Chapter 1: Sick Day
Bill could tell something was wrong when he made his way downstairs, grumbling, and found the air devoid of the smell of frying bacon and eggs or whatever Dipper was making for breakfast that morning - as well as the sound of the fawn singing some cheery pop tune to himself. After eating burnt pancakes and toast for a month and a half the young cervitaur had seized the reins when it came to cooking, and the hunter let him. He was considerably more patient with the task, and Bill had to admit that it was nice to wake up to the kid puttering around the kitchen or come home after terrorizing the fauna of the woods to find a full meal waiting for him.
In fact, the kitchen was deserted, and Dipper was nowhere to be found. Shrugging off a twinge of irritation and the instinctive flicker of anxiety that his fawn might have run off, the hunter wandered into the main room. “Kid?”
The pile of blankets and pillows in the corner that served as Dipper’s bed was undisturbed, wrapped around a bundle that appeared to be shivering. That was odd - the fawn tended to rise much earlier than he did every morning. “Kid, you alright?”
Dipper didn’t respond, and the anxiety flared up again. Bill knelt beside him, moving a cushion aside and pulling a couple of soft checkered quilts covering the small body aside. The fawn curled up beneath them was indeed shivering; a light sheen of perspiration dampened his brow, and his face was pale.
Dipper let out a faint sound of acknowledgement, but made no attempt to rise. Bill pulled off one of his gloves, pressing a hand against the kid’s forehead. As suspected, he had a fever, and a rather high one at that.
A reasonable individual would have sought out a thermometer, made a note of the fawn’s temperature, and proceeded from there. Bill was not a reasonable individual, and he knew jack shit about taking care of sick anything, much less a cervitaur. First aid generally fell to Dipper as well, but with him out of commission there was really only one course of action to take.
He decided that it was a pretty good time to panic.
“Okay, kid. You have to wake up and tell me what’s wrong because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.” This bit of absolute honesty drew no reaction. It occurred to the hunter that he was on his own for this one. He also allowed himself to acknowledge the knot rapidly forming in the pit of his stomach at seeing his fawn in any kind of distress. The last thing he wanted to do was risk losing him somehow. This…no,Dipper, because he was a person and not a thing; Dipper was his responsibility, and so was everything that went along with it.
Taking a couple of deep breaths that did nothing to calm him whatsoever, he lifted the limp fawn from where he lay, stumped as to where to put him. The floor wasn’t an option at the moment, and the sofa didn’t seem too comfortable for a partially fuzzy invalid. Once this was all over (in the he’s well again sense not over over because that can’t happen) maybe he needed to consider actually giving the kid a room or something. Since he no longer bothered with the chain at night there wasn’t really a practical reason to continue having him sleep in that corner, anyway. But for now his bed would have to do.
Bill carried the fawn upstairs and deposited him on one side of the bed; despite his skin being hot to the touch he continued to shiver, so the hunter took care to drape another blanket over him before going to seek out a damp rag to place on his forehead. Then he sat on the other side of the bed pensively, unsure of how to proceed. What the fuck did you do for a fever? Did he need medicine? He couldn’t recall ever being sick, and if he had the experience was locked away in the part of his memories that remained shrouded within an impenetrable grey fog. Maybe there was something in the first aid kit?
The first aid kit actually turned out to be a big help, yielding a couple of small white packages containing fever reducer tablets. Halfway up the stairs with the medicine in tow he realized the fawn probably couldn’t chew the pills and headed back downstairs for a cup of juice and a spoon, dissolving a couple of tablets in the liquid before carrying it back to his bedroom. It was probably going to taste terrible, but the kid would just have to deal with it.
His suspicions proved to be true once again. Dipper remained only partially conscious, not even so much that he really acknowledged the spoonfuls of makeshift fever medicine being doled out to him, although he did grimace at first. At one point his eyes crept open just enough for him to focus on Bill for a few seconds before zoning out again. It reminded the hunter of the first few weeks after finding him in the woods, and the resulting guilt made it a good deal easier to remain patient until the fawn finished the last few drops of medicine and nodded off.
By then it was already early afternoon, but as much as he wanted to go out and blow off some steam (and do some actual hunting given that dinner wasn’t going to shoot itself) the fawn took precedence. He didn’t feel comfortable with leaving him alone, anyway.
“Damn it, kid.” Bill sighed, leaning back in the chair he’d pulled up beside Dipper and staring at the ceiling while stroking his ears the way he’d come to whenever the fawn was apprehensive about something. This was the entire problem with caring about people instead of things. Guns didn’t wake up with fevers or have nightmares or risk dying and leaving him all alone with a bunch of stupid emotions he didn’t know how to deal with. But people that straddled the line between pet and housemate did, selfishly making him worry about their well-being and fret over things that he’d never really worried about before.
However…when he recalled the feeling of sitting on the porch, watching Dipper give in to the side of himself that was still a fairly young deer and dash around the lawn at top speed for a bit before tiring himself out and stretching out in the grass for a nap - he was pretty sure it was all worth it.
Another two days passed before the fawn regained consciousness fully, during which Bill stayed at his side almost constantly, only leaving to retrieve another cup of medicine - and a one-time perfectly disastrous attempt at making soup that resulted in a scorched pot that paid for its treachery by being chucked out the front door. He did manage to cook oatmeal that sort of resembled what the food was actually supposed to look like; thankfully Dipper was already used to his culinary incompetence and ate it dutifully without comment. He woke up long enough to ask for water and the like every few hours, and at some point Bill brought the book he carried around like a security blanket to him and left it where he could reach it if need be, but that was the extent of the fawn’s activity for the moment.
Those two days were absolutely nerve-wracking.
Without Dipper’s presence elsewhere in the house it was ominously quiet and still, and his sarcastic commentary and wit were sorely missed. Added to that was the ceaseless fear of what happened if hedidn’t get better. It was that thought more than anything else that kept him there, parked in the chair next to him or sleeping on the other side of the bed with one hand continually smoothing the kid’s soft hair or petting his ears if only to reassure himself that the fawn was still warm and breathing.
On the third day he woke up from a restless few hours of sleep to find a clear-eyed (but still pale and sniffling) Dipper staring at him with a mixture of surprise and confusion on his face. “Why am I in your bed?”
“Because it seemed like a dick move to let you die on the floor,” Bill snapped, struggling quite hard to keep himself from lunging across the bed, hugging the fawn and telling him how worried he’d been.
Dipper nodded slowly, accepting this explanation. After another few seconds he spoke up again, this time with a hint of amusement in his voice. “I’m probably not going to die from a cold, though.”
“Good. I don’t want to have another dead body to deal with.” That one might have been a little harsh, so Bill picked up the proverbial shovel and continued digging. “I mean…someone has to cook, because I can’t.” Keep digging. Why stop now? “And I kind of like having you around to make it less boring.”
Dipper smiled, knowingly. “So what you’re saying is that you care about me, were worried while I was out of it and now you’re trying to cover for it by feigning indifference.”
The hunter tried to glare at him and failed miserably, only managing a petulant “…shut up” that did little to dispel the fawn’s glee at his incidental admission of the unforgivable crime known as giving a shit.
Later on that afternoon he retrieved the pot from the where it had landed in the yard, scrubbed it clean and tried his hand at making soup again. The results left much to be desired, but as he watched his fawn polishing off a second bowl of it while idly flipping through his journal Bill couldn’t help but smile himself, finally able to breathe normally for the first time in days.
Stupid kid was turning him into a sap.
Chapter 2: Bill is a Bad Patient
“Shit!” The fawn attending to his wounds let out a heavy sigh as Bill flinched away from him yet again.
“You know…” Dipper set aside a bloodied cotton ball and reached for a fresh one. “You kinda have to hold still for this.”
“Does it have to sting so fucking much?” The mountain lion who’d attacked him out in the woods that afternoon had paid for its audacity with its head (now messily severed from its body and lying inert on the porch), but not without leaving its mark on the hunter before Bill managed to dispatch the creature. He knew he was lucky that the damage wasn’t worse, but the series of shallow scrapes to fairly deep gashes lining his arms, chest and abdomen (bastard had torn through one of his favorite shirts, too) were pretty painful now that the adrenaline had worn off…and the disinfectant Dipper was using to clean them didn’t help.
“Yes, because I’m pouring alcohol on an open wound.” He ran the damp cotton ball over one of the smaller slashes along his forearm as gently as possible, applying a thin layer of antibacterial cream before affixing a bandage to it. “And is it really worse than getting mauled by a mountain lion?”
Bill huffed. “The difference is that that situation ended with a head getting mounted on the wall.”
“Are you going to shoot the first aid kit too?” Dipper quipped, feigning innocence.
“Watch it kid. Fuck!” He fled to the other side of the couch with a sharp hiss, glaring daggers at the fawn (now holding a rag stained with blood from the deeper gashes on his left forearm). “That shit hurts!”
“Is it really worse than getting mauled by a mountain lion?”
Dipper rolled his eyes, pressing a hand to his face in a universal gesture of being done. “Want me to use the peroxide instead?”
Bill paused. “We had peroxide this entire time?”
Dipper shrugged indifferently…although the mischievous gleam in his eye betrayed him. “I thought you could handle the alcohol, since you did take out a mountain lion and all.”
Bill stared at him for a moment before responding. “So I think we’re having deer for dinner tonight.”
Chapter 3: Bill is Above the Law
Dipper could tell when his housemate was aggravated over something; instead of bringing home actual animal carcasses with the intention of eating them or using their hide the hunter returned with animal parts, ranging from the fuzzy, coarse furred tails of foxes to the occasional severed heads of animals that perfectly explained why the man was covered in cuts and scratches yet again.
Some of the bits and pieces were cleaned up, appropriately taxidermied, and then mounted on the wall. The others simply disappeared, and Dipper didn’t ask because he really didn’t want to know. It was better to just accept it as a part of their relationship that went undiscussed, although the rare deer head or antlers were extremely unnerving for obvious reasons.
His vow to just let it go couldn’t last forever, though, and one day while attending to yet another wound the young cervitaur decided it was time to finally voice one of his concerns. “So…do you actually have a license?”
“A what?” The question momentarily distracted Bill from glaring at the mountain lion head staring vacantly back at him from where it lay on the floor, staining the wooden floorboards beneath it.
“A hunting license.” Dipper reached for a tube of antibiotic cream, starting on the more shallow cuts before working his way up to the ones that indicated that the owner of the head a few feet away from him hadn’t gone down without a fight. “You know, that thing that legally allows you to go out and shoot up the woods with reckless abandon?”
Bill stared at him, blankly. “Legally?”
“Yeah, man. You…know you’re supposed to have a hunting license, right?”
Bill continued to stare at him. Dipper began to regret asking. He should have known a guy with creepy magical abilities that lived out in the remote woods of Oregon by himself in a cabin full of teeth and heads would probably be doing so way under the radar. “I mean, I’m not going to turn you in or anything, obviously, but if the authorities catch you-”
At this the hunter burst into peals of unhinged laughter, injuries forgotten for the moment. Dipper employed one of his now perfected placid expressions, because those were necessary sometimes when dealing with a guy like Bill.
After about a minute of laughing his ass off the hunter calmed down and wiped a tear from his good eye, which glittered mischievously as he responded to all of Dipper’s concerns in one go. “Fuck the police, kid.”
And that was that.
Chapter 4: Safe
“Kid, you have twice as many legs as I do. I know you can move faster than this.”
The sound of the cervitaur crashing through the foliage and crunching twigs beneath his hooves drew closer as Dipper picked up the pace, but Bill could tell he was having a bit of trouble keeping up with his long strides. He paused for a moment to allow the fawn to catch up, glancing over his shoulder with a touch of irritation. This would have been so much easier with the leash, as well as effectively quelling the twinge of anxiety within the pit of his stomach - he knew there was very little chance of Dipper making a break for it and running off, however, the fear remained. Still, the fawn seemed a lot happier without it, and the appreciative smile on his face made the inconvenience worth it.
“Sorry.” Dipper apologized, clutching the handle of the wicker basket tightly. An expression of unbridled joy was plastered across his face as he glanced from side to side, taking in the scenery much like he was seeing it for the first time. “I just haven’t seen this in awhile.”
The subtle dig at the months of being confined to the lodge probably wasn’t intentional, if the fawn was even aware of it, but Bill decided to slow down and let him enjoy his time out of the house anyway. It wasn’t as if the kid asked for much, and it wouldn’t hurt to indulge him a little more. He continued to lead the way towards the stand of blackberry bushes he’d come across a few days before, rifle slung over his shoulder just in case something foolishly decided to interrupt their outing. “Why do you want these berries so badly, anyway?”
He could recall the way the fawn’s eyes had lit up the moment he mentioned the bushes in passing while griping about some failed venture or the other, as well as the not-so-subtle hints the kid had dropped for the next couple of days regarding going to gather berries from them while they were still in season. In the end he’d relented, as usual. Stupid kid turning him into a pushover.
Dipper averted his gaze, sheepishly. “Yeah…there isn’t a lot of variety back at home.” His recent usage of the word ‘home’ in reference to the lodge was always reassuring, and the knot in Bill’s stomach loosened ever so slightly. “And I haven’t had them in a long time.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he grumbled, turning away so the fawn couldn’t see him smiling as well.
The rest of the trip to the small clearing proceeded without further incident, and after another fifteen minutes or so of traveling they reached their destination. Bill turned to announce their arrival to Dipper, only to find the fawn darting past him, cantering over to the bushes and immediately popping a few into his mouth. “Whoa,” he said, small body almost trembling with excitement. “You weren’t kidding."
"Just make it fast.” Bill settled against the wide trunk of a nearby tree, watching his fawn strip the bushes while careful to avoid the thorns. He was eating nearly as many as he picked, voraciously, reminding the hunter that he was partially a deer, after all. He would’ve rather died than admit it out loud, but the sight was rather endearing; he doubted Dipper realized that his tail was swishing from side to side, nor that he’d begun to hum some song to himself while wrapped up in his task. It was nice to see him so happy over something so small.
About half an hour passed, during which the fawn finally ceased stuffing his face and actually went about collecting the berries from the bushes as intended. The sunlight streaming through the sparse canopy had grown dim before fading altogether, and Bill could tell from the gathering clouds that rain was on the horizon. “You almost done, Pine Tree?”
Dipper nodded, plucking a few more berries and tossing them into the basket. “Just a few more.”
Bill opened his mouth to protest, but relented at the pleading tone of the fawn’s voice. “Hurry up."
Five minutes later he regretted that decision as the first few raindrops splattered against his face - followed by the low rumble of thunder. Dipper’s tail halted, flagging in alarm, and he stumbled backwards at the sound. Bill groaned. "Well, shit. Come on, kid. There’s a cave over here.”
Dipper hesitated, tilting his head to gaze at the thick layer of clouds now obscuring the early afternoon sunlight. “Don’t you want to head back?"
Another loud crack of thunder boomed overhead, alongside a flash of lightning. Bill glared at him. "Do you?”
The fawn shook his head frantically, seizing the basket and running along behind the hunter without further commentary. It was no secret that he hated thunderstorms, and he was much swifter on his hooves than earlier that day. By the time the mouth of the cave loomed ahead, the light rain had rapidly progressed to a downpour, soaking them both. “We can wait it out in here,” Bill said, ushering the fawn ahead of him. Dipper paused again once inside, shaking himself off much like a dog. “Is it safe?"
The hunter grinned, patting his rifle almost affectionately. As far as he knew the small cave was unoccupied; it wasn’t really large enough to serve as suitable home for any larger animals that might have designs up eating either of them, but he was prepared for the situation should it arise. "It’s safe."
He dropped to his knees, shifting into a sitting position, and Dipper lowered himself to the ground beside him, folding his legs beneath himself. He hung his head, the picture of guilt. "Sorry…I didn’t know it was going to rain."
Bill rolled his eyes, exhaling in a huff. "Kid, stop apologizing all the time.” Dipper lifted his head, meeting his gaze with his soft brown eyes. “I mean…I wouldn’t have brought you out here for these stupid berries if I didn’t want to.” He stopped himself before continuing, swallowing the 'to see you smile’ before it could cross his lips and further ruin his reputation. Dipper’s apprehension visibly melted away at his words.
Outside the cave, another flash of lightning lit up the trunks of the surrounding trees, highlighting them in sharp relief; Dipper stiffened. He was shaking again, either from fear or being slightly chilled by his damp fur - probably both. Bill smirked. “Scared?”
The fawn puffed himself up, exuding a sense of false bravado. “No. It’s just a st-”
His words were cut off by thunder rolling overhead, causing him to jolt backwards, knocking the cap from his head with his ears slicked back.
“You sure?” Bill asked, dryly.
Dipper didn’t answer; he’d curled in on himself in his terror. It was far too reminiscent of their first few weeks together, immediately wiping the smirk off of the hunter’s face. He didn’t want to see him like that, ever again. “Come here."
Gripping the fawn’s shirt, he tugged him closer and wrapped an arm around his shoulder, stroking his ears gently. Slowly Dipper began to relax, and his trembling gradually ceased. "You’re safe,” the hunter murmured. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”
“Okay,” the fawn whispered, leaning against his shoulder.
The two stayed that way for the next couple of hours, with the hunter occasionally repeating the words to his fawn as the storm raged outside, reassuring him and keeping his fragile nerves in check.
“You’re safe with me.”
Chapter 5: Snacks
“Kid, if you don’t stop eating my fucking flowers I’m drowning you in the lake.”
Dipper jolted, tail flagging in alarm, and nearly stumbled over his own hooves as he whirled around to face Bill with a guilty expression plastered across his face. In his hands was a carefully plucked and partially eaten yellow rose, and it was obvious from the state of the rosebush beside him that he’d been snacking on it for quite some time.
An incredibly awkward silence filled the air as the fawn met his gaze, looked down at the remains of the flower, then back up at Bill. “…this totally isn’t what it looks like,” he lied.
“Then what is it? Because it looks like you’re eating my flowers again."
Ordinarily the fawn’s whitetail antics were endearing, but for the past few weeks Dipper had taken a liking to the rosebushes growing flush against the right side of the house, much to the hunter’s dismay.
Bill wasn’t sure why he, personally, was so attached to them. He didn’t do much in the way of maintenance given that he couldn’t really remember how, but the sight of the vivid yellow blossoms were oddly comforting to look at, and they provided a sweet aroma that seeped into his bedroom while in full bloom. It was probably just a holdover from his lost memories, but Bill readily accepted this one instead of trying to shake it off. There was no harm in liking flowers.
Flowers that certain whitetail fawns liked to eat, no matter how much they protested that they weren’t a real deer.
The hunter sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose with exasperation. "Look, kid, I know you’ve got this deer thing going on-”
“I’m not a real deer.”
“Whatever. I don’t care whether you eat everything else in the yard, but can you not?” He gestured towards the stripped bush.
Dipper stared at the ground beneath his hooves. “Sorry.”
He looked so dejected that Bill suddenly felt bad for yelling at him. He knew that balancing his inherited instincts and human logic often proved to be a struggle for Dipper. He wasn’t maliciously or consciously targeting the roses specifically, nor was he particularly proud of his desire to eat them.
That said, Bill didn’t intend to just let the fawn destroy his damn rosebushes, either.
It wasn’t until the following week that a solution arose during his rambling around in the woods while tracking some animal or the other, and the very next day he set out around noon with Dipper in tow. The fawn’s inquiries as to where they were going went unanswered until Bill reached their destination, ushering Dipper forward into a small clearing past a stand of overgrown foliage.
The fawn paused at the treeline, eyes widening; the clearing was literally filled from one end to the other with blooming wildflowers; some of the bushes ringing the area were thick with blackberries, the kind that contained no thorns and grew a bit larger than their contemporaries. The entire clearing smelled like heaven, and Dipper’s tail swished in anticipation.
“Here’s the deal,” Bill interrupted his reverie. “You leave the roses along, and we can come here every couple of days so you can go wild. Deal?”
Dipper regarded his outstretched hand warily for a moment before deciding to throw caution to the wind. He took the hunter’s hand and shook it in agreement. “Just so we’re clear…”
“You’re not a real deer,” Bill interjected, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, kid, whatever.”
Dipper let go of his hand, then turned and darted into the clearing with a spring in his step and his ears and tail aloft with excitement, much like the overjoyed deer that he apparently wasn’t.
Bill made his way over to a nearby tree and leaned against it, watching the fawn graze peacefully while seated in a clump of brightly-colored wildflowers.
Chapter 6: Habits
Despite the kid’s best efforts to deny the existence of his newly acquired whitetail traits, they bled through his facade on a constant basis - every time his ears slicked back and his tail flagged in response to any form of disturbance, to the way he sometimes forgot himself and ran around in dizzying circles on the lawn before collapsing in a small heap in the tall, unkempt grass.
He often lost his balance while walking, as if he still wasn’t used to having twice as many legs as before, letting out a sound somewhere between a yelp and a bleat.
He vorasciouly consumed the fruit, vegetables, and roots Bill managed to scavenge out in the woods while their makeshift garden strained to flourish. The garden was Dipper’s idea, but the majority of actually planting the seeds and starters fell to Bill, crouching in a plot of messily upturned soil and muttering death threats that he knew good and damn well were empty of genuine murderous intent.
On one occasion the hunter caught him casually nibbling at a flower until the fawn noticed Bill watching him, dropped it, and ran.
For such a studious little shit he often shifted into what the hunter referred to as full-on deer mode, racing at top speed from one end of the yard to the other while stretching his legs and burning off some steam. He was extraordinarily fast, powered by his own penchant for anxiety as well as the endurance of an actual deer. During those times he resembled a true fawn, cavorting and jumping over obstacles that he sometimes failed to clear in the perfect balance of agility and teenage clumsiness. Bill grew tired just watching him, although that didn’t stop him from rising to his feet and striding across the lawn to where Dipper struggled to catch his breath, sarcastically inquiring as to whether he was going to live.
It also became apparent that Bill’s threats to drown him in the lake would likely be futile even if he wasn’t attached to the fawn, because Dipper could swim rather well, regardless of whether he’d had the ability prior to his transformation or not. Trips to the lake during the warmer months usually involved the kid paddling around on the other side of the lake while the hunter attempted to catch some of the dull-witted fish that somehow managed to elude him most of the time. This had nothing to do with his lack of patience. Nothing whatsoever.
On the other hand, he was prone to being startled quite easily; his heightened olfactory and auditory senses resulted in a constant state of awareness whenever something he perceived as a threat drew near. He instinctively knew when some predatory creature was on the prowl, grounding to a halt and beginning to tremble uncontrollably, alerting Bill to its presence as well. He maintained a sensitivity to adverse weather conditions, becoming uneasy when a thunderstorm was on its way; in that sense he functioned as a valuable asset to the hunter, who came to trust Dipper’s advice with little hesitation or doubt.
Unfortunately his perception lead to a fair amount of anxiety, the worst of which generally ended in hiding in a corner or beneath a table while Bill sat next to him, trying his best to soothe the fawn’s frayed nerves.
The most endearing moments occurred during their downtime, seated beside each other on the porch gazing at the stars while bathed in the light of a full moon, or on the couch in the main room while Dipper read or scribbled notes in his journal while Bill idly petted his soft, fuzzy ears, occasionally scratching behind them or straying far enough towards his back to trigger his scratch reflex, sending one of the fawn’s hindlegs to go nuts and thoroughly embarrassing the hell out of Dipper, hiding behind whatever he was reading and reiterating that he was not a real deer.
All of it was annoyingly adorable, although Bill would have rather fought a mountain lion with his bare hands than admit that out loud.
Instead he allowed himself to smile at the fawn’s antics when Dipper wasn’t looking, perfectly content for the first time in as long as he could remember.
Chapter 7: Memories
The song Bill plays is the acoustic version of The Legendary Theme from Gitaroo Man, which can be found here.
There were a lot of things in the lodge that Bill didn’t recognize save for dim flashes of memories chipped and frayed along the edges. The stack of books in the basement with broken spines indicating that they’d been read to the point of near destruction - where had those come from? Most of the trophies on the wall were his efforts, but those that weren’t - when had they occurred, and how could he have possibly forgotten? The contrast between the things he knew about himself and the things he didn’t was a constant source of frustration, as well as one of the few things that could make him lose his temper with Dipper on the spot.
He wasn’t particularly pleased when the kid returned from rummaging around in the attic with an old, slightly weathered guitar in tow, clearly excited by his discovery.
The fawn trotted over to where he sat at a worktable with a pile of leather straps, poring over them with a furrowed brow. The kid had been bitching about his collar for awhile, and while Bill refused to let him ditch the accessory he wasn’t opposed to redesigning it. Perhaps something that resembled jewelry a little more? He didn’t notice the guitar until Dipper laid the instrument on the table in front of him.Damn it.
“What’s with the guitar?” The fawn asked. “Do you actually know how to play it?”
Bill glared at the object as if it were insulting him with its presence, and in a way it was. He dimly remembered giving it a try at some point, fingertips automatically finding the right places to make the guitar speak when he allowed his mind to wander; actually concentrating resulted in clumsy fumbling and sounds that were considerably less than pleasing to the ear. “Some. I don’t remember where I got it.”
Dipper’s ears pricked up. “Wait, you can play the guitar? That’s awesome.”
“Why’d you leave it up in the attic?”
Bill shrugged again; his eyebrow was beginning to twitch.
“Did you just teach yourself, or-”
“Kid, I don’t know.” The hunter snapped, slamming a hand against the table top hard enough to make it sting. “I don’t fucking remember where half of the shit in this place came from, so stop asking, alright?”
Dipper let out a nervous bleat, taking a step back; it was then, looking into the fawn’s terrified eyes, that Bill realized what was happening - his own eye was gleaming bright gold again, as it did when he let his anger get the best of him.
“I’m sorry,” the fawn whispered, then turned tail and ran from the room.
The hunter watched him go with the guilt erupting in his chest once more, then settled back into his seat with a heavy sigh.
Maybe he really did need anger management classes.
…hell no. There was no way that could end in anything other than murder.
But he did need to learn to control himself around his fawn.
After a few minutes of staring disconsolately at the leather scraps, Bill gave up on working for the moment, standing up and reaching for the guitar. The instrument’s varnish had worn thin over the…years? Was it years? The wood felt strangely warm against his fingers, and snatches of melodies slipped into his head unbidden. Whereas the memories usually plagued him and sent him into another rage, this time he took a deep breath, made a ballpark attempt to swallow it, and went to find Dipper.
The fawn was out on the porch, huddled against one of the wooden beams. The sun was departing, painting the sky in soft golden and rose blush watercolors in its wake. Dipper glanced over his shoulder at the sound of the hunter approaching him, then looked away.
Bill sat down next to him, leaning against the opposite beam and leaving a couple of feet of space between them. Neither said anything for a few minutes until Bill spoke up. “Sorry for yelling at you, kid.”
Dipper peeked over at him. “It’s okay.”
The tension remained, however, and Bill looked down at the guitar in his hands. There really wasn’t a way of getting around it, was there? “You really want to hear me play this thing?”
The fawn shrugged, mimicking his actions from earlier.
Bill sighed again. “Alright, but if you laugh, I’m drowning you in the lake.”
Dipper actually smiled at that; it was a long-standing threat that it was clear the hunter wouldn’t follow through on. “I know.”
Bill propped the guitar up in his lap, awkwardly holding on to it until his hands recalled where they needed to be. Don’t think.
Instead of thinking about his lost memories or the strings beneath his fingertips, he forced himself to think about what he did remember. Listening to the fawn’s voice poring over journal entries and rambling over possibilities while he worked; coming home to find the lodge filled with the aroma of whatever was for dinner; watching Dipper give in to the side of him that was all deer yet again and jumping in puddles or piles of leaves before realizing what he was doing. Warmth, instead of anger or loss.
He didn’t realize he was playing, a song that may have been something created on the spot, happiness flowing from his fingers and weaving a melody upon the strings like a those of a loom. He did notice when something equally warm brushed against his side - Dipper had closed the distance between them and now laid against his side, humming along with his eyes shut in contentment.
The hunter grinned, allowing his eye to close as well; his fingers continued to dance upon the strings until the moon rose overhead and stars peppered the velvet sky.