Five Years Ago
The first thing he and Mabel did when they got home (after their parents had hugged and kissed them and said “Oh, look at you Dipper, you’ve grown so strong! We should send you back next summer!” and “Mabel, darling, that’s an adorable pig but I’m not sure we have room-“) was clip Bill Cipher onto a coat hanger and hang him up in the spare closet. Bill dangled limply from the attachment, as still as stone. His single eye was closed and he’d apparently decided against sprouting arms and legs, though his ever-present top hat and bow tie still sat stanchly in place.
Dipper and Mabel exchanged uneasy glances. Stanford had assured them it would be fine, that it would actually be safer to separate Bill from Gravity Falls, from the paranormal oddities which seemed to amplify his power. Not that his power was much to speak of now, of course – that small upside-down triangular scar inscribed on Dipper’s chest was testament to that. Remembering it brought up the urge to scratch, which Dipper tried to ignore. He had enough nervous tics as it was.
Eventually, he broke the silence. “Man, this just doesn’t feel right. Bill Cipher, all-knowing dream demon. The stuff of nightmares. And we’ve just hung him up in the closet like an old sock.”
Mabel stifled a giggle. “He does look kinda funny.”
“What if Mom and Dad find him? How are we going to explain that?”
His twin sister flipped her hand forward dismissively. “Nahhhh, no one uses this closet. And besides, we can just tell them he’s our arts and crafts project.” She retrieved a page of stickers from her pocket, and slapped a glittery purple panda just to the right of Bill’s bow tie. “There! Now he’s all artsy!”
“Mabel.” Dipper said, semi-reprovingly.
“Dipper.” Mabel replied, waggling her eyebrows.
Dipper sighed and rubbed his face, smiling despite himself. “Sorry, sorry. I’m just a little nervous. I mean, keeping a dream demon in your house? Nothing good’s gonna come from that.” He dropped his hand, staring down at his shoes. “It’s like… I just keep waiting for the other coin to drop. Like maybe we haven’t actually sealed Bill’s power, or that he’ll find a way around it. So that’s why I’d rather not annoy him in the meantime. I mean, we don’t know if he even knows what’s going on around him, but what if something goes wrong? What if he tries to possess me, or manipulate us, or what if he-“
He hadn’t realised he was shaking until Mabel’s arms wrapped around him in a hug. “Dipper,” she said soothingly, “It’s gonna be okay. It’s over, alright? Book’s closed, credits’ve rolled, lights are back on.”
She pulled away, giving him a broad grin. “And in the meantime, we’re gonna make the best of our time!” Mabel scooped up Waddles, who had managed to wander into the room, and was sniffing the furniture curiously. “Just because we aren’t in Gravity Falls doesn’t mean we can’t have fun! You know what? I think I’ll throw a we’re-back-home party! Who’s with me?” She raised Waddles’ trotter.
Shaking his head fondly, Dipper pushed the cupboard door closed, and followed Mabel out the room as she chattered about punch flavours and decorations and the cute boys across the road they should totally invite.
Both of them failed to notice Bill’s eye briefly fluttering open, before it quickly shut again.
Dipper quietly padded past Mabel’s room, the sound of her quiet snores assuring him that she was asleep. Nimbly dodging some spilled jello (there had been a minor accident during party preparation, which was perhaps fortunate since Mabel had seen it fit to empty the entire contents of a bag of glitter into the jello mix), he stealthily made his way into the spare room. He opened the closet doors, wincing at the squeaking noise it made. He’d need to oil these hinges.
“Hey there.” He murmured, mostly out of habit.
Bill didn’t react when he pulled him off the coat hanger. He didn’t react when Dipper set journal number 2 in front of him. He didn’t react when Dipper flipped to the appropriate page (entitled ‘Energy Transfers’, although in black light it also read ‘THENINECIRCLESTHENINECIRCLESTHENINECIRLES’. Dipper had decided that it was better not to ask), picked him up with both hands, and began reciting the incantation inscribed underneath.
“Vitale Fortuna Domineus.” The scar at his chest began to grow warm.
“Varage Humilie Correstium.” The warmth spread to his arms, to his hands.
“Anima Harame Ludicurus.” A nearly-imperceptible glow as it seeped through his hands, warming whatever it was that Bill was made out of.
It quickly faded, and Dipper exhaled, grabbing the coathanger and re-attaching Bill to it. It was a little odd, seeing him like this. Perhaps it was the side-effects of forcing him out of the mindscape and into the real world, with its strict dimensions and distinct lack of reality-warping, but Bill was thin. Paper-thin, although not nearly as bendable. Grunkle Stan had tried. Whatever material he was made out of (neither smooth nor rough, completely opaque) was far too strong to be affected by normal means. Or abnormal means. Or put it in a sealed chamber and nuke it means.
That didn’t make it any less weird, to be able to turn Bill on his side and examine him. Or play Frisbee with him, as Mabel had been offering. If Bill was conscious, he was being disturbingly apathetic. And it was…
It was a little pitiful.
Dipper frowned, pushing himself up off the ground. Technically, there wasn’t any great need to keep this private. Part of him still rebelled against keeping something like this from Mabel. But every time he performed this ritual (and Stanford had reminded him it had to be done at least once every week), he was reminded of what Bill had been reduced to. A powerless shell of what was once a demon, completely dependent on him to survive.
No wonder why Bill wasn’t talking. If he was in Bill’s position, he probably wouldn’t have wanted to talk either.
Although it would have been easier if Bill talked. Even if it was only to spew the expletive-laden vitriol he’d blasted them with once he’d realised his defeat was imminent. At least Dipper would know he hadn’t just given up.
Feeling hollow inside, he closed the closet doors. He turned to look out the window. It was a warm night, and a light breeze blew inside, ruffling his hair. Feeling oddly nostalgic, he stared out the window, breathing in the evening summer air.
He wondered how the Stans were doing. How were they handling the Mystery Shack? Did Stanford still actively search for the supernatural? Had they tried to fix that letter ‘S’ which always seemed to get loose and fall off despite their attempts to hammer it back on?
As he had left, Grunkle Stan had shoved a stack of postcards into his bag and suggested, with a wink, that he find some new victims- whoops, he meant friends- and do a little ‘advertising’. Dipper snorted to himself, smiling. But the smile soon faded, and he leaned against the window, closing his eyes.
He missed Gravity Falls.
Time passed, and despite its magnitude, Gravity Falls became a lingering afterthought in the back of their minds, crowded out by the mundane woes and worries of school, of friendships and of relationships.
The latter mainly applied to Mabel, who spent her days bouncing from one romantic entanglement to another. Dipper seemed to have less luck largely, it seemed, because of his self-sabotaging nature. A girl might smile at him, he might smile back, they’d chat and then suddenly his brain was in overdrive – she had red hair, what if he only liked her as some sort of ‘replacement’ for Wendy, she was nice but he seriously couldn’t see himself in a long-term relationship with her oh man what if they couldn’t communicate what if he messed up – and then he’d avoid her every time he saw her coming.
So he busied himself in schoolwork and assignments, gaining himself quite the reputation as a teacher’s pet thanks to the regularity with which his hand went up in class. He had friends apart from Mabel, of course, and he eventually managed to cultivate a little coterie of like-minded souls with whom he spent much of his time weaving conspiracy theories and discussing unsolved mysteries. Although he never had the large circles of friends that Mabel did, and eventually resigned himself to being known as ‘Mabel’s twin brother’. It only stung when he thought about it too hard.
Waddles grew to the point where their parents put their foot down and declared he was now an outdoor pig. Mabel pulled her sweater past her chin for a week, but cheered up after realising he was perfectly happy to nose around the garden and uproot their mother’s prized daffodils.
There were some mishaps too, like the time their father discovered Bill during a spring-cleaning session. Ironically, thinking he was some old arts-and-crafts project of the twins, he promptly tossed him in the trash. It took some clever scheming on the part of Mabel and some thorough grovelling to the garbageman on the part of Dipper to get him back. They kept him in Dipper’s closet after that, despite his protests –he was a teenage boy, and he really needed his privacy, to which Mabel replied that they weren’t going to take a risk like that again, and also eww, Dipper- and he glared at the motionless triangle every time he went to retrieve his clothes for the next month.
In hindsight though, he could admit it was actually kind of hilarious.
They did go back to Gravity Falls, during the holidays. However, there was very little out of the normal (by Gravity Falls standards, at least). They spent their days conning gullible tourists out of their money, hanging out with Wendy and her friends, helping Soos with whatever odd jobs needed to be performed, and hunting down any creatures it seemed the journal might not list. Dipper was nearly drowned in a creek by a kelpie, Mabel fell in love with a boy who was actually a hallucination caused by some earlier ingested mushrooms. In other words, the usual.
One thing that did change was that Mabel eventually became fast friends with Pacifica, which in retrospect probably wasn’t all that surprising. Although that didn’t stop Dipper from dropping his bowl of cereal on the floor when he walked into the living room and saw them both laughing like hyenas, smeared with peanut butter and jam, apparently in the process of an impromptu food fight. Spotting him, Pacifica sat up straighter and let out a little cough. The effect was ruined when Mabel caught her in an arm lock and began smearing peanut butter into her hair.
Out of necessity, they took Bill with them as well. Both Stans often spent their evenings ‘testing’ the dream demon in their laboratory, much to Dipper’s dismay. They often emerged grim-faced, shaking their heads.
Bill still wouldn’t open his eye.
Dipper dutifully performed the ritual every week. He had a little reminding system set up on his computer just for this purpose, not that he really needed it. When asked by Grunkle Stan why he was going to so much trouble for such an irritating little bastar-he quickly corrected himself- bother, Dipper just shrugged. Said something about not giving an eye for an eye, haha, that was actually a pun. To be honest, he didn’t really know himself.
But sometimes, he would dream. Not like the dreams he’d had before, of a grey world glowing red, of flames, of screams, of a single eye staring down upon them all. Instead, he would occasionally dream of dark, lonely emptiness. A void, tinged only with a quiet sadness.
He tried to ask Stanford about whether this sort of link could let them share dreams, but Stanford immediately fixed him with a piercing glare, demanding to know if he’d had any strange dreams. Dipper had quickly backtracked, laughing nervously.
If Bill had wanted to manipulate Dipper’s dreams, he likely could have done so far more effectively. Something like guilt twinged in Dipper’s chest as he realised that the empty void was likely Bill’s reality now, forced out of the mindscape and stripped of his powers. He’d taken to talking to Bill on occasion, a one-sided monologue about nothing of importance. If Bill was conscious, Dipper was pretty much his only connection to the outside world.
He wondered what it felt like, to have everything at your fingertips only for it to be yanked away like that. He wondered if it would be kinder to give up. To let Bill fade away, or whatever demons did when they died. And then he’d shake himself mentally, because if that was the case, Bill deserved this. Deserved to live through the humiliation of being vulnerable, at the mercy of someone else’s control. And then Dipper would start to feel like a horrible person and the cycle would start all over again.
That being said, life was otherwise normal. Mabel was right. It was all over, the story had ended and the protagonists were off to live their dreary, day-to-day existences. Well, if the alternative was this or apocalypse, Dipper knew which he’d choose.
Well, he was pretty sure he knew which one he’d choose.