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The Devil You Know

Chapter Text

Sixty degrees that come in threes.
Watches from within birch trees.
Saw his own dimension burn.
Misses home and can't return.
Says he's happy. He's a liar.
Blame the arson for the fire.
If he wants to shirk the blame,
He need only invoke my name.
One way to absolve his crime.
A different form, a different time.

^ ^ ^ ^

Summer had always been Dipper Pines’s favorite season. Though, with age and responsibilities, he no longer got much of a “break”, the longer days and warmer weather left the brunet with an unspoken promise of adventure.

The sun was still clinging to the horizon, even though the dull rays were, by this point, mostly obscured by the dark clouds. The pattering of the rain acted as white noise behind the music lowly pumping through the speakers of Dipper’s old Subaru Outback. It had been a few years since the new master’s grad had been able to visit the sleepy town of Gravity Falls, Oregon, but as he drove past its infamous 'Nothing to See Here' welcome sign, he smiled seeing how little it had changed.

Each building looked just as worn, each street sign just as beaten up, and each person he passed still waved pleasantly beneath their umbrellas even though they probably couldn't make out who he was through the slight downpour. It was a small town seemingly untouched by time- save a few new houses here and there at the edge of the town limits- and it made a warm sense of nostalgia settle in Dipper's chest.

It really had been too long since he last visited.

The main road to the Mystery Shack was still cracked and stretched on with street lamps set miles apart, making the forest that lined it all the more ominous. A spark of excitement lit in the pit of Dipper’s stomach whenever he chanced a glance through the thick of it as he drove. He couldn't wait to get out there again and fill the blank pages of his own Journal 1, given to him by Ford the Christmas after their first summer.

That following year, Dipper religiously worked to fill it cover to cover. Sadly as the years passed and more and more of his time was taken up by his studies or jobs, the thick leather bound journal spent more time on the bookcase slowly collecting dust than out on a daring adventure.

But not this summer, Dipper promised himself as he packed it on the top of his suitcase. It was time to re-spark the fire of that boy set on unraveling the secrets of the universe. True, between himself and his Grunkle Ford, there weren't many- if any- mysteries left in Gravity Falls to uncover. Still it'd been so long that, even if there was nothing new to add, it wouldn't hurt refreshing himself with some of the aforementioned mysteries.

He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen a leprechorn or had a conversation with a gnome- maybe 3, no 4 years ago? What even was it about? And what was his name again? Josh? Jim? Hank? Well whoever it was, Dipper mentally apologized for forgetting them and whatever they'd been talking about.

Point being, Dipper Pines’s encounters with the supernatural had become few and far between- a fact he hadn't thought much about until he was surrounded by the thick forest that had shaped so much of who he was and how he came to face the world around him.

Head on and steadfast.

Thanks to the time he had spent in this not- actually- so- sleepy- town, Dipper learned to think on his feet, to look for solutions in unusual places, and- despite the warnings he'd been spammed with from day one- to trust in himself and the ones he held near.

Nothing was more important than family- whether they be blood or water- because as long as they held onto that bond, they could do anything. Like, say, defeat a maniacal being of pure energy and boundless power.

Yeah, nothing brings people together quite like saving the universe.

Dipper passed the first sign for the “Amazing Mystery Shack" and smiled; only a few more miles to go and he'd be back at the only other place he’d ever considered home.

Soos ended up selling the old shack back to Grunkle Stan after his Abuelita fell ill; he and Melody moved back to her house to take care of her. He still worked there- often stepping in as the Man of Mystery himself- but truth be told, he seemed a lot happier without the burden of keeping up the business with everything going on. Plus, Stan seemed all too happy to have it back.

Ford continued his work unlocking the strange phenomena of the most mysterious places in the world. Apparently they’d found a lot of uncharted territory while sailing, and he was making it his personal mission to document any and all the weirdness he came across. So, when he and Stan had finally made it back to Gravity Falls, Ford decided to use the old shack as homebase while he spent the rest of the time traveling the world.

But these last couple weeks in August he came home to spend time with the great niece and nephew he hadn’t seen in years. At least, he hadn’t seen Dipper in quite some time. Mabel, on the other hand, made it her mission to come up at least once each summer to spend time with her friends, and there were a couple occasions Ford was actually there.

The signs for the shack became closer together as the storm worsened.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Dipper was blinded by a flash of light almost immediately followed by a deafening crack of thunder that shook the air around him. Mabel and his grunkles weren’t expecting him until late, but he wanted to surprise them by getting there early, and, as he squinted at the road through his windshield wipers on the highest setting, Dipper was thankful he’d made that decision. The storm hadn’t even been on the radar when he checked the weather before he finished packing his car, so there was no telling how bad it could get before the night ended. Dipper hopefully would be able to pull up to the old shack before any of them had a chance to worry about him driving in this weather.

As if on queue, his phone lit up on the seat beside him. A quick side glance at the screen and he could make his sister’s contact photo: she and Waddles squished together in the small frame, one eye closed from her cheek pressed tightly against the pig’s. Dipper sighed and blindly reached over for the device, but accidently ended up pushing it onto the floor.

“Dammit,” he cursed to himself, glancing quickly between it and the empty road ahead of him. He took a breath and reached down to the passenger floor, fingers easily clasping around the edges of the small phone.

Dipper straightened back up, a proud smirk on his lips that twisted into something of a silent scream as he was blinded by two bright headlights coming directly for him. He swerved into the other lane on instinct, not accounting for the heavy layer of water accumulated on the surface of the road. Dipper’s car hydroplaned off the road entirely and sent him tailspinning toward the forest’s edge. The vehicle came to a stop when the passenger side of the car slammed into a tree- Dipper’s entire body ricocheting with the impact.

Everything went black.

After what felt like a lifetime, Dipper felt his eyes slowly blink open. The world was too loud, yet far too quiet, it was stoic, yet everything seemed to be spinning, but still, the brunet forced himself to move. His arms felt like lead as his hand pulled on the door handle; he barely stopped himself from crying out as he made himself slide out from where he was sandwiched between the hard airbag and even harder seat. Dipper was greeted with heavy rain on his skin- the cold drops helping the senses come back to the boy.

The first thing he noticed was the horn blaring beneath the consistent hammering of rain on pavement; the next was the distinct taste of blood in his mouth and the heavy smell of burnt rubber, mixing with the strong scent of the wet forest that hung in the air; there was the general ache throbbing from his very bones, but, as far as he could tell, nothing seemed broken or bloodied.

Dipper turned back to assess the damage. The car’s hood was crumpled from the right corner almost to the dashboard, the windshield was shattered, the frame bent, a tire had flown off into the grass. Well, there’d be no saving the car, but hopefully his things were alright. Hell, he was lucky he was alright, Dipper knew that, but was the other driver?

The brunet looked frantically over his shoulder to see a truck off the other side of the road. From where he was, Dipper couldn’t tell if the truck was okay, but as he stumbled across he saw that it was, in fact, buried in the treeline.

“H-hello?” Dipper croaked, throat constricted and too dry . He took another breath before trying again, “Is anyone there?”

A strangled cry came from the cabin of the truck and Dipper’s breath caught in his throat. He slid down the small hill off the road, wincing when he came to a stop, and ran- as best his legs could carry him- to the driver’s door.

“Oh God,” he began panicking when he saw the girl’s head lolled against the window, “Um- h-hang on, I’m going to open the door!”

The stranger nodded weakly, pushing away from the window as Dipper opened the door.

“Are you okay?” He asked breathlessly.

The girl looked down at him- eyes dazed, frizzy black hair in her face, “I- I think so?” She made to step out, but winced when she tried to twist her body, “Help me?”

“Of course!” Dipper nodded, “Um, just, slide out, I guess, I’ve got you.”

The stranger nodded, slipping herself out of her seat. Dipper braced himself before sliding an arm beneath the girl’s legs and wrapping the other around her narrow waist. She winced as he gently brought her to ground to lean against the back tire of the truck.

“Thank you,” She smiled weakly, tucking a chuck of her raven hair behind an ear, revealing a pair of icy green eyes.  

Dipper flushed and smiled back awkwardly, “Um, I don’t know if you should be thanking me at all,” he rubbed at his arm, “I mean, if I hadn’t gone after my phone neither of us would be like this.” He sighed, dropping his head, “I’m so sorry.”

Warm fingers slid beneath his chin, prompting the boy to lift his chin to the girl. “But if you hadn’t,” she started softly, a sweet southern drawl finding its way into her voice, “we never would have met, and I’ve been waiting such a long time to meet you, Dipper Pines.”

Dipper furrowed his brow, “How do you-”

Before he could finish, he felt something blunt and hard at the back of his head; and for the second time that night, Dipper's world went dark.

Chapter Text

^ ^ ^ ^

Dipper woke to the sound of shuffling feet. He was sitting, ankles tied to a chair’s legs, hands bound behind its back, and his eyes covered by something soft.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck , became an internal mantra as Dipper’s mind began to catch up to his circumstance. He decided that it'd be best to try and gather his bearings before letting his kidnappers know he regained consciousness, so he kept himself slack against the rough bindings- rope already biting into his skin and chin dropped to his chest.

Wherever he was being kept was thick with the smell of burning wax, yet the air around him was crisp, sending goosebumps up and down every inch of exposed skin. The only noises he heard were a series of hushed whispers- too far off to make anything out- and the rustling heavy fabric.

Questions flooded Dipper’s mind: where was he? What did they want? How did that girl know his name? She said she's been waiting for him, why? Why him ? Really, what did he do to deserve this?

He’d always supposed someone had to be the yin to Mabel’s yang, and he'd come to terms that that someone was him. Where Mabel found lucky pennies on sidewalks, Dipper found chewed gum under his shoes; she was sunshine and he was a little rain cloud. Still, that couldn't possibly account for all his bad luck, and, boy, had he had a lot. Dipper was a magnet for misfortune, no cracked mirrors or black cats required.

But kidnapping? What reason could the universe possibly have to hate him so?

“What makes you think he’ll even agree to this?” a male voice asked in a hushed tone, snapping Dipper from his internal pity party. Apparently the group had drawn closer.

“He won’t have to agree,” a woman spat, “he’ll do or he’ll face the consequences.”

“I never signed up to hurt anyone” another girl spoke.

Hurt anyone? Did that mean him ? Somehow Dipper didn't think it did, and it made a cold lump settle deep in his stomach.

“Then what did you sign up for, Hannah?” The woman replied, “The free cookies?”

A larger group of people sniggered.

“Enough,” a deep, stern, and somewhat familiar voice silenced the room, "we are all here to do our Lord’s bidding. Whether or not people get hurt is up to His will and no one else’s.”

His will? Dipper could feel the furrow in his brow as he tried making sense of the man’s words.

“Looks like our guest’s awake,” the woman said with a smile in her voice. Dipper took a sharp breath and straightened as best as he could in the cold chair.

“Who are you?” He asked purposefully, “What do you want?”

A few chuckled in response before the man stepped closer, “We want you to undo what you did 10 years ago.”

Dipper frowned, “What did I do 10 years ago?”

The woman sneered, “You don’t remember?”

“Look, I can hardly remember what I had for breakfast, nonetheless something that happened over a decade-” the brunet gasped when it hit him. “ Bill .”

The backs of knuckles collided with Dipper’s cheek, forcing his head to the left with the momentum. When the metallic taste of blood erupted in his mouth, he had to spit to keep from choking it down.

“How dare you say his name!” The man snapped, “With such disrespect .”

“He’s a monster,” Dipper bit back, “I’ll call him whatever the fuck I want to. Besides, how am I supposed to undo anything?” He smirked, “He’s dead .”

The room filled with their ringing laughter, sending shivers down the brunet’s spine. But why should he be worried? Bill was dead… wasn’t he?

“Did you really think such an all powerful being could be destroyed by a mere mortal?” The man laughed.

“What do you mean?” The boy croaked, voice edging on panic now, “H-he’s gone! I was ther e, I saw it happen!”

“What you saw was him being pulled from this realm,” the man stepped closer, the sound of heavy cloth shifted with him, “but I assure you he is still very much alive, and he has been waiting,” he leaned down, invading the brunet’s space, “for someone to bring him back.”

“So,” Dipper started sardonically before he could help himself, “does that mean, like, me specifically , or...?” He tilted his head, feigning confusion and knowing he should probably stop talking before he got into more trouble. Unfortunately, he had a bad habit letting his mouth get away from him- a trait he’d picked up from his con artist Grunkle. “Because that whole ‘ someone to bring him back ’ bit is pretty vague.”

The man let out a long breath as if trying to calm himself down, and the brunet took that as a small victory. Dipper braced for impact with a smirk on his lip, but it never came. Instead he felt sharp fingers claw into his jaw, forcing his chin up. “Let’s see how smart you’ll be when we’re done with you.”

“Trust me, IQ doesn’t seem to be a part of this conversation,” Dipper replied stiffly between the man’s hold, once again going against that voice in his head shouting at him to shut up ! “Maybe you should look for another adject-”

Ah, there it was, the second backhand- this time to the right. Well, hey, at least his bruises were going to be symmetrical. This time, Dipper did swallow the blood from the inside of his cheek as the finger returned to his jaw. “I’d think very carefully before you speak again.”

The fingers roughly let him go and the brunet winced, trying, in vain, to figure out what was wrong with him. There was nobody to blame but himself for letting his tongue move faster than his mind. But, dammit, he was getting angry! He had been on the road since 6am, hadn't eaten since 11, his car had just been totalled, he’d been kidnapped by a fucking Triangle-worshipping cult, and, fuck, Mabel was going to kill him when she found out (if these wack-jobs didn’t beat her to it). Well, she’d hug him and cry first, then she’d kill him for getting himself into this situation.

Dipper internally groaned, it wasn’t like it was his fault in the first place. Regardless, he figured it might be best to keep his mouth shut until all this was over.

“It is time for our Lord to return to us,” the man spoke, followed by the sound of others shuffling closer to the boy's chair, “and you’re going to help us, Dipper Pines.”

“Like hell I am!” The brunet responded loudly. So much for keeping his mouth shut, “That demon can keep rotting in whatever realm he's trapped in!”

“Yes,” the other chuckled, “we thought you might say that.”

Suddenly there were hands on Dipper’s face, and before he could even flinch back, the blindfold was ripped away. His vision strained behind his blinking eyelids as the dim room came into focus. Candles ordained the space, illuminating the group of people (maybe 15) all draped head to toe in golden robes- Bill’s symbol embroidered in black on the front; their hoods hung low enough to hide their faces in shadows. It initially reminded Dipper of the Society of the Blind eye, only, the very air was hostile- deadly .

The small crowd parted, revealing a set of heavy curtains as golden as their robes and nearly as large as the wall behind it. Between the few cracks of fabric, Dipper could make out a dull blue light; he squinted as that light became brighter and the curtains were drawn back.

" No ," Dipper gasped at the wall of monitors in front of him. At least every other one held the face of his friends and family (and maybe a couple exceptions to either title).

All nine of The Zodiac were represented on static-y security monitors. Wendy could be seen with some stranger lounging on her couch in her Portland apartment; Robbie was watching a movie with Tambry; Gideon was sound asleep in an overstuffed king sized bed all the way in Louisiana; Soos and Melody were camped on the floor in front of their TV playing video games; Grunkle Stan was arguing with Ford over a flickering television; McGucket was eating dinner with his son at the long oak table which once belonged to the Northwests; the youngest Northwest herself was on the phone while casually digging through her massive closet; and on the monitor right beneath her was Mabel, also on the phone and frantically pacing in the kitchen of the shack.

Dipper's eyes lingered on his sister, wide and fearful at what all of this could mean. There was a chance these were all pre-recorded, but as a crash of thunder billowed around them, Dipper watched a white light flash through the windows of several of the rooms on screen. But that alone wasn't definitive, right? These nut-jobs were just trying to intimidate him, there's no way they had all these people monitored. How could they possible have the resources? Dipper forced himself to take a breath as he took a small amount of comfort in that thought.

As though reading his mind, man closest to him- tall and broad shouldered- pressed a button on a remote.

“...was at noon!” Mabel’s voice sounded from her monitor.

“Mabel, hun,” Pacifica responded through another speaker, holding the phone between her ear and shoulder as she held up a top, “you’re being paranoid. I’m sure Dipper’s okay.”

“You don’t know that, Paz,” Mabel’s voice rose to panic, “he wouldn’t just ignore my calls unless something happened!”

Pacifica sighed, “What time did he say he'd be there again?"

"...11:30."

"And what time is it?"

Mabel sighed, "9:57."

"Exactly," the blonde started sweetly, "you're overthinking things. Wait until 11:30, and if you still haven't heard from him, then you can start panicking."

"But-"

"Mabes," Pacifica cut her off, flopping herself back onto her bed, "I know you're worried, but this is Dipper we're talking about. He may be an overly responsible genius, but he's also kind of an airhead-"

Dipper repressed a roll of his eyes, thanks Pacifica .

"-his phone is probably on silent or packed in his bag like that time we moved Wendy out."

On the monitor he could see his sister stop in her tracks, gnawing on her bottom lip, "Yeah," she sighed, "You're probably right."

There was another bright crack of lightning followed quickly by roll of thunder that was echoed through the speakers.

"Man," the blonde chuckled, "this storm is intense."

"Yeah," Mabel replied, absently twisting the end of her long braid between her fingers, "Well, um, I should go before the Stans kill each other."

"Okay, hun," the Pacifica smiled into her phone, "keep me updated on that dork of a brother, will you?"

"Oh, yeah, definitely," Mabel laughed awkwardly, Dipper could tell she was still deeply worried about him, and that broke his heart. "Hey, Paz, thank you for listening to me."

"Anytime, Mabes, I'll talk to you later." Her monitor was silenced so all that was left was the one showing Mabel.

Dipper watched as his twin set her phone on the surface of the table and walked away in a hurry. She disappeared on one screen and reappeared in another- the same one as the Grunkles still arguing over the TV. The symbol in the corner of the screen told Dipper that the room was still muted, but their muffled voices carried over into the kitchen.

Mabel stood in the doorway for a solid 12 seconds before she turned on her heel and marched back to the table, scooping up her phone as she restarted her nervous pacing. Her thumb effortlessly danced across the small screen before she brought it back to her ear. The same instant, Dipper could hear his phone ringing; a shadow faced woman held it up so he could see his sister’s face on his screen.

Dipper twisted against his binds, grunting with the effort.

“Let me go!” He snarled as the bright picture went black again. The woman only responded with a cruel laugh.

A heavy sigh came from the monitor, snapping the boy’s attention back to the girl on the screen.

Mabel

“Hey, Bro-Bro,” Mabel started timidly, “it’s me… again . Um, just wondering when you’re going to be here, if you know about the storm, and whether or not you’re dying in a ditch somewhere!” She forced a laugh over the receiver, but Dipper could see she was frowning. Her pink sweatered arm wiped across her eyes as she sniffled, “ please just call me back. I love you Dip-Dop.”

With that the monitor was muted. The boy’s eyes pricked with tears of anger and guilt for making his sister so panicked.

“Awe,” the woman holding his phone started, “now isn't that sweet , she's worried about her Wittle Dipper .”

The surrounding group laughed heartily

“Leave her alone,” Dipper growled, “or else I’ll-"

“Or else you’ll what, Pines?” The tall man spoke, his voice matching the one Dipper had heard when he was blindfolded.

“I will rip every one of you apart,” the brunet drawled dangerously.

“Oh,” the man chuckled, “that won't be necessary. As long as you cooperate, no harm will come to her. But, of course, if you don't ,” he moved to the wall of monitors, “we'll have no choice but to move onto one of the others.” The man placed his hand on the screen where Mabel now sat impatiently drumming her fingers on top of the table. “And who knows, maybe your sister will be more inclined to help us in our task.”

“Fine, I’ll do it,” Dipper surrendered, teeth still barred like a cornered animal, “but leave her and all of them out of this !”

The man smile wickedly in the blue glow of screens. “I knew you'd see reason.”

Mabel's frowning face beneath the stranger's palm was all the boy could concentrate on as the others moved around him. The leader stepped away from the monitors toward the group and began barking instructions.

Dipper watched his Grunkle Stan sulk into the kitchen, look at his great niece, and sigh. He said something that caught her attention, then took a seat across from her as she responded. Dipper didn't need to hear them to know what they were talking about. It started as another worried rant from his sister, followed by comfort from their Grunkle which ended in a cheesy joke that took years off Mabel's expression as they both laughed.

Dipper wanted to join them- to laugh even though he was deaf to the joke- but all he could bring himself to do was bite the inside of his cheek to keep from becoming outwardly emotional. He should be there! If he'd just left a little sooner- if he hadn't gone for his phone- if he would have just come up with Mabel in the first place none of this would have happened!

Well, no, Dipper knew better than that. They would have gotten him one way or another; after all, they'd been 'waiting to meet' him. And if not him, then they'd have gone after a different Zodiac, in which case he was somewhat glad he had been the one they singled out.

Better him than any of the others.

Without warning, the golden curtains were dropped and monitors hidden from Dipper's eyes once more. The boy wanted to cry out at the loss of his only comfort in this cold, strange place, but refrained as the tall man reappeared in front of him. Dipper watched him pull an ancient looking book from his robes. Its dark leather binding was cracked from age with what seemed to be a permanent stain of dust, and, in the center of the cover, a golden outline of Bill in his most basic form (no top hat, bowtie, or appendages), the eye seemed to be embedded with a carved white (or what used to be white) stone.

"Sister Andromeda," the man spoke slowly, Dipper could feel the stranger's eyes burning into him, "bring forth the decoction."

"Yes, Your Knowingness," the smallest of the group came forward, a black stone bowl cupped between her hands.

Your Knowingness ? Were these people for real ? The boy suppressed snort which turned into a grimace as 'His Knowingness' pushed Dipper's bangs back on his head, revealing his birthmark. The man hummed disapprovingly at the constellation, moving slightly to make room for 'Andromeda' (if that was really her name) to lean into the boy's personal bubble. A lock of raven hair fell in front of her covered face and her fingers were cold behind the warm, paint-like concoction as she drew over the stars on Dipper’s skin. The symbols were foreign to the boy though he tried to concentrate on them. He was nearly an expert on dead languages and could identify ritualistic rune work on sight, yet these he could not make out. Maybe if he could see the marks, he could figure out what kind of spellwork they were attempting here. However, that theory was shattered as the girl began working on his exposed forearms- Dipper had never seen the kinds of markings being painted on his skin, which only made his anxiety of the whole situation increase greatly.

“You’re familiar with The Mindscape, yes?” Mister Knowingness spoke as if reading the brunet’s mind.

“Very,” Dipper answered when ‘Andromeda’ finished and backed away. “Is that where you’re sending me? Into somebody’s Mindscape?”

“Yes and no.” The man smiled cryptically, “You’ll be going into your own Mindscape.”

“So, my body will still be here?”

“Not at all.”

Dipper furrowed his brow, feeling the drying liquid bend to the movement, “How could that be possible? In all my and my Grunkle’s research, we’ve only ever found a way of physically being pulled into somebody else’s mind. It should be impossible to go completely into your own without cutting off your way back-” the brunet’s eyes widened as his mouth went dry, “I won’t be coming back, will I?”

That smile widened beneath the hood’s shadow, “That, my boy, is entirely up to you.”

Fuck. No. I don’t want to die! Dipper’s breaths were becoming shallow- sharp- and his vision started to spin. “W-wha-? How?”

“You must follow your demons into the Nightmare Realm,” the man explained as though he’d rehearsed these instructions a thousand times, “find The Great One, and offer yourself to Him. Only He can bring you back, so, for your sake, I do hope you’ll watch that sharp little tongue of yours.”

Dipper stared at the man, trying his darndest to soak in the other’s words, but there were too many gaping holes for him to piece together. “Alright, I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t completely understand what it is you need me to do, so would you mind slowing down and explaining it to me again?”

His Knowingness lifted his chin before replying sternly, “Very well, but I will only go through this once, boy, so pay close attention and do not interrupt.”

Dipper nodded in response.

“We will do our part in getting you into your Mindscape. Once there, you must seek out the nightmare that dwells in the corners of your consciousness, feeding on your worst memories or deepest fears-”

“How will I find it?” The brunet interrupted, but only because it was a pretty important question.

“You will know,” the stranger assured (ironically causing more distress on Dipper’s end), “the creature is not a part of you or your mind, you will be able to feel its prescence, but you must not let it see you.”

“May I ask why?”

“If it does, it will consume you.”

“Ah,” Dipper nodded.

“When it has taken the energy it needs, it will go back to its dimension, and you will follow it.”

“Follow my nightmare to its hellish dimension without being seen then look for your almighty Lord and Master,” the boy sucked in a nervous breath, “kay, no biggie, I got this!”

His Knowingness continued as though he'd heard nothing, “Once you pass through, you will lose the power of The Mindscape. You will be completely defenseless against the other creatures which dwell there.”

Dipper frowned, “So how am I supposed to do anything once I’m there?”

“These marks on your body will shield you from any and all creatures you may come across in your journey.” The man lightly ran his fingers over the marks on Dipper’s arms, “Their protection will only last you about 4 hours once you leave your Mindscape.”

“So, I have to find Bi-” Dipper cleared his throat at the sharp snarl of the man, “ The Great One, ” the words felt like poison as the left his lips, but it beat getting hit again, “before that time is up? Seems easy enough.”

It did not seem easy in any sense of the word, but Dipper figured that maybe saying that it did out loud would magically help him believe it.

“Oh good,” His Knowingness started condescendingly, “the brat can pay attention.”

Dipper bit his tongue, but couldn’t quite keep the venom out of his glare; the man’s smugness only seemed to grow at his frustration.

“Um, quick question,” the brunet started with the tiniest curve at the corner of his lips, “If your ‘Lord’ is waiting for me to ‘bring him back’, why do I have to look for him at all? Wouldn’t it be easier for everyone if I just, ya know, went through where he was?”

Nobody answered.

Dipper studied them a moment, “You do know where he is, right?”

“Our glorious Lord doesn’t always speak to us about such things.”

“But he does speak to you?”

The man paused before answering, “In a way.”

“In a way?” Dipper pressed, “So like in dreams? Ouija board? Disembodied voices in your head?”

“I don't need to hear our Lord to know His will.” The leader explained defensively, “I can feel it.”

Dipper gawked at him then the group, and tried to keep from scoffing. Were they serious? Man, he couldn't believe he'd actually started believing the nut cases! Bill hadn't been speaking to them at all! Not in any way shape or form. So, for all they knew, the demon could be- and probably was - dead as a Goddamn doornail!

Relief washed over the brunet but was quickly replaced by cold fear. What were these people going to do when they figured out at their ‘Lord’ won't be coming back to them? What will Dipper do to get home if they're relying on the demon's power to help him through? What will happen to Mabel and the others if they see he's ‘failed’?

These kinds of questions ran through Dipper’s mind, filling him with dread and panic until the comforting thought of Bill's death melted into a foreign kind of hope that he really was wrong- that the crazy cultist’s ‘ feelings ’ held some stock.

“Okay,” Dipper started calmly, figuring the best way out of this would be to convince them that perhaps they’d misunderstood the demon’s ‘will’. “So, let’s say he’s still alive and well, how do you even know Bill wants to be saved? Last time he tried to make it in this reality, things didn’t really go well for him. What makes you so certain he isn’t happier where he is? A nightmare realm seems right up his alley.”

“It is His will to finish what He started all those years ago.”

“Maybe,” the brunet started reasonably, “or maybe trying to bring him back when he doesn't want to be will only bring about his wrath.” When nobody made to reply, Dipper continued carefully, “I'm just saying, if he’s all powerful, then don't you think that if he really wanted to be here he would have crossed over on his own by now?”

Murmurs trickled through the small group, making the boy’s heart race. Was he actually getting through to these people?

“Silence!” The leader yelled, causing the cult to shrink back.

Dipper frowned, apparently not .

“We will go forward with the ritual as planned,” he materialized a dagger from his robes and moved forward to press its point into the boy’s chest, “and I don't want to hear one more word from you until you’ve returned with The Great One or I will slit your throat and move on to your sister!”

Dipper bit the backs of his lips and gulped heavily. Well, he tried and now he was beyond doomed. Either he comes back empty handed and gets himself and the others killed; or he finds the demon and restarts Weirdmageddon, killing everyone . Either way, as the cult joined hands around the circle, Dipper knew his fate was sealed.

Chapter Text

^ ^ ^ ^

It’s interesting what a person’s Mindscape can reveal about them. For example, Grunkle Stan’s mindscape existed under an 8-ball moon and was dilapidated and falling apart; many of the doors were boarded up, the hall of open memories were post-high school- all a direct reflection of the old man’s psyche, his inability to open up even to himself, how dark and broken down he truly felt inside. Ford’s was also the Shack, but under a glowing outline of his right hand and as he had left it before being sucked into the portal. It was filled to the max with indistinguishable trinkets that corresponded with different memories like a maze to all but him; showing that he truly was as meticulous and paranoid as he seemed on the outside.

Now, if you were to jump into Mabel’s Mindscape, beneath a star mooned sky you’d find their childhood home at the end of their street in pristine condition; the halls were bright and lined with photos and stickers, the foundation unbreakable. It was wholly unique, welcoming, and strong, just like the girl it belonged to. Dipper’s, on the other hand... well, it was also their childhood home, but the paint was chipping, the foundation slightly cracked, and the windows completely blacked out.

The brunet stood in the middle of a monochromatic forest looking up at the house standing where the Mystery Shack would be in the real world. Dipper half smiled at that; his two homes brought together in his mind as they were in his heart. A hollow wind whistled through the pine trees, making the boy jump as it crashed into his mother’s creepy fairy windchimes hanging off the porch. God, he hated those things, what were they doing in his Mindscape? He looked up as if the heavens would give him an answer, but was only met with was a dark grey sky with slightly lighter wisps of clouds strewn across, illuminated by the-

An icy chill ran down Dipper’s spine as his heartbeat began to pick up. What should have been a bright full moon was split down the middle with a black slit.

Bill’s eye acted as the light in his own subconscious. Forget the windchimes, what the hell was that doing there? On instinct, the human did a 360, checking his surroundings for any other sign of the demon, but, as far as he could tell, he was alone. Which should have been a comfort, right?

Hairs still standing on end, Dipper gulped heavily and took a tentative step toward the front door. A short walk up the stoned path and two stairs later, he was on the wooden porch, the low ringing of the windchimes added to the tension as the slats creaked under his weight.

His breath caught in his throat when he stopped in front of the door because, instead of the seasonal wreathed darker one that went with his house in the real world, Dipper was met with a blast from the past. The front door of his Mindscape could very well have been ripped from the hinges of the frame leading to his pre/early teen bedroom. It was completely white washed, worn, and ordained with stick- ahem, decals , most of which had been put up before their first summer in the Falls.

His name was centered in a semicircle on the top panel, and right beneath it was a large silhouette of a pine tree. There were smaller ones scattered around, mostly around the decal of an alien abduction of a cow with the words ‘I want to believe’ printed beneath its hooves; different sized stars were haphazardly stuck to the upper half of the panel, completing the scene.

On the small gap between sections was an ‘I saw it at the Mystery Shack’ bumper sticker that had been given to him the Christmas after his 11th birthday (Mabel had gotten a “one-of-a-kind" Man of Mystery bobblehead which she proudly displayed on her snowglobe shelf). To the right was an old Ducktective sticker badge, and to the left, an outline of the Freemasons symbol. The large panel below was barren in comparison.

Lastly, just above the doorknob was a poorly concealed illuminati symbol. It'd been there because conspiracy theories were young Dipper's greatest fascination; that was until he met the face behind the symbol, then that fascination quickly turned into terror . When he and Mabel had gotten home from that first summer, one of the first things Dipper had done was try peeling off the decal. Unfortunately, the sticker pulled up some of the paint, leaving a faded outline of what used to be. He hated it and eventually convinced his parents to let him paint the door dark blue and decal free.

Dipper grimaced as he reached for the doorknob. Why was there so much of Bill in his subconscious? Had the demon somehow gotten in and changed things? Or had he merely effected Dipper deeper than he knew?

The inside of the house held a long hallway lined with photo frames playing different memories and doors that the human knew did the same. At the end of the hall were two stairways; on the wall beside each were signs reading: “Accomplishments and Aspirations” going up, and going down was “Regrets and Fears”.

Well, Dipper thought , if I were a nightmare, I guess I’d go down.

So, after a bracing breath, that’s what the brunet did. On the way, he watched snippets of memories, each getting worse and worse the further he went. When he reached the end he was greeted with a split in hallways, and, when Dipper quieted his mind, he could feel something foreboding to the right. His instincts told him to turn tail and run, but he knew that was probably just a reflex from the intruder in his mind.

‘His Knowingness’ had warned him before the ritual that the creature he was looking for would be lurking around his worst memories and deepest fears. He’d given the boy a photocopy of spellworks to carry with him in case he had a hard time locating it, but Dipper had a sneaking suspicion- weighing each step down like a cinderblock- that he knew exactly where the nightmare demon may be.

Sure enough, at the end of the dark hall, with light pushing through every crack it could find, stood a pair of large doors labeled ‘ Weirdmageddon ’. A heavy padlock in the shape of a pine tree was all that was keeping it closed as horrific memories could be heard crashing against the hardwood. Dipper shuddered and closed his eyes. He didn’t want to think about that living nightmare- hints why it was literally locked away in his subconscious- but he needed to for the safety of his loved ones (and Gideon and Robbie).

The human stepped forward, reaching for the lock, when a clawed, black-as-ink hand slid from under one of the doors. Dipper held his scream in his throat and stumbled back, looking for any place to hide before the creature made its way out and spotted him. He found the nearest door and slipped inside, leaving a small crack to watch the hallway as the demon slowly pulled itself from the human’s worst memories.

The creature was skeletal, black skin ripped from even blacker bone, there was no face, just a jagged skull holding razor sharp teeth. Dipper want to shriek at the sight, but refrained- he was already afraid that the beating of his heart would be loud enough for it to hear as it crept toward the door he hid behind. To the brunet’s relief, the creature walked (crawled? Limped?) by without any hint he’d felt the human’s presence.

Its bones twisted and contorted  with each movement, its body hunched over, front claws scraping against the floorboards as it went. Dipper soundlessly moved from his hiding place and followed behind it. The human held his breath, his heart was deafening, each step felt like it was going to be his last; still, he kept up with the creature, stalking it carefully until they came to what appeared to be a dead end.

Panic began clawing at Dipper, ripping into his chest as though the creature's claws were already there. This is it, this is how I die, was all the human could think while he watched the demon straighten, joints cracking loudly as it did. It lifted a mangled arm- clawed forefinger outstretched- and reached for the very corner of the wall. A deafening screech- like nails on a chalkboard- echoed through the air as Dipper watched the wall tear open in the wake of the creature’s claw moving ruthlessly down. Colors like flames lined the hole as it widened to accommodate the demon stepping out of Dipper’s mindscape.

The human waited until it was all the way through before approaching the portal. What he could see within it was horrific: the sky was blood red, the ground barren and riddled with burnt trees, batlike creatures swarmed the air. Dipper froze in fear, every single fiber of his being screamed at him to turn around- to let the bright flames fizzling to ash finish closing up. But he couldn’t do that, he knew he couldn’t. So, despite every force in him begging otherwise, Dipper forced himself to slip through the tear and into the Realm of Nightmares.

/¤\ /¤\ /¤\ /¤\

Bill Cipher had been enjoying a luxurious bath in the bubbling waters of human tears- that had been so graciously collected by his Nightmares- when something like an electric shock shot through his spine, snapping his eyes open. Something was there, something that certainly didn’t belong. His right eye rolled back in his head, pupil sliding onto what appeared to be the moon riding high in the sky, giving the demon a crystal clear view of everything in his domain. He swept the area until he spotted the last wisp of smoke from a closing portal. Bill’s eye lingered there, seeing nothing, but knowing the intruder was somehow there. Red flashed in his eye at the annoyance rising in the demon.

Something slipped into his territory and had the audacity to conceal itself!?

Bill took a calming breath, eye rolling back to the room he was in.

“Fine,” he started to himself as, for the first time in nearly a decade, excitement bubbled up in his chest, “if it's Cat-and-Mouse you wanna play,” he laughed maniacally as he rose out of the golden bathtub. The demon snapped his fingers and blue flames engulfed his body, fitting his best suit to him as he chuckled lowly, "Allow me to lay the cheese."

Chapter Text

^ ^ ^ ^

The air was thinner, colder, acidic , and set every one of Dipper’s nerves on edge. The nightmare he followed stalked off into the barren tree line; the only ones that weren't burnt and broken were gnarled and black. With a shaky step forward, the ground shifted, forcing the human's feet out from under him.

Dipper caught himself with his elbows scraping the jagged ground, chin tilting to the sky as all breath was knocked from his lungs; he grunted, rubbing at his temple with one hand as he straightened up. There was the sizzling echo of the portal closing behind the human’s back when, without warning, the blood red sky flashed black.

The bright moon seemed to blink- going black a moment before returning, this time with a dark slit down the middle. Memories of late nights on rooftops and that all seeing eye flooded Dipper’s mind as he watched the pupil sweep the area. It settled on him- exactly on him- and the human felt his pulse stop. His ears were ringing as he watched the moon squint ever so slightly at the spot he was half sitting in. Its pupil dilated a moment and in the next, the human was blinded by an electric red blaze that overtook the moon. When Dipper was able to blink his strained eyes, bringing the strange world into focus, the black slit on the pale glowing orb was gone.

He was frozen, every molecule of his being tensed, waiting for something terrible to happen. Minutes which felt an eternity passed, nothing did. But that couldn’t be right, Bill had seen him, hadn’t he? Why wasn’t the demon there manically dangling Dipper’s life in front of his eyes?

It sure would have made the whole “finding" process a helluva lot easier; yet, after another few painstaking minutes, it became clear that the demon wasn't appearing. So the human let out a long breath and took a step forward.

The ground felt like broken glass crunching beneath his worn sneakers, but gave way to something more akin to ash when he reached the dark forest. The twisted black branches surrounding him groaned with the random wisps of icy wind. Bat-like creatures- many of which were flying eyeballs like the ones from Weirdmageddon, others were baseball sized and lined with razor sharp teeth- flew in a swarm, weaving between trees then up through the clouds. Their screech was haunting and unnatural, scraping against Dipper's ears whenever they got close.

“...tonight?” A low gurgly voice said from somewhere at the human’s side.

“Wonder what's gotten into him,” another scratchy voice replied, and it struck the boy odd that he was able to understand these horrifying monsters. Still, he wasn’t going to question it if it helped him get where he needed to be.

Dipper chanced a glance around the large black tree trunk to see the two creatures- both bearing resemblance to the nightmare he followed here- speaking closely together.

“I know,” the smaller of the two started, “been years since the pyramid opened up."

The human’s eyes widened, Bill.

Well, who else would have a pyramid in the Nightmare realm?

Suddenly, the ground shook, knocking Dipper back into the opening. The sky flashed with a yellow light, glow fading back a bit to a centralized spot further ahead in the forest. The monsters shifted, snapping the boy back to his immediate surroundings; he stood, now, completely in the open just ahead of them.

Dipper held his breath as he looked between the creatures, anticipating some sort of reaction but receiving none. He silently let out a long breath, glancing to the now faintly glowing runes scrawled across his arms.

Huh , he thought as he glanced at one of the monsters looking straight through him, well how about that!

“Better get goin’,” the one staring past the human commented, the other grunted in response. Dipper stepped back, allowing the creatures to stalk by him before silently following them. They spoke lowly while the brunet kept his distance, occasionally picking up on pieces of conversation. Apparently there was a nightmare- named something that sounded more like a hard noise in the back of the throat than an actual name- who was, according to these monsters, lazy and unoriginal. They made a habit of copying others’ M.Os, something that was frowned upon and pathetic among the creatures, until, recently, it copied the wrong one and there were consequences.

“What were they  thinking ? Mimicking Cipher?”

“Yes, it was his old form, too.”

This caused the other to stop dead in its tracks, nearly tripping Dipper as he did the same. The human felt himself squint as he took in their words. Old form?

It shook its head solemnly, “The fool.”

The smaller merely shrugged, waiting for the other to continue in step. Dipper’s head was spinning at the prospect of what the monsters had meant. What ‘old form’? Would that be the one he’d always known? Ye old illuminati with a top hat? Had something changed?

The human couldn’t even begin to picture something other than the triangle that had haunted his mind for the last decade. He shook his head, refocusing his attention on the present only to find himself completely alone. The creatures he’d been stalking had been swallowed by the pressing darkness; the only semblance of direction now came from the faint golden glow hovering above the treeline in the distance.

Dipper gulped heavily, Just great . Now what?

/¤\ /¤\ /¤\ /¤\

The demon could practically smell it. Who/whatever they were, they were close, but the spell around them was still strong. They needed to be just a bit closer before he’d be able to see through it.

Bill tilted his head to either side, cracking his neck as he smiled and clapped his hands eagerly, “It's showtime!”

Blue flames engulfed him before he appeared in front of his golden throne. Nearly every creature in this corner of his world were there- bats really were the most effective way to get a quick word out- and they all seemed to be holding their breath, waiting for their king to say something. So, the demon threw his hands out and a giant disco ball materialized above them as he shouted, “Let's get this party started!”

The crowd cheered, loud music erupted, and Bill sat back in his throne, one leg over the other, waiting for his mouse to come.

^ ^ ^ ^

Dipper had no idea how long it took (easily a few hours), but after two small circles, five wrong turns, and one nasty trip downhill, he finally made it through the labyrinth of trees. In the glowing gold clearing, he was greeted by a sight that was eerily similar to one he had locked away in his memories. Hanging in the reddened sky was a giant pyramid with floating stone steps leading all the way up to the entrance. Unimaginable creatures flocked to the building like moths to a flame, and music could be felt pulsating through the surrounding areas.

Dipper cautiously moved in the wake of one of the larger nightmarish creatures- careful not to accidentally bump into anything.

“Gorgenmesh!” A booming voice greeted the monster at the entrance, “Long time no see! How’s it been?”

Dipper didn’t stay around to hear the monster’s response, choosing instead to seize the opportunity and slip past the doorman into the short hall which led to the center of the pyramid. He stopped right at the edge of the main room and was instantly reminded of a club.

Creatures were packed wall to wall- dancing, drinking, laughing, fighting, etc.- and in the center of it all, illuminated by a giant stained glass red eye, was a raised platform. Dipper repressed a roll of his eyes; of course the demon would place his throne right in the center of attention and far above everything else’s heads.

What did surprise the brunet, however, was the very apparent man lounging lazily in the throne on the platform. Dipper was prepared to find Bill in a different form, but he certainly wasn't expecting that .

With his legs hanging over one of the arms, and his head resting on the other, the demon seemed to be completely uninterested in the party surrounding him. From where he stood at the edge of the hall, Dipper could just make out the indifferent expression Bill wore beneath his choppy blonde bangs as he examined the contents of the martini glass he held to the light. The demon sighed and dropped his head back on the stone, bringing the other arm to drape over his eyes.

Well , Dipper thought as he looked around the room, I guess it’s now or never .

The human took a bracing breath and, never taking his eyes away from Bill’s face, took a step into the main room. The effect was instantaneous: Dipper watched as the demon’s expressionless mouth slowly twisted into a wicked grin. The human looked at his arms in a panic, but the runes were still glowing and nothing else seemed to notice him. Dipper sighed in relief, rationalizing that he must have been reading too much into Bill’s random change in expression. There was no way the demon knew he was there yet… right?

Yeah, he was probably just thinking about puppies being drowned or something equally horrific.

So, Dipper took another shaky step forward. That’s when the demon erupted into a fit of high pitched laughter- its unnatural and haunting ring reverberated off the walls and easily drowned out the deafening music until it was turned off completely.

The room stilled, their attention caught by their maniacal ruler who stayed curled in his throne- martini glass abandoned to float absently beside him while he clutched at his stomach. His head was thrown back on the arm, and his legs pulled in as he continued his laughing fit. Dipper noted the fearful air that had overtaken the crowd looking uncertainty at each other.

“Well!” Bill exclaimed to seemingly no one. Lights began turning on with each word, “Well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, WELL ! To what do I owe the pleasure,” Dipper’s blood turned to ice when the demon lolled his head to the side, pinning him to the spot with one golden eye, “Pine Tree?”

Time seemed to stop entirely for the human. His eyes widened, mouth went dry, and ears went deaf with the pounding of his own heart. Bill raised an eyebrow expectantly, but when Dipper still said nothing, the demon filled the room in an exasperated sigh.

With a loud snap of the demons long gloved fingers, Dipper felt as though a large egg had been cracked over his head and its cool yolk poured over him. The creatures around him gasped as he became visible to them; murmurs spread through the room, but were instantly silenced when Bill cleared his throat. The crowd parted, revealing a long red carpet running from the entrance all the way up the steep staircase and under Bill’s golden throne.

The King of Nightmares effortlessly twisted himself out of his chair and onto his feet, swiping away the creases in his crisp yellow tuxedo jacket. Now that he was standing and the view was very much unobstructed, Dipper took in Bill’s new image.

The “man” wore a slick yellow and black tuxedo perfectly tailored to his slim body; Dipper couldn’t help but resentfully hope that the demon wasn’t as tall as those long black slacks made him seem.

Bill’s new features were sharp, but not in an off putting way with high cheekbones, a cutting jaw, and a seemingly perfect celestial nose. His hair was two toned- rich blonde bangs and almost black from the ears back- the sides were shorter than the top and neatly parted to the right so that his choppy bangs hung over the unnaturally golden eye. The other orb was a striking cerulean blue and just as effective in pinning Dipper to the spot when Bill resettled his gaze to the human.

Much to Dipper’s dismay, if it were anyone but the demon, he would have found the man very attractive. As it were, however, he couldn't help but internally grimace at himself for the passing thought.

A too wide grin split onto Bill’s face at the tiny bit of awe that glimmered in the human’s eyes as they slowly roamed up and down his new body. He adjusted the black triangle cufflinks before flexing the fingers on his right hand; in a flash of blue flames, a cane materialized in the air for the taking. Bill flicked at the rim of the black top hat floating like a crown just above his head before taking his first step down the stairs.

“What’s wrong, kid?” He taunted Dipper, who, no matter how hard he tried, couldn’t make himself look away, “Leprechorn got your tongue? Ha!”

Dipper straightened himself up, hoping the change in posture would somehow curb his growing anxiety. Every instinct in him told him to turn around and run, but the image of everyone- of Mabel- flickering through the static on the monitors kept him in place. He needed to do this, to face Bill after all these years and do the one thing he swore never to do again.

Dipper Pines was going to make a deal with the devil.

“C’mon, Pine Tree,” Bill rolled his eyes as he drew closer, “I know time is an illusion, but you’re really wasting mine right now. So, answer the question,” the demon stopped a couple feet from the human and leaned forward onto his cane, unnatural eyes gleaming with a challenge, “to what do I owe the pleasure?”

Dipper lifted his chin with all the false confidence he could muster and looked Bill directly in his heterochromic eyes.

The demon tilted his head with a smirk, “Well?”

“I want to make a deal,” Dipper declared, his voice steady despite the shudder that ran down his spine as the words passed his lips. The crowd gasped around them.

“HA!” Bill threw his head back with a laugh, “That is rich , kid!”

The small thread of confidence Dipper had snapped at that ringing laugh. His face fell, “I-I’m serious!”

“Sure you are,” the demon nodded, settling back into a toothy grin, “but what could you possibly have to offer me that’d be better than slowly,” his golden eye flashed red, “ RIPPING you to pieces and putting you back together again and again for all eternity?”

Dipper felt as though all blood had been drained from his body. This wasn’t good. He’d expected the demon to practically jump at the chance to make a deal, but, clearly, it wasn't going to be that easy. The brunet licked his lips before blurting out,  “I’ll get you out of here!” 

Bill’s laughter stopped and he regarded the boy seriously, “Come again?”

“I-I know how to get you through the rift,” Dipper gulped, “like, completely through it,” he leveled his stare, “and I'll get you out.”

Bill laughed again, bringing up a finger to exaggerate wiping a tear away, “Boy oh boy, you really must be desperate ! Okay, Pine Tree,” the demon straightened his back with an amused grin, and Dipper bitterly realized that he did, in fact, have to look up just to keep eye contact, “I’ll listen to your proposition, but in return I’ll need you to do a little something for me.”

Dipper eyed him skeptically, “What kind of something?”

“That's for me to know and you to find out,” Bill answered, ending with a suggestive wink.

“Just to listen to me!?”

“Look, kid,” the demon’s eyes flashed as he snarled, “you're in my domain, and believe me when I say I could kill you a million different ways anytime with just a flick of my wrist, so you're not in any position to voice your complaints,” the top of the black cane pushed into the boy’s chest, “capeesh?”

Dipper gulped and nodded stiffly.

“Good. Now,” Bill smiled once more, stepping toward the boy, “let's take this somewhere more,” his free hand folded over Dipper’s shoulder as he finished lowly, “ private .”

The human opened his mouth to protest, but in a blink found himself in another room entirely. Dipper took a small turn, taking in his new surroundings.

The room was dimly lit by a large fireplace underneath a portrait of the demon himself in his new form sporting a gold crown. In front of it were two seemingly leather chairs sitting on what appeared to be some kind of animal skinned rug. A grand piano was raised in one corner while a tall grandfather clock stood in the other, the face of which made up by a large stained glass eye. On the side opposite the grand piano sat a large oak desk and with a chair matching the two in front of the fire just behind it, its surface cluttered with knick-knacks and papers.

The rest of the walls of the room were basically just bookcases filled to the brim. And that was it- three walls of books, and one with a fireplace and artwork. No doors, no windows. Well, Dipper reasoned in the midsts of his panic, who needed a door when they could teleport everywhere? But the logic behind the design didn’t keep him from noticing that there was nowhere to run, nor hide- his freedom was now at the complete mercy of Bill fucking Cipher.

Chapter Text

/¤\ /¤\ /¤\ /¤\

Mason Pines, the Big Dipper himself, was on Bill Cipher’s doorstep- well, the multibear skinned rug in his study, but you get the idea. What Bill had done to deserve such a treat , he’d never know, but, boy, he wasn’t complaining.

Though, the demon had to admit he was a bit more than intrigued at what Pine Tree was offering. To get him out? Free him into the very dimension he’d tried to destroy? Man, the kid really must be in something deep.

“So, Pine Tree,” said Bill began, calling for the kid’s attention as he poured two drinks from a small bar that materialized in front of him, “hows about you tell me why you’re really here.”

“What do you mean?” Pine Tree asked nervously, “I told you, I want to make a deal.”

“Yes,” Bill nodded thoughtfully, pushing one of the drinks into the human’s hands before he started circling him slowly, studying his every reaction. “But why would you ,” he poked at the kid’s back, “of all people, go through so much trouble to hunt me ,” the blond stopped in front Pine Tree and brought his hand to his chest for emphasis, “of all demons, down?”

“Shouldn't you already know the answer to that?” The kid sneered, “I thought you were ‘always watching’.

“Pft.” Bill rolled his eyes, “Your pathetic if you really think you're worth watching 24/7.”

Though, truthfully, the demon had effectively been cut off from his many eyes in absolutely any dimension other than the small corner of the one he was in. But the kid didn't need to know that.

“Oh.” Pine Tree gnawed on his lower lip as he redirected his gaze to the clear liquid in the glass, trying to decide if he cared whether it was toxic. As he did, Bill lazily roamed his eyes up and down the kid's body, noting all the changes puberty had blessed him with.

Pine Tree was taller now- age does that to a person- and his jawline was much more defined. He'd filled out, too, obvious muscle could be seen beneath the thin strip of red fabric between the loose panels of his dark blue hoodie, maybe not much but it was there. His dark jeans were tight in all the right places and relaxed in others, showing off how long his legs had gotten.

The kid looked good.

Though, a little off without his signature hat. His curly hair stuck out at all angles, a tad shorter in the back and sides, and dark brown bangs still hung over his forehead. Pine Tree’s eyes still drew the demon’s gaze with their warm rich shades of swirling chocolate.

Bill watched in amusement as the human squinted skeptically, grimacing as he brought the glass to his nose.

The demon smirked, “When I kill ya, kid, it sure as hell won't be with something as impersonal as poison .”

“That's comforting,” Pine Tree rolled his eyes, but still hesitated bringing the glass to his lips. Bill watched with amusement before catching the brunet's glance and making a show of taking a drink himself. The human followed his movements, staring intently when he plucked the olive off the toothpick with his teeth. Bill quirked a curious eyebrow and smiled at the other who flushed before immediately tipping back the entire contents of his glass.

The demon laughed loudly, snapping his fingers to refill the human's drink, “Thirsty?”

Pine Tree downed another large gulp before groaning loudly into his palm, “I can't believe I'm even here right now!”

“Yeah well,” Bill swirled the liquid slowly in its glass, a cold smirk on his lips, “people do crazy things when they’re backed into a corner.”

The human glowered at him, “You have no idea.”

Bill chuckled before quirking an eyebrow, “Weren't you telling me why, exactly, you're burdening me with your presence?”

“I need your help.”

“I gathered,” the blond deadpanned.

“R-right, um,” Pine Tree rubbed nervously at his arm, averting his eyes and, Bill could tell, giving himself a mental pep talk. What an interesting meatsack- to actively seek out his mortal enemy for help only to choke at the last minute.

“You gonna tell me?” Bill rolled his eyes, the little patience he had ready to snap as he leaned closer to pull Pine Tree’s martini glass away and set it on a patch of air beside them, “or will I have to start jogging your memory ?”

Pine Tree gulped, “Okay, fine, I-uh-I got into a car accident. Only,” the kid screwed up his face in thought, “I guess it wasn't really an accident seeing how the whole thing was staged. Though, I mean, it was really an accident to me because I, for one, wasn't expecting it..." the kid was rambling now, which normally would cause the demon to simply take away his mouth until he was ready to use it properly. For now, however, seeing the human ramble on about his own stupidity was hilarious . “-but, to be fair , it was raining, and the car seemed to come out of nowhere ! And, I mean, what was I supposed to do? Not check on the other driver?”

The demon smirked, lazily stirring his martini, “Then you were ambushed and dragged somewhere.”

The kid bit into his cheek and looked away.

“HA! That's called a trap, Pine Tree,” Bill howled a laugh, “I wish I couldn't believe you fell for something like that, but who are we kidding, you really are just that STUPID!

Pine Tree crossed his arms defensively, “Well, excuse me for wanting to be a decent person!”

“And see where being a,” Bill set the glasses on nothing and brought his fingers up to dramatically air quote, “‘ decent person ’ got ya?”

The brunet sighed heavily, “I guess, for once, you're right.”

“I'm right about everything,” the blonde shrugged, “haven't you realized that by now?”

Pine Tree rolled his eyes then smirked, “Well, if that were true -"

I’d stop there, kid ,” Bill growled lowly.

Pine Tree either didn't hear the warning or didn't care because he crossed his arms and continued smugly, “-you would be ruler of the universe right now instead of trapped in this pocket of nightmares.”

Oh. And he kept going. Well, one thing the demon would always commend the brat on was that he had a decent pair on him. Big balls and a moderate sized brain often made for incredibly stupid actions. Like, for example, openly mocking an all powerful being of cosmic energy in his own home.

Though, brains or no, the kid had a point; and that point was exactly what Bill didn't want to hear.

The demon sighed heavily in exasperation before he finished off his martini- the glass disappearing with a small ‘pop’ . Bill took a moment to straighten the black bowtie around his long neck, fingertips igniting in flames as bright blue as his eye. Pine Tree gulped as a dark, dangerous expression twisted onto the demon’s face beneath the other eye now gleaming red. He took a step forward, the human instinctively took a step back.

“Pine Tree, Pine Tree, Pine Tree ,” Bill clicked his tongue disapprovingly, drawing ever closer until the kid was backed against the desk, “I know it's hard, considering how PUNY your brain is,” Bill leaned close, wicked smile invading Pine Tree’s air as he gripped the other’s forearm in blue flames to hold him in place, “but you should at least be smart enough not to bring such…” Pine Tree’s lip curled as the demon traced his cheekbone with his thumb, the cold fire tingled along the other’s flesh, “ unpleasantries up in the face of the creature who quite literally holds your,” those cold fingers dug into the human’s jaw, eliciting a satisfying wince, “MEASLY life in the palm of his hands.”

Pine Tree gulped audibly, tightened his lips, and nodded once in response.

Bill hummed appreciatively- flames dying away, eyes dulling back to ‘normal’ before patting the kid's cheek, “Good boy.”

Pine Tree straightened his back as soon as the demon released him, absently rubbing over the reddening bruises left by the other’s grip.

Bill smiled as he moved around his desk, sitting in the large chair that quite literally groaned under his weight. Man, maybe he should've killed the meatsacks before turning them into furniture. Nevertheless, the demon gestured to one of the other chairs in front of him, “Please take a seat.”

Pine Tree grimaced and shook his head, “I think I'll stand, thanks.”

“Suit yourself,” Bill shrugged. “But since you're taking your own sweet time telling your story,” he leaned forward on the desk, looking the human up and down with a challenging eye, “allow me to try and fill in the blanks.”

When Pine Tree stayed silent, Bill took it as a sign to keep going. He took a hearty breath before rushing out, “You were taken to a remote location in order to somehow ‘free’ me from this ‘pocket of nightmares’, as you so eloquently called it.” The human rolled his eyes. “Now, in order to make you agree to this, whoever it was that took you would have played into your extreme, and frankly pathetic hero complex by threatening someone close to you. My money’s on Star for that one, but I suppose threatening the rest of the nine would really push you to the edge. A bit excessive, since you’re already so much of a sucker for your sister, but, hey, go big or go home, amiright?”

“Wha- how do you know all this if you ‘weren't watching’?”

“I know what kind of influence my magnificence has on people.” Bill smiled smugly, “This wouldn't be the first cult following I've had, and, trust me, it won’t be the last. But seriously? Blackmailing one of the zodiac to fetch me? As if I’m being held captive in the first place. Pft.” The demon laughed fondly, “Boy, you meatsacks are far from creative.”

“Wait,” Pine Tree rubbed at his forehead, momentarily revealing the stars underneath his fringe, “so your not imprisoned?”

“Eh,” Bill leaned back, tilting his chin up to the boy, “it's complicated .”

“Uncomplicate it.”

“You’re cute , kid,” the demon smirked dangerously, “don't push it.”

This time Pine Tree took the hint, shoving his hands into his pockets and teetering back on his heels, “So… I guess, if your not trapped here or anything,” the kid started sardonically, hardly concealing his smirk, “there's really no reason for me to be here?”

Awe, Bill snorted at the absurdity, the little brat thinks he can reverse psychology the silver tongued demon! He cleared his throat, deciding to give the kid a short lesson in manipulation.

“Oh I don’t know,” the blond smirked, “didn't you need my help with something?”

“Yeah,” Pine Tree huffed, “I need you to come back with me so that everyone will be fine.”

“That's what they need you to do,” Bill pushed to his feet, “but what is it you need, Dipper Pines?”

“My friends and family safe .”

“That's a part of your deal with them ,” the demon snapped as he made his way round his desk, sliding between it and the boy, “I thought you said you wanted to make a deal,” Bill gently wrapped his fingers in the front folds of Pine Tree’s hoodie before yanking him forward, “with me .”

“W-well,” Pine Tree stuttered, face gaining a nice glow as he looked between the demon’s hands on his front and his mischievous eyes, “I guess I didn't think about it like that.”

“So,” Bill snaked a hand around the human’s waist, feeling the way the other’s body stiffened beneath his touch. “What'll it be, Pine Tree? Money? Power?” He leaned forward, lips hovering right beside the kid's ear, “Pleasure?”

Two strong palms expectantly shoved at the demon's chest as Pine Tree pushed himself away; Bill laughed as he caught himself with his elbows on the desk.

“All I want ,” Pine Tree started stiffly, now backed to the other side of the room, “is to go home, make sure everyone stays safe, and continue with my life as if none of this ever happened!”

The demon smirked, he had the brat right where he wanted him, “And?”

“And what?”

Bill straightened into a comfortable lean on the desk’s edge and folded his arms, “What are you offering me in return?”

The human furrowed his brow, “You already know what you're getting out of this. You get to use me to complete this-" Pine Tree threw his arms up, “I don't know- ritual thing that gets you from here ,” he held his hands apart then moved them from one side to the other, “and into our… realm or whatever!”

“Your way with words moves me, Pine Tree,” the blond rolled his eyes with a small curve to his lips, “and what ritual is it you’re referring to?”

“Gotta say,” Pine Tree matched the demon’s smirk with his own as he crossed his arms, “not really selling me on you’re supposed omniscience, Bill.”

“Boy, kid,” the demon started with a too wide grin, “I can’t decide if you’ve become somewhat braver or just so much” his golden eye flared red, “ stupider since last we met.”

“Eh,” Pine Tree gulped, but stood his ground, “probably a little bit of both.”

Bill’s haunting, maniacal laughter filled the room around them as he threw his head back. “Well,” he started between breaths, “at least that hasn’t changed!”

“W- what hasn’t changed?” The kid asked, looking a little unnerved at the demon’s ringing laugh.

The blond sighed fondly, “That straight faced honesty’s gonna get you killed someday, kid.”

“Yeah, by you....?” Pine Tree meant for it to come out as a sarcastic quip, but instead it became more of a hesitant question.

‘Eh’ ,” Bill drew out, “ ‘probably’ .” He winked and the kid rolled his eyes. “But back to the subject at hand,” the demon started seriously, “what ritual are we to be performing?”

Pine Tree reached into his inner hoodie pocket to pull out a folded paper and handed it to Bill.

The blond’s eyes widened as they roamed over the sheet, his heart stammered in his chest, and suddenly the room was entirely too small.   This isn't- it can't be possible! There's no way… yet there it was, edges crumpling in his clutch.

Bill stilled the subtle shaking in his hand and asked lowly, “Where did you get this?”

“The cult sent me here with it,” Pine Tree answered nonchalantly, “Why? Is it important?”

Is it important? The demon wanted to scoff, but knew it'd give too much away, so he simply shrugged it off. “Not really,” he replied, casually slipping the paper in the inner pocket of his tuxedo jacket. “But I am curious what they expected you to do with it.”

The brunet furrowed his brow, “What do you mean?”

“Well, you obviously can’t read it.”

Pine Tree crossed his arms defensively, “Who says I can’t?”

“So you can?”

“Can you ?”

Bill smirked condescendingly, “Of course.”

“Well then,” the kid snapped, throwing his hands up, “it doesn’t really matter if I can!”

The demon chuckled darkly; boy, it was fun winding Pine Tree up!

“What, uh,” the human started shyly, “what does it say?”

Bill looked him up and down before combing back his bangs with a sigh, “Let me ask you something, Pine Tree,” he caught the kid’s wide mocha eyes seriously, “just how much are you willing to do in order to save your precious loved ones?”

Pine Tree straightened and matched the demon's eyes, “I'm here, aren't I? Isn't that enough of an answer?”

"And," the demon continued carefully, "is there anything I could say that would make you change your mind?"

The kid looked at him for a hard minute before shaking his head with certainty.

"Then what would be the point in telling you what's on this paper?" 

"I-I guess," Pine Tree frowned, "there wouldn't be."

"So," the demon smirked, "do you still wanna know?"

"No," the kid answered, "I mean, anyway, I'll find out eventually."

Bemused, the demon studied him a long moment, carefully weighing all his options with the kid. He could tell him everything, but what if Pine Tree changed his mind? What if his hero complex had a limit?

Well… in the end, would it even matter if the kid knew everything ? Once the deal was done, it was done. There'd be no going back for either of them; all he had to do was get Pine Tree through the ritual.

After all, the kid was the one who sought him out with this plan. Why should Bill care if he didn't bother learning the fine print?

“Well then ,” Bill shrugged, “that settles that!” He dusted his hands together, pushing himself fully from the desk to stand, “We do this thing, get me through, and, blah, blah, blah, your friends are safe- yay! ” Pine Tree nodded slowly, face contorted in thought as he absently looked at the demon’s rising hand. “So...” cerulean sparks flickered to life at his fingertips, “we have a deal?”

“Wait.” The human’s eyes snapped up to his, taking the demon aback at their boldness, “I want you to erase the cult.”  

The flames died away as the demon furrowed his brow, “Excuse me?”

“Before, you asked me what I needed from this deal,” Pine Tree took a daring step closer, “and I need to be able to know that my friends and family are safe from them… a-and you .”

Bill blinked, considering the kid and realizing that maybe his ‘lesson in manipulation’ didn’t really work out completely in his favor. He didn’t have to offer Pine Tree a separate deal, but his tomato-red face and flustered reaction had been well worth it. Safe from the cult? Easy. Done. Whatever. But safe from him? The demon smiled, deciding to accept this small request, at least for however long it suited, “If that’s what you want.”

“Erase like break up the cult, Bill,” Pine Tree clarified, “nobody gets hurt.”

“Kid, I'm a demon,” he scoffed, “hurting people is what I do .”

“Then,” Pine Tree crossed his arms over his chest, “I guess I’ll just find my own way out of here.”

Once again the room was filled with the demon’s ringing laughter. 10 years and Pine Tree had hardly changed. Well, that's not entirely true, the kid had definitely gotten bolder, but he was still an awful negotiator, “Oh man, we have got to play poker sometime!”

Pine Tree furrowed his brow, “ Why ?”

“Because your bluff is terrible !”

Pine Tree crossed his arms and Bill was tempted to give him quills for the way he was bristling. “Tell ya what, kid,” the demon started with a twirl of his newly materialized cane, “I will do my best not to maim anyone, just so long as you do your part in getting me out.”

“Physically or mentally, Bill,” Pine Tree stressed.

Bill groaned, “Fine, but don't forget you still owe me a small favor for listening to all this in the first place!”

The human frowned, but straightened his back nonetheless, “As long as I don't have to hurt anyone either, then fine .”

A too wide grin split the demon's face, “So we have a deal?”

Pine Tree looked at the gloved hand with a scowl and clenched his jaw. Bill could practically hear the kid's internal dilemma, but they both knew how it was going to turn out.

“Tick Tock, Pine Tree,” Bill drawled, hand outstretched for the taking, “I'm a busy guy.”

Finally, Pine Tree took a bracing breath and clasped onto the demon’s hand; blue flames engulfed the handshake, sealing the deal.

Always a pleasure doing business with you, kid,” the demon drawled- mouth moving slowly over each and every syllable, relishing in the not-so-subtle shiver shooting down the human's spine.

Pine Tree snapped his hand back and snarled, “You know I hate you.”

“Awe, Pine Tree !” Bill cupped his cheeks with both hands, “you know just what to say to make a demon blush!”

 

Chapter Text

^ ^ ^ ^

“Can’t you go any faster?” Bill whined.

“Maybe if somebody would just use their magic ...” Dipper replied sardonically from where he was crouched on the ground, white chalk stains on his hands and pants.

After the deal was struck it had taken no time at all to clear the pyramid out, and even less than that for the human and demon to appear in the exact spot where Dipper had first entered the realm. Since then, the brunet was set to the task of preparing the area for the ritual- hastily following the diagrams on a copy of the paper he gave the demon (who seemed quite intent on keeping the original). All the while Bill watched, far from quietly, on a hammock-like patch of air.

The demon laughed as a frozen drink popped into existence sporting pink umbrella on the rim, “Yeah,” he took a loud slurp, “but this is so much funner.”

“Then you’ll just have to be patient .”

“Yeesh, somebody’s grouchy.”

Dipper groaned and continued his tedious task of carving the elemental runes into the hardwax of the thick ceremonial candles. Bill had vaguely explained that each was a different color signifying not only the elements themselves, but the conditions of holding a physical form. On the red candle, Dipper carved runes for fire and blood; on the blue, water and being; on the white, air and essence; and on the black, earth and bone.

As he did this, Dipper could hear the demon slurp loudly at the emptying glass. Bill sighed in relief when he saw that the other had finished the candles, but practically growled when Dipper started on the intricate designs within the circle itself. The brunet smirked to himself, slowing up a bit to feed the demon's growing frustration.

Serves him right .

Fine !” Bill snapped, both literally and figuratively, and the ground erupted in a flash of blinding blue flames. Dipper yelped back on instinct, but the fire was gone as soon as it came, leaving a perfect Displacement Wheel in its wake. Each shape, symbol, and letter were accounted for with the most finite detail.

“There,” the demon smiled satisfied, hopping down to his feet and rubbing his hands together, “all done.”

“Could’ve used that 20 minutes ago,” Dipper grumbled- rather annoyed- as he got to his feet.

Bill dramatically rolled his eyes, but the human hardly noticed as his gaze burned into the wheel at his feet. This was really it. Whatever happened now would be irreversible; he would be responsible for releasing the demon on his universe.

“Ya sure you wanna do this, kid?” Bill asked suddenly jarring his attention back to the demon in mind.

Dipper met his gaze apprehensively.

“I mean, as far as nightmare realms go, this place really isn’t so bad.” Bill shrugged, “You, uh, could always just stay with-”

“I’m sure,” Dipper cut him off with finality.

“Yeah but, being tied-” Bill seemed to cut himself off by clearing his throat; he sighed before finishing, “you know there’ll be no going back.”

“I know,” Dipper nodded, pointedly deciding not to ask what the demon stopped himself from saying as he caught his reflection in the tiny blade used for the wax, “but there’s already no going back,”

“Good Golly!” The demon laughed, pulling on his old mask as if it never left, “No need to be so dramatic, Pine Tree!”

The brunet cocked his head curiously, catching up with their entire exchange and the demon’s sudden flip of character. What was that all about? Was Bill just messing with him? He must have been because why would he offer Dipper an out? He needed this if he wanted to get out of this realm, and they both knew he did.

Still, if Dipper hadn't know any better, he might have thought, for an instant , that Bill had been being sincere.

But before those thoughts could linger, the demon flicked his wrist and a small dagger materialized in his palm.

"WHoa, wait," the human flinched back at the glint of the sharp blade, "W-why do you need that?"

"What this ?" Bill smirked devilishly, twisting the blade in the moonlight.

“Yes that .” Dipper’s eyes widened.

"What's the matter, Pine Tree, don't you trust me?"

"Not as far as I can throw you."

"HA!” Bill threw his head back. “I highly doubt you could even lift me with those noodle arms!"

Dipper rolled his eyes. "That's the point."

The demon hummed in amusement, “To answer your question, kid, that pathetic slice of metal may be able to carve into your meatsack, but if you tried it on me it wouldn’t leave so much as a scratch!”

Dipper felt all the blood drain from his face as he stammered, “C-carve?”

“Oh yes, Pine Tree, blood to blood , yours to mine,” Bill’s eyes glinted with excitement as he leaned closer to add quietly, “it’s all part of the ritual.”

“So, you’re telling me that in order to complete this,” the human’s mouth was drying out, his pulse hammering in his throat, “I have t-to…”

“Well, you don’t have to,” the demon licked his lips, “I’ll gladly do it for both of us.”

Dipper felt bile rising to the back of his throat.

The demon rolled his eyes, “You did say you’d go as far as you need to to save your pitiful friends.”

His mind’s eye conjured up an image of static monitors. Dipper sighed, He’s right. “Fine,” he said aloud, voice coming out much weaker than intended. The human cleared his throat before starting again, “But what makes your blade so much better? It’s not laced with poison, is it?”

“You and the poison, yeesh!” Bill smiled fondly. He flipped the dagger into the air and caught the blade without hesitation, offering up the handle to the boy. “Look at the hilt.”

Dipper took it cautiously, noticing the thin line of blood now in the meat of Bill’s thumb from where he’d caught it. Well, at least he knew the demon wasn’t lying about its effectiveness. He held the blade curiously to the light, twisting it until it caught on something carved into the metal just beneath the handle. Dipper muttered absently, “It’s those runes.”

“Yupperooni-toonie!” Bill cheered, "It's enough to draw blood, at least." He brought his palm to run his tongue along the small trickle of blood- the wound healing in its wake. Mocha eyes followed the movement intently, absentmindedly, until they settled on the wide, knowing smirk that slowly slid along the demon’s lips. “Kid, are you drooling?”

"N-n-no, I-I- um-" The human reflexively wiped at his mouth while stammering incoherently- the action eliciting a dark chuckle from the demon.

“Gee, I knew you were a little kinky, Pine Tree, but,” Bill crossed his arms and shamelessly roamed his eyes up and down the human's body, “I guess I never realized just how much.”

“W-what? That's ridiculous!” Dipper closed his eyes for a moment to take a deep breath and will the burning in his cheeks away. "All I was doing was watching the way your cut closed up,” he spoke slowly, articulating each word purposely, “How- uh- how'd you do that?"

Sure you were, Pine Tree," Bill winked. "And what part of 'All Powerful Being of Pure Energy' is unclear to you?"

"The part where you were defeated by two 12-year-olds, and have been trapped in an interdimensional pocket of nightmares for the last decade," Dipper muttered without thinking.

" WHAT was that?" The blond spat- golden eye flaring a dangerous ruby red, blue sparks already dancing at his fingertips.

"N- nothing!” Dipper’s voice cracked, “Just, WOW , that's some amazing regenerative power you've got there! Cool!” Dipper rushed out as he awkwardly scratched at the back of his head, “Heh-heh... yeah.”

Bill sharpened his glare, eye fading back to its original color as he studied the boy, "Yeah, that's what I thought you said."

“So,” Dipper began, returning his attention to the object in his hands, “if this blade can really hurt you,” he lowered his voice, speaking more to himself than the demon. Dipper felt a tiny spark of hope in the glint of the intricate runes. “Does that mean it can-”

“Ah- b- b- buh,” Bill shushed him, holding up a finger, “Let me finish that dangerous train of thought for ya, kid. That thing may be able to cut into this meatsack, but trust me when I say that’s about all it can do.”

“Oh,” Dipper’s face fell before he could think better of it; one look at the demon’s wicked expression and he found himself once again cursing his lack of poker face.

Oh ?” Bill repeated with a curious tilt of his head. He slowly stepped closer to the boy until he could curl one finger beneath Dipper’s chin, forcing it up to meet his gaze, “Why do you sound so disappointed?”

“I’m not-"

“You weren't thinking about turning that thing on me, were you, Pine Tree?”

"No," Dipper replied starkly, matching the demon's harsh stare, "of course not."

With a too wide grin, Bill leaned closer, " Good.

Dipper clenched his jaw and stepped back, keeping his mouth shut.

“Now,” Bill straightened up and clapped his hands together, “you ready for the ritual, kid?”

No , the human’s mind screamed at him, still, Dipper nodded- opting for silence as he couldn't trust his words not to betray him.

“Then what are you waiting for?” Bill slapped the human's shoulder, “Let’s do this thing!”

“Okay,” the brunet started with a quick shake of the head, “so, aside from cutting me up, what do you need me to do?”

“Oh right, almost forgot about that…” the demon snapped his fingers.

Ahhh! ” Dipper howled in pain, doubling over with his head cradled in his hands, his skin burning at the touch.

“Sorry about that, kid,” Billed chuckled, proving that he was not, in fact, sorry at all.

“What did you do !?”

“Gifted you with the phenetic knowledge of interdimensional semiotics.”

“Why?” The human growled.

“You’re the one who has to say this, Pine Tree,” Bill shrugged, “and neither of us can really afford for you to mess it up.”

Dipper glared in response.

The demon began to lazily examine his gloved cuticles, “But, hey, if you’d really rather take the chance of messing up a syllable and locking yourself here for all eternity, then be my guest.” He smiled balefully underneath hooded eyes. “There’s plenty of room.”

“You should have asked my permission before deciding to flood my brain with otherworldly knowledge,” The human snapped back, still rubbing at his throbbing temples.

Bill shrugged, toeing at the chalk outline absently.

Dipper scoffed, “And why just phenetic?”

“I only need you to say the words, Pine Tree, not understand them.”

“Dontcha think I might be entitled to the meaning behind the words I'm chanting?”

“Not really.” The demon shrugged. “A deal’s a deal whether you know the words or not.”

“Exactly!” Dipper snapped, “A deal's a deal, so why hide it from me?”

“Keeps things less complicated.”

“In what way?”

“Look, kid, once this is all said and done, I'd very much like to not see your face for awhile.” Bill added offhandedly, “No matter how cute it is.”

“Trust me, the feeling is mutual.” Dipper gruffed. The demon quirked a curious eyebrow and he flushed, hastily tacking on, “The, uh, the ‘not seeing yours face’ bit.”

Bill chuckled, “Then let’s agree that you know all you need to and get this little show on the road, eh?”

Dipper raised his hands in surrender, “K, fine, keep your secrets! Just, um, one more question…”

The demon growled in annoyance, “ What, Pine Tree?”

“Well, um, I mean,” the brunet stammered, “is that, like, it ?”

Bill rolled his eyes, “Is what it?”

“The- the,” Dipper gulped, “cutting and the spell… is that it? Is that all I have to do to keep up my end of the deal?”

The demon regarded him quietly- seemingly on the fence between sharing and secrecy. “Pine Tree,” he started finally in warning, “I thought we’d just agreed on keeping things less complicated.”

“I’m not talking about whatever it is you don’t want to tell me,” Dipper snapped, “I’m talking about anything else I have to do to get you through so you can keep up your end!” He crossed his arms. “Ya know, dissolving the cult, keeping my friends safe .”

“Oh well, hm,” Bill cupped his chin, “let me think…” he began listing things on his fingers, “there’s the candles, check; the wheel, check- no thanks to you-”

Dipper rolled his eyes.

The demon continued on the third finger in, “There’s the cutting, the speaking, and- oh yes...” Bill licked his lips before he slowly found the human’s eyes, “then there’s the matter of sealing the deal.”

‘Sealing the deal’ ?” Dipper repeated slowly, skeptically. “Like a handshake?”

“Aw!” Bill cooed, reaching over to gently pinch the human’s cheek, “So innocent, Pine Tree!”

“Get off me!” Dipper pushed away with a look of contempt, rubbing at his face as the demon regarded him with amusement. “What kind of seal then? And don’t say I have to spit into my palm...”

“Ha!” Bill laughed, “For a spell like this, we’ll need something a little stronger than that .”

“What then?”

“Tell me, Pine Tree,” the other started while slowly swiping his thumb across his bottom lip, “what kind of lip balm do you use?”

Dipper’s face flushed dramatically as he took a big step back, “Oh no. Stop right there.” His stomach twisted, but he couldn’t stop himself from looking at the demon’s sadistically curved lips, “There’s no way in hell !”

“Actually,” Bill sighed, stepping toward the boy, “there are several ways in hell, and you’ll hopefully choose to do the one that’s easiest because I am,” another step, “QUICKLY losing my patience and a deal,” he was mere inches from the other now, peering down at the human with a deadly promise in his eye, “is a DEAL!

Dipper tried to hide his reflexive response to the demon’s anger by groaning in what he hoped would be perceived as frustration rather than fear.

FINE !” he exclaimed as he threw up his hands. Dipper pulled out his copy of the spells from his back pocket before pushing past the other’s shoulder to get to the center of the circle. “Let's just get this over with.”

“That's the spirit!”

/¤\ /¤\ /¤\ /¤\

“Okay,” Pine Tree started, looking up at the blond with paling cheeks, “how do we start?”

Bill licked his lips and manifested another gleaming blade as he stalked toward the boy in the center, relishing in the heavy bob of the human’s adam’s apple as those wide mocha eyes glued themselves to it. “Shall I do the honor?”

Pine Tree drew his bottom lip between his teeth, eyes never leaving the dagger. “Now, you’re sure you're not going to kill me,” he started in a wheezy voice, “r-right?”

The demon’s smile widened, “Not today, Pine Tree.”

“Oh that’s comforting,” the brunet grumbled under his breath.

“Look,” Bill started, twisting the point of the blade on his fingertip, “if it’ll make you feel better, or whatever, you can cut me first.”

“Believe it or not, that wouldn’t make me feel better.”

“Really?” Bill rolled his eyes. “After everything, you still don’t want to hurt the demon that terrorized you?” Said demon shook his head sadly. “You’re too nice, kid.”

“Oh no,” Pine Tree corrected with an offended hand up, “I never said I didn’t want to hurt you, because believe me, heh” his face cracked as he spoke, “ I do . But…” The human sighed in defeat, “the thing is, if you let me cut into you first I don’t know if I’d be able to stop, which- even if it wouldn't kill you- would kind of get in the way of me getting home.”

Oh, well that certainly was not the response Bill had been expecting. He smiled widely as he replied, “There you go again with that dangerous honesty of yours.”

“I just didn’t want you to get the wrong idea about my feelings toward you.”

“Ha! You are a riot, Pine Tree!” the demon exclaimed with an echoing laugh. “I have to admit,” he started, slicking back his bangs, “that I’m relieved to hear you say all that. I was starting to get the idea that maybe I and your memories of me hadn’t traumatized you enough over the years.”

Pine Tree rolled his eyes with a disgusted sort of grunt and began folding his left sleeve to his elbow. “Are we doing this or not?”

“As you wish, my little sapling!” Bill’s eyes gleamed with hunger, a predatory grin wide on his face as he brought the blade to the newly exposed flesh just below the wrist. The human winced loudly at the bite of steel, but, to his credit, remained still while the other slowly traced the main vein.

“Bill, stop!” He gasped, out of breath as he watched blood begin to pool in the wake of the dagger now being pulled through the meet of his palm, “I’m going to bleed out!”

Pine Tree pulled back and the demon let him. Bill raised the blade to himself, starting from his left palm. He laughed at the first sight of blood, at the feeling of the blade- warm from the slick of the human’s blood- breaking through his “skin”. Pain - very real pain that belonged exclusively to him - erupted from the opening wound, and it felt so good !

“Jesus Christ, Bill ,” Pine snapped at the cackling demon, desperately cradling his own arm, “ hurry the fuck up!

“Yeesh,” the blond scoffed through an involuntary wince before he clasped at the other’s bleeding wrist, “you’re no fun.”

Pine Tree took a moment to gag at the feeling of their mixing blood as he, too, grasped at the demon’s open wound. And the human tried not to focus on the other’s absence of a steady pulse when he began chanting the words only the other understood:

“Neewreb lla dna, ecaps, emit ssorc sgnirts owt…”

The human’s brow was furrowed in concentration, lips quickly moving over the impossible sounds in an unwavering voice- as though he wasn’t bleeding out beneath the devil’s grasp. However, it was his eyes that gave him away. His pupils blackening the rich mocha irises, the whites surrounding just a little more pronounced than normal- the kid was frightened, rightfully so.

“...Enevnoc llahs reverof lit won morf setaf owt…”

And Bill supposed that maybe he should feel bad for the human, after all, he was sacrificing far more than he knew- than the other would allow him to know. Still, the demon couldn’t muster up the feelings to even pretend as though he wasn’t enjoying that fear in Pine Tree’s eyes or the feeling of the other's blood pulsing against his grip. Bill’s lips were permanently twisted into a malicious smile as he watched the kid continue; had he an average heart the demon imagined it would be pounding wildly in excitement.

“...DoolB ot doolB

Sruoh ruo dnib I…”

At the outer edge of Bill’s focus, if he'd been able to pry his eyes from the human’s, he might have noticed that the flames of the candles had flickered to a deep scarlet or that the dusty chalk outline was now glowing solid and blue. The stillness of the air might also have caught his attention if not for Pine Tree’s slacking grip and alarmingly pale face. Maybe he’d cut too deeply, too perfectly along the human’s artery. The kid was quickly bleeding out and it was his own damn fault! Bill tightened his hold, pulling the other closer to keep him steady.

“... LliW ot lliW…”

Pine Tree’s voice was coming out softer with each breath, but, dammit, he was just so close!

“C’mon, kid,” the demon started reassuringly, drawing the brunet’s focus back to him, “don’t give up on me now.”

Pine Tree nodded, straightening up and taking a deep breath to continue,

“...Srewop ruoy dnib I…”

Wait what!? Bill’s eyes widened in panic as a white hot pulse moved through him. The flames flared up around them, a cerulean blue reflection of his magic.

“...EniviD ot gnieb latroM…”

“No, wait-” the demon tried to jerk back, but it was too late, their cuts burned blinding blue beneath each other's grasp, the connection too strong to break away as Pine Tree uttered the final line:

“... Enim ot luos gnitsal ruoy dnib I”

Bill felt the world shift around them, the ground beneath his feet quaked, and with the swirling wind questions raced through his mind: ‘Sprewop ruoy dnib I'!? What did that mean? Did it mean anything? And beyond that, he’d read the scrap of paper a thousand times, how could he have missed that line!?

But then there were soft lips pressing against his, and everything else went silent.

Cool electricity shot through his body; a blood damp hand tangled its fingers into his hair, pulling him closer. The only thing that existed in that moment was the feeling of Pine Tree’s lips- the heat between their mouths. Bill felt himself relax against those lips and pressed forward. His free hand snaked around the kid's waist as the other's mouth moved with his own.

Each blisfully unaware of the universe morphing around them until they came apart with a soft smack. 

"Wow," Bill started lowly- eyes half lidded, he watched as Pine Tree slowly caught up to the moment, "what a way to seal a deal."

With that the human began to pull away- horror and disgust written on his face- but as soon as he was just out of the demon's touch, Pine Tree crumpled to the floor. 

Chapter Text

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

11:49 PM

“Mabel, sweetie, you need to calm down,” Stan stated gently (or as gently as the man knew how) from where he sat at the kitchen table.

“I need to calm down?” Mabel paused in her nervous pacing to glare at her grunkles, a strong palm on her chest, “ I need to calm DOWN !? I think it’s you who need to calm UP ! Aren’t you guys even concerned?”

“Of course we are,” Ford started assuringly, “but we also trust Dipper. I’m sure he’s only taking his time to stay safe.”

“But why isn’t he answering his phone? He’d know I’d be worried!”

“Well, would you rather him answer your calls or pay attention to the road?”

Mabel crossed her arms and grumbled something about priorities.

“Look,” Stan started as he cracked into a can of Pitt Cola, “the kid’s too responsible to get into any trouble on the road. Heheh, I mean I’ve never seen him go faster than the speed limit!”

“But what if something happened ?” Mabel protested, “It is raining and the roads are probably awful and accidents are called accidents because they happen by accident ! What if somebody hit him !?” Her pacing resumed, fingers twisting through the bottom of her braid. “What if a deer ran out or a tire popped or an alien spaceship crash landed and they had to kidnap him so he wouldn’t be able to tell anyone!?”

“Mabel,” Stan stopped her with a hand on her shoulder, “I’m telling ya, you’re worrying over nothing. Just watch, he’s going to walk through that door any minute now.”

12:33 AM

“Okay,” Stan started from where the three sat at the table, staring at the door, “I’m officially worried.”

“Do you think we should go look for him?” Ford asked, looking at his brother who was looking at their great niece who was already slipping into her oversized rain boots.

“You're darn tootin we should!” She exclaimed before whistling loudly. A round pink face popped up from an even rounder body curled in front of the sink. “C’mon Waddles, to the Mabel-mobile!” In a flash, she was out the door and racing to the car through the downpour, her companion close behind. Not a full minute later and the car’s horn blared over a low rumble of thunder.

“I hate saying this,” Ford complained, his joints creaking in protest as he got to his feet, “but I think I’m getting too old for these late night escapades.”

“I resent that- ouch!” Stan responded before his back cracked loudly, “Okay, maybe you have a point.”

Mabel waited, impatiently drumming her fingers on the wheel of her ruby pink SUV. Waddles was strapped safely in his harness in the backseat, which, years ago, would have made the elder twin scoff. Now however, when Stan slid beside the beast he simply patted his head with a muttered, “Good Pig.” Ford strapped in the passenger seat- weirdness detector in hand- and Mabel took off into the night.

The downpour had deepened a few potholes on the way to the main road, splashing mud to the windows as the brunette kept a heavy foot on the gas. Stan cursed loudly from the back at each bump while Ford seemed to have become one with the panic bar above the door. But Mabel Pines couldn't care less; her brother needed her, she could feel it.

“That's strange,” Ford grunted, squinting at the device in his free hand, “there's nothing on the radar.”

Mabel gasped and accelerated a little harder .

“Why is that strange?” Stan asked cautiously, “Isn't that a good thing? What am I missing?”

“Because this is Gravity Falls ,” Ford explained, “and there is always something abnormal going on. The last time I saw a reading like this was when we were in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle- I.E The Epicenter of Weird.”

“So what does that mean, Grunkle Ford?” Mabel asked in a panic, “Do you think it has something to do with Dipper?”

“Honestly, I don't know,” he responded with a solemn shake of the head, “but whatever it is can’t be good, and if Dipper-”

“Hold up, Poindexter,” the elder twin interrupted, “before you go getting anybody wound up,” he cast a worried look to the driver, “ever consider that maybe you're little doohickey is just busted?”

“Not likely,” Ford responded offendely. Stan whacked his brother on the arm and gestured to Mabel- knuckles white, teeth gnawing on her lower lip- and Ford quickly cleared his throat. “U-um, I mean, it has been awhile since I changed the batteries, so it’s really probably nothing to be worried about!” He laughed awkwardly as his brother facepalmed in the back. But, as far as he could tell, the girl driving made no indication that she’d heard him. Ford sighed, setting a gentle hand on his great niece’s shoulder.  “I’m sure he’s fine, Mabel.”

“But you don’t know that,” she replied in little more than a whisper as tears pooled in her eyes.

Finally, they turned onto the main road (Stan gruffed a “Oh thank God” at the smooth pavement), and the first thing they saw was a line of flashing lights- reds and blues competing with the white hot lightning cracking through the sky. There were no sirens, but even if there were Mabel wouldn't have been able to hear them over the pounding in her ears as she caught sight of the little blue outback buried in the tree line.

Mabel’s heart leapt to her throat, constricting her breath as every muscle seemed to freeze up. She hadn’t even realized she’d pressed on the brakes until Grunkle Stan let himself out of the backdoor. Slowly putting the car in park, the brunette slipped out of her seat in a daze, Ford close behind. As soon as the cool rain hit her face, Mabel snapped out of her shock and switched into panic mode. She began sprinting toward the car, easily dodging the first two officers before being caught around the waist by Deputy Durland.

“Whoa there, missy,” he started in his high country drawl, “can’t let you go any further.”

“Where’s Dipper?” Mabel demanded as she thrashed against him, but the small man was surprisingly strong and kept her from getting past.

“Mabel!” Stan shouted as he rushed over, “He’s not here.”

She twisted her head so quickly that her wet braid whipped over her shoulder, smacking Durland in the face.

“What do you mean ‘he’s not here’!?” She asked desperately, bangs stuck to her face as rain mixed with worried tears. “Where the double heck is he!?”

“Well, I reckon he’s halfway to the hospital by now,” Blubs answered, appearing beside Stan’s shoulder. “He was unconscious when we found him.”

“Sheriff,” Ford started now, “what exactly happened ?”

Blubs tilted his hat up as he spoke, “As far as we can tell, something ran into the road, making your nephew swerve right into that tree.”

“What makes you say that?”

“There’s no evidence that anything else happened,” he shrugged, “unless you think Mr. Paranoid drove himself into that tree?”

“But it’s raining !” Mabel protested, “How can you be so sure the ‘evidence’ you need didn’t get washed away!”

“Do you have reason to believe it was anything else, Miss Pines?” Blubs asked condescendly, “Does your brother have any enemies ? Ya know, other than the Bigfoot?”

He and Durland broke into a fit of laughter. Mabel clenched her jaw, curled a fist, but her arm was seized before she could step forward.

“It’s not worth it, sweetie,” Stan grunted, casting a glare in the direction of the officers.

“He’s right, Mabel,” Ford started with his hand on her other shoulder as he and Stan began leading her back to the car, “right now, we should just focus on getting to Dipper.”

Mabel had always liked hospitals. In fact, she often volunteered at them- mostly in the children’s wings, but, really, she was happy to help wherever. She loved doing what she could to help the patients and families feel better, and made it her personal mission to make each person she encountered smile- which really wasn’t hard to do because, well, Dipper always called her the epitome of sunshine and rainbows and she had to admit she agreed with his assessment.

There wasn’t much that a glitter-bomb bandaid and a personal ballad from Mabel Pines couldn’t do to cheer somebody up! Unless, of course, it’s Mabel Pines herself that needs the cheering, and as she pushed through those heavy hospital doors, she knew that no amount of glitter would be able to lift her spirits.

He was going into imaging right then and wasn't yet assigned a room, so the Pines family were asked to wait for more information in the lobby. This didn't help Mabel’s anxiety.

She alternated between drumming her fingers on her knees and getting up to pace as she twisted her braid.

“Pines family,” a small lady in blue scrubs and a white coat called. She was standing- raven hair pinned up as she looked from her clipboard to the trio that seemed to have manifested in front of her.

“What's going on?” Mabel asked, voice cracking as she spoke. “Is my brother okay?”

The doctor smiled softly, the kind of smile that had a sense of uncertainty behind it. “Well, his arm is fractured in two places and he's still unconscious so, obviously, we’ll need to keep him here until he comes to.”

“Any sign of a head injury?” Ford asked.

“Not at the moment,” she hesitated, “but the it may take some time to show up in imaging. The most we can do right now is make sure he’s taken care of.”

“When can I see him?” Mabel demanded.

“Right now, if you'd like,” the doctor replied. The others nodded eagerly and she happily obliged, leading them through the labyrinth halls of the cold, stale hospital.

When they came to Dipper’s room, Mabel found herself hesitating at the door. She wasn’t completely sure what she was going to see. Would he be like some coma patient in a movie, all hooked up to machines and tubes? Mabel gulped, at the image, but made herself step inside regardless.

Dipper lay peacefully in the center of a small hospital bed. There were no big scary machines around him, only moderately nerve racking ones for things like his pulse and oxygen regulation. IVs stuck into his uninjured arm as the other was carefully wrapped and resting on his chest in a black sling. His eyes were closed, every muscle in his face relaxed beneath the thin tube for oxygen. He was bruised and scraped up from the accident. There was a small line of stitches at the edge of Dipper’s right eyebrow, the skin around it purpling.

He look pretty beaten up, but he was there and alive and not hooked up to a million machines. Mabel sank into the chair beside him, immediately trapping his hand between hers.

“C-Can I talk to him?” The girl asked in a small voice, interrupting the incoherent babble happening between the doctor and Ford.

“It can't hurt to try,” the doctor encouraged.

“Hey Bro-bro,” Mabel sniffled, squeezing her hand a bit tighter, “it’s me, um,” she fixed her gaze on her brother’s peaceful face and felt her throat closing up, “I'm sorry for all the times I picked on you and canceled plans and for telling Jock Brad about the lamby-lamby dance.” Her voice cracked as she spoke, “The thing is, Dip-dop, I don’t know what I’d do without you, and I don’t want-" she cut herself off with a small sob. Stan places his hand on her shoulder as she took a deep breath. “Just,” the girl hiccupped, “wake up soon, okay?”

A little later, Ford offered to drive Waddles- who by now had been moved to sleep soundly in the back of the SUV- home while Mabel insisted that she wasn't leaving until he woke up. She left only to grab a blanket and her emergency knitting bag from the car, and, of course, to explain to Waddles the situation. She kissed the pig goodnight then turned back to the room as quickly as she could.

Stan was set on staying too, but the worried girl insisted he go get a nice sleep in his own bed, after all “he wasn't as young as he once was". So, after hardly any convincing, both grunkles went back to the shack while Mabel curled herself in the chair beside her brother. 

Chapter Text

^ ^ ^ ^

Before Dipper Pines came to, he had six very distinct memories that floated to the surface of his flickering consciousness in no particular order:

First that came to mind were lips- hot and soft and somehow so wrong .

Next was a mad flurry of sirens, voices and bright lights.

Then everything was silent and he was being carried, bridal style and pressed against a warm body.

And suddenly Mabel’s voice was calling to him, her hand wrapped tightly around his as she cried. How he wanted so desperately to be able to let her know that he was right there, but he was dragged back into nothingness before he could muster the strength.

At some point there was a piercing pain that erupted from his left arm and sent white hot shocks through his body.

But the very last thing the human remembered before waking up was The Other voice speaking to him as he was maneuvered back into his crumpled car. “You’re probably gonna be out for a few days, kid,” it said, higher pitched and eerily familiar. “You humans are so weak ! HA!” The laughter cut off suddenly as a soft thumb ran across his lower lip, “See ya around, Pine Tree.”

And the next thing Dipper knew, he was making his way back to reality one heavy blink at a time.

The air tasted stale in his mouth as he licked his lips, it didn’t quite match up with the cool stream he was breathing in through his nose, which he quickly came to realize was an oxygen tube. The lights were too bright, making his vision spin when his eyelids opened completely. Automatically, he curled his fingers and toes, only to discover that the fingers on his left hand didn’t want to move easily. Odd, he tried again, but still felt a firm restriction to his efforts.

“Dipper?” Mabel’s small, sleep strained voice asked from his side, stopping his investigation of his left arm. “Dipper, are you really awake?”

The boy’s lips twitched up in response, and didn’t that feel strange? It was like he had to fight his own muscles for such a simple movement. But he fought against them once more to carefully twist his head to the side so that he could look at his sister. Her eyes were red and clouded with tears, her expression caught between relief, joy, and apprehension- as if she wasn't quite sure it was real.

“Hey, Mabes,” he managed in barely a whisper, vocal chords unused in days. The girl broke into sobs and threw herself on the other to awkwardly wrap her arms around him. Dipper winced- finally feeling the cast as it was crushed against his ribs- and she immediately jumped back.

“Sorry, bro-bro,” she hiccupped, wiping at the tears on her cheeks, “I was just so scared that you weren't going to wake up, even though they told me you would because your injures weren't too severe, but still I kept thinking ‘What if they're wrong’ , ya know?” Tears continued welling from her eyes, “but they weren't and you're awake and I'm just-" She broke off crying again.

“Mabel, it's okay,” Dipper assured her as he reached for her hand with his free one, voice still gravely, “I'm fine , I-I think.”

She took it and squeezed, using it to ground herself and stop crying. Not that Dipper minded the crying, he was used to it because it had always seemed like the healthiest way for his sister to express her feelings, but he never like being the cause of it. So he squeezed her hand back to keep reminding her that he was okay now.

“Hey, Mabel,” he started a few minutes later, “What happened to me?”

She looked up at him, biting her lip, “You don't remember?”

“Not-” Dipper squinted as it would help him see through his clouded memories, “-really. I mean, I remember getting to Gravity Falls, it was raining, then it all just kinda becomes a blur.”

“So, you don’t remember anything about driving off the road?”

“What?” the boy asked, surprised. “No, why would I- ah !” He was cut off by a pain that shot through his spine when he tried to sit up too quickly.

“Whoa, Dipper,” Mabel started carefully helping him lean back, “calm down, it’s not that big of a deal.”

“Of course it is, Mabel!” He rose his voice as best as it would allow him, “I was in a car accident and can’t even remember how it happened! Was anyone else hurt?”

She shook her head. “Just you, bro-bro.”

“That-” doesn’t sound right … “-is good.” Dipper shook his head slowly, muscles already reawakening themselves. “Well, why did I drive off the road? Was there an animal or something? Who found me? How did they find me?” Why do I get the feeling that I’m missing something important ?

“Sheriff Blubs found you during his patrol of the area, and, yes, they believe it must have been something that ran onto the road, causing you to swerve.”

“I guess that makes sense,” he responded mechanically. Something wasn’t adding up, but Dipper couldn’t quite put his finger on what .

“Though, I still can’t figure out why Blubs chose to patrol that area in the middle of a storm!” Mabel added gruffly, obviously suspicious of the officer’s claim, but Dipper couldn’t see any reason why . So what if he decided to patrol an area miles outside of town in the middle of a monsoon-esque storm? If he hadn’t, who knows what would have happened to Dipper.

Still, Mabel was right, it was odd, and certainly didn’t help Dipper’s deep feeling that something was wrong with the story…

“Dipper?” Stan gruffed from the doorway, the already elderly man looked about ten years older as he looked at the boy with wide worried eyes.

Dipper smiled, “Hi Grunkle Stan.”

Stan sighed, extra ages melting away as he made his way to the bed. “Cripes, kid, you really gave us a scare! How ya feelin?”

The brunet searched himself for that answer, letting each nerve reach out until he could even feel the warm fabric around his toes. It was strange; for being in an accident, the boy really didn’t feel too terrible. A little sore, but nothing too out of the ordinary. Even his busted arm felt normal, albeit a tad itchy, though that could have just been because of how tight the cast was.

“I feel fine actually,” Dipper answered, a little surprised at the fact himself.

“That’s good,” Stan replied, “because you look like hell.”

“Grunkle Stan!” Mabel scorned with a quick whack to the other’s arm.

“Really?” Dipper frowned. “How bad?”

“Well, like you got into a car accident, I guess?” Mabel offered. She pulled out her phone and handed it to him in selfie mode.

“Arrgh!” Dipper grimaced at himself, face covered in yellowing bruises. There were stitches above his eyebrow and other scrapes across his cheeks and forehead. His eyes looked sunken in and dark, as though he’d stayed up for days instead of being unconscious. “Is this really what I look like?”

“Yup! Beautiful, ain’t it?” Stan laughed, “Well, I should call Ford and tell him to get back here!”

Stan left in a hurry, leaving the twins to themselves. Dipper prodded at his skin, and noticed how odd it was that all he felt was his finger poking his face. He tried for the center of a particularly nasty looking bruise, and came to the same result. There wasn’t any ache or sting where there should’ve been. Must be the meds.

“Mason Pines,” a woman with a sweet southern drawl started on her way into the room, “I see you’ve joined the waking world,” she smiled warmly, “welcome back.”

“Um,” Dipper regarded her with a strong sense of recognition. She had to be maybe a few years older than him, though she looked much younger. Her ink-black hair was pinned back, but he could clearly imagine it hanging in her face over those icy green eyes. But that wasn’t possible, so the boy quickly shook his head to dismiss the thought. “Th-thanks. It’s, uh, good to be back, I guess.”

“Yes, well, you certainly were missed.” The doctor smiled at Mabel who tucked her lose hair behind her ear. “I’m Dr. Relic, and I’ve been keeping an eye on you, though, not as much as your family has. They’ve hardly left your side!”

Dipper awkwardly cleared his throat, “So, um, Dr. Relic, how long have I been unconscious?”

“Nearly 72 hours.”

“Three days!” The boy hollered, straightening up in his bed, “Are you serious!?”

“Quite,” Dr. Relic replied calmly, “and I suggest that you take it easy, Mr. Pines, or you might end up having to stay a bit longer.”

Dipper took a deep breath and sat himself back, heavy arm lying across his stomach. “What happened to me?”

“Well, I’m sure you’ve noticed that your left arm has been put into a cast,” she nodded to it, “it’s fractured in two places, and should take about 8 weeks to fully heal.”

“8 weeks?” the boy groaned, “So I’ll be heading off to school with a busted arm, just great!

“You also sustained some trauma to your ribs, and, obviously, your head from the impact of the car hitting the trees, which put you in a minor coma. Other than that, there were a few cuts and bruises, but nothing major.”

He looked to his sister and asked, “And my car?”

She pinched her face, not wanting to deliver the news, but knowing she had to. “Totalled.”

Dipper was silent as he processed this information.

“Well, look on the bright side,” Mabel chimed in, trying to lift the mood, “at least we’re still on mom and dad’s health insurance!”

It didn’t help.

^ ^ ^ ^

He was discharged a few hours later after a final run of tests; Ford met him at the door of Mabel’s SUV with a hearty hug.

“How are you, Dipper?” he asked once they were on the road. He sat behind the wheel while Mabel and Stan were passed out in the back. Three days of little sleep was bound to catch up to them.

Dipper shrugged, still unsure of how to answer that question. “I’m still a little in shock, to be honest.”

Ford hummed thoughtfully. “Can I ask you something, son?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Mabel told me you don’t remember the accident, is that right?”

Dipper’s nerves rose and he turned his attention to the passing trees. “Yeah, that’s right.”

“Nothing at all?” Ford prodded.

“Well,” the brunet tensed, “yeah, I mean, I don’t, like, remember anything…”

“But?”

“I don’t know, Grunkle Ford,” Dipper replied in a small voice, absently wrapping his free arm around himself, “it’s like I can’t make out what exactly happened, but I just have a strange feeling.”

“What kind of feeling?”

“Like something’s missing ,” he mumbled,  “like there was more that happened than what everyone’s told me.”

“Well, Dipper,” Ford started comfortingly, “it makes sense that you’d feel that way. Afterall, you were the one it happened to, so if something doesn’t sound right, odds are it isn’t. Trust your instincts.”

“But what if my instincts led me to do something really stupid?” the boy asked, surprising himself with the random question.

Ford just laughed, “Well, whatever happened, you did run into the treeline!”

Dipper chuckled, feeling some of the anxiety loosen its hold on his chest. “I guess that’s true.”

“What are you nerds laughing about?” Stan grumbled from the back.

“Nothing, Grunkle Stan,” Dipper said with a grin, “go back to sleep.”

Stan grunted then promptly resumed his snoring.

“Dipper,” Ford started again as they turned onto the gravel road, “if you think it’d help, we could alway try using the memory scanner. After you’ve had a bit of rest, of course.”

“Thanks, Grunkle Ford,” Dipper sighed in relief knowing he wouldn’t have to live in the dark of whatever it was he wasn’t remembering, “I might take you up on that.”

“Ugh,” Mabel groaned as she leaned on the back of Dipper’s seat, “I’m so hungry I could ride a horse!”

Dipper snorted, “Don’t you mean ‘eat a horse’?”

Mabel gasped in horror, “I would never !”

“Well then it’s a good thing we’re home,” Ford announced as they pulling into the shack.

“Yaaayyy!” Mabel yelled as she threw herself out of the car. Dipper smiled to himself, just taking in the moment as he looked up at the shack. It had been years, but the old building somehow still looked the same. The S was still hanging to the side, the walls full of splinters just waiting to happen, the front door's red paint was chipping- only thing missing was a group of easily fooled tourists moving like a herd across the front lawn.

“Where is everybody?” Dipper asked.

“Stan had Soos close early today once you woke up,” Ford answered.

“Really?” Dipper grinned, an overwhelming feeling of appreciation blooming in his chest. “He closed for me ?”

“Eh, don’t get the wrong idea, kid,” Stan started as he stepped past him toward the house, “I just didn’t feel like having a bunch of strangers in my house today, that’s all. Sheesh, isn’t a man allowed one day off?”

Dipper and Ford laughed as they followed the man in. The old slats on the porch creaked with Dipper’s weight- a familiar sound, one that said: “Welcome home” as he moved across it. Ford held the door for the boy, and he eagerly stepped through. But as soon as he crossed through the foyer, Dipper was hit with a heavy wave of dizziness. His vision blurred and knees buckled, luckily Ford caught his elbow before he went all the way down.

“What’s wrong, kid?” a frighteningly familiar voice echoed through a foggy memory, “Leprechorn caught your tongue? Ha!”

Dipper turned ghost white as he gasped out to the voice, “W-what?”

“I asked you what’s wrong, Dipper?” Ford responded, bringing the boy back to the moment.

“Are you okay?” Mabel asked, looming over him in a panic.

Dipper took a deep breath to slow down his heart rate. “‘M fine, really,” he straightened back on his feet, ignoring the intense vertigo he got with the movement, “just got a little light headed.” His family's look of concern was making his skin crawl, he had to say something to change it. “You know, I haven’t eaten anything yet today, so that must be it.”

Ford studied him skeptically before sighing, “Why don’t you go rest up on the couch while we whip up some dinner, hm?”

“How'd you like spaghetti?” Stan asked.

“Sounds good!” Dipper replied. Mabel walked with him to the living room and plopped down beside him on the couch.

“Whatcha wanna watch, bro-bro?” she asked as she dug out the remote.

“Anything that's on.” Dipper shrugged.

“Ooo, they have some old Ducktective reruns on!”

Dipper's mind flashed to his old bedroom door- only it was black-and-white and illuminated by a giant eye-shaped moon. Dipper rubbed at his temples with one hand, wincing at how fast the memory came and went, and wondering what it could mean .

“Dipper?” Mabel started, voice heavy with concern, “Seriously, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I'm good,” he lied with a false smile, “just getting tired.”

She sighed, and her expression told him she wasn't buying it. “C’mon, Dip, you can't lie to me.”

“I'm not,” he started defensively. “I really am just tired and hungry, okay? So just drop it.”

Mabel shook her head, but didn't push the topic. “Well dinner shouldn't take too long, then you can just go to sleep, I guess. Your things are already upstairs for you.”

Dipper sighed, feeling guilty. “Sorry, Mabel, I didn't mean to snap at you.”

“It’s okay, Dip-dop,” she shrugged, “I understand, you've been through a lot.”

He looked at the floor, the sense that that was an understatement came back to him. “Yeah.”

Dinner was ready after two episodes of Ducktective, and Dipper was glad for it. He wasn't really hungry, but after the big deal he made of it, he knew he had to eat. But then he was home free to go upstairs and catch some time alone . Not that he didn't want to be with his family- they really must have been worried sick about him- but he couldn't shake the feeling that he had some things he had to figure out asap.

So as soon as he was assured that his help wasn't wanted cleaning up, Dipper climbed the stairs up to the attic. Dust flew into the air at the movement of the door, hovering in the moonlight which peered through the window on the far wall. Dipper's heart pounded as he looked at the familiar triangular glass, his body froze up and he felt all the blood drain from his face.

“It's just a window , Dipper,” the boy started to the empty room, “get ahold of yourself!”

It took a couple more seconds to make himself move, but when he did, Dipper quickly flipped on the light, illuminating the rest of the room and somewhat drowning out the blackness beyond the window.

Dipper looked around the old space, noting all that had changed since he'd last visited. There was only one bed now, but that was nothing new- the twins had had separate bedrooms since their second summer at the shack. The big round carpet in the middle of the room had been replaced with a larger oval one- alternating colors of blue and tan from the middle to the edge. On the wall that had been Mabel’s bed now sat a long and low bookshelf filled to the brim.

On the other side of the window- where her headboard once was- sat a large desk. Much bigger than the student one there last time, this one had enough room for his laptop, journal, and his elbows! The tall dresser still stood on the wall beside the door, ready to be filled with his things sitting on the mattress.

It felt warm and cozy- like home. Or, it would have if not for the paranoid glances Dipper kept stealing at the window every few seconds. It was the one thing in the room that made him uncomfortable- as though he was being watched . He'd have to ask about putting up a sheet or something; he could blame it on the sun rising so early and waking him up.

But there was nothing he could do for now, his head was already spinning with questions. And he really didn't want to go to his grunkles for something so silly, at least in the morning he could use the sun excuse. So Dipper moved his bags to the floor with a heavy thud , and threw himself on the bed to catch a silent minute.

He was running, running through gnarled trees too black and too smooth to be real. But they were because they were there , looming over him as he went. The ash-like ground seemed to get deeper and deeper the further he ran, slowing his pace until he was struggling to lift either leg.

Move . A voice- his own though he hardly recognized it- rang through the air. So the boy kept moving against the force keeping him stagnate.

Hurry, he's coming!

‘Who's coming?’ he wanted to ask, but the question was drowned out by piercing laughter which resonated across the dark woods. He frantically moved his head every direction, looking for the phantom.

GO! GO! GO!

But it was too late, there was already a hand hooking itself around the back of his neck. When he whipped his head forward, he was met with a face inches from his- striking blue and gold eyes freezing him to the spot. The stranger's hot breath fanned across his face as their lips curved into a toothy grin, “Gotcha, Pine Tree.”

Dipper woke in a cold sweat, gasping desperately for breath. Without missing a beat, he pulled the chain for the bedside lamp- heart hammering to the point he could feel it against his own skull. Before he could even catch his breath, his stomach churned violently as bile rose to his throat, giving him just enough time to make it to the trash can beside the desk before emptying itself inside.

Dipper groaned and flopped himself back- half on the cool wood, half on the soft carpet. Heart still racing, he forced himself to breathe as he pointed out random things in the room.

Breath. “Dresser,” deep breath , “blue rug,” deeper breath , “heavy ass duffles,” slow breath , “ War and Peace ? Huh, I should read that.”

The brunet slowly sat back up- supporting himself with his good arm as he went- and wiped at his mouth. The day's clothes were now drenched in sweat, which Dipper figured saved him time since he now only needed to change once . That deep sleep really came out of nowhere. One second he was working up the motivation to unpack, the next he was waking up in terror; but in no time between did he ever remember being tired .

Must have been the- but the thought cut off when Dipper realized that he hadn't taken any medication since leaving the hospital. He truly hadn't felt as though he needed it. Which meant that all this weirdness couldn't be from that, nor was it from pain because he still had yet to feel any at all.

Regardless, he'd decided he needed water- both for drinking and for splashing in his face. So, as soon as Dipper stripped down into fresh boxers, he blindly made his way to the bathroom. The rest of the shack was sound asleep, even Waddles could be heard snoring through Mabel’s door, which told the boy it really was late. He was careful to tiptoe his way down the halls.

Dipper groaned reflexively at his reflection when he turned on the small light, still not quite believing it was him. But it had to be because it moved as he did, right?

You're just being paranoid , Dipper, he reminded himself as gargled some cool water. Everything is fine , he splashed some on his face and turned off the faucet then the light on the way out. There's no voice in the woods, he began his trek back to the stairs in the dark. It's just in your-

His foot missed the second stair, he fell forward, and instinctively tried to catch himself with his arm in front of him. His cast hit the stairs with a dull thunk as his body weight sunk forward. There was pressure from his cast which pinched at his skin, but not the blinding, curse worthy pain that he expected.

Dipper's eyes widened as he stood back up, looking around anxiously to make sure nobody was stirred by the noise. Then, once it seemed he was still the only one awake, he tried flexing his exposed fingers. They moved, and again the only thing he felt was the uncomfortable strain from the cast.

There were no meds in his system, he definitely was not unconscious, and this was certainly not fine !

In a silent panic- he didn't want to wake or worry anyone until he could figure out what was going on himself - Dipper rushed down to the kitchen. He quietly rummaged through the drawers until he found a serrated steak knife. It's cool steel blade glimmered in the moonlight, bringing to Dipper's mind a memory of another knife being held to his wrist- a twisted smile glowing in the night as the blade dug into his skin.

The brunet shook his head before sawing into the hard cast. It resisted at first, but after a couple layers, the rest cracked easily. Dipper madly tore it away from his skin, hand flying to his mouth with a sharp gasp when he saw what was revealed.

Just below his wrist was a perfect triangle with a wide eye inside. The medium sized symbol was completely shaded in- the color staining his skin like a permanent henna tattoo, except the eye and its lashes- making it hard to miss.

Dipper hesitantly ran his shaky fingers over the mark as if he was afraid it would burn. He wasn't sure if he felt relieved that it didn't when he was met with smooth skin as if it had been there his whole life. When he slowly rubbed his thumb directly over the eye, he was suddenly overwhelmed with flashes of memory. Memories that didn't make any sense alone, but they all had one thing in common: Bill .

The brunet’s mind was a whirlwind as he ran out of the shack- not caring that it was the middle of the night, that he was alone, unprepared, and under dressed; nor even stopping to think about all the dangers lurking in a normal forest nonetheless in that one.

No, he kept running, bare feet leading him directly to his destination deep in the woods.

And it felt so much like his dream, he realized, except he wasn't running from the phantom, he was running toward  him.

“BILL!” he shouted to the night as soon as he came into the clearing. “BILL SHOW YOURSELF!”

Only the chilling chirps of crickets responded.

Anger flared in Dipper’s chest as he began crossing the area. The demon’s decrepit statue sat, mostly hidden beneath the shadows of the trees and overgrown vegetation. The boy tore away some of the weeds in front of its eye. “I know you're here, you sonofabitch, come OUT!”

This time, not even the crickets replied.

“aaAAAAHHHHHHRRR!” Dipper sounded as he began kicking at the lifeless relic. “Useless,” kick , “evil,” kick , “self-righteous,” kick , “one-eyed-”

“Yeesh, Pine Tree, take it out on somebody your own shape!” The human jumped at the voice behind him, spinning around to face the demon with a glare. Bill regarded him, bemused and leaning on his cane as he hovered a solid foot off the ground.

The demon was dressed head to toe in black- shoes, trousers, dress shirt, vest, and, of course, the small floating top hat. Only his bowtie stood out a solid yellow- three shades darker than the bangs hanging in front of his glowing heterochromatic eyes.

Bill ,” Dipper snarled.

The other smiled hauntingly, white teeth- a tad sharper than human- glistened in the moonlight. “Miss me already?”

Chapter Text

/¤\ /¤\ /¤\ /¤\

75 hours and 23 minutes ago, precisely :

The human’s body hit the concrete floor with a dull thud , and Bill had watched him go down with a twisted sort of smirk on his face. The flesh on his left arm was tingling in the wake of the hot sensation he felt before losing contact with Pine Tree. Curious, Bill turned over his wrist to examine it, and what he found was red hot brand of the Ursa Major. He gently ran his fingers over the raised flesh, flitting his eyes back to the crumpled boy and wondering if he shared the mark.

Before the demon could quell his curiosity, somebody cleared their throat, jarring him to acknowledge his new surroundings. Bill lifted his gaze then, glancing around at the half circle of people in front of them- all on their knees, kneeling before their Lord. Their golden robes billowed to the ground around their positions, the demon’s embroidered symbol on their chests mostly hidden beneath the shadows of their bowed and hooded heads.

“Ah,” Bill began with a welcoming smile, “and you must be my faithful worshipers .”

“Yes, Your Holiness,” the man nearest to him began. With his head still bowed in respect, he missed the way the demon grimaced at the title. “We, your humble servants, sent you the boy so that you may return to us and resume your rightful rule over this realm!”

“You sent Pine Tree, eh?” Bill asked with a sidelong glance at the boy on the ground, and he recalled the other’s words:

‘I want you to erase the cult… I need to be able to know that my family is safe from them…’

The demon shrugged. “Can’t say that was the smartest move on your part, but, hey, too late now, amiright?”

“Forgive me,” the man hesitantly started again, “but I-I don’t understand-”

“Probably should have tried for Star,” he laughed, “she’s too sweet to ask for revenge.”

A shiver could be felt passing through the small crowd now exchanging worried looks.

“R-revenge?” The man asked, daring to lift his face to the grinning demon.

“Oh yes,” Bill nodded solemnly to those who had chanced glances at him, “after everything you put my Pine Tree through and threatened him with,” he winced dramatically, “well, let’s just say I wouldn’t want to be any of you sorry animals, HA !”

Whimpers broke out among the group.

“B-b-but I don’t-” the man stammered desperately, “I don’t understand. We did it for you my Lord!”

“Gee, guys, I know that!” Bill said with mock sympathy, “And if it were up to me I would LOVE to keep you bunch around! But, ya see, Pine Tree made me a pretty sweet deal on the condition that I,” his smirk grew sharper, “ take care of you.” The room echoed suddenly with the sound of locking doors. People were on their feet now, panicking quietly as the demon finished, “And, really, what kind of Devil would I be if I didn't follow through on my word?”

Please !” a woman sobbed, throwing herself at Bill’s feet, “Have mercy, my Lord! I-I have a family, children who need me, PLEASE !”

The demon laughed shrilly as more followed her lead, sobbing for forgiveness.

Me ? Mercy ? Yeesh! Who do they think they’re talkin’ to? Pathetic .

‘Nobody gets hurt.’ the kid had demanded. And that was fine. Nobody would get hurt , at least not really. As promised, Bill would erase their memories of the cult, his magnificence... and perhaps a few other insignificant things. Like how to use a fork or operate a vehicle or maybe the names and faces of their loved ones. It wouldn't technically be breaking his word to the boy; after all, you can't be hurt by what you don't remember.

“Oh of course I'll show mercy,” Bill started sickeningly sweet to the woman at his feet. She looked up with a hopeful expression. He smiled, gently stroking her tear stained cheeks and slowly pulling her memories from her mind like water slipping through freshly made cracks. “Say hi to the kids for me.”

Her eyes became unfocused as she regarded him in confusion, “What kids?”

The demon cackled at her before simply snapping his fingers and making her disappear. Suddenly the room broke into chaos; his faithful worshippers scattered to fruitlessly test the doors and windows.

“Now,” Bill started, rolling his neck and cracking his knuckles, “which one of you meatsacks is your pathetic ‘leader’?”  

Without hesitation, the group pushed the pleading man to the demon’s feet. His hood fell back as he looked up in terror, revealing the familiar face.

“Ah Northwest,” Bill smiled sadistically, “I should have known your slimy, sniveling, self-righteous little fingers would be all over this operation!” He looked back at the small crowd, “You all can go now.”

And he waved them into nothingness. They’d be fine, appearing back in their own beds with certain holes in their memories, but otherwise unharmed- just as promised.

“P-please, My Lord,” Northwest stammered as he watch his comrades disappear, beads of sweat trickling from his brow, “I-I did it all for you !”

“So you’ve said,” Bill squatted down to his level, tilting his head curiously, “but what I want to know is how .”

Present:

“What. The. Hell. Happened !?” Pine Tree demanded through gritted teeth.

“To what?” Bill replied sardonically. “Your clothes?”

“I’m serious, Bill,” the human started starkly as he not-so-casually crossed his arms over his bare chest.

“Me too, kid!” he laughed, “Did they lose them while you were sleeping, or did you dress this way specially for me?”

“I mean the other night,” the brunet continued, pointedly ignoring the demon’s appreciative glance up and down his body. “The accident, the cult, the- the- well you know...”

“‘Fraid I don’t, Pine Tree,” Bill smiled, folding his arms over the top of his cane to lean closer. “You’ll have to be more specific .”

The human glared at him, “The deal . What happened with the deal, Bill? I thought you said you couldn’t erase my memories of it even if you wanted to.”

“I can’t,” the other admitted with a dismissive shrug.

“Then,” Pine Tree threw out his arms in frustration, “ what the hell happened !?” He began pacing in a small circle, looking intermittently between his expressive hands and the impassive demon. “Why did I wake up in the fucking hospital after a three day coma without any memory of that night!?” He stopped to yell directly at the other, “ THREE GODDAMN DAYS, BILL! ” When the demon offered no response, Pine Tree continued, “And why did the doctor tell me that my arm was ‘broken’ when it is very clearly,” he flexed his finger, “ NOT broken at all!? And,” he stepped closer and held out his left forearm to the demon, “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS !?!?”

Bill didn’t answer at first, taking a breath as he looked at his symbol on the kid’s arm. His fingers automatically flinched toward it, but he caught himself by running them through the fringe of his bangs. “I have to admit, kid,” he looked into rich mocha eyes with a bemused expression, “you caught on faster than I'd expected.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that I had hoped that scrambling up your memories and the mirror tricks would have at least keep you outta my hair a couple more days, but there's no fooling you , Pine Tree!” He reached out to ruffle the other’s bedhead. “Beauty and Brains.”

“Bill!” The kid batted the demon’s hands away. He huffed as the other laughed, “Why can’t you just explain what happened to me after the,” he gulped, looking around the clearing for any potential evesdroppers, “ ritual .”

Bill hummed fondly at the memory, deciding to ground himself to step within a breath of Pine Tree. He shot out a hand, gripping the kid by his bicep to keep him in place and relishing in the way he leaned back, “You mean after,” he followed the lean so that their noses were nearly touching as he finished in a soft whisper, “ the kiss ?”

To his credit, the human kept the other’s gaze with his head held high despite the red glow of his cheeks, “I’d hardly call that a ‘kiss’ ,” he countered steadily.

Bill smiled, bringing up his free hand to run his thumb along Pine Tree’s sharp jaw, “Then what would you call it?”

The kid stiffened at his touch, but didn’t shift his glare, “A necessary and wholly unpleasant means to an end.”

“You wound me, Pine Tree,” the demon said with a smirk, removing his hand from the other’s face, “but I can’t say I completely believe that you didn’t enjoy it.”

At this, the kid found the strength to push the demon away. Bill let him go without question, a conceded smile on his face.

“Believe what you want,” Pine Tree spat, “doesn’t make it true.”

Bil tilted his head with a wicked expression, “I could say the same to you.”

“You know what? Forget it!” The human threw his hand up with a deep scowl, “If you’re not going to tell me what happened, then fine ! Just leave me the hell alone!”

With that he turned on his heel and began marching away. Bill lost his smile as a small panic started in his chest, he couldn’t lose the kid, not yet- not until he figured things out. Without so much as a sound, the demon appeared directly in front of Pine Tree at the very edge of the clearing.

“Wait!” He started, hands held in front of him in a sort of surrender. “Okay, fine, you win,” he gulped, “I’ll talk.”

“You’ll answer my questions?” Pine Tree asked unbelieving.

“Yes.”

All of them?”

The demon hesitated and the kid scoffed, making to push past him. “Yes!” Bill stopped him with his palms on the human’s chest. “Okay, whatever.”

Pine Tree crossed his arms and stared at the demon expectedly, “Well?”

^ ^ ^ ^

“Alright,” Bill began with a drawn out sigh, “You passed out once our connection was broken-”

“Why?”

The demon shrugged, “A ritual like that takes a lot of energy out of a creature, nonetheless a weakling meatsack like yourself.”

Dipper rolled his eyes before pressing forward, “Then what?”

Bill scratched at his chin absently, “Then I took care of the cult like you wanted,” at the boy’s starting breath, he cut him off with a bored look, “Don’t worry, I did just as you asked- nobody hurt and all memories of me, you, the cult, and the rest of The Zodiac wiped away.”

The human studied him doubtfully; he had a feeling Bill was holding something back because nothing with the demon was that simple. But at the same time, Dipper found that he couldn't quite bring himself to care . Morally speaking, he knew he should be concerned for these people’s wellbeing, yet the vindictive side of him urged him to take the easy road and accept the demon’s word.

“So what about the hospital?” he asked. “My arm? My memories ?”

“Chill your curiosity for half a second, Pine Tree, I’m getting there,” Bill dismissed. “Anyway, once I dissolved the cult I knew I had to get rid of you. I knew you’d be out cold for a few days and decided the easiest thing to do would be to put you back in the middle of your accident. Then I placed a suggestion in that joke-of-a-sheriff’s head to patrol the area so that he would find you and get you to the hospital.”

Dipper nodded slowly, a thousand more questions rising to the surface of his mind, but most prominently: “Why mess with my head?”

“Are you kidding?” Bill scoffed, “The last thing I needed was for you to go blabbing to ‘Ol Sixer the moment you came to! So I muddled some things to buy me a head start. Heh, I was gonna be on the other side of the planet by the time you figured things out!”

“If that’s what you wanted,” Dipper crossed his arms, “then why’d you come back?”

The demon grimaced, “I never left .”

“Why not?” Dipper challenged, “What happened to you ‘ very much liking to not see my face for awhile ’?”

“Don’t get the wrong idea, kid,” Bill smirked, “I still mean that.”

Dipper scowled, “Then what’s keeping you here?”

The blond huffed, looking away in frustration. “I’m still trying to figure that out.”

“Oh.” Dipper replied lamely. “So, what about my arm? Or all the cuts? How do I look like I went through hell, but feel better than ever?”

Bill eyed him for a minute before asking, “You sure you wanna know?”

“I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t.”

“Right,” the demon combed his bangs back as he ran his hand through his hair, “guess there’s no point keeping it from you now .” He took a deep breath, not quite meeting the other’s eyes. “Your cuts and bruises are just part of a harmless charm to help you look the part. As for your arm…” he smiled sadistically, “Well, I did break it.”

“You broke my arm!?” Dipper yelled, giving into the urge to shove the demon away. “Why the hell would you do that if you could have just used magic like you did on the rest of me!?”

“I knew they’d have to cast it and cover up that mark. Plus,” Bill continued to smirk as he caught his footing, “it sounded fun at the time.”

The brunet pushed the other back again, “I can’t believe you!”

The blond laughed loudly as his back hit the trunk of a tree, “Can’t you? C’mon , Pine Tree, we both know I’ve done worse!” Dipper’s rage faltered at that, and Bill took the opportunity to wipe away the creases in his shirt. “Besides, it’s already healed. Probably had that first night and would have even sooner, but your body was still adjusting to our deal.”

Dipper’s mouth went dry as he took in Bill’s words. He lightly ran his fingers across his arm, studying it intently. If what the demon said was true, then what did that mean for him? What had he become?

“Bill,” he started cautiously looking into the other’s mismatched eyes, “What exactly do you mean ‘adjusting to our deal’?”

“Now, Pine Tree,” Bill started condescendingly, taking a step forward, “don’t forget that you did say you’d do anything to save your loved ones.?

“What did that ritual do ?” Dipper asked, stumbling back as the other continued toward him. Bill smiled in response, slowly stripping off his black gloves. “Bill,” the human started in an almost pleading tone, “what does this mark mean !?”

The blond stopped when he saw the other’s foot hit what was left of his old form, keeping a body’s distance between them. Dipper watched as he unbuttoned the cuff of his left sleeve and rolled it back, revealing his forearm. There, just below the demon’s wrist- the same spot as his own mark- was a perfect replication of his birthmark. Seven small dots connected by the same henna-colored lines. Dipper stepped forward, holding out his own arm and lining it up with the other so that each mark was exposed to the moonlight.

“It means we’re connected, Pine Tree,” Bill explained in an uncharacteristically serious voice as he stared at the human.

Dipper lightly ran his fingertips over the blond’s mark, missing the instinctual flinch from the other. His heart was picking up as he felt Bill’s smooth skin beneath his fingers- the constellation as a part of the demon’s body as the triangle was to his. As if it’d been there since the beginning of time.

Connected ,” the brunet tested the word slowly. It felt heavy on his tongue as he caught Bill’s fixated gaze. “What does that mean?”

Bill pulled back his arm suddenly to rebutton his sleeve and slip back into his gloves. “As far as I can tell, my connection to you is what’s keeping me in this realm, while your connection to me gives you certain… benefits.”

“Like healing broken bones overnight?” Dipper asked, replacing his arms across his chest. The night air suddenly hitting his skin with a cold bite that wasn’t there before he’d touched the demon. No, that’s not it , he reasoned, shaking his head slightly, it was cold before, but I was just too worked up to notice. He then found the blond smiling at him and gulped, it’s got nothing to do with him .

“Among other things,” Bill answered mischievously.

“Such as?” the brunet pressed.

Bill chuckled darkly, “I think that’s enough free answers for tonight, kid.”

“Wha-”

“You should get some sleep.” he interrupted as he straightened his bowtie, cane popping into existence above his head. Bill jumped into the air, resuming his position of leaning on his cane a foot off the ground.

“You can’t just-”

“Oops,” the blond cut him off again. He snapped his fingers and a cast reappeared on Dipper’s marked arm, “Can’t go back without that!”

“Wait,” Dipper shouted, “You said you’d answer all my questions!”

“What can I say, sweetheart,” Bill smirked with a twirl of his cane, “I’m a liar.” He tilted his head, “Thought you’d know that by now.”

“You sonofa- ” the brunet clenched his right fist and lept at the floating man.

Bill smiled widely as he waved, “Night, Pine Tree.”

-bitch !” Dipper finished his charge and landed with a heavy thunk on the hardwood of the attic floor.

Chapter Text

^ ^ ^ ^

“Move it or lose it, Dip Dop!” Mabel commanded from somewhere behind the mound of cluttered boxes she was hustling through the door. Dipper quickly hopped out of the way to let her pass, then followed as a spotter until the stack was safely on the living room floor.

His twin breathed heavily as she looked triumphantly around the small space. It was as though a party bomb had gone off. Streamers laid half unraveled across the chair; open paint jars balanced precariously above a long colorful banner strewn on top of the dinosaur skull; an overflowing box full of party games sat beside the TV; their old karaoke machine had been dusted off in the middle of the room, while even more miscellaneous decorations littered the floor.

And if all that wasn't bad enough, rainbow glitter- oh so much glitter- dusted over everything . Dipper could barely manage tiptoeing through without coming out with absolutely fabulous socks or shoes on the other side.

“Mabel,” Dipper started as he sidestepped a large pile of junk, “isn't this a little much ?”

“Hahahe-" cough . cough . Apparently there was enough glitter in the air to choke even the Sparkles Queen herself. However, the shimmering rainbow being ejected into the air from her lungs didn't deter her enthusiasm.  She continued her sentence as though nothing had happened, “C’mon, Dip, when it comes to parties it's NEVER too much!”

“Don’t get me wrong, I love big parties as much as the next guy-" in fact, it was no secret to anyone that Dipper Pines did not like big parties no matter who was next to him- “but but we're turning 23 ; it's not exactly a monumental age.”

“Psh, are you kidding?” Mabel tossed her hand dismissively. “It's another year closer to being able to rent a car at a reasonable rate!”

“Oo, yay !” Dipper drawled sardonically, rolling his eyes.

“It's also been exactly a decade since our first summer here, which in itself is cause for celebration!”

“The end of it,” he grumbled, absently scratching at the skin just above the edge of his purposeless cast.

“Jeez, Dipper,” Mabel frowned, “you okay?”

“Yeah,” Dipper answered as though it was a stupid question in the first place. “Why wouldn't I be?”

“I don’t know,” she shrugged, “you just seem a bit grouchier than usual these last few days.”

“Well I'm not ,” he snapped, tucking his free hand in his front pocket.

“O-kay,” Mabel drew out, her hands up in front of her. “Sorry I asked.”

Her twin sighed, shoulders slumping in. “No, I'm sorry, Mabes. I didn't mean to snap, just haven't been sleeping well.”

“Yeah I figured.” Gently she prodded the heavily set bags under his right eye with a high pitched boop .  

Dipper snorted, pulling his head back.

“So,” Mabel started as she turned to rummage through boxes, “what's keeping you up, bro-bro? Creative voices being too loud?”

“Ha, I wish!”

“Then, what is it?” When Dipper was silent, she press gently, “You know you can tell me anything, right Dipper?”

Yeah, that'd be a good idea , he began to himself sarcastically, while pretending to turn his attention to untangling extension cords from one of the boxes.

“Hey, Mabes, you remember that ‘accident’ I was in? Yeah it wasn't an accident at all! The truth is that I was kidnapped by a psychotic Bill-worshipping cult that blackmailed me into the Nightmare realm to bring the triangular bastard BACK!

Only, he’s no longer a triangle- oh, NO, he looks like a fucking supermodel who KNOWS he looks like a supermodel, and it’s actually almost hard for me to picture him as his old self anymore, which in it of itself is ridiculous and unnecessarily DISTRACTING!

Even though he still acts like the same maniacal ASSHAT as before… though, I guess he did actually help me out with getting rid of the cult after we made a deal- and yes, I KNOW I shouldn’t have made a deal in the first place! But it’s too late for that now and whatever the deal was, it apparently ‘connected’ me to him via strange corresponding tattoos (brands?) on our wrist. Because that makes sense...

But wait, there’s more! It seems that these marks have the power to make my bones heal themselves overnight!

Oh, then WHY am I still wearing this motherfucking cast, you ask? Because I can’t very well have all of you freaking out when I’m already FREAKING OUT enough on my own, and I really don’t want to get any of you involved until I find some answers.

Which brings me back to why I haven’t been sleeping for the last 3 days- ya know, other than the general anxiety that comes with all these sudden changes- and that’s because I've been spending my nights trying to find SOMETHING about all this shit, BECAUSE the ONE person (creature?) that can possibly help me figure out WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON has essentially GHOSTED me!!!”

“Nightmares, again?” Mabel jarred him out of his rekindling frustration with a face full of concern.

Dipper shook his head; calming himself with a breath and unclenching the fingers he hadn’t realized curled their short nails into his palms. “No, nothing like that.”

He tried reassuring her with a small smile, but he didn’t miss the way her eyes took in the rigidness wound in his every muscle. Mabel didn't believe him, that much was clear, but he still couldn't bring himself to even try telling her the truth.

“Look,” she sighed, “if you’re not going to talk to me, maybe you should talk to Ford about whatever’s bothering you. I’m sure he’d be able to help.”

“Yeah, maybe...” Dipper teetered off. Not that he hadn’t already thought of that- of course he had- but he knew Bill was still a sore subject for his Grunkle, and he couldn’t stand the look of disappointment he knew he’d get if he told the other about the deal alone, nonetheless everything else.

“Hey,” his sister smiled at him gently, “in the meantime, I can always whip up a pitcher of Mabel Juice!”

Dipper grimaced, stomach automatically clenching with PTSD. “Oh God, please no.”

“Well, bro bro,” Mabel snapped back into her peppy party planner mode, accepting the end of their conversation, “you've got to do something ! I need you in tip top shape for our party!”

“It’s three days away!”

“EXACTLY! There’s so much to do!”

^ ^ ^ ^

It was long past sundown before Dipper was finally released from party duty. With heavy steps and impossibly heavier bags pulling at his eyes, he managed to slowly drag himself up to the attic. Man, he wanted to sleep, needed it, but he couldn’t. Maybe a small part of him hoped Bill would magically pop up offering backhanded answers like the last time he was in this state all those summers ago. And, sure, most likely even if the demon did show up, there would always be a chance- almost a certainty actually- that any answer he presented would be far from the truth. Still, at least he would be there and that felt somewhat comforting.

Wait, the boy shook his head violently, no. No, that’s not right. I just want answers then he can go away and never come back into my life again!

Dipper groaned, rubbing harshly at his aching temples as he plopped on his unused mattress. “Bill, where the fuck are you?”

Silence answered, heavy and foreboding- coaxing the exhausted boy into a dreamless, and long overdue sleep.

^ ^ ^ ^

Dipper woke 16 hours later feeling worse than before. Sweat clung to him, soaking through his clothes, slicking and taming his dark curls to his head, neck, and forehead. He felt too cold and too hot all at once; but more than anything, he was so thirsty .

Reluctantly, the brunet sat up in bed, grimacing at the body print of sweat seeped into his sheets. He decided quickly that a shower and change of bedding was in order as soon as he rehydrated. But when he put his weight on his feet, Dipper barely caught himself from toppling over by gripping the edge of the bed.

Shit !” he cursed, head reeling with the effort of keeping himself steady as he stumbled toward the door. How he made it down into the kitchen was a mystery to all who saw him.

“Jeez, kid,” Grunkle Stan winced when he saw Dipper sink into a chair, “you feelin okay?”

“Honestly,” the boy croaked through a sandpaper throat, “I feel like shit.”

“Yeah, you look like it.”

Ford was running a metal ball across his nephew’s forehead, frowning at what he saw. “102.6°”

“Cripes!” Stan started, worried, “We should get you to a doctor.”

Dipper rolled his burning eyes, “I’m fine really. It just looks worse than it actually is, I promise.”

“I told you not sleeping that much wasn’t healthy!” Mabel whined.

“You haven’t been sleeping?” Ford asked, concerned furrow in his wrinkled brow.

“Well,” Dipper started, shooting a glare at his sister, “not much, but-”

“More like not at all !” Mabel interjected in frustration.

“Really, Dipper?” Ford pressed.

“I mean it was pretty obvious to me,” Stan stated, absently rubbing the stubble on his chin, “but it's not like insomnia is anything new with you. I just didn't realize how bad it was.”

Ford sighed, “Why didn't you say anything?”

“Because it’s really not. a. big. deal. ” Dipper snapped, but immediately swooned in his chair at the energy put behind it. “I just-" he took as deep a breath as he could, rubbing gently at his aching eyes, “I just need some more sleep is all.”

“You're damn right you do!” Stan snapped right back, “ After we get you to a doctor.”

“But-”

“No ‘buts’, that's that , and I don't wanna hear anymore out of you til we figure out what's wrong!”

“Grunkle Ford ,” Dipper pleaded with the other.

“I'm sorry, Dipper,” he started solemnly, “but I'm with Stan on this. You need to see a doctor. Luckily,” he adjusted his square glasses, “ I just so happen to be a doctor four times over. Medically speaking at least once... depending on the dimension...”

Dipper began panicking, the thought of having FORD examining him was far worse than going to a stranger in town, though neither sounded ideal. “Hey-”

“Dipper,” Stan warned, tapping a scuffed faux leather shoe, “what did I say about ‘buts’?”

The Pines boy had a really hard time holding his tongue back from retorting, ‘I said ‘hey’ not ‘but’!’ , because he knew semantics would get him further than nowhere.

Mabel watched her brother’s shoulders slump, and though his brow was trickling sweat, cheeks were splotchy red and grey- even though he looked like he really needed to see someone- the defeated exhaustion in his eyes pulled at her heartstrings. “Well,” she started carefully, “maybe we should let him sleep a little longer.”

“What?” the three questioned collectively.

“Just hear me out.” Mabel started, hands up defensively, “We could keep monitoring him and force down fluids, and if he gets any worse by morning then I vote Emergency Room !”

Dipper sent his sister a grateful smile as their Grunkles thought it over.

“It is possible that he’s worked himself into a fever by going without sleep as long as he has…” Ford pondered out loud.

The elder twin frowned, “I still think we should have someone take a look at him.”

“Grunkle Stan, please just let me try sleeping it off.” Dipper pleaded.

“Hm,” Stan grunted, crossing his arms reluctantly, “Fine. But if you get any worse- even .001 degree hotter- you’re letting Poindexter here take a closer look at you!”

“Deal!” the boy agreed before silently wincing at his word choice. He then took a bracing breath and got back to his feet, putting every ounce of energy behind keeping his pace steady; if they saw him swoon even a bit he was sure all deals would be off the table. The stairs were surprisingly less difficult since he could lean against the railing, but the thought of the shower worried him. He momentarily considered not taking one, then he felt the slick layer of dirt and sweat caked onto his body, and he dismissed the thought.

It was hard, showering; Dipper had to brace himself, arms stretched out to lean against the opposite wall as cool water trickled over him. He’d given up on actually scrubbing his body down, settling for a long rinse and promising himself that he’d rub his skin raw as soon as he had the strength.

Try as he may, Dipper just couldn't figure out what the hell was happening ! He had been fine last night, albeit tired, but this? This was something else entirely; he felt as though he woke up on a deathbed, potentially his deathbed.

What the fuck is wrong with me? the boy thought, sighing heavily as he fumbled with turning the faucet off. And why do I get the feeling it has something to do with that ex-equilateral bastard ?

If it came down to it and Ford did have to examine him, would it really be such a bad thing? Maybe this was a sign that he should let his Grunkle in on his personal mystery.

Whatever the case, Dipper knew that for now he didn't have much of a choice but to lay back down and hope for the best.

Mabel had stripped his bed and made it a new with a gallon of water and bowl of hot soup sitting on the bedside table. Dipper smiled fondly, knowing he wouldn't take up the soup but it was a nice gesture. He slipped on his boxers and zipped up his hoodie without a shirt underneath- leaving the option open to strip down without much effort should he need to in the night. Then, after a hearty gulp of water, the boy fell back into a fitful slumber.

^ ^ ^ ^

It started as a whisper in the night, echoing after little sharp pangs against the attic window. The first time it jarred Dipper from his sleep, he thought it no more than the beginnings of a summer storm. However, when it persisted, the boy strained himself to remain conscious enough to realize there were no other noises.

No whistling wind, no consistent pattering of rain, nor roll of thunder- in fact, other than the clank , hiss , the night seemed peaceful. Dipper barely managed to crack open his eyes- absently noting that a hint of his strength had returned as he pushed himself to his elbows, carefully listening for any whispers in the wind.

Clank . “ Pine Tree! ” the wind sang lowly. Dipper rubbed at his eyes with the heel of his palm, thinking that he must have misheard. Clank . PiiiIIINneeee TreEEe!

Okay, he’d definitely heard that . The boy twisted out of bed, feet meeting the cool wood as he moved to the window- missing, again, the lack of lightheadedness he’d had last time he’d rushed out of bed. Dipper pulled back the thick curtain he’d hung in front of the glass just in time to watch a small rock hit the center of the ‘eye’ with a sharp Clank .

PineTree! ” the disembodied voice hissed as Dipper’s face came to view in the window. Even in the dim light of the moon, Dipper could tell who that voice belonged to.

“Bill.” the human groaned to the empty room, rolling his eyes with resentment for being so rudely awakened. He looked down to see the demon standing a bit further back on the grass. Dipper cranked the bottom of the window another couple of inches so he could whisper back, “What do you want?”

He could feel Bill’s smile more than he could see it as the demon openly gestured to the empty space beside him. Dipper understood immediately: he was being summoned.

The human’s first instinct was to throw the bastard a firm middle finger, but then the brunet recalled all the late nights spent simply trying to contact the devil, and so, he swiftly left his room.

Dipper swooned a bit when he reached the edge of the stairs. It seemed as though the sudden illness he woke with earlier was still very much there- maybe just not as strong. Leaning heavily on the railing and walls on the landings, the brunet tiptoed down the stairs.

Bout freakin time, kid!” Bill greeted when Dipper stepped out on the porch. Cool summer air breezed straight through the human's thin boxers; he stuffed his free hand in the pocket of his sweatshirt as if to remind himself that it was actually there unlike the last time he'd met the demon in the dead of night. “For a second there, I was afraid you'd keep me waiting all night!”

“Where the hell have you been, Bill?” Dipper asked sternly.

“Oh you know,” Bill shrugged dismissively, “here and there. Why?” He smirked as he drew nearer to the warm porch light, “Miss me that much?”

Dipper scoffed, “Hardly.”

“But what about all these late nights trying to summon me?”

“You- you knew !?” the human snapped, “You knew I was trying to contact you and you just ignored me!?”

“Oh c'mon, Pine Tree,” Bill rolled his eyes, “quit acting so surprised. You knew what was happening.”

Dipper stepped forward to glare down at the other when suddenly it dawned on him that Bill was standing on the ground instead of floating just above him. His usually crisp suit had been replaced with a crumpled black button down, the first two buttons undone; there was no top hat, no cane, not even a bowtie to complete the ensemble. Bill's hair was disheveled, too- not much but just enough to be noticeable. His unusually bright and dangerous eyes seemed dull, heavy from the dark bags pulling them down; his cheeks were pale, even in the dim light.

“Bill,” Dipper frowned, twisting his hand in the fabric of his pocket to keep himself from reaching out. “you look like shit.”

The demon scoffed, small grin falling away as he quickly roamed his eyes over the boy. “You don't look any better, kid.”

“Is that why you're here now?” the brunet asked condescendingly, ignoring the other's observation. “Because you're sick and need my help?”

“Hey!” Bill snapped, quickly stepping onto the porch in almost exactly the spot Dipper occupied, sending the other stumbling backward. “I don't think you quite UNDERSTAND !” He pressed forward, leading the human back until his knees hit the couch. “ We're sick.” The blond pushed on the center of Dipper’s chest, sending him down on the cushions. “As in me and you ,” his golden eye sparked red as he loomed dangerously over the other, caging him in with one arm on either side of his head, “ Together .”

Dipper looked up at him- eyes wide and fearful, mouth slightly agape as the meaning set in. “Why?”

“Oh, Pine Tree,” Bill smirked, keeping the boy trapped between his arms as he leaned forward, “do try to use that clever brain of yours.”

Dipper dropped his head and sighed, “The connection.”

“Ding ding ding, we have a winner!” The demon’s breath was hot on the top of Dipper’s head as he continued looking at his lap.

“So,” the brunet titled his head without lifting his gaze, “are you sick because I'm sick, or visa versa?”

Bill snorted, “Kid, I don't get sick! And you shouldn't be able to either. Not anymore.”

Dipper gulped heavily, trying not to linger too much on the implication of that declaration- on the reminder that he was no longer- he finally looked up at the other, “Then what is it, and how do we fix it?”

“I'm glad you asked, Pine Tree,” a Cheshire grin spread onto the demon’s face, “I have a theory.”

“And that is?”

Bill leaned forward, smashing their lips together without warning. Dipper remained frozen as he tried summoning the strength to shove the other away.

But before he could, the blond pulled back.

“Pine Tree,” Bill began a breath away, clearly annoyed- his heterochromatic eyes bore themselves into deeply uncertain pools of mocha, “if you want this to work, you're gonna have to meet me halfway.”

“You're theory is kissing away the illness?” Dipper challenged, not daring to move with Bill so close.

“I figure that since this is how our connection was forged,” the demon broke eye contact to stare at the other's lips, “maybe it'll help set things right.”

The human rolled his eyes, “That sounds-”

“Do you have a better idea!?” Bill snapped, nose accidentally brushing against the boy’s with the movement.

Having none, Dipper darted his tongue out to draw his lower lip between his teeth and shrugged. Bill took that as an invitation to continue putting his theory to the test. He pecked at the human's lips then retreated, challenging the other to chase them; and, oh boy, did Dipper rise to the challenge.

It wasn't the worst thing in the world, kissing the devil. Not when he had such soft lips that moved with just the right amount of pressure, not with the way his warm hand moved to cradle Dipper’s face before deepening the kiss, and certainly not with the way his hot tongue curled in his mouth.

Bill’s skin was seering, probably from the fever they seemed to be sharing. A fever that kept seeping the energy out of the human the longer the kiss lasted until he had to drop his head back on the cushion to catch his breath. Dipper’s head was spinning for more than one reason. His cheeks felt flushed and body heavy- a strange combination of a sickness un-ebbed and an unexpectedly passionate kiss.

Bill stayed still, gnawing at his lower lip in thought as he studied the boy. Cold sweat clung to his hot forehead, bags still prevalent below his eyes, skin still pale and pasty beneath a fresh lick of pink on his cheeks. To put it simply, he looked even more exhausted than before.

“Huh,” he began, pushing himself away to plop onto the couch beside the human. He rested his head back, tilting it to look Dipper in the eyes. “I really thought that would work.”

Dipper snorted, a small smile playing at the corner of his kiss-bruised lips. “I didn’t.”

Bill smiled fully as he laughed loudly, “And yet, here we are.”

“Here we are.” the brunet echoed with a frown.

“Yeesh,” the demon rolled his eyes, “no need to sound so glum. You weren’t that bad.”

Dipper glared a moment before folding himself forward, cradling his head in his hands. Bitter exhaustion swept over him- present but not a prominent as it had been even a handful of minutes ago. Still, the boy was too distracted to note the difference. He took a deep breath, mind spinning with the effort. “Now what?”

Bill sighed, straightening up to rub at the back of his neck. “Don’t know, actually.”

“Counted on your healing kiss that much, huh?” Dipper joked, twisting his head in his hands to smirk at the other.

“Mock all you want, but I didn’t hear you coming up with anything.” He responded tartly, “Still don’t, in fact! C’mon ‘Boy Wonder’,” he cackled, “what brilliant idea do you have to fix this?”

The brunet groaned, “I’m too tired to think about anything right now, Bill.”

The demon frowned, “Me too, actually. Ugh,” he grimaced with the utmost contempt, shivering uncomfortably, “how human .”

“Human, huh?” Dipper smiled, maybe there was still hope for him.

Bill cut him a dark glare, “A one time set back, I assure you.”

“Uh-huh, right.”

“Hey!” The blond smacked the other’s arm excitedly, “Maybe it’ll just take a little more time to work!”

Dipper eyed him skeptically, “I doubt it.”

“That, Pine Tree,” he began, patting Dipper on the knee as he got to his feet, “is because you’re a pessimistic pain in the ass!”

“After the trauma you gave me,” the boy started defensively, “how could I not be?”

“Ha!” Bill laughed fondly. “You looked for the dark side of the moon long before you met me, kid.”

“Whatever,” Dipper scoffed, offended, as he pushed himself to his feet. “This is pointless and I am tired . Goodnight, Bill.”

He turned toward the door, but the demon’s firm grip caught him on his arm just above the cast. “Let me stay here tonight.”

Excuse me?”

"You heard me, Pine Tree."

"Why?" Dipper narrowed his eyes. "Can't you, like, teleport yourself to a five star suite or something? Or do you just like making me uncomfortable?"

"While I do love making you uncomfortable," Bill's smirk melted away as he continued, "I also am too weak to teleport anywhere. Look,” he sighed, “I’m gonna level with you here, kid. I don’t know what’s happening right now and I need a place to stay until I figure it out.”

Dipper studied him, “What do you mean you don’t know what’s happening?”

“I mean ,” the demon started, grip getting firmer and eye getting redder with each word, “ I. don’t. Know. What’s. Happening. Right. Now. CAPISCE? ” His fingertips began to spark. “Now, why don’t you let me in before I break your arm again . And, with us in this state,” he smirked sadistically, “who knows how long it’ll take to heal.”

“If you really want my help,” Dipper started through gritted teeth at the bruising pressure on his arm, “maybe you shouldn’t be such a dick!

Bill’s grin was razor sharp as he gleamed at the boy, “It’s who I AM , Pine Tree.”

“Then you’ll just need to find somewhere else to go!” The boy bit back, trying to ignore the fact he had just used the Shack as a bargaining chip for his immediate release.

“So, if I let you go…” Bill started, tightening his hold further, feeling the bone ready to snap.

Dipper yelped, eyes screwed shut in pain. “Yeah, fine, whatever!”

“Great!” the blond cheered. He released the boy’s arm, expression still dark with warning. “Lead the way, kid.”

Shit . “Wait, I never said you could-”

“Uh, Uh, Uh,” Bill shook his finger, “I let you go, you let me stay.”

Dipper huffed, rubbing at his arm with a deeply creased frown. “Anyone tell you you catch more flies with honey than vinegar?”

“What the fuck would I want with flies?”

The human blinked heavily, "Never mind. Just," he sighed, "don't wake anyone up."

"I'll be as quiet as a ghost, kid!" The blond winked. 

"Uh-huh." Dipper rubbed at his aching head. "Aren't you worried about Ford?"

Bill shrugged, "What's to worry about if he doesn't know I'm here?"

Dipper snorted, "Do you seriously think you'll be able to set foot in this house without him finding out? All of his inventions are literally designed to track you down!"

Then it dawned on him: the unicorn hair was still intact, he shouldn't be able to set foot inside anyway.

"Psh," Bill started, amused, "the thought of Ol' Sixer finding me right under his nose is hilarious! Come to think of it, that schnauze is probably big enough to comfortably hide the both of us, HA!"

"Fine," Dipper shrugged, fighting back a cunning smirk, "if you really want to risk it, be my guest. The door is this way."

He led the way perhaps a little too enthusiastically. Bill studied him cautiously as the boy stepped inside, holding the door widely.

"Well?" Dipper smirked challengingly.

The demon's face cracked into a wide grin that made his eyes glow and color return to his cheeks. Dipper immediately got the feeling Bill knew exactly what he was thinking, and, what's more, didn't even care. And that thought? It was terrifying. "Don't mind if I do."

Dipper gulped as he watched the devil himself step right past him- too caught up in the shock of it to notice the wince and swoon that followed.

Shit!

"S'long as I'm tied to you," Bill started in a whisper, hand folded over Dipper's shoulder in a seemingly menacing manner, but was actually for genuine support, "unicorn hair is powerless against me." He smirked, patting the boy's shoulder as he passed to the stairs, "Not that you were thinking about that, of course."

"Of course not," Dipper grumbled to himself before quietly taking the lead to his room. The whole way up, he found himself silently hoping that someone- preferably Ford- would wake up and find them; but, at the same time, he still was afraid to tell anyone about their deal and all it entailed. So, despite his survival instincts telling him to raise the alarm, Dipper kept his steps light as he led them to the attic. 

"Ah," Bill sighed fondly at the top of the stairs just outside Dipper's bedroom door. "Remember when I threw your measly body down these stairs?"

Dipper grimaced, "How could I forget!? My whole body was one giant bruise, and for almost a month I flinched anytime somebody handed me a fork!"

Bill chuckled as he looked at the stairs almost lovingly. "Good times. Good times."

"You're sick."

"You're boring."

Dipper rolled his eyes and led them into his room, locking the door as it closed. 

"So," Bill clapped his hands together, "big spoon or little spoon?"

"I'm sorry?"

"Well the bed is too small for us both to stretch out, so-"

"I'll take the floor."

Chapter Text

/¤\ /¤\ /¤\ /¤\

One of the greatest perks of being an omniscient being of pure cosmetic energy was knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the on goings on of a universe. That was the sort of being Bill used to be- was supposed to be again after getting out of the nightmare realm. He was supposed to have infinite power in a young universe ready for the taking.

Sure, last time he’d tried ruling it, he was blindsided by a couple of kids and a pair of AARP members, but he was wiser now. He wasn’t going to let his ego underestimate the pathetic creatures again. That was, if he could figure out a way to get all that power back .

When Pine Tree had showed up- quite literally on his doorstep with his deal- Bill should have listened to the single little voice in his head- drowning in the sea of all the other voices rambling on in there- telling him it was all too good to be true. But he didn’t, and now he was laying on a surprisingly comfortable bed, looking up at the cobweb riddled ceiling of the shack full of the very people who had forced him into this new form with limited power in the first place.

Bill let out a long breath, tossing to his side. Pine Tree was facing away from him, laying on the floor a foot or so from the bed- his untamed hair sticking up at all angles beneath the thin blanket pulled up to his ears. His breathing was soft and steady- chest rising and falling and somehow calming the demon’s frustration. It wasn’t all bad, Bill supposed. Of course, if given a choice between the kid and his powers, he’d burn Pine Tree to a crisp faster than a blink of the eye.

Still, as the situation were, he could be tethered to worse. At least the kid was amusing. And moderately intelligent (ya know, for his species). Also, it helped that he was kinda cute.

And yet , Bill thought, frowning at the back of Pine Tree’s sleeping figure, still so annoyingly human .

He turned back to face the ceiling and held his wrist up; long fingers delicately traced over the small constellation there. It was warm, like the center of a dying ember, radiating its heat throughout the rest of his body. He felt better, so much better, in fact; and, though he wished he didn’t, he knew exactly why he was fully functional again. It was because of the kid. Because simply being near him for this long recharged his power- as if he were some kind of fucking battery!

God, Bill absolutely hated that Pine Tree had that kind of leverage over him. Now that he was out, he had to find a way to undo their bond.

Then again , the demon looked back over to the kid and grinned madly, who’s to say I can’t take him with me? A vivid image of Pine Tree wrapped in chains at his heel came to Bill’s mind, and it wasn’t too bad an image at all. If he simply kept the human by his side, his power wouldn’t drain and he could resume all of his glorious plans for this unprotected dimension!

Whether or not the kid would allow that was inconsequential. After all, what would the wants of a mere mortal mean to a God? Bill’s fingertips sparked bright, brilliant blue as he sat up in the bed. That picture of the kid his subconscious had conjured moments ago burned behind his eyes, begging to be made a reality with just the snap of his fingers. Then he’d whisk them away- far away, a few galaxies away. He stilled his mind, focused his power- there but not quite limitless- and snapped .

Blinding, white hot pain shot through his body from the brand on his arm! The demon bit into his lip to keep from crying out, but even then, his head slammed back on the wall. Pine Tree shot up in a panic, but just before he could whip his head around the room, Bill disappeared in a blink.

SHHIITT !” the demon howled to the setting moon as his back hit the hard forest floor. The hurried scampering of fleeing creatures responded beneath the sharp whistle of wind through the pines. His arm throbbed painfully, still hot beneath the palm wrapped around it. His eyes were gleaming fire red and bright blue- wide and savage. Sharp teeth were bared both in fury and horror for what this new development could possibly mean . Why had his power short circuited? It couldn’t be a coincidence that it happened when he’d tried using it on Pine Tree. Nothing ever was. But why now?

Infinite Darkness, this was so frustrating !

Bill shot to his feet and glared down at his decrepit corpse with malice. Its cold hand outstretched greedily for that last deal before universal domination, the arrogant smirk at the very corner of his once great eye- it was his folliness immortalized.

Bitterness choked the back of his throat as it rose through him in a roar that shook the heavens. Everything silenced itself at that- the chirping of the songbirds greeting the day, the waking creatures all turned back to their dens, the dripping of the dew from the smallest of leaves ceased, even the crisp morning breeze fell still in fear of the demon. A flurry of bright blue flames spun around him; the clearing, burnt to ash, now glowed with red embers as the fire ebbed. Bill was left panting heavily at the epicenter of his fury.

Without the overgrown vegetation creeping around it, his old form balanced on its side in too hard stone, mocking him more with its vacant stare. The demon snarled and he crashed a flame covered fist through the eye.

Bill stared transfixed at the blackened crater now in the center of his former pupil, spider-web cracking was already making its way throughout the form. His face fell as he gingerly brushed his fingers over the destruction. The demon sighed heavily through his nose- lips pulled in tight. The anger that had overwhelmed him had given way to a panicked sort of despair. He had no idea what was happening to his powers, and it was more unsettling than anything he’d experienced in all his millenia.

Pine Tree’s soft, stumbling voice moving over words neither of them fully understood seemed to echo loudly through the still air.

'Srewop ruoy dnib I, lliW ot lliW': ‘Will to Will, I bind your powers ’ Bill fell to his knees- wrist in his lap, he began studying the constellation again- the outline gave off a faded golden aura.

Bind my powers, huh? The demon pondered, What the everloving hell does that mean? The most obvious thing was the exhaustion that came from being apart from one another, but that was supposed to be it . Bill had figured that the translation Pine Tree had read must have been changed because he was a human , which was why that limit had fallen into place. Humans simply can’t withstand the power of tethering a cosmic being to their souls. But all this other shit wasn’t part of the fine print!

He’d gone through each and every detail of the page Pine Tree had brought him, fine tooth combed through the cult and Northwest’s memories of the passage- preserved and up for auction some years ago- and still he’d missed something . If only he could get his hands on the actual book it came from!

But that was impossible now. It was gone, along with everything else of his home.

Bill straightened up and forced on a smile. Nothing would come of wallowing in the past, especially when you were the direct cause of that past. No, there was no time to dwell on skeletons, he had work to do- questions that needed answering. And there was only one creature in the entire multiverse who could possibly do so. Now all he had to do was find them.

The demon sighed, running a hand through his slick hair and leaving a silk top hat in its wake. With a smooth flex of his shoulders, his disarrayed appearance from the night before melted away to be replaced by the usual sharp golden and black suit he’d grown fond of in this form. His fingers danced as they straightened the bowtie securely round his neck; as he did, they were quickly covered with smooth black cloth. Bill smirked- feeling much better in his collected skin- before taking a step and disappearing into the crisp morning air.

^ ^ ^ ^

Dipper had a mere second’s warning- the loud creaking of the floor beneath clambering feet outside the attic door- before Mabel was bursting into his room. Needless to say, it wasn’t enough time to keep himself from shooting up in a panic.

“You better not be dead, bro-bro!” Mabel announced blindly as he yelp back.

“Dammit, Mabel!” Dipper groaned loudly, rubbing at his eyes with the heel of his palm.

“Umm…” She looked down at him with a furrowed brow, then to the empty bed, then back to her scowling brother. “Why are you on the floor?”

“Uhhh….” his eyes widened as he looked around desperately- mostly relieved, yet partially, and annoyingly, disappointed when he saw the demon was nowhere in sight. Then he felt Mabel’s eyes on him, burning with the utmost curiosity. “I, uh, I- I just thought that the floor would be m-more comfortable last night.” He gulped nervously before adding, “Ya know, to... help with my fever!”

“Hmm,” Mabel studied him, hand folded on her chin, “well, you do look like you’re feeling better… It’s weird that sleeping on the floor did that though. Then again,” she snorted, “you’ve always had a weird body, Dip-Dop!”

“Heh,” Dipper held back a roll of his eyes as he scratched at the back of his bedhead. Ew, I really needed that shower . “Yeah, I guess.”

“Welp,” the girl started, teetering back on her heels, “Ford will want to look you over anyway.”

“Okay.” He replied shortly, hoping she’d take the hint and just leave him alone.

She didn’t get it, instead she tilted her head, eyes full of concern. “You sure you’re alright, Dipper? You look all sweaty and anxious. Do you still have a fever?”

“I’m fine, Mabes, really” he rolled his eyes. “I just need to wake up a little bit.”

She worried her lower lip skeptically. He looked better, he knew he looked better because he felt so much better. Still, this was Mabel- she could always tell when he was trying to hide something. “Okay, bro-bro, if you say so… But please let Ford look you over. Just because you’re feeling better doesn’t mean you are .”

He smiled reassuringly, “I will. Just let me take a quick shower, then I’ll go see him.”

“You’d better!” Mabel said teasingly with a wink. As soon as the door closed behind her, Dipper sighed and got to his feet. His head was no longer swimming, body no longer aching, as if he hadn’t been sick just a handful of hours ago.

The bed was empty, of course it was- its sheets crumpled, blanket kicked to the bottom as if the demon had left in a hurry, which he probably had. The brunet vaguely recalled being rudely awakened by a loud slam, but he’d been too tired for it to really register. He wondered what could have made Bill disappear so quickly. Then again, why would he have any reason not to.

Dipper sat down at the edge of the bed, hard cast in hand as he gingerly prodded at the space the triangle was branded into his skin. It seemed to be tingling beneath the layers of useless plasture- the source of the warmth that spread throughout his body. Dipper felt more than just healthier, he felt better than he had in years . There was no general fatigue pulling at his eyes, his body felt lighter, limber and fully circulated, and every breath was filling. The brunet brushed his fingers over his lips as his cheeks began to burn at the memories of last night on the porch. Maybe Bill’s kiss really was healing, or maybe there were other factors at play.

Dipper shook himself out of thought; he’d be there all day if he were to let himself get lost in theories, and if he did that, Mabel and the Grunkles would definitely question his health.

He made himself stand and stretch. As predicted, he noted a wider range of motion than usual. In short, he could touch his toes; he hadn’t been able to do that since he busted his knee running from a Chupacabra two summers after Weirdmageddon.

The boy quickly made up his ruined bed before heading to the shower.

True to his word, Dipper met his Grunkle in his office one level above the lab. When the elevator came to a halt, Ford was hunched over an open journal on his desk- his hand was gliding smoothly, rapidly and his heavy square glasses had slipped to the very tip of his nose- too caught up in his work to notice the boy shuffle in.

By that point, Ford had accumulated a nice little collection of journals documenting all the anomalies he’d come across in his travels. Dipper wondered what adventures he was transcribing now. He wanted to read it, but he hadn’t even asked to look at any of them in years . Not since they’d all decidedly split up the original journals again the year after Weirdmageddon- it made perfect since at the time for fear of them getting back into the wrong hands. Where they’d ended up, none of them knew for certain, though Dipper was fairly certain that his Journal 3 was snagged by the government at some point during their seemingly ‘random’ investigations of the area. He had regretted not protesting their disposal, but, in light of recent events, Dipper realized it was probably the right call.

As the boy watched Ford work, his heart was hammering rapidly against his ribcage, throat was constricted and palms sweaty. Dipper felt as though guilt was absolutely seeping from of him- that his Grunkle would work out what he’d been hiding by just looking at his face. He didn’t want to lie- of course he didn’t- but he wanted to keep that truth from Ford as long as he could. Forever if possible.

The kind of panic and stress that would put on the elder man would be far from good for his health. And that was more important than easing his conscious- ebbing his gut wrenching guilt- so Dipper knew he’d just have to find a way to keep himself in check beneath his Grunkle’s thoughtful eyes.

The young brunet shook his head slightly before clearing his throat.

“Dipper!” Ford started with a smile, setting his pen on the open book in front of him. “How are you feeling?”

“Um,” Dipper shrugged awkwardly, “a lot better actually.”

“Ah, it’s amazing what a good night’s rest will do for you!”

“Haha, y-yeah,” the boy rubbed at the skin above his cast. “So, Mabel said you’d want to, um, ‘ look me over ’?”

“Oh yes!” Ford replied, leaning forward and scrambling his papers into a semi-organized pile in the corner, “Come, sit down.”

“Uh,” Dipper gulped, looking anxiously back to the elevator, “don’t you want to go down to the lab? I-I thought you needed to, like, check my temperature or vitals or something…”

“Hm,” his Grunkle studied him a moment, folding his hands beneath his chin, “Dipper, do you feel like I need to check those things?”

The boy dipped his head to the side cautiously. “No?”

“Well then,” Ford smiled, “I’ll take your word.”

“R-really?” Dipper squeaked, he couldn’t actually be willing to let him go that easily.

“Yup, I trust your judgement.”

The brunet let out a sigh of relief. That was one bullet dodged!

“However,” Ford started again, trapping a sharp breath in his nephew’s throat, “I would like to speak with you for a moment.”

Of course he would . Dipper gulped before moving to the chair across from the heavy desk. “What’s up?”

“Dipper,” the elder started in a fatherly tone, carefully adjusted his glasses to look at him seriously, “is there anything you want to tell me?”

Shitshitshitshit! He knows! “A-about what?”

Ford drew out an exasperated sigh, “Son, I understand what you're going through.”

“You- you do?”

“Oh yes, more so than probably anyone,” he adjusted his glasses, “and the one thing I've learned is that you can't keep these things bottled up because it'll only be a matter of time before it explodes.”

Dipper wasn't sure I'd he felt relieved or panicked, because, if Ford knew then how was he being so calm? Probably because he knows how hard it is to have Bill back you into a corner. At that, his shoulders began unknoting themselves, the guilt that had been suffocating him gave way to a heavy sort of relief.

“Grunkle Ford,” he started, head hung in shame, “I’m sorry, I- I didn’t mean for any of this to happen, and now I just-” he broke off in a whimper, “I don’t know what to do.”

“Dipper,” Ford began, concerned, “these things happen, how could you have known ?”

The boy scoffed angrily at himself, “I shouldn’t have put myself in that situation. I- I Should have just refused -”

“Are you kidding, my boy?” Ford cut him off sternly, hand hitting the desk loudly, “You were given a unique opprotunity, and, with a brain like yours, it would be a waste if you had refused! Sure losing your car is hard, but you can’t let that get in the way of pursuing your education!”

“But I- wait,” Dipper frowned as his Grunkle’s words settled in. “What?”

The elder man gave him a sympathetic look, “Of course getting into the accident probably feels like a huge setback, but we can work on getting a new car in time, and your arm will heal soon enough.” He sighed thoughtfully “What I mean is, you can move past this. Everything will work out in time, but the last thing I want you to see is you giving up your dream because of something that was nobody’s fault.”

The brunet chuckled darkly to himself, renewed guilt sinking into his gut. “Right.”

“Dipper,” Ford called for his attention with worried eyes, “I’ll help you find another car, and in the meantime, we’ll figure something else out. Hell, I’ll drive you to Portland myself if that’s what it takes!” He chuckled fondly at his nephew who reluctantly returned the gesture.

“Thanks Grunkle Ford,” the boy started, getting to his feet, “I really appreciate it.”

“Dipper,” Ford started, studying him intently, “has… something else been bothering you?”

Dipper sucked in a breath, blinking a few times as he looked back at his Grunkle with a forced smile, “No, that, uh, yeah,” eyes darted to the remains of the ruined golden tapestry hanging in the corner of the room, “that’s it.”

^ ^ ^ ^

As soon as he was officially given the ‘all clear’ for health, Dipper was, once again, forced into party preparation. This lasted far into the evening, and before he knew it, they were calling a break for a late dinner. As Mabel rushed around the kitchen- phone clenched between her ear and shoulder as she yammered instructions and plans to whatever poor soul was on the other end- Dipper took the opprotunity to slip up to the attic for a new pair of socks since his had been soaked through with sweat. He’d been on his feet all day, okay, and he didn’t have any time for another shower before Mabel’d be calling for him!

The human’s stomach fluttered anxiously when he reached the top step of the landing, unsure of what he might find in his room. Well, of whom he might find. Dipper took a bracing breath before turning the cold knob.

Empty. His room was underwhelmingly, empty.

He sighed, unexplainably disappointed as he crossed to his dresser. Why should he have been expecting otherwise? The demon had made it fairly clear that he felt no obligation to stay with him unless he needed something. Like, a place to sleep (do demons really sleep?), or a mouth to kiss...

And just like that, heat began flooding Dipper's cheeks.

“Well, you look like you’re ready to pop a gasket, Pine Tree!”

Dipper jumped, spinning around to stare at the demon with wide, fearful eyes.

Bill laughed loudly, rocking back on the bed, eyes brimming with tears at the brunet’s expense. “Oh my Infinite Darkness, you should see your face! HAHAHA!

Just below the demon’s laugh echoing around the old wooden rafters, Dipper caught the sound of rushing boots up the stairs. Ford .

SSshhhhh! ” The boy hissed, quickly crossing the room and pouncing on the other with a hand over his mouth. Bill looked up at him with curious eyes that widened when he heard thundering boots hit the top of the landing. In the span of a hammering heartbeat, the demon disappeared; and in the next, the attic door swung open. Ford swooped in with his beam gun drawn.

“Dipper!” he began when he saw the boy sprawled on top of the bed. Dipper hopped to his feet.

“Grunkle Ford!?” the brunet squeaked, “What are you-”

Ford cut him off bringing his finger to his lips before cautiously looking around the small room. With his weapon still drawn in one hand, he searched every shadowed corner and crevasse until he was satisfied there was no immediate danger. Ford’s shoulders visibly relaxed with a drawn out sigh as he slowly haltered his gun.

“What was that about?” Dipper feigned ignorance.

“Sorry, son, I thought I heard-” the older man sighed, shaking his head before gazing at the triangular window. “Nevermind.” He turned his attention back to the other and smiled. “Are you alright? You look like you’ve seen a ghost?”

I look like I've seen a ghost, heh.” the brunet cleared his throat and returned the smile, “Grunkle Ford, you just took down my door with your gun drawn!”

“Well, it’s actually a nine-gauge plasma pistol, but, um,” he scratched at his head, “I see your point about the door…” Ford forced out a chuckle, casting another worried look to the window. “Dipper, you haven’t noticed anything… weird lately, have you?”

“Y-you mean more than usual?” the boy gulped, “Not that I can think of…”

“That’s...” the older man mumbled as the corners of the his eyes hardened with a nagging fear, “...good.”

“Grunkle Ford,” Dipper started cautiously, “is something wrong?”

“Hm?” Ford refocused on the other, “Oh, no, of course not. But, um,” he gulped, another quick glance to the window, “you’ll let me know immediately if that changes,” his heavy brown eyes found the other’s seriously, “won’t you, my boy?”

Dipper’s mouth went dry- guilt was stabbing into his heart like a blunt knife as he forced on a reassuring smile. “Of course, Grunkle Ford.”

“Thanks Dipper,” the older man sighed in relief, patting the brunet’s shoulder. “I know I can rely on you.”

“Heh,” that dull blade twisted in Dipper’s chest, “y-yeah…”

“Well now,” Ford straightened back up, “I’ll let you get back to your business, but I think Mabel and Stan are just about ready with dinner.”

“Yeah, I’ll be right there! Heh. Heh.” The door closed and Dipper let his mask fall with heavy shoulders. “Fuck.”

He fell back on the mattress, letting the guilt flood through his body. God, he felt awful all over again. How could he keep lying to Ford’s face like that?

“Boy oh boy!” Bill appeared on his back right beside the human, “That was a close one, huh, Pine Tree?”

Dipper’s guilt twisted into anger at the demon who’d first planted that deep seeded fear and hatred in his Grunkle’s kind eyes. He pushed himself to his feet and shook out a few droplets of nervous sweat from his hair on his way back to the dresser.

“Told you Ol’ Sixer wouldn’t be able to find me right under his nose! Ha!” Bill chuckled under his breath, careful not to raise the alarm again.

Dipper kept his back to him, head hung as he leaned with his arm on the top of the open drawer. His jaw was clenched, fingers digging into the wood, tears ready to spring at the corner of his eyes. God, he was so mad! At Bill, at the cult, at himself! What was he thinking, bringing the demon back?

“You doing alright, kid?” Bill inquired with mock concern, still chuckling fondly to himself.

The brunet bit his tongue as a few stray tears leaked from his rich mocha eyes into his sock drawer. “Can’t you just leave us alone?”

The laughter seized as the demon’s face fell blank, “Come again?”

Dipper cleared his throat as he spun around to face the demon with guilt and sadness and unbridled fury resonating from his entire being. “Just go , Bill!”

The blond snorted, “After all those late nights chanting spells and calling out my name?”

“Yes!” the human snapped, lightly stomping his foot for emphasis and hoping the others in the house were too occupied to hear it. “That doesn’t matter anymore! You won’t answer any of my questions anyway, and I want nothing to do with you!”

“Look,” Bill started, smirking as he rose to his feet, “we both know you don’t mean that.”

“Yes I do! Holy Mother of-,” Dipper chuckled hollowly, pulling at the damp roots of his bangs and exposing his birthmark- the one reflected on the demon’s own skin. He missed the way the other instinctually reached for his arm. “What have I done!?

“C’mon, Pine Tree," the blond's hand found his elbow, "calm down.”

“No Bill,” the boy snapped away from his touch in a horse whisper, “I can’t ‘calm down’! You’re a monster! I let out a fucking monster!” Tears of frustration began running down his cheeks, “What was I thinking!?

The blond rolled his eyes, “You were thinking about saving your stupid family the only way you could. Now will you stop your morality meltdown so I can-”

“I-I should have stayed in that- that place .” Dipper continued rambling to himself, “I’m sure anyone else could have handled the cult, but I-”

“Ya know what,” Bill groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose, “fine.” He snapped his fingers and the lining of the room glowed with a flash of white light. “If you really insist on picking a fight, maybe we should make sure nobody can barge in again!”

“I'm not picking anything!”

“Pah-lease, kid,” the demon snorted, folding his arms and leaning his weight on one hip, “you're picking so hard that I'm seriously considering giving you a giant nose so you'll always have something else to go after for no reason!"

“Oh, I've got plenty of reasons to go after you , Bill.” Dipper growled.

“Be that as it may, Pine Tree,” the blond sighed, annoyed, “I don’t have time to indulge one of your self righteous inquisitions regarding my wickedness.”

You don’t have time?” the human cackled madly, “ Are you kidding !? Hahaha! Bill, I’m the one without any time for this SHIT!” Dipper brought his hand to his chest as he became even more unhinged, “Our birthday is loterally tomorrow and so is Mabel’s huge party for it, and she’ll kill me if I don’t help her because this is probably the last time we’ll all be together for who knows how long!"

He started to pace in front of the window as Bill fell back onto the bed, bored. "Then, after that I’ve got about another day to get my shit together, find a car or buy a bus ticket or, fuck, something - ya know, with all the extra money I don’t have!” He stopped, catching his breath a moment as he scratched at the late day stubble on his chin, “Well, maybe Mabel can make a long detour… No I can’t ask that of her, Portland’s too far out of her way. I guess I could take Grunkle Ford up on his offer, but I really don’t think-”

“Whoa whoa, hang on,” Bill interrupted- interest recaptured as he jumped back to his feet, “you’re going to Portland? Why? Not that I really care, mind you,” he shrugged, “but for the sake of our relationship, I think I have the right to know.”

Dipper rolled his eyes and scoffed, “You have no right to know anything about my life, regardless of whatever relationship we’re stuck with!”

“Yeesh, kid,” the demon smirked, leaning to the side just as a black cane popped into existence to catch his weight, “it was just a question.”

The brunet took a calming breath, “I’m going to Portland to pursue my doctorate, which, ha , I am grossly underprepared for!” The boy resumed his frantic pacing, “I mean, I’ve been working toward this for, like, ever, but still, it’s a new program and there’s so little data in that field and I’ve spent, like, zero time preparing for it because I’ve been so focused on all this other,” he gestured wildly to Bill, “ crap! Plus,” he continued ranting as if the other was no longer even there, “I also still need a fucking job so that I can pay my part of the student housing, and I don’t know how that’s going to happen since I have practically no money, no car, no credit-”

Bill sighed heavily while the kid continued pacing a rut in the floor, and walked to him. “Hey, Pine Tree?”

Dipper stopped, breath in his throat as he looked at the other in confusion, “Yes?”

“Close your eyes.”

“What? Why-” but his question was cut off when Bill’s hand folded over his shoulder, and he was being pulled out of the very air around him.

Chapter Text

^ ^ ^ ^

It was awful, being pulled through space and time in the blink of an eye. Dipper felt as though he was spiraling through a demented Willy Wonka tunnel while his entire body was crushed and twisted from all directions. It was over as quickly as it had begun, but the nausea lingered as the boy swayed precariously.

“Welp, here we are!” Bill stated before looking at the human’s green and white face. His eyes widened, knowing what was about to happen moments before it did. Bill jumped out of the way as the kid doubled over and heaved what little contents he had in his stomach onto the desolate alleyway’s pavement. The blond grimaced, putting a great deal of distance between them to avoid the splash back. These shoes were genuine baby seal leather, after all. Dipper groaned helplessly, letting his body fall back to lean on the cold brick wall.

“Tsk tsk,” Bill smirked, a twisted gleam in his eyes, “looks like somebody should have listened to me…”

The human glared, wiping his mouth with the back of his free hand while firmly flipping the demon off as best as he could with the other. Bill merely chucked sadistically, simply delighted at the brunet’s misery.

“Where are we?” Dipper roughly asked, throat still burning and head still spinning.

“In town.” Bill shrugged.

“Town?” He repeated irritated, “As in Gravity Falls ?”

“No,” the blond rolled his eyes, “the other town that I can’t escape from!”

“So,” the human glared, “what you’re saying is that, instead of turning my intestines inside out and upside down, we could have just driven fifteen Goddamn minutes !?”

“With the way you drive, Ha!” Bill laughed, leaning back on the wall opposite of the other, “Look, Pine Tree, I might be crazy, but I’m not exactly suicidal!” Dipper’s glare sharpened, but the demon shrugged it off. “Besides, teleportation is just so much easier !”

“Maybe for you ,” the brunet groaned, cheeks still pale and hollow as his stomach lurched dangerously. “Humans aren’t really made for teleportation.”

“Oh stop being such a baby!” The blond waved a dismissive hand. “I told you to close your eyes, s’not my fault you didn’t listen!”

Dipper rolled his eyes as he tentatively pushed back to his feet. “Like it really would have made that much of a difference.”

“Actually, in my experience, people tend to be a lot less affected when they can’t literally see the entire universe shifting around them in a single instant.”

“In your experience?” the human inquired cautiously.

“Of course,” Bill shrugged. “You’re not the first human I've traveled with!”

“Ah.” Dipper nodded, silently adding his condolences to those poor souls.

“Awe, don’t worry, Pine Tree,” the demon purred as he strode across the small alley to lean his arm above the other’s head. “Of all the creatures I’ve traveled with,” he smirked, looming over the boy and bringing their faces uncomfortably close, “ you’re still my favorite !”

“Oh yippie! ” Dipper grimaced. He pushed past Bill who was softly cackling to himself. “So,” he started, turning back to the demon with (mostly) crossed arms, “ what exactly are we doing here?”

“Well,” the blond sucked in a breath, “ hopefully , finding a solution to all our problems.”

“... In this alley?”

“Ya know,” Bill started, each word dangerously drawn out as he set to examining his gloved cuticles, “cute though you may be, that impertinent attitude of yours is reeeaallyy starting to irritate me, kid.” He looked at the boy, eyes gleaming, “And, well, you’ve seen me when I’m-" he flashed a razor sharp grin “- IRRITATED....

Now, Dipper probably should've listened to the demon’s cold warning, after all, he did know exactly how Bill got; but, dammit, he was plumb tired of being jerked around (both figuratively and literally)! So, the debatably suicidal human squared himself up with the devil, and matched that cruel smile with one of pure defiance. “Well, gee Bill, that’s too bad.”

The blond stared at him, mouth slightly agape in a moment of surprise before replacing it with a cold glare. “Oh,” he stepped toward the boy, expecting him to somewhat cower, “is that so?”

“Yeah.” Dipper surprised both of them by stepping forward with his chin up, “Just like you said last night: ‘ it’s who I am ’!”

They stood in tense silence, backs straight as they sized each other up. A large part of the boy was loudly cursing himself for his stupidity, but he kept it smothered with the spark of pride welling in his chest. Hey, if nothing else, at least he was man enough to stand up for himself against the most powerful and evil creature he’d ever encountered/heard of/had nightmares involving; whose laugh literally haunted the entire town; and who could kill him and everyone he loved in an instant but probably wouldn't because there’d be no ‘fun in it’ and he'd rather keep them to torture forever and ever, and, okay maybe this wasn’t the best idea…

The demon’s jaw was tight, his fists curled, and Dipper thought for sure he was about to be burnt from the inside out. But then, Bill forced out a calming breath and slapped on a smile. “Guess I can't argue with that, kid,” he said, even though his body was still tensed like he very much did want to argue it. “What with ‘Stupidity’ being your middle name and all!” He relaxed a tinge more and held up a finger to conduct himself as he sang, “ Mason Stupidity Pines, kinda rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? Ha!”

Dipper cringed at his name, but was too relieved to be alive that he didn't bother correcting it. He even let out an awkward chuckle, crossing an arm to grab at his cast- back still straight incase Bill found his misplaced rage.

The blond looked at the off-white plaster covered with illegible marker, “I guess you don’t really need that right now, huh?” He lifted his heterochromatic eyes to the human’s, “Want me to take it off for you?”

Dipper visibly gulped as the other took his arm in his hand, before answering in a small voice, “Yeah, that’d be… nice?”

“HA! Nice!? ” Bill barked with a glint of amusement in the corner of his eyes, “It’s like you don’t know me at all, Pine Tree!”

“Then, why are you-” He was cut off by the demon casually squeezing his hand around the cast and making it disappear in a puff of vaguely blue smoke.

Bill didn’t let go, instead he turned the human’s arm in his hand, transfixed by the mark he found on the other’s smooth skin. His mouth was flat, expression unreadable as he lightly ran his fingers (where did his gloves go?) over the center of the eye in the red-brown design.

Dipper’s head was pounding in his skull, heart racing, electricity felt close to erupting from his fingertips; Bill was too close. The heat from his body- from his touch - seemed to roll over the boy, making his mouth dry up and eyes go wide. “B-Bill?”

The blond blinked and dropped the boy’s arm like a rock into a puddle. “The creature we’re seeing may want to see both of our…” he pulled at the left arm of his golden tuxedo jacket, “...marks.”

Bill cleared his throat then turned toward the far end of the alley. Dipper silently followed, taking his time to flex his fingers and move it around. His arm had been in a useless cast for a week and he had nearly forgotten how good open air felt on it, or how wonderful it was to have free mobility.

Toward the end of the alley, just short of a small side street, they came to a shallow stair well with a door at the bottom. Its deep scarlet paint was peeling away in parts, revealing dark worn wood beneath. The very aura around it was like a grey fog, getting thicker as Dipper followed the demon down the steps.

Alarms were going off in the back of his mind, hairs were standing on their end as they drew closer. The brunet asked weakly, “This is one of those c-cursed doors, isn’t it?”

Bill didn’t need to turn around for the kid to see his smirk. “Are you scared , Pine Tree?”

Dipper gulped, “Well, I mean, nobody knows where they go, so, yeah, you could say I’m a bit nervous to go through there.”

“C’mon kid, where’s your sense of adventure?” The demon glanced over his shoulder, wide cheshire grin on his face as he slowly turned the knob, “You’ll never know where the spooky door goes unless you take that-” he stepped through the black veil in the doorway, and disappeared.

Suddenly, Dipper felt a hot pain erupting in his temples; his stomach twisted painfully, almost as if pulling him forward, after the demon. So, he followed it for a moment before stopping dead to toe at the line of the veil.

From what sounded like a far off distance, he could hear a frustrated yell, “ DAMMIT, PINE TREE!”

Then a hand reached through the veil, latched onto the front of his shirt, and roughly pulled him through.

/¤\ /¤\ /¤\ /¤\

The hair splitting pain in his head was smothered once he had the kid in his clutches- once he was standing with him past the veil, looking up at the demon with that stupid confounded expression. Bill let go of the other- pushing himself away- and went to tidying up his appearance.

Distance was the enemy. He knew that- had learned that the hard way last time he’d tried to leave- but the cursed door made him forget, for a moment, the distance that small silk-black veil put between them. What would have maybe been a couple of feet turned out to be more than a few dimensions away. Damn portals.

“Bill,” Pine Tree panted, face still screwed up in pain as he rubbed at his head, “what the fuck just happened ?”

“That, my dear sapling,” he started while positioning a previously non-existent top hat over his head, “is the reason we are here.”

Once the human had recovered, he stood upright and took in his surroundings. Not that Bill could blame the kid, no human had ever been to this time and space between time and space.

Trillions of stars were mingled with fluffy pink, blue, and white cloud-like… well, everything. Sky, ground, there was no distinction- everything just was . The only thing keeping them upright instead for floating, was the power of Bill’s own will. He hated floating- no, actually he loved floating, but only of his own accord.

“I think I’ve…” Pine Tree started airily, eyes wide and staring at the wisps of color around them as he took a fearless step forward. As though stepping onto nothing was a normal occurrence. “I've... been here before ...”

Bill’s face fell, anxiety crawled into his chest because that should not have been possible ! He cover up his nerves by scoffing. “What do you mean ‘you've been here before’?”

“Mabel and I… I-I think ...” the human started in a still uncertain and absent tone, “we… ended up here, years ago, when we were... helping somebody …?” he spoke as though he was trying to remember a dream from long ago, “find some, um, some kind of... something …?”

“When was this?” Bill asked, hurriedly. When the kid ignored him, still caught up in sorting through his own memories, he grabbed tightly onto the his shoulders. “ Pine Tree ,” he snapped, roughly shaking the other, “ Tell me when!

“I-I don’t,” Pine Tree shook his head, “I think, maybe, it was…” his breath caught in revelation and his eyes snapped to the demon’s, “it was the day before Stan opened the portal!”

Bill’s heart dropped to his stomach, the slight widening of his eyes betrayed the fear running through him. Was this how they did it? How they defeated him? Did that frilly bastard tell them what to do!? Was he tricked into his own redemption!?

“Bill?” Pine Tree asked cautiously as the blond’s fingers began digging themselves deeper into his arms.

“What. Did. It. Tell. You ?” the demon asked in a low, venomous voice- eyes ablaze as they focused on the other.

“What did What tell me!?” Pine Tree bit back, shoving Bill away.

“Don’t play games with me, Dipper Pines !” Bill growled dangerously- a rabid snarl twisted on his face as red flames engulfed his hands. Maybe he couldn't use his powers directly against the kid, but that didn't mean he couldn't make a point. Besides, would it really be his fault if Pine Tree just happened to die in the fire he created around, but not directly at , the human?

“Bill,” the brunet pleaded defensively as he began to do just that, “ I have no idea what you're talking about! I-I don't even know whether or not any of that actually happened! For all I know, it was all just a crazy dream!”

The demon threw his head back and cackled maniacally as the flames grew higher around them and even below them by a few feet- making them the centerpoint of a slowly encompassing ball of fire. “Do you think I'm STUPID !?”

“That,” a deep and almighty voice spoke from the colorful void, “William, I’d say is rather debatable. After all,” the creature appeared in the subtle movement of a particularly pink wisp of atmosphere, “you are attempting to burn another being alive in my domain.”

Shit . Bill smothered his fury at once and slapped on a welcoming grin, “Axolotl, just the know-it-all we’re look’n for!”

The demon clapped his hands together and spread out his arms, gesturing to the creature's obvious magnificence. After all, it was because of this disgusting creature with truly unlimited power that he wasn’t burnt up in Stan’s mind all those years ago.

So, Bill- maniacal, insane, self-serving, power-hungry Bill - was ever so cautious to treat Axolotl the utmost respect, no matter how much it pained him to submit to any creature in any cosmos.

Then again, he supposed, the Great Beast wasn’t really apart of any sort of cosmos; they existed in a void of time and space separate from any other, which, maybe, made it an exception to Bill’s crippling pride. At least, thinking of it that way helped the demon cope with his growing inferiority complex.

Infinite Darkness, he must look so weak and pathetic to Pine Tree right now! Not that it mattered what the insignificant meatsack thought…

“Ah,” Axolotl turned his attention to Pine Tree, “the human named Mason, who calls himself Dipper. The both of you here together ? This is a surprise.”

“You…” the human began timidly, “I-I’ve met you before...”

The Beast nodded his head. “I suppose to you it would have been several years ago.”

Ten ,” Bill corrected bitterly, “it’s been ten years, which, heh, coincidentally was around the same time I was forced to invoked your name.”

“I understand what you are implying, demon,” Axolotl replied with an edge of warning in his great, reverberating tone, “and I assure I had nothing to do with your… shall we say: setback. The humans nearly stumbled into my domain and I granted them each a single question.”

Sixty degrees that comes in threes …” Pine Tree mumbled to himself with that annoying look of revelation still on his face.

Bill tensed up, he knew that prophecy, knew it from the inside out- had done everything in his power, millenia after millenia to keep it from coming true. And yet… there he was: ‘a different form, a different time’.

“It is true, William, that I told the boy of the prophecy set out for you after-”

“Ah b-b-bah,” the demon interrupted, a single finger held up in defiance, “let’s not delve into the past, Axolotl, that’s not why we’re here.”

“Ah, of course not,” the Beast looked between the pair, “you’re seeking answers on your bond.”

“Wait,” Pine Tree shook himself out of his dream-like state to look up at the creature, “how do you-”

Bill held up his hand to cut the human off. He wasn’t going to let the imbecil waste one of their questions. “For the sake of time , kid, just assume that it knows everything .”

Which it does, the bastard.

“Yes, well, when you made your bond, I have to say I was surprised to see the path of redemption you chose, William. Especially considering the human you chose to take it with .”

Chose? ” Bill scoffed harshly, “You think I chose this?” his hands were on his chest as he barked out a broken laugh, “ I just wanted to get out that- that prison you so mercifully stuck me in and get on with my immortal life!”

“Don’t forget who gave you another chance at that life.” The Great Beast said warningly, “You were the one who refused to follow any path of absolvement I offered, and, thus, instead of going back on my word as you had yours , I granted you a life back in your own realm with the majority of your powers restored. How was that un merciful?”

Bill swallowed every ounce of pride he’d built up as it morphed into a deep embarrassment, which, in turn, only added upon the resentment for the creature who was, unquestionably, more powerful than he could ever hope to be.

“As for your argument of being forced into this arrangement, allow me to remind you both ,” Axolotl continued, directing his attention to both the fuming demon and the watchful human, “one always as a choice.”

Pine Tree’s head fell forward as he gulped down his shame.

“Well, be that as it may, Your Frilliness,” Bill started, hardly holding back his anger toward the Beast, “your wisdom doesn’t really do much to help us now.

“Very well,” the Beast inclined its head, “what are your questions?”

“What do you-” Pine Tree started, but was cut off by the demon slapping his hand over his mouth.

“Don’t waste your question like that, you idiot !”

The brunet pushed the hand away and scowled, “How was I supposed to know I only got one question?”

“You’ve been here before, haven’t you?” Bill sneered, “You should know how this works! We each get ONE question, that’s it !”

“Um, I didn’t even remember meeting Axolotl until I saw It, like, five minutes ago, so excuse me if I also forgot the protocol!”

“Hmm,” the Beast started, amused as it observed the pair, “I have to say, the both of you make for an interesting couple.”

Pine Tree’s face lost its color as he looked up at Axolotl, “Coupl-”

Bill’s hand was back on the human’s mouth before he could finish what would have been a waste of a question. Pine Tree glared even after he dropped his hand, but the demon did his best to glare harder .

“Ya know what,” the human crossed his arms, “why don’t you ask your question first ?”

“Pft, ha!” Bill smirked, “You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Just try not to be as dumb as you inherently are.”

Fine !” Pine Tree cleared his throat and directed his full attention to the Beast. “Oh Great Axolotl,” Bill rolled his eyes, but was ignored, “what is everything you know about our… bond thing?”

The demon looked at the kid and sighed. It was a good question, he supposed, and hopefully enough to get a decent answer out of the Beast. At least, maybe one they'd be able to make some sense out of later, cuz Darkness knows they'd scarcely understand it now.

Axolotl started, voice like a hiss of thunder through the sky:

Daeh s’tsinosra eht rof stiaw dna

When seven stars and three make ten

And clashing souls combine

The path of redemption shall begin

While forsaking allotted time

Denrub hcihw taht rof noitubirter skees

Infinite power within one’s grasp

Would bleed the other dry

But for a connection of the past

And so long as they draw nigh

Bew s’redips a ekil setaf gnivaew

Their lives are bound indefinitely

Sharing strength, endurance, and light

Yet the mortal's inherent fragility

Make them vulnerable in a fight

Denruter won sah tsol thought eno

Lo! Be wary of the space between

For neither are what came before

Their powers flow as oft they glean

Til together they are much more

Gnimoc si ehs

There were instances between each verse when a disembodied whisper- too low to make out- would slip from Axolotl’s breath, and Bill couldn't tell if there was any significance to them. If there were, he'd figure it out eventually; it couldn't have been too important, or it would have been plainly included, right?

Pine Tree slowly turned his head and met the demon’s mismatched eyes. His own were wide, frightened, accusing - a look that would have normally put a smile on Bill’s face, but, in that moment, only made his chest tighten. It was a lot to take in; and a lot more to begin to fit together and understand . Then the human’s eyes fell to the mark on his arm, he clutched it hard and gulped back what looked like tears.

“Kid?” Bill started.

“I want to go home.” Pine Tree replied hollowly, refusing to lift his gaze from his own feet as he stalked off toward the door.

Bill lingered back, watching the kid with an unwelcome feeling of guilt settling in his stomach. Should he have told the human all he did know of their deal before coming here? Would that have made him feel better ? Did Bill want him to feel better?

The beast watched him curiously as he tilted his weight to the backs of his heels. “You still haven’t asked your question, demon.”

Bill looked up, jolted from his thoughts. “Oh,” he shook his head slightly, getting himself back in the moment and his need for this answer, “yes, well, ya see...something happened earlier today with… my powers…”

The beast tilted its chin, “They wouldn’t work against the human.”

Bill looked away, brow furrowed in confusion, in shame, anger . His fists clenched in on themselves, sparks licking at his palms as he spoke through a tight jaw, “ Why ?”

Blood to Blood and Will to Will

An unbalanced scale is doomed to spill

And should that happen and split coins clatter

Both devil and man are fated to shatter.”

AAAARRGHHHH!!! What does that even MEAN!?” The demon exploded, a flurry of blue and red flames sprung around them. "WHY can’t you EVER just give me a straight ANSWER!?!?”

“I am sorry, William,” Axolotl started calmly, unfazed by the other’s outburst and unaffected by the flames. “but you know I cannot answer a second question.”

Bill growled a curse and the flames grew hotter. “One of these days, Axolotl,” he began to chuckle madly, “one of these days, you're gonna be coming to me for help, and you can bet I won’t be all too eager to lend it!”

The creature merely smiled.

“Bill,” Pine Tree called from the edge of the black veil. “can we go now?”

The demon hated how relief began uncoiling his fury at the sound of the kid’s voice- loathed how the flames grew more tame.

“Go to him, William,” the Great Beast told him.

An angry yell clawed itself from Bill’s throat out of spite when he turned on his heel- fire blooming in his wake as made his way toward the human who held his fate in the perpetually sweaty palm of his hand.

Chapter Text

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Mabel Pines was a lot of things: artistic, optimistic, goofy, and, at times, even she'd admit maybe a little obnoxious. But one thing she was not was stupid. She knew something was going on with her brother the moment he opened his eyes in the hospital. Even before that, she had gotten an uneasy feeling about the whole "accident". Something just felt… off .

She hadn't pushed Dipper too much for any answers, he'd already been through a lot and whatever else he was involved in was clearly taking a toll. After all, he'd let her in on everything eventually- he always did, she just had to be patient.

Only, it had never taken this long for him to confide in her before, and Mabel was officially getting irritated.

That morning when she’d walked in on him sleeping on the floor, she noticed he was wound tighter than he had been the past week. It was also incredibly suspicious that he had completely risen from his deathbed overnight. Sure Mabel had stuck up for him- backed his theory about sleeping it off- but she hadn't actually expected it to fix everything .

Dipper had always been the biggest baby whenever he had the slightest of colds, which is why she knew his sickness wasn't anything normal. Her suspicions were confirmed that morning when he woke up, full color in his cheeks and healthier than ever. No complaint, no trying to milk an extra day without work- but what was worse was how he still insisted on lying to her face. She had hoped talking with Ford would have helped him, but when he’d come up from the office, she could tell it hadn’t. Dipper was still on edge, still snappy, and still so defensive about everything.

Mabel was over it, plain and simple.

So when Ford bounded up the stairs out of nowhere- gun drawn, face etched with worry- of course she followed him. He barely made time to turn the doorknob before bursting through; Mabel hung outside, back against the wall beside the door.

She listened as Dipper shamelessly lied to their Grunkle- betrayed only by the slightest waiver in his voice. It was a small thing to notice, anyone would have been fooled by his act; but then, of course, Mabel wasn't just anyone . She understood him better than he understood himself, and they both knew it.

Ford looked defeated, distracted as he left the room, door closing behind him. He didn't notice Mabel with his head bowed and shaking gently as he murmured to himself, “...could have sworn ...”

The brunette inched closer to the door until she was able to soundlessly press her ear against the worn wood. The voices on the other side were hushed; she could only pick up parts of the conversation, but it would have to be enough to call Dipper out on his shit. Hell, the fact that there was another voice was plenty of ammo!

“...right under his nose, ha!” a cool, eerily familiar voice spoke.

Dipper said something, too low for her to pick up; the other replied equally muffled.

Then her brother’s voice cut through a bit louder, “Just go , Bill!”

Mabel gasped, palm flying to her mouth as her eyes widened. He couldn’t actually mean … Of course not- that wouldn’t even be possible , right? It had to be some other Bill. After all, it was a very common name. Yeah, they’re just a completely different creature with that incredibly popular name who had Dipper trapped in some kind of… thing ?

She couldn’t hear ‘Bill-But-Not- Bill Bill ’s’ response over the pounding of her heart in her skull. The next thing she picked up was Dipper’s panicked voice, “...what have I done!?

The girl’s breath caught in her throat in anticipation, daring to lean her weight closer .

“C’mon, Pine Tree…”

Mabel straightened herself back, her other hand joined in digging their fingers into her face across her mouth, keeping herself from crying out. Pine Tree ? There was only one creature in all the universes who would call him that .

Nononono! But that’s not possible !

“... I can’t ‘calm down’ !” she heard Dipper snap in hoarse voice, “You’re a monster !-”

No…

“I let out a fucking monster !”

No no! Hot tears welled in her deep brown eyes; her hands clamped tighter as she shuddered a single sob. It can’t be!

What was I thinking!?

The strang- no- Bill must have been moving because she couldn’t clearly hear his response, only picking up on the end, “... stop your... meltdown so I can-”

Dipper cut him off, feet pacing, stumbling over muffled his words- even through the door, Mabel could hear him start to hyperventilate.

“Ya know what, fine !” was all Mabel heard from Bill before she was blinded by a flash of white light that pushed her away- elbows barely catching her weight on the hard splintering floor.

“What the heck!” She whined, rubbing at her forehead as she sat up. Then she quickly crawled back to the door and pressed her ear close, but it was like eavesdropping on an empty room. No matter what position she tried, Mabel couldn’t hear a single thing .

And without anything else to focus on, she was left alone to drown in the information she’d just gained. She’d gotten what she wanted- an explanation for Dipper’s odd behavior- but it was just so much worse than she ever could have imagined. Now she found herself wishing she hadn’t followed her Grunkle up at all.

Bill was alive . He was there . And Dipper had been the one who’d done it, who’d let him into their house !

A few heavy drops rolled down her cheeks as Mabel got to her feet. She wiped them away with her sleeve as she sniffled. Her jaw was set- clenched tightly- her body was coiled in anger, in pain . It felt as though she had been stabbed- and in her mind’s eye she saw Dipper slicing through her chest, a wicked grin on his face and terrible slits in his yellow eyes.

Something like a hard breath of wind sounded from the other side of the door- as if the window had been opened- and Mabel immediately hopped to her feet and ran over. She didn’t care if the demon was inside! Something wasn't right, and Dipper needed her!

The door didn’t give right away, but the odd glowing from the crack died just as Mabel heaved against it again, and it opened. She tripped over her feet through the door when it gave, breath held in her throat, at the ready to curse out a specific geometrical shape, but that breath slipped out as she looked around.

There wasn’t a soul in sight. The triangular window was closed tight, the door had been locked. Where had that sound come from if there was no air supply? Fear gripped her gut like a vice and squeezed. Bill had disappeared, and he had taken Dipper with him.

Mabel hiccuped into a silent a sob and fell to her knees in the middle of the room.

Dipper wouldn’t have- couldn’t have done this! Bill was too big of a threat- had haunted him for the last decade! Mabel pretended not to notice the way Dipper had always tensed at the mention of Gravity Falls, or how he flinched whenever the name Bill came up, even in passing. She knew that the nightmares had only grown worse the more they visited, which is why he hadn’t been coming back at all.

He said he was busy- far too busy to make the trip- but she knew the real reason. He was scared. Not of the creatures they’d encountered nor the narrow brushes with death they’d had. No, he was scared of reliving the hell Weirdmaggedon had put him through, even if it were only in his own mind.

And Mabel had always let it slide. Each excuse her brother gave- each hollow smile as he waved her off- she’d let it go. Because she didn’t know what he’d been through, not really; but she did know that whatever it was had been her fault in the first place.

He said he didn’t blame her- and he truly didn’t - but that didn’t matter because she blamed herself . It was her selfish decision that put those memories into his head, and she didn’t even know how to fix it! So she let him heal his own way- let him cut out all the things that sparked the adventurous spirit behind his eyes.

She’d been surprised, to say the least, when Dipper had actually agreed to come up this year- he’d even sounded a little excited at the prospect- and, so, Mabel had thought that the healing process was finally over! She’d made it without having to properly address the demented elephant in the room after all these years!

But, as she curled her arms around herself and looked at the framed picture of them on the desk, she realized that she messed up again .

She should have forced him to talk about Weirdmaggedon and the possession years ago, because, maybe, somehow that would have stopped any of this from happening! It wasn’t sound logic, especially without knowing what exactly ‘this’ was, but she couldn’t help feeling responsible. If she hadn’t messed up all those years ago, then at least he may have still trusted her enough to come to her right away. What else was he keeping from her?

“Oh Dipper,” she whispered, wiping away tears once more with her sleeves, “I’m so sorry I let you down.”

^ ^ ^ ^

As soon as they were through the cursed door- the moment his converses hit the warm pavement in the alley- Dipper walked without once looking back. Bill was following silently, which would have probably surprised the human, but he was too wrapped up in his own thoughts to notice nonetheless care . He cut through alleys and back streets, avoiding as many eyes as he could, until he got to the edge of the forest lining the single road leading out of town and toward the shack.

He stopped there, following the towering tree line to the blue sky. The sun was hanging low on the horizon, but not low enough to encourage any bright cascades of color just yet. Dipper frowned a little at the few clouds skimming the tops of the tallest trees. Why couldn’t it ever rain when his mood actually matched it?

Just further proof that the universe hated him, he supposed.

The brunet closed his eyes and took a deep breath in through his nose- the scent of the pines laced the fresh air, grounding him to his home away from home. He knew these woods. He was safe here.

… Relatively.

While he was letting his nerves settle to the natural rhythm of the forest around him, a twig behind him snapped, and he opened his eyes.

“So what, kid,” Bill started sarcastically at his back, not moving closer. “You gonna walk all the way back?”

Dipper exhaled, slowly dropping his head forward with the motion. He was beyond the point of anger- it was useless to him now anyway- instead he found himself feeling hopelessly… well, hopeless . He’d gotten himself into this mess, and no matter how the demon had vexed him, that was one truth he couldn’t avoid. He stepped forward, beneath the canopy of tall pines, and began his trek home.

From his back he could hear Bill groan in exasperation and the demon’s footsteps echoed in his wake. He was keeping his distance, Dipper noted, pace faltering or speeding up to match him. Bill wasn’t quiet, he never was, never thoughtful to another’s peace of mind, so it was curious that he seemed to be letting the human have his.

Dipper didn't dwell long on the observation, mind wondering instead to Axolotl's words.

‘Their lives are bound indefinitely…Sharing strength, endurance, and light...’

So that's how we was able to heal so quickly, and why Bill was so careful to evade his inquiries. The bastard knew . And Dipper shouldn't even have been surprised.

After all, he had made sure to ask: ‘...just how much are you willing to do in order to save your precious loved ones?’

Anything .

The answer was and always would be that. However, why the demon didn't tell him he was essentially immortal, even after they'd struck the deal was what really bothered him. Bill was fucking with him for his own amusement. Obviously he knew that Dipper would share in his life force- it must have been a condition of staying in this dimension. He didn't let the human in on this fact probably because he was more than content to run away and watch Dipper spiral into insanity as the world aged around him and he was doomed to watch everyone he loved succumb to time.

Dipper’s steps faltered- the demon’s coming to a halt behind him. He put his hand to mouth- all the air rushing out of him as though he had been struck by a truck.

Oh God, Mabel. How was he going to tell his own twin that they weren't going to grow old together?

There'd be no wheelchair races nor complimentary coffins- she was going to experience the spectrum of a single human life, while Dipper would be forced to bury his other half in the cold ground when she was done.

He hadn't realized he was shaking until Bill cautiously stepped closer.

“Hey, Pine Tree,” he began approaching the human’s field of vision, “you okay?”

Dipper was spiralling, his breaths coming in shorter and shorter as tears streamed down his cheeks. And then he was running- pushing past Bill to forge his own path through the trees.

This wasn’t real. It couldn't be real! But he was at least 96.75% sure that it was. Still he had to get home, had see his family- his sister - to make sure he hadn't slipped into actual hell.

Dipper made it about three miles before coming to a stop, which was impressive considering he usually could barely jog a block without doubling over. Of course, that was pre- deal with the devil; he was in better health now than he'd ever been before and probably could have kept going if he hadn't lost his sense of direction.

“Shit,” the human cursed to himself, running a hand through his hair as he look around. Bill was gone- good riddance - but that left him completely alone in the middle of the forest, too far from the road to gather his bearings.

Dipper instinctively reached for his phone in his back pocket, but remembered it was sitting on the coffee table in the living room of the shack. Had he known he was going to be kidnapped and teleported to town, he'd have grabbed it. Not that there was any reception in the woods, but the compass would have been helpful. He at least could tell the direction of the shack from the spaceship that disrupted the magnetic field.

“Hey there, stranger,” a chipper voice called to him. Dipper spun around, unable to locate the source. “Uh-hem, down here.”

The brunet looked down to find a small man staring up at him- eyes wide and unblinking beneath his dark red pointed hat. His brown beard twitched as he curved his lips into a smile.

“J-Jim?” Dipper tried.

The gnome frowned and crossed his arms disappointingly. “Ha ha, kid, very funny.”

“Er-”

“Oh, oh you’re serious,” the creature huffed and shook his head, “You hit puberty, move away, and suddenly forget about us little guys, huh? Is that how it is?”

“I-I didn’t forget you! Just,” Dipper rubbed his arm awkwardly, “um… your name.”

“Name’s Jeff!” The gnome reintroduced himself with a salute. “And you’re Dapper!”

“Dipper.”

“Gazuntite!”

What ?” The human shook his head, that didn’t even sound like a sneeze! “No, that’s my name .”

“Hmmm,” Jeff regarded him slowly, roaming his eyes up and down. “No it’s not.”

“Excuse me? I think I know my own name.”

“You sure about that?”

Is he serious? Pretty sure!”

“But is that entirely positive?” Jeff asked, cupping his chin thoughtfully, “Because you’re leaving an awful lot of room for doubt…”

Dipper took a deep breath- in through his nose out through his mouth- before answering, “I am 100% certain that my name is Dipper Pines.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa ,” Jeff started with his hands up, “no need to get so sensitive!”

The boy literally had to bite his tongue before responding; the last the he needed was for Jeff to assemble the troops into MegaGnome because he'd somehow offended him. “You're right, sorry, Jeff. I guess we're even now, though. I mean I forgot your name and you forgot mine so...”

“I didn't forget your name.”

Dipper felt his eye twitch. “Right. Well. I really should be going.”

“Oh,” the gnome started, rushing in front of Dipper when he started away, “where are you heading?”

“Um,” he frowned, trying to move past again, “home.”

Jeff once again scurried in front, “You mean The Mystery Shack?”

Side step, “Yes…”

“Ha! Could have fooled me!”

Dipper sighed, carefully putting his foot down. “And why is that?”

“Well, for starters, you're going the wrong way.”

The human swore under his breath and pinched the bridge of his nose. “So, which way am I supposed to be going?”

“Well, I could take you-”

“Or you could just point .”

Jeff hiked up his pants, “but what's in it for me?”

“What do you want ?” Dipper ground his teeth as he spoke, “And if it has anything to do with Mabel, you can just forget it!”

“No no, of course not! We got over her ages ago!” Jeff waved off a hand with an awkward laugh. “But, um, on an unrelated note…” he cleared his throat, kicking a pebble and casually avoiding eye contact, “your sister, she’s not seeing anyone, is she?”

Dipper wanted to roll his eyes. Instead, he tried on a look of sympathy and lied- not for the first time- to save his sister from a creepy “nice” guy, “Actually, yes she is,” he winced a little on Jeff’s behalf, “and it’s pretty serious.”

“Oh well,” the gnome frowned, “that's- that's good for her…”

Dipper cleared his throat. “So if it doesn't involve harassing my sister, what do you want from me for directions?”

“Oh, right!” Jeff snapped his fingers, “What we want is jam.”

“Jam?”

“Yes.” He nodded seriously, “One Strawberry, one blueberry. Oo, oo! And one of those hot cherry pies the lady with the freaky eye makes!”

“Well I don't really have any of that right now, but I can get it all for you tomorrow?”

“Hm,” Jeff stroked his beard thoughtfully, “in that case, throw in an extra jar of straw- no- raspberry jam and you've got yourself a deal!”

“Okay, I guess,” Dipper knelt to shake the tiny hand offered to him. “So, which way?”

“Over yonder,” the gnome pointed over his shoulder with a snort, “ duh .”

The gnome laughed at the human's expense before leading the way.

Ah that annoying eye twitch was back and Dipper needed to remind himself that, no, he really couldn't kill the red capped creature- no matter how incredibly obnoxious he was.

“You know what I've noticed? You humans really are dumber the taller you get!” the creature chuckled as they walked, putting a proud hand to his chest, “Which is why we gnomes never grow higher than 16 inches! 20 if you count the hats.”

“Yeah,” Dipper kept in pace behind him, all the while repeating to himself, don’t do anything. Don't say anything. Just suck it up until we get to the shack! “You've really got it figured out.”

^ ^ ^ ^

Jeff had short legs, and bad knees, and, boy, he really wasn’t used to having to jog just to keep up with Dipper. So, after maybe 10 minutes of walking, the human was demoted to personal carrier and the gnome sat high and mighty on his shoulder. Directly next to his ear.

Dipper found himself wishing for the physical agony of teleportation just to get out of this situation, but the demon was gone and God knows the other was too proud to try and call him back . So he carried Jeff for 3 hours through the forest. The last 2 were done under nothing but the light of the moon through the thick pines.

“Luckily” the gnome had “perfect night vision”, but it didn’t stop him from accidently directing Dipper through some bushes or into tree trunks. Needless to say, Dipper almost wept tears of joy when he caught sight of the dim light outside the shack.

Jeff was in the middle of a sentence- something about the ongoing feud with the fairies- when the human broke into a sprint and he went flying off his perch and onto the cold ground.

All the lights from inside the shack were off. The grunkles weren’t as young as they once were, so he was sure they’d probably called it a night before the moon had completely risen. Mabel, on the other hand, could go either way- sometimes she tucked in early, sometimes she outlasted Dipper. Either way, he’d have to be careful when sneaking inside.

“Ah-hem!”

Dipper looked down at the disgruntled gnome glaring up at him with crossed arms and a tapping foot. “Oops, sorry about that.” He rubbed at the back of his neck. “And, um, thanks for leading me back here.”

Jeff wiped the grass from his beard. “Yeah well, I didn't do it for free.”

“I know, I know,” the human sighed. “So where should I leave your payment tomorrow?”

“Hmm, why don't you just set it in our clearing before sun down.” He replied with a stroke of his bread. “And, heh, I hope I don't have to remind you of what can happen if you don't keep up your end of the bargain…”

“Mega-Gnome monster?”

“You betcha!”

“Right, well,” Dipper nodded while he slowly began backing away. “thanks again."

The gnome bid a farewell, but he didn't hear it- instead focused on getting to the door and up to his bed as quickly as possible. He was beat, which, somewhere in the back of his mind he marked as strange since he was apparently linked to the demon’s boundless energy.

Over all, though, Dipper was thinking about the aches in his limbs and dull pounding in his skull from the gnomes constant yammering; he was unusually grateful to still be human enough for sleep.

The porch creaked under his weight as he tiptoed to the screen door, which squealed loudly when it opened. The throbbing in his head grew harsher when he stepped through the threshold, but ebbed completely after a few steps. Dipper let out a long breath, relief washing through him with just the comfort of being home. From the corner of his eye, he saw a light on from the gift shop.

Mabel . He sighed and followed it to the pulled back curtain for the ladder leading to the roof. Something was bothering her, and, to be honest, Dipper seriously debated just leaving her alone because he was suddenly scared that it had something to do with him.

In fact, he knew it did, but he didn't know in what context. Could just be party stress, maybe life stress, or, most likely, it was about how strange he'd been acting since he got there. Whatever the case, Dipper took a bracing breath and climbed up.

Mabel was sitting with her back to him, legs curled into her chest as she watched the stars. Dipper forced himself to breath through the nerves clawing at his chest while he walked over to sit beside her. She sniffled, wiped at her eyes with an oversized sweater sleeve, and turned her face away from him.

“Hey Mabes,” Dipper started cautiously bumping her shoulder, “everything okay?”

“Why didn't you just tell me?” She replied in a small, broken voice.

His heart was in his throat, constricting his airways and vocal chords. “W-what do you mean?”

“No,” Mabel started, whiping her face toward his with fire in her puffy wet eyes. She looked angry, hurt , and it cut like a knife straight through the other’s heart. “Don’t you dare try to lie to me, Dipper Pines.” Her edges softened a smidge, holding a sort of pity in her gaze as she added, “I know about Bill, okay.”

Dipper felt all the air leave him, leave the fucking planet . He was in a vacuum- no, he was sinking deep into the cold abyss. The world was collapsing around him, and all he could see was the look of betrayal in his sister’s eyes.

“W-h-how?” Was all he could manage, barely above a whisper.

“Doesn't really matter because it wasn't from you!” She replied angrily. “What happened to not keeping things from each other, huh?” Her voice cracked and eyes welled back up with tears, “Why don’t you trust me, Dipper!?”

“Mabel, I do trust you!” He started, pouring every ounce of truth behind it, “More than anyone, but-”

“Heh,” Mabel scoffed and rolled her eyes to look blankly at the sky, “There’s a but …”

But ,” Dipper sighed, tilting his head to try and recapture her gaze, “I didn't want to wrap you up in my mess!”

“Why, Dip?” She glared back at him, “Because you don't think I'm smart enough?”

“What? No-"

“I'm not tough enough?”

“You're being ridic-"

“What than?” She threw her hands up, “Did you think I couldn't handle it!?”

I couldn't handle it, okay!? ” Dipper snapped. Mabel’s anger melted away at the sight of the tears stinging the corners of her brother’s eyes. “If- If something happened to you-" he cut off, shaking his head toward his lap before finishing hollowly, “I-I don't know what I'd do.”

Mabel sighed softly, placing her hand on his back as he wiped at his eyes with the heel of his palm. “Dipper, did you ever think about what I'd do if something happened to you ?”

He turned his face to her and half smiled sadly, “Probably bury the world in fire and glitter.”

“You're darn tootin.” She returned the smile, tiny crinkles at the edge of her eyes, “It’s not fair for you to try to ‘protect’ me without even thinking about yourself. We have to protect each other , okay?”

Dipper nodded with a somber sigh and straightened up; he wrapped an arm around her shoulders as she leaned her head on his. They sat like that, in a half hug as they looked over the forest- letting the cool night air fill their lungs and rustle their hair until its calming presence spread through them.

She was right- she usually was about these sort of things- and Dipper found himself wondering how he’d ever thought he’d be able to keep her in the dark. It did worry him that Mabel knew about Bill, even if she didn’t know all the details; the demon had already done enough damage to her for a lifetime. Still, it was naive of Dipper to think she wouldn’t find out eventually, and maybe now that she did know it’d be harder for Bill to use her against him. Maybe. And if not, the two of them were able to defeat him once- together .

“So…” Mabel started carefully, poking at the hand on her shoulder, “I see your arm is better.”

“Yeah,” Dipper replied, dropping his arm and brought it in front of them and flexing his fingers, “it is.”

“So, what,” she looked at him  curiously, “it wasn't actually broken?”

“No it was.” He dismissed, “It just, uh, healed.”

“You're broken arm just healed itself in, like, a week ?” She deadpanned skeptically.

“Uh, yeah,” Dipper itched at the back of his head, “pretty much.”

“Huh,” Mabel took his arm to examine it, “Well that's dandy!”

The boy smiled warmly- that’s his sister, always taking things in stride, no matter how bizarre . She began to turn his wrist, but Dipper reflexively pulled his arm to his chest, still not quite ready for her to see the mark binding him to the demon.

“What the hell was that for?” she asked.

“Nothing,” he gripped his wrist tighter, “I just- um-"

The girl lifted an eyebrow and crossed her arms. “ Dipper .”

He conceded with a sigh and dropped his arm wrist up.

“Whoa,” she breathed while tentatively brushing her thumb over the eye of the triangle. “What is this?”

Dipper sighed, “It’s… complicated .”

“So uncomplicate it.” She shrugged, “Tell me what happened.”

Dipper groaned, burying his face in his hands, “Do I have to?”

“Um, doi !” Mabel rolled her eyes, “We just went through this, Dipper, c’mon.”

“Fine, fine.” He took a bracing breath before laying it all out for her. “Remember that random storm that happened the night I got here…”

 

Chapter Text

/¤\ /¤\ /¤\ /¤\

Pine Tree had certainly been in a mood ever since Axolotl finished his prophecy. As soon as they left, he didn't acknowledge anything outside of whatever his big brain was overthinking. Bill, of course, found this extremely annoying.

Still, he let the human have his silence as he led the way out of town. If he imposed his presence on Pine Tree too much, the kid might not let him stick around.

Now don't get the wrong idea, Bill would love nothing more than to ditch the kid, but if he wanted his powers to stay at their prime, they needed to stick together. And, sure, Pine Tree would need him around eventually- quite literally for his own health- but it would be nice if they didn't have to fight about it.

But, again, don’t get the wrong idea, he wouldn't mind fighting the kid, but he… wait, why was he even getting so worked up on whether Pine Tree was ignoring him?

He wasn't. He didn't care. It would just make things easier

Pine Tree came to a halt just short of the tree line outside of town, and Bill stopped a few paces behind. He watched the human lift his chin, his back expanding with air. Good , Bill thought, maybe he's getting out of his own head .

“So what, kid,” he started, laying on thick sarcasm- anything to get a reaction . “You gonna walk all the way home?”

Pine Tree sighed and began forward once more without looking back.

Um, wow, rude . Bill scowled and crossed his arms, letting the kid get a few steps ahead. Maybe he should just let him go, why should he be following him anyway? Walking around, on the ground , like a person!

But then, when Bill looked up at Pine Tree’s back getting further away, an unfamiliar feeling washed over him; he didn't want to let the kid out of his sight. The demon groaned loudly and practically stomped after the other.

Pine Tree led them further into the woods, pace steady, hands in his pockets, gaze focused ahead. Bill rolled his eyes. There he goes, getting lost in his own head again .

Then suddenly, the kid stopped dead. His head was curled to his chest, breathing heavy and uneven. The blond approached him cautiously, noting the subtle shaking in the other's shoulders as he got closer.

“Hey, Pine Tree,” the demon started softly, dipping his head a bit to intercept the kid's gaze, “you okay?”

The human looked up- face etched in horror- then he simply bolted, pushing the other back as he did.

Bill instinctually started after him, but something inside snapped him back to himself. He dug his heel into the ground- uprooting the grass with his momentum.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” the demon pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head, “What the fuck is wrong with you, Cipher!? Running after a human ?” He groaned, running his hand down his face. “Pathetic.”

A squirrel squeaked at him from a branch above- tilting its head curiously at the demon.

Bill scowled, “What are you lookin at?”

Its haunches spiked up and it scurried away as quickly as it could, leaving the demon alone beneath the setting sun.

Bill sighed, throwing himself back on a patch of air with his arm over his eyes, Axolotl’s words echoing in his ears.

“Blood to Blood and Will to Will
An unbalanced scale is doomed to spill...”

The demon felt his jaw clench as he forced out a controlled breath through his nose. He should have known . The ritual, the binding, hell even the fucking seal - he should have realized there was more to it than just a way out and extending Pine Tree's measly life.

Would he have taken the deal had he understood his powers were going to be checked by the human? That he was caged by distance, doomed to sink to mortality if he refused to abide?

Bill’s pride would like to think not, but, the moment he began to picture that tiny, dark, lonely prison he'd been trapped in for the last decade, he knew he'd still have jumped at the chance to escape no matter what. Sure, he had been the supreme ruler with (nearly) unlimited power, but his job, his subjects, his very existence was dull beyond belief.

And as much as Bill hated to admit it, he was already at the limit of his ( in )sanity; anymore and he'd lose any semblance of control over himself and his powers. Basically, if he had been forced to stay in that tiny corner of nightmares, he'd have self destructed in less than a century!

So, yeah, Bill cursed himself for it, but he most definitely would have still taken the deal even knowing all of the conditions. It certainly would have been easier if his human was anyone else- Question Mark would have been a good enough trade off! But no , it had to be a fucking Pines .

And not just any Pines- haha of course not - it had to be brilliant, stubborn, annoyingly self righteous Pine Tree.

Certainly better than Sixer, but more uptight than Fez and far less optimistic than Star.

And that pessimism on the kid's part was only going to make this whole “redemption” thing a hell of a lot harder. Everyone knows it's difficult to fool a pessimist- especially one that's already smarter than his own good.

But what's worse was that the more time Bill spent with Pine Tree, the less he found he minded being tied to him. All things considered, the human was still somewhat amusing and unusually considerate and warm and cute and- fuck, NO, Bill hated him so fucking much !

The demon let out an annoyed growl, running his finger roughly through his hair as dazzlingly blue sparks dancing at his fingertips and nipped into his skin. He needed to do something to get his mind off things. He needed to blow off a little bit of steam- to remind himself of who the fuck he was !

Because screw Axolotl! Screw Pine Tree! Screw redemption! He was Bill Fucking Cipher and he owed nothing to no one !

Bill wanted, nay, needed to set something on fire, and watch it burn to ash! But why stop at just something? He could burn many somethings! Why not the whole forest!?

Or… The demon straightened up, cackling quietly to himself, because, well, you know what he hadn't done in a decade?

He hadn't personally entered the Mindscape. Oh no, his isolation had deprived him of the honor of burning someone's mind from the inside out !

Bill threw his head back, mad laughter growing, riding on the sharp breeze through the pines around him. The sky was quickly falling into darker shades of blue, which meant people would be starting to drift to sleep soon. Prime time for the pickin's.

The Pines may have been off limits (he'd have to find a way to fix that later), but there were plenty of other souls to torment in this backwoods town!

༼ (`・ㅅ ・´) ༽

Unfortunately, one such soul, was that of Pacifica Northwest, who had been soundlessly sleeping in her California King when the dream demon happened upon her.

She was surrounded by, well, not friends exactly, but she could tell they were important somehow. They were in the old mansion, celebrating her family’s annual party. It was their last party, in fact, she realized as she caught sight of Mayor Befufftlefumpter and his posse of circling vultures. The house looked as they’d had it that night- everything did. Her parents even looked younger as they chatted up a few big players at the party.

Upon seeing this, the blonde felt a strange panic and ran to the nearest mirror. She released a long breath, inexplicably relieved that she was still 22. Though, why wouldn't she be? Somewhere in the back of her mind, Pacifica realized she was dreaming- or at least that this night had happened before. Hadn’t it? Being wrapped up in the potential memory made it a lot harder to hold onto that realization.

Whatever the case, the blonde pushed a lock of her loose curls behind her ear and did a quick touch up on her makeup. She wanted to look her best for...someone particularly important to her. Where was he? Why was he late, she'd purposely told him an earlier time!

Just as she turned away from the mirror, the grand doors creaked open. Three ladies entered, all dressed in the best “upper class” gowns they could find. Mabel ran up to her and threw her arms around her neck, the ridiculous pink petals went straight into her mouth.

“Oh Pacifica, thank you so much for inviting us!” the girl squealed.

“Um, Mabel,” the blonde pushed her friend back and patted her rose flowered shoulders, “love with your eyes, please. This is a custom gown.”

“Oh right, hah!” the brunette stepped back and let out a low whistle, “that is quite the dress! Is it for anyone in particular?”

“What? No- no, I just, it's just-”

“Ugh, it’s like this collar is strangling me,” the man she’d been waiting for started, struggling with the top button of his shirt as he walked through the door, “Who do you guys think you’re impressing with this stuff?”

Pacifica’s stomach did a flip, but she hid it well by rolling her eyes, “Um, everyone .” she stepped up to him and began tying his bowtie, “ You wouldn’t understand.”

Suddenly Dipper grabbed her hand and smirked, “I might if you would explain it to me.”

“Oh,” Mabel started at their side, chin cupped thoughtfully, “so this is who your dress is-”

Pacifica cut her off with a sharp jab to her ribs. “Let me show you where to, um, start looking.”

Dipper nodded, hiking up a backpack that she must have missed, and followed as she led the way to “The Problem Room”. Though, Pacifica couldn’t quite recall why it was a problem, it was just where they had to be for some reason. Once there, the pair found themselves tripping over her parent’s expensive rug.

They toppled together in a heap, laughing as they went. Dipper was the first to his feet, offering a hand to Pacifica with a bright smile. She took it without thought, her stomach wreathing with butterflies as he pulled her to him. But he didn’t let her go right away. Instead, his hand slid from her hand to her back. The blonde gulped as Dipper leaned closer, his eyes fluttering shut, grip tightening on her waist, his lips just-

/¤\ /¤\ /¤\ /¤\

“AND THAT’S ENOUGH OF THAT!” Bill’s voice boomed with a loud clap of his hands. He couldn’t help but laugh as little Northwest’s party went up in flames, literally. She broke away from Pine Tree, looking around in panic- the house was burning, the fountains were spouting blood, people were screaming as their bodies melted. She turned back to her “date” only to find him replaced with an eyeless demon.

One of Bill’s personal nightmares- it was nice to see they were still picking away at people’s sanity while he was gone. Pine Tree, on the other hand, the one she’d conjured, had been whisked to the only spot in the house not engulfed in flames- the balcony where the demon stood admiring his handiwork.

“Heya, kid,” Bill broke into a wide grin without turning his face away from the show, “what brings a meatsack like you to a party like this?”

There was no reply, and, boy, was that annoying. The demon rolled his eyes to look at the human’s vacant face. This Dipper was a little scrawnier than his model. The curly hair was shaggier, too, which led the demon to the conclusion that this version of the kid must have been what he looked like the last time Pacifica saw him.

Bill snapped his fingers right in front of the other’s nose, but those rich mocha eyes stayed blank. Of course they did, he was just a figment of the Northwest’s subconscious, but Bill had hoped there’d be just enough of a flicker in those eyes to bring the real Pine Tree over himself. He couldn’t get into the kid’s Mindscape without permission, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have the power to pull the other into a third party’s, so to speak.

Outsourcing at it’s finest, really.

Of course, the said “third party” would have had to be dreaming about the person for it to work, which, much to Bill’s annoyance , the Northwest girl just happened to be doing all on her own when he showed up.

The demon had been having a jolly good time jumping from Mindscape to Mindscape- leaving destruction and emotional trauma in his wake. Little Miss Heiress was supposed to be just another insignificant mind to ruin after visiting with her father in the wing over. He’d expected an in and out job, just like with the others- a little fire here, some blood and violence there, ya know, the usual. What he got was a gala heavy with the scent of unrequited love. Those dreams were always especially fun to twist- for some reason, Bill had noticed, messing with someone’s subconscious love life often had a greater effect than simply burning shit. So he hung back to see what would happen on its own, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike.

But Bill hadn’t anticipated just whom the girl was pining for- not until he heard that stupid familiar voice from the double doors. His focus zeroed in on the Heiress who had the audacity to (poorly) begin tying Pine Tree’s bowtie. Even then he could tell it wasn’t his Pine Tree, but seeing any version of him so close to her still stirred something inside the demon. Something possessive .

Still, he waited, forcing himself to let whatever was going to happen just happen . Why should he care? Pine Tree could do whatever he wanted in other people’s dreams, it didn’t matter to him at all. At least that was what Bill kept trying to tell himself as he felt his blood boil with each passing second the two were together.

Then they fell, and Pine Tree was helping her up, and they were moving closer and closer, and something finally snapped in the demon. He’d planned on burning everything, including her poor duplicate of Pine Tree, but something made him spare the dream boy. That something was the minuscule hope that he would be able to see Pine Tree- his Pine Tree- and bring him through. If only to prove to himself that he could- that he had the power to conjure up the real kid when Pacifica couldn’t! She had nothing on him and he was going to bring his human into her world of nightmares just to prove it! That would show her! That would show Pine Tree too! It was going to be great, and Bill couldn’t wait to see the look on the kid’s face!

Except, the only look appearing on the duplicate’s face was utter vacancy. There was no channel to bring the human through, and Bill was disappointed to say the least. He wanted to see the kid, and he wanted to see him right then! But that wasn’t going to happen because the stupid asshole wasn’t asleep .

Why was it Pine Tree never seemed to be doing what Bill wanted him to do, when he wanted him to do it? That annoying bastard.

^ ^ ^ ^

Dipper had told Mabel everything - the cult, the deal , the prophecy, the k- well, okay, maybe he didn’t tell her everything everything. After all, it wasn’t like those minute makeout sessions were really imperative to the story. In any case, talking to her felt as though a crushing weight had been lifted from his chest.

At some point they ended up sitting in the attic- the cool night air becoming a little too crisp. Mabel stayed attentive all the while. She listened to Dipper, chimed in when she wanted, and, as expected, called him out on any of his bullshit. They’d talked into the early hours of the morning, and before either of them knew it, she was ungracefully passed out in his bed as Waddles snored on the floor bedside her. Dipper had gone back out to the roof, unable to sleep despite the exhaustion he felt in his bones.

He stared blankly over the tops of the gentle pines silhouetted against the dark, sunless sky- his branded arm resting on his one bent knee as the other leg draped over the edge of the roof.

Dipper sat in silence, simply basking in the stillness in the air. He’d always felt as though dawn was the most peaceful time of day, serene even- as if the whole world was caught between one breath and the next.

He was officially 23 years old. “ One year closer to renting a car at a reasonable rate! ” as Mabel said. God, he remembered when getting older really felt like it mattered , and now?

Heh, now he felt as though nothing mattered, least of all his age. The human’s previously minuscule life force was now tied with that of an immortal being, which meant he’d really only ever be just shy of 23. Forever 22 years and 356 days old. Caught, just like the dawn, between one day and the next.

He saw the agony in Mabel’s face as she tried (and failed) to hold back a sob when he got to that part of the deal. It was that news that hurt her- hurt them both- most of all. It’s why neither mentioned it when the clock passed midnight, even though it had been a tradition of sorts to at least acknowledge their annual milestone the same way one would on New Year’s Eve. But not this year, and to be honest, Dipper wasn’t even sure if they ever would again.

Tonight was going to be their party, and knowing Mabel, nothing was going to get in the way of it. But no matter what happened- what flavor of cake they had, how many people came, or even what songs were queued on Karaoke- it wouldn’t change the fact that they’d all only be celebrating one birthday this day and every year after.

A pattering of hot drops fell to the back of his hand, and Dipper realized he had tears trickling down his cheek. He quickly wiped them away and pushed himself to his feet.

There were more important things to do than sit on the roof and shed futile tears. He had to go get a pie and jam- so much jam. Then there was the matter of his very obviously unbroken and cast-less arm that Dipper needed to hide before he saw the grunkles. Based on his previous experience with the demon, the possibility of running into Bill before then were slim to none, and he needed a back up plan. What that back up plan was, he supposed he'd just have to figure it out on the way to the diner.

Dipper turned from the view just as soft pink and orange light began pushing into the dark morning sky as the world finally took that breath into the new day.

Chapter Text

^ ^ ^ ^

The town was still mostly asleep when Dipper drove through, the only exceptions being the 24/7 convenient store that had reopened at the edge of town (who oddly enough sold little jars of jam courtesy of the local owners) and, of course, Greasy’s diner.

It had always been an “early to bed early to rise” kind of diner, closing around 8 at the latest and opening at 6. Lazy Susan still ran the place, though her presence there was more out of habit than necessity. Tambry was the manager below her, and she kept the restaurant together like a tight ship. It still was a long way from ritzy, but at least it was no longer actively falling apart.

It was interesting to Dipper- he’d always figured if anyone of their group was going to stay here, it would have been Wendy. Her family was here, after all, and it was still kind of hard to picture her anywhere but in these woods. Tambry, on the other hand, had always seemed to type to flee as soon as she came of age, but somewhere along the way, she and Wendy just switched places. Neither seemed to mind where they ended up, which was why Dipper never felt the need to question it.

The diner had a single other patron taking up post on the last barstool off the counter. The stranger gruffed in Dipper’s direction before turning back to his coffee.

“Hey Dr. Funtime,” Tambry began on her way out of the swinging door. Her makeup was a lot less heavy than the last time Dipper saw her, making her look more mature in a way; but her choppy medium length hair was dark purple, telling him she definitely didn’t lose all of her rebellious nature. “You’re up early.”

Dipper shrugged awkwardly, adjusting the makeshift sling he hid under a sweatshirt. He hoped nobody would look closer until he could figure out a way to get another cast on. “Yeah, well, I was just wondering if you had any- um- cherry pies I could get?”

“Right now?” She raised a half curious eyebrow, but her voice stayed relatively dismissive. “It’s barely 6 am.”

“Y-yeah, haha,” he reached scratched at his head. “I wanted to surprise everyone for, um, breakfast?”

She regarded him skeptically a moment then shrugged. “Yeah, okay, whatever. Pies are in the turner, pick whichever you want.”

Same old Tambry. Dipper struggled to grab one without letting his arm slip out from the sweatshirt, but he eventually got it and paid with only a few more half interested looks from the girl behind the counter. He had just settled in Mabel’s car- head back on the rest as he let out a sigh- when there was a tap on the window. Tambry was there, looking disinterested, but holding a to-go cup in her hand.

“You look like you need this.” She offered when he rolled down the window.

“Um, yeah, thanks.” He accepted the warm beverage with a large smile.

Tambry looked at the steering wheel and then back at him. “Should you really be driving with your arm like that?”

“Oh, well,” Dipper started in a panic, “I-I just figured since it was so early, and I wanted the pie to be a surprise, and, um, nobody was awake, and the shack is only 15 minutes away that-”

She held up her hand to stop him and sighed. “I get it, dude. Just be careful. Even in a town like this there are idiot drivers out early.” She snorted, “Shit, especially in a town like this.”

The boy chuckled, relaxing a bit, “Thanks, Tammy.”

“Don’t mention it,” she shrugged, “Oh, and, happy birthday.”

Dipper tried not to wince, “Um, thanks.”

“Yeah, well,” she tucked her hands into her apron pockets, “I’ll probably write on your timeline, anyway, but still make sure you tell you sister for me when you see her.”

“Okay, I will.”

“Well,” Tambry patted the hood of Mabel’s car and smiled, “see you later,  Dr. Funtime.”

“See ya,” Dipper laughed and waved her off as she turned back inside. It was nice to see Tambry again, but it made his heart lurch at the reminder that Wendy was still so far away. Dipper cleared his throat, started the car, and headed back to the forest.

As he gathered the paper sack of jars and large pan of pie, Dipper bitterly hoped the little bastards would be grateful for all his efforts. Not to mention just how much those 3 jars of homemade jam and a Lady Susan pie cost him. He had to cut into credit card. Granted it had been the one he reserved for buying gas, and, well, seeing as he no longer had a car to warrant any, using the card wasn't really taking anything away from his self allotted budget.

Still, the point was that all this effort certainly outweighed Jeff’s small service to him. Honestly, he probably would have been home faster without the jerk.

“Well, if it isn’t my pal Dipper-Dapper Pines!” Jeff greeted him cheerily as he stepped into the blue and green clearing just before the small hill leading to their village. “You’re here early.”

“I couldn’t sleep,” Dipper grunted absently as he carefully set down the ‘payment’. “It’s all here, just like you asked. So, we’re even now, right?”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Jeff jogged over to him, “now, hold on just a minute, Pines.”

The human took a deep, calming breath. “What now, Jeff?”

“Gotta taste the merchandise.”

Dipper watched in disgust as Jeff carefully unscrewed each lid, stuck a stubby pinky in, and brought it to his mouth. The boy grimaced and thought about what the other gnomes would think about that. Then again, in his experience, they probably would find it weird if Jeff didn’t just contaminate all of their jam with his germs. Fucking gnomes.

“...O-kay” Dipper started impatiently as he watched Jeff order a couple of squirrels to drag the goods away. “So, we good?”

“Hmm,” Jeff regarded him with a thoughtful stroke of his beard. “That depends on where you got all this.”

“Where do you think , Red Cap?” The human drawled sarcastically, “I got the jam at the store and the pie from the diner.”

“Oh,” Jeff started skeptically, “that’s it?”

“Yup,” Dipper nodded and thought it was as good a time as any to go back. “Well, see ya!”

“Huh,” the gnome started loudly once the other turned his back “ya know I only asked because, well, I’m not entirely convinced you didn’t just have your buddy conjure it all up.”

The human stopped and looked over his shoulder at the little man. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing…” Jeff sniggered, “just, uh, been some pretty interesting rumors floating around the forest about you, Pines.”

“Oddly enough,” Dipper shrugged, fully turning back now, “I don't find that surprising.”

“About you and a tall fellow in a suit who,” Jeff continued unfazed, “oh Golly , wouldn't you know it, acts, sounds and shows powers that are awfully similar to a, “ he paused dramatically, “certain demon that was supposed to have been vanquished a decade ago!”

Dipper gulped heavily.

Jeff was now glaring up at him accusingly, “Now, heh, I'm no Shmebulock, but I do seem to recall you leading the attack on said demon.” He poked the human roughly in the leg and chuckled darkly, “So isn't it funny that creatures are saying it's you who might have brought Bill back! Haha, I mean that's crazy talk!

Jeff laughed, then suddenly stopped and got a far off look in his eye, “But, then I started thinking to myself, hey what if they're not just rumors? Why would Dipper Pines do such a thing? What could he possibly gain ? And, heh  heh,” he began stroking his beard, “ya know, the more I thought about it, the more reasons I could come up with: wealth, power, knowledge, jam - the list goes on.”

Dipper scoffed, “What’s your point , Jeff?”

“Oh-ho, I’m getting there,” the gnome assured as he flicked the tip of his hat. “You see, Pines, if word were to get out that any of this wasn’t just small trunk gossip, there’d be an awful lot of mystical creatures out for your head. And not just your head, but your entire family’s! Think of Mabel, boy!”

“I don’t have to,” Dipper started defensively, fear and guilt prickling at his skin, “because none of it is true , okay?”

“Buuut,” Jeff continued, “say you were to simply confess to your crimes-”

“My crimes ?”

“-and bring the demon here …Well,” the gnome clasped his hand together, “I just might be able to help you out of your charges.”

Charges!?”

“For a small fee, of course.”

Dipper stared at him, flabbergasted.

“Whaddya say, Pines?” The man held out his little hand.

“What. Do. I. Say ??” Dipper started carefully, trying to keep his anger in check. “What I say is that this is a Big Fat Load of Malarkey!” The boy snapped, stepping closer to loom over the other menacingly, “Heh, honestly, I don’t know why I’m even listening to this! You said it yourself, it’s just a bunch of small trunk gossip, so why even bring it up, huh, Jeff!? What could you possi bly have to gain from spewing all of this nonsense!?”

Jeff was unaffected by his outburst, simply taking a small step back and cleared his throat. “Well, well,” the creature smirk above his beard, “someone sure is defensive over ‘all this nonsense’, aren’t they.”

Dipper scoffed indignantly, “You know what? I don’t have time for this.” He turned on his heal, “I’ve got a party to set up.”

“You can’t hide the truth forever, Pines!” Jeff called after him, “We’ll find out eventually, then you’re gonna wish you took me up on my offer!”

A sharp shiver ran down Dipper’s spine, and he suddenly felt hundreds of eyes on him as he quickly (but not too quickly) walked out of the forest.

“Shhiiit!” he groaned when he finally started driving away. “This is bad.”

There was no telling what the creatures of the forest would do to them if they found out about Bill. Actually, he imagined a number of them would sanction his actions, but an even larger chunk would definitely be after him- after them all .

“Don’t worry, kid,” a body appeared suddenly in the passenger seat, feet crossed on the dashboard, “I won’t let ‘em getcha.”

“JeSuS FUCK!” Dipper yelled, swerving violently into the other lane.

“Hey!” Bill whined, slamming into the middle console with the momentum, “Eyes on the road, Pine Tree!”

“You can’t just DO that, Bill!” Dipper panted angrily, back in his own lane. “ Fuck , you could have killed us!”

The demon snorted and replaced his feet on the dash, “Wouldn't be that easy, kid.”

“Well, whatever,” the brunet scolded, “you could have at least hurt me and totalled Mabel’s car!”

Bill rolled his eyes, “You act like I would care .”

“You’re fucking impossible,” Dipper grunted more to himself that the demon.

Bill’s lips curled into an exaggerated smirk as he rolled his head toward the kid, “And you need my help.”

The human laughed humorlessly, “What makes you think that ?”

"Well, besides the obvious everything..." there was a loud snap and the next thing Dipper knew, his left arm was tightly trapped back into a hard cast. Unfortunately, it had been that arm he’d been using to steer.

“DAMMIT, BILL!” The brunet yelled as he corrected another dangerous swerve toward the ditch. “WHAT THE FUCK!?”

The demon laughed loudly, pitch increasing the more Dipper glared at the road. “Oh- Oh, Pine Tree,” he wheezed, “you should have seen your face!

Then he was lost in laughter once again, golden sun catching in rich two-toned hair as he tossed his head back, exposing his long neck.

Dipper felt his cheeks flare and he quickly reached for the stereo; he cranked the knob as much as it would go, hoping it would drown out the demon’s annoying cackle and help him shift his focus.

It didn’t.

Bill kept stopping the volume before it could get too loud no matter how much Dipper tried- the demon found this incredibly amusing, of course.

Dipper was clenching his teeth and biting his tongue when his phone suddenly started ringing. He turned off the stereo completely and slapped the demon’s hand away when he went to press it back on. Bill smirked, but put his hands up in surrender so the human could answer his phone.

“Hey, Paz!” he started, holding his phone between his shoulder and ear. “What’s up?”

Was it just him or did the car suddenly get 10 degrees colder?

“Uh, hey, Dipper,” Pacifica started on the other line. Her voice was odd, like she was surprised he actually picked up. “Um, are you with Mabel? She’s not answering any of my messages, which is, like, weird for her.”

“No, actually I’m not home at the moment.” He replied, “But I’ll have her call when I get there.”

“You’re not?” The girl snorted, “Not that I care , but it's barely 8, and the Dipper Pines I know would never be up this early without a good reason. So what was it? Were you, like, out scouting the forest with your little nerd diary.”

Dipper smiled to himself, “Um, first of all, having a journal to document any scientific findings is not nerdy-”

“Uh-huh.”

“And second, as a matter of fact, no I wasn’t!”

“Oh really?” Pacifica drawled, he could hear the smirk in her voice, “Then what, pray tell, were you up to so early, Dipper Pines? Please tell me you weren’t raising any more zombies, because I’m pretty sure Mabel would, like, totally make you one of them if they showed up tonight!”

“Oh c’mon, that happened once!” The boy laughed, “When will you guys just get over it ?”

“Um, probably never.”

“Remind me why we’re friends?”

“Because I’m amazing , and you’re mildly tolerable.”

Bill huffed loudly, making a show of rolling his eyes as he turned his face toward the window. The brunet furrowed his brow curiously, quickly shifting his eyes between the road and the pouting demon next to him.

That damned sun was glaring through the windshield again, highlighting the sharp features of Bill’s profile. Things like his jawline- which seemed more tense than normal- his straight nose, those high cheekbones dusted with-

Wait, were those freckles?

“Ummm, hello? Earth to Dipper!”

“Oh, ha, sorry about that,” the human started, shaking his head and doing his best to ignore the blond when he began playing with the window controls. "So, what were you saying?"

"Just that I was wondering-"

Bill began getting more and more aggressive with the various buttons on his door.

"-if you wanted me to just pick up the cake on my way-"

Then the demon had started unlocking and locking the doors and Dipper lifted his knee to the wheel.

“-up by 10, and Mabel-”

He grabbed his phone and quickly muffled it into his shirt as Pacifica continued speaking.

“Could you, like, not?” he whispered to Bill who merely smiled and began doing it faster. The human scowled and brought the phone back to his ear.

“Dipper? Hello??”

“Yeah, sounds great!" the brunet answered absently. "Hey, um, Paz, can I call you back in a minute?”

“Is everything okay?”

“Hm?" Dipper watched the other slowly reached over to grab the to-go cup sitting between them. "Um, y-yeah," Bill brought it up to his nose and grimaced. "-everything is f- oh c’mon !”

The demon cackled as he watched what little remained of the kid’s coffee get lost in the passing air while he poured it out the window.

“Dipper you’re really starting to freak me out-”

“I’m sorry, Paz, but I’ll talk to you later...” Dipper let his phone slide to his hand and ended the call. “Goddammit, Bill! What the hell is your problem !?”

The demon smirked coolly, slowly reclining his seat. “Now, Pine Tree,” he manifested a hot cup of something that smelled suspiciously like the coffee he’d just poured out- smile growing as he brought it to his lips, “what makes you think I have a problem?”

Bill took a long sip as Dipper grumbled, “I fucking hate you.”

Tch. This again? Pine Tree, we both know your life would be so boring without me,” the blond replied smoothly. 

“No,” the human scoffed bitterly, “it'd be relatively normal and safe and temporary!

“Don’t be so dramatic.” Bill rolled his eyes, “Do know how many people would, have, and will kill for a chance at what you've got, kid?”

Dipper gritted his teeth and tightened his one handed grip on the steering wheel. “Then why don't you go find one of them to ‘bond with’ or whatever?”

“Trust me, Pine Tree,” the blond chimed, “if I could , I'd drop you faster than a cooing baby!” he caught the corners of the other's eyes and snarled, “But it doesn't work like that, so stop bitching like you're the only one pissed about the situation.”

The human made a noise of disbelief, “Well, forgive me, but you don’t seem too upset about it, Bill. In fact, I've been under the impression that you take some kind of sick pleasure in ruining my life.”

Bill shrugged. “Gotta make the most of a shitty situation, Pine Tree!” He took another sip of his drink, “You should try it sometime.”

Suddenly Dipper pulled off the road right after taking the last turn toward the shack. Bill slowly raised a curious eyebrow when the boy killed the engine.

“Well, now,” he began turning in his seat with a conceded smile and hooded eyes, “I wasn't thinking this exact second,” his licked his lips, eyes shamelessly roamed over the human, “but I'm not complaining.”

Dipper flushed, eyes widening as he stammered, “I-I-I, no , I wasn't- that's not why I-” he cut himself off by clearing his throat. The human took a quick breath, avoiding the other's eyes. “Look, obviously Ford can't see you like, well,” he finally looked up to gesture at the other clad in his usual golden wardrobe, “ this , which means you should probably just disappear or whatever you’re so fond of doing.”

“Hm… so what I'm hearing is you want me to change into something more," as Bill spoke, his appearance began melting away into something else. His hair turned completely dark, suit giving way to a simple black tee shirt and jeans, and when he blinked, even his eyes matched. They were still striking cerulean, but slightly less noticeable than before. "Casual?"

Dipper gaped at him like a fish out of water. Bill looked closer to normal, that was certain, but that didn't mean the demon would go unnoticed. Not with those bright blue eyes, his lightly speckled cheeks under that dark silky hair, nor with that cutting jaw which held a charming razor sharp smile- no, Dipper quickly come to the conclusion that the bastard would stand out no matter how he changed his appearance.

Bill licked his lips and his smile grew the longer the human looked him over.

Shit, I'm staring! Dipper hastily looked away from the demon's face, eyes falling instead on the black tee shirt he was wearing. It looked worn- or, rather as though it was made to look so. Fucking designer brands.

It fit him exceptionally well, too, accentuating the blond's toned body beneath. The collar was more relaxed than a standard tee, which complemented his long neck and exposed some more freckles; and right in the center was a faded one eyed pyramid with equally faded words beneath it.

Dipper's face fell blank. "You're kidding, right?" He deadpanned, slowly blinking up at the demon " 'Illumi-naughty?'

Bill chuckled, pulling at the shirt to look down at the design himself. “Eh, I like it.”

“The point is not to stand out,” the brunet sighed, “and I know for a fact that if Ford even catches a glimpse of, ya know- that symbol-”

My symbol.” Bill corrected.

“Whatever,” Dipper rolled his eyes. “My point is  that anyone seen with it automatically gets put on his ‘watchlist’.”

“Okay, okay, I see your point.” The demon sighed and the image shifted into big brightly colored letters spelling out: I AM BILL CIPHER “This better, Pine Tree ?”

“Oh Ha. Ha.” Dipper sneered, turning the engine back on, “ You’re hilarious .”

“I think so.” He stretched his arms over his head, shirt changing once more into a grey faded duplicate of the pine tree on Dipper's old hat.

The human rolled his eyes as they got back on the road. “I still think it'd be better if Ford didn't see you at all . I mean, he almost broke down my door just because he heard you laughing ! And besides, what would I even say about you? Just ‘hey here’s a stranger I picked up in town for no reason whatsoever’?”

“Tell ‘em…” Bill broke into a sharp-toothed grin, “I’m an old friend .”

Dipper snorted, “They know everyone in this town, and they know me well enough to know that I don't really have any friends around here except Soos and Wendy, and maybe all of Wendy's friends. So there's really no way they'd buy that story, which circles us back to you just staying hidden from Ford.”

“Hm…” the blond tapped at his chin, “or you could tell ‘em everything and free yourself from the burden of their affections!”

Bill, ” Dipper snapped as the shack came into view, “would you please just disappear for awhile?”

The demon laughed as the shack grew closer, “Boy, you sure sound desperate to get rid of me!”

Bill! ” the brunet slowed to a crawl just in case anyone was outside.

“Hm, fine ,” the demon started, his disguise melted away, “but you owe me one, Pine Tree!”

“Wait, what? No-” but Bill was already nothing but air. “ Dammit!

Fuck, he didn't want to owe the bastard another favor! Who knew what kind of horrible things Bill would ask of him; he still hadn't tried cashing in the one Dipper owned him from the Nightmare Realm. And the human could only imagine that that was because the other had something horrible in mind.

“Hey!” Grunkle Stan called to him when he got out of the car. “What are you doing up so Goddamn early?”

“Um,” Dipper started, jogging up to the back porch, “good morning to you too, Grunkle Stan?”

“Don't give me that,” the elder grunted, “just because it's morning doesn't mean it's a good one.”

“Yeah, heh, I feel that.” The brunet opened the screen door for them both. “Um, hey, do you know where Mabel is?”

“Huh?” Stan started, absently scratching his back “No, haven't seen her or that pig yet.”

“She's probably still asleep,” Dipper sighed, “Thanks, Grunkle Stan.”

“Whoa there, sport,” the man grabbed Dipper by the back collar of his shirt and pulled him back through the door. “Where do you think you 're goin’?”

“Um… inside?”

“Not with the Shack opening in, well,” Stan paused just as Soos's old truck sputtered to a halt at the end of the drive, “ now ! You can still man the register with that thing, can't ya?”

“Er-” Dipper looked between his Grunkle and his cast and seriously considered making up an excuse.

Unfortunately, Stan didn't even give him that chance. “What am I sayin- HA,” he patted the boy roughly on the back, “ of course you can!”

“Ow.” Dipper squeaked.

^ ^ ^ ^

The shack was unusually busy for the end of the summer. Dipper already had to clean up after a broken snow globe, break up two kids wrestling, and had gotten into an argument over a coupon a woman found online.

That argument was that a) Stan didn't know the meaning the word ‘ coupon ’ and b) the man didn't even have an email nonetheless the ability to post something online. She demanded to speak with the manager and, at that point, Dipper just gave it to her and put in the difference out of pocket. It was easier than bothering Stan for an argument that would probably end in handcuffs.

Luckily, that woman had been the worst customer of the day, but it was only noon. At least it was better than having unknown animal hair glued to different parts of your body. Dipper shivered at the memory.

The high pitched bell on top of the door rang and a young teenage boy came in to relieve Dipper of gift shop duty. He was nice enough, but he also spend all his time ogling at Mabel, which made Dipper wary of him. Regardless, he waved the poor bastard off and bounded upstairs.

He was surprised when he got to his room and found his sister still sprawled out in his bed. Dipper couldn't remember the last time he'd seen her pass out like this without actually being passed out . He sighed and made his way to the bed.

“Mabel,” he started, gently shaking her shoulders, “Mabel get up.”

The girl groaned and tossed away from him. Dipper rolled his eyes and pulled down the blanket.

“Bro,” Mabel started, glaring at her brother beneath her bed head as she sat up, “look, I love you but what the actual heck !?”

“Mabel,” Dipper scoffed, “it’s past noon, and you never sleep this late...”

“Stuff it, traitor!” the girl growled as she fell back and aggressively pulled her blanket back over her head.

Dipper snorted as he settled on the edge beside her, “Well this feels backwards.”

The lump groaned loudly, curling in on itself as it whined, “It’s not my fault you didn’t shut up until dawn!”

He stuffed his hands in his pockets and casually laid back, his head resting on her bicep. “You, um, know it’s our birthday , right?”

She scoffed, “ Of course I-“ suddenly Dipper was pushed off the bed as Mabel hopped to her feet. “HOLY HOTCAKES! Why’d you let me sleep so late!?”

The boy rubbed at his head, standing back up. “Because you obviously needed it.”

“But there’s still so much to do!” Mabel began pacing as she listed off what was left for the party.

“Mabel, calm down,” Dipper sighed, “Paz is bringing the cake with her, most of the decorations are already up , what more really needs to be done except show up?”

The girl gasped dramatically. “Weren't you listening? We have to set the tables, hang the banisters, queue the music, set the lights, and buy the booze because Grunkle Stan already drank his way through most our supply! Not to mention -”

And she continued to ramble things off as she hustled Dipper out the door.

/¤\ /¤\ /¤\ /¤\

It had only been a few hours since he'd left Pine Tree flabbergasted in the car, and Bill was bored . At first he had tried simply hiding up in the attic, but found Star fast asleep and her guard pig on full alert. The monster charged him into a corner, and he had to use his magic to make sure the sleeping girl didn't wake up from the racket.

Then he tried escaping to the lab, but fucking Sixer had warded it against him- sigals that held up even with his bond. What a nuisance.

From there he hopped from place to place, waiting for something to pique his interest. There was a tussle between McGucket and a raccoon that was fun for about 5 minutes, but other than that, there wasn't much happening in Gravity Falls. Big shocker there.

Finally, somehow , after all that, Bill found himself sitting with Question Mark's Abuelita in a heavily decorated room dimly lit by the glow of the television.

It was an accident, really. Like blindly flipping through channels instead of simply going to the guide, Bill was going spot to spot until he misjudged a jump to the local park, and BAM! He appeared in the middle of a room, between the television and the woman's couch.

Abuelita hardly blinked, taking to him as though a stranger simply manifesting in her living room was nothing out of the ordinary. She silently motioned him to the couch and handed him a pair of knitting needles.

Bill stared at them, then at the old fragile looking woman focused intently on the tv, then at the screen just in time to see the macho doctor/spy roll away from a shoot out. Intense music accompanied the lead lady's overdramatic yells to him as the bad guy holding her laughed.

Well, at that point, the demon was hooked . Before he knew it, he was halfway through a scarf and exchanging offhanded gossip with Abuelita about the characters of Tango de Coraźon . They both agreed that Ricardo (the doctor/spy) was way too good for Isabella (the leading lady who was a real ‘zora tonta’, as Abuelita called her).

It was an unusually nice way to spend his day until the sound of a loud truck sputtered to a stop outside the door.

Abuelita sighed, gently placing a hand on top of Bill's needles to stop him. “Deberías irte ahora.”

“Hm?” The demon looked up just as a lock could be heard turning. “Ah,” he nodded and placed a hand on top of the woman's. “Gracias.”

Bill snapped and disappeared… to the kitchen because he really didn't want to miss the end of this episode. A young woman walked in- brunette hair up in a ponytail as she held four large grocery bags in her arms. Bill moved the the small hallway off the living room when she made her way to the kitchen.

“Hola, Abuelita!” The woman greeted, coming from behind the chair to place a soft kiss to her head. “How was your day?”

“Good, good, Melody,” she replied. “Ricardo reveals his twin now.”

Bill glared at her for spoiling the next moment on the screen when Ricardo, in fact, burst into a church and the camera panned to another man at the altar identical to him.

Melody chuckled warmly, back in the kitchen unpacking the bags.

“Where is Soos?” Abuelita asked in her frail voice.

Bill was just about to blink out when he caught Melody's reply, “Oh he's staying at the shack for Dipper and Mabel's birthday party, remember?”

The demon's eyebrow twitched, Birthday party ? No wonder the brat was so eager to ditch me!

“You no go?”

“Nah,” the brunette started, a tray of cheese and crackers in her hands as she went back to the couch, “I'd rather stay in and see how Ricardo and Juan handle this shocking news.”

Bill watched Abuelita grin at the woman as they both settled back.

“Um, Abuelita,” Melody began, picking up the demon’s knitting needles, “are you working on two scarfs?”

And with that, Bill took his final leave. He had a birthday to crash.

Chapter Text

^ ^ ^ ^

Dipper hated parties- a well known fact that was universally ignored by those closest to him ( cough cough, Mabel )- but he didn't mind them so much when she was there. Plus, at least with this one he knew pretty much everyone attending. So it wasn't so bad when the crowd began shuffling into the shack, overflowing into the Christmas lit yard out front. At least, not until he really started thinking about it.

Music was booming inside and out as people mingled and danced. Glitter frosted tables were set up around the perimeter of the room with the main one in the middle holding the twins’ three story cake. A giant banner hung above it reading in bright bubble letters: EVERYBODY LIKES YOU WHEN YOU'RE 23!!!

Dipper really had tried keeping up his pep when the party got to a full swing, but as the hours dragged out, he eventually found himself sitting on the back porch couch staring at his phone. Wendy had texted him a ‘ Happy Birthday, Dipper! Wish I could be there to tear shit up with you guys! ’; his parents, of course, had left them both a very loud voicemail demanding a call back in the morning (even though they'd already talked to them that day); and even a couple of his college buddies sent him some birthday texts.

There'd surely be more well wishes the next time he'd check social media, but for now he was just scrolling through his phone without any particular goal. Just an excuse not to look so lonely, he supposed. And it wasn't so much that he was lonely as it was he was overwhelmed with how pointless this all felt. The party, the cake, the people- the reason they were all there was a lie for him, and just ignoring that didn't make it better.

“Hey,” Pacifica started, standing in front of him.

He looked up and sighed, “Hey.”

“What are you doing out here ?” She asked, sitting herself on the couch beside him. “You know there's, like, an entire house full of people here to celebrate you and Mabel.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Well,” she continued, “it's seriously poor etiquette to hide from them out here.”

“So…” Dipper smiled coyly, “What you’re saying is that I should hide from them somewhere else ?”

Pacifica snorted and pushed at his shoulder. “You know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I do,” he chuckled, “but I am electing to ignore it.”

The girl rolled her eyes, “Why are you hiding, anyway?”

The boy's smile disappeared as his gaze drifted to the edge of the dark forest. “Too noisy, I guess.”

“Well then I'll get you some earplugs!” Pacifica stood up and offered him her hand. “But you can't just sulk out here all night, Dipper Pines.”

The brunet rolled his eyes and grumbled, “I'm not sulking …”

Nonetheless, he took her outstretched hand and got to his feet. She led him back inside where the collection of bodies and summer heat was more suffocating than he remembered. They'd barely gotten to the top of the stairs in the showroom when Mabel barrelled herself through the crowd to them.

“Hey you guys,” she started loud enough to be heard over the music, but quiet enough to imply forthcoming gossip, “don’t look now, but the most beautiful man my two eyes have ever had the honor of seeing just walked in!”

“Oh my God, where ?” Pacifica asked. Dipper resisted the urge to roll his eyes as both girls leaned over the banister, surveying the crowd below.

He chuckled quietly to himself, Some things never change.

But that chuckle died in his throat as soon as he saw the mysterious stranger stalking across the floor. He was tall, slender but noticeably filled out in all the right ways, his clothes were casual, dark hair was in a normal disarray, and nothing in particular should have set him apart from the crowd, but somehow he still was . Despite all his efforts to appear “normal”, the guy still stood out like a flake of gold in a see of grey.

Fuck .” Dipper breathed, panic seizing his heart.

Then, as if the stranger heard him (and Dipper wouldn't doubt the possibility) he looked up and found the human with his eyes. The devil carefully paced his steps through the crowd, slowly finger-combing his dark brown hair from his face and smirking at the attentive glare Dipper was now fixing on him. No matter which way he moved, those brilliant, oh-so-subtly mismatched blue eyes pierced the human even through the hazy lights. The demon prowled like a wolf tracking his kill- deadly gaze still locked on the brunet as he navigated the crowded staircase.

“Heya,” Bill started, one step below the human, then another one up to bring him almost chest to chest with the other, “ Dipper .”

The brunet cringed at the weight of his name on the devil’s tongue- firmly denying to himself the strange flurry of butterflies in his chest as he took a step back.

“Wait…” Mabel gawked.

“Do you, like, know each other?” Pacifica finished.

Bill sneered at the blonde, “We're old friends .”

“Excuse us for a minute,” Dipper said to the ogling girls through tightly gritted teeth. He then grabbed a handful of Bill's dark shirt and began pulling- missing the smug smirk and wink the demon sent to Pacifica on the way.

The human led them all the way through the crowded hall- ignoring the curious looks thrown their way from the guests waiting for the bathroom- until they were at the back porch. As soon as the doors closed, Dipper slammed the demon against it.

“Ooh,” Bill smirked, “ Feisty .”

What the hell are you doing here!? ” The brunet whisper-yelled, quickly doing a check of their surroundings. “And why do you look like that ? I thought we agreed on-

“Awe, what's the matter, kid?” The demon grinned, “I thought you liked me like this.”

No.” Dipper snarled, “I like you not anywhere near my family!”

“Brr,” he shivered. He leaned more of his weight on the other's hand still clutching to the faded pine tree on his shirt, tucking his chin down to get closer to the brunet's face, “anyone else feel that cold front moving in?”

“You said you'd disappear!” Dipper growled, pushing the demon back against the door.

“And I did , sweetheart !” Bill chuckled, stroking the other’s cheek and smiling when he backed away. “Then I found out about your little party and well, honestly, I'm quite hurt that I wasn't invited.”

Dipper grimaced, “You weren't wanted .”

“Ouch, Pine Tree.” The demon pouted, “I have feelings, ya know!”

Please… ” the angry brunet snorted, “none that I can hurt .”

“Awe, well, that's just not true,” Bill started, stepping closer to the human, “and you did . Now,” he purred, hands carefully pulling on the other's hips, “I really think you should do something to,” he dared move closer, tilting his head down til his nose was inches away and his hot breath was ghosting against Dipper's lips, “make it up to me.”

Dipper leaned back and steeled his glare. “I don't have time to play this game with you, Bill ,” he pushed the demon squarely in the chest, “and you need to leave before anyone else sees you.”

“Boo! You're no fun!” Bill pouted. “Besides, it’s a little late for that…”

“What do you-”

“There he is!” Stan burst through the screen door with outstretched arms, opened beer sloshing onto his hand, “Rickkkyyyy!”

Ricky ?” Dipper inquired tartly.

Bill smiled concededly. “Short for Ricardo, kid, keep up!”

“Haha, ‘keep up’ bahahaha!” Stan laughed clapping a heavy hand on Dipper's back, “Man, I love this guy!”

Bill replied with finger guns while Dipper felt his eye twitch. “You don't even know him, Grunkle Stan.”

“Sure I do! He and his folks used to visit the shack every summer when he was a kid, isn't that right, Ricky?”

“Sure is, Mr. Mystery!” Bill affirmed with a bright smile than had Dipper's gut churning. “Say, what was that one attraction that was something like a wolf-human…”

He cut a sly side-eye to the boy, and, by God Almighty, Dipper was going to strangle that asshole!

“Pre-teen Wolf Boy!” Stan cheered, “Oh, man , how could I forget!? He was a hit !”

“I don't know if I'd use the word ‘ hit ’.” Dipper grumbled.

“Are you kiddin ? People loved it!” He started laughing until it turned into a rough cough.

I loved it!” Bill added unhelpfully.

“Haha,” Stan threw an arm around the demon's shoulders. “ This guy !”

“Well, sorry to break up this beautiful moment,” Dipper pulled Bill away from his grunkle, “but, Ricky was just telling me how he had to leave .”

“What?” The elder man frowned. “But it’s so early! You- you haven't even had any cake !”

“Cake?” Bill smirked down at Dipper. “Well I guess I can't leave without any cake .”

Dipper tightened his grip on the demon’s arm. “Sure. You. Can.”

“Nonsense!” Stan started. He hooked an arm through Bill’s free one and began to pull. “Stay as long as you’d like!”

“Oh don’t worry,” Bill smirked over his shoulder as Stan began dragging him away from Dipper, “ I plan to .”

Dipper's heart began to race faster the further they went; as though each passing second was quickly becoming his last before he and the devil's charade came crashing around him. He had to do something before he lost everything !

“Grunkle Stan, WAIT!” Dipper shouted in a panic, following after the pair through the door. Stan turned around “h-have you seen Ford anywhere?”

If Bill had been a wolf, the brunet was sure he would have seen his ear twitch toward his voice at the mention of the his old rival. As it were, though, the demon carefully maintained a passive expression while he surveyed the walls a few feet ahead.

That know-it-all?” Stan scoffed, “No, he had some ‘business’ on the far end of the forest that apparently couldn't wait.” He shook his head as Bill failed to smother a smirk at the edge of his lips. “The nerve of that guy, amiright? I mean, crazy stuff happens ‘round here all the time- your grand-twins only turn 24 once !”

“23,” Dipper corrected.

“Yeah, well, whatever .” Stan grumbled, looking disapprovingly at his now empty beer can, “The point stands that after all these years, that lab rat still has his priorities all mixed up!”

“Oh thank God,” Dipper murmured with a sigh of relief. Then a thought dawned on him. “Wait a minute…” the brunet started cautiously, “Grunkle Stan,” he continued louder to make sure Bill could hear him as he cut him with a suspicious look, “did Ford say what kind of urgent business he was checking out?”

Bill turned, replying to the boy's accusing eyes with a wounded puppy expression, as if to say ‘it hurts that you would accuse me of such a thing…’ , but the mischievous glint in his eyes gave him away.

“Hmpf,” Stan grunted while cleaning his ear with his pinky, “Hell if I know! Just ran out the door saying something about ‘ a curious spike in the meter ’ and that he promised to be back in time for cake.” The older man shook his head, “But I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't get back until everyone already went home!”

“Wow,” Bill chimed in, throwing the pair a look over his shoulder, “ he sounds like a real stick-in-the-mud.”

“Heh, you have no idea...”

“I supposed I wouldn't,” the demon shrugged, sending another smug smirk Dipper's direction. “Well,” he clapped his hands and spun, placing his hand on Stan's shoulder, “Mr. Mystery, shall we away to where the party's really pumpin’?”

“I like the way you think, kid!”

Dipper watched the pair disappear down the hall. Rage settled in his chest, pounding at his temples, trimmering his hands; rather than go after them again, the young brunet turned around and stomped back to the porch.

FUUCKK!! ” Dipper yelled, slamming his uncast fist into the side of the shack as hard as he could- the sound of snapping bone was drowned out by the slamming of the screen. He howled in pain as blood oozed from his knuckles. There had definitely been a crunch by the force of the blow, but the pain got duller and duller as Dipper watched the fresh cuts on his skin stitch themselves together again. The sight made him nauseous, a little bit dizzy, and all the more furious. He hit the wall again, harder, and again, harder still - never allowing his hand to fully heal before the next blow.

“Dipper!” Mabel started in a panic, running from around the corner to pull him away from the wall. Not that she needed to, Dipper had already snapped out of his fury at the sound of her voice. Still, the girl grabbed his wrist and held it up as if he were going to swing again. “Are you crazy !?”

Dipper yanked his arm free and brought it to his chest, slowly flexing his fingers as they mended themselves. He took a deep breath through his nose, closing his eyes as he regained control over his anger.

“What in the fuck was that about?” Mabel demanded, watching his hand in fascination.

“Don't worry about it, Mabes,” he sighed, offering the smallest of defeated smiles, “I'm fine now.”

“Bullshit, you are!” The girl snapped, “I have never ever seen you act like that, Dipper; you scared the hell outta me!”

“I'm sorry,” he sighed, “I didn't mean to. I-I mean, the first time I did, and then my hand just fucking… healed and that just pissed me off all over again and so I-” the boy fell back on the couch, looking at the hand in his lap, “everything just spiraled from there, I guess…”

“No kidding...” Mabel sat beside him. “What made you so angry in the first place?”

Bill ,” the boy snarled, uttering the name like a curse.

“Bill? Here ?” Mabel glanced around quickly, “Where? Did I see him?”

Dipper nodded once, “Oh yeah , you definitely saw him! ‘The most beautiful man my eyes have ever had the honor of seeing…’ , remember?”

All color drained from Mabel’s face the wider her eyes got. “Come again, Broski?” She laughed nervously, “You must be joking! I mean- heheh- there’s no way that tall, gorgeous , blue-eyed, chiseled jaw, tight perfect-”

Dipper crossed his arms and raised his eyebrows, “You, uh, really want to keep going?”

She gasped, with a fully offended hand going to her chest. “That monster ! UGH I curse my own two eyes ! What right does he have to look that good !?”

“C’mon, Mabel,” he grumbled, “he doesn’t look that good.”

“Look, Dip,” Mabel started sympathetically, patting his knee, “if that’s what you have to tell yourself to make this whole situation easier, then you go right ahead.”

“Can we just stop talking about it?” he snapped. “You’re really not helping!”

“Sorry, bro bro.”

“No,” Dipper started, shaking his head, “I didn’t mean to snap, it’s fine, I’m just-” he sighed heavily, leaning his head back. “He’s in disguise anyway.”

“Oh, phew ,” the girl wiped her brow, “at least he’s not always that distracting , amiright?”

He didn’t respond, instead becoming very interested in the buttons on his short sleeved blue and black flannel.

“Dipper?” Mabel pressed, and her brother’s cheeks began to glow. “Oh. My. God.” She groaned, hands covering her face, “He’s hotter isn’t he?”

Kinda? ” Dipper winced.

“No, no, no, no! ” Mabel whined, “Why didn’t you warn me, Dip?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Well,” she crossed her arms, “you should be!”

He rolled his eyes, “It doesn't really matter how attractive he may or may not be because- heh, I guess you might have forgotten but- IT'S STILL BILL!

Mabel leaned further back with a grimace, “Ugh, I hate him!”

Dipper joined her, crossing his arms and sinking lower in the couch, “Me too.”

So ,” the girl started slowly, “whaddya think's gonna happen when Ford sees him?”

“Who knows?” Dipper laughed humorlessly, “disown me, exorcise me, kill me! Heh, you're guess is as good as mine, Mabes!”

“He wouldn't kill you.”

“Oh no?” The boy frowned. “Mabel, I brought back his arch nemesis- who, by the way, was supposed to be dead and may very well try to destroy all of humanity not to mention our entire dimension again!

“That's not your fault, Dip.” She tried to console him with a hand on his back, but he shook her off getting to his feet.

“It is ,” he started bitterly, “and I need to go find Bill before Ford gets back .”

Mabel hopped up. “I'll help!”

“No, it’s too-”

“Dangerous?” the girl finished venomously, “ Really , Dip?”

Dipper sighed, “Okay, fine , but he can't know you know , okay? I don't want to give him a reason to hurt you.”

“Got it.” Mabel nodded. “If I see him, I'll tell him you wanna make out in the gift shop.”

OR that I am simply looking for him!”

“Listen, bro bro,” the girl explained, “he already knows you'll be looking for him to leave, so if you want him to come to you , you're gonna have to throw out a little bait…”

Bait?

“Ya know, show ‘em some ankle!”

“No,” Dipper rolled his eyes, “I'm not going to prostitute myself to get him to leave.”

“Gross, Dip!” Mabel grimaced. “All I was saying was there’s no harm in, well, flirting a little . You don’t actually have to do anything with him- in fact I and the Universe would prefer if you didn 't- but as long as he thinks he’ll get something , you’ll be able to lure him away before Ford gets back.” She looked at him with sympathy. “Desperate times, bro bro.”

“So basically, make another deal.”

“Think of it as more of a...” she trailed off, trying to grasp the perfect word.

“More of a...?”

“TRAP!” Mabel snapped her fingers, wearing a wide grin. “It’s just a trap !”

The boy rolled his eyes. “What am I supposed to trap him with, Mabes? A net?”

“Okay, Dipper,” she started crossing her arms and pursing her lips, “stop shooting everything down, I'm only trying to help.”

“Sorry. You’re right,” Dipper deflated, “it’s not a horrible idea, but he just-” the boy took a sharp breath, trying to think of exactly how to explain Bill’s new and aggressively flirtatious behavior toward him. Tempting the demon with exactly what he wanted when he still felt so vulnerable around him set off all the red flags in Dipper’s head.

“I don't know,” he sighed, “I guess I just honestly don't think he'd fall for it.”

“Maybe not,” Mabel shrugged, “but we have to try something before Grunkle Ford gets back.”


 

||||||||||/  |||||/  |||||/

Stanford Pines didn't particularly enjoy parties- a well known fact that seemed to matter less and less as he got older- but when it came to the twins’ parties, he found he actually quite enjoyed them. They were easily his two favorite people, and, more than anything, he wanted to be there for them for any event they might throw. Unfortunately, he hadn't been able to be for the last few celebrations, which is why the man had been so looking forward to this night.

That was, until everything starting going haywire. Well, maybe haywire was the wrong word, but Ford couldn’t think of another way to express the recent spike in his nerves.                                                                                       

Perhaps it was from nearly half a lifetime running and fighting through multiple dimensions just to keep alive, perhaps from the years of demonic torment in his own mindscape, but the elder had a bad habit of always being ‘on guard’.

It was a survival technique that had worked well enough for him thus far, but even he could admit his paranoia could sometimes go a little overboard. Stan had come a long way with him over the years- reminding him that he didn't always have to read so much into things- and, really, for the most part, he would like to think he'd gotten a lot more level headed.

But lately, Ford had been fighting the sense- the nerve frying, stomach twisting, unyielding itch in the back of his mind- that something was wrong. More than just wrong, catastrophic.

He just couldn't quite put his finger on what exactly was making the alarms in his head go off. Not until the day before when a passing cackle from the darkest pit of his worst nightmares gave Ford the hint of a feeling that maybe, just maybe He was behind it all. Of course, like everything even possibly involving Him , that tiny passing thought grew into an steady ember, slowly burning the paranoia hotter and hotter in the pit of his stomach.

It would certainly explain a lot- the anomalies in his detector, Dipper’s accident, the high tension humming in the very air. Then again, Ford reasoned he could be drawing lines between isolated events. There was more of a possibility of him simply being paranoid than there was of him being right . And, honestly, if it came down to it, Ford would gladly accept the former. He could be wrong- crazy even- as long as it meant Bill Cipher hadn’t somehow returned.

Still, when the weirdness detector began going off at approximately 7:15 that evening- just 45 minutes until the party was to begin- the older man took off without a second thought. Though, Stan had certainly given him a hard time on his way out of the house as the kids were putting the finishing touches in the exhibit room.

“Are you kiddin’ me?” His brother had started, annoyed. “Can’t this wait?”

“I wish it could,” Ford replied seriously, “but who knows what this could mean!”

“Who cares!? I guarantee it’s not gonna be the end of the world!”

“What if it is? What if it’s-” the younger twin cut himself off; he knew how Stan felt about his fear of Bill’s return.

Stan had sighed heavily, “Look,” he placed a heavy hand on the other’s shoulder, “you’ve gotta stop this, Ford. He’s gone and he’s not coming back. You can’t miss the twin’s party for another wild goose chase.”

Ford took a breath, looking at his brother sternly. “I’ll be back before they cut the cake, I promise.”

Stan let him go with a deep lined scowl before shoving past him back inside. Ford felt the familiar pang of guilt in his chest, but he knew he had to at least go check. Either he was wrong and the spike in activity was due to something relatively usual in their strange forest, or he was right and Bill had returned. Regardless, it was up to him to figure out.

Trekking through the forest was not as easy as it had been when he was younger. No matter how much he hated admitting it, his body wasn’t what it used to be; at least he had the advantage of the late summer sun keeping all the monsters of the dark at bay. Hopefully, he'd get back to the shack before it set, but Ford still didn’t know exactly what he was going to find, which was why he'd brought an extra phaser just in case things got hairy.

After what felt like hours - though, according to Ford’s watch it had only been a little more than a single one- the weirdness detector’s radar went blank, just as it had the night of the accident. The old scientist stopped dead in his tracks and began looking around the small clearing he’d stumbled into.

“I know something’s there,” Ford lifted his chin and called out, slowly extracting his phaser. “Show yourself!”

There was a slight shuffle behind him, like the crackle of a leaf in crisp autumn air. The man spun on his heel, his weapon steadily aimed at the new shadow lounging on a large rock beneath the trees.

“Stanford Pines,” the figure drew out through a honey sweet voice that held a hint of a southern drawl, “as I live and breath.”

The scientist tightened his grip on the phaser and scowled. “Who are you?”

“Oh my my, where are my manners,” the shadow slid off the rock and stepped slowly toward the other. Uneven shadows of the trees slipped off the now apparent woman as she moved into the rapidly setting light. She was wearing a black dress with a slit far up one side that shimmered as she moved, her mess of tight raven black curls bobbed around dark caramel shoulders as she stalked closer, reminding Ford of a large cat finding its next meal. The sweet smile she wore would have contradicted this impression, if not for the ice green eyes practically glowing with danger.

“My name is Andromeda Relic, but, Sugar,” she stretched out her hand to Ford, not as a shake, per say, more as a lady would offer her hand at an elegant affair where the men would fight over who would get to kiss it first. “You can call me Annie.”

Ford frowned at the offering and held his gun tighter. The woman shrugged, unphased at the threat pointed directly at her chest as she curled her hand up to inspect her perfectly pointed nails

“And what exactly are you, Annie ?” the man demanded.

To that she grinned- slowly curving her cherry red lips up to reveal dazzling too sharp teeth. “A friend .” She drawled sweetly. “Probably the best friend you’ll ever make.”

Ford inclined his head. “What makes you say that?”

“The enemy of my enemy and all that,” Annie’s smile grew, “and oh what an enemy we’ve got.”

“What are you talking about?”

The nonhuman woman sighed exasperatedly, “Denial isn’t a good color on you, Sugar. You know who I mean. You’ve been feeling it, like an itch in the back of your mind that you can’t quite reason away.”

The man’s heart was in his throat as her words sunk into him. She couldn’t...

Her icy eyes bore into him. “He’s back. 

“You’re wrong,” Ford contested weakly, his hands shaking the phaser still trained to the stranger’s chest. “It’s not possible. He’s gone!”

“No?” Annie barked out a high pitched laugh and looked at the other with amusement. “And why not? Because you beat him? You honestly think you won?” She chuckled, “Honny, we both know things like this are never so simple, especially not when our dear Billy’s involved.”

Ford lowered his gun in half a daze, sparing a hand to clutch at his chest as his breath became harder and harder to pull in. The reality of his worst fears crashed into him all at once like waves pulling him further and further beneath the cold dark waters. He was drowning, drowning and there was no way to stop it.

Annie watched with mild interest at his obvious panic before snapping her fingers. Ford's lungs opened, his heart rate slowed; he was pretty sure he'd narrowly missed a heart attack.

“How?” was all he could manage as his breath came back to him in short bursts.

“Oh now that is and interesting story, Sugar,” she smirked, a thin veil over secrets Ford already knew she wouldn’t share. “But I’m afraid we just don’t have the time for that right now.”

Annie gestured to the sky, which was much darker than Ford remembered it being. How much time had passed? How had he not noticed? The full moon had provided them enough light that the rest slipped by him as the two talked.

“After all,” Annie continued, “you have a very important party to get to! For the moment, however, let’s just say he had a little…” her smirk grew sharper, “ help .”

“Help?” Ford repeated in disbelief. “Who in their right mind would do such a thing!?”

Annie chuckled- a sweet sound that hung on the soft breeze around them- and tilted her chin to the night sky. “My my, the stars sure are beautiful tonight.”

The scientist pinched his brow in annoyance and confusion at the sudden change in topic, but tilted his head up just the same. Right above them, the Ursa Major shined bright, brighter than all the rest, it seemed. Realization swept over him, and Ford blanched as a new kind of fear gripped him.

“No,” he gasped, “You’re wrong, he would never- !”

But the strange woman was gone, and on the ground where she stood lay an open book with strange, but somehow familiar symbols. Ford cautiously picked it up. After a few long seconds of trying to study the symbols, he watched them shimmer and morph into letters he could recognize.

At the very top of the page, written in bold curly writing: Soul Bonding  


 

/¤\ /¤\ /¤\ /¤\

Bill Cipher loved parties- a well known fact that was universally acknowledged across several dimensions where he honorably donned the party crown- but this particular party wasn't exactly his speed.

The guests were all boring humans, the music was subpar, nothing was on fire , and, worst of all, he wasn't allowed to mess with anything unless he wanted to piss Pine Tree off (which would be hilarious , be even he knew it wasn't the time). Needless to say, the demon found himself quickly losing interest.

So far, the most eventful thing was Pine Tree slamming him against the door. Watching the gears of panic turn behind those stupid mocha eyes was priceless ! It was just too bad the kid hadn't followed them a second time, but, whatever, it was fine, really. There were a thousand things Bill could do without him.

“Ricky!” Fez started loudly. He clapped a hard hand on the demon's shoulder, making the other unintentionally flinch at the memory of his right hook. “Hows about you and me break out the ol’ GeeBees album and teach these losers what a real party looks like!”

“Gee, Mr. Mystery ,” Bill started through a strained but charming smile, “that sounds…” he slowly peeled off Fez's hand from his shoulder, “ invigorating , but...”

I need a way out of this , the demon thought in a panic. Out of the corner of his eye, the demon caught sight of a couple jock characters drinking and talking in the corner. That'll do .

“But?” Fez echoed curiously.

But ...” Bill started. Behind his back, Bill's fingers began twitching, carefully clawing his way into the smaller one's mind. “What if we…did something else instead, huh?”

The elder furrowed his brow. “Like what?”

Finally, Bill caught hold of a small thread of resentment the smaller man had toward the other. The demon smirked and pulled hard , watching over Fez's shoulder as the unsuspecting human suddenly attacked his friend.

The room collectively gasped, parting to give the pair space. Both Bill and Fez's attention snapped to the commotion.

“HEY!” Fez shouted, rolling his sleeves to his elbows and stomping to the scene. “You boneheads need to take it,” he seized the pair by the backs of their collars, “ outside!

Bill chuckled, slipping to the back of the room as the crowd followed Fez and the jocks to the lawn.

“What a bunch of idiots,” someone commented under their breath beside him.

Bill looked at the blond boy talking disapprovingly toward the crowd. The demon smiled, materializing a dry martini disguised in a solo cup. “What? You don't want to watch a couple drunk beef heads fight on the lawn?”

The blond laughed, turning to the other. “Call me crazy, but I've never been one for mindless brawls.” He flashed an impressive smile and extended his hand, “I'm Gabe.”

Bill regarded him a moment, going through everything he could do to the poor unsuspecting human. Pine Tree was still gone, so he might as well have fun with someone else. He gave the other a dazzlingly grin as he shook the offered hand firmly. “Name’s Ricky. Nice to meet ya!”

He let his hand linger two beats too long, watching as a pale shade of pink dusted the other's cheeks.

“I-I, um, wh-who are, um-” Gabe flustered. Bill slowly sipped his drink as the boy tripped over his words. Humans were ridiculous creatures. One well placed smile, a lingering touch, and they were putty in his hands.

Pathetic , Bill thought, yet somewhat amusing .

Gabe cleared his throat and tried starting again. “Are you, um, here with anyone?”

“That's a curious question to ask,” Bill smirked into his drink.

“I-I just mean,” the boy scratched at his ear, “I haven't seen you around before.”

“Ha! Sure you have! I've been here loads of times!”

“Really?” Gabe leaned back on the buffet table, changing his body language to something more flirtatious. “I feel like I would definitely have noticed you.”

“Yeah?” The demon smirked, slowly setting his drink down very close to the other. “And why's that ?”

The blond's cheeks flushed, but he tried hiding it with a nervous chuckle. “Well, forgive me for saying this, but you don't exactly fit in with the rest of the town's…” he looked distantly at the crowd chanting in the door, “ aesthetic .”

“Hmm,” Bill scooted closer still, “is that a bad thing?”

Gabe gulped anxiously, eyes widening. “N-no, quite the opposite, actually!”

Bill smirked, letting his eyes slowly drag down to the other's lips. They weren't the ones he wanted- not by a long shot- but he really needed something to play with. And this puppet was making it too easy to pass up.

“Oh heeeeyyyy !” a loud voice interrupted. Bill fought hard not to smile at the intruder as he rolled his head to the side to look at him. Pine Tree was standing right in front of them- arms crossed, wearing a clenched tight smile, and a rapidly tapping toe. “It’s Puppet Crazy Gabe …”

“Erm,” the blond pinched his brow, regarding Pine Tree with wary eyes, “actually it’s just Gabe now.”

“Ah,” the kid inclined his head to look at the flashing array of colored lights. “Right, right. Sooo,” he nonchalantly clapped his hands in front of him and shrugged, “whatcha guys talking about?”

Bill smirked darkly, choosing then as a perfect time to stretch his long torso- relishing in the way both boy’s eyes followed the motion. Gabe gaped in awe, while Pine Tree seethed between them. “I don’t see how that’s really any of your business, Dipper .”

“I suppose it’s not, Ricky . I just figured, based on the way you two seemed so cozy together, that maybe you were actually being a decent person for once.” He smirked condescendingly. “Good to know I was wrong about that.”

^ ^ ^ ^

Dipper and the devil stood there for a tense moment, silently sizing each other up. To be honest, the human couldn't put a finger on why exactly he was so wound up by seeing Bill talking to the blond. He must have been feeling… protective of his fellow human. Yeah, that was definitely it. He had a civic responsibility to save the idiot from Bill's charms.

“Umm, I’m sorry.” Gabe interrupted their stare down, looking curiously between the pair, “I seem to be missing something… are you two… like… involved ?”

“NO!”

Intimately .”

The blond’s eyebrows shot up as he took a hearty breath. “…Okay, well ,” he cleared his throat, “I didn't mean to get in the middle of anything...”

“No, Gabe,” Dipper started in a panic, “trust me, it’s nothing like that ! It’s just-“

“Look, Dipper,” he gave him a sympathetic smile, “it’s okay, I get it.”

“I really don’t think you do-“

“Oh, gee, thanks Gabe.” Bill wrapped his arms around Dipper’s waist, “It’s great to have your support!”

Gabe sucked in his lips and nodded, “Y-yeah…”

Then he turned and walked away, mortification written all over his face.

“Dammit, NO,” Dipper called after him, “we’re not- it’s not like that! He’s just-“

“I’m just what, Pine Tree?” Bill asked in a whisper beside his ear, “What lie would suit me best, hm? An old friend? Ex-roommate? Scorned… lover ?” Dipper went to turn out of his grasp, but Bill held him firmly so they were nearly chest to chest, baring into him with his mismatched eyes. “Or would you have told him the truth?” he continued low enough that only they could hear, “That I’m the same demon everyone is so sure you helped defeat?” Dipper was sure he could feel his pulse hammering as he smirked. “No, of course not. That would certainly ruin your family’s legacy, and, well, we wouldn’t want that , now would we?”

“What are you saying, Bill?” Dipper growled lowly.

“I’m saying we need a story, or rather, you need a story that I can keep to, which might be hard because, well,” the demon drawled smugly, “I have an awful memory, you know.”

“Let me reword that,” the brunet roughly pushed himself out of the other's arms, “what do you want ?”

“Oh,” Bill let him go with a smile, “ so much , Dipper Pines, but for the moment,” he held out his hand, “I want a dance.”

Dipper regarded it blankly, then reached out and folded the demon's hand back. “I don’t dance.”

“What a shame to hear.” Bill frowned at his hand, “So, remind me, if people ask how we met, do I start with the Nightmare Realm or from the top in Fez’s head?”

Dipper considered, letting Mabel's talk about bait sneak back into his head. And it wasn't necessarily a bad idea, if a touch absolutely mortifying.

One dance,” he reluctantly agreed, “that's all . Then you leave !”

“That hardly seems fair,” Bill frowned. “I'm the one with all the cards.”

“That’s what I’m offering.” Dipper replied firmly. “Deal?”

At that, the demon’s face lit up, lips curling into a wicked grin. “Oh, Pine Tree,” he purred, tongue darting over his lip as he shamelessly ran his eyes down the other’s body, “you know just what to say to get me going.”

The human blushed, but stood his ground, holding his hand in front of him. “So, do we have a deal, or don’t we?”

Bill’s eyes seemed to glow as he looked from the steady hand being offered up to Dipper’s mocha eyes brimmed with determination. “Okay,” he nodded, “but we do it my way.”

“By that do you mean Junior High rules- arm’s length apart and hands above the waist?”

“Pft. Well I'd hardly call that dancing .” Bill rolled his eyes. “So no . My way or no deal.”

Dipper's hand began to retreat, but he caught himself and thrust it forward. Bill smiled and reached out, enveloping the other's with a soft warm hand. There was a flash of blue flame that was gone as soon as it was there.

“Someone could have seen that!” Dipper hissed, yanking his hand back.

The demon only chuckled and snapped his fingers. The speakers suddenly sprang to life with a different song halfway through a beat. The crowd that had started trickling back in looked around curiously at the change of pace.

Lights dimmed blue with the slow melody as Bill offered his hand once more. The brunet rolled his eyes, but begrudgingly accepted it. They started to sway, innocently at first.

Then came the key change- Bill’s razor teeth gleamed in the lights as he tightened his grip and pulled Dipper close.

“What are you doing ?” the human protested, pushing against Bill's chest as the other slowly, sensually began to sway.

“Just follow my lead, Pine Tree,” the demon smirked.

Suddenly, Dipper was spinning out with the beat, his good arm a tether to the demon. Lights flashed with each emphasised note before settling into a softer pattern matching the song. Dipper was spun beneath the demon's arm a couple more times before Bill twisted him back in, trapping him with his own arm.

He began leading them from behind. The brunet went a full circle before being able to push himself out of the hold, spinning around before being pulled close again.

Dipper scowled when they started swaying to the beat, “ That definitely wasn’t part of the deal!

Bill shrugged, “ My way , remember, darling ?”

A sharp shiver ran down the human’s spine as he continued to lead them in a wide circle around the dance floor as. The crowd watched in shock and awe.

“Ya know,” He started accusingly, “for someone who ‘ doesn't dance’, you seem to be doing okay keeping up.” The demon pulled the other even closer to speak directly in his ear. “You weren’t trying to lie to me to get out of what I wanted, were you?”

The human smirked and purposely misstepped, throwing off the other’s rhythm just enough to take control. “I said I didn’t dance, not that I couldn’t .”

Dipper took great pride in the look on Bill’s face when their roles were reversed and he was the one unexpectedly spun out. The demon chuckled when he was pulled back in.

Clever , Pine Tree.” He smirked down as the human led him back, “I wouldn’t have thought you had it in ya.”

Dipper caught himself smiling, but stopped once he caught Mabel’s eye at the edge of the crowd.

She looked at him, confused and concerned- silently saying, This wasn't what I meant when I suggested flirting!

Dipper's stomach turned with shame. What was he doing ?

He wasn't supposed to be having fun . Bill was the enemy!

The boy's expression turned serious, eyes cold. He gave Mabel a curt nod which she returned, relieved.

Bill, though, seemed ignorant of their exchange, simply following as Dipper led them through the interlude- spinning each other out. The demon bent to the side with the beat, tipping his nonexistent hat. Dipper rolled his eyes, pulling the other close. He set his cast on the demon's lower back to hold him tight. Bill had to turn his head to look at him with a raised eyebrow over a smug smirk; Dipper glared back.

“What did you do to Grunkle Stan?” He asked seriously, facing forward and trying to ignore the crowd watching from behind the demon’s shoulder.

“Nothing,” Bill shrugged.

“Bullshit.” Dipper shifted his hold on the other’s hand so that his fingers were digging into his skin. “What about all that talk about ‘visiting every summer’?” the brunet continued, “Did you mess with his head to implant those memories?”

The demon rolled his eyes, flexing his hand out of the other’s hold. He pushed the human back then quickly forward to regain the lead.

“Kid,” he snorted as Dipper stumbled over his feet, “Fez isn’t exactly the sharpest tack on the board, if you know what I mean.”

“Sharp enough to fool you,” he bit back with a smug smirk.

Bill’s lips slowly curled into a wide razor-toothed grin. “ Regardless ,” he slowly began trailing his fingers down each one of Dipper's vertebrae, “aside from that single oversight on my part,” his hand settle just above the other's ass, “your ‘Grunkle’ doesn't need much help convincing himself of something.”

“And Ford?” Dipper inquired, deliberately grabbing the demon's hand on his back and pulling it up . “What kind of disturbance did you make for him in the forest?”

“Oh, nothing for you to worry about.” Bill started with a sly grin. “So, as long as those useless sprites hold up their end of things, we should have plenty of time before that know-it-all comes back.”

“Time for what?”

“Why,” Bill’s eyes gleamed, “to celebrate your birthday , of course…” in a flash, Dipper went dizzy as he was spun on his heel, trapped once again by his own arm. The human felt the weight of Bill against his back.

“Tell me, Pine Tree,” his voice was low, heavy against the shell of the boy’s ear as he spoke around a cruel grin, “how does it feel knowing all this is a lie ?”

Dipper's fist curled tightly in the demon's hand, his head bowed as he slowly took a breath- in, 2, 3, 4, out 2, 3, 4 . The demon was looking for a reaction, looking for a way to derail the conversation, but Dipper wouldn't give him the satisfaction. It was just one dance, just this one song, then the devil would be gone .

But Bill kept going, kept pushing like he does best while twisting the human forward once again. “How’s it gonna be years from now, when poor poor Star grows older and you stay the same?”

A shadow crossed over Dipper’s face, egging the demon to keep talking .

“I wonder,” the demon smirked darkly as the music faded to an end, “will you go to her funeral?”

The crowd went crazy with applause, but Dipper couldn't hear them over the furious pounding in his head. Bill’s eyes went wide for a fraction of a moment as he recognized what would happen next. But before the demon could react, Dipper had reeled back his arm and let his fist fly, hitting Bill in the cheek with enough force to send him stumbling back.

The room went silent; the crowd held their breath, waiting anxiously, fearfully, for what would happen next. Dipper felt the next few seconds with the weight of one hundred years. He knew he should be terrified, but it was too late for that now- Dipper had surpassed fear and entered an eerie calm.

The demon, on the other hand, was enraged . He straightened up, wearing a razor sharp grin and eyes flashing reds in the dancing lights. Bill laughed loudly- haunting, unhinged- never taking his eyes off Dipper.

“Now, THAT was a good punch, Pine Tree,” he cackled madly. “Heh, wasn’t that a great punch, folks?” He began slow clapping, scanning the crowd to encourage participation. A few scattered people joined in awkwardly. “Can’t say I didn’t deserve that, but wow , you’ve really got some pent up rage, kid!”

Dipper glared, fists curling tighter.

“Whoa-ho-O-kay there, fellas,” Mabel rushed in the middle, her arms outstretched on either side, “let's all just calm down. Hehe,” she cleared her throat and addressed the room enthusiastically, “Now, who's ready for CAKE!?”

The crowd cheered with her, hands in the air and they began to swarm toward the girl now running to the table along the wall. Dipper ground his teeth and began stomping away. He had no destination in mind, just as long as it was anywhere but there. Unfortunately, Stan seemed to appear as a wall right in front of him before the boy even had the chance make it to the stairs. The man peered at him, and though they were practically eye level, Dipper felt three inches tall.

Much to the boy's shock, he noticed Stan had somehow managed to get a firm grip on Bill's shirt. The demon didn't look happy about it in the slightest, but, for whatever reason, he made no attempt to remove it.

The elder looked between the pair, dangerously drawling, “My office. Now .”


 

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Stanley Pines liked parties okay as long as he was getting something out of them- a well known fact that was universally the reason he was seldomly invited to any. He had hosted plenty, and they'd always been successful, if he did say so himself (which he did, often and at length). The exit fee certainly helped. But, when it came to the twins, parties were just another way to make some quality memories with the people he loved. They were nice and left an embarrassingly soft feeling in Stan's chest (though he'd never admit that to anyone )

But this particular party, though starting out as a real bang, had quickly turned that usually soft feeling into something cold and sharp.

He'd known something was up with Dipper ever since they brought him home. The kid wasn’t eating as much, their conversations were always short and tense, plus he was jumpier than usual, which was really saying something. But Stan hadn't worried about him. Dipper was an adult- had been for a long time- he was stronger than he gave himself credit for, plus, he was undeniably smart. So, all things considered, the elder saw no reason to think that the kid couldn't handle whatever was going on. He’d always be there if Dipper needed him, but he wasn’t going to press.

But this ? This was much bigger- much worse - than the man could ever had guessed. The moment that nickname crossed the stranger's lips, the way it was said, that laugh only made the Stan realize, with a sharp dig of guilt, that he definitely should have intervened sooner.

Once they were settled in his office, door locked behind them (as if it'd make any difference to the… thing Stan had guessed the stranger was). Still, it at least provided them with a sense of privacy.

The elder watched as Dipper and the… stranger exchanged heated glares. His nephew crossed his arms and fell back into the chair in front of the desk as the other rolled his eyes and did the same. Stan made his own way round the desk and slammed his hands down, leaning over the surface menacingly, “Now I'm only gonna ask this once ” he narrowed his eyes at the stranger, “just who the hell are you, ‘Ricky ’?”

The boy smirked and settled forward in his seat. Eyes glimmering despite the dim light. For a second, the whites of them seemed to be two contrasting colors as he tilted his chin up. “Who do you think I am?”

Stan studied him for a hard minute- name at the tip of his tongue, but prickling fear stopping it from slipping out. The elder shifted his gaze to his nephew, currently staring at the floor- skin pale and pasty as if he were about the be sick.

“Do you wanna tell me what’s going on, kid?” Stan asked gruffly.

Dipper's face snapped up, but he wouldn't meet the man's eyes. “Grunkle Stan, I’m s-”

“Save it, Dipper,” he grunted, “I don't want your apologies, I want your answer.”

The kid gulped and nodded sheepishly.

“Now,” Stan started again, stealing himself with a deep breath, “why don't you start by telling me what the hell Bill Cipher is doing in my house.”

Dipper's eyes widened as the demon cackled loudly.

“Boy oh boy, I've gotta give you credit, Fez,” the stranger's appearance seemed to dissolve into something more reminiscent of the monster Stan remembered. By reminiscent, he meant slightly less human , but still wholly and unsettlingly different than before. “You're a lot more observant than I remember!”

Stan ignored him, keeping his focus trained on his dramatically paling nephew. “Dipper?”

The kid let out a long breath. “It's, um,” he brought a hand to rub at his neck, still avoiding lifting his chin, “kinda a long story…”

Bill snorted with a lazy grin, “It's actually not that long of a story, if you want me to fill you in, Fez ol’ buddy ol’ pal!’

Stan looked at the demon blankly, “I'll pass.”

The demon shrugged in his new black button down and flicked his wrist, materializing a martini in his hand. The olives he slowly stirred around, looked suspiciously like Mabel and Ford's heads skewered on his toothpick.

Stan took a shaky breath, fingers curling on the desk. “Dipper, I’m gonna need you to explain why this bastard isn't spending eternity in hell where he belongs.”

Bill smirked, slowly bringing his drink to his lips. The kid opened and closed his mouth, trying to find the right words.

After a moment, the demon purred, “Go ahead, Pine Tree,” he looked mischievously between the old man and his great nephew. “Tell him all about how you so graciously brought me back .”

 


 

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Mabel Pines absolutely, positively adored parties- a fact that was universally accepted by those who knew her, even if begrudgingly ( cough cough , Dipper )- but she found that she liked them a little less when Dipper was uncomfortable. Well, when he was more uncomfortable than usual . And this particular party- their birthday and everything it meant now in their new, unsteady reality- was quickly going down in Mabel history as one of the worst parties she’d ever thrown. Despite the fact that everything was perfect down to the last detail, or that everyone showed up and were having a blast, things just didn’t feel the way they were supposed to.

A large part of that, of course, was due to the fact that Dipper wasn’t really getting older- wouldn’t ever again. And that thought hurt the girl in ways she would never be able to explain. Another part was because Dipper just wouldn’t stop wallowing in it. She’d tried not to get annoyed when he disappeared from the party, but, darn it, that’s just what she was! His behavior was childish because, for the time being, his situation seemed set, and pouting about it wasn’t going to help anyone! Then, of course, as if the night wasn’t bad enough, the dream (and consequently dream -y ) demon just had to show up and ruffle even more of Dipper’s feathers. It wasn’t fair, none of it was fair ! Their lives weren’t supposed to be this complicated!

“Hey Mabes,” Pacifica started beside her as the stood facing their three tiered cake- the crowd chanted excitedly behind them, “don’t you want to wait for Dipper?”

No , tears stung at her eyes, they’ll be no waiting for him anymore . The girl quickly shook her head, knife shaking slightly by her side.

“Mabel, hon,” the blonde gently grabbed her hand, steadying it, “are you okay?”

She hiccuped a tiny sob, hot tears trickling down her cheeks, and quickly shook her head again.

Pacifica sighed sympathetically. “Do you want me to send everyone home?”

“No.” Mabel sniffled, straightening herself. “No, I-” she quickly wiped at her eyes, “I’m fine.”

“Are you sure ? Because I really don’t mind telling everyone to clear out.”

The brunette chuckled a little, “Thanks, Paz, but, really, I’m okay now.”

Pacifica returned the smile with a squeeze of the girl’s hand before they turned around.

“Alright, dudes and lady dudes,” Soos’s voice began through the speakers, “it’s time for the moment we’ve all been waiting for… the singing of the birthday song! Oh- um- wait,” Soos squinted his eyes across the room as he raised the lights, “where’s Dipper?”

“He said to go ahead without him,” Mabel hollered back, “he’s doing something with Grunkle Stan.”

“Oh, um, well you sure you don’t want to wait for them?”

“Yeah.”

“Because I really don’t mind waiting…”

Pacifica rolled her eyes, “She’s sure , Soos!”

“Uh, okay then, if you insist.” The Dj then pressed a button on his soundboard that started off the birthday song.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU” the crowd started enthusiastically, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU! HAPPY BIRTHDAY DIPPER AND MABEELLL!” Then everyone chose a different key to end, “HAP-PY BIIIIIRTHDAAYYY TOOOOO-”

The front door was suddenly kicked open with such force that it slammed back against the wall. Everyone jumped as the man slowly stepped through the frame, two guns held up.

“Grunkle Ford!?” Mabel yelled.

“Mabel,” he moved toward her, cautiously surveying the frightened crowd as he went, “where is Dipper?”

“H-he’s with Grunkle Stan. What are you doing !?”

Ford fired one loud shot to the air, a dazzling red light trailed, dissolving just before hitting the ceiling. “Listen up,” he addressed the room, “everyone needs to clear out of here immediately .”

^ ^ ^ ^

Dipper was in the middle of very uncomfortably explaining their specific... connection - his cast now removed to show his Grunkle their marks- when he was interrupted by a loud shot coming from the other room. He and Stan immediately jumped to their feet; the demon, however, curled his lips into a twisted grin before disappearing in a wisp of blue smoke.

Dammit !” The boy cursed as he fiddled with the lock. Finally it gave and he and Stan rushed down the hall.

DIPPER!” Ford’s voice echoed through the shack.

“Ford!?” Stan started in front of Dipper at the top of the stairs. “What the hell are you doing!?”

The scientist looked past the older man at his nephew. “I just need to speak with Dipper.”

Stan protectively pushed the boy behind him, “And you have to do that fully loaded?”

“I need to see his arm. I just-” Ford clenched his eyes then, “I need to see if it’s true .”

“If what’s true, Grunkle Ford?” Dipper demanded from over Stan’s shoulder, self consciously pulling his arm to his chest.

The movement did not go unnoticed, “Where’s your cast , Dipper?”

The boy’s mouth went dry. “I-I, it’s, um-”

“It got wet,” Stan interjected. “We were just about to go back to the hospital, actually.”

Ford’s expression hardened, “ Show it to me, Mason .”

Dipper gulped loudly, taking prompted step back with Stan.

“Grunkle Ford, stop! ” Mabel cried at the foot of the stairs. “You’re scaring me.”

The scientist took a long look at her, and sighed, holstering his guns. “I’m sorry, Mabel,” he looked up at the balcony, “Mason, I just-” the man sucked in a deep breath, “I need to know what’s been going on so that I can help stop it. You understand that, don’t you kids?”

Mabel gave him a sympathetic smile and nodded, but Dipper couldn’t let his guard down so easily. And, by the way Stan’s shoulders were still set, neither could his Grunkle.

“My, my,” Bill appeared, clapping slowly as he stepped out of the shadow of a corner, “what a heartwarming attempt at manipulation, Sixer.” He stopped and leaned to the side, weight supported by a stark black cane. He smiled sinisterly, “You haven’t changed a bit .”

A tense silence enveloped the room for seconds, hours, days , until finally Ford inclined his chin and said the name that had haunted his mind for the last 40 years now: “ Bill Cipher .”

The demon’s lips spread wider, “In the flesh.”

The scientist’s hands moved for his gun, but the devil disappeared before he could point it at him.

“Ah-uh,” Bill’s voice echoed around them. “ Fordsy ,”  the man kept a tight hold on his phaser, moving it wherever the echo bounced, “it’s no fun having a conversation with a gun pointed at you.” Bill chuckled darkly, “We wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt ,” he took form just behind Mabel, “would we-” instinctually, Ford’s aim settled where the voice solidified “ -Star ?”

The girl looked at her Grunkle with wide eyes brimmed with fear as the gun stayed pointed directly at her chest. Ford dropped his hand immediately, his face a reflection of her terror.

“Bill!” Dipper snapped, pushing past Stan to glare down at the demon, “Leave her out of this!”

The demon looked up at the brunet and smirked. “Well, if you insist, darling .”

He snapped his long fingers, and the girl collapsed.

Mabel !” Dipper jumped the stairs to catch her in time- Stan following in suit. Her head lulled heavily on his arm. “What did you do to her!?”

Relax , Pine Tree,” Bill rolled his eyes as the boy and Stan carefully lifted her, “she’s only sleeping.”

Suddenly a white hot blast shot just behind Dipper’s back- he almost dropped Mabel in surprise.

“Hahaha!” The demon laughed loudly, now on the other side of the room. “ Again with the gun?”

Another one fired, but Bill was still faster. “This is sad , even for you.”

Dipper and Stan kept moving despite the continuous shots being fired, until they were able to settled the sleeping girl to the couch beneath the window.

“What do you plan to do with that thing, Sixer?” Ford trained the gun back on its target, this time holding his fire. Bill continued to smile, “I’m obviously faster than you!”

“Maybe so,” Ford frowned, then shifted slightly, settling his gun on Dipper instead, “but is he ?”

“Grunkle Ford?” the boy croaked.

“Interesting,” the demon considered thoughtfully, “so you can’t bring yourself to shoot Star, but Pine Tree’s okay?”

“Why not?” the scientist’s expression was stone cold around the furious fire in his eyes, “ He’s the one who did all this. Who brought you back .”

“HAHAHA!” Bill’s cruel laughter filled the air, “Well looky here! After all these years, Sixer's FINALLY grown a SPINE !”

“Ford, are you CRAZY!?” Stan started charging at his brother in a panic, coming to an abrupt halt when Ford pointed the gun at his chest.  “ PUT THAT DAMN THING DOWN!!

“If they’re really connected the way I think they are,” Ford reasoned, voice distant, disconnected, as though it was a simply factor in a complex equation, “then it's the only way to have a chance at finally being rid of Bill.” He resteadied his aim on Dipper. “I'm sorry, but right now that's more important than one life!”

“And if it’s not what you think!?”

It is .” Ford grit his teeth, “If you don’t believe me, just look at their arms .”

“To hell with their arms!” Stan declared, stepping between the two with his hands thrown out to further block Dipper, “You want him, you go through me .”

“Move, Stanley! Don’t you see, he betrayed us ALL when he made that deal!”

“I DIDN’T HAVE MUCH OF A CHOICE! ” Dipper yelled, “It was that or risk all of you being killed ! What would you have done in that situation!?”

“I would have done whatever it took not to let this monster out!”

“Oh, come now,” Bill started, examining his gloves, bored, “quit stalling and shoot him already!” His lips curled into a wicked sharp grin, devilish eyes cutting to the older man like a rabid wolf spotting his prey, “End it once and for all, Fordsy .”

BILL! ” the boy shouted as Ford turned a dial forward twice on his phaser.

Stan started forward again, “I won’t let you-”

The scientist quickly stunned his brother, fragile body crumbling to the floor like a sack of potatoes.

“Grunkle Stan!” The boy cried out, starting toward him, but was stopped by Ford clearing his throat loudly. Bill’s laughter only grew.

“I'm sorry, Dipper,” the older man switched his phaser back three times before steadying it on his great nephew, “but it’s the only way .”

“Grunkle Ford,” Dipper pleaded, “ don't do this .”

“C'mon, Sixer,” the demon purred, “you can't back down now . Do the right thing.”

“Don't worry,” Ford cocked his gun, eyes growing colder with each passing second, “I will.”

“Grunkle Ford, please -”

At the last second, Ford flicked his wrist to the right and squeezed the trigger, but the target was nothing but air.

“Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.” the demon mocked, materializing behind Dipper. The boy jumped, but Bill had already wrapped his arms possessively around him- one around his waist, the other up around his arms- keeping him in place. “How very…” Bill paused- hot breath brushing the cool skin on the other's neck while louring at Ford. He sneered, “ predictable of-”

A loud shot echoed through the room.

Chapter Text

^ ^ ^ ^

Dipper felt every agonizing moment that the strange purple bullet passed through his shoulder- flesh, muscle, bone all tearing around the foreign object as it forged its way. Then Dipper was falling- eyes clenched shut, heart stuttering from the pain- falling back against something solid, warm . For a moment, there was a hold around his body, tightly pulling him through what felt like a tube that was much too small.

Then he landed back with a hard thunk on top of something definitely softer than the ground. Dipper's eyes flew open as the hold around his body fell slack. There was a desperate gasp from beneath the him, and suddenly everything came rushing back.

Bill .

The human cried out in pain as he forced himself to roll off the body beneath him and onto the cold forest floor. Dipper quickly took notice of their surroundings under the bright moonlight. They were in a clearing- Bill's clearing as it were- just at the feet of his desecrated statue. All was silent in the dark trees around them, save for the pained, almost gurgling sounds coming from the demon. There was still a small layer of black ash which softly rubbed into Dipper’s skin as he carefully crawled closer to the other.

Bill was staring, unseeing, at the night sky. Blood black as ink slowly oozed from the still smoking hole in his chest and spilled out of his mouth every other strangled breath. His face was unusually pale, fingers spasming uselessly at his sides. The sight made Dipper want to be sick, but he held it in favor of looking the demon over.

“Bill?” the human croaked out- his voice rough, strained from his own physical anguish. The blond didn't respond. “ Answer me dammit !”

Dipper grit his teeth, not bothering to hold back a heated whimper as he slowly shrugged off his bloodstained overshirt. He bundled it up and gingerly pressed it onto the demon’s pulsing wound. Bill’s body tensed, his throat made some kind of noise in protest, but Dipper kept pressure on it.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Shit. Fuck...” Dipper kept repeating as the ink-like blood began soaking through the cloth. “Why won’t you fucking heal, you bastard!? aAHH-” He cried out as his own untended shoulder throbbed violently, and absently brought his right hand to the wound. “Shit! I don’t know what to do!”

Tears pricked at his eyes, more as an emphasis of the human’s pain and frustration than anything. He had to concentrate, so they stayed pulled back to the margins as he continued to take sharp breaths through gritted teeth. He look down at Bill and noticed his usually bright eyes beginning to droop.

“No, no, no, no ,” Dipper began in a panic, grabbing the other’s face between his own blood slicked hands as his dull eyes completely closed, head rolling to the side. “ C’mon , Bill!”

‘You could always leave him, you know…’

Dipper straightened slightly at the soft southern drawl riding on the night breeze. “Who’s there!?”

‘It would be easy,’ the sweet voice sang around them, so easy.’

“Who are you!?” the human demanded, hissing in pain as he grabbed at his shoulder to slowly twist around, “What do you want!?

‘Why are you trying to save him anyway, Sweet Pea? Think about everything he’s done to you, to the ones you love ...’

The disembodied voice struck a sensitive chord in the boy’s chest, and he frowned at the body passed out beside him. So much terror, so much pain in his life- in all of their lives- had been caused by the demon.

‘Why make the effort for someone who wouldn’t think twice about leaving you behind?’

Bill’s mouth contorted through a particularly rough breath, eyes tightening in pain- it made something in the human’s heart lurch. He looked so vulnerable , so unlike the dangerous, all powerful demon Dipper was used to. The one who drove people to insanity, who torn apart the fabric of the universe, who, just minutes ago, proved that he could move faster than the speed of a sonic powered bullet, who-

Dipper’s eyes widened, realization sweeping over him, Wait...

“But… he didn’t leave me behind,” Dipper mumbled, half to himself. “He could have disappeared before the bullet hit him and would have been fine !” the brunet looked up, addressing the phantom in the breeze, “But he took me with him and that’s what slowed him down! I’m the reason he’s like this!”

The air filled with the ringing sound of laughter, ‘Honny, you’re reading too much into his actions. Trust me,’ A wisp of a shadow moved just beyond the treeline, bright green eyes peered through.

“I know him.” The phantom's voice was solid now, its lithe form slowly circling the clearing just beyond the moonlight. “Far better than you could ever hope to.”

Dipper drew himself closer to Bill, protectively draping an arm over his torso. The shadow rustled, eyes appearing on the other side beyond the clearing.

“Darlin’,” it started warningly, sharp white teeth flashing in the moonlight, “I’ll give you just one more chance to walk away. What good would it do if you stayed? Are you really willing to leave your family behind for him ?”

The human clenched his jaw, vision going blurry from the blood loss, but he refused to back down. He tightened his hold around Bill’s body.

The shadow chuckled sweetly, “Suit yourself.”

Suddenly, the edge of the clearing erupted into electric green flames circling around them. Dipper bit his cheek and clenched his eyes shut as a shock of pain ran through his shoulder, subconsciously grasping at Bill’s hand to help from crying out.

The demon’s eyes fluttered as he took a deep stutter of breath, fingertips sparking like a going fuse against Dipper’s hand. But the human didn’t drop his hold and the power from those sparks surged up his arm, tracing each vein with cerulean blue that seemed to glow beneath his skin.

The light reached his neck, spider webbing from the juncture in his jaw to each blood vessel in his cheek. Dipper felt a rush of power warming him from the core like an ember catching fire. It was too hot and too cold all at the same time- each nerve on that side buzzing with untamed energy.

Dipper's eyes snapped open at the sound of fire giving way to soft steps. What he saw in his left eye was a fully shadowed figure stalking through the fire and stop suddenly; but through his right, he saw kaleidoscopic cracks of electric blue, yellow, green, pink powers humming in the air like shattered glass. The strange creature was clearly outlined in green, but soft pink wisps started undoing the shadow it was cladding itself in.

“No,” the figure gasped, stepping back as the single vibrant blue eye began peeling away the layers of her disguise. “I-it’s not possible!

Something clicked in the back of the human’s mind, a recognition he didn’t understand as the soft features of her face flickered with memories of jagged pink edges.

“No matter,” she snarled, green flames closing in on them. “I’ll still finish you both .”

Dipper gripped Bill’s hand with a vice as the stranger charged, bright pink sparks at her fingertips; he clenched his eyes, wishing with every fibre of his being to be anywhere but right there!

The human felt that single desire surge through his borrowed power, morphing itself into a command . And suddenly, before the strange woman could get to them, the ground opened up to dark blue and black flames reaching as tall as the pines themselves. Dipper watched with fascination as those flames began folding over- a tidal wave curling above he and the demon dangerously.

Shit! ” he gasped before instinctually covering Bill with his body as he braced for impact.

Honestly, Dipper couldn’t have said what he’d been expecting as the fire crashed into them, but it certainly wouldn’t have been what he experienced. If he had to describe the sensation, the best he could do would be how he imagined a blanket might feel as it tumbled in the dryer. The fire enveloped them in a warm whirlpool, and rolled them out of space and time. Dipper held Bill tight to his body as they were pushed and pulled from every direction until, suddenly, the human’s back hit a cold, hard surface. He gasped desperately after the breath that was knocked out of him, eyes wide but blinded through unforgiving darkness that surround them. His shoulder burned and Dipper cried out, the sound echoing back harshly. The pain was blinding, his body was so cold save his arm that was searing , and he could feel his consciousness slipping.

The last thing Dipper Pines registered before giving into the white hot pull on his mind and body was a strong squeeze on his hand letting him know that he wasn’t alone.

^ ^ ^ ^

When Dipper woke, he found himself on a stiff cushion that reeked of stale air and moth balls. He groaned as he turned his face up to rocky ceiling, watching as a warm light danced against the jagged shadows of the cave. The movements slowly stirred him further into consciousness and with it came a flood of memories from before he blacked out. Dipper tried to bolt upright, but a blinding stab of pain had him gasping and falling back to the not-so-soft couch.

“You’d do best not to move too much, Mr. Pines,” the croaky voice of a woman scolded him from somewhere across the room, “that shoulder of yours is in pretty bad shape.”

Dipper slowly prompted himself up to look over at the white haired woman stirring a large cauldron over a fire. “Wait, I know you from somewhere…”

The woman smiled, revealing gnarled and missing teeth that were overshadowed by her large boiled nose. “We’ve met before, yes.”

The boy was in the middle of trying to place her when a detached hand jumped onto his stomach. Dipper jumped back then winced.

“Down, Harold!” the woman commanded the hand with a emphasized point of her wooden spoon; it obediently hopped to the floor.

“You’re the Hand Witch!”

The woman frowned, “Well, yes , but I’d much rather be called Marge, which is my name.”

Marge ?” Dipper repeated skeptically. “That sounds so, I don’t know, normal .”

“I suppose it doesn’t really scream ‘witch who lives in a cave and collects hands’,” the woman cupped her chin thoughtfully, “but it is my name, nonetheless.”

“Right… so, um, Marge ,” the human started anxiously, “I was with someone before I- well, you know- and-”

“Relax, dear,” Marge held up her hand, “Our Omniscience is perfectly safe in the other room.”

Dipper sighed. “I-is he okay ?”

“He’s-” the witch looked away from him with a sullen expression, “well, he’s alive , which is saying a lot considering.”

“Considering what?”

“Considering that the bullet stuck in his chest was cursed with incredibly old, incredibly dark magic, and the fact that it wasn’t immediately removed means that his healing abilities are now virtually useless against it.”

“But you did remove it, right ?” the boy asked, slowly twisting his legs off the couch. “You took the bullet out , didn’t you?”

“Well, yes…” Marge sighed, concentrating back on her cauldron, “but I’m afraid the damage had already been done by the time I got to it. The curse has spread quite a bit and is now beyond my power to heal.”

Dipper gulped down what felt like a sharp rock of nerves. “What does that mean ? Are you saying he- he’s going to- AH!

The witch tsked, resting the spoon on the side before going over to the human clutching his arm to his chest. “Now, Mr. Pines, what did I say about moving ?”

“It’s not that” Dipper snapped, wincing a little as he slowly uncurled his arm to lay in his lap. “It’s my-” he finished by revealing his brand to the woman. It was burning black, eye in the center taking on an angry red color that began cracking into the rest.

Marge gingerly brushed her fingers over the mark, her long fingers were like ice against the burning skin.

“Oh my boy,” the witch gasped, “this is far more grave than I thought.” She shook her head and hastily hobbled back to her fire. “We'll have to work quickly now!”

Dipper watched her carefully ladle a boiling orange concoction into a tall glass.

“Hurry, Mr. Pines,” Marge gestured, starting toward a tattered curtain hanging in a hole in the cave wall, “we haven't time to doddle!”

The human grit his teeth as he forced himself to his feet. He quickly followed the woman into the other room; what he saw made his skin crawl and all the air leave his lungs.

Bill was laying on a lumpy bed, head lolled to the side, blanket folded around his waist. His blood stained shirt was crumbled on the floor beside him, leaving his chest exposed to the cold ceiling. There was a cloth pressed into the center of the wound, and from it, a sick purple color pulsed through every vein that fanned from his heart- or what Dipper at least assumed was a heart. The damage traced through his torso like lightning spreading into his neck, his sides, down his stomach. All the skin around the unnatural color was pale as chalk. The brunet could hardly see the demon's chest expanding with too shallow of breaths.

Dipper cautiously approached him as Marge got straight to work on removing the cloth over his heart. Bill made the tiniest whimper, but didn't even have the energy to flinch away.

“Come here , child!” The witch hissed, apparently having had to repeat herself while the boy was transfixed.

Dipper nodded, kneeling to her level. “Now what?”

“You're going to have to draw out this curse.” Marge answered as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, holding the potion up to the light for inspection.

“Um,” the human wet his lips nervously, “ how ?”

The witch sighed, looking at him seriously, “What you have with Our Omniscience is something that shouldn't be possible . Your soul has not only withstood his, but has accepted it as an extension of itself, which is why you were able to call upon its power.”

“What are you talking about?” Dipper asked skeptically, “I-I never…”

“No? Then how did you get to my cave, hm?” Marge smiled a mostly toothless smile and nodded to the demon in the bed. “ He certainly wasn’t in any shape to do that.”

“B-but he must have-” the boy started desperately, nerves on end, “I-I couldn’t have- I don’t even know how - I don’t have any- ” Then he remembered the electric wave of power that had surged through his body in the clearing- remembered the dizzying colors dancing in the air, as if everything was pulsing with energy. He could see the wall of flames crashing over them, carrying them to safety at his command. “That was… me?

“Our Omniscience can do a great many incredible things, but in this case,” she sighed heavily, “I think the only reason he’s been able to hold on is because of his tie to you. And now it’s up to you to save him.”

Dipper looked at Bill’s paling face- lips parted, relaxed, almost perfectly peaceful but betrayed by the tiniest pinch of his eyebrows. At the juncture of his neck, tracing his veins over the strong bones of jaw onto his cheeks, was the dark purple curse. It look so wrong on the demon’s face- unnatural . It made Dipper’s heart twist in his chest.

The boy took a bracing breath and lifted his eyes to the witch. “What do I do?”

“First, drink this,” Marge answered, shoving the glass of strange orange liquid in his hands. “It will widen the pathway between your souls. From there, you’ll be able to draw out the curse by carefully detaching it from his being.”

“... and how am I supposed to ‘detach’ the curse? Why can’t you do it, again?”

“Think of it like two balls of yarn tangled together and you’re the only one who’s not colorblind. So, you just have to carefully separate the two colors.” The witch clapped her hands together, “Easy as that.”

“Right,” Dipper croaked, gulping nervously, “easy as that…”

The potion tasted like sweet potatoes and kiwi- a strange combination that was, surprisingly, bearable. Almost instantly, Dipper felt as though someone had opened a vent of power that nearly knocked him to his feet. It hummed between he and the demon like a plucked string only he could hear- a warm, welcoming sound that beckoned him closer. As he did, however, a high pitched hiss like winter wind slamming against glass cut into their connection. It sent a wave of nausea over Dipper, and he had to do everything in his power to continue forward.

At Marge's direction, the human placed his hand over Bill’s gaping wound. Almost immediately he felt as though he was being sucked into a different plane of existence entirely.

There was only light then- twisting, turning tangles of ethereal light. What he could tell was Bill's was brilliant, vibrant gold weakly pulsing with every shallow breath the demon took. Hovering above the very center was another stream of iridescent blue like ocean waves beneath a full moon, and it moved with Dipper’s life, pulsed with his blood, rose and fell with his breath. And he realized then, that he was looking at their very souls .

Beneath what he recognized as his hand, something like a black rot was spreading through the demon's aura, smothering out the otherworldly colors. Dipper felt his lungs expand in a deep breath, and instinctually began willing the labyrinth like tangles of his own essence into it. He felt the energy between the curse and Bill's soul and carefully began drawing the darkness back as though it were a foreign thread tangled in a complicated tapestry. When he ran into any knots too complex to undo, Dipper would simply cut the whole away and patch the demon's streams with pieces of his own.

Honestly, the brunet couldn't tell if what he was doing was right, but the black was receding, so it must have been working. His only choice was too keep going and hope for the best.

 

Chapter Text

/¤\ /¤\ /¤\ /¤\

The comforting aroma of Faepryrids enveloped the boy before he opened his eye. It was a scent that could, perhaps, have been described in another dimension as close to warm cinnamon and sweet jasmine, but that was a detail the young celestial couldn't have known quiet yet.

-One thought lost has now returned-

The steady voice seemed to boom through the air like thunder, startling him awake. Bill opened his great eye to the pale green sky, strewn with soft purple and orange wisps of clouds. He looked down at the rolling hill of red, orange, and yellow flowers he was sitting on- their curious stems and leaves were a deep blue, making the field look as though it was aflame every time a soft breeze went by.

The boy's fingers stretched beneath the soft petals swaying gently around him, looking as though he was commanding fire in his palms the same way the nobles did in their castles built high in the sky.

Bill frowned, lifting a hand to his eye. It wouldn't be too long now until he would be one of them. Until he could get his revenge .

‘Well, well, well,” a sweet voice started just above the boy, ‘Mr. Cipher, I have to tell you that that is an awfully serious expression you're wearing.’

-Weaving fates like a spider's web-

The corners of his eye crinkled into a small grin as it shifted up to the bright pink and perfectly rounded noble floating in front of him. ‘HA! And Miss Relic, I have to tell you that you're looking particularly ravishing today.’

‘Oh, Billy, stop it!’ the girl drawled, bringing a hand to hide the embarrassment in her bright green eyes. The mark of her powers could be seen on back of the hand- a crescent with a black diamond in the middle and the straight lines of her house's rune stretched above it. ‘You always know what to say to make me blush!’

Bill eyed the symbol hungrily. ‘That's my job, toots.’

‘Oh?’ Her hand fell away and the sky behind her quickly shifted to a dangerous flurry of dark red and black. She chuckled sinisterly, ‘I thought your job was to keep me safe .’

-Seeks retribution for that which burned-

‘I-I’ the demon stammered, taking a step back as the girl in front of him began cracking like a mirror spreading from one eye to every edge of her body. '

‘Didn't you promise me that, Billy?’ The shattered noble drawled sweetly, moving toward him. She flickered like the static on a screen, morphing into something else entirely.

Bill felt himself changing too, into his human-esque form. He took another step back, stopped by a wall of fire. 'I tried!'

'Did you?' she asked coldly, now directly in front of him.  Annie's broken green eyes bore into his, though the rest of her form was shrouded in darkness, Bill could tell she'd tilted her head curiously. 'Or did you simply take what you want, and leave me to burn in the fire you started?' 

'No, I didn't-'  Out of the darkness, the cold barrel of a gun appeared, fixed directly over his heart.

-And waits for the arsonist’s head- 

'Don't you remember?' The woman's sweet voice drawled sadly.  ‘We were going to have it all .' The gun was cocked slowly.  ' We were gonna be together-’

He could feel her wicked grin behind the thin veil she hid in.

‘ -Forever .’

Then the trigger was squeezed and a loud shot rang in the air.

Bill Cipher’s eyes snapped open, sucking in a startled gasp that caused his chest to seize. His eyes clenched shut again-tears automatically pricking at their corners, fingers twisting into the fabric beneath him. Pain rocked through his body starting in his chest and spreading through each nerve like lightning striking the ocean during a storm.

The first thing the demon did was try stretching his power as far as he could- the effort only brought on another rocking wave of agony. Well, that certainly wasn't a good sign.

Bill forced himself to take a very slow inhale before carefully pushing himself up with his elbows. His chest throbbed dangerously, persistently. It was a strange feeling; after all, it had been quite awhile since pain actually stuck around for more than a few seconds. When he got up enough to bend his head forward without hurting himself too much more, Bill saw his chest- most of his torso, in fact- bandaged in thick white strips that wound around him.

Right… the bullet. So that part of the dream was true. Bill would have taken comfort in that, in maybe trying to convince himself that none of it was a dream! But he knew better- had constructed enough nightmares to know when he was in one.

The only problem was: Dream Demons weren't meant to dream. At all. In any way, shape, or form. They weren't wired for it, and yet Bill Cipher had just shaken himself out of one- a nightmare conjured from the depths of his own mindscape.

Never in all his millennia, even on the rare occasion he actually was able to sleep in a sense, had a dream crossed his subconscious. He didn't have a subconscious! So why now? How was it possible?

Slowly, the events leading up to the bullet came back to him. The party, the dance, Pine Tree's rough knuckles colliding with his cheek, Sixer waving his gun around like a rodeo clown. Mostly, though, Bill remembered the unexpected surge of protectiveness he felt as soon as the old man pointed that thing at his human.

Of course, he hid it- egging the other on, trying to call his bluff. He would have gotten Pine Tree outta there if Fordsy got the balls to do it, but, predictably his old pal moved at the last second to get him. Relief brought a condescending smirk to the demon's face as he wrapped himself protectively around his tether.

Bill had planned on taking Pine Tree away regardless of Sixer's next move- after rubbing his victory into the elder's smug face a little further, of course. He just hadn't anticipated how strong the human's bloodlust was. He watched the trigger squeeze, saw the bullet cutting through the air toward them.

Too fast. It was moving too fast in his state of genuine surprise. Bill instinctually went to remove himself from harm's way, but the horrified stutter he felt from the human in his arms made him hesitate for just a fraction of an instant- enough time to allow the bullet to find its targets.

The next thing the blond remembered was pain beyond his imagination. Pine Tree was talking to him- panic and fear laced into each word slipping through Bill's wavering consciousness. Then everything went black- everything but the dark searing epicenter of agony he could feel stretching its tendrils throughout his body until that was all he could feel , all he could think about. He was drowning in an icy abyss while being burned from the inside out for what felt like eternity. Then, suddenly, he awoke in a field of Faepryrids, staring up at the orange and purple wisps of clouds against the pale green sky...

Bill shook his head, bringing himself back to the moment. The dream may have happened, but that didn't mean he should linger on it. There were some memories better left untouched- some faces better left forgotten. 

He winced loudly as he gingerly maneuvered his body off the bed. The strange stone room felt suffocating- the demon needed some air, something to help clear his mind a bit. Each careful step on the icy floor sent small ripples of pain throughout Bill's body as he slowly made his way to the battered deep red and black tapestry hanging in the opening. He stopped just before pulling it back, grunting and leaning forward- arm braced against the hard stone as he forced a long breath out.

There was a burst of air from the tapestry being pulled to one side, and suddenly Bill found himself nose to nose with a shocked Pine Tree.

Fuck !” the human gasped, jumping back in a panic. His hand flew to his chest as he let out a shaky chuckle. “Heh, you scared the hell outta me!”

“That's what I'm here for, kid.” Bill felt a lazy smirk slide onto his face as he took in Pine Tree’s startled appearance. His hair was sticking up in his all directions, an easy grin still on his face as he caught his breath. He was wearing an oversized plaid draped over his pale torso, which shifted off his shoulder when he straightened back up, exposing his bandages beneath the stark white strap of a sling. Bill clenched his jaw, mind racing with all the ways he was going to make Stanford Pines pay .

The brunet loudly cleared his throat and adjusted the sleeve to hide the bandages. “What are you doing, anyway?”

“Training for the icecapades,” Bill deadpanned, rolling his eyes up to meet the other’s as he carefully pushed himself off the wall. “What do you think I’m doing?”

He tried taking an confident step toward the other, but the effect was ruined when he crumbled forward. Pine Tree was there in an instant, catching the demon’s body with his own. His hand was firmly set against Bill’s side, slowly moving up, following as the other straightened himself as much as he could. The human’s touch was warm against the demon’s bare skin- soft, sturdy- it was nice .  

“You shouldn’t be up.” Pine Tree sighed, deep brown eyes heavy with exhaustion the blond hadn’t quite noticed before.

Bill frowned. “Well I sure as hell am not going to lie back down . It’s too stuffy.”

Too quiet.

Another sharp pang had him choking back a pained whimper; he folded his head forward, resting it on the human’s shoulder, and let out a puff of hot breath. Bill felt the body beneath him go stiff, hand on his side tighten ever so slightly, yet neither made any further effort to move away.

“Bill,” the kid started softly, warm thumb absently sliding back and forth against the demon’s skin, “c’mon, you can’t be up right now, you’re too-”

“I swear to everything unholy, kid,” Bill warned in a low growl, slightly shaking his head against the solid body in front of him, “if you say weak , I will fold your organs inside out.”

The soothing movements against his skin ceased, he felt the human take a controlled breath. “... Vulnerable , then, to be moving around like this.”

He snorted, turning his head so that he was looking up at the kid. “It’s awfully sweet of you to worry about me, Pine Tree, but I think I can take care of myself.”

The brunet tilted his chin to the side so that he could be sure Bill caught his raised eyebrows and subtle smirk. “Says the guy who is literally using me as support right now…”

“Eh,” the demon shrugged, “I could move anytime I want, you’re just surprisingly comfortable.”

The kid rolled his big eyes with another heavy sigh. “Well if you’re not going to lie back down, at least sit out here and let yourself-” Bill felt his body flinch beneath him, heard Pine Tree wince, watched as he pinched his face in pain.

Bill immediately straightened up, pushing away to that the human wouldn't have to support any of his weight. “Kid?”

The brunet forced out a long, uncomfortable breath. “Look,” he grunted out, “the sooner you get better, the sooner your powers will come back, and the sooner that happens, the sooner we can both finish healing .”

“Hey, my powers aren't gone, ” Bill started defensively, “they're just… difficult to use right now!”

“Just,” Pine Tree shook his head, “come over here.”

Before the blond had a chance to protest, the other twisted himself beneath his left arm, supporting him as he steered them to the ugly couch across the room. Bill couldn't stop the little cry that slipped past his teeth at the shocks of agony absolutely rippling through his body with each step.

It felt like a painstakingly long trip across the rough rug beneath their feet, but they'd eventually made it; both holding back a noise of protest when the demon was lowered to the cushion. In the end, Pine Tree simply sat down with him instead of trying to support the other’s weight as his own back was hunched over.

So there they sat- the human's arm wrapped awkwardly around the Bill's waist while the other's hung loosely around his neck- both their heads leaned back, trying match their breath to their hammering hearts.

“Hey, Pine Tree,” Bill started after a minute, rolling his head to the side, “I need you to tell me what the hell happened after Sixer got trigger happy. Where are we?”

The boy's eyes got wide. He quickly shifted himself further away, pulling out his arm and ducking out of the demon's, pushing through his obvious discomfort as he practically sprang to his feet.

“I-I-I'll, um,” the human stammered anxiously, “you must be thirsty ! Uh, l-let me just-”

Then he was gone, disappearing around one corner of rock which undoubtedly turned into the mouth of the cave, the demon far too weak to go after him.

^ ^ ^ ^

Dipper had to force himself to take a few deep breaths once he was out in the open air. The sun was blinding and took a good minute to adjust to, the air was muggy and hot, but it was much better than being stuck inside with the demon.

He'd known Bill was going to have questions, and he'd even spent a good amount of time going over how to phrase the answers. But even then, Dipper knew he wasn't ready to go through everything that had happened.

After all, how was he supposed to tell Bill that he would have died without his help?

How could he anticipate the demon's reaction? Would he be angry that Dipper had to save him? Would he actually maybe be grateful ?

But even more nerve racking was trying to imagine his response to the human tapping into his power . Dipper was fairly certain that part of the story wouldn't be well received.

Where was Marge!? She was going to be there when he went through everything thing! To help fill in some of the blanks, yes, but also for moral support. Bill wasn't supposed to be conscious until well after she returned with more ingredients for their healing potions! Nonetheless up and moving around!

On one hand, it was probably a good sign that his healing abilities were coming back, on the other, well… now they were all by themselves until the witch returned, and the human couldn’t avoid Bill forever.

True to his panicked declaration, Dipper did return a little later with a pale full of water from the stream cutting through the miniature mountain. Once inside, he poured it into the strange filter contraption Marge had conjured in what she'd declared the kitchen.

He felt Bill’s heterochromatic eyes burning into him the whole while, but, curiously, the demon didn't utter a word until he turned around with a full glass ready for the drinking.

Dipper gulped heavily before crossing the small space and handing it off to the blond- mismatched eyes never wavering from the boy as he took a long sip.

“So...” Bill drew out, setting the glass on the side table, “you were about to fill me in on our exciting evening together.”

“Evening?” The human frowned. “Bill, it’s been two days.”

"Okay," the blond’s eyes widened a fraction, "then fill me in on what happened two days ago."

The boy took a bracing breath, closing his eyes before starting. “What do you remember ?”

Bill settled back with an expression halfway between a smirk and grimace as he looked the other over. “Why don’t you just pick up after the shot, hm?”

Dipper did his best to go over everything he could remember as clinically as possible- treating the exchange as a debriefing more than a memory. The demon let him speak uninterrupted, face growing colder, more deadly, the more he spoke. When the human was completely finished, neither said anything for a long time.

Cogs and gears were turning behind the devil’s mismatched eyes, jaw clenching and unclenching again and again as he focused on controlling his breath. Dipper’s mouth was dry, heart pattering anxiously against his ribs as he watched the other fearfully. Bill was furious, Dipper could practically feel it rolling off his body in waves. And the human could tell that it wasn't necessarily directed at him, more at any and every thing- not that that understanding was anymore comforting beneath that dark aura. 

Finally, Bill’s eyes flicked up to meet his. He demanded coldly, “Let me see your arm.”

The human took a bracing breath before pulling his arm out of his sling- air escaping between his teeth when the tear in his muscles protested. But he knew what the demon was looking for, he'd noticed it too when he woke.

Dipper sat himself on the very edge of the chair adjacent to the couch, right leg immediately bouncing anxiously as he extended his arm, wrist side up, to the demon.

The mark was black now, the runes he'd carved into the ritual candles what felt like a lifetime ago, were now reflected each corner of the shape. Fire and blood, a triangle with a swish out the top made up the tip; earth and bone, what looked like and hourglass with a hat that bent up, was the symbol on the bottom right; while the bottom left was a tiny outline of a circle framed by a single 90° angle, representing water and being; in the center of the eye, instead of the pupil, laid the last rune, a crescent moon and single dot on its hollow. Then, about halfway between each line connecting the runes, where new markings Dipper didn't recognize- a crescent with a black diamond in the middle and what looked like a straight lined fork whose handles where pointed away from the whole.

Bill had stopped breathing as he tenderly took the human’s arm in his hand, slowly rubbing his thumb over the symbols, sending warm static throughout the other’s skin. The demon paid particular attention to the newer marks- his brow pinched intently. Then he slowly extended his own arm, lining up with the other. The lines had become the same fine black; what would be the stars making up the body of constellation were replaced with the same four elemental runes, connected by dashes; the first two stars of the handle were small triangles while the final one was the same unrecognizable symbol branching off the end.

Marks

“Pine Tree,” Bill started darkly, jaw set as he turned up his glare to the human- carefully controlled rage pulsing behind each word, “do have any idea what you’ve done?

“What I’ve done? ” Dipper scoffed, yanking his arm away. “Do you even know ‘what I’ve done’ !?”

“I know that whatever it was strengthened our bond at least tenfold!” He started accusingly, “I know that your ‘selflessness’ has conveniently given you access to my power and made me into-” he cut himself off, not ready to share whatever he was hiding with the human.

“Do you honestly think I did this for your powers? ” The brunet asked offendedly with a furrow in his brow.

The devil snarled, a wolf preparing for the kill. “Sounds like a pretty good reason to me, kid.”

“Are you kidding me? ” Dipper matched his coiled fury with his own. “The last thing I want is more of you in my head!”

“A likely story.”

“Oh get OVER yourself, Bill!” Dipper shouted, jumping to his feet. “I saved your life!

The demon’s nostrils flared at the fact that he could force himself to meet the other on his feet His eyes glowed with what little fire was strong enough to catch hold of. “And I never asked you for your help!

“No,” the human scoffed, glaring down at the other, “you were too busy bleeding out!

“I would have healed!” Bill declared, straightening up with a poorly concealed wince. “... eventually .”

“Why can’t you just be grateful ?” Dipper snapped. “I didn’t have to do anything, you know! I could have just let you die!

“Yeah? Well if it truly wasn’t for my powers,” the demon challenged, leaning forward. “then why didn’t you?”

The boy straightened back, the question taking him off guard. Truthfully, he was still trying to answer that for himself. “W-Well, why didn’t you leave me behind at the Shack?”

Bill inclined his chin, tongue sliding against the inside of his cheek as though he was also having a hard time coming up with an answer. “Reflex, I guess.”

“Reflex?” Dipper repeated slowly, unconvinced. “Most people reflexively let go of whatever they’re holding to get away from something.”

“What do you want me to say here, kid? I wasn’t trying to save you, if that’s what you’re implying.” The demon tilted his head as he fixed the other with a threatening look, “You weren’t even a passing thought,” a cruel smirk curled at the very corner of his lips, “just an unwanted tagalong.”

The brunet scoffed, lifting his chin to the ceiling and shaking his head. “Whatever you say, man.” He took a deep breath through his nose. “Look,” he sat back down, meeting the other’s angry gaze seriously, “whether you like it or not, Bill, you saved me and I saved you. There’s no taking that back, not really.”

The demon’s smirk grew into something more savage. “I beg to differ.”

“Do you?” Dipper challenged with raised eyebrows. “Because, the way I see it, even if you kill me right now, you’ll always have to deal with the fact that you’re alive because of me .”