A/N: Once again, this is for lizadale on tumblr, because I'm a thirsty bitch so here's some fluff after that depressing alternate ending. This takes place in her Dimigi AU; you don't necessarily have to read it to enjoy this, but some of the finer details and references might be lost on you (and you should check it out anyway because it's GOOD and Liz is amazing and talented!).
Basically, Luigi returns to Castle Bleck a couple of weeks after the end of Super Paper Mario, only to find a heavily concussed Dimentio starving to death there. He takes him home, heals him up, and now Dimentio won't leave his house. Turns out Luigi still involuntarily possesses the Chaos Heart, and it's fucking him up inside and trying to weaken him so it can control him. Dimentio wants to wait and help Luigi weaken the Heart so he can take it for himself, but uh oh, Sparkly Garbage Bastard has developed an Attachment(TM).
Relevant post: lizadale . tumblr (dotcom) /post/190218619268/has-luigi-ever-attempted-to-teach-dimentio-some
"It's quiet now
I doubt if any thoughts will ever come again
But there's a sense of some lone consequence
Wheezing down my neck
It's fine, we're fine
I'm doing everything I'm supposed to do
I'd burn it all,
I'd set the world on fire just to be with you"
Death, Thrice Drawn – The Scary Jokes
You blink and look up from your book. There is music coming from somewhere in the house. Listening for a moment, you pick out that it's something orchestral; a waltz, perhaps.
Trying to continue reading appears to be a futile effort. After reading the same paragraph for the third time, you snap the book closed, causing Polterpup to lift its head and look at you from its position beside your feet. Annoyed at the fact that Luigi has apparently not seen fit to use headphones, you float up from your seat and open the door to the study with a bit of unnecessary force.
The bedroom, your our bedroom, is entered with the same flare. You open your mouth to demand an explanation for this flagrant distraction, but halt dead in your tracks upon seeing Luigi doing some sort of flexible stretch. He turns his head towards you, still stretching, and says "Oh, hey" as if legs were meant to extend that far behind a body.
"What are you doing?" you say once your mouth starts working again. Realizing that you're staring, you look at the CD player on the nightstand instead, where the sounds of an orchestra are rising and falling gracefully.
He finally lowers his leg and turns the music off. "Oh, Princess Peach is throwing a ball next week and I was just about to brush up on my dancing," he answers with a shrug.
"Must you do it while I'm reading? It is highly distracting, you know," you snip, crossing your arms. You now understand why he cannot use headphones, but you still want to express your displeasure.
"You're always reading," Luigi replies with an eye roll, and you huff, but don't retort. (It's only half true, but you are certainly not going to tell him what else you do in your free time. Regardless, you are going to run out of books at some point in the near future.)
Luigi looks at you, waiting for you to either leave or keep complaining. "Actually…" he says slowly, with a twinkle in his eye and a smile beginning to lift his lips.
Your guard immediately goes up a notch. You don't like it when he gets that particular expression. The twinkle means lectures about how "hovering over people and making them look up at you is extremely rude" or how "you can properly use the toaster if you actually try, please for the love of god." The smile means he's plotting to drag you into yet another mundane thing, and you can't say that you're a fan of that either.
"Why don't I teach you how to dance? It would be good for you," he continues, and holds out his hand for you to take. Your train of thought once again jumps the track and goes screaming off into a ravine. First of all, how dare he assume you don't already know how (you don't, but that's not the point). Secondly, why would you even need to know that? And third…what?
He quirks an eyebrow in challenge, and he's still holding out his hand, and you're beginning to panic. Your mind is doing flips attempting to find the trap in this proposal. You know there has to be one, some reason why he would want to teach you this.
You look up from his hand to his eyes, eyes the color of sapphires. There's a question there, and the twinkle is fading, and they seem…disappointed?
Just as his hand begins to retract, you impulsively dart forward and take it, trying to ignore the strange way the physical contact makes your stomach feel. (You're not going to run away like the first time he held your hand, you're not.) Luigi smiles happily at you, looking surprised, and your heart does a weird thing.
…You really despise when your heart does the thing, as it has been doing so often lately.
You're not quite sure why you did that. He hadn't been shocked that you would refuse, as if there had never been a chance that you would say yes, and you had just wanted to… To what?
"Ok, since it's a ball, there's gonna be waltzing, so that's what we should start with," Luigi begins to explain, nevermind the fact that you are definitely not invited to said ball. (Unless you decide you don't care and go anyway. You save that particular fun thought for later and try to pay attention to his explanation.)
You certainly start paying attention when he steps directly into your personal space, carefully guides your hands to his shoulder and waist, then puts his hands in the same positions on you. You tense up and almost flinch, but keep still, knowing that waltzing involved a lot of physical contact, of course.
Luigi, ever the considerate one, gives you a bit of your space back, and you breathe a little easier. He pulls on you gently until your feet are touching the floor, and your entire weight is resting apprehensively on them. Ah, there's the trap. This was another ploy to get you to exercise your legs when you saw no good reason for using them ever. Unfortunately, you have already agreed to try this, so you do your best to ignore the impending ache you know will be coming.
He adjusts his grip on you and launches into another explanation about counting and leading and following. You try to copy what he does as he leads you into the first steps. Despite your expectations, clumsy, stupid Luigi does not step on your feet, or trip on thin air at all. In fact, it's you who steps on his feet; he barely even winces.
"Stop looking at your shoes," he corrects you mildly, before you can decide that you don't need to apologize.
Your gaze snaps away from your boots and up to Luigi's face. The amount of patience in his expression makes you want to dump him in Dimension D or put him through a wall. But you don't, because you can't get rid of him just yet. "Then how am I supposed to see what I am doing!" you protest, pouring every bit of indignation that your body contains into your voice.
He shrugs in an infuriatingly dismissive manner. "You just feel it."
"Feel it?!" you echo venomously. You don't have to be on the ground for this; you could probably dance just fine in the air, and nobody would be getting their feet stepped on. But you stay put, despite how much you want to levitate yourself up. If you do that, whatever this is will end. And you don't want whatever this is to end because that would be losing, and you so very much hate to lose and you hate Luigi for using that against you. (At least, that's the reason you tell yourself).
The two of you start up again, and you scowl at some invisible point over Luigi's shoulder. You shuffle back and forth, and then are led around in swaying circles as Luigi ups the difficulty. You won't admit that he's right, but it does become easier when you stop concentrating so hard and let your body grow accustomed to the rhythms. You might even feel a bit proud of yourself.
"Now you're getting it," Luigi praises you, snapping you out of your thoughts.
You look at him and are taken aback by the gentle way his eyes are glimmering. You stumble a bit, but somehow manage not to step on him again. Your face turns red and you curse under your breath; it would be astoundingly lovely to still have your mask.
Luigi just snorts and steps away, taking his hands off of you. A confused sense of loss hits you; your hands feel empty, and the places where he was touching you are suddenly cold. "Let's try it for real," he says, bringing the orchestra back to life with the press of a button. He gets you back into position, and you blink, because your heart just did the thing again.
The string section rises energetically, and you waltz, following along with Luigi's motions. You're not the worst at this, and he doesn't say anything whenever you mess up. You continue to do fine, until he starts getting fancy on you, twirling you around like you're some pretty maiden, and it's fun, but you're beginning to become overwhelmed by all the new steps.
Then he's doing this ridiculous thing where he's lifting your hand and slipping his leg under yours, and his other hand is pressing into your back to support your weight and draw you closer. And it doesn't quite work because you're shorter than he is, and it's making your whole body heat up but he doesn't even see because his eyes are closed and he's smiling and your stupid fucking heart is skipping beats and what does that even mean.
'And since when was he this graceful?!' you exclaim to yourself. Which is about the only thought your overheating brain can muster right now.
Of course, this is the moment the music changes to a slower song. Luigi returns your captured hand to his shoulder and you're able to put your foot back on the floor. His arm is still around you and he's grinning; he doesn't move away, so neither do you.
What kind of waltz was this, exactly? You aren't sure if you're dancing anymore. Instead, the two of you are just shifting your weight back and forth without moving your feet.
Before you can dare think about why, you draw closer and uneasily rest your head against his chest. After a second, his other arm goes around you, and you inhale a bit sharply. You think you might be trembling, but your hand falls away from his shoulder and you return the embrace.
You can hear his heart beating.
You think about how strangely precious that sound is becoming to you.
(You try not to think about the poison swirling around inside it.
Try not to think about how it's twisting him up inside, stealing his body and his mind.
Try not to think about how you're just biding your time and waiting oh so patiently with his trust in your hand.
How that precious heart was going to stop beating when you felt that the Chaos Heart had become weak enough to grasp.
How you spent so much of your reading time thinking about how to do it so you can laugh and feel good about yourself, only you can't seem to work out the details.
You try not to think at all; you close your eyes and just listen.)
Luigi rests his chin on the top of your head. You can feel his breath rustling your hair and that, too, is a treasured thing.
You feel safe and warm, much too warm and ice cold and in danger of becoming just like the man you betrayed months ago, and suddenly everything is too much, and there are several different voices in your head shouting different things at you.
You do as the loudest voice recommends and get the hell out of there.
(You barely even hear the voice that says you should kiss him.)
"'Cause all the people around me are
A great big mystery
And I think that that must be
'Cause I'm bad at math
I'm bad at math
I'm bad at math
So bad at math
And I don't understand anything, anything at all"
Bad at Math – The Scary Jokes
You blink, rather surprised that Dimentio actually took your hand. His expression is carefully cynical, but his left eye is gleaming in a way that betrays how nervous he actually is. You smile encouragingly, pleased that your plan might actually end up working. So far Dimentio has resisted all your attempts to get him to strengthen his underused legs, but it looks like he hasn't caught on this time.
Telling him you're going to be waltzing, you hesitantly position your hands on him, giving him time to move away if he wants to. You almost laugh, because he looks as grim as a soldier marching to war, but you keep it from showing, because he would definitely yell at you and leave if you did.
You pull him down so he's standing on the floor, and he's definitely caught on now, because his eye flares and you almost flinch, only he just kind of grumbles to himself and goes along with it.
You're not really sure why he's playing along, but you're not going to waste an opportunity to teach him something, even if you doubt he'll ever do anything with the knowledge. He dutifully does what you say, and 'wow,' you think, 'is he actually trying today?' (You recall your futile attempts to get him to wrap his own feet, and how he makes you pity him so badly you eventually do it for him.)
He steps on your foot and you hardly mind. You simply tell him to stop focusing on his shoes, and he listens without too much complaining and stares over your shoulder instead and gets a lot better after that. You introduce new steps, and he picks them up amazingly well for someone who hasn't willingly walked in a mind-bogglingly long time.
You tell him he's doing great, and swallow a funny lump in your throat when he looks at you strangely and stumbles, his face turning red. (You don't really know much about his past, but behaviors like that make you wonder. Has anyone ever praised him before? Ever told him he's doing great on something completely innocent? You swallow your pity again.)
That's enough practice, you decide. Now it's time for the real test. You step away to put the music back on, and you smirk to yourself because you think that you catch him looking a little disappointed out of the corner of your eye. You get back into position, and something pleasant bubbles lightly in you because he doesn't almost flinch when you touch him this time, and it's been a while since you had the chance to dance with anyone.
He continues to follow along decently, so you up the ante again, pulling out some of your fancier moves. Feeling playful, you grab his hand and slide your leg under his, lifting it so his foot can't reach the ground. You close your eyes, thoroughly enjoying the bafflement you can feel written into his body.
And he doesn't even notice that he's losing his balance, but you notice, and you put your arm firmly around him so he won't fall.
The music slows, and you open your eyes, grinning. You settle him into a neutral position, but he's still closer than he was when you started, and his eye is glowing in that bright but warm way you'll admit to yourself that you like. You don't question that you're not really dancing anymore, just swaying like teenagers do at prom.
He surprises you once again by coming even closer and resting his head against your chest, turning so that he can hear your heart. You hold him to you, and he's shaking and as stiff as a board, which isn't unusual. It's far from the first time you've held him, you literally cuddle every night, but he's still not comfortable with it (and you will never admit how reassuring it is to have someone to hug when the barbed wire of your nightmares is still weighing heavily on your eyelids).
(You don't think about how, if Dimentio wasn't here, you would have sleepwalked right out of your bedroom window, or chopped off your hand with a knife, or murdered your loved ones.
You don't think about how the entire universe is going to be destroyed because of you and your inability to put yourself together.
You don't think about how it gets worse every day, so bad your worst enemy is willing to help you even though it makes him miserable and yet he won't leave.
How the Heart slashed a scar into his face and how no matter how many times he tells you it wasn't your fault, guilt crawls up your spine whenever you look at it.
How sure you are that he's going to kill you any day now, and how relieved the thought makes you feel.)
You think about the way you found him, lying with such a faint faint pulse in that crater, swaddled in the clothing of the family he betrayed as his final comfort.
You think about the way he's closing his eyes in a visible gesture of trust, not knowing that he's smiling softly as he leans against you, and how that makes you want to smile too.
You try to think about that and only that.
You rest your chin on top of his head, closing your eyes and only half thinking that you want to kiss his unruly hair.
You're disappointed when you feel Dimentio's alarm bells go off and he stiffens dramatically, but you understand, because this was a lot more physical contact than you thought he was able to handle. He doesn't even curse, just darts away from you and vanishes suddenly, leaving behind those ringing ripples in the air.
From the other room, Polterpup yips and is abruptly deposited on your our bed. The ghost dog looks at you, yawns, and goes back to sleep.
The distressed Dimentio noises are likely to continue for some time, you think.
You make a mental note to buy him some more books, sigh wearily, smile to yourself, and continue on with your practice.
Perhaps you are beginning to understand why Daisy insistently thinks that he's your boyfriend.