Chapter 14: An Oak Leaf Falls
*NOTE* Please read the final short story of "After Cipher's Reign: Short Stories" before reading this!
She felt movement next to her as her body woke, her giving out a soft moan as she stretched her legs.
Her head ached terribly, but that wasn't a surprise as she had been drinking the night before. She felt her bare body against something soft and warm. As she stretched out her legs she turned to her side, feeling cool air hitting her exposed back. Suddenly, a warm hand gingerly grazed her neck where she knew she had that scar…
Layla's eyes flew open as she sat upright with a gasp, the rest of the blanket falling off of her. Her eyes flickered to her waist where she felt soreness and saw that she had bruises. Layla knew what happened last night, she was that much aware that they had made love, but it didn't stop her head from aching and the room feeling like it was spinning.
"Um… Layla…?" Ford's voice said next to her, his voice hoarse. She turned to see that he had a hand covering his eyes under his glasses and gesturing with his free hand in her general direction.
She groaned loudly, thinking that it was completely silly given what had happened the night previous. Layla then smiled, her feeling like she should be laughing at his expression when she saw his face was a beet red. "Why are you covering your eyes?" she asked him with full amusement.
"I… I don't want to be rude…" he mumbled.
She then finally laughed, her so surprised that he was acting this way. Layla could tell that he had never been with anyone physically, but the way he presented himself was like he didn't remember what had happened.
"Ford… do you even know what happened last night?" she giggled at him.
Ford's face went even redder. "I-I h-h-have my suspicions," he stammered. Layla then sat up and pried his hand from his face, his glasses slipping right back over them. His eyes wandered downwards and then he randomly blurted out, "How did you get that scar on your neck?"
Layla's heart felt like it dropped to the pit of her stomach. She didn't realize that it was exposed since she was so used to wearing a turtleneck sweater. Every time she thought about the scar her mind automatically went back to Magum, something that she rather not think about when Ford and she were together.
"That… I rather not say." Layla replied as she glanced her eyes away.
Ford adjusted his glasses and gave her a hard glare, something that she felt burn into her skin. "You basically got me damned drunk to find out why my brother and I fought, the least you can do is say how you got that scar."
Layla flinched at the statement, she did do that to him. She just wanted him to lighten up a bit to talk to her about the reason why he and his twin fought. Layla didn't realize that they both would get drunk. She did owe him an explanation, after all, she never told him fully what Magum had done to her, although she knew that he knew just from simple conversations with her and even with Magum himself.
She then sighed, "I guess…" She sat up straighter, knowing all too well how her scar stuck out. "I got it because I slit my own throat."
"WHAT!?" Ford roared in anger as he jumped out of the bed. But he then looked down and realized he wasn't fully clothed and went back into the bed putting the covers on. He gave a little cough before continuing, "Um… WHAT!?"
Layla then gave him a sad smile. "I did it… because Magum made me. He wanted to see my blood stain my body… and I was seventeen at the time and really didn't have a choice…" she told him as she hung her head. It was true what she said, but because she was forced to from trying to escape she left it out. That was a whole other story altogether.
"It could've killed you!" Ford screeched, him subconsciously putting a hand to his throat.
"It nearly did…" Layla confessed sadly. "But he had promised that he would heal me. What I didn't know was that it would leave this scar… that's why I wear a turtleneck."
Ford then pulled her into an embrace, her feeling his hand go through her hair to comfort him. She felt his heartbeat through the sheets and nearly tears sprung to her eyes. "You're okay now… he won't hurt you again," she heard him whisper to her softly. She then wrapped her arms around him, returning the embrace as she felt her body relax. Ford then groaned in pain and she pulled away from him.
"Are you okay, Ford?" she asked him worriedly.
Ford had put a hand to his head. "Eh… it's nothing. I still got a headache," he told her, although a different tone was there.
"Do you… not remember anything from last night?" she then asked him, worried that she had gotten him so drunk that he didn't remember their night.
"Bits and pieces… but not much."
An idea then popped into her head and she gave a sly smile. She sat up a little taller so that she could give him a kiss, something that he wasn't expecting. Her voice took on sultry tone, "Do you want me to give you a recap of last night?"
"Heh…!?" Ford managed to squeak out. It was hard for her not to smile at that, him looking confused.
Layla then gave him a deep kiss, her pouring everything she had into it. Ford had begun to kiss her back as she felt him place a hand in the same exact spot that her bruises were, causing her to break away for moment as she hissed in pain. His touch was softer and more bearable as she kissed him again deeply, putting her hands in his hair and gripping tightly.
She then broke from the kiss so that she could catch her breath, her heart racing a million miles an hour. As she panted to catch her breath she felt Ford kiss along her neck where her scar was, which she gasped in surprised as she did not expect that to come from him.
Layla then kissed him again, just for a moment before she asked with a heavy voice, "Are you ready for that recap?"
Ford then took of his glasses and put them off to the side, her able to see his brown eyes clearly with no glare from any light on his glasses. "Yeah…" he replied as he kissed her.
She loved him and that was all that mattered at that moment as she returned his kiss.
After an hour they had to abruptly leave the hotel they were in, the concierge that Layla had bribed the night before banging on their door loudly for them to leave before he got in trouble.
So the two humans got dressed, packed up their items, and left. They left the room quickly as they rushed down the stairs to leave, seeing other patrons beginning to leave as well with luggage. As they walked down the streets they were given strange looks, as if they were being recognized, but for the most part they were avoided like the plague.
Ford had put a hand to his head, him giving his head a small shake. When Layla sked that if he was okay, he told her that he still had a small headache and that he would manage. As they had walked Layla tripped over something and would've fallen if Ford hadn't grabbed her arm.
Layla saw that she had tripped over a leg that was sticking out of a box in an alleyway. She crouched down and glanced inside, immediately recognizing who it was.
"RICK!" Layla shouted at him.
"H-h-h-heh!?" Rick yelped from his box, him scrambling trying to get out. He stood up, but was extremely wobbly, as if he woke up drunk still. Rick then glared at Layla and Ford, but then the glare slightly softened in recognition. "O-o-o-oh, hey there Sci-Fi and L-l-l-l-Layla!" he greeted drunkenly.
"Where the hell did you even go yesterday?" Ford demanded, him gesturing to the drunk man.
"Eh? I-I-I-I thought I'd f-f-f-find my n-n-nuclear reactor faster by-" Rick began but then belched midsentence. He then continued like it never happened, "-myself. A-a-a-a-and I did!" Rick then went into his lab coat pocket and took out his portal gun, now newly fixed. "I-I got a stronger one… s-s-s-so maybe I can get home and a-a-a-adjust it more. It's a-a-a-a one way ticket though, a-a-a-a-and it's enough energy to s-s-s-send one p-p-person through without r-r-r-ripping their molecules apart."
In a way it was like Rick was hinting that he is going to leave and couldn't take Ford and Layla back to Earth's dimension. Layla understood that Rick mostly looked after himself, and if he had an opportunity to leave to get back to his family and ditch everyone, he would take it. Ford then gave a look to Layla, as if they were both thinking the same thing, and she gave him a slight nod. Ford then looked back to Rick and handed out a hand for a handshake. Rick looked surprised at this, but he then extended his hand and gives Ford a handshake.
"Good luck getting home, friend." Ford told Rick.
"Y-you too, Sci-Fi… I m-m-mean, Ford." Rick said back. He then waved to Layla. "Good l-l-l-luck to you too, Layla. M-m-m-m-make sure Sci-Fi doesn't get into too much trouble." The drunk man than gave her wink.
Layla gave him a small wave. "Good luck, Rick. And tell your wife to kick your ass for me," she said to him. For everything that they went through together, he was still one of her first friends. She did wish him well in the long run.
Rick then used his portal gun and pointed it to the wall next him. A bright green portal then swirled around in a circular motion with energy. "I suggest you guys find a way out of this dimension… M-M-M-Magum will probably jump at this e-e-e-energy signature." He then gave a final wave before disappearing through his portal.
They ended up going to a more industrial dimension with stony gray buildings, skies, and dead vegetation.
Layla had managed to get them into a warehouse where it looked as though it had been closed for quite some time, them needing to get out of the rain that was like acid to their skin and clothing. They slept in shifts as they didn't feel like they were truly safe, Ford offering to take the first watch. She didn't want to sleep first but Ford insisted, so she curled up as close as she could to him and the fire.
She didn't know how long she was asleep, but she heard yelling that was being echoed towards her. Layla sat of from her little sleeping pile, her running her eyes as she blinked against the light of the fire. Her eyes darted around frantically when she realized that Ford wasn't there.
Panic gripped her heart as she got up from her makeshift bed and grabbed her gun form her side. She ran through the hallways, her trying to find the source of the noise. The last time this had happened Ford had been cornered by Magum…
As she ran she then heard the chilling voice of Magum, a voice so slippery like a snake that she paused for a moment.
"Because, Stanford, how about we make a deal? You want to destroy Bill Cipher just as much as I do… and we both have a common attraction to little Miss Layla Bartek."
That statement sent a shiver down her spine. Was he trying to force Ford to make a deal with him? She thought of what kind of deal could possibly be in mind when she realized that Magum wanted to make Ford his next victim of possession.
"Become my new puppet, my new host, Stanford Pines, and together we can destroy Bill Cipher… together we can rule the multiverse."
"No…" Ford's voice was small and hoarse, Layla had barely heard him. "Why… me…?"
"You and I aren't so different, Stanford. You want knowledge… and knowledge is power. Power is what makes the multiverse go round, and it needs a ruler. Sure… I could've used Dr. Bartek… or I could've used Rick… but you Stanford, I see myself in you."
"I'm nothing like you!" Layla heard Ford growl in anger.
"Hmm? Oh, you're not? You pushed your own family away, not caring if they had lived or died. Sound familiar to me? You have a twin brother, yes? Well, so did I, and guess what happened to him? He burned at my hands because of him holding me back. What did you do to your twin brother? Cut him out of your life.
"Family is useless and pointless. You're better off as a puppet, and what Layla doesn't know won't hurt her, right?"
Layla finally had enough as she felt the words rip from her throat, "WRONG YOU ASSHOLE!"
Magum was in his true form, a form that Layla still had nightmares about. It was something that she thought she would never see again if she could help it. But there he was, torturing someone she loved dearly. She felt her eyes hardened and her body so unnaturally calm as she aimed her gun at Magum and began to quickly pull the trigger.
"You are the biggest piece of shit in the multiverse!" Layla screamed furiously, her electric blue eyes hard as ice. "You caused a war, you causes your own race and others to die! You killed your own family! You piece of shit…! You manipulated my father, you and Cipher! You two are so deprived of love from yourselves and your families that you just wanted the multiverse to burn! Well, I got news for you asshole, I'm not going to let that happen!"
Ford then took that as an opportunity to shoot at Magum's legs with his own gun, causing the monstrosity to buckle. Layla then ran up to Ford and helped him up, and she grabbed his hand and began to run. The two ran through the corridors, trying to go through whatever doors they could find. There was only one place to go. Up.
Not again… why is it always up!? We don't have the device from Rick like before…! Damn it!
"You think you can escape from me!?"
The hall that Layla and Ford were in suddenly felt hot and red flames licked the walls, the boards on the windows burning to a crisp, the glass shattering all around them, causing the two to stop from the sudden heat. It felt as if the oxygen was being pulled from their lungs, causing them to collapse.
"I don't think you understand the situation here…" Magum then materialized in front of Ford and picked him up by his neck.
"Stanford!" Layla barely cried out, her face taking on a strange tint of blue. Just saying his name took whatever precious air in her lungs she had left, her vision beginning to spot.
"I'm giving you one final choice here, Stanford. Become my puppet and you and Layla will live. Decide not and you'll die and she will face a punishment worse than death."
Layla knew what that meant, but she couldn't allow Ford to take the deal. If she had to make a deal personally with Magum in order to protect him, then so be it. She had dealt with Magum for years, even if he wasn't around she was still haunted by him in her nightmares and her very mind. What was a few more years so that the man she loved could live and be free? But… was she truly ready to make that sacrifice?
I rather die than let Magum take me again!
Slowly, the brunette nodded his head. A sinister smile crosses Magum's features, making him look more terrifying than the Devil. Ford was then lowered to the ground and the flames subsided, the two humans gasping for air.
Don't do it… please don't!
Magum raised a hand, it engulfed with red flames. "Do we have a deal, Stanford Pines?"
Ford went to raise his hand as well, ready to take the deal. Layla's body began to tremble as hot tears stung her eyes. There was no way that she could allow it. Magum was nothing but a monster and if he took control of Ford's body he would abuse it to take on Cipher and take over the multiverse.
Time was ticking, and she was running out of it. She couldn't allow him to, she wouldn't allow him to do it. Layla had to do something in order to buy Ford time for him to escape. She wouldn't allow herself to be captured by Magum… she felt as if she had no other choice. She knew what she had to do.
"Stanford…" Layla choked out. He looked at her, his hand hovering toward Magum's. "I need you to know that I love you… okay?" she said to him, the tears falling freely as her body trembled. All she wanted to do was run to him and hug him close, never to let him go. But, sadly, she had a dark feeling that she may never have that opportunity again.
"Layla…?" Ford questioned, him not understanding what she was trying to say.
"I need you to get away. I love you, Stanford… and good luck…"
"Wait… WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"
Layla had then gotten up from her position and ran as fast as she could towards the demon. She then tackled Magum away from Ford, the two tripping over the broken window. Layla had taken her gun and was shooting Magum repeated into his skull, his wounds becoming more traumatic as there was barely any time for regeneration. She didn't care that she was falling so fast, her hair whipping upwards. All she was wanted was to shoot Magum over and over for all the years he had tortured her. All she wanted was him to suffer a pain like she had gone through.
"Why you little bitch!" Magum roared at her as they got closer to the ground. "You think this little stunt is going to stop me…? Well… now I have a new plan…"
Layla had felt her vision go black from as they were falling, her heart beating so fast that she could barely stand it, it feeling as though it was going to explode. At least when she died it would be in the air and not her feeling her body splat over the ground.
"Don't worry… the plan involves you…"
Layla felt her body give out as her eyes fluttered shut.
Darkness surrounded her, a thick inky world around her as she felt like she could breathe.
Random spots of color filled the darkness, her hearing Ford's voice. She heard her mother's voice. She even heard the gentleness of her father's voice before he had gone completely insane.
Is this what death is…? Just a black void with wisps of memories?
"…la!" a distant voice called out.
What was that…?
"Layla!" it was a female voice, and it sounded awfully familiar.
Layla then gasped for air, the darkness suddenly lifting as she opened her eyes against a bright white light. Her body felt extremely heavy but she managed to sit up with a groan and look around frantically of where she was at.
She was sitting in a soft white bed, and she looked over to her right arms and saw that needles and tubes were sticking out of her skin. Next to her there was a small machine that beeped lightly, messuring her heartrate, an IV bag dripping into her tube.
Was… all of that a dream…? Was I just crazy this entire time…?
The thought of everything being nothing but a crazy dream made her eyes sting. Did that mean that Magum didn't exist, her torture a figment of her imagination? But that meant that Ford didn't exist either, the thought of that making her heart fall into the pit of her stomach.
"Oh, my goodness! Layla you're awake!" Layla then looked up to see a familiar head of pink hair and neon green eyes.
"M-Mari!?" Layla gasped, her seeing her old friend. She then looked over and saw a familiar blonde. "Kari!" They were both there with her! Surly it wasn't a dream then! But then again, she could live without the Magum part…
"Oh, Layla! You had us so worried!" Mari cried out as she bent down and wrapped her arms around Layla's torso. "When Magum brought you back here I thought you were dead!"
Layla's heart skipped a beat. "Magum…? Brought me here…?" she barely whispered. "Where's Ford!?" she then demanded.
"Ford…?" Kari echoed. "Are you talking about that human man you were with?"
"YES!" Layla cried out desperately. Please… he had to have gotten away!
Mari gave a shake of her head. "I'm sorry, sweetie, we don't know where he is. All we know is that Magum is looking for him. So is Bill Cipher."
A sigh of relief escaped her as she put a hand to her pulsing heart. Even if he wasn't with her, she was happy that he was safe away from Magum and Bill. "Good," she rasped as she attempted to throw the blankets off of herself. However, a gripping nausea engulfed her and she instinctively went to her right side, her barely noticing that there was already a container filled with bile, as she emptied stomach acid into the container. The acid stung her throat, her feeling that her hair was being held back by one of the sisters.
"Ah… so she still has it this late…?" Mari questioned her sister, Layla not understanding.
"It could be because she woke up and hasn't had proper solid food in about five months." Kari replied.
"What… are… you two talking about?" Layla asked between heaves. She then put a hand onto her stomach, her heart practically skipping a beat when she felt something hard and round underneath her hand. She glanced down, seeing that her once flat stomach was large and swollen.
"Ah, so she is awake then?" the slippery voice of Magum whispered. "You two leave so that I may speak to her privately."
"Yes, Master Magum," the sisters replied in monotone as they hastily left the room, Mari managing to give a glance at Layla with a sad smile as she shut the door.
Magum walked over to Layla in the bed, but she barely noticed that he was there. Her mind was too wrapped up form what she felt underneath her hand. There was a slight movement, a kick, against her hand. Magum then placed his own hand on the other side of her stomach, her instictely swatting his hand away.
"So, you found out about your little 'ailment'," Magum purred as he took a step back. "Now… I think I can use this to my advantage…"
"GO TO HELL!" Layla growled through clenched teeth.
Magum gave a smirk. "Oh… I see. You know… with a flick of my wrist I can just ki-"
"NO!" Her throat was raw as she screamed that word. She felt another kick underneath her hand, a little stronger than before. "Please… no… I'll make a deal with you…"
Magum's trademark wolf-like smile spread across his face as if he was told the best news of his life. "Now, that's what I like to hear!" He then crouched over her, his face uncomfortably close to hers. "What deal do you have in mind?"
"You can do whatever you want to me," Layla began, her voice level and calm as she looked Magum directly in his soulless white eyes. "But, you do not harm my and Ford's child."
Magum's expression darkened at the mention of Ford's name. "I'll agree to those terms, but I have something to add," Magum told her. Layla waited a moment as she saw Magum pace around her bed. "My added term is that you do not mention to the child about Stanford Pines at all. You don't tell it about anything, even if it begs." He then held out a hand, a brilliant red flame surrounding his hand. "Do we have a deal?"
Layla looked at his hand, the flames licking across his hand and up his arm. The light of the fire made Magum's stoic features look horrifying, a true face of a demon. Hesitantly, Layla lifted her free hand towards his.
"You do not harm my child and I will not tell it about Ford." Layla confirmed. Her hand then grasped his, the fire not feeling warm in the slightest. "We have a deal."
Magum then left her side and went to the door, he called for Mari and Kari and they suddenly appeared with a curtsy. "I'll leave these two to be your and the child's caretakers," he explained as he left the room while the door slammed behind him.
Mari went to Layla's side immediately, already checking her body for any type of wound. "He didn't hurt you in your state, did he?" Mari asked worriedly.
"No," Layla assured. "Hurting me while pregnant would hurt the baby… it is part of the deal that he cannot harm it."
Kari looked uneasy as she tucked a blonde strand of hair behind her ear. "Making a deal with Magum though… you do realize that you basically sold your soul to him, right…?"
"I know what happened to Sari when she was with him…" Layla pointed out, the sisters flinching as they recalled their late triplet sister. "I know what I'm doing. Ford had helped me, and if this distraction is what is going to protect him from Magum, it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make."
Kari then slammed down a glass that she had filled with water, the water slashing over the sides. "Do you understand what you just said and did!? You're going to have your child grow up in this hellhole!?"
Layla flinched at that statement as she felt another kick. "I know… but… I owe it to Ford. I have a feeling that one day they will meet…" The picture from Magum's journal popped into her mind, the wheel with its symbols. The acorn was the seed of an oak tree, which meant her and her child were part of the prophecy. Ford was obviously the six-fingered hand with his polydactyl, which meant he was part of the wheel as well, including Bill's.
Don't worry, little one… I'll protect you, and one day you'll meet your father.
To be continued in "Magum's Rising"…
Thank you for reading as always!
Stay tuned for the next story!