“You look nice.”
Dipper squirmed under the hands gripping his lapels. He offered his partner a dissatisfied grimace, but let his eyes roam appreciatively over the other’s form all the same. “You too.”
Bill’s hand came up like it was going to run through Dipper’s hair, a familiar movement, but the moment that Dipper’s mouth opened in protest (he had spent quite a while trying to smooth down too-wild hair), it landed at the nape of his neck instead. The demon smiled, tugging Dipper forward a bit and-
“Papa, Aunt Mabel is here!”
Bill swore as Dipper broke away with a slight smile. “Later,” he promised. No kids tonight, he didn’t add, but by the way Bill’s eyes darkened, he probably had the same train of thought.
By the time he made it out to the living room, Mabel had already snagged a soda out of their fridge and had Makona’s backpack slung over her shoulder. She was crouched down to the little boy’s level and was grinning as he eagerly caught her up on what was happening in kindergarten.
She looked up when her brother cleared his throat, and the young boy followed her gaze. Mabel offered Makona another beaming smile. “Tell me the rest in the car, okay?” Makona smiled and nodded, and the woman ruffled his hair before standing up to pull Dipper into a quick, one-armed embrace. “Hey, little bro!”
“Five minutes,” Dipper groaned with an eye roll as he stepped back. Makona was watching him expectantly, so he reached down and pulled the boy up into his arms, quick enough to make Makona squeal before he erupted into giggles.
Mabel’s eyes twinkled. “Still counts.” Dipper jumped when a pair of arms snaked around his waist, and Mabel added, “Hey, Bill!”
“Shooting Star,” the demon acknowledged, resting his chin on Dipper’s shoulder. From his position in Dipper’s arms, Makona reached out and poked Bill’s nose. The demon laughed.
There was a gasp from somewhere behind them, and then an exclaimed, “Aunt Mabel!” as Hazel ran up to throw her arms around the woman. Mabel’s free hand landed in her hair.
“Hey there, Hazey-Daisy!” Mabel answered with a grin. Hazel returned it.
Bill’s arms unwound from around Dipper’s waist and he pinched his partner’s butt before sidling away to the kitchen. Dipper squeaked in surprise, and luckily his youngest child was the only one to notice. Makona frowned, and Dipper shook his head.
“Where’s Aunt Paz?” Hazel asked when she stepped back, frowning.
Mabel laughed. “What, I’m not good enough for you?” Hazel didn’t smile, her expression remaining flat. “Pacifica had to meet with her dad for dinner,” Mabel continued when she didn’t get a reaction.
Hazel looked a lot more distressed at this new information. “But she’ll be home tonight, right?” she pressed, eyes widening.
Mabel giggled. “Yeah, sweetie, she should be back by the time we get home.”
The little girl lit up. “Then let’s go!” she exclaimed, grabbing Mabel’s hand and trying to tug the woman towards the door. Dipper watched, amused, as Mabel planted her feet firmly against the carpet and waited until Hazel realized she wasn’t getting anywhere.
“Don’t you think you should…” Mabel trailed off, jerking a thumb in the direction of Dipper.
“Oh, right!” Hazel was quick to drop her aunt’s hand and stride back over to her father. Dipper couched down, setting Makona on his feet as well. The little girl threw her arms around Dipper’s neck and kissed his cheek. “Bye, Papa! Have fun at the party!”
She tried to take off again, but Dipper latched onto the sleeve of her shirt. “Slow down there, squirt,” he warned jokingly. She sighed, but planted her feet in one spot. Dipper rested one hand on her shoulder and the other on Makona’s, looking between them. “You guys be good for Aunt Mabel and Aunt Paz, okay?”
“Yeah, Papa, of course!”
“No lighting things on fire.” He gave Hazel a pointed stare. She rolled her eyes but nodded. “And no arguing about when it’s time for bed,” he continued, turning his gaze onto Makona. The blonde boy nodded sheepishly. He ruffled their hair and planted a kiss on each of their foreheads before standing up, murmuring, “Go say bye to Dad, okay?”
They nodded before racing each other to the kitchen. Dipper couldn’t bring himself to tell them not to run in the house. He took a deep breath and dragged his gaze back up to his sister, who was watching him carefully as she took a sip of her soda.
He offered her a slight smile. “Hey, please-”
“Take care of them, keep them safe, don’t let Hazel talk Pacifica into buying her stuff, and call you if I need anything,” Mabel recited, a knowing look on her face. This was routine at this point.
He let out a breath that he hadn’t realized he was holding in. “Yeah. Thanks.”
“Don’t worry, bro-bro.” The brunette woman switched the soda can into her other hand and used her now-free arm to reach out and embrace him once more. “The kids will be just fine with us. I’m worried about you, though, y’know?” When she pulled back, she fixed him with a serious stare that had him squirming, knowing her worry wasn’t misplaced. “I know the demon realm makes you all… weird.”
He tried to give her what he hoped was a reassuring smile, but she didn’t look convinced. “I’ll be fine,” he told her, not very convincingly. “Trust me. I’m used to all of it now. I know the demon realm like the back of my hand.”
Dipper had no idea who they were talking to.
Well, he had somewhat of an idea. They had certainly talked to these two demons before, likely at the last event they attended in the demonic realm. But whether it was because Dipper met so many demons that they blended together in his mind or because it was hard for him to focus on conversation with the queasy feeling the demonic realm gave him, he could not for the life of him remember their names.
They seemed to know him well enough, each greeting Bill with a pleasant, "Lord Cipher," and giving him a slight smirk as they continued, "... Dipper." One of them bowed slightly and kissed the back of his hand. Bill's protective hand on his lower back was the only thing that kept him grounded as the confines of the realm attempted to rip his all-too-mortal soul from his body.
One of the demons had dark skin and darker eyes, and would have been able to pass for human if not for the obvious incisors that flashed every time he grinned. The other had caramel skin but less mortal features, with pointed ears and spindly fingers.
Dipper was far less afraid of demons after having spent the last ten years with one, but his own willpower did nothing to prevent their dark magic from speeding up the heart rate of his human body. They both seemed to realize this, their smirks ever-present as their eyes traveled appreciatively down his form.
"What is it you do in the mortal realm again, Dipper?" one of them asked. The use of his name pulled him out of his thoughts and he blinked at them, ignoring the concerned glance from his partner.
"Oh, I, uh." Their wicked smiles grew even wider at his flusteredness. "I'm a writer. I have two published novels."
"Uh huh," the one on the right answered flatly.
While having two published novels at age twenty-eight would have been considered a notable feat in the mortal realm, the demons just stared at him, unimpressed. Dipper felt his face heating up.
It was no news that he had been an object of mockery in the demonic realm for years. He didn't let it bother him, not really. After all, they were demons, and seeing a fellow demon (especially a well-respected one) constantly bringing a human around was obvious joke fuel. At every party, every political event, demons would wait until they knew Dipper was in earshot before making jokes about the frailty of mortals.
Dipper had too much pride to ask his partner to defend him. He could defend himself, and he did so without fail every time. Unsurprisingly, his defiance just made him a bigger target.
It was only recently that the jokes had mostly died down and the demons saw him as- well, not as an equal, exactly, but perhaps as more than just a meatsack. Still, every eye that landed on him (often more than just two from one individual) made his skin prickle with self-consciousness.
“And how are your… children, Dipper?” the darker-skinned one asked. His accent was thick but unplaceable; Dipper knew that they were only speaking English for him and otherwise would have been communicating in a demonic language. “What were their names, again? Holly-”
“Hazel,” Bill interrupted, and the way his free hand clenched into a fist at his side didn’t go unnoticed by Dipper.
“-and Makona, yes, that’s right.”
There was a sour taste in Dipper’s mouth at hearing his children’s names in that demon’s mouth. He knew that the majority of the demon realm didn’t approve of Bill having half-human children, and they were both well-aware that their children were at constant risk.
“They’re doing well,” Bill spat, a bit too venomously, answering for him. “And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
There was an underlying threat apparent, and it was clear enough for the other demons to hastily change the subject. They asked Bill about something political, and Dipper mostly tuned them out. He focused on grounding himself. He was a person with a soul, and that soul was going to stay in his body, firmly glued to Bill’s side.
Bill’s voice was soothing even when the human wasn’t listening to what he was saying, and his words acted as background noise as Dipper let his mind wander to the plot of his current ongoing novel. Oh, if only these demons knew that what Dipper was writing about was based on their own little world.
They would tear him apart.
He hooked one thumb into his pants' pocket as the other one came up to tug nervously at his hair. At the realization that his hair was still nicely styled and that messing it up wouldn't make him look any better, he slowly brought his hand down. The eyes of the demon on the left followed the movement, a forked tongue darting out to lick his lips.
Dipper shivered, pressing a bit closer to Bill's side. He wasn't intimidated. As long as he focused on Bill's words, he was fine-
Except then Bill's words were breaking off and a shrill ringing sound was cutting through the dull roar of the music.
Dipper jumped, and it took a full second, matching glares from the other two demons, and a raised eyebrow from his partner for him to realize that his phone was ringing. He tugged it out of his pocket instantly, a bit shocked that he still had a connection while in a different realm (wow, I guess Verizon really does have the best coverage, he thought absently). A picture of his sister's grinning face lit up the screen, the name under "Incoming Call" reading "Mabel Pines" as the phone continued to vibrate and shriek its loud ringing.
He shot a panicked glance at Bill. "I've gotta-"
"Go," Bill answered, dropping his hand away from the human's back.
Dipper nodded hastily, ignoring the snickers of the demons and breaking through the crowd as he answered the call.
His breath caught in his throat as he forced himself not to assume the worst. "Mabel?" he forced out, voice strained.
There was a pause, long enough for Dipper's heart to sink into his stomach. And then: "... Papa?"
"Makona." He allowed himself to breathe, trying to ignore the pointed stares that he had drawn. Demons and other entities of varying shapes and forms, some more humanesque and some not even resembling something corporeal, watched him in expressions ranging from curiosity to mild annoyance. He turned away, eyes scanning the wall and noting the architecture as he pretended he wasn't being watched. "What's up, buddy?" he questioned softly, trying to put on a cheerful voice for his son. "Where's Aunt Mabel?"
"I can't sleep," the little boy mumbled quietly, static crackling in the background. "Aunt Mabel said you said to call if something was wrong, so..."
Dipper wanted to explain to his child that "something wrong" usually entailed an emergency, but Makona was five. To him, not being able to sleep was an emergency.
"Did you ask Aunt Mabel to tell you a story?" he asked instead, free hand bunching in the fabric of his suit jacket.
"I wanted you to tell me a story," Makona whined.
Oh, Christ. Yeah, these demons were going to rip him to pieces.
He sighed, but a small smile tugged at his lips. "Once upon a time..."
Bill watched with rapt attention as his human spoke into the phone. It was impossible to tell what he was saying from halfway across the ballroom, but from the look on his face, he was talking to one of their kids. Dipper was smiling, pacing back and forth and gesturing widely with his hands as he spoke. Bill felt his heart swell.
He had finished the conversation with the two lesser demons they had been speaking to, but he still hung within earshot of them as he grabbed a martini off of a server's plate. He wasn’t surprised in the least when the demons burst into snickers when they thought Bill could no longer hear them.
"How pathetic," one of them scoffed, switching from English into a demonic tongue. "He's probably chatting up with their mortal children."
The other demon snorted. "How Cipher could find that meatsack appealing is beyond me," he drawled. "He looks tasty, sure, but to devote one's time to one of those stupid animals? It's ridiculous. Cipher has already lost the respect of much of the demonic realm, and he'll find that out when he finally abandons that mortal and their so-called children-"
The last word ended on a choked breath, because Bill had set his drink down, crossed back through the crowd, and wrapped his fingers around the demon's neck before he could finish his sentence. Slitted eyes stared at him in shock and fear, the conversation around them dying down.
Bill had to restrain himself not to crush the being's neck right there and then. Instead, he leaned in close, eyes flaring red. "What was that?" he snarled.
"L-lord Cipher-" the demon stuttered, gasping for breath. He clawed at Bill's arm, trying to drag his hand away.
The other demon had disappeared back into the crowd. The rest of the party- the ones that were paying attention, while the majority still hadn't noticed the conflict- gave them space, backing up and watching with bloodthirsty stares. Nobody dared interfere.
"Answer me," Bill snapped. He reveled in the way the lesser demon squirmed when he tightened his grip, lifting him off the ground just slightly.
"I-it was nothing, Lord Cipher-"
"Oh, really?" He continued to tighten his grip with each hissed word. "Because it sounded to me like you were insulting me," there was a sick cracking sound, "my partner," he dropped the demon, lips curling into a smile as he instantly fell to his knees and clutched at his throat, "and most importantly, my children." He drove a loafer-clad foot into the creature's ribs; the sound of bones cracking could be heard even over the music and the murmur of conversation around them.
The demon would be fine, even if his current vessel was a bit broken up. But he had learned his lesson.
He made whimpering noises as he stared up at Bill from his position on the floor and alternated between clutching at his stomach and his throat. He didn't speak, but his apology was clear.
"You're pathetic," Bill muttered, turning away and cracking his knuckles. He strode through the crowd, the party guests swiftly parting for him.
At the edge of the crowd, he locked eyes with his partner, standing by the wall. Dipper hadn't noticed the disturbance; good.
The brunette smiled when he saw Bill looking at him, his free hand coming up to wave slightly as he continued to speak into the phone. Bill returned both the grin and the wave.
Just another soirée.