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The moment Bill shook hands with that demon, that star-speckled clawed hand that carried a sense of grandiose and overwhelming dread, he knew what he had to do.

When Bill flew through the burning wreckage of his own dimension, the agonizing screams of innocent shapes dying still ringing through his mind, searching desperately for a familiar sight of an angled square, he knew what he had to do.

When Bill's tears finally dried, when the flames died down, when there was nothing left but the smoking, collapsed ruin the Gods left him with, claiming it was his new kingdom, he knew what he had to do.

And when Bill finally desperately clutched the outstretched hand of the Axolotl, shaking with the force of his sobs, he knew he couldn't do it anymore.

His new mission was going to be immensely difficult, what with almost all of his powers being destroyed, now having to rely on the cosmic abilities of the Axolotl, and that he wasn't sure how he was going to somehow rebuild all of the carnage and death left in his wake, but Bill was willing to do it. His thirst for revenge against the natural order had led both him and his friends down a path that was drenched in blood, and while he found he never regretted it, he knew when to accept defeat and start anew.

He stared ahead at the opened circular portal that had appeared in front of him moments after speaking with the Axolotl about his next move, worry and hesitation worming around in his core. He could see the skies of the Nightmare Realm from the gateway, and it didn't look good; the color was slowly draining away, becoming still and blackened, and the landscapes, normally constantly spiraling and shifting out of view, an amalgamation of all sorts of masses, was crumbling and falling away. The whole dimension was decaying, and some day, it would become nothing but the void.

He knew he had to leave, had to go through that portal, but... For once his nerves betrayed him. He didn't want to go. He didn't want to see the mess he had left behind, or the mess that laid ahead. But the fact of the matter was that he had to see this through. There were no other options. Taking a deep breath, Bill straightened his bow tie, and adjusted his hat, glancing around one last time at the clearing he had called his resting place for over 2 years, before stepping into the portal.

--

...Kryptos grumbled soft curses to himself as he struggled to scrape the two pieces of stone together, holding them over a pile of wood, paper, and a few corpses in hopes of catching a spark. He was crouched behind an old, worn down wall that was possibly once part of a building, a bunch of tally marks burned into the surface, signifying how many days it had been since Bill's disappearance. It had been about 2 years now, and things had begun to seem more and more hopeless.

Fights broke out more frequently, wether it be out of sheer hostile moods or another frenzied debate over wether or not they should attempt to leave the Realm before it collapsed completely, often resulting in bloodied wounds and twisted limbs, and one of them having to be held back. The last time it happened it was between Teeth and 8-Ball, and the memory made Kryptos's heart sink. Those two were the best of pals, rivaling the friendship of himself and Ronnie, and those two had beaten each other so bad Teeth lost a tooth. If it could get that bad....How much longer would it be before the whole group fell apart?

The rhombus didn't realize his hands were shaking until they slipped, and Kryptos yelped in pain as the sharp edge of the rock sliced through his glove and into palm, black blood bubbling up out of the wound and staining the fabric. Cursing, he quickly pulled the glove off, revealing his blackened, clawed hand, and pressed his palm to his mouth, sucking up the blood and trying to nurse the stings of pain shooting down his arm. It seemed to be the breaking point for himself; tears begun to well up in his eye, and he began to shake even more. So many emotions welled up in his body, and it took all that he could to not outright sob.

His eye closed, and his unmarred hand clasped to it in an effort to hide his tears upon hearing footsteps approach. "J..Just leave me a-alone..."

Whoever it is stops walking towards him, and shifts in place for a moment. They don't move, the atmosphere becoming almost unbearably awkward before a small voice spoke. "You sure you wanna be alone?"

Everything seems to screech to a halt at that moment, and Kryptos's eye snaps open, teary and wide. Slowly, ever so slowly he turns to face the voice, and his breath hitches, body trembling. The rhombus says nothing, only staring dead ahead at Bill. The triangle averts his eyes, fiddling with his fingers. His body was smaller than it had been before, and he lacked his iconic top hat and cane, but itwas him. Bill Cipher. There was a look in his eye that Kryptos couldn't quite place. Bill crosses his arms after another moment of silence. "It's, uh, been a while, huh?"

Suddenly, without warning, Kryptos was scrambling to his feet, the tears overflowing from his eye now, and was sprinting toward Bill in a mad dash. The moment he draws closer, the rhombus reels his hand back and punches Bill dead in the eye.

Bill stumbles back, clutching his eye and hissing at the pain blossoming over his body. "Ah, fuck! What the hell? Shit..."

"Where were you?" Kryptos suddenly is clutching his shoulders, tears streaming from his eye as he violently shakes the triangle, body trembling. "WHERE WERE YOU, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE?!"

Bill grips his arms, stumbling back and forth. "Oh - hell - Kryp-Kryptos, fuck-" He finally wrenches himself out of the rhombus' grip and takes a deep breath. "Guh. It's not like it was my choice! I fucking died. You know how long it takes to regenerate from that?"

Krypton was still trembling, now furiously wiping at his eye, voice choked with emotion. "..Then how in the 79 Hells are you back? You were gone for two years! D-Do you have a-any idea what it was like to w-wait for that long?! E-Everyone thought you weren't coming back, everyone except for me and Ronnie!"

"I..." Bill rubs his eye, vision still blurry and a bruise slowly forming where Kryptos hit him. "I had help. It... I was..." He shakes, taking a deep breath. "I won't pretend to know what it was like for all of you. My body only recently coalesced, so I couldn't have come back even if I wanted to."

The rhombus stares for only a few moments, but his eye widens, full of shock. "...You made a deal with the Axolotl.."

"Of course I did." His voice is softer than he's ever heard it before. Bill crosses his arms and kicks a stray food can a few inches. "I knew you'd all be idiots and stay around waiting for me."

Kryptos snorts, starting to shake with hoarse laughter, though it sounded eerily close to sobs as more tears spill from his eye. "Heheh...Y-You're such an asshole!" He suddenly grabs onto Bill again, pulling him close in a tight hug as he continues to laugh.

Bill tenses for a moment, eye wide, before hugging back. "Yeah... Biggest asshole in the multiverse, right?"

"Heh...Yeah.." Eventually the laughter dies down, though Kryotos is still holding onto him. After some silence, he speaks up again, voice soft. "So...You accepted the Axolotl's peace treaty, huh? What's going to happen now? I mean...We spent a trillion years in this place, trying to get you strong enough to take on the Gods....Sacrificed everything we had....Is all of that just going to go away now? Like it never mattered?"

Bill exhales. "Don't be silly. Of course it mattered. We just... lost. We have to recognize that so we can move on."

"...I...I understand. But I'm not sure if we can actually ever move on from...this." He lifts a hand to gesture to the ruined Realm and all of its destruction. "Because, like it or not, this is our legacy now. I know how we kept cheering ourselves on by saying that when all of this was over, we'd be revered as heroes and everything would be ok, but...Now we just have this if we lose. Thousands of dimensions, trillions of deaths and even more lives ruined....Everyone sees us as monsters, Bill...How can we move on from that?"

"Yeah... I've... been thinking about that. I don't think you'll like it." He slowly pulls away, but not before he carefully wipes away a few stray tears dripping from Kryptos' eye. "I honestly wouldn't be surprised if you hit me again, actually."

Kryptos immediately tenses as Bill pulls away, and cold fear turns his blood to ice. He was starting to tremble again, and his breathing began to accelerate, not even reacting when gentle claws wiped away his tears. "..Wh...What is it?"

Bill is silent for a few moments, and the bruise looks worse with his pensive gaze. "We all have a reputation, Kryptos. Everyone in the multiverse knows us, we're Interdimensional criminals, I.... We can't go anywhere we want to because we'll be thrown in jail, so I think we... we have to redeem ourselves, somehow. It's the only way we can expect to live happily after all the shit I've put you guys through."

The fear rising up in Kryptos's body dimmed ever so slightly, and he swallows, trying to control his quaking body. "I..Ok...And how do we do that?"

"Well... I think we should start with small things and go from there. But I think, eventually, we have to start talking to the other versions of ourselves. If we can get even a few Bills or a few Henchmaniacs to stop while they're ahead, we could save untold billions. I mean, it's not like we can bring back the dimensions and worlds we destroyed, but if can stop others from being destroyed...."

Kryptos immediately winces, backing up a step or two, looking both frightened and revolted. "A-Are you nuts?! Bill, you know just as well as I do that approaching other Bill's is nigh suicide! Sure, you may be relatively fine but most others...aren't. They aren't well. They're sick, both mentally and physically. And in the condition you're in right now, they'd swallow you whole without a second thought and take the rest of us as slaves! I-! You-!" He starts to hyperventilate, hands clutching the sides of his eye as his breathing quickens.

Bill hurriedly takes hold of his hands. "I - I know. And I'm not gonna make any of you do anything you don't want to do. And like I said, we'll do other things first. I'm not ready to face any other Bill, and I doubt any of you are are any better off. It's just an idea I want to put out so we can think about it. We don't even have to do it at all! If everyone else thinks it's stupid idea, we won't do it. It's - it's just a crazy idea I had while in stasis and I think we can work with some of it, the small stuff. We don't have to jump in all at once." He trails off as he realizes he's rambling.

Kryptos was clinging onto Bill's hands like a vice, shaking like a leaf, listening intently on the triangle's words, focusing on them. Slowly, ever so slowly, his breathing began to calm. "..Ok...Ok..."

"Sorry, I probably should have led into that one." Bill gently rubs his thumbs over Kryptos' hands, hoping to calm him down further.

"Yeah...F..Fucking dickbag..." He starts laughing shakily again, loosening his grip ever so slightly. Who knew this bastard of a triangle could make him feel so many emotions?

Bill let's out a small chuckle. "So, uh, why don't we get this fire started? Everyone else is off doing their own thing, I'm guessing."

"Right...Yeah.." Kryptos pulls away, only to wince when he tries to open his hand again. He looks down and grimaces upon seeing an irritated gash covered in crusty blood. Right; it kind of got sliced open a few minutes ago. Whoops.

"Oh, geez. That doesn't look good. How did I not notice that?" Bill glances around and picks up his glove. "We can use this to staunch the bleeding. If you're alright with that."

"Huh? Oh, yeah. That's fine." He sits down next to the makeshift fire pit, sighing.

Bill sits down next to him and carefully wraps the glove over the wound. Now that they're sitting down, Kryptos' can more easily see how Bill has diminished in size. They're nowhere close to eye level anymore. "How does that feel? Not too tight?"

Kryptos takes a moment to process the size change; the very tip of Bill's upper angle only came up to his bottom lip at best, and while that didn't sound like much, it was a drastic change for him. He blinks upon hearing Bill's voice go up in tone. "Huh? Oh, uh, no. It's fine."

"Good, good." He fiddles with his fingers, then picks up the rocks Kryptos' had been using and trying to strike the fire.

Kryptos watches carefully, wanting to make sure Bill didn't slip up. "...I'm guessing you don't have your fire anymore?"

"Ah... No. It might come back, it might not." He focuses entirely on the fire, precious sparks flying from the rocks, but failing to catch on the tinder. "The way I, uh, died wasn't entirely conventional, so if I regain my powers - and that's a huge 'if' - they'll come back slowly."

Kryptos merely nods, his eye darting away almost nervously. "I see..."

Bill goes quiet. He isn't sure how to broach the topic of how he died, and he wasn't sure he really wanted to either. Maybe it was for the best that Kryptos didn't ask questions about it. The leaves suddenly catch the embers and begin to smoke and burn. "Ah! Finally."

As the pile slowly starts to catch fire, Kryptos suddenly reaches out with his bandaged hand, wrapping his arm around Bill's shoulder and dragging him close. The rhombus was pointedly looking away, a faint light blue blush dusting his cheeks. He was silent for a few more moments before he whispered quietly under his breath. Words from a language Bill had not heard for a trillion years. His native language.

"..I...I love you."

His eye widens at both the words and the language, staring at his friend - his best friend, his trusted friend, his more than just a friend - before he relaxes against him and grins softly. He rests a hand on his knee, squeezing gently. "I love you too."

Kryptos seems to still for a few moments before a wide smile stretched across his face, and he wiped at his eye to prevent himself from crying again. He hugged Bill as close as he could, shaking with relief, not letting go even as he heard the rest of his friends approach.

Everything was going to be ok now. He was sure of it.