Warning: This fic contains vore, slash, emotional distress, physical injury, mentions of rape, lots and lots of crying, and is generally for a mature audience. Read at your own discretion.
The dark seemed to surround him from all sides. He was running. He didn't know where he was going, but he couldn't let them catch him. If they caught him, he would go back.
It couldn't happen. It had taken years for him to get this far. He hadn't remembered that he'd had a plan. It had been forgotten as he was broken again and again and again.
Finally, he had had the briefest of moments to find the thread he'd left, and now he struggled to follow it. Every footfall seemed to take an eternity, an infinite number of moments in between each breath. He could hear them behind him.
He felt so weak. He called upon another burst of terror, another blossom of hate to fuel him.
Cold crept down his spine. Dimentio! she was calling.
He had to keep going. He would never get another chance. He would be trapped for all eternity.
The pain! Oh Grambi, the pain!
Halt this instant!
No! He refused! He shouldn't be down here! It couldn't be his time yet!
Hatred surged through him. He would escape, and he would kill those who had put him here. They had made the hurt so much worse, and he would make sure they'd suffer for it.
And he hated her, for all her cruelty.
And he hated everyone he'd ever come into contact with, for all their apathy and rejection.
And he hated the whole entire universe, for the fate it had assigned him.
He would destroy it all. He'd find a way.
He stopped suddenly. She was right behind him, alone, her guards left far behind in the dust.
Face me, you bastard.
He did not turn around, back completely stiff.
Face your just punishment, you cowardly man.
You cannot deny death herself.
He knew that. But it wasn't going to stop him from trying. He wouldn't be pushed around. Ever since he'd discovered his powers, he'd sworn he'd never let ANYONE ever bully him again.
He'd found it. He was right there, by the fountain with the healing orange liquid.
All he had to do was put his hand in it…
Don't you dare! she hissed.
He jumped, still stubbornly staying just where he was. His phantom heart pounded desperately, knowing he could be whisked back to the depths of hell at any moment.
He slowly began to extend his arm.
I swear to you…
His fingers were centimeters away from the water.
The next time we meet…
Her voice was like ice.
He was shaking terribly, hesitating. What was worse than what he'd already endured?
I will grant you a curse. I will make sure no being dead or alive ever acknowledges your existence again. I will erase you and everything that is you; your name, your deeds, your memories… You will exist on your own plane, alone. You will not be heard, nor felt. I will doom you to total and absolute isolation.
All the breath left him. He froze up completely, terrified right down to his very core.
I can, and I will. It is a curse befitting a wretch like you. I promise you…
I will destroy you completely.
She lunged at him.
He came into contact with the healing spring. A magnificent surge of energy filled him, healing over all the physical scars of torture and restoring his form to him. He'd been so shapeless and devoid before...
For a split second, he felt it. For a split second, he was whole again, reunited with the tiny piece of his soul that remained alive. For a split second, he had his magic.
And a second was all he needed.
With an ear shattering report, he vanished, flying upward with incredible speed.
He screamed, pain exploding all throughout him as his body began to reform. First the bones, then the muscles, then the skin, and all the little bits in between. It was excruciating, but he knew it would be worth it.
Black sped past, and soon lights flashed before his eyes. He felt like passing out, but held on stubbornly.
He gasped, newborn lungs stinging wickedly with the taste of still air. His eyes flew open, and for moments more there was only obsidian blindness until streaks of white faded into his vision.
He lay there panting, every part of him aching.
He had done it. This emptiness was Castle Bleck.
He didn't realize he was laughing at first.
He was alive again.
But at what cost?
He had stolen a second chance, made his very own continue, but at what cost?
He had just condemned himself to a fate worse than torture.
He had bought himself some time.
But he was mortal. Eventually, he would be faced with his deepest, most terrible fears. He knew they would destroy him.
He was shivering, naked and cold on the floor.
He struggled to get up, unused to the physical functions of a body.
It was far better than being a vessel of pure agony.
No! Don't think of it!
He took deep breaths, let the familiar flame of hate and hurt fill him.
Revenge was where he should focus his thoughts.
He would bring the world to its knees.
Surely, it couldn't forget him then.
She had promised.
The words of Queen Jaydes were etched into his heart.
It took a moment longer for him to come back to himself. The force that had been pushing him along left without warning, and he fell to his knees and hands, dry heaving.
He couldn't hear anything anymore. Had he truly committed murder just now?
Why had he signed and allowed himself to be put under this spell? Why had he lied to himself?
Dimentio… He started to sob when the old wound opened up, the wound that still hurt years later, every night that he woke up with no one to comfort him.
It wasn't true. He didn't hate him, not this much. All the hurt in those eyes… All those silent cries for relief…
What was he so afraid of?
H-He didn't want him gone…
The sick feeling twisting in the pit of his stomach grew, until he finally threw up for real. He broke into a cold sweat when he felt something very solid coming up and bent down even closer to the floor. After it was done, he sat up and wiped his mouth, hyperventilating.
There, in the mess, was a small prone form. Oh-Oh god, there was so much blood…!
He gingerly scooped up the still man, cradling him as gently as he could. If something could still be done, it had to be done now.
He couldn't hesitate. He couldn't think that it was too late.
He jumped up and rushed to the sink. He turned the water to lukewarm and held Dimentio's tiny body under it for a few seconds, watching it turn pink with a chill. He hoped it would wash away the remainder of the damaging acid.
Then he laid him down in the center of the clean metal table and hurriedly dug around in his pockets. He tried to keep his mind clear. He couldn't afford to panic right now.
Finally, he found what he was looking for and pulled out the green-spotted 1-up mushroom. He and Mario always carried one with them, just in case. While it wasn't nearly as effective on other beings besides the brothers, surely it had to do something to help.
He squeezed it in between his hands, letting the healing light-green juice pour out onto the jester. He didn't care that it trickled off the table and splattered around his shoes, finding its way into the drain under the table. He just crushed it as hard as he could, trying to get out every last drop.
He threw it away once it was dry, and then Luigi shouted out the cutting phrase; "The contract is fulfilled! Undo the magic!"
His words rang emptily in the air, and he feared it wouldn't work because there was nothing to apply it to. But then, Dimentio regrew to his natural size, and he flinched at the damage. Aside from the visible areas that he'd chosen to protect with magic, every inch of his skin was swollen and leaking blood and pus. Only his hands, feet, head, and genitals were left uninjured, seeming for all the world like a white expanse of freshly fallen, undisturbed snow. A hand hung limply from the table, clotted red trickling down it to drip from a graceful finger.
Luigi balked, heart working overtime. There was so much…so much… Dimentio's chest rose and fell very, very slightly with faltering breath. He hadn't died yet, but he could at any second.
So Luigi turned to the small instrument table. A menagerie of instruments of torture had been pushed aside into an untidy pile in favor of the few medical supplies.
Right now, he really needed to get the bleeding to stop. There was a bottle of cream designed to coagulate blood, and he painstakingly began to apply it to the bandages he wrapped the jester up with. He couldn't tell if the mushroom had done anything or not.
After several agonized minutes, he was done. Dimentio couldn't stay on the table, so he delicately carried him to the single bedroom of Dimension D, where he tenderly laid him down in his own bed, covering him with a light blanket. The heart monitor and IV were already there, and he didn't have too much trouble hooking them up.
Then, he sat in the chair so long occupied by the jester. There was nothing more he could do now, and he was so afraid it wouldn't be enough. Dimentio had been so frail and thin… Could his body really take this kind of punishment and pull through?
It was only now, as he listened to the steady beep of the heart monitor and watched the little green line go up and down weakly, did he notice the tears that fell freely from his eyes. He'd probably been crying the whole time. He was parched, actually, the bad taste of vomit still in his mouth.
But he wasn't going to leave, not even to quickly get a drink. He wasn't going to leave him alone for one second. Because, what if he came back and he hadn't been here to see that last sigh escape him? He was going to sit here and watch over him, because Luigi no longer believed he should die alone.
Until it was time to treat him again, he finally had time to think. His heart gradually slowed down, and he could breathe better now. Salty drops continued to fall, and a quiet sob escaped him every once in a while.
He didn't know if the jester was going to survive. Should he even want him to? All the nightmares, the exploding fire and fear… But before all that, there had been a real and swiftly blossoming friendship…and that was the true basis of their relationship, not the betrayal. It had never seemed weird to him that they had been together nearly all the time, or that they had taken to sleeping in the same bed simply because it was easier. It had never seemed wrong that the other was always there beside him with gentle words and steadfast embraces to ease away the fear.
He missed it. He wanted it back, and he knew Dimentio did as well. Had he already destroyed that possibility with his words and with the blood on his hands?
Those injuries… How could anyone survive them? Dimentio had had his magic, but Luigi had nothing of the sort. He had done his best, but would it be enough?
Their roles had been completely reversed. Now, he was the one sitting in the chair, and Dimentio was the one entombed in the bed, hanging by a thread. He wondered if this had been the jester's intention. Certainly, he had wanted to see what it was like to die that way, but had he meant for Luigi to see his side as well?
Somehow, he didn't think so. That crying… He wouldn't have cried like that if he hadn't believed he was in his final moments. He wouldn't have looked up at him from the palm of his hand, acceptance and regret in his gaze.
Some part of him had believed that it wasn't real. But burns like these couldn't be faked. The shallow breathing and transparent heartbeat couldn't be faked. His back had been burned worse than his front, having been in more direct contact with his stomach lining. There was no way he would subject himself to that just for a lie.
He shuddered and swallowed bile at the thought. It had been so surreal when it happened to him, and he was hit with a strong burst of empathy. How could he have done this? How could he have failed to realize how much he actually cared about Dimentio, despite everything? It really was true that you didn't realize what you had until it was gone, or you thought it was.
He stared at Dimentio's scarred face and eventually reached out and touched it. His fingers traced each line and crease, wondering who had done this to him. He doubted something like that was accidental. And now, would the rest of his body look like that? Would he become crippled? Luigi didn't have the power to heal him as Dimentio had done for him. He couldn't give away his own energy to rebuild muscles and ligaments and skin, couldn't watch carefully for signs of infection.
Luigi leaned back in the chair, feeling doomed. Was this what it had been like for Dimentio? Was this what it had been like for him, realizing too late that you loved this person as you brought them to the brink of death? Was this what it had been like for him to realize that he had burned too many bridges, that the trust between them could never be repaired?
And yet, Dimentio had taken painstakingly good care of him anyway. He'd exhausted himself to the point of fainting to heal him, had made sure that his muscles worked again as they should, had even made sure he wouldn't be horribly scarred. Just like his face… He put two and two together, now understanding why Dimentio had been so insistent on the last point. He didn't want me to look like him…
Luigi felt even more tears well up. He felt stupid and blind and cruel. He had said no to every possibility, not thinking that any of them could be good. And he began to think of what ifs.
What if, somehow, they could really go back to the way it had been before? What if they could turn their relationship good again?
What if he gave him a chance?
What if he forgave him?
Could he forgive him? The years of nightmares seemed small now. The image of the cold manipulator, the cruel smile, seemed colorless, almost fake. It didn't scare him so much anymore. He'd truly seen under it.
The Dimentio who lay before him was the real one. The Dimentio who had given up his life was the real one. The Dimentio who had kissed him and cried into the crook of his neck, who had let him go because he couldn't bear to hold him against his will, who had held his hand through all the dark long nights of his ordeal at Castle Bleck… That Dimentio was the real one, the one under the act he put up to protect himself. That Dimentio was afraid, and alone.
What was he trying to protect himself from? Why did his own feelings have such a dramatic effect on him? What was his idea of the perfect world he had wanted so badly?
Unconsciously, Luigi had sat down on the edge of the bed and was stroking Dimentio's dark and unruly hair. He blinked and paused, wondering. He shifted back to the chair and took hold of the jester's left hand, laying it across one hand as he examined the slender fingers. They were clever fingers, and his skin tingled slightly at the remembrance of being touched by them.
He looked up at the pale neck, ringed with purple bruises where he'd clamped down. He shuddered. He could hardly believe he'd taken enjoyment from this only an hour or two ago. He wasn't sure what had come over him. He'd known it was wrong, but he'd written his name anyway.
All the rage and terror had left him, as if he'd worked it out of his system. He wasn't scared of Dimentio now, only ached for what they used to have.
His thoughts were cycling, looping through the same questions and possibilities on repeat. What it came down to was two paths; one, a path of suffering for him where he was only a plaything. What did the jester know about loving someone? It would be easy for him to treat him like that. Dimentio was inherently selfish and possessive. What would happen if he couldn't work past those traits?
But if he could, path number two was what came of it. And hadn't he already? He had released him and stayed out of his life for months. He had offered up his very life instead of giving in to his desires. Had Dimentio done that because he couldn't stand to see Luigi be afraid of him? He remembered the scene in the hallway, the knife against his throat, and the gray-blue eyes staring into his, softening bit by bit as they filled with tears.
Had Dimentio lost the ability to purposefully hurt him?
What if the answer was yes?
What if he was capable of listening and putting someone else's needs before his own? He was, wasn't he? He'd already done it, giving up his own energy for Luigi's sake. Letting him go because he knew he didn't want to be trapped with him.
What if he trusted him again, as he used to? What could they accomplish if they trusted each other?
What pain had warped the jester's soul, so much that he would become something like this? He was human. Luigi had seen it. He'd seen him be vulnerable as no one else had. He'd seen how afraid he was of letting anyone in.
He was worried. What if Dimentio never woke up again? What if he couldn't ask all these questions, or tell him that he…that he…
That he loved him, too.
He shouldn't, but the terror he'd just felt told him that he did.
It scared him, because there was no guarantee of goodness. He thought it was there, but it could disappear again. There was so much he didn't understand about the jester…
Memories surfaced, ones he hadn't dwelled too much upon before.
"The world has always hated me. You have no idea what it's like to be so unwanted. It hurts so terribly… It feels good to lash out, to hurt people."
"Is it so wrong to hate when the entire world hates you…"
Why? Why hadn't Dimentio been able to reach out?
What had made him so afraid to try?
"You know… For being there. For being my friend. You really make this whole thing bearable."
He had touched his soul like no other being had. He had given him butterflies.
"I still can't do it…"
"One look in those beautiful eyes of yours and I…"
It only hit him now, that Dimentio thought he was beautiful. That Dimentio had called him strong.
"So what do you want me to do then! I can't take any of it back!"
"Please forgive me, please!"
What did you do when someone was truly sorry? When they desperately wanted to take back the mistakes they'd made, but couldn't? What did you do when you wanted to forgive them but had so many reasons not to?
"I-I'm so sorry, Luigi… Help me, please help me…"
Help. Not stay. Not give. Help.
"It's things like this that hurt the most…"
"The almost peaceful moments… They hurt because I know I'll never have more than this."
It did hurt, thinking of all the moments alone…before… When they had been friends. When it had been so easy and natural.
"…You're incapable of love."
"No…I'm not… Won't you show me how?"
He didn't know if he could. What if it only ended worse for him? What if it didn't?
What would happen if he woke up? What would happen after he was healed and was stronger than Luigi again?
"Do you… Do you think I could change?"
What if he could change? What if he could learn how to love the right way? What if he helped him?
"…Am I made for pain? Is this my only purpose?"
His face… The scars… All that hurt inside…
"No. I can't do this to you…"
What could they build together? Could they ever heal?
"I'm so afraid…"
Neither of them had to be afraid anymore.
As he sat there looking at his best friend, thinking…
As his tears continued to drip to the floor…
He felt in his heart that…he had to try.
In that moment, he bent down and kissed the ruined forehead.
He forgave him. At least for now.
The future was uncertain, and all he could do was wait to see what was ahead.