It was an interesting feeling, being next to Luna. Certainly unlike any emotion he’d come across before; knowing only anger and hatred for so long, Dio compared her presence to that of a tiny sliver of light amongst the darkest tunnel. Cheesy for sure, but he’d been in complete black for so long, and was obviously needy enough to cling to any hint of something different - of something good.
He wasn’t sure when he started hearing his name differently when it left her mouth, how much he longed to hear the tiny inflections of the vowels in his short name, why it felt so goddamn special when she said it compared to anyone else’s - but it all happened nonetheless. Suddenly, it was like his world became more colorful and bright - and he didn’t know what to do next.
Her voice was a piece of music, stitched together with notes of compassion, and every beat drove the cacophony of his mind away further and further. It was kindly cruel, to suffocate the darkness leading him through life up until this point, but he didn’t protest. With her, he never fought it.
Left with her at the end of the game, he was stranded, like an astronaut drifting alone in endless space. For quite a while, he hallucinated his allies crying for his blood, and begged with all his breath to join them in Brother’s utopia. She always had the same response: quietly, she would shake her head, hold onto his hand with a slight squeeze, and say, “You deserve to live.”
The words struck him deeper than they should have, and were partially responsible for his recovery. Since those first frightening days as a prisoner, he’d learned to stand up again like a newborn foal, legs shaky but his head growing clearer by the minute.
He was embarrassed to admit that he’d never experienced her degree of kindness before; all he knew of compassion was how ultimately foreign it was to humanity, how empathy was a lost cause at the rate they were going. Thinking of others just wasn’t a reality in his dog-eat-dog upbringing, and how the other clones felt once he triumphed over them wasn’t ever a concern.
Luna wasn’t a human physically - a fact he was stunned to learn - but he still saw humanity in her. Somehow, she placed higher in his spectrum of admiration than those with actual flesh and blood. Somehow, she’d risen up, up, up to be his favorite person - and she wasn’t even a person.
Her hands were gentle with him, much gentler than he knew he deserved; like he was a plant in need of tending, her fingers were kind, her touches light and feathery - anytime his muscles constricted in fear, however slight, she’d let go. She respected his boundaries, saw the hesitation in his gaze, realized that he would need more than just sunlight and water to grow.
It seemed time was the secret, as it did wonders for him. After three months, he didn’t flinch anymore when she touched him, and at the fifth, he tried touching her first, a few times. It wasn’t much, not by any normal human’s standards - then again, they weren’t very normal were they? But he still felt accomplishment in his endeavors, initiating the brush of shoulder blades, or a slight connection of fingers when passing objects. They were little, subtle ways he could show her he meant to do that motion - and he enjoyed it.
She responded to his gestures in time, her body inching towards his as they sat together in the garden. Clearly, the B. Garden was a favorite spot of Luna’s, and Dio had gotten so used to it that it became their usual place to relax.
The fake sun would stream in, even in the early hours of the morning, and Dio would lace his fingers with Luna’s. It was a routine he’d quickly become addicted to, lavished in like he’d hit the fucking lottery or something. It was peaceful, quiet - away from every chaotic element that had shaped them like dolls of clay. They were far from the anxieties of their origins, safe and comforted and together.
He would squeeze her hand tighter and she’d put her head on his shoulder; as metallic and heavy as she should have felt, Luna was actually quite warm. Maybe it was all in Dio’s head, but he swore he never once felt cold in the garden with her.
It was so strange - Free the Soul was strict about interacting with the ‘unclean,’ and Brother was sure to stress that they didn’t matter nearly as much as His soldiers. Frankly, the lives outside of the cult had never mattered to Dio, because as far as he was concerned, they were beyond help.
What, they didn’t like him, in his brief interactions with them? Who the fuck cared about that?
The Ambidex Game players hadn’t liked him? What did that matter?
But for the first time, after not caring about the opinions of outsiders for his entire life, Dio found himself wanting to be liked by Luna.
All the same, Luna liking him was different from her caring about him; she cared about all sorts of things, from the tiniest plants in the garden to the fake-ass sun in the sky. She even cared about the building she lived in, not to mention the artificial bastard of a rabbit projected onto the wall.
It would mean quite a bit more for her to like someone like Dio.
And that was not given freely; it would have to be earned, and Dio knew this. More than simple charity, he’d have to journey through self-discovery and come out at the end as someone both Luna and Dio himself would like.
Because at the end of it all, how could anyone like him if he didn’t like himself? Wasn’t that just the golden question.
She didn’t excuse his mistakes or sins, didn’t absolve him of his cruel past actions, but the fact was that she remained with him regardless. Despite his role of captain of her enemies, she wanted him alive and to be at her side; she wanted him as a partner in her daily routine, and he didn’t know how to handle it.
Dio wasn’t an idiot; he was well aware that, after all he’d done, he didn’t deserve everything that she gave him. There was so much wrong with him, and for quite a long while after the Ambidex Game, he could only focus on those flaws. He couldn’t see past his own self-hatred and failures, much less pay attention to the lives of those around him.
And of course, he knew it wouldn’t be a linear path to redemption. At first, he often slipped back into his old habits, choosing to swear and argue instead of complying. But as the days and weeks and months passed, he was actively trying a little more to grow in her presence.
There were baby steps being taken forward, and he could only pray Luna was able to see them.
In his own way, he learned to recognize her flaws, as well. She was unfairly hard on herself, blaming most of the Ambidex Game’s troubles not on the actual terrorist , but her own failures. Sometimes, she’d cite certain mistakes she’d made, such as a wrong line uttered here, or a trust blindly placed there.
She was always lost in fantasy worlds, her head buzzing about with tales of valiant knights and gorgeous princesses. Her own quest for a happily-ever-after was a fruitless one - though she’d once said that happiness was found only in the quest for it. If that was true, Dio argued, then he should’ve been perfectly happy up until the game’s conclusion. And he wasn’t.
Luna held herself to such high expectations, and didn’t apply those same principles to those around her. She wanted the best for everyone but herself, and it frustrated him. If he could see the good in her, why couldn’t she? Why was she so blind to her own strengths?
(Was she having those same thoughts about him?)
It was never anyone’s intent to become attached, but Dio knew there was no escaping her. In a way, this was almost worse than his previous Sin; with this woman, he had no desire to run away, no nagging voice telling him engaging with her was the wrong thing to do.
Because it was not, and every part of him knew that. Nothing had ever felt so right.
There was no other person or GAULEM he would rather be around.
Things weren’t perfect, of course. There were nightmares and bad days; Dio’s mind never ceased its attack on him while he slept, reminding him of his failures and guilting him for enjoying things Free the Soul had not programmed into him. Ghosts of his past often hissed that Brother would be disappointed, would hate and ostracize him, remind that he has no home anymore - with all that being true, it was hard to handle at first.
When trauma drove him mad at night, she was the first by his bedside. She’d slip her hand over his and grip tightly, whispering his name. He grew dependent on her touch to tear him from the dreams, and he began to regard her as a solid link to reality. She alone had the ability to change his world so suddenly, bringing him to a sense of peace he hadn’t ever before been familiar with.
There were also times he was tempted to lash out, found himself wanting to scream and punch the walls in fury - and sometimes, he did exactly that. But he never wanted to take it out on Luna, never wanted her to have the burden of witnessing or soothing his tantrums.
He was confident he could ask her for help or advice, but only Dio knew how to deal with his anger. Only he knew how to live with it. It wasn’t Luna’s, after all, so he couldn’t expect her to magically know the key to solving his problems. In fact, he’d figured out that there weren’t really solutions, but ways to cope.
He’d need time to feel the anger, tame it like a wild beast, and calm himself down.
And Luna respected that. She let him yell and swear and break himself into a thousand pieces - and she was there when he was ready to put all the pieces back together.
Somewhere along the way, Dio had figured out something critical: My feelings are mine.
It seemed like such a basic concept, something fucking preschoolers were taught, but he had to first un learn all the groundwork Free the Soul had set up. The rules, laws, notions that any sort of emotion he felt that wasn’t within Brother’s code was wrong … It was all so difficult to undo.
He knew it would probably take years of rebuilding himself, of actively changing his thinking, to see progress. But… coming up with the realization was a good place to start.
My feelings are mine.
They weren’t Left’s, they weren’t Brother’s, they were Dio’s - and he was allowed to feel them without guilt.
Luna once asked her superiors if she could set something up in the recreational room, and was surprisingly granted her request. Dio walked into the room with her one evening to find a large monitor mounted on the wall, a couch and some blankets set up a few feet away.
He knew it was a television, as watching news reports had been mandatory growing up; briefly, he wondered if the same was required here, if he would need to be aware of current events and human activity.
But she smiled her beautiful smile, took his hand in hers, and led him to the couch. Seating herself down, she encouraged him to do the same; slowly, he sank into the soft surface and felt as though the cushions were swallowing him whole. He practically melted into the couch, an amused chuckle leaving his lips.
Luna echoed his quiet laughter, putting her head on his shoulder. Heat ran through his cheeks as she got comfortable, nestling against his body like she was a puzzle piece always meant to fit. Awkwardly, he spread an arm around her thin shoulders, daring to bring their faces even closer.
“We’re going to watch a movie,” Luna announced, pressing a button on a remote control. The lights in the room dimmed and pictures started flashing on the screen, but Dio’s mind was completely elsewhere.
She was right there. Whether consciously or not, Luna had crossed both a mental and physical barrier of Dio’s by just placing her head on his shoulder.
He wondered if she could feel his quickening pulse vibrate against her frame - and, if she did, if she would comment on it. Thankfully, she said nothing, and the silence gave him an unexpected burst of courage.
The movie played loudly on the nearby screen, but Dio quickly tuned out the sound. All he could hear was the soft gasp Luna let out as he pressed his lips to her cold mouth.
Dio mulled over that quick kiss for days, wondering if he’d let the situation dictate his actions. Surely he’d gotten caught up in the moment, in the romantic setting, and made a move based on that? Surely he didn’t want to actually kiss the GAULEM, right?
Luna hadn’t responded to it that night, never questioned why he had done it, but he didn’t stop thinking about it. Clearly, it held more weight than a simple gesture of affection - Dio had only kissed one other person in his lifetime, and she has been his Sin.
But Luna was no Sin. Besides the circumstances being so different, there was such a distinction between how the two made him feel. There was not a trace of guilt with Luna; granted, there was also no one to force guilt upon him this time, but he found himself being okay with that.
My feelings are mine, he reminded himself, and that included any feelings for Luna.
Perhaps they should’ve talked about what happened, but Luna didn’t really address it with words. Instead, one morning when they met to walk about the garden, she reached up on the tips of her toes and initiated a kiss herself. And his hand met the small of her back, pulling her in close and noting the way her metallic body stiffened. When their lips broke apart, he raised an inquisitive brow to her.
Luna’s face was incredibly pale, but he’d learned that her blood was white, so it made sense - it was a GAULEM’s way of blushing.
“I’m… I’m not sure what just happened,” she whispered, blinking a few times. She looked completely lost in a daze - and if Dio was honest, it was sort of a cute look on her.
“You kissed me,” he said.
“Well… yes,” Luna agreed with a shy nod.
Dio decided to see how far this conversation could go, and asked sheepishly, “Did you like it?”
Letting out a small, nervous titter, Luna leaned forward and pressed her forehead to his shoulder. The vibrations from her laughter tickled through his body, bringing a rush of warmth with them. He felt her nod again, catching her muffled words: “Yes. Yes, I did.”
His throat felt tight, his heart wouldn’t stop thrumming loudly in his chest, and he was so acutely aware of every breath he took. They were all such odd feelings, but not at all unwelcome.
“I liked it, too,” he admitted. He shifted, gingerly placing his chin atop her head, feeling closer to her than anyone else, ever.
In response, Luna’s arms reached up to hook around his back, returning the hug. “Good,” she mumbled against his shirt. “I was so confused when you sprung that on me the other night, you know.”
He couldn’t help it - the bluntness in her words made him bark out a laugh. “Yeah, that was my bad. I think the movie made me do it.”
“Dio,” Luna giggled, “you kissed me during the previews.”
“Dio, would you like… to dance?”
The question was brought up so suddenly one day, but things hadn’t been that predictable lately, anyway.
Dio had never danced a day in his life, and he didn’t really want to let that be known, but he also didn’t have the heart to refuse her. Luna could demand the stars from the sky and he’d probably find himself measuring how long of a ladder to get.
So after he nodded in response, they walked back to the B. Garden together, because of course they did. There was really no place in the facility that could compare, after all. If they wanted peace, the highest chances of obtaining it - even temporarily - were here in this garden.
With a skip in her step, Luna approached a switch and turned on the garden’s nighttime setting. The lights dimmed low, the big colored stars reflecting in each of the pools a reminder of the Ambidex Game puzzle associated with this area.
She approached him again, shyly staring behind a few stray orange curls. “Are you ready?” she asked, eyes practically shimmering.
And Dio, not wanting to let her down, found himself nodding in response - as if he was actually ready. As though this wasn’t an activity he had zero experience in, and would certainly fail almost instantly.
The thing was, failure used to be something he feared. Free the Soul’s policies on all that shit weren’t exactly the most tolerant, and he knew that before the Ambidex Game, he was on the thinnest ice. And he’d ended up not succeeding, so he knew what that meant for him if he was ever to return.
But despite that ingrained anxiety associated with failure, he could at least trust that Luna wouldn’t berate him for messing up. He was very sure she would encourage him to keep at it and not give up, but would never refuse to associate with him just because he couldn’t dance.
That reassuring thought allowed him to clasp her hand as she got herself situated, her gaze warm and inviting. Shall we? she mouthed, and he once again nodded.
They moved swiftly at first, Luna’s foot leading left and Dio’s moving right -- but that was the end of it. The moment their bodies shifted together even a little in sync, Dio stumbled. He managed to catch his footing, but Luna was the next to falter; tripping over her own shoes, she let out a squeak of surprise and dragged Dio down with her. Together, they tumbled to the floor in a mess.
Dio landed on top of Luna, and though he didn’t know if a GAULEM could be ‘injured’ in the same way a human could, he scrambled off her and mumbled, “Fuck, sorry. Did I hurt you?”
To his surprise, Luna wasn’t upset in the least. Sure, he hadn’t thought she’d be furious or reprimand him at all, but he had at least thought she’d be a little sad they’d messed up. He could definitely see her blaming herself for something trivial like this, and was almost ready to reply that it wasn’t her fault.
But instead of anxious apologies or a saddened expression, Luna was laughing.
Her giggles were quiet, but held such pure joy to them that he couldn’t help but stare in stunned silence for a moment. Happiness was something he’d seen on Luna before, but this was so innocent, so… well, endearing. And it seemed that laughter was fully contagious, for he found himself chuckling with her before long.
Eventually, Luna tried to apologize for her reaction, but he wouldn’t let her.
“I’m so used to dancing alone, I think,” she tried to explain, “so I wasn’t prepared for actually having a partner.”
Ah, that explained it - not that he could argue. “That’s fine. I’ve never danced at all,” he admitted, waving a hand.
“We could give it another try, if you wanted...” Luna murmured. Her head ducked down a little in embarrassment, long lashes curtaining her half-lidded eyes. “We don’t have to, of course, if it’s not fun for you!”
How did she always manage to do that to him?
Despite being supposedly dedicated to the ideals of Free the Soul up until very recently, Dio had to admit there was always a tiny glimpse of doubt in the back of his mind. He should’ve been mortified at the thought of questioning Brother, but he’d honestly never really thought much of it; he’d instinctively dismissed those thoughts, attributing his insecurities to a test of faith. But the doubt was there, and eventually manifested in ways even Dio didn’t understand - like Allying with Luna.
Anyway, the point was that even the most important things to Dio had him unsure at times, a voice in the deepest parts of him questioning or protesting.
With Luna, he didn’t feel that. With Luna, it was different.
Instead of making him doubt, she only made him want to try things out. He couldn’t dance worth a damn, and he still found himself agreeing to keep practicing.
Predictably, Luna’s face brightened at his response. “We’ll get better at it!” she exclaimed, scrambling to her feet and offering him a hand.
Dio tried to hide his blatant smile as he clasped his palm with hers. “Yeah, we will get better,” he echoed, finding himself truly believing that about everything.
Luna’s superior had told her about other universes, other strings of outcomes that were determined by even the smallest of choices made. When she first relayed that information to him, he had questions, but he’d since learned to just go with the abnormality. A life full of monotony had done him little good, after all, and he was growing used to not fully understanding things. It made life somewhat more exciting, actually, to not seek answers as he once did - simply another placating effect she had on him.
He’d learned of worlds where he had succeeded in his mission, some where he’d killed everyone including himself, and even a few that ended in him failing in worse ways than he actually had.
Despite that, he hoped there were many different timelines, however slight in variation, in which he fell for Luna again and again, until it was clear there had to be some star-crossed bullshit etched into the sky. When he asked her if she’d seen anything like that, she blushed sheet-white and looked away.
Endless possibilities, endless universes, endless outcomes, and the two of them ended up in the here and now. This was not a coincidence, nor was it truly a conscious path; something had pushed them together, whether by choices made or fate’s design.
And honestly, Dio wouldn’t trade any other universe for this one.