resolved, there’s still tons to explore in the Baccano world. It’s not a linear story, so he could totally release a series of short story volumes even after the main series is over if he wanted to… (Which is to say, I want him to)
(There’s also the fact that many of the arcs are multiple volumes long, so there isn’t actually as much story as 22 volumes makes it sound. The length comes from the depth and intricacy of the individuals and their plots within the arcs themselves.)
Like…I’m still floored that there are no bad volumes of Baccano. Sometimes I wish more space were devoted to things other than fighting, but really if that’s the only price I have to pay for SO MUCH INTERESTING HUMANITY I am gladly willing to pay it.