Ford dreams that Bill has won. The Portal is open and the demon has materialized in the real world, huge and terrifying, the way Ford should have seen him from the first day.
He has nothing left - no plan, only a useless little knife.
"Kill me!" he demands bravely, trying to retain his dignity until the end.
Bill laughs at him. "Did you really think I'd let you escape that easily? You're mine, Sixer."
In a last defiant gesture, Ford slices his own throat. It will be painful, he thinks, but it will be fast.
Bill's laugh echoes in his ears, long enough to prove he was wrong.
"I didn't mean, for a human life. Forever. You can no longer die, Fordsy. But you can still suffer. Why would I deprive you of something so interesting?"
The wound on Ford's throat heals slowly, painfully. Before the blood returns to his brain, before he can think, he's prisoner of a doorless, pyramid-shaped cage.
Some words are written on his hand. "I took the liberty of desintegrating that foul metal plate. Oh, the fun we're gonna have together!"
Ford feels like he hasn’t seen anyone for an eternity. Perhaps he really is immortal and has lived this long without food and water. Either that or the incarceration has driven him mad.
Bill comes to see him, at last - Ford immediately regrets thinking that way. It disgusts his, his own relief at seeing he hasn't been forgotten.
"Fordsy!" the demon exclaims. "I've been busy. How are you? Did you think about me? A lot? I'm sure you're happy to see me."
The triangular demon, far bigger than in his memories, ruffles his hair. His fingers play over his neck. Ford wants it to hurt, as being backstabbed. He wants it to feel nothing like human contact. He wants to wish it would stop. He can't.
"Bill." It's hard to enunciate. How long has it been since he has spoken with someone? "Don't get close. Don't touch me." He's not strong enough to asay Leave and never come back. He has wished so much to talk to someone, anyone...
"Oh, why?" Bill asks, feigning innocence. "Is there something you're afraid of?"
He snaps his fingers, and Ford falls, floored by a violent orgasm. "Something you fear, something I could do if I touched you?"
"I hate you," Ford utters, humiliated.
"Touchy as ever, Fordsy!" His fingers are now distractedly stroking Ford's back, like if he was a pet. Ford shivers, searches in himself for fear, disgust, strength to protest, and finds nothing. Bill keeps talking. "Is there something that you want? If you ask very nicely, I might consider it."
"Do we have a deal?" Ford asks, offering a shaking hand.
Bills bursts out laughing. "I don't do deals anymore, Sixer. I have all the power now. Try begging, and then I’ll see."
Ford swallows hard. He knows he can’t hope for much. But he has to wholeheartedly try, otherwise he'll regret it for all eternity.
He kneels, kisses Bill's feet, presses his face against the demon's hand. He now vividly feels the disgust he expected earlier, but not towards Bill. "I beg of you. Let me die. Please. Kill me any way you'd like."
"NO!" Bill's voice is both fierce and cold. Then becomes playful again. "I already told you, you can’t escape. You’ll have to try harder next time. But don't worry. I'm not too mad." He disappears into thin air.
Ford can’t estimate how long he has panic attacks after this visit. What will happen when he comes back? What if he never does?
Ford feels Bill enter his body. He remembers how much he loved this brutal and intimate intrusion in the past - he remembers how he feared it later - he has nothing more to lose now - does he?
If he could escape, leave this prison in astral form, he could see something other than his cage, he could learn what Bill has done with the world (what Ford has done). It would be worse than just imagining it, but it would remind him that the rest of the world still exists - or not, but he could at least see the void.
Despite his efforts, he stays in his own body. Bill won't offer him even the tiniest bit of freedom. He took his body and his mind and his world and everything. Ford feels pressed against the side of his own mind, crushed and suffocated.
Why? What does Bill want? Every one of Ford's anxieties is confirmed when he sees that his brother has been teleported in his cage. Stan. Ford can't even imagine what he would say to him, if he could talk.
Certainly it wouldn't be "I have always despised you."
Ford tries to tighten his lips, to prevent Bill from speaking with his mouth, but he never did it, even when Bill's power was limited to what Ford willingly gave him.
"And I’m going to have so much fun killing you."
Have mercy, Ford whispers in his head, but Bill doesn't understand the meaning of this word.
But Stan knowingly snickers and stares at him with disdain.
"I don't know who you are, but you can't impersonate my brother for shit. I'm not saying he likes me, but fun? Not his thing."
Ford wants to kiss Stan, he wants to slap him. When Bill leaves his body, he does both. First a slap. Then a hug.
"Ford?" Stan asks, unsettled.
Suddenly Ford understands, but of course it's too late. Bill resumes control and breaks Stan's neck. He wanted Stan to believe Ford killed him, until the end.
(He wanted Stan to know Ford killed him.)
Truthfully Ford can't remember what happens when, just like one can’t place the sequence of wounds while being stabbed. There's the end of the civilization too. Universities destroyed, the one he went to, the one he wanted to go to, the one he was named after. There are children screaming, if he could forget one picture it would be this one. There's Fiddleford - is he a ghost, an illusion, or real, it doesn't matter - reminding him of where this wave of madness began. All your fault. Wasn't I enough for you to destroy? Did your ambition have any limits at all? There are some times he loses himself in Bill's arms, and he knows it's the price for something, but he can't remember what.
The dream has an end. The torture hasn't. In a finite time, Ford has a clear vision of eternity.
He dreams that he wakes up, but he's wrong.
Ford dreams that Bill says I love you.
He just discovered, in sorrow, where the portal really leads; he's just lost Fiddleford. It's the moment Bill chooses.
"No!" Ford cries out. "You betrayed me! You've manipulated me from the start, to invade our dimension!"
"That's right." Bill recognizes in a very proud voice. "It was such a hit!" Then, more directly. "But it doesn't mean I didn't fall in love."
He touches his wrist. Ford would have preferred this contact to be different, but it's still as soft and as tempting as it was. "Come with me. What did this world do for you? I know you like some parts of it. I'll keep them just for you. If you take my hand now, I'll take care of you. I'll make you happy. It's a deal. It's a promise. I won't lie about it."
"I don't think you can... not now, no longer..." Ford's voice is shaking.
"I need you, Fordsy."
It's a dream, and Ford's heart is beating too fast, and he says yes.
Gravity Falls is almost the same. Of course, there are demons in the street, and other supernatural creatures visit more often. There is also everything Ford wants - what Bill believes he wants, but he has been in his head, hasn't he? A bigger library than anyone can dream, and Stan, who has started some absurd business of selling figurines of the strange guests in the town. He doesn't seem to know why he is here, and greets Ford amiably when they meet.
The townspeople are friendly to Ford too. He wonders whether they realize what’s happened - whether they know too well are are glad not to be involved.
"Only this town," Bill says, one hand resting on Ford's cheek. "Did you intend to ever leave it? This town, and in it, everything you'll want. What is left of the world is mine. When we'll go and conquer space - I know you'll be here, I know you'll want to watch - I'll let you have one or two planets too, with their stars. There are enough of them to get tired of making them explodes, even if it makes for pretty fireworks."
His hands, bigger than human ones now, play on Ford's body, massaging his back, his abdomen, as he talks to him. Once, in his mindscape, Ford used to shiver with delight at every touch, and Bill hardly ever gave them to him, only as a reward for his work. It seems obvious now.
Now Bill doesn't expect anything from him anymore; though when they meet, he never gets bored to dispense so many touches, absent-minded or possessive, friendly or honestly inappropriate.
Ford still shivers.
He was being used, but clearly his body didn't understand this.
"Can you feel it?" Ford asks. He took a deep breath before. It's a legitimate question, isn't it? For information purposes. Scientific purposes. "In my mindscape, you sent me all these sensations, but you didn't have any, did you. But you have a physical body now, so maybe it can feel... some things now… don’t you...."
He can no longer pretend that this has anything to do with science; the words get caught in his throat. He looks at Bill, at his eye sparkling with amusement. He doesn't seem offended, at least.
"Would you..." Ford says with burning cheeks, "would you like... me to touch you... in any particular way... tell me..."
Bill has a sweet, ironic laugh and pets Ford's hair. "Do you really think I was bored looking at you squirming in pleasure and devotion, IQ?"
It's not that. It's not what Ford meant - even if he probably wondered about it. But if Bill doesn't want to reply, he won't insist.
Ford takes a few more steps, Bill by his side, in silence. Should he ask him for news of his victories? It would affect Ford, and maybe it's the reason he should. To keep a tiny grasp on reality.
"You're so fragile," Bill whispers. He pets his head again. "Your hair is really soft. I like touching it." His fingers slowly play on Ford's temples, on his cheek, brushing his lips. "Is your tongue soft too, Sixer, do you know?"
Ford doesn't even think and kisses Bill's hand and starts stroking it with his tongue. He's already licking and sucking when he realizes that they're still outside and anyone could see them.
It won't stop him. He doesn't care about them, he thinks. In truth, he tries to ignore the perverse pleasure of this idea, being discovered pleasuring the ruler of this world.
"Yes. Very soft." Bill kindly confirms.
After another kiss, Ford steps forward and, blushing from his own boldness, he kisses Bill right beneath the eye, as he never did before. He touched his hands, so many times but never his body.
One of Bill's hands tightens around his neck, the other slides between his legs; as Ford worships Bill with tongue and heart, he lets Bill touch him, he lets Bill take him into his hands, keep him there, mark him, and Bill possesses him in every way he didn't already.
Ford has spent all night listening to Bill's stories about his decaying dimension; comparing the ends of the two worlds. Ford isn't that sad about these stories of destruction, and he doesn't know why, but he still knows it's important to keep some memories of it.
It smells like peaches around them. Bill ruffles his hair like he wanted nothing else in the multiverse. He gives him thanks and praise, alternating with funny stories of heads of state he deposed. Maybe Ford is not objective, but he could swear than even a demon couldn't do worse than they did.
On Ford's face there is a wide smile, but melancholy sings in his heart.
"Why do I feel so wrong even though I'm happy?" he asks; then he covers his mouth, appalled.
Bill doesn't seem offended, though.
"If ever you to the moment shall say: Beautiful moment, do not pass away!" Bill jokes. Then, more serious, he adds. "It's because you don't know the truth yet."
"All the truth in the world? That's a lot." Ford jokes back - even if he'd like that, of course. Why do Bill's fingers on his neck suddenly seem less soft? Why this feeling there's something he should do? Why this feeling it would be terrible to know?
"Sadly," Bill jokes again, "I can play with your feelings but I can't control your hormonal system."
"I thought you could." Ford teases, rolling against him.
"No. Because none of this is real. Leave now. Time to go."
Ford dreams he wakes up. Reality hits him in the face. Not the real world - he's still dreaming. Only his real history, his real feelings.
Bill is in front of him and he wants to kill him.
"You've got a choice, Sixer. I’m not worried. Either way I'll win. Either way you'll be mine. The only difference you can make is for yourself. I’m giving you an opportunity to open this Portal yourself, because I’m feeling generous."
Ford laughs. "You're so presumptuous. You think you can make me happy? Offer me everything; I would never forgive myself for helping you again, and you'll never understand that."
Bill laughs, and Ford shivers with fear.
"I'll eat your guilt, Fordsy," he says very softly, close to Ford's ear. "I'll rip it from you, I'll crush it, I'll make it go away in a puff of smoke. I know it’s been piercing your heart, for building that door, and even sooner than that. Since your brother was thrown in the street because of you. Let me enter your world and I'll have this power. Don't you want to imagine what you can do without this weight dragging you down? What you would become?"
"A monster, certainly."
"Exactly! Isn't it tempting?"
"How could that be tempting? I no longer have feelings for you, Bill. And you..." Ford pauses, choking on his words. "You never had any."
"You want to destroy me, though."
"Any sensible being would..."
"You want to destroy me," Bill interrupts, "so much that you would be disappointed if I disappeared for any other reason. You dream that I'm at your mercy but you never imagine what you'd do after. You want all of my attention, you want me to feel fearful respect for you. Oh yes, you love me, Stanford Filbrick Pines. I love you too."
"I'm not interested in this kind of..." Love? Feeling? Madness?
"Yeah, I've noticed. You prefer sentimental declarations and gentle romance. I can make you forget I never felt that about you. I can pretend very well. I can send you back to the last moment you were happy. When was that again?"
It was with him, of course, the last time he saw him before the accident with Fiddleford. Ford would not step as low as admitting it. "It doesn't count. It was all false."
"You mean if it were true you'd accept? You'd give me the world?"
"No!" Ford shouts, fast enough to not have to think about it. He angrily adds "And you're far better at creating nightmares than nice dreams."
"You say that, but I enticed you for years with just one dream, Fordsy."
Such a simple truth makes Ford pale with rage.
"Go on. Open this Portal, and see how much happiness I can bring you. Will you believe me? I’ll enjoy it even more than the revenge I would take on you if I win the other way."
"Never!" Ford screams. "Never, never, never!"
"That's your answer for tonight? Too bad, I'll try again. You just have to say yes once. I have all the time I need, and alternative plans too!"
Ford wakes up sweating. Or he dreams he wakes up. At least Bill's not here. For now it's enough.
He feels so proud for his resistance, his refusal. Then his awaking lucidity reminds him he wouldn't congratulate himself this way if he hadn't felt, for just a moment, the shadow of a bitter hesitation.