Dio blinked, peering around the novel clutched in his hands at his very much expected visitor. The book’s worn pages made the girl seem almost radiant by contrast… or maybe that was just how the blond had grown to regard her in general. He watched in amusement as she hovered about the room’s entrance, fingers nervously kneading the edges of the doorway.
“What about it?” he asked, trying to gently nudge the conversation forward. Closing his book, Dio leaned back in his chair in the library, eyeing her curiously.
“Well,” Luna murmured, “have you ever… celebrated it?”
Dio had to snort at that. “You think Free the Soul would let us do things like that?” he scoffed. “Halloween is way too fucking fun for them. Or so I’ve heard.”
With a nod, the girl replied, “Yes, I can’t even imagine. Well… I suppose I can imagine it to a degree, because we never celebrated it here, either.” Here referring to her humble abode on the moon - one that Dio had grown to call home, as well.
“That sucks,” Dio had to reply, because it did. Anything potentially fun seemed locked away behind rules and regulations in both of their upbringings. “From what I know, it’s all about… candy, right? And costumes?” He glanced down at his own attire, for once not anything eccentric; his ringmaster coat was in the wash, so he was left in a black long-sleeved shirt and jeans.
Luna smiled. “Yes, those are the basics. And trick-or-treating, which we couldn’t exactly do around here, anyway, but…” Her fingers tightened around her necklace, a telltale sign she was thinking too hard about something.
He attempted to break through her potentially spiraling thoughts: “Luna, what’s on your mind? Just say it.”
“I want to dress up,” she blurted out quickly, her face flushing pale as she did.
Dio’s eyes widened, a brow quirking in amusement. Wow, this was more forward of her than he was used to - not that he minded it. Usually, it took a lot of coaxing to get Luna to tell him directly what she wanted to do; it was a clear side effect from, well, never being allowed to voice her desires, and he could relate to a sickening degree.
He considered the best way to answer. Since the Ambidex Game and all that had happened after, Dio had calmed himself down a bit and tried to think before speaking. (Well, sometimes.) “Okay, uh, what did you want to dress up as? Are there, like, certain costumes to pick from?”
Admittedly, Dio knew of the holiday’s basics, but never thought any further than its existence. Were there rules to what you could wear, or which candy to eat? What did you do in the costumes? Trick-or-treating was a thing that kids did, right? What did adults do for the holiday?
So many questions, so little experience for him to find an answer.
Luckily, Luna seemed to know a bit more about it. “No, not at all! I was thinking of, um, maybe… well, let me just show you.” Conveniently, they happened to be in a small library they had set up in Rhizome-9, where a few dozen books filled the room. Usually, when Luna couldn’t locate Dio, that was where he ended up being; the blond had taken to passing the time in here when he was alone, interested in all the texts he’d never gotten the chance to read before.
The GAULEM quickly crossed the room, scanning her eyes over the shelves and eventually finding what she was looking for: a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Its pages were yellowed with age and cover just a bit faded, but it was clear that despite being such an old book, it had been well taken care of.
Luna’s fingers smoothed over the title as she glanced down at it with an almost wondrous expression. Dio had seen her make that same sort of face when looking at flowers, or the sky in the B. Garden, or even him sometimes. It was a look that he couldn’t help staring at, a window to her soul despite the wires and circuits lining her physical insides. All the proof she was real, that she was alive.
His cheeks started to hurt all of a sudden, and he realized with a start that he’d been smiling at her. Smirking was more his go-to expression, so grinning so genuinely like this actually hurt the muscles in his face. (God, how fucking pathetic was that?)
The book was placed on the table in front of him, and he noted the image of a blond girl on the cover. The character was wearing a blue and white dress, curiously glancing up at a tree towering over her; in the branches sat a large cat, a wide smile etched across its whiskered face.
Luna nervously tapped her finger on the picture of the girl. “I… I’d like to be her. Alice.”
Instantly, Dio wrinkled his nose - not in disapproval at her choice, but the name. Ugh, why did this innocent-looking girl have to remind him of that bitch from SOIS?
Luna seemed to misunderstand his expression, frowning at his reaction. “I’m sorry, that was rude of me. I don’t even know how we’d make such a costume, it seems silly in hindsight…”
Shaking his head vigorously, Dio sat up straight and clarified, “No, no! It was just the name Alice.” He made a disgusted face at the word leaving his own mouth.
And the connotation seemed to click with Luna; after a brief pause, she began to giggle, trying to cover her mouth politely but the sound still pushed through softly. “O-oh, now I see why you made that face, Dio,” she laughed.
Embarrassed at his own transparency, he waved a hand and grumbled, “Yeah, yeah.” Glancing back down at the book, he began to leaf through the stiff pages, noting the printed illustrations by an artist who’d been dead for at least two centuries. The same girl appeared several times throughout the book, in various scenarios with different characters. “So this is Alice?” he clarified, pointing to a sketch of the girl next to a bipedal rabbit.
“Yes, that’s her!” Luna cried, clasping her hands together in joy. “The dress is pretty, don’t you think? And I could carry around the Lagomorph doll as the white rabbit from the story!”
Forcing away a grimace at the mention of that damn rabbit, Dio studied the image on the cover more closely. The dress looked easy enough to make - a few pleats here, a few frills there - and his mind was already mapping out what he would need.
One of Dio’s most secretive interests was sewing - he’d made his ringmaster duds for the Ambidex Game, after all. The geometry of the patterns just made sense to him, and allowed him time to just get lost in his work and tune the rest of the world out.
“Okay,” he decided after a few quiet moments of thought. “First things first: do you guys have a sewing machine around this dump?”
Luna looked startled by his question, but eventually nodded. “We do. I haven’t used it in a long while, though…”
“What about fabric? Thread, needles, all that shit?”
Dio didn’t like interrupting her, but he couldn’t help his enthusiasm. “What are we waiting for, then? I’ll have to get your numbers and shit, but let’s fucking do this.”
Luna blinked in surprise, tilting her head a bit. “Um, what do you mean…? My numbers…?”
With a nod, Dio found himself smiling again. Damn it, the ways this girl could get under his skin - in a good way, that is. “Yeah, like… measurements, sizes. I’m going to make you this dress. For Halloween.”
A heavy quiet once more fell into the air, the gears in Luna’s brain (no pun intended) nearly visibly churning, before everything seemed to click into place. And with that realization came a deep flush across her freckled cheeks, hand clutching her necklace tightly as if her life depended on it. “D-Dio!” she exclaimed, her voice quivering. “A-are you sure? I don’t mean to force this upon you--”
“You’re not,” Dio assured, and winked. “Honestly, like I’d fucking let anyone tell me what to do.” He really wouldn’t have offered if he didn’t want to - she knew him better than to force himself through unpleasant scenarios for any reason.
Luna smiled at his words, her face still pale and gaze warm. “If… if you’re sure, then. Th-thank you. Thank you so much.” A shiny film of artificial tears pooled behind her eyes, but she wiped them away with another laugh. “I- sorry, no one’s ever done this sort of thing for me, Dio. You’re so kind.”
While ‘kind’ was the last word he’d use to describe himself, Dio couldn’t help but chuckle in response. He expected her to get flustered over him taking initiative, but hadn’t meant to make her cry; at least it seemed like happy tears, the kind of sudden emotion that came along with someone giving a shit about you. Dio didn’t cry over it, but he’d felt a similar swell in his chest when Luna was compassionate to him.
“Don’t… don’t worry about it. Maybe I’ll, uh, make something for myself to match. Like this guy…” Dio absentmindedly pointed to another sketch in the book, this one of a goofy big-headed man wearing a top hat.
Luna tittered again. “Dio, that’s the Mad Hatter. Are you sure?”
Oh, well dressing as that character didn’t exactly sound promising. Still, now Dio was committed to it, committed to the idea of giving Luna a nice enough first experience with Halloween.
After all she’d done for him, it was the least he could do, right?
“I mean, I don’t see the likeness,” he admitted with a lopsided grin, “but at least he has a hat, too.”