Just when you think there’s nothing left to discover, a door opens and everything changes. Literally.
Ford was familiar with the ever-expanding universe and its near-endless windows. Timelines, alternate dimensions, weird stuff. Especially the weird stuff. The amount of things he’d seen and learned since the events of Gravity Falls and that rather pesky fellow, Bill Cipher, was astonishing. Not only of the Fall’s natural innate properties for bending reality, but also opportunity.
What’s opportunity without a little discovery? And discover Ford did. Portals lead to the strangest places, after all. But this time it was different. Very different.
“I honestly can’t believe this place.”
His mind exploded with questions, wanting to know the exacts, the whys, the whens. . . all of it. Surrounding him was an old, baroque building, its walls lined with fancy furnishings and old portraits of long-gone guests, a variety of statues and ornamentations lining it from room to room. It was also a place in disrepair, with broken windows and boarded doors littering the mysterious structure, indicating it was out of commission or used for something different than its current purpose.
“Well, feel free to take notes, Mr. Ford!”
Ford pulled down his glasses, wiping them off and rubbing his eyes, glancing back to the smiling, alabaster figure just beaming at him. She had long, flowing gold locks and a generous, welcoming smile. Charlotte Magne (or Charlie), a royal, a Princess. . . daughter of Lucifer? It was complicated.
A week ago, Ford happened upon this realm, this world, through one of his fiddling portals. It was, by every account, Hell. The Down Below, the Underworld, the Bad End for Sinners. Yet, it was a functional, autonomous city with its own power struggles, governments, regimes, and violence. Oh, dear, a lot of that. Chaos, really. Not exactly the best kind, the “reminded of Cipher” kind.
But his approach, his arrival, it was met with fascination. One lone night he walked through a tear in dimensional space much to the terrified jubilation of a fellow scientific mind, a Baxter, a man with the appearance of a deep-sea fish, who proceed to gasp and sputter and notify the residents of this place. This Hotel.
The Happy Hotel.
His abridged notes: Charlie was fascinated by humans, unaware of ever seeing one up close, and was overjoyed to have an authentic, living person in her domain. She was quick to explain her role and the objective of the Happy Hotel, to redeem sinners, to set them on the good and straight. Because the alternative, apparently, was total extermination, conducted once every annum. A harrowing prospect.
“Oh, I fully intend to, Miss Magne, I do. It’s just. . . so much. I’ve got so many questions and things and. . .”
He flicked out his new journal, empty, scribbling down timid notes about his observations and signs of significance. A lot of Pentagrams. And eyes, egads, so many eyes!
Charlie clapped her hands together. “Oh, I do too! I’m so curious about the Above and what humans get up too. Is it true you kill trees and dress them up for holiday?”
Ford flicked his notes shut, clearing throat. “Oh, well, it’s a bit a nicer than that, ahh. . .”
Hmm, maybe she was right. At any rate, the Hotel and the rest of the City was nothing short of overwhelming. It was, essentially, another civilization. And he hadn’t even had the opportunity to study the stars! There were planetoid objects up there and, egad! The implication of it all! This was truly as mesmerizing as the various dimensions he’d seen tracking Cipher, only this time, hopefully, with a little less “world ending potential” results.
“Miss Magne, you don’t mind if I have a seat, do you? Interdimensional warping takes it out of you, you know?”
She waved a hand, cheery as ever, songnotes practically bursting from her. “Not at all, not at all! Please, I can only imagine it’s exhausting. Can the Bois get you something? Anything?”
Ford huffed, rubbing his next. “Er, coffee. Black. I should be fine.”
Charlie was more than happy to oblige, leaving Ford to wander back to the main quarters and seat himself. He noted the annoyed, disinterested scowl from a winged feline, prompted Ford to take additional notes.
“The hell ya’ doing, scribbles? Knock it off,” spat the cat, outright hissing.
Ford adjusted his glasses, mumbling. “Hmm. Prone. . . to. . . aggression. . .”
A slew of curses erupted from the sinner (known as Husk), many of which Ford didn’t want to repeat. Still, the grumpy creature was as fascinating as the rest. Ford didn’t have time to meet any of them on a more “intimate” basis, so to speak, but he was casually familiar with a few. Charlie, of course, was the most outspoken and the one often involved in his return meetings. Then there were her stewards, the hovering, Jersey-Devil like Goats. Her assistant, Vaggie, then Husk, a rather dangerous looking fellow named Alastor, Niffty, the rambunctious maid, the pouting dog anthropoid, Crymini, and then. . .
“Ey, fuckin’ pointdexter, ya’ back.”
Ah. Angel Dust.
Ford cleared his throat. The first time he “met” the tall, multi-limbed arachnid, he only recalled a variance of glances and gazes one could describe as ‘flirty.’ Well, that was underselling it, wasn’t it? Angel seemed the type to tear off your clothes without a moment’s notice. For the right price, at least.
Ford tapped his pen, looking away. “Oh, yes, I am. Ahm. Doing more field research.”
Angel sauntered over, one of his extra hands resting on hip. Of the guests Ford knew thus far, this one struck him as the most chaotic and unpredictable. Even his name! Titled after an addictive drug compound? Oh that couldn’t be good news.
The spider ran a hand through his hair tuft, smirking. “Dat’ sounds borin’. Ain’t no fun inna’ book.”
Ford sighed, glancing. “These are notes, and, that that’s a highly inaccurate statement. Books are the window to discovery. I’m here because of books.”
Angel only snickered. “What a fuckin’ snore!”
Ford grumbled, adjusting his glasses. He wasn’t keen on having his life’s work laughed at by this. . . demon.
“Hmph, something tells me you’re not a man of science.”
Ford paused. A man, that was. . . an interesting conclusion to reach. He’d seen plenty of new and different things across his travels, so it wasn’t like Angel was alarming. But at a distance, one easily concluded Angel Dust was, in fact, a lady. A well dressed one with all the swagger and allure of an “evening mistress.” But once those teeth flared, gold canine glinting, it was all too obvious where his physical disposition was.
Not that Ford minded. In fact, it was rather attractive.
No, n-no, not attractive that way! N-no. The confidence way, yes, absolutely. Angel Dust, in the few times he’d met the spider, struck Ford as someone entirely comfortable with themselves and their appearance. They owned it, and, there was something very courageous about that, especially in a place as vicious as Hell. Every dimension could use a little more courage.
“Pftuh, sci-antz? Yeh, not big on fancy numbers n’words. I’m more. . . physical education,” said Angel with a wink.
The spider took a moment to plop himself next to Ford, stretching his legs, getting close. A bit too close.
“I see,” said Ford, keeping his composure. He cleared his throat.
“Well, you uh, are in shape, it appears.”
Angel tilted his head. “Ohhh, ya’ think? Mm, I do watch m’figure. Wanna see?”
Ford glanced away, focusing on the wall. All right, this was getting a little warm. He could really use a distraction right now. Like anything. Like Charlie or one of the goats or anything.
“Oh, I’m sure that’s very, um, nice.”
He was distracted by the rustle of fabric.
Angel promptly pulled up his Valentino suit, showing off his slim tummy, wielding a grin just oozing mischief.
All right, this was getting ridiculous. Ford was here for research. Research. Right now, Angel Dust was doing everything to distract him.
“Y-yes, very nice, Angel.”
The spider pulled his suit down, feigning a frown. “Just nice? Awh, must be losin’ m’touch.”
At once, Angel leaned into Ford, looking down at the notebook full of scribbles, interested. Or, more accurately, wondered what was more interesting than him.
“Ya’ know, ya’ been hauntin’ this place like a spook fer a couple weeks. What’cha been doin’, eh?”
Ford took a breath. All right, take it easy, stay calm. No need to do anything rash, he’s extra friendly, that’s all.
“I told you,” Ford said, shifting. “Field research.”
Angel scoffed. “Pssh. Books. Ya’ need the genuine article, babe, and I’m front-fuckin’-page news.”
Now, Angel Dust got closer, practically purring in Ford’s ear. “’Sides, ain’t research s’posed to be hands on, eh?”
Ford felt his face go hot. Now what was all this? Certainly, he could afford to be less, well, flustered by the spider. This wasn’t a big deal, and he wasn’t even looking for a, uh, “partner.” Egads, what would the children think!?
He fixated his gaze on the wall. Surely that would have an answer!
“Sometimes,” he managed. “But it’s a lot of hypotheticals first.”
Angel blinked. “Hypowhowhats?”
Ford took a breath. Agh. This Angel’s proximity was strangely relaxing, and there was the gentle hint of perfume hugging his frame. It drew him in, comforting. It was, after all, company, and when was the last time he was wit anyone in more, uh, intimate sense?
“Proposing a theory to solve with evidence, research, th-”
Angel snorted. “Boooooring.”
Ford flushed, a little frustrated. His research was important to him, and he wasn’t going to have it disresp-
His mind screamed to a stop when Angel’s palm slipped to his crotch, offering an indelicate, abrupt squeeze. A roiling wave of excited but concerned sensations spiked through his frame liked lightning and he sputtered, coughing, jumping to his feet.
“No, no thank you,” he said, not quite convinced of his own words. “I’m sorry, Angel, I’m going to have to reject your advances.”
Angel only purred, fluttering his eyelids. “Uh huh. From what I felt, ya’ wasn’t rejectin’ nothin’.”
Ford’s chest heaved. Focusfocusfocusplease.
He turned to Angel, raising a hand. “For god’s sakes, Angel, control yourself! What would the kids think!?”
Angel’s smile vanished. “Kids? T’fuck ya’ talkin’ bout?”
Oh, right. He never mentioned Dipper and Mabel. He sighed, glad to have shifted subjects.
“Er. Yes. Kids. I have a niece and a nephew. They’re very important to me and I don’t think getting up to. . . things makes a good impression.”
Great grandfather geese, what would Mabel think? Ford thought.
Ford expected Angel Dust to react as he’d done previously: poorly. The spider, he noticed, had a habit of “partaking” substances or operating on a pathology of violence.
. . .but instead, Angel smiled.
“Awwwwwww. Ya’ do? Ya’ got a couple o’ little trash babies runnin’ around?”
Ford shuffled his notebook inside his coat. “Well, they’re not mine and. . . wait, trash babies? Please. Niece and nephew.”
It was like a switch was flicked. “Cuuuuute,” Angel tittered. “Ya’ got pictures?”
Ford paused. Was the spider being serious? All this time it looked like he was trying to get into his pants and now he wanted to see the two? Hmm. A peculiar reaction. A welcome one. But also, he hesitated. Was it wise to expose them to a creature like Angel Dust? He was a demon, after all.
Oh, after Cipher, what’s the worst that could happen?
And. . . for some reason, he wanted Angel to like them, because if he liked them, he’d like him more. N-not that it mattered.
“Er. Yes, well, a few.”
He reached into his coat, pulling out one of his favorite photos: Mabel and Dipper making faces next to an annoyed, but happy, Ford. He held out the picture. “Here.”
Angel sprang up and immediately snatched the photo, ogling it with growing enthuse. His visage pulled with a soft, warm smile.
“Look at em’. Ahaha. That one’s a fuckin’ dork and the other. . . ahahaha, her sweater! What a couple o’ cuties.”
Ford was. . . relieved. “You like them?”
He flicked the picture back at Ford.
“You gonna’ introduce me to em’, right?”
To Be Continued