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Life is a Fairytale

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He had been warned.

"Never go into the woods."

"The forest is a dangerous place."

"The wild is no place for young boys like you."

Yes, he had been warned. Countless times from his Great Uncle and a number of other townsfolk.

However, Dipper Pines was a twelve-year-old boy, not even on the cusp of puberty, ready to become his own man though not yet tall enough to grab his own destiny and take it by the reins. It didn't matter if he couldn't grab his destiny yet, however. Who needed it when you had an encyclopedia of knowledge at your fingertips?

He ignored the fact that it was stolen.

He stared at the large trees towering above, having already caught their destiny. However, the trees didn't have the knowledge he had. Hugging the journal to himself tightly, he slowly stepped into the great shade of the trees.

The leaves were like emeralds, shaped and cut perfectly to Mother Nature's whims; carefully cultivated with harsh summer heat, long winters, cruel wind, and mocking forest creatures.

Rolling his shoulders, trepidation filling his veins, Dipper took another step towards the vast woods before him. Mocha eyes blinking, he placed his hand onto the bark presented to him, feeling the rough tree-skin under the pads of his fingers. It was strong and sturdy, and powerful in the most passive of ways. Eternal. Old as the very Earth itself, it seemed.

He sighed. If trees could talk, they would have so much to say. So much wisdom to impart.

If only every object could talk, could speak of the horrors they'd been through. From the walls that witnessed a man get murdered to the roof that held in the whispers of a young mother soothing her babe. To the graves that soaked up weeps of sorrow. To the blades of grass that took in every excited step of one going on a new adventure.

Dipper stepped past his first tree.

Just inside the treeline, he could feel the air buzz with a beauty and energy not found in his humble town, not found in any village a person could hope to dream of. The forest was wilderness, was anarchy, was uncivilized.

There were no rules here. No laws. No expectations. Nothing of that sort.

He breathed in the buzzing air, energy crackling inside his lungs, gifting him with new life and light.

He stepped deeper into the forest, the hardcover of the journal biting into his chest.

Light filtered through the jade leaves, soft and gentle. It soothed his skin, warm hands roaming over him, comforting him in the best of ways. The sun was not harsh and cruel that day. No, it was warm and kind; it breathed life into him and the forest around him, a trickle of heat, a flash of embers, just enough to pet and hold him.

Taking in all that was around him, feeling like he was walking on clouds themselves, he continued on into the forest, lost to it's controlling appeal.

Dipper went deeper and deeper inside, feet trailing over roots and vines with unnatural ease, like how one would walk when returning home. The ground sloped gently underneath him, constant just like the surrounding trees.

The sounds of woodland beasts echoed around him, distant and normal.

The peck-pecking of the woodpeckers.

The tip-tapping of the squirrels.

The tweet-tweet of sweet birdsong.

The music of the forest was a melody of grass swaying in time to the push of the wind, leaves accepting their descent into the ground every fall, the slow growth of a bud into beautiful pastel petals. It was harmonization, it was a blend. Sweet as berries. Bitter as herbs. Symphonic and simple.

He couldn't help but let out a small giggle, a noise he would normally be ashamed of making. But here, in such a wondrous place where dreams collided with reality, he found that he did not care for what others thought. No, in a place so mystical, considering such damaging things were not needed.

Dipper's giggles echoed around him, falling in sync with the orchestra currently playing for him. It was a light sound, full of happiness and true belonging.

Finally slowing to a stop, he collapsed under the shade of one of the identical yet individual pines. Letting his back hit the rough bark, he felt it rub against his skin through his shirt in a welcoming way, like a father telling their son "good job."

Splaying his legs out in front of him, he hummed as the too-soft grass brushed light and gentle digits across his skin, reassuring and motherly.

Relaxing fully, Dipper propped the stolen journal between his knees, staring intently at the object of his desire for so many months. It was old and worn, hard cover torn and stained in a number of places. A single, odd six-fingered hand print was in the middle, solid and gleaming gold. A single 3 was printed perfectly into place with a stable hand. Pages stuck out at strange angles, yellowed and slightly brittle. Carefully, Dipper peeled the cover open, taking in the journal's raggedy appearance with greedy eyes. He scanned the first page and quickly moved onto the second.

Then the third.

He leafed through the pages with cautious fingers, trying not to smear natural sweat onto the already damaged book. He took in every stroke of ink, every masterpiece of a sketch in, mind open and knowing to the possibilities, absorbing the insight presented to him with his very soul.

So many manners of mysteries were held, encoded using various means that he couldn't even begin to crack without a writing utensil.

Dipper was absorbed in what was presented to him; a magical forest bursting with magical creatures and mysteries and beauty.

It was an adventure. Something he had dreamed of for a long time. Those townsfolk had been wrong.

Stan had been wrong.

There was absolutely nothing to fear in these woods.

Nothing at all.

Flipping through pages upon pages of cutesy creatures, deadly plants, and mystical spells he knew he would have to try at some point, the twelve-year-old boy did not notice the sky blacken with clouds, snuffing the sun out of its rightful place in the sky.

Nor did he notice the caressing wind fall still, leaves cold, lifeless, and dull.

The grass seemed to wilt around him. It was no longer inviting, instead becoming sharp and scratchy against his bare legs.

It was only then did he notice the transformation taking place around him.

Jerking his head up in surprise, he stared at the change around him, fearful and confused.

Shadows stretched out with wicked claws, ready to grasp and tear into anything they could get. The once regal trees seemed knotted and bent, twisted faces with looks of agony and terror splashed across their trunks. The leaves no longer let filtered light flow in, instead blocking the little light of safety out, obscuring his clear vision of the area around him.

Fright started to freeze his heart, a slow burning cold that overflowed his stomach with ill dread. Ice spreading its frigid fingers to his lungs, he couldn't stop the gasps that started to claw out between his teeth. Limbs paralyzed, trembles rocked his skin, goose flesh rising fast, he gulped as deep and low breaths filled the area, silencing the woodpeckers and the squirrels and the birds.

His eyes were glued to the front of him, wide and fearful as a pair of glowing orbs faded into view. They shone sharp and red, pinpoints of evil studying him. Devouring him.

His mouth slid open in a tiny gasp, air rushing past his now dry lips without making a sound.

He couldn't scream.

The woods were dangerous after all.

He had been wrong.

The pinpoints of red grew larger as the creature stepped closer, footfalls heavy and echoing, thumping on the forest floor, snapping twigs once in awhile.

A thick pair of what looked like deer horns slowly slid into view, the bone-like protrusions dark and twisted, bathed in what appeared to be dried blood. A bloodstained off-white maw appeared afterwards, elongated and, as expected, deer-like as well. The creature's sharp broken teeth were bared in the low lighting, flesh clearly visible between the incisors. A thick, blackened tongue flickered out to lick it's jaw.

Dipper's breathing picked up, fueled by terror yet unable to really move. This creature was like nothing he'd ever seen before, not even in his books. A monster through and through, ready to tear anything and everything apart.

This beast- this monster looked to be straight from Hell. It wouldn't shock him if it was.

The beast slowly slunk into a full view. Brown and dirty fur covered it, coarse and matted with the juices of previous victims. Large chunks of flesh were rotting away, giving full view of the working muscle and bone beneath, ligaments a gleaming white. Despite it's obvious deer-like appearance, the creature had the hands and feet of a man, tipped with long and sharp black claws. Now that it was closer, he could clearly see its impressive height, easily four times taller than himself.

His breathing picked up even more, lungs not able to hold onto his breath for long. His heart clenched, as if it was trying to eat itself while his stomach rolled with bile at the stench the beast brought with it; a stench of death and rotting meat.

Dipper's vision wavered around the edges with fear as the thing stalked ever closer, jaw opening wider. Bending it's head down, it actually laughed at him, a broken and disjointed sound, harsh and cruel. Beastly.

He didn't know what gave him strength to close his eyes. He didn't know how he could simply shut his immediate death from his own eyes and wait. Maybe it was the creature itself, hulking and evil. Or perhaps he didn't want to see his own flesh ripped up from his bone. Or, what was most likely and what he would never actually admit out loud, he was scared.

Honest to gods scared.

He could now feel the creature's breath against his face. Hot, ragged, and moist, smelling even worse than his decomposing body. Sickened physically, emotionally, and mentally, Dipper could do nothing but wait to feel agony splinter through his body as he was torn from this world.

However, that did not happen.

Just as he started to feel the brush of a slimy, cold tongue across his cheek, heat flared directly in front of him. He could feel the heat the strange fire had, sharp and unnatural.

There was a distorted shriek of pain and heavy footfalls stumbling away from him, shaking the very ground and air.

The shrieks continued, along with the roar from the mysterious fire. He could feel anger in the waves of heat, pulsating and greedy. Still unable to move with all the fright pumping through him the young child could only sit there, curled up in a ball at this point, let whatever was happening happen and hope he wouldn't befall the same fate.

All too soon, the shrieks were cut off and the heavy footfalls stopped. The raging fire he could feel smoldering all around him evaporated as quickly as it came and with it, absconded the heat.

All was silent around him, a void full of nothing but the picture of his own blank mind.

Very gently, he felt something dart under his eye, barely touching the skin. It was warm and smooth, obviously a nice fabric of some sort. Suddenly highly aware that something was touching him, his mocha eyes flashed open.

The hand was indeed covered in a glove, a sheer black one that was obviously expensive. Despite the color of the item, his tears stains were wet and obvious.

When did he start crying?

Dipper's eyes followed the hand up a long arm clothed in some sort of nice and expensive-looking yellow waist coat adorned by what looked like some sort of brick pattern with a crisp white undershirt. A black bow-tie was nestled in the middle of his neck, expertly woven and straight as can be. His brown eyes continued to wander upwards.

His savior's face was sharp and shapely, somehow being both masculine and feminine simultaneously. His skin was smooth and olive-toned, nearly perfect besides the small splotches of golden freckles that stretched over his cheeks. His hair was neatly styled, black and gold and parted over one of his eyes. Dipper couldn't tell what his natural hair color was. The other eye was the color of honey but held none of the sweetness. No, the gold was intense with a dangerous edge that promised both danger and mischief. Completing him was the straight and formal top hat perched directly above his head, floating about an inch off.

"Well, well. What do we have here? A boy lost in the woods?" The man said, voice surprisingly high-pitched and slightly grating. His lips twisted into a pointed smile, wide with too many teeth that were too sharp to be normal. He crouched down before him.

Dipper gulped, mouth suddenly dry. The stories from his childhood floated back into his mind, of mysterious creatures luring children into the woods only to be lost forever in the winding trees.

"What's the matter? Wendigo got your tongue?" The man laughed, leaning back on his haunches to watch the boy with curious eyes.

"W-What?" He croaked out, voice dry and brittle.

"Wendigo? That thing that just tried to take a bite out of you?" His voice was nothing but nasally and mocking.

His mind spun around in circles, vaguely pulling at the memory of the creatures that ate and ate but could never be satisfied.

"Oh- Oh yeah," He stuttered, eyes darting about. The man in front of him was weird. Not in a bad way, but not in a good way either. Weird in the sense that he knew he was mentally unhinged and didn't know what move he'd make next.

The strange man cocked an eyebrow, but said nothing, lips still pulled in a wide grin. "So-" His eyes darted up at the tree he was currently curled against, "-Pine Tree, what are you doing in the forest?"

Dipper blinked at the sudden appearance of the odd nickname, but said nothing of it. He knew better than to give creatures your real name and there was no doubt about it; this man wasn't human.

Hugging his stolen journal tighter to himself, he flushed slightly in embarrassment. He had been acting so stupid, hadn't he? Wanting knowledge of the dangerous unknown and exciting adventures at the same time...

Eyes dropping to the ground, he straightened himself out some, shoulders tense and sore. "Just...exploring," He mumbled.

"'Just exploring?'" The strange man echoed with a chortle. "You're not the brightest, are ya?"

Narrowing his brown eyes, Dipper quickly sat up, back ramrod straight, past fear and current worry pushed to the back of his mind. "I'm not stupid!" He protested, eyes burning, "I just wanted to figure this place out!"

The strange man smirked, baring every single pearly white tooth in the process. His smile stretched way to wide to be natural while pure amusement danced in his eyes. "And then you almost died."

Dipper flushed angrily, eyes quickly falling back down to the grass underfoot.

"And without my help, you would've too." He swung his head back in mock sadness, sarcasm oozing from his tone, "I'm hurt, Pine Tree. You've not even offered a thank you," The strange man snapped his head back, eyes wide and bright. "I didn't have to save you."

Flushing deeper, Dipper kept his mocha eyes trained on the ground below him. For whatever reason, thanking this...guy left a bad taste in his mouth. However, that didn't mean the strange man wasn't right. Swallowing his pride, he coughed out a "thank you."

However, the man was not impressed. He tsked, disappointed. "Oh no, that won't do at all, really. I mean, I did have to remind you. Not a very mature thing, is it?"

Cranking his head up to meet that gold gaze, Dipper let out a slightly nervous huff."Then- then what do you want?" He asked, regretting the question as soon as it left his lips, hating the fact that he stuttered.

The strange man looked completely enthusiastic. "Oh, I have a number of ideas!"

He stood up suddenly, causing the brunet to startle in surprise. The golden-haired man easily stood past six feet, dwarfing him. His grin was absolutely predatory, a complete flip of emotion that left the brunet reeling.

"Simple. It's so boring here. I mean, after you've seen one tree, you've seen all of them." He eyed the boy. "Usually," He tacked on at the end.

The brunet wiggled a bit under the gaze.

"So, since it's so boring here-" The man leaned over, getting much too close to his face for Dipper's liking. "-and you want to explore-" At this, his long tongue darted out to lick his lips. "-and not get killed, how about you just come on by...oh, twice a week or so? And entertain me."

The boy blinked in surprise. "What do you mean by...entertainment?" He asked, suspicious. All sorts of terrible things came to mind. After all, a normal person wouldn't demand payment for saving someone's life.

Nor did they control fire.

"Oh, nothing too bad. You seem like a smart kid. Watching you blunder around this place and try to make heads or tails of anything is sure to bring a laugh!"

"And I won't be in any danger?"

"Sure!"

Dipper squared his shoulders and thought deeply. It wasn't like he had much of a choice, really. The strange man did save his life. Plus, he'd be able to come back, free of harm!

It was a win-win situation all around.

"Okay," He agreed, climbing up to his feet. Even standing, his rescuer towered over a foot above him.

"So-" The man's eye flashed an electric blue. "-Do we have a deal?"

"Um...yes?" The boy said slowly.

Before he could do anything, a gloved hand coated in azure flames darted out and grabbed his sweaty palm in a firm handshake. Crying out in surprise, he tried to pull away.

The man dropped his hand as quick as he was to grab it, blue flames vanishing, leaving no trace that they were ever there in the first place.

"Wha-what was that?" Dipper spluttered, observing his hand for any wounds.

The strange man guffawed again, eyes squeezed tightly. "You're a riot, Pine Tree! You act like you've never seen a god before!"

The brunet stilled, shock overcoming his mind. "You're a god?"

The man brushed invisible dust off himself, grinning like a Cheshire cat. "Of course! Bill Cipher-" His eyes narrowed, "-at your service."

The brunet's eyes widened, taking in the god of the mind. Old, half-forgotten tall tales ran through his mind, most of them rather gruesome.

"Don't tell me you've never heard of me!" Bill said, his tone edged with challenging hostility.

"N-no. I've heard of you," Dipper said quickly, not wanting to anger the god. In all honesty, he didn't recall all that much about Bill Cipher. Only that he was considered evil by most, though for what reason he didn't remember.

Still, being evil was bad enough to cause alarm bells to rip through his mind.

Dipper gulped thickly, mind struggling to comprehend the situation he had somehow found himself in. It was widely known that the gods were highly dangerous and one should never ever seek one out.

Yet here he was, having not only been saved by a supposedly evil god, but also conversing with him and making a deal with him.

Dipper felt like he was going to be sick. He just sold himself to a being with immense power who wanted to watch him make a fool out of himself for entertainment.

However, Dipper reminded himself. You also get to explore the forest without fear of dying.

"You still there, Pine Tree? You seem pretty out of it," The god chuckled to himself.

Dipper quickly shook his head. "I-I'm fine," Very carefully, he tried to inch his way to the right. Though he made a, well, stupid in hindsight deal, it didn't mean he wanted to stay in the god's presence any longer than he had to.

Bill let him slide to the right of the tree, keeping that one gold eye on him.

"Well, it's getting late and I have to- to go back home. Yeah," Dipper muttered, eyes darting around to figure out where he had come from.

Bill laughed, "Of course. But do you know the way back home?"

Dipper gulped once more, masking his anxiety behind false bravery. "Of course I do! Why wouldn't I? I walked here pretty much in a straight line and I can get myself back out no problem! I don't need your help or anything at all so don't even offer because I'm fine!" He rambled.

Bill threw his head back once more and laughed. "You really are a riot, Pine Tree! You'll be great entertainment, I just know it!"

Dipper scowled and backed up some, hoping it was the same direction he had come from. "Yeah, yeah. I'm going to go now."

Bill smirked. "Very well. Don't forget about our deal."

Though the god spoke with a cheerful tone, Dipper could clearly hear the threat behind his words, causing a shiver to run down his spine.

"I won't," He promised before turning around and diving back into the trees.

Bill's laugh echoed behind him.

Making sure he was far enough away from the mad god, Dipper slowed his run into a tired walk, the muscles in his legs screaming. Groaning, he stared around at his surroundings. The forest was beautiful and alive once again, though awash in a different canvas of colors, light orange and pinks streaking the sky behind the emerald leaves.

It was getting late and he had no clue where he was.

Blinking hard, Dipper quickly but carefully flipped through the journal he had, searching for a map or something that could help him out.

Unfortunately, the little book had nothing. All the boy could find were the drawings of different beasts and creatures, random spells, and paragraphs of the mysterious code.

Nothing helpful.

Leaning against a nearby pine, Dipper breathed deeply through his nose and started to count to ten, trying to chase away his panic.

He really should have asked Bill to lead him out. Sometimes, Dipper really hated his pride.

Pushing himself off the tree, the brunet decided to simply walk as straight as he could. The forest didn't go on forever and he would eventually have to reach an edge.

Right?

Padding through the brush and trees, Dipper was highly aware of the darkening sky above him, soft pinks and oranges becoming more vibrant as the sky-blue fell into black. Shadows stretched all around him, distorting against the rough pines and undergrowth, creating grotesque but illusionary monsters, lingering at the edge of his vision.

Swallowing, the brunet quickened his pace, low-hanging twigs scraping against his bare legs, causing thin and shallow scratches to rise. Blood began beading through.

Not even noticing the pain, Dipper marched on, focusing on keeping his breathing under control as fright hung on his heart and panic filled his lungs. Gasping now, he continued his chanting count in his head, trying to force his breaths to slow down and become even.

His normal exercises weren't working.

Tears welling in his eyes, the young boy broke into a full-on sprint, crashing through the undergrowth. The screeching of leaves and twigs snapping back and forth followed the young boy, scaring off the more passive and normal woodland creatures...

...while calling the more predatory ones closer.

Dipper let out a small scream when a low and long howl pierced the air, wet and hungry. Soon after, three more joined the first in an acapella of ruthlessness.

Feeling full on terror once again, Dipper fell into a panic as he scrambled away. No longer running in a straight line, the boy dodged around trees and cut his own pathway through the overgrown woods, more lost than ever before.

Tears streaming down his face, the boy could hear more howling behind him, this time faint wet pants joining in. Whatever the things were- normal wolves or something worse, Dipper didn't know nor did he want to. He just had to get away. Mind completely blank, there was nothing in the brunet's world besides fear, shadows, and his own breathing.

Dipper let out another cry as the sound of multiple bodies crashing through the underbrush fell behind him, echoing his own desperate escape. He could definitely hear pants now, along with the sound of animal snarls and the snapping of what was most likely very large teeth.

Dipper didn't turn around to check.

The beasts were getting closer and fast, their momentum causing leaves to fly all around. Twigs snapped angrily under their heavy footfalls, the noise ringing in Dipper's ears.

Gasping from exertion and his panic, the brunet's legs screamed at him to stop. Stop and rest. Cramps wriggled their way between his muscles, stabbing at him with sharp and cruel knives. More tears streamed down his face.

He was going to die.

The realization hit his heart like a bullet, tearing apart the organ in an explosion of metal, gunpowder, and vicious blue fire...

Blue fire leaped hungrily into the air, surrounding him in it's ethereal dance. The flames lit up the sky, temporarily blinding the few stars that twinkled above, easily swallowing the crescent moon in the process. Catching onto everything, the sparks smoldered at his surroundings, yet didn't actually burn them.

The sound of pure agony ripped through the trees, splintering the air, piercing his ears with the ring of hopelessness. The stench of burning fur and flesh assaulted his nose, sharp and stinging, bringing fresh salty tears to his eyes. His stomach twisted in on itself as bile threatened to spill between his lips, bitter and hot. Unable to support himself anymore, the young boy collapsed onto the ground, curling up as tight as he could. Through his watery vision outlined by black lashes, the boy could see the mystical flames start to slowly fade as the animalistic screeches of agony died with it. Emotionally, physically, and mentally weakened, the boy was barely aware of a pair of arms wrapping around him and hugging him tight as his eyesight faded to black.

~~0~~0~~0~~

He was warm.

Very, very warm.

"Heya, Pine Tree. You should be waking up right now, right? Of course I'm right! I know everything!"

Dipper blearily opened his eyes, vision swimming slightly. His body was completely limp and he felt horribly fatigued. Mouth stretching open in a large yawn, his brain started to move once more, cloudiness slowly lifting.

The boy blinked fast as he realized that not only was he not on the ground, but he was also wrapped up in Bill's arms, balanced on the god's hip like a child, head resting on his shoulder.

Squeaking at the weird position, Dipper tried to struggle away, only for Bill to laugh and hold on tighter.

"Not so fast!" He chuckled, mirth clear in his voice. "You took quite a beating I must say, and this time you did it to yourself! Hilarious!"

Sending the god a half-scowl against his shoulder, Dipper opened his mouth to speak, only for his tongue to sit thick and useless, unable to move and form coherent noise. Because of this, he accidentally let out a small, odd moan from the back of his throat.

Dipper flushed at the sound, embarrassed to have made such a noise.

Bill didn't seem to mind, however. The god continued to carry him, chest shivering with the laughter that crept past his lips.

"Well, here ya go, Pine Tree," Bill finally announced after a few more minutes of walking.

Suddenly awake, Dipper twisted around to see the edge of the treeline ahead of him, faint lights from the town calling him back to civilization.

Back home.

Before Dipper could say anything, the god dropped the boy onto the ground unceremoniously. Surprised by the sudden gravity, the brunet struggled to keep his footing as his feet slammed into the ground, almost falling down in the process.

His struggling made the blond's laughter increase.

"Back to 'ole human civilization once again."

Dipper stared at his home between the trees, sleep settling in his bones and mind. "T-thank you," He murmured, swallowing his pride this time.

He could feel Bill's grin behind him. "Just part of the deal, kid. Just part of the deal."

Dipper nodded. "Yeah. Okay. Um, I'll come back soon, okay?"

"Two days."

"What?"

"You're to return here in two days. Got it?"

Sensing that an argument would be pointless, Dipper simply voiced his agreement to the arrangement, reaching inside his vest to make sure he had the journal.

The book was in there fine. Dipper let out a small sigh of relief. It was still there. He didn't know what he would have done if he had lost it.

Dipper started back home.

"Um, bye, Bill," He called back awkwardly. "See you...soon."

Even after Dipper left the woods, Bill Cipher's malicious laughter still rang in his ears.

"Bye, Pine Tree."

~~0~~0~~0~~

ALK'Q DL FKQL QEB TLLAP

Chapter Text

The black sky shone from above, a swallowing void sprinkled with glimmering stars and a sharp moon. It seemed to curl a smile down upon him, similar to the one a certain god wore- the one he had just met in the woods.

Dipper wrapped his arms around himself, fear pumping through his veins. Body, mind, and spirit sore, all the young boy could do was walk the familiar pathway back home. Every step he took filled him with increasing dread. Blackened feelings simmered and spilled over the edge in the form of violent trembles and wet eyes.

He didn't know how late it was, but considering the lack of any activity going on around him in the small town of Gravity Falls, it had to be past midnight. Dipper bit the inside of his cheek, tasting flecks of blood as he did so. He was going to be in so much trouble. Blinking hard, he felt his breaths once again go out of sync, hasty and shallow. Dipper feared his immediate future more than the wendigo, more than the wolves. Heck, probably just as much as he feared the god Bill Cipher.

Grunkle Stan was going to kill him.

No, that wasn't right. First, his Grunkle was going to force him to dig his own grave. Then he would kill him. The thought made his stomach roll.

Buildings passed along either side of him, squat and silent. Lamps burned with magical fire, orange and warm that caused wavering shadows to stretch out, familiar but still haunting. A cool wind brushed by him, raising goose flesh across his bare arms and ruffling his hair. Reaching up to flatten his bangs back down, Dipper continued his pace back home.

The cracked sidewalks eventually became dirt roads as he got closer to the edge of the town. Dying apple grass crunched under his feet, sharp blades stabbing the rubber soles of his shoes. Scuffing a bit of loose dirt into the air, Dipper continued to dwell in his thoughts.

He had gone and stolen one of his Grunkle's precious journals, something he wasn't even allowed to touch. He went into the woods after he was specifically instructed not to, and he made a deal with the evil god who lived there. The god who had saved his life after almost getting killed twice.

And now he had to visit the same woods and god in two days.

Dipper's mind pulsated with a growing migraine. Thinking back, Dipper wished the wendigo or wolves had gotten to him instead of Cipher only so he didn't have to face Stan. After all, the original plan was to grab the book, explore a bit, then go back home and return it before he realized it was missing.

Dipper stared up as a fuzzy shape started to slowly fade into view- The Mystery Shack, a store of the occult and supernatural.

His home.

The jingle rang in his mind: 'Remember, we put the fun in no refunds!'

Dipper would've cracked a smile if he wasn't feeling so cold and terrified. Rubbing his eye with the back of his palm, Dipper side-stepped a lone tree. Freezing in his tracks, the young boy stared at the windows that still flared with yellow light.

Gulping thickly, Dipper was hyper-aware of the heavy weight of the journal in his vest pocket. Lifting a hand up, he stroked the spine gently, trying to calm himself. His breaths came out ragged and unsure, a testament to the panic he was going through. No longer filled with fatigue, adrenaline shot through his heart and veins, circulating through his entire body.

Putting one foot in front of the other once again, the brunet padded up to the front door, only able to hear the sound of his heart pumping in rhythm to the grass beneath his feet.

Pump-pump, crunch.

Pump-pump, crunch.

Pump-pump, thunk.

Dipper's foot hit the first step to the porch, wood old and worn beneath. Dream catchers, shinning crystals, and even some Teru teru bōzu, weather dolls that Mabel had made, blew in the wind. Chimes that hung around the door, each engraved with some rune or another rang softly in the oppressing silence that hung around him.

Reaching the door, Dipper lifted his hand and rested it on the cool metal, palms sticky with nervous sweat. He grasped the knob and released one final breath, unable to quell his nerves. With a flick of his wrist the door opened, and he slipped in before closing it behind him.

Though the shop was flooded with light, there was no one in the room. Dipper gave it a quick sweep with his eyes.

No one hiding in the corners.

No one behind the shelves stocked with charms.

The shelf full of crystals was also void of any stragglers. No one manned the register.

Dipper's shoulders tensed up. He was dreading running into his Grunkle even more now. Tightening his hands into fists on either side of him, Dipper strode forward once again, knees shaking a bit.

Dipper reached the other end of the room much too quickly for his taste. He could hear the television playing in the background, too low to understand what was being said but loud enough to notice the chatter and accompanying background music. Knowing that there was no way he could put off the confrontation any longer, Dipper gave a weak attempt at steeling his nerves before slinking into the living room, head bowed low.

The brunet could feel the glare Grunkle Stan was giving him, just as hot as the blue fire earlier today, if not hotter.

Peeking through his fluffy bangs, the boy could see that Stan was wearing what he normally wore when he wasn't trying to sell things; a simple stained wife-beater and some striped boxers. Though the older man seemed relaxed, leaning back in his favorite chair easily, there was a certain tenseness to his shoulders and arms.

"Out late, aren't you?" Stan grumbled, anger simmering in his voice.

Dipper gulped and leaned against the doorway, his stomach wiggling about. Feeling the rush of fatigue once more, the brunet stared at his Grunkle with tired but fearful eyes; he looked not unlike a deer caught in the headlights.

Stan stood up slowly, back popping loudly. Slouching forward, gut hanging free, the man approached Dipper slowly. Coming to a stop before the young boy, the older man simply held out his hand.

Gulping again, Dipper reached into his vest with a shaking hand. Taking out the stolen journal, he almost dropped it twice before giving it back, eyes locked on his shoes the entire time.

"Go to your room," Stan commanded, leaving no room for argument. He turned around and relaxed back into his chair, stiffness still clear in his muscles.

Though confused, Dipper didn't waste any time turning around and scrambling up the stairs, lips pressed in a hard line.

The boy quickly scurried to his and Mabel's shared room, unaware of the light leaking out from under the door. Cracking it open, Dipper barely took two steps into the room before a warm and solid shape rammed into him as a pair of familiar arms wrapped around him in a bone-crushing hug.

"Dipper!" The sweater-clad girl cried out, grateful that her brother was back and seemed no worse for wear. Worry receding to the back of her mind, the female twin nuzzled her cheek to his.

"Ma-Mabel!" Dipper gasped out, "You're ch-choking me!"

Giving him a slightly apologetic hum, the brunette unwound her arms after a few more seconds, balancing on the balls of her feet, "Where were you, bro-bro?" She asked, sniffing a bit.

Dipper winced at Mabel's expression, guilt taking a hold of his heart and strangling it.

"I-I'm sorry, Mabel," He apologized, unable to look at her fully.

Mabel sighed and took his hand, leading him over to her bed. Both sat on the edge and leaned against one another, saying nothing for while, just glad to be back in each other's' presence.

"Where did you go?" Mabel repeated after a few moments of silence, voice soft for once. He could hear the tears there, clear as day.

Dipper sighed, and eventually relented. "It's- It's a long story."

"We have time," Mabel pointed out, succeeding at hiding her worry and fears behind false cheerfulness.

Sighing again, Dipper leaned backwards and let his sore back hit the soft mattress. The stress from the area relieved some, and the brunet waited as Mabel leaned back with him. Both twins stared up at the wooden ceiling, eyes mostly focused on the rot that was currently there.

"I took one of the journals, the third one, from Stan today," Dipper started.

"What?!" Mabel cried out, body twisting to stare at him. That wasn't like Dipper at all. Her brother was no thief, and out of everyone to steal from their Grunkle Stan, had to be at the very bottom of that list.

"I was curious! Plus, Stan let it slip that it was about the woods-"

At this, Mabel let out a groan. Dipper and his woods. He never seemed to shut up about them.

"So you took the book and ran off into the woods?" Mabel clarified.

"Yeah."

Reaching up, Mabel firmly flicked her brother's forehead, causing him to squeak in pain.

"Ow! Mabel, what was that for?"

"For being stupid, dumb-dumb! Everyone knows the woods are dangerous," Mabel's voice dropped down to a whisper that was soft like feathers, a sound that was very unlike her. "They're filled with monsters and creatures and beasts," She murmured, half-forgotten memories forming in her mind.

Dipper wrapped an arm around his sister, heart clenching.

"I-I know," He stuttered, voice tight with the struggle to refrain from crying. Even after all this time, the feelings of depression and being lost still seemed to pierce him.

Something told Dipper it always would.

Clearing her throat loudly to chase the sudden somber mood away, Mabel motioned for her brother to continue.

At this, Dipper froze up, mind grasping around blindly to find something to tell her. Could he tell her about almost dying twice? About getting lost?

About making a deal with the resident god, Bill Cipher?

Staring at his twin's eyes, mocha just like his, perpetually shining with a bright and beautiful light that never could be extinguished completely, Dipper knew in those few seconds what he had known his entire life.

"I went into the woods. And-and almost got attacked by a wendigo and some wolves," Dipper stated slowly.

As expected, Mabel stared at him with wide eyes before tackling him in another hug.

"You stupid- ugh!" Mabel was at a loss for words. Her past fear of something happening to this boy who was not only her brother, but her best friend reappeared at the front of her mind yet again.

"I know, I know. But I was saved, Mabel. I'm okay."

Mabel looked him over with a critical eye. It wasn't that she thought he was lying to her or anything of that sort. Dipper would never lie to her, not in a million years. But he did have a nasty habit of playing down his own troubles.

Sure that he wasn't making an understatement, Mabel motioned for him to continue. "Someone saved you?"

Dipper nodded and lightly closed his eyes. Imprints of the ethereal blue flames still flared in the darkness of his mind's eye, hot but not burning. "Yeah. A god."

Mabel sucked in a breath. Even without seeing her, Dipper could picture the expression she had on her face.

Eyes wide. Mouth open slightly. Body still for once.

"His name was Bill Cipher."

Dipper tightened the pressure on his eyes a bit, closing them even tighter. The image of Mabel disappeared, taken over by the over-dressed man with a floating top hat, mischievous smile, grating voice, and a single gold eye that promised danger and excitement.

"Bill Cipher...Bill Cipher...Why do I feel like I've heard that name before?"

Suddenly Mabel snapped her fingers in recognition. Dipper opened his eyes again, taking in her excited expression.

"Isn't he that guy in all those stories we heard of when we were little?"

Dipper nodded. "One and the same, though I don't really remember how those stories went."

Mabel shrugged, "Me neither."

"Anyways," Dipper said, getting back on track, "After Bill saved me, he forced me to make a deal with him."

"Dipper!"

"I know, I know! Never make deals with gods. But it wasn't like I had a choice."

"So what was the deal?"

"He said he was bored or something and wanted entertainment. So now I have to go visit the forest when he wants me to."

Mabel cocked an eyebrow, "How is that entertainment? He's not going to, like, eat your soul or anything, right?"

"No. He just wants to watch me explore the forest."

"That's...creepy. And weird," Mabel said tentatively.

Dipper nodded. "Yeah. But it's not like I have a choice. I'm supposed to go back in two days."

"That's fast," Mabel noted, "Wait, you aren't going to get hurt doing this, right?"

Her brother shook his head. "Part of the deal was that I wouldn't get hurt. I mean, it's a win-win situation. I get to see the forest safely and he gets...entertainment."

"This is terrible, Dip-dop. How are you supposed to sneak off into the forest, especially with Grunk- wait! Does Grunkle Stan know any of this?!"

Dipper bit his lip nervously. "Well, he knows I took the journal, but that's it."

"You're dead," She deadpanned, "Are you going to tell him about..." The brunette sat up and waved her arms around wildly, sleeves flapping everywhere. "All this?"

Dipper blanched at the idea, "NO! Mabel, Stan can never learn about this! He'd try to go break the deal himself or something!"

"But Stan knows everything about the woods! Or, magic and the supernatural at least. He'd be able to help-"

Dipper shook his head adamantly. "And then he'd get himself killed." Dipper sat up, staring at his twin with unwavering eyes and offered a pinkie to her. "Promise you won't tell him. We- this needs to be a twin secret."

Mabel glanced down at the offered digit, uncertainty weaving a bitter course through her. Steeling herself, she grabbed Dipper's pinkie with her own and the two of them shook on it.

"Okay. I promise," She relented.

Her twin shot her a grateful look before jumping off her bed to go to his own, too tired to even change out of his day clothes.

"Goodnight, Mabes," He said after settling in, laying on his side to look at her.

Mabel nuzzled into her bed. Like her brother, she didn't change out of her sweater. Her brown eyes met his and reflected perfectly, "Night bro-bro," She muttered, reaching out and turning off the lamp, snuffing out the light and bathing the room in darkness.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper stared forward at his fuming Grunkle, gripping the kitchen chair tightly, knuckles turning white.

Next to him, Mabel fiddled with her hair, a half a cup of Mabel-juice in front of her. Her eyes darted between her Grunkle and her brother, worrying her lip as she did so.

"-You never ever touch my stuff without permission. Never. I thought I drilled that into your head," Stan growled, arms crossed over his chest with the stolen journal in front of him.

Dipper winced at the tone of voice his Grunkle used, more guilt clawing at his heart.

"Sor-" He started, but a quick and hairy hand halted his hundredth time trying to cough out an apology.

"I don't want to hear it." His Grunkle's eyes narrowed. "Not only did you steal from me, but you also put yourself in danger on purpose when I specifically told you to not go-"

"I didn't go into the woods!" Dipper said, the lie slipping easily off his tongue.

Stan cut off his ranting; interrupted, surprised, and instantly suspicious.

Mabel's eyes widened a fraction at her brother's denial, but quickly schooled her face and stared downwards at the table. She was barely able to keep her shock hidden, though luckily Stan didn't notice.

"You stole my journal about the forest, but didn't actually go into the forest?" Stan reiterated.

Dipper nodded, heart thumping wildly in his chest with such a heavy lie. "Of course not! I wouldn't put myself in actual danger! I- I just wanted to know more..." At this, the brunet hung his head, gripping his chair ever tighter, eyes flickering back and forth.

Stan narrowed his eyes at his nephew, his angry worry fading into simple but strong irritation. Dipper normally had a pretty good head on his shoulders- but geeze, talk about making bone-headed decisions.

Stan sighed and stared down at the journal. Dipper always was interested in the forest. Ever since he was a little kid. It was a bit morbid, when he dwelled on it, considering what happened in those woods.

"You're grounded," Stan stated, voice apathetic, "You're to come straight home after school, no staying at the library, no hanging out with friends. No books either unless they relate to school. Oh, and you're to do the dishes every night for the next month. Now get outta here."

Dipper hung his head, accepting the punishment. Grabbing his backpack, he quickly slipped it on. Back and legs still a bit sore from the day before, he swung out of the chair and padded out of the room, Mabel trailing behind him silently.

"Hey dudes. Why the long faces?" A familiar voice asked as they entered the shop section of their home.

Dipper and Mabel looked up to see the Mystery Shack's handyman and one of the twins' best friends, Soos. The man was currently at the register, trying his best to close it with little success. With Wendy being at school for the first part of the day, her normal station shifted to Soos's watch, unfortunately.

Both twins gave him reflecting half-hearted grins. "Nothing too important. We'll tell you later." Dipper said, not wanting to go through another lecture or see Soos's reaction to the fact that he actually stole something.

"Okay, dudes. I'll see you later!"

Calling out one last goodbye, the twins hurried out of the shack, running a bit late. Fast-walking down the dirt pathway and into actual civilization, the twins dived behind a few back alleys and weaved between crowds of people to try and get to school on time.

"We're not going to make it!" Dipper cried, staring down at his watch. The hands ticked ominously, the hour hand wriggling back and forth. "Ugh, I think this thing is broken," He complained, tapping the face.

Mabel grabbed her brother's hand and sped up her walk, yanking her brother along with her, "Not if we run faster!" She cheered.

The twins were just able to slip in the door as the tardy bell went off. Hallways mostly cleared at that point, the two didn't even glance at one another as they fast-walked and veered to the right, diving into their shared homeroom as the final bell rang.

"Phew," They both sighed, slipping into their respective desks near the back. They were thankful that this particular teacher assigned seating charts based on name and not on actual tact.

Said teacher stood from her desk, eyes shining lightly as she greeted the class briefly before instructing them which page to read in their textbooks. Groaning together, the class reached under their desks to pull out the needed history books.

Dipper blinked blearily as he cracked the book open to the correct page, his notebook already out to jot down any information he might need. Next to him, Mabel was doing the same while simultaneously talking to a few other girls in class that she knew.

Tired, Dipper's eyes wandered over the page, reading but not taking anything in. Sighing softly, his mind wandered to the day prior; almost getting attacked, meeting the strange god with a top hat and bow-tie, being carried by the very same god like a child, feeling a strange warmth...

Feeling his cheeks flush in embarrassment once more, Dipper buried himself deeper into the book, gripping his pencil tightly.

Five minutes later, he realized he was reading the same line about Manifest Destiny over and over again.

Dipper's eyes sparkled as a sudden idea came over him. Glancing around to make sure no one was paying attention to what he was doing, he quickly flipped to the index in the back of the book. He knew that the chance this book would have any information on what he wanted to know was small, but that didn't stop him from hoping. Gods did play a major part in American History, after all.

Finding the C's, the boy quickly scanned the page.

Ca...Ce...Ch...

Flipping the page over, Dipper finally found what he was looking for: Ci. However, there was nothing on Bill Cipher.

Sighing through his nose, the brunet turned back to the pages he was supposed to be taking notes on, trying to focus his attention. It didn't really surprise him that his sixth grade history textbook had nothing on the nearby god, but that didn't mean that he still wasn't disappointed. Chewing mindlessly on the eraser of his pencil, Dipper felt slight frustration creep in on him. He knew it was fair that he had been grounded. Heck, he should be grateful that Stan not only believed his lie, but didn't give him too harsh of a punishment.

After all, the old man could've made him work overtime.

Of course, that didn't mean that he wasn't upset about not being able to research anything on the god until Stan allowed him to go to the public library again.

Popping his neck, Dipper shook his head to try and get his mental focus back. It'd do him no good to worry and think about things that were out of his control at the moment. He needed to focus on his school work.

After half a page of notes, Mabel giggling playfully next to him as she passed notes back and forth with her friends, and a few more side conversations that were quickly reprimanded by the teacher, the bell finally rung to signal the end of first period.

Dipper gathered his belongings and slipped out the door with Mabel a few steps behind him. Keeping as close to the wall of lockers as possible, the brunet struggled against the mad flood of students, trying to get to his next class.

Something told Dipper it was going to be a long day.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Sighing happily as the lunch bell rang, Dipper was the first to dive out the door. Taking a left instead of a right, he dodged down a few more hallways, sticking to the lockers as he normally did. Briefly slipping into the bathroom to wait out the storm of other sweaty, hungry students, it didn't take long for the brunet to reach the school library.

Peeking into the room, he made his way to the occult history section in the back, eyes darting around. Stan had said he couldn't go to library, but he also said he could still read books for school.

Reaching the admittedly small shelf, Dipper leafed through the heavy books available, slight scowling forming at the results he had. It was no secret that the school library was...lacking certain subjects, mostly dealing with magic but this was absolutely irritating.

Pulling out a few books on different magical creatures, Dipper sat at a nearby table and began to flip through the first one, hunting for any information about gods. Unfortunately, only a few brief paragraphs mentioned the powerful beings and only reiterated information he already knew.

Dipper sighed and dug through the other books available to him, only to find the same knowledge in each and every one. He couldn't find a single thing on Bill Cipher himself.

Frustrated, he returned the books to their proper place and left the school library just as the bell signaling the end of lunch went off. Shoved to the side of the hallway, Dipper flowed with the crowd to get to his next class, mind whirling.

Looks like he'd have to wait before pursuing research about the god known as Bill Cipher.

~~0~~0~~0~~

ZKDW D PBVWHUB WKDW FLSKHU LV

Chapter Text

"For the last time, you're not coming."

"But Dipper, I can't just let you go off by yourself! And without the journal this time!"

Dipper sighed, shoulders slumping slightly at the loss. He knew better than to try and steal the journal again, and now he really was in trouble. There was still a deal to fulfill, with or without it.

He also had to try to sneak out again.

"Mabel, he promised I wouldn't get hurt, not anyone else. If something...something attacks us- you- he, he wouldn't save you."

Mabel pouted and crossed her arms, but didn't pursue the argument. Worry chewed through her heart and mind, a beast of her own creation that she couldn't control. Finally, the older twin dropped her arms and sat back down on her bed in defeat, eyes downcast. "Yeah, yeah. I know, bro-bro," She sighed.

Biting his lip anxiously, Dipper padded over to where she was sitting and wrapped her up in a tight hug. "I'll be okay, Mabel."

Mabel buried her head in the crook of her brother's neck. "I know," She relented, "And I'll cover for you, don't you worry!"

Dipper sighed and unwound himself from his sister. He glanced over to the bed they'd stuffed with pillows to make it look as if a body was lying in it.

"This plan doesn't even work in the movies," He complained.

Mabel smirked, "That's because they didn't have an awesome sister like me. Bop!" She jabbed her brother in the nose playfully.

"Yeah, yeah. Stroke your ego a bit more and see what happens!" Dipper called out as he inched towards the door.

"Me? A big ego? Ha, have you met yourself lately?"

"That's not even possible!"

Mabel stuck her tongue out at Dipper, and he mirrored her.

Cracking the door open, Dipper gave Mabel one last look before slipping out and disappearing.

Swallowing thickly, Mabel wrapped her arms around herself, leaning against the headboard.

"He'll be fine," She chanted to herself.

He'll be fine...

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper squared his shoulders, trying his best to inch down the stairs without causing a single creak to ring out. If this terrible plan was going to work at all, he couldn't be seen by anyone.

Stepping lightly onto the first step, Dipper's eyes honed in on every stretch of wood, finding the places it would creak with his eyes alone. He'd learned this after years of living in the Mystery Shack, tromping up and down the same stairs day in and day out.

Leaning to the right, he balanced on his toes as he stepped across and placed his left foot on the second step, this time towards the middle. The less foot he put on the stair, the less of a chance there was of making a noise.

Dipper swung his right foot forward down to the third step, placing it to the left, near the edge. No noise echoed.

Sighing, Dipper did the same maneuvering down the fourth, fifth, sixth, and all the other steps afterwards.

Right. Edge. Middle. Left. Next to the stair above. All the way over. In the very middle.

No creaks were heard.

Finally making it to the bottom, Dipper let out a breath he'd been holding. Heart still hammering in his chest, feeling like it should break his ribs, he adjusted the straps on his backpack to make sure it wouldn't scrape against the wall. Ducking down slightly, he peeked around the corner into the shop. Besides Wendy manning the register, feet propped up on the counter, nose in a magazine, no one seemed to be out and about.

Gulping thickly, Dipper gave a glance behind himself to make sure no one was watching his back before wrapping his fists tightly around his backpack straps and sneaking out. He weaved and dived behind shelves stocked full of all sorts of magical things. Pausing behind a shelf of uncharged crystals, Dipper peeked around to make sure Wendy was still absorbed in her 'work.'

The redhead hadn't moved an inch.

Rolling his shoulders back, Dipper steeled his nerves and crept forward. Stepping next to the door, Dipper gave Wendy one last nervous glance before quickly whipping the door open and slipping through, letting it slam shut.

Heart slamming full-force, he broke out into a run, tripping over the porch and nearly falling down onto the grass. Catching his footing at the last second, he scurried around the house and into the woods behind.

When he had done this last time two days ago, he'd been so freaked out about successfully taking the journal that he had ran into town instead of the forest right next to the shack.

This time, he didn't make that mistake. Glancing at his watch, Dipper noted the time. 12:43 p.m.

He relaxed slightly.

Making sure he was far enough from the shack to not be seen, but not too deep in the forest already, he whipped off his backpack and dropped it to the ground to unzip it.

Inside was everything he thought he might need. Some snacks and water, an extra jacket, a pair of scissors, some rope and tape, a flashlight, a small first aid kit just in case, and lastly and most important, a notebook and pen. Triple checking he had everything he needed in his bag, Dipper took out the book and pen before zipping it right back up and swinging it back onto his shoulders, getting used to the weight again.

Biting his lip, Dipper reached into his vest to make sure the pocket knife Stan gave him two years ago was still there. Running a calming finger over the sheathed blade, Dipper let the memories of how to properly shank someone play over in his mind. Though he wasn't so sure creatures were the same as humans, a sharp blade was a sharp blade and thus, would cut anything he needed it to cut.

It brought him some relief at the very least. Last time he'd forgotten to bring it.

Rolling his shoulders, Dipper strode into the forest, taken away by its beauty. Bright sunlight filtered through the emerald leaves above, pattering the forest floor with its soft light. Grass and undergrowth rubbed against his legs, Mother Nature's fingers soothing and massaging his bare skin with gentle, if slightly scratchy, affection. Breathing in deeply, the brunet felt cleansed by the crystal clear air, the scents warm and earthy.

Here, he could be everything and nothing. Here, there was nobody to impress but himself, no stupid rules to follow, no one to let down.

Here, he could be him. And no one else.

Tucking his notebook and pen away next to his knife, Dipper spread his arms out wide and allowed his fingers to brush against the rough bark on the tall trees either side of him. Uncut and bitten nails scratched against the wood, collecting small bits of dirt. The brunet breathed out a content sigh, surprised to find himself so relaxed in such a dangerous place. He enjoyed the feeling of rough bark against his digits, adored the affection of grass and twigs battering against his legs, and loved the smell that was filling his lungs with so much clarity.

He was lost again.

He didn't even care.

"Having fun already?"

Dipper released an unmanly yelp as the familiar and surprising voice spoke up. Stumbling backwards, the brunet's eyes widened as he felt his back ankle hit something hard, a root most likely, and started to fall backwards. Unable to catch himself, he fumbled for his knife just as his legs hooked around the root and his butt hit the ground. Finally feeling something thin around his fingers, Dipper yanked it out and pointed it forward, hoping he didn't look as ridiculous as he felt.

Bill threw his head back and laughed, a loud and open sound that caused the birds to abscond from the trees above.

Blushing furiously, Dipper lowered the pen he had pulled out. Scowling up at the man before him, the young brunet struggled to unhook his legs from the root, only to flop painfully onto his side, right into a bush.

"Oh, Pine Tree, you leave me speechless!" Bill coughed out between bouts of laughter.

Climbing up to his feet, Dipper hissed as thin cuts on his leg stung painfully. He leaned against one of the trees and brushed a few leaves out of his hair. "What do you want?"

"Entertainment. Worship. World domination. The normal things gods want," Bill drawled, floating upwards slightly and leaning back into the open air, crossing his ankles.

Dipper deepened his scowl. Taking his backpack off, he went to get out his first aid kit only for a large snap to ring through the air.

Staring downwards, Dipper let out another yelp as small sparks of blue flames crawled up his legs, healing the scratches quickly, making the skin look as smooth as it was before, like it was never cut up in the first place.

"Don't look so surprised, kid. Told you I wouldn't let you get hurt."

"Stop calling me kid," Dipper pouted, still annoyed for getting startled in the first place.

"But you are a kid. Your voice still cracks!" Bill cackled.

"No-" Dipper quickly cleared his throat and lowered his voice down an octave, "I mean, no it doesn't!"

Bill straightened himself up and returned to the ground. Standing tall, back ramrod straight, he stared down at the twelve-year-old, amusement dancing in his one golden eye. Golden hair blocked the other from view. "Whatever, kid."

Rolling his eyes, Dipper took out his notebook. He slipped the pen into the metal spirals, tucked the book under his arm, and side-stepped the god to continue forward.

"Oh, where are you heading off to, Pine Tree?" Bill asked, whipping around and easily catching up and keeping pace with the young boy.

Dipper let out a weary sigh. Though fear should have been pounding through his heart, what with Bill being a powerful god who evidently liked to terrorize people for fun, Dipper could only feel slight annoyance at the being's presence.

"I don't know. But I'm bound to find something eventually."

Bill let out a small, amused hum. "Yeah, or you could make another deal with me and I can show you some things that are actually interesting."

"And why would I do that? One deal is bad enough. Why do you even want to help me?" Dipper snapped, coming to a standstill to whip around and glare up at the god.

The god gave the boy a playful shrug, a cocky grin stretched too wide across his face, baring too many fangs to be anywhere near normal. "Oh, I don't really. Right now, that is. But you have the most hilarious expressions!"

Dipper snorted angrily. Twirling around again, he stormed off into the woods, trying his best to ignore the being traveling with him.

Until Bill started humming, that is.

Dipper was able to tune out most of the buzzing at first, cracking open his notebook to scribble some things down. They were mostly about some of the plant life he'd seen so far and the noises he'd heard, along with a brief summary of what happened two days ago.

If he couldn't take journal number three with him, he'd make his own journal number four.

The young boy jumped as something warm brushed against him, snapping him out of his thoughts and back to reality.

The brunet glared up at Bill who was currently humming Eye of the Lion under his breath cheerfully, just loud enough to touch Dipper's ears and annoy him.

Squinting hard, Dipper struggled to keep his attention on what he was trying to do: write without tripping.

Bill was able to get about halfway through the old 80's hit before Dipper snapped.

"Would you stop that?" Dipper fumed.

"What? Want to listen to some classical instead?" The god started humming. Dipper thought it was Beethoven, but he couldn't be sure.

"No. Can you be quiet?"

Bill balanced his head on his hand, cocking his head to the side, mouth falling into a small pout. Looking thoughtful for a few more beats, the god let another wry smile crack his features in half, eye glowing in amusement as he turned back to Dipper. "No, I don't think I can."

He went straight back to humming.

Dipper groaned, throwing his head back in exasperation. "Why are you even following me? Don't you have better things to do? Puppies to boil, squirrels to throw bird eggs at, something?"

Bill snorted, "If I had something better to do, I wouldn't have made a deal for you to entertain me, would I? Like I said before, Pine Tree, this forest gets boring after a few...oh, I don't know. What year is it again?"

"Twenty-twelve."

"Yeah, about a thousand years. Or something around there."

Dipper sighed and glanced up at the god. Bill's voice had trailed off and his head was turned to the side, shoulders tense.

He almost looked...lonely.

Dipper quickly banished the thought from his mind.

Gods can't get lonely! Especially evil ones!

But even as he denied it to himself, a small seed of doubt was planted in his heart, ready to feed off his natural empathy for others and grow.

Dipper sighed, "Fine. Besides, with you here there's less of a chance of me getting attacked, right?"

Bill's forlorn look was gone in a flash. "Oh, I wouldn't say that. After all, I can mask my presence."

Dipper cursed the god inside his mind, seeds of empathy now dead. "You jerk."

Bill laughed at him. "Oh, and look at the time! I'll be back to play later, Pine Tree! But don't worry, I'll be watching!"

Before Dipper could say anything at all, azure flames engulfed the god, cackling wildly before being snuffed out.

Bill was gone.

"You're a real jerk, you know that!" Dipper yelled out. Though the god wasn't anywhere to be seen, Dipper knew he was still watching him. The thought sent shivers down his spine. Whether it was from feeling weirded out or safe, it was hard to say.

Rolling his shoulders back, Dipper continued on deeper and deeper, not really feeling the time pass.

Though his watch still told him it was only 2:26 p.m, the sky told him otherwise.

The foliage overhead was getting thicker and thicker as he continued, emerald green fading into a musky earthy tone. More pine trees appeared, causing pine needles and pine cones to litter the area, sharp even against his rubber soles.

Dipper let himself slow to a stop, feeling sweat pool, gather, and trail down awkward places on his body. Wiping his forehead with the back of his hand, the brunet sighed as he popped his sore back.

Clearing out a small area of pine needles and cones, the young boy sat down and shrugged his backpack off his shoulders. Unzipping it, he reached inside to pull out a granola bar along with a bottle of water.

He took the cold bottle and rubbed the plastic against his forehead, condensation cool and welcoming against his heated skin. Twisting it open, he gulped down about a third of the refreshing liquid before topping the lid. Making sure it was screwed all the way closed and wouldn't leak, Dipper placed it back into his bag, cleaning his hands of leftover condensation as he did so.

Taking his peanut butter granola bar out of its package, Dipper tucked the litter back into his backpack before snarfing the food down in three easy bites. It was salty and welcoming against the weird taste in his mouth. Sighing in content, he leaned against a nearby tree, notebook propped on his knees as he chewed on his pen. So far, he only had about three pages of notes, either dealing with what happened two days ago or the forest around him.

Nothing supernatural.

Nothing substantial.

Gnawing on his pen a bit more, an idea lit Dipper's mind. Bright...and golden.

Glancing around suspiciously, he pulled his knees tighter against his body, shielding his notebook the best he could against the invisible eye that was sure to be watching him.

Another shudder ran through him.

Opening it up to the next page, Dipper titled the top.

BILL CIPHER

Stuffing his pen back into his mouth, Dipper gave the plastic a few more thoughtful chews before putting ink back to paper. Eyes narrowed, Dipper began his endless thoughts.

Bill Cipher- God who lives in the forest.

I'm pretty sure he's trapped here. But further research must be done.

Old stories are passed around in town sometimes. I need to either talk to an old person (that's not Grunkle Stan) or wait out my grounding to go the library and get some proper information.

Bill Cipher used to terrorize the town. I think. And he's supposed to be evil.

Hasn't done anything evil yet. He's mostly really annoying. Even more annoying than Mabel after seven shots of Mabel-juice.

Bill Cipher also likes classical music and 80's hits. This might mean something but I don't know what.

He's also really old. About a thousand years at least.

He also seems lonely.

Frowning at the last thing he wrote down, Dipper quickly crossed it out before continuing again.

Likes the colors gold and black.

He has control over blue flames. He's a mind god, I think. But I could be wrong? Fire god?

Has hair brushed over one eye. Either he likes styling it that way or he's missing an eye.

Maybe he was in a fight? Or maybe he only keeps one eye so he can look cool?

Bill Cipher is also really tall. At least six feet and three inches. I don't know yet, I haven't really measured him.

He's also really warm.

Dipper shook his head at what he just wrote, a slight pink tint overtaking his cheeks as memories of being held by the god ran through his mind.

How warm he was.

How...safe he felt.

Knocking his head back against the tree, Dipper forced his wandering thoughts out. Scratching out the most recent writing violently, Dipper finished up his brief notes.

Has a body temperature greater than humans.

Doesn't know what personal space is.

Reading over his notes, Dipper gave himself a satisfied nod. Though it wasn't much right now, it was definitely a start. Yawning, Dipper checked his watch.

It read 3:47 p.m.

Rolling back onto his feet, the brunet stretched out his now relaxed back. Brushing some bits of dirt out of his fluffy hair, Dipper tucked his pen and notebook away and strode forward.

The woods were dark. With the slowly descending sun and the thickening growth, only enough light to see was allowed through. However, despite his shaded surroundings, Dipper's mood didn't descend into panic as it normally did late at night. With bird-songs still fluttering on the wind, light and high-pitched, along with the shuffling of squirrels and the rare snort from a deer, the usually high-strung boy found himself relaxing into the unknown. He took it all in through wide eyes, seeing the mystic beauty and mystery of the place, ready to be solved, understood, and truly admired for what it was.

Dipper sighed in content, finally feeling at home for once. Letting his legs take larger and faster steps, the brunet broke into a light jog. The feel of his leg muscles falling and expanding in time with his heart was calming in the oddest of ways. Squinting his eyes, Dipper found himself to be in tune with not only his heart thumping strongly in his chest, but the feel of the forest around him. He was so lost in his own fantasy, he didn't see the small shapes dart out in front of him until it was too late.

Letting out a squawk of surprise, the young boy found himself tripping and falling for the second time that day. Real, sharp pain jabbed through his ankle, splintering up the nerves. Mentally cursing, Dipper collapsed into the ground, heavy and hard. Though he was grateful for not landing on another root or bush.

"Hey! Watch it!" A small, indignant voice cried out, clear rage and pain in his tone.

Rolling over onto his back, Dipper quickly moved his thin legs off the tiny figure he tripped over, ears red in embarrassment. "Oh my gods, are you okay? I'm sorry I didn't see you there!" He squeaked, hating how much his voice cracked. Honestly, this was getting annoying.

So was the tripping, now that he thought about it. Curse his two left feet!

The figure straightened himself up, fiddling with the red, pointy cap to make sure it was where it needed to be on his head. Whipping around, the figure easily stomped into view.

Dipper's brain paused as he took in the little creature. With a red pointy hat, big black eyes, thick beard, and odd and old clothes, it didn't take long for Dipper to drag up a half-forgotten memory about gnomes.

The little creature looked pretty miffed, lips turned downwards and brow furrowed. "You tripped over me!" He cried out, voice surprisingly deep.

It made Dipper internally fume a bit.

However, the young boy simply sat up and scratched the back of his neck. "Yeah...sorry about that," He said, voice still too high-pitched for his liking.

However, at the sound of his apology, the gnome paused. Black eyes beaming up at him, the creature did a complete one-eighty in tactic. "Oh, that's fine! Everyone gets a bit lost in their own mind at times! Isn't that right?"

"I suppose..." Dipper trailed off, feeling vaguely uncomfortable with the entire situation.

"And speaking of being lost, do you know where you're going?" The gnome continued, creeping up on his right side.

Dipper frowned and stared around. Like before, the forest looked the same all around.

Making the same mistake twice? You're an idiot! Dipper told himself, scowling a bit. He made a mental note to find some maps as soon as he could.

"I guess I am lost," Dipper relented after a few seconds, shoulders slumping, eyes downcast.

"Hey! Don't be mopey! How 'bout I lead you out? No one knows the forest like a gnome, after all!"

Dipper looked up at the creature, instantly suspicious. "And why would you help me? What's in it for you?"

The gnome gave him a smile full of sharp thin teeth, a warning sign if there ever was one. "What? Someone can't do a good deed just to do a good deed anymore?" He said, melodramatic and hurt.

Sighing, Dipper went over his options.

He could wander around and end up being lost forever. He could make another deal with Bill. Or he could follow the gnome.

Standing up, Dipper gave himself a quick once-over. Everything was still on him and besides the slight throbbing in his ankle, he was no worse for wear.

"So! This exit, where is it?" Dipper asked, clapping his hands together while looking down at the gnome. He'd be lying to himself if he didn't admit he liked being much taller than someone else for once.

The gnome gave him another sharp-toothed grin. "It's this way," He said, pointing to the left, "Follow me!" With that, the gnome scurried forward, diving straight into the underbrush.

Surprised at the little guy's speed, Dipper turned and followed him the best he could, shocks of agony shooting up from his ankle with every step he took.

As he followed the gnome, Dipper couldn't help but notice the air get...heavier. With what exactly, he couldn't be too sure, but it was positively buzzing all around him. It wasn't a pleasant feeling against his skin, nor was it unpleasant. It was simply that- a feeling.

However, the deeper he went the more strange things he saw. The lighting around him slowly switched into a more bluish color. The grass sparkled and the scent in the air became muskier. Mushrooms started popping up here and there, red and white, getting progressively bigger as time ticked on. Swallowing thickly, Dipper started to regret his decision.

"Um...are we almost there?" Dipper squeaked, voice slightly hoarse from his throat's disuse and dryness. Glancing down at his watch, the brunet read the time- 5:25 p.m clearly.

He really needed to get home.

"Yes, my lady. We are almost...here!"

Dipper jolted in surprise as many things happened all at once.

First, his heart clenched with rage as he realized the stupid gnome thought he was a girl. Second, his mind went over the stupid little creature's words in his head before dread set in. Third, that dread was only able to last about half a second before being replaced by fear as a whole bunch of other gnomes jumped out at him, tackling him to the ground.

Dipper let out a howl as a few of the suckers bit him on his arms and legs. Thrashing wildly about, the brunet tried to punch and kick every moving thing in sight, right hand digging around for his knife.

Hissing as sharp teeth pierced his flesh, Dipper was finally able to wriggle the blade out of its sheath. Letting out another yowl, the boy swung the knife around wildly in large arcs. In his panic, he was only able to nick a few of the attacking creatures on their chubby arms and legs, ripping sleeves and pant legs, drawing thin lines of blood as he did so. Enraged, the gnomes fought back harder, a wave of overwhelming power in numbers.

Shrieking as a gnome bit extra hard on his wrist, Dipper was forced to let go of the only weapon he had. As more and more gnomes piled on him, the young boy's struggles grew weaker and weaker, eyelids fluttering with pain.

"Okay, okay. I think we got her."

"Wait, are you sure she's a she?"

"Of course she is! Only a female could scream that high-pitched!"

Dipper struggled to keep his eyes open so he could glare at the arguing gnomes. Weak and exhausted, the boy could do nothing as his wrists and ankles were tied up. He released a weak moan, entire body pulsating with pain.

Why did he have to be so stupid?

"Now, we have to do this right and proper," A voice louder than the others said.

Vision wavering slightly, Dipper could still make out the small shape that was now perched on his chest. The gnome grinned down at him, an odd look gleaming in his eyes. "Oh, fair maiden, will you marry us?" The gnome bent down onto one knee and snapped a small box open, revealing a large ring inside. The gigantic crystal glowed a mystical blue color.

Dipper was surprised at the humanness of the entire thing. He opened his mouth with the intent to scream denial and demand to be let go, but only a weak cough echoed out, hoarse and arid.

"I'll take that as a yes!" The gnome cheered, slipping the ring onto the correct finger. "GNOMES! We're heading out! We finally got a queen!"

The gnomes cheered in celebration, waving their chubby arms around. That is, until a small tsk tsk tsk echoed from the shadows, causing the small creatures to fall silent.

"Well, well, well, what have you found today, Jeff?" An inquisitive voice asked from the shadows, slowly stalking out from behind a tree.

Jeff the gnome stared up at the newcomer, terror clear in his gaze. Trembling all over, the little creature was barely able to squeak out a response. "N-nothing, Mister Cipher. N-nothing at all! Just got a new queen..."

Bill Cipher smirked down at the gnomes, displaying his shark-like teeth. The gesture was one of pure ruthlessness, a king on top of his world, ready to crush insignificant subjects simply out of the sheer joy that he could.

"I understand how you could misinterpret Pine Tree as a female, after all, he does tend to blush a lot and make very cute noises. However he is still, biologically, as male as they come."

Dipper tilted his head back to stare up at Bill. At the angle he was in, tied up and spread across the ground, the god looked larger than life. A golden glow emitted from him like a light bulb. Bill's hands were folded neatly behind his back, feet flat on the ground. His voice was as sweet as honey, but had a clear passive-aggressive undertone to it, promising pain if even a single sound he didn't like was uttered.

It was the eyes, yes, eyes, that got to Dipper.

The one that was uncovered sparked gold as it normally did, but the other was anything but. It was a dark and black hole, a place where light could not reach or touch. Dipper couldn't tell if it was an empty socket, or if the eyeball itself was simply black. It was as if reality bent around the whatever-it-was, cold and hostile. Instead of a pupil, a single blue flame flickered. It didn't give off a single speck of light, instead frigid and apathetic in its existence.

Shuddering, Dipper turned away from the god, wishing he never saw that left eye.

"But more than that, Pine Tree and I have a pretty important deal and right now you and your gnomes are breaking that," Bill sneered to Jeff, causing the little creature to cower pitifully.

"I'm sorry! We're sorry!" Jeff cried out, tears soaking into his beard. The gnome dropped to his knees, hands clasped in front of him, begging for his life. "Please, Mister Cipher! We didn't mean it, I swear! We didn't know! The b-boy's all yours! Really! We're sorry!"

Bill sneered and strode forward. Crouching down, he flicked Jeff off of Dipper's chest. The gnome smashed right into a tree, a dull thunk echoing where his body impacted the rough bark. For a second, nothing moved, nothing breathed.

Then, complete pandemonium broke out.

The gnomes screamed as they scattered, crazed fright ringing loud and clear. The small creatures trampled over one another trying to get away, tears streaking down their faces.

Dipper avoided looking at Bill, instead staring to the left to watch the gnomes scramble in their panic. He knew he should've felt somewhat sorry for the poor creatures, but after being mistaken for a girl, tied up, humiliated, and almost married too, Dipper found his sympathy had dried up.

Above Dipper, Bill sat back on his haunches, wild grin splitting his features in two as he watched the chaos unfold around him. As soon as the last gnome grabbed Jeff's limp, but still alive body and scurried away, Bill tipped his head forward into Dipper's eyesight, smirk playing on his face. "If this is going to happen every time I leave you alone, then maybe I should start traveling with you, hmm?"

Dipper scowled, flushing slightly. "Just get me out of here."

"Oh, such rudeness!" Bill cried out, voice oozing sarcasm, "And I just saved you once again. Really, is a simple 'Thank you, Bill' too much for you?"

Annoyed and embarrassed, the brunet hissed out, between clenched teeth, "Thank you, Bill. Could you please untie me now?"

Bill gave him a wide smile, showing off every tooth. "I guess so." He snapped his fingers.

Blue flames burned the rope away. Catching, but not burning on his skin, the fire danced over all the wounds he had, stitching flesh back together and relieving bruises. The throbbing that had taken over his entire body disappeared as he was healed, bound by the deal he had made.

Slowly sitting up, Dipper rolled his shoulders and stretched out his legs and arms, beaming at the lack of pain from the limbs. Feeling better than ever, the boy quickly bounced to his feet, smiling softly. Bill couldn't help but grin at the young brunet before him. It had been a very long time since he'd seen any human, period. It'd been even longer since he'd seen a child.

And in all his vast life, Bill Cipher could not recall a single child who actually smiled in his presence. It was...an odd realization to come to. The god didn't know what to make of it.

So he simply ignored the phantom feelings.

After making sure his backpack wasn't too messed up, Dipper retrieved his knife and slipped it back into its proper place. The weapon wasn't really all that useful, but it was better than nothing.

"Well, if you're fine, looks like I'll be heading off," Bill sing-songed, turning to stride away.

"Wait!" Dipper cried, whipping around. Glancing down at his watch, the face read a clear 6:10 p.m.

He was late.

"Oh? And what does my little Pine Tree want?" Bill drawled.

"Okay, I belong to no one but myself," Dipper stated firmly.

Bill gave a soft snort at that.

"I- I need some help to get out," The brunet continued as he stared at the forest floor, ears burning red.

Bill gave him a cat-like grin. "So you want to make another deal?"

Dipper sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. There really weren't any other options, were there?

"Yeah. I suppose I do," He replied glumly.

"Fine. I'll blip you back to where you entered if you...give me a hug."

"Wait, what?" Dipper spluttered, staring at the god in disbelief. "That's all? You're not going to take my soul? Eat my heart? Replace my bones with jelly?"

"Yeesh, kid! And people think I'm morbid!" Bill laughed, "But yes, that's all I want." The god opened his arms, a shit-eating grin clear on his face, eye sparking with a facetious light.

Dipper growled. Bill knew exactly what buttons to push to irritate him, it seemed.

Stepping closer to the towering god, Dipper let his long arms wrap around him. Face smashed into Bill's stomach, the brunet was pressed flush against the god, melting into his warmth easily. Suddenly feeling sleepy, Dipper's eyes started to flicker shut, leaving the god to support his weight as flames surrounded the two.

Dipper watched the flames dance with lazy eyes, enjoying the way they licked across his skin. The weight of the arms around him were soothing, comfortable and unarguably safe.

Dipper was gone.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Blinking hard, it took a few seconds to realize that he was still hanging onto Bill, completely in his warmth, mind slightly hazy.

"Not quite used to my magic yet, it seems," Bill laughed, reaching up to ruffle Dipper's thick locks, "But don't worry, you will be." The god peeled himself away from the younger boy, quirking an amused smile when he tried to hang on to his coat.

Breaking the child's hold on him easily, Bill stepped away from Dipper. It didn't take long for his mind to clear from the haze. Blinking hard, the young boy flushed scarlet, embarrassed with himself again.

The color change caused Bill to cough out another laugh, clear and true.

"T-this never happened!" Dipper stuttered, turning around to march away.

"But it did!" Bill called after him, kicking his feet in the air and crossing his ankles. "Three days, Pine Tree! Same time, same place!"

Dipper scowled forward, not wanting to turn back and see at that undoubtedly smug grin. He gave the god a half-hearted wave to show he had heard.

"And by the by, I'm not a fire god!"

Dipper flushed.

~~0~~0~~0~~

YROO OLEVH XSZLH, YFG SV XZM'G YVZG GSV TLW LU WVHGIFXGRLM

Chapter Text

"I really can't believe that stupid plan that never works actually worked this time."

"What can I say? I'm amazing! Bwap."

Dipper shook his head, smiling lightly at his sister's antics. As soon as he'd cleared the forest, he had run into the shack as quickly and as quietly as possible, thankful for not bumping into anyone on the way in.

"Sooo...how was your...exploring?" Mabel asked, a tilt of uncertainty hanging at the end of her question. She had been worried for her brother throughout the day, heart pounding in her chest every time Stan even half-mentioned the missing twin.

But now, there was nothing to fear or worry about. Dipper was back home, hair ruffled and skin red, but unharmed all the same.

Dipper sighed and sat down at his makeshift desk, leaning back and slinking down into the hard wooden chair. He dragged a hand over his face. "Exhausting."

Mabel hummed lightly. Flopping back onto her bed, she began to pet Waddles, her pig, adamantly.

"Care to give me the deets?" She asked playfully.

Dipper took his notebook out of his vest pocket, along with the pen and pocket knife. Setting the blade down to the side, the brunet flipped his book open to a new page. Best record everything before he forgot.

"Um, I wandered around a lot. Got kidnapped by gnomes and...yeah that's it."

Mabel jumped up at the mention of gnomes, giggles escaping. "You got kidnapped by gnomes? Gnomes?! The little guys?" The girl fell back onto her bed as she broke into wild laughter, tears of amusement filling her eyes.

"They're not like the ones that dig through the trash! And there were a lot of them!"

Somehow, Dipper's denial made it all the more amusing to Mabel who started to roll around, clutching her gut.

Dipper groaned, "These guys were in, like, a synchronized group or something. And they were pretty tubby."

Mabel wiped tears out of her eyes, a few giggles still squirming their way out between chapped lips. "Okay, okay. So what did they want with you?"

At this, Dipper blushed red and turned away, burying his nose in his notebook. "I was in their territory. That's all," he lied.

Mabel cocked an eyebrow, but didn't press on. She would just have to read his journal (which was totally a diary) later.

"So, how'd you get away if there were so many?"

Dipper grumbled under his breath, clicking his pen open. "Bill saved me," he relented, annoyed.

"So he's your knight in shining armor?" Mabel teased, eyes sparkling.

"No! It's just part of our deal. And he's not a knight." Dipper kicked his legs out, letting the tips of his toes bump lightly against the wall in a calming rhythm. "He's more annoying than you on Mabel-juice," he added as an afterthought, briefly turning to Bill Cipher's page to mark out 'fire god', and place a question mark next to it instead.

Mabel jumped off her bed and walked over to Dipper. Looking over his shoulder, she scanned what he had down on the paper.

"80's hits? Sounds like my kinda guy!" Mabel cheered. "Wonder if he likes Don't Stop Unbelieving?"

Dipper snorted and pushed Mabel away by her face, "I don't know and I don't care. Right now all I want to do is fill in my-"

"Kids! Get down here! What passes as dinner is on the table!" Stan yelled from downstairs.

Mabel cheered at the prospect of food and ran out the door and down the stairs, feet thumping loudly throughout the house.

Grinning at his twin's antics, Dipper stood up and followed. He'd have time to fill in the journal after dinner. At the moment though, his stomach was snarling at the thought of food, even if it was Stan's cooking. That single granola bar hours ago was doing nothing for him now, after all. Giving his notebook one last glance, he pushed himself off his seat and followed his twin, running out the door and down the steps just as she had.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper's tongue stuck out of his mouth a bit as he wrote down all he remembered about the gnomes in the forest, comparing them to the ones seen digging through the trash in the early mornings. In all honesty, Dipper didn't know much about the little creatures, only that Stan complained about them around once a month for eating out of the garbage can. However, those gnomes weren't like these gnomes. The little creatures he'd seen before were always bone-thin, teeth half-way rotted out of equally grimy gums, skin sagging and yellow, balding, and usually wearing nothing more than scraps of old newspaper, cloth, or anything they could get their meaty little hands on.

Scratching his chin idly, the young adventurer tried to sketch out the differences the best he could. Though the faces and bodies were heavily lopsided and both pictures looked very cartoonish, he had to admit it was some of the best artistry he'd ever done.

Sighing, Dipper reread his notes a few more times, wishing he could go to the library for the nth time that day. He wanted to read up a bit more on gnomes as well as look into the god Bill Cipher. If there was going to be any information about him, it would be at the Gravity Falls Public Library.

Dipper flopped his head onto his desk, irritation prickling in his gut and heart. Stupid grounding.

Just as he was picking his head back up, slipping his pen back into his mouth to gnaw on, the door to the room flung open. Mabel entered, hair wet from her shower, trailing water spots all over her favorite purple nightgown with a picture of a basic circuit sewn on the front.

"You still writing in your diary?" Mabel teased as she lifted Waddles into her bed, the pig oinking happily as she ran her fingers over his belly.

"It's not a diary!" Dipper replied fervently, "It's a field journal and you know it."

"Journal, diary, it's the same thing!"

Dipper snorted, "Whatever. To answer your question- yes. But I'm going to need outside resources before adding anything else."

Mabel tucked Waddles in next to her, giggling as the pig's snout nuzzled playfully into her chest, his beady-black eyes crinkling in delight. The girl wrapped her arms around her pet, pulling the pig's body closer to her own. "Yeah, but you can't go to the library."

Dipper groaned, clicking his pen shut as he did so and turning to tuck both it and his notebook under his mattress. "Don't remind me. I still need to-" The brunet's eyes widened as a brilliant idea formed in his mind. Oh, why didn't he think of it before?

"Bro-Bro?" Mabel questioned her brother's sudden silence, looking at him curiously.

Dipper turned around, enthusiastic smile playing on his lips. "Mabel! I've got a great idea! Since I can't go to the library, you can go instead and get me the books I need! That way, I'm not breaking Stan's punishment!"

Though Mabel's eyes twinkled at the prospect of mischief, her grin slipped a little. "But how am I supposed to know what books to get? We can't use the magic mirrors yet."

Dipper's shoulders slumped briefly before the boy perked right back up again, "What about walkie-talkies? I'm pretty sure Wendy has a pair she wouldn't mind lending us."

Mabel's smile lifted once again. "That would work!"

Somehow Dipper's grin got even bigger and turned into a full beam, one that would normally be found housed on his sister's face and not his own.

~~0~~0~~0~~

"So, is the plan-plan a go-go?"

"Mabel, you don't have to repeat everything twice into the walkie-talkie. I can hear you fine."

"Ah, don't-don't bring me down-down, bro-bro!"

Dipper groaned at Mabel's antics while Wendy just snickered at their bickering.

"Hey, Wendy, um, thanks again for lending us your walkie-talkies..." Dipper trailed off, an embarrassed blush tinting his face a light pink. His only free hand scratched the back of his neck nervously.

Wendy smiled at him, ignoring the obvious hints he gave her. "Hey, it's no problem. Besides, how could I turn down the chance of breaking another one of Stan's rules?"

Dipper gave her a small smile, red receding from his cheeks as he fell back in tandem with himself.

Mabel's voice suddenly crackled from the device, "Okay, Dip-dop. Where do I go?"

"Head to the Magical and Occult History section."

"You mean the dusty section in the corner that always smells like raccoon pee and mothballs?"

Dipper blinked slowly. "...Yes?"

"A-okay! I'm on it!"

Dipper sighed as Mabel's humming echoed back at him brokenly.

Wendy gave the male twin a knowing, amused look while at the same time keeping an eye out for Stan. After all, if this plan went sour...well, Wendy could only imagine how pissed Stan would be.

"Okay, I'm at the raccoon section. Now what?"

"Pick up any books you can grab on the forest or gods. Any will do."

"But there's a lot of those!"

"Then get the thickest ones."

Though Dipper couldn't hear her, he was sure Mabel was cursing him under his breath, most likely regretting the decision of helping him with this. Fuzzy static filled the walkie-talkie, though Dipper could swear he heard Mabel muttering under her breath along with the sound of hard-covered books thumping against one another once in awhile.

"Okay, I got five different books for you. Is that enough?"

Dipper chewed on the inside of his cheek in thought. In all honesty, he wanted to get a minimum of ten books for this. However, he knew Mabel would not be up for carrying around ten thick tomes and he himself did not want to go through the stress of hiding those ten books from Stan.

After all, five would be hard enough.

"That's fine, Mabel. Get them and come on back home."

"Okay!" Her voice chimed in from the device before static overtook the silence.

"Anything on the home-front?" He asked Wendy.

Wendy cupped her hands over her eyes in a makeshift telescope, lips turned upwards in a tiny smirk, "Nah, man. Air's clear of stinky old men," she joked playfully.

Dipper chuckled, placing the walkie-talkie back down.

"So Dipper, what exactly did you do to get grounded anyways? I mean, you like never get in trouble." Wendy's eyes sparked. "Or at least, never get caught."

Dipper rubbed his arms and stared out into the forest, "Well..." He started, unsure of what exactly to say. His gut twisted in knots at the thought of telling Wendy about Bill Cipher and his deal. It was...humiliating to say the least and downright creepy at the most. Biting his lip, Dipper went for the best mediator between honesty and lying: a half-truth.

"I stole one of the journals," he explained after a few beats.

"You're kidding!" The redhead gasped in both surprise and awe, "Doesn't Stan keep those in a safe or something?"

"Or something..." Dipper agreed, staring towards the forest.

Wendy cocked a suspicious eyebrow. "You didn't go into the forest or anything, did you? Even I don't have a license yet!"

Dipper bit the inside of his cheek briefly before turning back to her, rolling his eyes. "Of course not," He cried out, crossing his arms over his chest as he did so, "I wouldn't go put myself in danger! I just- wanted to know more."

Wendy laughed at his protests and playfully ruffled his hair. "I swear, I've never met someone as curious as you!" She teased.

"Hey!" Dipper protested, smile pulling at his lips.

Before he could really say anything more to her however, the walkie-talkie crackled back to life.

"Okay, I'm almost home!" Mabel's voice rang from the other side.

Dipper gave his twin an affirmative reply before turning back to Wendy.

"Part three is officially a go," he told the redhead.

Wendy nodded. Twisting around, the girl slipped on a dark blue hoodie and a stupid-looking Summerween mask that Dipper thought was supposed to look like the devil. Tucking her hair all the way in, she finished off the look with a pair of thick gloves. The teen turned back to Dipper for confirmation.

The young brunet nodded. "Totally unrecognizable," he commended.

"Okay guys, I'm here!" Mabel's voice crackled.

Dipper looked up and squinted in the distance. Low and behold, Mabel was at the very end of the dirt road leading to the shack, ducking haphazardly behind a tree that did nothing to hide her bright yellow sweater.

Giving Dipper one last pat on the shoulder, Wendy flung herself off the roof of the shack and onto a nearby leaning pine. Reaching out with both hands, the athletic teen easily grabbed hold of one of the thinner branches at the top. Bracing herself against the tree with her feet, Wendy slowly shimmied down the pine with a class and finesse that shouldn't be possible, twisting off pine cones as she did so and stuffing them into her pocket.

Dipper watched the spectacle with wide eyes full of both worry for his friend and astonishment for her skills. In what seemed like no time at all, the redhead had made it down the tree, back on solid ground, no worse for wear. She shot him a thumbs up.

Dipper returned it a few seconds too late.

Wendy reached into her pocket to take out the pine cones she had snatched from the tree. Gripping the large seeds lightly in her gloved hands, the teen readied herself, shoulders tensing with her own nerves. With her arm cocked back she let one fly, smashing it straight into the window with a loud bang!

Then she flung a second one.

It only took Wendy a few more hurls at the window before getting used to the action. The pine cones smashed against the window even louder than before, scratching up the weak glass and causing the pane to vibrate under the force.

About eight pine cones in, the door to the shack was flung open in rage.

"HEY!" Stan yelled, brows furrowed angrily, "WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?!"

Though the older man couldn't see Wendy's face, or recognize her at all for that matter, he could still clearly see her raise her hand to her face, thumb against where her nose would be, waggling her spread-out fingers to taunt him.

Stan snarled as she darted away behind the house, still chucking pine cones at the old wood while she went. Eyes narrowed in pure anger, Stan ran around to give chase, hands sparking with small beginnings of electricity.

As Stan ran around the house, hidden from sight, Mabel sprang into action, running as fast as she could to the door with an armful of books. Straight through the shop, almost knocking over multiple shelves, she ran right up the stairs and into her and Dipper's shared room.

Still on the roof, Dipper couldn't help but bark out a small laugh as Wendy and Stan rounded the corner of the house. As planned, Wendy steered herself down the driveway, dodging the small bolts of lightening Stan sent her way, easily outpacing the older man.

As Stan came to an undignified stop, trembling in both rage and exertion, Dipper scrambled back down the ladder and hightailed it back to his room, hoping that he wasn't seen.

Taking the stairs two at a time, almost tripping three times, Dipper flung himself into their shared bedroom, slamming the door behind him.

"Got them?" He asked, excitement filling him once again.

Mabel gave him a wide, stunning grin while she dropped the heavy tomes onto his desk. "Y-you b-bet I did!" She panted, collapsing right there and then onto the floor in exhaustion.

Dipper went over to his sister, pulling her up into a sitting position to give her a big hug. "Have I told you how much I love you and how awesome you are?" He gushed.

Mabel laughed weakly, breath still stolen from all the sprinting she had done. "No, but you could tell me a bit more."

Dipper's smile stretched wider. Letting go of his twin to give her breathing room, he turned to the books she had collected for him, giving them each an eager but critical gaze.

The bottom-most one was the thickest and heaviest, looking almost like a dictionary. It had a dark brown hard cover, edges frayed slightly from age. Though the big words on the spine were clearly in Latin, there was some smaller text directly under the title, saying English Translation in clear letters.

Dipper rolled his eyes a bit. If they translated the entire book, why not the title as well?

Deciding not to dwell on that rather useless observation, the young boy's eyes moved to the next book. Although the second was still much thicker than any normal textbook he'd seen, it was still thinner than the first. The book was a green color and this time, the title on the spine was in English, spelling out World-Wide Mysteries and Wonders: The God Edition.

The third book didn't have a title on the spine, just two strips of fading silver decor. It was a deep purple color. Odd, but not flashy. The pages inside were also edged in silver.

The fourth book was about as thick as a standard textbook found at school. It seemed to originally be black, but years of wear and tear lightened it to a faded gray. The text on the spine was in gold and read Gods: What you need to know.

The topmost book was the thinnest by far as well as the widest. A picture of some sort of hideous face was printed on the cover, slightly faded. The book was an off-white color and the title clearly read Mistakes of Men: Gods and their Consequences.

Eager to get started, Dipper threw himself into his desk, grabbing the thinnest book.

Mabel let out a small giggle at her brother's enthusiasm. When it came to mysteries or the unknown, Dipper became an entirely new person.

It made her heart warm.

Crawling onto her bed, Mabel shrugged out of her sweater, the thick and fuzzy wool much too hot for her at the moment. Humming lightly under her breath, she decided to do something she loved as well: making sweaters.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper rubbed his eyes and glanced at his clock.

4:37 a.m.

Sure, it was late and on a school night as well, but Dipper couldn't stop now. No. There was still so much information to go through, so much to sort out, reword, and rewrite.

Dipper flipped through his notebook, fifteen pages filled with what he knew about gods in general already filled out. Sure, he copied the basics everyone knew into it; gods were immortal, gods were the most powerful creatures, gods were smarter than humans, gods worked in mysterious and often heartless ways, etcetera.

But those were the basics. The books Mabel got for him had a well of information to dig through and gather. They opened his eyes to so much he didn't know; how every god aligned themselves with an element from nature (there were no such things as 'fire gods' specifically), how each god had their own special powers that differentiated them, and how there was some sort of (currently unknown) hierarchy to gods.

There were even brief mentions, found in the purple book, that spoke of the possibility of actually killing gods.

Dipper's mind swam at the information.

In Gods: What you need to know, it spoke of how important deals with gods were. It had different aspects of certain gods and even theories on how they were born and or created and why they even needed to make deals.

Apparently it was a way to harness energy, as well as get humans to do things for them.

Though it was unintentional, Gods: What you need to know lead perfectly into Mistakes of Men: Gods and their Consequences, which didn't talk about gods themselves really, but sour deals that changed the course of human history. From way far back into the Victorian era to a recent deal that lead straight into the first world war, gods really had shaped human history, in more ways than one. Though it wasn't all bad, really. As Dipper leafed through the pages, a few stray incidents of gods actually helping humans did pop out at him, from helping fuse together magic and technology for the first time to the deal that apparently helped decide who was guilty and lying in the Nuremberg Trials. Gods helping the human race was rare, but not unheard of.

However, the fact that some gods helped humans did nothing to ease his tensions and doubt about the beings. After all, the good to bad ratio was one in a thousand.

Shutting the book and hiding it with the others he'd already dug through under a single loose floorboard under his bed, Dipper turned to the last book, Dues Encyclopedia: Notum est omnibus diis duce Complete.

Cracking the old tome open, Dipper smiled as normal English stared back at him.

Flipping through its yellowed pages gently, it didn't take long for the boy to figure out what the book really was, causing his brain to kick back into overdrive as his insides melted in giddy happiness and excitement.

It was basically a dictionary. A dictionary discussing every god known up to...

Dipper checked the date.

1289.

Okay, so it was a bit old. He could still work with that.

Blinking, Dipper focused himself back onto the original topic at hand, the reason he'd gotten Mabel to get him these books in the first place: Bill Cipher.

Dipper cautiously turned the old and dry pages, trying his best not to rip them even more so. Every page seemed to have some sort of profile of a demon, hand drawn with a carefully printed text. Like Grunkle Stan's journals, the entire book was painstakingly handwritten. Dipper tried his best not to get too drawn in with all the forms of demons found, but it was a hard task.

Alene Able: Minor god of deceit. Favored form being a snake with a baby's face.

Dipper made a face. Now that was just creepy.

Never Asking: Major god of trickery. Favored form being a duckling with feet for eyes, fingers for toes, with feathers made out of thousands of spider eyes.

Dipper quickly turned the page, feeling a bit sick. That was...disgusting. Just plain disgusting.

How Brown: Minor god of the color brown. Favored form being a weeping willow that was wrapped in turkey intestines, dripping blood.

The young boy cocked a questioning eyebrow. The color...brown? He sighed and flipped the page, trying not to let his mind dwell. He really didn't want to know.

J.B Bungalow: Major god of the hearth. Favored form being a plain white wall on fire.

Boring, but better than some of the other gods' forms. He flipped through it again.

Contrail Caper: Major god of water condensation. Favored form being a short, petite woman with a cloud over her head that constantly rained caviar.

Okay. Finally a somewhat normal god. Dipper sighed and turned to the next page.

Bill Cipher: Major god of dreams.

Dipper's eyes widened at the bloodstained page, the former liquid turning it a deep and ugly brown, rendering the entire page nearly unreadable. Where the picture for the favored form would be was completely covered, only the faint tips of what looked like thin black fingers could be seen. Most of the writing was covered up as well, leaving it completely useless to him.

Dipper gaped briefly before his lips pulled into bitter scowl, hands balling up into fists.

He almost felt the need to hit something.

Reaching up, Dipper pulled at his hair in rage, hissing curses under his breath as he did so. He didn't want to wake Mabel up, after all.

Of course the stupid page would be practically useless. Why wouldn't it be? Sighing, Dipper pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to bring his temper down a notch.

Sure, most of the information was lost. But not all the text was covered. Grabbing his flashlight, Dipper brought the device closer to the page. Shaking it a bit to get the crystal powering it to glow brighter, he focused on the first of three paragraphs visible and squinted hard, attempting to discern what it said.

-powerful god that holds no care for anything...

The rest faded out, and then right back in.

-articulate and deceitful. Rivals Madam Madness for his tendency to enact upon insane actions.

Once again, the text wasn't visible enough for him to see.

-makes deals more than most gods. Typically believed because he is ol...

Dipper guessed the rest of the world was 'older', but he couldn't be sure. He moved onto the second paragraph.

Friendly with most people. Easily angered-

Dipper gulped thickly at that. Easily angered? The young boy shuddered as he remembered the gnome incident.

-enjoys chaos...

Dipper frowned as the rest of the paragraph once again faded away. He could clearly see the squiggles of text, but not read or understand them. He hissed out a groan, brimming with frustration. Dipper moved his eyes down to the last paragraph crammed in the corner, closest to one of the worse blood stains.

End...ally...Stra-

Thick droplets cut what was readable in half, giving the inquisitive boy only a couple of words to see. Dipper gave another small sigh as he flipped through his notebook, stopping at Bill's page.

He cracked a few mysteries the god had...

...and opened a door to a whole lot more.

Picking up his pen again, Dipper wrote 'God of dreams' right next to his name on the top. Near to that, he also put Alignment- fire.

Well, that was one thing solved. Without a second thought, Dipper added a note in the margin.

NEVER FALL ASLEEP NEAR HIM

He underlined it twice. Looking back to the book, he added a few more notes.

Loves chaos. Try and stay away from danger.

Dipper chewed on his pen before adding: Even more so than you do now.

There, that was better. Next, Dipper wrote: Gets mad easily. Try and avoid angering him. Overly friendly. Which explains a lot, really. He also might be apathetic to life. Nihilist?

Lastly, Dipper put in one last nugget of information.

Might have a friend or ally of some sort. Have no clue who. Other god? Being? Human?

Dipper placed his pen down, frown tugging at the corners of his mouth. He wasn't completely satisfied, not by a long shot. It was a start.

He needed to know more. More about the god he'd made an insane deal with in the forest, who wore gold and black, who knew just what to say and how to say it to annoy him, who was warm and comfortable and carried him away from literal danger.

Dipper shook his wandering thoughts away and placed a mental lock on that entire subject. No. No, he was not going to think about- why did he even think about...

Dipper glanced up at the clock.

It read 5:56 a.m.

Rubbing his eyes, Dipper gave a weak shake of his head. He was tired. Very, very tired and he'd have to wake up in about an hour to get ready for school. That was all. His weird thoughts were simply born of sleep deprivation, nothing else.

Carefully shutting the god dictionary, Dipper tucked it under the loose floorboard as quietly as he could, flinching at every mildly loud creak that snapped at the air. Standing back up, the boy stuffed his notebook back under his mattress, out of sight from prying eyes. Clicking his pen shut and the flashlight off, rolling the latter under his bed, Dipper blinked hard as harsh darkness overtook his vision. Yawning, the boy climbed under his covers, snuggling in as best as he could.

The day to come was going to be horrible with only an hour of sleep, but it was best not to dwell on it now. What was important were the warm covers that hugged him from all around and kept him safe from harm, paired with comforting silence and a darkness that lulled him to sleep as easy as can be, soft and gentle.

Yes, the day was going to be horrible. Dipper didn't care.

Sleep quickly took him.

~~0~~0~~0~~

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Chapter Text

Dipper had been right.

Today had been terrible so far.

Leaning on his hand, Dipper watched the clock tick away with bored and tired eyes.

Twenty minutes left. Which was really just two ten minutes left. Which was really just four sets of five minutes left.

Dipper released a small groan under his breath, picking up his pencil once more to work on the math problems assigned to him. Normally, he didn't mind math too much. Heck, sometimes he even enjoyed it (though he would never tell Mabel; she'd just call him a nerd). However, his head was pounding lightly at the lack of sleep, he'd almost fallen out of his desk seven times already, and all in all, Dipper just couldn't keep himself standing on his own two feet very well.

Dipper stared down at the problem. It wouldn't have been all that difficult on a normal day, but with his brain so sluggish and fatigued, Dipper found that he simply could not figure out what he was supposed to be doing.

He blinked slowly, mind wandering away from him once again to the near future.

Three days. He would see Bill again.

Dipper bit his lip nervously. After everything he'd learned the night prior, or better yet, didn't learn, Dipper was more anxious than ever to see the god again.

Should he question him? Or perhaps hold his tongue?

Dipper weakly ran his fingers through his hair, piercing his lip with his teeth a little and drawing beads of blood. Swiping his tongue over the wound, Dipper easily fell back into his thoughts and ponderings.

Easily angered...but friendly.

Chaotic...but almost polite in a way.

Dipper's thoughts were cut short by the bell, ordering brain dead students to go to their next class. Movements delayed, Dipper shoved his papers into his bag and whipped it around his shoulders. He tried to gather his previous wonderings once more, but they had already been lost. Scowling slightly, Dipper continued to his next, and one of his favorite classes, Magical Theory.

Wriggling out into the busy hallway, Dipper hugged the wall closely, trying to flow with the rest of the students.

"Do you ever take a shower, loser?" A feminine voice hissed into his ear.

Dipper whipped around. The rude girl, whoever she was, was already gone. Dipper scowled. His bathing tendencies were perfectly fine!

Now tired and annoyed, Dipper pushed his way through the throng of students with more intensity than before, getting a few more comments about his shoving as well as his appearance.

Finally making his way to the correct room, Dipper practically flung himself through the door, hissing as his side got caught on the teacher's desk in the front.

"Oh! Dipper, are you okay?" A chiming voice asked.

Dipper turned to his teacher, cranking his neck upwards to look at her slitted silver eyes.

"I'm fine, Madam Feylie," he told his elven teacher.

The tall woman smiled down at him. Like most elves, she had smooth and unblemished off-white skin. Her eyes were large and set deep into her skull, causing her cheekbones to look more prominent than on humans. Her bone structure was thin but not willowy, shapely without being sharp. Her cropped hair was a light, almost strawberry blonde. Curling at the tips, it matched her arching eyebrows perfectly. Her simple green dress swung around her ankles, reminding Dipper of a hippie from the 70's.

"Are you sure?" She asked, squinting and looking over his slumped posture and bruised eyes. "You look very...tired."

Dipper gave her a watery smile. Unlike most teachers who didn't care much about, well, anything besides keeping their job, Madam Feylie took her job teaching and watching over her students very seriously. Especially the watching part. Some said it was because she was an elf. Others said it was because she was kind-hearted. And even less people said it was because she had children of her own and could relate.

In all honesty, Dipper never gave much thought to his teachers. After all, he had better things to do with his time than petty gossip. However, even he had to admit the elven teacher was his favorite by a long shot.

Reassuring the woman that he was completely and perfectly fine- no really, he was, Dipper took his seat near the back as usual. It was a habit he had gotten into a few years back after a particularly bad English class that had always ended with spitballs in his hair.

Settling down into his seat, Dipper took out the class set textbook from under his desk, staring blankly at the cover. A number of different runes and (safe) magical creatures were printed, looking suspiciously cartoonish. Though he knew the textbook could be worse, it could also be much better.

Cracking the book open, Dipper quickly checked the index to see if this book contained any information about gods. Flipping to the correct page, Dipper wasn't surprised, but disappointed nonetheless. All that was on the page was a short paragraph that summarized the basics he already knew. Pouting slightly, he shut the text close, leaning his head on his hand to wait for class to start.

As the bell rang signaling for the beginning of class, Dipper felt his mind start to drift off once again.

On magic.

On the forest.

On Bill.

And even on things that had happened last time.

Dipper mentally shook his head to banish his thoughts, hoping that he wasn't blushing as bad as he felt he was.

Ugh, stupid god being stupidly confusing. Being stupidly warm and safe and-

Dipper flopped his head onto his desk, letting out a soft, annoyed groan. Why did his mind keep wandering in that direction?!

I'm just tired. Really tired, he reassured himself. I'm just being tired and weird.

Blinking hard, Dipper sat back up, glancing around to make sure Madam Feylie wasn't near him; knowing her she'd send him to the nurse. Seeing that he wasn't being worried over, Dipper relaxed back into his chair and flipped through the pages he was supposed to read, not actually absorbing any information from the text.

Bill Cipher was really getting in the way of his focus.

Dipper glanced at the clock. Thirty minutes left.

Which was really two fifteen minutes left.

Which was really three ten minutes left.

Which was really six five minutes left.

He could do this.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper groaned as he eyed his bed. All he wanted to do was curl up on his uncomfortable mattress and go to sleep, snug under worn but warm blankets. Three days had passed and for whatever reason, those three days were filled with little sleep, his nights spent worrying and questioning what was to come.

Running a hand through his hair, Dipper quickly patted his bangs back down to cover his forehead. He reached under his mattress, pulled out his notebook and grabbed both his pen and pocket knife from his desk. All three objects were then tucked away in his vest like last time.

Unzipping his backpack, he dumped out all of his school supplies into the back of his closet. Getting down on his hands and knees next to his bed, Dipper yanked out the various things he had taken on his last trip into the forest. Quickly shoving everything in, the young boy gave himself a small but proud nod after he checked everything out. Zipping the bag back up, he whipped it around his shoulders and steadied his breaths. Squaring his shoulders, he stepped outside the room once again.

Unlike last time, Mabel was actually there to help him sneak out. On cue, he heard her loud yelling for everyone to come and see what she was freaking out about, giving him a clear pathway to the door.

Waiting until Soos's voice and Wendy's footsteps faded out to the right, Dipper dived down the stairs, out the door, and across the lawn right into the woods that laid just beyond.

Falling into a fast walk, Dipper briefly glanced behind his shoulder to make sure that no one had seen or followed him. Sighing in relief at the emptiness that laid behind him, the young boy didn't even notice the familiar presence.

"Ahh!" Dipper cried as he ran straight into a solid and warm body. Larger hands automatically reached out to hold his shoulders and steady him, the heat from the palms easily soaking through his vest and shirt. Pleasurable goosebumps rose on his shoulders.

"Whoa there, Pine Tree!" Bill laughed, golden eyes sparking with both madness and delight. "You need to start paying attention to where you're going!"

Dipper stared up at Bill's stretched grin, eyes honing in on the sharpened and glistening teeth. The brunet blinked slowly, feeling even more tired than before now that he was so close to the god. Eyelids fluttering, a good part of him wanted nothing more than to melt in the warm arms of the towering god, allow himself to be taken in by the heat, to drown within the own folds of his mind as sleep took him. Dipper leaned in a bit closer, a soft, sleepy smile tugging on the edges of his lips. He could almost imagine those heated hands moving downward around his waist and lifting him up, carrying him close and steady to a thin but sturdy chest.

His hands gripped the god by the coat, face nuzzling Bill's stomach slightly.

Yes, that- that sound...sounded like a...good...good...plan.

L-let himself be...be taken away...

Allow...allow himself to fall...fall into his o-own...dreams...

...dreams...

Dipper's eyes flashed open as memories from what he previously wrote rushed to the forefront of his mind. Flushing in both humiliation at what he was doing and slight fear of what almost happened, Dipper thrust himself away from the god, tripping over his own two feet in the frantic movement and falling right down on his butt. No longer tired, Dipper stared upwards at the god once more and scrambled away, wanting to put as much distance between himself and the being of dreams.

Seeing Dipper take a fantastic fall, Bill automatically reached out to catch the boy, only for those big brown doe-like eyes to dart up to his own golden one in a look that spoke of both fear...and understanding.

Bill leaned back as the boy got far enough away to not be under his influence anymore.

Bill couldn't stop the grin that yanked at the corner of his mouth, furthering his already wide smile. He had always enjoyed the pure terror of children. That pure fright that sparked in their eyes and hearts, that jumble of panicked silence that always rang in their minds as he weaved nightmare after nightmare.

Well, it was purely euphoric to him.

Pine Tree stared up at him with all the fear those past children had given him and Bill had to admit he missed it. Missed instilling terror in young minds. In old minds too. In all minds, really.

But mostly young minds.

After all, children had the most creativity.

But Pine Tree didn't just stare up at him with fear. Oh, no. His already big, expressive mocha eyes were even larger than before, highlighted by the sunlight that filtered through the leaves above. They were doe-like and shined with a pure innocence that Bill forgot even existed. But more than that, Pine Tree also had understanding in his gaze and in that second, Bill knew.

Pine Tree knew who he was now.

Bill smirked down at the kid, who was only now getting over that flash of fear. Fright fading back into wariness, the child slowly stood up, not taking a single eye off of Bill for a second. His movements were jerky but stiff, shoulders tense.

Unlike most who'd be a shivering mess right about then.

Pine Tree sure was an interesting kid, wasn't he?

"So!" Bill cried out, clapping his hands together to literally puncture the silence. The thought brought small giggles to his voice. "Seems like you've figured it out, huh?" He continued, noting the purple around Pine Tree's eyes.

Dipper glared at the figure, fists tightening at his sides. "Y-yeah." He stuttered bravely. "You're the god of dreams!"

Bill flashed the kid a dazzling smile, showing off every fang in his mouth. "Someone give the boy a prize!" He called out to no one, hands flying out in a grand gesture.

"So, now...now that you know I know, are you going to kill me? Put me in a coma? Cut out my brain or something?" Dipper asked, his voice shaking a little.

However, all Bill did was throw his head back and laugh.

Gods this kid is a riot! He thought to himself.

"Of course not! You really are a morbid kid, aren't ya? I wanted you to figure it out! And I gotta say, I'm a little impressed! It's taken much older people a lot longer to figure out the obvious!"

Dipper's shoulders dropped their tenseness a bit and though his eyes stayed wary, there was a look of pride there too. "So, what do you want then?"

"Already told ya, Pine Tree. Entertainment, worship, and world domination." Bill's smirk grew.

Dipper eyed the god for a few more seconds before the majority of his suspicion dropped. Rolling his eyes, the boy gave the god a wide girth as he side-stepped him to continue on into the forest.

Bill followed easily enough, careful to not quite touch the kid.

"So, kid. Care to tell me where you found out?" Bill asked, genuinely interested.

Dipper bit the inside of his cheek briefly before answering honestly. After all, Bill had been impressed with him. Impressed!

Not- not that he cared or anything.

"Library," he answered shortly.

Bill hummed lightly, his furrowed brow not noticed by the young brunet whose focus was now being dragged forward by the forest, enticing and exciting.

The library? But that's impossible, he thought. The god glanced back down at Pine Tree, his questioning pushed to the back of his mind at the sheer wonder plastered on the kid's face. Like a dying man finally finding lady death and accepting her offer to elope.

"So, Pine Tree, care to take up my offer?" Bill asked suddenly after a few more minutes of surprisingly comfortable walking.

Dipper's eyes darted up to Bill. "What offer?" He asked.

Bill rolled his one visible eye. "Would you like me to show you some actual interesting places? Free of charge, even!" He tacked on at the end.

Dipper scowled up at the god, his beautiful wonder drowned in a sea of veiled hostility and distrust. "No." He reused. "I don't trust you one bit. Besides, stranger danger."

Bill gave an amused snort. "Much too late for stranger danger, kid. Besides, we're going in the wrong direction. Nothing of much importance for miles in this direction."

Dipper turned away and muttered under his breath, rubbing his eyes as he did so. In all honesty, all he wanted to do was rest. His body sagged with exhaustion, eyelids drooping closed every few seconds. His mind was sluggish and slow, a testament to the long night he had. All he wanted to do was curl up and go to sleep.

Though he didn't realize it, Dipper had slowed down his walking. Instead of striding forward like the true adventurer he believed he was, the young brunet fell into shuffling, barely lifting his feet off the forest floor as he padded onward, wobbling a bit side-to-side. He rubbed his eyes again.

He tried to focus his thoughts, he really, really did. But it was just too hard right now.

His legs wobbled even more, treacherous and unavoidable. Falling to a stop, Dipper placed the palm of his hand to a tree, subconsciously loving the feel of bark under his digits. Though he had only traveled for about twenty minutes now, the young brunet was panting as if he had fought off a bunch of monsters. Leaning more heavily against the tree, Dipper struggled to pick himself back up.

It was hard to do considering he barely had enough energy to lift his eyes up to Bill's face.

Bill had slowed to a stop with the boy, still lingering a few feet away. He could feel the slipping of the boy's mind as it happened, a surprisingly slow and steady descent for one so tired and young.

"Are you sure your sure, Pine Tree?" Bill asked again, another shit-eating grin on his face.

Dipper didn't notice, however. Now leaning fully against the tree, the young boy started slipping down the bark, causing his vest and shirt to ride up some, baring pale and soft looking skin.

Bill stepped closer, leaning down at the waist to stare at the young child's face.

The god was barely an inch away.

Dipper was vaguely aware of the god now too close to him. He could hear soft chatter against the inside of his ear as thin and warm breath passed over his face, surprisingly moist and sticky. The breath smelled strange, but soothing, a natural musk that anyone would want to sink right into.

Dipper hummed lightly, a simple noise that didn't tell much on his thoughts or feelings.

However, as soon as the sound left his closed lips, the boy felt himself be scooped up again, words still being asked into his ear. Not exactly a whisper, but not as loud as one would normally talk. It was an octave between.

Dipper settled easily into the pair of arms, curled up perfectly, like he was meant to be there. Feeling so snug and plain safe, it didn't take long for Dipper to leave the land of the living.

Dipper was gone.

And it hadn't even been the magic.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Bill stared down at the boy in his arms. He could feel the child's slow breathing against his chest, light as a bird and just as delicate. Right now, it would be just too easy to kill him. Wouldn't take much at all. Only humans could be both durable and fragile at the same time.

Not that he would, of course. No. Why kill when you can slowly drive people to the brink of insanity? Let them hang on that edge between their reality and his nightmares, let them decide if the real world was the thin and crumbling ledge they were standing on, or the dark abyss that stretched below.

They'd make the right decision.

They always did, after all. And more often than not, it was a hell of a good show!

Bill carefully re-positioned his arms, tucking the boy deeper into him. Though the child hadn't quite hit the dreaming stage of his slumber, he could feel it coming up, slow and steady like a tide.

It really would be too easy right now to kill this little Pine Tree, or even start that slow descent into pure madness and insanity.

Especially right now. Bill could feel the movements in his thoughts now as the wisps of future-forgotten dreams started. Just sensations right now, nothing more than ghosts of feelings.

Pine Tree shifted slightly before turning slightly, trying to get closer to him and curl up.

A slight soft smile played on his lips, tiny enough to almost be missed.

But it wasn't missed.

Bill looked down at the child, thoughts about death and insanity gone. Once again, this little Pine Tree brought the strangest of emotions to him, phantom and confounding, to his heart.

He really was a strange child, wasn't he? Making a deal with a god, fighting and arguing with him despite everything Bill could do to him, falling asleep in the presence of a being who could control and manipulate dreams...

No, this little Pine may be decently smart, but he certainty wasn't wise.

And despite that, he was very, very interesting.

Bill blipped them away.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper curled up tighter into safety, consciousness still foggy from his deep sleep, pleasant dreams still dancing just beyond his mind's eye, soft and subtle.

He had already forgotten what they'd been about.

But that hardly mattered right now. He was protected by the warmth that surrounded him, a steady and gently thing that caressed body, mind, and soul.

He wasn't so sure where he was right now, but it definitely felt good. Very good. Something was running through the locks of his hair, gently untangling the knots located. The covered pads rubbed against his scalp, petting him in a way.

He couldn't stop the smile from tugging at his lips, nor could he stop the small, happy moan from escaping the back of his throat.

An arm tightened briefly around his waist before loosening once again, fingers rubbing small circles on his side.

Dipper wanted to fall right back asleep. He was safe and comfortable and felt very good...

Then, his memories started to leak back in.

Of going home after school.

Of going back into the woods.

Of meeting Bill Cipher once more.

The young brunet's eyes shot open. Though his thoughts were still on the fuzzy side, he was now wide awake.

His head was buried into Bill's chest, tucked under his chin. He was pressed flush against the god, curled up in a tight ball against his stomach between long legs. Letting out a squeak of surprise, Dipper yanked himself away, face burning with embarrassment once again.

"B-Bill!" The young brunet cried out when the arm around his waist refused to budge. Still pressed up much too close for his liking, Dipper leaned his head back as far as he could, meeting that one amused golden eye with his two nervous and fearful brown ones.

"Good morning, Pine Tree!" Bill greeted, his breath ghosting across Dipper's face, sweet-smelling and wonderful.

Dipper banished those thoughts from his head.

"I-I..." Dipper stuttered, unsure of what to do as a tornado of emotions whirled around inside of him. He was humiliated, but still warm and comfortable, he felt safe, but his heart was still pumping in terror. He was a conundrum.

"C-could you please let go of me?" He asked, eyes still widened in shock.

Bill hummed lightly. "But I don't want to! You're warm and cute!"

Dipper's embarrassment rose a few notches, but so did his anger. "I am not cute!" He spat, giving the god the best glare he could muster.

Bill simply beamed down at the boy. With his brown brows furrowed, lips twisted upwards in a pout, arms now wrapped around himself...well it made him all the cuter, really.

Bill laughed. "Oh kid, that face your making is simply precious!"

Dipper made a small noise of anger from the back of his throat and started to squirm, trying his best to get away from the clingy being.

Bill laughed even louder at Dipper's struggles. After all, it's not like the boy could do anything. If he wanted to keep the child here, pressed up against him, he could. Quite easily, in fact.

However, Bill decided to be nice for once. Loosening his hold, he let the little tree back away from him once more, deeper into the clearing that he had blipped them into.

Bill shook his head. "And once again, I get no thanks, do I?" He teased.

Dipper sat up, face still red. "Why would I thank you?! You kidnapped me!"

"No I didn't. I asked you if you wanted me to show you an actual magical place and, well, you didn't say no. But you did make a sound so I assumed yes!"

Dipper scowled at the god. He started to open his mouth to snap something back in reply, only to be silenced as his eyes started to take in the surroundings.

Bill had blipped the both of them into what was probably the most beautiful place Dipper had ever seen.

They were in a small clearing, long and dark grass swaying in the soft wind. Purple and dark blue wild flowers were littered in clumps, petals glowing gently under the shadow the crisscross of branches high above. Caught up in the wonder of a new and, as Bill said, magical place, Dipper twisted around to get a better look around.

Behind him, a sloping ridge gave life to a bubbling waterfall, it's pitter-patter strong but fragile at the same time. The water lead into a pond, soft waves from the movement causing circular ripples to spread. The small waves lapped at the wet grass, more wildflowers dotting the edge. Inside the pond, bobbing in perfect rhythm to the ripples, were white lilies that seemed to emit a light not unlike the moon itself.

Light filtered in from above, soft and pleasant, dappling the grass. Just enough to see, but dark enough to allow the natural glow from the plants to be seen.

Dipper could do nothing but stare in utter awe.

"I-It's beautiful." Dipper murmured, standing up slowly.

Bill stood up and stepped to the side of the boy, leaving a handful of inches between the two.

"Yes it is." Bill said. "Wouldn't you much rather see this than stumble around the forest?"

Dipper's eyes flashed up to Bill. For once there was no grin on his face, though Dipper still couldn't read the god's expression.

Like before, it was as if the god was...lonely.

Dipper reached into his vest and thumbed his notebook, recalling what he remembered about gods in general, something that most people didn't.

Like most beings, gods too could feel emotion.

Dipper felt guilt stab through his heart, tearing a hole into one of those life-giving chambers.

"Why do you want to...help me so much?" He asked, trying to keep sympathy out of his voice.

He had to be sure.

Bill smirked and stared down at him. "Already told ya, kid. You make the best expressions! Plus, seeing you trying to understand magic and this forest in general will be a real lark!"

Dipper frowned slightly at his words. He'd heard that excuse before, it was really the only excuse the god had. Before, Dipper believed him but now...with what he knew...

Very friendly...

Loves chaos...

Easily angered...

Those notes, those warnings disappeared from Dipper's mind.

Bill was lonely. Though he may not be as in touch with emotions and matters of the heart like his sister, even he could see the signs.

"Okay, then." Dipper finally said, voice steadier than what he was feeling. "I'll take you up on your...offer, I guess."

Bill's smirk grew wider and more true, golden eye sparking in excitement. "Finally making a smart decision, aren't you, Pine Tree?" He asked rhetorically.

Dipper stuck his tongue out at the god, causing him to burst out laughing once more. Turning around, the young brunet walked to the edge of the pond, the pure scent relaxing and delicious, settling onto his taste buds nicely.

Finding a spot close enough to the water's edge that was still dry, Dipper collapsed into the long, dark grass. The stems brushed against his open skin softly without being ticklish.

Leaning backwards, Dipper took out and opened his notebook to a new page, scribbling down what happened and a description of what the clearing looked like. Meanwhile, Bill loped up to him and sat down next to him, one pointy knee brushing against his shorts. The blond looked over Pine Tree's fluffy hair at what the kid was writing, amused by what he saw. His notebook was childish to be sure, unprofessional in every possible way and so utterly him at the same time.

Completely adorable.

"Hey Bill, can I ask you a question?"

"No, but you can axe me a question!" The god quipped automatically.

"Oh my gods." Dipper groaned, slapping a hand over his face. "That-that was so stereotypical and bad!"

Bill laughed at the boy's response.

"But seriously, does this place have a name?"

Bill fell quiet and thoughtful. Of course it had a name, but it didn't translate over into English.

The god glanced down at the boy, once again getting a glimpse of those large and liquid brown orbs and a small and determined pout. The little tree was trying his best to grow up fast and be an adult, but with his soft features and red nose, Pine Tree just looked adorable and hilarious.

"Not in English. Nor can it be translated. Guess you'll have to figure a name out!"

Dipper scowled. "Oh, I'm terrible at naming things! If Mabel were here, I'm sure she would have an idea."

"Mabel?" Bill questioned.

Dipper bit the inside of his cheek briefly, but continued anyways. "Mabel is my twin sister." He explained shortly.

"Ha! No wonder you're kinda girly!" Bill laughed in response.

Dipper spluttered, face flushing from indigent anger this time. "I am not girly or cute!" He snapped.

Bill reached up and patted Dipper's head once more, loving the soft, fluffy curls the kid had.

Who knew children could be so adorable like this? Bill hadn't seen a child in...well, Bill lost track of the years once he got in the five hundreds to be honest, but he didn't remember all those brats being like this in any way.

No, this little Pine Tree was special. Maybe it was because he was trying to be an adult. Maybe it was because he could be so smart at times and so stupid the next. Maybe it was even his thorniness and natural suspicion. Whatever the case was, Bill was fascinated.

"Sure, sure kid. Whatever helps you sleep at night." Bill waved back, casually.

Dipper briefly sent another leer his way before cranking downwards to look at his watch.

"Gods, it's already 6:17!" The kid cried out. "I have to get home, dinner's about to start!"

Bill rolled his eyes and whined. "But Pine Tree~! You slept most of the time away!"

"I have to get back, Bill! I'll-I'll visit tomorrow, okay?"

Bill blinked in slight surprise before giving the kid a too-wide and too-sharp grin. "Very well, kid. Tomorrow. Now, what will you give me to get back home?"

Dipper groaned. "Can't we just make a normal deal or something for this instead of something different every time?"

"Of course not! Routine is boring and boring things are lame!"

"Fine! I'll...uh, I don't know. What do you want?"

Bill placed a finger on his chin and tilted his head to the side, eyes wide and mad, grin still present. "Gee, I don't reall- I know!" He interrupted himself. "Give me a compliment!"

Dipper cocked a disbelieving and slightly confused eyebrow at the god. "A compliment?"

Bill nodded eagerly. "Yup!"

Dipper sighed, shoulders dropping. "Fine. Bill Cipher you are the most interesting and weird being I have ever met, and most likely will ever meet."

Bill felt a shudder of mirth pass along him, enjoying the way Pine Tree had spat out the words begrudgingly. "Why, thank you, Pine Tree!" He laughed and without a second thought, scooped Dipper up once again and blipped them back to the treeline.

Unlike before, however, Dipper didn't teeter on the edge of sleep. However, with the god of dreams being so close, his mind still filled with static, thoughts sluggish and slow.

Dipper was able to briefly recognize he was being held on the god's hip once more, arms naturally wrapped around Bill's neck, head lolling slightly before he was dropped unceremoniously to the ground once more, just like before except this time, he actually caught himself.

"Well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow, Pine Tree." Bill smirked.

Dipper glanced back at the god, looking him directly in his golden eye.

"I guess so. See you, Bill."

And Dipper ran off.

~~0~~0~~0~~

"You bastard, you really think you can kill me? You're nothing now! Absolutely noth-AHHHHHHH!"

He smirked as the god in front of him- Sir Prize- let out a wet howl of pain as azure flames exploded over his skin, consuming the fake form he took. The skin bubbled away as it melted, blood evaporating into the air because of the unnatural heat his fire now burned at. The multiple eyes of the god liquidated right out of their sockets as melted flesh joined together with melted flesh.

The god continued screaming as his current form shifted into his real form: A small fox made out of thousands of coins; gold, silver, and copper.

The flames didn't stop, however. Though they didn't ravage the body like before, but the storm of fire did hold down the weakened being. Unable to move, the god was left spitting curses at the one doing this to him.

"F-f-uck you, Cipher! You won't get away with this! You can't!"

Bill Cipher stood before the small fox, hands blazing with blue fire, one golden eye sparking in insane glee at his victim's downfall, his other, unnatural eye glowing with a frigid, matching blue.

"Oh, but you're wrong, Sir Prize." Bill sneered. "So very wrong. Do you really think you've been the first? And do you really think you'll be the last?"

Bill strode forward on long legs, previously nice clothing stained and dripping with golden blood. The god of dreams stood before the smaller god, too-wide grin with too-sharp of teeth once again in place, causing the fox to freeze in unnatural terror.

"Y-you're insane!" Sir Prize stuttered weakly. "C-completely a-and utterly..."

"So?" Bill mocked, bending down to place his hand in the center of the fox's forehead. "What's your point?"

Before the other god could answer, he was consumed by a strange, black smog. Thrown into confusion, the lesser god flailed around, no longer feeling anything around him. All that was there was void.

He was gone.

Kicking out, the fox saw something flash out of the corner of his eye. Something small. Something golden.

Sir Prize turned around, only to be met with shining, golden letters.

Yqmt ewmipqjivvbi s plv wwq qw, ezac gz?

The letters disappeared, only to be replaced by something so horrible, he couldn't even put it into words.

Sir Prize screamed.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Bill cackled as the god before him broke down into a fine, colorless dust. Bill's laughter rang off the trees, causing them to shudder. All around him, the forest cowered in fear at his display of maniac madness and power, blue flames burning even brighter than before as they leaped up into the sky, roaring at the heavens in defiance.

And in that moment of time, that one single moment, it seemed the stars themselves dulled in submission as the moon flickered, getting smaller in the sky.

Not even the firmament wanted to view the abhorrent Bill Cipher.

The god of dreams' laughter slowly fell into a trickle of a giggle. His body, once bathed in a sharp yellow light cutting large and deformed shadows across the woods, slowly died down and faded away. With it, his ethereal and dangerous flames. Eyes gleaming in the darkness, Bill summoned another small flame in the middle of his palm, brighter and stronger than ever before.

"Oh, I can hardly wait!"

~~0~~0~~0~~

FK MVCG LM YROO'H PROO ORHG: NRHH ULIGFMV

Chapter Text

Dipper bit his lip as he dragged the prickly hairs of the broom across the floor once more. Glancing down at his wrist, Dipper took note of the time as he always did.

11:22 a.m.

Groaning, he stepped to the side to brush away more invisible dust. Why did Stan have to make them work Fridays?

Dipper's mind wandered to fantasies of what would happen later that day. Of a forest with filtered light caused by jade leaves, whose air buzzed of magic and mystery. Of beautiful places. Of terrible creatures. Of a certain god who might not be all that bad...(but still pretty bad).

Questions ran rampant through Dipper's mind. Ones that couldn't be found in a book and ones that couldn't be asked. Bill was said to be evil, but he wasn't really. Right? Why was he so friendly? Why was he interested in him? The god said it was because he wanted entertainment but to Dipper it more or less seemed liked he was lonely. Then again, Dipper wasn't good at reading people. How could he be able to read a god?

The young brunet sighed as he sidestepped a shopping patron and continued with his sweeping.

He hadn't exactly gathered all pieces of possible information about the mysterious god. No, he'd dug through old books, done field research, fitted multiple golden puzzle pieces together creating not quite a picture, but an idea of a larger picture and perhaps there really wasn't a way to see the image that was the mystery of Bill Cipher, but that didn't mean he couldn't get better focus on what he saw now.

Although Dipper had never been a fan of old stories that stretched the truth, even he had to admit old wives tales could be useful.

The only problem was who he could ask.

Mabel and him had heard whispers of old tall tales when they were young in school from other children. Of evil monsters in the woods, of creatures who would eat bad children, of a dastardly villain in the woods who would give children who wandered too close to his domain terrible nightmares.

Though Dipper stood by his logic that urban legends and tales of that sort were silly and exaggerated, every story had some nugget of truth and history in it.

Who could he ask? He didn't really know of any elders in town and he would never ask Wendy if she remembered.

Speaking of Wendy...

Dipper briefly stopped sweeping to watch the redhead ring up another customer, smile small and fake, eyes gleaming with boredom.

The young brunet gave a small sigh, cheeks tinting slightly. Dipper was grateful that she didn't get caught by Stan after being chased off. Who knew what would've happened if she had. Nothing good, Dipper imagined.

Turning away from Wendy to avoid staring at her for too long again, Dipper dived behind a shelf, sweeping the little dirt and dust collected underneath.

Ugh, he hated sweeping.

Poking his head back out, the young brunet worked his way back out into the open, not wanting to knock anything over again.

"Heya Dipper," A friendly voice said. "How's the sweeping going?"

Dipper looked up and grinned at his friend Soos. As always, Soos wore a peaceful and happy expression.

"Nothing much," Dipper dismissed. "Still reading about Project Gemini?" The young boy pointed at the magazine the man-child was holding, fuzzy pictures depicting amazing technology and spacecraft.

Soos beamed downwards at him. "You know it, dude! I mean, they want to go to the moon! Like, the actual moon! Isn't that crazy?"

Dipper laughed and voiced his agreement, "Yup! Magic and machines can do a lot together, can't they? Anyways, how are you doing today?"

Soos shrugged. "Well, I just fixed the sink again," The man said, getting a short interruption from Dipper via groan. "Though Mr. Pines didn't tell me what to do afterwards so..." Soos trailed off.

Dipper rolled his eyes. "Sounds like Grunkle Stan."

"What about you, dude? Heard you got grounded or something..." Soos gave Dipper a suspicious and disappointed look, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

Dipper groaned once more, eyes darting to the floor briefly. For whatever reason, the thought of Soos actually being disappointed at him put a sour taste in his mouth. Scratching the back of his neck nervously, Dipper relayed on the...cut version of what actually happened, gut twisting a bit at the lie.

When his short story was done, Soos simply stared down at Dipper with surprised, crestfallen eyes. "That's not cool, dude," He finally said. "Not cool at all."

Dipper sighed and placed his head against the broom, the sick feeling in his gut burning stronger. "I know. And I've learned my lesson. Won't happen again."

Soos nodded. "It's okay to mess up once in awhile, just make sure you learn from your mistakes, dude. Just remember, everyone makes mistakes. Even the President!"

Dipper blinked at Soos's strangely wise comment, but gave the man-child a wide and grateful grin nonetheless. "Thanks, man."

"So, why did you take the journal in the first place? You didn't go into the woods, did you?"

Dipper shook his head sharply. "No! Of course not! It's just...I wanted to know more about the forest and what lives in it...you know?"

Soos gave the young brunet an easy smile. "Hey, it's fine. If you want to know stuff about the woods, there are plenty of people to talk to."

"Well, I don't know..." Dipper trailed off, scuffing his shoe against the floor, eyes darting to either side. "Mabel's more...social than I am."

Soos clapped a heavy hand on Dipper's shoulder, giving it a light and reassuring squeeze. "Hey, don't worry about it, dude. After your grounding, you can go to the library and get plenty of books about the forest!"

Dipper bit his tongue at the irony.

"Well...I actually wanted to know more about the legends."

"Like kid stories?"

Dipper felt his face heat up a bit. "Yeah."

Soos's eyes flashed with a bright, excited look as his easy smile grew into a larger grin. "Well, why didn't you say so, dude? My Abuelita knows all about those stories! She used to tell them to me when I was a kid."

Dipper beamed at his friend, heart light and mind already whirling at the possibilities. "What? Really? Can- can I, you know..."

Soos laughed, "Sure you can talk to her! She'd love you! I can take you over there today if you want. When are you getting off your shift?"

Dipper gave his broom a sly look before leaning it against the wall. "Right now. Stan didn't tell me what to do when I was done sweeping."

Soos started for the door. "Awesome! Where's Mabel? I bet she'd like to come too!"

Dipper shrugged in response, already a step behind the larger man. "Hanging out with her friends, I think."

"Oh, okay then. Think we should go pick her up?"

"Nah. She's not into stuff like this," Dipper responded.

"Hey, where are you two going?" Wendy called out as the two reached the door.

Blushing faintly, Dipper waved back. "Just going over to Soos's place to, uh, hang out!"

"I thought you wanted my Abuelita to tell you children stories about the forest?"

Dipper blushed harder as Wendy cocked an eyebrow at him. "Ah, yeah...uh, bye Wendy!"

Grabbing Soos's arm, the young brunet slammed the door open and hurriedly dashed down the steps.

"L-let's go!" Dipper stuttered, already past the point of berating the older man on embarrassing him in front of Wendy.

The drive didn't take long. Though the Mystery Shack was at the edge of the treeline at the edge of town, Gravity Falls was a decently small place. Not tiny by any means, but not large either. Just a simple town in a simple place with an impossibly complicated and hidden history.

The two friends chatted amiably as Soos drove, soft rock playing in the background quietly. The two talked about anything and everything that came up, from work to school to even the weather.

Finally, Soos pulled up to his house. It was a rickety old thing, shingles dropping off and wood old and split in some places, but even from the outside had a certain motherly- or grandmotherly, in this case- charm.

Climbing out of Soos's truck, Dipper tripped over his own ankle, falling onto the harsh and hot ground in a heap.

"Ow!" He cried out, nursing a small, bloody gash on his knee.

"Dude, are you okay?" Soos called out, worry clear in his tone.

"M'fine," Dipper said, slowly standing back up. Reaching down, he brushed dirt away from the wound. He'd have to disinfect it as soon as he could. Wincing a bit at the pain, along with the gross feel of blood dribbling down his leg, Dipper limped over to a waiting Soos, showing him his leg.

"Ah, man, dude! That looks like it hurts! I'm sure we have some band aids though."

I think this will take a lot more than band aids. Dipper thought. However, all he did was nod.

Soos lead him up to the house, goofy smile all the way. Dipper was struck by the surprise that after all these years, he had never actually seen Soos's house.

It was strange, but not unheard of. After all, Soos practically lived at the shack.

That anxious thought gave way to more. Did Soos have a bad home life? An abusive relative?

Soos threw open his door. "Abuelita! I'm home!" He cried.

Dipper blinked as he was ushered in by a grinning Soos. Standing in the foyer, Dipper did a quick take on his surroundings. The home was small. From the entrance alone he could see the living room, kitchen, and bathroom. Plaster was peeling off of old, yellowed walls and the scent of old sugar mixed with the stench of mothballs. Crosses were hanging crookedly on the wall to his right while the wall on his left held a picture of a younger Soos, beaming brightly into the camera, holding an ice cream cone.

"Ah, Soos! Welcome home sweetie," An older, slightly accented voice called out from the living room.

Dipper gulped thickly, nervous in the prospect of meeting another person. He could already feel sweat pool in the palms of his hands. Nervously, he flattened his bangs, hoping his birthmark was properly covered.

Soos lead him deeper into the house. Anxious, Dipper stared at the walls, taking in the many different photos of Soos before letting his eyes flicker to the abnormally clean floor.

"Hey Abuelita! This is my friend Dipper Pines! The one I'm always telling you about," Soos said, taking a seat in the nearby couch.

Dipper looked up at Soos's grandmother. Like her grandson, she was a bit on the portly side with giant corkscrew curls of gray hair. Wrinkles lined her soft face and her brown eyes, though weighed down by age, were still bright. She gave him a welcoming smile, causing Dipper to relax slightly in her presence.

"Hello, Dipper Pines," She greeted, her voice cracking with age, but still warm. "How ar- oh, you're bleeding! Soos, go get the first aid kit," She cried.

Soos saluted her, standing up straight. "Yes ma'am!" He barked before leaving.

Soos's Abuelita beckoned him to sit on the nearby couch.

Dipper complied.

"Just sit your leg up on that coffee table. Don't want your socks to get stained."

Dipper glanced down at his white socks, already speckled with his cherry-red blood. "Okay," He murmured shyly, doing as she ordered. He couldn't stop himself from shifting every few seconds, ants crawling through his veins. He could not sit still.

As soon as Dipper placed his leg onto the table, Soos charged right back in, white kit in hand, and gave it to his grandmother with a smile.

"Here you go," He said proudly, taking a seat next to Dipper.

Soos's Abuelita thanked him before cracking the kit open, taking out a small spray bottle of disinfectant and a roll of bandages.

"Could you go get me a wet rag?" She asked Soos.

Like before, the man-child hopped up, saluted her, and ran off to get the needed item.

She chuckled in response.

"Soos is such a good boy," She started, unwrapping the bandages some and making sure there was still disinfectant in the bottle. "I'm grateful to have such a good child."

Dipper blinked in response.

Soos walked back in with the wet rag and handed it over, taking a seat next to Dipper as he did so.

Wet rag in hand, Soos's Abuelita went straight to work, dabbing the blood off Dipper's leg and wiping away the excess dirt he hadn't brushed off before. After a few more experimental dabs around the wound itself, the older woman switched it out with the disinfectant, which she promptly sprayed right into the scrape.

Dipper let out a hiss as pain splintered through his leg, a terrible burning sensation of chemicals.

"I'm afraid I've never been to good with magic, or I would have used that instead. Are you okay?" She asked.

Dipper gave her a tight nod. "Yeah," He squeaked out.

Soos gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder.

After making sure the wound was clean, the older woman picked up the bandages and started winding it around his knee, over and over again. The material was surprisingly soft and comfortable and she made sure not to wrap it too tight or too loose. Once Soos's Abuelita was satisfied with her work, she cut and tied it off, a small smile playing on her chapped lips.

"There we go. Done. Want a lollipop?" She pulled out a red sucker from the first-aid kit.

Not wanting to turn her hospitality away, Dipper accepted the treat and stuck it in his mouth, wincing at the stale cherry flavor.

"So Abuelita, Dipper here wanted to ask you about the stories of the forest," Soos told her.

Dipper flashed him a grateful look.

The older woman gave Dipper a warm, nonjudgmental look. "And what stories would you like to hear? Soos always loved the ones about goblins..."

Dipper took his leg off the coffee table and leaned onto one of the arm rests. "Actually, I, uh, heard that an actual god or something lived in there..." He trailed off, uncertain, hand rubbing the back of his neck absentmindedly.

The woman leaned back, a small frown on her face. "You want to hear the story of the Nightmare King?"

Dipper choked on his sucker trying to hold back his chuckle. Nightmare King? Bill the Nightmare King? It was such a stupid title.

Quickly schooling his features before she could notice his amusement, Dipper gave her a terse nod.

The woman turned to Soos suddenly. "Soos, how about you go clean up your room while I tell Mr. Pines here the story?"

Soos's originally elated face fell into disappointment, but he did as she said, giving Dipper a half-hearted goodbye before bumbling away.

The young brunet turned and gave the older woman a questioning look.

Soos's Abuelita stared at him with tired eyes. "Soos would get scared of a story like this and with him working so many jobs, he needs a good's night rest."

"Is that why he's never h-" Dipper blushed, catching himself from asking such a personal question. "Oh my gods I'm so sorry! You don't have to, um, answer that I didn't mea-"

She cut off his ramblings with a wave of her hand. "No, no. It's fine, dear. Soos works three jobs right now. He's such a good boy."

Dipper blinked and flushed a bit more, recalling his earlier thoughts. How could he ever think this woman could be abusive? No wonder Soos was everywhere in town.

He was trying to support his grandmother.

"Oh." Was all he could say.

The older woman gave him a calming and easy smile. "Would you like to hear the story now?"

Dipper gave her a grateful grin and settled himself down into a more comfortable position. "Yes please!"

"A long time ago, there lived a terrible god," She started. "One that was corrupt and evil, who held no regard to human life. Every year he would terrorize the people of the country-side with terrible nightmares. Most didn't- couldn't wake up from their terrors and would be stuck in their coma of fright until they passed away. The unlucky ones did indeed wake, however."

A shiver raced down Dipper's spine. Remember, it's only a tall tale. He reminded himself, recalling how Bill's fingers felt when they had run through his hair. Dipper quickly put his face into both hands, effectively hiding his slight blush.

She continued on, "When the unlucky ones woke up, they weren't the same, just shells of their former selves. Some went mad, hurting themselves or loved ones. The ones that didn't couldn't live with what they had done, and killed themselves. This went on for many years, the Nightmare King reveling in the power he had until a brave man stepped forth."

Dipper was leaning on the edge of his seat, eyes wide.

"The brave man was tired. His brother had fallen to the nightmares, along with his close friends. With no one left but himself, he swore revenge on the Nightmare King."

She flashed the enraptured Dipper a small, sad smile before continuing.

"He journeyed into the Nightmare King's realm, located deep in the forest in a place so dark and depraved, not even color could shine. However, the Nightmare King's land was a wicked one and heavily protected. One had to survive every single fear they had to get inside."

"However, without friends or family, the brave man had no fears. All of them had died in the wake of his grief. Unchallenged, he strode forward easily and unstopped, right up to the Nightmare King."

"What did he do?" Dipper gasped at her pause, mouth wide open.

She continued on, as if he hadn't spoke. "The Nightmare King was aghast that someone could walk in so easily and demanded who they were and why they had come. The brave man wasn't frightened in even the Nightmare King's presence. No, he was angry and answered him- That he was there to not only enact revenge, but to stop him once and for all."

Dipper's eyes shined.

"The Nightmare King laughed a terrible laugh, throwing his head back to make fun of the mortal who had the gall to stride in a make threats. So busy with his laughter and hilarity, he didn't see the man draw out a holy sword, engraved with all the blessings of the fallen. Not making a sound, the brave man jumped up and slit the Nightmare King's throat."

"Did he die?" Dipper asked.

She shook her head slowly and continued, "No. The Nightmare King collapsed as his neck bled gold ichor- blood of the gods. The Nightmare King was a terrible being. So terrible, that not even gods themselves recognized him as their own. Yet, that meant nothing. He was still a god and thus, could not be killed by a mere mortal."

Soos's Abuelita eyes hardened.

"But, they could be trapped and drained. With the god weakened, the brave man was able to take both him and the Nightmare King out of his evil realm of terror, bringing them back to the world of color. There, he sealed the god into the realms of the forest, a place where he could never leave. Unable to get back to his home and severely wounded, the Nightmare King turned what was leftover of his powers to the brave man, slaughtering him on the spot."

Dipper's mouth dropped open fully, eyes blown wide. He didn't think that the hero would-would...well, die.

"Despite the man's death, the barriers held. The man had bled his selfless blood onto the ground, filled with his eternal love for his family and all things good, his eternal hate for the Nightmare King, and everything he stood for. Unable to leave and cut off from his powers, the Nightmare King faded away into a husk of his former glory, only able to feed off of those who wander into the woods in hope of one day collecting enough energy to break free and wreak havoc once again."

Dipper was speechless. Absolutely speechless.

The ghost touch of Bill's hands ran over his skin, warming it up and causing goosebumps to rise.

It's just a story. Obviously not true.

All stories had a nugget of truth in them. Where was the truth here?

The older woman gave him a worried look. "Are you okay, dear? Did I scare you?"

Dipper quickly shook himself out of his stupor and gave her the best smile he could. "No, no! I'm fine! Really. So, that's it? That was...depressing."

She gave a small, weak laugh, "So it was. But no, there is a different, but similar story as well. Do you want to hear it?"

Dipper nodded quickly, "Yes, please!"

"Well, this one is very similar, but there are some key differences." The older woman cleared her throat and began.

"Once upon a time, deep in the country, lived a selfish and greedy god. This god wanted nothing more than worship and rule over the innocent people of the town. Sweeping in, he easily took the town, without a thought. However, he was a terrible lord. One that did not care for human life. He tortured his subjects with cruel nightmares. If the poor victims woke up from his abuse, they were never the same, either going completely mad or simply killing themselves to stop their pain."

Dipper shuddered.

"This evil went on for many years until three brave brothers stepped forward, ready to take down the evil, godly tyrant. However, they couldn't do it alone. A being appeared before them, another god, who promised power to the three as long as they swore to take down their tyrant, The Night Terror."

"At least he has a better name now," Dipper muttered thoughtfully.

The older woman shot him a slightly confused glance before continuing, "The new god blessed each of them with a certain power. To the oldest, he gifted strength, to be able to do what needed to be done. To the middle child, he gifted willpower, an inner fire that would never fizzle out. Lastly, to the youngest he gifted intelligence to be able to see what would otherwise be hidden. Ready to take on The Night Terror with their gifts, the three brothers made their way into his palace to confront him, taking out every guard that got in their way. Though the were very tired by the time they got to the throne room, they were more than ready."

"The god was waiting for them. The good god from before had, in fact, betrayed them to The Night Terror in a promise for power."

Dipper scowled, "What a jerk."

The older woman smiled slightly at his comment before continuing.

"However, despite the warning, the three were ready. The first brother fought bravely with the god and with help from the youngest brother, was able to trip and trick The Night Terror and pin him in place. Weakened and humiliated, the middle brother strode forward and using his knowledge of the magical arts, was able to bind the god to the forest, trapping him eternally."

"The god was enraged by their actions and that anger lead to strength. He threw the first brother off him and continued to fight for revenge. Though the three brothers were able to hold their ground longer than any other mortal should ever be capable of, each did eventually fall. First was the older brother, who had strength but not smarts. With a few dirty tricks here and there, he promptly fell. Next was the middle brother, who had the willpower to stand, but not strength. He fell next, heart ripped out from his chest."

Dipper stared at her in horror.

"The last brother, alone and doomed, had intelligence, but not the willpower to continue or even to try and get away. Drawing his own sword, he slit his own stomach open and died. Despite the death of the three brothers, The Night Terror was still trapped. Unable to draw power from the nightmares he corrupted his subjects with, his entire empire fell. Just a husk of his former glory, The Night Terror still lingers in the woods, killing anyone he comes across to take their life energy so that one day, he can break free."

Dipper was speechless once more. He didn't know which story was worse. Both ended in tragedy and decay. It sickened him.

The nugget of truth...

Well, both stories ended with not only the hero, or heroes, dead, but...well...Bill trapped in the forest and wanting to get out.

However, there were a lot of things living in the forest, many of them dangerous. Plus, Bill hadn't ever really...hurt him.

Annoy him? Yes.

Embarrass him? Yes.

Got way too close? Yes.

Dipper remembered how the god held him like a child. Like something that needed to be protected.

An image swam to the forefront of his mind.

How lonely Bill looked, golden eyes slightly dimmed, looking far away, reminiscing. How that normally morbidly cheerful grin would simply drop.

Not in a frown and not normal for the god either.

Dipper glanced down at his watch, eyes bulging when he read the time. He was going to be late!

"Thank you so much for sharing those stories! I, um, I have to go now. It's getting quite late."

"Oh, it's no problem. But please keep these stories away from Soos. Don't want him to get nightmares, after all."

Dipper gave her a small nod. "Will do."

Getting up, the young boy once again thanked her, making his way to the front door while denying the need for a car. He was late as it is and he already had his notebook and pen on him. That's all he really needed anyways, really.

Finally squirming away from Soos's Abuelita, he gave the street a quick glance back and forth. Making sure no one was watching him, he sprinted straight into the forest.

Hopefully, Bill won't be too annoyed.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Bill could feel when Pine Tree entered the forest. Magic buzzed around the intruder, weaker than before, but still prominent.

His annoyance, his ire bubbled inside him. Sparks of blue flame crackled along his skin, recently fed but still hungry.

Pine Tree wasn't only late, but at the wrong entrance.

Bill growled lowly. Looks like the little tree needed to be taught a lesson.

Bill blipped away.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper bit his lip nervously, blood pounding in his veins. He was not only late, but at the wrong entrance as well.

Bill still hadn't showed up.

Dipper padded into the forest, eyes darting around. Without his backpack, he felt especially vulnerable.

The young boy had already walked a good deal, unable to see civilization behind him. The forest air buzzed around him, oppressing. Dipper's heart twisted in guilt while his gut knotted in fear.

Slowing down to a stop, Dipper stared ahead blankly, feeling the filtered light fall across his face in warm patterns that did not match the cold feeling pulsating through him. His breathing grew heavier, ragged as time crawled on. His knees trembled, pain blossoming in one. Sweat perspired on the back of his neck and his palms, chilling him even further.

There was a flash out if the corner of his eye. Of something blue. Bright.

Angry.

Dipper whipped around, looking like a deer trapped in headlights. The air around him grew heavier, pressing in on him from all sides, it's hot embrace doing nothing for his frigid skin. The young boy's bottom lip quivered and his breathing became frantic and shallow.

"Well, well, well. Someone's late," A cheery but tight voice noted, echoing slightly in the dead silence.

Bill strolled out from behind a tree, back ramrod straight. Blue flames seemed to flicker on his skin, noticeably brighter than before. The gold in his hair had actually changed, becoming more red with anger. His one visible eye was completely black with a single red pupil, a soulless black void that held little regard for anything, thin red slit like the gateway to Hell.

Dipper didn't even realize he had been backing up slowly until he collided with a tree. Shivering more than ever now, the young boy cowered slightly under the god, unsure if what to do.

Easily angered.

What damning words. Why hadn't he taken them to heart?

His small, dry pink tongue darted out to lick his chapped lips. Finding some semblance of breath in his lungs, he gasped out, "I'm so so so sorry! I-I lost t-track of time a-and wasn't n-near the Mystery Sha-Shack." His voice shook and he cowered down even further.

Before he could blink, Bill was before him, that single, terrifying eye holding his biggest fears. The god towered above him, larger than life. Larger than the universe.

Dipper didn't know he was on the ground until he stopped slipping. Since when had he even started?

The god's legs were either side of him, effectively cutting off any chance to escape. Bill crouched down, still taller than him.

At this point, Dipper could feel the sparks of flame, hot and bothered, on the god's skin. Before, the fire was warm and inviting, wrapping him up like a blanket. Now, all the flames promised was pain.

Curling in on himself, Dipper tried to hide his eyes under his hair, only for Bill to grab his chin and make him look upwards at him.

Dipper felt a few terrified tears bubble in his ducts, not spilling over yet.

"Really, now? And why were you not at the- what was it you called it? Mystery Shack?" Bill's voice was smooth and deadly.

"I- I was at a friend's house," Dipper stuttered. Unable to turn away from that blackened eye, Dipper blinked fast and hard.

Now tears were definitely leaking out of his eyes, hot and salty down the contours of his face, wetting Bill's glove as they dropped onto his hand.

Bill pulled away from Dipper slightly, removing his hand. He sat back on his haunches, still pinning him in place, but not nearly as overbearing as before.

"Really now?" He repeated.

Dipper nodded quickly, hair flaring out at the force of his nods. "Yes! Yes! Really, I'm really, really sorry! It won't happen again!"

This time, Bill visibly relaxed, tenseness draining from his slim form, hair once more shining bright gold. His eye slowly faded back to a more normal color, still darker than usual but nowhere near as terrifying as what is had been before.

"Make sure it doesn't," Bill said stiffly before grabbing Dipper's upper arms and yanking him upwards.

Still trembling from what just happened, Dipper stared upwards at Bill with wet eyes, sniffling slightly. "I will," He responded solemnly.

Bill stared down at the kid, his toes curling in his shoes at the expression the boy had on his face. Pine Tree's smiling, bright face was cute and precious for sure, an oddity he'd never seen before. However, seeing the child fearful of him, seeing him cower before him was beauty in and of itself. With the child staring up at him with such wet, soulful eyes, Bill was taken aback by the expression. It was one of sadness and lingering fright, but also guilt.

Pine Tree was feeling guilty for letting him down. How...strange. Interesting.

He really was a weird kid.

Bill flashed a smile down at the child, letting his sharp teeth glint in the light. He buried a hand into Dipper's hair, the strands weaving between his fingers.

As always, the child's hair was surprisingly soft.

"Good," Bill removed his hand and took a few steps back, "Now, shall we go?"

Dipper stared as Bill took a few steps back from him, gifting him more personal space. Still feeling a bit bad for letting the god down, Dipper gave Bill a small smile before wiping his eyes away and stepping up to Bill's side to join him.

"Yeah. Where are we going to go?" He asked, eyes slowly gaining that bright and odd light.

"Oh, you'll love this place, Pine Tree!" Bill said while summoning a black cane to twirl around, hitting the trees as he started walking.

Dipper ran to catch up, the god's legs much longer than his own.

"Oh, what's it like?" Dipper questioned, pulling at the bottom of his shirt in excitement.

"Why, you'll just have to wait and see! It's a surprise, after all."

Dipper groaned through an excited grin. "And we have to walk there?"

"Yup! Walking's good for you!" Bill chirped.

Dipper rolled his eyes, "So, uh, Bill?"

The god cocked an eyebrow at Dipper's shy, questioning tone. "What?"

"Um, what do you do when I'm not here?"

Many things flashed through Bill Cipher's mind, but he spoke none of it. The kid didn't need to know, after all.

"Oh, this and that," He started, voice laced with boredom. "Wander around. Torture some animals. Once in awhile have a conversation with one of the more, ah, smarter denizens that live here."

"And that's all?"

"Well, what else is there to do?"

Without even actively realizing it, Dipper grabbed Bill's hand and gave it a small squeeze, turning his sympathetic brown eyes up to the god's singular gold one.

"That sounds so boring!" He cried out.

Bill shrugged, "Yeah but it's not like I have a choice."

"That's- that is..." Dipper fell quiet, blushing a little, "Listen, tomorrow is Saturday. I'll come in the early morning and- and we can hang for the entire day. Is- is that okay?"

Bill gave beamed down at the child and squeezed his hand back, lightly swinging it back and forth, "That would be great!"

Dipper giggled at Bill's enthusiasm, his guilt melting away, being replaced by giddy joy.

The two started to head down a deep slope. For once, the trees didn't block the startling blue sky, letting the color be seen stretched out in all directions. The sun sat heavily in it's nest above, cradled carefully against the firmament like a child, burning bright.

As the slope downwards got steeper, Dipper became more aware of exactly how many rocks and roots were on the forest floor and exactly how clumsy he could be.

Dipper tightening his grip on Bill's hand, "Um, B-Bill? I think I'm going to fall!" He cried out, stumbling a bit against the blond's side.

Bill quickly snaked a long arm around his shoulders, steadying him easily. "You're fine," He said dismissively.

Dipper winced at the weight of Bill's arm, his wounded knee throbbing under the accidental pressure the god put it under.

"Um, could you, uh, not put so much weight on my shoulders? My knee is throbbing."

Bill looked down at the young brunet inquisitively. "Throbbing? But I didn't hurt you today."

Dipper decided to ignore the end of that sentence.

"No, I fell before I came here and hurt myself. Wait a minute! Couldn't you-"

"Nope!" Bill interrupted, popping the P cheerfully.

"What? Why?" Dipper responded.

"I said I'll protect you from harm in the forest, kid. Not outside."

Dipper scowled, "You jerk."

Bill laughed.

Finally, the ground evened out into a flat plain leading right into another tree line.

Bill let go of his hand slowly and strode forward. "Well! Here we are," He said, punctuating his sentence with a clap of his hands. Stepping past a darkened pine tree with needles slightly darker than most, the god glanced behind himself and motioned for Dipper to follow, gleaming white smile obvious in the low light.

Blinking, Dipper followed the god deeper into the forest, past a few trees, right into...

A grove. A grove was the best word to describe what he was looking at. Pine trees towered high above, high and dark, blotting out all sunlight besides the beam that fell on the massive crystal before him, splintering the light into a beautiful hot pink and cyan. Large mushrooms peppered at area as well, red with white splotches, giving the entire place a fantastical, mystical feel. More, smaller crystals poked out of the ground underfoot, shimmering in the low light.

"Wow. This place is amazing!" Dipper cried out, stepping fully into the grove.

Bill smirked at him, "That's not all." The god pointed forward at the large crystal in the center, "Watch."

Dipper examined the crystal a bit more, not exactly seeing what Bill was pointing at until a bird flew through the cyan light.

Dipper fell backwards in shock as the little creature grew into a massive beast, it's black wings beating powerfully against the trees as it tore through the vegetation, taking off into the wide blue skies above.

"Whoa! So cool!"

Bill laughed at the excited expression in Dipper's face. His happiness was an oddity, his fear a delicacy, and his excitement a strange mixture of the two.

Though Bill would never admit it out loud, or even to himself as a thought, he knew that that look of discovery, of wonder was probably his favorite expression Dipper made.

A giant butterfly fluttered around the edges of the grove before sweeping forward, right into the hot pink light. The insect shrunk quickly back to it's normal size, fluttering away afterwards.

Dipper slowly stepped forward, careful not to step into the size-altering light. Sitting right before the crystal, Dipper cranked his head upwards to stare at it, enraptured by it's magical beauty. "Thank you, Bill," The boy whispered.

Bill loped up and sat down behind the young brunet, stretching out his long legs on either side of his body. "No problem Pine Tree."

Dipper took his notebook out from his pocket, along with his trusty pen. Leaning slightly against Bill's chest absentmindedly, Dipper balanced his notes on his lap, opening to a new page and titling it The Crystal Grove. The boy went to quick work roughly and terribly sketching out a few mushrooms and the crystal before them, starting on his paragraphs of description.

Bill watched the brunet write over his shoulder, grinning in amusement as he did so.

Bill took me to a strange and magical grove somewhere in the forest, down a slope, where the pine trees are a bit darker than usual. Inside there is-

Bill's amusement grew as Pine Tree not only described the grove and it's properties, but how the god had lead him to it and the possibilities the grove could present him.

What an explorer and inventor the little tree was.

Bill leaned back on his hands, drawing in his legs slightly without the brunet's notice, drawing the boy closer.

Dipper rubbed his wrist a little after he finished the page, smiling down proudly at the work he did.

Reaching out, Dipper quickly pulled up a few strands of grass and tucked them into the page before putting both notebook and pen away, giving himself a mental reminder to tape them in later.

Not realizing how close Bill's legs were, Dipper tried to stand up only to trip and fall forewords, hitting his head on the massive crystal.

"Ow!" He shouted as pain shook his head, scrambling his mind. Sitting up on his hands and knees, Dipper lightly touched where his head collided with the crystal.

Hissing at the large bump already forming, Dipper quickly made sure the crystal in front of him was okay, relieved that it hadn't cracked or broke.

"Good, I didn't break it," He sighed under his breath.

Behind him, Bill sat up, crossing his legs fully, "Geeze, kid. How clumsy can you get?"

Dipper twisted his body, sitting back down to face Bill. "It's your fault! You tripped me up!"

Bill rolled his eyes, small chuckles escaping his lips. After all, Pine Tree was worried more about an inanimate object than himself.

He really was a weird human being, wasn't he?

Dipper sighed once more at Bill's amused expression.

Figures. He thought.

"Just heal me," Dipper groaned.

Bill started humming what sounded like Pour Some Salt On Me as he snapped his fingers.

Flames licked up and down his body, bright and blue, consuming him easily. They comforted him, easing tension in his muscle as they collected around his head, reversing the swelling. As soon as Bill finished the old song, the fire disappeared, leaving him a bit colder than what he would admit.

Dipper slowly stood up, feeling better than ever.

"Thanks."

Bill shrugged, "All part of the deal." The god glanced up at the darkening sky. "Don't you usually leave by now?" Though Bill's voice stayed light, there was a clear, bitter undertone.

"Oh, yeah! I'm going to be late! Think you could, um, get me back to where I normally meet up with you?"

Bill smirked, "Sure. What will you give me for it?"

Dipper blinked. "Another...hug...?" He said eventually, flushing furiously.

Bill stood up and opened his arms. "Very well," He grinned.

Before Dipper stepped into the god's awaiting arms, he quickly bent down and plucked a crystal out of the ground, a small one, and slipped it into his pocket. Padding forward, Dipper carefully leaned in, wrapping his arms around the taller being's waist, burying his head in Bill's center.

Bill's arms fell around him easily, hot fingers trailing along his sides, sending strange, unexplainable shivers up his sides.

Once more, they were gone in a flash of blue.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper carefully tapped the grass into the notebook, noting it's darker color compared to most of the forest. Slipping the crystal he had taken out as well, Dipper took time to briefly admire its wondrous shine before bending down and tucking it inside the loose floorboard.

Relaxing in his chair, Dipper glanced at the empty bed across the room. Dipper loved his sister dearly, more than anything in the world, but sometimes it was nice to have some time to himself.

Plus, he was glad Mabel had found such good friends. Besides, better a crazy sleepover at Grenda's than here in his opinion.

Twitching, Dipper bent over to scratch at the bandage wrapped around his knee. Noting how dirty it had gotten during the day, Dipper slipped out of his room and down the hallway, into the bathroom. Pulling out more bandages, he carefully unwrapped himself.

Dry, disgusting smelling blood coated the inside of his bandage, but the wound was completely gone.

Like he never got cut in the first place.

Blue flames came to mind.

Dipper blinked in surprise before blushing, moving to put everything back.

Who cares about old stories meant to scare children? He's seen the truth and in the wake of that, no urban legends could stand.

After all, old stories are always exaggerated anyways.

~~0~~0~~0~~

GLSSHU PDNHV EDG GHFLVLRQV

Chapter Text

Dipper glanced down the hallway, making sure he was alone before scurrying back into the kitchen.

Grabbing the peanut butter and bread, the young boy checked behind himself every few minutes as he made some simple sandwiches. If he was going to be gone most the day, he'd need a good lunch, a few snacks, and plenty of water. It wouldn't do him any good to run out of energy while out.

After making three sandwiches and packing them into his bag, Dipper grabbed some dried fruit lying about, something that Mabel had been able to talk Stan into getting somehow. With it went three unopened water bottles.

After triple checking he had everything, Dipper ripped a piece of paper out of his notebook and took out his pen. Leaning over the kitchen table, he worried his bottom lip, wondering what he could possibly write.

After all, he was ditching work on a Saturday, one of the busiest days of the week.

Dipper groaned to himself. He was making bad decisions all over the place, it seemed.

Finally, he scribbled a lie onto the paper, something about town history and school and how he would be gone all day and to not come looking for him for any reason because he was very, very busy in town, but still not at the library because he was still grounded and-

Though not entirely happy with his note, Dipper stuck it up on the fridge nevertheless.

Slipping his backpack over his shoulders, Dipper crept to the door, careful to not step on the creaky floorboards, wincing at every new step.

Reaching the door, Dipper took another cautionary look around him.

The shop was still and silent. Soos's truck was nowhere to be seen. Mabel was still out at Grenda's, leaving him free of early-rising screaming sisters.

The thought brought a smile to his face.

Sighing silently at his good fortune, Dipper cracked the door open just wide enough for him to wriggle through, flinching when it groaned loudly.

Eyes darting about once again, Dipper hurried on through, shutting it as best he could behind himself before breaking into a mad dash across the lawn. His backpack thumped heavily against him as he moved, feet smacking loudly against the hard, dry ground. The young brunet didn't stop until he was safely in the tree line. Slowing down to a stop, Dipper bent over to grab his knees, panting as he tried to catch his breath.

A few familiar fingers weaved through his hair soothingly as a pair of familiar black and gold dress shoes came into view.

Dipper quickly straightened himself to stare up at the god, smiling.

"Hey Bill!" He greeted.

"Heya Pine Tree! Wendigo caught your breath?"

Dipper let out a dry laugh between breaths. "That again?" He asked rhetorically.

Bill grinned in response and tugged his wrist to follow.

Dipper fell into step easily with the god. It was hard to believe it had a week since he'd met Bill. It felt so much longer than that. He had a strange, but in its own way, charming personality. He smiled easily and despite the teasing, never went out of his way to actually hurt his feelings.

Dipper's heart pounded in his chest, a phenomenon that had nothing to do with the fact that he just sprinted.

"So what are we going to do today?" The young brunet asked, his shoulder brushing easily with the god's arm.

Bill snickered at his enthusiasm. "Well, there's going to be a pixie migration happening pretty soon in-" Bill summoned his cane and pointed it straight ahead, "-the direction we're walking in. You ready to write, kid?"

Dipper beamed. "You're kidding!" He cried out, already yanking out his journal and pen.

"Nope!" Bill chirped.

Dipper's eyes shined. "That's amazing. Let's go, let's go!" He chanted.

Bill laughed loudly, amused by Dipper's infectious enthusiasm.

The two quickened their pace, Dipper chatting a mile a minute of how excited he was to see some more creatures and Bill simply watching all the different, innocent emotions that crossed the boy's face.

After a few more minutes of their quick pace, Bill held out his cane to force Dipper to stop. The boy looked up at him with liquid, mocha eyes.

Bill lowered his voice to a whisper, "We're here. Get your pen and paper ready and don't make a sound."

The brunet gave a terse nod before scrambling to get everything he needed, clicking his pen open and making sure the paper wouldn't shuffle too much. Prepared, he gave Bill a thumbs up.

Bill smiled and nodded. Motioning for the young boy to crouch down, the two crept through the undergrowth, careful not to crunch leaves or snap twigs.

Bill lead him to a bush partially behind the tree. Dipper crouched down, Bill next to him, and peered around the tree, between sharp, green leaves.

Before them was a quite possibly the widest tree Dipper had ever seen, easily over ten feet in diameter, though also very short. Thick, knotted branches protruded from the top, winding upwards and tapering into thin claws. The bark was a deep auburn that seemed to shift in the sunlight, sparkling slightly. Even from where he was hiding, Dipper could feel the pressure of magic in the air, thick and sleepy. The taste stuck itself onto his tongue, overly sweet in a fruity kinda way.

Dipper watched the tree, unblinking, a comical grin stretched out across his face.

The silence in the air was cracked by the sound of bark being ripped open. One of the knots on the tree tore wide from sharpened nails.

Dipper's mouth fell open.

The being that crawled out of its hole was undoubtedly a pixie. It had a pointed, yet flat face with deep brown skin stretched over its thin, bony frame. Black, beady eyes were set deep in the creature's skull. Its nose was more of a snout, flat and lifeless with thin black lips that wrapped all the way around it's bottom jaw. Thick tendrils of greasy hair hung from its head, brown and clearly not brushed and unwashed. The pixie also sported no eyebrows whatsoever, giving it a creepy, uncanny look.

The pixie floated there, fly-like wings beating fast and wet against the air. It carefully stretched itself out from it's night of sleep, arms and legs going taunt.

Dipper's eyes focused on its sharp yellowed nails. Though no thicker than a needle, the young brunet could tell they were as sharp as knives.

After the pixie fixed its loincloth that helpfully covered its nether regions, it turned its beady eyes over to the area around it, spotting for predators.

Dipper stiffened as he made brief eye contact with the creature, its black eyes dull like an animal's, no spark of intelligence whatsoever.

It was uncanny.

The creatures eyes moved on, not catching his own mocha ones within the leaves.

Once the pixie was satisfied with its once-over of the area, it turned around, wings audibly buzzing with every beat, and let out possibly the most horrid sound Dipper ever heard.

It was high pitched and screechy, completely inhuman, like sharp nails scraping against glass. It rang through the air, cutting the pressure like a knife through butter. The sound echoed inside Dipper's ears, causing them to ring painfully. His head started thumping lightly with a small headache, pulsating right in the middle of his forehead.

Wincing, Dipper slapped his hands over his ears as quietly as he could, narrowing his eyes and furrowing his brow to try and block out the pain.

Luckily for him, the pixie soon stopped its screeching and fell still and mostly quiet.

Carefully, Dipper removed his hands from his ears. Though his brief headache was already fading away, the same could not be said for his still ringing ears.

A small tap on the shoulder reminded Dipper what he was doing and in a flash the young boy was back to staring intently at what was going on before him.

The sound of bark tearing vibrated in the wake of that terrible screeching howl, the knots on the tree cracking open like eggs to allow more pixies to come out. Small chirping sounds reverberated around them as the pixies communicated with one another, though about what Dipper didn't know. Pixies were only a little smarter than a common house cat; a fact that he had read in a book one time.

Soon, more frantic wing beats thumped as the chirping got louder. Dipper widened his eyes as some pixies started to twirl and dance around one another, happily kicking out with small feet. Others moved to clean one another with long black forked tongues, licking away at faces and chests.

Dipper made a face, but couldn't turn his eyes away.

"Hey."

The whisper behind him was quiet and filled with barely held back giggles, somehow cutting through his dampened hearing yet still not alerting the pixies to their presence.

"I have a hilarious idea."

Dipper's eyes widened in fright as Bill suddenly stood up, rusting the undergrowth around them wildly. Taking his cane, he viciously rapped it against the tree beside them, causing the pine to tremble under his strength and pine cones to fall haphazardly onto the pixies before them, pelting a few in the head and causing them to crash onto the ground, green blood flying.

"Bill!" Dipper shouted, fumbling with his journal and pen in haste to put both away.

Bill flashed him a mischievous grin, eyes alight in laughter. "Looks like we better start running, Pine Tree!" He cackled before turning and sprinting away.

"Bill! What do you-"

A symphony of sharp, angry clicks accented with furious wing-beats sliced his sentence in half. Gulping thickly, heart already hammering in his chest, Dipper slowly turned around only to be met with a very large, very angry cloud of pixies.

"Um...sorry?" Dipper choked out, taking a cautionary step back.

A twig snapped under his foot.

Whipping around, Dipper sprinted away.

The young brunet could still see the flash of gold from Bill's waving coattails way ahead of him. The god was twisting around trees and often glancing behind himself to meet Dipper's fearful and frustrated gaze before grinning like a madman and turning back around.

Dipper, tried his best to keep Bill in his sights, eyes hard. He was furious that Bill would do this in the first place and fearful of the pixies swarming behind him.

Yelping when he felt thin claws scrape against the back of his neck, Dipper forced himself to run faster, trying to catch up to the god ahead.

"B-BILL Y-YOU J-JERK!" He yelled between pants. His backpack was slamming against his lower back, causing an ache to spread through his spine, down into his hips, and up into his neck and shoulders.

Blood beaded on the back of his neck as a pixie managed to dig its claws in a little deeper.

Hopping over an exposed root, Dipper's eyes darted around as he tried to figure out how to shake the pixies off. Barreling through a bush, the young brunet hissed as sharp twigs dug and tore into open flesh, causing more of his blood to spill.

Where the heck was Bill?

Taking a sudden ninety degree turn, Dipper darted between two trees and made another sharp corner left this time. Swiveling his head around, Dipper let out a pained gasp of relief as the swarm of pixies seemingly got lost in his sudden turns.

Confident, Dipper slowed his pace down to a light jog, then even more to a normal, yet tired walk. Shoulders sagging, Dipper cursed Bill in any way he could, hoping the god ran into some poison ivy, got ran over by a werewolf, or something.

Stupid Bill. Stupid pixies. Now look at him! Lost, tired, and sweaty. Well, more sweaty than usual.

Sighing breathlessly, Dipper sat down, splaying his scratched up legs before him.

As he thought, the cuts were paper thin and shallow, but stung something terrible. Tiny streams of red leaked out in places, matting down the little hair he had and already drying into a nasty crust.

Dipper sighed and slipped his backpack off his shoulders, groaning at the pain that rang through his muscles and bones.

Running in a heavy backpack: not one of his best ideas.

Unzipping it, Dipper grabbed one of the bottles of water and twisted the lid off. Hand shaking slightly, he brought it up to dry lips and greedily guzzled the life-giving liquid down, wetting his desert mouth and esophagus.

Lowering the now half a bottle of water with a small pant, the young brunet twisted the lid back on, double checking to make sure it wouldn't leak before tucking it back into his bag.

Zipping up his backpack and swinging it back onto his shoulders, Dipper glared all around him, feeling like he was being watched.

"You're a butt, you know that?" He told the empty air, knowing that Bill was here and watching him somehow.

Standing back up, the young boy rolled his stiffening shoulders and bent over at the waist to touch his toes, popping his spine in the process. Feeling a bit better, Dipper started walking forward again, curving to the right slowly without realization.

Not paying attention to where he was going, Dipper didn't really pick up on the chirping and buzzing of wings until he saw a few small, familiar shapes dart around in his peripherals.

Dipper swung around on the spot, staring at the, smaller this time, thank the gods, pixie swarm.

He couldn't help but groan.

"Really?" He had a feeling that this was somehow Bill's fault, though he wasn't so sure how.

He broke into another run.

Already exhausted, muscles caterwauling in exertion, Dipper slowed down quicker than what he would've liked. Once more, he felt the pinprick of claws against his aching back, wing beats slapping against his skin, wet and disgusting.

The young brunet darted through trees while struggling to keep out of bushes that would certainly mar him.

His eyes rolled around, taking everything in and all his options in a surprisingly calm, yet intense, manner. Looping around a few pines set close together, he hopped over a tiny, bubbling creek, dived under a fallen pine, and then made a sharp left turn, looping back.

However, despite his desperate attempts to shake off the swarm, angry chirping could still be heard, ringing in his ears.

"Darn it," Dipper hissed between pants and clenched teeth.

He needed a new, better plan.

Circling another group of trees, he darted to the right, straight through more bushes that tore at his legs. Eyeing around wildly, the young brunet huffed out a breathless chuckle as he grabbed a low-hanging branch from a nearby tree.

Though the chirping could still be heard, even now, echoing through the pines, the swarm was nowhere to be seen.

Using the trunk as leverage, Dipper scrambled onto the bottom branch, then reached up and pulled himself higher. Adrenaline pumped through his veins, thrilling and fearful. The aches in his bones, muscles seemed to disappear along with the sharp stinging in his legs as Dipper clawed up the tree. His shoes scraped against the bark sending pieces falling to the forest floor. Small branches tugged at his shirt and vest, but did not rip.

Dipper wasn't aware how high he was climbing, or how fast until he realized that he could no longer hear the chirping. Dipper blinked blearily, glancing up to clearly see the sun burning bright in the sky, a welcoming morning if there ever was one.

Dipper let out a small scream as he dropped back down on the branch he was standing on, wrapping both arms around the trunk of the tree, staring down at the long, long fall that would certainly break every bone in his body and his lungs and heart and head and he could already hear the crunch as he-

"Pine Tree!" A familiar voice called out far below. "You're in a pine tree!" He tacked on at the end, slight shock settling into his tone.

"BILL YOU JERK!" Dipper screamed back, clenching his arms around the tree tighter. His muscles screamed at him to relax as his adrenaline started to fade away, leaving him aching, bruising, and stinging. Tears started to wet his eyes from the onslaught of distraught and pain.

"Yo-you butt," He gasped out, choking on his frightened tears a bit.

The next thing Dipper knew, the branch was sagging down due to excess weight as the god appeared behind him.

"C'mon, Pine Tree. Time to get you down," Bill called, slight amusement tilting his already grating tone.

"No!" Dipper yelled back, a rush of rage flashing through him. "You're a jerk!"

"I think we've already established that fact," Bill said dryly, creeping closer.

Dipper swiveled his head around, only to see the branch they were on sagging even more than what it felt and Bill sitting back on his haunches, looking like he was ready to fall at any given time.

"You're horrible! Why would you do that!?" Dipper shouted back, squeezing his eyes tight to not see the terrifying scene before him.

"Geeze kid, it was supposed to be a simple prank! I didn't think you'd just run off and up a tree!" Bill protested.

"Well, that was a bad prank."

"Eh, in a few days you'll be laughing about it," Bill chuckled.

Dipper wanted to flash Bill the glare that was burning behind his eyelids, but fear kept his eyes closed.

Dipper shivered. "J-just please g-get me down," He whimpered.

Actually whimpered.

The young brunet felt a pair of arms loop around his waist and the next thing he knew, calming fire was racing alongside his body, digging deep into muscles and bones, slipping inside his cuts and swirling under his skin, sending waves of warmth through his entire being. Vision blackening, Dipper leaned into the god.

Both were gone.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper blinked his eyes open, grogginess fluffing his brain ever so slightly. His face was buried into a warm and by now, familiar position. His arms were tucked in at his sides as he was pressed flush against Bill. Spluttering and still angry, Dipper shoved himself away from the god, half his mind noting his healed wounds and fatigue. The young brunet fixed the god with the best glare he could muster, lips twisted into a frown.

Bill cocked an eyebrow at the child, trying to hold in bubbling laughter. The kid was more or less staring at him with the biggest brown eyes ever. Rage dwelled in them, but it was the look of a kitten dropped into water, an indigent glare that complimented his pout perfectly.

All in all, it was absolutely adorable. Especially the lingering fear.

"You- you-!" Dipper was at a lost for words. Crossing his arms with a huff, he turned away.

Glancing around at the place Bill had taken them- the beautiful clearing with the waterfall- The young brunet strode forward and sat at the pond's edge, right before the wet grass. Crossing one leg over the other, he balanced his elbows onto his knees and leaned his head forward into his hands, staring downwards, lingering tears still clinging to his eyelashes.

Bill rolled his eyes and loped forward, settling down next to the child.

"C'mon! Don't be like this, kid. It was a joke!"

Dipper hesitated, words on the tip of his tongue, before turning away, giving the god the silent treatment.

A few beats passed. "Pine Tree..." Bill whined, leaning on him slightly.

Dipper didn't answer, just shoved the god away. Or, at the very least, tried to. Bill didn't budge.

"Pine Tree," Bill continued, tongue sticking out slightly, "You'll be laughing about this entire thing tomorrow!"

Dipper still stayed silent.

Bill leaned even more on the boy, at this point completely splayed out over him, causing Dipper to nearly collapse from the weight. "You can't stay silent forever!"

"Oh yes I can!" Dipper finally snapped back.

Bill smirked triumphantly.

"Darn it," The child muttered.

"C'mon, Pine Tree! Stop pouting! You know we'll be laughing about this tomorrow. And...oh, damn it I'll introduce you to someone I know you'll like!"

Dipper perked up at that. "Like, an actual introduction? Not gnomes or pixies?"

"Not gnomes or pixies," Bill confirmed with a shark-like grin.

Dipper sighed and finally twisted around to wrap his arms around Bill's waist, letting them both fall to the ground in a heap.

"Fine. I forgive you," Dipper said, his eyes softening.

Bill laughed and stood up, dragging Dipper along with him.

"He lives in the mountains up there." Bill pointed over at the small mountain range, much closer than Dipper had anticipated.

"Ready to go?"

Dipper gave the god a watery smile, quickly wiping the leftover of his tears away. Though he was still a bit peeved by Bill's earlier actions before, the brunet found he really couldn't stay mad at the god.

"Yup," He replied.

Bill took his hands and wove their fingers together, causing a light blush to tint Dipper's cheeks.

"Then let's go!"

With that, Bill was dragging Dipper alongside with him yet again. The young brunet stumbled alongside the taller god, practically running besides him. Bill led him out of the clearing, up a gently rising slope, and around the sharp undergrowth. The trees slowly thinned out the closer they got to the mountain, which was looking much taller than Dipper had previously thought it was. Breaking the tree line, the child and god stood side by side, staring up the sheer cliff, sunlight glinting off the rough rock.

"Well!" Bill said, clapping his hands together, "Let's get climbing, Pine Tree!"

Dipper squawked, "You expect me to climb up a mountain side!? What if I fall!?"

Bill laughed, "Calm down, kiddo! There's a path..." He summoned his cane and pointed to the supposed path. The trodden rock curved precariously up the mountain, all sheer cliffs and dry cracks, looking only a smidgen safer than just crawling up the face.

"That doesn't look any better," Dipper protested.

"You worry too much! Besides, I'll catch you if you fall."

"Somehow, that doesn't reassure me," Dipper replied dryly.

Bill laughed and clapped a hand on the young brunet's shoulder.

"Well, let's go!"

Dipper huffed nervously as he took after the blond who started up the path, easily stepping over cracks and stray rocks, gesturing wildly as he talked about an apparent cult of his that existed here a long time ago.

While Bill droned on, Dipper worked on keeping his footing stable, jumping over cracks, side-stepping rock that looked as if it was about to crumble, and generally trying to stay safe. He followed Bill as best he could, but the god made traversing the dangerous path look easy. It was almost like a dance to him- weaving and tapping and balancing- sometimes spinning around suddenly to talk to him face to face. He dodged every dangerous bit as if those sharp and cruel edges were in his peripherals.

Dipper scowled as the god decided to face forward, still yammering on about the cult he had.

"Worship is very important. Well, it was until you humans fuc- I mean, screwed it up with your free will nonsense. Hilarious! Your entire race is kinda like one big joke with a crappy punchline-"

Dipper zoned out of Bill's rambling. With the sun high in the sky, sweat pooled on the back of the young brunet's neck and trickled down his back, causing his shirt to cling to him uncomfortably. More sweat perspired in his palms and...other gross regions, making the young boy feel disgusting and, for once in his life, want to take a shower.

"-And furthermore, what's with the 'werewolves are people too?' I mean, you humans turn everything into a social issue it seems! I mean everything! How has your race lasted this long?"

Dipper wiped his forehead and quickly flattened his hair back down, wishing he had a hat or something. It would keep the sun off his scalp at the very least and hide his embarrassing birthmark. He licked his chapped lips with a dry tongue, wanting to stop and rest for a drink, but not feeling safe enough to stand in place longer than five seconds. He jumped over another crack, shoes scuffing against the rock and sending some dust particles flying straight into his face, causing him to sneeze.

"-And that's why you never do a deal with an ogre-" Bill cut his sentence off and whipped around to see a tired Dipper wiping his nose, cheeks flushed in the summer heat.

"...Did you just sneeze?" The god asked, eyes shimmering.

Dipper flinched and stared up at Bill, heart plummeting.

Darn his sneezes! Why must he be cursed like this?

"You sneeze like a kitten," Bill gasped, squishing his own face between two hands.

How was he not sweating?

Probably because he's a god and has powers, genius. Dipper thought to himself

...The heat really was getting to him, wasn't it?

Dipper scowled (well, more like pouted) angrily, eyes falling to glare at the unstable rock beneath his feet. "...Shut up," He muttered, already knowing what was coming.

"That was adorable!" Bill exclaimed.

"I am not adorable! Or cute!" The brunet protested.

"But you are Pine Tree! You pout and you sneeze like a little, soft kitten. Which reminds me, back in Egypt, where I was worshiped as a god of course, they always kept these cats which-"

Dipper groaned internally. He really was in no mood to be teased.

He was beyond ready to try and demand Bill if they could just teleport back to the clearing or better yet, teleport to the actual cave. Why didn't they do that in the first place anyways? Before Dipper could voice his strong opinions about their unnecessary trek, he crashed straight into Bill's backside, almost falling to the ground.

"Whoa, watch it there, Pine Tree! We're here."

Dipper peered around Bill's legs to stare into the black, gaping maw of the cave. Stalagmites- or were they stalactites? Littered the ceiling as well as the floor. The faint dripping of water echoed from inside, joined by an odd rumbling noise.

Dipper took a step back. "Um, I'm not so sure about this anymore. Why don't we go back to the pond an-"

The brunet was interrupted by Bill grabbing his wrist and yanking him forward, right into the great hole.

A flicker of bright blue flames on the tip of Bill's finger illuminated the cave somewhat, throwing sharp, jagged shadows onto the walls. Nervous and a little bit scared, especially at the sight of bleach-white bones littering the ground, Dipper stepped close to Bill, his shoulder brushing up against the man's arm.

"Ugh, you really stink, Pine Tree. Give me a hug in exchange for a cleansing?" Bill held out a hand of flames for him to take.

Shifting slightly, Dipper cautiously took the hand. Blue fire licked up his arms and across his chest, spreading everywhere and taking away the collected filth on his body. He could feel the sweat and dirt being burned away, leaving a fresh, if not familiar scent...

As soon as the flames disappeared, Dipper was pulled into a tight side-hug by Bill, who hummed in delight.

"Bill, did you make me smell like pine trees?"

"A pine tree should smell like a pine tree, Pine Tree!" Bill chirped.

"Ugh, I don't even want to think about that sentence!"

Bill chuckled.

Dipper jumped as his eyes focused on a shape that seemed to move in the shadows, right out of reach from Bill's light. It was huge; second biggest thing Dipper had ever seen in real life, right behind dragons. The rumbling, which had only gotten louder as the two had strolled into the cave, stopped suddenly. The form in front of the shifted, growing larger and larger.

Dipper pressed himself even closer to Bill, who had now wrapped a long arm around the boy. The god grinned into the darkness while keeping an eye on Dipper's fearful expression.

"WHO'S THERE?" Snarled the creature. It, or he, by the sound of his voice, rolled out of the ball it was curled into, transforming into a massive, unidentifiable, hulking figure.

"Oh, calm yourself! It's only me," Bill sing-songed into the darkness, bouncing on the balls of his feet.

"...Mister Cipher?" The creature asked.

Suddenly, everything was bathed in sharp torch-light, thanks to the dream god.

"The one and only," Bill confirmed.

Dipper gasped at the- the creature before him. Out of everything he'd ever seen in both the woods so far and in all the books he had read, nothing came close to what was standing before him.

It was a bear. Well, a bear with eight gigantic, snarling heads and eight massive legs with thick paws tipped in deadly black claws. Thick and coarse brown fur covered it, which was surprisingly well-groomed for a creature living in a cave.

"Pine Tree, meet the Multi-bear. Multi-bear, Pine Tree!"

The massive deformed bear peered down at the young child pressed close to Bill. His eyes were mocha and soft, shining with a certain intelligent innocence the Multi-bear hadn't seen in...well, ever really.

"That's not my name," The child huffed, "It's Dipper."

Bill glanced down, raising an eyebrow.

He hadn't actually known Pine Tree's real name. Oh well. He was still Pine Tree.

"Well, it is certainly nice to meet you, Dipper. As Mister Cipher here said, I am the Multi-bear," Multi-bear greeted cordially, settling into the best sitting position he could with all his legs.

"So how are you doing today? Scared anyone- or thing- off today?" Bill asked, filling in the silence before it could settle.

Multi-bear shrugged. "No, not today. Most do not happenstance upon my mountain, besides those horrible Manotaurs." Multi-bear shuddered.

"Manotaurs?" Dipper questioned, diving out from under Bill's arm, much to the god's chagrin, to step closer to Multi-bear, eyes already gleaming with a curious light. "What are Manotaurs?"

"Manotaurs are half man, half bull hell-beasts. The believe one must be manly all the time and are very cruel and merciless to anyone who thinks differently," Multi-bear explained. "They're also really stupid," He tacked on as a second thought.

"What? Why would they bother you I mean you're-" Dipper blushed slightly as his voice trailed off. "Um, what I mean to say is, uh-"

Multi-bear raised a single paw, hushing the child effectively. "Shush. It is fine, Dipper. The Manotaurs come and harass me due to my love for the Icelandic pop band, BABBA."

Dipper gasped audibly, giant grin working onto his face. "You're a fan of BABBA? Me too!"

"Really? What's you're favorite song?"

"Disco Girl of course!"

The Multi-bear beamed at him, grinning the best way a bear with multiple heads could grin, which is to say, not very well. "Same," He rumbled cheerfully, "I even have it on their special record."

"No way!"

Bill rolled his eyes and crossed his arms, absentmindedly crushing small bones underfoot with his heel. Slight pinpricks of irritation stabbed at his heart as the two talked. Frowning, the god focused his gaze on Pine Tree, watching how his eyes lit up in so much joy, mouth wide in a dazzling grin, gesturing wildly with his hands.

He really was a weird human, wasn't he?

Then again, Bill himself was a weird god.

As Bill contemplated his own strange thoughts, Dipper and the Multi-bear continued to share their love of BABBA.

"See? Here's one of their rare, limited edition records. Protected and enhanced by magic for maximum quality and wear."

Dipper gasped in utter elation. "Ca-can I hold it?"

"Just be careful." Multi-bear said, gently handing Dipper the record.

Dipper carefully balanced the black disk on his open palms, feeling every groove carved in. In the center, a number of rune glowed a bright pink color, a clear sign of magic making the quality of the record possible. Carefully, the boy hooked and dragged his finger over the very edge, shuddering at its smoothness.

"It's beautiful," He gushed, "Can we listen to it?"

Multi-bear's eyes gleamed. "Of course we can! Go put it on that record played on that table."

Dipper turned around to see a single, flattened rock with a simple player on it, a few drained crystals scattered around it from where Multi-bear changed out its charge.

Padding over, Dipper lifted up the arm and dropped it on where he knew Disco Girl would be located. Just because he didn't have the special record didn't mean he didn't have one hidden in his desk drawer at home. The song started to play, no static and no fuzziness. Her voice and the instrumentals were clear as day, like he was at an actual concert and not in a wet, smelly cave.

Dipper and Multi-bear sung loudly and off-key to the pop song, both eventually getting up and swaying in a mockery of a dance at the music.

Bill couldn't stop the smile forming on his face at Pine Tree's enthusiasm even if he couldn't dance to save his life. The young boy awkwardly swung his hips to the beat while waving his arms around some, head bobbing as he sung the words with his cracking voice.

Bill's chest rumbled in laughter.

The Multi-bear was right alongside the young boy, all his heads bobbing to the beat while stomping his feet in time. Like Dipper, his voice was off-key, but low instead of high.

Feeling more pricks of...was that jealousy? In his heart, Bill pushed himself up off the wall and strode over to Dipper, grabbing one of his hands and twirling him around.

"Whoa!" Dipper exclaimed in surprise, completely taken off-guard.

"Oh Pine Tree, you are a terrible dancer. Let me show you how it's done!"

"What? Bill! I can dance fine!"

Both the god and the bear chuckled at the cracks in his indigent voice.

"Lying to yourself isn't healthy," Bill teased, pulling the boy closer and spinning him again.

Dipper huffed, but soon broke into a laugh as Bill took his hands and dragged him across the cave floor, his own hips swaying to the bright music.

"Fine! Fine!" Dipper finally relented, leaning in close to Bill. "Just don't step on me."

Bill laughed loudly.

"I think you got that the other way around!"

~~0~~0~~0~~

"Mister Cipher?"

Bill looked up at Multi-bear, Pine Tree still asleep in his lap.

The two had danced not only to Disco Girl, but every other song on the record and though Bill had helped the young boy relieve some of his fatigue, Pine Tree ended up crashing quite soon, the day's events having finally caught up with him.

"Yes?" Bill replied, bored, running a hand through fluffy brown locks.

"...If I may so ask, what are your plans for the child? You're not one to just play around with humans- children especially." The Multi-bear's eyes narrowed. "You're not planning to use him for-"

"Now Multi-bear, I never did really give you permission to ask in the first place, hmm?" Bill said, voice cheerful but frigid, promising danger.

Multi-bear bowed his head. "I apologize, Mister Cipher," He rumbled.

"Apology accepted," Bill said snidely.

"May- may I ask that he stays safe? You're not going to bring harm to him, are you...?" Multi-bear started cautiously, wary of the god's narrowed, almost hungry eyes.

Bill dragged the boy closer to him, giving a wide grin of too-sharp teeth downward at the sleeping boy.

"I haven't really decided yet," He drawled.

The god gathered the boy up into his arms.

"Well, it's best to be off. Pine Tree here needs to go home and get his proper beauty sleep, after all."

Multi-bear nodded sagely. "Very well. Will you allow him to come back?"

Bill shifted the young brunet so that his head was carefully balanced on his arm. The child twitched in his sleep, smiling softly as he tried to snuggle into Bill's coat.

"If he's good, which he normally is," Bill relented.

"Oh, and Mister Cipher?"

Bill groaned. "What now?"

If Multi-bear was taken aback by the god's tone, he didn't show it.

"Your...friend dropped by the other day. He couldn't find you so he left a brief message."

Bill groaned yet again, this time out of exasperation rather than irritation.

"What?"

"I believe he said to meet at 'next new moon at the spot everything changed.'"

Bill hissed, "Of course he did," Bill shook his head, "Though I can't blame him; irony is one of the best forms of humor, after all."

Multi-bear dipped his head, not in agreement but not in disagreement.

"Is that all?" the god asked after a beat.

"That is all."

In a flash of bright blue fire, both Bill and Dipper were gone.

~~0~~0~~0~~

GSV YVZI PMLDH DSZG'H FK

Chapter Text

Dipper bit his lip nervously, slowly opening the door to the shack. Behind him, the sun blazed a yellow-orange in the sky, painting the firmament in muted blues, pinks, and reds. Still groggy from his nap, the brunet closed the door behind him, noting the empty shop before him. Dread settled in his gut, thick and choking.

He really shouldn't have gone out all day with Bill. He really, really shouldn't have. There was no way to take back the past so trying his best to steel himself, putting on the bravest mask he owned, Dipper stepped through the shack, not caring he was causing the floorboards to creak.

Swallowing thickly, he padded into the kitchen where Stan was sitting in a chair, staring down at the newspaper.

Staring. Not reading.

Dipper's eyes darted to his note, which was sitting on the table, innocent-looking enough. Stan sighed, sounding more tired than usual and sat his paper down. Dipper stood there awkwardly, blinking to keep awake as Stan removed his glasses to rub his eyes, before putting them back on.

"Dipper...what is going on? You stole the journal, and now you just up and left on a Saturday? Our busiest day of the week."

Dipper stayed silent, head bowed in shame.

"Listen, I'm all for going against the rules when you need too, but not my rules. Trouble was always Mabel's thing so what gives?"

Dipper's hands tightened into fists and he gave a half-shrug, unsure of what to say.

Stan sighed, "Dipper...you aren't doing anything...you aren't doing any drugs are you?"

Dipper's eyes snapped up in shock at Stan's hypothesis.

"What?! No, no not at all!" The brunet replied. He knew well enough that all drugs- magical or not- were to be avoided at all costs.

"Good. Drugs do nothing for you kid, nothing at all. Never start, got that?" Stan's voice was hard and stern, completely serious for once. He gave him a suspicious glare before sagging. "I'm disappointed in you, Dipper. You should've told me in person you were going to pull this, not on a damn note."

Dipper winced at the tone Stan used, but still didn't reply. There was really nothing he could say, was there?

"Sorry," He bit out awkwardly, chewing the inside of his cheek. Silence fell between the two, oppressive and apprehensive.

"Just…go up to your room," Stan said, standing up from his chair.

Dipper wanted to ask if he'd be grounded again or at least if it would be extended, but he really didn't want to test fate. Bowing his head in acceptance, the young boy turned around and trudged up the stairs, listening intently to every squeak that happened underfoot.

The slam of a door echoed through the house as Stan went to bed, making the boy flinch.

That could have gone a lot worse. Then again, it could have gone better.

By gone better, he meant not at all. He disliked lying, especially to Mabel and Stan.

Dipper stepped up to the door to his shared room, eyeing the burning yellow light that bled from underneath the door. Steeling himself to be yelled at, he grabbed the knob and twisted it open, slipping into the room.

As he expected, Mabel was still awake and waiting for him, sitting on her bed, knees drawn close to her chest. She was petting Waddles absentmindedly. As soon as he was in the room, her eyes darted up to greet his, slight worry disappearing to be replaced by irritation.

"Dipper!" She cried out, flinging herself out of bed to give him her famous death-hug, arms wrapped all the way around his waist as if she were trying to crush his ribs.

"M-Mabel! You're killing me!" Dipper gasped out, trying to wriggle from his sister's grasp.

"Good!" Mabel retorted, somehow tightening her grip on him. "You're a big butt-faced jerkwad!"

Dipper groaned in pain. "I know! I know! Please let me go!"

After a few more squeezes and a couple of choice tickles, causing his chest to heave in pained, broken laughter, Mabel relented and let him go.

Dipper stumbled away from her, collapsing onto his bed with a relieved sigh.

"So, I have a theory that you weren't really in town," Mabel started, sitting back down on her bed, eyes narrowed.

Dipper nodded weakly at her, still trying to catch his breath.

Mabel looked slightly torn at his easy admittance to his lie.

"You lied to Grunkle Stan." It was a simple statement that ripped his heart up some. Stan was one of the people in Dipper's life that it really pained him to lie too. Though Stan was a con man, offering ridiculous prices in the shop and whose stock was only half-real and tested, the man still had a blunt honesty about him. He'd always spoken from the heart when talking to either of them and had taken care of them for the past seven, soon to be eight, years.

"I know," Dipper said, rubbing his eyes viciously with both hands before collapsing back onto his bed. "But-but what was I to tell him? That I've been in the forest? Talking to an urban legend? What was I supposed to do?"

Mabel winced, turning her eyes downcast. "I-I don't know," She relented. "But…we can't keep this hidden forever, can we? How long does your deal last?"

Dipper blinked, staring up at the ceiling blankly.

He had totally forgotten all this had been a deal.

"There was no time constraint, so I guess until I die or he gets bored of me."

Mabel frowned at that, not liking either option. After all, if the god did get bored, what stopped him from just killing her brother?

"So you're just going to keep lying to Stan?"

"Well what else am I going to do? If I tell him, he wouldn't let me go and it'd end up breaking the deal. At least this way…well, what he doesn't know won't hurt him. Or me."

Mabel fell silent, contemplating his words for once.

"What happens if you break a deal?" She asked tentatively, already knowing she wouldn't like the answer.

"It usually changes from deal to deal. Most gods just kill you if you break a deal with them, well at least that's what it says in the books."

"But he's stuck in the forest, right? How would he kill you if he can't get out?"

Dipper shifted uncomfortably on his bed, disliking the entire thought of Bill actually killing him. Besides what had happened yesterday, and the pixie thing today, the god had never really hurt him. Bill was always…gentle. In his own way.

A slight blush crawled onto his cheeks at how he fell asleep in his lap today, thin and gloved fingers running smoothly through his hair, undoing knots easily. The god's other arm had been draped across his waist, drawing small circles on his sides softly.

Bill had never hurt him. Scared him? Yes. But never actually harmed him.

His stomach rolled as his mind brought vivid images of Bill catching and killing him, stabbing him open or even strangling him…

"I don't know. But I don't want to tempt fate," Dipper finally replied, kicking off his shoes.

Mabel cleared her throat.

Dipper worked his way under the covers of his bed, twisting his head over to Mabel. "I'm really tired so I'm going to bed. Mind getting the lights?"

Mabel frowned, not liking how Dipper was…well, he wasn't lying to her, but she knew for a fact that he was keeping stuff from her. It caused her heart to sink. Her twin had never kept things from her before. The two shared everything with each other! Right?

Mabel sat up and clicked off the lamp, plunging the entire room into inky darkness, only the light of the crescent moon shining little light in the night, joined by twinkling stars. She settled back into bed, staring at her brother's back as Waddle's snuggled into her stomach. Wrapping both arms around her pig and pulling him closer, she coughed into her pillows, mind wandering as she was lulled to sleep.

Dipper was lying to their Grunkle. He had too.

Dipper was keeping things from her.

Dipper wasn't hanging out with her as much as he had been since the deal started.

It was like he wanted to go and visit the god.

Worrying her already chapped bottom lip, Mabel fell into sleep, her gut knotting with anxiety about what was happening to her brother.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper turned to a clean page, readying his pen. Thinking briefly, he scribbled Pixies at the top. Yesterday, he had been too busy at first trying to stay quiet and observant and then trying to get away from the swarm to actually sit down and record any information about the pests.

Pixies are annoying and ugly little pests that have anger issues if you try and crush them with pine cones. They will also chase you down like a dog. Though they are pretty fast, they aren't the smartest. Sharp turns and looping back to places will shake them off, however they are still pretty persistent…

Dipper went into detail into trying to describe what they looked like and the little differences between males and females that he had halfway noted. He struggled to sketch out a figure, but gave up pretty quickly. He had never been the arts and crafts person; that had always been Mabel.

Mabel…He thought, bringing his pen up to chew on. He knew she was worried about him, how could she not be? However, he also knew that as much as he wanted to relieve her fears of what was happening, he couldn't. How could he explain what he and Bill had?

Oh gods, now he sounded like a character from one of those trashy romance novels…

For whatever reason, the thought made him flush. Shaking his head, Dipper quickly banished those thoughts.

Would Bill be counted as a friend? Sure he was an immortal, supposedly evil god but he also whined when he didn't get his way, sung 80's hits, and cracked weird, nonsensical jokes.

Dipper sighed and finished up his page about pixies, mind floating away from him.

Dipper had to admit that he didn't really have that many friends. There was Mabel, of course, who was his twin, who he always counted on and Wendy always let him hang out with her and sometimes her other friends, and then there were the kids he would talk to in class, either for a group project or about homework. Oh, and how could he forget Soos, who could fix anything?

Not counting Mabel, who else could he say really was his friend? Wendy and Soos were great in every way, but both still had their own lives. Soos was an adult and was busy most of the time trying to support his grandmother and Wendy…well, Dipper always felt awkward around her. What were you supposed to say to someone so cool and beautiful?

Dipper blushed lightly and turned to the next clean page, writing Multi-bear at the top of the page, quickly writing a description of where he lived, paired with a crudely drawn map.

Yeah.

He would count Bill as a friend. Even if he was a bit touchy.

Dipper felt a small shiver run down his spine. He drew his vest closer to himself.

Clearing his mind from the bizarre thoughts that were starting to clog it up, he went back to his page, writing about what Multi-bear was like and what they had done yesterday, bringing a grin to his face. Finishing up his sentence, the door to his room was flung open with an accompanying scream.

"DIPPER!" Mabel shouted, bouncing on the balls of her feet in excitement.

Dipper flinched and dropped his pen onto the desk with a clack. Quickly slamming his notebook shut and shoving it into his vest, the young brunet twisted around to take in Mabel's elated face, her grin stretching ear to ear.

"Mabel!" He called back playfully, though not nearly as loud as she had shouted.

"Guess who just invited us to hang out later tonight?" She asked, eyes sparkling.

Dipper felt another blush work his way onto his cheeks. He already knew who Mabel was talking about, especially with that look in her eyes, but he decided to humor her anyways.

"Who?" He questioned innocently, widening his eyes.

"Wendy of course, you dork!" Mabel laughed, striding over to him to give him a noogie.

Dipper yelped at the rough treatment, but quickly got his revenge by tickling her sides, causing her to spasm with laughter.

"Ahhahah, D-Dipper y-hahah you c-cheater!"

The two twins quickly descended into a tickle war, both knowing each other's weakness to a point. Dipper aimed for Mabel's sides and neck while she in turn aimed for under his arms and his stomach. The two fell to the ground in a messy heap, rolling over and over as both tried to get the upper hand. Their hands and feet scuffed against the ground and the twins were lucky enough not to get any splinters.

Finally, gasping for air and lungs aching from the amount of laughter both had expelled, the twins pulled apart, collapsing side by side, giggles still escaping every once in awhile.

Mabel coughed. "Anyways, Wendy said she'd pick us up later tonight after dinner."

Dipper blinked in surprise. "Wow, that late? What are we going to be doing?"

Mabel shrugged and cleared her throat. "No idea, but she sounded excited . Something about an initiation? It's a surprise I think."

Dipper turned and glanced at his watch, which read a clear 5:34 p.m. Why did Sundays always go by so fast?

Sitting up, the two decided a quick game of attic golf was in need to remedy boredom until Wendy picked them up.

Dipper was just finishing one of the holes- the mountain of his dirty laundry- when he heard Stan yell something about supposedly edible food.

The two didn't even glance at one another as they ran down the stairs and into the kitchen, plopping themselves into their respective chairs.

Stan cocked a curious eyebrow at them but said nothing, putting a T.V dinner in front of the both of them. "Food. When's Wendy going to pick you two up?"

Mabel looked up from where she had already started shoveling food down his throat in large gulps. "fum fime shoom I fink," She said around a full mouth, flashing her partially eaten food at the older man.

If Stan was fazed by the sight of his niece's chewed food, he didn't show it. "Okay. Um, don't get into stranger's cars and, uh, don't get arrested again. The paperwork is confusing and it costs too much money in this day and age's economy."

Mabel and Dipper stared at him with mocha eyes that shone with innocence. Mabel swallowed her food down. "Grunkle Stan, that was your fault!" Mabel said cheekily.

"And the second time was a misunderstanding," Dipper tacked on.

"Yeah, yeah. Whatever helps you sleep at night I guess."

Just then, a loud knock shook the door and vibrated throughout the house.

"Guess who's here?" Wendy's voice was muffled by the door, but it was undoubtedly her.

Mabel jumped up and sprinted to the door, chanting Wendy's name as she went. Dipper rolled his eyes and slipped out of his seat, only to be stopped by Stan.

"Look, Dipper. Um, keep your sister out of trouble and don't get into trouble yourself. You're, um, becoming a teenager now and with that comes strange feelings and-" Stan started rambling.

Dipper flushed. "Grunkle Stan can we please not have this conversation now? I promised we'll come back at a reasonable time, not arrested."

"Yeah, yeah. No drinking either!" The older man called out to his nephew's retreating figure.

Dipper chuckled and waved back at him. "Got it!" He called, slamming the door behind him.

Stan sighed. "Tweens."

~~0~~0~~0~~

"You guys ready for this?" Wendy laughed as she lead them to Thompson's neon-blue van, her green eyes sparking at the prospect of mischief.

"I was born ready!" Mabel gushed, squishing her face between her hands.

Dipper chuckled at her dramatics and voiced his agreement, trying his best not to let his voice crack while simultaneously cursing himself internally for already sweating.

"Sweet!" The redhead grinned, yanking open the door to the old van with a rusty squeak. The smell of some sort of bitter-smelling smoke wafted out, causing Dipper to choke.

He wasn't the only one affected. Mabel started coughing some, in which she quickly stuffed her face into her elbow to quiet.

"You okay?" Dipper asked her, sliding into the van.

Mabel flashed him a watery smile, eyes still shining with glee. "I'm fine! Just a bit strong!"

She settled down next to him in the very back.

"Let's get this show on the road!" Wendy cheered as she sat in her own seat, behind Robbie and before Nate and Lee.

"Hell yeah!" Nate cheered, fist bumping the roof, causing another dent to take form.

"Guys!" Thompson whined from the driver's seat. "I'll get in trouble if you put anymore dents in the roof."

The group of friends pretended not to hear him as he threw the stick and barreled off onto the road, elated to simply chant "Thompson! Thompson!" over and over again, punching the roof with their hands without care.

"Aw, this is going to be sweet!" Mabel screamed, punching the air as well but not yet tall enough to hit the roof. "Tally-ho for our second adventure!"

Dipper laughed alongside everyone else, joy settling in him despite Robbie's obvious presence. Like Mabel, he thrust his fist in the air over and over again, not quite reaching the roof.

After the chanting finally died down, small and excited talk broke out all over.

"So...what exactly are we doing anyways?" Dipper asked. "And will we end up getting arrested?"

"Again," Mabel tacked on at the end for him, causing all the teens but Wendy and Thompson to turn around and stare at them.

"Since when have you been arrested, dork?" Robbie sneered, glancing at Wendy nervously.

Wendy snorted. "It's actually a really funny story-"

"Anyways!" Dipper exclaimed, cutting her off and giving her the best please please please don't do it stare he could muster. "Back on track, where are we going?"

Lee flashed the twins a wide, pearly white grin. "We're going to Dusk 2 Dawn."

Dipper's eyes widened while Mabel gasped a "no way!"

Nate nodded along. "Yeah. And it's gonna be AWESOME!"

"But I thought teenagers weren't allowed within fifteen feet of it?" Dipper questioned.

"Well duh, that's why we're gonna sneak in, genius, and get some pictures and shit," Robbie barked.

Dipper sent a scowl at the emo's back, but said nothing.

"Think of it as an initiation. You're going to be turning thirteen soon, right?" Wendy asked.

Both twins nodded.

"Think of this as a welcoming into teenager-dom!"

"It's gonna be great!" Lee beamed. "Great! Great! Great!" He started chanting, and everyone was quick to follow.

The group of friends laughed and carried on, cranking the radio all the way up, blasting the loudest and most offensive rock they could. Mabel started to scribble nicer greetings over the graffiti in the back while Dipper tried his best not to stare at Wendy for too long. Nate and Lee were currently having an armpit-licking contest being egged on by Wendy as Robbie sat in the front, window rolled all the way down, and flipped off any car that passed by, which is to say, not many.

Thompson was just trying not to crash the car.

As soon as Dusk 2 Dawn was about a mile away, Robbie turned off the radio, Wendy and Mabel stopped cheering for Nate and Lee, and Dipper brought his focus out from Wendy's beautiful hair.

"Okay, Nate do you have the cameras?" Robbie asked.

Nate held up his Polaroid with a grin. "Yup!" He whisper-screamed.

"Lee, you have the eggs?"

"All six cartons."

"Wendy?"

The redhead lifted up a plastic bag filled with full rolls of toilet paper, an impish grin plastered on her face. "Way ahead of you."

"Sweet!" He said, voice wicked.

Thompson slowly drove the van forward a bit more, parking just shy of fifteen feet from the store behind a helpful clump of trees that weren't part of the surrounding forest.

Parking and turning the van off, the teens jumped out quickly, ready for their plan.

Dipper and Mabel glanced at one another, slightly unsure about their friend's actions.

"Um, Mabel...Should we really, you know, do this?" He asked quietly under his breath.

Though the brunet could see uncertainty clear in his twin's mocha eyes, Mabel still nodded her head.

"C'mon, Dipping-sauce. All the cool teenagers in all the movies do things like this and we're not even teens yet! Which will make us all the cooler!"

Dipper blinked. "I'm pretty sure that's not how that works."

Mabel bit her lip before plastering a convincing grin onto her face. Giving him a half shrug, she threw the old, metal door open and hopped out.

Sighing, feeling sickness roll around in his gut, Dipper followed his sister's lead, making sure to close the door as quietly as he could behind him.

Oh please, whatever party and law-breaking god is out there, please don't let us get arrested from this.

Once outside, Dipper was quick to join the group of teenagers behind the van.

"Okay, now we have to wait for Ta-"

"Hey guys," A monotone voice rang.

Turning around, the group watched Tambry stroll up, head buried in another inane tabloid, Polaroid hanging around her neck.

"Awesome, Tambry's here. Now we can start," Robbie said with a mischievous leer.

The teens quickly passed around their tools of the trade- an egg carton and a roll for everyone.

Dipper glanced down at the items he was given, still unsure about what he was about to do. Though he has seen trouble in the past before, what with his curious nature, most of those incidents had been simple misunderstandings. He'd never gone out of his way to actually to do something...slightly less than legal. Dipper bit his lip, wanting to say something against what they were about to do, but not wanting to be called out on it either.

"You guys ready?" Robbie hissed, eyes lingering over Wendy for a bit too long.

Nate and Lee both let out small cheers of agreement.

Mabel gave a wide, but to Dipper, obviously fake smile.

Wendy gave a wicked smirk. "Hell yeah."

Tambry made a small grunt of acknowledgment.

Thompson thrust his fist up into the air.

Dipper gave a small, nervous nod.

Robbie rolled his eyes at him. "Geeze kid, you look like you're about to wet your pants!"

Dipper couldn't stop the flush of embarrassment from crawling onto his cheeks. He sent a glare at Robbie, trying to cut the boy in half with his eyes alone.

The black-haired teen didn't notice. "Let's go," He said.

The group of teens, and two twelve-year-old's carefully crept up to the infamous convenience store. Dusk 2 Dawn was known for only serving people twenty years old or older and only allowed young, non-disruptive children into their shop.

In all honesty, Dipper couldn't really blame the two ghosts who somehow kept up with the shop. After all, they had died because of teens and not many people went there in the first place because the owners were dead.

Dipper trailed at the very back, right behind Mabel and her blue sweater-of-the-day. They all started crouching low to the ground, flattening themselves so they wouldn't be seen.

Ahead, Dusk 2 Dawn glowed in the darkening evening, sending out it's ominous sickly-green and hot-pink light. Despite it being open 24/7, no cars and no people were present, as per usual.

"Okay, so here's the plan. Tambry, you get the extra camera from Nate and get in position back here. Make sure you're ready to snap plenty of photos. Nate and Lee will take the right. Wendy, you and I will take the front and glitter princess and dork here will take the left. Everyone got it?"

The rest of the teens gave excited nods.

"See? Told you I was a princess!" Mabel whisper-yelled to Dipper, beaming.

Dipper just scowled at being called a dork. His stomach, which was originally only rolling about was now twisting in on itself. Nervous sweat dripped off him and he started shaking slightly.

"A-are you guys sure w-we won't get caught? Like, sh-should we even be doing this?" He anxiously questioned without thinking.

Nate and Lee booed openly at his question while Tambry rolled her eyes and muttered 'loser' under her breath. Thompson, looking about as nervous as Dipper felt simply shook his head at him.

Wendy looked away from him.

Robbie snorted. "C'mon. Don't be a loser. Even your sister is up for doing this!"

Mabel gave Robbie an irritated glare.

Dipper flushed angrily, but relented.

Seeing Dipper's submission, Robbie motioned for everyone to get into place, staring forward at the shop intently.

Didn't want to get caught, after all.

Dipper followed Mabel to the right of the shop, both staying just outside the light emitted.

"Mabel, I really don't think we should be doing this."

Mabel bit her lip, then shrugged. "Yeah...but, well... they're mean anyways! And besides, isn't this a good way to impress Wendy?" She waggled her eyebrows at him.

Dipper blushed a little, but glowered at her afterwards. "No! Well maybe, but...Ugh! Mabel, this is wrong!"

Mabel opened her mouth to retort, but random waving coming from both twins' peripherals stole their attention away.

Way out in front, hiding partially in the darkness, was Robbie waving his arms around in a signal to begin.

Without warning, the smack of eggshells echoed around as the teens and Mabel let them fly, spraying the ugly building in unfertilized yolk-y muck. Dipper gripped the carton and the roll tight in his hands, torn by what to do. Next to him, a much smaller toilet roll fell from the other side, draping the building in it's thin fabric. Without warning, Mabel picked it up and tossed it back over, not quite reaching the other side by the sound it made hitting the roof.

Dipper turned and watched as Robbie and Wendy threw their own eggs and paper over, giggling madly the entire time, arms brushing up against each other. Behind them and to the side, Tambry snapped photo after photo of the scene.

Robbie seemed to realize he was being stared at. The emo turned around to stare at Dipper, his brown eyes judging him harshly even from the distance they were at. Briefly, he paused Wendy to whisper something into her ear. Wendy gave Dipper the smallest of glances and again, looked torn on how she was supposed to act.

Rage boiling under his skin, Dipper practically ripped the lid open from the carton, tearing the cardboard up in the process. Grabbing a luke-warm egg, he flung it at the building with all his strength, watching it splatter across the gray bricks easily. He picked up another, which soon joined the first egg split across. Soon a third, fourth, and even a fifth joined in. Dipper gritted his teeth in the action he was doing, part of him screaming how stupid all this was and how it wasn't worth the risk, and the other, more daring and brave part of him getting a thrill from the danger, filling his veins with needy adrenaline without abandon.

Trading his roll of paper for the rest of Mabel's eggs, the two twins flung their respected items at the bricks, reveling in the trouble they were causing.

"WHO'S OUT THERE?!" A voice rumbled from within. The entire building's lights flickered in anger, the air becoming pressurized and oppressive.

"LET'S GET OUT OF HERE!" Robbie suddenly shouted as a few stray pieces of litter started to levitate.

"TEENAGERS? ARE THOSE TEENAGERS I HEAR? TEENS AREN'T ALLOWED HERE!" The voice boomed.

The teens and the twins bolted for the car as the lights sparked even more, earth now rumbling slightly. Nate and Lee were guffawing loudly, cruelly mimicking the ghostly voice behind them.

Fear pounded through Dipper's heart as he sprinted forward, pass Mabel and pass the teens ahead. His legs pumped wildly as he pulled up to a stop next to the parked van, gasping slightly but not totally out of breath.

Huh. Looks like running around the woods all the time was really helping his speed and stamina.

A few beats passed before everyone else showed up. First Wendy, then Robbie and Tambry, followed by Nate and Lee. Mabel joined them, second to last due to her shorter legs and Thompson quickly joined them, panting horribly. Thompson yanked his keys out of his pocket and hastily unlocked the car. "Get in, get in!" He shouted, distressed.

The group didn't need to be told twice. Without a second thought, all but Tambry jumped in, the latter choosing to hop on her nearby bike and speeding away, back lights flaring brightly in the darkness.

Not even belted in yet, Thompson jammed the keys into ignition and started the machine. Motor roaring in response, Thompson flung the stick shift into the proper gear and stomped on the gas pedal, turning a hard right and speeding away. It took a few beats for everyone in the car to get down from their frightened high. Lips were hanging open, letting out short gasps as hearts thudded painfully against ribs in the chest.

Nate was the first to speak.

"Th-that...was...AWESOME!" He hollered, thrusting both fists into the air.

Pretty soon, the entire van minus a certain pair of twins were clamoring in response, bragging about what they did and how great it all was.

Dipper sat in the back, the brief high from the thrill wearing off fast, leading to worry. Sweat trickled down his face and neck while his stomach and mind rolled at the possibilities of getting caught and sent to jail.

"We shouldn't have done that," He finally bit out quietly.

Mabel's eyes flickered over to his, a slight agreement shining in them. Though she knew what they just did was very wrong and mean-spirited, she had to admit that the ghostly couple kinda had it coming for them.

Plus, it was pretty fun.

Nate and Lee turned around to give Dipper a partially surprised and disapproving look.

Wendy just leaned her head against the window, glancing over with uncertainty while biting her lip.

Robbie, hearing Dipper's comment because of course he would hear it, twisted around in his seat, rolling his eyes.

"Whatever. Quit whining. If you didn't want to do it, you didn't have to, so stop complaining!" Robbie kept a single eye on Wendy, cheeks gaining the slightest and most unnoticeable blushes, trying to watch and judge her reaction to what was taking place.

Dipper leered at the older boy, anger bubbling back to the surface quickly. "I'm just saying there's a huge chance we might get caught! They could've seen our faces. Or, if you bought all the paper and eggs at once, the person checking you out could easily connect the dots!" Sweat getting into his eyes and Dipper angrily brushed the back of his hand over his forehead, sweeping his bangs to the side thoughtlessly. "Furthermore-"

His speech was cut off by merciless laughter coming from Robbie, who was now pointing at his forehead.

Nate and Lee zeroed in on the area as well, small smiles and giggles rising out of them.

Wendy stayed firmly turned away.

Mabel glared at the three boys, words on the tip of her tongue, ready to lash out.

"Is that a constellation on your forehead?" Robbie snickered, his cruel laughter crescendoing, "Dipper!" He said with a snap of his fingers, leering at the younger boy. "As in the Big Dipper! That's where you got your stupid name! I just thought your parents hated you!"

At that, Wendy whipped around to glare at Robbie, cheeks flushing in anger. "Shut up," She commanded him, her tone dark.

At the same time, Mabel snapped.

"Don't you ever say that again! Our parents loved us! And don't you ever make fun of his birthmark! It's beautiful and special!" She snarled.

Dipper hastily flattened his bangs back over his mark, sinking low into his seat.

Mabel wrapped an arm around Dipper, pulling him close. Feeling not only sick to his stomach, but ashamed for the fact that he felt like he was about to cry, that he had such a stupid birthmark, that he had even agreed to this, about everything, Dipper buried his head into Mabel's hair, no longer caring if the teens were judging him.

Dipper wrapped an arm around Mabel's waist, hugging her back. Though he couldn't see her face, the brunet could feel her distress and sadness radiating off her in waves.

He didn't want to be here anymore. He wanted to go far, far away.

Like back into the forest.

Like back to Bill.

~~0~~0~~0~~

ILYYRV RH Z QVIP

Chapter Text

Dipper rubbed a hand over his bleary eyes, wiping some of the crust from sleep that had settled there away. Straightening the straps of his backpack on his shoulder, he walked around the shack. Carefully glancing around to make sure Stan or anyone important was watching, Dipper slipped into the forest undisturbed.

As always, the woods held a certain calming charm, a certain magic, both literal and metaphorical, that just seeped into his mind, his heart, and his very soul. Here, away from other humans, away from bullies, away from teenagers and their expectations, he could be free.

As he expected, Bill wasn't waiting for him today. After all, he had decided to come a day early.

After what happened last night...he just needed someone. Mabel was great and she had calmed him down immensely, but there was something about Bill, something in him that wanted the god's presence. Dipper wanted to be dragged away, wanted to see and explore and to just forget. He wanted Bill to make him forget the real world if even for a little bit with all of his quirkiness. To the bizarre and cynical humor to the way the god would weave his fingers through his hair, Dipper just wanted a single, simple moment in time.

Dipper paused once he was far enough within the tree line. He stood under a tree, the warm afternoon light filter through jade leaves and dappling his face gently. He breathed in deeply, loving the smell of the earthy soil beneath him and the fresh, charged air all around.

Carefully, Dipper lowered himself down, sitting at the base of the pine he was under. Putting his back up against the rough bark, he took out his notebook and started touching up on his previous pages, making extra notes here and there and trying to make his paragraphs a bit more legible.

Falling into the rhythms of his scratching pen and the call of the wind through the leaves above, the young brunet didn't hear the telltale whoosh of a certain being arriving, and nor did he see the flash of azure flames to signal his arrival.

No, the boy didn't notice anything whatsoever until a familiar shadow fell across him, drawing his eyes upward to a wide, shining grin.

"Hey there, Pine Tree. Bit early this time, aren't you?" Bill asked, winking the best way a one-eyed person could, which was to say, not very well at all.

"Bill!" Dipper greeted, quickly stuffing his notebook and pen away and jumping up, hugging the god firmly around the waist, burying his head against his sternum.

"Whoa there, kid!" Bill exclaimed, slightly surprised at Dipper's enthusiasm and instigation of touch.

Dipper blushed and pulled away. "S-Sorry," He stuttered. "I just wanted to see you again."

Bill smiled broadly at the boy, eyes sparking with amusement. "Well, doesn't that make me feel special!" The god honestly sounded genuine in his statement.

Dipper grinned back, mocha eyes warm and loving. "So how has your day been, Bill?"

"Better since you showed up," Bill said with a smirk.

The blush spread to the tips of Dipper's ears.

Bill summoned his cane to lightly tap against the forest floor. With a little wave to Dipper, the god lead them deeper into the woods.

"How about you?"

Dipper opened his mouth to give the automatic answer of fine, but paused.

Memories from yesterday resurfaced quickly and without warning. Of being forced to do something he didn't want to, Mabel's lack of support until things got really bad, Robbie being a jerk, the teens making fun of his birthmark, Wendy doing nothing to help him...

A stake of bitterness and hurt drove through his heart, piercing clean through the chambers, moving easily through flesh and out his back. Wendy had done nothing to help him. Not until everything had gone too far, not until he actually started to cry. Anger welled up inside him, whether aimed at Wendy, Mabel, or himself he didn't know.

Robbie's voice rang through his mind.

I just thought your parents hated you!

He was so pathetic, wasn't he?

A heavy hand dropped onto his shoulder, causing the boy to jump in surprise. He glanced up at Bill nervously. The pleasant mood had fell away from the god, leaving his shoulders tense and a certain rage burning in his single golden eye.

Dipper didn't realize he had said what he had been thinking out loud.

He really needed to break the habit of muttering under his breath.

"Don't you ever say that about yourself," Bill commanded. His tone left no room for argument. "You are far from being pathetic.

Dipper shivered and found he couldn't meet Bill's eye. He dropped his gaze to the forest floor, observing the flattened grass, half-rotted leaves, pine needles, and twigs that were littered underfoot.

The hand forcefully turned him around, making him face the god while a second hand gripped his chin lightly, fingers ghosting over his jaw as Bill made him stare upwards at him.

The god's eye had the smallest streaks of red, the blond of his hair looking slightly less golden than before.

Bill was angry.

For Bill, it was hard not to be.

Pine Tree was an innocent child, so full of wonder and curiosity with a kind and soft heart. He was...pure in a sense. Cheerful too, most of the time it seemed.

Bill had seen the boy scared. Had seen the boy happy. Had seen the boy excited, and sleepy, and calm, and carefree, and every other emotion between. Yet, he hadn't seen him sad. At least not like this, with his bright brown eyes dull and his lips pulled into an upset frown.

He didn't like it. No, he absolutely loathed it.

"What happened?" Bill asked, tone as hard and as sharp as a knife's edge.

Dipper wrapped his arms around himself and tried to turn away from the god, only for Bill to hold onto his chin tighter.

"Um...Uh..." Dipper stuttered, eyes darting about. His blush spread down to his neck, a shameful red that made his skin burn. He really, really didn't want to tell Bill about what happened.

He'd laugh at him.

He'd probably make fun about his birthmark.

He'd think he was a weak loser.

Dipper worried his bottom lip, fresh tears bubbling to the surface as the golden iris slowly faded to red and the sclera dulled into a black void. His hair lost it's golden tone as crimson started to seep from the roots.

"Dipper," Bill spoke, voice rigid.

Dipper shuddered at the use of his name.

"Ye-Yesterday," Dipper started, blinking hard to keep the tears in. "M-Me and my s-sister went out w-with my friend's friends to hang out except t-they wanted us t-to vandalize a store. I-I didn't want t-to, but th-they called me a loser and made m-me." Dipper took a shaky breath, hating the way his voice stuttered. "A-Afterwords they saw...they saw..."

This time, Dipper stared downward at the ground, face still turned to Bill. The words were on the tip of his tongue, but he didn't- no- couldn't speak about what happened. Embarrassment flooded him, thick and sickening.

"What did they see?" Bill's voice still had a clear, unmistakable anger to it, but over that was a gentleness Dipper had never heard before. The hand on his lower jaw loosened and the original ghosting fingers pressed down harder in a calming pet, swirling circles around his skin gently.

Bill slowly lowered himself down onto his haunches, no longer towering over the boy like before, making the two nearly eye-level.

Dipper sucked in a breath. It was now or never, after all. "Theymadefunofmybirthmark," He said in one breath, words slurring together.

Bill blinked, taking a second to decipher what the boy had just said.

"Birthmark?" He questioned, eyes flickering over the boy's arms and legs, seeing nothing out of the ordinary. A few freckles here and there, but no birthmark.

Dipper looked up at Bill. The god's eye was back to being gold and white, though his hair still wasn't as shiny as it normally was. Gulping thickly, Dipper raised a shaking hand to his forehead, resting it there for a second. He screwed his eyes shut.

Dipper brushed his bangs out of his face, the warm earthy air meeting the skin over his eyes. He dreaded the expression Bill might be portraying.

Silence fell over the pair and all Dipper could hear was the pounding of his heart as the organ tried to rip itself out of his chest. Blood rushed through his ears, hot and bothered. Bill's breath flowed over him, as dry as always, reminding Dipper of vast deserts. The god's hand slowly fell away, leaving the bottom half of his face much colder than before. Before the young brunet could even register how he missed the touch, the same hand lightly tapped a finger where the star Alkaid was represented.

The finger slowly traced the birthmark, to Mizar and Alcor, down the 'handle,' all the way to the top right star of the 'ladle,' Dubhe.

Dipper shivered under the god's gentle touch. Bill slowly retraced the birthmark yet again, this time stopping briefly over where each star was represented. Hair brushed past Dipper's cheek as the god leaned close, almost too close.

"Merak. Phecda. Megrez. Alioth. Mizar and Alcor. Alkaid," Bill whispered. Bill removed himself.

Dipper slowly opened his eyes.

Bill's eyes were sparking with an odd, excited gold light. His normally too-wide of grin was smaller this time, softer, but no less true.

"So this is where you get your name," Bill stated.

Dipper turned away, unable to keep the twist of a frown off his face. "Yeah. It's kinda stupid I-"

Bill slapped a hand over his mouth, shutting him up effectively.

"It is definitely not stupid," Bill growled. "It is special and makes you special. How many others can boast they have a perfect asterism on their skin? It's beautiful."

Dipper wasn't aware his body was even moving until his arms were already wrapped around Bill, face buried into the other's neck. He was shaking and those bubbling tears from before finally spilled out of their sockets, tracing their way down his cheeks and dribbling onto the god's neck.

However, unlike what Dipper thought they would be, they weren't tears of sadness.

Bill, astonished yet again by the younger's initiation of touch, easily swept him up in a returning hug, wrapping a long arm around the boy's waist and hips, pulling him flush against his own body.

"N-No one be-besides my family h-has ever told me t-that before," Dipper choked out between sobs. "Thank you," He murmured, voice surprisingly strong.

Bill blinked at that statement. No one not ever? He knew humans were cruel and completely and utterly moronic but...

"No problem," Bill replied evenly.

The two held on together, for how long even Bill wasn't too sure. The god had buried his nose into Dipper's hair, breathing in the boy's natural musk. It was warm and inviting, like sunlight through leaves or a brisk wind bending blades of grass over.

Dipper, in turn was simply enjoying the god's presence. How Bill seemed to hold him together, warm and unarguably safe. He had a natural scent of smoldering magic and sand with an almost metallic tang. It was odd, just as strange as the god himself, but fitting.

Dipper pulled away, slowly but surely, breaking the god's hold. The young brunet wiped his wet eyes with the back of his hand before rubbing away the leftover tear tracts. He gave Bill a beaming, but watery smile.

Bill returned the grin with one of his own, sharp and bright as always. The god stood back up, back straight, and wound his fingers with Dipper's and started to lead them again.

"So where are we going today?" Dipper asked, his natural curiosity coming back, brightening his voice.

Bill frowned slightly, thinking a little. "I'm not so sure. What about you?"

"Well...Are there any more friendly creatures here?"

Bill smiled down at the boy who had already taken out his notebook again. "Sure there are! You think every creature out there wants to mingle with human society?"

"Well, if you put it that way, I guess not."

Bill thought for a second, trying to figure out who exactly to bring Pine Tree to. They'd have to be smart, but not rude. Also, of course, be completely submissive to him. He didn't want questions. Bill briefly glanced down at Pine Tree, who had turned away to admire the forest as he often did. Every time he walked into the woods, he acted as if it was his first. He also couldn't take him to any persons who would attack Pine Tree.

Bill suddenly had a wonderful idea.

Gripping the boy's hand a bit tighter, he pulled Pine Tree so that they were curving to the left.

"Hey, Bill? I have a question to ask you."

"Fire away, kid."

"Why do we always walk to places? Can't you just teleport?"

The half-truth flowed easily from Bill's lips. "I could, but you always enjoy walking in the woods so much I thought you'd enjoy actually traveling to places."

The young brunet nodded slowly. "Yeah, you're right. Plus, I could make a map!"

Bill laughed lightly at the enthusiasm Pine Tree showed. It was...very refreshing.

The two walked, hand in hand, laughing lightly and joking about everything under the slowly descending sun. From the forest, to even the outside world. Around them, the forest slowly got darker. The pine needles changed color, the grass grew longer, and more and more wild flowers of all shades of color could be seen.

"So wait a minute, you can just talk into a box and directly communicate with someone?"

"Yup! They're called walkie-talkies because you can, you know, walk and talk!"

"And they're powered by magic?"

"Well, electricity-charged crystals."

Bill nodded slowly. He'd once heard of the crystals before, but it still made him wonder.

"Maybe I can bring one to you?" Dipper suddenly gasped. "Maybe we could keep in contact!"

Bill shook his head. "Wouldn't work. The seals prevent things like that."

Dipper pouted. In all honesty, he had forgotten the woods were Bill's jail cell.

In fact, Dipper totally forgot that Bill was considered evil. Staring up at the tall god, who had the brightest and deepest blond hair he'd ever seen, dressed to the nines and always presentable, with a top hat and everything, he didn't look like someone who'd try and bring you to the brink of insanity. More like someone who'd scoff if your shoes didn't match your suit or whatever. Bill being warm, always hugging him or protecting him, laughing with him and trying to sing 80's hits without knowing all the words also diminished the thought.

"Is-is there any way to break the seals?" Dipper asked tentatively, unsure if he should start on that path or not. Would he even be able to help? He wasn't terrible at the little magic he knew, but he could also be better and if Bill couldn't break them yet, how would he be able to?

Dipper quickly shook those thoughts out of his head. He shouldn't have asked that!

Plus, it didn't miss him that his first thoughts were would he be able to instead of would that be right.

Bill pulled a face, looking like he just swallowed a particularly bad lemon. "Of course there is. If the caster, or someone who shares the same blood broke the runes and reiterated the counter-spell, I'd be free. Of course, the caster is long dead by now."

"Is that the only way?"

"Well, no. I've been...working on it, but it's been taking me quite a long time. Hundreds of years, to be exact."

Dipper deflated somewhat. If it was taking Bill such a long time to do anything about it, then there was no way he could do anything.

"Sorry for asking and I'm sorry I can't help." He mumbled.

Bill removed his hand so that he could wrap an arm around Dipper's shoulders and pull him close, ruffling his hair.

"It's fine, Pine Tree! Don't be so down. Look, we're almost there!"

Dipper focused his attention to what was ahead. The trees had thinned out quite a bit, leaving plenty of space all around. Though there were no bushes to be seen, the grass was long and thin, swaying against his knees. Flowers of all kind grew everywhere; honey-suckle creeping up trees, patches of yellow roses, clumps of petunias of all shapes and colors, and other flowers that Dipper didn't know the name of.

And it was hard to forget about all the wildflowers, tall and proud.

Bill lead him up to two trees that stood side by side, branches conjoined. Vines with beautiful purple flowers grew up the bark and weaved through the connected branches.

A gateway made of flowers.

"Ready, Pine Tree?"

Dipper gave Bill a slow nod, the familiar feel of sudden shyness coming over him. Unlike his sister, he wasn't outgoing in the least. He'd always been a bit clunky and awkward when talking to others.

Bill gave him another squeeze before leading them through.

Dipper stared at the beautiful glade before him, eyes widening.

It was a small clearing, the trees suddenly thick all around, most likely to keep predators away. A small, bubbling brook cut the clearing in half, the water gleaming and clean. Long grass swayed in the light wind, dotted with the same flowers that were growing just outside the gate. Above, vines were stretched across like banners, small yellow flowers blooming on them, helping block out the burning sun.

Dipper wasn't so sure what was going on. Hadn't Bill said he was taking him to meet more forest creatures? Dipper turned to ask. Before the young boy could question the god, something from the corner of his eye flickered, drawing Dipper's attention forward once more.

A vague, human-like figure was slowly drawing itself out of the water via magic. Droplets twirled all around, slowly forming into a familiar figure.

Dipper pressed himself closer to Bill automatically, not even noticing what he was doing.

Bill smirked at the gesture.

The woman-like figure slowly grew more details. The water seemed to harden and fade into a light blue. Hair formed soon after, hanging all the way down to her waist, thick and black. Her features became much more defined, soft and gentle, almost motherly in a way. Clothes formed on her, made of light algae, with pebbles and lilies wrapped inside, twisting and binding her breasts and weaving a small skirt around her hips that cut off at her thighs. A circlet of more lilies formed around her head, tucking neatly behind her now formed and pointed ears.

Dipper stared at the exotic and beautiful lady. It was hard not to.

The woman stepped up to the shore carefully and stretched her long, slender arms over her head, letting the sunlight filter through the webs between her fingers. Slowly, her almond-shaped eyes opened, blue like the sky with the whitest sclera Dipper had ever seen before.

The woman let her arms drop and neatly curtsied to Bill.

Though Dipper didn't see it, her eyes shined with worry and fear.

"Hello, Mister Cipher," She greeted, her voice bubbly but smooth, not unlike water itself. "It is wondrous to greet you once more."

Bill nodded his head to the woman. "Hello, Afytha." He greeted back.

Afytha's eyes darted over the the young boy next to the god. She lightly bit her lip, wondering if she could ask about him, but almost too scared to ask.

It wasn't a secret that the resident god, Bill Cipher, had anger issues. Well, issue was putting it lightly.

Afytha was tempted to touch her cheeks to where her fins had been so long ago, but refrained. The action would not be lost to Cipher, after all.

And she would be...corrected.

"If I may ask, and if you would be so kind to answer, who is the young gentleman who has joined you today, Mister Cipher?" Afytha ventured carefully, being as polite as possible.

Bill smirked at the obviously fearful woman while Dipper, completely oblivious to the tension in the air, simply blushed at her comment.

"This young gentleman here is Pine Tree," Bill said.

Dipper rolled his eyes. "Again, that's not my name Bill," He said. The boy looked back up at the woman, shy smile on his face. "I'm Dipper!"

Afytha did her best to mask shock. The child- Dipper- had used Cipher's first name. He was even rude! Yet there was no rebuttal. No snap. No blue flames, no claws. The god just glanced down at him with…

Afytha didn't quite place the look on Cipher's face, but if she had to name it, it'd be something like adoration. Or maybe just plan possessiveness. There was such a fine line between the two, it was hard to tell.

Afytha smiled at the boy and gave him a small curtsy as well. If Cipher was letting the child use his name with carefree abandon, he must be important.

"It is of the utmost pleasure to meet you, Mister Dipper," She said.

Dipper flushed profoundly. "J-just Dipper is fine!" He said, stumbling over his words some.

Afytha couldn't keep the small giggle from escaping her. The child was almost too cute.

"Very well. My name is Afytha Of The Western Brook, though you may simply just call me Afytha, Dipper."

"Nice to meet you, Afytha."

Dipper's eyes ran over the woman. He wanted to ask her what she was exactly, but he figured that would be pretty rude.

The woman gave a relaxing smile at the two and slowly settled down, putting the bottom of her feet together, back ramrod straight.

"If I may so ask, and if you would be so kind to answer, why have you come to greet me, Mister Cipher and Dipper?"

Bill gave the woman an easy-going smirk and lead Dipper deeper into the clearing. The light fell upon the two, making Bill practically glow with a golden halo. Meanwhile, Dipper's eyes shone even brighter, clear and honest.

"Pine Tree here wanted to meet some of the, ah, more friendly people of the forest and I thought, 'well gee! Who's more friendly than the Nymphs! So here we are!"

Dipper audibly gasped at that, taking out his notebook and pen on the fly. "You're a Nymph?" He asked.

Afytha laughed this time, a clear noise that reminded the young brunet of the natural flow of water over already smooth stones. "Why yes, I am a Nymph. A water Nymph to be exact, Dipper."

Dipper's face broke out into a large grin. "That's amazing!" He gushed, causing Bill to grin broadly and lead him over to Afytha.

The Nymph watched as the god pulled Dipper down with him, settling the young boy in his lap, wrapping an arm around the child's hips.

Either keeping him safe...

...Or locking him into place.

Afytha couldn't tell.

However, what she could discern was the way Cipher stared at her with partially hostile eyes, challenging her to say anything he wouldn't like. It was completely possessive.

Don't harm my property. That single golden orb said.

She gave a watery smile.

I wouldn't dream of it.

She told herself to, not under any circumstances, touch Bill's child.

She didn't need the repercussions of that mistake.

"Um, if-if you don't mind, can I ask you some questions?" Dipper asked, finally getting comfortable in the odd position. It wasn't that he'd never sat in Bill's lap before. Heck, last time that was where he had fallen asleep! However, it was strange for Bill to actually be putting him there.

Then Dipper glanced down and saw the wet grass.

Then again, Bill was a strange guy- er- god. Dipper didn't question it...for now, but made a mental reminder to add it to the list of Things that Bill did that don't make much sense.

The title was a work-in-progress, much like the list itself.

"You may," Afytha permitted. "What would you like to hear about, Dipper?"

Dipper chewed on his lip thoughtfully. He had so many questions to ask, he didn't know where to start. "Well, I'm writing this little book about all the things in the woods and I was wondering if you could tell me about some stuff. Anything in general, really."

The Nymph giggled a little. Though a bit awkward, Bill's child was still charming.

"May I tell you about Water Nymphs? I shall be honest and say that I only know a little beyond this clearing, Dipper."

Dipper quickly flipped to a new page and titled in Water Nymphs. "That would be great!" He exclaimed, pen ready.

Bill chuckled at Pine Tree's enthusiasm. As always, it was a sight to behold. How the child could jump from being so upset to being so happy, he didn't know. After all, he wasn't the god of emotion.

"I'm afraid I cannot tell you much beyond what I know about my own species as well as myself. You see, Nymphs cannot move far beyond their place of origin. I can never leave this brook, a Tree Nymph can never leave their tree, Dipper."

Dipper wrote the information down. "Doesn't that get boring though? And what happens if you do leave it?"

Afytha shook her head. "We Nymphs do not experience boredom. We watch, we wait, and we are one with nature, the very Earth itself and we simply do not leave our place of origin. It is something never done, Dipper."

The young brunet, still looking a bit confused, glanced up at Bill for an explanation.

"It's just something not done, Pine Tree. Like, oh I don't know a good analogy...Um, like cannibalism. Yeah! Kinda like that but not really at all!"

Dipper blinked. "So, you mean it's possible but people consider it taboo and don't?"

Afytha nodded. "It is exactly how you speak of it, Dipper."

Dipper scribbled the notes down.

"Okay! Do you have any magic, Afytha?"

The Nymph smiled. "Why yes, I do, though not in the sense humans, or even gods have magic. You see Dipper..."

Bill sat back as the two talked merrily. Pine Tree was beaming the entire time as he got not just one page on the Nymph, but an entire three, front and back. The god watched closely as they moved from topic to topic. Pine Tree was as excited as ever, taking in new information in easily, absorbing it in in a way Bill hadn't seen before. Afytha stayed how Bill expected her to stay. Perfectly polite, keeping to herself, and occasionally giving him nervous glances when Pine Tree wasn't looking, constantly making sure his approval didn't turn on it's heel. She was acting like how most denizens of the woods should act towards him. Good.

Bill faded back into the conversation as Pine Tree started to talk more about his own actual life.

"I didn't want to do it, I knew it was wrong, but I was too afraid to say no," The boy explained, notebook placed to the side, head in hands.

Afytha shook her head in sympathy. She glanced up at Bill again, a quiet question in her eyes.

The blond looked down at the child in his lap. Though Pine Tree slumped a bit, shoulders tense, the god could tell in the tone of voice he used that the boy wasn't upset anymore by what happened, just disappointed.

Bill gave her the tiniest nod.

"Then the actions you had taken are hardly your fault. You lacked control over the situation and you lacked the means to regain it. The fault lies in your...friends, Dipper."

"Yeah, I-I know. Thanks."

"You are most welcome."

The god expelled a fake yawn, staring up at the sky, which was now slowly fading into a deeper blue.

"Well, look at the time, Pine Tree! Time for you to go home!"

Dipper groaned.

"Can I visit you again?" He asked the Nymph, lips turned upward in an small pout.

Bill's child really is adorable. For a human, at least. Afytha thought

"Of course you may! You will be welcomed with open arms any time, Dipper," Afytha said.

Bill pushed Dipper up before standing himself, wrapping an arm around the brunet's shoulders while giving the Nymph a warning look.

He knew very well it was simply a polite statement. Didn't mean it was okay or that he liked it.

Afytha gulped at the glare he gave her.

"Bye, Afytha!" Dipper called as the water Nymph slipped back into the water and let herself become one with nature once again.

She was gone.

Dipper picked up his notebook and tucked it back into his vest along with his pen. He beamed upwards at Bill. "That was so great! Thank you so much!"

"So you liked her?" Bill ventured, his heart already bitter.

"She was pretty cool." Dipper smirked.

Bill pouted slightly.

"But not as cool as you!" Dipper added, laughing.

Bill rolled his eyes and scooped Dipper up in a hug.

"Hug for home?" He asked.

Dipper buried his face into the god's sternum again, looping his arms around Bill's waist.

"Hug for home."

~~0~~0~~0~~

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Chapter Text

Dipper groaned and flopped his head onto his desk, staring at his rune work.

A C. He got a C. Sure, runes and enchantments really weren't his thing, but a C was really pushing it.

Next to him, Mabel cheered loudly at her A, beaming wildly and gushing with some of the surrounding students, much to their chagrin, before falling into a mini coughing fit.

Dipper moved his eyes up and down the page, looking at all the stupid mistakes he made, from runes being lopsided, extra marks, to even completely wrong translations. Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong.

He pouted.

"Aw, don't feel too bad, bro-bro!" Mabel chimed in cheerfully. "Can't be good at everything!"

Dipper sighed and relented, stuffing the page into his bag.

"Hey, at least you're good at the pronunciations," Mabel added in helpfully, seeing Dipper's upset expression.

He threw her a helpful grin. "Thanks Mabes."

"Hehe, no problem."

"Okay class, if I could have your attention once again!" Madam Feylie asked, voice polite, but leaving no room for argument.

The class fell quiet quickly. It wasn't that Madam Feylie didn't dole out punishment, but the fact that when she had to she looked so disappointed it was hard to not feel guilty.

"A number of you had some trouble on the rune work today, and that's okay!" The elf picked up a giant stack of papers off her desk and beamed at them. "So, here's a little homework for you tonight. It's due Friday, so you should have plenty of time to get it done. Remember, if you're unsure about anything, feel free to ask."

Madam Feylie quickly passed the pages, front and back, to everyone.

Dipper stared down at the work he had to do, sinking in his seat a bit.

"Don't worry, Dipping-sauce! I'll help you out," Mabel giggled, tucking her homework away neatly into her bag.

As soon as Dipper unzipped his bag, the tell-tale ring of the bell echoed about, loud and as grating as always, signaling the start of lunch.

"Oh! Looks like we ran out of time. I'll see all you you tomorrow. Stay safe and don't do anything illegal!" Her voice got tight near the end and a look of stress came over her silver eyes.

Mabel and Dipper gave one another nervous glances. As anyone would expect in a small town, the news of the vandalization of Dusk 2 Dawn spread like wildfire. Luckily, none of them had been seen or recognized, but the knowledge of what they did ate at both twins. It had become the talk of the town and it was hard to escape discussion about it one way or another.

The two got up slowly and made their way to the door. Students were still in a bid to try and get out first, clogging up the doorway some.

"Mister Pines, if I could have a word with you for a moment?" Madam Feylie asked suddenly, startling the brunet.

"Oh, uh, sure," Dipper replied, scratching his arms. He exchanged a meaningful glance with Mabel, who coughed awkwardly.

I'll be waiting. You okay?

I'll meet you up. Yes I am.

Mabel smiled and said one last goodbye to their elven teacher before skipping out the door, presumably to the cafeteria.

"Yes, Madam Feylie?" Dipper asked, stepping in front of her desk.

She smiled at him in return, a cool and warming gesture that soothed his frayed nerves slightly. Feeling a bit more comfortable in her presence, Dipper relaxed his shoulders, dropping his arms to his sides.

"I just wanted to talk to you about your rune work, Dipper. Usually, you are pretty good with the more magical topics and doings. In time, you could become a pretty good sorcerer or even a wizard, but your grades have been...well, dropping recently. I am aware that you are not as good at drawing runes as your sister is, but I don't believe it's lack of skill per say, but lack of attention. Every time I look up, you're fiddling around in that notebook of yours."

Dipper flushed, ashamed. It wasn't enough that some kids teased him about keeping a diary, but now his own teacher was telling him it wasn't okay!

Seeing his stressed look, Madam Feylie quickly took a few steps back. "I'm not going to ask you to tell me what you write. A man's business is his own, after all. Just please keep it out of my class and focus, please?"

Dipper flushed even more so at actually being called a man.

See Bill? I am not adorable! He thought to himself.

"I'm sorry, Madam Feylie. I'll do better. I promise!"

The elf smiled at his honesty and enthusiasm. Though she knew nothing about Divination, or telling the future in any way, she knew Dipper was going to do great things one day.

"Glad to hear it! I'll see you tomorrow, Mister Pines," She dismissed.

Dipper gave her a smile. "See you!"

By the time Dipper got out of his class, the hallways had really cleared out. Grateful that he didn't have to smash himself against the walls for once, Dipper turned down a few more hallways, dodging the late students, trying his best to ignore the talk of vandalism still in the air.

Squeezing into the cafeteria, it didn't take long to pick out Mabel's offensively bright yellow sweater and Grenda's larger size.

Side-stepping some of the more popular girls and boys who either ignored him or sneered at him, Dipper quickly joined his sister and her friends.

"-And he's a total hottie! Like, on a scale from one to ten, he's a total, like, seventeen point seven or something!" Grenda gushed, waving a book around labeled Nightfall.

Dipper rolled his eyes. How the book was so popular, he'd never know. Especially since it was hated by pretty much the entire vampire community and the werewolf community.

Okay, pretty much every community.

"I still think Edmund is cuter," Candy replied, pushing her glasses higher up on her nose.

"Well I- Hey Dipper!" Mabel greeted, interrupting herself to wave wildly at him.

Dipper sent a small smile at Mabel and proceeded to sit down next to her, keeping an eye out all around for bullies. Sure, Dipper only got a comment here or there and others had it much worse than him, being stuffed into lockers and such, but that doesn't mean he should relax completely.

"Hey Mabes," He replied fondly, taking out his packed peanut butter sandwich and taking a large bite out of it.

"I bet Dipper agrees with me," Candy said, sticking her nose up in the air.

"Nuh uh!" Grenda snorted.

Dipper froze as the two girls ganged up on him.

"W-What?"

"Who do you think is cuter? Edmund or Jason?" Candy continued, completely serious.

Dipper glanced at Mabel, panicking just a little on the inside.

Last time he disagreed with Grenda, he got punched in the arm and couldn't write for a week. Last time he disagreed with Candy, his shampoo was spiked, making his hair turn hot pink.

"I-I... um, I don't know all that much about Nightfall. So I can't say..." He trailed off timidly.

Mabel rolled her eyes. "Dipper, you were there when we watched it."

The brunet gulped.

"Well- I'm a guy! I don't find other guys attractive!" He protested.

Grenda cocked her head to the side. "But I thought you were gay?" She posed it like a question.

Heat flooded Dipper's face, all the way up to the tips of his ears and all the way down his neck. "What? What makes you think that? I'm not gay!"

The lunchroom around them quieted slightly at his outburst, causing his to sink down into his seat, humiliated.

"I'm not," He repeated weakly as the cafeteria rose in volume level once again.

"Are you sure? You act quite feminine," Candy said.

"For the last time, no! Back me up on this, Mabel."

Mabel awkwardly scratched the back of her neck, mocha eyes flickering uneasily between her brother and her friends. "Well...you do like BABBA..." She started uneasily, covering her mouth as a cough came on.

Dipper groaned. "You traitor." He took another massive bite out of his sandwich.

Candy and Grenda laughed.

Dipper's mind wandered away, thoughts moving a mile a minute.

He wasn't gay. Right? Wouldn't he know by now? Plus, he's only had crushes on girls so far, not guys. That proved something.

Didn't it?

Dipper groaned again and polished off his sandwich, laying his head in his arms as Mabel and her friends continued to gush about their favorite trashy romance novel.

At least he avoided pain and colored hair.

For now.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper straightened his backpack on his shoulders, sighing nervously as Mabel rambled on about something or another next to him.

Dipper had been decently successful in keeping his mind off of what was about to come all day, shoving it to the very recesses of his mind. He didn't want to worry about it and lucky for him school had been stressful enough to keep the thoughts at bay.

He slowed down as they reached the shack, eyeing the familiar red bike chained out front.

Mabel turned and looked back at him, brief confusion melting into understanding.

"Don't be mad at her for too long, Dipper. She really didn't mean any harm." Mabel flashed him a helpful smile.

It didn't make him feel any better. Wendy had roped them into doing something wrong. In a way, she had betrayed them.

For once, when Dipper thought of the red head, no blood rushed to his cheeks and his heart didn't speed up. No. He felt cold all over. His stomach twisted into sick, angry knots. His tongue tied itself together, words of hurt on the tip begging to be released, to jab into the redhead. To make her hurt as much as he did. Rolling his shoulders and trying to force his body to relax, Dipper padded after Mabel, steps slow, still eyeing the bike and the door now. Dipper jumped up the steps easily enough as Mabel opened the door the shack, undoubtedly giving a wide grin.

"We're home!" She shouted, making all the windows shudder in their frames.

Dipper winced. If Mabel took some lessons, she'd be a great opera singer.

"Heya, hambone!" Soos greeted, dusting off some shelves cheerfully as the two trailed inside.

"Hey Soos!" Mabel greeted warmly. "Hey Wendy!" She added, waving at the redhead who was already at her post at the register.

Wendy glanced up from her magazine and blanched a little, obviously growing nervous at their appearance.

"Hi Mabel," She greeted softly. Her green eyes darted over to Dipper, looking even more nervous than before. "Hey Dipper."

Mabel coughed a little before sending her a gigantic grin.

Dipper gave her a soft scowl. Now that he was faced with her, all his thoughts died and the words from before disappeared.

He was still angry of course, his heart still thudding with a bloody hole through it, but he found that he couldn't say anything. What was there to say?

He wasn't the one who should be apologizing.

Dipper turned to head upstairs, muscles tense.

"Wait, Dipper!" Wendy called out, dropping her magazine and jumping over the counter.

Dipper paused and turned around, looking up at the redhead and feeling...

...Well, nothing like he had before. No embarrassment. No flashes of heat through his face. No...nothing.

"Listen, Dip, I just wanted to say that I'm really sorry. I shouldn't of let Robbie tease you. Heck, I shouldn't have even brought you guys along! I-I just thought it'd be fun, like all those movies and books and such. Do you forgive me?"

Wendy gave him a small, hopeful smile.

Dipper let out a shuddering sigh. "That wasn't just teasing. That was bullying. And- and-" Dipper's words got caught in his throat, bitter and harsh. His conversation with Afytha came to the forefront of his mind, how the Nymph had explained everything he and his friends done wrong.

She should've stood up for you. If she was a real friend, she would've.

She was just being pressured like me!

Was she though?

Was she?

Dipper stared up into her honest and emerald gaze.

"-and you should've done more to defend me. Friends are suppose to have each other's backs, right?" Dipper finally stated.

Wendy wilted under his words, eyes hurt. "Y-You're right. I wasn't being a good friend, was I?" The question was directed at herself. "Gods, Dipper. I'm really, really sorry! I promise it won't happen again. I won't make you guys even hang out with the others if you don't want to. I won't force you to do anything you're not comfortable with."

A smile finally tugged back at the corners of his lips.

That bloody hole in his heart was healed. But it still did not pump erratically at her presence.

"I forgive you," He said, mocha eyes softening.

Wendy gave a wide smile, green eyes twinkling brightly. She ruffled his hair playfully, careful not to mess up his bangs. Dipper couldn't help but think that it felt much nicer when Bill was messing with his hair.

"Well, I got to get back to work or Stan will have my head!" Wendy joked, removing her hand and turning away. "I'll see you later, Dip."

"Bye," He replied warmly, turning and disappearing up the stairs, Mabel trailing him.

"Ohh, look at you being all forgiving!" Mabel teased. "All because you looooove her!"

Dipper rolled his eyes. "I'm not in love with Wendy," He said truthfully. His heart agreed.

Mabel coughed. "You keep telling yourself that, bro-bro."

Dipper sighed. Of course she didn't believe him.

"Whatever, Mabel," He said, swinging the door to their room open and padding over to his desk, floorboards creaking lightly underfoot. Collapsing into his desk chair, Dipper pulled out his homework, wanting to get it done as soon as possible.

Mabel just threw her bag haphazardly onto her bed, scooping up Waddles to cuddle with, cooing and snorting at him lovingly.

Dipper frowned at the rune work he had. He was on the first pattern and was already confused!

"Ugh, why is this so difficult for me?" He groaned.

"Maybe you should pay more attention in class instead of writing in your diary all the time," Mabel chided playfully, childish mischief in her eyes.

"One, it's not a diary, but a field journal. Two, you of all people shouldn't be telling me that. All you do is doodle pigs!"

"I'll have you know pigs are the key to my future. I'm going to open a fashion line that's all about pigs and become famous!"

Dipper laughed. "You should become an opera singer while you're at it. With a voice like yours, you could crack concrete."

Mabel gasped loudly. "That's a great idea, Dip! I could go on Broadway!" The girl grabbed her pig once more, lifting him high into the air, tickling the pads of her fingers along his skin, making him squeal in delight. "And Waddles could join me! We'd be the stars! The heroes New York needs and deserves!"

Dipper shook his head, exasperated. He had half a thought to pop her bubble and explain why everything she just said was impossible, but decided against it. Mabel always somehow won with her illogical logic.

Well, maybe not always, but often enough.

Dipper tuned her out, turning back to his homework. Flipping through his textbook, the brunet simply made himself all the more confused trying to read it, phrases and rules and exceptions rolling around in his head. It also didn't help that nothing was normal. At least with Latin, it basically used the same alphabet. With runes, that wasn't the case at all. There were different runes of different time periods which were supposed to be used mattering on what you were trying to accomplish...

Very slowly, time ticked by, seconds turning to minutes turning to hours and Dipper found himself constantly going back and checking over himself, doubt wriggling around in his head as he erased and redrew and repeated the steps, going back to the book only to have text blur together in it's large paragraphs, not making a lick of sense.

Why couldn't they go back to simple spoken spells? Something he was actually good at?

"Need help, bro-bro?" A voice asked by his shoulder, causing him to startle.

"Gee, Mabel! Warn me when you're going to do that next time!" He protested.

"Aw, but that takes the fun out of it," She whined, pouting slightly.

Dipper rolled his eyes, but sighed. "What does all this even mean?" He asked, gesturing to the spread of papers and book.

Mabel frowned and forced him to scoot over on his chair so she could join him. Grumbling at the uncomfortable feeling of only half his butt being on the seat, he turned his attention back to his sister.

"You're thinking about it too hard. Just gotta remember I guess. Make sure you get your lines right. Like drawing!"

"I'm terrible at drawing."

"You just gotta get good."

"Mabel! That doesn't help at all!"

Mabel coughed a bit. "Well, I don't know what else to tell you, Dip. I mean, it's just...something to remember. Like how to knit sweaters! Can't forget the patterns and can't forget that X means 'gift' and the funny looking almost K means 'wealth.'

Dipper mouthed 'funny looking almost K' under his breath, shaking his head slightly.

Mabel turned the page and jabbed her finger at the words written.

"Then you got the second set with the upside down fork meaning the letter Y and the backwards check mark meaning C. You know, because check starts with C and it means C."

Dipper blinked, still lost.

"And then you have the third set which the upside down fork now means O with the funny dots on top and funny almost K now means the letter F. F for fun!"

"Mabel, this isn't helping. At all."

Mabel pouted and jumped up, letting Dipper scoot back onto his chair with relief.

"Then I don't know what to tell you. Just gotta know it. Like what you tell me during History."

Dipper sighed and rubbed his temples, knowing she was right, but hating the fact.

"I guess so."

~~0~~0~~0~~

The next few days flew by with stress and little incident, making Dipper want to tear out his hair.

The news of the vandalization was still filtering around, helped by the Gravity Falls Gossiper that somehow kept the story afloat.

It made his stomach twist into knots every time, the passing days not easing his guilt. Students laughed and praised the people who committed the act while teachers simply shook their head in disdain.

Madam Feylie even had another lesson over why things of that sort were wrong on Wednesday, even though she already gave them the exact same lecture Monday.

If there was any consolation, it was the fact that his and Wendy's friendship was rekindled. Though not nearly as powerful as before, there was a certain comfort level he found with hanging with the redhead that wasn't there before. Dipper wasn't tripping over his words every other sentence, nor his feet every other step. His heart pumped normally in his chest.

However, even that consolation was negated with the rumor being spread around school that he was gay, most likely due to his outburst at lunch. Luckily, Gravity Falls was a surprisingly calm and progressive town and found that liking the same gender pretty normal compared to the creepy happenings in the woods and not nearly as interesting and controversial as the color of Preston Northwest's new tie.

What was annoying, however, was the number of both boys and girls who came and questioned him about it, from questions such as if liking a guy was the same as liking a girl to reasons why he would prefer a guy over a girl to even if he currently had a crush on any guy.

Of course, Dipper tried his best to deny all accusations.

"I'm not gay." Became a frequent anthem for him, but it seemed like every time he said it, the weaker his protest became.

He wasn't really gay, right? This was all just reverse psychology.

Right?

Dipper tried not to dwell on it.

What topped Dipper's list of being the most worrying, what really made him nibble his nails down to the nub and then some was his rune work that still wasn't completed. He was too nervous to ask Madam Feylie for help. He knew she wouldn't judge him, but he couldn't bring himself to ask, even though she was the only person who could.

Wasn't she?

That was the thought that plagued Dipper's mind after school Thursday, the day before the homework was due. Sitting at his desk as usual, he chewed on his seventh pen of the week, not paying any worry on whether it would crack and stain on him yet again or not. Sunlight filtered through the window, dappling his desk with bright and hot light.

His homework was a complete disaster. At this point, he'd resorted to using notebook paper, only keeping the original, nearly ruined copy to read the questions and instructions.

Sure, Madam Feylie was probably the best at magic in the entirety of Gravity Falls, neck to neck with Stan in the knowledge she undoubtedly had, but there was someone who knew more than anyone. Or at least, anyone else Dipper knew.

The young brunet slammed his head down onto his desk, sending a flurry of papers to the ground.

He was so stupid. Why hadn't he thought of him before?

Bill would know. He was an immortal god, after all.

Spitting his nearly ruined pen out of his mouth, Dipper grabbed everything he needed and pulled out his second backpack, stuffing everything into it. Zipping it back up and swinging it onto his shoulders, the young brunet crept down the steps, past an oblivious but friendly Soos, and out the door, simply telling Grunkle Stan he was going out to the park to finish his homework as it was much too nice of a day to do homework inside.

Though his Grunkle cocked an eyebrow at that, he didn't protest.

"Just come back before I wake up in the morning."

Dipper promised he'd be back before then and walked down the lawn, following the curve until the shack was out of sight before darting into the nearby woods, quickly falling into ease under the great pines and their needles, the natural sounds of animals echoing peacefully around him.

Along with the entrance of an amused chuckle paired with a flash of gold.

"Wow, Pine Tree. Now you're two days early. Didn't know you missed me that much."

Dipper snorted as the god strode forward to ruffle his hair, fingers lingering over his birthmark to trace part of it.

"Of course I miss you. You're, like, one of my best friends."

Bill laughed at that and pulled the young boy by the wrist deeper into the forest like he always did.

"Really? Wow, now don't I feel special!"

Dipper snorted. He couldn't tell if the god was being facetious or not. Knowing Bill, it was probably a bit of both. The thought warmed his heart.

"Hey Bill, you know a lot about magic, right?" Dipper asked, deciding to get right to the point.

Bill continued to pull him along, weaving past trees and underbrush, light dimpling his face and hair, making his gold hair shine and his dark skin glow.

His chest puffed up slightly in indignation at his question.

"Of course I know a lot about magic! Why wouldn't I? Just because I'm trapped in here doesn't change that!"

The young brunet couldn't help but laugh a bit at the god's theatrics. Bill was so melodramatic.

"Why you asking, kid?" Bill continued on.

Dipper slowed to a stop, halting Bill in his advances to go deeper into the forest. He blushed slightly, ashamed of his failure, but started nonetheless. "Er, well you see I'm supposed to translate and write out some runes...but I'm not really good at it."

Bill cocked an eyebrow. "So why are you doing it if you don't want too?"

"It's for school, Bill."

"...What's that?"

Dipper gave the god an incredulous look, eyebrows raised high. "How do you not know what school is?"

The god rolled his eyes, annoyed. "Been trapped in here for hundreds of years, remember?"

Dipper blushed harder. "Oh...yeah. Sorry. Well, you see school is a place where kids like me go and learn stuff so they can operate in society."

"Sounds like a textbook definition."

Dipper frowned. "You're not all that far off."

"And they teach all the kids at the same time? Billions of humans?" Bill sounded skeptical.

"No, no, nothing like that! Well, they do teach a whole bunch of us at the same time under a single teacher, but there are multiple schools. Like, millions of them all across the world."

Bill snorted, not at all impressed. "Sounds like a flawed system to me. How is one person supposed to teach a whole bunch of brats and make sure they know what the hell they're learning about?" The god eyed the child in front of him. "Hell, you're proof that it doesn't work since you're coming to me for help!"

Dipper gave a weak shrug, unable to argue with his sound logic. "I guess so..."

"Back when I was all powerful and worshipped-"

Dipper rolled his eyes.

"-Kids were taught under masters or whatever. One on one teaching. Or just not taught at all. Everyone had a place. And furthermore-"

The brunet sighed. "As riveting as your stories are, can you help me with runes or not?" he interrupted.

Bill snorted and pulled the child down onto the ground with him. The god spread out his legs in both directions, sitting Dipper between his calves.

"Of course I can! I'm a genius!"

Dipper beamed and yanked his backpack around, pulling out his textbook, the worksheet, and some notebook paper.

Bill took once glance at the book and sneered, muttering something about 'watered down knowledge' and 'stupid censorship' before grabbing Dipper's ruined worksheet and staring at the questions.

"What the hell are you even supposed to be doing, kid? These instructions make no sense!"

Dipper groaned. "You're supposed to take the word and translate it I think using the set of runes that would be best, but how am I supposed to know what set is best?

"Eh, use the most modern one."

"Um..."

"The Dalecarlian runes, Pine Tree. It's the closest to modern English translation wise at the very least, though to properly learn runes you must understand what they stand for on their own. Like learning a new language, which is actually what you're doing."

Dipper cracked open the textbook, leafing to the third set of runes to start his work. Bill looked over the boy's head, scanning over the page before bursting out in laughter.

"Oh my! How can you humans be smart while at the same time so dumb?" The god laughed, throwing his head back.

"What? Is the book wrong?"

"Is it wrong? The question is, 'what did it get right' and the answer is 'very little.' Geeze, Pine Tree! You need to let me help you with your- what did you call it- homework more often!"

"Darn it, Bill can you just help me? What's so important about these runes anyways? I'm not an enchanter and I don't want to be one." He pouted.

Bill smirked at seeing Dipper frustrated. Another new adorable emotion.

The god moved his legs, tucking the brunet closer to him. "Don't get mad, Pine Tree. Magic is all connected and teaching it to you like this- like it's not isn't going to help anyone in the long run. Runes are more powerful than written words as magic can flow through them easier."

"And how does that work?"

"Well, anything written can be used as a spell. Here."

Bill tore a bit of paper and grabbed Dipper's pen. With a neat and flowing script, the god wrote FIRE out in all capitals.

"Even your normal English can be used to convey magic. But because it's such a new language and magic hasn't had the time to adapt to it, it's hard."

Bill focused some on the paper. A few seconds ticked by, but eventually the paper burst into orange flames, much different than Bill's ethereal blue ones.

"See? You understand now? Runes are great for, as you said, enchantments, charms, and seals." The god's face puckered saying the last word, no doubt thinking about what was currently holding him in place.

"But spoken words are useful for actually casting spells that do something, manipulating the world around you. However, both work in tandem with one another. Got it?"

Dipper smiled up at Bill, face shining with wonder and understanding.

"Actually...I do! Thanks!"

Bill laughed loudly. Even more adorable than Pine Tree's look of frustration was his bright look of comprehension.

~~0~~0~~0~~

"You sure seem happy!" Mabel said to him as he strode into the living room, new sweater on her lap while a new episode of Why You Ackin' so Cray-Cray played on the television.

"Just finished my homework." Dipper admitted, wiping some beading sweat off his forehead, smiling all the way as he joined her on the floor.

"Really? You were really confused before."

"Yeah." Dipper lowered his voice and glanced around nervously, making sure no one else was around. "Bill helped me."

"That evil god you've been seeing? You actually talk to him and stuff?" She asked, putting down her needles to turn and give him a worried look.

"Well...yeah? I mean, what else would I be doing?"

"I thought he just watched you bumble around the forest alone while he watched from above or something!"

"Calm down, Mabel! Bill's not that bad."

"Bro-bro, he's-" Mabel coughed a bit, interrupting her own sentence. "-he's evil. You don't trust evil people! Or do your homework with them!" Her eyes narrowed. "You don't become friends with them! Even I have more sense than that!"

Dipper shot her a glare. "What do you know? All you're heard is the crazy stories around town, and you don't even fully remember them! Didn't you always say not to judge a book by it's cover and always give people the benefit of the doubt?"

"People, Dipper! And, er, creatures who act and think like people! Not immortal gods who've been around since the dawn of time!"

Dipper scowled at her and stood up. "I'm done with this conversation." He snapped turning away.

Dipper almost couldn't believe Mabel. Bill had been nothing but helpful. Why couldn't she just trust him on this? Trust him in the fact that he trusted Bill and that he wasn't evil.

"Dipper!" Mabel called out, jumping to her feet and letting the yarn she had unravel and fall to the ground. "I'm just worried about you! Besides school and dinner, I never seem to see you anymore!" Her voice caught, like she was about to cry.

A pang of guilt and hurt vibrated through Dipper's heart. Softening, he turned around.

"M'sorry, Mabel." He apologized, stepping closer to wrap her in a hug.

She looped her arms around him as well. "You've been a bit distant lately and- and with that day coming up soon I..I-"

Mabel coughed and fell silent, holding her tears in.

Dipper felt tears well in his eyes too, upset at himself for making his sister cry, especially around this time of year.

He was officially the worst brother ever.

"Hey, it's okay. We still have a week until we leave, so don't cry." He said, rubbing her back in small circles. Unlike Mabel, Dipper was terrible at the whole comforting thing, but he'd try his best.

Mabel hiccupped and giggled. "Yeah, you're right. Gotta save the tears for later."

Dipper smirked. "You really should. You don't have many to give away, after all."

The two siblings pulled away, smiling at one another. Without a second thought, both settled in the floor once again.

"Hey Dip, I heard there was a new episode of Ducktective on channel two." The sweater clad girl passed him the remote before picking up her now tangled yarn and needles.

Dipper shot another wide smile at her and flipped to the new episode, already excited to dive into the fake mystery.

"You're the best, Mabes."

The brunette gave her brother a matching, blindingly white grin.

"I know."

~~0~~0~~0~~

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Chapter Text

Dipper stared down at Mistakes of Men: Gods and their Consequences, eyebrows furrowed in concentration as he tried to focus his mind on something other than the news he was going to have to tell Bill later on.

He just knew it wasn't going to be pleasant.

But right now, Dipper wasn't letting himself dwell on that worry, no he was too busy lightly rubbing his index finger right alongside the crease of the book inside, feeling the pricks of paper left over from a page being ripped out.

The chapter- which was limited to a single page, was entirely focused on Egypt. Like most chapters, the knowledge it gave was fascinating in its own right and opened many doors to be explored, but stopped at the threshold. Dipper had so many questions tumbling around in his mind, so many thoughts and theories and wonders and now, suspicion.

Someone had ripped a page right out of the section detailing Egypt.

On the page that was left, not much was all that important, something about the Nile or whatever almost drying up and favored pharaohs being taken to bed by said gods, but nothing all that substantial, especially considering the Medieval Europe and Asian chapters.

Flipping through the book yet again, Dipper felt through every page. Maybe it was an accident or another, after all, not all library books were in the best of quality. Especially in a little, backwater town like Gravity Falls.

It took a while, but finally, at the very back in the modern section, there was indeed another page missing by the feel of the crease.

Dipper frowned and leaned back. Despite the feel of the obvious missing pages, the numbers still lined up perfectly.

Like a cover up.

Dipper flipped to the very back of the book, staring at the rune inked in on the back of the back cover.

No smears, no changes, no interruptions.

Which would mean that someone was somehow able to get past the seal preventing damage and able to not only rip out the pages, but change the numbers so no one would really notice.

Heck, he hadn't noticed until he accidentally brushed his finger through trying to separate sticking pages!

The young brunet glanced up at his clock, then turned to his already packed bags.

They would only be gone for a few days. Three at the most.

Closing his library book, he stuffed it into a small trash bag he had, along with the others.

As much as he needed to continue studying the mysterious ripped pages, he had get them turned it. Gravity Falls didn't just let you renew books right away, after all. Something about giving everyone a chance at reading or something. Dipper didn't really understand that train of thought.

Nevertheless, he was out of time.

Stepping out of his room and down the stairs, Dipper checked and made sure Stan was still in the other room making supposedly lucky charms before slipping into the actual shop.

Wendy glanced up from where he came in, a small and lazy smirk already playing on her features.

Making sure the bag wouldn't break, he passed it over to Wendy, who stuffed it into her own backpack.

"Thanks again for this, Wendy. Don't know what I'd do without you!"

The redhead laughed. "It's no problem, really! I'll make sure they get turned in tomorrow, okay?"

Dipper smiled. "That would be great. Anyways, I'll see you later. I'm going to go on a short walk."

Wendy glanced outside at the approaching evening. "Okay, just be careful dude."

He gave her a mock salute. "Please, careful is my middle name." turning on his heal, he strode out the door.

Wendy blinked.

What was Dipper's middle name?

Outside, the young brunet waved happily to Soos who was currently working on Stan's car, unsurprisingly enough. Trailing down the lawn in the slowest, most casual manor he could, Dipper checked behind himself as soon as he thought he was far enough away from the shack. Double and triple checking to make sure absolutely no one was watching, he gave a jerk to the right, disappearing into the undergrowth just like a few days before.

"Bill?" Dipper called out.

The young boy let out a sudden squeal as he was lifted up into the air from the back and swung around slightly.

"Bill! Let me go!" Dipper yelped.

The god laughed at him and after a few more spins, placed the boy back onto the ground.

Dipper whipped around to glare at the blond, mocha eyes still slightly fearful from the sudden weightlessness.

Bill smirked at the expression. He really did love it.

"Heya, Pine Tree!" The god greeted.

"What the heck was that for?"

Bill shrugged, smirk not dropping. "I felt like it?" It was posed as a question.

"Well never feel like doing that again!"

The god laughed.

"So what are you doing here, Pine Tree? Ready for another adventure? Or is it homework again?"

Dipper blinked, suddenly remembering why he had come out into the woods in the first place.

"Oh, no! Actually, I, uh, have some news."

Bill cocked an eyebrow and summoned his cane to lean on slightly. "Yeah?"

Dipper nodded. "Um, I'm leaving, Bill."

"͏W͠H̸A̧T͟?́!" Bill snarled, voice echoing a bit. His sclera started to fade into black, iris burning red...

Dipper shivered in fear, but continued on. "Not forever. Bill! I'll be back! I promise!"

Bill visibly calmed down, eye fading back to normal. "Why and where?" The god demanded, voice tight, but normal once more.

Dipper sighed, shoulders already sagging. How was he going to-

The boy bit his lip before sinking down into the pine needles below, not caring if they pricked him.

Bill frowned and quickly stepped to the boys side, settling down next to him and pulling him into his lap, petting his hair. His eyes reflected a lost sorrow.

And Bill hated it.

Dipper took a shuddering breath and curled up tight into the god's chest, laying his head down on his shoulder.

"Well, it's kinda a long story."

"We have time."

Dipper took a shuddering breath and continued.

"It- It began with a normal day. Both me and my sister were five and had to go to Kindergarten- first year of schooling kids go to- so we woke up around seven or so, had breakfast, and went to school. I still remember what we were learning that day- how to count to one hundred-"

"You have to be taught to count to one hundred?"

Dipper lightly smacked Bill on the chest, shutting him up.

"Then our teacher got a call, telling us to go to the office and bring all our stuff with us because we wouldn't be returning. Both me and Mabel were really confused- this had never happened before- and even more confused when we saw that a police officer- law enforcement- was waiting for us, not our parents."

Dipper took a shuddering breath. Despite those memories being almost eight years ago, he could still remember everything with a scary clarity- every detail all the way down to what he was wearing.

"We were both worried and confused. We thought we were in trouble. After all, why else would a cop be there? However, she explained to us that we weren't in trouble, but still had to go to the station with her. I remember that Mabel wanted to ride in the back like they criminals did and she let us, as long as we stayed good, of course."

Dipper fell quiet for a moment, reliving that day once more by mere words alone. His heart twisted in his chest, a pain dulled with time, but still aching.

"We went to the station and sat in these blue plastic chairs. Cops were all around us and eventually a different cop than before came by."

Dipper sucked in a shuddering breath, but continued on.

"Our parents had been found dead in the small forest next to the park. They had been murdered."

Though Bill didn't care much for parents or caretakers and the like, seeing his Pine Tree so upset, eyes bubbling with tears, made a strange spark of...something go through him. He didn't know what it was, didn't know how to react to it. So all he did was hold the child closer to him, burying his head into those fluffy, curly locks.

Dipper started once more, too lost in his memories to notice Bill's actions.

"We had to go to a home for a while- a shelter for kids without parents while all the legal stuff was filled out. Luckily, there wasn't much confusion and within the month we were sent up here to Gravity Falls to our closest relative. And- and that was that. We go back every year to visit their graves."

Bill was quiet for a moment, his arms woven around Dipper and hugging him to his chest. He felt like the child would just dissolve if he let go, disappear into thin air and never be seen again.

Slowly, Dipper started to wriggle around, feeling a bit crushed by the god hanging onto him.

Frowning slightly, Bill reluctantly let Dipper go, dropping his arms so that they laid loosely across the brunet's hips and thighs.

"Can- can we go to someplace fun, Bill? I don't want to have to think about this anymore." Dipper violently rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand, wiping away all traces of tears.

Bill wanted to ask if the murderer was ever caught, wanted to ask how his parents were murdered. Magic? Sword? Dagger? Knife? Those 'gun' things he's heard about, whatever they were? But seeing Dipper's still upset expression held his tongue. He could always ask later.

"Yeah, okay." The god answered before scooping the boy into his arms and standing up, carrying the twelve-year-old bridal style.

"Bill!" Dipper cried out, his voice not quite as forlorn as it had been before, but nowhere near as joyful as it usually was. "P-Put me down! This is embarrassing!"

Bill laughed at that. "How is it embarrassing? We're the only two around and I find you quite cute like this, Pine Tree!"

"I-It's embarrassing to me so put me down!" The boy sent him a pout.

Now all traces of sorrow were gone.

Good. That's how he was supposed to be.

Bill sent the brunet own of his own pouts before setting Dipper back down, keeping an arm wrapped around his shoulder, however.

With a slight tug, the god turned them to the left and lead them through a small thicket. Once again, Bill summoned his cane, using it to push some thorny bushes out of their way.

"So where are we going?"

"Hmm..." Bill hummed, thoughtful. Someplace new that would satisfy the child? But at the same time, not make him all depressed again?

Well, Bill knew the perfect place. Just had to make sure he took the right path this time around though.

"Oh, I know the perfect place! It's a- well, I'm not going to tell you!"

"What? Why not?"

"It's gonna be a surprise!"

Dipper rolled his eyes, but smiled nonetheless.

Good. Bill thought.

"It's a bit tricky to get to, however. We have to make sure to stay away from the yellow bluockblous."

"...The what?"

"The yellow bluockblous."

"...And what are...the yellow whatever you said?"

"Oh, just these weird flowers who's pollen affects everyone in a different way for as long as your breathing it in."

Dipper hopped over a protruding root. "Affect in what way?"

"Like..." Bill ducked under a branch. "Oh, I don't know. Some get unnatural magical powers. Some turn invisible. Some grow extra limbs, and some even go brain dead!" Bill chuckled. "But it's best to stay away from them."

Dipper narrowed his eyes. If Bill knew all of that, then he must have run into them himself, right?

"How do they affect you? If you know all this about them, then you had to have smelled their pollen at one point, right?"

"No, of course not! Don't be ridiculous! I just know everything, that's all. I'm a genius, after all!" The god denied.

Dipper smirked as he eyed the slight golden flush Bill had on his cheeks.

"Whatever you say." The brunet relented coolly.

"Really, Pine Tree. I haven't."

"And I didn't say you did."

Bill pouted again and ducked underneath another low-hanging branch.

The two ducked and hopped over the forest, trying not to get scratched up as they moved through thicker and thicker undergrowth. The two chatted playfully until Bill started to move onto more...interesting topics, making Dipper zone in and out of what he was saying.

"-like, why grapes? They have no flavor and there are sometimes seeds in the middle. Sure, most grapes don't but some do. Personally, if I was to be fed- and I wouldn't want to be, mind you. Who knows where your hands have been- but really, garlic cloves are the way to go. Not grapes..."

Dipper blinked blearily and stepped over another root.

Bill sure was weird.

"- and apparently they don't behead people anymore? What's up with that? Hanging is so boring, all your doing is suspending yourself from a rope. And don't even get me started on electric chairs. Why can't you humans go back to good 'ole fashioned sacrifice? But then again, I also like that Catherine wheel method or whatever it was called. Funny stuff which also reminds me of-"

Dipper hissed as he almost ran into another branch. Honestly, all of this was really getting ridiculous.

And Bill was still going on about something or another.

Was he even paying attention to where he was leading them?

"- So glasses are like little not-mirrors when you really think about it. I mean, both break and are made of a glass-like substance. One of the better things you humans have invented, I'll be honest. You guys need some self-improvement-"

Dipper sniffed the air, only to get a scent of something sticky sweet, weak but getting stronger as they walked on.

The brunet looked up to see if Bill noticed, but he was still going on about...The Decimal system?

"- Stupid guy, taking my ideas-"

"Bill, what's that weird smell?" Dipper asked, wrinkling his nose

Bill looked down at him and for the first time Dipper realized the pupils in his eyes were completely blown wide, black nearly overtaking the gold.

"Oh, that's just the pollen of the yellow bluockblous. We've been smelling it for a while now~!" Bill giggled.

Actually giggled.

Dipper blanched, glaring up at the god. "What the heck Bill!" He spat.

Actually spat.

Bill giggled a little more and the next thing Dipper knew, he was scooped back up into a pair of arms once more, crushed against the god's chest. "I was wondering when you would start to notice!"

"Bill!"

"Shh...Pine Tree, I have some terribly wonderful news to give you~"

"...What?"

Bill leaned in close, breath ghosting over his cheek.

"Yellow bluockblous make you take on traits of your spirit animal~"

"...What?"

Bill suddenly dropped him. Surprised, Dipper twisted around quickly, somehow catching himself on the balls of his feet. Crouched down low, the boy could see tiny, yellow petals hidden in the grass.

Who knew something so disruptive would be so small?

"Bill!" He hissed.

"You're a little kitty now! Pine Kitty! Or would it be Kitty Tree? Which one do you like better~?"

"Neither!" Dipper snapped, straightening up immediately, only to feel something brush against his ankle, causing him to jump back up into the god's arms.

"You even have a pair of ears and a tail~!"

Dipper's hands flew up to his head and indeed he felt a pair of fluffy ears growing there. Lowering his hands slowly, eyes wide with horror, he carefully felt his backside, feeling a furry tail protruding from his tailbone.

He squeaked.

"Bill! This is all you're fault!"

Bill didn't seem to hear him. Tightening his arms around the cat-boy, he sat back onto the rough grass below, right on top of the flowers that did this in the first place

"You even have whiskers and a pink nose now! Ohh, and I'm loving the eyes~!" Bill leaned in way too close for Dipper's comfort, causing him to squirm. "We match now!"

"Bill, we have to get away from the flowers! As long as we're here, I'm going to stay a weird cat-human hybrid thing and you more crazy than normal!"

The god didn't seem to notice or care about Dipper's protests, opting instead to bury his nose into the cat-child's head.

"...Are you sniffing me?!"

"You smell nice~"

Dipper hissed once more. This was a terrible idea! Now what was he supposed to do? Bill was being entirely unreasonable and there was no way he could get him to move- unless...

Blushing slightly at his thoughts, a horrible and completely embarrassing idea came to Dipper's mind. He didn't know if it would work, but...

Dipper stopped trying to wriggle away from the god, instead nuzzling closer, chest starting to hum in an uncontrollable purr that made the cat-boy flush even harder.

Oh great, this had to happen.

Bill laughed playfully.

Dipper rubbed his face against the base of Bill's neck, slowly moving upward, soft peach fuzz rubbing against the god's skin.

Dipper had wanted facial hair, but not like this. Giving a soft snort of annoyance, the cat-child slowly moved up so he was rubbing his soft cheek directly onto Bill's own cheek.

The god's hands strayed; one to the top of his head where he rubbed between his ears, in which care Dipper refused to accept felt nice, and the other on his spine, luckily still over his shirt.

Getting closer to Bill, Dipper watched with half-closed eye's Bill's own orb disappear under a single eyelid.

It was now or never.

Before he could really think about what he was doing, Dipper made sure to pool all his saliva on his still human tongue before licking Bill's eye in the wettest, most sloppy manor ever.

The god reacted how Dipper thought he would- throwing him off with a loud noise of disgust, trying to wipe the spit away.

"What the hell Pine Tree?!" Bill snapped, hair tinting strawberry ever so slightly.

Without a second thought, Dipper broke out into a run.

He could hear Bill scramble up to give chase- mind too far gone to probably remember he had powers and could just teleport in front of him or something. Squeaking, Dipper did his best not to look back and keep moving forward.

As luck would have it, his new cat-like appearance also lead to some cat-like traits. Sure, he was slowly becoming color-blind, but he ran faster than before and had an easier time jumping and ducking over obstacles in his way.

Behind him was the sound of Bill crashing into everything, completely gone because of the pollen.

"YOU GET BACK HERE, PINE TREE!" Bill slurred, then giggled.

Dipper hissed as the smell of the pollen slowly got weaker as they ran. As soon as they weren't smelling it anymore, they'd be fine.

"No! You have to catch me!" Dipper yelled back, trying to turn this into a game instead of a murder.

Bill giggled in response. "Okie dokie!" He called back.

Dipper couldn't hold in his laughter at that.

He would hang this over the god's head forever.

Weaving around a particularly thorny thicket, Dipper lead the way out as trees once again grew thinner all around, sweet scent getting farther and farther away. Glancing down at his hands, Dipper smiled at the sight of his normal hairless hands, glad to be rid of the thin peach fuzz that had started to grow in before.

Behind him, the sound of Bill crashing into everything lessened.

As the smell slowly receded back to the natural smell of the forest; warm soil and musty leaves, Dipper slowed down to a halt, turning around.

Bill was leaning against a tree only a few feet away, not panting but nonetheless flushing a bright gold color. His immaculate suit and pants were torn terribly in many places, small stains of golden ichor still staining the healed unmarked skin as well as his clothes.

Dipper carefully reached one hand up and one hand behind his back.

No tail. No ears. Just as it should be.

The two- boy and god- looked at one another in the eyes, well, eye for Dipper.

"Never talk about this ever?" Dipper offered, smirking a bit.

Bill grumbled and pushed himself off his tree, stalking up to the boy and lightly gripping his shoulder, blue flames already taking them.

"Agreed."

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper leaned back into the soft grass, watching the waterfall through lazy eyes. All he wanted to do was lay down and forget about what happened and the Waterfall Meadow was the best place to do that. With the calming cascade of water, the gentle sway of soft grass against his skin, and the way the light dimpled the smooth pond- Dipper couldn't think of a more peaceful place.

Bill laid in the grass next to him, hands folded behind his head, staring up at the sky above.

Both were silent with one another, having sunk into a comfortable silence at least an hour ago that neither really wanted to break.

Dipper sighed, his eyes half-closed as he listen to the sounds around him, took in the sights. Magic was buzzing in the air as it always did, an electrical shock that told him of it's presence and reassured him that it was okay for it to be there, that he was okay to be there. It wrapped around him, like a warm blanket.

Like a mother's arms.

Pangs vibrated through his heart, distant but as painful as ever. He could still remember that kind cop's words as he told him and his sister the ugly truth.

Well, at the time, he didn't even know what murdered meant.

He did remember first hearing it though and disliking it. After all, it was such a gross, monstrous word.

A beastly word for a beastly act.

"Bill. Did I ever tell you how my parents were killed?"

Dipper turned on his side, folding his hands under his cheek, curling his legs up. His brown eyes stared at the god stretched out before him, watching the rise and fall of his chest.

Bill turned his head, a flash of his other, void-like eye appearing under the shock of blond hair.

"No. No you didn't." The god said slowly. "Does it matter?"

Dipper sighed and turned his head upwards once more, staring out into the distance.

"Yeah. Yeah it does. They- they weren't just killed by another person or whatever. M-Me...and Mabel didn't learn ab-about this until much...much later but th- they were killed by..."

Dipper let out another sigh, steeling himself.

"They were killed by a supernatural creature."

Both Bill's eyebrows raised. "What creature?"

"I don't know. Either they never found out or- or they haven't told us yet."

Bill narrowed his eyes. "How were they killed?" He commanded, leaving no room for argument.

Dipper bit his lip and squeezed his eyes shut. He'd never seen the body of his dead parents, which was a good thing, if one thought about it, but the image his mind brought up when he thought about what he over heard the cop's describing...

"Both their faces were ripped clean off, chest open, skin peeled back stomach to sternum, ribs broken off and taken."

Dipper didn't even realize he was talking until everything fell still around him once more. His eyes fell close, squeezed together tight by a furrowed brow. His breaths came in small gasps as the image tried to form in his mind, of what skull would look like past blood and the sight of mutilated flesh and a long-stilled heart...

A pair of arms wrapped around him, gently pulling him face-first into a warm chest. Dipper gripped the front of Bill's vest, burying his face there.

It hurt to remember, to really put thought behind what had happened.

And it always would.

Bill growled lightly. They- they had never told him what happened? Where they just stupid or did they just not recognize the signs?

No, no, law enforcement must have figured it out, but kept the truth from Pine Tree and his sister. To protect them most likely...but all that does is lead no where.

Can't protect the innocent forever.

Bill ignored the hypocrisy of his thoughts.

"Dipper." Bill finally said, voice even and forceful.

At the sound of his preferred name, the young boy leaned his head back some to look eye-to-eye with the god, face red from being shoved into Bill's chest.

The god was grateful to not see any tears in those eyes.

For now.

"I-I know who killed your parents." The words slid smoothly off his tongue, like honey.

Unblemished and true, sickeningly sweet.

Dipper stiffened and his normally soft mocha eyes hardened, becoming cold and...hateful."

"What?" The young boy growled, tight and angry. "They said there was no way to know."

"They lied."

Dipper let out a small snarl and glared up at Bill, eyes wild with an inner fire the god hadn't seen before.

Hatred.

No, something stronger than that.

Loathing.

Bill loved it.

"Who did it then? How do you know?" Dipper commanded.

"It was another god. I recognize her work; she only kills in one way."

Bill sighed as her image flipped through his mind. Sure, she had backed him up last time, but...well, that was near a thousand years ago.

And besides, no one hurt his Pine Tree. Not even in the past.

"Her name is Ace Moonlighter."

~~0~~0~~0~~

The dark moon hung high above, unseen but there. The forest was mostly quiet, as it usually was.

Well, as it usually was around this part.

Bill calmly walked past the blackened, knotted trees. Old, worn, and hundreds of years old.

Each golden-tipped dress shoe scuffed against the cracked and dry ground, soil stained permanent crimson that could never hold life again.

Even the stars, so high above it all, seemed to dim when peering down at the hollowed heart of the woods, repulsed by the dark history, and understandably so.

Even the little color that hung around didn't truly want to stay, preferring to try and fade away with the rest of the environment and try to pass along into the dark recesses of the forgotten.

However, Bill wouldn't let that happen. He couldn't forget.

How could one forget the place where everything changed, after all?

His eyes illuminated the area around him, a sharp and contrasting frigid cold, pupils thinner slits than usual. Teeth bared slightly, every muscle he had was tensed up, ready for a fight. The god stretched his fingers, feeling his black claws scrape against the inside of his gloves, begging to be raked across open skin, to tear into a mortal being and draw red.

He hated this place. He hated it with every inch of his being. He would tear it apart if he could, ruin and blacken it more so than it already had been, but it was impossible.

The closer Bill got to his destination, the more oppressive the air got, draining him of energy. Cruel and merciless magic buzzed in the air, smelling putrid and making his stomach churn.

He rolled his shoulders back, trying to hang on to himself. This was supposed to be happening. It was the warning.

The overwhelming feeling of rage easily took him up in that moment. Letting out a war cry, Bill turned on his heel and sent a flying punch out at the nearest tree, punching clean through the corrupted bark and causing it to crumble.

Still seeing red, the god turned on another knotted tree, this time ripping his gloves off and flexing his now grown out black and gold tipped claws, tearing at the tree like it was nothing.

Soon, the second tree was dust like the first.

Bill hissed in pain as golden ichor trickled out of the pads of his fingers. Looking down at his hands, the god was relieved to see that his hard claws were still intact, despite the damage to his open skin. Healing it an a flash of blue, he bent down to retrieve his gloves and pulled them back on.

He needed to get a hold of himself. He needed to calm down and not lash out.

The red faded from his vision, his blackened skin receding back to brown.

Letting out a deep breath, Bill continued on his way, doing his best to ignore the strengthening magic.

Ahead, a faint dark orange glow started to burn, a signal and curse.

Gritting his teeth together, Bill sped up his walking.

He just wanted to get this over with.

Bill stepped past the tree line, into what had once been a circular meadow reduced to pretty much nothing. The ground below was even more ruined than before, massive scars the split the earth open, leading to a dark abyss way below. The soil wasn't even crimson anymore, the color having bled out a long time ago.

In the very center of the destruction was a massive seal.

Bill sneered at the familiar, triangular binding. Runes encircled the outside and on the inside, were carved and draw in a way to almost resemble bricks. Near the top of one of the points, a single eye, once again made by runes, opened up brightly to stare at the sky in look of emptiness.

Bill's lip curled at the-the blasphemy before him, blood boiling once more. The air pressed down on him on all sides, trying to force him to submit.

It couldn't- wouldn't win. Bill wouldn't let it. His one covered eye glowed brighter, a sharp and venomous blue that shone through his thick, golden hair.

"Hello, Bill Cipher." A deep voice echoed to the right of him.

Bill whipped around to face him, eyes narrowed. "You fucking asshole. Out of all the fucking places we could meet, you just had to choose here." He snarled.

A sigh.

"Bill, I've been trying to catch you for an entire year now. I had to resort to drastic measures. You know I can't stay in there woods for long. Even now, not even five minutes in, one of my kidneys has failed. We have to keep this brief."

Bill hissed and crossed his arms. "Well? What?"

"They're starting to notice. A few whispers have been passed about already. Miss Cocktail. Madam Madness. Will Zine. Sir Prize. Other gods are starting to notice the disappearances."

"There's been more than that." Bill snorted. "What do you want me to do about it? They wander to close to my territory and I kill and take their powers. Nothing personal. Just want to fucking get out of here!"

Once more, Bill whipped around and let out a jet of blue flames at the seal, letting out another howl of rage while he did so.

As expected, dark orange electricity coiled around the fire, redirecting it to the firmament high above.

The other god waited till the god of dreams was done with his tantrum.

"You need to get a hold of your emotions."

"Oh, shut up. That's your territory, not mine."

"Touche. But back to matters at hand; Some are seeing your...protectiveness as murder. They're not happy."

Bill snorted. "Like I care about that. If they want to complain, tell them to do it to my face."

The other god laughed, amethyst eyes crinkling. "Of-"

Before he could finish his sentence, a stream of blood burst through his mouth. Gagging, he hit his own chest, trying to clear it out.

"My appendix just exploded and one of my ribs broke and ripped through my left lung." He explained in a surprisingly calm manor, thick crimson still dribbling through his pale red lips.

"Time's up then, I guess." Bill commented, slight worry creeping into his voice.

"Indeed. I'll go gather more energy and come back later. You should see how hormonal and emotional teens get nowadays. It's practically a feast!"

Bill rolled his eyes, worry gone. "Just get out of here."

The other god smiled in the darkness, his white and sharp grin glowing in the dark orange light. "Very well. Goodbye, Bill."

Bill smirked.

"See you later, Tad."

Chapter Text

Dipper straightened his bag out in the trunk, making sure everything fit and nothing was sticking out. Grabbing the lid, he tried to slam it down to close the trunk, only to have it pop back open.

Frowning, Dipper slammed the lid down harder, trying to get it to catch.

Once again, it simply popped right back up.

So he tried it again, putting his entire weight into slamming it close.

Smiling when it stayed, Dipper turned on his heel to get into the El Diablo, only to hear the tell-tale sound of the trunk clicking back open.

"Oh for the love of-"

"Dipper! Hurry it up and close the trunk! We don't have all day!" Grunkle Stan snapped from his seat at the wheel, window rolled down and wrinkly face leaned out to glare at him.

"It won't stay!" Dipper protested.

He heard Mabel roll her own window down.

"Yeah, because you have NOODLE ARMS!" She laughed, before descending into a small cough.

Stan spared her a single, slightly worried glance before turning his attention back onto Dipper.

"Dipper, get the trunk closed."

Dipper, once more tried to close it only for it to pop right back open. "I'm trying Grunkle Stan! Really!"

Grumbling in irritation under his breath, Stan stepped out of his car and made his way to Dipper's side. The older man peered down at the almost thirteen-year-old. "If I close this on the first try without any problems, you will be shamed forever."

Dipper pouted.

Stan shoved the lid down and took a step back.

Both of them, old man and young boy, stared at the trunk, a sly smirk working it's way onto Stan's face while a look of disappointment and anger worked it's way onto Dipper's.

The trunk stayed.

"Haha!" Stan laughed. "Look's like you'll be forever shamed, kid!"

"That's no fair! It's probably rigged or something!"

"Life's not fair. Now get in the car. Mabel! Make sure to shame your brother!"

Dipper scowled as he yanked the back door open and slipped inside, taking a few tries to get the seat belt around him and buckled.

"Shame, shame, shame!" Mabel teased with a grin, her voice a bit hoarse from the allergies she'd been having recently.

"oh, shut up." Dipper grumbled, taking one last glance at the forest when she and Stan weren't looking.

Sure, he'd only be gone for three days; two of them driving and only one of them actually staying in Piedmont, but that didn't mean he would miss the forest less. Or Bill, for that matter.

Gods, Dipper only met him a little over two or three weeks ago, but he felt as if he'd known the god for years. Time sure was a funny thing, especially when you were in good company.

And, if he was being honest with himself, Bill one of the best people he'd ever met.

Stan yanked the stick shift around a bit before driving down the dirt road that lead to their house, and onto the dirt road connecting to the main street. The El Diablo bumped around a bit as always, shaky and feeling like it was going to fall apart any second. As usual, the smell of gas burning easily leaked into the car, covering the stench of mothballs and rotting food quite nicely.

As much as Dipper hated the smell of gas burning, he preferred it over the stink of whatever was growing in the car any day.

"Shame, shame, shame!" Mabel continued next to him, poking his knee every time.

Dipper gave her a playful, but still annoyed scowl and leaned against the window. "Mabel, stop it!" He complained.

"'Mabel, stop it!'" She mocked with a giggle, though still stopped her poking.

Stan finally pulled out onto the main road, car jarred as it bumped along cracked stone, feeling like it was hitting every pothole in the road. As per usual, Stan drove haphazardly, though luckily he stayed in the correct lane for once, opting instead to weave terribly within their lane instead as well as drive at least thirty miles over the speed limit.

How the old man hadn't been arrested yet was beyond Dipper, though the boy suspected foul play. It wasn't exactly hard to see how many rules of the road Stan was breaking.

The guy didn't even wear a seat belt!

"Dip, do you think Waddles will be okay without us?"

"He is every year, Mabel."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes! Do you doubt Wendy or something?"

"...No, but if he's not okay, I'm blaming you for jinxing it!"

Dipper groaned and smacked his head onto the window.

"What is this, Pick-on-Dipper day?" He complained.

Mabel's voice was completely serious. "Yes."

Dipper gave a great sigh through his nose, half-way wishing he was with Bill right now instead.

Stan gave a sharp turn to the left and Dipper watched as the You are now leaving Gravity Falls! Sign pass by, as vandalized and worn as ever.

"Hey, bro-bro I'm bored. We should play a game!"

"Don't make any annoying sounds!" Stan shouted from the front.

Mabel coughed and crossed her arms. "Darn it!"

Dipper smiled at the two's banter. "What game did you have in mind?"

Mabel tapped her finger on her chin, pulling her best serious thinking face on, causing Dipper to burst out laughing.

"How about...I spy!"

Dipper rolled his eyes. "Mabel, that's not going to-"

"I'll go first. Um, I spy something...Old! And gross!"

Dipper laughed harder and louder at that. "Grunkle Stan!" He cackled.

Mabel nodded profoundly, while Stan grumbled something under his breath about annoying nephews and niece before fiddling with the radio.

"Oh, Oh! Play Sev'ral Timez!" Mabel begged.

In the mirror, Dipper watched as Stan pulled a horrified and disgusted face. "That is never going to happen."

He stopped it on some old rock station, playing some old rock song that Dipper didn't recognize.

"Please?"

"No."

"Pretty please?"

"No."

"Pretty, pretty please?"

"Adding more pretties isn't going to work."

Though Mabel shot him a clear pout, her eyes sparkled in mischief. "Pretty, pretty please with a cherry on top?"

"I hate cherries. And the answer is still no."

Crossing her arms in frustration, the sweater-clad girl leaned back in her seat. "But that's no fair!"

"Life's not fair." Dipper quipped from before.

"Hey! Don't go stealing my lines, kid! You gotta go get you're own!"

"...But I thought you said stealing was okay?" The brunet asked with a smirk.

"Only if the original owner is not around. Yesh, kid. That's just plain common sense."

Dipper frowned, but said nothing in return.

Next to him, Mabel hummed as she took out her knitting needles and started on her newest sweater, the yellow just as offensive and bright in his peripherals as it was normally.

The car fell silent as Stan turned and pulled out onto another deserted road.

A Purple Floyd song came on, somehow matching the click-clack of Mabel's needles perfectly.

The car wobbled underneath him.

Dipper leaned on the window, resting his forehead on the cool glass. The silence was a bit unnerving in the car and he longed to break it somehow, but didn't have the skill. Talking to other's had never been his forte beyond telling random customers were things in the shop were located, and normally his family.

However, recently, Dipper had come to the conclusion that sometimes the people in your family were the hardest people to talk to.

The thought wasn't a pleasant one. In fact, it made him a bit sick to his stomach. He had always been able to strike up a conversation with Mabel and Grunkle Stan- well, maybe not always Stan, but definitely Mabel.

So what changed?

Dipper bit his lip as a new, darker thought entered his mind, unwelcoming and burdening him with whole new worries.

What if nothing changed at all?

What if he was simply becoming more aware of his situation?

And what sort of situation would that be?

Dipper had no clue.

He bit his lip and threw those thoughts away to the back of his mind.

He was just being a worry-wart. Paranoid. That's all.

Nothing to worry about.

Nothing at all.

The boy watched the trees and sky pass with boredom. Outside the forest, there wasn't much to see.

He wondered what Bill was doing, where he was.

Thoughts of Bill turned into remembrance of what the god told him last time...

Ace Moonlighter.

Goddess of Identity.

Besides that, he didn't know much about the goddess who killed their parents. Bill hadn't given much information up as he really didn't know what she was up to, for obvious reasons.

Dipper couldn't blame the god- he was trapped after all- but that didn't mean that his lack of knowledge didn't frustrate him.

Ace Moonlighter...

He couldn't recall reading it in the gods encyclopedia, the one with the Latin name that he couldn't remember. Most likely he had skipped over her page, if he ever reached it at all.

At the time, he was looking up Bill. He didn't expect to need it again afterwords.

Dipper let out a silent sigh, fogging up the window slightly. Underneath him, the car bumped and jerked once again and Dipper felt himself be yanked to the right against his seat belt, hard, the strap cutting into his shoulder and neck at Stan's awful driving.

Grumbling and rubbing his neck when Stan straightened out the car again, the brunet shot his Grunkle a glare he didn't notice before turning back to the window.

As soon as they got back to Gravity Falls, he was going to have to hunt down that book again and check it out. Mabel could-

Dipper's eyes widened and flashed towards his sister, who was now humming lightly under her breath as she knit, a focused but joyful expression on her soft face.

He still hadn't told Mabel.

Then again, how was he supposed to tell her?

"Hey Mabes. Guess what Bill, the god you don't trust whatsoever told me? That he knows the person who killed our parents! Her name's Ace Moonlighter and somehow, we'll get her and find out why she did it. You in?"

Dipper shook his head slightly.

No, that was terrible.

So how was he supposed to tell her? It wasn't like he had a choice in the matter, after all. He had to tell her, right?

Right?

Dipper's blood froze at the turn his thoughts were taking. No, he had to tell her. Mabel still didn't know anything.

And unlike him, Mabel actually cried every year.

His frozen blood was quickly thawed out by white-hot justice fueled rage.

His family was torn apart literally because of one god.

Mabel had a right to know. He'd have to tell her. It wasn't an option, never has and never will be.

So why did he consider the opposite in the first place?

~~0~~0~~0~~

His hand slipped into her's easily, an automatic gesture created after so many years.

Dipper didn't know whether it was because he wanted to support her, he needed support himself, or if it was a strange mix of the two. Whatever the case was, the two twins leaned heavily on one another as they walked down the too-familiar dirt pathways to the too-familiar tree where the too-familiar stones sat.

Behind them, El Diablo rumbled mutely, a hollow sound that stretched to the cloudy sky above.

Even a care was able to sound sad on this day, their anniversary.

An anniversary that shouldn't even exist.

Dipper didn't know who was leading who, if either of them were leading at all as they walked past the winding graves. The ground beneath their feet was hard, dry, and cracked from lack of rain, grass yellowed and dead all around, making for a depressing scene.

Dipper glanced over at his sister.

Even on days like this, Mabel was able to keep her head up, even if her bright eyes were dulled a bit. Her hair still bounced with every step though, even if those steps weren't as bubbly as before.

Her finished yellow sweater was as offensively bright as it was before, with the front saying, in big black letters; I'M A STAR.

A small smile tugged at the corner of the brunet's lips, unnoticed by his sister next to him who was keeping her eyes glued to the front.

Mabel was still Mabel.

And she always will be.

The two turned to the right, the graves around them thinning out ever so slightly. They passed multiple plots on the way, some more filled than others.

Sooner than what the twins liked, or perhaps later than what they would've liked, their parents graves melted into sight, a dreary gray that mirrored the sky.

Dipper gripped the flowers he had in the hand not hanging on to Mabel tightly, feeling the stem bend and bite into his skin.

Next to him, Mabel shifted her own bundle around, though didn't quite squeeze it as her brother had. She didn't want a handful of thorns, after all.

Dipper sighed.

Mabel coughed.

The distance between them and the two, lonesome graves disappeared all too quick and pretty soon, both twins were standing before the graves once more.

Tomas Pines

1972-2004

A loving husband and father who

was gone much too soon

Their father's grave was a bit worn from the elements and time, polished stone not shimmering as it was before. Stray leaves stuck to the top of the simple grave and a single, long hairline fracture stretched across the top, splitting he A in his name and ending just as it touched the 2 in 2004.

Dipper divided his bouquet of white flowers he had, laying them across the grave somberly.

He felt cold inside.

Next to him, Mabel fumbled with her roses a bit, hissing softly when thorns dug into her skin. Getting her on bouquet properly separated, she shuffled forward slightly to put her own gift down; seven roses, one for each color of the rainbow.

M-Mom and dad need some c-color. D-Don't you think?

Her reasoning struck a chord in Dipper's mind and heart.

Mabel stumbled back from their father's grave, tears bubbling and overflowing, dotting the dry ground beneath them.

Dipper wrapped a shaking arm around her shoulders and pulled her close.

Mabel never cried.

Not when she fell out of that tree that one time.

Not when Pacifica Northwest was bullying her.

Mabel never cried.

She saved all her tears for this one day of the year. After all, a person as bright and as cheerful as her didn't have much to give- a joke that Mabel herself said one day after glass got embedded in her feet.

Dipper was the exact opposite.

He cried when he tripped and fell down the stairs.

He cried when he was younger and got bullied.

Compared to his sister, he seemed to cry all the time.

But, as always, Dipper found himself unable to tear up, unable to let out. He stood their, shivering at the coldness from within his own soul, feeling...empty inside.

Madison Pines

1971-2004

A beautiful woman who

loved her family with all her heart

Dipper and Mabel lowered the last of their flowers onto their mother's grave. Arms free, when the two straightened back up, Mabel's arms wrapped around Dipper in a side hug. She sniffed and coughed, liquid still spilling from her dulled eyes.

The sight made his heart break a little.

Dipper wrapped his own arms around her and together, the two of them sunk to the ground slowly, not caring about how sharp and prickly the grass was underneath, holding one another, making sure the other didn't simply shatter under the weight of memories and happenings.

The two were quiet for, in Dipper's opinion, a long while. Both were unable, and maybe even a bit unwilling, to break the somber silence granted a them. The air was still and unmoving, world lifeless and desaturated around them.

In that moment, there was nothing in the world but the two of them and the graves.

It was Mabel who broke the silence first. Like always.

"Hey...mom, dad." she coughed a little, the sound hard and heavy-hitting.

Dipper calmly rubbed her arm in hopefully soothing circles, trying to ground her.

"Hi." He said himself, shy and unsure. After all, he was addressing the long deceased. How were you supposed to talk to those who have died and moved on?

Mabel knew, of course.

"It's great to see you two again! The past year has been pretty good for us, I, um, think. I've learned a lot in school and have gotten really good at making sweaters. I'm, like, a master now! And, uh, I've also started trying some magic too! Just like what you guys did! So has Dipper." She laid her head on his shoulder. "I've been working on enchantments, just simple one's, though and I really, really like it. Candy and Grenda are still my bestest friends and we do a lot together. Still haven't found myself a perfect man, but I'm working on it! And I think that's about it for me, really. Waddles is still the bestest pig in the world, Grunkle Stan is as grouchy as ever, and Wendy and Soos are still cool."

The girl wiped her eyes with the palm of her hand, smearing her tears. Though they weren't flowing quite as fast as before, the small beads of sorrow still trickled down the contours of her face and off her chin.

Dipper took his own, shaky breath, unable to start as always.

"Yeah, t-this year has been pretty...pretty good. Um, I'm getting good at some magic too. Not enchanting, but utility spells, or whatever. They're pretty useful. And, uh, I've been reading a lot like usual...and yeah that's it really." I also made a new friend. He's a god and he told me who killed you.

He didn't say that last part out loud.

Mabel gave him a side-long glance, knowing fully well that Dipper's life dramatically changed over the course of the year, happening in about a month. However, she didn't say anything.

The girl chewed her bottom lip, her mind dampened by the bout of depression and lost, leading to deeper worry for her brother, who never seemed to be around, who hung out in the forest with a strange, immortal god, who seemed so distant...

Another cough rattled her chest. What felt like congestion filled her lungs, wiggling all about in her insides.

She was all too ready for her allergies to be over.

Meanwhile, Dipper gave her a slightly worried glance as her cough slowly died out, rubbing her arm a bit more.

Pressing against one another, the twins simply let themselves be taken away by their own thoughts and memories.

For Mabel, her mind wandered to the past, to the chocolate-chip cookies her father used to bake, to the origami her mother loved to do after meeting someone from work who was particularly talented at the art, to how she and her brother would play outside for hours on end before dragging themselves back into the house on tired legs, getting needed apple juice before falling down in front of the T.V to watch cartoons until they nodded off, only to wake up the next day tucked into bed by their...their parents...

Dipper closed his eyes, falling back into his mind. Like his sister, his thoughts started near the beginning. Warm, sunny days when they begged to have money to buy ice cream, how his mother would ruffle his hair every so often, and the way their father would give him and Mabel piggy-back rides every so often...

But all that was in the far lost past. Something he could never return to, never live through again.

All because of Ace Moonlighter.

Dipper turned his head slightly to the side to peer at Mabel.

He bit his lip.

In all honesty, it was now or never. The words were on the tip of his tongue, begging to be said and explained.

But once again, Dipper was faced with the terrible option he shouldn't even be considering.

Should he tell her or not? Though their parent's death tore out both the twin's hearts, but Dipper knew that Mabel could live out her life without knowing. She had never really been bothered by the reason why or even who did the act in the first place. She was too busy mourning the lost.

Dipper mourned the lost as well, but even all those years ago, back when he was a child, the unanswerable question still remained. Who? Why?

Well, he had a who now. But the why was still unanswered.

Dipper stared at his sister.

The words were on the tip of his tongue.

"M-Mabel. There's...There's something I have to tell you." He stuttered out, his voice softer than a whisper.

Mabel heard him loud and clear though, and heard the slight anxiousness in his tone as well. She turned and stared into Dipper's mocha eyes that mirrored her's perfectly.

"What?" She asked, tilting her head to the side slightly, peering at him.

Dipper's expression was one of worry, but also hardened acceptance. His eyes didn't have the life they normally did.

They were...cold.

"I-I know...who-who killed...mom and dad." He gasped out, sounding out every syllable like he couldn't believe it himself.

Mabel froze.

And felt her world crumble slightly as time seemed to slow down.

Her tongue was heavy in her now dry and arid mouth. Her brain simply stopped, trying to process what she just heard and trying to match up an emotion for a correct reaction.

But what reaction would that be? Did that emotion even exist?

Feelings and worries burst inside her, jumbling and tangling up together in an indescribable mess, piling one on top of the other.

Curiosity.

Sadness.

Anger.

Confusion.

Fear.

And so many other thoughts and feelings she couldn't even name.

The girl stared at her brother, mouth parted slightly, eyes blown wide reflecting her twisted insides in a manor that put an odd expression on her face, one that couldn't be discerned.

"W...Wh-who?" She was somehow able to choke out.

Dipper's mouth pressed down into a grim, thin line, cold eyes stormy with his own stricken emotions.

"She's a-a god. Her name is Ace Moonlighter."

At the sound of god, something in Mabel's mind snapped back into place, flinging her forward. Time sped back up to it's normal, dreary pace and then went even faster.

Mabel wasn't stupid. It didn't take long for her to put the little pieces together and see the big picture.

"How would Bill-" She spat the name out a bit bitterly. "Know that? And you told him?! How can- how can you trust him?"

She untangled herself from her brother and scooted back some to glare at him a bit better. Crossing her arms over her chest, she waited for his answer.

"Because she kills in- in the same way every time. He recognized that."

"It could be a copy-cat." She replied, using her knowledge gained from Ducktective to her advantage.

"Gods wouldn't copy each other. They're much to proud to so something like that."

Mabel made a noise that sounded both annoyed and horrified at the same time. "Well- well how can you trust him, huh? What if he's just telling you this because- because-!"

"Mabel, Bill wouldn't lie! He's one of my best friends and he wouldn't do that!"

Both fell silent at his outburst. Dipper blushed slightly, embarrassed but not knowing why.

Mabel sucked in a deep breath. "Dipper- I don't-" Her mind twirled around for something to say as every issue came to the forefront of her mind, every memory and every realization.

It wasn't a secret that Dipper didn't have many friends. He always hung out with her, Grenda, and Candy at lunch, and they few people he did talk to was for studying purposes and nothing more.

Dipper simply never showed that much interest in making friends beyond her, Wendy, Soos...

And now Bill.

"Sorry." Mabel apologized quickly. "I-I didn't mean to...to-"

"It's fine." He reassured her, small smile playing on his face. "Really. Bill's not bad at all. He's kind weird, but in a funny way."

He shook his head suddenly. "But that's not what this is about. Bill told me the- the god who...who killed mom and dad! Her name's Ace Moonlighter."

Mabel frowned and recoiled slightly, both at the name and the palpable hatred in her brother's voice.

Mabel still didn't know how to feel.

"Dipper...why-why does this matter?"

Her brother stared at her, shocked.

"What do you mean? Don't you want to know who killed mom and dad?"

Mabel shifted around uncomfortably. She supposed knowing was nice in a sense, but the knowledge also dragged her down.

She had been doing fine not knowing.

"You know that's not what I mean!" She replied, instead. She quieted some. "But what are we supposed to do? Get revenge? Ask why?"

"Well, why not?!"

"Dipper! That's not going to work and you know that!"

Mabel blinked at their reversed situations and feelings, the irony not lost on her.

The two of them fell silent in the wake of their brief and backwards argument. Both had so much to say to the other, but no way to communicate what they wanted. So they sat their once more, not touching and silent, eyes glued to the graves before them, making sure to not give the other an even passing glance.

And that was how Grunkle Stan found them fifteen minutes later.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Bill twisted his wrist easily, cracking the squealing baby rabbit's neck easily. The tiny, warm creature went limp in his hand, terrified black and beady eyes staring at nothing.

Wrinkling his nose in slight distaste, he summoned his cane to his hand easily enough, batting away stray bushes and branches with it as he started walking into a particularly thick cluster of trees. Sharp pine needles littered the ground. Coarse and sharp grass crunched under each steady step he walked.

He passed by the trees easily enough, watching the descending sun be blocked out by the tall branches that stretched high above, trying to reach and grab the sky with little luck, forever stuck in want to never have.

Like him, in a way.

Bill didn't let his thoughts drag him away as they normally did, instead opting to focus on a soft face with fluffy hair and wide mocha eyes, paired right next to a familiar goddess dressed to the nines in a peach-covered toga...

Well, she probably looked a lot different now then in the past. Times change, and so do gods with it.

Time: The only true thing he followed.

Bill Cipher rolled his shoulders as he finally saw the tree he was looking for, a pine with blood red bark and, oddly enough, white pine needles.

Slowing to a stop feet before the bark, he reached out with his cane and tapped a small pattern onto the tree before him.

Tap-tiptip-tap

It was a staccato sound, short and sweet.

Tap-tiptip-tap.

Well, maybe not quite sweet. More like a demand, really.

Tap-tiptip-tap.

But what could he say? He was a demanding god; a born leader.

A cackle from high above greeted his taps. Albino pine needles shuffled about above, yet didn't fall as a small and familiar shape dropped down onto the lowest branch before him.

"Hello, Mister Cipher. What brings you to this part of the woods?" The blackbird asked, curiosity in it's monotone voice.

"I have a small job for you. Nothing to hard for someone such as yourself, I would imagine."

The blackbird grinned at him, showing off it's unnatural sharp teeth as it's one, blindingly white eye crinkled. "Flattery will get you everywhere, Mister Cipher. What's the job and what's my payment?"

Bill masked his displeasure easily enough. He hated having to butter up to creatures such as the one in front of him, but for what he was trying to do, he had to be as cordial as possible.

Once again, Bill cursed the seal binding him to the forest and berated himself for not catching those sorcerers sooner and killing them before they finished the seal.

However, time was one thing no one had on their side. Including him.

Bill raised the hand clutching the still-warm baby rabbit. "A message for a rabbit?" He asked, unable to keep the smirk fully out of his voice and off his face.

The blackbird grinned. Taking flight, it dived down, beak splitting into four to display it's black hole of a mouth. In one fell swoop, it sucked the rabbit straight from his hand, whole, and slurped it down.

"Very well. Give me the message and the name and I'll be off!"

This time, Bill couldn't keep his monstrous grin off his face. Reaching into his pocket, the god pulled out a slightly bent envelope. It was stark white, thin, and in every way one looked at it, completely unassuming.

"Give this to Ace Moonlighter."

Chapter Text

"SURPRISE!"

Dipper blinked.

Mabel stood in front of him, arms splayed out to the side, party hat on her head. Donned in a bright blue sweater that said, quite clearly, I'M A TEEN NOW!

She graced him with a toothy metal grin, white and stunning.

Dipper rolled his eyes but nevertheless smiled around his toothbrush. Turning back to the sink, he spat out the foam and rinsed his mouth, leaving a fresh and minty taste.

"Heya Mabel." He greeted coolly, wiping dribbles of water off with his ratty night shirt.

Mabel gave him a large pout. "Nothing? Nothing at all?" She complained.

He smirked at her a threw a shrug out. "Nope!" He popped the P.

"Aww!"

"Mabel, you try this every year. You can't surprise someone who shares their birthday with you."

The girl sent him a pout. "Well, I sure as can try, right?"

"I guess so."

Mabel's grin returned. "Great! Anyways, go get dressed, Dippin' dots! We have a full day of ahead of us and you're already dragging me down!" With that being said, his sister turned on her heel and sped away.

Dipper shook his head. Mabel really needed to lay off the Mabel-juice once in a while.

Turning down the hallway, Dipper walked in the opposite direction of his sister to their room, slipping in quietly to get dressed for the day, mind already wandering away.

His sister really was an amazing person.

It had been a little over a week since their parent's anniversary, and though Mabel had been quiet towards him afterwords, she wasn't one to stay angry for long.

Dipper bent down and dug through his laundry, sniffing shirts for cleanliness.

Mabel had went right back to the way things were, picking her place up easily enough, like she was never told the name Ace Moonlighter in the first place.

He still wasn't sure whether it was because she believed she couldn't do anything about their parent's killer and as such, didn't let her mind dwell on it, or because so much time had already passed, she decided it was too late to be thinking of such faraway things. Whatever the case, Mabel was able to jump right back into her overly sparkly shoes easily.

He wasn't so sure whether he should be annoyed by this fact, or grateful that she wasn't actually going to go after Ace Moonlighter.

He wasn't even sure if he was going to go after her. If he even could, that is.

Finally finding a decently smelling shirt and an unstained pair of shorts, Dipper yanked his clothes on and tugged his favorite blue vest on. Making sure his notebook and pen were safely tucked away like they should be, the boy flattened his bangs over his forehead once more before leaving the room and making his way downstairs, striding easily into the kitchen.

"Greasy's! Greasy's!" Mabel chanted over and over Stan, waving her arms about while she did so.

Stan simply stared at her, eyebrow cocked.

Dipper laughed openly at the scene; at his Grunkle's disgruntled expression and Mabel's loudness.

Though, looking at the table, Dipper had to agree that Greasy's was the best option. Not only did they have better food than what Stan could make by a long shot, but the kitchen table was currently completely covered in art and craft supplies. Buckets of glitter were everywhere, along with tipped over bottles of leaking glue. Bit's of colored paper were littered about, along with sticky-looking scissors. Markers and crayons joined the mess, some having fallen to the floor.

"Greasy's! Greasy's!" Dipper joined in, thrusting both his fists in the air as he did so.

Stan gave a dramatic groan, soft smile pulling at his lips. "Fine! Fine! But only because it's your birthday and because they have the best pie."

Both twins gave each other cheerful looks before racing one another out of the shack.

Left behind, Stan merely shook his head at the enthusiasm the two of them shared before following them, albeit at a much slower pace.

By the time he got outside, both twins were already buckled up in the back of his car, Mabel bouncing around on her seat while Dipper laughed alongside her, chatting happily.

Once again, another loose smile tugged at the corner of the older man's lips. Thirteen. The two little rascals were already thirteen.

Slipping into the car, Stan turned on the ignition and started away, halfway listening to the kids in the back joke and carry on, shrieking a little every time he almost crashed the car.

Finally, after nearly hitting a building, ("They shouldn't have put that there!") three pedestrians, ("Gotta keep them on their toes!") and a lamp post, ("Eh, it's old anyways.") the three finally made it to Greasy's, no worse for wear.

Mabel and Dipper hopped out of the car as soon as it jerked to a stop. Mabel laughing over how fun the ride was and how excited she was to eat out once more. Dipper joked along with her, following the bright girl into the diner, Stan behind the two all the while.

Settling into their regular booth, it didn't take long for Lazy Susan to swing on by to take orders, blue eye shadow perfect as always.

"Heya Pines!" She greeted the three, small scratch pad and pencil already in hand to take their order. "How are you three doing?"

Stan grunted a noncommittal sound, having given up on trying to...ugh, date the woman a long time ago. Dipper and Mabel, however simply smiled up at her. "Today's our birthday!" Mabel cheered happily, slamming her fists down on the table. Dipper laughed at her antics and nodded along. "Yeah, we're now officially teens!"

Lazy Susan chuckled at their energy. "Happy birthday then! What can I get you three?"

"Oh, oh! Pancakes with whip cream, syrup, and sprinkles. And chocolate too! And glitter! And some chocolate milk!"

Lazy Susan nodded, writing down the girl's ridiculous order. "On it! And you fine gentleman?" At this, the older woman stared at Stan. Lifting up her lazy eye's eyelid, she briefly flashed the orb before letting the eyelid fall back into place once more. "Wink!" She tacked on.

"Oh yeah. I forgot that was the reason we don't come here more often." Stan grumbled. "Just some bacon and scrambled eggs with a black coffee."

If Lazy Susan heard his comment, she didn't say anything. Adding his order to the list, she turned towards Dipper. "And you?"

Dipper gave her a small smile. "Just some waffles with syrup, please. Oh, and orange juice."

Finishing off their orders, the older woman left with a beaming smile and a promise to be back out shortly, leaving the family to themselves.

"Grunkle Stan! We need to go to the store after this to get supplies!"

"Supplies? Supplies for what?" The older man asked, rubbing his temple with two of his fingers.

"For the party? Remember? Since me and Dipper-" Mabel elbowed her brother playfully, causing him to rub his arm in pain. "-had a surprise party last year, I was thinking we have an ultra mega karaoke extravaganza and invite everyone!"

"Since when did I agree to this?!" Stan cried out, running his hands through his hair.

"Three days ago." Dipper pointed out with a smirk, recalling Mabel waking him up in the middle of his nap to ask him, knowing he'd agree half asleep.

Stan fished for the memory. Vaguely remembering what happened, Stan both scowled and smiled at the two. "I don't know whether to be impressed by the two of you, or annoyed."

Mabel beamed. "Then be both!"

As Stan grumbled about spending money, Dipper turned to watch Lazy Susan come back, arms full of plates and glasses.

"Food!" She called out helpfully, placing everyone's meal and drink down with a smile, dropping the check onto the table as she did so.

"Hey, look! She gave us half-off." Dipper pointed out, grabbing his fork to start cutting into his waffles.

Stan immediately brightened at that. Grinning, he chomped on a bit of bacon. "So, what do you two need for this party of yours?"

Mabel jerked her head up from her food, whip cream, sprinkles, and glitter coating her mouth.

Dipper recoiled in slight disgust at the image.

"Everything!"

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper stretched himself out, balancing precariously on the ladder to hook the streamer up.

"Yo, Dipper! Be careful!" Wendy called out somewhere to his right, tying off another balloon.

Dipper finally got the streamer into place. Shoving a glittery purple tack through, he leaned back on the ladder, letting his weight settle from his toes to the middle of his feet.

"I'm fine! See, totally safe." He called back in reassurance, wiping a few drops of sweat off his forehead.

Wendy shook her head at his carelessness. "If you don't watch yourself, you're going to get hurt in the future." The sixteen-year-old warned.

Dipper gave her a small smile, rubbing his arms lightly. "I'll be fine. Besides, that was the last streamer."

Wendy dropped the balloon she had been holding, letting it join the countless others already milling about on the floor. "And that was the last balloon. Ugh, my lungs hurt now!"

"Couldn't of you just used a spell to blow them up?" Dipper asked, cocking his head to the side.

Wendy chuckled and ruffled his hair, careful not to mess up his bangs. "Not everyone is as good with magic as you and Mabel are, dude."

Dipper blushed lightly under her words, beaming with a bit of pride. "C'mon, we're not that good!" He dismissed, secretly enjoying the praise to his skills.

Wendy laughed. "Whatever! Anyways, I promised Soos I'd go get some crystals for his D.J stuff. I'll see you later, okay Mr. Teenager?"

Dipper smirked at the redhead and the two parted.

Dipper took a second to admire all the work everyone had put in. The entire shop was cleared out of merchandise and shelves. A number of tables and cheap couches were set up along the edges of the room for food and places to sit. In the corner, a makeshift podium was created, a perfect little nook for Soos's D.J skills and music. The walls were covered in a number of bright posters Mabel had made, sporting pictures ranging from the two of them together to boy bands to even pictures of cats in funny costumes. Glittery streamers hung from the ceiling along with not only one, but two disco balls.

How Mabel was able to talk Stan into getting two was beyond him, and he had been there when it happened!

Then again, Mabel could talk Stan into pretty much anything. Dipper couldn't even ask for a dollar without being ridiculed or berated in some way.

Kicking a few balloons out of his way, Dipper waded through what had once been the shop to the kitchen. He hadn't heard Mabel yell something in a while and it made him nervous.

Peeking into the room, Dipper did a double take on how much of a disaster the entire kitchen was. It didn't really surprise him in any way, but looking at it put dread in his stomach. After all, he was the one going to be cleaning this mess up, he just knew it.

"Heya, Dip Dop! Decorations done already?" Mabel asked, grinning as she made yet another gallon of Mabel-juice for the party.

"Yup. Um, Mabel, don't you think you've made enough juice?" The boy glanced at the eight gallons already made. "It's getting a little...excessive."

"Excessive isn't a word in my vocabulary, Dip Dop! And you can never have too much Mabel-juice! How else will this party last all night?"

Dipper groaned and rubbed his face. "Okay, okay. Fair enough. Anything you need help with?"

Mabel pointed some grocery bags still sitting on the counter. "Can you get all the boxes of cookies out and on plates?"

"I'm on it."

As Dipper unloaded boxed food and treats onto plates, Mabel's blender whirred in the background, obnoxiously loud. How the metal blades didn't tear up the plastic dinosaurs and how the thing was even still operational after so many years of abuse was beyond him. Dipper would've suspected magic of some sort, but there were no runes to be found on the device.

Dipper didn't worry about it, however. Just marked it on the ever growing list of Things Mabel does that defy possibility and logic.

At this point in their lives, that list had grown impossibly long.

And Dipper had a feeling it would continue to grow the older they got.

The blender behind him fell silent as Mabel fumbled with her funnel to get all the juice in the empty milk gallon she had, partially struggling under the weight of it all.

Dipper turned to say something to her, opening his mouth to say something only to fall silent.

Staring at his sister's back, memories from the anniversary came rushing right back to the front of his mind out of nowhere, shocking his vocal chords into silence.

Suddenly, the room felt much to small and the invisible elephant in the room felt all too large and real. His small argument with her ran through his mind over and over and over again.

And it always came back to the first question, the big question. The one Dipper knew how to answer, but didn't in his own fear.

Fear for what, he wasn't so sure yet, but fear nonetheless.

What are you going to do about it?

What was he going to do about Ace Moonlighter? Was there anything to do in the first place?

Slapping his head a little the the palms of his hands, Dipper grabbed two plates of cookies and walked back out to put them on the tables set up, trying to chase his thoughts away with the prospect of a party, food, presents, and fun.

And his pondering over the goddess of identity faded away as the blender started up once more.

~~0~~0~~0~~

The music thumped loudly in his ears, obnoxious and screechy.

Leaning against the back of the couch, can of Pitt Cola in hand, Dipper watched the mass of bodies in front of him move wildly. The smell of sweat hung in the air as the heat of the room skyrocketed with the amount of people in the room.

To say he was not in the mood would be an understatement.

Dipper never really fared well at parties. Sure, there were a few times he found himself letting loose and having fun, but those had been few and far between, with not nearly as many people as there were here, currently.

Mabel hadn't been kidding when she said she was going to invite the whole town.

Tucking his feet up, he took a bite out of the chocolate chip cookie he had, chewing slowly to allow the already melted chocolate become even more liquefied before letting it dribble down his tongue and into his stomach.

Despite being store-bought, they were surprisingly good. Polishing it off, Dipper reached over and grabbed another. He had successfully found the best place for himself between the throngs of dancing people; on the couch next to a table stuffing himself with junk food.

Out of the corner of his eye, Dipper thought he saw a flash of an erratically dancing Mabel, but other people quickly blocked his view before he could really tell.

Unlike him, Mabel always seemed to enjoy parties, no matter if it was alone or the whole town. She easily fit along the rapidly-moving bodies, like a puzzle piece finally completing a picture. A very bright and glittery picture. She danced like there was no tomorrow, doing wacky and unpredictable moves that were so out there and bizarre, they turned good, drawing in others to dance the same way.

Like a chain reaction.

Dipper finished off what was probably his fifth cookie of the night. Careful not to swallow the pit in his cola, he threw the empty can behind the couch, not caring in that moment that he would have to clean it up later.

Carefully standing up and stretching his legs, Dipper looked down at himself and grimaced- Mabel hadn't let him walk out to the party wearing his normal clothes.

"You look too ratty and outdoor-sy! We gotta get you dressed up, Dipping-sauce! What if you meet a nice girl? Or guyyyy?"

Dipper shook the teasing out of his mind.

Dipper sighed as he lightly ran his fingers over the black slacks he was wearing, paired with bright blue dress shoes with a matching button-up.

He was lucky enough to talk Mabel out from wearing the ridiculous clip-on tie she had got for him, along with the fedora.

Flattening his sweat-filled bangs once more, he carefully picked his way through the crowd, trying to reach the cooler on the other side to get some more cola. He didn't care what Mabel or anyone else said for that matter- he wasn't drinking Mabel-juice, plain and simple.

He side-stepped a few erratically dancing girls, and dodged out of the way from...Manly Dan?

Okay then.

Bodies pressed in all around him, pulling him around and dragging him away from his actual goal. A few stray legs kicked him, though not hard enough to warrant any real pain, especially since he was so used to his legs getting scratched up by twigs and branches in the forest.

Stepping over some teenager trying to do the worm- a terrible idea if there ever was one, Dipper ducked underneath a few arms being flung around, not wanting to get nailed in the face with a flying fist because he wasn't paying attention.

Dipper was doing a pretty good job maneuvering his way through the dancing bodies- too good.

Which was only reason to stand that he'd right bump into someone.

"Oh, I'm sorry!" Dipper yelled over the harsh music, rubbing his head from where it had slammed into the guy's back.

The man whipped around on the dime, giving Dipper a full view of what he looked like.

The strange guy was at least in his early-twenties and a bit on the shorter side, with some of the palest skin Dipper had ever seen, only outclassed by vampires. He was dressed to the nines in a bizarre purple tuxedo, with a white undershirt and a plain black tie. A black bowler hat was stuck over his short curly hair dyed so dark purple, it looked nearly black. His odd amethyst eyes glowed in the light, marking him as a hybrid of two species.

"Oh, it's quite alright!" He chirped out, voice deeper than what Dipper expected. "Wasn't the first time I was bumped this night and it'll hardly be the last!"

With that being said, the strange guy dived right into the main throng of bodies right up at the front, disappearing from view.

Dipper shook his head.

Next time, Mabel wasn't going to invite the entire town. That's for sure!

Finally reaching the edge of the mass of people, Dipper shuffled up to the cooler, reaching in and pulling another Pitt Cola out of the half-melted ice water.

Flinging himself onto a nearby soda, the thirteen-year-old ignored the two giggling girls next to him as he cracked the can open and took a long sip from it. Pulling the can away from his lips once his thirst was done, Dipper smacked his lips together, enjoying the pleasant fuzzy buzz on the chapped skin.

Grabbing a handful of chips from the table next to him, Dipper proceeded to snack as he watched, picking out flashes of an energized Mabel and Wendy, who seemed to be dancing with Robbie.

Normally, his heart would've twisted up inside his chest at the sight of Wendy with the black-haired teen, while his stomach flipped flopped and his mind search for a way to get the two apart as fast and sneakily as possible.

But this time, for the first time in...well, a long time, Dipper felt...absolutely nothing. No jealousy, no anger, no nothing.

Dipper bit his lip, recalling how easy it had been talking with the redhead recently, how his heart never pumped madly in his chest, trying to tear itself out. How his stomach never rolled and how his cheeks never heated up in a blush.

No, besides friendship, the thirteen-year-old felt nothing for the redhead now.

When had that happened? When had he gotten over his crush?

Dipper took another long sip from his can.

It was...it was...

Oh.

He remembered. Looking back at the matters of his heart, he remembered.

Dipper shifted in his seat, uncomfortable suddenly. Next to him, the girls continued to giggle and gossip, their voices grating on his ears. The music pumped in his head, derailing his mind and causing him to lose his thoughts.

Pulling his collar away from his neck, the boy hastily undid the two top buttons, feeling way too hot.

Dipper brought his chilled can up to his face, resting his cheek on the side to get his temperature down.

It worked somewhat, but it wasn't enough.

Seeing Grunkle Stan hanging out next to the exit, charging people fifteen dollars to leave as was per usual when they hosted parties, Dipper stood up from his seat and pressed himself as close to the tables and wall as possible, not wanting to be dragged onto the dance floor.

Giving a small, but unnoticed wave at Soos as he passed the man, Dipper finally made it to a very happy Stan, who was leaning against the door frame, flipping through and counting his wad of cash.

"Grunkle Stan, I'm going to take a small walk around. I'll be back later."

"Fine, but that will be fifteen dollars."

"Stan! It's my birthday and I live here!"

"Heh, you're right. That will be twenty dollars."

Scowling at not appreciating the dry humor, Dipper forcefully pushed by the old man and walked out of the craziness of the house and into the cool night, darkness swallowing up his small form quickly.

Stan stared at the place where Dipper disappeared from sight, tucking his money away.

"Yeesh. What's wrong with him?"

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper knew it was probably stupid going into the forest in the middle of the night, especially without a flashlight or anything. Staring down hard at his hand, focusing on what he really, really wanted right now.

"Lux." He whispered. That's all he wanted right now and nothing else.

"Lux." He repeated, firmer this time.

A small, but bright ball of light formed in his hand, brought to life by his willpower alone.

"Well, well, look at Pine Tree successfully using magic!" A familiar and amused tone chimed from his right.

Whipping around, Dipper thrust his hand forward, letting the small light in his palm bathe Bill.

Bill grinned at Dipper, the light in his eyes flickering. Striding forward, he gripped Dipper's outstretched wrist and leaned closer, taking a closer look at his light.

"Not to shabby, kid. Your Latin was decent, and so was your control. Just gotta work on your willpower a bit, that is what fuels spoken spells, after all.

Dipper beamed up at the praise Bill was giving him, breaking his concentration and plunging both of them into darkness once more.

Well, not complete darkness. Bill's eyes glowed, one a bright gold and the other just a pinprick of flaming blue behind bangs.

He felt no fear staring into those eyes, however. Not even the weird blue one.

"Drat." Dipper said, frowning.

Bill chuckled at that and pretty soon, the area around them was illuminated once more, courtesy of Bill, who now lit up the night with his glowing skin.

"There we go!" The god laughed before wrapping an arm around Dipper's shoulders in a close hug. "Now what are you doing out here so late? The woods are dangerous, after all!" Bill continued to chuckle.

Dipper laughed alongside with him a little, his sudden bad mood from earlier not completely gone.

"Yeah, well Mabel threw a party for our birthday and, well, I don't really like parties. They're too loud and there's too many people."

Bill cocked his head to the side, trying to process the information given.

"Birthdays...Birthdays...Oh! Yeah! I forgot you humans actually celebrate getting closer to death!"

Dipper rolled his eyes. "Well, if you put it that way, I suppose so. Anyways, I came out here because it was too hot in there and I wanted some fresh air.

Bill's lip curled as his eye roved over Dipper's clothes, taking in the nice dress pants and matching shoes and slightly unbuttoned shirt, showing off the very top of his chest.

"I can tell." He finally said, eyes snapping back up to the boy's face, which was slightly flushed.

"Yeah...anyways, can we go and...I don't know, relax?" Dipper asked, somewhat shy.

"Sure thing! I know the perfect place!" Bill turned and lead him into the forest, the bright light he gave off shining clear through the trees and illuminating the way.

"Nothing's going to attack us, right?" Dipper asked as a howl echoed around them, deep and ominous.

Bill snorted. "Nah, you're good as long as you're with me, Pine Tree." The god's eyes flashed and his voice dropped down some. "But if anything does come along, I'll tear it apart for you, okay?"

Dipper gulped a little at the intensity in the god's voice, but simply pressed himself closer, feeling safe in his presence. "Okay." He agreed.

Bill laughed and immediately lightened up after that. "Well, looks like we're almost there!"

"Already?"

"Not everything I'm going to take you to will be miles away, Pine Tree."

The two broke the thinning tree line easily enough and Bill lead the boy into a small clearing, watching his mocha eyes reflect the little light given to them in wonder.

"Oh, wow!" Dipper gasped.

And indeed, it was.

The little clearing Bill lead the boy was nothing special, really. Normal and short grass dotted with very little flowers. There were no streams, no vines, nothing all that special.

However, thousands of lazy fire flies dotted the air, buzzing lowly in the air, blinking back and forth at one another. The sky shone bright above, not blocked by any annoying branches or trees, giving a full view of the Milky Way high above, the band of stars unveiled and stretched out for all to see, twinkling softly.

Dipper, mouth hanging open slightly, padded forward slowly, weaving among the fire flies easily. Next to him, Bill dimmed his own glow, letting the only light be from the bugs around and the gems nestled in the firmament high above.

"Bill this is-" Dipper reached up and lightly poked at the flies hanging before him, causing them to buzz away a little. "It's like walking among the stars themselves." He finished, sinking down into the short grass and drawing his knees up to his chest.

Bill smiled softly at the boy and joined him, pulling his little Pine Tree into his lap, wrapping his arms around the child's stomach.

Dipper stared up at the sky in silence, complete awe in his mocha orbs.

Bill stared at Dipper in adoration, loving the curious and starstruck look the boy had.

He sure was an interesting child.

The silence didn't last long, however and pretty soon the clearing was filled with Bill's soft voice as he gently grasped Dipper's arm and used it to help point out various stars.

"And- oh, lookie there, you should know that star!" Bill chuckled, his breath soft against the boy's ear.

Dipper narrowed his eyes, then flushed when he realized what Bill was pointing out.

"That's...Alkaid, right?" Dipper asked.

"Mmm, nope! That's Mizar and Alcor." Bill moved his finger some, pointing at a slightly dimmer star next to it. "That's Alkaid."

Dipper reached up with his free hand, lightly touching his birthmark. "I still don't like it all that much." He confessed to the god, pouting some.

Bill frowned looking at the boy, who was now back to flattening his fluffy bangs.

"...You said you meatsacks give each other gifts on your birthday, right?" He asked suddenly.

If the 'meatsack' comment bothered Dipper, he didn't show it. The boy simply nodded slowly.

"And you're...how old, now?"

"Thirteen."

"Hmm." Bill hummed. He had thought the kid was older than that to be completely honest.

"Well, then. Here you go. Congrats on being one year closer to your death!"

Bill snapped his fingers and suddenly, an unfamiliar weight dropped onto his head, blocking out his vision some.

"What the-!" Dipper cried out, quickly swiping the thing off his head to look at it.

Even in the low light, the child could make out the shape of the trucker's hat along with it's blue and white color, but the first and foremost thing Dipper noticed, was the blue pine tree printed on the front.

Bill's hand lifted back up to point at the symbol. "See? Told you you're a pine tree, Pine Tree!"

Dipper's eyes watered slightly as he pulled the cap back on, low on his forehead, stopping any and all chances of someone seeing his birthmark. The boy leaned back into Bill, breathing in the god's scent, just like a desert more than anything else, amazingly enough.

"T-Thank you." He murmured, nuzzling slightly into the warmth.

"Don't mention it." Bill dismissed, tightening his hold on Pine Tree slightly.

The two sat in comfortable silence, before Bill started up once more.

"Heya, Pine Tree?"

Dipper hummed lazily, his eyes starting to flutter close a bit.

Bill smirked down at the kid. He was so cute, especially all sleepy like this. Part of Bill wanted to let the kid fall asleep, just so he could eat the dreams and collect a little bit more power. Just because he was locked out of his true form and realm didn't mean he still couldn't just suck the energy gathered by dreams out.

But no, this was much more important. If what he wanted was going to work, the kid needed to be awake now, for this question.

"Dipper."

At the sound of his real name being spoken, Dipper jumped back awake, lazy and sleepy eyes sharpening and becoming serious.

"Bill?"

The god smiled some.

"How- How much do you hate Ace Moonlighter?"

Bill had to bite back his large smirk and noise of pleasure at seeing Dipper's normally soft face contort into one of hatred. His eyes, normally so full of life and love, emptied out, light draining away only leaving lost shadows...and the hunger for revenge.

"I- I don't just hate her, I loathe her." Dipper snapped back, voice gaining an edge no thirteen-year-old should have.

So the kid holds onto his hate and could carry a grudge. Good to know.

"Do you want her...dead?"

Dipper bit his lip at that, eyes darting a bit. "Is- is she evil?"

Bill had to hold back a snort at that. "Your concept of good and evil is an illusion, kid. But she does hurt and kill random humans."

Dipper continued to worry his lip. His heart screamed out yes. Yes he wanted her to die.

And for once, his mind lined up with his heart.

But there was something holding him back from giving his full agreement. Something that said no.

It was a small voice though, in the very back of his mind. It sounded familiar, but he didn't focus on that.

"Would...would the world be better off without her?"

Bill rolled his eyes. "So many inane questions!" He joked. "But yeah, suppose so. Do you want her dead or not?"

Dipper sighed. He knew the answer. He knew it as soon as Bill asked if he wanted the goddess dead.

Dipper just wanted a justification.

"Yeah."

He leaned back into Bill again, wrapping his arms around the god's waist.

"Yes I do."

Chapter Text

"Look at this, Bill!"

The god peered down at the excitable kid below him, soft smile tugging at his corners. "What?"

Dipper fumbled around in his vest before pulling out a small and strange device. It was red in color, with a metal band going through it.

"And that is...?"

Dipper jammed his finger into the device, flipping out a blade...

and a small pair of scissors...

and a screw driver...

and a can opener...

"It's a Swiss Army knife!" The child said enthusiastically. "It has a bunch of useful tools and things that you might need!" The boy handed it off to Bill, letting the god study and play with it in fascination.

"I got it for my birthday."

Bill smirked down at the kid. "So I guess that day wasn't all bad, right?"

Dipper nodded. "Right. So what are we going to do today?"

Bill fiddled around with some of the tools a bit more, pressing the pad of his finger against the surprisingly sharp blade and snapping the scissors a bit before handing the tool back to Dipper.

"Hmm." He hummed, rubbing his chin in thought. "I don't know. Where so you want to go?"

"Can we go see Multi-bear again?"

Bill gave the boy a dazzling grin. "Of course we can, Pine Tree!"

Dipper grinned. "And this time, can we please just teleport to the cave instead of walking and climbing all the way up it?"

Bill opened his arms up, small sparks of blue flames already dancing around him. "Sure thing. As long as you give me a huuuug~!"

Dipper guffawed openly at the whine in Bill's voice. "Okay, okay!" Still giggling, the child wrapped his arms around Bill as he always did, burying his face into the god's stomach.

Blue flames crackled around them, becoming brighter and brighter, warming his skin up. Sapphire flames danced along his skin, tickling but not burning. The blue fire overtook his vision, swirling all around them. Closing his eyes, Dipper felt the familiar tugging sensation along his ski, as well as the fatigue and grogginess that came with it. Feeling nothing but Bill, Dipper was spirited away.

As soon as he felt himself become grounded once more, Dipper opened his eyes. Leftover azure sparks drifted around them and he slowly pulled away from Bill, who kept an arm around his shoulders as usual.

Flashing Bill a toothy grin, Dipper ducked out from under the god's arm and ran into the cave, already giddy.

"Multi-bear? Multi-bear?" The young child called out as light crackled to life on the sides of the cave once more.

"Huh? Oh, hello Dipper." Multi-bear greeted, slowly rising from his place on the ground. "Hello Mister Cipher." He added, seeing Bill trail the boy as per usual.

"Hey, Multi-bear!" Dipper cheerfully called out as Bill gave a small, polite nod to the bear, leaning against the wall and watching the two with interested eyes.

"It's good to see you. What brings you to my cave today?" The bear asked.

"Just wanted to visit. Haven't talked to you in a long while!" Dipper replied, sitting down and crossing his legs.

"Indeed, it has been a long time, hasn't it?" Multi-bear mused, settling down once again across from the much smaller, younger boy. "So, how have you been, Dipper?"

The young brunet smiled up at his beastly friend and dived right into a long explanation of things at school, home, his recent birthday, and of course, a few adventures he'd gone on with Bill.

Bill stepped forward and sat down next to the boy at the mention of his name, letting his own knee brush against Dipper's.

"-and Bill gave me this cool hat!" Dipper finished up, smiling.

Multi-bear nodded slowly. "It is a good hat. Very fitting for one such as yourself.

Dipper nodded quickly and lightly elbowed Bill.

"Yeah it is."

~~0~~0~~0~~

"Bill you jerk!"

"Hey! Why are you calling me a jerk?! I didn't do anything!"

Dipper snorted angrily and continued to sprint for his life. "You're the one who lead us to the gnomes!"

"I thought they lived out farther!"

"Well, they don't!"

The boy and god glanced behind them at the mass of gnomes chasing after them, all beady eyes and sharp teeth, screaming something about the betrayal of their customs.

"What betrayal?" Dipper huffed out, already getting a bit tired from all the running.

"Oh, I think that they think that you betrayed them by not being a girl, but a boy. But that's just what I think."

"Oh, shut up and keep running!"

Bill laughed at that and hopped over another protruding root.

Dipper looked up and scowled at his face, diving under some low-hanging branches. His legs were sore and his breaths were starting to come out in short gasps.

He was getting tired.

Stumbling over his own feet a little, Dipper looked up at Bill, panicked.

"Bill!" The young boy cried out in distress.

The god whipped around on a dime, scooping Dipper up in his arms bridal-style and carrying him away.

The young boy shuffled around every time Bill took a step. He could feel the god's heart pound through his chest and clothes, steady but speeding up.

"Bill! Just teleport us already!" Dipper cried out as he spotted a gnome snap at the god's dress shoe.

"Oh yeah! I can do that, can't I?"

The brunet groaned.

Once again, blue flames licked up the two, darkening their vision. The forest spun around and Dipper shut his eyes tightly.

The boy felt Bill fall to a stop, panting slightly.

Dipper leaned against the god's chest, fear slowly trickling out of him. Staring up at the god, Dipper blinked at his slightly flushed appearance; His golden freckles were drowned out by the similarly colored blush. His black and blond hair was ruffled slightly, yet his magical hat was the same nonetheless. Even his bow-tie stayed perfect throughout his sprint.

Dipper felt himself blush a little. He hadn't really realized it before, but Bill was really, really handsome.

Swallowing thickly, the now thirteen-year-old squirmed a little in his arms.

"Okay, okay, we're safe from the gnomes. Let me down now!"

"But what if I don't want too, Pine Tree? You are adorable, after all!" The god said, smirking down at him with a mischievous flash in his eye.

Dipper couldn't help it, he flushed even more.

"I am not cute!" The teen spat, now wriggling more than ever to break the hold Bill had on him.

"Yeesh! Fine, fine!" The god complained, dropping him onto the grass below. "Happy now?"

"Yes." Dipper replied, rubbing his backside from where he fell and slowly climbing back up to his feet.

Peering around, Dipper saw that Bill had taken them back to the Waterfall Clearing. As usual, light was reflected off the water, creating a beautiful rainbow. The water lapped peacefully at the grassy shore as light wind blew through, bending the blades of grass and flowers gently.

Grinning, Dipper bent down and took off his shoes and socks, loving the feel of warm soil and soft foliage under his toes. Throwing Bill a cheeky grin, the brunet walked over to the pond and slipped his feet into the water, his entire body shuddering at the feel of the chilled water rippling around his skin.

Bill came up to his left only a few seconds later, shaking his head slightly. "Oh, Pine Tree. You're such a kid." The god teased.

Dipper pouted and bent down to sit in the wet grass, not caring that he was getting his shorts wet. "So are you!" He finally said back. "And it's worse because you're an adult or whatever."

Bill rolled his eyes and crouched down, not wanting to get his own pants dirty. "I'm not an adult, I'm an immortal god."

"So in other words, you just never grew up."

Bill snorted at that. "Please, being mature is so overrated!"

Dipper shook his head, but laughed nonetheless. "You sound just like my sister!"

"Really? What's your sister like, anyways? You bring her up often."

"Well-" Dipper started, fishing for words. "She's really cheerful and social. She loves meeting and talking to a lot of people. She's also super energetic and really creative. She once made a realistic statue of our Great-Uncle out of wax one time! She always wears these crazy sweaters she makes herself and- yeah, she's really good at enchantments and, well-" Dipper trailed off some, eyes falling downcast. "She's my best friend." He finished a bit lamely, teeth tugging at his lip.

Bill leaned in closer, lightly bumping Dipper's shoulder. "What's the matter, Pine Tree?"

Dipper sighed. "It's just...I don't know. Recently we haven't been all that close and- and-" Dipper frowned, feeling hot and bothered all over.

"And what?" Bill whispered, leaning in even closer.

Dipper took out his Swiss Army knife again to play with, flicking the main blade out and in.

"-And I think Mabel is-is- gods, I feel horrible for saying this, but I think she's starting to not like me as much anymore." Dipper sniffed. "We never hang out and every time I do have time to hang out, she runs off with her friends and when we do actually try and spend time with one another...she just goes off with her friends again and- and I'm left in the dust and I know I'm wrong about this and I know I shouldn't feel this way, b-but I can't help it!"

Dipper pounded his fists on the grass, tears bubbling in his eyes. "I'm a terrible person. I'm t-too clingy and I-I want someone dead and-and-"

The next thing the teen knew, a pair of arms were wrapping around him once more, dragging him into the lap of a frowning Bill Cipher once more. Dipper tilted his head up to look at the god, marveling the way the sun was reflected off his hair and the intensity of his eyes.

He couldn't help flushing.

"Pine Tree, you're fine."

"But- But..."

Dipper fell quiet as a single gloved finger pushed on his lips, silencing him.

The teen's blush spread down his neck and up to his ears.

Bill smirked down at the boy in his arms, eyes still twinkling. "You're looking hot and bothered, aren't you, little Pine Tree? Why don't you cool off?"

The Bill threw him into the pond.

Dipper spluttered angrily, thrashing around some. The pond was a lot deeper than it looked and the teen found that he couldn't touch the bottom with his feet. Arms waving around madly, Dipper broke the surface and took in greedy gasps of air, calming himself.

Stopping the erratic movement of his arms, the boy kicked out underneath to keep float, slowly moving his arms around him under water to help some.

Dipper aimed a glare a Bill.

"Darn it, Bill! What was that for?" The teen snapped, grabbing his floating hat and wringing water out of it before settling the drenched thing back on his head, slowly paddling back over to land.

Bill simply erupted into booming laughter, grasping at his stomach as small tears leaked out of his eyes.

"Pine Tree- you...you l-look like a d-drowned kitten!" The god somehow was able to cough out between bursts of laughter. "A-And trees can't even swim!" The god continued.

Bill fell on his back laughing, giving Dipper ample time to swim closer, finding his footing on the rising, muddy ground beneath him, grabbing Bill's ankle, and dragging the still laughing god into mud and water.

"Wh-NOOOOO!" Bill screeched as Dipper got his dress pants fully soaked and his shoes fully caked in mud. The god's hair briefly faded into a more strawberry blond while his eye flashed red before going back to normal. Glaring at Dipper angrily, Bill grabbed the boy and yanked him closer before moving his fingers up and down his sides, tickling him terribly.

"Wha-hahaah-n-no fair!" Dipper somehow spat out as he rolled around in the shallow water and mud.

"What's not fair is you ruining my suit!" The god snapped back, peeved but amused at the expressions Dipper was pulling.

"Y-You ca-can j-ju-just-hahaha- get a n-new o-one!"

"So? It's the principle of the matter!"

Bill tickled him harder.

Dipper's lungs felt like they were about to burst.

After a few more, painfully long minutes of tickling, Bill finally decided to relent, pulling himself and the gasping boy out of the water and onto the grass, the wind hitting their wet clothes, causing them to stick, and, in Dipper's, case, chilling him to the bone.

Bill tutted and shook his head. Frowning, he raised his right arm and snapped, instantly drying and cleaning himself and his clothes with a spark of blue fire.

Dipper glared at the god. "No fair!"

Bill rolled his eyes. "What do you want to offer, kid?"

Dipper bit his lip. "A hug?"

The blond smirked slightly, eyes flashing. "I think I'm going to need a bit more than that."

Thud.

Dipper frowned. "Like what?"

"Oh, I have an idea. And I promise you'll like it." The god held out his hand. "Deal?"

Dipper grasped it without a second thought. "Deal."

Before the boy knew what was happening, he was dragged right back into the god's lap, Bill's legs wrapping around his entire body, and his arms looping around his waist, pressing him flush against the blond.

"B-Bill?"

He felt the god tug off his hat and let it flutter down to the ground. Before the brunet could say anything else, a flash of blue fire overtook him, instantly cleaning and drying him off.

Thud.

"..."

A pair of soft lips lightly touched the top of his head, holding their place until moving downwards, tortuously slow, before settling on his forehead, right in the middle of the 'bowl' of his birthmark.

Dipper felt as if his entire body was on fire. Squeezing his eyes shut, the teen could only focus on the pair of lips slowly trailing down his face, resting between his eyes for a second before moving on.

THUD!

Dipper jerked himself away from Bill as the sound echoed all around him.

The brunet's eyes darted all around, trying to locate the sound.

"Bill- what was that?"He asked, turning back only to see...

Nothing

Bill left him.

"Bill?!" He called out.

"BIL-"

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper gasped awake as a large weight fell onto his chest, trying to shake him into consciousness.

The brunet was briefly confused over where he was. Sweat slicked him, sticking his sheets to his skin.

Eyes roving the darkness around him, Dipper realized the weight that was on his chest was actually Mabel's hand.

Dipper stared up at his sister, one hand heavy on his chest trying to shake him around while the other grasped at her throat. Weak coughs come from the girl and even in the darkness, Dipper could tell she was shivering.

"Mabel? Mabel?!" Dipper panicked, sitting up suddenly, causing his sister to lose her grasp on him.

She stumbled backwards, almost falling to the ground.

Still panicking and starting to tremble, Dipper jumped up to his feet and turned on the light before rushing to Mabel's side, steadying her and looking at her properly.

Her hair was a complete bird's nest, a display of her tossing and turning in restless sleep. Her eyes were blown wide and dilated from obvious panic. Her hands were wrapped around her throat, knuckles white.

But worse of all, was her weak gasping and pale face that was suddenly turning blue from lack of oxygen.

"Mabel!" Dipper cried out again. Using one hand, he pried open her mouth to see if she was choking on something.

The entirety of the back of her throat was red and so obviously swollen. More fear coursed through Dipper.

What was he supposed to do ?

What was he supposed to do?!

Grabbing her gently by the shoulders, he sat her down on his bed and forced her to lie on her back. Pinching her nose carefully, Dipper sucked in a breath of air before leaning over to try his best to preform CPR.

C'mon, Mabel! Breath!

Straightening up, Dipper took in another gasp of air before leaning back over, covering her mouth with his as he tried to get her to breath.

Mabel clawed weakly at him, eyes bugged out and wide with maniac fright.

"This isn't working!" Dipper screamed to no one in particular.

He looked down at his sister, tears running down his cheeks. With a shaking hand, he petted her head. "I'm g-going t-to get Stan." He stuttered. "T-Try and c-ca-catch your b-breath."

With that being said, Dipper turned on his heel and flung himself at the door, briefly struggling to twist the knob due to his hands shaking. Almost ripping the thing off it's hinges because of his adrenaline-fueled panic, the young brunet sprinted down the stairs, almost tripping and falling four times.

Nearly crashing into the wall, Dipper skidded as he turned and continued to run down the hall to his Grunkle's room.

"STAN! STAN! MABEL CAN'T BREATHE! STAN!" Dipper screamed at the top of his lungs, smashing himself straight into the old man's door, jiggling the locked knob while slamming his fist on the old wood, causing the barrier to shake.

"STAN! STAN!" Dipper continued to scream.

Almost too slow, Stan flung the door open, eyes wide confusion, wearing nothing more than his boxers.

Dipper was too terrified to be grossed out.

"STAN! MABEL CAN'T BREATHE!" Dipper wailed once more before turning around again to lead the older man up into his shared room.

Stan, of course, was babbling all sorts of questions, keeping right on his tail. However, it was like trying to listen through water; Dipper couldn't make out a single thing he was saying. Hysteria pounded through his head, coupled with dread and horror.

What to do...?

What to do...?

What to do...?

He didn't know what to do!

Finally, the two reached the bedroom, screeching to a mad stop.

Mabel was still laying on his bed, clawing weakly at her throat. Her face had gained an even bluer tint to it and her eyelids fluttered weakly, bright mocha orbs dulled.

"CPR isn't working! Her-her th-throat is-is a-all swollen! DO SOMETHING!" Dipper bawled, more tears staining his cheeks.

Stan hurried over to his nieces side and carefully lifted her up. Though great in parlor tricks, illusions, and a few shock spells here or there, Stan was no healer or doctor.

"Go call nine-one-one." Stan commanded. His voice stayed surprisingly calm, but he was trembling just as bad- if not worse than- Dipper himself.

Dipper nodded weakly before sprinting downstairs once again.

Following the boy down the stairs, Stan turned back into the hallway and into the bathroom, yanking the medicine cabinet open.

Mabel had been coughing recently, but the girl had simply dismissed it all as allergies. Hell, he dismissed it as allergies. After all, this was her allergy season, so it was usual and to be expected.

He glanced down at the recently turned teen. Her eyes had fallen shut, but her hands were still grasping while her chest heaved for air.

She had always been a fighter.

Fumbling around, Stan grabbed some allergy medication, along with anything at all for throats and even some cold medicine. Sitting down on the nearby toilet-lid, he carefully cradled the girl in one arm while popping open the bottles in the other, scrambling to snatch up the little capsules when they spilled everywhere.

Prying open Mabel's mouth with one hand, Stan carefully tried to shove the collected pills down her throat. He carefully pried her hands away and stroked her neck, trying to push the pills down into her, past the inflation, both inside and out.

"DIPPER?! ARE YOU DONE YET!?" Stan screamed.

The boy came running a few moments later, sweating buckets and still sobbing. "J-Just got o-off the p-phone. They-They'll be here s-soon." He stuttered, hopping from foot to foot a bit, unable to stay still.

Stan grunted.

Finally getting the pills down her esophagus, Mabel let out another weak cough, her hands flying up to take hold of her neck once more, fingers trembling.

Standing back up, Stan pushed past Dipper and hurried into the hallway, through the shop, and outside, carefully placing Mabel on the couch located on the porch.

Dipper was, of course, at the man's heels.

"You stay here with your sister. I'm going to run in and get a shirt."

With that being said, Stan darted back inside to cover his...less the pleasant hairy torso.

Unable to sit or even stay still for that matter, Dipper paced back and forth, checking on the fallen brunette every other pass. His trembling never did stop, despite the warm air. A light summer wind passed by, causing the many chimes they had to ring and causing the Teru teru bōzu dolls Mabel had made so long ago to sway.

Dipper gave the creations a small, watery smile before turning his worried eyes back over to Mabel.

Her chest was still heaving.

How long had she been without proper air? Ten minutes? Twenty? Thirty?

An entire hour?

No, not an entire hour. She couldn't survive that long, even if she did train herself to hold her breath for five minutes to impress that mermaid guy.

Time seemed to be slowing down around him now that nothing was going on. Dipper could feel each second tick by painstakingly slow, as if the universe itself was torturing him.

He bit his lip.

And continued pacing.

Finally, Stan came back out of the house, sporting his wife beater and even his old pair of dress shoes. He shoved Dipper's own tennis-shoes and a pair of socks into the boy's chest.

"Get those on." the older man commanded.

Dipper collapsed onto the porch couch. Keeping an eye out for Mabel, he yanked the socks up his ankles and slipped the shoes on. Fumbling too much with the laces to tie them off correctly, he simply shoved the strings into the shoe, lifting his foot a bit to step on them to help keep his shoe down and on.

Then, the two waited.

Besides the natural sounds of the night and the normal, creepy noises from the woods, everything was quiet.

Too quiet for Dipper.

Too still.

Dipper jumped up again to pace while Stan sat, still as a statue, hands folded under his chin. Both of them would glance towards Mabel every few seconds, making sure she was still fighting, still-still...

Alive.

Finally, off far in the distance, the familiar sirens echoed. Sharp and shrill, the ambulance rounded the corner as if sent by the gods themselves.

The vehicle screeched to a stop and a bunch of people hopped out the back with a stretcher and a what looked like a small brief case.

Stan shot up immediately and carefully picked up Mabel, carrying her out to the stretcher and laying her on top, maneuvering her limbs so she could be more comfortable.

An EMT opened up the small case, retrieving a resuscitator and strapping it over her mouth. A quick wave of his hands paired with a few Latin words Dipper didn't recognize caused runes on the device to glow a stunning silver color before fading away.

Air started pumping through Mabel.

The EMTs pulled Mabel along, yelling different instructions and orders at one another that neither Stan nor Dipper understood.

After she was lifted into the back, both boy and man hopped in alongside.

Dipper worried the inside of his cheek, drawing blood.

Stan was paler than a vampire.

The EMTs flocked around the girl as the ambulance started up again and sped away, still yelling at one another and the like, trying to get more air into her passageways.

Dipper reached up weakly to wipe away his dried tears, his entire face feeling disgusting. Unable to pace in such a small space, he leaned against the cold, metal wall, twiddling his fingers, watching the scene unfold before him with a deer-caught-in-the-headlights look, mind both spinning at a million miles, yet paralyzed and confounded.

His heart pumped in his ears, in perfect time with the pounding in his head.

His stomach rolled along with the ambulance, gut twisting itself into vile little knots.

Mabel's face was still pale.

"Is Mabel going to make it?"

Dipper didn't even realize he spoke the question, to absorbed in the utter madness around him.

He jumped when he heard the unexpected answer, however.

"We don't know."

Chapter Text

"Is she alright?"

That was the first thing that came out of Dipper's mouth as the doctor slipped back into the waiting room, eyebrows slightly furrowed.

Dipper paused in his pacing, freezing where he was. Unable to relax, unable to sleep, unable to even stand still, the teen had paced and paced and paced, unable to do anything but let his mind wander to his deepest fears and darkest thoughts. Pain and worry struck hard into his heart and mind, tearing it apart from the inside, destroying him with it's corruption.

Stan, on the other hand, sat in one of the plastic chairs provided, leaning heavily on his elbows, fingers folded underneath his hand as he glared at the ground, eyes dull and faraway.

Like Dipper, as soon as he heard the door creak open, he stopped whatever thoughts he had flowing, sitting up quickly and coming to attention.

The doctor sighed and ran a hand through his short, brown hair. Carefully, he lowered himself into one of the available seats himself.

"Yes. We got her hooked up to a breathing machine and she's finally stable. But what we found...is very strange. In her records, she usually gets allergies around this time of year, correct?"

"Yeah." Dipper answered for Stan, settling down in a chair himself, both legs bouncing in a need to keep moving.

The doctor stared at both of them. "Well, the allergies were caused by some of the magic in the atmosphere, a normal occurrence and very common. Around eighty-nine percent of people in the world are allergic to some of the magic miasma released in the air."

"Magic miasma?" Dipper asked.

The doctor gave him a wane smile. "I suppose you wouldn't have learned about that yet, Mr. Pines."

Dipper shook his head.

"Well, magic often releases it's own form of waste into the air when preformed; like how creatures breath out carbon dioxide. However, this miasma isn't deadly or bad in the slightest, normally. Some weird weather once in a while, sometimes an influx of creatures in one area or another, but nothing too terrible. However, interestingly enough, research has found that this miasma is less like normal air pollution but more like...Um, ocean currents. There's all sorts of different types of magic and each different branch releases it's own form of waste. These different types don't mix together, but instead weave around each other in the air, like a current. Are you following?"

Dipper nodded. "I think so."

The doctor gave him a reassuring smile before diving back into his explanation. "These currents move incredibly slow. Sometimes one will shift a little every fifty or so years, but that's it, really. This is important as certain people are allergic to different forms of miasma. Miss Pines here happens to be allergic to blood magic, as it is. Of course, blood magic is very rarely used anymore for...obvious reasons and because of this, there is very little of that sort of waste in the air. Still following?"

"Yup." Dipper chimed.

"So, what I believe has happened is that that certain strain of miasma in the air shifted slightly- just enough to warrant an attack of this sort."

"And that's why she couldn't breath?" Dipper inquired, sitting on the edge of his seat.

The doctor nodded slowly. "That's why she couldn't breath." He echoed.

"So, is something like this going to happen again? Are you going to fix her?" Stan bit in roughly, leaning back and crossing his arms, a guarded look in his eye.

The doctor's small smile fell. "Well, as I said, these currents are very slow-"

"Don't sugarcoat things, doc." Stan interrupted gruffly.

"Without the machine, Miss Pines wouldn't be alive currently."

Dipper gasped, hands flying to his face.

Stan stared up at the ceiling, squeezing his eyes together and pinching the bridge of his nose.

"But there is an alternative. We do have special medication that should keep this allergy at bay. It's...very new, however. You'd have to sign a contract and-"

"Will it keep her alive? Will she be able to live like a normal human being?"

"Yes. She'd just have to take the pill three times a day; one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening."

Stan sighed. "Go get me the damn paperwork."

The doctor nodded and stood up.

"Wait! Um, could I see Mabel?" Dipper asked suddenly, hopping to his feet in a flash.

"She's sleeping right now and-"

"I don't care."

The doctor glanced towards Stan, who simply gave a small and tired nod.

The doctor sighed.

"She's on the sixth floor. Room six-eighteen."

Giving the doctor a grateful glance, Dipper scurried out past him and to the elevator, practically smashing the button to call the small, metal box down.

Dipper rocked back and forth on his heels, watching the numbers tick down with impatience. Why did they have to take so long?

Finally, the elevator opened up.

Dipper hurried on inside and smashed the button labeled with his finger. The double doors closed, in Dipper's opinion, way too slowly, and the small metal box finally started moving.

The young brunet paced a little inside, stomach rising and dropping with the movement happening. He watched the numbers tick upwards at a crawling pace.

"C'mon, c'mon." He urged quietly.

Finally, the elevator dinged and the door slid open to reveal another white-washed hallway.

Stepping out of the small, metal box, Dipper took one glance at a sign directing him to different rooms before turning left, jogging lightly.

Luckily for him, no one else was in the hallways, allowing him to run as he wished and not get berated for it.

Head turned to the right, he counted down the numbers mentally, still shivering slightly.

After what felt like forever and a day, again, the young boy read out room six-eighteen.

Screeching to a stop before the door, Dipper let out a small breath he didn't know he was even holding in. Rolling his shoulders back, he gently grabbed the knob and pushed the door open, stepping inside the small room.

As the doctor had told him, Mabel was asleep on the little bed provided for her. A light sheet was draped around her frame, brown hair spilled out behind her on the pillow. She had been changed into a hospital gown, her normal clothes folded and sat on a nearby chair for now.

Mabel's chest rose and fell deeply, on account that a plastic mask was strapped to her lower jaw, covering her open mouth. A machine next to her whirred softly in time to the light beeping of her heart monitor, pumping steady oxygen into her lungs.

Despite the machinery, despite the setting, despite what just happened not even a few hours ago, Mabel looked completely at peace in her slumber.

Dipper raised a hand up to wipe away his tears once again.

"Oh, Mabel." The young brunet gasped, grabbing a nearby chair available and pushing up net to her bed. He sunk down into it and watched his twin while she slept, his worry fading but never truly disappearing. "You-You're going to be okay now." Dipper assured her, not caring that she couldn't hear him. "We'll get you medicine and you'll be fine. W-We'll be able to run around again. Like the mall. You love the mall." Dipper sniffed and rubbed his eyes. Though he hadn't really looked at himself lately, he knew that he probably looked like a giant mess with purple bags, tear tracts, reddened face, and a nasty bedhead.

He didn't care.

His muscles slowly relaxed in the presence of his twin and he gently laid his arms and head next to hers.

His eyelids fluttered gently, exhaustion finally overtaking him as his adrenaline faded away.

Closing his eyes, the boy focused his ears on Mabel's even breaths, pulsating in perfect tandem with the machines in the room.

Slipping his one hand into hers and giving it a small squeeze, Dipper finally nodded off, mind easily falling into the black and thankfully dreamless abyss.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Mabel groaned weakly. The dryness of her throat was killing her, along with a slight twinge of pain in her chest. She shivered a little, her entire body cold, which was unusual considering that she was normally wrapped up tightly in bed with Waddles, warm and cozy.

The brunette carefully cracked open her eyes, wincing at the amount of light that hit her revealed orbs. Squinting, she waited for the sharp pain to dissipate, slowly becoming more aware of what was going on around her

A pure white ceiling stared down at her while the smell of sanitation assaulted her nostrils. Wrinkling her nose, it only took a few more seconds for the girl to realize she had some sort of plastic mask or another strapped. She sucked in the air it gave her, breathing out her nostrils naturally.

Weak, faraway memories of last night washed up to the surface of her mind, foggy and confusing. She remembered waking up in the middle of the night unable to catch her breath. She also remembered getting up and taking a slow walk over to Dipper's bed in a mad bid for him to wake up... wake up and do what she didn't know, but for him to do something, to help her in some way. She had fallen down, however, and the more she moved the more she couldn't breath. Mabel wasn't entirely sure how she had got to her brother's bed in time to shake him awake, and after that everything was a blur of air trying to be forced into her lungs, paired with the warmth of hairy arms carrying her around, and all-encompassing blackness as her vision faded and with it, along with clarity of what she was hearing around her.

Mabel shivered at the memories and banished them from her mind. That- that was in the past. No use dwelling in them now. She was safe.

She was safe.

Turning her head weakly to the side, she stared at her sleeping twin, his hand still lying in hers, fingers weaved together.

Unable to talk, Mabel lightly squeezed his hand, wanting him to wake up, recalling the last memory of him begging her to be okay and to breathe and how he cried and panicked, shivering terribly as hysteria set in...

Mabel squeezed Dipper's hand harder and, with her other hand, ran her fingers through the slightly greasy locks on his head, dragging her fingers along his scalp. She wanted to take the mask off, to call out his name, but she'd seen enough T.V shows to know that was a terrible idea. So, she settled to touching, prodding and poking.

Finally, Dipper's still baggy eyes opened up, crust lining the eyelids. He groaned, sitting up and popping his most likely sore back, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand.

His brown eyes, however, immediately snapped to her's, registering that she was, indeed awake.

"Mabel!" He gasped, voice hoarse from crying, screaming, and lack of liquid.

She, in turn, gave him a smile.

"Oh gods I was so worried! You- you couldn't breathe and I didn't know what to do and I couldn't help at all and-" He bowed his head slightly, eyes mirroring the shame he felt. "I'm sorry."

Mabel shook her head angrily. Or, well, as angrily as she could without disconnecting anything. She jabbed him almost painfully in the cheek, wagging a finger at him while she leveled a glare at him, a glare that said as clear as day, don't you blame yourself for this. It wasn't your fault!

Dipper sighed as he met her glare, shoulders falling slightly. "Y-Yeah." He coughed out.

Mabel grinned, then waved her hand around to point at the mask on her face, confusion settling into her brows.

"Oh! Yeah, well this is caused by your allergies to some magic in the air. There's apparently more magic you're allergic to in the air than normal, causing the swelling. T-They said you have to keep that mask on or else...or else..." Dipper trialed off and glanced towards the wall, not wanting to finish his sentence.

Mabel gave his hand another squeeze. She knew what he was trying to say, and that fact sent a trill of fear through her.

She didn't let it show, however.

"Anyways, Stan went and filled out some paperwork or whatever to get a special pill to prevent you, from, um, yeah. And they already have some in stock so you'll be able to leave later today I think!"

Mabel grinned at him. If the prospect of her having to take medication for the rest of her life phased her in the slightest, she didn't show it.

Behind the twins, the door slowly cracked open. Dipper turned around to watch the doctor from before trail in with a palish Stan behind him.

"Ah, I see you're finally both awake. That's good. Miss. Pines, do you know what happened last night?"

Mabel nodded while at the same time, Dipper said, "I already filled her in on everything. Including the pills and stuff."

The doctor smiled. "Good. Well, now I need to discuss some minor things with Miss Pines alone, as well as give her her first pill." He turned to Stan. "You have the prescription and the first bottle, correct?"

Stan nodded and held up the little bag he was carrying. "All right here."

"Good." He turned back to Dipper. "You have school to go to and Miss Pines needs her rest."

Dipper muttered under his breath but stood up nonetheless. Giving Mabel one last tight hug and a few whispered words of love and slight worry, he let go and padded over to Stan, a frown already tugging at his corners.

"Don't worry, she'll be released by the end of the day." He reassured the two as they left.

"Fine, fine. Thanks, doc." Stan grumbled slipping back out into the hall with Dipper on his heels.

The two barely glanced at one another as they waited for the elevator. Both looked like a mess spending a night at the hospital; still wearing their night clothes, hair a mess, with thick lines and bags under each of their eyes.

Trailing into the elevator, the two leaned on the wall as people flitted in and out on their descent downwards to the ground floor. Dipper blinked blearily, rubbing his eyes once more with the back of his hand.

Mabel would be fine. That's what they said after all. She might have to take permanent medication after this, but she would be fine.

Stan didn't say a word to the male half of the twins until both were in his car.

Dipper wasn't so sure when Stan went and got his car from the house, but he was glad that he had. Riding the bus would've been terrible.

"Dipper, are you going to school today or not? You don't have to if you don't want too." Stan bit out a bit gruffly, voice rough from lack of sleep.

Dipper bit his lip. Sure, exhaustion was still weighing down on his bones like lead weights and his mind was still a bit foggy. Plus, he probably looked as disgusting as he felt. However, skipping a day of school meant missing work and learning, stuff he didn't want to make up.

Dipper glanced at the time- 6:53 a.m.

He'd be a bit late, but...

Dipper shook his head. "I'll go to school. Don't want to miss anything." He explained.

Stan shook his head. "Crazy." he muttered under his breath.

Dipper chuckled softly and turned and stared out the window, watching the world pass by.

~~0~~0~~0~~

"Grunkle Stan was right. I am crazy." Dipper muttered to himself, smashing his face down over his English book. He was supposed to be reading a play or something and, using a chart, point out different examples of symbolism and their meanings.

However, not only was the task given to him boring beyond belief, his eyes didn't want to stay open much longer.

It also didn't help that most the school already heard of what happened last night, causing rumors to run rampant.

Dipper could feel the eyes on him, waiting for him to fall asleep, break, or something. With his tendency to mutter under his breath, paired with his lack of social skills and his unnatural curiosity with magic, beasts, and the surrounding forest, a number of other students saw him as, at the very least, a bit on the weird side and, at the very most, downright crazy.

Of course, neither bothered him too much, normally. The fact that other kids liked keeping a polite distance from him was mostly relaxing as he didn't have to worry about embarrassing himself in front of others.

However, today that usual barrier had been broken with whispered words, glances, and inquiring questions that drained him of what little energy he had.

And it made him just a bit on the angry side.

Dipper focused on what was being said behind him from a group of girls, having heard a whisper of his name being spoken.

"-is sister is in the hospital."

"No way!"

"Do...know what happened?"

"...heard...something with magic."

"...she dead?"

"...dying?"

Dipper hissed. This was only his third class of the day and he was already done with this. Using his anger and hatred, he steeled himself and whipped around, leveling the best glare he could at the group.

"If you want to ask something, ask it to my face instead of trying to whisper behind my back and spread more stupid rumors!" He snapped, drawing the entire room's attention.

The girls blushed and stuttered a bit with broken apologies and awkward defensive words.

"Well, what happened then?" A strawberry blonde, who Dipper vaguely remembered was named Stacy, finally asked, her green eyes narrowed and lips pursed, trying to puff herself up and look brave and impressive.

Dipper thought she looked stupid, holding her head high like that, as if she had in inkling of what went on, but his other classmates seemed to disagree with his sentiment, staring at her with large shining eyes.

Dipper felt his throat constrict a little as those horrible memories washed over him. "She had a bad allergic reaction. That's all." He spat out, grinding his teeth together.

Stacy rolled her eyes and flipped her hair. "That's all? I doubt it. Too much weirdness around you and your sister for that to be it."

"Mabel is not weird." Dipper fought back, blood boiling with hatred. His mind was fuzzy with lack of sleep and in that moment, he really didn't care he was making a scene.

"Please. You and you're sister are the twins of weirdness. You just go on and on about old legends and junk all day while she makes and wears the stupidest of things. And I heard she actually eats glitter. Maybe that's why she's the was she is."

Dipper growled as their classmates stared on. Now that Stacy's true colors had been shown, more people looked a bit uncomfortable at what was being said.

"Hey, Stacy. Lay it off, will you? You're being a little bit too mean." One of her friends, a blonde girl called Rebecca asked, eyeing Dipper who had turned almost creepily silent, brown eyes burning.

"Well, at least we're not a fake, plastic doll of a person who can't even read read English correctly." Dipper shot back.

Stacy snarled, her face pinching as she stood up in her seat.

"Stacy!" Rebecca called, tugging on her friend's skirt in a bid to get her to sit back down. "You'll wake Ms. Martin up and then we'll all really get in trouble!"

Stacy briefly glanced over at their perpetually sleeping teacher before yanking herself out of Rebecca's grasp to storm up to Dipper, who was now standing up himself.

"Oh, you're pathetic. She spat in his face, placing her hands on her hips and using the two inches she had on the brunet to her advantage.

"Really? Pathetic? That's the best insult you got?" Dipper challenged, adrenaline pumping through him once more.

Dipper couldn't help but smirk some. Looks like hanging out with Bill helped him a bit when it came to come-backs.

Stacy growled. "At least I can afford an insult."

"Least I don't have to buy one in the first place."

Narrowing her eyes even more, the girl was at the end of her line. "You know what, geek? I don't like your attitude! You should stay on the bottom of the social ladder where you belong."

"Or what?"

Stacy lifted her hand. "Ignis." She hissed, causing her fingers to spark orange flames.

Dipper took a few steps back, eyes wide at the girl in disbelief. She was threatening him with fire over pretty much nothing.

He wasn't the only one to think she was going overboard.

"Stacy!" Rebecca snapped again, quickly running to her friend's side, taking off her cardigan to grab Stacy's hand and put the fire out. Stacy, of course, fought back, spouting out insults and weak threats.

Meanwhile, the entire class had exploded into chatter and yelling, some to egg on the fight and others to wake up the teacher, who was, to her credit, slowly coming to.

By the time the fire was put out, Ms. Martin was completely awake. The old teacher still looked groggy, but she was able to focus on the small scuffle that just happened.

"Wha...What's going on 'ere?" She slurred, rubbing her large red nose.

"Stacy just threatened Dipper with fire magic, ma'am." A brown-haired student chimed in, green eyes wide.

Ms. Martin snapped to attention at that.

"Stacy! Go to the principle's office right now! Dipper, are you okay?"

Stacy seethed as she left.

Dipper nodded mutely.

Ms. Martin laid her head back down. "Ugh, it's to early for drama." She complained.

No one in the class told her it was already past noon.

"Get back to work..." She slurred one more time before settling in for another nap.

After a number of nervous glances and some apologies aimed at Dipper, the class settled back into their busy work.

Once again, Dipper laid his head back down on his book. Not only did he feel tired once more, but a horrible, pounding headache echoed throughout his brain, slamming all around.

Stupid school.

Stan had been right.

He was crazy.

~~0~~0~~0~~

"Are you sure you're okay? Breathing normally? Not out of breath at all? If you're tired I could try and carry you or something-"

"Bro-bro." Mabel stated, raising her hand up and interrupting his worried rambling. "One, I doubt you could carry me with your noodle arms."

Dipper pouted at that.

"Second, I'm fine. That magical pill thing worked wonders! No harm done! Really. Besides, I'm the master at holding my breath for long periods of time!"

Dipper sighed. "I know, I know. I'm just...worried, is all."

Mabel gave him a small smile and leaned across the backseat, giving him a large hug.

"You worry too much, broski! At this rate, you'll have gray hairs before getting a girlfriend!"

Dipper spluttered at that. "Mabel! I don't want a girlfriend!"

She shrugged. "Fine then. A boyfriend it is!"

"No!" Dipper protested again.

Stan grumbled from the front seat. "It's good to have you back kiddo and it's good to hear Dipper's voice crack again, but could you both keep it down a bit? I can't hear the radio!"

Dipper frowned and shot Stan a glare.

Mabel giggled.

The ride continued on, not silent in the least, filled with Mabel's jokes and Dipper's response, both simply grateful to have one another once again.

Finally, Stan pulled the car up to the Mystery Shack. "Okay, we're home. I'm going to order pizza. Get the usual?" He asked, throwing the door open.

Both the twins cheered in agreement and got out with him.

Stan scratched his back and eyed the two. "Stay out of trouble and, uh, all the other stuff guardians tell kids not to do." He coughed out before turning and heading on inside.

"Stan! You forgot-"

Dipper's voice was cut off by the slam of the door.

Dipper sighed. Stan had forgotten to get Mabel's medicine out of the back seat.

"Don't worry about it, bro-bro! We'll get it later! For now, I must go and find Waddles!"

Dipper rolled his eyes as Mabel ran into the shack herself.

The young brunet followed at a slower pace, just grateful to have Mabel back.

What a stressful day.

What a stressful situation, really.

Dipper sighed and turned his head up to the sky, where a few...were those clouds green?

Dipper stared at the clouds, trying to decide if it was just a trick of the light, or if his eyes were just being weird or something, but no, the clouds high above were actually tinted green ever so slightly.

Dipper poked his finger into his mouth before feeling the air. There was no wind, and tornadoes really didn't form in Oregon.

The doctor's words rang in his mind.

Weird weather, huh? Dipper wasn't so sure whether or not to call slightly tinted clouds weird weather, but it was definitely strange. Then again, what did he know? He'd have to go to the library for this...

A huge grin split Dipper's face.

He had totally forgotten that his grounding had ended! He could actually go to the library now and study the stuff he needed to!

And what he needed to study right now was this magic miasma that hung in the atmosphere, and where the currents were. Maybe he could see where this 'blood magic miasma current' was and see when it'd move again!

Dipper trailed on inside the shack. Stan's voice could be clearly heard as he tried to order pizza off their old phone while Mabel's booming laughter rattled from upstairs, no doubt caused by her pig.

Dipper went ahead and followed the laughter, slipping into their room with ease.

It looked just as he left it last time; both beds a mess of covers and a few things still on the floor, knocked off from his desk.

Stepping around Mabel, who was currently rolling around on the floor, he bent down and grabbed two of the mystery novels he had gotten for his birthday, along with his new Swiss Army knife.

Staring down at the red handle, fragments of his dream the other night started to bleed through. He had dreamed about him and Bill playing in the forest...and, well, that's all he could remember, really.

It was weird, however. Dipper had never dreamed about Bill before.

Then again, Bill was one of his best friends now. He dreamed about Mabel and Stan often enough. It was probably just like that.

Still, why did his heart speed up at these thoughts?

"Dipper! We should play Not Sorry before dinner!" Mabel called, breaking him from his wandering thoughts.

The brunet turned around, seeing Mabel already shaking the box at him with a grin.

"Okay. I call blue!" He chirped, settling onto the ground across from her.

Mabel threw him a grin. "Then I'll be red and Waddles can be green!"

Dipper rolled his eyes. Of course Waddles would be playing.

Dipper and Mabel played a number of rounds, moving their pieces around the board, taunting one another in the way only siblings could. More than once, Mabel teased him about his hat, wondering why someone would put a pine tree insignia on it anyways. More than once, Dipper rolled his eyes and said it symbolized the forest he got to explore.

More than once, Mabel brought up her slight worry about Bill.

Yet Dipper shot her down, every time.

"Mabel, I don't want to get in an argument with you. Really. I know you can't trust Bill, but could you trust me on this?" The brunet asked.

Mabel frowned and glared at the board. She had lost last round, but this time around was doing much better. "...Okay." She finally relented, felling a little bit guilty.

So Dipper's only other close friend was a god. So what if that was...a little bizarre.

She had Candy and Grenda. And Dipper never doubt her own friends. Never frowned upon them.

Even though she knew it wasn't the same, not by a long shot, Mabel couldn't help but feel guilty.

She smiled at him. "I trust you."

Dipper grinned back at her, then drew a card. His grin turned into a smirk as he moved his piece.

"Well, looks like I win again!" He laughed.

Mabel scowled and batted her own board pieces out of the way. "No fair!" She pouted.

Dipper merely laughed.

"Kids! Pizza is here!" Stan called from downstairs.

The twins gave each other challenging looks before both of them scrambled up and bolted away, chanting "Pizza!" The entire way down.

Chapter Text

Dipper moaned as another poke was aimed at his forehead, jabbing him right in the middle of the 'bowl' of his birthmark.

"Mabel." He groaned, voice slightly muffled by his pillow. "Go away."

Mabel giggled at that, a high noise that rang easily in his ears. "C'mon, sleepy head! Time to wakey wakey, eggs and bakey!"

"No." Dipper said again, curing up into a tighter ball.

Mabel rolled her eyes and grabbed the edge of his blanket, yanking it off in one easy tug.

Dipper muttered angrily and curled up in a tighter ball, much colder now without the cover.

"Dipper, let's go!" His sister continued to urge him, now poking him in the cheek.

"No. Let me lay here forever."

Mabel chuckled at his melodramatics. "You're being much more stubborn than usual, but let's go, bro! Time for a full day of fun with your sister!" She stuck her tongue out at him, flicking it around playfully as she did so. "Hey, I wonder if I could lick my nose!" She suddenly exclaimed.

Dipper blew some of his hair out of his eyes, staring up at her with dull and groggy eyes. "You can't, Mabel. That's impossible."

"Maybe for you it is, but not for me!"

"Oh yeah? If you can lick your nose...then, then I'll get up. Deal?"

Mabel shot him a goofy grin. "Deal!" She chirped, then went right on back to trying to lick her nose.

Dipper watched with a superior smirk already playing on his features. Mabel couldn't actually lick her nose it was impossible! And besides that, they were twins! If he couldn't than certainly she couldn't as we-

"Haha!" Mabel somehow slurred out of her mouth.

Dipper stared up at his sister is disbelief. Sure enough, her pink tongue was- barely- touching her nasal septum.

Her tongue flicked back into her mouth as her eyes met his, shining in her victory.

"See, Dipping-sauce? Told you I could do it! Now get out of bed and let's gooooo!"

Dipper groaned and slapped a hand over his face. "Really? That's no fair." He complained, yet started to sit up anyways. Swinging his feet off the edge of his bed, Dipper shivered as the cold of the wood seeped through his socks. He stood up carefully, popping his back in the process and once again, rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand, trying to get the crust that had settled there out.

Mabel grabbed his other hand and yanked him forward to the door. "You're so slow!" She laughed.

"Mabel! I'm not even dressed yet!" He complained, unable to break her grip on his arm.

"So? We're about to eat and you need to take a shower anyways!"

"My hygiene is perfectly fine. And unlike some people, I don't spill food all over myself anyways."

Mabel shook her head in mock pity. "Oh, Dipper. It's not healthy to lie to yourself."

"I'm not lying to myself!" Dipper spluttered as Mabel started pulling him down the stairs a bit to fast, causing him to stumble and trip every other step.

"Mabel! Slow down a little!"

"You sure are complaining a lot today!" She shot back at him with a teasing grin.

Dipper frowned at her, but couldn't stop the brightness that lit up his eyes.

The two twins finally made it all the way downstairs without Dipper getting hurt in any way, much to his joy. Mabel didn't let go of the hold she had on his wrist even after she led the two of them into the kitchen.

Both sat at their spots at the table, already grabbing the too-sugary cereal available to them. Dipper was able to grab the milk first, much to Mabel's dismay, and happily splashed it into his cereal, filling the bowl until the pieces almost spilled over the edge, with the spoon inside.

Dipper passed the milk over to Mabel.

Like her brother, she poured the milk in until the pieces were almost falling out. However, her spoon was still sitting on the table, promising a splash of sugar-filled milk when the girl would start eating her breakfast.

As the twins started to chow down, Stan walked into the room, in his classic boxers and wife beater, scratching his back lazily with one hand while the other gripped a mug of coffee.

"Oh good. You two have got yourself food." He grunted in acknowledgment.

Mabel gave him a beaming smile with chunks of food caught in her braces.

Dipper recoiled in disgust. "Ew, Mabel! Shut your mouth!"

Stan was unfazed; he simply laughed at Dipper's reaction.

"Gods, kid! Your voice still cracks!"

"What? No it doesn't!" Dipper protested as he swallowed down another bite.

"Yes it does, bro-bro." Mabel replied after she gulped down her own bite, licking the caught bits of food out.

Dipper scowled at the two and scooped up another mouthful of cereal and shoved it into his mouth, chewing loudly. "Both of you are jerks." He complained.

"Don't talk with food in your mouth." Mabel teased.

"You of all people should not be telling me that!" Dipper shot back, rolling his eyes in exasperation.

Mabel laughed.

Stan refilled his mug, muttering something about how new coffee makers cost too much. "Mabel have you taken you're medicine yet?" He grumbled, trying to keep his worry and care out of his voice and failing.

"Not yet! But I will in a minute." The girl chimed, grabbing the small bottle on the counter and shaking it around.

"Good. Make sure you do that. Gas is too expensive to be driving back and forth to the hospital." And with that being said, Stan turned and went down the hallway to his room, most likely to start getting ready for the day.

Mabel rolled her eyes as he left. Popping the bottle open with little trouble, she extracted a single, gray pill.

"Ugh, why do these things have to be the size of Antarctica?" She complained, balancing the capsul in the middle of her hand, staring down at the minuscule runes printed all around that glowed a gentle green.

Dipper snorted. "I'm pretty sure Antarctica is a little bit bigger than that pill."

Mabel made a face at him. Standing up, she went and fetched herself a glass of water. Opening her mouth, she balanced the capsule on her tongue, already wincing from the little flavor she tasted, and quickly brought her cup to her lips, greedily drinking down the water, washing the pill away.

She smacked her lips loudly after she was done. "Well, that was unpleasant!"

Dipper chuckled and rolled his eyes. Grabbing his and Mabel's now empty cereal bowls, he went and dumped them into the sink to wash later.

Only Grunkle Stan wouldn't invest in a dishwasher.

"Well, bro-bro. Are you ready for a day of fun on this wonderful Saturday?" Mabel asked, grabbing the brim of his hat and shoving it down over his face, making him stare at the ground.

"Mabel!" Dipper replied, trying to shake her heavy hand off, only to see something out of the corner of his eye, sitting right next to the trash can.

A rumpled up piece of paper.

Normally, Dipper wouldn't care less. But this paper was obviously a receipt. Pushing Mabel off him, the brunet bent down and picked it up.

Dipper blinked as he recalled Stan having to go back out and get Mabel's pills for her to take last night. He had took the bottle out of the bag, and tossed it and the receipt away.

By the looks of it, the little slip of paper didn't quite make the trash.

"What'cha got there, Dip Dop?" Mabel asked, cocking her head to the side in curiosity as he straightened back up.

"It's the receipt from you-" Dipper's voice faded away as he unfurled the slip of paper, eyebrows disappearing into his hairline. His entire mouth fell open as he stared at the price listed.

"What's the- oh." Mabel squeaked, paling. "T-That's a lot of zeros."

"Why- Why are your pills so...so expensive?"

Mabel shrugged and leaned back against the table, eyes downcast.

Dipper read the number over again. Shouldn't health insurance cover this or something?

Wait, did they even have health insurance?

With Stan, you could never be too sure.

Dipper blinked. The doctor did say it was new, it would only go to reason that the price might be...high.

"Mabel, how many pills do you get per bottle?" Dipper asked suddenly.

"Thirty."

Dipper blanched. Only thirty? And she'd have to take three a day?

They would have to pay this ridiculous amount of money every ten days?

Dipper blinked as he heard a sniff behind him. Whipping around, his face fell when he saw a few tears bubbling in Mabel's eyes.

She had figured out the math as well.

"Dipper...is Grunkle Stan even going to be able to afford this?" She asked, shaking slightly.

The young brunet couldn't reply. He didn't need to, after all.

They both knew the answer.

"Oh gods, I'm sorry! I- It's my fault! If only I didn't have this stupid al-"

Dipper tackled her in a hug, slapping a hand over her mouth as he did so to quiet her.

"Don't you dare say that! It's not your fault at all so don't you go and feel guilty about any of this!"

Mabel sniffed again, but nodded and wiped her eyes off. She sunk into one of the kitchen chairs, wrapping her arms around herself. "So, what's the plan to get out of this one, Dipping-sauce?" She tried to joke, her smile watery.

Dipper settled down into another chair as well, holding his head in his hands. "I have no clue. But, well, I don't really know how much Stan has or anything, but I'm sure we...we can't pay for this in the long run."

Mabel nodded slowly. "What can we do then? Is there anything to be done at all?"

Dipper bit his lip as he cast his mind for a solution. Half-thoughts and ideas easily came forth, though none possible or sensible in any way.

Well, that is, none but one, however.

Dipper's eyes flickered over to Mabel, heart and mind torn in half.

That- would work. It was possible. And, to him, sensible.

But was it feasible to Mabel?

And what would he have to give up? This- this was big.

Dipper shook those thoughts away.

"Mabel...I-I have an idea. And...I think it's our only option." Dipper started carefully, unable to keep his anxiousness out of his tone.

Mabel looked over to him. "What?"

Dipper sighed through his nose. "Bill could help."

"What?! No, that's a bad idea! Bad idea, bad idea! Wouldn't you have to make another deal? And- and he'd have to do some weird evil godly magic on me...!"

"Mabel! First off, Bill is not evil. A little mean, but not evil. Secondly, do we have any other options? Are there any other ways you can think of that are foolproof?"

"You call your idea foolproof?"

Dipper rolled his eyes. "Can you think of anything else?"

Mabel sighed, shoulders slumping in defeat. "No." She finally admitted. "No I can't."

Dipper sighed and stood up. "Well then, I'll go get my journal and we can go."

"Right now?" Mabel asked, slightly surprised as she hopped out of her chair as well.

"No time like the present. Plus, we might as well get it over with as soon as we can."

Mabel nodded and followed Dipper up the stairs, pacing a little as he dug his notebook out of his mattress and grabbed a pen from his desk.

"Ready?"

Mabel sighed and rolled his shoulders, ignoring her twisting gut.

"As I'll ever be."

~~0~~0~~0~~

Mabel bit her lip as she stared at the daunting tree line. Next to her, Dipper gave her a small smile, squeezing her hand softly with his.

Her stomach was rolling now more than ever. She knew she probably shouldn't be so nervous, after all, Dipper was friends with this guy and has been seeing him for over a month now.

She'd be fine. Bill wasn't evil.

Apparently.

And besides, what sort of villain has the name Bill?

Squaring her shoulders, Mabel let herself be pulled along into the forest.

While Dipper kept his eyes straight, ready to pick out the gold and black dressed god, Mabel's own orbs roved and wandered all about, taking in the scenery around her.

Light filtered through the trees, making it darker than what it really was and plunging random bits of the area around them into darkness. Undergrowth brushed by her legs, causing her to want to stop and scratch. She felt dirt and other gross things linger too long on her skin. Sounds echoed all around her; from the trees above shivering in the wind to the snuffling animals. Mabel couldn't tell where the sounds were coming from, nor how far they were away, causing her to be on edge.

Mabel glanced behind herself as the feeling of being watched overcame her.

How could her brother not just stand being out her for hours at a time, but actually enjoy it?

It was beyond her.

Finally, Dipper slowed them down to a stop and he let go of her hand.

The feeling of being watched built up all around her and suddenly, Mabel didn't feel safe whatsoever. Well, she didn't feel safe before really, but now danger pulsed all around her, all encompassing and unstoppable.

Before she could ask Dipper if they could leave, before she could even open her mouth to spew words that made sense, a flash of gold radiated before them and with it, a person stepped out.

Mabel wasn't so sure what to think of the...man? Before her. He was feminine, yet masculine at the same time, something she didn't think was possible. He was surprisingly tall, easily towering over both her and Dipper. The god wore very formal clothing- something she didn't expect whatsoever. She was preparing herself for togas, not golden vests and floating top hats!

His one gold eye was intense as it stared at the two of them. Burning with what emotion exactly she didn't know.

Bill summoned a black cane out of nowhere and leaned on it pleasantly before grinning at them with the most disturbing and creepy smile Mabel had ever seen in her short life. She could point out every sharp tooth in that face-splitting smile, one that was way too wide to be normal...

Or natural, in any case.

"Heya Pine Tree. See you've brought..." His voice trailed off as he eyed her favorite pink sweater briefly. "...Shooting Star with you!" He finished easily.

His voice was higher than Mabel expected too. Much, much higher.

She bit back a laugh.

"Uh, yeah, hi Bill." Dipper said lamely, scratching the back of his neck nervously.

Before anyone could say anything else, Bill stepped in front of Mabel, staring down at her with that grin, and extended his hand towards her. "Hello, Shooting Star! Name's Bill Cipher, nice to meet ya!"

Mabel took his hand in a weak handshake, barely touching it before breaking it off.

This guy...was weird. And not in a good sense either.

Mabel didn't like touching him, that's for sure.

"Nice to meet you too." She said afterwords, making sure to direct her eyes at his freckles instead of that strange golden orb.

Bill stepped back from her, wrapping an arm around Dipper's shoulder's easily, an act that raised her eyebrows.

Dipper didn't even flinch when the god did that.

Like he was used to it or something.

She didn't say anything, however. Best not to get on the bad side of a powerful god who had your brother in his grasp.

"So! What brings you out to my forest today?" Bill continued to ask her. Though his voice was polite, with his entire being oozing charm, Mabel couldn't help but feel adrenaline start to pump through her. There was an...edge to Bill.

Something...off.

Majorly.

"Actually, we came out here for...for a deal." Dipper answered for her, pulling away from Bill to stand by her side, retaking her hand in his own once more.

Bill's eyes narrowed ever so slightly, an edge of possessiveness inside the one visible, taking in the scene with a flicker of a frown on his face.

The twins didn't notice the change and the look was gone as soon as it came.

"I see! Well, what can I do for a pair of twins such as yourself?" He continued on cheerfully, kicking his feet up in the air to float.

Mabel quirked an eyebrow by the impressive feat of magic, but said nothing on it.

Dipper acted as if it was a normal occurrence.

For all Mabel knew, it could be.

Dipper and Mabel turned to look at one another, reassuring the other and reinforcing the decision they were about to make.

Dipper was the one to speak up. "I want you to take away Mabel's blood magic allergy." He said.

Bill glanced over to the girl in question, mildly curious. "Blood magic allergy, huh? Very well, shouldn't be too difficult to do. What will you offer me in return, though?"

Dipper turned back to Mabel and slight panic ran through both of their veins. What could they offer? What could a god trapped in a forest possibly want?

"Uh, well, we didn't quite get that far." Mabel said after a while, her nerves palpable.

Bill flipped in midair and landed back onto his feet before swaggering up to the two of them.

"Well, it's a good thing I've got an idea then!"

With a snap of his fingers, Mabel suddenly collapsed in a small heap, falling gracefully into the scratchy grass underfoot.

"Mabel!" Dipper cried out in alarm, dropping to his sister's side.

"Don't worry, Pine Tree! She's just asleep. Thought it might be easier on you to be able to discuss the, ah, finer points of this deal without her interrupting. After all, you're the one that's going to be making it, are you not?"

Dipper stood back up, staring up at Bill's honest expression. A gentle smile played on his lips, and Dipper found his anger at the god melt away as his heart started to speed up slightly.

He sighed. "You're right. So what do I have to give?"

Bill crouched down onto his haunches so he could face the shorter boy easier. "I actually had a small idea that would be pretty fair. I can take her allergy away, but it would take quite a bit of power. I'm not a god of health, after all. It'll be a little difficult for me."

Dipper bit his nails. "So what do you want? I don't have anything to give."

Bill chuckled internally as he let his eye roam over the child before him. You have much more to give than what you think, Pine Tree. He thought.

Bill clasped his hands onto Dipper's shoulders, pulling the brunet closer. "I have one offer that could be considered equal. As I said, this will take a fair bit of power, so energy gained from the payment must be used to heal Shooting Star."

"I know how deals work. Can you get to the point?"

Bill rolled his eyes. "Fine. Make me your god."

Dipper felt as if his cheeks were lit on fire.

"W-What?" He spluttered, unable to look at the god's face.

Somehow, his heart pumped even faster in his chest.

"Let me into your mind, Dipper. Let me have you, and I will cure your sister's deadly allergy."

Dipper flinched at the use of his name.

"Of course-" The god said quickly, covering himself. "This won't really change anything between us. It's more of a formal thing, really."

"Really?"

"Really." Bill lied.

Dipper stared up at Bill. Give himself to Bill? How could he just-

But, then again, Bill was one of his best friends. He wouldn't actually hurt him or try and control him.

Right?

"You can't hurt me or control me. Not ever." Dipper quickly bit out.

Bill rolled his eyes. "Of course not! We're friends, are we not?"

Dipper winced at the alien stab of pain through his heart.

He was really acting odd today, wasn't he?

"Y-yeah." Dipper said. He glanced down at his sleeping sister's face once more.

Bill wasn't going to do anything to him.

And Mabel would be cured. She'd never have to worry about this again for the rest of her life.

Plus, they won't go bankrupt trying to pay for the medication she needed.

It was a simple deal, but it would fix so much.

Bill held his hand out to Dipper, a slight smile playing on his face. "Do we have a deal?"

Dipper glanced down at the gloved hand already consumed in azure flames.

He grasped it with his own.

"Deal."

Dipper squeaked as he was tugged in for a tight hug, Bill's hand still in his, buried against the god's chest.

"Pleasure doing business with you, Dipper. Sweet dreams."

~~0~~0~~0~~

He wasn't so sure where he was.

Everything was one way one moment, then completely different the next.

He didn't know if this difference was a good thing or not.

Maybe it wasn't either or. A certain voice ringed inside him, taking him easily. It was a memory, that much he knew, whether one long forgotten or recent and wondered of, he did not know.

"Your concept of good and evil is an illusion, kid."

He knew that voice from somewhere. A voice smooth as honey, yet sharp as a knife. A voice that had echoed throughout the ages long before, grasping at Mans' hearts and minds and souls. A voice that commanded itself to be heard, to transcend past time and space, to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It was a sound one could find themselves lost in quite easily. A 'just a quick detour' turned into an epic, yet tragic tale in which everyone loses.

It reverberated inside him, taking hold of his own heart and mind and soul. However, it did not cut, it did not grasp. It did not strangle nor did it claw. It petted him, soft and comforting. True whispers of sweet nothing's and everything's resounded in him, pulling him down into a comfortable darkness he could get lost inside, one that did not hurt or hinder him in the slightest.

He didn't know how long he stayed in the comforting darkness. He wasn't aware of time even existing after all. Time was a fickle thing, created by Man to keep the fantasy of semblance and civilization together. It was what bound people to the Earth, to their materialistic and worthless life, it's a name given to the natural rotation of the Earth around an apathetic sun, who ran it's own course around a stoic galaxy, who moved through an uncaring and violent universe which had little regard of what sort of creations it had in itself. Why would it care in the first place, after all? The universe had no soul to speak of, neither a mind nor a heart. It was a mover and shaker of all things, the epitome of pure chaos and beauty, and for that reason only, it had no use for conscious thought or feeling. It did what it did because it must do what it does. And that was all.

He was lost in his own thoughts once again, yet whether they belonged to him or not couldn't be determined. He'd like to think they did, but then again, perhaps not. After all, what were thoughts beyond simple electrical pulses in the brain, directing nonsensical sounds that somehow made meaning into images one could replay.

Well then, if memories and thoughts were images one could experience, then he must have neither. The darkness still stretched beyond him, inky and black. Blacker than anything ever before and anything afterword. It was the sort of nothingness one could see when peering between the cracks of the universe, a void where nothing could survive.

He figured he was in that void right now.

Where else could he be, after all?

He continued to float.

His mind nearly fell blank. There was nothing left for him to ponder, him to do.

No. Now he waited.

Waited for what? He didn't really know. He was waiting, however.

Waiting.

Waiting.

Waiting.

Waiting.

He wondered how long it would take.

Then wondered how he could wait for something if time didn't exist in the first place.

He was a paradox, it seemed.

Well, life itself was a paradox. Filled with so many ups and downs and all arounds, leading nowhere but inevitability.

The thought was oddly comforting.

But how could he have thoughts if everything around him was void?

He wanted to ponder more, but something was filling him, wrapping up and around him, a certain familiar warmth that was safety and comfort and golden.

He was golden.

The blackness dispersed in an explosion of blue sparks.

He wasn't so sure what he was witnessing now. Wrapped in warmth like this...it would be so easy to drop off. To fade away.

He wanted to fade away.

Luckily the turbulence of lost memories that swirled around him didn't bother in the slightest.

He didn't care much for the Trojan War that flickered by, filled with blood and death.

Nor did he care about the construction of the pyramids, though the gold and jewels were a plus.

The reel of memories his but not his pass by ever faster, filled with bright minds, terrible nightmares, and even more horribly insanity.

Though, he had to admit the Dark Ages were an interesting time. Too bad it apparently ended.

Pretty soon, he felt his back- since when did he have a body?- Arch up, chest bare against the flames that had once given his not-memories life, singe them away. They turned to him next, consuming and abusing him as a dark orange seal burned in front of him, electricity crackling around the fire, forcing it to obey.

Some sort of chanting rang in his ears, deep and heavy. However, it was so far away. He could tell that the voices weren't speaking in what he knew, but another language, lost and only used for a single purpose now in this world...

Dipper screamed as golden light consumed him.

Then, he woke up.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Bill's lips curled in a smirk as the flames of their deal wrapped around him.

"Pleasure doing business with you, Dipper. Sweet dreams." He whispered to the boy, feeling him drop off into whatever dreams young thirteen-year-old boys had.

Bill carefully shifted himself so he was sitting down on the ground, legs crossed. Carefully, he moved Pine Tree so he was cradled in his lap, head against his shoulder.

"Now, let's get to work, shall we?" He said to no one in particular, grinning like the madman he was.

Bill glanced over Shooting Star. Grunting, he placed a hand over her sternum, feeling her body move and tick beneath it's flesh casing. With a twitch of his fingers, bounded by the deal, he started the process to remove her allergies, cobalt flames jumping to life as they sparked over her skin, burning the sickness away with a small amount of struggle.

His half of the deal completed, Bill turned to the twin propped up in his lap, sleeping like a babe.

"You really are an interesting human, aren't you Pine Tree." Bill whispered, trailing his fingers over a warm and squishy cheek.

The god scowled suddenly, eye flashing red. "Why are you so damn important to me? Why do I care? I've lived for thousands of years, slaughtered millions. I've built up empires just to see them crumble. And not once, once have I cared for a- a human of all things. What makes you special?"

Pine Tree, of course, didn't answer.

Bill breathed in deeply, then started chuckling. It was a low sound, a ballad of madness.

"But it hardly matters now. You're mine. All mine. And no one can take you from me now." He growled.

The blond forced himself to relax, letting his eyes fall shut. Raising his right hand, he laid it flat against the boy's forehead, covering up his entire birthmark.

Of course, being sealed into this form so long ago made it impossible for him to access his Mindscape, or anyone's Mindscape directly, for that matter. He could no longer walk in dreams, do his work and cause nightmares. Trapped outside the realm of all possibility and imagination.

However, seals could not overpower a godly deal, a contract forged in his fire and words. Pine Tree gave himself to him. Of course, the child was thinking in the context of the mind, and not anything else and as such, didn't exactly tell Bill what he could and couldn't claim.

Only that he couldn't hurt or control him.

Pine Tree was a bit smarter than what he gave him credit for, but not smart enough.

"Oh, Pine Tree." He murmured as he felt the little power he had slip past the seals. "You should have banned your body and your soul."

And then he shifted into the boy's mind.

Bill squirmed as he felt the loss of sense. The smell of the forest, the feel of Pine Tree laying on him, the crunchy grass below, the slight wind...all gone. Bill could feel his entire being condense, breaking free of flesh shackles and the mortal plane, finally breaking through that damn wall of seals into his true form.

His single eye blinked.

Bill stretched his arms out in front of him. If he had a mouth, he'd be grinning.

Thin black appendages were before him, four perfect fingers on each hand, tipped with minuscule claws that most couldn't see. His- not body, but energy flexed around him, twisting and turning.

"Oh̸,͡ ͜i͝t is ͝G͢OÒD to̡ b̢e b̡ack͞!"̧ He laughed, loving that little ring to his voice. He forgot it did that!

Bill watched as the whiteness around him slowly started to morph into some semblance of a dream. Colors of all kinds swirled around each other in the air, curling and dancing to an unknown beat.

"Ǫh͠, T̛HA̛T ̷w̛on'̛t͠ do͢.̕"͡ With a snap of his fingers, Bill gently pushed Pine Tree's consciousness down into a far corner of his own mind, away from everything that was happening. Bill let his energy stretch out a little- just enough to keep the child calm and sedated through what was about to happen.

The colors faded away around him, leaving nothing but the whiteness once more.

Bill cracked his fingers together, eye quirking in excitement. "̧Le͞t̕'s͜ ́g̛e͟t s̸tart͏ed͢, ͞s̵halĺ we͝?"͜

The triangle crossed his legs against, just as they were in his body. Holding his arms out either side of him, he bent his elbows upwards, stretching out his palms so they stared at the nonexistent sky.

Though Bill's single eye closed, his sight didn't go away, only changed.

Flames sprung to life in his hands, thick and powerful, more powerful than ever before.

He had forgotten how good it felt being in the Mindscape. How powerful it made him.

He hadn't got the chance to truly recharge in...well, last time he had been banished rather quickly, unfortunately.

So, not counting then, he daresay it was, oh, if you carry the two...

Nearly a thousand years!

Bill cackled. Oh, this was just too great!

The god mentally shook himself, trying to get himself back on track. He had a deal to fulfill, after all.

Bill say many things at once, then. Though his eye was still closed, he could see blue runes start to swirl all around him, burning themselves into the boy's mind, made painless by Bill's instruction.

After all, he couldn't harm Pine Tree, though not that he especially wanted to right now.

Around the same time the runes started to meld themselves into place, Pine Tree's memories played out like a movie for the god. Some clearer than others, as it was wrought to be. He watched in amusement.

That is, all until one thing came forth, one thing that sent his mind a blaze and that broke his concentration.

Pines.

Dipper Pines.

PINES

Bill was completely shaken out of his work.

Anger sparked through the god. If he had had blood, it would be boiling.

The boy he had such...weird and unexplainable feelings towards was part of the clan that had locked him away in the forest! Locked him away in his body!

Oh, Bill was angry and all he wanted to do in that moment was rage.

And he was going to too. After all, he didn't exactly know how to take this onslaught of information, so he reacted in the only way he could.

Rage.

Yet, even though flames licked the boy's body, even though he yanked away his energy from the child's consciousness, leaving it prey towards his own past thoughts, even after all that...

Bill couldn't harm him.

And it wasn't just the deal that stopped him.

He would never admit that to himself, however.

Bill allowed his wrath to slowly fall, blend back in with the white surroundings.

Though he didn't need to, Bill took a metaphorical breath.

He needed to get back on track. He needed to think.

Because even though he hated the Pines' Clan, and even though he swore revenge and death upone their entire family about thirty years ago, he couldn't hate Pine Tree.

Nor could he hate the plethora of options suddenly available to him.

Bill hurriedly finished the claim, cementing a link between him and the boy, one he would be able to use as long as he was in the forest.

Of course, it was useless considering he could already sense the boy's presence in the forest, but it was the principle of the matter.

And besides, once he got out, it would be more useful than ever.

And now, he did have a way out.

Bill had a little Pine Tree, bound to him body, mind, and soul, who actually cared and trusted him.

Oh yes, things couldn't get much better.

Bill let the ecstasy of the moment and realization wash over him, letting his energy twist and bend around. He let his power stretch out to the far recesses of Pine Tree's mind, wrapping him up in a brief golden blanket of warmth and excitement.

And with that, Bill shifted out of Dipper's mind.

Chapter Text

"B...Bill...?" He groaned, leaning his head against a familiar, sturdy warmth. A headache ravaged his head and he felt...odd. Like he just forgot something, paired with the oddest sense of déjà vu. Dipper opened his bleary eyes, seeing nothing but gold and white.

Bill's arms wrapped around his smaller form, his cheek pressed against his hat, dragging the bill down some.

"Are you okay, Pine Tree?" Bill mumbled sincerely.

"Mentally, emotionally, or physically?" Dipper slurred back, ignoring his heart for now.

Bill rolled his eyes, but curled around the boy tighter, breathing in his natural scent. "All three."

"Terrible, weird, and okay." He answered, squirming a bit. His face felt too-hot and weird thoughts were flashing through his mind, half-formed and quickly dismissed in slight fear.

Bill chuckled at that and slowly unwound himself. Dipper sat up in Bill's lap, no longer using him as a bed like before. Sitting right between the god's legs, Dipper rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand. Blinking away sleep, the brunet finally focused in on his sister who was still collapsed on the ground, looking like she always did.

"Mabel!" Dipper gasped, scrambling up and over to his sister and crouching by her side.

She...looked exactly the same. Like nothing had changed.

"She's healed, right? No more allergies?" The boy asked the god, worry creeping into his tone.

Bill smiled and nodded. "No more allergies." He repeated.

Dipper threw the god a grateful grin before turning back to his sister, lightly shaking her shoulder.

"Mabel? Mabel, wake up!" Dipper called.

Brief panic shot through him. Why wasn't she waking up? Shouldn't she be fine? Did something go wron-

A large groan interrupted his hysteric thoughts. Mabel let out another grunt as she wriggled a bit, eyelids already fluttering.

"Dipper-?" She mumbled, sounding just like he felt; Exhausted.

"Mabel!" Dipper answered, tugging her up in a tight hug. "How are you? Are you okay?"

Mabel blinked groggily. "'M fine." She slurred. "My head hurts a bit, but besides that I feel better than ever."

Dipper broke off the hug to look at her. "Good. That's...that's good."

Mabel yawned. "Wh- What happened?"

"Well...you no longer have allergies..."

Mabel snapped awake at that, finally recalling what had just happened.

The price of the pills.

Going off into the forest.

Meeting Bill.

And then...then...

"Dipper, that was my deal to make!" She snapped. Her brother already made one deal with the god. Another, though? Two deals? That was just...she couldn't even put how bad that was into words.

Dipper shook his head. "You didn't have anything to offer."

"So what did you give up now?" She questioned, worry seeping into her voice and heart to fester.

"Don't worry about it, Shooting Star. Pine Tree here just has to visit me more often is all. Nothing more." Bill lied easily, his one golden eye flickering over Dipper, telling the boy one thing.

Don't.

Dipper chewed on the inside of his cheek as he nodded along to Bill's statement. "Nothing more. Nothing bad." He agreed, stomach twisting itself into knots, heart stabbing itself over and over again.

He was lying to his sister.

He was lying to Mabel.

But there wasn't a choice now, was there? The deal had to be made, and if Mabel realized what he just did...gave his mind to the god behind him...well...

She would be furious.

Mabel didn't need to know the details. She was safe now, and that's what matters.

The end justifies the means, right? Or something like that.

Mabel looked over her brother's face, trying to discern any trace of blackmail being used or lingering threats, but Dipper's expression was as smooth as always, with a small cheeky grin paired with tired eyes.

She gave him a watery smile. "Okay then. But I'm still mad about it!"

Dipper sighed. "I'll go buy you some ice cream at the mall? Any size, flavor, and toppings."

"Unlimited toppings?'"

"Unlimited toppings."

Bill rolled his eyes at the discussion happening before him.

"Well, okay. But we're still going to talk about this later!" Mabel huffed, trying her best not to eye Bill, who was watching on with an amused expression plastered on.

Creepy.

"Fine, fine. Well, Bill. Thanks for everything I guess." Dipper said, turning back to the now standing blond.

"It was no problem whatsoever, Pine Tree." Bill stepped back over to Dipper easily, hugging him close. "Come back soon."

Dipper blushed and quickly broke off the hug. Did Bill really just slip his fingers into his front pocket?

What was that for?

"Well, I guess we're off! Bye, Bill." Dipper said hurriedly, his face burning once more. Not looking at Mabel's expression, he grabbed her by the arm and started to drag her the way they came.

"Goodbye Pine Tree. It was nice meeting you, Shooting Star. Maybe I'll see you again sometime, hmm?"

Mabel glanced back at the sly smirk the god sported, shivers running up and down her spine with cold fingers.

Bill...She had been right. She had been right all along.

So why didn't Dipper see it?

The girl quickly caught her footing once more and slipped out of Dipper's grasp. She eyed her brother's red face and the way his eyes shifted left and right.

Oh no. nononononono. She thought. This- does Dipper have a crush on Bill? Nonononono!

Mabel bit her bottom lip. She wanted to say something...anything.

However, the feeling of being watched still prickled her skin, haunting around her like a ghost.

No, she couldn't ask here.

But that didn't stop the hysteria in her mind.

No, Dipper couldn't have a crush on Bill...Right? He's never liked another boy and he said so himself that he wasn't gay or anything. Plus Bill isn't even human so Dipper couldn't have a crush on him...

Mabel nodded along with her denials. Yeah, Dipper didn't have an actual crush on Bill. He liked Wendy!

Right?

That was still a thing.

Then again, Dipper wasn't muttering about her under his breath anymore...nor did he get all moony-eyed when she was around...

"Okay, I don't see Stan anywhere. What we have to do is run out of the forest and back to the shack as fast as possible. None of the windows are pointing this way so we should be good."

Mabel blinked at Dipper's sudden interruption to her thoughts. "Okay." She said, focusing her mind back to the task at hand: Not getting caught.

The two twins gave each other matching, nervous looks before bolting out of the forest and to the back of the shack, hugging the wall as close as they could once there.

"D-Do you think anyone saw us?" Mabel asked, panting a bit.

Dipper breathed in deeply. "I don't think so."

"Good. Now then..." The girl turned to her brother and promptly punched him in the arm, causing him to actually stumble back.

"Mabel!" Dipper cried out, wincing and rubbing the spot with his opposite hand. "Ow, that hurt!"

"Good! You shouldn't have gone and made deals without me! This was my problem, Dipper!"

"So? And besides, you had nothing to offer!"

"Like you do? You already go into the forest at least twice a week! Are you going to live there now?" Mabel sniffed, her unshed tears born of both anger and fear.

"No, of course not! But...if making more time for Bill means you get to live a happy life then I'll gladly give my time up! It's not like I had a choice in the matter either."

Mabel pouted and crossed her arms, still miffed about the entire situation. "Fine. But I'm still not happy."

Dipper sighed. "What's done is done now all we gotta do is tell Stan an-" Dipper blanched, breaking off his sentence as a shiver raced up his spine.

He had totally forgotten about Stan.

Mabel paled herself, piecing together his unfinished sentence and sudden horrified look. "H-How are we gonna tell him? Nose goes!" She quickly slapped a finger over her nose, staring at him with wide, liquid chocolate eyes.

"Mabel! I- ugh! How are we going to tell Stan this?! We can't tell him about Bill! He'd kill us and then how would I fulfill the deals?"

Mabel worried her bottom lip. "I-I don't know." She admitted. "Maybe I can accidentally skip taking a pill and when nothing happens, realize that I got over my allergy...or something?"

Dipper slapped his hand over his face, rubbing his cheeks furiously. "That's a terrible plan."

"You got any better ones?"

He sighed and shook his head. "This- This isn't going to end well, is it?"

Mabel shook her head. "This has went from not good, to bad, to absolutely terrible very, very fast."

Dipper voiced his agreement.

The two of them leaned against the outside wall of the shack, old wood biting into their backs as the twins got lost in their own worries and fears.

Mabel turned her head up to the sky. "Hey, were the clouds always that green?"

Dipper took his own sight off his shoes and up to the firmament above, watching lazy clouds swirls in an impossibly slow dance.

"Huh. They look greener than before."

Mabel cocked an eyebrow. "Since when were they green in the first place?"

Dipper shrugged. "I don't know. I noticed it yesterday, but it wasn't really noticeable."

"That's weird. Think it has to do with that blood magic miasma thingy?"

Dipper furrowed his brows, an epiphany hitting him. "Maybe..." The boy quickly pushed himself off the house. "I'm going to the library."

"What? But it's a Saturday! And we still have to tell Stan about the pills!"

"I haven't been to the library in over a month. And we can tell Stan...later."

Mabel pushed herself off the side of the house as well and took one last glance at it.

"Yeah...later would be better, I think." She admitted. "So...why are we going to the library?"

Dipper cocked a brow at the inclusion of we, but continued nonetheless. "I want to look up some more information about this miasma thing. Something...something's not adding up." Dipper turned and walked to the front of the shack and started down the dirt road to get to town. If he fast-walked, he could make it in record time.

"Huh? What's wrong? Was the doctor wrong or something?"

"No, but if you always cough around here because it's in the air, then why would just the current shifting slightly make you have such a violent attack?"

Mabel walked faster to match his quickened pace and shrugged. "I don't know. You're the smart one!"

"Exactly, it doesn't make sense." Dipper continued on, agreeing with himself. "So we're going to find out why."

~~0~~0~~0~~

"Ugh, this is so boring."

"You're not even helping!"

"Of course I'm helping! I'm getting books off the high shelf for you."

"Mabel, you're only one millimeter taller than me. It doesn't make a difference."

Mabel snorted. "Of course it makes a difference. It decides who's the alpha twin. Alpha twin! Alpha twin!" She started chanting.

Dipper scowled at his sister and quickly slapped a hand over her mouth. "You're going to get us kicked out!"

Mabel rolled her eyes and dragged her tongue across his palm, making sure to get as much saliva on it as possible.

"Ew! Mabel, gross!" Dipper protested, dropping his hand to wipe it off onto his shorts.

Mabel made a face. "Ew, do you ever wash your hands."

"You're fault for licking my hand."

"You're fault for trying to take the alpha twin's place! Gotta be born into it, Dipping-sauce."

Dipper sighed and closed the book he had been flipping through, adding it to the stack on his left. They had been sitting at this table for nearly an hour now and have, so far, not found anything pertaining to what they needed.

It also didn't help that he kept getting side-tracked.

"I think we're going to need to get the more advanced books."

Mabel groaned and slapped her head down onto the table. "UGH!" She whined.

Dipper pinched the bridge of his nose. Mabel being here wasn't really helping matters. She ate up even more of his time.

Dipper frowned and glanced out the nearby window. Green clouds still passed by above, large and fluffy.

Miasma...like currents in the ocean...

Dipper blinked as realization came over him.

Of course. That's what he needed! Why was he being so stupid?

"Mabel, I need to go run and ask the librarian for something. You go grab those advanced books!"

Before she could reply, Dipper stood up from their table and scurried away, excitement in his eyes.

As soon as Dipper left, Mabel shot to her feet and ran to the section of the library titled Magical and Occult History.

"Okay raccoon section. Don't let me down." She whispered as she scanned the shelves for the familiar books she grabbed last time.

Fishing out a heavy black tome with Latin writing on it, she balanced it in her hand while flipping it open. Books weren't really her thing, but hearing Dipper mutter under his breath about this particular book stuck in her mind like flies to honey. Or was it spiders to honey? Something like that, at any rate.

Sinking to the floor, she laid the book flat and hurriedly skipped to the section.

Cipher...

Was Cipher spelled with a Y or an I?

Starting at the very front, she quickly leafed through the section, doing her best to ignore the weird drawings and strange ramblings.

One thing was for sure- this book was freaky. No doubt about that.

It was almost as creepy as Bill Cipher himself.

Almost.

Flipping faster and faster, Mabel almost though she missed his page until a giant wall of rusty brown greeted her, along with the faint scent of dried blood.

Mable stared at the page she flipped to in disgust, eyes flickering over the words Bill Cipher printed neatly at the top, along with the title major god of dreams. Stomach rolling and twisting, she tried her best to read what the page said, but had little success. All she read was stuff Dipper had already muttered about while writing in his diary at night, as well as things she had already found out herself by just meeting him.

However, three words smashed into the corner did grab her attention. Leaning her head in closely, the brunette narrowed her eyes, trying to make out what she was reading.

End.

Ally.

Stra.

End, ally, and stra?

Well, she knew what end and ally meant, but what was stra?

Straw?

Strawberry?

Straight?

Strategy?

Strange?

Mabel didn't know, and she didn't understand how any of those words could fit into end or ally.

Who was Bill friends with? It couldn't be Dipper, for obvious reasons.

And end...

End of what? The color blue? Pigs being kept as pets? Capitalism? The government? Civilization? The world? The universe itself?

Maybe it was the end of strawberries. She didn't have a clue.

She scowled at the bloody book, which was probably done by Bill himself somehow to hide whatever evil plans that he had.

Stupid god.

Stupid Dipper.

Stupid...situation.

Mabel snapped the book shut, frowning heavily as she placed it back on the shelf where it belonged.

Turning to the left, she dived down the next aisle of books in the section, grabbing random advanced magic books as she ran back to the table. She had no clue if any of them actually dealt in this weird mia-whatsit stuff Dipper was so suspicious about, but whatever. As long as she had something to show for because, after all, if Dipper wasn't going to look into this Bill Cipher...

Well, then she'd have to do it for him. To protect him.

That's what older sisters did for younger brothers.

That's what the alpha twin does for the, uh, not alpha twin.

Yeah.

Reaching their shared table, Dipper nowhere in sight, Mabel released a breath she didn't even know she was holding.

Dropping the books onto the table loudly, she grabbed a random one out of the chaotic pile and swung herself back into her chair, cracking the book open to a random page.

Before she could even start pretending like she was reading, a whisper-shout of "Mabel!" Called out to her from her right.

Mabel glanced up as Dipper fast-walked back over to her, grinning like a loon, something large rolled and tucked away under his arm.

"Look what the librarian found for us in the archives!" Dipper said, voice dripping in pure excitement. He reached her easily and shoved all the books on the table to the side, including the one ahe was about to pretend to read.

Dipper urged her to stand up and after kicking the chairs away, unfurled what appeared to be a giant map, though not like any map Mabel had ever seen.

Sure, it had those...what where they called?

Latitude and longitude lines. Though which was which Mabel wasn't so sure.

Besides that, and the normal continents and oceans in places, nothing was normal about the map. Hand-painted colors of all kind swirled in every direction, some long and thick and others short and thin. Some colors wrapped all the way around the planet multiple times, such as the giant pink strip, and others were only small lines in random locations, such as they sky-blue streaks over Canada, Alaska, and...Greenland, apparently. On the sides, a huge key was placed, directing every color to a different type of magic miasma. Just staring at the onslaught of information gave her a headache!

At the every top of the page, in faded letters, was written Magic Miasma tracking- 2000. Right over it were the initials, N.M.A.

"What does NMA stand for?" Mabel asked, cutting off the conversation Dipper was having with himself. She sworn she'd heard it from somewhere, though she couldn't quite remember where.

"National Magic Administration? They're in the news all the time, Mabel!"

She shrugged. "But the news is so boring! All they have on is a bunch of old guys who like to complain a lot!"

Dipper shook his head at her condescendingly.

"Yeah...anyways, all we have to do is find the blood magic color in the key, then find it on the map. I'll take the left side and you take the right."

"Okay! This should be easy! I'm great with colors."

Dipper smiled warmly and dived right into work.

It was, of course, Mabel who found the color after a few moments; a striking crimson.

"Of course it would be red." Dipper muttered, rolling his eyes as he hunted for the strand.

After bumping their heads together painfully a few times, leading them both to rubbing sore foreheads and laughing about it a few seconds later, Mabel once again came through and found the current. It was thicker than what both would've thought it would be, but then again, blood magic was popular in the past.

The strand wrapped around the entire Earth and seemed to taper and get thicker around places such as Egypt, Greece, where Rome once was, and was surprisingly thick around Japan, Germany, Russia, China, and North Korea.

However, the strand also swirled around the United States as well, thin in some places, and thicker in others.

However, the nearest thin current to Gravity Falls passed by Portland, way up north to where they were.

Mabel and Dipper looked up at one another, alarmed.

If the miasma in the air hadn't caused Mabel's reactions, then what did?

"This doesn't make any sense." Dipper muttered.

"Maybe it moved or something?" Mabel suggested weakly.

He shook his head. "No, the books said that the miasma is very slow moving. It wouldn't shift across Oregon in twelve years."

"But Dipper...that would mean that someone here is preforming blood magic."

Dipper nodded tersely. "And for years." He finished.

~~0~~0~~0~~

The methodical walk home was tense, both twins quiet besides the rare back and forth of rehashing information the other already knew.

Both could feel their guts tightening into knots. They had just stumbled into something big...both could feel it, weighing heavily on their hearts.

"So...are we still telling Grunkle Stan that I missed taking the pill?" Mabel asked slowly as the Mystery Shack slowly faded into sight as they walked around the bend.

Dipper kicked up some dirt into the air, letting his feet drag a little. "It's our only option. Though, now that I think about it, we could also tell Stan that the strand is nowhere in the air here, so it was something else."

"I- I guess so. But- oh, this was a terrible idea."

Dipper sighed. "But what else could we do?"

Mabel didn't reply.

The two stared up at the Mystery Shack, up at the green clouds swirling above.

Mabel's heart pounded in her chest, beating against her ribs in a desperate attempt to break out of it's dark confines.

Dipper found himself rubbing his arms once more, unable to stay completely still as nerves shot through him. His mind froze a little, trying to go through every possibility that could happen, his imagined future getting worse and worse.

Exchanging uneasy glances, the twins leaned closer to one another, hands brushing against each other as they walked up into the shack. Chimes jingled all around them, small bells and metal tubes tolling against one another in the light wind.

"Ready?" Dipper asked.

Mabel sighed. "As I'll ever be."

Then she opened the door.

The two entered the shack, uneasily noting the absence of both Soos and Wendy.

Dipper glanced down at his watch.

The shack had closed up thirty minutes ago.

Mabel and Dipper padded through the store part of their home, slipping through the back door easily and into the living room.

Stan was where the twins thought he'd be- sitting in his favorite chair, bowl of Chipackerz sitting in his lap as he watched the new episode of Baby Fights.

The twins turned and glared at each other, shouldering the other to start talking.

Dipper grunted as Mabel elbowed him hard in the stomach. In retaliation, he tickled her sides.

She slapped him away quickly, doing her best to hide his giggle behind a single hand. Glaring vehemently at him, she turned back to a disinterested Grunkle Stan and cleared her throat.

"Hey, Grunkle Stan..." Mabel muttered, forcing a smile to cross her face and giving a little wave.

"Hey kids. Where have you been all day? And have you taken your pill yet?"

He aimed the last question at Mabel, tearing himself away from the television to turn and stare at the two.

Mabel blanched. "N-No." She stuttered. "I-I forgot."

Stan froze and stared at her.

"What?"

"But I'm okay! No coughing here, see! Wow, what a miracle okaygreatseeingyounowlet'sgoDipper-"

Stan shot up from his seat. "What do you mean you didn't take it?! Mabel!"

The girl, who had turned to run off, tensed her already stressed shoulders and whipped back around, eyes stormy.

"And you!" He pointed at Dipper, causing the young boy to flinch. "Why didn't you remind your sister?"

"I-uh..." He stuttered, staring at the ground.

"We-We went to the library today and did some research." Mabel cut in smoothly.

"You? Research? That's weird but hardly matters. You need to take your medicine-"

Mabel stomped her foot some to catch his attention. Meanwhile, Dipper continued Mabel's cut off thought.

"The blood magic miasma isn't around Gravity Falls! The map said so itself! Which means someone here in town is doing magic- and has been for years!"

Stan froze at that, standing in the middle of the living room, staring at the two with wide eyes. Something seemed to click in his mind later as he shuffled a bit, crossing his arms and rolling his eyes.

"No one in town is smart enough to do blood magic." He scoffed.

"And everyone in town is stupid enough to try." Dipper finished easily, causing both Mabel and Stan to raise a slightly impressive brow at the come-back.

Stan shook his head angrily. "So what, just because she's okay today doesn't mean she'll be fine tomorrow."

"How about we just wait then or something?" Mabel cut in. "We'll wait, see how it goes, and I'll take one when I need one."

Stan stared at them with hard, suspicious eyes.

In that moment, everything was still and silent. Dipper felt as if his Grunkle was reading every thought he was, or really, in this case, wasn't thinking. Reading him like an open book, cover to cover with ease. In that second, Dipper was convinced that Stan knew everything. About Bill. About the forest meetings. About Mabel's cure. Heck, even about Ace Moonlighter.

Stan sighed.

The imaginary spell broke and Dipper's thoughts rushed back in, a huge hot mess of worries and relief and conspiracies.

"Go up to your room. The both of you. I need time to think."

Nodding somberly, Mabel took the lead, slipping out into the hallway and up the stairs.

Dipper stared at Mabel's sweater-clad back, mind wandering nowhere in particular. At this point, he felt exhausted from the day's events, having made another deal, researching the afternoon away in the library, and generally just being stressful since breakfast this morning.

Dipper slipped his hands into his pockets lazily and without thought, slightly shocked when he felt a folded slip of paper brush against his finger.

Curling his hand around the mysterious note, Dipper finally made it to the top with Mabel and slipped into their shared room right behind her.

Mabel padded over to her bed and collapsed onto it. Waddles, being the wonderful pet that he was, hopped up next to her, gently nosing her head before settling down at her side, oinking in a way even Dipper had to admit was kinda cute.

Dipper, meanwhile, stayed standing in the middle of the room. Taking the sheet of paper out of his pocket, he briefly remembered Bill slipping his fingers into there earlier.

He had been giving him this.

Slowly sinking onto his bed, Dipper unfolded it and nearly gasped at what was printed on it in neat, sprawling script.

Ace Moonlighter.

Tonight. Moon rise.

Dipper hurriedly glanced out the window, staring out at the deepening night as the moon already peeked through the tree line, greeting the world in it's sullen yet beautiful day as it always did.

Dipper glanced back over at Mabel.

Then the window.

Then stared down at the note itself.

Tonight. It was happening tonight.

Bill hadn't given him much time to get ready, not that he even knew how to get ready in the first place. He didn't have any of the tools needed to kill a god and on top of that, would he even be able to kill her once he saw her?

Dipper had never really killed anything before Sure, the stray fly every once and a while. Plus, he had set those mouse traps...

Dipper subconsciously rubbed his fingers.

Yeah. Mouse traps.

But he'd never taken a life before.

The brunet shook his head, feeling that overwhelming hate rear up once again.

Ace Moonlighter wasn't innocent.

She was a monster.

A goddess, who had lived for thousands- no, millions- of years.

And she killed his and Mabel's parents.

Dipper looked over at Mabel, who had by now simply fallen asleep with her clothes on, too exhausted and drained by the day to change or even move from her sideways position on her bed.

He stuffed the note back into his pocket.

Standing up carefully, Dipper tip-toed to the her side, making sure not to step on any loose and squeaky floorboards.

Standing over her, Dipper sighed and briefly swiped off his own hat to run a hand through his hair.

She- She would never have to know.

And he'd be back before she even woke up.

Dipper lightly ran his fingers through her hair, watching her shudder slightly at the unexpected touch.

Maybe Mabel didn't need this.

But he did.

And he even had a choice. But Dipper had to admit that his die had been cast even before Bill had asked him that question in the fire fly clearing under the starlight.

Dipper had his answer right when he heard the goddess's name spoken for the first time.

The young brunet yanked his heat back on, low over his eyes this time. Giving Mabel one last lingering look, he turned and followed his muscle memory, stepping only where it was safe, and slipping out his bedroom door and down the stairs.

Right. Middle. Left. Left. Middle. Right. Right. Edge. Middle. Right. Edge. Middle. Left.

Ground floor.

Glancing around, Dipper noted the lack of light coming from anywhere. The television was silent in th background, turned off.

Stan had already went to bed.

Whipping around to the right, Dipper kept on his toes as he made his way to the front door.

Taking one more nervous glance behind him, he creaked open the door and shuffled out into the cool night, chimes still ringing in the light wind, their laughter the only true sound heard in the deepening night.

Dipper gasped in a single breath...

And sprinted.

As he ran across the lawn into the dusty forest beyond, all Dipper could here was the blood rushing through his ears.

His heart crashing inside his chest.

His stomach twisting up into knots; from sickness or excitement he couldn't decipher.

His legs pumping beneath him, slamming against the parched ground, kicking up a little dirt as he did so.

Much sooner than expected, Dipper broke through the dark tree line and started to slow down, twigs already tearing at his long-abused but scar-less legs, scratching them up and causing beads of blood to bubble and dribble down in rivulets.

Dipper finally came to a stop. Putting his hands on his thighs, he bent over himself, trying to catch his breath.

Whether he was panting or hyperventilating, he couldn't tell.

Slowly, he straightened back up, staring out at the dark woods that stretched beyond. Daunting, but not terrifying, strangely enough.

"Bill?" He whispered, voice hoarse from the lack of saliva in his mouth.

A few beats passed, causing Dipper to tense up and worry to spike though him again.

Then, a familiar pair of arms wrapped around his middle, crushing him against a familiar and warm body.

"Hello, Pine Tree." Bill greeted, voice barely a hissing, yet smooth whisper.

Like poisoned honey.

Dipper shivered at the contact, cheeks already dusting with a hint of a blush.

"Are you ready?" Bill continued, his fingers tracing lazy circles on his sides.

It was oddly comforting.

Dipper could feel his blood freeze and turn into ice, could hear his heart pump madly as ever, and yet have no emotion by every erratic inflation and deflation of the organ.

Dipper straightened his shoulders and very carefully, turned around in Bill's arms, wrapping the god up in a hug of his own.

"Yeah." He answered.

"I'm ready."

Chapter Text

Bill chuckled lightly, breaking the hug the boy gave him easily.

"Good." He murmured, lightly pushing down on the brim of the boy's hat. "Now, I've got her trapped deep in the woods. Would you like to teleport there or walk?"

Dipper bit his lip. Walking would give him a chance to let himself catch up to his mind- his actions. Mental preparation.

But teleporting was faster.

The young brunet swallowed thickly.

"Teleport." He said.

Bill gave him a pointed smile, all too-sharp teeth in a too-wide of grin. In the darkness, Dipper could easily make out both eyes; one glowing a harsh gold and the other a frigid dark blue.

Bill clutched the child close to him once more and Dipper buried his head into the god's stomach once more.

"Ready?

Dipper hummed an affirmative.

And with that, Bill blipped them away.

Dipper winced as the feeling of being uprooted from reality passed by him once again. The world span around him and odd feelings crept over his skin, raising goosebumps as it did so. He closed his eyes tightly, though he didn't need to, and simply waited for the world to form around them once again.

Feeling the ground rush up against his feet, Dipper sighed and tried to peel himself away from Bill, who was refusing to let go of him completely.

"Um, Bill? Y-You can let go now." Dipper said, heart beating as mad as ever.

Bill stared down at him, his usual look of elation missing from his face.

For once, Bill actually looked...serious.

"Listen, Pine Tree. Before I escort you the rest of the way there, I have to tell you a couple of things, okay?"

Dipper nodded slowly. "Okay...?"

The god sighed. "First of all, don't step into the circle of runes I trapped her in, for obvious reasons. Second, don't listen to what she's saying at all. Whether it's about me, or you, or your parents, don't let her rile you up, got it?"

Dipper nodded again.

"Finally, and this is most important; What are we going to do to her?"

Dipper blinked owlishly at Bill, slightly confused. "We're going to...to kill her." He spoke plainly.

Unnoticed by the brunet, a spark of pride glittered in Bill's one human-esqe eye while his lips twitched up in a small yet predatory smirk.

"Exactly. Now let's go."

Keeping a single, protective arm wrapped around Dipper's waist, Bill turned and lead them even deeper into the forest. His body illuminated the area around them in a soft light, just enough to stop them from tripping or running into anything.

Dipper stared around as he always did when he journeyed with Bill to a part of the woods he hadn't seen before. The air was thick and heavy, oppressive and somehow cruel. It put weights on his entire body, making each step he took harder than usual. Though no obvious scent pierced his nose, there was a certain mustiness in the air that easily settled on his tongue, drying it out and leaving the unpleasant taste of dirt in his mouth. He couldn't help but squirm a bit; the temperature was also a bit too hot for his liking. Not enough to start sweating, fortunately, but enough for him to be slightly sticky.

Trees towered above, though what type he wasn't so sure as all of them were completely bare, leftover branches trying to grasp the sky in need, but never able to, forever stuck by their roots in the hard ground. The bark was blackened, almost burned in a way, and an odd liquid seemed to be oozing from the inside, shiny and red. Dipper almost though it to be blood, but no irony scent hit the air. Whatever the case was, it severely disgusted him in some fundamental and instinctual way and the young brunet found himself turning his head to Bill's side, trying to get the image out of his mind in favor of his...friend.

Friend.

That word sent all sorts of shocks of dread to his stomach and he had a sneaking suspicion why.

Dipper gulped nervously and glanced up at Bill, who looked a bit on the bored side having to walk them the rest of the way there.

He had felt this feeling before, not so long ago, reminiscent of a certain redhead...

Dipper dug his nails into his palms. Yeah.

It was exactly like that.

But how could he like Bill? Bill was a- a guy.

He wasn't gay, right? He couldn't be. He's already thirteen, shouldn't he know if he was gay or not by now?

Nerves filled him up even more as his mind raced through half-formed thoughts and ideas.

He'd never been attracted to another guy. Never.

Then again, he had never been attracted to another girl before Wendy...

Dipper shook his head some and bit his lip, an action that didn't go by unnoticed by Bill.

"You okay?" The god murmured to him.

Dipper nodded weakly, mouth dry. Bill was so close to him like always, radiating that protective heat that made Dipper want to bury his head into the god's stomach and never leave.

"...Yeah." He croaked out somehow. "I'm fine."

Bill glanced down at the boy pressing into his side. Dark shadows were cut along the soft angles of his face, making him look much darker than before. His brown eyes, usually alight in a joyous and curious wonder about the world around him, were dull and frigid. There was a certain... depravity there. Some thing inherently wrong yet unavoidable and unfixable, a cog out of place in his brain, leaving a crack that opened up into a merciless void, without a hint of light.

Bill loved it, and wondered ideally if there was a chance to widen that dissonance.

Dipper rolled his shoulders back and almost too slowly for his liking, Bill lead them through some undergrowth and into the small grove ahead, right into the vile fog.

Despite the smog being heavy and gross, Dipper found he could see through it perfectly and the deeper Bill lead them into the clearing, the more it thinned out. It swirled on the edge of the tree line, a simple cover and release that was there for superficial reasons.

Finally, the last wisps of the fog cleared his vision, and Dipper laid his eyes upon what was before him.

A seal of some sort stretched across the ground. It was small and cramped, barely two feet in diameter. The complicated runes inscribed into the ground sprawled out from the middle and were completely foreign to him, the very definition of advanced magic. They glowed the same dark yellow that the strange fog was, light pulsating softly.

Dipper's eyes worked from the seal, up to the being itself and the boy froze upon staring at Ace Moonlighter, goddess of identity.

She looked like a science experiment gone terribly, terribly wrong. Her face was nothing more than a vaguely humanoid skull, forehead a bit too flat, nose a bit too long, pure black eyes way too far apart and wide, and lips too askew to be considered human. Pale, paper-thin skin was stretched comically over her face, golden veins clearly seen underneath. Her mouth was open in a permanent expression of one being surprised in the most horrific of ways, and her thick lips acted like gums for needle-like bleached teeth. Thin hair drifted down past bony shoulders, the pigment of rotting skin with what looked like partially decayed eyeballs weaved inside the strands.

The horror show that was Ace Moonlighter continued on with lack of skin or muscles over the entirety of her chest. Dipper could clearly see her entire rib cage and even parts of her spine. No organs were inside, the cavity filled with what appeared to be snapped off ribs of a different origin.

Ribs broken off and taken.

Dipper started shivering all over.

Ace Moonlighter's rib cage eventually ducked back under the pasty skin of her enlarged and bulbous, bare stomach, which was completely smooth save for a large, what looked like some sort of circular branding where her belly button ought to be. The mark seemed old and faded, whatever symbol inside the circle long healed, leaving just a thin ring of blackness.

From there, a skirt made of what appeared to be human faces stitched together hung at her scrawny hips and flowed down to her ankles in a smooth cut. Her feet protruded outwards, large and pigeon like with red claws.

Ace Moonlighter was repulsive. Completely and utterly. If Dipper wasn't feeling so detached from reality at that moment, he'd probably be vomiting.

Upon seeing the two slide into view, she threw her head back and laughed, a dry and rough noise that sounded like she was about to hack up a nonexistent lung.

She hissed, voice clipped yet still able to hold out every syllable a bit to long.

Bill audibly growled at her, clutching Dipper closer to his body.

Dipper stared at the creature before him, so unlike Bill in every way, shape, and form. There was something wrong with her, and not just because she was a monster, but staring at her...

She was like an affront against nature itself. Something so twisted and corrupt it shouldn't exist at all.

"̢A҉́ǹ̛d ̛͘w͝͏ḩ̵͡at ̸̸a͏ ̶̸̛c̷̢ú̸t̶̵e ̢l̸̸i̧͠҉t̸t̢l͢è ̀b͠oy̨͠.͞͏ ̡Y̶̷̕o̴̧u̧̕͜'̢͞r͠e͘ ̨̨̕f͏a͠c͘͞ȩ ̨is͢͏ a̡b̸̕s̵ol̵u̸͟t̸͜e̸̷ĺ̶y̶ p҉̷r̴̢e͡c̀i̵o̴͜ų͢͡s͘."̸͝ She continued on, uncaring of the god behind him.

Dipper curled his lip at her.

Normally, when confronted with a killer of loved ones, people in at least books and movies have some form of confrontation. Questions are asked, threats are thrown, and the hero comes out on top.

But what sort of questions could he ask this creature? This monster? She had no reason, she was an animal. She was insane in every sense of the word.

Bill seemed to know what he was thinking about. The god bent over slightly to whisper near his ear, quiet enough for the other god not to hear.

"Something's not right with her. She won't answer any question you might throw at her, not because she wants to see you squirm, Pine Tree, but because she does not understand."

Dipper closed his eyes and sighed.

Of course.

The goddess in front of him was so far off from anything sensible, that not even blue and orange could explain her morality code.

"So what do I do?" Dipper whispered so quietly, he thought Bill didn't even hear him.

But the god answered him, just as quiet.

"What do you want to do?"

"̷Let̡͝t͡in҉ģ͘ ̶̧̛şm͝a͡҉l̨l̴͟ ̢̧c͜h̵͢il̕ḑ̧r͞e̵n͡҉̛ ̸d̸͠e̴ci͏d̸̶́e̛ y̛͟o̵̧͢u͠ŕ͜ ́͝á̶̵c͘t̀i͡ò́͝n͜͟͠s̵, C̨͢í͘͜p͏͟he̸r̵̀͘?̴̷ ͏O̵͟͢h̴̀,҉͏́ ̵͘y̨̛ò͏҉u͝҉̛'͟ŗ͜e̛͜ ̀a̢͢ ̸͞b͢͠ig̀ge̴r̨ ̧́̕f̴̛̕a̵͢i҉l̸͠ur̴̡è̢ ̶́t͘͞ha͏̵ǹ̴̕ ̛l̀a̛͠śt̢ ̛̛̀ţ͢i̸͢m̀e̷̴!̴̛ ̢͢͠H̕ow̷͟ ҉̕t̴̛h҉e̢ ̧m҉i͠ghty̡ ̧͜ha̧̕͠v̛͝e̶͠ ̵̧͝fal̵͟l̕e̷͘n̕͝!̴̧"͘ Ace Moonlighter cackled.

Dipper curled his lip at her. He was thirteen! Already a teen! Not a child!

Bill simply responded with another rumbling growl that Dipper could feel through his side.

Sneer still locked in place, bright brown eyes dulled into a frosty rage, Dipper slowly stepped towards the bound goddess, slipping out from Bill's tight hold quickly.

"Pine Tree..." The god behind him warned.

But Dipper didn't stop until he was at foot away from the small, detailed circle, staring up at the disaster of a goddess. Closer up, he could make out the leftover expressions of horror on the faces that made up her skirt. What he also noticed, upon closer examination, was the white pinpricks that were her pupils and the vile yellow mist that condensed around her fowl feet, keeping her from scratching the runes out.

"̧̛Òh̨͏,̵͟͡ ̵̡͡w̴͞h̀͜͞a̸͠t҉ d͞҉̛ó̷͡es̴͞͞ ̡̢̡t͜h̴i̴̸͢s̶̴͜ ͏s͏w̧è̸͜ęţ ̵b͏̀a͘͞b͞e wa̵̷͟nt͝?́ ̕Doè̶͢s̴͟n'͢t̛͟ ̴͝h̕͡e̕ ͜͡k̷̀͠n̸o̶̧̕w͟ ̀҉ń͟͠o̧t҉́ ͝t̡̢o ̷͢męśs̛ w͞i͝t̶̵͢ḩ̸ ͘͞those̸ ̀mo̴͏ŕ͟ę͞ ͟p̴͠o͠҉͢w̨͝͠e͘r͠f̀u̶l̸ ̨͟t͟h̸҉҉an̡ hę͏?̡"̀

Dipper felt a pair of hands grip his upper arms and yank him back into a warm chest. Bill forced him to stumble about two feet back, leaving a yard of space between him and his parent's murderer.

His parents...

The people who loved and supported him unconditionally.

From his dad who bought him all sorts of books when he was young, not caring that he had preferred reading over playing outside with other boys.

To his mom who would pick him up and curl around him when watching T.V, stroking his hair softly until he was lulled to sleep.

But that was all gone, wasn't it? Had been for eight years now.

And they weren't coming back.

Not even magic could raise the dead, after all.

Dipper felt an inner fire lick his insides, flames so frigid they actually burned him. The collected leftover memories of his parents simply repeated over and over and over again like a record.

Everything seemed to stop.

His heart.

The Earth.

Time itself.

Nothing was moving and silence reigned supreme, if only for a fraction of a second.

"Burn her."

His heart started up again.

The Earth started rotating.

Time itself ticked by once more.

And a single snap from behind him ended what had begun.

Ace Moonlighter let out a terrified screech as azure flames exploded across her skin, consuming everything it could of her. Even from a yard away, Dipper could sense the heat and force behind the fire, more powerful than anything he had experienced before.

The sounds gurgling from Ace Moonlighter were something from the Underworld itself. Shrieks and cries that came with bubbling golden ichor. Veins in her face popped from the heat, causing rivets to stream down before evaporating into the air itself from the heat. Her eyes slowly melted from her sockets, juices dribbling before evaporating themselves while the actual eye ended up puddling some one the ground, golden and pulpy.

Ace Moonlighter grabbed her hair as it burned away as well, clawing at the melting skin of her scalp.

Her mouth open, and between her screeches of pain, she started, of all things, singing.

͘͘͜T̶̡͞u̡͡͠h̴̶ ̷̴̡͝x́͠s͢҉̨a͢͡͏̛ ̴̵̛͟u̶͝s̵̶̶̷i̢͏͘͞͡ ̵̡h҉̵ḿ̡͠a͘͘͏ ̵̸͡a̧̛͜͞f̵͝z͏̶q̧̕͜ ̶̡͢͝l̵͞h̷͘ ̧͘͘͠͡i̴̕͞é̵̶͝͡c̀́o̶͟͡ ̨͞m̸̡̀͠c̛͘͠ ̨̕҉ę́̀́ ̴̡͡t̀f̢̀͘͝ń̵̡̧i̷̵̢͡g̀҉f҉̷͜y̷͘ ̧͞j̶́͡d̴̀͘͢h͘͢͝d͏͢,̵̷̧́͠ ̶̀͟
̡́̕͞
̸́j̀y̡͟͢v̴͠ ̷̕x̵͘w͞͠i̸̢̧͏ ̛̕s̶̵̢͢͞z҉̵̶̀t̷͡͏̧ḱ̸̡r͞ ̵̷̴҉t̶͏l̡̨͘͜͠ó̷̶͢d͘҉̛́͠l̵͘͜͞ ̛́̕͢͞p͏̧́͜r̡̢͏͏̧ ̧́͡c̶̵̕m̡͞͡͝v̢̧̧̕͟t҉̡̢͜ŕ̸̸҉ ͝҉͞j̷̀͜͞c̨̀͜s̛̛͜ć̢͞ “

 

Her voice was even more distorted than before as her vocal chords burned away along with her tongue. It wasn't like any song Dipper had ever heard before. Heck, it wasn't even a song, just a random string of letters pronounced side by side.

Bill narrowed his eyes, easily picking up on what nonsense she was spouting. It was nothing important, though it did bring memories from the long forgotten past back into light. The child in his arms didn't seem to notice or care, content in watching flesh meld together with flesh as her skin melted from the bone she had, golden ichor running everywhere briefly before dispersing into the air.

However, that pure magic wasn't gone forever. No, slowly but surely, Bill could feel himself gain more energy by killing the goddess slowly than him using it to kill her in the first place.

Ace Moonlighter's rib cage blackened and cracked under the intensity of the flames, causing her to clip off the end of her song. The stolen ribs inside her came to a similar fate, crumbling into dust and falling away.

After her ribs went her spine, causing her to fall against the invisible barrier. Though Dipper knew there was magic holding her body up, it was still a bit odd to see her body sag against open air, broken and burning and melting away.

Despite her shattered torso, Ace Moonlighter continued to scratch at herself in a bid to get the flames off, only to meld the skin of her fingers together, twisting and splintering bone under the heat, causing the digits to contort in strange and horrifying ways.

If Dipper wasn't feeling so disconnected from it all, if he hadn't been in that dark part of his mind, where shadows loomed and cruelty spouted, he probably would've been sobbing himself from the sight, but as it was, he continued to watch with a conflicted expression, unsure of what emotion he was even supposed to be feeling at this point.

Anger?

Disgust?

Justice?

Joy?

"I think the word you're looking for is schadenfreude." Bill murmured to him, voice dripping in that poisoned honey once more. "It means taking pleasure from another's misfortune."

Was that what this alien feeling was? Schadenfreude?

Bill tightened his hold on the boy, wrapping his arms fully around Dipper's waist and crushed the child against his front. His chest rumbled in a low, almost laughing purr at the condition of Ace Moonlighter, who's spine was now completely severed in half, rendering her in two, very much alive, parts. Her screams by now dissolved into nothing but weak cries as the life was drained from her, eaten away by Bill's flames and given to him. The transferred power coursed through his veins, hot and delicious.

Bill couldn't care less for the fact that she used to work under him and do his every bidding like a good soldier did. Right now, he just wanted to feast on the magic provided.

Though nowhere near full power, Bill hadn't felt so alive in years. Not only has he grown stronger, but he had his little sapling at his side, reading to drink in the blood of his enemies and absorb all the hatred and malice that Ace Moonlighter had provided.

The goddess was a catalyst for his Pine Tree, the first step on a road Bill would happily lead him down...

...And one his Pine Tree, even if he didn't know it yet, would love to follow.

Ace Moonlighter's form slowly started splintering, thin cracks appearing all over her to show that her long, long time on Earth was finally over.

And with that, Ace Moonlighter shattered.

Dipper jumped at the sudden disappearance of flames and the goddess, who was just loose bits of dust in the sky.

With the shattering of Ace Moonlighter came the shattering of the malicious spell Dipper put himself under. Tears of horror of what he just-just commanded Bill to do tore at his heart. Suddenly, his legs felt too weak to hold him up and his gut twisted and rolled, muscles contracting in the most abhorrent of ways.

He would've thrown up if had any strength to do so, but right now Dipper felt as if his entire soul had been sucked out of his body, burned away by Bill's own mystic flames.

However, the blond didn't let his good child fall to the ground in a heap. No, feeling his Pine Tree weakening in his arms, hearing the soft cries spill from the brunet's lips sparked Bill into action and the god quickly scooped the child into his arms bridal-style, tucking him as close to his chest as possible.

"Pl-Please, Bill..." He whimpered, burying his face into the god's chest. "J-Just...t-ta-take me away."

"Of course."

And Bill blipped them away.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Bill knew exactly where to take his little Pine Tree, knew where the child would feel most comfortable and be able to catch himself.

He blipped back into existence into their special little waterfall clearing. The moon glinted off the water, lighting the area in a solemn, silvery glow while lazy fire flies circles around. The pond reflected the milky stretch of stars perfectly and the pinpricks of light sat like treasured jewels in the water.

The god lowered himself into a especially soft patch of grass and wildflowers right under one of the trees near the edge of the clearing, leaning against the bark and shifting his sapling so he laid vertical against his chest. Bill folded his legs together some, keeping the boy there in a rather protective, if not possessive manor.

Carefully, the god took the child's hat off, setting it to the side so he could run his fingers through the thick and soft curls his sapling had, rubbing him gently behind the ears as well in a calming pet.

Dipper simply laid limply against the blond, unable to hold himself up anymore.

In movies and books, the hero usually found themselves regretful at this point, realizing that killing your enemy was a bad decision and regretting it bitterly until the end of the story.

Dipper shuddered as his heart beat erratically.

He didn't regret Ace Moonlighter's death.

Not one little bit.

Schadenfreude.

Yeah.

Pleasure in another's misfortune.

The brunet felt more tears come to his eyes. He nuzzled into the crook of Bill's neck, trying to wash away the horror he felt with himself by focusing on the god's delectable scent and the slow pets he gave his head.

Revenge hadn't felt bad. Not at all.

It felt good.

And that's what terrified him.

"B-Bill?" He asked, voice cracking.

The god hummed in response to show he was listening.

Dipper bit his lip. He couldn't ask Bill if he was a bad person or not. The god wouldn't understand. He didn't believe in morality, after all.

He also couldn't tell Mabel, the only person who knew his deals with Bill.

She'd be horrified.

Maybe even frightened of...of...him.

No, he was alone in this, all alone.

"Pine Tree, are you doing better?" Bill breathed against the top of his head, warm breath sending shivers down his spine.

Dipper was suddenly aware of how close he was to the god, curled up against him like this, and precisely how fast and hard his heart was beating.

"A...a little." Dipper muttered and in all honesty, he really was. Bill was a stable and calm presence. An anchor. He didn't judge him and he never would.

Dipper felt another shudder wrack his body as Bill twirled a thumb around a lock of hair on his neck, pad brushing against the nape of his neck.

"Would you like me to sooth your mind?"

Dipper peeked up at the god, catching the gaze of the single flaming pinpoint.

It didn't bother him in the slightest.

"You can do that?"

Bill sighed. "Kid, you pretty much gave yourself to me. Entering your mind would be a snap."

Dipper narrowed his eyes slightly. "You could do that anytime, whenever you want?"

Bill shifted slightly and brought his other hand up to cup Dipper's cheek, causing the brunet to briefly lose his breath. His thumb traced his soft jawline back and forth, slow and steady.

"Sort of. You have to be in the forest but in theory, yes. However, I will of course always ask permission from you, Pine Tree and if I do something you don't like, tell me. I'll be able to hear you if you think or say it."

Dipper worried his bottom lip some. "...Okay." He finally relented. "I give you permission."

Bill gently tucked Dipper's head under his chin, causing the brunet's breath to catch once again.

The next thing Dipper felt, was the slight slackening of Bill's body as the god did his work. Both eyes fell close and for a second, nothing really happened.

Then, Dipper felt a small and hesitant push in his mind. Careful and cautious. Then, that strange push turned into something else entirely.

It was like all his worried were being drained away, pushed to the back of his mind to worry about a different day. Closing his eyes, Dipper imagined the woods underneath the morning sun, how light filtered through the trees and how everything was so peaceful.

He could feel the soft grass against his knees, rough bark against his palms, and of course, Bill's ever comforting presence by his side, leading him and laughing along side him, cracking jokes and singing 80's hits.

Dipper allowed his body to relax for the first time that day, feeling at peace. The strange pushing and stroking of his mind slowly let up and Dipper let himself fall in tandem with his dreams- of the forest, of Multi-bear, of adventure, of written words in a notebook, of Bill.

The god who somehow came to mean so much to him in such a little amount of time. Who teased him and hugged him, knowing no personal space whatsoever but was so warm and just plain comforting that he really didn't mind. Who now made his heart race and dance with strange emotions and who cared what he had to say and cared about his fascination with the woods and all his creatures.

An image danced to the forefront of his foggy mind, hazy and strange, like a dream.

It was him and Bill, sitting in this very clearing at the water's edge. Like now, Dipper had been sitting in his lap and Bill...he was...

Dipper's eyes snapped shut at the misty memory from only a day or so ago. Of Bill's lips traveling warmly across his skin, arms wrapped around him...

Dipper's eyes flashed open and he flushed.

Above him, Bill slowly opened his eyes and stared down at him quizzically.

Oh no. No, no, no, no, no!

Bill he...he had seen...

Dipper gulped thickly and, like he did when overly anxious about something, promptly opened his mouth, and stuck his foot inside.

"So, heh, you saw that, didn't you? I mean, like, it was just a dream! I don't have control over what I dream! It was probably because of the pasta we had that night. You know how Italian food is late at night..." He rambled, cursing his mind to think about that while Bill was in his head.

Bill simply smirked down at him, completely amused. "Pine Tree, calm down." He ordered.

Dipper promptly shut his mouth.

"So, kissing, huh? What's that?"

Dipper froze and slowly looked up at an inquisitive Bill.

"You don't know what kissing is? I mean, you've been here a long time, but I'm pretty sure it existed in the Dark Ages or whatever."

Bill rolled his one normal eye. "Of course it did! But why do people do it? Is it like some weird mating ritual you humans do or something?"

Dipper couldn't help it; he burst out laughing.

"What?" Bill replied, indignantly. "it's a valid question!"

"Sorry!" Dipper squeaked. "It's just- the way you worded that. How do you not know what it is?"

Bill scowled. "I used to know many things before I got trapped here, Pine Tree! But being cut off from the world and your powers can leave you...disorientated."

"So you forgot."

"No. I didn't forget. I just didn't care to remember. That's different. So what is it?"

Dipper flushed again. How the heck was he going to explain this?

"Well, when two people like each other a lot, then they'll kiss one another as a gesture of affection, usually on the cheek or lips."

"That was a very textbook description."

Dipper blushed even harder somehow, whole face glowing red in the night. "Well, it's not like I go around kissing people!"

Bill chuckled at that. Using his fingers, he pushed the brunet away some and tilted his head up to peer down at his red face and cute pout.

Dipper, in turn, bit the inside of his cheek and tried to keep his eyes from falling onto Bill's slightly parted, grinning lips.

"Hmm, you humans are interesting, especially in the ways you show affection for one another."

Before Dipper could comment, a warm and slightly moist pair of lips met his, clumsy and unsure, but solid nevertheless.

The thirteen-year-old's reaction was delayed but nevertheless, one of instinct based on his now pounding heart, tentatively returning the press of lips, just as clumsy and unsure as Bill, a bit less solid, but true.

And in that single moment, all of Dipper's fears and nerves melted away, and everything just fell into place.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Far away from the pair, yet still relatively close by, a single girl slept in her bed with a cuddly pig, unaware of the two and unaware of what was going on just beneath her.

Stan tapped his foot impatiently as the elevator doors creaked open, loud and obtrusive in the silence all around him.

The man breathed deeply, nose wrinkling at the foul smell that hung in the air. Carefully, he lifted up the crate he had back up and tried his best to peer around the box as he walked forward into the dark room, passing by broken machinery and odd technology. Already shattered pieces of glass crunched under his feet and he used his muscle memory to side-step any stray pipes that fell in his way.

Making it to the back of the hallways, passing three journals propped up next to once another on a desk covered in notes about cracked codes, revealed sigils, and crimes against nature.

Stan gave a small glance at the grainy black and white photo he had of his nephew and niece when they went fishing a while back. Both beamed at the camera, eyes bright and smiles wide.

He felt his own lips twitch a little before carrying his crate though a doorway, cement cracked from thirty years worth of age.

He padded into the room illuminated by the massive red sigil printed on the back wall. The crimson glow bathed him easily and outclassed the two similar purple sigils on the walls right and left, the yellow sigil above, and the smaller, green sigil painted in the middle of the room, runes curled around a large alter placed there.

Stan used his knees to put the crate down, cursing at the pops in his back and the flare of pain in his hips.

Gods was he old.

Using his feet, the older man shoved the crate to the side of the alter, just next to the tightly knit circle of runes that surrounded it.

Letting out a breath through his mouth, Stan slipped the gas mask he had hanging around his neck on and pulled on an old, worn pair of gloves that happened to have six fingers instead of five.

Turning to the alter, the older man picked up a mason jar half-filled with a dark, red liquid.

"This time. This time for sure." He muttered as he unscrewed the top.

Reaching into his pocket, he drew out a thin paintbrush, one any famous painter could be found with. The bristles were crinkly from it's previous uses, but it would definitely get the job done.

Steadying his hand, he dipped the brush into the blood and carefully painted the runes he hoped were correct on the alter, over the top and all four sides. The symbols were cramped, but perfectly straight. His hand went slow, years and years of trying and failing perfecting his lines and curves.

There was not a single shake, nor stray drop.

After all, this had to be perfect.

Finishing up his work, Stan slipped out of the room briefly to grab the crowbar he kept under his desk, eyes lingering briefly on the picture as they always did before returning to his work.

Jamming the crowbar in, Stan cracked the crate open, grateful he had the mask to alleviate him from the smell of human remains

Making sure the runes were dry, Stan carefully started to align the stray bones onto the alter, making sure they would all snap together if this was to go right. Constantly trying to find a correct human skeleton with the right width and proportions was nearly impossible, but he always managed.

"Black market will never let you down." Stan muttered as he finished aligning the bones and picked his brush and mason jar back up to paint similar runes around the bones, a hard feat considering their shape and texture. It took much, much longer than the alter as it always did, hours stacking upon hours, but finally Stan was able to step back and admire his work.

"Finally. Okay, now let's get this over with." He said out loud, listening to his voice reverberate around the cold room with heaviness in his heart. Sighing, he turned and walked to the back of the room.

On the back wall, an inactivated sigil sat, carved into the wall like the others. It wasn't as grandiose as the others, but still impressive in it's own right. Multiple circles sat inside, runes carved all around each circumference, with a spiderweb string of more runes connecting each layer. Right in the center was a large indent, perfect for one to press both hands into.

Which was exactly what Stan did.

Squaring his shoulders and steeling himself, heart pounding madly in his chest out of nerves, he spoke the same Crimean Gothic he always did, rough on his tongue and throat.

The ancient and by all means, dead words boomed all around him and the sigil before him started to glow a muted red, slowly getting brighter and brighter.

Stan trembled under how much magic he was giving to all the sigils in the room. His knees shook and sweat condensed. Pressure built up behind both his eyes and in his bones, threatening to splinter him into thousands of tiny shards.

Just as it was getting to be too much for the older man, Stan ended his chanting and the muted red light faded away as the sigil stopped glowing.

Completely spent, Stan stumbled around, ready to be met with blackened bones and evaporated blood of another failed ritual, only to be met with exactly the opposite.

A perfect skeleton sat on the alter, gleaming off-white and connected, ligaments shiny.

Stan glanced down at the hands, the true teller if everything went right for once in his life.

Both had six digits, perfectly melded and completely natural.

And Stan couldn't hold in his whoop of joy.

Chapter Text

Dipper nuzzled into the warmth even more, trying to ignore the shivers that raced through his bones and prickled his skin where the warmth wasn't. He was wonderfully comfortable in the best of ways, his makeshift bed made of one Bill Cipher giving him all the comfort, safety, and heat needed for a well night's rest. His presence itself was calming, gentle touches in his mind that massaged all his worried and fears away, forcing them to the back of his mind to be pondered over later.

Right now, he was safe and happy.

Right now, that's all he needed.

The boy hummed lightly as he felt gloved digits run through his hair once more, running through the curls like they did last night, trailing over skin causing redness to condense on his cheeks once more.

Yawning against Bill's golden vest, Dipper blearily blinked his eyes open, soft chocolate brown dulled a bit from sleep. Everything was a bit blurry at first and all he could besides brunet locks hanging low in his vision was gold and yellow.

The fingers moved down to lightly rub behind his ear, almost in a pet of sorts. Normally, Dipper would have been protesting the attention, blushing terribly while exclaiming that he "wasn't a dog!" And trying his best to hide the fact that he liked it so much.

However, the situation the brunet was in was far from normal in every sense of the way. After all, normal people didn't get crushes on immortal gods living in the forest. Nor did they get kissed by said god, and heaven forbid that they actually fall asleep cuddle up next to the god.

No, this wasn't a normal situation at all and thus Dipper, still groggy from sleep, happily leaned into the touch, soft smile playing on his lips.

"Heya Pine Tree." Bill murmured to him, hot breath billowing onto his face.

"Hey." Dipper replied, punctuating his sentence with a large yawn.

Bill moved his fingers so they were back on his neck, gently swirling the curls there like...

Dipper blinked hard once more as dawn's shimmering light filtered from above, newborn soft.

Like last night.

Last night...

Dipper snapped awake, sleepiness flooding away as memories and realizations clawed to the forefront of his mind. Spitting out an odd choking gasp, the brunet squirmed away from Bill, awkwardly rolling over the god's legs and falling on his side right into a patch of wildflowers, which tickled his face and nose, causing an infamous kitten sneeze to come out.

Bill laughed openly at both the scene and the sneeze, throwing his head back against the bark of the tree. "Oh, Pine Tree! You are absolutely adorable!"

Dipper rolled over onto his back and scrambled into a sitting position, shooting Bill a glare. "No I'm not!" He replied before climbing to his feet, listening to his limbs pop and crack. Worry bled to the forefront if his mind, hot and thick.

He just fell asleep in the forest with Bill.

He had literally been gone all night.

W-What is Stan going to say? Mabel?

He's going to be in huge trouble!

"Oh gods, oh gods, oh gods!" Dipper gasped, pacing in a circle while ringing the bottom of his shirt in his hands.

Bill rolled his eyes. For a kid who gave himself to him, he didn't worship correctly at all.

"What is it, kid?" Bill asked, folding his hands behind his head while stretching out his legs before him, arching his back some to pop it.

"I-I'm going to be in huge trouble! Oh my gods, what is Stan...and Mabel-! Oh, gods...!"

Bill rolled his eyes and the panicking teen. Scooping the brunet's hat off the ground, Bill pushed himself up with his legs and strode over, yanking the hat low over his Pine Tree's face, flattening his unkempt hair.

"Calm down, Pine Tree! Sun is still on the rise and I can get you back to your shack easy! So relax."

Though Dipper did stop his mad pacing, worry still shone clear. However, he did follow Bill's command, shoulder muscles loosening and fists dropping back into hands.

"Okay. Yeah, you're right. Right. No worries." Dipper sighed, still blinking hard. He turned up to the god, chewing on the inside of his cheek some. "So, what do you want?"

"Huh? Want?"

"Teleportation?" Dipper reminded him.

Bill snorted softly. He wanted his Pine Tree to stay here with him. But he knew that was never going to happen. The kid was invested with the world outside and Bill honestly couldn't blame him.

"Oh, just a little thing..." The god trailed off before bending over and pecking his Pine Tree's button nose with a light kiss. He then slung an arm around the kid's shoulders, flames already dancing all around as they slipped away.

Dipper shuddered as his feet slammed back into the ground. He was getting better at traveling like this, but it was still a little jarring at times.

Blushing furiously from what just happened, Dipper stumbled away from the god, fingers lightly rubbing his still-warm nose.

"T-Thanks." He stuttered, not so sure what to do or how to act at this point. Everything seemed to be moving too fast all of a sudden and all he wanted to do was sit down with Bill and discuss what exactly happened last night...

And what just happened right now.

"It's no problem, Pine Tree." Bill replied, kicking himself into the air and crossing his ankle, leaning back into the air with ease.

"Well, uh, I guess I'll see you later. I'll try to come by later today or tomorrow."

Bill shot him a toothy grin. "I can hardly wait."

Dipper's blush grew and the teen averted his eyes, whipping around to march out of the forest.

"Right. Well...bye."

He could still hear Bill's grin in his voice.

"Bye, kid."

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper wasn't so sure how he was able to creep into the shack without notice, but he managed.

He had been certain Stan and Mabel would be waiting for him as soon as he cracked open the squeaky door and slipped in. Waiting with narrowed eyes paired with angry and suspicious questions.

However, that didn't happen at all.

The shack was quiet as he stepped inside, soft morning light filtering in through the windows, lighting up all but the darkest corners of the room and pattering the old wood with small golden splotches.

Taking a cautionary glance around, Dipper scurried through the shop and up the stairs, doing his best to both maintain and balance speed and quietness.

By the time he got to his shared room, he had stepped on at least six creaky floorboards, which echoed loudly in the somber house. Much to the teen's relief, no one had come running.

Dipper glanced over at the still sleeping Mabel, who was wrapped around Waddles and cuddling lovingly with the pig.

The sight brought recent memories right back to light.

Dipper blinked hard and padded over to his bed, slipping under the covers and curling up onto his pillow, putting his back to Mabel to feign sleep. Though he knew he should probably be tired, having stayed up a good chunk of the night, only to sleep upright and wake at sunrise, but Dipper was feeling oddly refreshed, like he got a full eight hours of rest instead of the probable five or six.

He sighed into his pillow, staring at the wall blankly while his mind already started to spin around him, trying it's best to catch up with what the heck just happened.

Last night, he had left with Bill to kill Ace Moonlighter.

Dipper shuddered at the memory of her repulsive visage; how utterly disgusting the other good looked with her engorged stomach with the blackened ring, paired with her almost-human skull and skirt made of faces stitched together.

He should have felt sick. Before, everything seemed so slow. Like he wasn't sure what was going on and basing all his actions by his molasses-powered brain and the cold emptiness inside him.

But his mind was up to speed now, able to take everything in in real time and that strange ice in him was gone now, melted by the golden sun and time.

So why wasn't he feeling disgusted? Why didn't he feel regret?

Shouldn't he be feeling regret?

It was the only questioned that plagued his mind when it came to the violent actions of last night.

Not whether or not his actions had been moral.

Not if he was a bad person now.

Not if he was considered a murderer now.

None of those thoughts really hit him, none of them had weight.

Why didn't he feel regret?

Dipper liked to consider himself a hero in his own story. In books and movies, the hero always felt regret at this part, but he wasn't.

Dipper wasn't so sure how to make of this. He liked to consider himself a good person, but good people didn't go out and get revenge.

Revenge wasn't supposed to taste so sweet and he shouldn't be liking it.

Dipper wasn't so sure where these new found feelings came from. Had he always felt like this? Not detached in the slightest, not proud either and definitely not remorseful.

He was simply...well, he didn't have a word to really describe what his heart beat with when the memories of blue flames, broken screams, and golden ichor came to mind. Not totally apathetic, but not quite happy either. It was a strange emotion between the two, not either or.

It was sweet, however.

Poisoned honey.

All those books and movies had been wrong. Revenge was sweet. No doubt about that.

Dipper's mind chugged from his thoughts of Ace Moonlighter to what had happened afterwords.

His face flushed once again and Dipper couldn't help but squeeze his pillow to his chest and kick out with his legs some under the covers.

Bill had kissed him. Not just a peck on the cheek, not just as a tease, but an honest to gods full kiss.

His very first kiss.

Dipper's heart swam with renewed and even stronger feelings for the god, completely erratic and unreasonable. Warmth seemed to radiate from his chest and his previous uncertainty drained away, replaced by an jubilant joy that refused to go away, causing not only his cheeks to be pleasantly warm, but his entire body.

He couldn't help but kick his feet out once more, unable to keep entirely still.

However, despite the elation that filled him, his mind swirled with confusion and slight worry. After all, did Bill even understand crushed? Love? Then again, Bill had said he liked him. How far did that like go? Mabel always said love was just two likes added together. Or was it multiplied? He didn't know and the analogy had gotten lost during her gushing over her crush-of-the-week but it was the only advice he had.

He couldn't tell anyone about the kiss. Bill was a guy and a god. A god people thought was either a complete and total myth or evil.

Both were untrue of course, but he wasn't going to go around and spout the opposite.

Dipper shivered a little and nuzzled deeper into his pillow as those wonderful memories from last night played out. The kiss, the warmth...just everything.

But as those memories played out over and over, so did the feeling and realization that he really did have to go and discuss with Bill what happened. How far did their...relationship go?

Did Bill just like him, or did he like him?

Dipper curled up tighter under his blanket, fingers clenching his mattress as his mind continued to circle as his eyes drifted shut again.

The same questions rolled around as the same images played over and over again.

"Burn her..."

Why didn't he feel regret?

Curled up next to him, fingers running through his hair...

Did Bill actually like him? Or was it just a fluke?

Warm and unsteady lips pressing against his own, strong and welcome...

And what did this mean for the future? What was going to happen now?

And with that, Dipper drifted back off into sleep.

~~0~~0~~0~~

"C'mon, Dipping-sauce! It'll be fun and besides, you don't have any plans for the day! It's time for you to get out and about. Maybe you'll even meet a girl!"

"Hey, if he doesn't want to come with, he doesn't have to."

Dipper glanced between the two girls in front of him, mind torn. Mabel was bouncing on her feet, metal-filled mouth in a toothy, playful grin while her eyes gleamed with excitement. On the flip side, Wendy was leaning back slightly, arms crossed, awaiting his answer with a small, slightly unsure smile.

It didn't come as a surprise that Mabel wanted for him to go out to the mall with the rest of the teens. She'd always been the one to want to hang out with older kids, glamorizing their lifestyle to almost comical lengths. Now that she was a teen, she was going to do her best to act like one every step of the way.

It didn't surprise him whatsoever as much as it puzzled him. Why his sister was so obsessed with the high school life he'd never understand.

Dipper chewed on his bottom lip, debating internally. Last time he had hung out with the teens had been...well, unpleasant was probably an understatement. But this time all they were doing was going to the mall. Nothing illegal and nothing bad. Besides, if he decided to leave, he knew Wendy would have his back this time.

"Okay, okay, I'll go." Dipper finally relented with a small smile.

Mabel squealed and hugged him tightly around the waist while "thank you's!" bubbled from her throat.

Wendy's smile transformed into a full grin and she lightly batted the bill of his hat.

"Cool. Let's go." The redhead said, turning and leading them out to the shack and to the van like last time.

And like last time, all the other teens were in their seats. Thompson driving, Robbie sitting shotgun, Wendy, Nate, and Lee in the middle, and Mabel and him in the very back.

The teens greeted the twins with bright smiles and apologetic glances. Though Dipper wished to get an actual apology from the rest, he settled for the looks of remorse. As Afytha had said- it wasn't his fault but theirs.

"You guys ready?" Nate asked, turning around and grinning broadly as the twins settled down into the back.

"Heck yeah we are! Mall! Mall! Mall!" Mabel started chanting, thrusting her fist into the air.

The other teens were quick to join as Thompson pulled out onto the dirt road and started driving to the mall.

"Guys, could you try not to punch the roof?" He tried asking again, as he always did.

And, as they always did, the rest of the teens ignored him, chanting and punching the roof in excitement.

Thompson sighed and started to fiddle with the radio, putting on some sort of heavy rock.

Nate and Lee sung loudly to the vulgar song, punching one another in the shoulder and grinning the entire time.

Meanwhile, Robbie twisted around in his seat so he could talk to Wendy, a dust of a blush on both teen's cheeks.

Mabel glanced between the two, then at Dipper who was staring out the window to the forest beyond, his own blush causing his cheeks to glow, sappy smile playing on his lips.

"Hey, Dip. You okay?" She asked, eyebrows slightly raised in worry. Usually, he would be steaming mad at the obvious flirting going on between Wendy and Robbie but instead he was just looking out the window.

He turned towards her, an eyebrow cocked in confusion. "Yeah? Why?" He asked.

Mabel frowned. His eyes were brighter than usual and he couldn't seem to be able to keep a smile off his face. On top of that, she was pretty sure he was blushing just a bit.

Mabel narrowed her eyes and lowered her voice. "Um, it's just that Wendy and Robbie are flirting and...well..."

Dipper gave her a blank look. "Mabel, I told you a long time ago that I didn't have a crush on Wendy anymore."

Mabel blinked, and fished around in her memory. She could kinda remember him mentioning it offhand. She had thought he was joking or just trying to deny his affections once again, not actually being serious!

"Oh, I thought you were joking!" Mabel gasped out loud. "So who do you have a crush on now?"

Dipper froze and gave her a look reminiscent of a deer caught in headlights. "W-Who said anything about me having a new crush?"

Mabel rolled her eyes. "C'mon, bro-bro. You're totally out of it. You're practically glowing."

He pouted. "Am not!"

"Are too! So who is it?"

Dipper bit his lip and turned back to the window.

He didn't answer her question.

"Dipper, who is it? Who's the lucky gal?"

Dipper shook his head and continued to stare out of the window.

Mabel sent her own pout his way. "Fine, keep your secret crush. But I'll find out, Dipper. I'll find out."

"That was one of the creepiest things I've ever heard you say." He grumbled.

Mabel beamed. "So you'll tell me who our next favorite girl is?" She asked brightly.

Dipper snorted. "No, of course not!"

"So you do have another crush!" Mabel laughed.

"I-I...What?" He spluttered, wheeling back around to stare at his triumphant sister. Realization of what Mabel just did dawned on him. He scowled, impressed but annoyed.

Mabel laughed again.

"Look, guys! We're here!" Wendy shouted, rolling down her window to point at the mall.

Mabel started up her chant of "Mall! Mall! Mall!" Once more, prompting everyone but Thompson to join in, the latter trying to park his van without incident.

The van spluttered to a stop as Thompson killed the ignition and unbuckled his seat belt, having been the only one in the vehicle besides Dipper and a pressured Mabel to do so. The rest of the teens filed out, Nate and Lee chatting about perverted, vulgar things while Wendy went and joined Robbie's side.

"Tambry should be waiting for us inside." Wendy called out as everyone fell into a large group together, slowing down side conversations.

"Bet she's getting a new magazine or whatever." Nate snickered.

Lee, Robbie, and Thompson giggled at the jab while Wendy rolled her eyes.

Mabel muttered something about hot actors, causing Dipper to give her a slightly weirded out glance. It was almost scary how boy crazy his sister was. Almost.

"Well, it's no use just hanging around out here. Let's go!" Mabel crowed as she took off running to the double doors, cheering the entire way which caused a number of funny looks to be shot her way.

The other teens laughed at her enthusiasm and were quick to follow, the chant of "mall! Mall! Mall!" Starting once more.

They were quick to find Tambry. As she was where expected, looking at some nearby tabloids on a rack, flipping through each one with a slight hint of interest on her face.

"Tambry!" Lee called as he spotted the girl, coming to a screeching stop.

Tambry glanced up from her reading, boredom already tugging at her eyes. "Oh, there you guys are." She replied before turning to the nearby vendor to pay for her newest tabloid.

"Okay, now that we got the entire group, where should we go?" Thompson asked, internally hopping he didn't have to do anything embarrassing...again.

"MC Jenny's."

"Edgy on Purpose."

"BeeblyBoop's Videogames."

"Sports Store."

"The food court."

"Eh, anywhere."

Dipper stayed silent, as well as Tambry.

The teens stared down at one another, eyes narrowed.

"C'mon, guys! MC Jenny's is having a sale today!" Mabel gushed.

"They're always having a sale." Robbie butted in. "And besides, Edgy on Purpose has actual good clothes."

Mabel shook her head condescendingly. "Oh, no they don't." She said slowly, clear pity in her tone.

"Clothes shopping is boring! Sports, guys. Sports." Nate said, waggling his eyebrows.

Lee shook his head, causing his blond hair to get stuck in his mouth. "Have to disagree with you on that. BeeblyBoop's is the best and besides, free games!"

Thompson muttered about being hungry under his breath while Wendy just rolled her eyes. "Why don't we just wander around until we see something we like?" She negotiated.

The teens glanced at one another before voicing their agreement and with that, everyone fell into place within the group. Nate and Lee ran ahead together with Thompson, already trying to talk him into doing gross and embarrassing dares. Wendy and Robbie let their shoulders brush as they walked side-by-side, both also sporting matching blushes. Tambry was a few feet off, nose already stuck in her tabloid while her eyes scanned page after page with a sort of religious reverence.

Dipper was, unsurprisingly, with Mabel, listening to her ideally gush about something her, Candy, and Grenda did the other day while hanging out.

Dipper bit his lip, slightly hurt and feeling guilty for it. Lately, Mabel never really wanted to hang out with him, it seemed and when they did, it always looped back around to Candy and Grenda or just boring girl stuff. What happened to the jokes and games? Those normal things they always did together were quickly becoming not so normal and few and far between.

Dipper shook his flash of pain and jealousy away. What sort of brother didn't support his sister's friends and interests? If he and Mabel were switched, she wouldn't be feeling or acting like this!

Dipper blinked and blankly stared at the shops all around him as well as kept an eye on their boisterous group. While muscle memory took over his legs and ears, his mind wandered far away, back into the forest he never could keep his thoughts away from and to a special god who was warm and weird, yet funny all the same.

So focused on his thoughts, he didn't notice the girl in front of him stop until he ran straight into her, almost knocking her to the ground.

"Ack! Sorry Wendy!" Dipper quickly apologized, straightening his cap and rubbing his now sore nose lightly.

Wendy stumbled a little due to the surprise and force of him running into her. She turned around and gave him an easy smile. "Hey, it's cool. You didn't mean too." At expression on his face, Wendy's easy smile turned into a wider grin. "So what were you thinking about, Dip?"

Dipper slowly let his hand drop and felt himself flush even more than he already was under her mischievous gaze. "What do you mean?" He asked, his voice cracking in the middle of his question.

Robbie snorted. Wendy ignored it.

"You have your serious thinking face on again and you are blushing!"

That made Dipper blush even more. "I don't have a serious thinking face."

"Of course you do, Dipper!" Mabel butted in. She shot an evil grin as she continued. "Thinking about your new crush?"

"Mabel!" Dipper cried out, aghast.

Wendy snickered and Robbie rolled his eyes. Meanwhile, in the background Nate and Lee were trying to talk Thompson into licking the rim of a trashcan.

"Oh, you gotta crush? Who's the lucky girl?" Wendy ask, genuine smile across her features.

Dipper found he couldn't look anyone in the eye at that moment and turned away. "I don't have a crush." He denied.

Both Mabel and Wendy rolled their eyes while Robbie let out another snicker. "Gotta try harder than that, kid."

Dipper twitched slightly at the nickname, remembering a higher pitched, but much smoother voice uttering the same word only a few hours before.

"I am telling the truth! No crushes here!"

A chant of "lick it! Lick it!" Started up in the background. Seeing the dare, Dipper was quick to join, if only to get away from the scrutiny of the other three.

At the sight of a slowly breaking down Thompson, the other three teens were quick to join in the chant as well, causing people passing by to stare. Meanwhile, Tambry fished her Polaroid out of her purse and got ready to take the picture.

Finally, the fatter boy relented under the peer pressure and bent down to lick the rim of the can, forced to hold the pose long enough for Tambry to snap a few pictures. As soon as she was done, Thompson stumbled away from the can, wiping his tongue with his hand to try and get the taste out of his mouth.

Everyone else cheered for his success, laughing and joking around again.

The teens started wandering once more, sometimes stopping to look through various windows, but never pausing to actually go inside any store. Each was waiting for their own preferable place to pop out.

Wendy broke off from Robbie briefly to join the two twins. As usual, Mabel was chatting up a storm a mile a minute, as well as pointing out various boys that passed by, giving each a rating on whether she would date them or not.

Dipper was looking completely out of it. He had the oddest expression on his face and he simply hummed in acknowledgment to whatever came out of Mabel's mouth.

Getting closer to the teen, Wendy's nose wrinkled at the odd smell coming off the boy besides her. It was thick, but faint, settling on her tongue. She couldn't quite pin the scent down. It was almost...smoldering with an odd, almost meaty tang. Like badly cooked beef mixed.

"Hey, no offense Dipper, but you kinda need a shower." She informed him.

Dipper didn't seem to notice her talking, or even her presence, preferring to stare blankly ahead, completely lost in the clouds.

Rolling her eyes, the redhead knocked on his head a bit.

"Ow! Hey! What was that for!" Dipper protested as he shooed her fist away.

Mabel laughed at the two of them before her attention was drawn away by another guy.

"Dude, you smell rancid. You need to take a shower when you get home."

Dipper blanched, eyes widening in fear. Wendy, taken aback by the expression, pursed her lips in slight worry. "You okay?"

That strange, almost terrified expression quickly melted away as soon as it came, leaving his face pointedly blank.

It was...an odd expression to say the least.

"I'm fine! Just, magic, you know? Sometimes it can leave weird smells if you're not careful!"

Wendy chuckled at that, trying to block the memory of a certain spell she tried one time that went horribly wrong, leaving her with a uni-brow that she had to shave and smelling of cheese the rest of the day.

"True, true." She agreed, ignoring her heart that was telling her, loud and clear, that something was wrong.

Dipper nodded and went back to the one-sided conversation with Mabel, leaving Wendy to return to Robbie.

The rest of the day passed without incident.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper was all the more ready to finally get home and back into the forest with Bill.

After saying goodbye to the teens, he easily dodged around Stan with a small lie about going to the library. Waving goodbye to Mabel who was currently talking to Candy on the phone, leaning against the counter and twirling her hair as she did so, Dipper easily snuck out and around the house, slipping into the woods quietly and without incident as usual.

As soon as he stepped into the tree line, a flash of gold appeared out of the corner of his eyes and an arm was slung around him.

Dipper's heart started to beat frantically in his chest while his cheeks got a red hue. His liquid brown eyes peeked out from under his cap to meet a single burning golden orb. The boy gave a wide smile.

"Hey Bill." He greeted.

Bill chuckled and started to lead him into the forest once more. "Heya Pine Tree!"

"So how are you today?"

Bill hummed lightly. "Better now that you're here." He side with a slow blink. "That was a wink, by the way." He tacked on at the end.

Dipper laughed and flushed harder. Was Bill actually trying to flirt with him or was he just being Bill? At this point, Dipper really couldn't tell.

What he needed to do was stop the god so the two of them could talk about their kiss last night- what did it mean? Dipper knew what it meant to himself, of course but what about Bill? After all, Bill was older than him by...well, a lot to be honest. If Dipper couldn't win over Wendy's heart because of three years, what hope was there that he could win Bill's?

"You have your serious thinking face on, Pine Tree. What's up?" Bill interjected, smiling easily as he maneuvered them around a pile of thorny bushes.

Dipper grumbled a little under his breath. He did not have a serious thinking face. Nevertheless, he slowly responded, unsure exactly how to bring this sort of topic up.

"Just...Just last night."

Bill let out a guffaw at that. "Hehe, that was pretty fun! Did you see the face she was wearing when her eyeballs started to melt out of her skull and hair? Priceless! Comedy gold, I tell you!"

Dipper shook his head, smiling softly at Bill's antics and ignoring that small voice in him that told him he shouldn't find what the god said funny at all.

"Well, no not quite. What happened afterwords."

"Oh, the kiss?" Bill asked, nonchalantly.

Stiff and suddenly stressed and worried, Dipper nodded. "Yeah..." He slowed down to a stop, causing Bill to turn around and look at him with slight confusion.

Dipper hugged himself and looked away, embarrassed to continue but knowing he had to.

"What about it?"

Dipper bit his lip. "Well, it's just...it's not just a way to show affection."

Bill cocked an eyebrow and motioned for the brunet to continue after he fell silent.

"People also do it when their dating."

"Dating? What's that?"

Dipper groaned and rubbed his face with both hands hard. How was he supposed to explain dating of all things?

"Well, you see, when two people like each other, like romantically like each other, they'll start dating."

"Courting, you mean?"

Dipper nodded. "Yeah! Like courting."

Bill pursed his lips and stared at the boy with an unreadable expression on his face. "You know, you probably should have mentioned that."

Dipper flinched and flushed even more, red spreading to the tips of his ears. "S-Sorry." He stuttered.

"So, do you wish to court me, Pine Tree?" Bill continued on, face still carefully void of emotion.

Dipper worried his bottom lip. "Y-You already know t-the answer to that..." He muttered, hating the situation he was in and hating the pounding of his heart.

Finally, the hints of a smirk crawled onto the god's lips. Whether it was malicious or playful, Dipper couldn't tell.

"I know, but I want to hear you say it." Bill continued, summoning his cane to lean against it.

Dipper switched to chewing on the inside of his cheek. His eyes darted all around in uncertainty and his heart was still trying to tear it's way through bone and flesh.

"Yeah. I guess so." He whispered, voice small and cracking, making him sound younger than what he actually was.

Bill shot him a full-on smirk and Dipper turned away, hurt already boiling up inside him. He was so stupid falling into a crush with a god! How could this even happen? Why did he let this happen? His crush on Wendy never hurt him this badly, never tormented him this badly! Why did bad things always happen to him? Why did he always get the short end of the stick? Bill probably thought he was weird now, being a guy and a human and all. It just wasn't fair!

"You are aware I'm an immortal god trapped in this forest, right?" Bill asked, amused.

Dipper bit his lip. "Yeah?" He squeaked.

Bill laughed loudly at how tinny his voice sounded and strode over easily, leaving his cane behind. Whipping the cap off the boy's head, he pressed his lips to his sapling's scalp briefly before pulling away and replacing the hat.

"Good. Now that we got that out of the way, let's go.~" He sing-songed.

"Wait, what?" Dipper spluttered. "You don't care that I'm a guy? Or thirteen?"

Bill rolled his eyes. "You humans and your silly..." His voice trailed off as he sighed. "One, no. Why should gender of all things matter? You humans and your silly heads. How you're the dominate race on this planet I'll never know. Secondly, age is just a number and time isn't real anyways."

Dipper's mouth fell open and he felt lighter than air. His heart still pumped rapidly, but not from worry and stress anymore.

"Oh." He said as a large grin broke out across his features.

Bill chuckled. "Oh. Now, are you coming or not, Pine Tree? There's this mail box that's been getting on my nerves and I think it's high time for me to go and get some revenge. You coming?"

Dipper laughed at that, at this point not even questioning the fact that Bill needed to go and hurt a mailbox of all things. It was probably magical anyways. Everything was, after all in some way.

"Heck yeah I'm coming!" The brunet replied, jogging up to his side and happily welcoming the protective arm that wrapped around his shoulders.

Dipper had never felt better.

Chapter Text

The month that followed was no different than before.

Dipper hadn't been so sure what to expect. He wasn't the 'boy crazy' twin, he didn't watch cheesy chic flicks and romantic comedies every night like his diligent sister. Sure he watched from afar the drama Wendy went through at times, as well as the other teens he hung out with and sure, he was forced once in a while to join Mabel in another Nightfall movie night, but besides those small and melodramatic bursts, he didn't know how relationships were supposed to work out.

If, of course, what he had with Bill would even be considered a relationship in the first place. After all, he was an immortal god whose lived over thousands of years and was currently trapped in a forest for the rest of eternity.

It also didn't help that Bill had no clue what he was really doing either. Though he had once known "lots of things" as he so eloquently put it, it's been a long, long while since the god had roamed the human world.

This left the blond more clueless than ever on how 'courting' (he refused to call it dating, as he "wasn't a fruit.") worked in the twenty-first century.

So the two, both unsure and unable to ask, simply tried to continue what they had carefully, trying not to do anything too rash to the other.

For Dipper, in fear of embarrassment.

For Bill, in fear of Dipper running away. Not that he would ever truly admit that to himself, however.

So the two were stuck in a limbo of sorts. Things were still the same in a sense, adventuring and meeting new creatures paired with Bill's commentary and companionship, just with a few more pecks on the cheek and, of course, the kiss that would always allow Dipper to return home, no worse for wear.

Despite the strangeness of what one would barely call a relationship and despite both parties having absolutely no clue on what they were to do with one another, the sailing was smoother than Dipper expected.

And that didn't bother him in the slightest.

~~0~~0~~0~~

"Deer teeth! For you!"

Dipper jumped as something heavy dropped around his neck, settling on his shoulders and cutting into his skin something. Dropping his notebook into his lap, the brunet leaned forward from his tree, staring down at what exactly Bill just put on him.

Dipper's nose wrinkled in disgust and he quickly grabbed the necklace and yanked it off, dropping it back onto the ground, feeling slightly disturbed.

"What the heck, Bill?" Dipper snapped, staring down at what Bill gave him.

The brunet wasn't so sure how the god got the string to make a necklace of deer teeth, but nevertheless here it was. Each and every tooth was strung on somehow, gleaming an off-white color in the dappled light, blood and cud cleaned out and nowhere to be found.

Above him, Bill's blinding grin didn't lesson at all in the slightest. "When courting, humans give other humans gifts and stuff, right?"

Dipper scratched the back of his neck, blushing as the word was used. Talking, or even acknowledgment of their relationship sent thousands of nervous and warm shocks through his stomach and still caused his heart to pump erratically.

Bill chuckled at the flustered expression on the boy's face and picked up the necklace, looping back onto his sapling's neck.

"Well...yeah, but..."

Bill bent down so he was sitting on his haunches. He slowly traced his fingers up the necklace, feeling every bump.

"Exactly, so here you go, kid." Bill continued on, brushing the side of his Pine Tree's neck, causing the boy to flush redder and turn away.

Precious. Absolutely precious.

Bill loved all those little expressions that played out on his saplings face. From the wonder, to the embarrassment, to the happiness, and especially the fear, hate, and anger. Those last three were probably his favorite among the favorite.

"No, Bill. People don't give other people animal parts." The brunet eventually said, voice steady, but cracking slightly.

Bill shrugged. "Eh, but I'm not people, so that doesn't apply to me." Bill drew his fingers away before twisting his body so he was partially laying down on the ground to the teen's right, propping his head up with the palm of his hand.

Dipper sighed. He already knew he wasn't going to win this argument. Grimacing down at the macabre necklace, he carefully took it off and slipped it into his pocket.

"Fine. Thank you for the gift, Bill." Dipper relented.

Bill chuckled some as he rolled over to his back before pushing himself back to his feet.

"You're very welcome, Pine Tree. So, is there anything else you wanted to do before leaving?"

Dipper frowned and idly flipped through the pages in his notebook.

He'd have to get a new one soon, considering how full the small book had got in such a short amount of time, not to mention how dirty and torn up it was too. The once blue cover was stained green from foliage, with a handful of red splotches as well. The cardboard was a bit wrinkled too, showing where it had once gotten wet. Inside, the pages were also wrinkly, some stained green, others red, and even more yellowed from dirt and normal wear. Ink was splattered across numerous pages when chewed pens finally gave out and spilled, along with mark outs, out of order notes, and other messiness that steamed from use.

Dipper's eyes roamed over each page. The first one about Bill Cipher himself standing out proudly. He'd added onto it, of course and even more pages had recently gotten dedicated to the god, scattered about. Unlike the first, these added pages held more of things relating to what the god liked, or did, along with various powers, personality traits, among other things.

Bill himself found the pages cute, and "perfect for someone who should be worshiping me," as he was so fond of saying.

That comment got the note of god complex written in, which made the blond laugh.

Dipper smiled at the memories, flipping past pixies only to find a certain page he had forgotten about what felt like forever ago, of a certain being who actually helped him with the problems he had been having at the time.

Bill glanced down at the page his sapling had stopped on, small smirk playing on his lips. Afytha was always...fun to be around. Her honest to gods terror of him was a source of never ending amusement to him.

"Hey Bill, could we go give Afytha a visit? It's been a long time since I've seen her, and I want to thank her for the advice she gave me last time." Pine Tree turned to him with a bright smile on his face, chocolate eyes twinkling softly, dimples pinched and obvious.

Though Bill had no idea what 'advice' his sapling was talking about, the god couldn't help but scoop the boy up once again, hugging him close.

"Oh, I guess so." Bill drawled, making sure to tickle the boy's sides a bit to make him shriek with playful laughter.

Pine Tree shoved his hands against the blond's chest. "S-Stop it, Bi-ill!" He laughed.

Bill slowed down his fingers and adjusted his grip, carefully balancing his Pine Tree on his arm.

"So, what payment will you give me to see Afytha?" The god asked with a smirk, knowing exactly how his Pine Tree was going to react, and wanting to watch it all play out once again.

Dipper flushed and turned his eyes upwards, chewing on the inside of his cheek some. Nerves exploded inside his stomach while his heart tried to tear away from his chest yet again. Heaving a few deep breaths to calm himself and his breathing down, the boy screwed his eyes shut.

You can do this. You have already done this! He told himself before lowering his head again.

Twisting around, Dipper carefully put his hands either or on Bill's shoulders, steadying himself and very carefully, leaned forward.

Seeing how his Pine Tree was going to kiss his chin instead of his lips by accident, Bill dipped his head down in the correct position just as the teen's lips met his in a soft and sweet, closed mouth peck. The two held if for a couple of heartbeats, feeling the warmth of each other radiating off and inside.

Dipper broke the kiss, as he normally did, in a sharp and jerky motion backwards while his eyes flashed open once more, surprise and shock inside those impossibly wide orbs.

As usual, Bill just let his smirk grew as he chuckled, letting azure flames dance around the two as he blipped them away, both falling to void before crashing right back into reality, where they needed to be and where his Pine Tree wanted to be.

As soon as Dipper opened his eyes and the gateway to Afytha's clearing swam back into view, he squirmed out of Bill's tight grip, jumping down to the soft ground underfoot.

As usual, Bill took up Dipper's hand in his own, making sure to tug the boy as close to him as he could while still being able to walk with ease.

The two padded through the gateway into the clearing just as they had the first time and just like before, the small brook bubbled happily in the middle, cutting the entire grove in half.

"Afytha? Are you there? It's me, Dipper!" The brunet called out, staring up and down the brook to see of the Nymph was anywhere to be found.

For a few seconds, nothing moved. The brook continued it's nonsensical babble and everything else was quiet.

Then, a small, tinkling laughter rang out like bells, gentle and soft.

Before the two, Afytha melted back into reality, water hardening into flesh and clothes weaving into existence. Even from afar, Dipper could see her small but warm smile and twinkling eyes. Carefully, she stepped onto the bank before giving a deep curtsy, her eyes never leaving the two.

"Why, hello Dipper and Mister Cipher." She greeted, slowly rising back up to her feet. "If I may so ask, and if you would be so kind to answer, why have you come to greet me, Mister Cipher and Dipper?" She asked as she settled down like before, back ramrod straight with the bottoms of her feet put together.

Dipper broke from Bill's side and strode over to the Nymph, giving her a beaming smile as he sat down across from her.

"Just wanted to come and visit and tell you about my, uh, situation with my friends. I wanted to thank you for the advice again. It actually worked!"

Afytha's eyes sparkled and her grin was stunning, displaying every pearly tooth, which shined under the sun. "Oh, it truly was my pleasure. If I may so ask, and if you would be so kind to answer, would you tell me the tale of how it went?"

Bill smiled lightly at the enthusiasm his sapling held and tried his best to ignore the raging jealousy in his heart. Making sure his face didn't actually mirror his feelings inside, the god strode over to where the two were sitting, settling next to his Pine Tree briefly before pulling the boy into his lap, wrapping both his arms around the child's waist and settling his chin on the top of his hat.

Afytha ignored the movement, but didn't dismiss the obvious and stronger possessiveness the god had for his child, nor Dipper's obvious blush and clear fidelity that shined in those brown orbs.

The sight both scared her and yet, brought a glimmer of hope to her heart.

After all, what good could come from a monster like Cipher? What corruption was this child already going through? Afytha was fearful to even think about it.

However, corruption of this sorts was a two sided blade and, it was clear in the way Cipher held the boy, tight enough to show ownership and gentle enough to show care, that his child was changing him in an unexpected, and in Afytha's humble opinion, better way.

"Yeah, okay." Dipper answered her, squirming a bit as Bill traced small circles on his sides. It was a bit ticklish, but not enough for him to cry out in laughter. "You see, I went and talked to Wendy and-"

As Dipper trailed off into his story, Bill actually stopped his mind from wandering away too fat to focus on his sapling's story with rapt attention just like Afytha was.

Wendy. The girl who did nothing while his Pine Tree was emotionally and mentally hurt.

Deep anger boiled inside him, only growing hotter as another recognizable name was mentioned; Robbie.

Bill didn't care how long it took. Weeks, months, years, or even decades. He'd eventually get out and once his...grander plans were completed, would hunt the two down and make sure to hurt them as they did his sapling.

Dipper finished relaying his story to the Nymph, who was still smiling brightly at him, eyes glowing with joy as well as something akin to pride.

"That is wonderful. I am ever so happy that you were able to make nice with your friend, Dipper." Afytha stated, lightly clapping her hands together.

Dipper nodded, accidentally shaking Bill off him, much to the god's dismay.

Afytha did her best to keep her eyes on Cipher's child, not wanting to look at that single red and black eye that seemed to be glaring somewhere to her left. Though she couldn't say she's met many creatures, per say, she could tell that Cipher was thinking of something that deeply angered him.

Afytha hoped that this anger wouldn't lead to another temper tantrum. The woods, as well as the very creatures inside them, didn't need another rehash of what happened last time.

Afytha let her own shivers from the memory simply roll off her, like water on a duck's back. It was best not to think of those unpleasant things.

"Yeah. Wendy's cool and a good friend and losing her like that...well, it would've been hard. No worries now, though!"

Bill placed his head back onto his Pine Tree's hat, his anger cooling into jealousy. Maybe his sapling had forgiven the horrible things those people have done, but he certainly didn't and the fact that his Pine Tree still gave them any attention whatsoever irritated him to no end.

"That is very good. If I may so ask, and if you would be so kind to answer, is there anything else you would like to discuss, Dipper?" Afytha ventured, keeping an eye on Cipher's reactions. So far, all he was doing was resting on top of his child's capped head. Despite the earlier clear anger, his face was a careful mask with a blend between paying slight attention and boredom.

Dipper smiled up at the Nymph. "I've made more entries in my journal. Would you like to see them?"

Afytha smiled softly at the boy and glanced upwards to Cipher. Seeing how there was no glare or obvious protest, she continued on.

"That would be wondrous. I would love to see your work, Dipper."

Dipper wriggled around a bit to loosen Bill's hold on him to take his notebook out. Taking a second to stare down at his work, pride blossoming in his heart, a handed it over to Afytha.

The Nymph carefully took the book, making sure not to touch Cipher's child in any way and careful not to get it too wet. It was a battered and beaten thing, born out of a childlike innocence and wonder at the world.

Staring at it as such, Afytha couldn't help but feel a pang in her heart. This child before her was already in so deep.

She glanced upwards at Cipher as she slowly opened the book up, making sure none of the pages tore.

If there had been a chance for this child to get away from the forest, from Cipher, it was long gone. She could tell, as easily as she could tell last time, that the god wouldn't let his child go. Not now and most likely, not ever.

Not that Dipper would want to leave Cipher's side, however.

The Nymph turned page after page, commenting on the fantastical creatures even she never knew existed and beautiful places she could never hope to see. Dipper guided her along the written journey, stumbling over his words some at times. Despite the clear nerves he showed for someone else seeing his hard work, the teen stayed enthusiastic and cheerful, even when asking her to skip over more...personal pages.

Her eyes roamed over waterfalls that glistened in rainbow colors, groves made of crystals, squash that had human faces and emotions, giant mushrooms, flowers that affected everyone in a different way, and many other mystical things.

"I never knew the forest had so many strange and wondrous things." She commented in awe, eyes glued to a rough, and admittedly bad, sketch of a pixie. "You must spend a lot of time here."

Dipper felt his face fall a little at hearing that. It wasn't that he didn't love the woods, or enjoy Bill's company and friendship, and talking to many of the other creatures, but the realization that he certainly did spend a lot of time here, more than he did with his family.

More than he did with his own sister.

Sickness twisted inside him, along with guilt. Suddenly anxious, he leaned deeper into Bill, wrapping his arms around himself and giving Bill's forearms a light squeeze.

In response, Bill started tracing circles on his sides once more, this time careful not to tickle him.

"Yeah..." He muttered, eyes falling to the ground, frown tugging at the corner of his lips.

Seeing the sadness etched onto his face, Afytha briefly panicked, quickly looking up at Cipher, ready to be punished, to be burned once again. She subconsciously rubbed where her fins had once been, still remembering the pain of them slowly smoldering away...

However, Cipher's attention was completely focused on the child he had.

Afytha had to hold back her sigh of relief.

"If I may so ask, and if you would be so kind to answer, what is the matter, Dipper?" She asked, keeping an eye on Bill.

Dipper sighed and looked up at the Nymph. "It's just...I never seem to spend any time with my sister any more. We're...I guess growing apart and it just kinda hurts I guess."

Afytha frowned slightly. Being born from the small river here, with little interaction from the outside world, she didn't understand his plight, nor the pain that came with it. However, despite this, Afytha was determined to get Cipher's child to smile once more.

He did have the most beautiful smile she'd ever seen, after all.

"Then you should try and make time. Sit down and have a conversation with her and tell her how you are feeling because of this. If you don't let her know how you are feeling, she'll never understand your plight."

The brunet's grin returned, shining and thankful. "Thanks, Afytha. You give the best advice."

"Oh, don't give good advice?" Bill grumbled, causing the Nymph to freeze in brief fear.

Dipper laughed at the god's response. "Bill, you are terrible at giving advice. Bees don't win people's hearts or get you friends."

The god snorted. "You humans are so dumb! If you had a whole bunch of bees, you'd be able to get a lot of honey. I thought you liked honey?"

Dipper shook his head. "That's...not how it works."

He turned his attention back to Afytha.

"Thanks again, Afytha! It's starting to get a bit dark out, so I think it's time for me to go back home. It was great seeing you again though!"

The Nymph returned his smile with a true one of her own. "And I to you. Please feel free to visit anytime, Dipper."

Dipper stood up shakily, almost tripping over Bill's long legs in the process. Retrieving his journal from the Nymph, he gave her one last wave goodbye as she melted back into the water, becoming one with the babbling brook once more. Behind him, Bill stood up as well and scooped Dipper up into his arms, settling the boy on his arm, just like before

"Kiss for home?"

Dipper flushed brightly and squeezed his eyes shut, going through that brief hesitation before pressing his lips against Bill's in another warm peck, breaking it off as quickly as it came.

"Kiss for home."

~~0~~0~~0~~

"I'm worried about him, Robbie." Wendy stated as she checked through the crystals placed on the shelf, making sure each one had it's proper charge.

Behind her, Robbie leaned lazily on the wall, admiring the small, hidden corner they happened to be in. Sure, finally finding some time and getting the guts to actually visit his crush at work was a dream come true, but he didn't want to spend it talking about that weird Pines brat. Well, the male one at least. Mabel was weird and annoying in her own way, but at least she wasn't so sensitive and, in an ironic way, girly.

"What? He's a thirteen-year-old kid. They all act like that." He commented offhandedly, letting his eyes roam over her flowing and bright red hair and...other assets.

Gods, he needed to ask her out for the end of school dance. Why did he have to be so nervous?

Wendy shot him a small frown before flicking another crystal, watching the electricity inside flare yellow before picking it up and placing it back where it belongs, briefly grumbling about customers not putting things back where they found it.

"But it's Dipper. He may be a bit introverted, but never this much. And he barely hangs around Mabel anymore! Even you have to admit that's alarming."

Robbie sighed and scratched the back of his neck. "...Yeah, I guess so..." He finally relented, wishing they could move onto a different subject. It was a month till the end of summer! They should be talking about their plans, not Dipper.

"So there's something wrong." Wendy restated triumphantly, straightening back out before turning around and checking another shelf of crystals, flicking each one to make sure the electricity flared red this time. Her mind meandered through the recent memories of the past month or so, on how he dodged questions and never seemed to be around.

Robbie pouted. How she was able to turn this entire conversation around with just a sentence or two baffled and impressed him to no end.

Just another reason to love the redhead, it seemed.

"Well, okay, yeah but what are you going to do about it?"

Wendy sighed. "I don't know. Ask I guess, though if he hasn't told anyone yet, he probably won't if I even question him. I'm just...worried about him I suppose."

"I thought you already asked him?" Robbie continued, leaning his weight onto his left foot, fingers toying with the edge of his finger-less gloves, which were very cool, thank you very much.

"I have but he just says he goes to the library or wander around town. I've been to both the library and around town and never see him! If he's not in either of those places, then where does he go?"

Robbie frowned at that. He still wasn't feeling worried about the entire situation, he didn't like Dipper after all, but the fact that the kid's been lying did give him a few chills. Dipper may be a complete dork and loser, with that dumb birthmark and his weird obsessions, as well as, in Robbie's opinion, a borderline creepy crush on her, and on top of it all, have zero skills talking to people in generalBut despite all that, Dipper wasn't a bad kid, per say. Hell, he was more innocent than he had been at his age.

"I don't-"

Before Robbie could finish his sentence, the creak and substantial slam of the front door rang throughout the shop and house, causing both teens to jump in surprise.

The two gave each other an alarmed glance before slipping out of the hidden niche they had been in. The floorboards underfoot creaked and groaned each day everyday all the time. The fact that they hadn't, paired with someone leaving, was suspicious.

Not only would they have to have lived here to know where to step, they also would have to have the floor memorized.

The two teens hurried over to the door and swung it open, freezing at what they were witnessing.

Robbie's mouth fell open.

Wendy almost screamed out.

But Dipper's form had already disappeared into the forest beyond.

Chapter Text

"Let me go, Robbie!"

"No! You have to think through this! We can't just go running through the forest!"

Robbie tried his best to keep his crush from running right into the woods without abandon, having to wrap his arms around her waist and dig his feet into the ground, throwing all his weight into simply holding her still. However, even with all of that, Robbie was still being slowly dragged across the lawn against his will, getting ever closer to the daunting tree line.

"Dipper's in there! We have to go rescue him!" Wendy continued to panic slightly, trying to tear Robbie's arms off of her.

Hissing slightly from the pain of her raking her nails into his skin, Robbie shook his head. "Then we'll be in danger! C'mon, Wendy! Think through this!" The emo begged. "Let's go get, um, Dipper's parent, guardian, whatever!"

Only yards away from the forest, Wendy finally stopped her pulling, her green eyes staring into the dark beyond, full of worry and fear. "Stan..." She murmured under her breath. "H-He'll know what to do."

Robbie nodded fervently. "Y-Yeah! Let's go get him!" He egged on, not letting go of the other teen.

Wendy shook slightly, eyes hard from holding back panicked tears.

What the hell was going on?

Everyone knew the forest was dangerous. Everyone. Not only that, but illegal to go into unless you had a proper license and as far as Wendy knew, the only people who had a license was Preston Northwest, her father, and her old elven teacher, Madam Feylie.

Dipper wasn't stupid. Hell, he was smarter than some people she knew at the high school! So why would he willingly go into the forest despite the danger. Like...like...

He's done it before.

Sickness started to tighten in her gut, causing her to practically gag at the bitterness that flooded her mouth.

All those excuses...dodging around...no longer hanging around with Mabel...

Just how long has Dipper been visiting the forest?

"-endy? Wendy?" Robbie asked behind her, worry rising fast in his normally monotone voice, his hands shaking her slightly. "Wendy, are you there?"

The redhead shook her head side to side fast, shoving her choking tears back done, along with the oddest sense of worry mixed in with betrayal.

"Let go of me Robbie. We gotta go get Stan." She coughed out.

Not letting go of his crush in fear of her turning and running into the woods anyways, the two teens jogged back to the shack, jittery and minds still trying to process what they had just seen.

For Wendy, it felt as if her entire world had just been turned upside down and shook back and forth violently until there was no sense of anything anymore and everything was just a jumbled and mushy mess. Her intestines squirmed in her as her gut continued to twist into thousands of little, aching knots. She could feel cold and nervous sweat drip down her brow and sides, casing her to shiver even more. The redhead felt cold all over, frightened ice in her heart.

How could this happen? It wasn't a secret that Dipper was interested in the surrounding forest. Wasn't a secret that he found beasts and monsters and creatures interesting, wanting to know more and everyone knew how much the kid liked learning.

And that- that thirst for knowledge lead innocent, funny Dipper to risk his life. Not even once, by the looks of it, but multiple times.

Wendy didn't think she could feel even worse than she already did, but she somehow managed to quite easily.

Robbie's thoughts were of a different strain all together. He hadn't been the kid's biggest fan. Hell, for the most part he disliked Dipper. The kid was always kinda girly, and the obvious crush on Wendy always annoyed him. Plus, he had a better-than-you attitude half the time and never seemed to respect older teens. Dipper was awkward and, in his own way, really weird. Plus creepy in how fast he could read a book, or list off a useless fact.

Yet, despite all the faults Robbie found in the kid, he never pegged him as someone who'd do something behind other's backs. Or lie.

Or risk his stupid life in a stupid way.

The teen wasn't sure what to think.

Though he'd never admit it out loud, Robbie's heart was clenched in slight worry while his gut twisted in the same emotion. Sure, he didn't like the kid.

But that didn't mean he wanted anything bad to happen to him either.

The teens finally reached the door of the shop, which was still hanging open from where they left it to dart across the lawn. Wendy, of course, reached there first and dived into the shack, Robbie right behind her.

"Mister Pines?! Minster Pines?! STAN?!" Wendy hollered, her hands cupped around her open mouth as she ran deeper into the shop portion of the shack, looking everywhere for the older man.

From inside the house, the sound of something plastic dropping on the floor echoed, along with what sounded like muffled curses. A few seconds later- which felt like hours for the two teens- Stan appeared in the doorway, frown etched on his face, dressed in his sleazy suit as always, fez carefully placed atop his head.

"What? Done che-"

"Dipper's in trouble!" Wendy interrupted him, green eyes blown wide. She was still shaking.

Stan snapped to attention immediately. It was an odd thing- to see someone usual reserved, gruff, and careless suddenly show panic and worry over something. "What? What happened?" The older man barked, originally lazy eyes alight with an inner fire neither teen had ever seen before.

"I just saw Dipper run into the forest." Wendy replied, her voice steady despite the obvious fear that was pulsating from her.

Stan stiffened, eyes almost comically wide. He let out a small string of curses. "Where? Where did he enter?"

Wendy turned back around and pointed directly across the lawn. "Out there-"

Stan took off running. For an older man, he was surprisingly agile. Not even half a beat went by before the two teens took off running after him.

Stan stopped when he reached the forest edge, eyes glaring around, trying to make out, well, anything. From the kid's stupid vest to the kid's even stupider hat. His hands curled into fists.

"Fuck." Stan hissed, turning around to march right back into the shack. If he was going to go in there again, he'd need some things.

The two teens still scrambled alongside him, wanting to help but having no idea how.

Stan didn't notice the two, too caught up in his own emotions and inner panic.

The kid had lied. Lied completely straight-faced. He had gone into the forest that night about three months ago or so.

And, by the looks of it, had kept going.

Stan dived down into the hallway, making way to his room.

Everything was starting to click into place. It was a slow process, however.

Dipper disappearing for hours on end.

How he never saw him and his sister together all that much anymore.

Even his personality had had subtle shifts. Stan couldn't pinpoint exactly when that had happened, but the kid had gotten braver. Happier, in a way. It was weird.

And now Stan knew why. And he hoped- gods he hoped, that Dipper hadn't gone out and met the one creature that he feared in that forest. The one creature that could do so much despite having so little.

The one creature he was supposed to be warding over.

Stan bent down to the small safe at the foot of his bed, entering the special combination needed to open the lock: GIFHG ML LMV

Swinging the door open, he grabbed the journal labeled on it. He hesitated however, briefly giving the other two journals a glance before tucking the third journal under his arm and slamming the safe close again. Out of all the journal's his brother wrote, the third one had the most ties and knowledge dealing with the forest around Gravity Falls, which was the reason Dipper had stolen it over the other two, no doubt. Kid was always too curious for his own good.

Straightening back up, Stan ignored the pain in his hips and the popping of his back as he strode over to his dresser next, pulling a drawer out to retrieve his age-old friends; his brass knuckles.

Slipping the two knuckles into his pocket, Stan made sure to stuff the journal into his tux just in case he needed it later.

Stan slammed the door behind him as he walked back through the hallway. More inconsistencies were starting to come to light the more he thought and not just the twin's avoidance of one another or changes of personality, but more obvious things that made the older man just want to punch himself.

Dipper's falling grades.

Notes from teachers telling he never paid attention in class.

Stan froze at the doorway to the store part of the shack.

Mabel's allergies...

That notebook he always carried around...

"Fuck." Stan spat out again, forcing his legs to move.

"You two stay here." He commanded the two teens who were still pacing up and down the aisle with clear worry and fright.

"But Stan-" Wendy started.

Stan didn't even turn around to look at her as he stomped through the still open door.

"No butts but yours staying here. If Mabel comes by, tell her to wait here too."

"We just want to help! Stan-" Wendy cried out again, determination written all over her face. Robbie trailed behind her like a faithful dog, uncertainty dancing across his features.

He was worried about the kid, even if it was just a little bit, but the teen was pretty sure he was scared of the forest more.

"No. You're just dumb kids like the dumb kid who's been sneaking out! Don't you dare go near that forest or your fired." Stan briefly glanced over Robbie. "And you'll be banned from my store." With that being said, the older man left, tromping down the lawn just like before...

Wendy and Robbie stared after the older man, but didn't follow. The redhead could no longer hold back the pressure behind her eyes. With a sniff, she turned to Robbie, burying her head into his shoulder and letting her tears slip free, staining his hoodie.

Robbie didn't care. The teen wrapped his arms around his crush and held her close, burying the top of his head into her's while holding her up. Right now, more than anything, Wendy needed a shoulder to cry on.

And Robbie was happy to help.

Meanwhile, Stan didn't let his memories stretch too far back. He had to stay in the here and the now.

He knew who Dipper had met. Knew how Mabel's allergies suddenly disappeared.

There was only one being, one creature that could do anything of the sorts, and the fact that this conspiracy had been happening under his nose this entire time simply burned him.

But what really got to the man, what really made him want to kneel over and laugh and sob and tear all his hair out, was the irony of the whole situation. It was like déjà vu, except this wasn't just a feeling. It really had happened before.

And that's what tore his heart out.

Stan marched straight into the woods, not slowing down and not stopping for anything.

Not this time.

~~0~~0~~0~~

"Bill? I thought you were taking me home?" Dipper mumbled, rubbing his eyes with one hand, still blushing softly at their kiss as always. The boy squirmed a bit in the god's arms, which were currently a bit too tight for comfort. Feeling his sapling's distress, the blond carefully placed Dipper back on the ground.

"Bill?"

"Shh, Pine Tree. I think I saw something."

Before Dipper could inform Bill that talking did nothing to obstruct eyesight, he was pulled behind the god partially, Bill's hand wrapped around his wrist to make sure he wouldn't just disappear from sight.

For a second, everything was silent. Bill's single, gold eye darted about, trying to pinpoint the movement he saw. However, only the woods stretched out before the two, daunting and dazzling with the dapples of filtered light and the rich green. Pine trees towered above, proud and strong of their own status while a few pine needles littered the soft grass along with other various leaves that blew in.

Quick as a viper, Bill darted his head around, pulling his Pine Tree closer to him with the movement, staring out behind him. Like the front, nothing could really be seen but the natural vegetation of the forest, just as bright and just as intimidating as it always was.

Bill slowly turned his head around and around again. Something was wrong- he just knew it. Yet, there was a familiarity here as well.

"Bill?" Dipper whispered, liquid brown eyes staring up at the god, worried frown tugging at his lips. "What's the matter?"

Very slowly, Bill's lips leered into a bitter grin. Oh.

There was someone here, but he couldn't sense them.

Bill was surprised the other had found them like this, since he searched oh so much by the sounds of it. Not only that, he actually caught him with his Pine Tree!

Well, it was about time for his sapling to meet his brother anyways. If everything was going to go according to what Bill hoped, than it would be best for the two to get along.

Something darted from the corner of both their visions.

Startled, Dipper reached up and grabbed Bill's tail coat, squeezing the fabric between his hands as he subconsciously pressed closer to the blond.

"I know you're there, Tad. You can come out now."

There were a few more shuffles from the right and though Dipper wanted to ask Bill who Tad was and what was even going on.

A figure stumbled out of the underbrush, scowl plastered across his very familiar face, purple tux ripped alongside the shoulder from the tussle with a branch.

"Hello again, Bill." Tad greeted, his scowl melting away into a grimace.

Dipper couldn't help shouting out. "Hey! It's you! The guy from the party!"

Bill frowned and glanced between the two, his nose wrinkled in what Dipper knew by now to be confusion.

Tad looked just like he did from when Dipper bumped into him at the party. He still wore the purple tux with a black bowler hat atop his deep plum curls with a matching black tie tucked in nicely. His eyes still shone amethyst like before, though now that Dipper was really looking, noticed that the pupils were stretched out by the width some, just like Gompers, the goat than ran about at the Shack at times.

"And you're the kid that bumped into me." The other replied smoothly, coughing a bit of blood out.

"Wait, you two know each other?" Bill interrupted, fixing Tad with a slightly hostile glare.

Tad cocked an eyebrow at the look, trying his best to ignore his already failing kidneys. "I believe I ran into him at a party." The second god's eyes ran over Bill once more back to the boy, who was staring up at him with a curious innocence Tad hadn't ever really seen before. He narrowed his eyes and briefly, oh so briefly he barely saw anything, the boy's entire body glowed a bright loving pink mixed in with curious orange and gray wariness.

Tad felt his stomach acid start melting away his gut's walls. Colors faded away and the world went right back to it's weary gray tones.

"Kind of. Kid bumped into me at a party." Tad explained, wincing at the popping blood vessels in his face.

Dipper nodded, pouting slightly. Letting go of Bill's coat tails, he stepped forwards, coming out from behind the god to stand next to him, pulling away slightly to get a closer look at the other in front of him.

"My name's Dipper, not kid. And yeah, what were you doing there?"

Tad gave the kid a small grin. "Collecting energy of course."

"Energy?"

"From emotions."

Dipper blinked.

The dark-haired man sighed. "Tad Strange, god of emotions." He pointed at himself while he said this. "And brother to Bill." The second god's eyes flashed over to Bill, cool smirk curling at the sides of his lips, trying to mask the pain of one of his lungs giving out.

"You have a brother?" Dipper gasped, turning to look up at Bill.

Bill shrugged. "Well, yes and no. We are related, but...well, it's complicated. I guess for you humans you would consider us brothers, though it's different in reality. I'll explain it to you later."

"So Tad! What brings you here today?" Bill continued, wrapping an arm around his sapling to pull him back some while snapping with his other hand, somehow able to produce a sound despite his gloves.

"Yes, well I actually had some interesting news concer-" Tad let out another cough, this one much more rattling. Blood vessels popped all over his face, causing rivulets of ruby to stream down. Shivering, his left knee jerked suddenly as it's cap was shattered. The god quickly waved a hand, summoning a silver walking stick topped with a carved ruby in the shape of a scarily realistic human heart. Tad leaned on it heavily, panting.

"Gods! Are you okay? What happened?" Dipper panicked, breaking from Bill's side to run over to the stockier and shorter god, diving under his other arm to try and keep him upright.

Tad blinked in surprise at the kid's actions. He was a god, a being that (once) had unimaginable power and should be feared by all, including a little boy. Yet, Dipper had rushed over to help him in no time and now he was staring up at him with true worry in his dark gray eyes, lips pressed into a stressed line.

Though Tad couldn't see what the kid was feeling, if his emotions from before were anything to go by, paired with...

Tad's eyes widened in disbelief. He hadn't seen it before, or at least didn't notice it before with his mind cataloging his injuries and keeping up with the conversations around him at the same time but...

Bill hadn't just claimed this child. No, the kid had given himself away. Not just mind, but body and soul too.

Dipper gifted Bill everything he was, is, and will be. Forever.

Tad hadn't seen the shimmer before, the feel and smell of the ownership, but now, touching the kid himself, he could sense it and see that shimmer that floated in his gray eyes, a thing only other gods could see.

Tad was, in the first time in a long time, speechless.

"Um, Tad? Are- Are you okay?"

"Yes, Tad. Are you okay?" Bill's voice echoed.

Tad's eyes flashed back up to Bill, taking in his openly hostile glare and clenched fists. He could only imagine how red the dream god was turning.

He had forgotten how possessive Bill was over his property.

Tad pushed himself off of Dipper and collapsed partially in the grass, blood flying everywhere in the fast movement.

"I'm fine. I can't get near this forest without it breaking down my body."

"What? Why?"

Tad glanced towards Bill, who was looking ever so slightly calmer than before now that Tad wasn't touching Dipper. Seeing no protest in the other, Tad started his explanation.

"It's part of the seal here. Bill's trapped here and my body breaks down."

Dipper's eyes widened. "You- You aren't gonna die, are you?" He asked, his voice trembling in both worry and fear.

"Not if I leave about right now." Tad looked back over to Bill. "I'll be hanging around. I'll try and get another message for you, but in the meantime, I'm going to go and get some more energy."

Bill nodded slowly. "Very well."

Tad turned back to Dipper. "Nice meeting you properly, Dipper." He amended.

The kid nodded. "Yeah, you too."

Tad tipped his head as he slowly melted away into what looked like soil. The dust swirled in the air, like a miniature sandstorm before flying away, high in the sky and disappearing from view.

Dipper startled as Bill suddenly wrapped him up in a almost too-tight hug, fingers clenching in his vest some.

"Bill?"

The god smiled down at his Pine Tree. He knew Tad wouldn't harm him in any way, but that didn't mean he liked his sapling touching the other god.

The only being his Pine Tree should touch was him.

And no one should be allowed to touch his sapling besides him.

It went both ways.

"What was- I mean...I'm a little confused on what just happened."

Bill bit back his grimace as he slowly let the teen go, still keeping an arm around the brunet's waist.

"I would imagine so. Let's see..where too sta-"

Bill's eyes widened as he felt a shift in the air.

The same one he had felt before a few hours ago, but ignored.

The god narrowed his eyes. It felt...familiar but at the same time, completely foreign. It was slight, not as strong as a normal creature, roughly an average human.

Normally, these shudders on the forest didn't bother the god. He knew humans wandered in here at times to collect needed things or to even get some lumber. Besides a few pranks, Bill never really bothered them. After all, if he terrified them too much, they'd never come back. Then, he'd really be bored!

"Bill? What's the matter?" Dipper asked, twisting to look up at the god, his worry coming back full-force.

No, this wasn't like that. This human had clear and powerful magic skills.

He was different, familiar, and...

It felt like Glasses.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Stan hissed as another twig tore at his suit, ripping open another small tear. He'd been stomping around in this stupid forest for what felt like hours and have so far found nothing. No signs of Dipper, no signs of...that monster, and no signs of any other creature as of yet.

He kinda wished a gnome or whatever would jump out at him at this point. It'd at least give him something to punch.

The sun burned above him, filtered through by trees and assorted pines, dappling the ground in light. The grass underfoot crunched loudly to every step, dry from the lack of rain and oncoming summer.

Stan tore through some more vegetation, worry boiling in his blood while nerves sent shivers through his flesh.

That stupid kid.

That freaking idiot.

Stan had pieced everything together hours ago and yet, his mind still tumbled around with the realizations he had come to and the horror it brought with it.

Dipper had lied to him. To everyone.

But even greater than that, what was even worse was that he made a deal.

A fucking deal.

Was everyone in the Pines' clan destined to tangle with this monster? Destined to meet and be manipulated by him? Stan spat at the idea of destiny, but considering what happened in the far past, the again only thirty years ago, and now this, it seemed there was no escape from Bill Cipher.

No way out.

First Dipper. Then the idiot dragged Mabel into his mess. She had lied to, obviously. And the two made a deal to get rid of her allergies.

A sharp prick of pain and guilt stabbed through him.

It...it was his fault though. He was the one preforming blood magic. He was the one who got Mabel sick.

The known thought sickened him to no end, causing self loathing and bitterness to well up inside.

He had never wanted to hurt her. He didn't expect there to be a leak. But there had been a leak, and though he still hadn't found the crack, it hardly mattered now. The deal had been struck.

Mabel was cured.

But what had the twins given up? What did those two kids possibly have that Cipher would want? They couldn't perform any big spells; they were thirteen for gods sake!

Yet...

Cipher had wanted something.

What, Stan wasn't so sure, but he'd get to the bottom of it. He'd find Dipper. It might take all night, but Stan was going to find him.

He would fight Cipher himself to get his kid back.

Stan tightened his grip on his brass knuckles, having put them on as soon as he entered the forest. Trying his best to be as quiet as possible, and failing with each soft crunch of his shoes, Stan listened hard for anything beyond bird song and the snuffling of normal forest animals. For what felt like forever, but was perhaps only an hour or two, Stan finally heard it.

Talking.

It was faint, carried by wind and lost easily in the sky, but the clearly human noises were still there, coming from his left.

Stan didn't care if anyone would here him. Didn't care to think it might not be Dipper, might not be anything. He ran, something he hadn't truly done in about thirty years.

His bones creaked and more undergrowth tore at his clothes, sometimes nicking the skin causing stinging scratches. He could feel the drops of blood trickle down, tickling his skin and wetting the hairs on his legs, but Stan hardly cared.

The voices were closer.

Stan was positive it was Dipper. It had to be, after all. It just had to be-

Stan broke right out of the forest, on the edge of one of the neighborhood streets. No cars rumbled and besides a few kids trading some cards around, there was no activity.

He hadn't realized he had been so close to the border.

And well, shit, he was at the border! Taking a cautionary glance around, Stan jumped out of the forest and back into the street, quickly brushing leaves and pine needles off, trying his best to make it look like he hadn't been running around in the forest for a good few hours.

Stan huffed out, completely winded and tired from the hiking and running. Gods knew all he wanted to do was turn right back around and search for Dipper more, but Stan's body vehemently protested. His legs stung and his bones ached. Muscles were screaming for rest while his stomach growled for a bid of food. Smacking his lips together some, Stan recoiled at the dry taste of musty soil and leaves, wanting nothing more than a glass of water at this point.

Shoulders sagging, Stan took one last look behind him before venturing into civilization. He couldn't run through the forest again. Not like this. He was too tired. Too worn. Too sore.

Too old.

The thought put a bitter leer on his face.

In that single moment, a second filled with hopelessness and the feeling of being completely useless once again, Stan had never felt more worthless, more regretful, and more old.

He started back home.

~~0~~0~~0~~

"Bill? What's the matter?"

Bill visibly relaxed. That weird presence had passed by too close for his liking- at least five hundred feet. It was getting weaker now, slowly fading further and further away.

Good. He didn't need Glasses's brother in this. Not that he had ever really met the guy, but if he was as the old twin had been, then Bill really didn't want the guy to get in his way. His sapling was so perfect, he didn't want anything to ruin him. It had taken too long to get the kid to trust him so completely, to get his total devotion.

His Pine Tree was his key. His freedom.

His sapling was his. His everything.

And no one was going to change that. No one whatsoever.

He'd make sure of it.

"Nothing, Pine Tree. Absolutely nothing. Thought I sensed something weird is all."

His sapling gave him a worried look. "Weird feeling?"

Bill shot him a comforting look before scooping him back up, bridal-style this time around. "Nothing you have to worry about." He assured the brunet, letting a warm smile grace his features.

His sapling looked up at him with big eyes and rosy cheeks, small smile of his own playing on his lips. "Okay, then. Well, I guess it's time for me to head home."

Bill sighed softly, quiet enough so the child in his arms couldn't hear. He'd like nothing more than to simply keep his Pine Tree with him forever, but quite frankly, Bill was sick of this forest.

He was in luck, however. Everything was going so perfectly.

It wouldn't be long till his Pine Tree was truly and only his, where no one else could touch him. Where he would be his forever.

Bill had to wonder how all the pieces fell together so perfectly, but it didn't matter.

Not in his planned ending, at least.

"I know." Bill finally muttered, bending down to instigate a kiss. His sapling's lips were always so soft and comforting. A little chapped and torn from biting, but warm nonetheless.

Bill broke off the surprisingly gentle press of lips, letting bright and powerful cobalt flames consume them once more.

He hated parting with his sapling.

But he'd come back.

He always did.

Chapter Text

Dipper mindlessly scratched the back of his neck as he strode out behind the Mystery Shack, yawning a bit as he did so. Shoving both hands into his pockets, he felt the forgotten deer teeth necklace. Though the brunet was still a little disgusted and weirded out by the gift, he couldn't help but run his fingers over it back and forth, feeling every individual tooth, marveling how the bone could feel scratched up by wear and tear yet still so smooth.

Cheeks still rosy and eyes still bright, Dipper turned the corner of the Shack, ready to slip inside easily as he always did, grab a small snack and a can of his favorite Pitt Cola, and go finish his homework up in his room.

However, the sight of Wendy pacing back and forth in front of the lawn, practically tearing out her hair with Robbie standing near, watching her with worried eyes while biting his nails brought Dipper to a stop.

What was going on?

"Um, guys? What are you doing?" Dipper called out uneasily, a sick feeling composing deep within his gut.

As soon as the teenagers heard them, they froze in what they were doing, craning their heads to stare at him with impossibly wide eyes.

"Dipper?" Wendy called out in disbelief, eyes raking over him. An odd expression was on her face, one Dipper couldn't quite place.

"Uh, yeah? What's going on Wen-"

Dipper's breath and sentence were knocked out of him as Wendy turned and sprinted across the lawn, tackling him in a huge hug.

"Dipper you idiot!" The redhead snapped as she tightened her grip. Being so close to the brunet, she could smell the forest on him. It was a musty scent she had smelled before coming from the thirteen-year-old, but she had never noticed or realized what it was until now.

Dipper felt himself freeze, mind working overtime. No, they hadn't. Had they? But-But he had been so careful and...and...

"Wen-" Dipper tried to start again, only to be shaken roughly by the older teen.

"You-You idiot! Why would you go out into the forest purposely!? You know how dangerous it is? And what if you had died!? None of us would know! And Mabel would be all alone-! You...you..." Wendy's voice finally died off. She still had so much she wanted to say, wanted to scream. She wanted to hit Dipper, shake him until he sees stars, try to beat some form of sense back into the boy. Yet, at the same time, all she wanted to do was hang on to him so he could be safe and never run off like that again.

No. Nononononononono! Dipper thought rapidly, paralyzed.

They had seen him.

They had seen him.

Wendy and Robbie knew. They knew.

Oh gods. Oh gods, oh gods, oh gods.

Dipper didn't know what to think, what to feel. His stomach ached with illness brought upon his secret being found out, of all the nerves and anxiousness one could possibly hold. He wanted to throw up. He wanted to cry. He wanted to lay down, to run back to Bill, to do something to get out of this situation. Anything, really, but he couldn't. He couldn't move, he could hardly think. His heart slammed against his ribs, trying to break him apart, spill him out.

Wendy eventually stumbled away from him, eyes red and nose dribbling with a little snot. Even farther back, Robbie watched on, wanting to leave this mess and not get involved, yet not wanting to leave Wendy alone in this.

"I-I don't-" Dipper somehow stuttered out. How could he even begin to possibly explain? Where would he even begin? How could he even share his adventures for anyone else to possibly understand? Dipper was tongue-tied, lost within himself and his lies. Stuck.

He shivered all over in the heat of approaching summer, cold radiating from his horror inside.

He felt Wendy grab his arm and guide him back into the Shack, not gentle but not rough either.

"Robbie, go see if you can see Stan somewhere in the forest." Wendy called out to the dark-haired teen.

"What? I'm not going in there!" He protested, startled by her hard tone of voice.

"I didn't say to go in. I said keep an eye out for Stan!"

"Wait, wait!" Dipper gasped, stumbling slightly as she lead him through the shop. "S-Stan knows?"

Wendy wheeled around, eyes caught between worry and a glare. "Of course we told Stan! And he ran off into the forest looking for you!"

Somehow, he felt even more sick than before. Stan knew. He would know that he had lied that first time and continued to lie afterwords. He knew.

But what was even worse was that he had ran off into the forest.

Bill's words rang in his ears.

"Thought I sensed something weird is all."

That- That had to have been Stan. Was Bill going to go after him? What if Stan got hurt?! There were a lot of terrible and dangerous creatures in there and his Grunkle wasn't exactly young-!

Dipper felt tears rush to his ducts and the boy had to hold back a sob. If anything happened to Stan, anything at all...

It would be his fault. He was the one who took the journal. He was the one who made the deal.

This...This was all his fault.

Wendy eventually lead him to a kitchen chair, which she forcefully sat him down in. Giving him one last torn glare, she whipped around and got him a glass of water, setting it down right in front.

"Here. Drink. Robbie, you can go home now." She ordered the darker teen, who was currently hanging in the corner, unsure of what to do.

"A-Are you sure? I-I could stay-"

"Just go. I've got this. If you see Mister Pines, tell him Dipper's back and safe.

For now. Dipper thought.

Robbie nodded and, giving the brunet one last unsure look, turned and left.

It was best he stayed out of this mess. He wasn't part of this. He didn't even like Dipper Pines.

As soon as the other teen left, Wendy sat down next to him in her own chair, running her fingers through her hair. Where to even start? How could she even start?

"You lied to me." She couldn't help but murmur. And he had. Sweet, innocent if not awkward Dipper Pines had lied to her. He had lied to everyone, but...she was included in that.

It broke her heart. Bitterness welled up, as well as hurt and the feeling of betrayal. He had lied to her. Friends don't lie to one another! They didn't hide things and they...they...

Wendy hung her head in her hands, huffing a shaky sigh.

Next to her, Dipper wrung his hands together, worrying the bottom of his lip as well, tracing the grooves in the wooden table with his eyes. He had lied.

But what other choice did he have?

But that hardly mattered. He had lied to everyone, and now he was caught.

He shook all over and his vision constantly swam in and out of focus. He knew he was on the edge of some sort of panic attack, he could feel it. He was sure his heart was going to tear from his veins,n't break his ribs and squirm out, pushing at his flesh until in gave under the pressure, and burst right out of his chest. His stomach coiled on itself, trying to melt and tear at the same time. It wriggled up and down his torso, choking and sputtering with sickness that had no cure, constantly battling and getting worse with every passing second and thought of a thought.

More tears bubbled in his eyes, slowly spilling over and dripping onto the wood where they stayed, small beads of salty clear bubbles that reflected light and image. He stared at where they fell, wanting to wipe them away but not having the strength to.

So he sat. And shook. And worried. And panicked. He was a bundle of nerves and negativity and boiling emotions.

Dipper sighed out another shaky breath and glanced up at Wendy, who had by now put her head in her hands, staring at the cabinets blankly, staring but not seeing.

Just like him.

Dipper didn't know how to respond to her statement. Didn't know how he could fix this, if there was a way to fix this at all in the first place. How could he apologize for lying like this? How could he possibly fix any of this? He couldn't go back in time, he couldn't find the proper words to use.

How could he get Wendy to understand any of this whatsoever?

Dipper knew the answer. Knew it like he knew he had a hat on his head. He couldn't. Plain and simple.

Wendy wouldn't understand. She grew up on old legends and myths and fear. She had never seen the woods for herself, never met Bill and seen how wonderful he was.

And she never will. She couldn't even begin to hope to understand why he did this and why it was important.

A new emotion filled him the longer he thought; Anger. Anger at her inability to understand, angry that she wouldn't even try.

Angry that he couldn't explain it for her to understand.

Angry at himself for being caught in the first place.

Dipper jumped at the sound of the front door slamming.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Stan tried his best to walk fast enough to get to the Shack in record time, but not draw any attention to himself.

Lucky for him, running through the forest at break neck speed left him tired and weary, making this not too bad of a problem. Even so, every time he saw someone, he tried his best to relax his features and smother the clear worry and fear, replacing it with his normally irritated look.

Biting the inside of his cheek some, the older man finally turned onto a dirt road. From here, it would only take about ten more minutes to get back to the Shack and-

"Oof! Sorry about that...Mister Pines!"

Though Stan didn't stumble at the collision he just had, he did rub his now sore shoulder, wincing at the fresh wave of pain.

Ugh. Everything hurt.

"Sorry, can't talk gotta-"

"I've been meaning to talk to you, Mister Pines, about Dipper." The woman who crashed into him quickly bit out, turning and blocking his way. Despite the slight aggression in her movements, she had a gentle smile on her face and a light twinkle in her silver eyes.

"...What about Dipper? And who are you?" Stan carefully ventured, fear pulsating in his heart. If anyone else knew about the stupid kid going into the forest illegally, he'd be in a lot of trouble.

And so would Dipper.

"Madam Feylie, one of Dipper's teachers, Mister Pines." She held out her hand. "We've met before."

Stan didn't take it, causing her to awkwardly drop it back to her side. "I don't remember." He replied gruffly.

She cocked her head to the side in confusion, though never lost the serene look. She knew he was lying. He had to be.

She was the only elf in Gravity Falls, after all.

"Well, I'm sorry to hear that but I wanted to...well, ask you something about your ward."

"I'm kinda busy at the moment..." Stan replied quickly, trying to side-step the woman. However, Madam Feylie easily stepped back in his way, leaving no room for escape.

"It'll only take a second. I've wanted to ask Dipper this in class, but didn't want to embarrass him."

Stan hissed through his nose. "Fine! What?" He snapped.

Madam Feylie continued to watch, no signs of offense found. "Could you ask him to take more...frequent showers? He's constantly smelling like outside and though no one has mentioned it to him yet, I do think it will happen soon and I'm sure it will embarrass him."

Stan snapped back to attention at her words.

Though he already knew where the kid always ran off to during the day, on top of rarely bathing himself, it was a whole different story to have someone else reiterate the fact that he failed in keeping the kid away from the forest.

"Sure, I'll pass on the message. Now, could you get out of my way, I'm in a hurry!"

Madam Feylie stepped to the side, allowing him to pass. "Very well. Goodbye, Mister Pines! It was great meeting you again!"

Stan snorted and pretty soon, put the elven teacher out of mind as he turned onto the dirt road that would pass by the Shack, running straight into another person.

"Oh for the love of...move!" The older man snapped.

"Wait! Mister Pines! Dipper's back at the Shack now!" The teen who had ran into him cried out.

Stan briefly whipped around to look at the kid- Bobbie? Eh, his name didn't matter.

Seeing that he had Stan's attention, Robbie quickly continued. "Wendy's with him." He said before turning around and continuing on.

Stan grunted and turned back to the Shack, picking up his pace once more. Relief burned in his heart, drowning out his anger, guilt, and self-loathing.

The idiot was okay.

Good.

~~0~~0~~0~~

As soon as the door slammed shut, the screaming commenced.

"HEY-OH! I'M HOME!" Mabel called out as she thumped inside, feet heavy against the creak floorboards.

Both Wendy and Dipper jumped at the noise, not expecting anything of the sort at all.

Wendy tensed. She had completely forgotten about the second twin. How was Mabel going to take the news of Dipper going into the forest? How was she going to handle the fact that her own twin brother lied to her?

Wendy felt sympathy fill her, along with more anger towards Dipper.

Everything was complicated and just falling apart. How could she...she even stand this? In that moment, she once again wanted to knock Dipper upside the head and chew him out a bit more.

She refrained herself, however.

Mabel skipped into the kitchen, thick makeup all over her face from a day with Grenda and Candy. A wide smile was playing on her pink painted lips, eyes sparkling.

"Hey guys, what's-" Mabel's voice trailed off at both of their expressions.

Wendy looked torn between anger and hurt.

Dipper looked fearful and guilty.

She may not be as smart as her brother intellectually, but if there was one thing Mabel prided herself in, it was her ability to read and understand other people.

Dipper didn't have to tell her what happened. Neither did Wendy. Just by looking at the two, the brunette had a good idea what just went down.

Her stomach dropped, and dread settled into her heart.

Mabel let her bright smile slide off her face as she took the other seat next to Dipper, right across from Wendy.

She didn't have to ask, but she did anyways.

"What's...What's going on, you guys?" She ventured carefully, injecting false cheerfulness into her tone.

Neither teen looked at her, nor believed her false demeanor.

Mabel gulped and glanced at her brother.

Seconds ticked by.

"You were caught, weren't you?" Mabel finally whispered, breaking the uneasy and oppressive silence.

Wendy flashed her head up, staring at the female half of the duo in shook. She knew?

Dipper flinched and- ever so slowly- nodded his head.

Mabel's eyes fell downcast and she opened her mouth to say something, only to be interrupted by the sound of the door slamming once again.

All three flinched.

"Dipper! You in here?!" Stan yelled, tromping inside.

"We're in here, Mister Pines!" Wendy called back quickly, eyeing the matching dread on both the twins' faces.

The sound of heavy footsteps drew closer and sooner rather than later, Stan appeared in the doorway, covered in leaves and pine needles, clothes torn wide open, with drying beads of blood still faintly visible. His grayed hair was a mess and his cheeks were still flush with all the activity he just did. His wide, brown eyes scanned over the three sitting at the table and an unreadable expression came over them. Flexing his fingers, he slipped his brass knuckles back into his pocket.

"Go home, Wendy. I'll take care of this." He finally said, voice tight and leaving no room for argument.

Shooting the twins one last look of both hurt and betrayal, the redhead stood up. Nodding lightly to Stan, she hurried on out, still shaking and worried for what was going to happen.

As soon as the door in the other room opened and slammed shut for a third time, Stan rounded on the twins, who were sunk as low as possible in their seats, staring at the table with wide eyes.

Dipper clearly had tear tracts while Mabel started sniffling some.

Groaning, Stan sunk into the chair across from Dipper, folding his fingers under his chin and fixing the boy with a sharp glare.

"You lied to me." He stated.

Both twins' flinched.

Good. Stan thought. It had been aimed at both of them.

He decided to round on Dipper first, as he was the one who stole the journal in the first place.

"You lied to me about going into the woods and on top of that, continued lying to me, as well as consciously put yourself in known danger over and over again."

Dipper sunk even lower in his chair and he shivered violently.

Stan turned on Mabel next.

"You let your brother get put in danger and did nothing to stop it. You may not have lied to me, but you certainly didn't tell me what was going on."

Mabel bit her lip and wrung her hands together.

"On top of that" Stan hissed, trying to mask his worry and relief that they were alright. "You actually made a deal with a god. One that you knew was dangerous and could easily kill you!"

"You don't know anything!" Dipper suddenly snapped.

Stan reeled back in surprise at the hard tone of voice and even Mabel jumped, staring at her brother with shocked eyes.

Dipper flinched a bit and wilted slightly under the matching stares of astonishment.

"What?!" Stan finally ground out, along with low, sarcastic laughter. "I know nothing? You idiot."

Dipper curled his lip. "Don't call me an idiot! And yeah, you don't know anything! Bill would never hurt me and you can't judge someone you've never met!"

Stan growled lowly, sneering a little. "I have met Bill and you have no clue who or what you're dealing with! Cipher's using you!"

Dipper shook his head vehemently.

Mabel whipped her head around to stare at the older man. "You've met Bill too?" She asked.

Stan groaned, suddenly feeling overwhelmed with exhaustion.

Hearing Mabel's question, Dipper focused his gaze back on his Grunkle.

What?

Stan's shoulders sagged. He knew he would have to tell them eventually. It was an important story, passed down Pines to Pines for generations, but they were thirteen. Barely even teenagers.

Hell, he himself hadn't learned about Cipher until he was twenty.

But at this point, there wasn't any other choice. Both had met the god and by the sounds of it, Dipper had even befriended the creature.

The thought sent chills down his spine, along with an age-old memory he would rather forget.

Not again. He couldn't help but think.

Not again.

"I've never met him, but I know him and how he's like." Stan sighed, half-lying.

"What? But- I mean- what about-?" Both Mabel and Dipper started, talking over one another.

Stan quickly shushed the two with a look. "Listen, I was going to wait till you two were older to tell you this, but it looks like I got no other choice."

"Tell us what?" Mabel asked.

Dipper frowned.

Stan pinched the bridge of his nose. "It's- a long story. A very long story. I don't even know where to start really."

"Start at the beginning, then!" Mabel chirped, still trying her best to be bouncy and upbeat.

It feel a bit flat, however.

Stan lowered his hand and looked between the two. From Mabel's false happiness to Dipper's steady look of lingering dread and uncertainty.

"Fine. Look, a long time ago, about...I don't know seven hundred years or so ago-"

"Wait, is this the story about how Bill got trapped in the forest?"

Stan stopped himself from startling at the question. How close was his nephew and Cipher anyways?

"I thought he's been in there for a thousand?" Dipper continued on, not noticing his Grunkle's barely hidden look of distress.

Stan snorted, however. "Of course it hasn't been that long!"

"Well, a thousand does sound cooler, though." Mabel butted in.

Stan shook his head. "Okay, okay, whatever! Anyways, a really long time ago, Cipher used to be free. He's an ancient god, one of the first to appear on the world and back then, was pretty much all-powerful. However, that wasn't enough for him. He may have been one- if not the- most powerful gods, as well as thousands of worshipers, but he was bored. So, he did the one thing every all-encompassing and all-powerful being does when bored."

"What's that?" Mabel asked.

"He wanted to end the world. Armageddon. The Apocalypse. Whatever you want to call it."

Dipper froze. No. No, it couldn't be. Sure, Bill was a jerk at times and sure, he did do some pretty mean pranks, but end the world? Like fire and brimstone? Death and destruction?

The book he read so long ago came back to him.

End...Ally...Stra-

End.

As in the Apocalypse.

Ally. As in friend.

And Stra...

Strange.

Tad Strange.

Everything was clicking into place, but Dipper could hardly believe it. Bill was a jerk but he was also protective. He cared about him. He always hugged him and kept him safe. Brought him to new places, introduced him to new people like the Multi-bear and Afytha.

He...he...wasn't evil.

Right?

And...and besides. That had been nearly a thousand years ago. People change. People do things that later on, they regret.

This was...well, on a much bigger scale but was no different. Right?

"Anyways." Stan started up again. "He and another ancient god, name something like Todd Strange or whatever, tried to end the world. There was a big war between the gods. Not all of them wanted to see the world end and pretty soon, a fight broke out."

"Really? And this isn't in our history books?" Dipper suddenly interjected.

Stan shrugged. "It was going on over here, Dipper. America didn't exist seven hundred years ago."

The brunet frowned, but fell silent.

"Anyways, despite all the opposition, Cipher was nearing victory. If he were successful, he and his allies would win, hands down. However, there was one variable he didn't expect. One thing that stopped him."

Mabel and Dipper were both holding their breaths, enraptured by the story.

"Humans. Ancient shamans to be exact. They saw the war going on and through the god's opposing Cipher, learned of his plans. So, despite every warning and every possibility, they decided to work and try and to stop him."

Stan took a breath and peered at the twins. Seeing no interruption coming, he continued.

"They made a special seal, as well as a number of other spells. They couldn't hope to Kill Cipher or Strange, but they could slow them down. So, they trapped Cipher in this forest, cutting him off from moving about anymore. For Strange, they put a curse on him so he would slowly die if he went near or in Cipher's jail. By separating the two, they won a small victory. With limited communication, their plans slowed down."

Dipper blinked as even more pieces were put into place. That was why Bill couldn't leave the forest! And why Tad was getting injured over literally nothing!

"Despite their victory, it wasn't quite enough. The two had other gods on their side, however with both of the instigators out of the way, they were taken down and stripped of their powers."

"Wait, they died?" Mabel gasped.

Stan gave her a one arm shrug. "Some did. Others in a coma, and others actually changed sides at the last minute. Either way, Cipher's army was gone. But it wasn't enough."

"What? But they already had him imprisoned and away from his b- I mean, friend!" Dipper cried out.

Stan gave him an odd look. "Yeah, well they didn't want to take any chances, so they locked the two out of their true forms and thus, their powers. And from there, left 'em alone."

"That's it? That was...anticlimactic." Mabel noted, a bit proud for knowing such a complex word.

Stan shrugged again.

"Wait, what does that have to do with us then?" Dipper asked. "Why is it so important for us to know?"

Stan rolled his eyes. "Though it was obvious, kid! The only way that seal can be broken is if someone related to the castor by blood broke it."

Dipper's eyes widened, along with Mabel's.

It didn't take a genius to put two and two together.

"You...You mean..." Mabel started.

"We're related to the original caster?" Dipper finished.

Stan nodded. "Well, there were six of them, but the main castor and the person who made that spell was a Pines. Well, back then he wasn't called a Pines, but the point is is that you're related to the guy by blood."

Dipper felt as if his whole world had been turned upside down.

Bill's words from so long ago came back to him, haunted with realization.

Was...Was Bill just using him? This entire time to get out? Was that all Dipper was to him, a chance to break free and try to end the world again?

Dipper shook his head violently.

What about all those hugs? And...And more recently, k-kisses? The teasing, the joking, the adventuring and exploration? Had...Had that all been for nothing?

Dipper felt a fresh wave of tears press against the back of his eyes as his heart tore itself into little pieces.

Was...was everything they did together...worthless?

Dipper wrapped his arms around himself tightly. He didn't want to listen anymore. He wanted to run out and demand answers from the god himself, he wanted to scream and cry and carry on, he wanted to lay down and sleep for a hundred years because right now, he was just so exhausted.

Stan and Mabel looked over to Dipper, his eyes wide and face forlorn.

"You okay, Dip?" Mabel asked softly.

Dipper shook his head violently, but still said nothing for a few more beats.

"...I'm fine." He croaked out.

Stan frowned and forced his anger down.

What had that god done to his nephew?

What was Dipper's relationship with Cipher? Lee had never been this-

Stan didn't let the thought continue.

"Anyways, the point is is that the Pines family makes sure Cipher stay's in the forest where he belongs. Someone watches over the god every generation or so and is passed down to make sure he stays in there. System worked great until colonists and stuff came, building Gravity Falls here and making it their home. That's when things got difficult. Especially when people started recording and writing things down. It was best Cipher stayed a secret so stupid kids-" Stan fixed Dipper with a glare. "Didn't try and go and find him and make terrible decisions. So, to fix this, our family has been carefully trying to wipe any information that comes up about Cipher away. Of course, no one can stop silly rumors and legends, but that actually helped in keeping people away."

"So that's way everything at the library was marked out!" Mabel interrupted suddenly.

Stan cocked an eyebrow. "When did you- ugh, never mind. Yeah, that's why you can't find Cipher in the library here."

Dipper shook his head. "Hiding stuff like that from people doesn't do any good! They have a right to know Bill's out there! Besides, I didn't know and I was still curious-!" Dipper suddenly snapped.

"That's because you're a special breed of idiot! Which reminds me to get back on topic! You're not supposed to go into the forest. I've told both of you that a million times and not only did you ignore that, but you lied to me who knows how much, and made a deal with him!"

"Yeah! To cure me!" Mabel suddenly butted in. "We didn't have a choice!"

Stan bit down on the eruption of more self-loathing. That was his fault and he knew that. Trying his best to keep his emotions in check, Stan continued on. "I could've figured something out! You could've came to me to talk about it! But that's not important right now."

Stan's voice fell, getting darker and lower as he leaned towards the two. "What was the deal? Who made it and what did you promise?"

Mabel glanced at Dipper worriedly. Unable to meet his Grunkle's intense stare, Dipper's own eyes fell to the table. Stan didn't know about the first deal and though Dipper didn't want to keep lying to the older man, he knew it was best not to bring it up. After all, if he was this mad over one deal, Dipper didn't want to imagine his face when he told him he made two deals.

"...I-I promised to visit him. Sometimes." He eventually said, voice surprisingly steady.

It may not be the complete truth, but it wasn't a total lie either.

Stan's eyebrow's disappeared into his mop of gray hair. "...That's it? Not breaking him free?"

Dipper fixed the older man with a glare. "Yeah, nothing about breaking him free."

Stan snorted. "Don't think you can make him your friend or something, kid. Cipher just wants you to like him so he can use you. He doesn't care. He's a pretender. A manipulator."

Dipper scowled.

"Anyways, it hardly matters now because you're never going back."

Mabel startled at Stan's tone.

Dipper's mouth flopped like a fish. "Never? But Grunkle Stan, that was a deal-"

"So what? Deals aren't some sort of cosmic certainty, kid. Cipher's trapped in the forest. As long as you don't go back, he can't kill you or whatever for breaking it. It's up to gods. Plural. To keep a deal and get back at those who break said deals." Stan shook his head.

Dipper was truly an idiot at times.

It kinda broke his heart, especially with the situation at hand.

The brunet across from the older man gulped and let his eyes fall back down to the table.

Months ago, he would've jumped at the thought of not having to worry about punishment. But now...

He wanted answers. Answers only Bill could give him.

"Anyways, I'm done with this. I'm done with you-" He sent Dipper another harsh glare. "And I'm done with you." He sent Mabel a matching glare, though one not as venomous as the one he gave Dipper.

"Really? That's all?" Dipper muttered as a challenge, not paying attention to what he was saying.

Stan snapped his eyes back over to Dipper. "That's all. Unless you have something else you wanted to say."

"Nope." Dipper replied.

Neither Stan nor Dipper noticed the other's crossed fingers under the table.

"Good because you're both grounded. You're not to leave the house without me or another trusting adult and you must ask to go anywhere with anyone. Both of you can only watch one hour of television a day, and that includes books for you as well, Dipper. Both of you are expected to do more chores and I expect at least two more hours of work in the shop. Now go to your rooms."

Both twins nervously glanced at one another before slowly getting back up and heading up the stairs.

"Um, Grunkle Stan? How long it this going to last?" Mabel asked softly.

He grunted his reply. "Until I think the two of you are smart enough to not make bad decisions."

The two twins glanced at one another. Both were unsure what they were supposed to even be feeling at that moment. The day had been so full of worry, fear, dread, and tears to the point of pure emotional and mental exhaustion.

Neither had anymore feeling to give. Silently, the twins trailed after one another to their shared room, trapped in their own thoughts.

As soon as the two were out of sight, Stan laid his head on the table and sighed again. He was emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted to the point he never wanted to wake up again.

The past had happened again, despite all his best efforts, he failed in protecting the twins.

He ignored the wetness that traced down his cheek.

Damn allergies.

Chapter Text

He didn't look or speak to Mabel as he flopped onto his bed, completely spent from the day's events. Dipper could feel the bite of the deer teeth necklace go through his shorts and dig into his skin, forcing him to shuffle around to find a better position.

Across the room, Mabel sat on her own bed, her normally smiling face forlorn and worried. She too laid down, though on her back instead of her side, and stared up at the ceiling, folding her hands across her stomach.

The two twins were silent. After everything that just happened, what they were just told, what else was there to do besides slow down and just think for a moment?

For Mabel, her thoughts whirled and centered upon what just happened.

First of all, Dipper had been caught. Secondly, their deal had been caught. Thirdly, they just learned that they were the descendants of those who locked Bill away in the first place.

Mabel closed her eyes.

She didn't like Bill. She couldn't say she hated him as she really didn't hate anyone. Not even Pacifica.

No, she didn't hate the god. But she definitely didn't trust him. And now she knew why.

When she first met him, she swore something wasn't...right. At the time, she thought maybe it was because his grin was too wide, or he had such a strange affinity for yellow. Perhaps it was the floating top hat or his tall height. Heck, maybe his personality simply didn't meld with hers. Mabel didn't know why she felt such unease around the god, especially since Dipper liked him so much.

But now she knew why.

It wasn't anything completely face value like that. Not his too-wide and too-sharp grin, not the clothes, not his height nor his top hat, and not even his flamboyant personality.

It was as Grunkle Stan had sad. He was a pretender. And if there was anything Mabel truly excelled at, it was her ability to read and gauge people.

Dipper didn't have that ability. He was always a bit too shy and a bit too awkward. He couldn't see past the smile and flashing colors.

Mabel could.

And she worried. Bill was not to be trusted.

Across the room, Dipper laid on his side, staring blankly at the wall, tears bubbling in his eyes at what just happened.

How- how could this even-?

Dipper chewed on the inside of his cheek, ignoring the irony tang of blood that filled his mouth.

Stan knew. Wendy knew.

Everyone knew.

Everything had changed.

Dipper wasn't even sure how to take this all in, how to label his emotions on what just happened. It was like a rug was just ripped out from underneath him, dislodging him and letting him fly high in the air. The only question he had was ho long it would take him to smash back into the ground.

Everything else was flying around his head, filling him with unanswerable questions and excuses.

He had been caught. And everyone knew.

He was grounded.

Now how was he able to see Bill?

Well, that wasn't really the question he had. The real question was whether he even wanted to see Bill again.

Bill...the god who always laughed with him and sung off-key to 80's hits, who hugged him and kept him safe and...and...cared for him...

Was all of that just a- a ruse? The jokes, the adventures, the hugs, the...the kisses...was that all for nothing?

Dipper needed to know. Needed to know if anything that happened the past few months meant anything at all.

But at the same time, he cringed. He wanted to know, no, needed to know but at the same time, was scared for the answer he'd receive. What if Bill really was just using him? What if he really didn't care?

About him.

About their...well, whatever they had.

Dipper didn't know if he could handle that sort of rejection. That truth. If Bill left him...

Who would he have left? Wendy was mad at him and so was Stan. He didn't doubt that Soos would know by tomorrow and he had no clue on how to talk to Mabel about all of this. After all, it was his fault for dragging her into this mess. If he didn't do that, she wouldn't be in trouble.

He shouldn't of stolen that journal. That was what really started all of this off, wasn't it? He was too curious for his own good. And reckless. And wrong.

They did say curiosity killed the cat...

Dipper blinked hard.

"But satisfaction brought it back. Besides, cats have nine lives...meaning you can torture and kill them at least eight of those times and be stupidly humanly morally fine! Let's go find some cats, Pine Tree!"

Dipper shook his head. He could easily imagine Bill's replies to his thoughts. It was strange, how close he felt to the god.

But then, all this happened. And he wasn't so sure what to feel anymore.

Bill was old. And was labeled 'evil.' But ending the world? That was something...something else.

So why didn't he feel more horrified?

Sure, sickness rolled around in his stomach at the thought of Bill actually ending the world, but at the same time, felt...well, he wasn't so sure.

He was confounded with it all.

Dipper shoved his face into his pillow, opening his mouth and biting down hard, resisting the urge to scream.

Bill tried to end the world nearly seven hundred years ago.

But...but that was seven hundred years ago. Before imprisonment. Before America, even.

Before he met him.

People changed over time, right? That's what people always say. That right now is a phase or whatever and the future will be different, that you'll think different and act different. You'll still be yourself, but different.

Dipper wasn't so sure what older kids and adults from his school were going on about. How could you be different, but the same person at the same time? He just didn't get it.

But maybe, that's what's happening here. It's a possibility, right? That Bill has changed from back then.

Then again, he'd never met Bill from a long time ago. He didn't know how the god used to act, whether he was just a jerk or some complicated mastermind of a villain. He didn't know anything about Bill's past, really.

Only that Bill missed the outside world.

Oh, and that he had once known"lots of things," apparently. At least, that's what he always said.

Dipper bit his lip. He didn't know what was what anymore!

What was the truth?

And what was merely a lie?

But he did know one thing, however. He knew how he could solve all of this. After all, you don't just look at a story, a mystery, at a single angle. You try and find out every outcome, every viewpoint of everyone.

At least in Ducktective, that is.

He already had Grunkle Stan's side of the story.

Now, all he needed was Bill's.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper winced a little when he finally padded into the kitchen the next morning, hat pulled low over unkempt and unwashed hair, one hand carrying his bag and the other deep in his pocket, lightly stroking over his necklace. Despite everything that happened yesterday, despite the punishment and the tears and the lack of sleep, he still had to go to school.

Dipper dragged himself over to one of the kitchen chairs, cereal, milk, some spoons and two bowls already sitting out for them.

Dipper shook his head. As unsure about Stan as he was right now, the man still did have his interesting way to show that he cared.

Sinking down into his seat, the brunet poured out the over-sugared chunks of cornflakes as well as the cheapest milk money could buy into his bowl, already reaching out to grab a spoon to stuff his face with food. He wasn't particularly hungry, but he knew it was best to eat at least a little something, or he'd be too hungry throughout the day to get anything else done.

He was already tired. Didn't need hunger on top of that.

About halfway down with his breakfast, Mabel came hopping down the stairs, huge bag already slung over her shoulder, sporting a bright yellow sweater with a llama stitched into it. A watery grin was plastered on her face, fake but bright. She chirped a brief and stiff "Good morning!" To him as she dropped her own stuff and sat at the table, pouring herself a meal just as he did, rapidly stuffing her face in obvious hunger.

"Morning." He greeted cautiously, unsure on what to say. There was a certain tension in the air, born of words that needed to be said still unspoken. Dipper squirmed around in his chair a bit, antsy from the obvious feeling.

Dipper lowered his face into what was left of his cereal, scooping up milk with his spoon and eating it like soup to give himself an excuse not to talk.

If Mabel noticed, she didn't point it out, too busy slurping up her own milk, a few droplets falling on her chin.

"You kids ready to go?" Stan suddenly said as he strode into the small kitchen, suit and fez already in place, looking much grouchier than usual. His eyes were like a hawks, sharp and cold as they stared down at either twin, the barest hints of worry and disappointment hidden in their depths.

Of course, neither twin noticed the true feelings of their Grunkle, still too ashamed to look up at him.

Stan refrained from biting his lip as the twins froze in their movements before nodding and grabbing their stuff, eyes darting between the floor and the wall.

Never at one another.

Never at him.

Snorting softly, he turned and led the two out of the shack, quickly yelling at Soos to watch the Shack, hoping that the handyman wouldn't screw anything up, not that he usually did, of course.

Stan had been serious when he said neither of the twins could leave without some form of supervision. He didn't want either of them running into the forest- especially Dipper.

The idiot had gotten himself attached. Stan may have cataracts, but he wasn't totally blind.

The way Dipper talked about Bill, with that slight blush formed by anger...

It worried him to no end, not that he'd ever admit that, of course.

Making sure both twins were in the back, seat belted in, Stan threw the stick and started up the car, pulling out onto the dirt road in the direction of the school only a mile or so away.

The older man glanced up in his review mirror while fiddling with the radio to try and fill the silence with something other than uncomfortable awkward tenseness. Some old 70's hit cranked slowly forth.

Both twins in the back were looking out their respective windows with a slightly blank look on their face, lost in thought.

Dipper's eyes didn't shine.

Mabel didn't smile.

Neither were touching or joshing with the other, completely encompassed by the world they each create in their minds.

This time, Stan bit his lip. Sure, it was weird that they got along as well as they do but this? This was unnatural.

Or was it?

Stan blinked hard.

In the past few months, he hadn't seen the two hang around one another. No messes, no pranks. No...nothing.

Mabel always went out with her friends and Dipper...

Dipper had been hanging with Bill.

Stan's knuckles tightened on the steering wheel, pale skin blanching at the force.

That god was trying to pull his family apart. Again.

Trying to pull another pair of twins apart.

His heart ached. It seemed like he never learned from his mistakes, did he? If only he had been able to lock up the journal better, or maybe make it less of a curiosity to Dipper...

He should've done something to keep Dipper from stealing it. This- This was his fault.

Just like Mabel's attack.

Just like Lee's death.

Just like Fiddleford's abandonment.

Everything...it was all him. He could've done more to save Lee. To help Fiddleford.

He could've done a lot more. But the past was in the past. There's no use in dwelling on old memories and events that can't change.

No matter how much you wished they could.

Stan pulled up to the school, wrinkling his nose at the building.

School. Quite possibly the most evil and terrible place ever conceived by human minds.

"Well, here you go kids. School. I'll be here to pick you up when you're done or whatever. Wait right out here and nowhere else."

The older man fixed Dipper a look, one not returned.

"You are not to go into the forest nor tell anyone that you have been in there. Is that clear?"

Dipper gave a small nod.

"Is that clear?" Stan reiterated.

Dipper sighed softly. "Yes, you're clear."

Stan snorted at the slight snark in the boy's tone. "Good. Now get going and don't start any fires. We don't have money to pay for that."

With a few nods and whispered goodbye's, the two left, walking side by side, but not really in one another's presence, gone in the wake of what they lost.

Stan sighed again and pulled out.

He just knew something was going to go wrong.

He could feel it.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Though Dipper didn't lay his head on his desk, he did stare blankly at the wall, looking but not really seeing the poster of the cartoon gryphon.

Licking his lips, he slipped his hand into his pocket once again, lightly running the pads of his fingers over his deer teeth necklace. Clean as glass. Smooth as stone.

Something Bill gave him as a gift. A courting gift.

Dipper fought the blush and returned his eyes to his work.

What was he going to do about Bill? What can be done in the first place?

Bill wanted to destroy the world. At least, in the past he did. That was a pretty evil thing to try and do, to be honest.

But...But Bill still cared about him. Still sung off-key to 80's hits. Still joked around and adventured around.

And though Dipper knew he was wrong on every account; intelligently, mentally, and definitely morally, he couldn't deny his emotions.

He cared about Bill too. Heck, just thinking about the god made his heart beat faster and sent waves of heat to his cheeks. He couldn't help it.

He cared about Bill and though that may be wrong and terrible on all accounts, couldn't stop caring. He wished he could though, in a way. He wished he could turn his heart off and power-down the chemicals in his brain dictating what he felt, but he couldn't.

He wished he didn't let down Grunkle Stan.

He wished he could talk to Mabel.

Dipper wished for a lot of things and despite his wishes for things to be normal in his family, he couldn't bring himself to regret meeting Bill. Regret caring about him or even all the adventures.

No, he regret being caught. He regret his callousness. He regret Stan finding out and he wished he never dragged Mabel into any of this, but he could never wish that he didn't meet Bill Cipher.

Dipper stared down at his rune work, trying his best to remember what Bill told him about Dalecarlian Runes and how they worked. Flipping over to the translation page, he translated and copied the runes needed and wrote a brief description of what each one could do.

Summon water to drink.

Make paper harder to tear.

Summon a little light.

Like what Bill helped him to do, only with a spoken spell...

Dipper shook his thoughts away.

Summon a small flame.

Like the one Bill summoned using the English language instead. Like his powerful blue flames that were surprisingly warm and nice, like being wrapped in a soft blanket...

Dipper shook his thoughts away again. He really needed to focus.

Seriously.

Way across the room, Mabel sat near the front, chatting lightly with others around her, but still looking a little lost, with her eyes too cloudy with thought and smile a little to big and stretched to be real.

Mabel hadn't sat next to him.

Mabel always sat next to him. In every class they shared. Everyday.

Until now.

The pressure between them was too much, too tense and filled with too many disagreements. Of course, the dam would break eventually. After all, these things have happened before and always led to cold shoulders and hurt feelings, but always ended at the start; an awkward sibling hug and a prank on either Soos or Stan.

But this...this wasn't like all those other times. This wasn't Mabel throwing out one of his mystery novels or him ruining her yarn. This was big.

This was, as cliched as it sounds, life changing.

And Dipper simply didn't know how to fix any of it and something told him Mabel didn't either, for once.

So what was there to do?

He turned and stared out the window instead, watching the swirling clouds, which were much greener than before.

Dipper bit his lip. More green clouds? Someone must be doing a lot of magic. That was the only way to get such sickly looking clouds. It was a bit weird.

Dipper turned back to his work for what was probably the seventh time that period. It was just so hard to focus right now and he was sure he was doing his work all wrong. Runes were the worst. He never understood what Madam Feylie was trying to convey.

Bill was a much better teacher.

Dipper bit his lip. No matter what he was doing, where he was, his thoughts always returned to the god, which of course led to what Stan had told him of Bill's past and the cycle of his thoughts continued.

He tried to go back to his work, shaking his head to try and get his mind back on school, but no matter what couldn't focus.

He had to see Bill. There was no other option.

Tomorrow...He...he could leave at lunch. That would give him a good while to run to the forest and tell the god what happened and-

Dipper blanched.

Bill was going to be mad. No, livid when he hears that he can't visit.

Would that violate the deal? Would...Would Bill kill him?

No. No, Bill wouldn't hurt him. He cared for him. He wouldn't hurt him.

Even if he tried to destroy the world at one point.

Even if he did have anger issues.

Bill wouldn't hurt him.

Right?

The bell rang loudly, it's obnoxious and high pitched sound bouncing off the walls and assaulting his ears, signaling the end of class and, at least for him, the beginning of lunch.

Not today. No, Stan would be watching today for any little slip up or mistake. Dipper needed answers, but he also needed to wait for a proper time to ditch.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow was the best time for this.

Seeing how most students, including his sister, have already left, Dipper hurried up and tried to shove his work and books back into his bag, dropping them over and over while doing so.

"Mister Pines? Are you okay?" Madam Feylie, the only other person in the room asked. Her shapely eyebrows were arched with uncertainty and her eyes were gentle.

Dipper jumped at the sound of her voice. "Y-Yeah. Just fine." He stuttered some.

She didn't look like she believed him. "Are you sure? I mean, I couldn't help but notice that your sister didn't sit next to you today, which is very unusual. Are you two having a fight."

Dipper looked away to zip up his backpack. "...You could say that..." He trailed off.

Madam Feylie's lips twitched slightly in a small smile. "You know, if you need any help at all, my door is always open, Mister Pines."

Dipper hesitated some as he stood up, having an inner debate on whether or not he could...

He sighed.

"Well...I am having this...well, it's not a fight really?" He posed it as a question.

The elven teacher gave him a soothing smile, gesturing him to sit back down in his desk. She carefully sat sideways in the desk in front of his. "No? Then what's the matter? Is is about Mabel?"

Dipper shook his head. "Not...Not exactly."

Madam Feylie cocked her head to the side, yet stayed patient, waiting for Dipper to explain the problem he was having at his own time.

"Well...I- I have this friend and yesterday I learned he did some...bad things in the past. Um, Bullying? The thing is is that I don't know whether I can still be friends or not. I- I mean he still might bully other people behind my back, but he's always nice to me and...I just don't know what to do?"

Dipper bit his lip and looked away. Comparing the destruction of the world to playground bullying was probably offensive in some fundamental way, but Dipper wasn't so sure what else he could do.

He had no clue on how to deal with Bill in this situation.

Madam Feylie frowned. "If he's been bullying other people, you need to report him Mis-"

"He doesn't go to this school. He's, um, home schooled?" Dipper interrupted.

She cocked an eyebrow at that. "Well, then you need to tell his parents or an adult figure first."

Dipper huffed a little. "I know, but should I stay friends with him?"

"Is he a good friend to you?"

Dipper nodded his head and tried his best not to blush. "Yeah, he's a great friend."

Madam Feylie gave him another one of her gentle smiles. "Then talk to him. Ask him if he still bullies others and try to civilly and discuss your problems out to one another. If he doesn't know how you feel about this situation, or if this situation even exist, then he can't help you to fix it. Just come clean to your friend and he honest."

Dipper gave her a small, but tired smile. "Thank you, Madam Feylie. That...That's really helpful."

She stood up slowly, still grinning. "Glad I could help."

Giving her one last stuttered and awkward thanks, the boy hurried from the room, wanting to get lunch before he ran out of time.

However, as Dipper slipped past the teacher and into the hallway, Madam Feylie once more got a whiff of the boy's scent, and stiffened immediately.

She just thought he smelled of sweat and dirt, not to weird for Gravity Falls.

But no, there was a distinct scent on him, one she recognized and one she feared.

She stepped forward to stop him- because there was only one place he could go, a place no thirteen-year-old should be or even think about going.

However, just as she was opening her mouth to say something, Dipper dodged out into the hallway, disappearing into the dispersing crowds of students.

Rushing to the door, Madam Feylie stared out and down the hallways, hunting for a blue and white cap.

However, Dipper was already gone.

Distressed, she slowly slunk back into her room, shutting and locking the door, trying to get her worry and flash of panic under control.

Dipper had not only smelt sweaty, but earthy. Like pine needles. Like rotting leaves.

Like something sickly sweet. Poisoned honey.

Like the infamous Gravity Falls forest.

Chapter Text

Madam Feylie breathed heavily through her nose, trying to calm down her nerves.

Dipper smelled like the forest. The highly dangerous and deadly forest only three people in town were even allowed to go on, one of those people being her.

But Dipper was a smart kid. He wouldn't actually go someplace dangerous on purpose, would he?

Madam Feylie gnawed on one of her fingernails absentmindedly as she sat at her desk, muscles locked up and tense.

Dipper wouldn't go and purposely do something so foolish in which he could get hurt, right?

Right?

Turning, she opened up one of the drawers in her desk and quickly shifted through student's names, stopping once she reached a Pines'. Pulling the folder out for Dipper, she leafed through the papers inside. Finding the paper with his guardian's phone number on it, she laid it out before her and grabbed the nearby phone. Putting it up to her ear, she used her other hand to rotate the dial around.

It took about three tries with her trying to decipher the chicken scratch on the paper and deal with her shaking hands but eventually, the call went through.

Madam Feylie waited with bated breath as it rang, gripping the plastic tightly and ignoring the awkwardness of the shape pressed against her ear. She much preferred hand mirrors for this sort of job, but unfortunately the school district stuck with phones instead.

The elven teacher let out a hiss as she hung the phone up. No one had answered.

Then again, if someone did, what could she even say? That Dipper smelled like outside? Talking about what others smelled like- especially students- wasn't exactly considered socially acceptable.

Drumming her fingers on her desk. Madam Feylie glanced out the window, watching the green clouds swirl.

Someone was practicing very unstable and unsafe magic.

It made her stomach flip flop.

First, the sky starts turning green. Next, she finds out one of her student's goes into the forest.

She wanted to think the two were connected in a way, somehow working in tandem with something else going on but Madam Feylie couldn't be sure. She didn't really have concrete evidence for either theory. Just a whiff of a smell and what she remembered from learning about the miasma and how it affected weather patterns.

The only way the two would be connected is if Dipper went out into the forest and practiced dark magic. Pushing the fact that Dipper was much too sweet and innocent to be mixed up in something so dark, there was no evidence for any magic of that sort. No burns, no cuts, and no deformation or change in personality or attitude-

Well, no. That's not quite right. His grades had been dropping the past few months, but that could be caused by a number of things, not all magical.

No, there was no evidence for anything, really.

But that didn't mean she didn't have her suspicions. Or worries.

Madam Feylie slipped the phone number back into Dipper's folder and shut it back in the drawer.

She'd get to the bottom of this.

Eventually.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper gripped the edge of the sink tightly, trying his best to calm the nerves in his stomach.

He was really going to do this.

He was really going to ditch school.

Ever since yesterday uncertainty rolled in his stomach, twisting itself into cruel knots in a bid to stop him.

He had been ready for someone to somehow know of his plan. Someone to speak up and stop him.

But nothing had happened.

Stan had picked him and Mabel up, taken them back to the Shack, and put them to work just like he said he would.

Wendy hadn't talked to him for once, manning the cash register and reading a magazine, ignoring his existence all together.

She was still mad. Dipper couldn't really blame her.

Soos had been a little nicer, having just been informed of the situation and what happened, not having to live through it. However, despite the small, watery smiles and soft greeting and goodbye, Dipper hadn't gotten much from his older friend.

Like Wendy, Soos had been upset over the fact that he had lied.

And once again, Dipper couldn't blame him.

Of course, besides the obvious tenseness in the air, no one said anything.

Mabel still wasn't talking to him and he had no idea on how to approach her. They were in a stalemate, waiting for something to break this silence, waiting for the magic words that would fix all of this would simply come into existence and just fix everything.

Unfortunately, there was no spell that could just grant someone the ability to say what needed to be said and so far, Dipper couldn't think of anything that could really fix this.

And considering Mabel's silence, she hasn't been too successful either.

The thought made his heart choke itself, tying his veins around and around in a makeshift noose to hang a neck that doesn't exist.

Dipper wanted to fix things. He really, really did! But...how? He was never a people person. He didn't know how to properly apologize for all of this...

Especially since he wasn't all that sorry.

The thought should've scared him more than it did.

Dipper sighed and washed his hands simply to give himself something to do. Grabbing a few paper towels, he sidled up to the nearby floor-length mirror to take a quick glance at himself, tossing the crumpled paper towel towards the trash can and missing.

Dipper glanced down at his appearance, making sure his hat was pulled low over his birthmark, newly washed hair sticking out from under his cap. Frowning a little at the messy curls, Dipper gave himself one last glance, taking in his slightly paled features and widened brown eyes before walking over to the trash and properly disposing of his paper towel.

Dipper grabbed his backpack up off the floor and swung it onto his shoulders.

It was now or never, really. He had to get back before lunch ended.

Slipping out of the bathroom door, the brunet glanced nervously down the empty hallway before taking off at a quickened pace, debating on whether or not to run and get out faster with a higher chance of getting caught, or going slower and also having a good chance of getting caught.

Dipper walked a bit faster.

There was a reason the fast walk was invented, after all.

Turning down a few hallways that were more likely to stay empty, Dipper worked to get to the edge of the school and find a door out.

Turning back down a side hall, he walked by a few closed doors before turning back into another hallway. Seeing a pair of double doors straight ahead, unguarded with no one watching him, Dipper took the chance and slammed his hands against it, pushing it open with the force of his movement and easily stumbling outside.

Dipper gasped, not even realizing he had been holding his breath.

He blinked in disbelief. That had been easy.

Too easy.

Not even giving a glance backward, the brunet broke out into a dead sprint, legs pumping and feet slamming against concrete as he ran across the parking lot over to the woods beyond.

Glancing at the nearby construction of a tall, metal fence, only a few runes lightly traced over the surface in sharpie, Dipper side stepped the work and dived right into the trees, panting from both exertion and a little fear mixed with excitement and disbelief.

He had done it. He actually left during school hours and hadn't been caught.

No wonder teachers complain about students who skip. It was almost too easy.

At the thought of that again, Dipper whipped around and dived behind a tree, glaring out at the little he could see of the building behind all the foliage.

Nope. No teachers running, no panicking, and no cops.

Everything was quiet and clear.

Despite all that, he couldn't help but still feel a bit paranoid. He better hurry up and make this quick. Just needed to inform Bill about the situation and get some answers out of him. No problem.

Dipper gulped.

Anger issues.

Bill wouldn't hurt him. He'd be fine!

Turning his back to civilization, he wandered through the forest, use to underbrush tickling his skin and the crunch of grass beneath his sneakers.

Once Dipper decided he was far enough away from the school, he leaned against a tree, mentally preparing himself for what was going to happen.

Bill wouldn't hurt him. He cared.

He cared.

"Bill? Are you there?" He called out, waiting for that flash of gold.

And Bill didn't disappoint.

A few seconds passed by before the god emerged from behind a tree, vest gold as ever with a white undershirt, golden eye sparking, and hair as black and gold as ever

Dipper still couldn't tell what the god's original hair color had been. If he had one in the first place, at all.

"Pine Tree!" Bill chirped playfully, loping towards him and wrapping his arms around the brunet's shoulders to yank him into a hug.

Dipper slowly returned it, hands hovering a little.

"Hey, Bill." Dipper greeted himself, voice unsure.

The god visibly frowned at his lethargic tone, staring down at him. "Pine Tree? You okay?" He asked, pulling the boy tighter against him.

Dipper shook his head and squirmed away from the touch, backing up so he had at least two feet of space between himself and the god.

Bill's eye narrowed and his frown deepened.

"N-No, Bill. Not really." Dipper stuttered a bit, wrapping his arms around himself as he did so.

Bill took a step forward.

Dipper took a step back.

"Pine Tree?" Bill asked again, head cocked to the side in confusion.

Dipper bit his lip and felt tears bubble to the surface. Oh, he couldn't do this! Bill would be angry and...and-! Oh, he didn't think he-

"You-You're trapped in here because you tried to destroy the world. And- and my family was the one who did so."

Dipper's eyes widened and a few tears overflowed onto his cheeks. His heart beat angrily in his chest, trying to tear itself apart by the feel of it as his gut curled in on itself, like it was trying to eat itself without success.

"What that the only reason you...I...we...anything?! Do you even care?" Dipper finally shouted out, grabbing the ends of his hair sticking out of his cap and stumbling back a little, his backpack colliding with the tree behind him.

Bill's eyes darkened and his frown morphed into a scowl. His shoulders visibly tensed and the god looked like he was ready to pounce, to rip and tear and kill.

Dipper tried his best to not cower, forcing himself to hold steady against the tree behind him.

Bill continued to glare as he strode forward, steps even and smooth. His golden hair slowly became duller as flecks of red appeared in his eye. Towering above the younger boy, he slammed one of his hands against the tree, right above the brunet, causing him to duck down and, against his will, cower. Bill situated himself so the teen couldn't get away, trapping him in with legs and a dominate presence alone.

"̛F͡ir̵s͢t̕ of͘ al͟l-"͡

Dipper winced at the echoing quality of his voice and fell down onto the ground, screwing his eyes shut.

"͏-̡I d̛i̢d͝n̡'t̸ ev҉en ̧ḱno͠w̴ ̴you wer͟e͢ a ̡de̶sce͢n͜d͞ànt̛ ùn͠t̶il͜ oųr̴ l͟as͟t- l͡ơok ͠a̡t̸ mę ̴when I'm ̕t͠a̴lki͠ng ͠t̕o y͘o̕u Pi̛n̡e̢ ̵T̡re̛e͝."͝ ̀

Dipper slowly opened his eyes and stared up at the pure red eye staring down at him, barely able to hold back a squeak of fear.

"-deal.̴"̶̸ He continued on, like he never interrupted himself. "S̵e̷c͜o͟ndly҉, ͞i͘f I ̛di̴dn'̶t̷ ̨c̢ar̡ȩ ̶about ҉y̵o͜u͘,̛ ͜I̧ ẃóuld'̷v̀e ki̧l̷l̛e̡d ͡you͞ f̨or͘ e̵v͘e̶n̛ t̡aki̴ng ̶a̛ ̵t̴on̸e ̶lik҉e͢ t͞h̴at ͡w̕i͝t̸h̴ ̛m̶e."̵

Bill's eye narrowed and he let his hand go, dropping to his haunches to get closer to eye-level. The god repositioned both hands so they were either side of the boy, trapping him once more.

"̴Las͟t͟ly̨, ͡ẃh̀ȩre̶ ̷di͢ḑ you ͜fi̶n͢d ou̶t a̕b̕out ̡t̵hat?"̵

Dipper winced. Unable to look away from the god, more tears bubbled over and he couldn't help but sniff a little.

Though Bill's position didn't waver, the crimson in his eye did recede slightly, though didn't fully go away. The god waited patiently for his answer, literally having all the time in the world.

"M-My Great-Uncle Stan." He murmured softly. "He-He told me the story on how you...and Tad...and..." Dipper fell quiet. He didn't have to continue. There was no need to.

Bill sighed. Stan? As in Glasses's brother?

It made sense but the fact that story even got brought out made his blood boil.

The god bit down on his anger. He didn't want to do something that he'd regret.

Like hurting Pine Tree.

Like killing his only way out of the forest.

"So it's true, isn't it? You tried to d-destroy the world."

Bill squared his shoulders and looked straight at his sapling, right into those fearful eyes. Normally, he liked his Pine Tree's fear. Liked seeing him squirm. But paired with sadness and hurt with a haunting look of betrayal?

No. Bill didn't like that expression one bit.

"Yes." The echoing reverberations left Bill's voice. "Yes, that was my plan a long time ago."

Dipper perked up slightly at the use of past tense. "It's not anymore?"

Bill slowly shook his head. "No, Pine Tree. It isn't. Getting trapped in here...well, it kinda...opened my eyes so to speak. New perspective and all that. Besides, if I did destroy the world, everything would get really boring! No people to mess with!"

Dipper wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and couldn't help but giggle a bit at Bill's antics. Was it probably wrong on some moral level? Yeah. Probably. But at that moment, Dipper didn't really care.

Seeing the barest of smiles on his sapling's face, Bill let a wide grin break across his own face. Past anger flushed away in the returning brightness in Dipper's eyes, the god let himself fall to the side to curl next to the boy.

"I was young and stupid, Pine Tree." Bill continued on. "And so was Tad. Do I regret it? A little I guess. But it happened and there's no way to change that."

Dipper nodded slowly. He had been right.

Bill would never hurt him.

And he had changed. He wasn't like what Grunkle Stan said.

Grunkle Stan was wrong.

And he was right.

The two let silence reign for a while, content to simply sit next to one another. Though this silence had been ruling Dipper's life the past day or so, the brunet couldn't help but love the one he was in now. There was no tenseness, no hurt.

And more importantly, there was the sense that he was right.

Dipper still couldn't quite get over that.

"Hey Bill?" Dipper asked after a while, his head leaning against the tree behind him.

Bill stopped playing with his hand, the smooth circles he was rubbing over his knuckles coming to a stop.

"Hmm?" Bill hummed, moving his fingers to knead the palm a bit.

Shivers ran down Dipper's spine. That felt amazing. Like a massage for his hand.

"Do...you want out of the forest, right?"

Bill perked up immediately at that, eyeing his sapling with slight surprise. "Of course." He answered, already knowing where this was going.

Dipper bit his lip. Was he really going to do this? Would he really-

Looking up at Bill's already excited face, Dipper already knew what his answer would be. Bill did do something bad and wrong a long time ago. But that was then and this is now. Bill didn't want that anymore and after seven hundred years of boredom and, even if he wouldn't admit it, loneliness, it was high time for the god to have a second chance at life outside. Well, out of the forest.

They were already outside, technically.

"Then...would it be- er, I mean, could I break you fr-"

"Yes! Of course, Pine Tree!" Bill interrupted him with a cheer before pouncing on him.

The boy and the god rolled a little in the short grass. Dipper watched as his whole world turned into a mess of green, blue, yellow, and gold. He and Bill continued rolling for a bit and Dipper couldn't help but let out small shrieks of laughter as Bill peppered his face with small pecks; first tracing the out line of his forehead once his hat came flying off before moving down over his eyelids, all over his cheeks, and a couple on his nose and chin before finding the sides of his mouth and kissing lightly there as well.

The two eventually rolled to a stop, with Bill splayed out on his back in the grass while Dipper was laid out across the god's torso, face flushed from the act and attention he just received.

Dipper laughed as Bill nuzzled into the top of his head and Dipper couldn't help but do his own cuddling into the god's chest.

Bill sat up slowly. "So, Pine Tree. Are you going to break me out now or-"

Dipper shook his head. "No, not right now. Um, I don't have much time I-"

Dipper blanched. He had forgotten to tell Bill about getting caught. Forgot to tell him about being unable to come for a while.

Dipper quickly scrambled backwards away from the god, making sure to grab his fallen hat in the process and stick it back on his head.

Bill watched as fear spark in his Pine Tree's brown eyes again and quickly twisted around to see of the boy had seen anything behind him.

Nope. Nothing there. Bill cast his sense out, picking apart the area surrounding them to see if there was anyone who could be a threat of any kind.

Nothing. He and his sapling were alone. As it should be.

"Pine Tree?"

Dipper let out a small breath. "I-I forgot to tell you something." He admitted quietly, preparing himself for the worst yet still hoping for the best.

Bill cocked his head to the side and waited for his sapling to explain himself.

Dipper worried his bottom lip. He had to tell the god eventually and the sooner he got it over with, the better.

"I...Grunkle Stan knows. Everyone knows. About our deal." He said slowly.

Bill stared at him blankly, as if waiting to continue. The joy the two had between them drained out fast, leaving Dipper shivering and tense. This wasn't good. Not by a long shot.

Finding out Bill's past actions was one thing. But something that would directly come in the way of their deal and...well, relationship?

"I won't be able to come to the forest all that often. They're watching me and...and I might not be able to get away."

Bill finally did something.

The god's eyes darkened into a fiery crimson while the gold in his hair darkened to match- a blood red color that reminded Dipper of Hell itself. Bill's hands turned to fists and blue fire started to spark all around, catching the trees and setting them ablaze.

Dipper curled in on himself, trying to make himself smaller in hopes that Bill wouldn't target him next.

He hoped he was right for a second...or was it third? Time again today.

Bill won't hurt me. Bill won't hurt me. Dipper chanted in his mind.

"̢̛͝P҉̢͞i̵̶͞n͏é̸̷͝ ̸̵̧̢T̡͜͠͞͝r̨̡͡ę̶̸̀͘e͏̡͝.̴̸"̷̸̵͢͜ ̀͢ Bill finally uttered, his voice almost to distorted to make out.

Dipper glanced up and flinched, letting out a small scream at how close the god was to him. At some point, Bill had climbed back up to his feet and summoned his cane. The god towered above him like before, bent slightly at the waist, head blocking out the little sun seen behind the green clouds that swirled above.

"I'll b-break you out next t-time I see you I promise! I'll c-come back Sunday! Promise! I'll s-sneak out when no o-one's looking and b-break you o-out!" Dipper shouted out, stuttering as he did so.

Bill's rage lessened slightly in the form of him pulling back some, fires around them dying out a little.

"̵͏͠F̕҉i̧̛͜͝n̶͟͠e͘҉.̨̧̀͝͠"̨̢͠͝҉ Bill growled. Literally growled.

Dipper didn't need any more initiative than that. He could tell Bill was barely restraining himself from lashing out at everything.

He sprinted back to the school.

Though Dipper was frightened of Bill in that state- he'd never seen him so angry- he couldn't get angry himself at the god. After all, besides him, who else did Bill have? Tad couldn't visit- he'd start dying.

Bill only had him.

Dipper ignored the warmth that spread in his heart at the thought. Now was not the time to start blushing and acting like a lovesick idiot.

So he ran. Past the trees, past the underbrush, through the treeline, past the construction of a fence, across the parking lot all the way back into school, backpack slamming against him the entire time, lungs heaving out breathless huffs.

Once he was back inside the building, Dipper dived into the nearest bathroom, washing himself up to get rid of his red face and sweat.

~~0~~0~~0~~

As soon as Pine Tree left the forest, Bill whipped around and blipped to the deepest and farthest part of the woods, back near where that dreadful seal was.

It was there- far away where no human could see him- where Bill let his rage out.

He scorched acres of woodland, frying animals and creatures to ashes. Literally nothing but ashes. He screamed and cursed in every language he knew, which was to say, quite a lot. He stomped and spit and burned more, shooting ethereal blue fire high in the sky in a bid to leave a mark on the firmament itself.

It was impossible to burn the sky, of course, but Bill did succeed in parting and destroying some of the green clouds above.

Panting from the exertion of his powers, Bill slowly winded down, his anger fed in the destruction he raged. Around him, trees were nothing more than twisted carcasses of their former selves, blackened and crumbling. The soil underfoot fared no better, it too was charred beyond repair. No grass or flowers would ever be able to grow again.

The stench of burning flesh rose up beyond everything else. Blood had bubbled away and skin broiled. Brains melted and bones cracked. Everything living had turned to either scorched and thin barely recognizable corpses or pure ash itself.

Nothing could stand in the wake of Bill Cipher's legendary anger. Nothing. At. All.

Not even a human boy he inexplicably and irrationally cared so much about.

Bill collapsed onto the ground, finally spent. Slowly, his hair melted back into gold and the crimson in his eye faded away.

Through his rage, Bill felt the smallest sparks of joy and excitement.

He was going to be freed. The god didn't doubt his sapling's sincerity.

He would be free. And he and his Pine Tree could be together.

Forever.

He'd make sure of it.

Chapter Text

Stan ground his teeth together as he threw all his will into what he was doing. The sigil beneath his hands- the one on the far right wall- glowed an even brighter purple than before, though not enough to wash away the crimson light.

Sweat dribbled down Stan's brow as he tried to focus all his energy through his hands and into the wall before him, his narrowed eyes tracing the runes scored deeply into the concrete over and over again. His tongue flicked the roof of his mouth as Crimean Gothic flowed past his lips, rough as always. The words repeated over and over again, a macabre mantra to herald what was to come.

Finally, Stan finished up his chant as the sigil beneath his hands flashed in rapid succession. First blue, then cyan, all the way past green, yellow, orange, red, magenta, and back to the purple from before, settling in it's static color and dulling back down as it had been before.

Stan's legs trembled beneath him and it took all his strength to keep from collapsing right there on the floor. Shaking violently, he raised a single clammy hand to his forehead, wiping the pooled sweat there that had collected between his wrinkles.

He was old. Much to old to be doing this. But it wasn't like he had a choice in the matter.

He would bring him back. No matter what.

Huffing deep breaths in and out, Stan took a moment to stabilize himself before turning back around and making his way back to the alter, hoping that this next step finally worked.

Ninth times the charm, right?

Stan grinned at the sight he saw.

The previous bleached bones, connected by shining ligaments could no longer be seen. Instead, newly formed muscles and veins twined around key parts of the body. Fresh skin sprouted, pale and sharp. Dark brown hair grew from all aspects of the body; legs, arms, chest, stomach, and groin. Stan's eyes were drawn to the person's closed orbs. Nothing moved in the body. No pulse, no breath, no flutter, no life.

Despite everything, he still had work to be done. The final process.

But for now...rest. Rest would be good.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper chewed the end of his pen in thought, staring out the window with a blank look.

Homework. The bane of every kid's existence.

Pulling out his notes again, Dipper flipped through the Latin words, trying his best to translate them to the best of his ability.

Normally, this sort of thing wasn't too hard. He had taken to the dead language surprisingly well, though whether it was because of his own interest or if he was simply naturally inclined to new languages was beyond him. Nevertheless, this sort of thing shouldn't be as hard as it was being.

Dipper briefly took his pen out of his mouth to scribble a few notes on his homework before returning it to his mouth to chew on again.

He focused on the work for a few more seconds before being distracted by the window again.

Well, not quite the window. More like the forest to be exact.

Though it was only a few days ago, it felt like a lifetime since Dipper promised to break Bill out of the forest on Sunday.

Which happened to be today.

After that fateful day in the woods, time seemed to speed past him faster and faster, never letting go.

He was lucky to have not been caught. Didn't want that on his record. Or worse, explain what he was doing to Stan.

Dipper squared his shoulders. Sunday. One of the two days the shop wasn't open, mainly because Stan hated Mondays and needs a day "to prepare for them." Dipper wasn't so sure what that even really meant as usually all Stan did on his days off was watch a lot of television and stuff his face with food.

Then again, there were worse ways to spend your days off.

Dipper glanced over the empty side of the room, biting his lip. Dinner the other night had broken his and Mabel's vow of silence towards another by simply asking to pass the salt. Despite that, things were far from being normal. They never joked around or played and barely seeing one another day in an day out wasn't helping much. Dipper didn't realize how far they seemed to grow apart until this deafening silence.

Mabel still went out with friends every day. Or she played with Waddles. Or she sat down and knit while listening to the radio and singing along.

All things Dipper couldn't be a part of.

Then again, all he was doing was sitting and doing homework and...well, that was about it. He still wasn't sure how Mabel was still able to do many of the things she loved after being grounded.

Probably because she had more hobbies.

Dipper frowned. He was only allowed to read an hour a day and after that...well, an hour of television as well and then the rest of the day consisted of studying or homework.

Dipper chewed harder on his pen and leaned on his hand, staring back out at the pine forest once more. The sky was heavy with green clouds. Looks like a storm was coming.

Today was the day.

Dipper slowly stood up and pushed his chair back into place. He wasn't so sure how long this would take or anything of the sort, but it was best to get it over with soon even if it was still early in the morning.

Glancing around the room, Dipper quickly stuffed his note book into his vest pocket, along with his pen. After a few more seconds, he added his deer teeth necklace. It was still really weird and kinda gross in a moral sense, but Bill had given it to him specially and it was clean...

Tugging his cap lower on his face, the brunet crept outside his door, grateful it was already open. Once again, he hopped floorboard to floorboard, dodging all the known squeaks and creaks as he made his way to the top of the stairs. Now more than ever, he couldn't be caught.

He had been caught the first time when he first took the third journal. Then the second for real when Wendy saw him go into the woods. A third time would not be ideal in the slightest.

Especially with what was at stake here. He promised Bill he would free him today.

Dipper worried the inside of his cheek as he went stair to stair, trying to keep his weight forward and focused on his knees instead of his feet in a bid to somehow make himself lighter, at least in feeling.

There was a part of him that still wasn't sure about all of this. Bill was locked up for a reason. A pretty good reason too. Was letting him out really the best idea? Gods were highly dangerous, everyone knew that. So what if he was stripped of his powers as the story said? He could still obviously do many different feats of magical prowess and if freed...well, who was to say he wouldn't go back to old habits?

Who said he hadn't been lying?

Dipper shook those thoughts of doubts away. Bill had told him that he didn't desire to harm the world anymore and not only that, looked completely sincere when he said that. Besides, he wouldn't hurt him and Dipper knew that didn't just mean physical hurt, but mental as well as emotional.

Right?

Right.

Besides, Bill had changed. Dipper couldn't say he knew Bill seven hundred years ago, but comparing those old stories to the person he hung out with and cared about and who cared back, Dipper could tell that those seven hundred years, Bill had become a different person. God. Being. Whatever.

He had become better.

It was long time for him to be free. Bill didn't deserve seven hundred years of boredom and loneliness.

Right?

No one did.

Dipper finally reached the bottom step and carefully jumped down. He held his breath as his shoes lightly thumped, waiting for a suspicious Stan or a curious Mabel to show up and question what he was doing.

No one came.

Sighing breath of relief through his nose, Dipper carefully turned his head to peak into the living room, trying to see if Stan was in their or not.

Stan was lying across his favorite couch, empty bottle of beer in his hand, snoring away while Baby Fights blared in the background.

Dipper felt his shoulders loosen some. Stan was a very heavy sleeper. If he was out like this, not even a natural disaster could wake him.

Though he didn't see Mabel anywhere, he could clearly hear the blare of the radio over Baby Fights, playing another one of Mabel's boy bands. Dipper was a little ashamed of himself when he recognized that it was Sev'ral Timez.

Seeing as both of them were busy off in their own world, Dipper wasted no time diving into the shop, still careful to only step on the non-creaky boards as he made his way to a window that happened to be opened.

After all, the door was too loud and he didn't want to take any chances whatsoever. Mabel had sharp ears and though Stan was a deep sleeper, he could still wake up at anytime.

Dipper hoped that this wouldn't take too long. He really, really hoped.

Moving the chair Wendy kept behind the counter over to the thankfully already opened window, Dipper carefully pushed it against the wall and climbed up on top. Double checking to make sure no one was around, he slipped one leg through, then the other, twisting his body so he was sitting facing the outside. With one more sigh through his nose, he pushed himself off and away, ducking his head low as to not hurt himself. He partially fell in his movements, legs not quite catching himself and rolling a little on the short grass.

Rubbing his now sore ankles and grumbling under his breath a bit, Dipper pushed himself into a standing position and quickly checked his legs and arms for any signs of injury.

Finding nothing, the brunet did another check behind him before taking off at a run to the woods, trying to keep his steps from falling too hard in an attempt to lessen the shocks of pain in his ankles and making too much noise.

Ducking under a low hanging branch, Dipper didn't slow down until he was well into the forest, the Shack no longer in sight. Leaning against a nearby tree, Dipper took a few seconds to catch his breath and wince at the shallow cuts in his legs. He hadn't been careful whatsoever while running through the underbrush and as such, got cut up pretty badly. Luckily, the tears in his skin were shallow and only allowed a few beads of blood to well and fall, no doubt staining his socks a little and causing his skin to itch.

"Bill? You there?" Dipper called out once he got his gasping lungs under control. Like usual, Bill slid into his field of vision right away, bright against the low tones of the forest, golden eye and hair sparkling under the morning sun, looking as dapper as ever.

"Heya, Pine Tree! You're here early aren't ya? Already missing me I see!" Bill greeted cheerfully, no trace of anger to be found.

Dipper chuckled at the god, a blush already dusting his cheeks. "You could say that I guess." He replied, scratching at his right leg again as another droplet of blood made it's slow descent down.

Bill frowned when he saw his sapling's condition. He swaggered forwards, lightly brushing his fingertips against the boy's skin, healing him instantly.

Dipper grinned up at the god and tentatively wrapped his arms around Bill's hips in a light hug, marveling how the itching stopped immediately, along with the pain in his ankles.

Bill, of course reciprocated and even even bent down to plant a slightly sloppy and wet kiss on his cheek, causing the brunet to jump back with a sound torn between a laugh and a noise of disgust.

"Ew! That was like, all slobber!" Dipper whined playfully.

Bill laughed and summoned his cane into existence to swing it around his wrist. "Good!" He said back.

Dipper shook his head. He'd never understand Bill's humor, would he?

"So Pine Tree, ready to break your favorite god out of prison?" Bill asked, sending the boy a wink.

Dipper shook his head, smiling lightly and ignoring the knots in his stomach. "That's what I said I'd do, right? Lead the way."

Bill grinned and wrapped his arms around his Pine Tree's shoulders, forcing the brunet to stumble forward in a close embrace.

"I won't be able to directly transport us there, so we'll have to walk some, okay?

Dipper nodded. "That's fine. Ready when you are."

Bill tsked and shook his head. "I've been ready for the past however many years I've been here, Pine Tree."

And with that, the two absconded in a flash of azure flames.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Mabel clacked her knitting needles together in time with the record, muttering the song lyrics under her breath. She had been up for a few hours knitting a new sweater, one that would hopefully fix everything.

The yarn was the softest she had and was a light brown color- like freshly turned soil right in spring after a nice shower. It was a warm color that matched Dipper's hair color perfectly.

Then again, this sweater had to be perfect in every sense of the word.

She hadn't realized how painful it was without her favorite twin at her side. There were no more jokes between them, no games, no laughter, no teasing, no pranks, no fun, and no words.

Well, not counting her asking Dipper to pass the salt, at the very least.

For once in her young life, Mabel wasn't so sure on how to patch everything up and she knew very well that if she was confused about what to do with the lingering tenseness, then Dipper's head must be spinning at a billion miles per hour.

So, she decided to do the thing she does best: Make fabulous sweaters.

Mabel stuck her tongue out as she knitted the green into the brown. This was far different than anything else she had done before. For once, this sweater wasn't silly. For once, she was seriously hoping with all her heart that Dipper would actually like it and wear it because of that.

As she knitted, she hoped that this could help patch things up between her and him. She didn't know what she would or could do if it didn't. Barely a week has gone by without her twin and already her heart was twisting itself up in loneliness. She hated this feeling and hated the heavy sadness that came with it.

She just wanted everything to go back to normal or at least, as normal as things could now get.

Mabel paused in her knitting to take a metaphorical step back to look over her work so far.

The entire sweater was over-sized, soft, and warm, perfect for cuddling him. The entire thing was a little bit bland, pure brown besides the very bottom where a pine forest stretched about the entirety of the bottom hem, taking up about a third of the sweater vertically. Inside each and every tree was the painful stitching of her trying to knit in each and every pine needle with each and every branch.

Mabel gave her work a watery smile before starting on the last pine tree. Dipper was going to love this.

Hopefully.

He had too.

Mabel couldn't say she knew much about forests, but that one time in the woods left a definite impression on her and living so near the famous place gave her enough of an example to go off of.

Briefly pausing in her work to flip the record around, Mabel started humming to the beat of the song lightly as she finished up another small branch, a little bit of nervous sweat pooling on her forehead.

"Ugh, Mabel? What are you doing?" A familiar, throaty voice asked, still heavy with a bit of sleep.

Mabel glanced up at her Grunkle Stan, who had crashed in his suit and was now looking more disheveled than usual. His hair was a rats nest without his infamous fez and his glasses were slightly askew.

"Nothing. Just making Dipper a sweater." She replied pleasantly, not taking her focus off her work.

Stan cocked a curious eyebrow at that. As far as he knew, Mabel almost never made sweaters for her brother and when she did, they were usually part of some joke the kid would splutter angrily about before tossing the offending item back in her laughing face. Seeing Mabel so focused on what she was doing surprised him at the very least.

Stan stepped closer to look at the stitching, amazed by how realistic she had made the pine trees at the very bottom. Not only that, Stan could tell it would be soft just by looking at it. He could only imagine how expensive the yarn had been.

Very, by the looks of it.

"I see." He answered finally, striding over to the refrigerator to grab a can of Pitt Cola.

He knew what Mabel was trying to do and Stan had to fight off the smile that wanted to form on his face. It didn't take much to notice how quiet the twins were towards each other and the thought had made him nervous, filling him to the brim with dread. After all, the two never fought like this.

Never. In all eight years of knowing them, they had always been quick to sort out their problems and fights, easily falling back into tandem with one another. To see a silence stretch out this long was...unheard of and nerve wracking in its own way, bringing another fresh wave of guilt to his already heavy conscience.

Had he been too hard? Too angry? Was his confrontation too cruel and mean for the two?

Was he the one to shatter their friendship and silence the two? Stan wanted to ask. Gods, did he want to question the two twins which were a conundrum and paradox all on their own, but he couldn't.

He just couldn't.

So instead, he leaned against the counter, sipping his cola while bending down periodically to pet Waddles behind the ears while he watched Mabel finish her work, the sound of crappy boy band music playing in the background.

"Where is your brother anyways? Still sleeping?" Stan finally asked, taking another swing.

Mabel gave him a single shoulder shrug. "I think he was studying or something. He woke up pretty early."

Stan rolled his eyes. "Yesh. Kid reads to much."

Mabel responded with another shrug, not really listening to what her Grunkle was saying.

Stan frowned at himself. It was kinda his fault that Dipper had to resort to schoolwork. Besides reading, the kid didn't have too many hobbies, unlike Mabel who was all about arts and crafts.

Stan sighed and bent down again to scratch a persistent Waddles' ears.

This pig was going to be the death of him.

Bent down, can in hand with Mabel's back facing him, neither saw the man in full body armor until he was crashing through the window, tackling Stan to the ground, crashing the older man into the counter and on the floor, yanking his hands back painfully behind his back to lock them in handcuffs covered in a number of cyan-glowing runes.

"Target secure!" The man cried out.

Having just finished her newest creation, Mabel dropped her sweater to the table and spun around just as the sound of shattering glass penetrated her ears from all sides.

Sev'ral Timez was drowned out by a number of shouting men from all around. Suddenly, more armored men entered the room, still yelling orders and "clears!" At one another.

"What the- What did I do to warrant this much arresting?!" Stan objected as he was hauled to his feet. The world was still spinning around him and his glasses now had a number of cracks in them from hitting the ground so hard. Stan tried to discreetly roll his hips, trying to get rid of the soreness found there.

"Who are you guys?! What are you doing in the Shack?!" Mabel shouted, jumping up to her feet as a few more men quickly stepped up just in case she tried doing something.

"We're with the NMA kid." Someone explained to her. "Special ops."

Mabel blinked NMA? Where had she heard of-

"National Magic Administration? They're in the news all the time, Mabel!"

Oh yeah. That.

"The other night there was a break-in at a local hospital. At o'four hundred hours, someone made way with a number of body organs used for transplant." The man holding Stan explained.

"What? And you think that's me?" Stan replied, appalled at the accusation.

"Don't play dumb with us, Pines! This is the only magic shop in town and the miasma levels are off the charts! Someone's been doing dark magic!"

"But I actually am dumb! I couldn't do all that!"

"He's right!" Mabel interjected quickly. Already on her feet, she walked over to Stan and the man holding him, holding out her hands to show she wasn't a threat. "Stan might be a little bit mean at times with the occasional scam, but he's not some sort of-of dark warlock!"

Before the man could say anything, another person entered the room. "All clear, sir. No one else here."

Mabel's heart skipped a beat.

Where was Dipper? He had been upstairs, right?

Right?

The girl glanced at Stan, who had gone pale at the certainty of the new man's voice. He had come to the same realization that she had.

Dipper had somehow snuck out. How, she wasn't sure. She should've heard the door, even over the music and television.

However the how didn't matter so much as the where and Mabel knew exactly where Dipper had gone to.

The man holding Grunkle Stan frowned. "I'm pretty sure the file said there were two wards. Where's the other?"

The new man who entered cursed and shrugged. "Not here. We checked everything."

"How many times have you checked everything? At least six, right? Six is a good number."

"Checked eight to be on the safe side, sir. Nothing."

The first man nodded. "Eight's even better. Anyways, you-!" He pointed at the men either side of Mabel. "Go get some people and search the town for the other kid!"

With a couple of terse nods the men at her shoulders saluted and left, jumping right out of the already broken window and running back across the lawn to one of the waiting cars.

"Let's go, Pines. You've got plenty of questions waiting for you." The first man said, forcing Stan to walk around the table and through the shop.

Mabel was right on their heels.

"You can't do this! I'm pretty sure this is breaking some sort of law of some kind!" She shouted out.

"Kid, we are the law." The man replied as the threesome broke free of the Shack.

Mabel paused at the scene she saw, eyes wide.

All around, armored men wandered about, armed with both guns and magical weapons. A number of other men in coats wandered about with weird scanners, yelling what sounded like nonsense across the lawn. A number of cars were parked around, each bearing a strange circular symbol of an eagle holding an eyeglass up to it's eye while runes of some sort were etched behind it. The initials NMA were printed neatly in the middle in bold letters.

"What the-"

Before she could completely process what was going on, someone grabbed her shoulder roughly and shoved her forward.

"Hey!" Mabel protested, twisting around to see the man from earlier behind her, the one who had cleared all the rooms.

"What do you think you're doing?"

"Following orders. We're taking you to child services. Standard procedure."

"What-! No, you can't!" Mabel cried out as she was lead to a car. The brunette twisted her head all around as she watched Stan be shoved around some as he was put into the back of a different vehicle. The older man was putting up a struggle just like his niece.

"Mabel! You gotta believe me! For once I'm actually innocent! Mabel!" He shouted as he was thrown into the backseat and shut in, windows tinted to dark for her to really see him besides a vague silhouette.

Mabel bit her lip, a few scared tears bubbling in her eyes as she was forcefully buckled in. The door slammed closed, causing her to flinch.

The same man from before slipped into the driver's seat in front of her and started up the car, driving down the dirt road just behind Grunkle Stan, but took a right instead of a left.

"You're not seriously taking me to child services, are you?" Mabel asked. "Stan's innocent! He couldn't do anything of the stuff you said!"

The agent shook his head. "Yes, I am. As I said before kid, standard procedure when dealing with children. As for your uncle...well, you don't know him as well as you think."

Mabel's bottom lip trembled as she pushed herself back into the uncomfortable seat she was in, suddenly terrified. This was actually happening. Something that only happened on late night shows and action movies was actually happening to her.

And she was alone.

All alone. Stan wasn't here and neither was Dipper.

Dipper.

She wasn't so sure she should be grateful he snuck out or upset. Sure, he wasn't captured by government guys, but now he was behind on all this. He didn't know that he was being hunted. For what was probably the billionth time in her short life, Mabel wished she had twin telepathy just so she could tell Dipper what just happened so he could make a plan. Dipper was great at making plans. If anyone knew how to get out of this position she was in, it'd be him.

But Dipper wasn't here.

Mabel had to make her own plan.

The brunette stared out the window, up at the swirling green clouds and down at the forest that was speeding by. Even she knew that opening the door and trying to jump out was a suicide mission, no matter how well it worked for the hot guys in movies. Dejected, she tore her eyes away to look around the car for any more ideas. What she needed more than anything right now was a spark of inspiration and preferably a-

"What the-? WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?!"

The agent jerked the wheel.

Mabel screamed as her body went flying, only held down by her seat belt.

And her world became a mirage of earthy greens and ethereal blues.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper blinked as his world spiraled back into place. Though teleporting no longer made him drowsy or dizzy, there was still a period of confusion as he found his footing on reality. He pulled away from Bill, blinking hard and taking in his surroundings.

The smell of ash penetrated his nose as he stumbled a bit on the cracked, flat earth. The soil underneath his feet was blackened crimson, a deep dirty color that reminded Dipper of sin itself. No grass or life grew from the ground for what appeared to be miles, taken hostage by whatever he was standing on. All around, blackened and crumbling trees reached up high for the sky swirling with dark green clouds, never able to quite grasp at what was above and too fearful to completely crumble away.

There was a...tenseness in the air. An evil that could not be placed. Like a curse. Something here was wrong. Maybe that's why everything looked different. Dipper couldn't explain what was visibly wrong with the place, but there was something very, very off.

This part of the forest shouldn't exist. This place didn't have a right to exist. Instead of feeling like he was the trespasser, Dipper felt like the place he was standing was trespassing him. Too close for personal comfort, with a sharp need to get away. Run far far far away so he never saw or smelled or felt this abhorrent place ever again.

This was wrong.

Dipper would've run too. Completely high-tailed it out of here and forget he ever felt like this if it wasn't for the arms that suddenly draped around his shoulders, pulling him deeper into this...this wickedness.

"Shh, Pine Tree. I feel it too. This is what those sorcerers did a long time ago. This is their legacy, their scar they left on this place. But you're going to fix it. You're going to heal it." Bill whispered into his ear, voice unusually tight.

Dipper glanced up at the god, taken aback by the red that suddenly engulfed his one visible eye and the dullness to his hair.

Like him, Bill felt the- the pure violation of this part of the forest.

The god carefully lead his sapling deeper inside, stepping over dead and crumbled branches and roots, hugging him close to his side. Pressure was building up inside his head and even his mouth, causing him to get a terrible irony tang stuck on his tongue.

However, despite the anger and hatred this place brought him. Despite how much he wanted to claw and scream and rip and tear and destroy, the arms that had wrapped around him as he walked held him back. His sweet Pine Tree was here. Here to break him out. Here to hold him down while this was in progress.

Bill restrained himself, but only for the child that was hanging on to him.

Dipper shuddered as the trees started pressing closer together, causing that oppressive feeling suspended in the air to become even heavier than before. The brunet felt physically and mentally fatigued already. He didn't want to be here anymore.

He felt sick.

"Almost there, Pine Tree." Bill suddenly whispered again. "You're doing so well." He tacked on.

"Y-You feel it too?" Dipper muttered, worrying the inside of his cheek as his eyes drooped some. He didn't want to go on. He just wanted to lie down and never move again. Never think again.

Never live again.

"Yes, though I'm more use to this place than you are. Once the ritual starts, the feelings will go away."

"They better." Dipper muttered as he pushed his face into Bill's side and screwed his eyes shut, hoping the darkness behind his eyelids was enough to wash away the sight that was all around him.

"Do you want to be carried, Pine Tree?" Bill asked suddenly.

Dipper shook his head against the god's side, replied muffled by fabric.

Bill clenched his fists and nodded, though his sapling couldn't see him. It was probably for the best considering how badly he wanted to burn something right now. The rage and flames were licking his insides, begging to be let out. Begging to tear and maim. Begging for destruction.

Bill ripped his thoughts away from carnage and focused on his footsteps and his sapling. They were almost there. This was almost over with.

He could practically taste his freedom at this point.

The ruined trees started to thin out a little and finally, the duo reached their destination.

"You can open your eyes now, Pine Tree." Bill murmured to the boy, lifting his hand to twirl some of the brunet's soft hair.

Dipper very carefully peeked out from Bill's side, staring blurry between the gold fabric, his own bangs, and the brim of his hat. He blinked again as he slowly pulled away from the god, blowing hair out of his way.

Dipper's gut tightened with all sorts of vile and repulsed knots. He could feel his heart fall into illness, pumping venom slowly through his veins. Ants crawled between his muscle and under his skin, nipping what they could find and slowly tearing him apart.

What was before him was nearly...indescribable. An obvious lifetime of work. A horrible and cruel secret that not even Stan completely knew about. If Stan knew about this- this terribleness of this seal, then he'd want to break Bill out too. No one deserved to be in the middle of this deformity of nature. This perversion of anything that could possibly be called good in this world.

The seal was huge, stretching out countless feet in every direction. Dark orange lightening sparked off every once and a while, crackling in the air, mixing the smell of ozone in with the already putrid stench in the air. Everything around him was buzzing with the magic being used. The ground was no longer covered in red soil, as if everything of color had been drained away a long time ago. Large cracks scarred the earth, leaving small but gaping canyons, deep and leading to nowhere.

The seal itself was a triangle, something Dipper had never seen before. Runes were carved all along the perimeter, both on the outside and the inside. Inside, a number of strange details were made with the same hieroglyphic runes used. Bricks all along the very bottom and near the topmost point, what looked to be a strange oval of some sort. Like an eye.

Dipper blinked. He knew he's seen this somewhere before. Not this exact seal, but it's shape. But where...?

Dipper shook his head. "S-So this...this is the...place." He grounded out slowly, barely able to catch his breath. There was a pressure on his lungs, causing his breathing to turn into gasps and huffs.

Bill frowned a little. "Yes, this is the place."

Dipper nodded slowly. "J-Just...tell me...w-what to...do." He said. "I...w-want...to get this ov-over with."

Bill nodded. He wanted this over with too. He wanted to be free.

He didn't want his sapling to suffer any longer from this place.

"Okay, all you have to go is go into the very center of the eye in the seal. There, you will find two hand prints burned into the ground. Put your hands over it and focus your will into it and say this incantation.

Bill twirled his hand in the air, producing a piece of paper. The god gave it to the brunet, ignoring the burning feeling and his now pounding headache. Using magic so close to the seal left him drained and tired.

Dipper glanced down at the Latin written on the paper. Shouldn't be to hard to say. His Latin had always been better than most his age, much to his surprise and delight.

"And...t-that's it?" Dipper asked.

Bill nodded tensely. "That's it."

Pulling away from Bill's side and throwing him one last small grin, Dipper slowly walked up to the seal, footsteps heavy and slow, standing right outside the runes scored deep into the ground.

What would happen once he stepped inside? Would he feel worse? Better? Would the pressure increase? Would his stuffed ears pop and lungs burst?

There was only one way to find out.

Dipper stepped directly onto the seal.

Nothing changed whatsoever.

He was careful not step on any hieroglyph directly. He really had never seen a seal like this before, after all.

Nor had he seen runes like this. They span all around and though Dipper could see the pattern, he couldn't make out what they said in any way.

Dipper cocked an eyebrow, but stepped over them nonetheless.

The brunet was highly aware of Bill's eyes burning into him as he finally stepped into the eye after dancing around the odd 'bricks.' As the god said, Dipper could see the impression of hands scorched into the earth, larger than his own by quite a bit.

Giving Bill one last glance, Dipper sunk to his knees. Placing the slip of paper in front of him, Dipper read over the words a few more times and tested them on his tongue carefully before putting his hands down. This was...advanced. More advanced than he ever even thought of doing. This seal was obviously specially make just to keep Bill locked in this forest. Breaking it would probably be the hardest thing he'll ever try to do.

Taking in one last gasping breath, Dipper put his smaller hands over the ones in the ground, amazed and slightly shocked at how hot the earth was.

He shook his head. He needed to focus.

Eyeing the incantation, Dipper breathed in and out some, calming and preparing himself.

After what was probably a few seconds but felt like minutes, Dipper started.

mittite hunc clauditis
alligandi eum arboribusque
auferetur ab eo iniquitas eius excipiant
defluxit et oblitus
qui pro negatur claudatur
et tene minuitur

He threw all his will into what he was doing.

He wanted out of here. He wanted Bill out of here. He wanted to god to experience this new world. He wanted Bill to...to be with him. To stay with him forever. He wanted the god at his side to joke around with, to hang. To explore new places and he wanted all the hugs and kisses that came with that. He wanted the teasing and the mean pranks.

He just wanted Bill. Wanted him more than anything he's ever wanted for in his entire life.

Dipper chanted the incantation over and over again, slowly getting louder and louder. Around him, dark orange electricity crackled and the earth below started rumbling, almost throwing away from the seal and would've too if he wasn't crouched so low to the ground.

He repeated it again and again and again, voice becoming hoarse as Dipper carved the very words into his soul, not letting go and never letting go.

Bill would be free.

Bill would be free.

Bill would be  free.

Bill would be free.

BILL. WOULD. BE. FREE.

And that's all he wanted. Truly and honestly with his whole being. Heart, mind, soul.

And the world exploded with blue flames.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Far, far away from Gravity Falls, deep underground southern Nevada, a door to a single and lonely cell was thrown open.

The men stalked inside, their normally stoic faces twisted in slight fear.

"You really think she'll know anything? She's gone insane! Hasn't spoken for years."

"She'll talk. She's been laughing to herself for days. She knew this was coming."

In the background, sirens still wailed.

The two focused on the back wall where a single figure was tied against her will. Her strange, five-pointed head hung low, her neck long and delicate. She was dressed in ratty gray clothes which still sported signs of abuse, from the clear burns and tears to the golden ichor that had dried.

She slowly lifted her head, fixing her eyes on the two men before her. Like their superiors had said, inane laughter fell from her double lips, high-pitched and wild. Her chest heaved from the force she was putting out, not use to making sounds.

The first man who spoke strode over, face twisted slightly in disgust and hate.

"I know you know what this sudden energy surge is. And you're going to tell us."

She laughed harder, throwing her head back and baring her smooth, blue neck.

The first man sneered and turned back to his partner. "Well?" He spat.

The second man rolled his eyes and joined the first. "You're not doing it right."

Reaching into his clothes, he pulled out a single red glove. Black runes were etched into the pads of the fingers and glowed with an unnatural light.

He slipped the glove on and stepped close to the woman, shoving his face right into hers.

"What was that energy surge? Where did it come from? No being other than a god could do that. An ancient god."

More laughter bubbled from her two pairs of lips.

"You can either tell us and be good, or well force the information out of you. You're choice." He snarled.

She continued laughing.

The man scowled. Yanking the collar of her shirt away, he stared at the black ring burned onto her neck briefly, taking in the symbol printed in the center before brushing his gloved fingers over it.

Electricity sparked, and a reaction bloomed.

Her laughter fell into shrieks of pain as she tried to wrench herself free, only to tighten the bonds around her skin, choking and cutting. Her ichor bled from the wounds freely, thin and weak.

Slowly, the man removed his finger from the mark.

Her screams died down to inane muttering in old Latin.

"English!" The man roared, stabbing his finger back onto the symbol burned into her neck.

She screamed once again, but this time words were mixed in with her yells of agony. Words she hadn't spoken in decades.

"HE HAS RETURNED! HE-!" She fell into a coughing fit, not use to her own vocal chords.

"Who. Who is 'he?'" The man snarled, pushing down harder and adding another finger. "WHO?!"

"MY PHARAOH! MY PHARAOH HAS RETURNED!"

Chapter Text

Madam Feylie watched as more black cars rush past her in a bid to get across town, disregarding the speed limit and most of the rules of the road.

"What's the NMA doing here?" She murmured to herself in concern, pausing in her Sunday shopping to watch them pass. The elf worried the inside of her cheek some as she watched, eyes darting up to the swirling green clouds. They had been getting thicker recently. More green as well, blotting out the sky easily. Madam Feylie shuffled a bit, uncertainty hitting her full-force.

Someone was doing dark magic in town. But not just your run of the mill standard animal sacrifices. No, this was worse. Darker. Unnatural.

Evil.

She squinted as she stared up at the clouds, large and puffy. They moved sluggishly through the sky, slow and methodical. However, not in any normal pattern.

The clouds didn't just move across the sky like normal.

No, they were circling something.

Tightening her grip on her purse, Madam Feylie tried to pinpoint where the clouds were circling about, where their focus was.

Her heart clenched. The NMA was here to stop this magic and if they were here, it had to mean something serious.

But what?

Madam Feylie couldn't say she knew much about the darker parts of magic. She had never sacrificed an animal, never used blood or any other bodily fluids.

Hell, she didn't even know how to even begin to try and practice dark magic. It was dangerous and horrible. Everyone knew that and she did her best to avoid the subject matter completely.

And that was one of the reasons she moved to Gravity Falls eleven years ago. Gravity Falls was a small, nowhere town where everyone knew everyone; homely and safe. Nothing bad could happen here, right?

Right?

But she had been wrong. Very, very wrong. And now the NMA was here to stop...whatever was going on.

Madam Feylie traced the clouds again with her eyes. They seemed to be focused around somewhere across town, on the very edge.

Then again, who would practice dark magic in the very center of town anyways?

"You're very focused on the sky, aren't you?" A deep voice chimed to her right.

Madam Feylie whipped around suddenly, only to stare down at a much shorter man in a strange purple tuxedo of all things, bowler hat neat and tidy over curly near-black hair. His eyes gleamed amethyst in the dappled, cloud-blocked light.

He must be some sort of half-breed. Human and Imp most likely, considering his shorter stature.

Still, he was...strange. Something wasn't quite right with him. Who wore a full tuxedo out in Gravity Falls? Especially since it was almost summer.

"I guess you could say that." She replied cautiously. She didn't like this man. There was definitely something not right about him.

Didn't mean she couldn't be polite, however.

"I don't blame you. Green clouds are always a bad omen, after all. Someone's not doing what they're supposed to be doing."

She nodded along to his words. "Indeed. Especially since the NMA seems to be here, most likely to deal with it."

The man next to her stiffened ever so slightly. His eyes, however retained the same cool look in them, unalarmed.

"Really? The NMA? Must be serious then. Well, I guess I'll be off. Only so much Sunday left to enjoy, after all."

Madam Feylie shot the man an odd look, a bit confused on what he was saying. It was still early in the morning. Most kids were probably still asleep at this time! What did he mean by that?

However, before the elf could ask her question, the strange man was gone.

She quickly looked all around her.

He had just...disappeared. Like he was never there in the first place.

Weird. Very weird.

Madam Feylie turned her eyes back to the sky, contemplating briefly before starting off in a brisk walk.

She didn't know what was going on. She didn't know how dark magic worked or any of that.

But that didn't mean she couldn't get to the bottom of it. Whatever was going on was big and in a small town like Gravity Falls, where everyone knew everyone, she couldn't help but feel fear.

In one way or another, something was not right. Someone was going to get hurt.

And if she could so something to stop that from happening, she would.

And with that in mind, Madam Feylie crossed the street, setting off to the swirling clouds, determined to get to the bottom of this.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Stan grunted as he was shoved haphazardly in the hard, wooden chair. Since being escorted out of the car, he'd been pushed and dragged around, bumping into walls and corners as the NMA took advantage of his situation.

He sneered. Yeah, protectors of the law his ass.

Stan glared up at the man in front of him- Powers, as what the other monkey's called him. The man was still decently young with a shock of black hair and lines etched into his face from being too serious all the time.

Stan shifted around in his seat, highly aware of all the evidence of his past misdeeds behind him along with the uncomfortable feeling of ink still left over on the pads of his fingers.

He didn't have time for this. He really didn't have time for this.

He had been so close. So close. One last incantation was all he needed.

The one to call the soul back from the void, or wherever souls went after the body dies, and put it into the new body.

One incantation. That's all he needed.

Stan gritted his teeth and glared forward. What he was about to do would be difficult in a room like this, but their sensors were still going off, beeping and wailing loud as day.

With any luck, they'd stay like that.

Carefully, Stan dug his nails into his skin. Gritting his teeth harder and letting his glare intensify, he bit back his whimper of pain as he worked his short and blunt nails into his skin, throwing all his desperation at getting free along with his strength to cut through to flesh.

He could feel himself tear open each and every layer of skin, getting deeper and easier as the layers got softer. With his hands nearly shaking, he finally cut through his skin, allowing a few drops of red to bead and drip and pool in his palms.

Perfect.

Powers suddenly towered above him, puffing out his chest, face dead serious as he took in the appearance of the man in front of him. With a scowl, he slammed his hands onto the table, eyes openly hostile.

A weak intimidation tactic in Stan's opinion.

"Stanford Pines. You stand accused for theft of organs from the local hospital, suspected immoral acts, suspected illegal magic, and conspiracy."

"What? Conspiracy? How d-"

"How do you plead these charges?" Powers plowed on, as if Stan never interrupted him in the first place.

"Uh, guilti-cent! I mean, inno-guilty!" Stan stuttered, his mind focused on trying to get the blood in the right place in his palms. His eyes darted around, taking in the four other people in the room easily. Doing what he was planning would be draining so how would he be able to-

Stan's eyes practically gleamed as an idea came to mind.

"Um, can I have my phone call?" He asked in his most innocent tone. "That's part of my rights! I think."

Powers's obnoxious mustache quivered, but he still gave a terse nod. The man walked on the left side of him and hauled him to his feet and starting pushing him to the door.

Once out of his first cell, Stan was lead to a second, smaller room. Like the first, bars were on the windows and the bricks were a dull and dreary gray. Once inside, he was shoved in a chair in front of a CB radio, which was picked up and shoved under his chin for him to talk into and, after a few curses, Stan told them the channel he knew Soos used.

"Keep it short." Powers warned before shutting the door and locking it, giving him privacy.

Stan rolled his eyes and and turned back to the radio, which was silent. For now.

He'd talk to Soos.

He'd need a ride before getting free, after all.

Stan closed his eyes and muttered a small, relatively simple incantation under his breath, causing the droplets pooling in the center of his palms to slowly slide back up his skin. Keeping his focus and will steady, Stan directed the droplets all the way up and onto the runes, which were etched right into the metal of the cuffs. Turning his head around the best he could, Stan watched the blood slip easily into the incisions.

Okay. The first part was done. Now came the hard part.

Stan took a deep and soundless breath before muttering the second incantation, causing the blood inside the runes to run back and forth against the inside. Back and forth, back and forth.

It flowed faster and faster and Stan quickly started muttering a second incantation, intertwining it with the first to create a new spell of sorts; one that hardened the iron in the blood and made it move faster.

A single cut in the rune work would render the cuffs pointless. All he needed to do was get rid of the magic, then-

Stan watched as the runes went from a bright, glowing cyan to a dull shimmer before completely dying off.

Stan finished his verse and grinned at the now normal cuffs. Another quick mutter of Latin allowed him to break the thin chain to break, rendering his hands free. Perfect.

And all that in record time.

He was good, wasn't he? But now, to the matter at hand.

"Soos!" He called out to the mouthpiece, being loud enough for the man-child to hear but quiet enough so the agents out in the hall couldn't listen in.

He waited a few seconds before calling out again. He did get the right channel...right?

"Just pick up!"

"Mister Pines, what happened?!" Soos answered back right away, sounding a little shaken and very worried. "I heard you got arrested or something and the weird clouds are looking weirder than usual..."

Stan rolled his eyes and blotted out the slight feel of guilt that started to fester in his stomach. "Listen, Soos. I need you to drive up to the station and hide your truck right behind the building in front. Okay?"

"Wait, isn't breaking out of jail and me helping you against the law?"

"...Um, yes?"

"Cool! I've always wanted to be a jail-breaker!"

Stan rolled his eyes, but a slightly warm smile still crept it's way onto his face.

"You've got that backwards but okay." Stan replied before hanging up.

Now was the hard part. Carefully, Stan spun himself around so he was facing the door, putting his hands behind his back as if the cuffs were still linked.

"Um, I'm done now!" Stan called out, keeping the giddiness out of his voice with practiced ease.

As soon as the words left his mouth, the agents burst right back into the room, Powers waiting in the doorway.

Stan narrowed his eyes, sparks already dancing on his fingertips. Not enough to maim or kill, but just enough to stun.

That's all he needed to do to these clowns. Stun 'em and run.

Not the best or most poetic plan, but it's what he needed and what would work.

Stan was ready, ready to thrust out his hands and let loose the buildup in his palms.

Then, everything was turned on it's head.

The sirens that had finally gone silent when the agents threw open the door started blaring once more, full blast.

And then, everything turned blue.

Harsh, azure light blazed in between the bars, blinding everyone. Stan shuddered as the heat washed over him, dry and arid. Like a desert. The older man screwed his eyes shut, the orbs already watering.

He wasn't expecting this. Not at all.

Didn't mean he was grateful though.

Stan thrust his arms out and let loose the electric buildup in his fingers. The men before him let out howls of pain before thumping onto the ground. Quickly standing up, Stan kept the shocks pumping as he stumbled over bodies in a bid to get out. Even through his close eyes, all Stan could see was blue.

Making sure to land extra kicks and stomps when he could, Stan finally cut off the magic before it could completely exhaust him. Shoving who he hoped was Powers against the wall and hopefully onto the floor, Stan took off at a stumbling run, casting his hands out either side of him to make sure he wouldn't run into any walls. At this point, he'd have to use his memory until the blue light faded away and he could see.

Stan stumbled what was most likely a few more yards before the sharp azure started to fade away. His heart slammed up against his ribs in a mad bid to try and get out.

Look, I'm working on it, okay? Don't see you helping any. Stan thought to the organ as he, very slowly, started to crack one eye open, hoping his short lashes could protect his orbs from too mush damage.

He already had cataracts. He didn't need anything worse, like a sunburn. Could eyes even sunburn in the first place?

Well, it would be more like 'blue burn' considering the weird flash that just happened.

What even was that?

Feeling no sudden burning sensations and melting, Stan opened his eyes completely, blinking hard at the gigantic spots left in his sight. Everything was more blurry than usual and it made his head spin.

Well, at least he was right in front of the door.

"Get up you idiots! He's getting away!" Powers yelled from within the prison behind him.

Well, couldn't be lucky all the time.

Stan broke into a run, bursting right out of the doors and continued his sprint across the road. A few wayward civilians still seemed to be recovering from the burst of light, some panicking and others stumbling about a bit more stupidly than normal.

Throwing himself behind the building, the older man was greeted with Soos's familiar beat-up truck.

Stan fast-walked to the drivers side. If this was going to work, then he needed Soos to act fast.

"Soos! Open up!" Stan called, rapping his knuckles on the window, causing his cuffs to clank uncomfortably against his wrists.

Soos was still recovering from the light as well, having pulled his hat low over his eyes. The handyman slowly pushed the head wear back into place, eyes cracking open slowly before blinking fast and hard, just as Stan himself did earlier.

"Mister Pines?" Soos slurred slightly as he rolled the window done, peering at the older man with that same worry evident in his voice.

"One and the same. Now, I need you to do something for me. Something important. Can you do that?"

Soos nodded quickly, the perkiness bouncing right back into his tone. "Yes sir, Mister Pines! What do you need?"

"I need you to drive in the opposite direction of the Mystery Shack for as far as you can. Be obvious about it too."

"Like, speeding? Isn't that dangerous?"

"This is a dangerous situation and it calls for dangerous actions. Can you do this for me?"

Soos gave Stan the most determined look the older man had ever seen on the younger's face. The handyman twisted his cap around so it faced backwards and hunched forward, putting both hands on the wheel and gripping tightly."

"Yes sir. I won't let you down!"

Stan felt another smile quirk at the sides of his lips.

"I know you won't."

And with that, Soos took off, leaving Stan scrambling to get back to the Shack.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper wasn't so sure where he was or what was going on. His body felt heavy. So, so heavy. Though he knew his eyes were closed, the brunet could still see flashes of blue in the darkness of his mind, hungry and consuming everything that they could. Dipper felt his breath hitch as a soreness settled into his very bones, weighing him down. He was being dragged away by an unseen force, slowly but surely fading out of reality as time itself started to disappear.

Dipper thought he heard something from far away, something a bit high-pitched, but pleasant all the same. It brought a warm feeling to his heart, warming his already heated body up and caused him to relax and let this strange, blue darkness take hold of him and carry him away.

Until, that is the voice got closer, almost sounding concerned, if Dipper were to put a label on it. He felt something lightly ghost over his face, starting at his cheeks and moving down to his lips, rubbing briefly before moving up his nose and even under his eyes. The voice was still there and even louder than it had been before- to the point where it was almost deafening yet Dipper still couldn't hear a single thing. Like the words themselves were not only said backwards and scrambled, but in a language all it's own in which human ears could never even hope to understand.

What he finally decided were fingers moved up the sides of his face, right into his hair where they tangled themselves up, stroking his scalp with heavy but even pets, causing him to make a soft noise of pleasure. The sound reverberated within his chest, bouncing off his ribs and passing through blood and flesh to grasp at the air, pulling itself from his body. Whatever was talking loudly, cradling his head stopped suddenly and removed themselves.

Dipper shivered at the loss of contact, a whine bubbling from his vocal chords and up his throat, spilling forth for the mysterious other to hear as clear as day.

Dipper had thought he was warm all over before, but once the other shifted him about, he was even hotter than before, though not uncomfortably so. The overwhelming feeling and thought of safety pulled itself from the recesses from his mind, standing proud and strong for him and him only to see and feel. He nuzzled into the heat, his weak arms looping around the other loud being in a tight hug, trying to press himself as close as physically possible.

Very slowly, his strange blue world started to melt before his unopened eyes, melding back into the background of blackness once more, like it was never there in the first place. The fiery sea, which reminded him of freedom and freedom only drew back in it's forceful drought and Dipper was left alone in his silent head.

Well, not completely alone. The voice was there. And this time, he understood what it was saying.

"Your heart's still beating, Pine Tree so wake up. You're not allowed to die. Especially after what you just did for me." The voice murmured with concern.

Dipper opened his eyes slowly, blinking hard at the sudden, too harsh light.

Everything was a blend of color. Blue mixed with gold and white and green. Above him, a storm brewed, a churning sickly green and vivid blue. The smell of ozone wafted around him, sharp and pungent.

However, blotting out part of the show high above was a familiar face, both parts feminine and masculine with dark skin and golden freckles, one eye a burning gold and the other a void black with a single, blue flame in the center.

Though his brows were furrowed in worry, he still sported a face-splitting grin, displaying every pearly fang.

"B-Bill?" Dipper muttered, his voice hoarse from the chanting.

Bill visibly brightened, golden eye crinkling and grin somehow, impossibly, growing wider. "Pine Tree!" Bill replied, hugging the teen close while simultaneously lifting him into the air bridal-style and nuzzling his cheek, trailing a few sloppy kisses there.

Dipper squeaked in surprise as his world tilted around, still a bit blurry. His head swam, a small headache popping up in the front of his brain, causing him to moan a bit and curl up into the god for stability, clutching at his vest.

"Are you okay?" Bill asked, stilling for his sapling.

"Y-Yeah. Everything is still kinda spinning. And my head hurts."

Bill frowned and bent down, shifting his Pine Tree's soft bangs to the side to plant a kiss right in the center of the 'ladle' of his birthmark, a few more blue flames sparking and melting into his skin.

Dipper blinked as his vision cleared and his headache clear. The boy blinked as everything came rushing back to him. The horrible feeling, the seal, the chanting...

Bill now being free.

"Bill! You're-! I mean, I- Um...!" Dipper stuttered, not sure exactly what he wanted to say.

Bill laughed loudly, throwing his head back and even flexing his shoulders. "Free! I'm free! Can't you feel it, Pine Tree! This place is dead. The sigil is broken and I am free!"

Dipper let out another squeak as the god suddenly spun around, still laughing between planting more sloppy kisses on both his face and the top of his head.

His hat must of fallen off again. He really needed to adjust the strap.

Finally, Bill stopped and slowly put the brunet back onto the ground, his smile still present. "After nearly a thousand years..." The god trailed off, hardly believing what happened himself.

"You're free." Dipper finished for him, wiping his face with his hands to try and get some of the saliva Bill left on him off, flushing slightly.

Bill nodded. "I-I just...Well, I can do whatever I want now, can't I? Pine Tree! We can do whatever! Go wherever!"

Dipper laughed at the god's enthusiasm, Bill's excitement rubbing off on him easily, causing all thoughts of previous worry and uncertainty to dissolve.

"Yeah. I guess we can, can't we?" Dipper replied, bending down to grab his hat off the ground, dusting away some dirt that had stained it. Though the area around him hadn't changed whatsoever in appearance, still looking as desolate as before, the abhorrence in the air was gone, evaporated by the heat of the fire. Below his feet, the sigil was no longer glowing, the carved runes just lines in the ground, dead as the trees.

He, Dipper Pines, just successfully broke a sigil made of specialized, advanced magic.

He just did something way beyond his skill level by decades.

By himself.

With little help.

Using his will and mind alone.

He couldn't keep the stupid grin off his face because he just completed that.

Dipper couldn't stop the flood of pride for himself, something he seldom felt.

"I-I did this. I freed you. I broke this sigil." Dipper whispered, partially to himself and partially to Bill as he adjusted the strap on the back of his hat and tugged it back down into place.

Bill smirked and swaggered over to the younger boy. "That, you did." He said, wrapping an arm around the younger's shoulders.

Dipper smiled softly and leaned into the warm touch.

"Well, then. I guess it's time for us to head off."

"Head off?"

Bill rolled his eyes. "What? You expect me to hang around here any longer? I don't think so, kid!"

Dipper shook his head. Well duh. Of course Bill wasn't going to hang around here any longer. He'd been here long enough.

"Oh. Yeah. Um, where are you going to go?"

"Us, Pine Tree."

Dipper blinked. "But I live here."

Bill rolled his eyes. "And so did I, I guess. But that's the end of that!"

"No, Bill. What I mean is...I just can't get up and leave with you. I live here with my family! And I'm still in school and stuff. I'm not even an adult!"

Bill sighed. "Oh, Pine Tree. Adults don't exist. You think you meatsacks know what your doing? And I've seen your "school-" It's a joke! And besides..." Bill's eyes narrowed as he leaned over Dipper, baring his teeth a little as his eyes flashed red. "Your family tried to keep us apart, didn't they?"

Dipper shifted around underneath Bill's heavy arm, suddenly unsure. "Well...I'm not so sure about the first two things you said but Bill, they're my family. They were just worried, that's all! They just want to look out for me."

Bill's arm tightened around him as the god's fingers started to dig into his shoulder. "can look after you perfectly fine. No, even better then they can." Bill spun him around and placed the palms of his hands on his shoulders, looking down at him with a rigid look. "I can give you things that most mortals can only dream of. Magic? The secrets of the universe? Unlimited knowledge is practically at my fingertips, kid!"

Dipper shifted, trying his best to pretend that the offer didn't sound a bit tempting at the very least.

However, looking up at Bill, the brunet could tell that the god knew he was in slight consideration, slight hesitation, on his deal.

Well, more like promise, really.

"That's- they're still my family, Bill. I love them. I can't just up and leave."

Bill scowled down at him, golden hair starting to dull. "Well, you can't just leave me either." The god growled, digging his fingers further into the brunet's shoulders.

Dipper tried to flinch away from the god's icy tone, stopped by his tightening hands.

"Bill, you're hurting me." Dipper whimpered slightly as the pressure there continued to build. He would surely have bruises.

Bill immediately slackened his tightened hold, relieving the oppressive pressure.

Dipper sighed in relief, his mind already ticking again.

The blond was right, of course. He couldn't just leave him. Just as Bill didn't want to leave his side, Dipper didn't want to leave Bill's. It was easy as that.

"I don't know...How about we go back to the Shack or something and talk about all this in a calm and civilized manner." Even as he said it, Dipper didn't really believe that would help at all. Stan was set in keeping him away from Bill. Even Mabel didn't really like the god.

And by the looks of it, the feeling was mutual on Bill's part.

How would he keep everyone at peace with one another?

Dipper didn't have a clue. But he had to try and even though Mabel didn't really trust Bill, she trusted him fine. She'd understand once he explained everything out and together, they could go and at least make Stan tolerable to the god.

Dipper winced at his own plan. He knew it wouldn't really work but...well, it was the only real idea or plan he had at this point.

Besides, something that probably won't work is better than nothing at all. Right?

Right.

Bill sighed, golden hair returning to it's almost unnatural gleam as his eyes cooled down. He pulled Dipper into a light hug, brushing the tips of his fingers back over the boy's shoulders to alleviate the pain and heal the small purple blooms that were surely already there.

Dipper relaxed into the touch.

"We'll get this sorted out." Dipper murmured, his stomach twisting itself into worrisome knots as his heart clenched in nerves. "It'll be fine." He lied.

Bill sighed.

"Fine. I'll teleport us to the...Shack." Bill finished uneasily. "Um, where is it, exactly?" He added on.

Dipper smiled softly. "Just take us to where we normally meet. I'll lead you from there."

Bill nodded, completely tense as he dragged Dipper into a fuller hug.

Without another word, both god and boy disappeared from sight.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Mabel groaned as her mind slowly picked back up. Her thoughts were a jumbled mess- more so than usual and her body pulsated with an aching soreness. For a few minutes, she had no clue where she was or what she was doing. The thick, bluish blackness of her eyelids was fuzzy and her body felt so heavy. She didn't really want to move. At all.

She wanted to lay...wherever she was currently and sleep. Sleep for a million-billion-thousand years until she was well-rested and ready to get back up again.

Well, that was what she wanted, until memories started trickling back into existence in the very forefront of her mind, slow and steady.

About the sweater she was making for Dipper.

About the NMA breaking in.

The realization that Dipper had actually somehow snuck back out of the house and, most likely, to the woods.

Stan being arrested.

Her being forced into a car.

Then...Then what happened?

The man who was driving her yelled out something and then there was a...a flash.

And then, the car swerved.

Mabel slowly opened her eyes, groaning again in pain. Everything was a messy blob of color- black mixed with dark gray mixed with brown and green. Her head pounded with a light headache.

Letting out another small noise, the girl shifted around. Due to her tightened seat belt, she had stayed safe in the rolling (she had definitely been rolling at one point) crash. The window she had laid her head against at one point was completely shattered, door crushed by a large pine tree.

Her hands shook slightly as she unbuckled herself, freeing her aching body from the constrict. Bits and pieces of glass fell off her body as she shuffled around. With it, Mabel could clearly feel blood well were the broken glass had cut her.

The girl gave herself a slow once over, still a bit foggy from what just happened.

Her hands were a bit cut up, blood running freely from a number of cuts and scratches. Her legs were a little better, being farther away from the glass, but still sported their own bumps and oozing nicks.

Mabel shook the glass off her sweater and skirt, feeling more minuscule shards fall from her hair and onto her shoulders. Though the brunette wanted to run her hands through her tangled hair to get the glass out, she knew that wasn't the best idea with already bleeding hands.

Blinking once more to get the now leftover fuzziness out of her eyes, Mabel climbed to her feet and shuffled out of the car, groaning at the aches in her body.

That seat belt had really caught her tight, which was a great thing no doubt, but that didn't mean it still didn't hurt a lot.

Manually unlocking the other door, whose window wasn't shattered, Mabel threw it open, watching it bounce around a little. Still mumbling from the pain, she jumped onto the ground, wincing as her legs trembled beneath her, shards of glass caught in her legs jarred by the sudden motion.

Turning around, she slammed the door.

Mabel wanted to go and check on the agent driving the car, but his door was blocked by a large branch jutting off from a nearby tree. The window, like her's had been, was shattered and the airbag had safely deployed, much to her relief.

The young man had a nasty cut across his temple, but was softly groaning in his unconscious state, slowly waking up.

Mabel's eyes darted about as she took in where she was.

The forest. The agent had veered completely off-road and crashed them down into the forest below.

Panicking slightly, the brunette spun around in a circle, breathing pitching.

Where was the road? She couldn't have lost it but she didn't quite see it either? Where was it? She couldn't be lost! She just cou-

Mabel blinked as she finally saw the high ridge above. Squinting through the trees, she say the barest hints of a concrete road poured out, cutting through the natural earthy tones all around her.

Mabel shivered. Everything around her looked the exact same. How could Dipper ever like it here? She didn't understand.

"W-What the- Damn branch!" The agent suddenly slurred to her left, trying to push the car door open. His words slurred together in his struggle and it was obvious he had a hard time coordinating his movements.

"Kid! Get back here!" The man called out to Mabel as he caught the sight of her free.

The girl turned around and gave her best glare she could, folding her arms across her chest.

"No, I don't think so!" She replied.

"C'mon, kid! I'm not the enemy, your great-uncle is! We caught everything on tape!"

Mabel's eyes widened as an idea formed into her head.

No, not just an idea, but a plan.

"Oh yeah? Well, I'm going to prove he's innocent! Just watch me!" With that being said, the brunette turned and started to storm up the ridge, right back onto the road. It would take a bit to get back to the Shack, especially considering the shape she was in. Running would be a bit painful.

Okay, really painful but it wasn't like she had time to lose! She had to get back to the Shack and try and find Stan's own surveillance cameras. Then, she'd be able to prove that he was completely innocent and they'd have to release him!

Mabel finally broke through the treeline and onto the road. Quickly looking down and up the street, the girl made sure she walked along the edge as she turned and fast-walked to her destination, keeping an eye out for the dirt road she would have to turn onto.

Luckily, she wasn't all that far out from the Shack. Though she could definitely use a lift...

Biting her lip, Mabel turned off the road and ducked down, pressing herself low to the sharp apple-crab grass to avoid detection which, considering her bright pink sweater she was wearing, would be hard.

She wasn't so sure if this plan would even work, or just cause her to lose more time than she already had. Unable to stand completely still, Mabel still inched her way up the road, hoping that a truck or something would come by any second so she could grab on.

Dangerous? Yes. But she knew doing those dares with Wendy and the other teens was a good idea.

The brunette chewed her bottom lip. Though she was still plagued with worry, her mind sill drifted off back to what happened.

Why did they veer off the road like that? All she remembered was a giant flash of blue light, then everything just kinda went fuzzy after that...

Mabel peeked down the road once again and as she did so, something moved out of the corner of her eye. Furrowing her brows, Mabel squinted to stare at the far blue and green horizon. There was something off about that but-

Mabel cast her eyes upwards and gasped at what she saw. High above, green clouds were swirling around the cobalt flames that were still rippling in the air, staining the firmament and encasing the normally smooth and comforting sky blue with a darker, more furious color.

That...that wasn't good. Even she knew that.

Mabel turned her focus back on the matter at hand. She had to get to the Shack. She just had to. If a truck or something didn't come soon...well, she'll just run; glass or no.

Mabel wasn't so sure what it was. Maybe good luck smiled down on her that day, maybe it was a higher power. Perhaps the universe wasn't as cruel as her brother made it out to be, or maybe even pure coincidence.

Heck, Mabel would even fancy it being fate or destiny that brought the truck barreling down the road. Fast, but not too fast.

Without a second thought, Mabel narrowed her eyes and jumped for it, latching onto the back of the not-too-fast moving truck and held on with all her might.

She didn't care if it wouldn't take her the full trip home.

She'd get to the Shack in record time, just like she wanted and then she'll be able to clear Grunkle Stan's name.

All in record time.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper blinked as the flames left, leaving him clutching onto Bill as he normally did.

"Well, then. What direction?" Bill asked, bouncing on the balls of his feet as another grin split his face in half. How the god hadn't dislocated his jaw by now was beyond him.

Dipper scratched his arm. "Um, this way I guess..." He muttered, turning and slowly leading Bill through the treeline to his home.

Bill, more cheerful than ever before, whistled what suspiciously sounded like Another One Kicks The Bucket, a skip in his step while summoning his cane to twirl it around.

Dipper was once again hit with a wave of unease as the trees thinned out.

What would Stan think? What would Mabel think?

What would everybody think. He hadn't quite thought of the implications of that.

On top of that, how was he going to explain his and Bill's...relationship? He...well, was dating the proper word? Bill always used 'courting' and Dipper had to admit it sounded better to him. Almost...sweeter in a way. How would he explain that?

"Hey Grunkle Stan, hey Mabel. I kinda freed Bill Cipher, the god neither of you like. But he's good now so there's no worry about him destroying the world or anything...oh, and we're kinda dating in a way and stuff so yeah..."

Dipper shook his head. Oh gods, how in the world was this going to work out?!

As the trees gave way to visage of the Shack, it didn't take long for Dipper to notice something wasn't quite right. A number of people were milling about around the Shack, going in and out. Some were carrying a number of odd devices that Dipper could hear beeping from here. Others had a few weapons in hand and were patrolling around. A number of cars and trucks were parked out front, sporting a very familiar eagle symbol with the initials NMA printed on...

"Bill! Get down!" Dipper whisper-shouted, grabbing a hold of one of Bill's tailcoats and dragging him behind a tree and some bushes, hoping the men hadn't seen an gold.

"Pine Tree? What's wrong?" Bill asked, brows furrowing some.

"Shh! That's the NMA!" Dipper hissed.

Bill frowned. "NMA? Never heard of it."

Dipper sighed and shook his head. He forgot Bill practically knew nothing about the world.

"It's an acronym for the National Magic Administration. They're part of the government." Dipper quickly explained, not wanting to get to into the details of the United States government.

Bill blinked. "Oh yeah, I forgot you humans had a bunch of different silly ways to lord over yourselves."

Dipper rolled his eyes. Of course Bill would put it that way. "Anyways, we have to-"

Suddenly, the agents in front of them started shouting to one another. What, Dipper couldn't quite make out, but either way all started scrambling back into their cars and pulled out at breakneck speed, gone in a flash.

The silence they left behind was deafening and the two, boy and god, slowly padded out of the woods, slight confusion on both their faces.

"What was all that about?" Dipper asked, mostly towards himself. Why were the NMA at the Shack? Where was Stan and Mabel?

Was it because of Bill? But if it had been, they would have been in the forest, not out and about here.

Something else must of happened. But what?

"Never mind that, what was those metal boxy things? Like, a wagon without a horse!" Bill exclaimed while spinning around in a circle again to take in the new perspective he had on the world.

"Those were- never mind. I'll tell you later right now-"

"Dipper? What are- Bill?" A voice suddenly shouted out.

Both the god and boy whipped around, only to see a very frazzled, very dirty, and very bloody Mabel Pines staring at them with something akin to terror. "I- I thought he was trapped in the woods and- you were-!" Her eyes narrowed and a look of both parts hurt and angry came over her face. "Dipper Pines. What. Did. You. Do." Mabel hissed.

Dipper gulped, frozen in her line of sight.

Oh gods.

Oh gods.

Dipper didn't know what to be more horrified about; the fact that Mabel was in the state that she was, that the NMA were at their house, or that she now knew Bill was free and he had to explain all this out to her.

Oh gods.

"Mabel! What happened-"

She rose a hand up and even though she stood yards away, Dipper found himself falling silent.

"Don't even...don't even start on that, Dipper." She said in a half-sob.

Bill blinked and looked between the two teens awkwardly, not so sure what to do with himself.

Well, there was one thing he needed to do. Actually, multiple things. Things that his Pine Tree should probably not be around for.

"Well, Pine Tree I'm going to go head into this town I've been hearing about for around thirty or so years now. Gotta friend to catch and metal wagons to see! Don't worry, I'll be back soon!"

Dipper, still frozen in Mabel's look could do nothing as Bill forcefully spun him around and planted a large, hard kiss on his lips, shocking him back into motion in the form of stumbling back and falling right down on his butt.

Mabel stared on, shocked and confounded.

Bill just...kissed her brother.

On the lips.

Like it was a normal thing to do.

"You stay around here Pine Tree. I shouldn't be long." The god said with a playful wink before absconding with a flash of azure flames, leaving the twins alone.

Staring down at one another.

Unable to speak in the deafening and shocked silence.

Chapter Text

"Sir? Are you okay? You seem...tense."

He stared outside the window, watching the congested streets of the Big Apple go through their standard motions- of people pushing and running and walking and selling.

Above, the sky was surprisingly clear. Not a single cloud stained the firmament.

"I'm fine." He replied eventually, straightening out his cuff.

That was a lie. He wasn't fine. Not really.

Not right now.

He had felt him. Another god. One he hasn't seen in seven hundred forty six years, who was locked away deep inside this place that wasn't even called America quite yet.

What a time. Lifetimes ago.

How many lives had he lead since feeling Cipher? How many parts had he played? How many times did he kill and rebirth himself over and over and over again?

Oh, he knew the number, but that really wasn't all that important right now.

"Sir?"

He waved his servant away. "Not now. Could you please come back later?"

She nodded. "Of course sir."

He waited till the door softly closed behind her before fully turning his chair to face the window fully.

Cipher was back.

That insane...monster was back. How could this of happened?

He could feel the little strands of fear tug in his heart, a warning sign.

He ignored it. He shouldn't feel fear. After all, even if Cipher was free of his imprisonment, he still couldn't access the Mindscape. He still didn't know the gears and cogs of this world, how everything was put together, taken apart, and who was for what and what was for who.

No. Cipher knew nothing. From pure statistics and probability, he would be safe from his rage.

He turned his icy gray eyes from the window to the phone sitting on his desk, rotary as innocent as ever.

He stretched out his hand, rubbing the pads of his fingers over the metal, tapping out a small tune with his perfectly manicured nails before pulling back.

No. He wouldn't be the one to call.

It's not that what he knew would be of importance, really.

Okay, that was a lie. What he knew could break or make them. It had been for years. But this time, his lips would be sealed.

He may not have been one for entertainment of this sort, not like Cipher. But he had to admit, these mortals really did wear him down at times. And besides, they hadn't been forthcoming in their own information and dealings, favoring to wallow in their secrecy while holding out a hint of an idea to him, practically begging him to ask questions he never actually voiced out.

He wouldn't give them the pleasure.

Besides, he wanted to see how long it would take for Cipher to slip up...

...And drown.

~~0~~0~~0~~

"What...was...Dipper..." Mabel slowly stuttered out, her voice louder than life in the chilling silence Bill had left.

Dipper honestly didn't know what to say, what to even do. He was barely able to push himself back up to his feet, knees trembling slightly, staring at his sister with wide, alarmed eyes.

"Mabel..." He began, so many questions and worries thrashing in his head, beating down from the inside of his skull. Why were the NMA here? Why is she so dirt and bloody? Where was Stan? There were so many questions he wanted to ask, each vying to be on the tip of his tongue, weighing him down heavily and without remorse.

Mabel shook her head, eyes still wide and staring throughout the motion. What could she say? What could she do? Dipper just let Bill out. Let out a known dangerous god that their family had been watching over for decade. No, longer than that. For centuries and Dipper just let him out...

And Bill kissed her brother. Not a sweet and innocent peck, but a full on press.

She wanted to believe that the god had only done it because she was standing there. Only did something so personal to get a rise, to shock, or something.

But Dipper hadn't even flinched. He didn't turn away, he made no protest. He didn't wipe his lips on the back of his hand in a bid to get the feeling off.

No. Her brother had blushed. An honest to gods blush. The kind he reserved back when he liked Wendy only a few months ago.

Like...like he liked Bill.

And Bill...well, liked him back.

"Dipper are...are you and Bill..." Mabel started, swallowing thickly. "...Dating?" She finally coughed out.

Dipper blanched. What would he- how could he...?

"He prefers 'courting.'" Dipper replied, soft and terrified.

Mabel honestly didn't know what to think. From her brother liking both guys and girls to the fact that he was dating a god to the fact that he was dating someone who looked like they were in their twenties at the least...

It was all too much to take in.

"What...but...how-?" She scrambled, honestly speechless from shock. She wanted to say so many things right now. "-And he's free...you freed him..."

She had wanted the dam of silence to break between her and her brother, but not like this. Never like this.

Dipper sighed. "I don't know. It just...happened." Dipper answered her unspoken question, unable to look at her in the eye. The brunet scuffed the ground with his foot nervously.

Mabel licked her dry, chapped lips, feeling a bit light headed. There really wasn't anything she could say, was there? He had freed Bill. Dipper had actually broken magic keeping a god bound to the forest for centuries. He actually went and did that. Mabel blinked hard.

"I know I said you should go and get a date but...that isn't what I meant." Mabel joked weakly, her mouth twitching to form a watery smile but not quite able to reach that point. She wanted to yell, to scream at her brother for making such stupid decisions but at the same time, couldn't. She didn't know what was holding her tongue. Maybe she was going into some sort of shock from everything going on all at once or maybe it was the way Dipper was staring at her, eyes wide shining with an honest innocence of what he did wasn't wrong in the slightest.

Or maybe it was the blood lost getting to her.

Dipper put his head in his hands, rubbing hard. His nails scratched at his skin, leaving thin lines that would fade within a matter of minutes. "Mabel- I don't- what is even going on here?!"

Mabel jumped as the terrible cracking in his voice. The girl blinked hard and slapped her cheeks a little.

She had totally forgot what she had even come back for! On top of that, Dipper still didn't know anything!

Because he was out in the woods, freeing Bill...

Mabel crushed that thought. They could sit and talk and worry about Bill later. Right now, there was a Grunkle to save.

"-And the NMA were here and...what were they doing here?" Dipper continued.

Mabel chewed the inside of her cheek as she zoned back into what Dipper was going on about.

"Something happened." Mabel suddenly interrupted. They really didn't have time for this, even she could see that. Stan was still in jail and the proof for his innocence was still not found.

"Stan was arrested because those acronym guys thought he was doing dark magic or something. They claimed they caught him stealing organs from the hospital."

"Organs? Wait, what?"

Mabel just nodded and plowed on. "Anyways, I was thinking and I had an amazing idea! If we get the footage of Stan still just stocking the shop, we can prove he's innocent! Even he can't be in two places at once!" Mabel finished.

Dipper's mouth fell open in surprise of everything that happened. "Okay...but why are you so bloody and dirty? And where's Stan now? And-"

Mabel raised her hand once again, stopping Dipper's storm of questions. "The car crashed and I just jumped out of a moving truck. Now are you going to help me or not?" Mabel asked.

"What do you mean you-" Dipper shook his head, worry overtaking him. Mabel had gone through so much, and he hadn't even been there to help her.

She had gone through all of that, alone.

He really was a terrible brother, wasn't he?

"Of course I'm going to help you!" Dipper cried out, interrupting his own train of thought. Right now wasn't the time to sit and cry over what just happened or how he hadn't been treating Mabel like the sister she was.

Right now, they had to break their Grunkle out of jail.

Again.

Mabel gave him a wide grin. She knew Dipper was going to help her. He might have just made some huge mistakes, such as freeing Bill and before even that, start dating him, and before that lied to nearly everyone... but if there was one thing her brother prized more than anything, it was her and Stan. Family came before anything else.

That was a given.

Dipper wouldn't just leave her to do this on her own.

Mabel darted out and grabbed Dipper's hand, her grin tightening into a grimace. "Well then, what are we waiting for? Let's go!"

And the two disappeared into the Shack.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Bill stretched his legs as he swaggered into this weird town that he'd heard so much about over the past thirty or so years, swinging his cane around his wrist, this time whistling You aren't the Champions.

What a great day, in every way.

Around him, humans were slowly trying to get back to their feet, muttering in confusion of what just happened before easily bleeding back into their daily lives, already forgetting what exactly happened.

Mortals were so stupid.

Bill's lips twitched.

Well, not all mortals. Glasses had been frustratingly clever, though even he didn't quite hold a candle to the potential that his Pine Tree had.

Pine Tree.

Bill didn't know what he would do without the kid and the thought sent shivers down his spine. It wasn't good to be so attached to someone else, especially to someone who could get taken away or killed so easily.

Bill shook his head, giving himself a mental reminder to fix that as soon as he could.

The god surveyed everything around him with an almost childlike wonder. To the weird metal wagons that came in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and color to the long metal poles topped with a strange almost glass-like object, almost like a weird lamp of some sort.

Bill sighed, biting back a sudden surge of anger.

If only he had his omnipotence. Then he know what everything was!

Bill turned and watched as some more black cars speed by him, the NMA.

He wasn't so sure why his sapling had panicked seeing them. Sure, he was...not exactly his strongest right now, but even in this state he could take down some puny mortals!

Bill tapped his cane against the weird surface he was walking on, his shoes tapping pleasant staccato.

Well, as much as he loved looking at all the weird things the world had produced without him, as well as listening to all their weird sounds that that floated in the air, it was high time for him to actually search for Tad. Now that he was out of the forest, he and the other god could actually sit down and talk.

About the world. About what was next.

About the plan that had been brewing in his mind ever since he was locked away.

But before all that, he had to find Tad.

Bill would normally hesitate in sending out a signal. In the past, at least his past, it was dangerous and unneeded, alerting everyone to where exactly you were, giving away your position to potential enemies.

However, right now, he honestly couldn't care less. He was out and free, his Pine Tree soon to be at his side permanently, and his flames were still curling in the air, showing off the raw power he could still command.

It was liberating in every way. Bill could get drunk off this feeling, of pride and power and control.

He was in control right now. No one else. And the thought pleased him greatly.

So, that was what Bill did. Breathing in, he closed his eyes and cast himself out, just a little bit of his presence for Tad to pick up and hone in on.

Bill opened his eyes and leaned against a nearby building, tapping a small pattern out on the ground as he did so, loving the dull sound he was making. This stuff that humans used was a lot better than cobblestone and dirt!

Humming lightly, Bill nodded his head to invisible music, still watching the sky churn above him.

"Bill?"

The blond snapped his head over to the right, where a man in a purple tux stood, surprise still swimming in the depths of this purple eyes.

"The one and only!" Bill laughed, pushing himself off the building with a jut of his hips.

Tad shook his head. "So you finally got out and-" The god of emotions glanced up at the sky. "Left a pretty big-ass calling card as to what just happened." A frown tugged at his lips.

Bill scoffed. "Please, Tad. These are mortals were talking about." The blond haphazardly waved his hand. "We'll be fine."

Tad hissed. "Bill, you don't understand. The world isn't like how it was!"

"Oh, I know! Look at all these metal wagons!"

Tad blinked and shot the other a confused look. "Metal wag...do you mean cars?"

"Cars? Is that what they're called? Weird!" He chirped.

"You of all people shouldn't be calling anyone weird." Tad muttered under his breath, eyeing the other god and thinking of his latest odd doing- becoming completely enamored by a human boy. Louder, he said, "That's not exactly what I meant-"

The loud wail of a siren cut his sentence in two as it barreled part, fast enough for Bill's tailcoat to flap in the wind and for Tad to grab a hold of his hat to keep it pressed down over his skull.

"Listen, we need to get out of here. And fast. I have a car-"

"Why do you have a c-caar?" Bill said, trying to sound out the word. Before Tad could correct, or even explain, Bill was already hopping over to his next topic. "Whatever, that's not the point. I still have a few things to do here, Tad. Including the deaths of two teenagers as well as getting Pine Tree."

"Bill- what? We don't have the time to-"

But Bill had already turned and started walking off. He wasn't completely sure where to find them, considering he had no way to sense their presence, but that didn't mean he didn't get their appearances or known favorite locations from his sapling's head itself.

He'd be able to find them. Eventually.

"Bill! Would you please listen to me for just a moment! The only reason the NMA isn't after you right now is because all of the magic you just pumped into the air by breaking free! Once that leaves, they'll be able to pick up on the signal you just sent me and track you down! We really don't want to be caught by them."

Bill turned and gave Tad a sharp scowl. "One, I couldn't care less about stupid mortals. We're gods Tad. We're above them. Two, you listen to me. Not the other way around. Got that?"

Tad returned his scowl with one of his own. "Sorry, my pharaoh." He bit out. "I'm just worried for our safety. These humans aren't like the ones you used to play with, Bill. These one's are not just violent, but have weapons to back them up. The longer we stay here, the longer we put ourselves in danger!"

Bill continued to ignore Tad, turning and walking down the street, looking around with a clear expression of wonder.

Tad growled a bit. Of course Bill wouldn't listen to reason. When he got like this, the god of the mind liked to toss common sense out the window.

"What about-" Tad scrambled in his head for the name. "-Dipper? That boy?"

Bill whipped around on a dime to face him, face drawn in a careful, but wary mask. "What about him?"

Tad refrained from biting his lip, forcing himself to stand tall and strong under the strange glare Bill sent his way.

"The longer we wait here, the greater the chance you'll be separated from him. Forever. We have to get out of here now."

A growl rumbled in Bill's chest as his eyes flashed in the mere thought of him and his sapling being separated. His skin darkened slightly, becoming a near black before going back to it's olive tone.

"That's not going to happen." Bill stated.

Tad believed him. He couldn't say why Bill was so hung up over the young boy, but it was clear that Bill wouldn't ever let go of him.

Tad shook his head. Dipper was a strange child, there was no doubt about that. Anyone who would give themselves to a god this day and age was and not only that, had such strong...romantic feelings for said god must be at least a little off their rocker. On top of that, Bill himself was a very odd god. In some sort of twisted way, the two were kinda made for one another.

Tad didn't really want to put anymore thought into it.

"Fine then, let's go get Pine Tree." Bill started, a few flames starting to dance across his shoulders and hands.

Tad jumped into action quickly, grabbing a hold of Bill's right shoulder. "Wait! No godly magic. They'll be able to track it."

Bill sneered, but let his flames fade into oblivion. "So, what? We're going to walk?"

"I assume you know where your human is?" Tad asked, making sure to put plenty of emphasize on the word your.

Bill never liked others touching or even talking about his things.

Tad knew this was no different.

"Of course."

"Then we'll walk to where he is. Gravity Falls isn't that big of a town. We'll be able to find him pretty soon, I reckon."

Bill gave Tad a terse nod and turned in the opposite direction of which he was walking, going back the way he came.

He'd get his revenge for his Pine Tree later.

Right now, they had to get out of here.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Madam Feylie peeked around the corner of the building. As soon as she spotted the weird guy from earlier just...poof into existence next to this even stranger man in gold, she knew something was up.

It wasn't just the man's floating top hat that caught her attention either. It was the forceful presence that had briefly washed over her just as she dived into the alleyway she was crouched in now, it was the way he spoke, the way he carried himself, and even the way his grin was much too wide and much too sharp.

Everything about him spoke of danger.

However, all of that wasn't what truly surprised her. No, it was the words about gods between hisses of panic and leaving, did she hear a single word that shocked her to her core, froze her insides completely and leave her speechless.

Dipper.

The strange purple man had said Dipper's name.

She knew it was Dipper's name. It was the only way that word would make sense in the context they were using.

And though she had no real proof of it besides a few hushed words out of context, Madam Feylie was certain the two beings before her were gods.

Like, actual living and breathing gods.

She didn't know what to do. Gods never wandered so close to civilization like this. They preferred to be in places still untouched by technology and society.

So why were, not just one, but two of them doing here now?

Madam Feylie couldn't say she really knew, but that didn't mean she couldn't find out.

She narrowed her eyes as the two turned and started walking away from the town, in the same direction she was originally heading.

The Mystery Shack.

Worrying the bottom of her lip, tightening her hands into fists, she waited a handful more seconds before darting around the corner on silent feet to pursue.

If they were truly after Dipper...

...Well, someone had to protect him.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Stan stumbled out of the forest, nearly tripping over yet another root in the process.

Maybe taking a shortcut through the forest wasn't the best idea. But with all the craziness going on, he had to hurry up and complete his task. NMA and weird fire in the sky be dammed!

The older man's eyes roved over the Shack, taking in all the doors still open and hanging on their hinges and all the windows completely shattered beyond repair.

Stan sneered. Yeah. The upholding and good NMA his ass. Didn't matter what branch they were apart of, all those types of government people were bad news. FBI. CIA. And the worse of the lot, the NMA.

Stan bared his teeth in anger before making a mad dash to the door to the shop that was still hanging wide open on it's hinges.

Glancing around the inside of the shop, Stan briefly took in all the broken merchandise on the ground, along with broken shelves and shattered glass. Shaking his head, Stan whipped around to the vending machine, quickly punching in the code he had long remembered.

As always, the door unlocked and swung open for him, his eyes meeting long faded walls peeling with paint.

Stan hurried on through the gaping doorway and down the stairs, almost tripping twice as he finally reached the elevator, punching in the code and waiting for the damn thing to open for him.

Tapping his foot impatiently, Stan squeezed himself through as soon as the opening was wide enough to accept his larger frame. Stumbling into the rickety metal box, Stan punched the number he needed in to go down. Almost too slowly, the doors closed again and the elevator shuddered as it made it's slow descent down into the earth, rocking back and forth unsteadily.

Stan ignored the safety hazard and tightened his fists as his stomach rolled around. He was so cloe right now.

So close.

All of this was about to be over. And he could hardly wait, hardly breathe, hardly hold himself still in anticipation.

The door to the elevator slide open and Stan darted out.

One more incantation left.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper and Mabel flung themselves into Stan's office, making sure to close and lock the door behind them just in case the NMA decided to come back and snoop more.

The twins glanced nervously at one another, their entire fallout still fresh in their minds. Even though both decided to sit down and actually talk about everything once all this was over didn't mean their mind wasn't still spinning with ideas and questions and fears.

In an odd, twisted way, both were still unable to speak with one another.

At least, the way they used to with jokes and laughter and pranks and everything else that made their relationship...well...their's.

It was disconnecting, and neither liked the way the weight hauled their heart's down.

"Alright. If I was Stan, where would I hide those surveillance tapes?" Dipper asked, mostly to himself, slowly padding deeper into the room. Next to him, Mabel wandered away to open up a filing cabinet, already rifling through. Seeing he already get to work, the brunet sidled up the only bookshelf in the room, shuffling through a few open boxes that were found and a number of old books, ranging from How to Pick Up Chicks for Idiots to a high school year book, to even another book labeled Daddy Issues.

Dipper frowned. Nothing here.

Across the room, Mabel yanked open the next drawer to the cabinet and started leafing through that as well, all the while mumbling "tapes, tapes" under her breath over and over. Finding nothing yet again, she shut the drawer closed and turned around, wandering back into the center. She stared up at the blank walls around her. They could use a bit of color and that mounted head could totally-

Wait.

The antler, it was...

"Wait! The antelabbit!" Mabel cried out, grabbing her brother's attention and causing him to whip around and dart to her side, staring up at the same mounted head she was beaming up at.

"Don't you mean jackalope?" He asked, wincing at the awkward tenseness that still plagued the air between them.

She snorted. "That can't be right." And jumped up, grabbing a hold of an antler bent just a bit too far up back into place, revealing a hidden nook inside the wall with not only a relatively new television, but a tape from this week already halfway inside. Underneath the television in an opening of it's own was a beat up cardboard box.

"Here it is!" Mabel crowed, pushing the tape in as Dipper grabbed the nearby remote.

"So, when did the agents said he did this again?" Dipper asked, finger already on the fast forward button as the tape slowly brought a grainy, gray image to life.

"Um, I don't actually know. They just said 'recently.'" She answered.

Dipper groaned, but went ahead and hit the button, watching as everyone and everything sped up on the tape. In the corner, time ticked away, going through the day in a matter of very slow minutes.

Both Dipper and Mabel twitched, sending one another awkward looks when they thought the other wasn't looking. All that could be heard in their silence was the familiar background static of the tape as it played, depicting everyone play out through their days.

Dipper winced as a past him slipped out the door alone, early in the morning while glancing around in a suspicious manor.

Mabel chewed on her lip and ignored the oppressive feeling of hurt. Now was really not the time.

One the third day of this week, the tape finally showed something interesting.

Well, first it was the clear picture of Mabel and Wendy thrusting their fists in the air as Soos squirmed around on the floor awkwardly.

Dipper shot his sister a look.

"What? Someone yelled 'wormy-y dance.' We had to do it!" She protested, feeling the air between them shift slightly into something more normal.

Dipper rolled his eyes and snorted and both twins returned their focus to the tape in front of them, the awkward air returning quickly.

Finally, the tape showed something else interesting happening the same day.

Stan, leaving the Shack late at night.

Mabel's stomach dropped.

Dread settled into Dipper's heart.

"No...No..." Dipper muttered, clenching his hands.

"M-Maybe he's just going to the bathroom outdoors. The way nature intended." Mabel said, her voice shaking a bit. She didn't believe her own words.

The clock in the corner ticked the hours away and Stan still didn't return.

Not at eight.

Not at nine.

Not at ten.

Not at eleven.

Not at midnight.

Early morning passed by too, and Stan was still nowhere to be seen on the screen.

One, two, three, four...

Finally, at five in the morning, a familiar figure returned, donning an entire black ensemble, heaving a large crate that Dipper instantly recognized as housing shipments of merchandise.

"Oh, no. Stan, yo-you didn't..." Dipper muttered, trembling horribly.

Stan, the man who had taken care of them the past eight years, did indeed steal organs from the hospital. It was as clear as day. After all, he wasn't wearing a mask.

Mabel made a small sound of protest. "There could be anything in that crate! This doesn't prove anything!" She said, her voice falsely cheerful.

Dipper gave her an incredulous look.

On the screen, Stan dropped the crate onto the ground, causing a plank of wood to fall loose and a small bag with something gross looking to fall out.

Dipper shut the tape off.

"Mabel, if this isn't proof, I don't know what is! Stan just stole organs from a hospital. Organs!"

Mabel chewed on her bottom lip. "That doesn't mean he's using them for dark magic! Maybe he just has a weird collection or hobby or something."

Dipper shook his head. "I-I don't quite believe it myself, but the proof is right there Mabel. Right in front of us. They call it the truth for a reason, you know. Truth wills out, after all."

Mabel cast her eyes down to the ground and she wrung the bottom of her sweater in her hands.

"I-I know." She admitted quietly.

Dipper frowned and bent down, yanking out the cardboard box from underneath, unable to hold in his gasp of surprise.

"What?" Mabel asked.

Dipper picked up the box and hurried over to the desk, dropping it and turning on a lamp. Mabel quickly joined he side, peering down into what Dipper had found.

"What...What is this?" She asked, pulling out a card from the top. "Stetson Pinefield?"

Dipper pulled out a number of his own cards, reading and flipping through them as his eyes widened in horror. "'Hal Forrester?' 'Andrew '8-Ball' Alcatraz?' These are fake IDs, Mabel! Why would Stan need fake IDs?"

Mabel shrugged weakly as she dropped the ID she was holding. "We already knew Stan got in trouble with the law..." She trailed off.

Dipper frowned. "You only need fake IDS if you were running from the law! Sure, we know Stan will sometimes steal. And push the elderly. And commit tax fraud. Con people and he can be mean, but none of that requires a fake ID. What has he been doing?"

"I don't know!" Mabel cried out in distress as she pulled out what felt like a newspaper clipping. "But-" She looked down at the headline, and froze.

She felt her brain crawl to a stop as everything she ever knew flipped upside down. Her mouth went dry and she swore even her heart stopped beating.

No. No, this couldn't be...

She tapped Dipper on the shoulder an weakly passed it to him, unable to say anything herself.

"WHAT?" Her brother shouted in shock. Stan Pines dead?"

Mabel looked over and read the article connected with it, barely able to put two sentences together as she did so.

"Foul play suspected in Pines' death. Fiery car crash, brakes cut..."

Dipper handed the article back over and dug into the box a bit more, pulling out another newspaper clipping.

"Unnamed grifter at large?" He said, staring at a clear picture of Stan, raising his arms to try and block the camera, looking as disgusting and messy as ever. "Why would they call him that unless Stan..."

"isn't..."

"Stan?!" Both twins shouted together, holding onto one another's shoulders while the newspaper clippings sunk to the ground.

"What is- what is going on?" Dipper was finally able to cough out after he and Mabel separated. His mind was moving a billion miles an hour in every direction, spinning hard and fast into an unanswerable oblivion.

Mabel shook her head hard from side to side, letting her hair fly. Barely restrained tears were obvious in her voice as she spoke. "I don't know, but we better get to the county jail or something."

Dipper nodded tersely. Before, they had been trying to find proof of Stan's innocence.

Now, they needed answers.

"Let's go then." Dipper said, getting up and running to the door, trying to unlock everything with his shaking hands.

Mabel stood next to him and tapped her foot impatiently, swaying back and forth a little. She stared down at her cut hands, noting that the blood had indeed stopped bubbling from her cuts and were now starting to scab over. Spitting into her hands, she tried her best to wipe some of the dried liquid off her hands and onto her skirt.

Finally, Dipper unlocked the last lock and the twins bolted out of the room, almost slipping and falling multiple times as they ran to the shop part of their home, colliding into one another a number of times. Dipper started to pull ahead slightly, more used to running than Mabel was.

However, the young brunet pulled to a screeching stop as he entered the broken and damaged shop, staring at the vending machine.

Or, at least where the vending machine should've been.

Instead, it was a wide doorway down into what appeared to be a basement.

"What the- what is that?" Mabel asked, hugging herself and staring with wide eyes.

Dipper bit his lip. He had no answer.

"Let's find out." He replied shakily after a beat, turning and walking to the opening slowly, shoes crunching against the shattered glass, creaks from the floorboards joining in on the symphony.

The twins stared at the opening, dimly lit by a small scone holding a small ball of light. The two poked their head's through and stared down a flight of stairs that lead to a rusty and definitely not safe elevator.

What exactly was this? And why was it open?

Dipper felt he already knew the answer. After all, there was only one other person that lived in the Shack beside him and Mabel.

And, now that he thought about it, the one thing on the tape that was just out of the camera's sight had been the vending machine.

Dipper tightened his hands into fists, feeling his nails dig into the flesh of his palms easily, carving out crescents.

He didn't even need to glance back at his twin as he wandered into the passage, stepping down the cracked and old concrete stairs carefully.

He brushed his hands against the machinery, which looked both incredibly old, yet miraculously advanced, as if it itself couldn't decide what time period it belonged to.

"Well..." Mabel spoke up, slowly padding past him into the elevator before him, gripping the available rail as the entire thing shook.

Dipper didn't wait a second before joining her. Normally, he would've fought against the decision of going inside something so obviously dangerous that lead to who-knows-where.

But the situation he found himself in was far from normal.

Heck, this entire day was probably the farthest from normal one could ever get.

So Dipper swallowed his words that never even existed and stepped next to Mabel in the smallish box, pushing the only button that was alight.

Three.

The elevator shuddered as it's doors closed.

And the twins descended into the darkness.

~~0~~0~~0~~

"Bill." Tad hissed under his breath as the two traversed down the dirt road. "You are aware we are being followed, yes?"

Bill rolled his eyes at the other, but kept himself forwards, keeping his pace steady and giving no indication of falter. "Of course I am."

"Well, what are we going to do?" Tad continued, making sure his voice was low so the tag-along couldn't hear.

"More like what am going to do. I've been thinking about it for several minutes now." Bill replied evenly.

"Fine then. What are you going to do?"

Bill smirked. "I don't really know. Do you know how long it's been since I've heard a human screech in pain, writhing in the agony I gave them?"

"No."

"Me neither. Lost track over the years. But it's been a fucking long time, I can promise you that."

"So what are you thinking?"

Bill's smirk grew into a bloodthirsty grin. "I'm going to have some fun."

Before Tad could say or so anything else, Bill stopped and whipped around, cane still in hand as he leaned on it casually. "I know you're there, human. Come on out."

No answer. No shuffle.

No nothing.

Bill frowned.

"You really don't want me to come looking for you. I can promise you that. Now c͟o͘m͏e̡ ̴ou̕t͠. ͝" He said, a deadly echo in his last words that only promised to deliver what he said.

Very slowly, a thin and shapely women stepped out from behind the nearby treeline to the left, melting back into the sunlight with ease. Her skin was a shining, clear off-white, her silvery eyes glaring at him. Her hair was short, barely brushing her chin and was reddish blonde.

"Ah, an elf! Who knew?" Bill laughed, eyeing the woman. She was just as tall as he was, if not taller.

"And you are gods, am I right?" She challenged right away, trying her best to cover up the fear pounding through her.

Bill licked his teeth slowly, bringing attention to exactly how sharp they were. "Well, aren't you observant?"

"Bill-" Tad murmured in warning, eyeing the woman himself. He recognized her from earlier this morning, staring up at the clouds in recognition.

She knew her magic.

And Tad would prefer if they didn't run into any trouble.

Unfortunately, trouble followed Bill like a shadow wherever he went. It did back in the days of Ancient Egypt, did so back seven hundred or so years ago, and it did now.

Tad felt a smile tug at his lips. Nothing really changed, did it?

"Well, she is isn't she?" Bill cut in, his fingers already curling into claws.

The woman hardened her glare. "Who are you and what are you doing here?" She demanded.

Bill snorted. "Like you should be bossing me around! You mortals need to learn your place." He curled his lip and stared down at her.

Madam Feylie stared at the gods before her in disbelief. Learn her place? What does that even mean? Everyone knew that god's were powerful, but rare. Pure magical power can't stop numbers, after all.

Then again, she was alone right now...

Madam Feylie started to slowly shuffle back, keeping her movements as hidden as possible.

"Yeah? Well, if your so great, how come your walking with a cane of all things." She replied. Sure it was a bit ableist and kinda weak, but it was the only thing she had right now.

The golden god before her threw back his head and laughed. "Oh, do you really want to know?"

"I want to know who you are and what your doing here!"

Bill threw the woman an easy grin. "How about a deal? I tell you my business and you tell me your. I'll even show you why I have a cane for free!"

She bit the inside of her lip. "Deal. Who are you?"

Bill smirked as he felt the weight of a godly deal settle around him. The energy would've been much stronger if they had shaken on it, but this would do perfectly.

"Name's Bill. Bill Cipher!" Bill said, gesturing wildly to himself.

Tad watched on in slight confusion. What was Bill up too? He had an inkling of an idea, but he couldn't be too sure.

"Aoleis Feylie." She replied, mind ticking away. Bill Cipher, Bill Cipher...

Nope. Never heard of him. Then again, she didn't know all that many gods.

"Really, now? Interesting!" Bill shouted, still grinning as wide as every.

Aoleis held back a shiver. This creature was creepy. No doubt about that. There was something definitely not right with him.

"I suppose so. Now, what are you doing here?"

Bill's grin grew even wider. "Nothing much. Just fetching my Pine Tree and heading out."

Aoleis cocked an eyebrow and all her thoughts ground to a halt. "You're...fetching a tree?"

"Not just any tree, Pine Tree!"

She blinked in clear confusion.

This god wasn't just off. He was completely insane.

"So!" He picked up again. "What are you doing out here on the open road?"

Aoleis gritted her teeth some. "Going to the Mystery Shack to see if the Pines' are okay." She ground out, trying to be as vague as possible.

"Really, now?" Bill's eyes sharpened and narrowed.

"Really. Now if that's all, I must be off now-"

Bill raised his hands quickly. "Nu uh! Remember our deal? I said I'll show you why I have a cane!"

Aoleis felt the oppressive weight of magic settle around her as blue flames started sparking in the air, no doubt caused by Bill Cipher to not only put fear into her, but also hold her in place.

She was ashamed to say that the tactic worked on her both ways.

Bill strode up to her easily, whistling some old 80's hit she couldn't quite name, spinning his cane around his wrist. His posture screamed of relaxation, no worry or tenseness whatsoever.

He stopped about a foot in front of her.

She glared into his eyes, wishing she were just a little bit taller so she could stare down at him.

Then again, she doubted that sort of intimidation tactic would work on him.

She cocked an eyebrow as he just continued to stand there for a few seconds, staring at her with an unblinking eye.

She sighed. "Well?"

She wanted this to hurry up so she could leave. This guy was seriously starting to creep her out and even though she swore she heard Dipper's name being spoken before, now she wasn't too sure. What would a freaky pair of gods want with an innocent sixth, going on seventh grader?

A black flash overtook her vision and Aoleis buckled as something sharp cut straight through her, causing agony to flare up from her sternum and her back to arch.

Bill smiled as his cane, end sharpened to a deadly point, slice through her flesh, organs, and bone like butter, easily poking out the other side of her body. Blood trickled down from where he pierced her straight through while more crimson liquid bubbled from her mouth, spilling over opened and chapped lips. Her eyes were widened in a look of terror and surprise.

He smirked.

"See? This-" He twisted the cane around inside her body, causing a shrill noise to echo from her vocal chords. "-is what my cane is for. Hope you liked the demonstration!" Bill pulled the cane back out of her with a sickening shluck, spinning it back around as the end morphed and dulled, becoming normal once more.

Aoleis collapsed to the ground. Without the cane to staunch the flow, blood heartily poured out of her wound, forming a large puddle of red quite quickly.

Bill smirked as he used her body to wipe away some of the blood left over, uncaring about how hard he was prodding her.

"Well, that was fun!" Bill continued after a few beats of silence, turning back around to Tad. "Now, let's go get Pine Tree, shall we? We're almost at the Shack!"

Tad nodded silently and followed Bill's lead as he started whistling another cheerful tune.

The last thing Aoleis saw before her eyes fell shut for the last time was their retreating backs...

...And Bill swinging his cane around once more.

~~0~~0~~0~~

Dipper and Mabel glanced at one another uneasily as the door to the elevator creaked open.

Before them, barely lit by the magical lights still around, was what Dipper could only describe as an old laboratory of sorts. Machines of all sorts covered the walls, encased in dust and cobwebs; a telling of how many years it's been since they've operated. Pieces of metal and glass littered the dirty concrete ground, along with wires and gears and other parts that Dipper didn't recognize.

It was like nothing Dipper had ever seen before.

Both twins stepped off the metal box, staring at their surroundings with wide eyes.

"What is all this?" Mabel whispered to him, hugging herself once again. "And what's it doing under the Shack?"

Dipper shook his head. "I don't know. But whatever it-"

Before Dipper could continue his train of thought, a large scream sounded from within the laboratory before them, paired with words in a language Dipper had never heard before.

The scream...it sounded familiar. Hauntingly so.

Dipper knew he's heard that voice before.

It was a voice he'd been hearing constantly for the past eight years, after all.

Mabel and Dipper turned around, brown eyes meeting brown eyes in understanding.

"Stan." The said together.

And took off running.

Both twins' chests heaved in exertion, the only thing keeping them kicking the adrenaline still rushing through them. Their feet pounded together on the floor, staccato and frenzied. Both their breaths' came in short gasps, lungs desperate to grab more life in the area around them. Nearly tripping many times over in the cluttered, dark mess, the twins sprinted.

Sharp, green light flashed before them the closer they got and the voice- Stan's voice- crescendoed as well, getting faster and messier and more panicked as time went on

Dipper and Mabel pushed themselves faster. Green light flashed all around them, leaving spots in their vision as they stumbled onward.

Finally, just as the two stumbled into a cracked doorway to peer into what Stan was doing, another flash flared up, brighter than the others. Oppressive magic that practically made both Dipper and Mabel choke swirled around them, almost knocking them down to their feet.

Both twins' felt like their very bones were being crushed by the unseen force, flesh melting away and smooth muscle torn into shreds. Pressure built up in both of their heads as their ears and nostrils started to leak blood, unable to contain itself under the weight that settled all around.

Their heads were stuffed with the magic around them, fuzzy agony building up up up. Though their eyes were screwed shut, both swore that the orbs would just pop right out of their skulls.

Then just as soon as both thought they'd pass out or die or something from the oppressive magic all around, the green light faded and along with it, the screaming chant. Their ears rang in release and their noses, still dripping a bit of blood, stopped bleeding.

Very slowly, both came to, and both opened their eyes to stare at what was before them.

The room was covered in some sort of sigils, which were now glowing dully. The most intricate was the one on the very back wall, emitting a red light. The other two on either side were smaller and purple in color. A yellow sigil was stretched out above, even smaller than the purple ones and on the floor, stretching out with long fingers, was the sigil that was the same green as the earlier light.

And in the very center of that sigil, was two things.

An alter with what appeared to be a human body lying on it...

...And Stan leaning against said alter, panting and sweating like mad, blood not only dripping out of his ears and nose, but also out of his eyes.

"Stan! What's...what's..." Dipper's voice trailed off as everything clicked into place.

The body on the alter was eerily similar to Stan. No, not just similar, but exactly like him. Just a bit younger.

And even though Dipper was pretty far away and the lighting terrible, he could see the rise and fall of his chest.

It didn't take much for everything to click into place.

Creepy sigils around an alter in a secret underground basement.

A naked human body that looked exactly like a younger Stan laying on said alter and alive.

Stealing organs.

And if he cast his thoughts back even farther...

Mabel's allergy to blood magic.

Dipper's eyes widened and he took a step towards his Grunkle, anger twisting his features into an ugly scowl.

"What is this?!"

Stan weakly scrambled up to his feet, blood still dripping off his chin, eyes wide with horror at the sight of both Dipper and Mabel.

"Kids? What-" His eyes zoned in on Dipper's haggard appearance and the amount of blood now dried on Mabel. "What happened to you?! Are you okay?" He asked, panicked.

Mabel fast walked to join her brother, eyes bubbling with disbelieving tears.

"You have no right to care about us! You're the reason Mabel had that attack! You've been lying to us our entire lives!" Tears finally broke through Dipper's anger and streaked down his face. "You...you..."

Mabel sniffed. "Grunkle Stan...what's going on?"

Stan rubbed a hand over his face. "It's not what it looks like. You have to trust me on this. Everything I've done, I've done for this family."

Mabel stared up into her Grunkle's eyes, which spoke only of remorse and raw honesty, something that she had never seen before.

Stan hadn't meant to hurt them. Or, more precisely, her.

She knew, it that honest to gods gaze, not only filled with remorse and honesty, but love too, that Mabel knew that she could, indeed, put trust into her Grunkle.

She always had in the past, after all. And no matter what the world threw their way, their Grunkle was always at their side, every step of it.

"That's a pathetic excuse! Do you know what you just did?! You created a monster!" Dipper yelled. He saw it. He saw what his Grunkle was trying to do; the proof was laying out in front of him.

Stan was trying to make himself another body. One that he could live in once this one has died.

Stan was trying to commit a magical taboo- make himself immortal. Or at least, as immortal as he could get.

Dipper tightened his hands into fists.

"Dipper please! Let me explain-"

"No! I don't need to hear it!" More tears fell from the younger's eyes as the entire day's events grabbed him and dragged him down.

Dipper crashed.

He didn't know exactly what he was doing, but suddenly his fist was flying towards the older man, knuckles white, letting out a broken cry that spoke of betrayal.

He was so done.

Oh, so done.

Seeing her brother lose himself, Mabel acted fast, grabbing a hold of him in an awkward backwards hug and dragged him away, using her own greater weight and strength to her advantage.

Dipper stumbled and his fist went nowhere, but that didn't really matter.

His punch didn't have to hit it's mark to hurt Stan.

Dipper stumbled over Mabel and nearly fell down to the ground. Quick as a snake, Mabel made sure to step between Dipper and her Grunkle, separating the two.

"Dipper, calm down! You're acting crazy!"

"Me?! Acting crazy?! Mabel! How could you-"

"Dipper, please-"

"Oh, I see. You're taking his side, aren't you. Again."

"What?!"

"Oh, you didn't help when I got caught going into the forest. Heck, you didn't even talk to me after that!"

"Dipper I thought we said we'd discuss that-"

"How could you stand up for him?! He's just going to lie to us like he's been doing the past eight years. Eight years! That's almost our entire lives!"

"Dipper-!"

Dipper sneered at the two of them, his entire body shaking with a rage he didn't know he could possess. He was just so tired and hurt and confused. Energy was bubbling right under his skin from the overwhelming emotions, causing his entire body to shiver.

He looked up at Mabel's broken eyes, the matching brown orbs leaking wet tears of their own.

Dipper couldn't stand it anymore.

He turn and ran.

"Dipper!" Mabel screamed out after him, along with another pair of footsteps joining his own.

Dipper didn't stop. He didn't look back.

He just kept running.

He threw himself into the elevator and smashed the button to go up, turning his back to his fast-approaching sister so he didn't have to see the expression on her face.

As soon as those creaky doors popped open above, Dipper flung himself up the stairs, stumbling and tripping the entire time.

As soon as he stepped out of the vending machine into the ruined shop, the tell-tale sound of the elevator sounded out, along with Mabel's scream of his name.

Dipper darted out of the shop.

He had to run, to get away, to-

"Oh, heya Pine Tree!"

Dipper gasped as he ran right into a familiar figure, who caught him easily around the waist, warm arms circling him.

"Bill?" Dipper muttered weakly.

Bill chuckled.

"One and the same."

Mabel gasped as she rounded the corner, standing in the doorway of the Shack, staring at the triumphant gaze of Bill Cipher, who wasn't alone this time.

Another, what Mabel assumed to be god, stood next to the blond, close enough for their shoulders to be touching.

"Dipper!" Mabel screamed, pushing off with her feet.

Pushing off too slow.

Blue fire had already started encasing the trio, just as Mabel sprang back into action.

"DIPPER!" She screamed yet again through her tears.

This time, Dipper caught sight of her expression, along with the cobalt flames quickly encasing him.

"Bill! Let go!" Dipper cried out, trying to break the god's hold on him.

Bill simply smirked down at the boy and shook his head, his grip like steel.

Dipper couldn't get away.

A new, different wave of panic came over the boy and he tried to wriggle away even harder with no real success.

"MABEL!" Dipper yelled out in return, voice shrill and cracking. More tears bled from his eyes and his throat tightened up, nearly choking him.

Mabel tried to pump her legs faster. It was only a handful of feet! Only a few more steps to go!

But it was like she was moving through molasses, unable to keep up and unable to reach out.

The blue flames overtook the trio.

"DIPPER! DIPPER, NO!" Mabel called out once again, finally falling into the ground with a sob.

Tad Strange, Bill Cipher, and Dipper Pines were gone.

~~0~~0~~0~~

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~~0~~0~~0~~

To Be Continued...

Chapter Text

The sequel Limbo is a Legend is now out!

You can go to it directly here!

Thank you for your patience and I hope you enjoy!