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Faking It

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It’s not terribly unusual for a witch not to have a familiar, but that’s typically reserved for people as old as Grunkle Stan, whose familiars have died, either due to natural causes, or in some duel or battle. They’re only animals, after all, and as useful and comforting as they are, they aren’t immortal. By the time most people reach middle age, their first familiars have already passed, and they’ve moved on to another one. 

They say that you never forget the first, that the combination of your magic influences you for the rest of your life.

Dipper’s eighteen, and he still doesn’t have a familiar. He’s never found anything that felt right.

A practitioner without one at Dipper’s age is, at best, weird, or at worst- Well, Dipper’s heard worse things said about him. At least in Gravity Falls, it’s more out of pity for his lack of companion, not that he’s shunned for being a freak with magic. 

Still, he watches Mabel and Waddles doing all kinds of things with each other - the little outfits she makes him, the odd pink tone that’s been added to all of the spells she casts, the hugs….

It bothers him. A lot

Mabel’s had a familiar for years now, and Dipper can’t find anything that matches his own magic, or even wants to hang around him for too long. He likes animals, sure, but nothing’s ever been very interested in hanging out with him when Mabel’s around. She attracts affection like a magnet, and it’s understandable, she’s a lovable person. 

But it still leaves Dipper feeling left behind. Especially when it means he never gets to form a bond. 

It finally gets to him when he makes friends with a squirrel - not the kind of familiar he’d choose, but it’s the first thing that’s seemed to genuinely like him, and he hadn’t even been feeding it-

But when Mabel shows back up at the Shack, fresh back from her trip with Pacifica, the stupid furry thing immediately ditches him, begging for scritches behind the ear from his sister. 

Dipper gives up. 

Clearly, he hasn’t got the talent.  He’s never been quite as magically strong as Mabel, that was clear enough since puberty set in, but he didn’t think he’d be this behind on things. He kind of wants to hate her, but it’s not her fault Dipper is apparently the least talented magician in the family. Or that he’s apparently incompatible with everything that’s existed, ever.

He groans into his pillow, collapsed face-first on the bed. He pulls another over the back of his head, and screams into the down in frustration. 

Dipper curses for a long time before sighing, dropping a pillow off the bed and turning onto his side.

There… are other things he could try. It makes him embarrassed and feel a little sick, but at least he’d stop getting all those stupid looks from other practitioners. 

An illusionary familiar might be better than none. As long as he remembers to banish it, to not get attached to what’s essentially a hologram of a creature. At least that way he’d have something

Mabel would stop looking at him with those awkward smiles. Grunkle Stan wouldn’t have to carefully look away from him whenever familiars get brought up. Stan’s reaction is almost worse than Mabel’s, because Dipper knows what his Grunkle is thinking, without the sentiment ever being said. 

Dipper contemplates it, eyes feeling hot, rubbing at his face. 

Fuck it. 

It’s a lie, but it’s a lie he can keep up for a long time, and the spell is one he can actually pull off without assistance. 

He sits up in bed, clearing his throat and running his hands over his face. All he needs is a knife and some time, and since he’s alone in the Shack right now, well. Might as well go for it. 

He settles down on the floor, then rethinks his strategy, and spreads out a clean white sheet before he begins. This is going to need some blood, and if he doesn’t want Mabel, and Stan, and everyone else in this godforsaken town to find out, he’s gotta clean up afterwards. It’ll be easier to do laundry than scrub blood out of wood. 

The bite of the knife into his palm catches and pulls at his skin, but he gets a reasonably steady drip onto the sheet as he sits in the middle of the circle. His blood trickles only slowly, but he doesn’t need a lot. This is humiliating as hell, but as he moves his hand around himself, dripping blood over the sketched circle on the sheet, Dipper feels better for at least doing something about this. Fake or not, at the end of the day, he’ll still have something to stand by his side. It’s going to take up a good quarter of his magic to sustain a fake familiar, but it’s not like he had much to work with anyway. 

He almost clenches his hand in frustration, but stops, letting his blood keep falling on the sheet.

Nobody’s going to notice. He reminds himself of that as he finishes the blood circle, and quietly murmurs the chant to himself. It’ll take some of his own magic, and create a little illusion that can follow him around, bound to him and his flesh so it won’t get lost, or wander off. 

Everything goes smoothly. The gentle cold that comes from magic siphoned off blood trembles through him. Dipper can feel the slow build of energy in the circle, and there’s a resonance in it that tells him it’s matching his personal magic. Dipper finishes his chanting, and takes a slow breath, waiting for his imaginary familiar to materialize.

And that’s when everything goes to hell. 

The sheet underneath him bursts into blue flames. All of it. He would scramble away, but there’s nowhere to go, he’s covered in the fire. It surrounds him entirely, flickering over his legs and hands. 

Dipper looks all around himself - nothing hurts, nothing’s being burned, apparently - he looks up- 

With a sudden, painful impact, another person falls from the air and lands on him. Dipper’s head bounces off the hard wood floor, and he lies where he is, dazed. 

The sheet beneath him has burned entirely away, and through his hazy perception, Dipper feels the chest against his breathe in, then out - and then the person sits up, stretching and groaning loudly. 

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Asks the man. He stands up, brushing himself off. Dipper blinks up at him slowly, watching as the strange man straightens the ridiculous top hat he’s wearing. “This is by far the worst fucking summon I’ve ever been part of,” The man glances over himself, then lifts a hand and licks a little speck of blood off his thumb. “Nice magic, though. Tastes pretty familiar.”

Dipper coughs quietly. He kind of hurts, from the impact of this stranger landing on him, and from the amount of magic he’s just spent. It’s far, far more than he’d expected. He didn’t even know he had this much to spare. 

He blinks and squints, still disoriented. “Sorry,” He rubs at his temples, though his arms feel weak. “Just was… trying to get a…” He can’t finish his sentence, and just groans quietly. 

The man standing over him gives a soft, amused huff of breath. “Well then, since you’re not all that interesting,” He smirks to himself. “Expect the worst dreams of your life, for, oh,” The man hums contemplatively for a moment. “Forever. Thanks for wasting my time, fleshbag.” 

Then the stranger stretches his arms, eye closed - Dipper notices that the other is covered by some eyepatch, how odd - then he pauses. And stretches again. 

The stranger makes a few more perfunctory motions, then walks a circle around Dipper, muttering to himself. Dipper shakes his head carefully, sitting up. He feels a little better, though this is more than a little confusing. There’s no reason the spell should have failed. 

He touches the ashes beneath him. The circle should have only summoned something close to his own magic, and it’s not like there’s anything else in the world that’s comparable to his own-

The man pacing around him stops right in front of him. His single eye glares.

“What kind of spell were you trying here, kid?”

“Uh,” Dipper’s mouth feels dry. He swallows and licks at his lips. “I was, uh,” It’s embarrassing as hell to admit, but the way this stranger is looking it at him is too intimidating for him to lie. “I was trying to get a fake familiar.”

The man’s eye widens, and his face turns blank. He stares at Dipper, then looks away, making a few, unrecognizable gestures.  Nothing happens. He looks at Dipper again. 

Dipper shifts uncomfortably under his gaze. What the hell is going on?

“The name’s Bill, by the way,” The man - Bill, says, after a few long moments of staring at Dipper. “And boy, kid, you didn’t get a fake familiar,” He smiles, wide, teeth sharp and white, and Dipper realizes with a start that this isn’t a human. “You got a real one. And you’re gonna regret it.”

Chapter Text

“What would be your least favorite way to die?” Bill asks, tapping his fingers against Dipper’s shoulder idly. Dipper says nothing, face buried in his hands. Bill rolls his eye, and pokes at him, but Dipper slaps his hand away and continues sulking.

This was the single worst idea he’s ever had. He tried to get a fake familiar, and unfortunately, he succeeded beyond what should have been possible.

He's got a real familiar. And now, according to Bill, they’re stuck together. For always

Because, joy of joys, Bill is apparently immortal, so Dipper’s never, ever going to get a different familiar. The first one to die in this partnership is going to be him. Even more worrying, Dipper’s not entirely certain Bill’s not going to take the initiative and off him, just so he can leave the earthly plane sooner. The demon - he’s a fucking demon, how did this happen - seems slightly irritated with this realm of existence. Who would have thought his magic was most closely related to demonic power? Because Dipper sure as hell didn’t, and now look at the consequences. 

It wouldn’t be so terrible if this wasn’t breaking almost every single law about summons that Dipper knows about, and probably half a dozen others he doesn’t. 

Don’t. Summon. Demons. That’s just a fact. Like 'don't try to breathe underwater', or maybe 'don't try to drink lava'. Except... summoning a demon is different from what Dipper just did.

Bill's not wandering around freely. He's not constrained by a circle that he might be able to break. Dipper has a demon who's his fucking familiar. Bill just stole - or, thinking about it, maybe Dipper stole-? Anyway. One of them just robbed the other of a huge chunk of their life force, and who knows how that'll change things. He's never even heard of this happening. 

No wonder he’d never been able to connect with anything else. He has a better connection to immaterial - according to Bill, again, who was incredibly annoying during the explanation - instead of physical energies. Apparently, as far as this asshole has said, a regular familiar would never have worked for him.

Dipper accepts this, reluctantly. It’s not like he hadn’t tried a lot of connections with creatures in the past, so Bill’s at least somewhat truthful.

He doesn’t trust this creature, but they’re connected now. It’s… tentative, but he thinks he feels the vaguest link between them, and that’s something he’s never had before. Whatever he did when he summoned this… thing, it worked. There’s this weird, gentle buzzing feeling in his chest, just beside or maybe even inside his heart, and when he tries to draw on his magic. Well.

Trying to light a candle nearly set the room on fire - blue fire, at that, which would have been startling enough, even if the flames hadn’t nearly consumed half the freaking room. Dipper nearly panicked before he stopped concentrating, and the flames faded. It’s like every spell he tries to do gets shoved rudely forward. There’s far too much power for him to handle behind even the simplest conjuration. 

Bill thought it was hilarious, and nearly laughed himself sick.

Dipper hates him already.

All of this is difficult to cope with, but at least he’s not dead. Which is good. Terrifying, but good, considering he hasn’t burned himself from the inside out by the additional power flaring inside him. He never thought he’d envy someone with a regular familiar. Animals’ lifespans are so short, and losing something that’s tied to part of your soul is, according to everyone, extremely painful. But it’s only been a couple of hours since he met Bill, and he already regrets everything.

He shoves the demon's hand away again as he gets poked, and it's promptly ignored.

“C’mon, entertain me,” Bill says, wrapping an arm around Dipper’s shoulders. Dipper lowers his hands, and tries to shrug Bill away. What the hell is he going to do about this? “Would it be burning? Drowning? Hanging? Mutilation? Buried alive?” Bill’s smile is wide, white, and sadistic. “What’s the worst way your life could end?”

Dipper groans quietly, and lifts his head up. There’s only one answer to that. “It would be living for as long as possible,” Dipper says blandly, “But having you around the entire time.” The sudden silence surprises him, but he doesn’t react.

The silence lingers. And lasts.

A full minute passes, before Dipper finally glances up at his… familiar? Or- companion? Harasser? Jackass he’s stuck with? He’s never heard of a sentient familiar before, what do you even call one of them-

Bill is staring at him, eye wide. Dipper stares back, confused.

“Bro!” The door downstairs slams open, and both of them look up at the sound. “We’re back! Me and Waddles missed you!” Bill gives Dipper a mildly confused look, and Dipper just shakes his head. Mabel and her familiar are closer than usual, and it’d take to long to explai-

Oh no.

He’s going to have to explain this to his family, and how is he going to do that? Nobody  has a human familiar - nevermind that Bill isn’t a human - and even then, how can he explain that he accidentally summoned something hugely illegal in the magical community? Something this sadistic and dangerous? And that now he’s bonded to it? Grunkle Stan might help cover it up, but still-

Dipper stands up from the bed, grabbing Bill’s hand. They can get out the window and hide on the roof, until he comes up with something. Or maybe just run entirely. There's no way he can explain this that won't be horrible-

The demon shrugs, slipping his hand out of Dipper’s, and grabs him around the waist, winking at him. Dipper startles at the touch, then glares. Bill pulls him close, until their hips touch, arm wrapped warmly around him.

"What are you doing?" Dipper asks, tensing up.

“Hey, I get what’s going on here,” Bill says, clearly amused. “I know what humans think. Lucky for you, kid, you summoned me in this form, not my real one,” He wiggles his eyebrows. “Who says anyone has to know what you did?”

Dipper pauses, confused. What's Bill- a thumb strokes over his stomach, and he stares at Bill, mouth dropping open. “You’re fucking kidding me,” This is arguably worse than admitting he summoned a demon. To pretend- this? With Bill? “We can’t-”

“Why not?” Bill declares, and starts marching towards the stairs, dragging Dipper with him. In a softer voice, he mutters. “Seriously, kid, I ain’t happy about it either,” He looks Dipper over slowly, pausing on the top step. “You could always tell everyone what happened. So what if I get banished? It isn't like I need to be on the physical plane, though I've got a few things I wanna do here." He shrugs, and Dipper squirms a little in his grip. Because if people find out Dipper summoned a demon, even accidentally, he's in so much shit, he'd be lucky if he was only jailed for the rest of his life. 

"Or," Bill draws the word out slowly. "Since we’re tied together, while I'd prefer to wait until you died naturally-”

Dipper shakes his head rapidly. “No! No, this is fine!” Of the available options, this isn't... well, it could be worse. At least Bill doesn't look too bad. He clasps a hand over the demon's, and feels a hot flush of embarrassment. "It's... an okay cover story. I guess." 

“Thought as much,” Bill says happily. They walk down the stairs together, pressed together companionably, and Dipper’s mind starts working overtime, trying to come up with excuses. 

For one, he’s going to somehow have to explain to Mabel how he’s hid a boyfriend from her. And come up with a backstory for them.

And then things are going to get complicated. 

Chapter Text

Dipper beats his head against the tree a few more times, hand pressed up against the rough bark. “Stop. Doing. That.”

Bill makes a soft humming noise, considering it. “Nah. See, Pine Tree, to stop would take effort,” He stretches and relaxes on the log he’s lying on. “And I got better things to do.”

Dipper clenches his fists, then turns on his familiar. “You’re doing nothing. Literally, nothing!” He waves his hands at the demon, incredulous. 

There’s an area of blackened earth between them, scorched ground, and tiny embers where the grass fizzles down to its roots. Even the side of the log Bill’s lounging on is touched with burn marks, though it doesn’t seem to bother him.

“Exactly! It’s way better than dealing with your issues, kid.”

For a moment, Dipper considers spending the rest of his life beating his head against the tree. It might be more pleasant than dealing with Bill.

Also, he’s running out of candles. If he doesn’t get this under control... 

He feels torn about it. On the one hand, his magic has gotten the kind of boost that’s something straight out of fiction. He doesn’t know anyone who can create this much fire this quickly. It’s like something out of an action movie, or a bad fantasy novel.

On the other hand, he only got this extra energy because he accidentally tied his life to a demon. And if anyone finds out what he is, Dipper’s in immense trouble for summoning him.

Bill finds their circumstances amusing. Though he was initially pissed off, he’s adapted quickly, and seems to really love the idea of having illegally intruded into the human realm. Violating rules entertains him, apparently. As does messing with Dipper, which he’s decided is the best thing since, quote, ‘silly straws, and the slow death of innocence’.

Dipper lets his forehead rest against the tree again, taking a deep breath, and sighing. There are only a few ways this can end. Either,

  • A: One of them dies - but Bill's immortal, and Dipper’s not;
  • B: They get found out, Bill gets banished, and Dipper gets arrested, if not worse, or,
  • C: They somehow keep up this stupid charade, and Dipper lives a long, natural life, with a huge jerk stuck by him the whole time.

There’s absolutely no good outcome. The tiniest benefit, as far as Dipper can tell, is that unlike fictional demons, Bill seems content to be a tremendously creepy jerk, instead of trying to bloodily mutilate him.

So far, Dipper’s aiming for outcome C: Not ever getting found out. He's already survived a conversation with his sister, and he thought that would be the biggest hurdle. But unfortunately, there’s another problem.

Namely, that he got way  too big of a boost to his magic, and now even trying to do the tiniest cantrip makes something explode. Which, considering what he used to be capable of, is going to be suspicious as hell. Dipper lives in freakin’ Gravity Falls, he can’t not do magic the entire time he’s here, not when he’s already weird for not having an animal familiar.

That. And Bill is. Not. Helping.

“You’re my familiar,” Dipper states, trying to be firm. “You’re-”

Bill laughs, interrupting him. “Hardly! What do you think this is, kid?”

“You-” Dipper sputters, storming over to Bill. “We’re bonded, aren’t we? So you should-”

“Ah, ah, ah!” Says Bill, sitting up and placing a few fingers over Dipper’s lips. “Sure, we’re bonded, but you think I’m the familiar here?” He laughs a little harder, standing up and shoving Dipper backwards. “Guess what?”

Dipper takes a few steps away, glaring and wiping at his mouth. He glances at Bill, who stands confident and grinning in front of him.

“Really, Pine Tree,” Bill says, amused. Dipper hates that nickname, but Bill won’t stop calling him it. “Think about it. You’ve got the one, powerful, amazing being,” He lights a flame in one palm, bright and large. “And the other, stupider, weaker being that gets all tied up in their life-force.” His other hand holds a tiny flame, flickering weakly, and the two fires intermingle, the smaller one stealing a huge chunk of the bigger one, before separating, a thin link of fire joining them. “The big one is the owner! That’s how this kind of thing works!”

Oh no. “Wait, that’s for animal familiars, this is totally different- and, and it’s not really owning something, anyway, you can’t make them do anything-”

Bill pats Dipper on the head, chuckling. “You're cute, kid.” Dipper fumes. He shoves Bill’s hand away, furious.

The demon shrugs, rubbing his chin. “Gotta say, I’ve never had a pet before,” He frowns, nose wrinkling, then smirks. “It’s interesting. At least you take care of yourself, for the most part. And hey, look at all the earthly stuff I get to mess with in the meantime!” He waves his arms, gesturing at, well, everything. “Yeah, I think I’ll keep ya, Pine Tree. It's not like I can't leave. You’ll die sooner or later.”

There’s no good response to that. Dipper just stares, mouth working silently, face hot with fury and embarrassment. He should never have even tried that stupid spell. He couldn't have ever imagined a worse result.

“So,” He says slowly, tense and angry. “If that’s the case, why the hell are you shoving so much magic down my spells? Doesn’t it bother you? At all?”

“It kinda tickles.”

Dipper glares.

Sighing, Bill shrugs. “You’re only using a tiny bit,” And that sends a small chill up Dipper’s spine. He’s only trying to light a freaking candle, and there are massive blooms of flame each time. How much power does a demon have? “I told you, it’d take effort to stop you from drawing magic from me. If I do that, you’ll develop bad habits,” He pats Dipper again, condescendingly, as if he were a puppy in training. “I hold back now, when you start doing bigger spells, one day you’ll pull too hard. And I’d lose way more power than I’d like when you explode.” Bill settles back down to lie on the log again. 

Dipper freezes at that. “You don’t mean-”

“You’d actually explode,” Bill says, eye closed, arms resting behind his head, looking relaxed and amused. He raises an eyebrow as if he's just had a thought, then chuckles, grinning to himself. “Messily.”

“Right,” Dipper says quietly, and moves back to where he was. It makes sense. It's terrifying, but he can't argue with it. It’s not like Bill hasn’t proved he’s powerful, and he hasn’t even been trying to show off. Dipper’s still got a few candles left to practice on-

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Bill smirking, his eye still closed. Clearly, he expects another explosion. Each time Dipper's tried this - over thirty times, Dipper stopped counting because it was getting depressing - Bill has laughed like a madman. Because he’s an asshole.  

Dipper tenses, then kneels very slowly, spite rising within him. He’s not going to let it happen again.

He settles down in the middle of the circle - at this point he doesn’t need to draw it again. The blackened ground around him gives him enough of an outline to work with. 

He sets down the candle in the center of the lopsided burn in the earth. Dipper stares at the tiny, white wax thing for a while, thinking.

All his life, he’s been pushing, giving it his all to work any spell. The physical spells - the core of any magical curriculum - have always given him trouble.

But Bill - he glances over at the demon, who’s yawning and snapping a twig in half idly, clearly bored - proves that that’s never been his strength. He’s not made for physical magic. He’s compatible with the intangible, the metaphysical, and now that he has Bill’s magic bolstering him, maybe... he’s just been trying too hard?

Dipper stares at the wick of the candle. And, with only the vaguest wish to light it, no chanting or preparation or anything, he snaps his fingers.

Nothing explodes. The candle lights, flaring blue for only the briefest moment - if Dipper hadn’t been looking for it, he never would have noticed.

He stares, stunned.

It… it was so easy. It was beautifully easy, he could do this a thousand times, and never feel even a tenth of the strain he’d put himself through trying this cantrip before.

Bill turns his head towards him, raising an eyebrow. He must have felt something. He glances at the candle, and back at Dipper.

“Okay, I’ll credit you with being a quick study,” Bill says, turning away and closing his eye, lounging around. “But you’re still the worst practitioner I’ve ever seen. You’re already of age, and this is all you can do?”

Dipper’s sense of triumph fades rapidly. He flips Bill off, and the demon ignores him, a hint of a smirk on his face. 

Right.

Dipper might be able to catch up to everyone else, to finally get up to speed with his peers, and match Mabel’s abilities, like he used to. Hell, even surpass her, if Bill’s magic is really that powerful - but there’s a horrible consequence.

Because it means having Bill around him. All. The. Time.

Chapter Text

Dipper keeps his hand clasped to the side of his head, grimacing. The only good thing is that Stan and Mabel aren’t home to see this.

At least most of the bleeding has stopped.

He smacks the door to the Mystery Shack open with one hand, the other keeping the makeshift bandage in place over his temple. His head throbs in a horrible, painful beat. Inside the Shack, Bill tilts his head up. He’s draped upside-down over the edge of the gift shop desk, a well-worn book in his hands.

“Hey, what’s this?” Bill says, dropping whatever he was reading to lean up, sitting upright on the counter. The demon tilts his head to one side, oddly curious. Dipper’s injuries seem to interest him. “Thought I felt you getting into trouble. Looks like neither of us are gonna be on the mortal plane for much longer, kid. You’ll be flesh paste sooner than later, the way you’re going.”

“Shut the hell up.” Dipper growls, and he storms away, one hand holding the torn cloth bandage to his temple, the other feeling gently around his swollen eye. The last thing he needs is Bill’s shit right now.

He heads straight towards the bathroom, and once he gets to the sink, Dipper casts a glance back behind him.

Bill’s not following him. Good.

He drops the cloth into the sink with a wet splat, sending red droplets around the basin. He wipes at his face with one hand. Blood still trickles down from the cut, but it’s finally started slowing down.

Dipper clenches his hands on the rim of the sink, bowing his head.

Any other time. Any other time, and he’d be able to bring up a basic personal shield. But not after he summoned Bill.

Before this ridiculous bonding, he’d only be able to deflect a few blows before his shield collapsed, but it was at least some shelter. Now, there’s not one. Single. Spell. that Dipper can do. Not without gouts of demonic flame bursting out whenever he tries them.

He has to worry about exploding someone’s arm off their body if he tries to do anything. It was the only freaking magic he’s ever been able to do consistently, and Bill has ruined it.

It’s not like he asks to be picked on, but… hell, he’s not so great at socializing, okay? And even though Gravity Falls is more welcoming towards practitioners, they’ve got their own prejudices.

He’s never going to have a familiar. Not one he can admit to. And because of that, even among other- hell, especially among other magicians - he’s always going to be a freak. No matter where he is. No matter who he’s around. He’s always going to be a target for assholes who want to make themselves feel more important.

And now he can’t even defend himself.

Dipper leans forward, breath halting in his chest, and rubs at his eyes.

He just… has to get himself together. He can deal with this.

Swallowing slowly, he wipes at his cheek with the back of his hand. There’s less blood than a few minutes ago, but he can still barely see out of one eye, it’s so swollen.

“So! How many?” Bill asks, his tone cheerful as anything. Dipper startles, and turns to stare.

The demon stands in the bathroom doorway, grinning with pleasure. He gives Dipper a little wave, looking eager.

“What are you talking about?” Dipper asks. He looks away, and starts rummaging through the cabinets. He’s not cut too seriously, but blood is still trickling into his eye and he needs a bandaid,or something.

There’s a soft sigh from Bill. “How many people did you kill?” He asks, patiently, as if it’s a very simple question.

Nobody, obviously.” replies Dipper, and, finding what he’s looking for, he unwraps a bandaid and sticks it over the cut on his temple. “I don’t kill people, Bill.”

“Oh, please, I felt the magic you used. It was a lot! You did something almost impressive,” Bill says, enthusiasm bright in his voice. He steps in closer. Dipper has to duck down quickly to avoid his grasp, and Bill’s arm sweeps over empty air.

Bill frowns, then he grabs Dipper by the belt and hauls him in close. Dipper grunts in protest, holding his hands up, keeping Bill, if not at arm’s length, then at least at elbow’s. They’re still way too close for his comfort, but at least there’s some space between them.

“C’mon, gimme the details! If you’re going to leech off of me, I should at least know how many mortals you’ve destroyed.” Bill’s eye widens and, for a moment, actually glows. “Tell me about it.”

“Nobody died,” Dipper insists, and shoves himself away. He almost stumbles into the bathtub, but Bill catches him by the collar and keeps him upright. Dipper grabs onto Bill’s wrist, then tries to pull it off himself. “I didn’t kill anyone. I didn’t even try to. It’s just-” He struggles for a moment, finding his balance. Might as well explain, since Bill’s not going to leave him alone until he does.

“I couldn’t get away,” Dipper says slowly, “But after they hit me a few times... time stopped. I don’t know how, but- whatever. I made a run for it.”

Bill freezes. It gives Dipper a moment to brace himself, and try to pry Bill’s hand off of his shirt.

“You can barely light a candle, Pine Tree. That kind of spell is way beyond you.” Bill says, looking away. He studies the nails of his free hand, with a kind of practised casualness.

“I don’t care what you think, asshole,” Dipper says, taking a step away from his familiar. Whether Bill thinks something happened or not, what does it matter? “I’m telling the truth. Are you done bugging me or not?”

“Nope! You’re mine, kid. That’s my power you’re working with. I deserve to know what you’re up to,” Bill says, and grins sharply. “And I think you’re lying.”

“I’m not.”

“Prove it.”

Dipper fumes silently. He doesn’t know what happened, but he’s not lying.

Halfway through being beat up, he’d concentrated on being somewhere else, same as always. Pretending like it isn’t happening is a decent way of coping. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s done it.  

Anywhere but here, he’d thought, anything but this.

And as he thought it, nothing happened.

Not a single hit landed, for almost a minute. And, eventually, Dipper opened his eyes.

The kick headed for his face had never hit him. The toe of the boot was less than an inch from hitting his nose. The familiar’s teeth had never closed on his flesh, though when he turned his leg trying to get up, he felt the sharp brush of canines over his ankle; he rolled his leg out from between its teeth and tumbled away.

The assholes he’d tried to avoid, who had knocked him down, and started kicking - they were all frozen where they stood. Everything had stopped.

Dipper struggled away from between them, shuffling backwards on hands and feet, astonished. Color had vanished from the world. The buildings, trees, the people - everything was in greyscale. Nothing moved, and nothing made a noise, except for his own harsh breathing.

It was like someone had hit a massive pause button on the universe.

He hadn’t questioned it at the time, just found his feet and got the hell out of there as fast as he could. And as he ran, color bled back into the world, until he was back at the Mystery Shack, staring at his jackass of a familiar.

Right now, Bill is staring at him.

“Well?” The demon asks, the slightest hint of contempt in his voice.

Dipper flips him off. He’s not a liar, and fuck, why does Bill even care?

Maybe Bill’s just being a dick, That wouldn’t be unusual for him in the slightest. Maybe Dipper hallucinated the whole thing, and he only imagined escaping. Even now he might be being beaten - but he’s never zoned out that far, and Bill’s hand is too warm and tight around his shirt collar, knuckles pressing against his collarbone.

Maybe... it’s just a matter of getting into the right mindset. Like when he lit the candle. Hell knows he doesn’t want to deal with this jerk any longer. So if it works, maybe he can get away from his familiar, too, if only for a moment.

I want to be anywhere else but here, Dipper thinks, trying to put the same passion into it as he felt when he was trying to escape his beatdown. He puts all the feeling he has into it, wanting to get away from the Shack, wanting Bill’s hand off his shirt, wanting to be somewhere else-

Dipper peeks an eye open, and for an instant, he feels shock and relief.

All of the color is gone, there’s nothing-

There’s yellow.

He blinks both his  eyes, staring. There’s actually a lot of yellow. And all of it is attached to the hand that’s still holding him, keeping him close to his demonic familiar. Dipper blinks a few times, just in case he’s imagining things, but Bill’s still in front of him, and the jerk tilts his head to one side, as full of life and movement as always.

Dipper glances around himself. He’s still in the Shack, and so is Bill. They’re standing in the bathroom, just as they were moments ago. But now the world around them has been washed clean of color. Bill and himself are the only things moving.

And now, for some reason, the demon’s staring at him with unusual intensity.

Bill lets go of Dipper’s shirt, and Dipper takes the opportunity to back away quickly, pressing himself up against one of the walls. Bill’s single eye glances around them, then stares at Dipper for a long, penetrating moment.

“So what you’re saying is,” Bill says carefully, clasping his hands together so that both of his index fingers are pointing at Dipper. “You, without any practice, or instruction, can somehow get your idiot human self here,” There’s an odd emphasis on the last word, like it’s somehow important. “And you still left the bastard who did this alive?” One of Bill’s hands reaches out, tapping Dipper on his cut temple gently.

Dipper flinches.“Yes?” He responds, clasping one hand over his head to stop Bill from touching his wound again. “Don’t do that. It only just stopped bleeding.”

Bill hums softly, eyes narrowed. Then he nods, sudden and certain.

“Yep, I’ve decided. You’re my pet, after all. Gotta be responsible, right?” He claps his hands together, grinning. Dipper flinches back, but Bill grabs him by the shoulders, pulls him in close, and-

Plants a kiss on Dipper’s forehead.

What the hell?

“You’re a moron, but you’re a fun moron! And hey, I can’t let someone else mess with my stuff!” Bill winks at him, and Dipper stares, aghast. “‘Specially not if you’re gonna be living with me some of the time.”

“What are you-”

The world snaps back into technicolor with a sudden jerk, and Dipper tenses up. He stares, and waves his hand in front of him, but there’s nothing there.

Something weird just happened. In the instant between the world missing color and said color returning, Bill has, somehow, disappeared. It wasn’t just physical, he felt that in his soul. And for a fleeting, hopeful instant, Dipper thinks that maybe, Bill’s gone for good.

But of course, he’s not. God forbid something happens that makes Dipper’s life easier.

He can still sense Bill, somewhere, doing… something. Their bond might be strong, but when it comes to knowing what Bill’s up to, it’s so unspecific that all Dipper gets from it is irritation. He groans, covering his face.

He can still feel a tingle on his skin from that evil, awful bastard’s stupid, warm lips. Despite himself, he feels his face heat up, and he curses in frustration. He wipes at his forehead, face hot with embarrassment.

Bill is dangerous. He’s fickle as hell. There’s no way Dipper’s found to control him yet, and he might not ever have a way to keep this jackass from ruining the lives of everyone around him, much less his own. He can’t even keep an eye on him.

He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, slumping back against the wall and letting himself slide down to sit on the floor. There’s no way his familiar is ever going to be helpful. Bill’s going to do whatever he wants. He thinks Dipper’s just a pet.

Dipper stares at his hands, palms resting upward in his lap. They’re bonded, whether he likes it or not. It’s dangerous, and uncontrollable. Even having this much power, so much magic - Dipper breathes in slowly, then tries to relax. And lights up two bright, blue fires in his palms. He watches them for a few moments, thinking.

The flames tickle, a little. But even though they’re small, they’re already stronger than most practitioners can manage, and he knows that he can keep them up for longer than anyone else.

Bill wants to mess around with the physical world, while he has a chance. It’s not the kind of realm he’s used to, and he’s having fun. But since they’re connected now…

Dipper smiles.

A bond goes both ways.

No matter what happens, he’s in trouble. Either someone finds them out, or Bill gets pissed off at his pet/owner/partner/...whatever the hell they are. And if Dipper’s screwed either way, why not do whatever he wants? He might not be so great at physical stuff, but now he knows there are other energies to work with.

If Bill’s going to mess with Dipper’s reality, who says Dipper can’t mess with Bill’s?

But if he wants to do that, to try and get some kind hand up over his familiar… Dipper groans, and lets the fire vanish, smacking both his hands over his forehead.

He can’t believe he hadn’t thought of it but - First, he’s got to figure out what kind of demon Bill is.

 

Chapter Text

Dipper blinks a few times in exhaustion, and frowns at the book in his hands. It’s the closest lead he’s gotten, but it’s a little… weird. He’s not even sure when he added this to his collection.

He’s spent the last few last nights checking every book he has on magic - and he’s collected a lot of them over the years, trying to get better, trying to succeed - but he’s still no closer to an answer.

Bill’s a demon, he knows that for certain. But he also knows there are different kinds, and Dipper’s still trying to figure out which one his own personal tormentor is. So far, this is the only thing that’s come close to describing a creature like Bill.

The page that caught his eye mentioned the monochrome world, and a strange, dapper man offering the author directions. It certainly sounds like that other place, and ‘dapper’ definitely describes Bill.

Only… he has to consider the source material.

This particular book happens to be written by one Quentin Trembley, and the passage Dipper found was in a chapter entitled ‘Contemplations On A Dream I Had One Wednesday Morning About Fruitcake’. The writer was a practitioner, so he knew something about magic. But he’s also someone who invented a spell to turn underwear into decorative hats, and claimed his familiar was a coffee mug shaped like a fish. Dipper sighs and turns the book to look at both sides of the old leatherbound cover briefly, then chucks it behind him. It bounces on his bed a few times, and with a soft shuffle, slips between the wall and the mattress.

He’s got to do more research.

He could just ask Bill, but the demon seems to enjoy leading him on. There’s zero chance he’d get a straight answer from him, even if he could ask. He hasn’t seen Bill in days.

Dipper brushes a thumb over the cut on his temple - scabbed over and still sore, but it could be worse - and worries. Has Bill ever said anything about dreams? Maybe-

“Dipper! Hey!” Mabel calls out downstairs, loud and enthusiastic. Her footsteps start charging upstairs towards him.

“What is it?” He responds, standing up just as Mabel bursts open the door to the bedroom. Waddles peeks out from behind her, and trots up to him. The pig starts to sniff around Dipper’s feet, looking at him for treats. Dipper nudges his sister’s familiar away gently with one foot, then rubs at his eyes. “You wanted something?”

Mabel takes a moment to pause, looking at him with concern. “Are… you okay?”

Dipper mutters something noncommittally, shutting his eyes and letting his head drop into his hand. “Fine. Just… yeah, I’m fine.”

“If you’re feeling sick, you should tell me,” Mabel states firmly, and steps towards him. She presses her palm against Dipper’s forehead. “Hmmm. My professional diagnosis as a Dipper-expert tells me…” She glares at him, punching him gently on the shoulder. “You haven’t been sleeping again.”

Dipper shrugs. He hasn’t felt like sleeping in a few days. Tired? Maybe. Exhausted, really. But not like he needs sleep.

“’m okay,” He manages to get a small smile on his face. “You seem excited. What’s going on?”

Mabel hesitates, just for an instant, then smiles, smugly. “You tell me.”

What the hell?  “I don’t know what you’re on about.”

“Come on! I’m your sister, you can tell me!” Mabel insists, and then - oh no - she starts with the puppy eyes, wide and pleading. “I heard something happened,” She nudges him on the shoulder. “And it was really cool!”

Dipper’s eyes widen. “You can’t be talking about…” His escape, and if that’s getting around, then- “No, I didn’t-” He stutters, but he’s immediately interrupted.

“You did do something, didn’t you? I knew it!” His sister’s eyes gleam, and she bounces a little where she stands.

“I got away from those assholes, if that’s what you’re asking,” Dipper mutters, stuffing his hands in his pockets. For a moment he thinks about telling her- only at some point he’ll have to explain how, and then, suddenly, there will be consequences. “I don’t know what you heard, but it’s not true.”

“You disappeared! You, like, teleported,” Mabel bursts out suddenly, grinning. Waddles trots over and sits obediently by her feet, looking up at her. “C’mon, tell me all about it!”

“That didn’t happen,” Dipper insists. “But, really, you know I can’t-” His throat tightens up a little. After summoning Bill, Dipper knows why he’s had trouble. But it’s not like there’s any way to explain it. If it weren’t for his stupid summon, he’d never be able to… 

“I’m not good at magic. You know that.” He blurts out. All of the Pines have known about his problem, but nobody’s said it out loud before. It hurts a little to say, but it’s… kind of a relief. Acknowledging that Dipper Pines is the worst magician ever. That he sucks.

“Try it!”

Dipper starts a little, distracted from his thoughts. “What?”

“Try it again!” Mabel insists, looking determined. “You’re my brother, and you’re awesome, and I just know you’ve got something you’re awesome at!” Dipper looks away, rubbing his arm, and her expression softens slightly. “Maybe you’re worried you can’t do it again. But I know you can. You’re gonna be great.”

She gives him a double thumbs-up, and the brightest, most hopeful grin he’s seen from her in a long time.

It makes Dipper feel sick.

After all this time, even knowing how untalented he is, how he can’t find anything to be his familiar… she pays attention to what happens to him. She listens for rumors about his abilities. She wants him to have something.

Mabel is halfway through lifting her arms up to cheer him on when everything turns monochrome.

Dipper flinches - he hadn’t tried to do this, it was an accident - and looks around himself. It’s still the same Mystery Shack, just… greyscale and motionless. He waves his arms, and tries some magic. Most of it fails. The fire he’s been able to make since the bonding works well enough, but there’s nothing here he wants to burn.

Right. The first priority is getting back. He takes a deep breath, and concentrates on reality. Maybe he just needs to think the opposite of what he does to get here? Reverse this whole deal? He lets out a slow breath, and thinks I want to be there. When he peeks open an eye after several moments, nothing has changed. No color, or motion, or anything.

What the hell kind of place is this?

Dipper sits down on the floor, rests his face in his hands, and waits. Last time, this wore off as he ran. It’s probably some kind of time-based spell, it should disappear eventually. So he waits.

He does a lot of waiting.

Dipper checks a few times to see how much time has actually passed, but according to what he has on him - watch, phone, everything - it’s exactly the same minute as when this started. But it has to have been at leasttwenty! What the hell. He hits his watch a few times, but it doesn’t change. Time to give focusing on returning another shot. Dipper closes his eyes, and concentrates. He’s got to restore time. He’s got to get out of here.

Taking a deep breath in, he finds a rhythm for his breathing, and meditates. Either this will wear off, or he’ll find the key to escape this place. He focuses on his breathing for a long while, thinking about restoring reality, about going home.

When he blinks again, nothing’s changed. His sister’s still frozen. Everything’s grey, and he still has no idea what the hell is happening.

Dipper feels his stomach drop with a sudden lurch.

He has no idea how he got here. He doesn’t even know where ‘here’ is. He’s got no idea how to start time again. With a rising sense of panic he realizes Bill, who’s the only person - well, ‘person’ - who might know what the hell is going on, is nowhere to be found. He’s… close by? That’s all Dipper can tell through their connection. Can’t be stuck here forever, though. Really, he can’t. That’s- not possible. He’s certain. Mostly certain.

Dipper wraps his arms around himself, hunching over. For a brief, desperate moment, he actually wishes Bill was around. He might know what to do.

“Aww, did you miss me?”

Dipper startles at the sound, and stares. His own personal bastard is, somehow, suddenly sitting next to him.

“Admit it, you missed me.” Bill continues, smirking delightedly, poking Dipper on the cheek. Dipper cringes away, but Bill clearly doesn’t care, pulling him closer by wrapping one arm around his shoulders. “You’ve got an affinity for this place, kid,” Bill says happily. “Wasn’t expecting you back here for a while. I might,” He says carefully, rubbing his chin. “Actually be glad to see you.”

Dipper struggles with himself for a moment. Bill’s powerful as hell, and cagey to boot. He hates telling the truth, and he could kill Dipper in an instant. But he’s such an asshole that Dipper no longer cares. He has to ask.

“Where the hell am I?”

Surprisingly, instead of being smug and evasive as usual, Bill grins, wide and bright. “Welcome home, Pine Tree!” And he drags Dipper up along with him as he stands. Dipper stumbles and finds his feet, squished annoyingly against his demon companion, hip-to-hip.

Dipper gives Bill a disgusted look.

“Don’t make that face, kid, you started this whole shebang,” Bill says, though he’s still amused. “It’s good to see you! I’ve got some work to finish up on the other side of things.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” Dipper mutters. “Where am I?”

“The Mystery Shack.”

“I know that,” Dipper can already tell this is going to be another frustrating conversation where he tries to get a direct answer, and Bill runs circles around him. Although… “What work are you talking about?”

Bill straightens up proudly, looking obscenely pleased with himself. “Come take a look, kid.” He lets Dipper go, and, patting Mabel on the head as he walks past her, heads over to look out the window. Dipper hesitates for a moment, steps over to stand next to his familiar, and looks.

He stumbles back rapidly, clasping his hands over his mouth to keep from screaming. Bill laughs, high and bright.

The scene on the lawn is like something from a nightmare.

There are… parts. Strewn everywhere. Dipper’s glad there isn’t any color, because it means there’s less detail. He can only tell where most the blood and viscera is by the darker streaks on the grass. The white of the bones still show up as bright spots in this awful fucking palette. They’re laid out in some kind of grotesque pattern, and there are a lot of them. Small fragments strewn in circles, leading to larger chunks, and then to whole bones. In the center of this awful display is an animal skull. The teeth in it are disturbingly familiar.

Dipper - hoping against hope he’s not right - is almost certain he pulled his leg out of a set just like it, not too long ago. He turns to look at Bill. At some point while he panicked, he grabbed onto his familiar’s clothing and drew himself closer. “What. Did. You. Do.” Dipper says slowly, teeth clenched together.

Bill actually looks surprised for a moment, then… oddly embarrassed.

Bill looks away, clearing his throat. “Well, like I said, I’ll finish it soon. Won’t take too long,” He turns and winks at Dipper, smile spreading across his face again. “I’ve gotta get you trained up, after all. It’ll hardly take any time at all to make this biz happen in reality,” He waves a hand dismissively at the gore. “Then we’ll come back here, and really  get to work!”

“This is a nightmare,” Dipper mumbles.

“Best kind of dream, kid. Takes a lot of skill.” Bill says, smugly. Something pings in Dipper's mind.What Bill said when they met-

Expect the worst dreams of your life, for, oh, forever-

“Dream demon,” Dipper murmurs, and feels Bill tense briefly under his grip, then relax.

Bill chuckles, and Dipper feels a few strong pats on his back. “You’re a quick study, aren’t you, kid. It’s part of why I like you! Honestly, I didn’t think I’d like you at all, but you’ve got potential. A lot of potential,” Bill practically purrs the last sentence. “We’re gonna be great together.”

Dipper shakes his head slowly, though he’s thinking fast. The hell kind of plan does this asshole have? But it doesn’t matter. He knows what Bill is, now. Whatever this demon’s plans are, Dipper can throw one hell of a wrench into them. Because he’s figured it out.

The gestures Bill made when he was summoned didn’t let him leave. He hasn’t been around for days, not since Dipper pulled them into this place, and suddenly dropped out. Bill couldn’t finish his ‘work’ in reality.

“You can’t do it,” Dipper says softly, the realization bright and certain in his mind.

“I can do anything, Pine Tree,” Bill scoffs, rubbing Dipper’s back and leaning against him slightly. He’s completely missed Dipper’s meaning. “Just you wait. Things are going to be fun.”

“No, I get it now.“ Dipper shakes his head slowly, feeling a little dazed. “It’s our bond. Without me, you can’t get out of your realm,” He looks up at his demon slowly. “Or into it.”

This time, Bill stands completely still.

That’s it. He’s right.

Dipper straightens up and grabs his familiar by his stupid suit lapels. “We’re leaving,” He states. “And we’re never coming back to this… whatever this is. Just…. fuck this place.”

Bill’s eye flares red, and he reaches out-

Dipper pulls.

Color and motion slam back into place, and Bill’s hands smack into the wall beside Dipper’s head. They stare at each other, breathing heavily - Dipper with exhaustion (that took way more effort than he thought it would) and Bill with sheer, seething anger.

“Oh. My. God.” Mabel squeals. Both of them freeze in place.

“Dipper!” Mabel is watching them, and she gasps, clasping her hands to her face. “You did it! And you brought your boyfriend,” She says, smirking as she says the last bit. “Hey, Bill.”

Bill blinks a few times, eye turning back to gold. He gives Dipper a glare, though it shifts into a grin as he turns to look at Mabel. “Hey there, Shooting Star. Wasn’t expecting this,” He glances back at Dipper, who’s already pressed himself further against the wall in defense. “Your brother’s really attached to me.” The last part is said with nothing less than a leer.

“Oh my gosh! Dipper! Look at you, you have a talent!” Mabel almost takes a step forward, then notices the position they’re in. She blinks, and turns away slightly. Dipper feels his face heat up. “Buuut I think I’ll leave you two alone for a bit,” Mabel covers her mouth with one hand as she giggles. Waddles starts heading out the door even before she moves to leave - then his sister pauses, and points one demanding finger at him. “Don’t think you’re off the hook! I wanna hear all about your magic later.”

“I- sure. Fine.” Dipper says, slightly strangled. Mabel giggles to herself again, quietly. She retreats from the room, and Waddles follows.

Bill turns to look at Dipper.

Dipper stares back.

“You,” Bill says carefully. “Are a complete pain in the ass,” Dipper braces himself against the wall, ready for some kind of retaliation - but Bill just shakes his head. “Nah, kid, I respect it! Can’t say I’m thrilled, but I understand. Honestly, I wouldn’t like you at all if you weren’t a challenge.” He grins, again, and for the millionth time, Dipper wants to punch this smug bastard in the face. “Oh man, this is going to be fun.”

“I really, really hate you,” Dipper says blandly.

“I,” Bill declares, drawing himself up and cupping Dipper’s chin with one hand. “Am going to kiss you.”

“What?” Dipper asks, baffled, and Bill closes in. His eyes widen as warm lips press against his own, then he shuts them tightly. A firm hand strokes down his back, and then up again. It makes Dipper relax, the slow trail over his back pressing into just the right spots, and the soft, warm lips against his own are surprisingly pleasurable.

This… feels nice?

It only lasts for a few moments. Then Bill pulls away suddenly, running his tongue over his lips, and gives Dipper a slow, lecherous smile.

“You’re a stubborn little idiot, Pine Tree,” Bill says. “But I can work with that. You’re one entertaining human. And with your potential, we could do some pretty great stuff together,” The demon pulls him close, eye glowing unnaturally. Bill’s thumb traces over Dipper’s neck, feeling his pulse, and he smiles. 

“Do everything I say,” Bill murmurs, leaning in close. “And this world will be mine.” He pauses for a moment, thinking. Then he taps Dipper on the chest, beaming at him. “Tell you what - and this is generous of me - If you’re good… it might even be ours.”

Dipper leans away from his touch, feeling stunned. What the hell.

“Nope.” He says, and shoves Bill away from him. He only manages to move the jackass away a fraction of an inch. 

It makes Bill grin. “Doesn’t matter. Sooner or later, you’ll come around,” He grabs one of Dipper’s hands, lifts it up, and kisses the back of it.

Despite himself, Dipper feels his face heat up. “Cut that out!” He yanks his hand away, wiping it on his pants. “That’s not going to happen.”

Bill’s still grinning. “Yeah, you’re a moron. You’ve got enough of a pair to challenge me, sure! But I’m the master of the mind, kid,” Bill says happily, patting him on the head. “And you’re mine.”

Dipper takes in a sharp breath and holds it, fuming. He lets it out slowly, and shuts his eyes. And he knees Bill right in the groin. 

Dipper watches Bill curl into himself, cursing in several different languages, and, very briefly, smiles. He’s probably going to pay for that, but it was worth it. Bill might believe he’s the one who has control, but he’s an idiot if he thinks Dipper’s not going to fight him for it.

Chapter Text

While Bill crams a forkful of pancakes into his mouth, Dipper stares at his familiar with quiet, simmering resentment.

Ever since he dragged Bill back from… wherever that place was, the demon’s been hovering around him incessantly. It’s not like before, when he’d vanish to go do his own demonic… whatever, going out of sight sometimes for days at a time.

Dipper used to worry about what Bill was up to, but this? Is weird. And it’s starting to get to him.

Mabel thinks it’s cute that his ‘boyfriend’ is hanging around. Though she did insist on them moving into the spare room - once the body-switching carpet had been rolled up and shoved into a closet. He can’t really blame her. He wouldn’t want to share the same space as his sister if Pacifica was hanging around her all the time. Not that she’s admitted anything, but hey, he’s not blind.

So.

There’s him, and there’s Bill. And there’s endless, sleepless nights. Bill apparently doesn’t need rest, so the demon just… stares at him. For the entire night. Dipper, in turn, stares at the wall.

He can’t remember the last time he slept.

Random things around the Shack have been catching on fire. Dipper wishes he was more certain who was causing it, but he’s got a sick feeling it isn’t his familiar. He flinches now, whenever anything brushes against him unexpectedly. Meanwhile, Bill is alternating between quiet anger (Dipper’s already learned several ancient and really inappropriate curses), and cheerful sociopathy. He messes with the guests in the Mystery Shack, then Dipper intercepts him, and then… things get weird.

And Dipper really, really wishes Mabel hadn’t caught them wrestling in the closet that one time. It was awkward.

The point is, Bill can’t get Dipper to reenter his realm, no matter how he’s pushed for it. Though Bill’s extremely magical, intelligent and violent, Dipper is now the key to Bill’s realm, and he’s figured out how to control it. Sort of.

He’s only gotten to the point where he can shove things into it without bringing himself along for the ride. It pisses Bill off immensely, but Dipper’s more worried about running out of ammo. Mabel’s eventually going to notice that her stuffed animals are disappearing, as Dipper tosses them into people’s nightmares.

And now, Dipper has possibly the only mortal instance of surviving a demonic attack completely unharmed.

He’d panicked at the sudden surge of heat and blue light around him, he’d almost run for his life - but the demonic flames just… tingled. Maybe Bill had been trying to scare him, maybe he was honestly trying to kill Dipper. It doesn’t matter. It didn’t hurt him any more than it had when Bill had first been summoned. It was like being in a warm, thick wind. The fire trailed over his skin, tickling until he couldn’t resist giggling helplessly, bending over with his arms over his stomach.

Bill had given him a look of absolute rage, then stormed off, and the flames faded away. The demon had sulked for days afterward.

So after everything they’ve been through - they’re at a stalemate.

They don’t mess with each other’s stuff. Bill doesn’t set anything of Dipper’s on fire, and Dipper doesn’t access the dream-place…thing, and chuck more stuffed animals into Bill’s favorite nightmares. (He really hopes Mabel won’t notice.)

They’re both stuck in reality. A reality full of glaring at each other, and bickering. They can’t even agree on who’s the familiar and who’s the master, and likely they never will. Dipper’s never met someone who argued so easily (and evilly) before.

Bill is infuriating. It’s fascinating.

No. Exhausting is a better word. Dipper’s never felt so tired in all his life.

Dipper shakes his head suddenly, trying to wake up a little. He stares at the plate in front of him, poking at his food idly. They’re in Greasy’s Diner, and the people around him alternate between near slow-motion, and bright, vivid reality. He stares off into the distance. It’s oddly intriguing.

His sister sits on the opposite side of the table, Bill on her right. To Dipper’s left, Waddles snorts contentedly - the only pig in the world allowed to sit in a booth - the sound occasionally distorted by whatever weird time-stuff is happening.

“I like this fluid,” Bill says cheerfully, and Dipper blinks, starting from his blurry half-sleep just in time to see Bill tilt his head back, and start pouring an entire carafe of maple syrup straight down his throat.

Mabel laughs and throws her hands up in the air. “Chug! Chug! Chug!” She chants, and Dipper grimaces in disgust, heaving himself over the table, trying to pull the stupid syrup from Bill’s hands.

Aren’t demons supposed to have some kind of dignity? How can he be so embarrassing?

Bill fights him - no surprise there, story of their entire relationship - and gets syrup down his chin and on his (for once) casual clothes. Dipper doesn’t know how he got them, but hello, demon. It was probably something involving murdering someone for their t-shirt, and stripping it off their still-warm corpse.

Dipper finally wrests the jug from Bill’s grip, but not before there’s an unholy mess on the table and down the front of Bill’s shirt. Mabel pouts, putting her hands on her hips. “Awww, bro, don’t be such a killjoy! That was fun!”

His familiar grins, an overly long tongue swiping quickly down to clean his chin while Mabel’s distracted. “Shooting Star’s right. Live a little, why don’t ya?”

Dipper sucks in a breath through his teeth, forcing a smile on his face (even he knows it looks fake). “Sure thing,” He says, jaw still clenched tightly. “Mabel, can we have a moment?”

His twin raises a brow, then frowns, looking between Bill and Dipper - the demon pulling up the front of his shirt to suck on the syrup soaking into it, and Dipper, twitching a little as he tries to keep smiling.

“Okay,” She says carefully, getting up. “I gotta go to the little girl’s room anyway.” She steps away, Waddles slipping off the booth to trot after her.

Dipper glares until Bill finally looks up and notices him. He blinks, mouth still full of his own shirt, then opens his mouth and lets the soaked garment fall back down. The demon looks slightly confused. “What’s your deal, Pine Tree? I’m playing nice for once!”

“Exactly,” Dipper hisses, leaning in close. Bill looks at him curiously, then rests his elbows on the table and leans in just as much, leaving only a couple inches between their faces. Dipper’s used to this - he’s not going to let himself be intimidated - and doesn’t move away. “I know what you want,” He mutters. “And I want you to know that even though you’re being nice to Mabel now? It doesn’t fool me,” Dipper jabs a finger into Bill’s shoulder. He’s slightly disappointed when Bill doesn’t react. “You’ll destroy whatever you don’t like, and I’m not going to let that-”

“Nope!” Bill interrupts, snorting softly. “You’re an idiot, kid,” He straightens up, and wipes some of the maple syrup off the table, sticking his fingers in his mouth. “I like Mabel. You can keep her! She can stick around when I-” Bill clears his throat. “I mean, ‘we’, take over!”

Dipper stares. “What?”

“I. Like. Your. Twin.” Bill states, articulating the words. “And she can stick around. Way more chaotic and charismatic than yourself. You know, in case you haven’t noticed!” Grinning, the demon leans back in the booth, looking absurdly pleased with himself.

Dipper thinks about that, then slumps back in his seat.

Of course Bill likes Mabel. And there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s a good thing. It means no matter what happens, no matter what Bill does, what happens with their bond - she’s safe.

His hands clench tightly, nails digging into his palms.

It’s a relief. Really.

Bill hums happily to himself, and starts picking up the little plastic containers of butter, unwrapping them and licking up the contents. Dipper spares an instant to cringe, then pulls the butter away from Bill. They struggle with each other for a few moments - Bill complaining that he can have whatever he likes, thank you very much, idiot, and Dipper arguing that Bill couldn’t act normal if he had a century and written instructions.

There’s a loud laugh next to them, and Bill takes advantage of Dipper’s sudden hesitation to steal not only the remaining butter, but also all the sugars and creamer that Dipper had tried to keep from him at the beginning of breakfast.

“Aw, Bill!” Mabel says, still chuckling and flopping back into her seat next to the demon. Waddles hops up onto the booth next to her, snuffling into the sleeve of her sweater. “Don’t embarrass Dipper so much, he hates it when people do this,” Bill hesitates, just for a moment, frowning in the middle of ripping a sugar packet open. Then Mabel leans in conspiratorially, whispering at a volume that Dipper can clearly hear. “You should share some with me first.”

Bill smiles, enthusiastic and bright. “What’s yours is mine,” He says, magnanimously offering Mabel half the sugar packets and giving a dramatic half-bow over the tabletop, doffing the hat he currently doesn’t have.

Mabel starts giggling, hard. Next to her, Bill starts snickering in turn, eye shut, smile white and broad. Their half of the table is consumed with laughter, and sugar and creamer spills over the table as they rip the little containers open.

They get along really well, Dipper thinks.

He watches his familiar and his sister make a complete mess, one smirking, the other delighted and playful, as they swap sugar and creamer, and argue about how much more syrup they might need to finish off the pancakes, since Bill drank the last bit.

Dipper swallows, stands up, and leaves while they’re still distracted.

The bell on the door jangles as it shuts behind him, and he keeps his eyes on the sidewalk as he storms away. He stares at the pavement. There’s a rock on the sidewalk, and he kicks it along as he walks.

Everything’s fine. It could be worse. Mabel’s not in danger.

Dipper kicks the stone harder, sending it bouncing off the wall of a building and almost into the street. He gives it another sharp kick, and it clicks over the pavement in front of him.

Everything’s actually pretty good! Bill’s a megalomaniacal, sadistic bastard, and a demon. But he doesn’t want to hurt Mabel. This whole situation is fucked up, but this is the best outcome he could have asked for. It’s not even like it’s surprising.

He traps the stone under his heel, and lets his weight grind down on it. Frustration sticks in his chest. It feels like he’s choking on it.

Because everything. Likes. Mabel. More than him.

Dipper aims another kick at the stone - then misses, hitting the corner of a building a little too hard. It stings like hell, and he curses and hops on one foot for a moment. He takes in a slow breath, trembling slightly.

“Hey!” Someone shouts, and Dipper looks up.

It’s them again. The same group that kicked the hell out of him last week. Why did this have to happen now, it’s not like he doesn’t have other problems! Though - he spares one terrified moment to notice it - there’s one less familiar tagging along behind them. Where the hell did it go?

Dipper backs away, rapidly. This isn’t good. He already has so much to deal with, and now he’s going to get the shit kicked out of him. Again. Even after everything that’s happened.

But you know what? Fuck that.

Dipper’s bonded to a dream demon. He should be able to use it.

Sleep!” Dipper shouts, turning away, one arm covering his eyes, putting everything he has behind it, the force of his will and all his magic,everything he can think of. He’s never going to be great at magic, but with enough will he might get something to happen-

Who the hell is he kidding, there’s no way that’s going to work. This is going to hurt.

Dipper cringes, sucking in a breath through his teeth, and waits for the first blow to fall.

Nothing happens.

He blinks, and looks up.

His assailants are collapsed on the sidewalk, slumped forms snoring on the pavement.

It worked.

It worked, and he’s not going to have someone trying to kick his face in. Not for a long time. Maybe never, if he can do this again. He can actually defend himself, he might be able to- This is incredible.

Dipper relaxes, almost laughing, then looks around. And freezes.

On the sidewalk, motionless bodies are slumped everywhere. Every person he can see is collapsed, unconscious, on the ground. Inside store windows, he can see the cashiers drooped over their counters, the customers senseless on the floor. Dipper yelps as he watches a car veer into a building, driver fast asleep behind the wheel - and breathes a shaky sigh of relief as only the car and the wall are damaged, not the driver, who’s strewn over the triggered airbag, and visibly snoring.

Everyone is asleep. Everywhere.

He stares at his hands.

This can’t be real. This isn’t right.

“Well, well, well,” Chirps a familiar voice, and Dipper flinches. Not this. Not now. “I’m actually impressed. Great work, Pine Tree, I knew you had enough in you to cause this much mayhem!”

Dipper turns, shoulders tense, and levels a glare at Bill-

Who’s carrying Mabel. And Waddles.

His twin is draped over the demon’s shoulder, her pig tucked under Bill’s other arm. Mabel’s sleeping, like everyone else, snorting softly and shifting a little. Bill leans to one side, adjusting her to balance better over his shoulder.

“So, you still not up for being my partner?” Bill sounds casual, but he waggles his eyebrows at Dipper. “Look at this! You and I could do so much together!” Bill makes a grand gesture at the world around them - still holding Waddles in one hand.

Dipper hesitates. Just briefly. (Bill is taking care of not only his sister, but her familiar. He actually, oddly enough, knows what’s really important to Dipper. And is watching out for it.)

He thinks for a moment. Then he flips Bill off.

The demon sighs, shaking his head slowly. “Well, whatever. I’ve got all the time in the world. Literally!” He grins, and steps closer, bumping a shoulder against Dipper’s. “Let’s get your moronic self and your fun sister back to the Shack, and hey, if you ask nice? I might even help you dispel the curse you just cast.”

Dipper mutters to himself, quietly furious, following his bonded jerkass as they walk back to the Mystery Shack - Freakin’ Bill, thinks he knows everything - Then he stops in his tracks, stunned.

“Wait. That was a curse?”

Bill turns his head to look at him, eye wide with surprise - then laughs, hard.

“Oh, wow! You didn’t mean to do that?” The demon grins so wide that his sharp, unnatural teeth show broadly. “I knew I liked you for a reason!” He sets Waddles down next to him briefly, and grabs Dipper’s hand, squeezing it gently. “Gosh, kid, stop being so fun, I’m getting too fond of you and your cute butt.”

Dipper yanks his hand away, clutching it to his chest. His face feels too hot, and he can’t quite meet Bill’s eye. “I- that-” He can’t even complete a sentence. 

Bill looks Dipper over slowly, then snorts derisively, picks Waddles back up under his arm, and keeps walking. “Suit yourself, Pine Tree. We’ll chat later. Idiot.”

“I’m not an idiot,” Dipper argues, but he still follows Bill. Then he starts walking ahead of Bill, because fuck letting the demon take the lead, he knows the way back to the Shack and he’s not letting Bill think he’s got the better of him. 

Behind him, he hears Bill snicker to himself.

This is going from bad to worse. Curses are supposed to be immensely difficult, and with Bill’s power behind his magic, he just cast one by accident

There has to be a way to get rid of this asshole, but he needs help. He casts a glance back at Bill, who's quietly humming to himself, looking around the sleeping town and way too pleased about things. 

…But he’d be lying if if he said this wasn’t a little bit thrilling. 

Chapter Text

Dipper has two major problems, but at the moment, one’s a lot more prominent.

Bill is still - and forever - a pain in the ass to deal with, but he’s more like… background noise at the moment. Dipper’s used to him by now, and can deal with his bullshit easily, almost reflexively.

The big problem is that he…. kinda cursed the town.

It was startling to see a whole street passed out on the ground. He’d cringed, and tried to look away, except that it was everywhere. Pretty large area of effect - he’d thought - until Bill and him had kept walking, and seeing more and more people stretched prone on the streets, and sidewalk, and the crashed cars, and- He’d upgraded ‘large’ to ‘really freaking huge’.

It’s just like when he tried to light the candles. Just a small thing, it should have barely worked-

And then it blew up in his face.

It’s a problem for everyone, not just Dipper - hell, it was an accident - but it’s his fault, and he feels awful anyway. This curse has got to be broken fast, because he’s got no idea how permanent it is, or if it has individual effects, or - anything about it, really.

It’s not a problem for Bill, though, who practically bounced with enthusiasm the whole time they headed back. Dipper feels like he should be upset about it, but he’s calm, and unsurprised. Again, he’s getting used to Bill.

The few people who aren’t affected - mostly those on the outside of town, a surprising number of people inside town who were somehow missed, or unaffected - are banding together to find a solution. 

And the culprit. Dipper figured he’d help out with the former rather than the latter.

What that means is that he’s sitting at the kitchen table with Grunkle Stan, flipping through books, asking each other about ideas, hell, even googling things. (Mostly Dipper’s job. Stan still has kind of a hazy concept of ‘internet’ beyond ‘I can make money from this, somehow!’) 

Stan’s not an expert or anything, but at least he’s still awake, and he’s gained tons of magical experience over the years. A lot of creative uses have gone into parts of the Shack.

Stan sighs, chucks the book he’s looking at over his shoulder, and slumps. “Well, I’m stumped. I give up.” He rubs at the bridge of his nose, pushing up his glasses. “Any ideas?”

Dipper… figures he should be more surprised, but he’s not. “Sorry,” He admits. He hasn’t actually been reading, he’s been going over what he did - quietly, just… little touches of magic and will - but he can’t figure out what the reverse of what he did would be. “Haven’t a clue.”

Stan frowns. He taps one shoe on the floor. “Well, I got one,” he grumbles.

What?

“What?” Dipper asks, and tenses. “A clue about… uh,” He stares back at the book open in his hands. “How to fix this?”

“Yeah,” says Stan, and taps his finger on the table as well. “This is too big for you or me,” He runs a hand through his greying hair. “I’m gonna call my brother.”

“Oh!” Dipper straightens up, surprised. “Ford? Wait, he’s-”

Off exploring mystical reaches of existence, and remote areas - practically an adventurer - extraordinarily skilled practitioner, and not one of those flashy ones either, only using the tiniest bit of power. He’s still amazing, a talented cursebreaker - and a demon hunter.

Dipper should be excited. If anyone could figure out how to separate him from Bill, it would be Ford….

But.

God, it was so stupid to try something like making a fake familiar in the first place, he can’t say he basically did the mystical power equivalent of, of jerking off to his freaking Great Uncle. Ford might be understanding, but there’s nothing about that conversation that wouldn’t be really really awkward. Or worse, Ford could be disappointed in him. And wouldn’t that just be the icing on the cake on this whole, fucked up, humiliating situation.

Not to mention Bill wasn’t, technically, summoned. They’re bonded. Part of his weird demonic energy is all wrapped up with Dipper. It’s like a warm light somewhere in his chest, though he tries to ignore it most of the time. Dipper thinks about what that’s going to feel like when it ends.

It’s supposed to hurt, like. A lot. He’s definitely not looking forward to…

Dipper clears his throat. He’ll cross that bridge when he comes to it.

“So… Ford’s pretty hard to find…” Travelling everywhere, doing the unimaginable - it’s worse than only not being near a phone, when there’s magical interference involved. “How’re you-?”

Stan sighs again, harder, and stands up, pressing his hands against the tabletop and knocking off a couple of books. “Old trick from back in the day. Should still work.” He frowns. “…Yeah, it’ll be fine. We can at least talk. Get some ideas.”

“Awesome! So what-”

Stan groans. “No offense kid, but this is gonna be a complete pain - and just so you know, it’s gonna be literally painful - So I’m gonna take this to the other room for a minute.” He sounds more than a little disgruntled. For a moment, Stan looks off into the distance - then he shakes his head. “Stay here and keep reading. You like that stuff, right?”

“Sure,” Dipper agrees hesitantly. The relationship between the Stans has always been a bit tense, but he’s never asked about it. It’s probably kind of personal.

He watches Stan retreat into the living room, quietly grumbling. He flips through the books some more, breathing out sharply at how completely useless every single one of them is - oh man, this page is just completely false, it’s misleading as hell.

Sitting up quickly, Dipper looks around himself - nobody here, Stan’s busy, Mabel’s still cursed into a magical sleep - Carefully, he burns the page out of the book, using the smallest flame he can. It’s oddly satisfying.

Then he slams it shut. And waits.

Not even ten seconds later, he’s standing with his ear pressed against the door to the living room. He stepped close as quietly as possible - Stan wanted privacy - but hey, it’s a strange spell, and he’s always been interested in the theory, even if he has, or, (a little burst of pride surges in him) had, problems with practicing it.

Instead of whatever chant or ritual Stan uses, Dipper hears the muffled sound of a conversation. Or rather half of a conversation - whatever Stan did, Ford’s voice isn’t audible. He lifts his head away from the door, a little disappointed - but…

Well, he’s already here. Why not?

He leans in again, listening. He only catches brief snatches of conversation, and still only half of it. The words he can hear are soft, and he has to concentrate to understand them through the muffling of the door.

“-no, not something unimportant-”

“Why would- No, you-”

“-told you, hundreds! How many other cities have-”

“No! Look at the news, oh wait, which you don’t have there-”

There’s a very loud bout of cursing, then Dipper hears the sudden shout clearly. “Well, our freakin’ niece is cursed, and sure as hell don’t know what to do about it!”

There’s a long, long silence.

Dipper bites his lip. Yeah. Mabel’s cursed. But it’s not a deadly curse. Not… over the short term. People can’t sleep forever.

But. It’s Dipper’s. So he can reverse it, he can stop this. All he needs is to see how it’s done, or wrangle the solution out of Bill. And he can do that too! He’s learning how to handle the demon so well, it-

He can fix it. He will fix it.

The conversation continues, much more quietly. It takes a moment, but Dipper, hesitantly, listens in again.

“Anyone? Not-”

Another pause, not quite as long.

Stan lets out a long, hopeless sigh. “Just Dipper. And well… you know.” And the tone on the last phrase is so quiet-

Dipper straightens up, takes a slow breath. He keeps his face calm, and composed. He walks, carefully, slowly, and quietly back to the table.

He takes a seat, and opens up another book.

The words are there, but he doesn’t see them. He just stares. The book in his hands is shuddering, and Dipper steadies it by resting his arms on the table.

This curse is too powerful. It’s got too many people in its grip. To break it they’ll need the best, the absolute best, people like Great Uncle Ford. And that’ll save Gravity Falls, and everyone will be fine, because they’ll have the most powerful people, those who have great talents.

Not other people. People who can’t, nine times out of ten, light a candle. Or someone who can’t move water, air, or earth. Or lift an object. Even though they’re really trying.

The pages crumple under his hands.

Not someone who’s - ‘you know’.

A failure.

The paper he’s touching starts to smoke.

Dipper fumbles the book around, almost dropping it, and dashes over to the sink, slamming open the tap and running the book under the water. He curses softly to himself.

“What…exactly are you doing?” Stan asks, in confusion. And Dipper yelps, drawing back, clutching the soaked book to his chest. That was fast, that call must have ended almost the instant he stopped-

“Nothing! How did the contact go? How’s Ford doing?” Dipper babbles, and pats at the pages of the book, returning to his seat and wiping what water he can off. There are a few scorch marks, but at least nothing soaked in. “Did he have any advice?”

Stan gives him an odd look, then shakes his head and shrugs. “Listen, Dipper… I gotta leave.”

“What?”

“Turns out - well, there are a couple important things about whatever’s going on here - “ Stan says, crossing his arms and frowning. “First,” He raises one finger. “This is really serious. Ford’s coming here as soon as he can.”

“So why are you leaving?” Dipper asks. He knows they’ve got issues, but for Stan to leave when Ford’s coming here seems a little extreme-

“Second,” Stan says, rolling his eyes and raising another finger. “He’s in some kinda messed up place right now and needs some help dragging his nerdy butt back here,” Stan shrugs dismissively, but there’s just a tiny hint of smile on his face. “So guess who’s doing that?”

“You are.” Dipper answers. He finds himself smiling a bit as well. It’s… hey, if Stan’s happy, that’s a good thing.

“So try not to sleep too much while I’m out,” Stan continues, already heading upstairs. “Shouldn’t be much of a problem for you, anyway.” Hilarious. Because Dipper’s never heard a joke about his insomnia before. Even when he still could sleep.

“Promise,” Dipper smiles weakly, and gives Stan a small nod. “When do you think you’ll be back?”

Stan takes a second to think on it, then shrugs. “If we’re lucky, maybe three days? If not, maybe a week?” He shrugs. “Hard to tell, and honestly? I think my brother’s a bit pessimistic about it.” He snorts, grinning softly. “But I gotta get some stuff. Then, I’m outta here.”

Eventually Stan is packed, ready, and standing in the door. Dipper watches, leaning against the wall. Though Stan casts a glance back over his shoulder, and his face is serious. “Just… be careful, alright?” He looks away and scratches the back of his neck. “We got no idea what’s out there.”

Dipper rolls his eyes. What’s out there? It’s him, not something dangerous. Nothing is going to happen. “I’m sure things are fine. Take care, too.”

Stan shuts the door behind him - then it slams back open quickly, and he points a finger at Dipper. “And keep your creepy boyfriend outta my stuff!” He nods, once, then closes the door, taking off. Dipper looks around.

Where the hell is Bill, anyway? He’s a dream demon, it’s his magic, he should know all about the curse. He said he’d - he said he’d maybe help Dipper with what he’s done. But Dipper knows that getting that help is going to be like pulling teeth. At best.

There’s a soft hum near him. Dipper doesn’t turn to look, there’s only one other awake person in the Shack. Someone just as sleepless as he is.

“Hey Bill,” Dipper waves idly. “So, we’re getting a cursebreaker in, apparently,” He shakes his head, but he can’t help but smile a little. Ford’s so cool. “My uncle Stanford.”

There’s a quiet, amused noise from where Bill’s standing, and he hears the demon step up next to him. “Stanford Pines, huh?” Dipper glances at him. Bill’s got an oddly serious, contemplative look on his face. “Interesting,” He mutters, and taps a finger against his mouth.

Then his ever-present smile returns, and he turns to Dipper. “Aw. Stanley there says I’m creepy, huh? I’m devastatingly charming!”

Dipper can’t help it, it’s just so wrong. He snorts out a breath of laughter, then sterns his face quickly and shoves a fist over his mouth. “You’re a megalomaniac demonic asshole.” He grumbles. “Nobody finds that charming.”

“I’m your ‘boyfriend’, aren’t I? You gotta.” Dipper punches Bill in the ribs. “Oh, I’m wounded,” Bill continues, unperturbed, voice low with sarcasm. “Bury me… never, because noodly little arms can’t destroy immortal beings who existed long before their ancestors had ancestors.”

Dipper ignores that, and turns to face him. “Teach me how to break the spell.”

Bill cocks his head. 

“Thought you said they were bringing in a cursebreaker, sapling, Why are you worried? Things’ll get fixed sooner or later, since this…” Bill breathes in slow, then sighs, dramatically. “Unfortunately… won’t kill anyone. Probably. Good first try, though!” He smiles, and pats Dipper on the arm. “Maybe next time.”

“There won’t be a next time,” Dipper insists, tense. “And-”

And if he can fix this, before the experts move in - before anyone steps in his way and says he can’t, when he knows he can - people will see he’s good at this now, he won’t be -

You know.

He takes a slow steady breath, and glares at Bill. “This is mine. I should be the one to deal with it. Not anyone else.”

Bill looks him over for several moments, smile gone, head still tilted to one side. Then he closes his eye, and nods slowly, approvingly. “Alright.”

Alright?” Dipper repeats, surprised. He looks around - no, just Bill and him, he can’t see any traps. He looks back at Bill. “Not that I’m complaining, but I was expecting more of an argument.” They almost always argue. This is a little weird. He narrows his eyes, suspicious. “What’s the catch?”

“No catch! I like the way you’re thinking!” Bill grins again. And his eye briefly flares blue. “This is yours to give, and yours to take away!” He blinks, and his eye goes gold again. “Stay possessive, kid. Let’s get you some control over this. See what happens.”

Dipper feels… worried. Wow, Bill’s actually being helpful for once, that’s- insane.

“Of course, you also suck at everything,” Bill adds, completely unnecessarily. 

Dipper relaxes.

“So maybe you can’t do it! But hey,” And here Bill leans in, and plants a wet kiss on Dipper’s cheek. “Who am I to prevent my pet from trying to take what’s rightfully his?”

“I‘m not your pet,” Dipper says reflexively, then starts, as Bill strides off confidently to another part of the Shack. He reluctantly follows, wiping his cheek with the back of one hand.

“So, have you ever broken a spell before?” Bill asks as they walk, then immediately adds, “Ha! Of course you haven’t. You’ve got potential, sure! But about as much knowledge as a concussed kitten. We’ll have to start with the basics.”

Dipper stares blankly, watching Bill practically skip into the living room, and slump happily in the armchair. “You know, I think the real reason I hang around you is because of the flattery,” He says, sarcastic. “You always say the nicest things.”

Bill looks at him from his seat, smile turning very, very slightly fond for an instant. And he laughs. “Like I said! I’m charming.” He adjusts himself in the seat slightly, then pats his lap. “Have a seat.”

With a soft sigh, Dipper steps in to stand beside the chair. He doesn’t move to sit. “Seriously?”

“I ain’t messing with you, Pine Tree,” Bill states. Dipper crosses his arms, and doesn’t move. He’s not falling for… whatever this is.

There’s a quiet standoff, but… surprisingly, Bill’s the first to relent. He casts his arms up in a ‘fine, whatever’ gesture.

“Look, kid, you wanna learn some new tricks. Aaaand I just might be a little bit limited in this realm-” He levels a dirty look at Dipper’s sudden smirk. “Whatever, I gotta work through you to show off the stuff. And touching makes it easier.” Bill opens his arms wide, then gestures back at his lap, looking moderately annoyed.

Dipper stays still for a moment, still unwilling, but… Bill’s got a point. It does make sense that for Bill’s currently restrained power to show up, he has to do something. Using Dipper as a channel for it meshes with what Dipper knows of magical theory.

Fuck it. There are worse things. It’s not like Bill can hurt him, and he's definitely tried.

Dipper walks forward, turns around, and drops himself onto Bill’s lap harder than he actually needs to. Bill grunts softly in pain.  Dipper shifts, moving himself to lean over the arm of the chair, throwing his legs over the opposite. It’s uncomfortable, and Bill’s weirdly warm, but he’s ready for anything the demon can throw at him.

He hopes.

Underneath him, Bill leans back, then takes up both of Dipper’s hands in his. The smile is gone again, replaced with a look of concentration. “Hm,” He tilts his head to both sides, looks up at Dipper, then nods, certain. “You are really damned uneducated.”

Dipper fumes, and starts to get up. No point in wasting his time sitting here if Bill’s only going to mess with him. “So what’s the point of….”

Bill, still serious, pulls him in, keeping him in place. A surge of magic is- dragged, straight out Dipper’s chest, through his arms - to where Bill’s holding his wrists, it’s strangely hot, but not burning. It’s Bill, pulling his magic through Dipper and out from where they’re touching.

Fine. Okay. He wasn’t lying about the physical contact, but Dipper’s still a little annoyed about the whole lap thing.

“Let’s start- hm, I know,” Bill grins at him, and makes Dipper cup his hands together, not quite touching. “With illusions!” He nudges Dipper with one shoulder. “You might not suck at it. You really love hiding things from people," Dipper looks away. Bill continues, either oblivious, or uncaring. "Let's give 'em something else to look for.”

He drops one of Dipper's hands, and lifts his own. “Check this out! Nothing up my sleeve..." A quick gesture, and a dove appears in his hand, as detailed as a real one, right down to its cooing in distress. "Ta da!"

Bill chucks the bird away, and it flies rapidly - straight into the TV screen with a sudden cracking noise, where it falls down, dead. Its body bursts, exploding into a massive cloud of confetti and party streamers. They slowly dissolve as Bill stops powering their existence.

That... was disturbing. And weird, and oddly playful. So, much more like Dipper had thought this would go. He feels the magic curling around his hands, over his fingers, as Bill pulls his power through Dipper’s own body. It’s warm and kind of tingles, currently directionless, but he knows that if he really concentrated there - there would be a ton of fire, which couldn’t hurt either of them, but could burn down the Shack if he's not really careful.

God, he’s going to screw up trying this stuff. All the time. Bill expects it, probably. He’ll think it’s funny.

But Dipper will be damned if he lets Bill have that satisfaction. He’s going to get things right, first try, before there's even a chance to taunt him.

“Hey,” Bill draws a finger through the air, leaving a gold trail behind, drawing the outline of a triangle between them. He winks at Dipper through it “You wanna learn, or not?”

Dipper doesn’t hesitate. He grabs Bill’s hands with his own. 

“Show me.” 

Chapter Text

The only good thing about having lost the ability to sleep is how much more time you have. They manage to fit in a full twenty-four hour day of magic practice. With brief interruptions.

Dipper feels constantly exhausted. It’s been, wow, way too long. He should really be dead, or at the very least insane.

Thinking about it, he’s not entirely sure he’s not insane. Because for the first time in - since they met, he might be- He can’t believe he’s thinking this- enjoying Bill’s company. Only occasionally.

There’s one time Bill’s not trying to be an asshole - emphasis on the word trying - and it’s when he’s so frustrated with Dipper’s efforts that he storms in to help, muttering something about incompetent mortals wasting his time and, literally, his energy. He complains, and insults, and tells Dipper to do things only for them to turn out to be tricks that do something else entirely. But for all of that, he must get something from teaching magic. He’s just the slightest bit calmer, easier to deal with.

The rest of the time he has to deal with his demon, Bill’s suggestion for when Dipper gets too frustrated has been helpful. Dipper knows he can wield fire at this point, the real problem is not wielding it. And there’s something very calming, and satisfying, about having that kind of control.

Dipper hopes Ford won’t want to explore the forest with him when he gets here. With any luck, he’ll be too busy. There’s a whole cluster of circles around the Shack where forest glades and trees are burnt up into charcoal, and that’s going to be pretty difficult to explain.

And it turns out that Dipper actually, genuinely - even without Bill’s power, it’s amazing - has a talent.

With illusions.

Not exactly monster-fighting material, or demon-destroying material. Or doing anything, really, except confusing or messing with people, but Dipper figures his talent is part of why Bill connected to him. For a while, the demon had even been pleased to see his progress, discussing a little theory - until he saw Dipper grinning, and shut the hell up for once in his eternal life.

Then the insults started coming, but Dipper’s learning to keep up with that, even fight back, and he loves it when he manages to get one up on his familiar.

Anyway, that’s one mystery solved. Dipper can put the pieces together, once he has enough of them. Their accidental bonding was originally an illusory spell, after all.

Bill’s body is the first real illusion Dipper ever cast, and that’s pretty impressive.

Originally, the spell should have made a solid, real creature, albeit one that would need constant power to not dissolve. It was supposed to live off of Dipper’s magic, but Bill got tangled up in that mess. Dipper’s fault, really, he left parts of his wording too open-ended. And with a second being involved, the illusion had a different energy source - and since it was a spell made to create a familiar…

It actually made a bond. Now they’re connected, and Bill’s power keeps his body alive, but Dipper made the thing. It’s... his, in a weird way.

The short of it is, when Dipper dies, he’s taking Bill’s physical form with him.

Dipper doesn’t like to think about how lucky that is. That restriction is likely the only reason Bill didn’t kill him from the start. Bill likes having a body, though he is limited by it, and stuck inside it. It must feel constraining. No wonder he’s so insistent on getting back into his realm.

He also keeps arguing for it, like he is at the moment.

“I’m telling you, kid, it’d be a snap,” Bill argues as they walk, snapping his fingers rapidly a few times. Dipper’s glad he discovered normal human clothing since he was summoned, he looks less conspicuous in the street. “Bring me there, and bam, problem solved! None of this legwork.”

“No,” Dipper says, for the hundredth time, focusing forward. “I said we’re never going back there, and I meant it.” Being in a demon’s realm, or even letting Bill run around his realm by himself, is an instant recipe for disaster.

Bill tuts softly. “These guys aren’t in immediate trouble, but they are in trouble,” He insists. “Why delay? You want to help them, don’t you?”

Dipper breathes in slowly, not turning his head. “Okay, first, we discussed this. This is my problem, I’m fixing it. And second, for all I know, you’d turn this sleep thing into irreversible comas-” He looks at Bill’s face out of the corner of his eye, and continues. “Or have people driven insane, or maybe do they wake up, but now they think their arms are made of snakes-”

Bill’s eyebrows raise at the last one, a little intrigued.

Knew it.

“Besides, I want to learn more,” Dipper says. Bill may be - sometimes, rarely - entertaining, but he can’t be trusted to do anything good, or right. “You’re stuck with me, and we’re doing this the hard way.” There’s a short pause, then Bill mutters a little to himself and knocks his shoulder against Dipper’s roughly.

Bill’s still himself. Dipper has to be careful that he doesn’t mess with things too much.

He walks for a little longer before he notices Bill’s not next to him anymore. He stops and turns around.

Bill is contemplating a convenience store, locked up currently and empty - everyone working at the time must have been affected, and it’s not like there are many people around now to go shopping. The demon slips a hand into a pocket, and pulls out a roll of lockpicks.

Dipper charges forward. “The hell are you doing?” He doesn’t know why he asks, it’s obvious. “And where did you get those-” Right, also obvious. Dipper sighs. “Stan told me to keep you out of his stuff, Bill. At least put those back later.”

Bill takes a moment to think about it. “Yeah, no.” He picks a couple of tools, and starts working at the lock. Dipper raises a hand to stop him- But he really doesn’t want another fight right now. Their arguments waste too much time, and he’s only got a few days to unravel this curse before Ford gets here. Instead, he just watches.

“You know, you’re doing that wrong,” Dipper offers. And pauses. “And now you’re doing it even more wro-”  Another pause. “You know how to do this. You’re just trying to annoy me.”

Bill’s voice is full of repressed amusement. “No, no, no! Why would I do tha-”

“Give me those,” Dipper interrupts, snatching the whole damned set out of Bill’s hands and picking the stupid lock for him. Being around Stan has taught him a whole host of unsavory skills, but this is one he kind of likes doing. The door is open soon enough, and he gives Bill a sarcastic half-bow as he swings it open for him. “Just do whatever you were going to, and make it quick.”

“I’m getting a soda,” says Bill, and, calling out from within the store. “You want one?”

Dipper watches him pace the aisles. He takes a moment. “...Get chips too.”

There’s a center to the whole shockwave that hit the town, so they’re heading for the place where Dipper originally cast the curse - apparently the best ‘view of the chaos’ as Bill put it. He wants to somehow take a look at things. After that, they can start working towards a solution. Dipper shakes his head. Rather, he can start working towards a solution.

The streets are strangely empty, and quiet, growing quieter as they walk the last few blocks. Beside him, Bill sips his drink and looks around contentedly. “Cheer up, kid. You did this. You should be proud.”

Dipper nearly snorts out part of his own drink in reaction, and coughs. “Proud? Of this? Why the hell would I be proud of this?”

“Look around you, kid. An empty city, ruined by your power-”

“That’s bad.”

“Oh, sure, you want some cultists around, usually,” continues Bill, unperturbed. “But remember? Your enemies strewn on the ground before you?”

“Mm,” agrees Dipper, then shakes his head, opening his mouth to argue- then shuts it. He stares at the soda in his hand. He’s not arguing because things will escalate, and he wants to get this over with.

Breaking and entering, petty theft - he watches Bill toss his empty drink carelessly away - littering. Leisurely walking around, talking about destroyed towns, and cultists, and seeing your enemies defeated and helpless. So far, this trip has been nothing but an experience in very low-grade malevolence.

Bill reaches over to take Dipper’s hand. He laces their fingers together.

That explains that. Bill’s going to take a look at what he needs to, Dipper’s going to figure this out, and then this ‘date’ is off. Though Dipper does have to give him credit - this is one of Bill’s more elaborate plans for messing with him. Likely he was going to use it to set up something else, but ha! Dipper’s got this.

“Ah, here we are!”

Dipper looks up. He doesn’t exactly remember where he was besides ‘somewhere near the diner’, but Bill’s apparently spotted the place. He follows as the demon heads in a beeline across the street, standing deliberately in a specific place on the sidewalk.

“So this is it?” Bill nods, releasing his hand. Dipper waits for him to say something. “Well… what are you going to do now?”

Bill rolls his eye and turns a little where he stands, hands on his hips. His eye turns blue, and he looks around - then he frowns and pushes Dipper back a few paces. “Move it, you’re blocking the view.”

Dipper steps back a little more, watching Bill. He shifts where he stands, watching. “...So what’s the solution?”

“Gimme a minute,” mutters Bill, turning in a very slow circle, eye glancing all around.

He catches sight of Dipper’s raised eyebrow, and pauses to glare. “Yeah, yeah, laugh it up. You’re asking for the opposite of my usual gig, and I have to take all of this-” He gestures broadly and sharply over the landscape- “And somehow cram it into a small enough ball of understanding to fit in your head, Mr. ‘Let’s-do-this-the-hard-way’.” And with that, Bill turns away from him abruptly, arms crossed.

“Oh no, am I annoying Mr. ‘I-want-the-world-subjugated-beneath-me’? How awful.”

“Pity you’re such a wimp about it. You could do a lot if you really tried. Help me with some stuff I’ve got going, fill the world with images of me-” Bill rolls his eye - which apparently catches something, and he frowns, gazing off into the distance.

“If the world was filled with images of you, I think I’d be sick.” says Dipper.

“You know that’s not what I meant,” says Bill, distracted. He gestures over himself. “This? Is devilishly handsome. But it’s only a-” He snaps his fingers a couple times, looking for the word while concentrating on something else. “Y’know, a metaphor for the real deal. It didn’t fit your dumb spell’s requirements. Now shut up, I’m looking at stuff.”

Dipper settles down, sitting on the curb, and waits. He can’t break the curse - it’s made of his magic, it’d be like trying to shatter an object using itself. But he might be able to take it back, and for that, he needs to know its construction. No choice but to give his demon some time. Though that was interesting information. He’d kind of wondered why Bill looked so human. From what he’s heard from Ford’s stories, most demons don’t even come close, and while his familiar has some oddities, he’s more than passable.

Dipper had laid out three really basic rules - close to his magic - check - won’t wander off and get lost - Dipper doubts Bill’s ever lost. That leaves ‘animal’. Humans are, technically, animals. But so are giant centipedes, and Lovecraftian horrors. If Bill’s true form doesn’t fit in that broad of a term, it’s really, really weird.

Nearby, Bill makes a small, displeased noise, he blinks his eye back to its normal gold. “Alright, you know how I said I was impressed? I’m less than impressed,” He looks at Dipper. “This was sloppy.”

Groaning, Dipper straightens up and stands. “It was an accident.”

“A sloppy accident,” agrees Bill, and crosses his arms, a finger tapping on one of his biceps. “That means if you wanna clean it up, that’s gonna be a pain.”

It was already looking like a pain in the ass, but if Bill thinks so too, it’s infinitely worse. Dipper closes his eyes and rubs at the bridge of his nose. He gives a sharp gesture towards himself. “Lay it on me. What’s going on?”

It takes a short while for Bill to respond. His head tilts back slightly and his eye narrows as he thinks, but for once the constant flow of mockery has stopped. Discussing magical theory is the only common ground they have, and it interests Bill enough that he’s willing to be serious.

“Right,” declares Bill, having decided what approach he’s going to use. “You were real general with the command you used, and that isn’t good. There’s a reason you don’t see mass curses like this too much. It gets all... uneven. Bet you missed a bunch, even though they were in range,” It’s not quite a question, but Dipper nods. Bill gives him a disapproving look. “This splattered all over the place. Real directionless. You see where this is going.”

Dipper buries his face in his hands. Bill’s domain is the mind, they’ve gone over more than a little mind magic theory. He can see where this is going. Giving a really general command to a group of minds is a bad idea. Everyone thinks differently, you get different results.

“It got personalized, didn’t it. Because it was so vague.”

A firm, approving nod. “Now, breaking this? Super easy, it’s all connected, and not very solid! But removal’s a different story,” Bill arches an eyebrow. “I’m not saying you couldn’t yank off this particular bandaid... but you're not that good. You know what'd happen.”

Dipper stares miserably at the ground. Pulling back all of that magic at once, from so many minds, all so varied and differently affected- He’s not good enough for that. He’d fuck their heads up completely, and that’s worse than this mostly harmless curse.

“Too bad for you, Pine Tree. Another dream crushed, huh?” Bill steps in and pats him gently on the side. “No storming in bravely with a brilliant solution, showing everyone that you’re actually amazing, nobody questioning you again. Being the big damn hero.” Dipper looks up and sees Bill, slightly smug.

That stings.

Bill acts like he’s oblivious, he fools around, he’s often playful - Dipper sometimes forgets that Bill’s actually really damned smart, and knows human motivations better than any demon should. Bill knew what he wanted, well before Dipper could even admit it to himself.

He takes a deep breath. And says something he never thought he’d say.

“Thanks. For the warning,” If Bill hadn’t told him all of the details, he might have tried to take the curse back, and then- it’s too awful to think about. It’s an honestly surprising gesture. The kind of thing that deserves something in return. “And you’re… not a bad teacher.”

“Thought about not explaining,” admits Bill, “But you’d have cut things short before they got fun, and then you’d be an even bigger pain to deal with.” He grimaces for an instant in distaste, then shrugs, smirking a little less sharply. “You catch on too quick.”

Bill looks back off into the distance, looking off at something no human can see. Dipper casts his gaze over the quiet, empty buildings. There’s traffic out there, somewhere distant, but all these buildings are shut down, employees cursed, nothing to visit. For some time, they stand there in silence. 

Shame, though, that there’s nothing he can do. Dipper’s always hated feeling powerless. He can’t help anyone-

A thought strikes him. It’s a personalized curse. And if there’s one person he knows, it’s Mabel.

This might work. He shoots a look at Bill. “I have an idea.” His familiar glances at him, a little surprised.

Dipper’s mind races, because- okay, maybe he can’t do anything about what he’s done, but from what he’s learned of mind magic theory, this idea is... solid. It’ll only work on one person, but if this helps his twin, he’ll call that a win in his book. He finds himself smiling.

He meets Bill’s eye. “I have a really good idea.”

Bill looks curious, one eyebrow raised. “Okay.” He says, slowly, interested, but not encouraging.

Dipper steps in, still smiling, and claps Bill on the shoulder. He’s kind of proud of this one. “Love’s first kiss.”

Bill’s eye brightens, he leans in towards Dipper- who smacks a hand over Bill’s face. “No, not you. Nice try,” he adds. God, is Bill ever being a sarcastic jerk today. Dipper lowers his hand as the demon sulks. “I meant, use one to break part of the curse.”

For a moment, Bill stares at him like he’s an idiot. What’s unusual is that this is less of a mocking look than one of ‘oh god, who broke all my stuff, there used to be a brain here’.

“Hate to break it to you,” says Bill carefully, running his eye over Dipper, as if he’s checking him for injuries. Or maybe signs of brain damage. “But love’s just a societal construct humans use to justify their weird behavior while they give into the urge to reproduce the species. It's fake. There’s no magic in it.”

“No, no, hear me out,” Dipper holds his hands up, “Okay, yeah, you’re right. Love being magic is crap,” This is a good idea, it’s going to work - “But it’s crap that Mabel believes in. Mind magic, belief, stories,” He snaps his fingers a few times. “Sleeping Beauty, right, everyone knows that-”

“Oh,” Bill says, soft and surprised. Then, grinning with interest, “Ha! I see where you’re going with this. Let’s walk and talk.” He jerks his head in a direction and moves. Shoulders slumping in relief, Dipper follows his demon, and starts explaining.

He’s glad he’s got an expert to bounce this off of. If something’s not right about it, Bill will let him know in certain, insulting terms. If he thinks of any way that this could backfire horrifically, he’ll giggle. Really, he’s the perfect sounding board - if you know how to read him, and tolerate him. By the time Dipper’s done telling Bill the plan - Mabel’s belief in love breaking curses, especially sleeping ones, using Pacifica to jumpstart the reaction - Bill is staring at him in rapt fascination.

“This,” says Bill slowly, eye focused completely on Dipper. “Is the single most convoluted way I have ever seen someone play wingman. Hats off to you, kid.”

“I- no, that’s not what this is about,” Dipper throws his hands up in frustration. One of his arms is heavy - Bill’s holding his hand again, whatever. “I want to help-”

“Nah, you want to feel like you can do something! Settling that whole mess is just a benefit,” interrupts Bill, “It’s ambitious, manipulative, and - maybe - just a bit clever.”

Dipper sighs. Worst thing about that is it’s not entirely wrong. “It’s still helping.” He stops walking, holding Bill back by their joined hands. “Will it work?” The demon watches him, silent. “Will it work.” Dipper insists.

Bill tilts his head, thinking. He hums to himself softly, and takes a long moment. “Theory’s sound, and either it’ll work or it won’t. Not much harm in it,” admits Bill, reluctantly, almost grudgingly. “But you’re relying on belief as the basis,” He arches an eyebrow. “Northwest seems like more of a cynic.”

Dipper grins. “That’s where you come in.” Startled, his familiar straightens up. “Convince her that love actually will break Mabel’s curse. You say you’re charming?” He tilts his chin up defiantly. “Prove it.”

Bill remains surprised, but only briefly. He narrows his eye. “Oh, I’ll prove it, alright,” He lets go of Dipper’s hand to clasp his own together, tapping his fingertips against each other. “I’ll prove it.” Dipper stares at the offputting behavior, but he’s fairly certain this is just Bill thinking, not one of his jokes. Hopefully he’ll be able to pull through anyway.

“Right,” mutters Dipper, and calls Pacifica Northwest.

Several hours later, Dipper is slouched at the kitchen table in the Shack, waiting. Stuffing stolen chips into his mouth. Feeling, through the bond, his familiar slink around the building like some huge, evil, self-satisfied cat.

If Pacifica knew what this was about, she’d probably have shown up by now. But Bill had snatched the phone from his hand and left an incredibly vague message for her, insisting it would be ‘more intriguing’, and that, ‘Pine Tree, you’d just blurt out ‘you need to kiss my sister’’.

Which… had been close to Dipper’s opening gambit, so he’s decided to keep quiet and, reluctantly, let Bill convince her. It grates at him, though. He’s never been good at dealing with Pacifica - she’s… alright, but kind of snooty. She’s good for Mabel, though, so he puts up with it. With any luck, Bill will somehow manage to get past being a jerk for five minutes in order to explain things to her.

There’s a knock at the door. Dipper starts up from his seat and heads for it, but Bill’s already there, opening the thing.

“Miss Northwest, I presume,” says Bill, and Dipper stops in his tracks. It’s still Bill’s voice, but a little…  nicer? Smoother? Or just more normal? “I don’t believe we’ve met, I left that message for you.” This, he has to see. Dipper heads towards the door.

Bill’s holding the door open, Pacifica standing in the entryway - boa familiar curled around her shoulders, sunglasses resting on her forehead. She’s frowning.

“Yes, I got your message,” says Pacifica, slowly, looking wary. A hand strokes over the scales of her familiar. “Who are you, anyway? You said something about the curse, you didn’t exactly-”

“Oh, hey! Pacifica!” Dipper interrupts, walking forward. Bill’s making her nervous. “Listen, hey,” She gives him a startled look, but relaxes a little at seeing a familiar face. “So, he and I were talking, and-”

Bill pulls Dipper in close the instant he gets in range, slamming their sides together. He wraps an arm around Dipper, and - he tries not to flinch - slips it into his front pants pocket. “Sorry, I thought you might have heard of me. I’m Bill,” He holds out his other hand to shake. “Dipper’s boyfriend.”

Dipper was just about to struggle - this is weirdly intimate - but hearing his name in Bill’s voice makes him feel kind of funny. It’s always ‘kid’, or ‘Pine Tree’, or ‘sapling’, not… He listens to the rest of the conversation, stunned.

“Oh! Yes, Mabel’s mentioned you-”

“Ah, she’s a sweetheart, really. Great girl. And that’s why I called you about the curse.”

Pacifica’s eyes widen in realization. She clasps her hands to her mouth. “I didn’t know. She’s-”

“She is,” says Bill, gravely. Pacifica tenses, upset. “But Dipper-” It sends another weird little tingle through him, he squirms - “Thinks there might be a way you can help.”

Pacifica fumbles for a moment, looking a bit flustered. “I- If I can, I will, what can I-”

“Let me explain everything,” Bill soothes, finally letting Dipper go and leading her to another room. Dipper follows automatically, dazed.

Dipper watches and listens to the whole thing with a kind of stunned disbelief. Bill, apparently, when he can be bothered to use them - has manners, and class, and politeness, and, and- he’s never tried those with Dipper. 

Dipper doesn’t care. But he cares that he doesn’t care. It should bother him, but it doesn’t. 

It doesn’t even take five minutes.

Pacifica stands at the foot of the stairs, a blush high on her face. Her snake curls around her waist, and she fiddles nervously with the bracelets around one of her wrists. “What if this doesn’t work?”

Bill, standing behind her, rests his hands comfortingly on her shoulders. “You know what to do. If this doesn’t work, it means Dipper,” That is never not going to be weird to hear- “Made a mistake. It doesn’t mean anything about how you feel for each other. And hey,” Bill grins, and turns her to face him. And winks, as much as one can with one eye. “What if it does?”

Pacifica’s face turns more red. She draws herself up, nodding. And she heads upstairs, back straight, and determined.

Dipper walks over to stand next to Bill. His familiar reaches over, touching his chin with one finger and shutting his jaw with a soft ‘click’. He hadn’t realized he’d been gaping.

What the hell was that,” Dipper hisses quietly. He doesn’t trust himself not to shout if he doesn’t control his voice. “How do you- that was-” Mostly unsettling, but kind of impressive, convincing someone of something so ridiculous, so quickly.

“Impressive? Charming? Amazing?” Bill prompts, at a normal volume and in his normal tone. “C’mon, I’m great. Say I’m great.”

Dipper grits his teeth. “Never.” And while he’s thinking about it - “And never be reassuring again, either. That’s just... wrong.” He’s seen a lot of stuff ever since he met Bill, and more gore than he cares to think about, but that sent a shudder up his spine, it was so disturbing.

Bill snorts, but he smiles, and it’s briefly different than his normal one. “Well! Let’s see if this cute little plan of yours actually works, shall we? But…” Bill levels a challenging smirk at him. “What are you going to do about your twin’s pig?”

“Familiar,” retorts Dipper. He knows this. “Should wake up when she does, or shortly after.” Bill’s going to challenge him on that too, that’s part of how he teaches- “But hey,” Dipper adds, trying to sound innocent. “Mabel did perform a wedding for Waddles and Gompers. I could make you go find the goat.”

The sudden burst of laughter from Bill is sharp and surprised. He cuts himself off, shaking his head. When he turns to look at Dipper again, he’s… Bill looks away.

“You have some real weird ideas, Pine Tree,” Bill says, shrugging. “Keep it up.”

From upstairs, there’s a soft burst of magic - both of them look up - there’s a long pause.

Then Dipper clearly hears Mabel shriek in delight, and a squeal from Waddles, and then a sudden, thumping beat. If he had to bet, she’s jumping up and down right now. Probably hugging Pacifica while she’s at it.

Yes. He was right, he knew the theory behind it, this plan was perfect and sweet and he is victorious. This was a great idea and it was executed flawlessly. Beaming, he glances over at Bill.

Who’s watching him. His familiar looks odd, though his eye is focused entirely on Dipper. Bill isn’t thrilled, but he's not angry, either, he’s… intent. His focus is penetrating. Dipper shifts where he stands, starting to feel uncomfortable. 

Then Bill grins, and leans against the wall. "Good job with the plan, Pine Tree."

Footsteps thunder to the top of the stairway. He looks up and god, Mabel’s standing there, healthy and awake, grinning in absolute delight. Pacifica is next to her, clearly embarrassed, but glowing with smug pleasure. Dipper smiles up at them, and waves.

Okay, so he can’t save the town, but this? Is just as good.

"Dipper!" Mabel runs down the stairs, and almost knocks him over with a flying hug. "Oh my gosh, I was cursed?" She holds him out at arm's length. "And this -" She gestures between herself and Pacifica, who - if Dipper had to guess - is now her girlfriend- "Was your idea?" She's turned a little red, but she's so happy she's practically bouncing. Her hair's still tousled, she probably needs a shower, Waddles is almost falling down the stairs trying to catch up with her, and Dipper's never been so happy to see her. 

"Uh, yeah, it was," Dipper says hesitantly, "I-"

"Ha!" Mabel says, wild and triumphant. "That's my brother. Smartest guy I know." She whirls on Bill, pointing a finger at him, narrowing her eyes accusingly. "You better be taking good care of him."

Bill shrugs, nonchalant, but silent.

Mabel relents, and turns back to Dipper - but not before grabbing Pacifica's hand and grinning delightedly. "Oh man, though, a curse? What caused it?"

Dipper takes a deep breath, and lies. 

"I have no idea. But let me catch you up on everything."

Chapter Text

So there’s nothing Dipper can do about the curse he cast, and that sucks. A lot. But while they’re waiting for the cursebreaker - Ford, Dipper’s looking forward to seeing his uncle again - there are magic lessons. And some cleanup to do.

Maybe his uncle will be too busy to hang out with him, or explore with him, and he’s almost certainly going to take off shortly after he gets here. He’s a busy guy. But Dipper wants to clear up the evidence, just in case.

There are almost a dozen huge circles of scorched forest, burned to a crisp as he vented his frustration with his teacher. They’re more than a little obvious, if you’re the kind of person that likes exploring the weird magic in the woods, and they’re not a sign of anything good. If Ford thinks there’s some kind of monster in the area, he’ll stick around longer to chase it down.

Any other time, Dipper would be excited to have him around. But he really doesn’t want too many questions about this, if this is discovered - well, everyone knows he goes around here all the time… He doesn’t have a good answer for that yet.

“So, what’s your plan here?” Bill asks, idly, leaning against one unburnt tree. “Oh wait, you don’t have one. What a surprise.”

“Shut up,” Dipper says, absentmindedly. He’s staring at the blackened scene of one of his outbursts, and quietly condemning himself. This looks bad.

Maybe - he takes a deep, slow breath, and mutters a little, closing his eyes. Bill’s energy is an infinite pool he can draw from, and he’s gotten pretty good in the last couple days-

When he opens his eyes again, the clearing is restored. Dipper grins, taking a few steps forward - his leg passes through a log as he walks.

Shit, this is worse. He might be able to explain random, perfectly circular forest fires as a bizarre accident, but covering it with an illusion makes it look like it was intentional, and like someone’s trying to hide something. Which, well. Are both true. It looks like something nefarious, anyway.

Who is he even kidding, his uncle sees through illusions for a living, he’s not going to be fooled by anything Dipper puts up. He stops powering the illusion with a tiny effort of will, and it vanishes.

Bill watches, amused. Dipper wishes it were that simple for their connection, but Bill’s a solid creation - made with Dipper’s own blood, even - and he’s the one providing the energy. The demon’s not about to run out of that anytime soon.

Ford will have the answer, he’s sure. Demonic powers, complicated spellcasting, he’s an expert. Dipper will just ask a few questions. You know, casually. Then he’ll know more stuff about this kind of situation, and be able to handle anything that comes up himself. Nobody needs to know about this.

Dipper looks around some more, and taps a hand against his thigh, thinking. There has to be something he can do. So far, he’s got illusions, he’s got mind magic, and he’s got fire. Maybe there’s a way to use those. There has to be -

He catches sight of something, and smiles. He walks over to pick up the pinecone, and sets it on fire in his hand.

Bill makes an interested noise. “While I’m not gonna stop you - more burning, I’m always for it! This seems like the opposite of what you want.”

This time it’s Dipper’s turn to look at his familiar like he’s an idiot. “No, that’s not what I’m after,” He explains, watching the pinecone in his hand open under the heat. “Some pine trees need fire-” He continues before Bill can interrupt. “Don’t say anything - to release their seeds. And do not under any circumstances say anything.”

Bill tilts his head away and holds a hand to his chest, the very picture of wounded innocence. “I said nothing,” He’s clearly holding back a laugh. His eye literally glimmers with mirth. “Nice, though. I’ve got you thinking of these things for me. Spares me some effort.”

Dipper stops the fire - he doesn’t need it any more, he finagles a few seeds out of the cone - and spares a quiet moment to reflect on all the ways he really, really hates Bill.

Back to the point though - fire, and life. There’s a connection there, and Dipper thinks he can use it. It won’t be perfect, and it’ll be incredibly awkward to use - like trying to use a scythe instead of a steak knife. He jostles the seeds on his palm, thinking. It’s also not going to be anywhere close to a good coverup, but at least it’ll look more like someone really incompetent with life magic than someone being really irresponsible with fire. Way less ominous.

He thinks he sees how this could work, channel the energy in like that, control it like this - yeah. Dipper smiles. He’s got this. A small area of new plantlife should be weird, but less malicious looking. Now, for some effort.

The first seed starts sprouting in his palm - and stops.

Dipper frowns. Okay, he’s trying to be too gentle. He pushes a little more - but the magic stops dead inside him, he can barely use any more - it’s like he’s tied down to something - He immediately turns to Bill, surprised.

“Are you holding out on me?” Bill had said he could hold back, but he’s never done it before. Now that Dipper’s noticed, he can feel how the flow of magic between them has gone from an unstoppable torrent, to barely a trickle.

Bill, meanwhile, is glaring at him, looking deeply offended, arms crossed. “I cannot. Believe. This is what you’re doing. What the hell is wrong with you?”

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

“This is gross. It feels gross.” Bill insists, looking, amazingly, a little unsettled. Dipper stops being angry out of sheer surprise.

“Seriously, kid, this is awful. And you’re using the wrong tool for the wrong job, my stuff is not made for this in the slightest,” He shudders in disgust, and grimaces. “Ugh, I can’t believe you.” Bill repeats, “You arrogant mortal idiot. Suck it up and make an illusion already.”

Dipper stares. What’s wrong with life magic? This is new. “But we can do this. It’s easy. I’ve got a plan, you’ve got more than enough power, it won’t even take very long-”

“Well, I don’t want to!” shouts Bill, throwing his hands in the air. “This isn’t my style, I don’t like it,” He stalks forward, and jabs Dipper in the chest with a finger. “And you can’t make me do anything.”

Dipper takes another moment to stare. Then he groans in frustration, turning away and pacing the burnt clearing.

This stupid, frustrating bastard. It’s not the greatest plan in the world, sure, but Bill’s more than capable of handling his part of it. So what if it’s ‘not his style’? He might not like it, and okay, maybe it really is disgusting to him, but his abilities are well suited, so if this crazy jerk of his would help, if he’d just cooperate for ten freaking seconds, they could- could-

He wonders if this is how Bill feels, every time Dipper turns down one of his plans.

The important difference there is that Bill’s plans are evil, so Dipper’s totally justified. But now, he’s got to come up with something else.

The other day, they both agreed on, and pulled off, a pretty good idea. And both of them are pleased with the results. Mabel’s awake. Dipper has his sister, and Bill has a human to hang out with who indulges his weirder side. Dipper hates some of Bill’s ideas, and Bill hates some of Dipper’s. They can meet somewhere in the middle.

“I still want to cover this up,” Dipper says, stopping in the center of the burnt patch. “I can’t use an illusion, and it can’t look like something too threatening,” He looks over at Bill. “What do you think?”

Bill looks him over skeptically, as if - for once - Dipper’s the one trying to pull something. He mulls the idea over for a while, but at least now he looks more like his smug self.

“More fire’s the best solution. Where’d you go to burn things?” Bill eventually asks, and then, seeing Dipper’s frown - “Yes, I’m serious,” He adds, sounding tired. “If you make this look like a kind of ritual pattern for something else, it’ll throw people off your trail.”

That… does make sense. “I don’t remember everywhere I went,” Dipper says, hesitant. “But I think… we could map it out? See what fits?”

Bill makes a soft noise of agreement, and gestures broadly over the woods. “Lead the way, kid,” He taps the side of his head. “Got a good memory in here, so don’t trouble yourself over any sketches or the like, unless you’re into that.”

The floodgates open. He can feel Bill’s magic coursing through him again.

“I think I’m good,” Dipper allows, smiling, and Bill takes his hand - damn it, why does he do this - and they go to investigate.

After visiting the damage Dipper’s caused, the best thing to make, according to Bill, ends up being from an obscure - mostly innocuous, and currently active - cult, for a demon that Bill has a definite distaste for. Something about them being too benign.

Dipper’s fairly certain this isn’t the best fit - Bill has an ulterior motive, wanting to point a demon hunter in a different direction - but that also means that Bill isn’t lying, for once. Dipper only needs to make a few more circles, and it’s easy enough to pull off.

During the last one, just as Dipper’s starting, Bill moves in, unharmed by the growing fire, and adds his own restricted power. Dipper feels his demon’s arm around his shoulders, and the flames roar around them in a massive blue torrent.

It’s kind of pretty.

They walk back to the Shack, hand in hand - a new habit of Bill’s, Dipper’s just starting to be able to deal with it. Bill’s always weirdly flirtatious. He can cope with one more strange behavior. Though-

He lets go of Bill’s hand, digging into his pocket. Bill continues walking, uncaring, as the building emerges into view.

He still has one more seed from the pinecone.

Physical stuff has never been his area of expertise, and Bill’s apparently infuriated by the idea, but what he did try worked incredibly well. Dipper’s never been good at this, but he just might be able, this one time -

He stares at it. Hell, Bill won’t notice.

Dipper tries to bring the seed to life again, and it works. It works amazingly. Even without soil, or water, the sapling grows in his hand. He stares in quiet wonder-

He’s cut off from Bill’s magic almost instantly. Dipper startles, and he has just enough time to look up and see Bill’s hand, right before it slams across his face.

Dipper reels in pain, stumbling - he drops the seed, and Bill grabs it from the air, and burns it to ashes. Limited as he is, he still has fire.

“What. Did. I. Say.” Bill says slowly, through gritted teeth, standing in front of him. He crushes the last bit of ash from the seed in his hand, viciously. Dipper rubs at his cheek, wincing a little.

Bill continues. “That’s my magic, moron. Don’t think I can’t feel what you’re doing. You probably were all like ‘oh, but this is good magic, what’s the problem?’” Bill raises his voice mockingly during the quote, and gives Dipper a disgusted look. “For fuck’s sake, kid, you know what I am! I’ve been straight with you about it! And you still pull this kind of thing. Here’s the deal - I don’t like this crap. I don’t want it. And I am sure as hell not helping you with it.”

And with that, he storms off, tense and furious. Dipper watches him walk away, opening and slamming the door to the Shack with more force than necessary.

Fine, if Bill’s going to be like that, who cares? Oh no, Dipper finally pissed his familiar off, instead of the reverse. That’s hardly a tragedy.

He touches his sore cheek again. It tingles with pain, but there’s no real damage. From what he can feel through their bond, Bill’s shut himself off as completely as he can. Before, when he held back, it was a trickle of magic. Now it’s just tiny, intermittent drops.

Dipper walks towards the Shack, settles down on the porch, and sulks.

Whatever. Now all that’s left is waiting. It’s not like he had anything better to do. Waiting for Ford. For the curse to be broken. For something to go right for once. For Bill to be-

The door slowly creaks open. Dipper’s head shoots up -

It’s Mabel. “Oh. Hey.” Dipper says, weirdly disappointed. His sister is dressed up, tacky jewelry, fancy dress, makeup - It makes him smile a bit. He can see what’s going on here. “Let me guess. Going on a date?”

“Sure am!” Mabel says, and giggles, clasping her hands to her face. “Um, but…” She trails off, smile dropping away. “That’s not really why I’m out here.”

“Mm. Fine. Whatever.” At least her stuff worked out. Dipper turns and stares out at the stupid woods again. “Have fun with Pacifica.”

Sighing, Mabel shuffles over and sits next to him. She adjusts her dress around herself. “So…” She starts, a little awkward. “Bill seems a little upset.”

Dipper shakes his head, almost laughing. “I really, really don’t care.” If the insane, world-conquering demon is bothered, that’s a good thing. How could it be a bad thing?

“Did you guys have a fight?” Mabel asks, carefully.

Dipper gives a frustrated sigh. “Mabel, we always fight. That’s nothing new.”

For all that they’re pretending they’re in a relationship, the way Bill and him act together is completely off, and has been ever since this whole debacle started. The moments where they don’t argue are remarkably rare. This is the exact opposite of how relationships are supposed to work, their cover story should have been blown weeks ago, and yet Mabel is still oblivious. Hasn’t she noticed that this is wrong?

“No, I mean, like, a real fight.” Mabel insists. Whatever that means.

“Bill can go to hell for all I care,” Dipper says, suddenly furious. Bill’s probably even been there. More than likely he likes it there, and a little bit of trying to grow some freaking plants bothers him? Really? “Oh no, Bill’s ‘upset’. Like that’s bad? Like being ‘upset’ is an emotion he’s even capable of? That smug, arrogant, conniving, evil-”

Mabel stares at Dipper as he lists off all of the traits of Bill she really should know, but… he stops short of telling her that Bill is, truthfully, a demon, and that everything Dipper says is absolutely correct.

Once he’s finally finished, Mabel grimaces, and sucks in a breath through her teeth. “So… this was a really bad fight, then.”

Dipper mumbles some more insults under his breath, but he’s in no mood to continue, or correct her.

“Hey, it’ll be okay,” Mabel rests a hand on his shoulder. “You two’ll work it out.” She grins. “You’re the Love Master, after all. You hooked me up!” She giggles, and almost squeals with excitement before calming down again. “Trust me, bro. You got this.”

Love isn’t even a real thing. Bill was right about that. Dipper just used the idea of it, and Mabel’s belief in it, to go through with a plan, that, at its core, was really only to soothe his own pride. It worked out well - hell, she’s going on a date right now - but he feels kind of guilty about it.

“Fine, you believe that. But Bill and me? We’re not going to last. You’re wrong.” She really is. Once Dipper knows how to deal with Bill, he’s...

There’s the slow purr of an engine, and Dipper sees the Northwest limo start rolling up to the building. Mabel perks up, hopping off the porch and bouncing excitedly.

“Seriously, though,” She says, turning to him and giving him a double thumbs-up. “You’ll be okay.”

Dipper watches his sister for a moment, as she turns towards her date’s car, giddy with excitement, then heads inside. He’s happy for her, but he doesn’t want to see this.

The bond is stronger these days. Or maybe Dipper’s just more used to it. He feels around, and heads upstairs.

Bill is lounging on Dipper’s bed, holding a book up over his face as he lies lazily on the sheets. Dipper casts his gaze over his demon - he certainly doesn’t look upset. If anything, he seems slightly pleased. Nostalgic, even. Though he’s still holding back his magic. Dipper starts pacing the room.

From outside, he hears the limo take off with a slow, expensive-sounding rush. Mabel’s off to have a great evening. If nothing else, it’ll certainly be luxurious, and fancy, and full of all the kinds of romantic stuff that she’s so fond of. Even if they don’t work out in the long term, it’s going to be one hell of a ride. Mabel’s got a great relationship, and Dipper has-

He looks over at his familiar.

Dipper has an immortal, evil demon, who’s taking up his space, annoying the shit out of him, not even being good for the one thing he’s really useful for, lounging around like he owns the place, probably feeling like he owns the place, definitely claiming that he owns Dipper, and reading Quentin Trembley’s weird book.

Dipper stops pacing.

Weird or not, that book was the first clue he ever had to part of Bill’s true nature. He knew the demon part, sure, but... he asks.

“Was that you?”

“Hm?” Bill hums, seemingly noticing Dipper for the first time since he entered the room. A lie, Bill’s too observant not to have seen him. “No idea what you’re on about.” Lies, again, he’s more than smart enough to know what was asked.

“The guy, in the one dream,” Dipper waves a hand in a vague, prompting gesture. “That was you, right?”

“Sure was!” Bill says, sounding a little pleased. “How’d you guess?”

Dipper gives him an incredulous look, and doesn’t answer. That book is at least a century old. He knew Bill was ancient, but it’s still strange to hear it.

“So.. what was that like?” He asks, unable to resist. Bill’s annoying, true. Being an amazing well of information… is also true.

Bill starts to grin, warming to the topic. “Pretty neat times, as I recall. Things were a little less organized, paperwork was more literally made of paper. But yeah, I remember this guy! Fascinating mind he had there. That dream about the fruitcake? Beautiful stuff, never seen its like before! Still brings a tear to my eye.” Bill wipes away an imaginary tear from his face, looking pleased with himself again.

Another theory confirmed. That really was Bill, and Dipper was right to assume so. He spares a second to feel pleased with himself. Then frowns.

He remembers reading about Bill in that chapter - apparently he was helpful, which is weird - but more importantly, he wasn’t well described. He must have been in his true form back then. If Dipper remembers the phrasing right, Bill was only called ‘a dapper fellow, with an interesting shape’. And he is, but this body’s not the ‘real deal’ as Bill called it. It’s only a metaphor.

Dipper hesitates for a second, then stalks over to the demon. Bill invades Dipper’s personal space whenever he wants. Time for a little payback.

He settles down next to the demon on the bed, resting with one thigh on the mattress. Bill ignores him as it dips under the new weight. Dipper scoots forward to investigate.

Bill is sort of human - the body had to be an animal, and human was closest, he’ll mostly have human traits - so it’s the differences in his shape that will show what he’s really like.

He only has one eye - Dipper pokes just under it, and watches Bill squint. The demon glances at him, slightly annoyed but not protesting. It changes color sometimes, but Dipper’s not sure what that means, much less that there’s only the one. He files that thought away for later.

Fairly normal face, overall - he touches the tip of Bill’s nose, watches it wrinkle up in irritation - but not entirely. He parts Bill’s lips with a couple of fingers to look, and the demon snaps at him.

He doesn’t do it with any real intent, but Dipper pulls his hand back quickly anyway. He likes having fingers, and Bill’s teeth are sharp. Not as much as a shark’s or anything, but far from normal. That means he’s predatory, maybe? Dipper taps a finger on Bill’s chin, trying to catch his attention, but now he’s being sternly ignored in favor of the book.

Bill’s not shoving him away, at least, and that makes things a little easier. Since his familiar’s not stopping him, Dipper continues. He reaches his hand up. He’s always been curious as to what’s under the eyepatch. He lifts the thing with finger and thumb-

And lets it drop immediately.

Right. Never thinking about that again. He hears Bill snicker to himself, just softly.

Still a jerk, that’s never going to change. Dipper gives his familiar a dirty look, but Bill’s not looking at him. Moving on.

Normal human arms - Dipper runs a hand up one, squeezing it at the elbow - normal human legs - he pokes at one of Bill’s thighs. His familiar’s being helpfully indifferent about this. He rests a hand on Bill’s chest. Normal human breathing, too-

Wait, that’s different. Dipper presses his hand harder against Bill’s chest, feeling nothing.

No heartbeat.

He glances up at his familiar’s face - still ignoring him - then down at his hand wrinkling Bill’s shirt. That’s weird, it’s a human body, it has to have human functions, or at least some of them. Lungs make sense - Bill not talking is almost inconceivable - so he needs those, if only so he can be the biggest pain in the ass possible. But this? This needs more looking into.

Feeling somewhat awkward, Dipper places his hand on Bill’s other side, and lowers himself down. He rests on his side, lying on top of Bill, then lets his head down, pressing it against Bill’s chest to listen. Still nothing.

This is uncomfortable. And awkward. Dipper frowns, then sighs, relaxing. And… warm. And kind of nice.

He shuts his eyes.

Wait. There it is. Just one beat, though.

Dipper blinks at the sound, then sees something fall next to them and off the bed, and hears a clattering tumble. Bill’s dropped the book. Damn it, that’s an antique, this jackass.

Dipper pushes himself up, grunting. Ancient, immortal - it’s symbolic of age, slow life or.... something close to it that's slowing down Bill’s heart. Bill’s really warm too, another thing to note, now that he’s thought about it. Higher than normal body temperature. Possibly related to the fire magic that’s part of his being. He looks up and meets Bill’s eye.

Bill’s giving Dipper the strangest look. Mostly confused, but with something else behind it.

Dipper feels himself turn a little red. Okay, maybe that was a little weird, but it was for research! And it’s not like there’s anything not weird about this whole fucked up situation. He breaks the stare and looks back down at Bill’s body.

He’s not done here, not yet. If Bill’s really offended by any of this, he’ll make it known in very clear terms. The pain in Dipper’s cheek is still there, but mostly he feels the heat of his embarrassment.

He shoves that thought away, and pushes Bill’s shirt up. The demon lifts his arms, letting the cloth move, and Dipper smooths his hand down Bill’s chest. It looks perfectly human. It even feels human, all skin and muscle and bone. He lets himself enjoy a little bit of pride in his own handiwork, and keeps investigating.

Nothing different here. It must be just part of the default ‘this-is-a-human’ package.  It feels good, though, stroking his palm over the hot surface. There’s a navel - Dipper leaves that alone for the moment - and nipples - he strokes his hand up over the wide expanse of smooth skin, drawing his thumb over one of them. The chest under his hand stops moving for a second.

He does it again, and Bill huffs out a little breath. It’s fascinating. Dipper slides his hand back down, index finger clipping over Bill’s navel, tracing the thin line of hair leading down to- his fingers hit the top of Bill’s waistband. Dipper wants to-

He looks up at Bill.

The demon is watching him. His breathing has picked up slightly, his shirt's shoved up, exposing him, and his arms are raised over his head. Dipper freezes. His mouth feels dry.

Forget the summoning, this is the worst idea he’s ever had.

And it’s made all the more horrific by knowing, with absolute certainty, that it would work.

Dipper can admit, he has looked, he’s had- thoughts. Insane, hormone-powered thoughts he tries really hard to repress. He doesn’t really like his familiar, but he’s, well. Dipper’s stared at parts of him. And Bill would go along with this. Hell, he wouldn’t just go along with it, he’d be enthusiastic about it. Energetic, even, like he always is when he’s interested in something. It could be-

Bill stares at him silently. Dipper knows that Bill knows what he’s thinking. But he’s not cajoling, or prying, or trying to convince him. He’s letting Dipper make the call.

Dipper gnaws at his lip.

Bill knows humans, he would know how to do all kinds of things, oh, hell, he’s always been a good teacher, especially when it’s something entertaining. It would be… strange, and wild, and rough, and Dipper can feel another single heartbeat faintly, and when he scrapes his nails over Bill’s stomach, his familiar shuts his eye and his muscles tense, he arches into it, this could be so good. Bill’s letting Dipper touch him wherever he wants, and he likes it- 

Dipper’s heart starts pounding in his chest.

He slides his hand down a little more, and undoes the button on Bill’s pants.

It’s only another couple of days. Maybe less than that. Then Dipper can get the information he needs, and figure out what he’s going to do.

In the meantime, nobody needs to know about this, either.

Chapter Text

There aren’t as many benefits to a demonic bond as someone might think. They might think that having so much power would be nice - and it is, when it’s controllable, and the demon’s cooperating. And the knowledge, definite bonus - when Bill is interested in something enough to not outright lie. It’s hellish trying to get anything done with this stupid familiar, no pun intended.

It’s early morning, and sleep still isn’t a thing. Dipper stares at the ceiling, lying on the sheets, feeling tired, but for the first time in a long time, relaxed. He turns his head.

Bill’s lounging next to him, naked as the day he... wasn’t ever actually born, thinking about it. Dipper’s pretty sure that’s how this type of being works. He even materialized wearing clothes.

He’s found a third benefit, and he really wasn’t expecting this one, but it hasn’t backfired on him. Yet. He’s waiting for the other shoe to drop, somewhat, but mostly he feels strange about it. Not bad, not awkward. Just strange.

But that worked well. That worked great, and Bill’s into it enough that he’s not trying to- Dipper tries to come up with a phrase that doesn’t sound kind of inappropriate, considering. Trying to screw hi- get a rise out of-

Great, Bill’s tainted all the vocabulary in Dipper’s head, why does he ruin everything he touches. For all Dipper knows, that was the entire purpose of this exercise. There has to be another motive

“You,” Bill says, lazily. He’s content at least, though how he can see Dipper frowning with his eye closed is confusing. “Are overanalyzing this.” He peeks it open a little. “Yeesh, enjoy something for once in your frantic mortal life.”

Dipper turns his head back to stare at the ceiling, tense. “You know saying that just makes me more paranoid, right?”

Bill lets out a slow, displeased grumble. “Ugh, honestly. Do I have to explain everything to you? It’s simple!” He props himself up with one arm on Dipper’s chest. Dipper grunts under the pressure. “This is fun. You even like it! It’s going to stop being fun if you start getting all weird about it. You’re annoying as hell, you’re stubborn, and you’re frustrating. You might as well be good for one thing.” And he drops back down with a disgusted sound.

It’s so appropriately selfish that Dipper feels himself relax. It makes sense. Bill loves physical sensation, he’s not going to want to stop. And Dipper, hey, he’s young, he has- feelings about stuff. He might not like Bill, but apparently that’s not an issue for him.

It’s odd whenever he finds something in common with such an awful creature. It’s kind of like the magic lessons - they’re both into it, might as well work together, and they find each other easier to handle while they’re at it. Dipper, for once, agrees with one of Bill’s sentiments. Annoying or not, his familiar might as well be good for one thing.

But, since he knows Bill… any minute now-

Next to him, Bill sits up, stretching, gives him a bored look, and draws his gaze over Dipper. “I will say, though, don’t flatter yourself. I really lowered my standards here.”

And there it is. Back to normal.

Or whatever definition of normal Dipper’s working with these days, it’s off from the one everyone else is using. It still makes Dipper feel better to hear Bill insulting him. He rolls over, letting his face drop into his pillow, trying to enjoy the lingering good ache and tiredness - and feels a sudden pat on his butt. Dipper flinches out of surprise.

“You’re a decent plaything, kid,” He hears Bill say, and it deeply irritates him. He’s not a possession, damn it. “You might be my favorite one, even.” And he can hear the smug satisfaction, he can practically sense Bill feeling like he owns him.

Sometimes, the best response to Bill is no response. It takes most of Dipper’s patience, but if Bill can’t provoke a reaction from Dipper, he’ll eventually cut out whatever he’s doing. Dipper can manage it, most times. This isn’t one of them.

“If you call me that again,” Dipper says, muffled by the down in the pillow. “I’m going to murder you.”

Bill understands him despite the pillow in Dipper’s face. “Immortal,” Bill reminds him. “I’d like to see you try.” He gives Dipper’s butt another gentle slap, almost fondly. “Sometimes you’re cute, plaything.”

Dipper lifts his head up.

He grasps the pillow in both hands carefully, straightens up to sit next to his familiar, and, very calmly, moves in to smother this smug bastard with his stupid goddamned grin.

He feels Bill laugh against the fabric as he shoves it over his face. But Bill still has lungs - he runs out of breath, chest stilling - and Dipper lets up, dropping the pillow into his lap. For all that he’s seen a lot of horrifying, terrible things around Bill, and he hates him, so very, very much... he wasn’t entirely serious. He’s used to gore at this point, he barely flinches at all the things Bill’s shown him, but he’s still too squeamish to really bring the hurt himself.

Dipper doesn’t kill people. Even this asshole, who can’t truly die. Even if he was more intent on hurting Bill, there’s some kind of rule in place. They can’t hurt each other too seriously, their lives are tied together too strongly. He might not be able to harm Bill much, but it’s really, really great that that’s reciprocal - saved his life, almost certainly.

“Okay, so I can’t kill you-”

“Ah, you were never gonna.” Bill says casually, voice a little breathless.

“Well, no, it’s ‘not my style’,” Dipper retorts. He can tell the reference to Bill’s little outburst the other day hits home by the way Bill’s face stills, freezing in his smile. One of very, very few things Bill’s embarrassed about, reacting so obviously. Dipper feels a bit smug. “Hey, but what if someone else tries to?”

Bill snorts derisively, then he blinks in thought, then looks slightly taken aback. He glances over at Dipper. Dipper hits him with the pillow, just because he can.

Bill’s felt pain - Dipper’s hit him a few times, even kneed him in the groin - but this reaction is like he hasn’t even thought of that happening. Bill can’t die, he’s part of another dimension for crying out loud, it’s impossible to truly kill him. Bill obviously has never been in reality before. Clearly he assumed he was invulnerable, forgetting that he’d be sent back to his own realm if his human body’s gone.

Though this body is fake. It’s part of their bond, it’s different.

Bill keeps looking at him for a moment, then shrugs, grinning again. “Why would that matter? Who’s even going to try?” Dipper doesn’t pay much attention, he’s wondering about- Bill interrupts his train of thought, his hand sliding over Dipper’s shoulder. “Hey. What’d I say about overthinking?”

Dipper’s drawn in for a kiss, Bill’s hand on the back of his neck. He starts, almost pulls away- but if he can do everything else he’s done, he can at least kiss the guy. Demon. Whatever. He closes his eyes, and lets it happen.

They clean up, get dressed, hell, even kiss again - Dipper’s decided that’s actually pretty nice, he even starts it - then Bill wanders off. He seems to be deep in thought. He’s planning something, Dipper’s going to have to watch out - he taps his fingers on the footboard, staring at the bed. Also, he’s going to have to do laundry, he was hoping to put that off.

Dipper heads downstairs. In the kitchen, he can hear Bill and Mabel chatting, and cringes. Please, please please let Bill not be oversharing in some awful way, Mabel won’t want to hear that- he hurries over to run interference.

His sister’s voice comes into focus. “-tempt you with some Mabel Juice?”

“I’m always up for some temptation! Wait, no, unicorns? I hate unicorns.” Bill’s tone is thick with distaste. “And you would too, if you’d ever met one.”

That’s a relief. They’re only up to their usual thing. Dipper starts smiling.

Okay, Bill’s horrible, but he likes Mabel, he’s not threatening towards her - mostly, anyway - and Dipper’s… surprisingly okay with this now. Especially after Bill helped out with her curse.

They interact in a way Dipper’s never going to fully understand, but he’s never been into that part of his sister’s interests anyway. So they get along. So they don’t argue like he and Bill do. So what? Mabel has a new friend, it keeps Bill distracted, and by some miracle Bill brought down the level of Mabel’s glitter use, after he sulked a while back when some got spilled on him. Dipper could honestly thank him for that, but he’s never going to.

He’s still not sure what’s up with Mabel Juice - plastic figurines do not belong in drinks - but maybe he doesn’t need to. He walks into the kitchen to join them.

They’re both sitting at the table, Bill with his arm draped over the back of his chair, Mabel leaning forward over the table. His sister spots him and waves, beaming - her date must have gone well, she’s almost glowing - then turns back to Bill. “Hey, so, can you do a thing for me?”

Bill raises his eyebrows, tilting his head. “Hm. What kind of a thing?”

“You know, your thing! The whole-” Mabel waves a hand vaguely. “The seeing things dealy.” Bill grins, and Dipper rolls his eyes.

Bill’s got Mabel - and everyone else - convinced that he’s a human. And that he’s a practitioner, whose talent is limited prescience - seeing the future. It works, too. He’s full of enough knowledge and bullshit, and it helps that he’s not human - he has a few extranormal senses. He might have others fooled, but Dipper knows better. Bill can’t see the future, but it’s a workable lie, and Bill is one hell of a liar.

Dipper settles back against the doorway, crossing his arms. This should be good. He can always kick Bill in the shins if he tries to mess with his sister too badly.

“No problem, Shooting Star,” Bill says easily. He’s obviously looking forward to coming up with something. “What’d you have in mind?

Mabel slaps her hands on the table, enthusiastic. “Can you tell…” She takes a moment to think, then squeaks, shoulders tensing up with anticipation. “When the Stans will get here? It’s been so long!”

Bill raises an eyebrow. “I could check,” He lifts a finger, shaking it slowly. “But no guarantees. You know I can’t see too far ahead, and there’s always a chance something goes wrong for ‘em. Possibilities, not certainties, remember?” Because, of course, Bill can’t be too wrong, and still keep up the lie of his talent. He needs deniability. Dipper watches with interest. He wants to see what’s going to happen.

Bill’s not hesitant about letting Mabel see his eye change color, flaring blue as he ‘predicts’ stuff. He sees… whatever he sees when he looks around like this. Bill turns his head, looking at Dipper, and the sudden grin on his face is very, very pleased. Dipper squirms where he stands. Whatever Bill sees here, he doesn’t want to know about it.

Bill chuckles, amused, and rolls his eye, glancing around- it suddenly turns back to gold. Bill’s expression turns completely neutral.

“Two hours. Likely less.” Bill says, flatly. He places an elbow on the table, and makes a fist, resting his cheek against it.

Mabel stares at him in wonder. “Really? You’re sure?” She stands up, excited.

“Yes.” Bill says. He leaves it at that.

“Oh my gosh, I gotta get things ready!” Mabel dashes over, and gives Bill a brief hug. The demon doesn’t react. “I’ll be back in a minute!”  

His sister races off, but Dipper stays where he is. He’s…

Not worried, never about the demon. But maybe a little concerned. Bill always goes off on some kind of ramble, or uses a bizarre metaphor. He never uses just one word, not when he could use ten. This isn’t how Bill works. Dipper’s not sure what’s happening, but something’s wrong. He walks carefully over to his familiar, and- he doesn’t rest a hand on him, that’d be weird, but he does lean over to look at his face more. Bill is frowning hard, deep in thought.

“So…” Dipper starts, hesitant. Bill waves him off with his free hand.

Dipper looks away, giving his familiar some time, but inevitably, he’s drawn back to staring at Bill.

“What are you thinking about? Planning something?” Bill’s usually quick to come up with ideas, but it’s been more than a minute, and he’s still thinking, brow furrowed in concentration. Dipper almost wants to offer to help, but that’d probably kick off another argument about how stupid he is. Also, it’s more than likely this is evil.

Had a plan,” Bill mutters. “Gotta change things up.” He stays where he is for a moment, he drums his fingers against the table. His lips purse, then he glares at Dipper. "Why do you always ruin things?"

Then Bill stands up. His eternal smile returns. “So! I’m gonna take a trip for a day, or two,” He winks at Dipper. “Don’t worry, I’ll be back,” His smile lessens. “I always come back.” And now he’s being vaguely ominous again. Must be in a better mood.

Dipper stares anyway. “Wait, you’re leaving? But-” Bill can take care of himself, he doesn’t have normal human needs. He’s wandered off before. Heck, this might be a good thing, now that he’s thinking about it. Dipper’s still confused. “Why?”

Bill rolls his eye at him. “Listen, kid, you’ve got a few good points, but I’ve got something I need to think about, and while I hate to admit it… you’re a distraction,” He gives Dipper a tired look. “And your uncles are actually coming soon. I’ve had enough of you yammering on about how ‘amazing’ Stanford poindexter Pines is,” Bill sticks out his tongue in disgust. “You’ll be twice as irritating while he’s here.”

Dipper feels his face heat up. He has gone on about Ford, but it’s legit! “I don’t yammer, and-”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Keep it to yourself.” Bill says, clearly annoyed. He gets up and stretches, he heads for the door- then turns towards Dipper. “Oh. But before I go…” Bill grins at him.

Dipper puts his hands over his face, but he steps closer. He knows what Bill’s asking for, and he’s going to do it because it’s the quickest way to get rid of him.

He should be more worried about whatever Bill’s planning, but it’s not like he can’t handle anything his familiar throws at him. He can’t stop Bill from walking off anyway, and as limited as the demon is, how much can he do? If he does pull something, Dipper can always mess with his realm, Bill hates that with passionate fury, and he knows Dipper can and will do it. Maybe things will be fine.

They can’t truly hurt each other, in any case. If he needs to find his demon, there’s always their link to follow. Dipper’s got this.

He hopes.

“You’re terrible, and your face is terrible,” Dipper says, cupping the side of said terrible thing in one hand. “And I wish you were going to be gone forever, because I hate you.” He gives Bill his stupid goodbye kiss. It deepens almost immediately, slick and wet, Dipper’s other hand pressing against Bill’s chest, where he feels three rapid beats in quick succession before Bill’s heart stops acting normal again.

Nearby, Mabel clears her throat.

Dipper jerks himself away, horrified. Oh god no. His sister is standing right there, she saw that. Bill starts laughing. Shit, he planned this and Dipper fell for it, like an idiot. “If you two are done,” She asks, wryly amused. “Dipper, you wanna help me clean up a bit?”

“What?” He asks, then brushes himself off. He gives Bill - still laughing, bent over a little - a swift kick in the shin. “Okay, sure. Bill, you’re leaving, so you get the hell out. Go.” He gives his familiar another kick, and Bill walks away. He holds up a hand as he passes Mabel, and she giggles and gives him his high-five.

Bill leaves. Good riddance.

Dipper stands in place, embarrassed. Mabel’s looking at him, one brow raised. “That’s… that’s not what it looked like,” He insists. He has to protest. “I hate Bill. He’s the worst.” Bill really is, he’s a psychopath, he’s constantly infuriating, he’s the most horrible thing that’s ever happened to Dipper.

“Yeah, so I heard,” Mabel says, still amused. This lie is so obvious, how has she not caught on to them yet. “Dipper, you’re my brother, and I love you,” She walks over and claps a hand on his shoulder. “So it is with love that I tell you that you are super weird.”

She’s so, so wrong, but Dipper still works his way through all the chores she gives him, grumbling to himself. The place has kind of gone to a mess - Mabel may be disorganized, but she’s the only one who can kick Stan and Dipper into actually keeping up the place, and she’s been passed out for a while.

The dying rumble of the old car engine shows up almost exactly around the time Bill said it would. Dipper perks up. Mabel does as well, and rushes outside. Dipper’s a little slower than his sister, though he’s still quick to respond. He hears a car door slam, and Stan’s sudden shout.

“Mabel! Holy hell, you’re up!”

“Grunkle Stan! Hey, it’s good to see you!”

Dipper gets to the door, he opens it- Mabel’s swinging in Stan’s tight hug, held off the ground, and both of them are beaming.

The other car door opens, and Ford gets out, shutting it behind him. He steps closer, adjusting his glasses. His coat swirls around him in the soft breeze, his equipment dangles from all the various pouches and straps he has on his person. Ford smiles a little as he watches his brother and Mabel, then catches sight of Dipper in the doorway, and waves, nodding in acknowledgment. Dipper waves back, grinning.

Ford wanders over to his brother and niece. “Mabel. Still pretty as a picture,” he says, smiling at her. “Stanley,” He casts a glance at his brother. “Said you weren’t alright.”

Stan lets Mabel down, and glares at his brother. “Well, when I left to get you, she wasn’t. I don’t know what’s up with this.”

“Ooh, ooh!” Mabel jumps up and down, one hand raised in the air. “I can explain! Everyone’s still cursed, and oh man, there’s a lot of them-” Ford starts frowning, Stan looks a little triumphant. Ford must have really been out of touch with the world. He probably didn't believe Stan completely when he said how bad things were. Mabel points at Dipper. “But Dipper figured something out for me, and it was awesome.”

Both of the Stans look at Dipper. Stan’s confused, but Ford’s smiling now. Dipper shuffles a little, embarrassed by the attention.

Mabel tugs on Stan’s sleeve. “Hey, I wanna tell you everything! Listen, so me and Pacifica, you know-” Stan smirks - he saw how they were acting towards each other as well as Dipper did - and listens as she explains the whole thing.

Ford listens as well, hand clasped over his mouth, concentrating hard. “Right,” He says, finally, after Mabel’s mostly done with her story. “Dipper, why don’t you come over here?” Dipper jogs over quickly, eager. Dipper stands in front of Ford, and his uncle grins, and reaches out. They shake hands firmly. Ford's grip is strong and confident.

“Let me tell you, we had one hell of a time getting here. Why, if I hadn't known about that -" Ford shakes his head, and waves off the thought idly. "Ah, I'll tell you all about it later." Which is great, Ford has the best stories. "Good to see you again. How’re you doing?” he asks.

Dipper grins. “Pretty good, considering, uh…” He hesitates. Considering his demonic familiar, that he’s burned down a ton of forest, that he’s the one who cursed the town, that he’s just done… stuff with someone unspeakably evil- “Yeah, pretty good.”

“Good. Good!" Ford rubs his hands together, tilting his head back in thought. Then he nods. "Your cursebreaking idea for your sister was clever, by the way. Very efficient, very effective.” 

“You think so?” Dipper can’t stop smiling. “I just had this idea, and… uh, I guess it worked out?”

Ford looks at him, pleased, but with a bit of concern. “Yes. Looks like it did. You’re lucky, though...” He glances next to them. Mabel’s gone onto talking about the details of her date, and Stan is listening, bored, but indulgent. Ford leans in, face serious, speaking quieter. “I hate to tell you this,” Ford continues, almost carefully, “But if both people hadn’t believed in it strongly enough... that wouldn’t have worked.”

“Oh. Really?” asks Dipper. He knew that. He used that. “I just thought…” He trails off.

“And it was a damn good thought!” Ford declares. He pats Dipper on the back heavily. Dipper swells with pride. He had a damn good thought, for once in his life. “You might have a talent for this kind of work. But there’s a bigger curse to deal with. Don’t worry. I’ll take care of the rest.”

“Can I help?” asks Dipper. “I want to help.” He does want to help. He also wants to get rid of this thing he put on everyone. He wants to make up for his mistake.

Ford hums a little, eyes narrowing, frowning a little as he thinks.  “You know... I could use some help. This is a bad place to evaluate the situation,” He looks at Dipper, smiling again. “I’ve got to find the center of this thing to get a good look at it. Care to join me?”

And Dipper knows exactly where that is, he can absolutely help with that. “Yeah, sure! I know where-” Now he has to explain, and he can’t say- “I was looking at... the pattern of people it hit? I’m pretty sure we can get close to the… center.”

“Love seeing someone taking the initiative. Good job, Dipper,” Ford looks at him proudly. Dipper ducks his head to hide how hard he’s smiling. “We can solve this problem together. And whatever monster caused it, I’ll find it,” Ford slams his fist into his other palm, grinning. “And crush it.” Dipper’s smile vanishes.

Ford looks confident, and capable, shoulders squared, back straight. He’s covered in powerful enchanted items, he’s talented, he's intelligent, he’s got weapons in hilts on his hip.

“Crushing,” Dipper says, weakly. “Great.”

It was an accident. All of this, Bill, the curse, everything was an accident.

Dipper’s life is awful as it ever was. But it'll be fine. Ford's here, he knows everything, they'll fix Dipper's mistakes, and nobody will notice it was him. Dipper can figure this out.

Chapter Text

“And if you take that into account,” Dipper says, leaning over the kitchen table and drawing one last line on the map of the town - only for dramatic effect, he doesn’t need it except to convince his audience. “That’s probably where the epicenter is.”

Ford, who had been listening the whole time, deeply interested, nods once. Then again, more firmly. “Right. That’s a solid theory. I think you’re on the right track.” He gives Dipper a thumbs up, and smiles. “That’ll be the first place we check out.”

Dipper grins.

Okay, so Dipper knew where the place was the whole time. So he’s drawn on what scraps of theory he’s learned to make it justifiable, and explain it to his uncle. He wants this thing gone, so he can move on with his life. This is a skill that he never would have tried to learn, not something he ever intended to learn, but hang around freakin’ Bill for long enough and you end up picking up some ability to mislead people. And Ford, an absolute expert in this type of thing, seems to have bought into his makeshift, patched-together pack of explanatory lies.

Normally he’d never consider doing what he just did, but… Dipper doesn’t want to catch the blame for this. He wants this curse gone. He really doesn’t want to disappoint Ford.

“I can help verify the location, now that I think of it - if this is the type of thing I think it is,” Ford says, and starts digging through the many pockets of his coat. He brings out a small, flat object, made of stone, carved with hundreds of tiny runes. “Let me take a look. Get some details before we go.”

Ford powers up the thing with a burst of magic, and-

Dipper feels something, and it makes him flinch. It’s like… a pulse. A ping. An unexpected touch. He doesn’t know what Ford is doing, but urgh, it’s weird.

Dipper knew he made the curse, and while he hadn’t noticed it, it’s been there the entire time, hanging around, affecting people. It’s like suddenly feeling the weight of the clothes he’s wearing, or knowing he can breathe manually. Before it was in the background, but now he’s aware. He can feel it, spread like a net over so many people. It’s all connected...

And shit, it is big.

Wow. Did he really do that? It’s… impressive. 

Though maybe a little sloppy.

“Yes. Ha!” Ford laughs sharply. Whatever he sees in his device makes him enthusiastic. “Looks like you might be right. And I was right about its nature.” He tucks the thing back into his coat, and starts fumbling through his pockets again. He finds whatever he’s looking for, then pulls out a piece of wood from one pocket, and draws a knife from one of the hilts on his hip. “I can take care of this, once we go to the center. Just need a minute or two. Hold on a second.” Because Ford knows what to do. He always does.

This is going to feel bad - it’s Dipper’s magic, after all, it’s part of him, and ‘break’ is the best verb to describe what’s going to happen. But afterwards, everything will be fine. This is finally happening. It’s about time.

Dipper watches, interested, as the wood shavings fall around Ford while he carves his new instrument  - this isn’t something most people know about. Enchanted objects are pretty rare.

Then he blinks.

There’s a weird… tugging feeling? It’s like someone tapping his shoulder, but inside.

It’s his bond. He’s never felt it do this before. He analyzes it for a moment. Yeah, it’s definitely that. And he’s pretty sure he can do the same back to his familiar, now that he thinks about it. He watches Ford carve his new enchanted item for a few more seconds. Dipper has… precisely no idea what his uncle’s doing, but Ford’s too involved in his actions to explain.

He tries to ignore the weird sensation for a while. But after a minute, Ford’s still absorbed in his work, and the bond’s still pulling, so, reluctantly, Dipper wanders off in its direction. Shouldn’t take too long to figure out. Then he can start asking Ford some questions.

He steps outside the Shack, and almost instantly he’s grabbed by one shoulder of his shirt, and pulled- Dipper struggles, trying to draw away - but as he turns to look, it’s just Bill. Again. Being his usual insistent self, though he’s glaring at Dipper as if he’s deeply offended him. Dipper rolls his eyes, and follows. Wasn’t his demon leaving? What’s up with this?

Bill drags Dipper around to one side of the Shack, and shoves him up against the outside wall. Dipper grunts at the impact, looking up. Bill’s furious, enough so that his eye is red again.

Dipper’s surprised enough not to fight him. He hasn’t seen Bill like this in a while.

“What the hell did you do?” Bill hisses quietly, pushing Dipper harder against the wall, both hands on his shoulders.

Dipper frowns at him. Why is Bill back so quickly? When the demon said ‘one or two days’ he’d assumed something more like a week. “I’m helping break the curse? Like I’ve wanted to for ages now?”

Bill stares for a second, then, shuts his eye, and it goes back to normal. He lets go of one of Dipper’s shoulders to facepalm. “Yes. I know. I felt that test as much as you did. Hell, probably more. And you aren’t giving me any time? What has it been, like an hour? I said at least a day!”

“Why. Would I ever. Give you time to come up with a plan.” Dipper says, flatly. “I showed Ford where it happened, and it’s going away today.”

Bill looks at him in astonishment, and stares for a long moment. “I told you about- Aren’t you the one who keeps saying ‘oh, Bill, I know what you’re up to’ and ‘fuck you, Bill, I see what you’re doing’?” His familiar stares at him, now honestly horrified. It’s bizarre to see, Dipper almost feels bad about it. “Oh sweet chaos,” Bill draws both hands over his face. “I overestimated a mortal for once. What have you done to me?”

Dipper stares. Then asks. “What are you talking about?”

Backlash, you moron!” Bill growls, and he leans in close, right in Dipper’s face. “You should know about this, we talked about this, and sometimes you actually listen! You’re not good enough to handle it. Not yet,” He almost pouts. “I wanted to break you!” adds Bill, plaintively.

“Oh,” Dipper says quietly, thinking. Okay, yeah, he’ll feel some effects once the mind magic is broken, mostly bad emotions, but likely Bill’s upset about the curse going away. “Aw, Bill, are you worried about me?” Dipper taunts, smirking. He feels a little warm about that, weirdly enough.

“Well, fuck you, for one, and second, Poindexter in there should’ve taken longer to get here. So much for calling in old favors.” Bill looks disapproving, then glares again. “Then you didn’t give me any freaking time to figure things out. You catch on fast to new stuff! It would have worked!” Bill shoves him a little more out of sheer irritation. “But instead, you were an asshole.”

Dipper raises an eyebrow. Bill’s a mind and dream demon, he’s all about head stuff. There’s no trouble. “It can’t be that bad. You could block it.”

Bill smacks himself on the face again, holding his hand there and growling. “I really, really hate to say this… but,” He takes in a deep breath, grimacing. “Pine Tree, I can’t get into your head. And believe me, I’ve tried. Lots,” He heaves a long, exasperated sigh. “Yeah, we’re bonded. And for me? It’s gonna hurt a little, this stuff’s never nice. But you? Are human.” He waves his hands at Dipper, as if that explains everything.

Dipper shifts a little. This isn’t like Bill, he’s actually agitated. It’s starting to get to Dipper. “This isn’t funny, and I’m done with it. You can leave again now. I’m not falling for… whatever this is.” Dipper moves to leave, but Bill takes him by the shoulders again. He tries to push Bill’s hands away - this is bullshit - but he’s still shoved up against rough wood.

Bill looks at him for a long moment. His face is serious, in a way that makes Dipper start feeling worried, for the first time since Ford arrived. He watches, and Bill goes through the same contemplative routine he does when he’s trying to explain a complicated magical concept. Bill shuts his eye. He takes a moment to think.

When he opens his eye again, he’s still sincere. It makes Dipper even more nervous to see it. Bill takes a deep breath, and speaks.

“You know, I’m not surprised, honestly,” Bill says, quietly. “You’ve been way, way too calm about what you did to everyone, considering your ‘morals’.” He lifts his hands to make finger quotes, then rests them back on Dipper’s shoulders, more gently this time. “But this was big. Really big. Maybe you’re in denial...” He cocks his head to the side. “Nah. You’re absolutely in denial about how bad you messed up by human standards.”

“I am not-”

“You are,” Bill continues, so calm and honest it can’t be argued with. Dipper shuts up. “You’re thinking about this wrong, like it’s gonna be easy, when you’ve got literally hundreds of minds you messed with - do you know how difficult that is? Of course you don’t - and they’re about to come back and smack you in the face-” He pauses. “And you can’t comprehend that either, so I’ll make it simple,” says Bill, almost without emotion. “You’ll die.”

Dipper feels cold inside, he wants to protest, but Bill continues, not angry, not smiling, only neutral and informative. “Yeah. You’ll die. But not physically, because I’m not that lucky. I’m only telling you this because if you try this bullshit now? I’ll be in this horrible sack of flesh, and I’ll be tied to a braindead mortal I can’t get rid of, who’ll no longer be good for anything, and stuck on this plane of reality until you waste away. I am not into that.”

Dipper can see it, now.

It’s why Bill’s done… most of the things he’s done, ever since he heard a cursebreaker was coming.

Bill helped Dipper. He taught him a ton of theory, he practiced magic and showed Dipper all kinds of things, he tried to help him take this back, he probably only stopped Dipper from taking it back because it would break his mortal in a different way. He knew about this the whole time. And he’s Bill, for hell’s sake, he’d never come out and say it directly, not until he was under enough pressure.

And Dipper, feeling sick, realizes that Bill was right about another thing. He’d underestimated this curse. He’s felt it now. How much power he used, how bad it’s going to be. He was in denial, he was stupid.

That, and Bill’s a jerk, for not telling him.

Said jerk keeps goddamned talking. “You don’t suck at this stuff! A couple days of work, you’d’ve been able to take it. Why didn’t you wait?” Bill asks rhetorically, head dropping in exhausted frustration. He mutters to himself for a moment, then shrugs. “Nevermind. I’ll come up with something. Just a sec.” He starts thinking again, lips drawn into a thin line.

Dipper stares at his familiar. Thoughts start coming together.

Okay. Maybe Bill’s a jerk.

But.

Bill’s worked with Dipper. He’s taught him, he’s made plans with him, he tried to come up with something else when his first idea didn’t work out. And when he couldn’t do that, instead of abandoning everything and waiting for Dipper’s death, he came back, and he warned him, and now he’s still trying to make things work.

One human lifetime is nothing to something as old as this demon. It might be annoying, stuck where he is until Dipper’s body passes. He can see why Bill would put in some effort to stop that.

Bill’s put in a lot more effort than ‘some’.

Bill kept trying new things when the first ones didn’t work. He hates not being right. They’ve been around each other almost constantly, and all the while the demon’s become more and more invested. Because of all the time he’s spent, and because it turns out they work well together.

Dipper knows for a fact that Bill’s really enjoyed a few of their arguments, he even likes some of Dipper’s better insults, and he loved the plan for Mabel. They’re both smart. They both love clever ideas. Now, after everything they’ve done, Bill’s honestly bothered by the thought that Dipper’s brain might shut down.

Bill doesn’t want him to die.

He only wants to keep Dipper sane for selfish reasons. If Dipper’s braindead, Bill doesn’t get to play with his ‘pet’, or argue with him, or all of the things he finds entertaining while being stuck in reality. Doesn’t matter. This. It’s. Bill never tells Dipper everything, so. Maybe it’s nothing, and Dipper’s overthinking stuff again. He doesn’t know. He’s so fucked up by this awful relationship he can’t tell what’s weird anymore.

He does know that the simple fact that someone doesn’t want you dead shouldn’t make your face heat up like this, or your heart pick up its pace.

“Right. Get your dumb ass back in there, and go distract your uncle.” Bill says, oblivious to Dipper’s thoughts. It must be true that he’s not in Dipper’s head, because there’s no way he wouldn’t react if he could see what Dipper was thinking.

Dipper has to take a second before he can respond. “Why don’t you distract him?” he asks, feeling defensive. How the hell was he supposed to know any of this, anyway, with Bill never, ever telling him what’s going on. “You’re the ‘charming’ one, after all.” If Bill had been thinking about this, why did he leave?

Bill lifts his head and cringes, briefly. “Listen, sapling, me and IQ in there-” He hesitates. “I gotta get going again,” Bill says, still quietly, he squeezes Dipper’s shoulders, standing away at arm’s length, pushing him with gentle pressure against the wall, strangely nonviolent. “You’ve made one hell of a problem for me. I don’t wanna risk things. Not just yet.” That’s a weird thing for Bill to say, he doesn’t usually care about risks-

Dipper suddenly understands.

Bill’s a demon. Ford’s a demon hunter. His familiar doesn’t want to face his uncle, ha! Because Ford could definitely kick Bill’s… Bill isn’t even an animal, he likely doesn’t have an ass. But Ford could beat him, and Bill might not be capable of true fear, but he’s intimidated. Awesome. Ford is the best, Dipper’s going to use everything his great uncle knows against this jackass.

But… he’ll ask subtly. So Ford doesn’t find out what really happened. Nobody needs to know about this.

“What’s going on here?” asks Ford. Both Bill and Dipper freeze in place.

Ford’s standing a few yards away. Apparently he’s done with his work now, he was searching for Dipper, and he looked around the corner of the Shack. Ford starts frowning. “What. Are you doing?” he demands, staring at Bill.

Bill tenses up. He does it so hard that his fingers squeeze painfully where they’re resting on Dipper. But Bill’s not scared, like Dipper thought he might be. Bill’s facing Dipper, looking straight through him, and his expression has changed. It’s as dark as all of the times when he’s had murder on his mind. Dipper feels a tiny bit of flame flicker over one of Bill’s hands, where it rests on his shoulder.

Ford speaks again, careful and controlled. “Excuse me. But you should let go of Dipper. Now,” His hand taps on his thigh, close to his weapons. Dipper can feel Bill’s restrained power coalescing into a fireball, on the side of him his uncle can’t see-

This is going to be nasty.

Dipper’s not sure who will win. Ford’s amazing at what he does, but the demon can hold his own and doesn’t flinch. Maybe his uncle dies. Maybe Bill will be gone, bodiless, finally. He’ll be back in his realm, he’ll-

Oh. Shit.

Dipper starts thinking, fast.

Because when Bill’s in his realm - he’s been there before without Dipper - he doesn’t stop being Dipper’s familiar. The bond still exists when he’s there, which means his magic in Dipper still exists, which means when this curse gets broken Dipper’s still going to get hit by it, and then he won’t even have a mind to be upset about it. There has to be something, he’s learned so much from his demon, ever since that first lesson when-

He has an idea.

He knows the solution, fantastic, and he’s sure it’ll work. But for it to work at all, Dipper needs Bill’s body - another phrase he’s ruined - and to talk it over with him. He needs to buy some time, this is going to be- he can’t even think of a word. But if Bill plays along, it’ll work.

He can’t push Bill away, he’s too strong, but when he's leaned in like this, elbows bent, Dipper can pull him in.

Dipper wraps his hands up around Bill, around his chest, and yanks him towards him, pulling him into an embrace, and kisses him, hard. He flicks his tongue over Bill’s lips, and feels the fire on his shoulder go out as Bill makes a ‘mmh?’ noise, confused.

Dipper pushes him back a little and draws himself away from the wall, scraping splinters from the wood out of the back of his shirt. His familiar’s stopped shoving him, hands now on Dipper’s waist, staring at him in a type of blank confusion. 

“Um, hey.” Dipper looks up at Ford, who’s watching them with concern, hand still hovering near his side. “Everything’s cool. I have a boyfriend,” Dipper blurts, though the words come out of his mouth awkwardly. He gestures even more awkwardly at Bill.

“Oh. Oh!” Ford says, visibly relaxing. The hand near his hip drops to his side. “Yes, I see. That’s fine.” He looks away briefly, frowning a little, covering up some slight embarrassment. He’d thought Dipper was being attacked, but with that information, the way they were positioned looks like- stuff was going to happen.

Ford looks Bill over closely, evaluating him, a hand on his chin. “Who are you?” asks Ford.

Bill startles. He looks surprised. He’s still staring through Dipper, but now Dipper can see Bill’s thinking, fast. What’s going on here?

Ford continues, giving Bill a thorough look over, eyes narrowing. “We haven’t met, I believe. I’m Stanford Pines. Dipper’s great uncle. Call me Ford.”

Bill looks at Ford for a long moment. Then he smiles, close-mouthed, hiding his unnaturally sharp teeth. “Have we not? Dipper’s gone on and on about you. Ford,” Bill looks increasingly pleased with himself with each word. Dipper sighs. He almost wants to be called Pine Tree again. Hearing Bill say his name kind of freaks him out. “I feel like I already know you by this point! Name’s Bill, by the way.”

Ford frowns for a second at Bill, then shrugs, dismissively. He reaches out a hand to shake, and Bill walks over the few yards towards him to him to take it. “Well. It’s good to meet you.” Ford casts a glance at Dipper, then leans in closer to Bill, lowering his voice. Dipper can barely catch the words, Ford probably doesn’t intend him to hear. But he does, and it fills him with a flush of embarrassment.

“Maybe you’re alright, maybe you’re not, but...” Ford mutters as he shakes Bill’s hand, threatening. “If you ever hurt my nephew? I will destroy you.”

“Trust me,” Bill says, at a normal volume, smug. “That’ll never happen.”

Ford narrows his eyes at Bill for a moment, releasing his hand, and thinking. He seems to come to a decision. He shrugs, and smiles a bit.

Dipper clears his throat, and it’s awful, he’s blushing now. “Um. So. Uh. Great.” Nevermind. It doesn’t matter. Thank... everything, they’re not about to kill each other. Yet.

And Ford’s not weirded out that Dipper’s dating a guy. Not that Bill’s anywhere near human. Actually, they’re not dating in the slightest. Despite all of that, Dipper fights an urge to collapse with relief. He'd been a little concerned.

Ford grimaces for an instant, but it fades rapidly. “Yes, alright. So you’re…” He gestures vaguely between Bill and Dipper, looking a little skeptical about the situation.

Bill chuckles, warmly.  “Yep! See your nephew there? He’s mine,” Bill says, smiling wider, but not enough to show his inhuman traits. “Forever.” Which doesn’t surprise Dipper, because Bill’s possessive as hell, and he can’t do anything without being somewhat creepy.

Ford gives that another look, then sighs and shrugs. “Alright. Well, Dipper, we should get going,” Ford turns to look at Dipper, smiling wider, dismissing Bill entirely. The demon glares, and he wipes off his handshaking hand on his pants. He flips Ford off behind his back.

“I think everything’s about ready to check this spell out. Shouldn’t be too difficult,” Ford looks very satisfied. “Break this thing in no time. Give that monster one hell of a hit in return.”

Dipper smiles, weakly. Not much he can say to that. “Sure.”

Wait, no, he needs Bill around for this to work. “Wait,” Dipper blurts, and sprints forward towards them. “Can Bill come too?” He moves in close, grabs Bill’s hand, and his familiar turns to look at him, surprised. “He’s interested in this stuff,” He gives the demon a significant look. “Aren’t you, Bill.” His familiar is playing along so far, but he’s deeply confused, and glances at Dipper.

Dipper keeps looking at him, and jerks his head towards Ford sharply. Bill can handle this, can’t he?

“Hm?” Ford looks at Bill with renewed interest. “Thinking of taking up this type of work, are you?” He seems to be warming up to him, just slightly.

“Oh, well,” Bill actually hesitates for a second, glancing at Dipper again. But he catches up, fast as always, and smiles, looking at Ford. “Not looking into it as a career - little dangerous for my tastes - But if I understand the theory right, you’ll… try a  chain reaction? It’s the simplest to pull off, and it looked like a shockwave pattern,” God Bill’s quick, Dipper kind of likes it. Bill shrugs. “I am interested in the concepts, but not in the practice. I leave that to genius experts like yourself.” Bill finishes, smiling flatteringly.

Ford starts looking at Bill with deeper interest. “Yes, I was thinking of that. If it’s connected enough. You're quite right.” He gives Bill a wry grin. He thinks for a moment, then looks at Dipper briefly, giving him an approving nod.

Dipper smiles, but shifts around uncomfortably, because... okay, Dipper likes that Ford’s beginning to approve of his ‘boyfriend’, but this is so false, it’s fake, and it’s never going to last.

Ford thinks for another moment, then shrugs. “Sure, why not join us? You’ll get to see some of the practice, with none of the risk. Let’s head to the car.” He starts walking off, looking distracted, mind wandering off as he thinks about the problem.

“Great! We’ll get going.” Dipper chimes in, dragging along Bill by the hand to follow. Bill looks at Dipper, one eyebrow raised. He gives him a look that says ‘what the hell’ louder than he could without shouting. But he’s playing along. Dipper can already see he likes fooling a demon hunter into believing he’s human.

They can’t exactly talk about this with Ford right there. Thankfully, they know each other well enough by this point to have a mostly silent conversation as they tag along with Ford. It’s mostly gestures, partly whispering, and partly hitting each other.

Dipper manages to pantomime his idea across, adding whispers while Ford’s distracted with something. “So can you?”

Bill looks sulky. “...Yes. I woulda thought of that. Eventually.” He nudges Dipper in the side with an elbow, but without much force behind it. “It’s... icky, though.” The demon’s not thrilled, but at least it’s not the worst reaction he’s had to a type of magic. “And this still is going to suck for you. Like, a lot.”

“Deal with it. I can.” Dipper mutters, he almost wants to sit down on the ground with sheer relief. Or maybe stand straight in triumph, because he came up with something Bill didn’t think of, and he had a lot more time.

This whole huge thing is going to come crashing back down on Dipper. But with physical contact, there's a connection. If Bill can draw out his own magic using body contact with Dipper, there’s no reason he can’t draw it back in. And if Bill does do that, when this curse comes back? Bill can take the brunt of the impact. Dipper squeezes Bill’s hand in his own. He'll survive.

Maybe it’s ‘icky’. And Dipper’s not totally shielded. But Bill doesn’t want him to die, and this’ll work.

“You know. I could always shove you off a cliff or something. It’d be simple.” says Bill, contemplatively. He returns the squeeze. “My life would be a whole lot easier if you weren’t interesting. ”

“Feeling’s mutual,” Dipper replies.

Okay, so he’s keeping Bill. Only for one more day. Ford will be around for a while, he’s got a ‘monster’ he’s going to hunt down once this is done, so when this curse over-

Dipper’ll get around to it. Still has to learn a few things, but that can’t take too long. Even Bill thinks he’s smart, and interesting, Dipper can get this over with quickly.

Everything’s going to be fine.

Chapter Text

This is the most terrible situation Dipper’s ever been in, and it’s all his fault.

They’re only three blocks away from the center of the curse, and approaching it fast. Ford strides ahead of them, confident and distracted, focused on the enchanted device in his hands. He’s got the equipment in place to break the curse, that massive magic that’s going to shatter Dipper’s mind, and it’s only a few minutes until he does.

Meanwhile, Dipper’s holding hands with a horrific demonic entity, who’s evil, who’s insane, who’s enjoying that he’s deceiving someone who can actually fight him. Bill is grinning, holding Dipper’s hand, pleased that he hasn’t been seen for what he is.

Dipper doesn’t know why he thought anything he’s done was a good idea. There’s a cold sweat on him, and he’s more than a little terrified, because what if this doesn’t work.

He doesn’t want to die.

Ford doesn’t know what’s about to happen, and Bill barely cares. He cares a little, sure, and that’s- that’s pretty good. Great, even. It’d be so easy for him not to care at all.

Bill wants Dipper to live. He’s a demon, and doesn’t care nearly as much about his ‘pet’ living as Dipper does, but he cares enough for Dipper to trust his familiar. At least for this. Not for anything else.

Bill’s just as intelligent as Ford. Maybe - if Dipper’s being honest - more so. He’s got thousands of years of experience. And Bill thinks Dipper’s idea will work. That’s… comforting.

Dipper should have come clean. He should have said something, earlier, Ford knows everything, he’d know what to do, but if he tried to explain- He doesn’t know if his familiar situation is fixable, even by his uncle. There’s no way he’s found to break this bond. As far as his research has told him, it’s entirely unprecedented. And if he did say something, the fight that’d happen...

Ford’s good at what he does. He’s great! But Bill, even limited as he is... he’s fast, he’s smart, he’s got tons of fire at his command, and he’s vicious as hell. There’s no telling who would come out on top. Even if Ford did manage to win...

Dipper’s seen enough gore. He can imagine it. He can picture, too easily, the blistered mass of his uncle’s face, wet and red-

Bill will be dealt with. By Dipper. Someone Bill can’t harm.

Ford shouldn’t get hurt, not because of Dipper’s mistake.

In terms of solving... everything, the plan Dipper’s made for the curse is all he’s got at the moment, so it had better work. He really, really hopes it works. Bill won’t intentionally mess this up. But… he’s not as competent as he likes to pretend he is. Dipper’s seen him make mistakes, he’s gotten the better of him a couple times, and he’s just one young mortal human. There’s a chance Bill can’t pull this off.

Bill’s walking next to him. He’s been watching Ford, looking over at Dipper occasionally. Maybe he sees something in Dipper’s face, because Bill pulls him in closer with his grip on Dipper’s hand.

“What’s up with you?” Bill says quietly. He looks Dipper over slowly, then leans away a little. He’s too damned good at reading Dipper, even if he can’t hear his thoughts. “Are you doubting me?” Bill asks, offended.

Dipper shrugs a little, lowering his head. It’s totally reasonable to have doubts. This is his brain on the line, what if Bill can’t do what he needs to?

Bill turns his head away from Dipper, scoffing, chin raised, clearly angered. “Excuse you, I’m amazing. Yeah, this is new material for me, but you think I’ll mess this up?” Bill draws himself up, looking self-important. “You are a fragile, idiotic, nearly worthless piece of slowly rotting flesh, and I’m still going to rock this dumb idea of yours, no matter how flawed it is.”

So Bill’s going to put effort into this plan, if only to spare his own immense pride. And that… is extremely comforting. Dipper hadn’t intended that, he had honestly been worried, but now he relaxes, relieved.

All of this relies on Bill doing something he finds distasteful, and if he’s got another motive beyond not wanting Dipper dead? That’s great.

“Looks like this is the place, I believe,” Ford’s stopped near where the curse was cast. Dipper halts, and Bill stands next to him, rolling his eye. Ford’s almost two yards off from the exact center - Dipper had circled a general area on the town map, and this is that place. “I’ve got my tools all ready, but I’d better make sure they’re right.”

Ford takes off his glasses, and picks out another pair from a pocket. They’re almost the same, but covered in all the tiny symbols of an enchanted object.

Bill eye widens, and he moves fast, yanking both himself and Dipper out of his uncle’s line of sight. Dipper grunts at the pull on his arm, stumbles, catches himself, and follows his familiar. Bill drags him to stand behind Ford as his uncle puts on the new glasses, and, as Ford turns in a slow circle, looking around, Bill pulls Dipper along so that they’re never actually in his vision.

The demon’s also quietly chuckling to himself, grinning wide. Dipper follows him, frowning.

Maybe Dipper does need to stay out of his uncle’s gaze for a minute, while those glasses are on - it reminds him of Bill’s extra senses, of his pleased smile when he looked at Dipper while ‘predicting’ stuff - but he’s a little confused by his demon’s reaction to this. Bill’s always enjoyed deception, but this particular ruse seems to really make him happy. The way he’s hiding from Ford is giving his familiar an honest thrill.

That’s lucky. If Bill’s more entertained by hiding from Ford than hurting him, Dipper’s uncle is safe. And Bill will be too preoccupied messing with Ford to notice that Dipper’s the one who’ll take care of him.

Ford switches his glasses out for his normal pair - he looks around for a second, confused, then spots Dipper and Bill again. He grins.

“This,” Ford says, confident. “Will be easy. It’s a big one, but a messy one. Rather crude, really. Strong, but terrible construction,” Dipper feels himself sulk a bit. Bill snickers quietly. “I know what to do. It’ll be gone in one go. Simple enough, if you know what you’re about, and have the right equipment.”

Ford continues. “So, Bill,” The demon starts a little, smile vanishing. Dipper’s uncle is still grinning, oblivious. “You have an interest in this, don’t you, what do you think? Know anything about what that might mean?” Ford’s curious, prompting, almost like a teacher. He’s testing Dipper’s ‘boyfriend’. Finding out how smart he is.

Dipper feels Bill’s hand tighten painfully around his own. Despite his ability to cover things up, Bill is frowning faintly, and his lower eyelid starts twitching involuntarily.

His familiar hates, loathes, and despises being condescended to. He knows all about magic, maybe everything about magic, he’s a deep well of ancient knowledge. Ford’s treating him like some kind of eager little student, and that pisses Bill off. A lot.

Dipper takes a slow breath, and lets it out. He really should have expected this, with the lie he used to bring Bill along. Of course Ford would want to know more about his nephew’s boyfriend. Of course he’d assume Bill doesn’t know much about his ‘hobby’. But please, please, let his demon not start a fight. Not now.

Bill takes a second, eye still twitching, then masters himself, face going neutral.

“It means it’s all connected,” says Bill, sounding the part of the patient learner, but Dipper can hear the tiredness in his voice. “And you’ll be able to break it with one hit, because whoever made it sucked, or was a complete idiot. Powerful, maybe, but they’re horrible at this.”

Dipper doesn’t react, but squeezes Bill’s hand back, tight and painfully. He’s not surprised. God forbid Bill say anything without getting a few digs into Dipper. He’s just relieved that Bill’s not trying to murder anyone yet.

Ford nods, slowly, approving. “Yes. Correct. That’s part of what’s interesting about this,” He turns away from them, looking around the town. What, he’s not going to argue with any of the things Bill just said? “Still, what’s most important is to get rid of the curse. I’ll track down whatever caused it after. Shouldn’t be too hard.”

Bill looks at Dipper, smug and satisfied. Dipper elbows him in the side, feeling oddly pouty about that bit of conversation.

“This’ll only take a moment,” Ford brings out his carved piece of wood. He powers it with a burst of magic, the runes he’s drawn onto it light up gently. “Watch this,” says Ford, smirking, turning away with a dramatic flourish, bracing the stick between his fingers.

Dipper tenses, he moves in closer to Bill. Their hands are linked. Bill’s warm and calm as he stands next to his human, unconcerned. This is the moment Dipper’s been waiting for, for days now, and it’s apparently going to suck for him.

He feels a soft puff of magic against the curse, like a breath of air, as whatever that thing in his uncle’s hand is connects with it, joining to be part of it-

Ford snaps the wood in half.

Dipper shuts his eyes, he grips Bill’s hand tighter, he feels-

He feels almost nothing. Only an aching, tingling pain in his nerves, all through his body, and a hot feeling in his hand, clasped in Bill’s.

Dipper blinks for a moment. Nothing’s really happened. This is unpleasant as hell, but nowhere near deadly. Bill was lying to him. Again. He had some other reason to scare Dipper, make him worry-

But when he looks over at his familiar, Bill is standing straight, eye shut, concentrating, and Dipper’s hand in his own is gripped almost crushingly. That hot feeling where their skin is pressed together is their point of connection now, and if Dipper concentrates, he can feel the magic of the curse, drawn back into Bill, that massive, horrible thing collapsing down on him being taken-

Dipper shouldn’t have thought about it.

It’s mind magic. If he hadn’t concentrated on what was happening, his idea would have worked perfectly. Bill could have absorbed it, and it would have mostly passed Dipper over, if he hadn’t let his thoughts get caught up in the flood as the mind-influencing magic came back. But he overanalyzed, like always, and now-

Catching part of this cursebreak is like being punched in the gut. Repeatedly.

It’s pain. It’s nausea. It’s horrible.

Dipper’s stomach heaves. He chokes it back. Everything hurts. Even standing hurts. His legs burn like he’s run a marathon, they tremble, they fail underneath him. Dipper nearly falls.

Beside him, he hears Bill swear softly, using his free arm to catch Dipper before he hits the pavement and hauling him up. He pulls Dipper up against his chest, Dipper’s head resting on Bill’s shoulder, supported with one arm wrapped around his waist. Bill’s an expert, he knows full well what just happened. He’d put in his effort, it was working, it could have worked so well.

Then Dipper screwed it up, by overthinking things.

Dipper can vaguely hear Bill muttering more curses under his breath, in a language nowhere near English, but he’s certain they’re all about how dumb his human is.

“Well, what do you think of that?’ Ford asks brightly. He must turn to look at Dipper, because his tone turns concerned. “Dipper?” he asks, worried.

Dipper stares at the ground behind Bill’s back, silent, limbs limp, and just feels hurt. He can’t concentrate enough to form a response.

There’s too many ideas in his head, now, and almost none of them are his own. He’s trying to remember that he’s Dipper Pines, he’s not old, he’s not married, he’s not a doctor, or a father, he’s not so many things. All of the people he hit with this aren’t him, these aren’t his thoughts, he’s only himself-

He feels Bill shift in place against him.

“He’s been worried about this curse for a long time,” Bill soothes, patting Dipper on the back as he holds him up. Dipper can’t see how his uncle and his demon are looking at each other, but it’s probably tense as hell. “Hasn’t slept at all! Poor thing’s just relieved this is over with. Great job on breaking that, you know! I think I felt some. It was very talented.”

There’s a short silence, then Dipper hears Ford sigh, a little fondly. “Yes, Dipper’s always been a bit fretful. But this is rather sudden.” There’s some skepticism in Ford’s tone.

“When I say he hasn’t slept, I really meant it,” Bill says, voice serious. “Couldn’t get him to do it if you hit him over the head. Too busy with other stuff, always working on something.”

“Ah, well. Sounds like my nephew,” Ford sounds more relaxed, now. “Suppose I’ll let him rest,” He pauses for an instant. “You take care of him, alright?” Now a little more threatening, challenging.

Dipper feels Bill nod. “I take care of what’s mine!” The hand holding Dipper’s lets go to make some kind of positive gesture at Ford, Bill’s other arm still holding him upright.

Ford makes a short ‘hm’ noise, but apparently dismisses things, because Dipper hears his footsteps as he starts walking off, already talking about how he’s going to destroy the thing that made that curse. Dipper can’t hear it, not really- he can physically hear it, but he’s trying not to think. About anything.

He’s too absorbed in his own thoughts, and other’s thoughts -

- he’s not them, he’s not them, he’s Dipper -

- to hear Bill say… whatever he says next. He’s aware that Bill’s saying something mostly because his demon’s chest moves against his own when he speaks, and, somewhere, Ford’s voice says something in return.

There’s a quick back and forth between the two. Dipper can feel the vibration when Bill talks. Bill’s really warm.

Then he’s held slightly away from the demon - Dipper manages to find his feet again, he stumbles. Bill holds him up with one arm. His face is a blank mask, and he darts his eye over at Ford’s retreating back. He leans in closer to Dipper’s face, and wow. Now he’s angry. Furious.

Dipper stares at Bill blankly as he hisses something. Those… sure are some words. And he doesn’t understand them.

Bill waits for a few moments, tapping a foot on the ground impatiently. When after a few seconds Dipper doesn’t respond, Bill makes a ‘come on’ motion, waiting for a reply, expectant.

Dipper watches him. He doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t even know what he was asked.

Bill absorbed most of the returning magic, but Dipper got himself involved and caught way more of it than he was supposed to, and his demon knows it. He likely felt it. Distantly, Dipper realizes what’s happened to him.

Ah. Backlash.

Bill was right about something again. This… sucks. A lot.

This is what Bill was trying to teach him to defend himself against, thought Dipper couldn’t defend himself against. Then it happened anyway, and it hit him very, very hard.

But Dipper’s still alive. He remembered what he was taught, and the initial wave is over. For the moment, he hurts, everywhere. He can’t speak. But since it didn’t break him instantly, if he can just keep himself together for a little longer...

He’s… not as good at this as a demon, and he’ll never be. Bill’s simply not human. He doesn’t think like one, it can’t affect him nearly as much, and any mortal mind is so far below his weight class it’s laughable. To Bill, it must feel like a swarm of flies batting against him. Gross, maybe, but completely harmless.

To Dipper, though, holy shit. These other thoughts are so present, so immediate. He feels like he needs to feed his cat - he doesn’t have a cat - like he’s worried about his mortgage - also something he doesn’t have - like his next paycheck won’t cover rent - Stan doesn’t charge his family rent, he’s cool in that way.

Thank hell Dipper learned about this, he can tell these aren’t his ideas. But they’re everywhere. Whenever he tries to do something, they get in the way. He can’t respond to anything, not yet, he has to keep fighting them off. But if Dipper remembers right - thinking about magical theory, that’s a good idea, he loves that stuff, and it’s something that’s his own - this should wear off. Eventually.

Meanwhile, in front of him, Bill… isn’t angry anymore.

He’s staring.

Then he frowns. Bill grabs him by the chin, looking him over closely. He turns Dipper’s head from side to side - Dipper doesn’t fight it, he doesn’t keep his eyes on Bill’s face. He concentrates on all of the details he can see when Bill changes his view. This is his experience, not something anyone else has had. He needs to focus on what’s his own, not listen to the static of half-formed thoughts.

There’s a long pause. Bill swears quietly, glancing over at the retreating form of Ford, then back at Dipper. He reaches up and uses two fingers to flip Dipper’s eyes shut. Then both of Bill’s arms are wrapped around him, one under his legs, the other over his back, and Dipper is picked up.

Bill carries him away. The demon's chest rumbles while he mumbles some things to himself, holding Dipper tightly pressed against him.

Dipper keeps his eyes shut, chin tucked over one of Bill’s shoulders, one of his arms draped over the opposite. He hears Ford continue talking, and Bill chimes in. The demon does make a good sounding board for ideas, he’s knowledgeable enough, and it’s distracting Ford from what’s obviously wrong.

Dipper can hear his uncle starting to sound a little more excited, speaking loudly. His familiar-

He’s… had a thought, actually. It helps him clear his head a little.

Dipper’s shoved - somewhat rudely, while Ford isn’t looking - into the backseat of the car. He spends the trip thinking about it, letting Ford and Bill carry on some kind of conversation. He blinks his eyes open. There’s Bill being smug, and distracting. Glancing over at Dipper occasionally, very casually. But when he sees Dipper’s looking back at him, he gets a little tense, and turns to Ford again.

Even if Bill claims it works the other way... he’s Dipper’s. Nobody else knows the demon so well. Bill is his

He’s his familiar. He’s Dipper’s problem to take care of, he’s his teacher, his- Bill’s even been- And that’s an experience that nobody else alive has, not with a demon. He looks human, at the moment, he can act the part of a human, but the body he’s riding in is Dipper’s creation, right down to its bones.

Which Bill doesn’t usually have. He’s a demon, and whatever’s stuck in that shell, it’s nowhere near a real human. It’s so far away from one that Dipper can’t even imagine what he’s really like.

And Dipper’s the only one who knows.

Even Ford’s fooled by Bill’s act, and he’s supposed to know all about demons. Bill knows too, clearly, but he’s not a problem at the moment. He can’t get into Dipper’s head. Concentrating on this helps a lot, because it couldn’t be anyone else who knows this. It helps him wait things out, while the mental interference fades. 

By the time they’re back at the Shack, the backlash has worn off considerably. Dipper is able to stumble out of the car under his own power. Bill catches him by the shoulders, standing behind him. He’s speaking, and now words are starting to come back into focus. Dipper can understand people again.

“-bring him upstairs. My sweetie’s just tuckered out.” Bill finishes, pushing Dipper ahead of him, heading inside. Dipper walks with him, almost on automatic. Sweetie? That’s a horrible thing to say, call Dipper ‘Pine Tree’ again. God, what has Bill been talking about with his uncle?

Mabel is there to greet them at the door, smiling and waving. Though as Dipper gets closer, her expression starts to fade. “Hey guys, I- uh,” She’s looking at him, strangely. “Is something wrong? Dipper?”

Dipper blinks at her, but he’s still having trouble forming words. He tries to tell her he’s okay, and ends up only making a sound like ‘umblg’. Bill claps a hand over his mouth.

“What’s up, Shooting Star? Been one hell of a day, for everyone,” Bill says cheerfully, though Dipper feels the grip on his shoulder tighten. Mabel’s not fooled, and it looks like she’s getting a little upset.

“Listen, I’m gonna-” Bill hesitates. He can his see when his lies aren’t working. “I’ll fix it.” says Bill, more seriously.

Mabel looks Bill over, and speaks, worried and careful. “Okay?”

“Yep! Nothing’s wrong and everything will be fine.” Bill says, through gritted teeth, pushing Dipper along again. “See you in a bit!”

Dipper ends up being practically dragged up the stairs, to the room they share. Bill picks him up again, and drops him on the bed roughly. The demon turns away from him and lets out a long, frustrated groan, stalking across the room as he thinks, hard. Dipper lies where he is, limp. His mind is a lot clearer, but ow. Still in a lot of pain. That was unpleasant.

Bill stalks around in a circle, then stops in place, looking at Dipper - his expression is foreign on his face. Bill turns away again, pacing. Without all of the words he uses to cover up his actions, Dipper can see the demon’s… actually upset.

“You. Absolute. Dumbass. You knew what the theory was! I made it work, it would have worked!” Bill makes a frustrated noise, slamming his fist against a wall. “Then you go and ruin it by being an analytic mortal idiot, just like you ruin everything. What were you thinking?”

Bill looks at Dipper again, eye tracing over him, and sighs, shoulders slumping. “Well, you won’t be doing any more thinking.” Dipper’s familiar watches him for another few seconds, and Dipper realizes that oh, hell, Bill thinks he’s braindead. And not in a mocking, insulting way, in a real way, only operating on basic functions.

He’s not talking to Dipper. Only to himself.

Bill sits down on the floor, next to the bed. Dipper turns his head, but Bill can’t see him. His familiar keeps talking, quiet and thick with sarcasm.

“Oh, yeah, just answer the summon, Bill! Don’t look too hard at it. There’s no possible way one of those could ever backfire on you.” Bill slaps himself on the forehead, groaning. “No Mindscape. No magic. Freakin’ Sixer's around,” mutters Bill quietly. Dipper stares. He’s never heard at least two of those terms.

Bill drops his head forward, heaving a disgusted sigh. “No mortal, either, and this one was fun,” He pauses, has a thought. “Ugh, and there was so much body stuff we could’ve tried!” Bill adds, slumping even more, hands clapped over his head.

And that idea manages to break through most of the remaining thoughts clouding Dipper’s, easily, because what the hell, Bill’s seriously thinking about that? Now?

“Damn it, Bill, what’s wrong with you?” asks Dipper, suddenly.

Bill’s head shoots up, looking at Dipper. His eye is wide and surprised.

His familiar stumbles to his feet, almost awkwardly, stepping towards him and tapping Dipper on the head. “Okay, that had better not have been some kind of automatic response, ‘cause I know I annoy you enough for it to be one. I’m not interested something that can’t think,” He pokes Dipper on the cheek. “You’d better be in there, Pine Tree, or I’ll find some way to get back at ya.”

Dipper fumbles through a response. The intrusive thoughts of other people are like hurdles, he has to take care not to trip over them as he tries to say something. While trying to reply, he trips over a bunch.

“Yes,” Dipper says, awkwardly. “I’ll… that’s… You...” This isn’t coming out right. He’s not sure it can come out right, but it’s helping him concentrate on something that isn’t the interference, still slowly draining out of his head. It takes him a minute.

“Bill? I hate you.” says Dipper, eventually, smacking himself on the side of the head, trying to clear it more. “This was terrible. And you suck.” he adds, shutting his eyes and rubbing them briefly.

Wow. Clever. Dipper’s so great.

That was good, though. He already feels a lot more like himself.

It’s nowhere near the best thing Dipper’s come up with, but the way Bill grins at him after he says it? Makes him feel like it’s the most brilliant comment he’s ever made.

“Neat, you’re more resilient than I gave you credit for,” says Bill, patting him on the chest. The demon’s still beaming, eye literally bright. He looks Dipper over, then frowns. “Think you can talk to your family? Your uncle’s got a blind spot a mile wide, but your sister… might’ve noticed something’s off. Gotta do damage control.”

Dipper shakes his head, carefully. Every nerve still aches, badly, like he’s been beaten. “No. You handle it.”

Bill rolls his eye, but sighs. “You don’t ask for much, do you. Already bought some space, but I can buy some time for you, too. I’m just that great.”

“Mm,” Dipper agrees. 

Bill looks at him, disappointed. “What, no insult?” He takes a slow breath, and nods, serious. “Yeah. Okay. You’re not up to speed yet. I’ll handle things,” He gets up. “Stay here."

In the doorway, he pauses, and looks at Dipper over his shoulder. "And try not to cause any more life-threatening accidents, even though you love ‘em so much.” adds Bill, unnecessarily. For some reason it makes Dipper feel better.

Bill leaves, and Dipper stays on the bed, and tries really hard not to make any more mistakes. He hates it when Bill’s right, but he’s made a lot of those. He shuts his eyes.

The sheets feel nice. He pulls a blanket over himself, and tries, fruitlessly, to rest. It’s not going to happen, but it’s okay to pretend for a while. A little relaxing, while the last of the backlash ebbs away.

It’s a long while before Bill returns. When Dipper hears the door open, he sits back up, useless blanket piling in his lap. His demon’s standing in the doorway, holding the door by the handle, looking smug again.

“Got Shooting Star reassured. No thanks to you. That wasn’t fun,” says Bill, though he’s still self-satisfied. “You better make an appearance at some point, though, seal the deal.”

Dipper watches him, miserable. Okay, so the curse is gone. That’s great. But now Ford’s looking for the cause. And Dipper, like a moron, collapsed in front of his uncle at the same time as the cursebreaking, and if Bill was even a fraction less talented of a liar, Dipper would’ve been caught out. Dipper’s done so much, and still nothing’s solved.

He stares at the sheets, feeling awful.

He wants his uncle to be proud of him. He wants something to go his way for once. He wants to stop hurting. He wants there to be at least one good thing-

He looks up at Bill.

The demon’s still standing in the open doorway, looking normal, no sign that he’d ever been bothered. He’s ignoring Dipper now, head cocked to one side, already coming up with something new to pull. Likely it’s something for Ford, Bill not-so-secretly hates him. So. This is a good idea. Didn’t Bill say that Dipper’s a distraction?

“Right. Get over here,” Dipper says, kicking the blanket away. Bill looks at him with interest. “You said…” Dipper hesitates, feeling awkward. How does he ask? He’s only done this one time, and that was an accident, too, though one that - for once - didn’t have horrible consequences.

Bill hums a little, dismissively. He looks away again. “I say a lot of things.”

He’s being evasive. Dipper does have questions about what he overheard, but he’s too tired to try for answers. It can wait.

Dipper coughs into one of his fists, awkward. “I’m not up for everything, I feel awful. But,” He motions Bill closer, and feels his face heat up. “You wanna… try some body stuff?” He uses the phrase his familiar did, he can’t bring himself to say anything directly. This is so embarrassing.

But when he says it, Bill turns back towards him, surprised. Then he starts to grin.

“Man, chalk another one up on the board of ‘things Pine Tree is terrible at’. Number one thousand and three is seduction,” Bill shuts the door behind him, he locks it without looking. “I don’t know what you were thinking last time. Who even tries something like that?”

Dipper knows he’s blushing, but Bill’s just being an ass again. He knows full well that was not a seduction attempt. But it apparently worked. Who even falls for that?

Dipper decides to save that retort for later, work on it a bit. He’ll surprise Bill with it, when he attempts to taunt him again. It’ll embarrass his familiar, or more likely, make him laugh. Either would be good.

Bill continues, sounding more interested. His smile is almost predatory. “But sure, why not. I’m into it. You’re lucky I like this.” He walks a little closer, starts pulling off his shirt. Watching with deep interest, Dipper stares at Bill for a second, running his eyes over him. Then, awkwardly, achingly, he moves to do the same.

Everything else may be going wrong for him, all the time, but there is one thing that feels very, very right.

Chapter Text

Dipper watches his uncle stalk around the edge of the burnt clearing in a long circle, and makes another dot on the map.

So far, this is going well. Investigating the incident hasn’t led his uncle to suspect Dipper, yet, but it’s possible that it could go that direction. He decided, eventually, to use his backup distraction, and Ford was excited to see another clue. Ford was completely unsuspicious, too. Dipper goes in these woods all the time. It makes sense that he’d notice this.

Also, Dipper goes into these woods all the time. And that’s extremely suspicious.

Dipper’s made a gamble here, but it looks like it might pay off.

Ford is thinking, one hand clasped to his chin, the other tucked behind his back. He stops, just next to Dipper. “Is this the last one?”

Dipper nods, hands him the map with all the marked places. Ford takes it, examining it closely. Dipper waits, rocking a little in place, and sweats.

Bill had been invited along on this trip as well - he must have impressed Ford during their conversation - but he’d declined. Almost politely. In that he didn’t say ‘fuck off’, or go for Ford’s throat. Shame, honestly. His familiar’s skills at distraction and lying would be welcome at the moment, but at least Dipper doesn’t have to run interference.

Dipper’s lie to bring his demon along on the cursebreak has blown up in his face, like everything else.

Because now Ford, convinced Bill’s human, has decided he’s another eager, learning young man - inexperienced, if interested. Bill was really into hiding from Ford. He was loving it. But being treated like a know-nothing who needs guidance - instead of the infinite, all-knowing creature of pure thought that he is - pisses Bill off more than Dipper has ever been able to accomplish.

Bill’s whole deal is dreams, and knowledge, and thoughts, ideas. Secrets. He knows so very, very much. He loves mysteries and deception. Bill would never admit it, but he prides himself on his ability to teach - though his methods are… a little unorthodox. He can’t stand being treated like he needs to learn more. The fact that Bill is a secret is likely the only thing that keeps him in line. That’s not going to last.

Dipper’s got to fix this, fast. He’s got to solve this. By himself.

Unless Ford leaves town, quickly - that’s not looking likely, he’s too interested in his search - the inevitable fight is going to be a bad one. Definitely a deadly one. And nobody, even Bill, is sure how it’ll turn out.

Dipper doesn’t want Ford to get hurt, or worse.

But Dipper’s immune. He’s safe. Maybe a few bruises, if it comes to that, but he can put up with it, if it means solving this problem, once and for all. If it means keeping Ford safe. Maybe Dipper will get lucky, find the solution, Ford will take off on his next adventure, while Dipper gets rid of Bill, and everything will be fine.

...Everything will not be fine. Nothing goes right for him.

This is going to be bad.

It is kinda cool, though. Even Bill’s not sure he’ll win that fight, and he’s usually so confident. Ford is such a badass.

“Right,” declares Ford, tapping the map with one hand. “I recognize this. Very odd, though,” He peers closely at the paper. “This doesn’t seem to be related. Well. It might be,” He adds. “Demonic interference. Suppose it’s possible...” Ford trails off, brow furrowed in concentration.

This is the opening Dipper’s been waiting for.

“Demons, huh? Why don’t you tell me about those,” He says, trying not to sound eager and failing, miserably. He goes on anyway. “Like, maybe… mind demons? Because this was a sleep curse? What do you know about them? Tell me everything.”

“Hm? Oh. Good thought, yes,” says Ford, a little distracted. “It is possible that one could be involved - but I don’t think that’s the case here. You see -” Ford glances over at him, smiling. “Have I ever told you this story? No, I don’t think I have,” He starts getting into the topic. Dipper clenches his hands, eagerly listening. Hell yes, Ford stories, those are the best - “I tangled with a mind demon. A long, long while back.”

Perfect.

This is exactly the information Dipper needed, and it came so easily. He listens, impatient, nodding in encouragement. Ford keeps talking. He starts pacing the ashes of the clearing as he speaks.

“That might have been one of the closest calls I’ve ever had. That one was awfully dangerous. Clever, not like your average demon. Mind demons are intelligent, by their nature, but this one was more so than most,” He clenches a fist, eyes narrowing in anger. “Cipher.”

Dipper’s never heard this story before. He makes a mental note to ask Bill about this later. He probably knows the guy, he loves talking, he’ll go on about things just as much as Ford. More information is always better.

Ford continues. He’s getting getting into his speech. One of his first loves, teaching, and talking about his work.

“He was fascinating, initially. He was flattering, pleasant, polite. I had no idea about his true nature! I should have known better,” Ford throws his hands up, disgusted with himself. “Behind that kind appearance, there was something cruel, awful, and backstabbing. Mind demons can get into your head, by the way,” adds Ford, tilting his head to one side and smacking it, demonstrating the effect. “Even change your thoughts. Never get involved with them.”

That makes sense, Bill’s mentioned something like that. Dipper keeps listening as his uncle talks.

“I was fooled, manipulated! Such knowledge, all in the palm of my hand-” He holds one out, staring at it, then shakes his head, rueful. “It was a temptation. And it was good, for a time. But all the while, he was leading me towards making things of terrible destruction. I never would have known, but-” Here Ford pauses, and grins. “I was fiddling around in my lab one day, using some of the things I learned, and found something out.”

He digs around in his pockets, pulls out another one of his many devices. “I made something that could detect his-” He pulls out another wooden, enchanted item, circular and flat-

But it’s broken, cracked slightly in half.

Ford shrugs dismissively. “Ah, damn thing couldn’t last forever. It’s been a few decades.” He tosses it over his shoulder. It lands in a pile of brush. “Anyway, not important right now. I banished that demon completely! He’s gone, for good.”

Ford finishes. “But like I said - it was close. Almost never figured him out. Stumbling on that little tool was a complete accident.” He thinks for a second, rubbing his hand on his chin. “Funny thing you brought that up. That curse actually reminds me of him.”

That’s weird. “What do you mean?” asks Dipper. If Ford thinks it’s some strange demon, that could work in his favor.

Ford shrugs. “Well… it’s got sort of a-” He takes a second. He rolls a hand in the air, thinking. “Flavor about it. The magic. But it couldn’t be that demon. It’s nowhere near his level of skill, anything he made would be... classy. Elegant. Elaborate. That curse was anything but. Cipher was too proud. He’d never bring himself to make something like that.”

Great. Even Ford thinks it was sloppy.

Dipper’s actually been thinking about it, now that his head is clear. Okay, so the curse was pretty awful - not just in a malevolent way, but in an amateur way. Powerful, but badly made. Now he’s felt it, he knows how it was put together. If he tried again, he could do so much better. Something that wouldn’t even have backlash if it was broken, not if Dipper-

He stops thinking about it. 

And Cipher’s gone,” continues Ford. “I was pretty thorough about that. No, that was something crudely imitating his style. They were trying to point me in a different direction. Whoever made it probably doesn’t know someone already took care of that monster, and they’re trying to stop me from seeing what they're up to.”

Dipper stares for a moment. He changes the subject. “So what do you think about the burning? It's pretty bad, right?”

“Possibly. It is demonic in origin,” Ford is easily distracted, he goes with the sudden conversation change without a thought, interested. Bill, right about another thing. Ford does have a massive blind spot, if you know what it is, and Ford, like Dipper, loves new magical concepts. Dipper’s familiar is freaking amazing at reading people. No wonder that conversation in the car went so well.

Ford thinks for a second. “But... no. I think this? Is another distraction.”

Shit, it is, Ford saw through that immediately.

“There’s something else going on here,” Ford murmurs, tucking a fist under his chin, thinking hard, frowning. “I just don’t know what.”

Dipper’s still got to somehow prevent his uncle - a dangerous, inventive, intelligent guy - from figuring out that Dipper almost killed hundreds of people. And that there’s a demon who could, and will, kill his uncle in an instant, because the moment their facade drops, he’ll stop being entertained and indulge in violence instead. And that Dipper’s life is tied up with said demon, so hard there’s almost no distinguishing them. Maybe none, at this point.

Not to mention that he’s taken advantage of said demon’s presence, in a very intimate way. Because that won’t be horrible to explain at all.

Bill might be difficult to eliminate, maybe impossible, as far as Dipper knows - and Bill’s dangerous. Too dangerous. With the spell Dipper cast to summon the demon, the best way someone could get rid of Bill, sending him back to his realm for good, would be to get rid of Dipper.

It'd destroy Bill's fake body. It'd break their bond. It's the only thing Dipper's certain would work, and...

And-

Ford wouldn’t.

Ford really wouldn’t. It’s a stupid thought. Dipper doesn’t know why he has it. Ford would never- He never would. It’s a horrible, false idea, that’d never happen. Ford would work with him, wouldn’t he? He’d try everything he could, try to help Dipper. They could find another way. Right? Ford can’t- He wouldn’t get that upset about Dipper’s mistakes. They’re not that unfixable.

Unless they are.

Ford claps a hand on Dipper’s shoulder, encouraging. He must have seen the sudden expression on Dipper’s face. “Hey. I know it’s difficult. One hell of a mystery. Don’t worry, though, we’ll figure it out.”

‘We’, Ford says. Ford’s talking about them like they’re a team. Dipper would normally be so pumped about that, except for everything else.

Dipper says nothing. He stares at the ground, miserable. He’s essentially murdered himself, all because of one stupid accident. There’s nothing he knows about his bond, he can’t tell how to break it-

Dipper has a thought.

“Demons are mostly energy, right?” He starts, hesitant. This is all about the bond. If he can just break that, everything else might follow. “Could you get power from one?”

There’s a short, very silent moment.

And the slow, disappointed, almost disgusted look that forms on Ford's face makes Dipper flinch.

Never. Make a deal with a demon. Not for anything. Especially not for power,” Ford says, face dark with disapproval. He’s the most unhappy with Dipper as he’s ever seen. “They’ll make it sound great. But they’ll take something from you in return, and it’s not worth it. Don’t ever think about it. Whatever they take will kill you.”

Dipper cringes under his uncle’s gaze.

He didn’t mean that. He hasn’t made any deals, he definitely doesn’t want to get involved with any more demons than he already is, but the way Ford is looking at him - he’s too ashamed to speak up.

Ford mutters something to himself, frowning, looking at his nephew. “You know…” He pauses, then starts again, gentler, “I know why you thought about that. And it’s alright. Just-” Ford stops, he pats Dipper carefully on the shoulder, a little awkward. He leans in slightly, starts smirking a little. “Can I tell you a secret?”

“Okay?” That’s… intriguing, but Dipper still feels bad. He rubs one of his arms.

He kind of wishes Bill were here. His familiar loves touch, and Dipper could use a hug. Bill would indulge him, though he’d make fun of him, but Dipper can stand a few mocking comments by now.

“Stan doesn’t know about this- we were,” Ford takes in a deep breath, and sighs. “Out of touch. For a while. But just so you know,” And then he winks, tone low, and secretive. “I’ve never had a familiar either.”

Wait, what?

Seriously?” Dipper’s too surprised to feel down anymore. Ford’s awesome, he’s got so many tools, he can do anything, even Bill’s a little scared of him, in the only way a demon can feel scared. “No, really, seriously?”

Ford grins, straightening back up. “Dipper, power isn’t everything. It’s almost nothing, even. So what if bonding with some dumb animal gives you a boost? You don’t need them. They’re a nuisance. What’s truly important-” He taps the side of his head. “Is knowledge.”

“Oh,” Dipper says, careful. "Got it."

He wishes he’d been told that a long time ago. He’s always felt so bad about it. People put so much importance into having one, like it's what makes you a real practitioner, but honestly, it’s something that’s- 

Ford’s right, familiars are a nuisance. Dipper knows that so well

Maybe he doesn’t need a familiar. But he has one. One that’s not an animal, and that’s not dumb, neither of those things, not in any way. And if Dipper wants knowledge? He’s got so much. Right in the palm of his hand, ready for anything.

Well, almost anything. Bill hates some of Dipper’s ideas. And Dipper’s not falling for Bill’s convincing, evil ones. They’re still working it out.

Also Dipper’s going to get rid of him. At some point. Once he knows how to do it without dying.

“Don’t think too much about demons, and don’t worry about not having a familiar,” Ford continues. “What really matters is finding your talent, and doing as much with it as you can. Mine just happened to be enchanting. Useful, really.” He grins, and pulls his coat away a little, showing off all his gadgets. He’s got one for almost every situation, it’s impressive.

Ford scoffs, waving off all the imaginary, normal magicians as if they’re worthless. “Most people stop learning once they have a little power behind them, it’s ridiculous.” He makes a disgusted face. “You’re a good student, and you’ll find your talent soon enough,” Ford grins. “Dipper, you’ll do great.”

Dipper wrings his hands together.

“Um, so. I do, actually. Have something, that is,” Dipper says, and he feels himself tense up, and start to blush. “It’s not great, though.” He does have a talent. Though he stumbled into it, and he’s worked on it in ways that aren’t- he’s not sure if- this kind of sucks, as far as being able to do magic goes. But he’s good at it.

Ford looks at him with interest. “Show me,” he says, stuffing his hands in his pockets, waiting, smiling.

Crap, Dipper should never have offered. But there’s no escape, he can’t not show Ford now. He takes a sharp breath, and repeats an earlier performance.

The clearing’s restored, illusory again. It’s seamless with the rest of the woods around the burned-out circle. If it wasn’t intangible, nobody would ever notice.  

Ford starts in surprise at the sudden appearance of plantlife. He blinks at Dipper for a moment, then kneels down, waving a hand through the illusion of the grass, trees, and plants, and sets his hand on the ground - where he can likely feel the still-charred ground, and ashes. Ford leans in close to some of the illusionary grass, examining it closely.

Standing up, Ford starts shaking his head, slow, Dipper’s not sure why - oh god, this is the worst talent, Dipper totally sucks -

- then Ford smiles.

“This… is the best damned illusion I’ve seen in a long while,” Ford turns to Dipper,  immensely pleased. And proud. Dipper's heart soars. “Such detail! Very lifelike. Actually, now that I think of it... you might have some potential for life magic as well.” And yeah, Dipper does, but there’s a demonic problem with that.

“Thanks,” Dipper says, and he ducks his head, grinning hard.

Holy hell, he just impressed Ford. That’s- Dipper doesn’t have any basis for comparison, illusionists are about as rare as enchanters, but Ford has been everywhere, seen almost everything. Dipper must be really good at this.

“I’ve got some thinking to do,” declares Ford, apparently deciding that they’re done. Dipper dismisses his illusion, vanishing it instantly, and Ford gives him another proud look. “Nicely done. Let’s head back, I have some ideas. And I want to bounce some thoughts off of that interesting young man you’re dating, as well.”

This can’t end well. Dipper likes that Ford likes Bill, it makes his ‘boyfriend’ feel like less of a mistake - but he can picture that scene.

Ford walking in grandly - starting to talk to the demon - treating Bill like he’s not even a tenth as knowledgeable as he actually is - Bill coping for a while, before finally losing what little patience he has - the blue fire starting to roar around them-

Dipper spends a second to worry, but. No. He can stop that from happening. It’ll be… a bit embarrassing, but incredibly easy. Maybe even fun.

By the time they get back to the Shack - Ford muttering to himself the entire time, trying to pinpoint the cause of that curse - Dipper gnawing at his thumbnail, trying to think of a way out of this - Bill’s outside, waiting, leaning up against a wall, looking curious. He must have felt the magic of that illusion being used. Ford spots Dipper’s demon and strides over, smiling.

Before Ford can get started - Bill’s expression is neutral, but Dipper can see his eye twitching again - Dipper hurries over. There won’t be a fight, not now. Thank hell this is easy to accomplish.

“Bill! Man, it’s good to see you,” Dipper says, stepping close to his familiar. Bill gives him a weird look. Dipper’s never glad to see Bill, and his familiar knows it. Dipper ignores that and moves in, running his hands down Bill's sides. “C’mere.”

The soft ‘mm?’ against Dipper’s mouth when he kisses Bill is nothing new. Bill always seems surprised when Dipper’s the one to start something, but as usual, he’s fast on the followup. Bill loves body stuff, so he plays along, and it’s a bonus for the demon that he doesn’t have to talk to Ford.

“Erm,” Ford doesn’t know how to react, he’s been rudely interrupted. He takes a moment, then shrugs. “Ah, young people these days.” Ford wanders off.

Dipper keeps things up until he hears his uncle’s footsteps are gone.

And then a little longer.

This is… pretty good, actually, and now Bill’s mouth has slipped away from Dipper's, his tongue on Dipper’s neck, then Bill's teeth nip at the skin - a little painful, but nice.

Dipper shakes himself, and pulls back. That’s enough. He still needs more information, more knowledge, and he thinks he knows how to get it. Bill loves talking, he just needs the right subject. 

Bill grabs him by the waist, dragging him back in, but Dipper keeps himself apart, both hands on Bill’s chest. He can feel the sped-up beat of Bill’s heart.

“So. Cipher,” starts Dipper, and- Ow, Bill’s hands tightened up, fast.

Bill stares at him. He was moving in to continue things, but now he’s still, and thinking. It even takes him a while. “What?”

Dipper hits his demon in the chest. He must be a distraction, because Bill’s usually more eloquent. “I was wondering about demons, and Ford’s got some stories.” Bill’s realm is the mind, he likely knows tons about other demons, and Dipper still has to find out more if he wants to fix this. “He’s a mind demon. You know him?”

Bill has to take several more seconds to respond. He’s giving Dipper the weirdest look.

“Yeah, I know the guy you’re talking about,” Bill says, slowly. Now he’s starting to grin, looking pleased with himself. “Been around his place a few times! Haven’t seen those digs in a while, though, it’s a shame.”

“You like him?” That’s even weirder. Bill's terribly self-centered, Dipper thought talking about another demon would be more difficult. This could get interesting.

“Eh, he’s alright,” Bill chirps. He’s way too happy. There’s something wrong here. “You’d hate him, though.” 

Dipper hits him again. “Not as much as I hate you.” It’s pointless to try to hurt his familiar, but it makes him feel better.

Bill beams at him. “You say the sweetest things, Pine Tree,” He pauses for a second. He chuckles to himself. “Also, I know what you’re after. It’s not gonna work.”

Dipper groans, disappointed. Of course Bill would see through him, he always does. He knew Dipper was after something about his nature, about mind demons, and he’s not letting those secrets out, not easily.

Bill snickers for a bit, enjoying Dipper's distress, then his smile drops from his face, almost instantly. Bill's had a thought, and it's one he doesn't like.

“Were you thinking of dealing with other demons.” asks Bill. It's not truly a question. It's a demand. 

Dipper takes in a deep breath. No. God, no, this one’s already a handful, he’d never think of it. He’s already in enough trouble, and Ford made it very clear how bad an idea making a deal like that would be. But Bill’s possessive as hell. He could make Dipper’s life hell, more than he already does, if he thinks his ‘pet’ might end up in a rival demon’s hands. He's got to give a response, it's got to be the right one, too.

He only says it because it’ll shut Bill up.

“No. I’m all yours.” says Dipper, exhausted. “And never, ever mention that. To anyone.”

“Tell you what,” Bill brightens up immediately, thrilled, yanking him in. Dipper lets himself be pulled close this time. “I’ll humor you on that, for a while.” Another disaster averted. Temporarily.

Life is awful. There’s no solution in sight. Someone’s going to get hurt. Dipper hopes it won’t be him, or Ford. Bill’s arms are tight around him, almost painfully so, pleased with his possession. Dipper shuts his eyes.

At least he’s getting the hug he wanted.

Chapter Text

“Nope,” Bill says, watching Dipper idly.

Dipper sighs, heavy, and makes another attempt. The energy flares away before it has any effect. He tries again.

His familiar’s cheek rests against his fist, leaning against the wall of the living room. Dipper’s trying to lift a small object - a book, in this case - and failing, miserably. 

Bill’s grinning, watching Dipper closely. He’s enjoying this. “Also no. And no. Nope! Aha! You’re so terrible at things, Pine Tree, it’s hilarious. I could watch this forever.”

Dipper stops with his practice - he’s shit at physical stuff, he’s never going to be able to levitate anything - shutting his eyes tight and rubbing at them with one hand.

This isn’t bothering him. Honestly, it isn’t. Strangely, it isn’t.

Bill’s a dick. There’s no questioning that. But Dipper’s learned more in the past few weeks or so than he ever has before, and Bill’s always like this. The taunting barely affects Dipper anymore. Not when there’s so much he can learn. Dipper guesses it’s true that you can get used to anything.

Somewhere, Ford’s off looking for more clues to the cause of the curse. It’s been days, and he isn’t going to find any. Nothing else suspicious has happened, and Ford is getting frustrated. He’s looking everywhere, annoyed that he’s being fouled like this. He’s even dragged Stan along, and Mabel’s helping too.

Dipper… decided to hang back. He’s tired.

Maybe, just maybe - if Dipper doesn’t make any more trouble - Ford’ll decide that the ‘monster’ that caused the curse has moved on, and move on himself. Go off searching for it, or maybe get involved with some other problem. There won’t be a fight, and everyone will be fine.

That… will leave Dipper stuck with Bill.

But he’s used to that, too. Dipper can cope, and eventually he'll know enough. He can handle Bill on his own.

Dipper almost thinks he could live with this. Bill’s awful, it’s a constant struggle to get anything done, but his demon is limited, and Dipper’s able to distract him from the worst things he could do. There are benefits, too.

And there’s one. Other. Thing.

The most important thing.

Dipper’s saving that fact for a good moment, he needs the ammunition. Bill and him have always sniped at each other, but this? Is so, so good. Dipper’s almost savoring it, anticipating when he can use it against the demon. He’s lucky that Bill can’t kill him, because he’s going to want Dipper dead again.

Being lectured by Ford about demons was bad, but it did tell Dipper something. Between that, and Bill’s little speech when he thought Dipper was braindead - he’s figured it out.

None of this is his fault.

Okay. Some of this is his fault.

Bill can’t control Dipper, though he’d love to, has tried to, will continue to try to for the rest of Dipper’s life - but the curse wasn’t Bill’s doing. Or the fires. Or a lot of other things. At its core, though, Dipper isn’t the one who made the initial mistake, and it’s a huge, satisfying relief to finally realize it.

Bill’s going to be so angry when he knows Dipper knows. It’s going to be awesome. The realization came days ago, but Dipper’s been saving it. There are so few opportunities for him to get back at Bill. His familiar doesn’t have many weaknesses, he has to take advantage of every chance he gets.

“This is pathetic,” says Bill, stalking over and picking up the book. He tosses it at Dipper’s face - Dipper barely ducks out of the way - “You’re an embarrassment. ”

Dipper fumes, silent. He’s been trying, damn it, it’s not his fault he’s not built for this. It’s not how Dipper works. Bill even knows that, and - that was the entire reason for this practice, wasn’t it? So Bill could get at him? This arrogant piece of-

“Oh, I’m an embarrassment? Look at you!” Dipper waves at Bill vaguely. “You barely have any dignity, you’re constantly pretending you’re dumber than you are - oh, wait,” Dipper smirks a little, inspiration striking. This’ll get to Bill. “Or is Ford right about you? How stupid are you, Bill?”

“Not even a little,” Bill says, easily. He’s not bothered in the slightest, smiling. Damn. “Nice try, though. If you weren’t terrible at life - oh man, have you seen what you’ve done? Ha! - I wouldn’t consider you such an embarrassment. Man, look at you,” Bill glances over at him, shaking his head. “Worst human ever.”

Dipper feels his face heat up with shame. He knows he’s terrible, that he’s made so many mistakes-

Fuck it.

Dipper’s using it. Now.

“Oh. Really,” Dipper says, slow. A smile starts to slide over his face, because yes, this is the best. Bill watches him, curious but unworried. “I’m the worst, am I?”

“Pretty much,” Bill says, shrugging. “Never seen a guy mess up so much.”

Dipper’s grinning now. “Interesting. I mean,” He shrugs a little, raising his hands up in the air briefly. Bill’s not smiling anymore, he’s frowning. Not concerned, just trying to figure out what Dipper’s up to. It’s interesting him. “Who could possibly screw up worse than I have?”

Bill starts laughing, but it’s not as hearty as usual. He sticks his tongue out, briefly. “Nobody. For serious, you’re a champion at it. Pretty entertaining.” Bill’s amused, but still trying to pinpoint what’s going on. It’s bugging him. Dipper’s not usually so confident.

Dipper starts laughing in return. Bill’s smile drops. Now it’s not so fun, is it.

“You’re stuck here for a whole human lifetime. I’m the key to your ‘Mindscape’ now. And we both know you can’t kill me, not easily,” Dipper says, triumphant - he’s so glad he put the pieces together, this is great. Bill’s started glaring. “Who the hell, or in hell, or- wherever you come from makes a deal like this? You did this by accident,” Dipper beams, finishing. “Bill? You screwed up, bad.”

Bill stares at him, face completely blank.

He’s not reacting, not yet. This could go badly, now that he knows that Dipper knows, but it’s absolutely perfect. Maybe Dipper’s a fuckup. By human standards, definitely. He can’t argue with that, it’s… pretty clear.

But by demonic standards? Bill is so much more of one.

It’s just like Ford said. Making a deal with a demon takes something from you, and Dipper’s lost something. Something entirely related to dreams, like the dream demon Bill is. And yeah, if circumstances were different, he’d’ve been dead, weeks ago.

It’s also like Bill said, when he thought Dipper was braindead, talking about the ‘summon’. Don’t look at it too closely, Bill.

Dipper can even picture what happened - well, no, he can’t, he doesn’t know what Bill really looks like - he fills in the human body in its place.

Bill, bored. Reading the demonic equivalent of the newspaper. Sulking, because he’s got a world he wants to take over, and he has no way to interact with the physical realm. Then Dipper’s spell pops up near him, looking like a summoning. Dipper can see how that would happen. That spell that Dipper made was a call outwards to some other force, and their magic is so similar it would catch Bill's attention.

Dipper can almost hear Bill’s voice, speaking. ‘Huh, this could be fun, love summons,’ Imaginary Bill says, looking the thing over. Shrugging, slightly disinterested. ‘Wait- I get a body? Right up front?’ His eye opens wide, intrigued, he rubs his hands together.

And, scrolling over the rest of the spell’s terms and conditions, not bothering to look, hitting the metaphysical equivalent of accept - ‘Ha ha, sucker! What an idiot. This’ll be quick.’

It didn’t work out like Bill thought. But that’s what happened, or something similar. They have an accidental deal, and it’s had interesting results. A standard demonic deal for power, like Ford mentioned. Likely a basic level one, for Bill.

Bill’s taken something from him. Dipper’s lost his ability to sleep. Dipper wants it back, a lot. He wants it back badly. It’s constant tiredness, it’s like a terrible thirst, and there’s no relief -

-but Dipper’s gained so much power in return.

Typically this would be deadly for a human. But Bill didn’t pay attention to the terms of the spell, he didn’t notice he’d be a familiar. Their life force is intertwined, and lack of sleep can’t kill something made of dreams, and with their link, Dipper’s part of that.

If Bill had ignored the summon - if he hadn’t been so eager to get into the world - both him and Dipper would’ve had life easier. Dipper’s spell would have worked as intended. Bill wouldn’t be trapped.

But Bill simply didn’t think that things could ever go wrong for him. He was too arrogant. Instead of looking the spell over, seeing the part of the invisible contract that told him all of the details, Bill ran in headfirst and got his life tied in with a human’s. Bill couldn’t have run off with his new human form without handing anything over. He can’t kill Dipper, or break their connection.

Bill didn’t even get a chance to negotiate

This has got to be one of the most embarrassing events of Bill’s existence, and it’s made his eternal life so much more difficult. Dipper feels a lot better, knowing that. There’s someone else whose life has been worse because of a mistake recently. So awesome.

Dipper’s on fire.

Literally, there’s fire all over him, from the knees up. Bill’s finally reacted.

Bill’s looking at Dipper with murder in his gaze, hands clenched at his sides, but there’s nothing he can do at the moment besides this. Dipper makes a mental note to avoid ledges and other dangerous places. Bill can’t hurt Dipper directly, but he could push him into a pit or something.

The blue flames kind of tickle as they flow over his body. Dipper ignores them. It just means he was right.

Fuck Bill. He deserves to be as miserable as Dipper is, forced into this dumb situation. Dipper started it, sure, but Bill’s the one who got tangled up in it, and that’s his fault.

“Um. Guys?”

Dipper looks over, startled.

It’s Mabel, in the doorway.

Everyone must have returned - if Dipper listens, he can hear the Stans arguing outside - they’ll be up to that for a while, though their words are indistinct - and Mabel’s watching the two of them with mild concern.

Bill doesn’t seem to care that they’ve been spotted, still glaring, and the fire continues. It’s not hurting Dipper, it can’t until their bond is broken, but dammit, he thought Bill liked being a secret, this is anything but secretive.

And why is Mabel not more worried, Dipper’s freaking burning in front of her. He might not be injured by it, but seeing your twin on fire should make someone way more upset.

Mabel stays in the doorway for a second, thinking. Then she shakes her head. “I’ll just… leave you two to it.” She turns to leave, and does.

What the hell,” Dipper blurts, and charges off after her. Behind him, Bill humphs and sulks. The fire, thankfully, goes out. Bill’s apparently decided he’ll find an alternate method of revenge.

This isn’t right, not at all.

Dipper had thought it was weird that Mabel hadn’t noticed, but this is beyond the pale. Something’s very wrong. He catches up to his sister in the hallway, and catches her by the arm. He pulls her to face him. Mabel seems surprised.

“Uh, Mabel? Are you feeling alright?” asks Dipper, carefully. “Do you-” Dipper has no idea how to continue.

“Yeah, I’m fine!” Mabel says brightly, then, after a second- Her face falls. She looks at him, slightly upset. “You- You don’t think I’m smart. Do you.”

“What?” Dipper’s honestly confused. Where is this coming from?

Mabel keeps talking, frowning at him. “I’m not a brainiac, but I have eyes,” She says, a little angry. “I know Bill isn’t human.”

Dipper feels his stomach drop. He searches for some clever response, but all he can come up with is another, “What?”

Mabel continues, pulling her arm away from Dipper and tucking hers around herself, upset. “C’mon, Dipper. I might not know a lot like you do,” Her face scrunches up a little, then she forces it back to something closer to normal. “But some guy that I’ve never heard of shows up suddenly one day, dressed all weird, and with, like, the funky eye,” She points at one of her own. “And the teeth,” She shows off her own, then ducks her head, still frowning. “I knew something was up.”

“What.” Dipper states. He’s completely out of words at this point. He doesn’t have another response, he never expected this.

“Bill’s weird, I knew that. And then he kind of told me he wasn’t human the other day?” Mabel looks at him, sees his surprise, and throws her head back, sighing in exasperation. “And that he can’t hurt you. You were a little on fire earlier, yeah, but you’re okay. That’s all I care about.”

Dipper can’t say the word ‘what’ again, he’ll sound stupid, but it’s the only thing he can come up with at this point. He stands where he is, stunned.

Bill actually told her? That’s how he got her to stop worrying about Dipper, after the backlash? How did that happen, how did it even work? Bill’s evil, he’s a demon, he loves lying, but Mabel gets the truth, and then she’s not even upset about it?

“So… what is Bill?” asks Mabel, suddenly, curious. She’s looking at Dipper with interest. “He didn’t say, exactly.”

Dipper stays in place. His mouth works. He doesn’t know how to respond.

Mabel knows so much more than either of the Stans. She’s been onto this since the beginning, and though she didn’t know everything - she still doesn’t - she’s kept Dipper’s secret. Bill’s even told her some things about it - right, he likes Mabel and he’s good at reading people, Bill knew she would keep quiet.

Dipper’s just not sure why.

“I don’t- Mabel, what? I mean,” He fumbles for words, failing. “I haven’t said- Please don’t tell anyone. Please,” He holds his hands up, insistent. “But why-?”

Mabel gets his meaning, despite how bad he’s using words. She lowers her head, more serious. She shuffles in place.

“Because you were so sad.” Mabel says, with deep feeling.

Dipper’s not sure what she’s talking about, but he’s got nothing to say.

“It’s just-” Mabel gestures helplessly. “I knew you were sad. Like, for the longest time. You were - You’d lie around all the time, and you’d stay in bed forever, and almost never talk to anyone. You didn't do anything, and I didn't know-” She hesitates.

Dipper shifts in place. Yeah, okay. All of that is true, but that still doesn’t explain-

Mabel’s starting to go on a rant, upset, waving her arms around herself. “You were so down, almost always, and I didn’t know what to do! I couldn’t do anything to help.” She sighs, looking at Dipper. Mabel clutches at herself, looking worried, but then smiles a little. “Then Bill showed up. And you started getting up, and researching your nerd things, and exploring, and coming up with stuff, and- Bill’s kind of crazy, and maybe a little evil, but you like him. Yeah, I know, you argue all the time-”

That stopped Dipper’s interruption - he hates Bill, he was going to object -

Mabel continues. “You kind of have a weird relationship, but that’s cool, because you’re actually doing stuff again, and being a nerd, and being my awesome brother,” She smiles. Mabel waves her hands at him. “I know the Stans wouldn’t like it. So I won’t say something. If a weird, supernatural relationship thingy makes you happy, I want that for you!”

She opens her arms wide, then hesitates. “...are you happy?” Her hands light up with pink magic, her eyes narrow. “I dunno what Bill is, but I bet I could kick his butt.”

She couldn’t, but the offer’s touching. Dipper’s always known his twin was looking out for him, but never this closely. She sees his flaws and doesn’t care, she keeps his secrets, forgives his mistakes - even though she doesn’t understand how bad this one is. She wants him to be happy.

Dipper has the best sister in the world.

He pulls Mabel into a hug, tight. She’s a little surprised, but hugs him back, bouncing slightly, happy.

The best.

After a moment, Dipper clears his throat. He should at least warn her. “Uh… Bill is evil. Just so you know.”

Mabel laughs quietly. “Nah, you got this,” She pats him on the back. “He hasn’t done anything too bad. He’s pretty cool, actually!” Bill and Mabel do get along well, Dipper’s so glad for that now. Mabel pauses, and pulls away from the hug. “Though I think maybe he ate some of my stuffed animals? Seriously, what is he?’

Dipper opens his mouth - shuts it - opens it again. He’s been keeping this secret for so long, it’s hard to say anything. But he’s got Mabel in his corner, and she’ll have his back. No matter what happens. She already knows more than anyone, except Dipper and Bill.

It’s still bad news. Dipper sort of mumbles it out. “...Demon.”

Mabel sucks in a sharp breath, eyes wide. She’s surprised, and more than a little worried. Mabel knows exactly how bad that is. “Eesh. No wonder you don’t wanna tell anyone.” She relaxes after a second of thought. “Hey, at least he’s a hot one. And he loves you!”

Dipper stares at her. “That’s- no,” He says. “That’s just… no. Very no.” Bill isn’t even capable of that emotion. Also Dipper hates him.

“You guys’ll be fine,” Mabel says cheerfully. Right. Dipper knows how much she believes in love, he’s used it for his own ends, and now she’s not seeing the danger. “I believe in you.”

She really does. Dipper couldn’t be happier for it. He’s going to be able to fix this, and now he’s got backup.

There’s a slow clap nearby. Bill, again.

“What a touching sibling moment. I don’t care,” Bill says, slow and briefly sarcastic. “‘scuse me Shooting Star, but that’s mine. Gimme.” Bill gestures at himself sharply. “We got stuff to do.” Already thinking of his revenge. Dipper’s going to have to be careful.

Mabel rolls her eyes and waves at Bill. “Hey! Don’t get up to too much trouble. And don't take too long! Ford wants to talk to Dipper.” Bill smirks, waves back. He beckons Dipper over again with a glare.

Well, Dipper’s life is back to being a constant struggle against a horrific demonic force.

But Mabel’s safe. And she’s okay with this. And Dipper’s never going to give into Bill’s demands. He’s going to fight him until the end. They’re more evenly matched than Bill will ever admit. Dipper will find a solution, at some point, and nobody has to get hurt.

He stalks over to Bill, looking at him challengingly. Bill grins, he’s up for it. He even enjoys it.

This… should be interesting. It’s always interesting. With Ford not knowing about them, they're going to last a while, too, maybe it’ll be years before Dipper figures it out, but-

Dipper’s pretty sure he can live with this.

Chapter Text

Ford wants to talk to Dipper. Dipper loves their conversations, and this one should be interesting.

It’s also convenient as hell, because Bill’s got a plan for revenge for Dipper’s insult - he hasn’t come up with one yet, but it’s only a matter of time - and he hates Ford. Bill wants to avoid Dipper’s uncle as much as possible, and that’s convenient, too, because the less they interact, the less likely it is they’ll start trying to murder each other.

First chance Dipper gets - after a brief, semi-whispered argument about who’s the bigger fuckup (It’s Bill) - he hares off to go join his uncles outside. Bill watches him leave, eye narrowed, thinking of what he’s going to do to a mortal he can’t directly harm. He’s going to come up with something.

Dipper’s not too worried. He can handle it.

He darts outside, feeling the demonic gaze on his back, almost physical in its intensity, and watches his uncles during their argument. Looks like they’re talking about the trip they took to get here.

“-can’t believe you didn’t notice.” Ford finishes. He’s annoyed at his brother, arms crossed. “We could have been back at least two days sooner.”

Stan is standing straight, hands loose at his sides. He’s surprisingly calm, considering their argument. “Never any thanks, huh.” He shrugs. “Help you get here, stop a monster from eating you at one point, but you gotta be the smart guy. Always right. No matter what.”

Dipper shouldn’t be seeing this. He clears his throat, loudly, getting their attention.

Both of them turn to look. Ford brightens up instantly, waving at him. Stan stares at Ford, disappointed. He sighs, shaking his head.

“Dipper!” says Ford, clapping his hands together and striding closer. “Good, I wanted to talk to you for a bit. Run some thoughts by you,” He chuckles a little. “I need someone to bounce a few things off of, and your young man’s a little shy.”

Dipper presses his lips together, nodding slowly. It’s so hard not to laugh, because Bill’s anything but that. The demon’s not shy, he despises Ford. Immensely. Though he’s hiding it well, with all the skill he has at lying. But thank...  everything his familiar’s not here, hearing Ford say that type of thing about him, because that’d be-

That’d go badly.

Stan sighs again, and stalks past them, back into the Shack. “I’m done here. You two go do your nerd things.”

Ford lets out a soft sound of acknowledgement, distracted, thinking of something else. He doesn’t care to notice the tense way Stan moves as he walks. Dipper cringes.

The way these two get along makes him really uncomfortable to watch.

Stan may not be the best at everything, not like Ford. But Dipper likes him. Stan’s not a source of magical knowledge like his brother, but Dipper’s learned a lot from his other uncle, too. Even if some of it is a little unethical, it’s useful. He’s used some of those skills more than once, they always come in handy.

And when the curse happened, Stan worked on it, he found the person who could break it, even though it was hard for him. He was so happy to see Mabel free from its influence. Stan and her get along great, and Dipper wants Mabel to be happy as much as she wants him to be.

Ford… doesn’t really respect his brother. Dipper thinks he should a little more.

Ford’s awesome, though. That’s not under question. He’s so smart.

“I’ve been thinking for a while,” says Ford, concentrating on something beyond his own thoughts again. Dipper turns to him, listening eagerly. “And to be honest? I think whatever caused this thing has moved on.”

Dipper’s eyes widen. He nearly gasps. He wants to pump a fist in the air in victory.

Hell. Yes.

Ford’s finally convinced that everything’s fine. Here, at least. He’s going to leave town, Dipper can handle everything else.

“That’s-” Dipper has to pause for a second to control his voice, not shout. “That’s good! I guess nothing else will happen in town. That’ll be… that’ll be cool.” And true. Dipper’s not going to do anything. Gravity Falls is safe from this ‘monster’.

Ford smiles at him, shrugging. “There’s still something out there. And I’m going to find it. Actually…” He waves at the woods outside the Shack. “Come take a walk with me. I’d like to see if there are any more signs of this. Like those fires you found earlier. Get me on the right trail.”

Dipper responds immediately. “Yeah, sure. Always!” Exploring with Ford is great.

There won’t be any more clues. Dipper’s done almost nothing lately, and absolutely nothing evil. This is almost over. He can even get some more information from Ford, before he takes off again. It’s such a relief.

They start walking. Wandering. Looking for something that’s not going to be found, so Dipper doesn’t bother searching too hard. Ford’s going on with another one of his stories as they travel, but Dipper’s not paying attention, thinking about something else.

If Ford is leaving, this is his last chance to learn more about how to deal with Bill, beyond spending a long, long time researching this. If he can figure it out now, he’ll even avoid whatever Bill’s going to plan to get back at the fact that Dipper knows how he screwed up. He’s got to ask the right question, in the right way.

“Hey, so, you said-” starts Dipper, interrupting Ford. His uncle stops mid-sentence, a little thrown off. Dipper continues anyway, he’s got to learn more. “About familiars.”

Ford huffs gently, amused. “I told you, you don’t need one. You’re already great!” Ford holds his hands out, wide. “Develop that talent of yours.”

And that makes Dipper so proud of himself he has to stop for a second, because he’s smiling too hard to talk.

Dipper stops walking, and Ford keeps going until he notices his nephew’s not following. He turns, pauses in front of him. There’s one last question Dipper can ask, and this might fix everything.

“But… if you had one,” says Dipper, slow. He’s got to phrase this correctly, so Ford doesn’t catch on at the last minute. “You know all about this. How do you stop having one?”

Ford shrugs. “You wait until the thing dies, Dipper,” He makes a disgusted noise. “Those bonds are permanent. Told you they were a nuisance. Why, you’d have to have some creature around, all the time, taking care of it, watching over it, feeding it-” He pauses. “I suppose you could neglect it until it perished, but that’s a little cruel for my tastes, ” And Ford throws his hands up, helplessly confused. “Don’t know why anyone gets involved with them, honestly.”

Dipper stares. He’s not sure- That is-

After a brief moment, Ford starts pacing, muttering to himself. He’s thinking about something else.

It’s permanent.

Ford says it’s permanent.

The word keeps running through Dipper’s head. Ford’s the most knowledgeable person he knows besides Bill, and even he thinks that’s the only way. Now that he thinks of it, if Bill knew how, he’d have done it himself, a long time ago. Or told Dipper how to, just to free Bill from this bond. But he hasn’t. Even the freakin’ eternally knowledgable demon doesn’t have any other idea.

Permanent.

Dipper can’t break this.

Dipper’s never going to get rid of Bill, is he. Not until he dies.

For the rest of his life. All his life. Dipper’s always going to be fighting, and arguing, and trying to come up with stuff to thwart his familiar, because Bill’s never going to stop being himself. It’s his nature to be an evil, manipulative, megalomaniac liar. And to love conflict, and violence, and love coming up with ridiculous plans, and being super goddamned weird, and sometimes being playful, and Bill will never stop testing Dipper for weaknesses, or trying to convince him to do things, not for Dipper’s entire life.

He’s screwed. This is bad.

Dipper clutches at himself. There’s a demon around, a dangerous, intelligent one, and there’s no way he can do anything about it. Thank hell Ford’s leaving, or this could be bad for everyone.

The worst part is... Dipper knows he can live with this.

He’s always liked solving problems. And figuring out mysteries, and revealing secrets, and learning. If Bill’s around he’s never going to be short on any of those. Plus, there’s power, and knowledge, and... other benefits.

Bill’s going to be here, he’s always going to be here. For the rest of Dipper’s life. Close to him, sometimes working with him. Always his.

And-

Dipper turns away from Ford, staring at the woods instead. His uncle can’t be allowed to see the look on his face, it’s so suddenly horrified.

Not because of the problem. He can deal with that, though it’ll be rough.

But because, for a second - only for a second, he hasn’t completely lost his mind - Bill, being constantly there. Every day a fight, every day a struggle, every day a new challenge -

Dipper kind of liked that idea. In a sick, twisted way, he enjoyed it.

He’s glad that Bill can’t read his mind. Because inside? Dipper’s screaming at himself. The demon would probably have to clap his hands over his metaphysical ears, it’s so freaking loud. Bill can never know Dipper ever, ever thought that, that’d be his revenge already. He’d have infinite material to mock him, Dipper would never live it down.

Dipper’s not only screwed, he’s screwed up as well. How did that happen, what is wrong with him. Not even all that long ago he said that having Bill around for his whole life was the worst way he could possibly die - it was true, too.

No, it’s still true, having Bill is the worst. Dipper shakes himself, recentering.

Alright, he had a moment of insanity. He’ll get over it.

That horrible thought was no different than any other intrusive thought. It was like those sudden, bizarre impulses people have, when they stand at the edge of a cliff, or on a tall building, something high up off the ground. Wondering what it would be like if they jumped. As if the fall wouldn’t be deadly.

Those are common thoughts, though they’re completely suicidal and insane. A rational person resists them.

Dipper hates Bill. He shouldn’t beat himself up about one brief instant of craziness. Everyone has dumb ideas, Dipper knows that. He’s had more than a few himself.

Ford hasn’t noticed Dipper’s distress any more than he’d noticed Stan’s. He’s been thinking, and pacing around. Dipper starts a little in place when Ford keeps talking again.

“Disappointing,” says Ford, sighing heavily. “No more signs of this than everything else I’ve investigated. Damned thing must have run off a while ago,” Dipper hears a soft smack, Ford must have hit a fist into his other palm.. “I’ve wasted too much time here. Thought more would’ve happened, but-” A brief pause. Ford grumbles quietly to himself, indistinct.

“Sure,” Dipper replies, distracted. He’s examining the bark of a tree closely. Wow, it’s fascinating. Such crevices and cracks, and it’s probably very biologically interesting, and he’s not distracting himself from other things in the slightest. “Cool.”

Ford hums a little, still thinking, then continues. His tone is a little brighter. “But… it can’t hurt to take different look at things. And I’ve got just the thing for it.” Dipper hears his uncle muttering to himself quietly, the shuffle of cloth as he searches through his various pockets and enchanted items.

Dipper keeps staring at the tree. Yep. This is… a thing. Maybe he should learn more about biology, he’s got something of a talent for life magic. Even if Bill hates it, it might be useful at some point.

Dipper continues studying the bark. For a while.

For, actually, a long, long while. Ford’s strangely quiet.

Eventually, Dipper turns. Something’s apparently up. Ford is staring at him. He’s looking Dipper up and down. He’s- He’s surprised. He’s upset. He’s almost astonished.

Dipper stares back. “What’s the problem?” Dipper’s only been watching a tree for like a minute, that’s not too weird. “Is something wron-” He stops mid-word, eyes widening.

Those aren’t Ford’s usual glasses.

Ford’s been watching him. For more than a bit. But not in the normal way.

Those are the same enchanted glasses that he used to view the curse. The ones that have a view of things that normal people never see, the ones that show Ford what Bill can see, when he uses his extra senses. Dipper remembers Bill’s smile, when he saw him after they- What does Dipper’s uncle see now.

It takes Ford a second or two to respond. He lowers his enchanted glasses, squints. He puts them back on, then lowers them again.

“Dipper…” says Ford, slow, and serious. He pauses, shaking his head, and changes out his enchanted glasses for his normal ones. Whatever he’s seen, he doesn’t like it.

Ford speaks calmly, but there’s a quietness to it that tells Dipper he’s hiding an emotion. “What... did you do?”

Dipper’s blood runs cold.

“Nothing!” Dipper responds with his first impulse, and instantly realizes that was the stupidest decision he could have made. “I-” He hesitates.

What does he do. What’s going to happen, he’s got no idea what Ford knows, he can’t-

Ford’s started frowning. “Dipper,” He says, again. “What do you have to do with that-” He shakes his head, disappointed, almost disbelieving. Dipper feels his heart sink, he slumps where he stands. “You were involved with that curse. Weren’t you?”

Dipper can’t figure out what to say. This can’t be happening. Ford’s right, but he’s- Dipper stumbles out a response.

“No! No, That wasn’t- You… I wasn’t-”

“I can see some magic with these,” Ford says. His temper is slowly rising, gesturing at the pair of glasses in one of his pockets. “And I’m seeing a little too much that’s similar to that thing.”

Dipper shrugs. He tries to smile. He hesitates. He’s not sure how to go on. “Is it? I-”

Ford continues, glaring at Dipper. “I’ve seen more than my share of these kinds of things. No experts made that curse,” He stalks forward, and before his large, intimidating presence, Dipper- Bill would make fun of him for this - but he cowers. Hot shame is starting to burn in him.

Ford glares at Dipper, leaning over him. He blinks, he has a thought. “My god. The other day. That was backlash,” Ford says, anger breaking a little in astonishment. And now Ford’s realized that, too, this is so bad-

“Your boyfriend doesn’t know what that is. You certainly don’t,” continues Ford, why does he think Dipper doesn’t know anything - “Do you have any idea how bad that could have been? How dangerous that was? Dipper, that thing was huge. You could have been kill-”

Ford stops, mid-word.

He suddenly looks shocked.

Ford knows what he might have done. What he almost did do. Ford stares at Dipper for another long moment, and for a second, instead of being angry, he’s horrified.

Ford struggles with himself for a moment. “If that whole thing hit you, you would-” He shuts his eyes, taking a breath. He’s getting control of himself. Then Ford’s glaring again. “It’s good it didn’t. But. Who else is involved?”

Dipper can’t find it in himself to say anything. He just doesn’t know how to respond. But Ford’s still leaning over him, he’s not going to relent until he gets an answer-

He didn’t know that Bill’s power had so much kick to it. He didn’t know that it would work, he wasn’t even trying to cast a curse. He didn’t mean for this to happen. He really didn’t, he just was so tired of having people try to kick his head in for being weird.

After a few moments, Dipper manages to choke out something. And for once, it’s the truth.

“I didn’t know. I was- I have- There were people, and, they wanted to hurt m-” He fumbles, he can’t get the words out right. “I really didn’t mean to-”

But for some reason, Ford’s expression only gets more angry.

“Oh. You didn’t mean to help cast a curse that’s almost hit more people than I’ve ever seen,” Ford’s voice raises as he speaks. “You didn’t mean to help almost kill a city?”

Dipper’s breath is halting in his chest. He tries to control it.

“I’m sorry. No. I didn’t mean it.” He says, very weakly. “It was an accident. I swear. I could… I could explain. Everything. There’s nobody else. I was the only one who did it.” He waves his hands- there’s reasons for all of this, if Dipper can just-

Don’t. Lie to me.” demands Ford. Dipper stumbles back a few steps at the sheer anger in his uncle’s voice. Ford interrupts, dark and extremely disapproving - oh, hell, Dipper’s being honest, he wanted to say something, why does Ford sound so mad - “I should have expected this. The moment I saw-” He shakes his head, and speaks, sounding like he’s had long experience with the topic. “Illusionists. They cover things up.” He mutters.

Dipper lets his arms drop, helpless.

His chest feels tight, he takes in a sharp breath - coughs it out a bit - he has to control his breathing, he concentrates on ruling that.

Dipper’s uncle was proud of him, before. Proud that Dipper was good at something, that he had a talent.

Maybe that was more because of the potential for life magic, because something in the way Ford talks makes Dipper sure that Ford hates dealing with illusions. He would, considering what he does.

That... might extend to the people that make them. And Ford is looking at him now, with anger, like - maybe he’s thinking Dipper’s something- maybe he thinks Dipper’s something bad, something wrong, something essentially flawed -

What if Dipper is.

Ford’s not going to believe him.

It’s by reflex, and probably comes from a whole lot of experience, and trouble, but Ford mistrusts people with Dipper’s talent. The whole story’s pretty unbelievable, anyway, and even if Ford did listen-

Ford shuts his eyes, and breathes in slowly, in and out again. He grunts a little, thinking. “The damned curse is gone. Nobody was really hurt,” Ford’s frowning hard. “And... you helped out your sister,” His expression lightens a bit, then darkens again. And he grimaces. “Go back home. Now. I’ll- Fine. Fine. We’ll pick this up later,” He shakes his head, in sheer, depressing disappointment. “I need to think. And I can’t even look at you right now..”

Dipper nods, though Ford, true to his word, has turned away, won’t look at him.

In kind of a dazed way, Dipper makes his way back to the Shack, He walks inside. He stalks up the stairs into his room, sees Bill standing in the middle of it, his familiar turns towards him-

Bill is smirking. He’s probably come up with a plan after he was given some time alone.

“Pine Tree, good to see ya. I was just thinking-”

Dipper strides over and tugs his familiar into an embrace, wrapping him tightly enough in his arms that Bill’s smug speech gets interrupted with a soft ‘ufh’ as the breath is pushed out of him.

Bill’s not human. He doesn’t give a damn about Dipper. He wants him dead. Again.

But fuck it, Dipper’s an illusionist. It might be a fucked up thing to be. A wrong thing to be, but it’s what Dipper is.

And if he can fool people, he can fool himself too, and pretend.

Pretend that his uncle’s not going to resent him forever for his mistake, pretend that one day Ford will believe him when he says the curse was an accident, and forgive him. Pretend that Ford doesn’t hate him now. And pretend the false human body in his arms is a real one. That Dipper actually has a boyfriend, not something inhuman and unknowable that wants him dead. Pretend that one day Bill might give one single fuck about Dipper, and not as some kind of toy.

Pretend that things will be okay.

They’re all impossible, but they’re nice to imagine while he can.

The demon in his arms is shifting around, hands resting on Dipper’s sides, not quite pushing him away, but he could at any time. But Dipper made the stupid, warm body Bill’s inhabiting, he can manhandle it if he wants, and at the moment he wants a little contact. He’s not moving until he’s forced to.

“Huh. This is a new gambit on your part. Not sure what you’re after, but it’s not like it’s going to stop me,” Bill says slowly, tense in Dipper’s grip. He sounds a little confused. He stands where he is, wrapped in Dipper’s arms for a while. It takes Bill a minute, but he speaks again, slightly annoyed. “This isn’t working, whatever you’re planning. Let go already.”

Whatever damage Bill does to Dipper has to be indirect - Dipper squeezes Bill tighter in his arms - Bill makes another soft grunt - and who cares if Bill makes fun of him for this? He’s so used to his familiar’s insults he can ignore them, and he likes the way Bill feels.

Bill doesn’t even know why he’s being hugged, so… this is kind of like a mystery for the demon. Those always interest him. Dipper can keep this up for a while before Bill shoves him away.

It doesn’t last long.

Bill’s too good at reading people, he shoves Dipper away just to grab him by the waist. “What. Happened.” Bill’s fuming. “Did you just give the goddamned game away? Let Poindexter know, after all of this time? How incompetent are you?” He groans, clapping a hand to his forehead. “How much does he know?”

Fuck it. Let Bill worry about himself. Dipper doesn’t care.

Bill swears, a lot, but Dipper just steps over to the bed, careful, sits down on it, and waits for death.

He wishes he were exaggerating. It’d be so nice if when he thought ‘my life is over’ it wasn’t so, so close to being literally, completely, becoming-a-corpse over. Because that’s the only way Bill’s going to be truly gone.

Also Bill’s talking to him - “I can’t get this info from your uncle, kid, speak the hell up,”- and other stuff. Bill wants to know what’s going on, but doesn’t want to see Ford. Dipper doesn’t care enough to respond. Or listen.

He gets shoved, insulted. Gets kicked in the leg. It doesn’t matter, it can’t hurt him too badly. It stings. Is it going to hurt when he dies? Dipper’d prefer if it didn’t.

Bill heaves a deep breath. He’s already trying to come up with a plan, but Dipper’s not speaking to him, not reacting to anything Bill does and the demon really hates that. He squeezes his eye shut, squares his shoulders, preparing something -

-and relaxes, into that same kind, sincere falsehood he used with Pacifica - gentle smile, nice voice.

“Hey,” Bill says, kneeling a little in front of Dipper, resting a hand on his shoulder. “It’s going to be okay, I-”

Dipper shoves him, hard.

He puts all his force behind the move and it manages to work. Bill tips back, falling on his butt on the floor, hands planted beside him and eye wide, startled.

This bastard. Dipper’s a lot of things, maybe he is the worst human, but he knows for a fact that he’s not stupid. How does Bill think Dipper’s that. Fucking. Gullible. That Dipper couldn’t see through that in an instant.

“Don’t you ever do that again,” growls Dipper, and now he’s- he clenches his hands, tightly, taking a deep slow breath. Bill blinks. He still looks surprised, like he couldn’t see this coming. “I told you. Don’t- don’t be reassuring. Not like that. It’s creepy. And coming from you it’s just wrong.”

Bill groans, leaning his head back a little. He knows he’s caught, accepts it with a shrug. “Well, I had to do something, you were too worked up to be of any use to me.” He sits up straighter, stands. “Spit it out already, I wanna know what happened.”

Dipper’s still pissed. It feels good, having someone he can be legitimately angry at. For everything Bill’s done. For everything Bill is.

“Oh, no. No, you don’t get to shrug that off,” says Dipper, furious. He stands as well, glaring at his familiar. Bill looks at him, one eyebrow raised, impassive. “I’ve figured you out. I know what you are. That act is never going to work, and I want you to know it. Don’t try it again.”

“You really don’t know what you’re talking about,” Bill smirks. “Rage is a good look on you, by the way,” adds Bill, cocking his head. “Haven’t seen that in a while. Kinda missed it.”

Dipper throws his hands in the air, frustrated. Bill’s referring to the fact that he’s nowhere near an actual human, like he thinks he hasn’t given himself away in every way possible, and even though he thinks Dipper’s an idiot, he’s not.

“You’re wrong. I know. I’ve known ever since that stupid trip into town, to deal with that stupid curse-” says Dipper. Bill starts looking surprised again, almost recoiling. “And you know what? I don’t care.

Bill, for once, doesn’t have some kind of pithy reply. He’s confused, eye darting around, like Dipper’s the one with a trap for once. Yes, this is great. Why hasn’t Dipper used this before?

Dipper continues, poking Bill on his eyepatch. “So what, you’re some- incomprehensible weird thing stuck in a, a meatsack,” He uses one of Bill’s phrases again. “I still don’t care. Don’t pretend you’re something you’re not. Not to me.” He heaves a sigh. Bill’s still staring, unflinching at his treatment, not speaking.

“Just-” Dipper shrugs. “I hate you. I hate that act of yours the most, though. I like the real Bill.” Dipper blinks. Shit, he should add a caveat to that. “...and you’re awful.”

Bill stares at Dipper for a moment.

The demon slaps a hand over his face, drawing it down slowly. “How. Do you keep. Finding things out.” He waves his hands at Dipper, incredulous, even angry. “You- and then- that was before, and then you-” It is so, so good to see the demon being the one struggling for words for once. Dipper almost starts smiling.

Bill’s face screws up, he looks like he’s in pain. He clutches at his chest, like his fucked-up heart is having an attack.

Bill doubles over, grimacing. “Oh chaos, is this what being sick feels like? I think this is what being sick feels like.” He makes a face. “Pretty good metaphor, really, you’re like some awful infection.” He glances up at Dipper. “You…. are the single worst thing that has ever happened to me. And I don’t say that lightly, you got no idea how old I am."

Dipper’s mood instantly drops. What a reaction. This argument has stopped being- He can’t deal with this.

He stalks away, drops down on the bed facefirst, and pulls a pillow over the back of his head. Eventually, he’s going to have to face Ford, but now he doesn’t have to hear what Bill’s going to ramble on about.

He hears a foot tapping on the floor, and Bill’s muffled voice. “Alright, back to business, what’s the deal?” A long pause. Dipper doesn’t say anything, he’s not going to. He doesn’t have to. Bill can’t make him do anything.

Bill continues. He sounds a little hesitant, oddly enough. “Stop looking like that.” Dipper feels a hand on his back, pushing him a little.

Dipper’s stopped caring. Whatever. Bill can take care of himself, he doesn’t need to know anything. He can work things out for himself.

Whatever’s going to happen is going to happen, and Dipper’s pretty much powerless. He lies where he is - his chest heaves once, he controls it. Dipper will die, or he won’t, and he’s just going to have to live with that uncertainty. Or he won’t.

It doesn’t matter.

“I said,” Bill declares, with more force this time. “Stop looking like that. It’s bugging me.” Another short silence. “I demand you stop-” A little quieter. “Nah, that won’t work, never works.” Dipper hears Bill start pacing, talking to himself in a murmur.

After a minute, the pillow’s yanked away from him. Dipper lets it happen, and his arms drop.

He’s done fighting. There’s no point.

Bill is sitting next to him, and if Dipper turns his head a little, he can see his demon frowning in concentration. He gets pushed a little more, but not hard.

“Hey. Get up. We’re not done here,” Bill waits a moment, but Dipper’s not going to give him the satisfaction of seeing a response, then Bill shoves him, hard. His expression sours. “C’mon, at least struggle a little. You’re always up for that.” Bill gives Dipper another push - he makes a disgusted noise when nothing happens - then he takes a deep breath and leans back, deep in thought. He crosses his arms. Bill’s face changes as he comes up with ideas, considers them, and discards them.

Whatever the demon’s trying to plan, it’s giving him a lot of trouble. He’s still fast, because it doesn’t take long before Dipper feels Bill grab one of his wrists. “So,” starts Bill, grinning. “Wanna see a new trick?”

Dipper pulls his arm away, slow. Bill lets him go without much fight, but he looks angry again. There’s basically no spell that’s going to help, Dipper doesn’t know why his familiar tried it.

Bill looks around the room, glaring at it as if it’s insulted him. He lights one of his own hands on fire - whatever, Dipper can’t be hurt by that - then it vanishes, and Bill curses softly, shaking his head.

It takes another few moments, but Bill has another thought. He snaps his fingers. “Did you know - and no other mortal knows this -” He says, slow and smug, but Dipper waves him off. “What, you don’t want to know about-” Dipper flips him off.

Bill sulks, and mutters quietly, hunching over. He rests his chin in his hands, thinking.

Dipper keeps looking at his demon, because by now he’s incredibly confused.

What the hell is Bill doing? Bill’s acting so weird, way more than usual. What he’s doing, what’s he talking about? This doesn’t have anything to do with Ford, it’s not going to tell the demon what happened, it’s not part of a plan. This is entirely unrelated. There’s no reason for-

Oh.

Holy shit.

Dipper realizes, eyes wide, more than a little shocked, what his familiar is up to. Bill’s looking away from Dipper, eye narrowed and lips tight, struggling with ideas. He looks - for the first time Dipper’s ever seen - a little lost. This is-

This is Bill. Actual, real, demonic Bill, no coverup, no fake persona.

Trying to make Dipper feel better.

It’s only so his familiar can get information about what happened, of course, Bill doesn’t want to confront Ford too directly, and Dipper - yes, he’s a little upset. And uncooperative because of it.

But Bill knows he can’t comfort Dipper through lies, he can’t fake his way through it. Dipper knows him too well. And Bill can’t relate to human emotion in any reasonable way. His empathy is as limited as his powers are right now, so Bill’s showing off the things he likes - magic, fire, offering secrets, etcetera - in case one of them works.

“Pine Tree, you suck.” says Bill, still thinking. It’s one of his weakest efforts at insulting Dipper, born of frustration with his lack of success, too distracted to come up with something better.

Dipper stares for another second. And starts laughing.

“No, you suck. You’re the worst.”

Bill is so bad at this.

Dipper can understand it now. This is as bad as he looks when he tries to do the magic that comes so easily to his demon, and seeing someone he hates being this terrible at something is hilarious.

Bill, like an idiot, doesn’t seem to know how badly he’s failed. The moment Dipper laughs, his confidence returns instantly. It’s like nothing ever happened. Bill straightens proudly, smirking again, and Dipper can almost hear him congratulating himself on being so great, at everything, forever. It makes Dipper laugh harder.

He sits up. He hiccups, runs a hand over his face. It’s a little wet.

Shit, when did that happen, he hopes Bill didn’t see it.

“As I was saying, back to business,” Bill glances at Dipper - then looks away, nonchalant. “What. Happened. I gotta know, and so far you’ve been as much of a pain as you always are. Let’s get this over with.”

Dipper clears his throat, he swallows, and sighs. Might as well explain. “Knows about the curse,” He takes a deep, slow, breath. “Not about you, though.”

Ford thinks Bill’s human, and with Bill not reacting to the cursebreak... that shows he’s uninvolved. And Ford even mentioned it - that Bill didn’t know about backlash. Dipper may have messed up, but in Ford’s eyes? Bill’s still golden.

Bill makes a dismissive gesture. “Eh, that’s survivable. I'll come up with something,” Dipper feels himself relax. “And Poindexter won’t ruin your life too badly. You're his family.” Bill says the last word a bit mockingly.

“He hates me,” Dipper blurts out, sudden. Bill looks at him again, interested. Dipper instantly regrets saying anything. He covers his eyes with one hand. Bill’s not going to get anything on him, not if he can help it.

Good.” says Bill, intense, even a little pleased. “Fuck Stanford Pines. With a pitchfork. Maybe just burn his face off.” That’s surprising, Dipper didn’t know his uncle annoyed Bill that much. He lowers his hand to look at his familiar. The demon turns away again.

“He’s an obnoxious ignoramus who pretends he’s so great,” Bill rocks a little in place, sounding disgusted. He sticks his tongue out a bit, then shrugs.  “But really? He couldn’t ever come up with a decent plan. Or make anything really useful, not like that curse. And I bet that mortal’s never noticed anything in his life he didn’t want to see, unless it was crammed down his throat,” Bill grins. “Anyone that guy hates must be amazing.”

And that… was maybe a little accurate.

Ford doesn’t see everything. Dipper’s seen that himself. His uncle doesn’t see when his brother’s right. Or when someone’s upset. He’s distracted, easily. He didn’t see that Dipper wasn’t lying earlier, too convinced it was impossible.

Dipper is a little surprised, though. That even sounded like it was honest.

He knows better. Bill is never, ever going to compliment him, but that doesn’t matter. He doesn’t need those, not from this creature. It’d be disturbing, a sign that Bill was up to something. Winning one of their arguments is compliment enough.

...Bill is up to something.

Dipper closes his eyes. “What about your revenge?” He’s still waiting for Bill to react to what happened earlier. If he can get it over with-

He hears Bill gasp. And when Dipper opens his eyes again, his familiar is absolutely delighted. “You want revenge?” asks Bill, thrilled. “Oh, we can definitely get some revenge,” He starts laughing, hands clasped together. “This should be good.”

Wait, no, that’s not what Dipper meant, he’s not- He’s not happy about what happened with Ford, but this? Should not be encouraged. Bill will look for any excuse to get at Ford, and Dipper’s not helping that out.

“No, no, no. And no,” says Dipper, and almost immediately Bill’s disappointed. His face falls, almost sulking. “I meant-” Dipper gestures between the two of them. He doesn’t know why he brings it up, now he’s reminded the demon, but-

Dipper can deal with whatever Bill throws at him. It’ll be… not fun. But never boring.

Bill starts a little as he’s reminded. He looks over Dipper carefully.

“Right. Thanks for the memory, sapling. I do have to deal with that, don’t I. Hm,” Bill raises a hand, opens his mouth- then shuts it. The demon hums a little, thinking. Dipper squirms under his gaze, but Bill comes to a decision quickly. “Got enough of a problem at the moment. I can put it off for a bit. Not like you can start blabbing to people without screwing yourself over. Again.”

Which is true. The only person Dipper could tell - without telling them too much - is Mabel, and she wouldn’t care. Bill knows that. His bizarre, inhuman dignity is safe. Bill’s also going to pull something, Dipper’s just fairly sure it won’t involve his death now.

Dipper’ll be fine. In a way. If everything doesn’t go wrong. Again.

“Wait! Thought of something! Something perfect,” Bill grins, pleased again. He rounds on Dipper, grinning, eye intent and roving over him.

Dipper stares. That didn’t take long.

He collapses on the mattress. He curls up on the bed, lying on his side. Bill watches him in confusion.

Fine. Let it happen. Dipper doesn’t care. His life is horrible anyway, and he doesn’t have enough left in him to fight it anymore.

Weirdly, his reaction.... disappoints Bill, almost instantly. He can see the grin fall away again. “What? Not going to-” The demon looks at him for a moment, in silence. He pokes Dipper a few times. “You are not being anywhere near as feisty as you should be. I don’t like it. You didn’t hear me out, either. C’mon, I wanna give it a shot. Sure, maybe I’m stuck here, sure. But you? Are mine. And I’m going to prove it.” He pauses, grins again. “Wanna try and prove me wrong?”

He waits for Dipper to react for a moment, and when he doesn’t get one- Bill lets out a frustrated breath. “Guess I gotta lower myself down to your level,” continues Bill, shrugging. “I know two things that aren’t mutually exclusive! Just thought of it. Wanna both fight and do body stuff?”

Dipper… was not expecting that.

He rolls over onto his back. He looks over his demon.

Bill perks up when he sees Dipper take action. He beckons Dipper closer, eternal grin back on his face, even wider than normal. Right, Bill loves conflict, he loves- body stuff. The combination of the two is probably some kind of excellent treat for him, he’s clearly priding himself on thinking of it.

Dipper watches his familiar for a few seconds. This could get weird. No, it will be weird. Bill loves weird.

Well, at least worse things could happen to him. Probably worse things will happen to him. Also... he’s strangely into the idea. A little more proof that he’s really fucked up. Maybe Dipper’s a distraction for Bill, but it’s mutual, and Dipper could use something to help him not think right now.

Dipper sighs. “Okay. Yeah,” He rubs at his face a little more. He’s still trying to settle down. “Sure, just… I need a minute.” Bill lets out a disappointed noise, but settles back to wait.

Dipper lies in place for a minute. Calming down. Thinking.

This is his life - he knees Bill a little, hears the demon start to cackle - these are his choices. Dipper’s going to enjoy things while they last.

Chapter Text

Bill flicks more cereal at his face, glaring. Dipper blinks a little as a piece hits him near one of his eyes, but doesn’t react.

It’s morning, days from Ford’s learning about the curse, and they’re in the kitchen. Bill eventually managed to coerce Dipper downstairs, claiming that lying in bed was ‘pointless’ and ‘boring’, and that, ‘we both know nothing’s gonna happen’, and ‘I can’t give your sleep back, kid. I sorta... ate it’.

The last fact was interesting enough that Dipper actually got up. Dipper wonders what that’s like, devouring a part of a person. He should probably eat something himself. Bill looked a little relieved, weirdly, and dragged him along.

They’re sitting alone at the table, and now Bill’s trying to antagonize him again.

“Part of the tiny bit of appeal this had,” says Bill, contemplatively. He flicks a few more things at Dipper. “Was that you fought back. And you took care of yourself, for the most part. This? Is getting boring.” He waits for a reply, doesn’t get one. “Quit it, this isn’t any fun.”

It took a while, but Bill has realized he might, just maybe, be a little bit shit at cheering people up. He can’t do it when he can’t throw on that comforting persona, and has to be himself. Just how bad he is hasn’t hit him fully yet, but his pride is still wounded, and it drives the demon onward.

He’s been trying to get a reaction from Dipper for days.

The distraction was nice. While it lasted. Bill tried to goad him with it earlier. Maybe he was trying to make Dipper pissed off, defend himself.

It actually made things worse. Now Dipper has to live with the fact that he’s done that, again, with both him and Bill knowing his demon’s nothing even close to a regular human. He knows mostly what Bill is, not entirely, and he still freaking went through with it. When Bill taunted him, Dipper had set the book he was sort-of flipping through in his lap, closed the cover, and stared at it.

Because it’s true. Dipper’s not normal. He’s something flawed.

Bill realized his mistake, fast, slapping himself on the face, cursed for a long time, and just wandered off. Probably to burn something. Another hit to his pride - having a bad idea. He’ll never relent after that.

Dipper’s realized something too, and it took him a bit to fully understand why he was so bothered by Ford’s words.

It’s because Ford was right.

He probably didn’t mean to be, maybe- he was just upset, at the time, Dipper hopes. But his uncle was still right, whether or not the words came from sheer emotion.

Illusionists cover stuff up. All the time. Like Dipper’s been doing since this entire thing started. Everything about this started with a lie. Trying to make a fake familiar.

He screwed that up.

Then he lied about Bill, about their relationship, about the curse. About why he helped Mabel - okay, he did want to help her, a lot - but not because he wanted to hook her up, because he felt bad about not being able to do anything about the mistake he made. Dipper even intentionally misled Ford, trying to point him in a different direction to save his own skin.

And he’s still covering for Bill.

Ford’s asked him questions - he’s certain something, or someone else is involved, and Dipper’s said nothing. Ford’s not angry with Dipper anymore. He’s- something else, an emotion he’s not showing. But every time he asks Dipper about who else is involved - he’s certain Dipper didn’t take the whole backlash, he’s an expert, he knows everything about that kind of thing - it just makes Dipper feel worse.

It’s bothering his uncle, both because he can’t figure it out, and… probably because Dipper’s not questioning, or eager to learn, or trying to make Ford proud like he always does. Dipper’s literally said nothing during their one-sided conversations, and it’s getting to Ford as well.

But Ford is right. There is someone else involved, indirectly.

Someone whose secret Dipper’s holding onto tightly, white-knuckled, because of the horrible consequences if he doesn’t. He doesn’t want anyone to get hurt.

His uncle was right about him and his talent. Because even when it’s only by omission, Dipper’s just some kind of lying liar who’s a lying machine who lies all the time.

Just like Bill.

Dipper’s magic is closest to demonic power. He matched up with Bill for hell’s sake, there is something deeply and essentially wrong with him. Dipper is not a good person, not at the very heart of him.

Ford probably never meant to imply it, probably doesn’t know it, but Dipper really isn’t. That’s why Bill likes him, in what tiny way he’s capable of liking a human. Dipper needs to try to resist that. Fight it.

But almost every time Dipper tries something, he ends up messing it up.

He summoned Bill. He cast the curse. He barely ever gets a spell right on the first attempt. The backlash hit him, and that one was extra bad because Dipper should have known better. He’s also slept with something unknowable and evil, several times, each one of those felt like a good idea but they almost certainly weren’t. And he wandered off with Ford, and got found out.

It’s easiest to do nothing. Stay silent. He can resist, in this one way. This way he can’t do anything wrong. Or lie. Again.

There are footsteps. It’s Stan, grinning. “Hey, slugger, how’re you-” Stan sighs. He sees Dipper’s not going to talk. And now, at Bill- “And the creep. Stop making a mess.” Bill gives Stan a single sharp wave, but he’s still focused on Dipper. He flicks a little more cereal at Dipper’s face anyway.

Everyone - well, the family, Bill was right that Ford wouldn’t completely ruin his life - knows now. About the curse, and about Dipper’s talent.

Mabel was thrilled Dipper even had a talent, and completely believed that it was an accident. Ford’s convinced it’s impossible it was one, maybe hates Dipper.

Stan… is on the fence about it.

There’s one thing that Stan’s considerably better at than his twin. And that’s people. He’s also been around Dipper for a while, way more than Ford ever has, and he doesn’t believe Dipper would intentionally do what he did. But he also knows Ford’s an expert on the subject of curses, that’s why he brought his twin in in the first place. Stan’s not sure which way he falls.

He hasn’t said anything directly to Dipper, he’s too gruff, but a few days have passed and he’s been coming around a little more. Checking on Dipper, asking him a couple of things - and sure, fine, Dipper’s been a little…

He’s not doing great. Or much of anything. He’s done this before, but now he has a good reason. Dipper will get over it, it’s not that bad. Ford has to leave eventually, Bill will get bored of causing minor havoc, and things can go back to Dipper’s own fucked-up definition of normal, maybe.

Meanwhile, Bill smirks, has an idea. He starts grinning at Stan, almost sadistically, intimidating and wide- but it doesn’t work.

Stan blinks at him for a moment, uncaring, then shoots an arm back behind him, pointing. “Yeah, get out. Wanna talk to the kid, and you’re…” Stan waves his hands a little. “I don’t even know what you are, but it’s obnoxious. Scram.”

It takes a second - Bill’s got to think about it. But he casts a glance at Dipper - he knows his current plan isn’t working - and leaves. Silent, for once, thinking, coming up with something else. Stan’s a little relieved at the quiet. Bill bugs him, but Stan’s not afraid of him, even as disconcerting as Bill can be. He does glare at Bill as the demon leaves.

“Right, so, uh,” Stan’s awkward as he settles into a chair next to Dipper. He’s avoiding looking directly at him. “Been a little down lately, huh?”

Dipper stares at the table.

This is about as direct as Stan gets with talking about feelings. He must be worried. But Dipper is perfectly fine. This is pointless, he doesn’t need a pep talk. He needs to somehow change himself, in a way that’s almost certainly impossible.

“Uh, so,” continues Stan, rubbing the back of his neck. He screws his face up, comes to a decision. “I know you didn’t mean it. You’d never hurt Mabel. And you’re never going to try something like that again,” He gives Dipper a wry look. “So it’s fine. Alright?”

Dipper keeps staring at the table.

Stan pauses. He breathes in slowly. “Look, did Ford-” He hesitates. “He say anything really-” Stan grimaces. “He’s not always the best at dealing with people. Trust me, I know it.”

Dipper clenches his hands on his thighs.

It feels bad to even think about, but yeah, Ford did say something, really- hurtful. Stan avoided the word, but Dipper can read his silence, he’s always been able to.

And if Dipper’s truly trying to resist his nature, he can say something. Something that’s the truth.

“Illusionists,” says Dipper, slow. Stan straightens up, leaning an elbow on the table, interested.

Only one word, but more than Dipper’s said in the last day. He continues. “They ‘always cover things up.’ And I did lie.” Dipper shuts his eyes, sucks in a breath. “I’m not a good person,” This is difficult, but maybe it’s just him resisting his essential urge to be awful.

Dipper finishes, miserable, blinking slowly. “Maybe I can’t be one.” Because he’s always going to be a little evil. Bill’s proof of that.

Telling the truth is hard. It’s not fun, not like his arguments with his familiar, it hurts. More proof that Dipper’s flawed. He can't even do that right.

Stan stares at him for a long, long moment.

He rubs a hand over his mouth, brows furrowed. He comes to another decision.

Then he shrugs. “I’ve wanted to do this for a while, but… yeah, he deserves it,” He gets up, hands planted on the tabletop. He sighs. “Just a minute. I need to go do something.”

Wait, what?

Dipper gets up, stumbling, but Stan’s already out of the door and storming outside to meet with Ford. Ford’s been spending a lot of time out there - he still hasn’t identified the cause of the fires, hasn’t figured out that’s Dipper too.

Dipper hesitates, standing just next to his seat.

What if he somehow makes this worse? Lets Ford onto the fires, and then his uncle will have questions about that, too, and things will get even more complicated, he’ll need to - and he’s never known what’s up with the Stans, he can’t figure out how to stop this.

Dipper can’t trust himself.

He sits back down, slowly. The table isn’t interesting, but Dipper doesn’t care. He stares at it anyway.

It takes a long time, but he hears a sudden shout.

Then, more shouting.

Somewhere outside, through the thin glass of the window, Dipper hears fractions of the Stan’s argument - a lot louder than the last one he’d run into. There’s a few words exchanged before their voices raise enough to be audible, occasionally.

Stan’s talking. “-probably was, you don’t-”

No single human-” Ford replies, trailing off as he lowers his voice.

“-matter! You haven’t been around at all, or-” It fades as Stan starts talking, instead of shouting.

Ford says something, but it’s overridden by his brother as he keeps talking. Ford eventually stops.

Stan goes on for a while, voice slowly rising in volume. “-finally doing tons better, finally knows what he’s good at-” Fading out. “-That? Really?”

Silence.

Something inaudible, but Ford’s tone, then, “- not -”

He must get cut off, because Stan starts talking again, outright yelling this time. “You know how much he looks up to you!” Inaudible, again. Then Stan’s voice, raising, filled with rage “-feel like he’s something evil?“

But Dipper is evil.

Not totally. He’s been able to ignore Bill’s worst ideas. But he is, a little. He lets himself drop onto the table, cheek resting against the wood. He must be. That’s another thing he has in common with his familiar.

Outside, there’s silence.

The conversation must continue, because there are voices after a while - quieter. Dipper can’t listen to them and he doesn’t care to anymore.

Great. He tried something. Tried to do something right, and good. It’s just meant another argument between the Stans. Now Dipper’s messed up in yet another way.

Dipper lies where he is. He can’t do something wrong if he does nothing.

When he hears someone coming back into the kitchen, Dipper turns his head away, shutting his eyes.

He knows it’s not Bill, his familiar’s upstairs. Probably pacing, by the way he’s moving. Dipper’s gotten a lot better at locating him, over all the time they’ve been connected. He could probably find Bill anywhere by now.

Whoever it is - one of the Stans, by the weight of the sound and- oh hell, it’s Ford. Dipper can tell by how he’s walking. Though it’s a slower pace than Ford’s usual one.

Another round of questions. And Dipper simply can’t give his great uncle the answer. Not if he wants him to be safe, make sure his uncle and Bill don’t get into a fight. Best to ignore it, as much as he can.

Why does this keep happening. Why does Ford have to be so persistent, he should give up. It’s so easy to do.

“Dipper?” asks Ford, quiet. “How’re you-” He hesitates. “We should talk.”

Dipper tenses up. He wraps his arms around his head.

He wants to hear as little of this interrogation as possible. Every word Ford says reminds him that he’s covering something up. He isn’t even going to stop covering it up, because he’s a liar, like Bill. But he’s not totally like Bill. Dipper doesn’t want to see people hurt. He’s going to keep doing this, but he has a reason, and it’s a good one. An important one.

Somewhere there’s a clock ticking. Dipper can hear it, in the long silence that ensues. At least Ford’s taking a while before he starts asking stuff again. He’ll take every second he can get.

It takes quite a while before Ford speaks again.

“I’m sorry.” It’s quiet, and ashamed. Ford walks over, sitting down in a chair near Dipper. “I didn’t mean what I said.”

That’s not what Dipper expected, but he’s still not going to respond.

He keeps his arms over his head, bent over the table. Nothing’s happened, anyway. Things will be fine. He just- needs a little time, and space, and for everyone to come out of this okay. Even if he never will, he can live with that.

Ford continues. “I shouldn’t have said that. About illusionists,” His chair squeaks a little as he shifts it closer to Dipper. “Dipper, you’ve got an amazing talent. You’re one of the best I’ve ever seen,” And it’s only because of horrific demonic power that half of that is even possible- “I was- I’ve had some bad experiences, during my work. And I was upset.”

What does that even matter. Dipper still is what he is, he can’t change that. Ford might not have intended to, but he hit the nail right on the head, and Dipper has to live with that new self-knowledge.

A few moments pass.

Ford sighs. “I was upset, because,” He takes in a slow breath. “I wish you had told me. Said something. I know why you didn’t want to admit what you did, but if you’d mentioned it I could have-” A pause. A long one. “I could have made that easier on you.”

Dipper blinks a little. He looks up.

Ford is staring at him, sitting near him, and his uncle’s expression is one wracked with quiet, awful guilt. Ford has a split lip.

“There are ways to make a cursebreak gentler for the caster- but,”  Ford shuts his eyes, grimacing. “I was trying to kill the thing that made that curse. Simplest way to solve future problems,” He pushes his glasses up, rubbing at his eyes. “If you’d said something, that could- well, it wouldn’t have been good, but not as dangerous.”

Ford leans in, and rests a careful hand on Dipper’s shoulder. “I’d never want to hurt you, and I almost did. I…” He pauses. “I guess I did anyway. I overreacted. And I’m sorry.”

Dipper feels the warm, confident weight of his uncle’s hand on his shoulder. He knows Ford’s repentant. He’s… he’s really glad that his hunch about it being unintended was correct, but Ford was still right. There’s something wrong with Dipper.

All he can do is look at his uncle blankly. Ford watches him, but Dipper’s got nothing to say.

They sit, awkward, for a while.

“I really was the only one who did it, I didn’t lie about that. Some people were trying to beat me up, because I’m weird, and it was an accident, and-” blurts Dipper, suddenly. Maybe, this time, Ford will believe him. Forgive him. “Because, you know…” He gestures helplessly.

Ford takes a second, surprised by the sudden response. He needs a moment to interpret Dipper’s vague phrasing.

Then he sighs. “Had my fair share of rough encounters when I was younger,” Ford squeezes Dipper’s shoulder, smiling a tiny bit. “For the same reason, too. Honestly have no idea why people think it’s so important to have some animal hanging around. It’s only a little more power, anyway.”

Ford takes a slow breath. Then he smiles, more broadly. “One hell of an accident, though.”

Dipper’s heart leaps. He straightens up instantly. Wow, he never thought this would happen. “You believe me?” This solves everything. Things are great.

“Dipper, you’re smart. You’re good at what you do,” says Ford. “I know you can do great things, but…Say, for a second, I believe you,” He frowns, looking at Dipper intently. “How?”

There are so many questions, just in that one word.

How did Dipper do it. Where did he get the power in the first place, to create something so large. How could it have been an accident, when Dipper’s talent is illusions and not mind magic. How Dipper survived the backlash at all, considering how massive that thing was. All of them have the same answer, and it’s one Dipper absolutely cannot tell Ford.

Dipper swallows. He’s got nothing. Ford may or may not believe him, but his uncle’s interest is in his work and now Ford’s curious. He knows so much, wants to know more, and he’s not going to take no for an answer. Dipper never planned for this. He has no idea what to say.

Nearby, Bill clears his throat.

Dipper looks over at the same time as his uncle. Ford looks pleased. Bill smirks, saunters over. He looks Ford over, slow, face neutral, and Dipper knows that means he’s pissed off about something, only hiding it. Bill rests a hand on Dipper’s free shoulder.

“Take your hand off my stuff,” Bill says delicately. Dipper’s eyes widen. “Ain’t something I like to see.”

Ford… was initially pleased to see Bill, but at that, he starts frowning again. “He’s my nephew.”

Bill plucks Ford’s hand off Dipper’s other shoulder, pinching his sleeve and pulling it up and away. “Yeah, but he’s mine,” Bill chuckles a little, dropping Ford’s arm so it falls away. “And I’ve never almost killed him.”

This fucking liar.

Bill’s only saying that because he’s trying to needle Ford. Technically, it’s true, but only because he couldn’t. Bill’s tried to murder Dipper, probably still would, given an entertaining enough chance. He just doesn’t like that someone he hates is touching ‘his stuff’-

Oh shit. Dipper shuts his eyes. Why does everything go wrong.

Along with the offense of someone he hates being near what’s his, Ford got a response from Dipper, and Bill’s been trying for days. It’s yet another blow to his immense pride. Where Bill would normally only be annoyed, now he’s pissed, because how dare some asshole manage what Bill couldn’t.

Ford stands up. “You’re clever, I’ll admit. Dipper likes you, too.” And now Ford’s not happy, either. He’s much less impressed with Bill now that his mistake has been brought up, insulted. He crosses his arms. “But I’ve never liked how you treat him.”

Crap, that’s true. Bill never stops taunting Dipper, or insulting him, shoving him around, and in his own messed up way Dipper kind of likes it. He likes having that kind of challenge, they can’t really hurt each other, but- yeah, he can see how it looks bad. They argue so much even Ford has noticed, it’s really obvious.

“I’ll treat him however I want,” responds Bill, nonchalant.

Ford actually starts glaring. “That’s hardly appropriate. He’s not your property.”

Dipper’s not anyone’s property, but Bill doesn’t believe that, he almost prides himself on his ‘possession’, sometimes. That was exactly the wrong thing to say, and Ford had no way of knowing it. Bill narrows his eye.

This is getting bad, fast. Not acting is not an option here.

Dipper stands up so suddenly the chair he was sitting in topples over. Both his uncle and his demon turn to look at him.

Okay, so he has no ideas. He can come up with one.

There’s his uncle - curious, knows everything about curses, needs an explanation. Not so happy with Bill anymore. Entirely unsuspecting, he’ll be caught off his guard if something happens. And there’s Dipper himself (couldn’t stop either of them, Bill will cut him off, so no magic to work with). And there’s the insane megalomaniac demon, who hates Ford, who’s just looking for an excuse, has an excellent opportunity to get the jump on him now and knows everything about magic-

Dipper steps in between the two of them. Both Bill and Ford ignore it, starting to glare at each other again. Dipper shuts his eyes. Rubs at the bridge of his nose.

One more lie. Then all of this will be over.

Well, two more lies, he needs Bill for this and he’s got to get him away from Ford so they can talk. Dipper’s life will suck forever, and he’s going to be fighting Bill forever, but it’s better than the alternative, which is a fight right now.

“We need to go,” Dipper says, grabbing onto one of Bill’s arms with both of his. Bill startles a little. “Just… going on a date. I’ll be back!” And he hauls his familiar off.

Bill follows with a quiet ‘what’, but lets himself be dragged away. He’s always intrigued when Dipper comes up with something. Ford watches them go, confused, but also displeased. Dipper doesn’t care, for once. He just saved Ford’s life. His uncle not being happy about it doesn’t matter.

Bill trails after Dipper as he’s pulled outside, then catches up to him. He walks besides Dipper, still letting Dipper cling to his arm. He looks over his human slowly. He’s thinking about something. It gives him a bit of trouble, then-

Bill snaps his fingers, getting something. His face is bright with his sudden grin. “That’s it! You needed a problem to solve,” He pulls Dipper closer. “Should’ve known that since the beginning. Always been a curious little thing, haven’t you. I should have tried to destroy Fordsy a long time ago!” He pauses. “More efficiently this time.”

Dipper mumbles something in disagreement, but it’s reluctant. Bill’s… not entirely wrong.

His familiar takes a second to think some more as they walk off, then he looks incredibly insulted. Bill stops, grabbing Dipper by the arm. “Wait, I’m not a problem?”

Dipper turns to look at him, incredulously. Bill… thinks he’s not- how does-

“You-” Dipper yanks himself away, standing in front of his demon, and waves his hands at Bill. The demon crosses his arms. He’s still annoyed he wasn’t able to bother Dipper, this jackass. “You? Bill? Not a problem? It’s the only thing you are.”

Nothing has gone right for Dipper since this horrible creature showed up. Bill’s evil, clever, convincing and weird, he’s constantly irritating, and oddly funny, and he’s made Dipper’s life a complete goddamned mess.

“You’ve ruined my life, you asshole. You are the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. That could ever happen to me.” He splutters for a moment, searches for more words, more insults, glaring at his demon-

And stops dead. He stares.

For the first time in a long while, he’s weirded out.

Because Bill? Is blushing.

Just the tiniest bit, the merest hint of pink. More than that, Bill’s grinning fondly, glancing away, and scratching at his cheek. “Aw. Ha! You were even sincere about that! Flattery will get you everywhere, sapling.”

Dipper, with slow regret, realizes that was a compliment.

A pretty big one, by Bill’s standards. Destroying a human’s life, without any effort. Bill chuckles softly, back straight and proud, smiling. Dipper sighs, resigned.

Whatever. It’ll make Bill easier to deal with for a bit. Though he does make a mental note. If Bill’s more complacent when he’s complimented - only in a weird, demonic way - Dipper can use that. This is how things are now. He’ll need it, later.

Bill stalks in closer, gripping Dipper by his upper arms, wiggling his eyebrows. Dipper flips him off.

Bill is a problem. Not just for Dipper, but for everyone around him. He’s here for as long as Dipper lives. If his familiar gets bored, and if there’s nobody around to thwart him, who knows what he’d get up to? If Dipper hadn’t intervened a few minutes ago-

Okay, maybe Dipper’s a little evil. And a liar. But that means Bill can’t fool him. His familiar can’t get away with anything, not when Dipper sees through him like he can. He knows this demon better than anyone else. He can distract Bill, stop him at every turn, and Bill can’t just off him. Dipper’s the best person for this job.

He can’t give up. Not now, not ever.

Dipper needs to resist the worst parts of himself, but he needs to do it more directly. He knows he won’t slip up, or give in, because he’ll always have a reminder not to. There’s a convenient physical embodiment of those aspects. A demon, who’s sadistic, intelligent, who’s stuck with him and standing in front of him.

....Who he’s making out with.

Not sure when that started, but Dipper’s not complaining. He makes a soft noise and grips at Bill’s shirt tighter. He feels Bill’s fingers card through his hair, a chuckle against his mouth. This might be stupid but that’s- he’s distracting a demon from doing something worse. Yeah. Good plan.

They both like this anyway - Bill’s teeth nip at his lips - and maybe once in a very rare while they might actually have enough of a common goal to get something done. Not likely, but possible. It’s happened before, it could happen again.

He’ll just… do this for a minute. Five minutes, tops. Then there’s his final lie.

He pulls back a little to catch his breath, and Bill looks at him with interest, running his hands over Dipper’s sides..

“This is fun,” says Bill, cheerful. Dipper being active and entertaining again has vastly improved his mood. “But I think you had another reason behind this. Don’t appreciate being hauled off, but this could be good, if your puny fleshy brain’s working like it should again. Got something in mind?” His face drops for a second. “Man, I miss seeing minds.”

“Yeah, I was thinking of something,” Dipper says, a little breathless. He knows Bill. There’s a perfect way to get him to agree to help, with the right phrase. And he smiles, just a tiny bit. “Wanna help me trick Ford?”

Ford wants an explanation, and Dipper doesn’t have an answer. But Bill- he’s fast, and smart, and knows basically everything about magic, especially curses and malicious, evil things. If Ford wants a reason it was an accident? Bill can come up with one. It shouldn’t even take too long. Then Dipper’s uncle will lose interest, and move on, and Dipper can handle the rest. For as long as he lives.

Bill beams at him. “Yes.” He’s usually more eloquent, but he’s too thrilled. He rubs his hands together, eager and anticipating. “Y’know, Pine Tree, occasionally you actually have a good idea. I wouldn’t ever believe it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eye.”

Dipper rolls his eyes, and sighs. Yeah, this is his weird version of normal again. It’s weirdly comforting. Dipper’s entire life has been irreversibly weirded, and Bill probably knows. He’s probably happy about it.

Things aren’t great. They’re never going to be, and Dipper can live with that.

But Ford likes Dipper. He’s apologized for hurting him - though that… needed some pointing out. He wants to believe Dipper. His uncle wants to protect him from his ‘boyfriend’ being a jerk, too, Ford’s said that ever since he met Bill - that he'd destroy him if Dipper was ever hurt. Ford even stood up for him when Bill claimed he was his possession, offended on Dipper’s behalf. Knowing all of that makes Dipper feel warm inside, and safe. Knowing that his uncle, for all his blind spots, and occasional ineptitude with emotions, genuinely cares about him.

Bill’s… about as tolerable as he’s ever going to be. Dipper’s used to him. He’ll cope.

This will work.

There’ll be an explanation. Bill’s good enough at lying to come up with one. Ford will be satisfied, Dipper will be- not great, but he’s okay with this. One more lie is fine, even if it’s another big one. The important part is that nobody’s going to get hurt.

Chapter Text

Dipper’s beating his head against the side of a tree. Again.

This time, Bill, instead of lying on a log, is standing, and watching. He’s also a lot less amused.

“Look, kid, I like that you think I can do anything. And I almost can! But I can’t change reality, not at the moment,” says Bill, then sighs, wistful. “I would if I could, and you know it.”

Dipper pauses in his self-flagellation for a moment. “You’re sure. You’re absolutely, completely sure-”

“Yes, I’m sure,” Bill says, sounding exhausted. “It’s like your dumb spell I answered. Your requirements are terrible, and they don’t fit the real deal. I don’t think ritual sacrifice, or soul destruction, or eating a still-beating human heart-” He lists off the possible ways Dipper could have gotten this power, besides their bond, counting them on his fingers- “Could be written off as an,” Bill makes finger quotes. “‘Accident.’ Congrats, you’ve talked yourself into a corner. Great job. Moron.”

“Maybe Ford doesn’t-” starts Dipper.

Bill snorts derisively. “Nope. Hate to give Poindexter any credit, but…” He shakes his head. “Look, your great uncle is an idiot, in a lotta ways, but with almost four decades of experience?” Bill shrugs. “He knows this about as well as any mortal could. He knows it’s not possible.”

Dipper groans, slumping, covering his face with his hands. Great.

So there’s no reasonable excuse for the curse. No single human could have done this, not without doing something horrific, or intentional. He can even believe Bill about that, for once. This demon loves lying, loves fooling Ford, he’d be more than happy to give Dipper the answer - if he had one.

Bill doesn’t have one.

Bill speaks up. “Or, instead of trying for an excuse,” Dipper perks up. His familiar has an idea, they’re not always ethical but they’re usually good - “Don’t say anything.”

What.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, don’t say anything,” repeats Bill, sounding annoyed. He stalks over to stand next to Dipper. “He can’t stick around forever. So he wants a reason, whatever. You don’t owe him anything. Let him stew in his own curiosity for the rest of his life.”

Dipper hesitates. “What if he thinks I did- one of those things, I-

Bill smacks Dipper on the back of the head, but not hard. “Come on, there’s a brain in there somewhere, I’ve seen it, on rare occasions,” Dipper glares at his familiar. Bill is unimpressed. “If your stupid uncle didn’t care about you, he’d have already thought of those, but, oh, wait,” Here Bill clasps his hands to his face in mock disbelief. “Could it be that he doesn’t want to think of some things? Doesn’t see them right in freaking front of him?”

That… is accurate.

When it comes to fighting monsters, when it comes to facing adversity, Ford’s great. He’s one of the best. Because he’s looking for trouble he knows he can handle. It’s dangerous, sure, but he’s amazing at it.

When it comes to trouble with people he cares about - Dipper realizes with a sudden jolt, wow, that includes Stan, doesn’t it - Ford tries to ignore it, because he’s amazing at his job, and bad at other people. That’s his blind spot. He lets his family problems slide away from his awareness, unrecognized, because that’s a type of trouble he’s not prepared to deal with.

This idea is entirely workable, and the best part is that Dipper doesn’t have to directly lie. Ford will eventually accept Dipper’s non-answer. He won’t be happy about it, but it’s good enough.

Dipper stares at Bill. His familiar makes a rude gesture at him.

“You…” Dipper says slowly, “Are good at understanding humans. For a demon.” He pauses, then adds, “I still hate you.”

Bill gives Dipper an exasperated look. “Dream demon. What, you think I’ve never seen a human mind before?” He makes a ‘pfft’ sound, shrugs. “Shoulda expected that. Takes you forever to understand a concept sometimes. You can be really stupid, it’s disappointing.”

“Yeah, I get it,” Dipper rolls his eyes. That would disappoint a dream demon. He gets sarcastic. “You only like me for my mind, jerk.”

Bill chuckles. “I’ve seen worse.” His familiar sounds a little... appreciative.

Dipper fidgets. Suddenly he’s embarrassed.

He was trying to make a joke, but that’s backfired, Bill actually sounds-

He blinks.

Things click into place.

A human might want Dipper for his body. Not likely, he’s not much to look at. A mind demon would want him for his mind. The body stuff is just the icing on the cake.

And Bill can’t get into his head.

Any mortal mind is fair game in Bill’s book, but Dipper’s? Is a mystery. It’s a locked door to his familiar - even when he’s in his realm - and Bill wants to know what’s behind it. Dipper’s full of secrets - mundane ones, by anyone’s standards - but to Bill, it must be intriguing. Even enticing.

Dipper’s been an interesting new thing to the demon for a while, so Bill wasn’t entirely upset with being stuck. His familiar had a toy! A puzzle. He loves those as much as Dipper does, and eventually he thought he’d get bored, solve it, and break it for what amusement that could give him.

Then they kept hanging out. And Dipper showed that he could have weird ideas, and come up with interesting new plans, and argue, and insult, and be conniving. He knows he’s smart, too. All things that Bill’s truly fond of, though most are backwards from what a human would like. Bill’s a demon, it’s opposite day all the time in his head. .

Almost no mortal could see past Bill’s fake persona, and if anyone did, Bill could, given the opportunity, change their thoughts. He’s almost always gotten his way when he’s had access to humanity, but none of the demon’s skills work on Dipper, and he’s too smart to fall for most of his familiar’s other tricks. He’s genuinely a challenge to this creature.

Oh god. The fighting.

Dipper groans and starts hitting his head against the tree some more, gently. Bill makes an interested sound, watching him.

He’s a mortal Bill can’t easily change, or confuse, or convince. He’s so tiny compared to Bill’s power - oh no, Dipper is cute to Bill - with the potential to be corrupted, and become a useful tool.

But struggling against him, constantly. Defiant.

It makes so much sense. Dipper just recently learned, using an... unusual method, how much Bill likes that.

It’s a lot.

Now that he thinks about it, oh hell, like half of the stupider arguments Bill has started are about that, not the actual topic. They’ve been the equivalent of Bill saying ‘whoops! I dropped something! Why don’t you pick that up for me?’ and then, as Dipper metaphorically bent over, Bill ogled Dipper’s… debate skills.

Every good idea or point was like sliding a hand up Bill’s thigh. Every time Dipper lost their debates gave Bill a thrill, every ‘fuck you’ was more an invitation than an insult. In Bill’s eye, Dipper’s done everything except straddle Bill and ask him to-

Wait, no, he’s done that. Physically.

Damn it.

Everything considered, Bill’s shown remarkable restraint. Dipper’s been inadvertently performing a- a…. he’s been flirting every time they’ve bickered, and they argue all the time.

That’s why Bill was always weirdly flirtatious, he knows what humans do for romance, he was returning the favor, in a really awful way. Seeing Dipper being frustrated and confused about it was a bonus. His familiar enjoys pulling the blinds over things. It was fun for him.

Dipper has been - only in the way Bill looks at it - a cute, ugh, little temptation. Oblivious to his intent. Clever enough to be worth bothering with, a potential ally, and a beautifully convenient link for Bill to interact with the physical realm. And all the while, unknowing, Dipper’s been giving Bill the kinky demonic equivalent of a damn nice view. He’s basically a perfect tool, and an exceptional playth-

Dipper’s not finishing that word, even in his head. He hates it.

No wonder Bill didn’t want him braindead. He’s too fun, has too much potential to help Bill mess with reality. Dipper hesitates. Is he… mentally attractive? He’s not physically, but he is something Bill wants to literally seduce into evil. Bill wants him as his own. He wants to-

Bill was trying to keep Dipper alive when he wasn’t reacting earlier. He was prodding him into action. Into eating, and moving. No demon should care about that. Ever.

Oh god.

Bill likes him.

The demon’s incapable of- but Bill likes him.

Dipper feels heat rise into his face. His heart rate picks up.

It’s in a twisted, demonic way, and Bill’s favorite parts of Dipper are the worst parts, and he’ll never say it - except Bill already has, he’s said it before- That was honest? Was it honest? Dipper didn’t know his demon well enough then, he’s probably overthinking again. Maybe it was some tactic to convince Dipper to do something evil.

Dipper’s guessing. None of this is confirmed. But he’s pretty sure he’s at least right about the first part, about Bill being interested in his thoughts.

Because now, when he clutches at himself, staring wide-eyed at his demon, Bill’s looking at him with fascination. His eye flickers over Dipper. Trying to work him out, wanting to know what he’s thinking at the moment.

Bill likes him.

Dipper isn’t sure how he feels about this.

Is this good? Is this bad? Should he be happy that a mind expert likes his brain - in an evil way - or insulted that Bill’s been tricking him into giving him a free show? Can he be both? He thinks he’s both.

He’s not surprised, anyway, Bill would never come out and say something. He thinks Dipper doesn’t know, about any of it.

Dipper knows now.

...He’s not going to stop arguing with Bill, but at least he knows what it means.

Bill has been watching him the entire time he’s been thinking, intrigued. Now he cocks his head to one side. “Hey,” He says, tapping Dipper on the forehead. “You got something going on upstairs, and it’s making you do all kinds of weird face movements. What’s up?”

Bill likes him.

Dipper can use that. He starts smiling.

Demons aren’t supposed to like humans. Only exploit them. Bill, for all of his eternal knowledge, and nearly infinite power, has been a little fucked up by this bizarre relationship.

Just like Dipper has. It’s strangely warming to realize.

“Oh, I’ll tell you. Eventually,” says Dipper, and now he’s grinning. He’ll save this bit of information for a good moment. “You’ll just have to wait and see.”

His familiar starts grinning, pleased. “Huh, this could be good. But you ain’t going to catch me off guard, so try harder than your usual flailing,” Dipper’s right, Bill knows something’s coming up, another fight, and he loves it- “Don’t disappoint me again, playthin-”

Dipper punches him in the ribs. It doesn’t do much, but it interrupts Bill’s sentence as it pushes the breath out of his demon. “I hate that nickname and you know it.”

Bill starts laughing, hard. He was trying to get Dipper to do that, doesn’t care about being hit. And Dipper can make Bill laugh, too. He does that a lot. His familiar likes that, as well.

“I’m onto you, Bill.” says Dipper, over the continued laughter. “I know what’s going on with you.”

Bill grins and grabs Dipper’s butt. Dipper glares, but doesn’t stop him.

“Yeah, yeah, you’ve said that before. You’re wrong. You can’t even imagine what I really am,” It’s true, Dipper can’t. But Bill’s arrogant. He doesn’t know how his real secret’s been uncovered, the one he’d actually be embarrassed about. “One day I’ll get you to start ferreting out the good secrets for me. You’re not entirely crap at this.”

That... could be interesting. And evil. But.

Bill would know all kinds of things, fascinating and dark, hidden from almost all human eyes, and if his familiar pointed him in their direction… That could be amazing.

If Dipper’s cautious, and doesn’t get tricked into something.

Bill can be patient. His familiar still thinks he can get Dipper to go along with his plans. He’s got Dipper’s entire life to try, and he can be convincing. Even if he is trapped in reality, he thinks it’s only a matter of time. Meanwhile, he’s having fun with his human, waiting until Dipper gives in.

Dipper won’t. Ever.

But he’s walking a very thin line.

There are a lot of things about Bill that are - well. Tempting. This is going to be his entire life, and he’s got to be very careful not to fall off the wrong edge.

There’s a tiny, miniscule place where there are a couple things him and this creature have in common. Someday, Bill might even meet him there.

That wouldn’t be too bad.

“If you’re done here,” says Bill, giving Dipper an arch look. “I think we’d better head back. This is the worst date I’ve ever been on.”

This wasn’t a date, despite the making out earlier. Nothing they’ve ever done is a date, but it was a convenient excuse. He wonders what the demon version of making out is. Why is he thinking about that, that’s never going to be relevant.

Dipper shrugs a little. “Yeah, fine.” This is going to be survivable. Not pleasant, but it’ll work.

He stalks off back towards the Shack. Bill follows. They spend the whole time bickering. Dipper interrupts it, at one point, to kiss Bill again - it’s the best way to shut him up - and his familiar is more than happy to play along.

Yeah, definitely survivable.

Dipper can live with this. Even Bill thinks he can live with this, he hasn’t asked about the Mindscape in ages. Things could be worse for him, even if he is limited. He likes Dipper.

There’s a warm, light feeling in Dipper’s chest, just near his heart. It’s only from their bond, though. He tries to ignore it.

By the time they get back, Ford is outside. Carving something into a piece of oak with a small chisel, sitting on the porch. He’s frowning, deeply. He’s still annoyed at Bill, and for being interrupted again while he was in the middle of asking something.

Dipper… tries not to feel bad about this. He fails miserably. Not lying is great, but this is still going to be rough.

“Hey, we’re just,” says Dipper, hesitantly. Ford looks up. “We’re back.” Bill kicks Dipper on the ankle. Maybe Dipper shouldn’t have caught his uncle’s attention, but with that act, Ford starts glaring at Bill again.

Ford looks Dipper over, slowly. “Good to see you again,” says Ford, careful. His eyes dart over to Bill occasionally. He’s searching for any signs of harm, and knows exactly who to blame if he finds any. “Doing alright?”

Dipper nods quickly.

“Good to hear it,” Ford says, looking a little more relaxed. He’s glad Dipper’s doing better. He smiles a little, though he spares a second to give Bill a warning look. He waves the wood in his hand. “Almost done remaking this thing. Care to take a look?” He pauses. “And… I would like to hear about the other thing.”

Damn it, damn it, damn it. Dipper really shouldn’t have alerted Ford.

He swallows, shuts his eyes.

“I…” This is difficult. “Whatever. Doesn’t matter. It’s over,” Dipper grabs onto Bill’s arm again. His familiar gives him a glance, frowning. Quick, he needs to distract Ford, get him on some other topic. “What are you making?”

Ford takes a second. Then another. And he shrugs, showing off his new enchanted item. “Well, it’s impossible, but it’s never hurt me to be prepared. The old one was broken, so-” He powers the thing up with a little magic, the runes on the surface of it light up-

Ford looks up.

Bill yanks his arm away from Dipper, taking two steps back. His expression is blank, eyes narrowed.

There’s a long, still moment. Tense, and weird.

Dipper clears his throat. “Uh. So. What is that?” The small wooden object looks familiar, he’s seen it before.

There’s a long silence. Ford and Bill stare at each other.

Uh oh. Something’s wrong.

Dipper feels his skin prickle with a cold sweat. He tugs at Bill’s shirt, but the demon doesn’t react. He waves at Ford, but his uncle’s staring at Bill. Both of them are ignoring him. Bill’s put on an innocent look.

Ford’s… horrified. He keeps glancing between Bill and Dipper

“Something wrong?” asks Bill, crossing his arms casually. “See something you don’t like, for once in your pathetic life? Must really be awful, but personally,” He’s grinning again, wide, showing off his teeth. “I think it’s pretty fun, Sixer.”

Ford drops his enchanted… whatever it is.

You,” Ford growls, standing up fast, and his hands immediately go to his weapons.

Bill’s hands light up with flame. “Well, well, well. Looks like someone finally noticed what’s been right under his big, dumb nose this entire time.” He laughs. “Been a while, hasn’t it, Fordsy? How’ve you been?”

What.

Dipper stares at them blankly, helplessly. He stumbles back himself, watching them. What did Ford- Why is Bill-

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Everything was going to be okay, and now- What is going on?

Cipher,” Ford hisses.

What.

Ford glances at Dipper - and he’s suddenly filled with absolute rage. He turns back to Bill, whipping out a knife in one hand, and some kind of enchanted weapon in the other. “What have you done to him?”

Bill surrounds himself with flame, whirling around his body, and laughs. “Oh, isn’t that sweet. Concern for your nephew!” He grins. “The real question is, what haven’t I done to him?”

Dipper’s too stunned to react. He stands where he is, feeling numb.

Cipher?

Ford fought a mind demon, once. One that was exceptionally intelligent, one that could be flattering, and pleasant, and polite, and Bill’s capable of-

They know each other.

Of course they know each other, Ford fights these kinds of things all the time, Bill’s always been trying to get at the world, it was so likely that they’d met before and Dipper never even considered it. And Bill’s actual name is Cipher- Shit, Bill lied about that too, didn’t he.

Bill -no, Cipher, was always intending to get back at Ford, for being banished. He just loved hiding from him, like he apparently did decades ago. It must have been nostalgic. Now the jig is up, and there’s nothing in his way.

Not even Dipper.

He’s cut off now, the energy inside him is barely there, he can’t do any magic. The enchanted thing in Ford’s hand sends a burst of energy at his demon, but it’s dissolved in the fire.

Ford curses, reaches for something else. Bill cackles at the failure, building up even more flame while Ford’s searching.

This was never going to work out. Was it.

Bill glances at Dipper, smirking through the bright blue light. “It’s been fun, sapling, a real good time. But this?” The fire rages, Ford stumbles back, the wooden porch is starting to catch flame. “Is gonna be a blast.”

Chapter Text

The single good thing about the bond is that Dipper gets to shove Ford away before his uncle’s face is burnt off.

Bill’s fire lashes over Dipper, but it’s harmless, and his uncle is, temporarily, safe. Ford looks at him with terror, then turns back towards Bill- dodges, briefly, as a fireball is rocketed his way.

Dipper can’t be hurt by Bill, but he can’t stop Bill either, there’s no magic he can do. But he can come up with new plans, he’s got to do that now, before anyone’s hurt-

There must be something, some way to stop this.

Ford throws a few knives, rapidly and hard. They mostly miss, except for a shallow cut on Bill’s arm. Bill doesn’t care. He laughs, and keeps throwing fire, even as Ford brings out another weapon from his belt, and casts more spells at Bill.

“I don’t know what poor sap you convinced into letting you possess him,” says Ford - he braces a shield in front of him, translucent, made of energy. Possess? This isn’t a human, it’s something made from Dipper- “And I won’t kill him if I don’t have to, but if you don’t leave that vessel right now, I’ll do what’s necessary.”

Bill keeps laughing. “You seriously have no idea, do you, Poindexter?” There’s no end to the fire, and it keeps driving Ford back as he tries to defend himself. Dipper reaches towards Bill- he’s shoved back, hard, and topples backwards onto the ground. The dirt hits the back of his skull as he falls, then he shakes his head and gets up. Bill’s too strong, and he’s got no intention of stopping.

The demon stalks forward, driving Ford back over the yard. “I’ll humor you for a bit, IQ, but you can’t win this.” He laughs. “I always come back! You couldn’t get rid of me forever!”

There’s no ideas. There’s no hope. Dipper’s got nothing, and the Mystery Shack is starting to burn, the front of it already on fire.

There’s a thunder of footsteps. One heavy and urgent, the other light and fast. Stan and Mabel run outside - the best option, considering the freaking building’s on fire - and they stop, and stare.

“Dipper!’ Mabel gasps, and leaps at him to cling- Dipper shoves her away and runs forward. This can’t keep going. “Wha- Wait, Dipper! Don’t!”

There’s so much fire being flung around, but the only one who can’t be hurt, besides the demon, is Dipper, so he’s got to-

He gets caught by the arm by Stan. Dipper struggles to pull away - but Stan’s also strong. He’s not as much as Bill, and he’s old, but he’s got a lot of punch to him and, unsurprisingly, he doesn’t want to see his nephew run into a massive pillar of fire.

What do you think you’re doing?” asks Stan, holding Dipper back. Dipper fights to move in a little more, fails. He stops trying. “And what the hell is going on here?”

Ford is barely holding up as it is, even with his shield, a whirling torrent of fire running around Bill as he strides happily towards his enemy. Dipper watches another fireball glance off Ford’s shield. He tries to pull away from Stan again - and fails.

This has gone on long enough. There’s no good way to say it, so he might as well say it directly.  He’s had enough of lies, anyway.

“They know each other, and want to kill each other.” says Dipper, flat and emotionless. He tries to move forward again, struggling. “Now let me go, I have to-”

But Stan’s already dragging Dipper back, shouting at Mabel. “Take care of the fire! Don’t want the place burning down.” Mabel nods, starts conjuring water - something she’s always been good at. Stan pushes Dipper away. “You! Stay here.”

Around him he hears more shouting, and voices. He doesn’t think it could get any worse, but it does.

“This bothers you, doesn’t it?” says Bill, as the flames rage. Ford says something entirely vulgar, in something not English. Probably he learned it from the demon, decades ago, but it makes Bill smile. “True! Accurate, even. I meant it when I said he was mine. Totally. Completely.” Bill manages to get some flame past the shield, and Ford’s coat catches fire. “Even his hot. Wet. Little. Mouth.” Bill purrs.

Dipper cringes in shame. He has done that, he liked it. Why did Bill even mention that, it’s only going to make things worse. Why does he have to like taunting people.

For Dipper, it’s terrible, hearing it said. But Ford? Is absolutely furious. He doesn’t hold back anymore.

“You bastard,” Ford yells, and whips out some more weapons - and the first blast from one of them cuts through the flame, piercing Bill’s shoulder. There’s barely any blood - Bill’s body isn’t real, it’s too weird to bleed - but the demon recoils slightly, grimacing.

Ford thinks Bill is in another human, didn’t want to kill an innocent person, but now he doesn’t give a damn. He’s got death on his mind, Dipper’s not sure-

Shit, Ford thinks Bill’s changed his thoughts. He thinks Bill made Dipper-

Ford’s protective, wants to keep Dipper safe, has this awful, wrong idea in his head and now he’s determined to murder the hell out of this asshole. Dipper’s the one who started most of those things. And he always agreed. Enjoyed it, even. What Ford thinks isn’t true, but Dipper can’t calmly explain it right now.

Dipper’s got no magic at the moment, and he can’t force Bill to do anything. He’s got no idea how to stop this.

He doesn’t know what to do.

Stan, apparently, does.

He cracks his knuckles. “Right. Been a while, but-” He shakes his head, then runs forward, towards the fight. Dipper’s rarely seen his other grunkle in action. Stan’s not excited by danger like his brother and he’s more than occasionally lazy. He’s not as adaptable, or as clever, he doesn’t like to put in the effort.

Stan's magic isn’t complicated or delicate like Ford’s.

But it’s good at hitting things, really hard.

The first blast knocks Bill over and sends him tumbling, his fire diminishing. The demon lets out a sharp, surprised sound as he rolls over the grass and dirt. He’s not hurt badly - he’s too durable, damn it, Dipper made that stupid body too well - but he’s got less demonic flame shielding him. Ford scores another glancing hit while Bill struggles to his feet.

“Two against one, huh?” Bill’s still grinning, he builds up more fire and it spreads, wide. Both the Stans have to retreat a little. Bill’s done with reserving his power, and now there’s flame everywhere- “That’s hardly fair! I like it!”

Dipper claps his hands to his head. How do things keep getting worse. Now there’s three  people in danger-

No. Two. Bill will be fine, no matter what happens. He’s immortal- There’s no reason to be-

Stan makes another blow, and Bill tumbles across the ground again, but manages to roll out of the way of Ford’s next shot of power- and both the grunkles are moderately on fire with his sudden, cursing response. Ford has a countermeasure, the flames on him die instantly. Stan just has to swear and slap at his clothes.

Someone here is going to die.

Fuck, okay, Dipper’s worried. He’s not sure why. If Bill loses that’d be-

Dipper should feel like that’d be good, and he doesn’t, and everything that’s going on is really upsetting, and he still doesn’t know what to do, with three people involved this fight- Bill might not be able to hurt him, but Dipper could get caught in their crossfire and get very hurt by either of the Stan’s actions, and he really wishes he could come up with an idea on such short notice, he’s been able to before, but now nothing’s coming to him.

Dipper must have made a noise or something, because Mabel’s done putting out the fire, and she looks at him. Her face is creased with deep sympathy.

“Dipper?” asks Mabel, looking at him with concern - she glances over at the fight, cringes. Then her face firms. Her shoulders square as she makes a decision. “I’ll fix this.” she declares. 

There’s no way Mabel can fix this. Dipper stares at the scene in despair, watching - oh god, everything is fire now, both of the Stans are recoiling, as Bill surges up, laughing.

Mabel shoots a ton of water over the scene, and it cancels out most of Bill’s fire. Bill stumbles, fiery shield gone, not sure how to react- Stan slams down a translucent fist on top of the demon, pinning him- And Ford, still filled with absolute rage, stalks in with one of his enchanted weapons-

And blasts Bill’s skull apart.

Bits of bone and blood scatter all over the lawn, Bill’s body falls backwards, and Dipper...

Despite everything he hates about Bill, despite everything awful Bill’s shown him in illusions, despite everything he’s hated about his demon - Dipper shouts in horror. He collapses to his knees, clawing at his face.

This shouldn’t have happened. This shouldn’t have happened. This isn’t right, Bill- Bill’s not right, but this is worse.

Somewhere behind him, he hears his twin whimper. Mabel didn't want this to happen either, didn't expect it - then she stumbles away, and throws up.

“Holy shit,” Stan recoils in shock. “What the hell,” He stares at Ford, who’s panting, furious. “I did not want to bury a body today, or ever, what the hell?” He waves over the body, then flails a little at his brother.

“Dipper!” Ford shouts, ignoring his brother and racing towards Dipper. Dipper doesn’t care. He’s staring at the bloody mass in front of him.

“Dipper, stay calm.” Ford says, shrugging off his semi-burnt coat, tucking it over Dipper urgently, almost desperately. “Just-” He hesitates. “Just stay here, and…” He looks him over, seemingly helplessly. “And... I’ll figure things out.”

“Ford, this is the single most-” starts Stan, having followed his twin, and Ford interrupts him.

“I know what that was. I’ve fought that thing before, and you” His voice raises quickly. “Let a mind demon,” Ford shouts, charging towards Stan - his brother leans back, startled - “Live with Dipper?”

Stan… is starting to look a little horrified. He might not be a professional, but he’s not an idiot. He knows what a mind demon means. The concept of one messing with Dipper’s head is just starting to get across, he’s imagining-

Something. Dipper can’t picture it.

Ford points back at Dipper, furious. “They alter thoughts. They destroy people’s minds. They mess with people’s ideas. They change people,” Ford presses a hand to his face. “This. Isn’t. Dipper. Not anymore.”

“What?” It’s Mabel, weak and worried, still sounding a little sick. Both the Stans look at her. Mabel pauses, glancing at Dipper. “What… is-” She has to take a moment. “Is it that bad?”

Bill’s body is still lying there on the ground, and Dipper can’t stop looking. It consumes his attention, he can’t spare the imagination to figure out his uncles. He stares at it.

It’s a broken, shattered thing. Gory, to boot, but that’s- blood doesn’t bother him anymore, but- That was Bill. He was here, and now he’s not. Dipper’s touched that face. He’s felt its soft skin, he’s kissed that face, and now there isn’t one anymore.

There’s no Bill.

There’s no arguments, or challenges, or questions, or teaching, or the stupid jokes, or the- he was something incredible and unknowable, something amazing, and Bill liked him, and Dipper-

Dipper feels numb. His chest aches. He wants to curl into himself.

Ford takes a slow breath, and continues. “Mabel. Sweetheart. Has Dipper-” He grimaces, glancing at Dipper. “Has he ever said anything about-” Here he pauses, in sudden fury. “About Bill,” He continues, disgust and anger clear in his voice when he says the name. “Being… bad, or… or that he hates him?”

Mabel nods, slow. “Y-yeah? He’s said it, um,” She looks at Dipper, then back at Ford. “A bunch, actually.” She cringes a little. “He keeps. Um. Saying that he’s evil a lot.”

But Dipper has always known Bill was all of those things, why does-

Ford’s shoulders slump in relaxation. “Thank god. Thank god,” He says, slow, and he moves in again, tucking his coat over Dipper’s shoulders again, careful and gentle, looking him over. “Just… stay here,” Ford looks back at Mabel and Stan. “That’s good. That’s-” He shuts his eyes, briefly. His fists clench. “That’s very good. It means he’s still fighting against it.”

Dipper has to take a second, but- but Ford is wrong. Bill can’t mess with his thoughts, he wouldn’t like him if he could. Dipper has to interrupt.

“No, wait, I’m fine,” He holds his hands up in protest. “Bill hasn’t done anything to me.”

But… When he says that, everyone looks at him with a kind of quiet despair. Ford, especially, is wracked with awful pain in his eyes. Stan is starting to look like he’s realized he’s made the worst mistake of his life. Mabel is almost crying.

...They think Bill changed his thoughts.

That demonic influence is what makes Dipper say these things, that they’re not him.

Mabel has tears in her eyes. She sniffles. She already knew Bill was a demon. That probably makes things worse.

It seems- it must seem like Dipper was trying to push past the mental changes she thinks Bill gave him, trying to fight back, trying to tell her something. Like Dipper was crying out for help, this whole time, and she didn’t see it.

But it’s all so wrong.

They don’t know- because they don’t know about the familiar situation -

“I’m sorry,” continues Ford, looking at Stan and Mabel. “I know this… wasn’t pleasant. But I didn’t have any other choice.”

Stan shakes his head, running a hand through his hair. “Hell,” He looks Dipper over, slow, then makes a long, furious sound, shutting his eyes. “Yeah, I understand.” He sucks a breath in through his teeth. “So…” Stan looks at his brother. “What now?”

Mabel sniffs. She’s crying, won’t say anything.

Dipper doesn’t know how to react. There’s Bill’s body, lying there. Broken. Around Dipper, his family is having a conversation, but Dipper doesn’t pay attention,

He should have said something. From the very start, he should have owned up to it, but-Dipper didn’t know so many things about their bond, didn’t know Bill couldn’t harm him, didn’t know anything about demons, really. He was ashamed. He was afraid. He was- it was interesting, too, and eventually it wasn’t so bad? He was okay with it, even though it was super weird.

It’s an unprecedented situation, even Bill didn’t know how it would work. It took him weeks to figure out he couldn’t hurt Dipper, and now Bill’s-

Bill’s not dead. 

He’s immortal. He’s Dipper’s familiar, the bond is still bright in Dipper’s chest, he’s- Dipper feels around internally, head jerking up, looking for something he’s not able to see. Bill’s still there. Somewhere. Not in any of the four dimensions of reality, but in the Mindscape.

Oddly still, though. It’s like he’s not moving around - well, he is a little, but barely.

His eyes suddenly widen. Oh god. Dipper did do a fantastic job of making that body. Of making an accidental demonic trap.

Because Bill’s still stuck in it.

It’s- It’s not even going to decay to free him, is it. Because it’s not real, and it’s tied to Dipper’s blood.

Now Bill’s trapped in a body that can’t move, or do anything fun. Not for an entire human life. It’s going to be so boring, Dipper can practically feel Bill swearing in rage. Bill’s not dead, but he might as well be.

The demon didn’t want to fight Ford initially, not because he didn’t like the idea, or because he was afraid of death. With this fucked up spell, things are different than possessing a real human. Bill knew this would happen if he lost, so he’d avoided it. Then it happened anyway. Bill’s still stuck, and now he can’t do anything. The demon’s having a really bad time.

Dipper hears Ford’s voice, the words finally catch his attention.

“-something to force Cipher’s magic out of him.”

Dipper stands up, fast. He shucks Ford’s coat off his shoulders, stumbling backwards, even as his family stares. That can’t happen. That very, very much can’t happen, because Bill’s magic is tied to Dipper’s life.

Bill might not be able to die, but Dipper definitely can.

Ford steps towards Dipper, carefully. “Listen, it’ll be alright, just come-” He reaches out a hand-

Dipper steps back more. “No, wait, you can’t do that.” He holds his hands up in front of himself, defensive. He thought this might happen. Something similar, anyway, and now, his freakin’ family is going to accidentally murder him.

Maybe Dipper’s mostly cut off, but Bill can’t do it entirely. He still has fire, and he lets it out, a burst of blue flame, bright over his hands as he shoves it forward, shouting. “Don’t!”

Bill’s still bonded. He can sense Dipper using his magic, and how he’s using it. And Bill’s always for burning.

The fire rages around Dipper, just like it did around Bill. Stan flinches back, and Ford stares in astonishment.

Dipper stumbles away from the building, covering his face with one arm even as he hears the shocked shouting behind him. He collapses to sit on the lawn, grass burning all around him.

He doesn’t want to hurt anyone. But he keeps up the fire, even though he hears the Stans saying something, he ignores it. This buys him some space, and some time, and why does everything have to be awful, always. Why can’t anything go right.

Dipper sits where he is. Fire raging around him. Distantly, he knows his family’s trying to find out what’s going on, but he doesn’t care.

He sits. And thinks.

Eventually, it’s quiet, except for the sound of the fire.

It’s been… too long.

Too long keeping up this stupid lie, and the secrets, and too long spending time with Bill, who’s gone, sort of. Dipper’s been avoiding the truth for too long, and running headfirst into dumb ideas for too long. And he’s going to keep having them, he’s good at plans, but they’re not always good ideas.

No more lies. No more accidents.

Dipper stands up. He lets the fire drop. He turns. 

Mabel is standing nearby, at the edge of the burnt circle around Dipper, hugging herself, looking worried. Ford is simply staring, and Stan- has apparently decided he can’t handle this. He’s sitting on the partially burned porch, a hand covering his face.

“I can explain,” And it catches all their attention. Dipper sniffs, rubs at his eyes. Damn it, he’s really glad Bill’s not here to see this. “I can explain everything.”

And Dipper does.

The initial spell. Bill, getting involved, the curse, the magic practice, the power he has now, the fires - those are pretty obvious at this point, he’s only done it again, right in front of everyone. He does leave out some of the more- intimate details.

It’s… not easy. And it’s pretty long, but he gets all of it out, and Ford looks especially interested in the fact that Bill ran into Dipper’s fake familiar spell.

Dipper finishes. “And Bill can’t get into my head, even if he is a dream demon,” Ford makes to interrupt, has an objection, but Dipper talks over it. “I can’t sleep anymore,” says Dipper, exhausted. Because he’s always going to be that, forever. “Bill sort of… ate it. Deal for power, right?” He knows Ford’s worried about- but that was his choice. “Cipher can’t change my mind.”

“It was me,” continues Dipper, before anyone else can object. “Everything. All of it.”

Ford is- he’s both reassured, and a little disturbed. He raises a hand, starts to say something- stops. He’s not sure how to say something, not sure if he should.

Makes sense. He’s probably only seen Cipher’s true form, or at least knows what it’s like and Dipper has willingly- Yeah. He’s a little fucked up.

Mabel has been listening, but now she steps in closer, slow and careful. “So,” She’s a little hesitant, but she moves in, hugging him. Then hugging tighter. “You’re okay, right?”

“No,” Dipper is very much not okay. “But I’m still me” he adds, a little bitterly. He’s always going to be himself, and Bill’s not here, and though it’s really screwed up Dipper misses him. If there was a way to-

Dipper hugs Mabel back. though now, his mind is racing. Ford shakes his head, walks over to talk to his twin, and Dipper’s- he’s-

Uh oh.

Bill has corrupted him. Not much, just a tiny bit.

Because now there’s something being put together in Dipper’s head, because he’s had to come up with so many ideas to deal with his familiar, and this one is the single worst one he’s ever had. It trumps everything else. The familiar spell, the- the body stuff, the curse, everything. Dipper’s still piecing things together as he pulls away from the hug. Mabel looks at him strangely, still worried.

Dipper walks over to the broken corpse on the lawn, stares at Bill’s body.

He could do this.

But he needs to talk it over with someone. Someone who’s involved in it, who he needs to cooperate for once in his eternal, terrifying life. Oh no, and this- If this does work-

Welp. This is probably another mistake. But at least it’s one he’s aware he’s making.

“Hey,” Dipper says, loud, catching everyone’s attention again. He keeps his gaze on Bill’s body. If he’s done lying, he can be done lying to himself as well. “I-” Ugh, this is awful to say, he shuts his eyes tightly. Dipper’s not going to lie anymore, so he says it. “I like Bill.”

It made him scream internally when he realized it, he still kind of feels like screaming again as he thinks of it - but it’s still true. Dipper looks over at everyone.

Ford’s confused. Stan’s still absolutely done with things, looking grumpy. Mabel... is completely unsurprised. She knew that from the beginning. His sister looks sadly sympathetic. She thinks Bill’s dead, though he’s not, feels bad for Dipper finally admitting how he feels.

Dipper’s not thrilled about this either. He’d never, ever have felt this way, not about Bill, if it hadn’t taken so long but… this, like everything else, is too late. The only thing he can do now is go with it. He’s got the perfect - maybe perfect, if it works, if Dipper’s good enough to manage it - way to solve everything. He takes a deep breath.

“And you know what?” adds Dipper, defiantly. He crosses his arms. It took a while, but he’s made his decision, and he has a plan. “I’m gonna keep him.”

This is his choice, and his problem to deal with, and his goddamned demon. Bill doesn’t get to avoid his human this easily. Dipper is going to be the worst thing that’s ever happened to this creature for all eternity, and Bill can’t escape.

Yep, this is definitely a mistake. In a strange way, though, he really likes it.

“What?” Ford asks, but before he can continue-

Dipper said he’d never go back here, but he’s still bonded, and the key to this realm. It’s incredibly easy to slip back into it, to where Bill is, and the world goes greyscale. He heaves a heavy sigh, looking at everyone, motionless. They’re all confused, and Dipper’s a little worried. This plan is going to take everything he has, if it’s even possible. This could go so very badly, but he’s up for it.

Nobody else can handle his familiar as well as he can, not even Ford. Dipper’s the best one to do this, and he’s - well - this is still probably a bad idea, but he’s going through with it.

Behind him, he hears cackling laughter.

Dipper stands still, staring forward.

“That was pretty fast!” says Bill, though his voice - it’s distorted, and echoing, in a way Dipper’s never heard. “Well, well, you really did miss me, didn’tcha Pine Tree? I knew you liked me,” Bill laughs a little more. “Good to have a visitor, anyway! This better happen often. Things can get a little slow around here.”

Dipper says nothing. Every other time he’s gone into the Mindscape, he’s been touching Bill, and now- Now he wasn’t, but Bill’s always a part of this place. This is different, and this is Bill without a working human form.

It’s actual Bill. Somehow. In some form, in his real form, and Dipper has no idea what it is.

He’s not sure what to say, he stays silent. He’s suddenly uncertain about his plan. Is this going to be bad? Is… he’s already a little crazy for considering this, but what if looking at Bill actually drives him insane?

Bill sighs. He’s still oblivious to Dipper’s thoughts, or he’d be taunting him about them. “So yeah, great job on not making that body more durable! This ain't exactly ideal. ...Guess you figured that, too.” Dipper hasn’t turned around yet, he’s not sure what he’ll see- “Really need to stop finding things out about me, kid. I like it too much, it’s annoying.”

Dipper takes a deep breath, lets it out. He can pull this off. It shouldn’t even be too difficult, he knows so much. As long as he doesn’t lose his mind. Maybe he’s already lost it, because of what he’s thinking of. Bill probably likes that, too.

He turns around.

His familiar’s human body is- it’s grey. Like everything else. But it’s wrapped up in gold chains, piercing through it at points, something Dipper could never see if he wasn’t in a place where mind magic was so real. Wow, Bill really is stuck in that thing, that’s- it’s pretty solidly tied together.

There’s a long, trailing line of chain leading upwards, and Dipper lets his eyes follow it until he sees-

Oh. So this is Bill.

Honestly, Dipper was expecting something… less comprehensible.

“So, this is interesting,” says Bill, hovering high over his human form, tapping a finger just under his eye. “What’re you here for? Don’t think you would’ve shown up if you didn’t have something in mind.” His lower eyelid turns up in a weird imitation of a smile, seeing Dipper’s expression. “Surprised, aren’t you? Ha! So what’d’ya think, kid?” He braces a finger against one of his edges, twirling it. “Like the view?”

Dipper stares. This is so weird, why did he come up with this idea but-

No. He’s still going to do this. Bill’s trying to taunt him, but Dipper’s life is already weird, and he still doesn’t care what Bill really is. Bill can’t weird him out, no matter how he tries. Dipper won’t let him.

Dipper's head is tilted back to look up at Bill, and he’s determined to do this. This is going to work. Maybe. He speaks, and his voice only breaks a little during it.

“I want to make a deal.”

Chapter Text

Dipper stands still as Bill hovers around him in a circle, a little blindsided. He’s trying to process the fact that - well, this definitely isn’t an animal, it’s- geometry.

Bill laughs. “A deal? Really?” The demon’s voice deepens on the last word. The chain makes a weird not-quite a tinkling noise as it’s dragged over the grass. It's linked to one of Bill's corners, as gold as his surface. “Why would I make a deal with you? Kinda got burned on the last one, and not in the fun way.”

Bill’s a freaking triangle with a bowtie and a hat. And Dipper’s made out with it. While Bill was in a human body, but-

He can’t let himself get distracted. There’s a reason for all of this. “Yeah, you’ll make a deal,” says Dipper, stalking forward -

-and stumbles on the golden chain Bill dragged around his feet, falling. He catches himself before his face hits the ground.

Dipper kicks the chain away from his ankles, and stands up again, stepping away. He glares at his familiar, who’s bright and glowing with happiness in front of him, glad he could inconvenience his mortal.

Yep, this is Bill.

It’s a different shape, sure. It’s still the same demon, and Dipper knows him so well. It’s reassuring to see him being himself, even if ‘himself’ is weird as hell. Dipper already feels a lot calmer. This is going to be a pain, but Dipper’s going to see it through.

Bill’s amused, laughing, tucking his black noodly arms behind his back. He’s oddly expressive for something so far from normal.

Dipper sighs. “I know how bad this is for you,” It would be so boring, Bill hates this- “Or do you want to be trapped like this? Buried in the backyard somewhere, and end up lying in a shallow grave? For decades?”

Dipper could restore that body, get Bill moving around in reality again. His familiar knows it, and he doesn’t want to be stuck like this.

Bill considers it, humming a little.

Then he lifts his hands, shutting his eye. “You know what, Pine Tree. Why not?” Bill’s eye opens quickly, turns blue, he sweeps in to stare at Dipper’s face, inches away. He probably thinks it’s intimidating. “We can discuss it.”

Dipper looks back at Bill, staring him right in his strange, single, slit-pupiled eye. This is Bill. Dipper knows what he is, now, truly and completely. He doesn’t move back even a fraction.

And frankly, he’s a little jaded at this point. It doesn’t hurt that this is interesting, Dipper’s never seen something like this before. He looks Bill over while he’s close.

It takes a long second, but- Bill relents, floating back and crossing his arms. He looks sulky. He couldn’t freak Dipper out, it must be disappointing.

“Fine, fine,” Bill says, rolling his eye. He glares at Dipper. “Enough games. What do you want?”

“I just- I have a question first,” says Dipper, holding a hand up, because he can’t help but ask. He should at least know the guy’s name. “Before we start. Is it Bill? Or is it Cipher?”

Bill looks almost surprised, eye widening. Then he chuckles. Whenever he speaks, his surface flickers with light. “Name’s Bill Cipher,” he responds. It sounds honest, even a little smug. “You never asked if I had a last name, kid.” Dipper never did ask about that. He’d just assumed Bill didn’t have one.

“Right,” Dipper looks around, trying to figure out how to start. He wants to make a deal, but this is going to be awkward. Bill’s staring at him, it’s- mildly disconcerting, apparently the demon doesn’t need to blink. Dipper’s already adjusting to Bill’s new shape, but it’s still… weird. “You want this fixed?” Dipper waves at the corpse. “I can fix it. But I want something in return.”

Bill starts laughing again. “And what would that be, Pine Tree?” He spreads his arms wide - actually grows a few more of them, around his sides, the hands light up with fire. “I’m still powerful, even like this. Whatcha got in mind?”

Dipper just watches, for a long moment. This is really weird.

He’s still going to try this. Dipper, unfortunately, has admitted to himself that he likes Bill. Even if he is geometry, this is, well, still him.

“Don’t hurt my family,” Dipper says, eventually. “Ever.” He pauses. “And I want to make a very specific definition of the term ‘hurt’, by the way.”

Dipper’s got to be cautious. He’s got to be especially cautious about how he phrases things, and listen closely to Bill. It’s like when he asked about ‘Cipher’. Bill does like Cipher - because he’s Cipher - and he hadn’t seen his place in a while. Bill didn’t, technically, lie. It still left Dipper ignorant, and exploitable. Bill’s going to be vague, and Dipper needs to try to pin things down.

Bill glares and goes back to having only two arms. “Yeah, yeah, alright, we’ll draw up a contract, you nerd. So boring! But after what happened? Ugh,” He’s a little displeased. Bill gestures sharply at the body, fiddles with his tie. “Except for Sixer, we could talk it over. But-”

Dipper interrupts. “And I have some other things to talk about.” He - he hasn’t come up with any ideas for settling the Bill and Ford situation - thoughts are running in the back of his mind, trying to work that out - but there’s more to this than that.

“Sure, why not?” Bill laughs, slapping one of his hands over his tie, smug. “I’m a pretty generous guy, we can throw in some other bargains at the same time.”

Of course he’s pleased by that. The more complicated this deal gets, the easier it’ll be to slip something past Dipper that’ll screw him over. Dipper takes a deep, calming breath.

Okay. They’ll make a deal.

If Dipper leaves a loophole open, there’s zero chance Bill won’t take advantage of it. Thank hell Dipper’s been working with Grunkle Stan - he can spot a swindle from a mile away. He’s learned a ton… but it might not be enough.

Bill’s going to try all his tactics to get the best of Dipper, and he’s been doing this for- Dipper can’t even imagine how long Bill’s been tricking humans. This is such a bad idea

This also is the single best opportunity Dipper’s going to get to make a compromise.

They have some things in common. Not many. It’s a pretty small range. But if Dipper can set the terms right, it’ll make both of their lives - not the best, not ever. But a hell of a lot easier.

“Let’s… negotiate,” Dipper says, slow, and Bill brightens, running a hand under his eye thoughtfully. This demon never had a chance to do that, not when he got himself lodged in Dipper’s spell. It’s a chance for Bill to soothe his pride. A good opener, he’s got Bill’s interest.

Now for the dangerous part. Actually doing it.

“Okay, first, no world-conquering-”

Bill’s arm extends and smacks Dipper on the cheek lightly. “Yeah, I figured that one out already, wimp,” Dipper slaps Bill’s- not a wrist, really - away with the back of his hand. “So, I’m thinking continent,” Dipper shakes his head, slow. “Country?” More head shaking. “Tri-state area,” Bill continues, eye narrowed, pointing at Dipper with both hands.

“No conquering anything.” says Dipper, calm. It’s not going to happen and he’s sick of being asked about it. He’s only human. If Bill’s going to be around him all the time, in reality, there needs to be something besides Dipper standing in his way. “I won’t let you.”

Bill fumes, flares red. “Do you have any idea what I am?” He increases in size, towering over Dipper-

Dipper refuses to be intimidated. He flicks the chain on Bill. “Bill, you look like a keychain trinket at the moment.”

Bill shrinks back down, turns gold again, a little rueful. He glances at the chain and picks it up, then drops it. “Alright, that was a good one,” He sulks some more. “This is undignified.”

Oddly, that makes Dipper smile.

“Say I could maybe - sort of - agree to that. But only  for while you’re alive,” Bill adds, poking Dipper in the chest. “So get the Mindscape back. Take me back here when I ask, no questions asked.”

“What? No!” Dipper waves his hands in protest, but he’s not sure how to argue. Letting Bill run around in his realm means he can get up to all kinds of havoc. Dipper was hoping to avoid that. He can’t just let Bill go around causing his usual mayhem, that’d be-

Seeing Dipper hesitate means Bill has time to continue. “You want someone else moving in here? I’m literally the devil you know! Isn’t that better?” He pulls his bowtie, it stretches - then snaps back as he releases it, looking proud. “I’m a big deal around these parts, you dig?”

And… maybe Bill is, but Dipper’s still reluctant. “I really don’t think-”

Bill closes his eye and waves Dipper off. “You might not like it, kid, but I’m not budging,” He looks Dipper over. “I’d rather be like this than not get to take stuff over,” He shrugs, then lets his arms drop to dangle from his bottom edge beside his legs. “If I stop bugging you about reality, you gotta let me do my thing.”

Damn it, that’s- that’s reasonable. A fair trade. It even keeps reality safe from Bill, for as long as Dipper’s alive, that’s probably going to be a while - he still hesitates.

“Besides,” says Bill, beckoning Dipper closer. “Never been able to find your way around, here, have you? You think this scene is all that’s in here, right? But there’s more!” He floats in, wraps an arm around Dipper’s shoulder- Dipper leans away a little, but not much. Bill makes a grand gesture over the landscape. “How’m I supposed to show you the really fun stuff if you don’t come along on a trip with me?”

Why does Bill have to be tempting. In so many ways.

Dipper could explore a demon realm. Safely. Nobody else can do that, but Dipper could, because Bill wouldn’t want someone else breaking his human. He’d have protection, and Bill would know what Dipper is really interested in- he could see so much.

“Fine,” He says, finally. It could be worse. “We’re still going to talk about the details.”

Bill would be here anyway, once Dipper dies, and his familiar would only redouble his evil after being cooped up so long. This is… like letting off steam for the demon. He won’t be here always either, he’ll want to be in reality, sometimes. That cuts down on the evil. Right?

Dipper hopes he’s right. “So, about, uh,” He’s not sure what to say next.

“I wanna talk about the price,” interrupts Bill, eye flaring blue again. At least all of this explains why Bill has a weird eye. His real form does. Bill floats in close, looking amused.

Bill runs his eye over him. “You gotta pay something to make a deal, and since I can’t get in your brain...” He looks a little disappointed, claps his hands on either side of Dipper’s head. If it’s possible for a triangle to look tempted, Bill does at the moment. Dipper’s irritated, he kind of wants to slap Bill’s hat off, but he’s got a gut feeling that would be a huge mistake.

“Gross,” says Dipper, but doesn’t move Bill away. This demonic pervert. Bill’s hands feel weird, but they’re warm. “So what?”

“So there’s not much I can take, kid,” Bill says, annoyed, he pokes Dipper’s forehead. Dipper leans back, takes a step back, and Bill follows, dragging his confining chain behind him. “No thoughts, no childhood memories, and you got a decent body but I think I’ll want it intact,” Dipper feels a sudden flush of embarrassment. “No sleep anymore, so no dreams-”

Bill suddenly freezes, finger still on Dipper’s forehead. Then he makes a long, frustrated, disgusted sound. It goes on. For a while. Dipper guesses his demon’s not held back by needing air in his lungs anymore.

Dipper blinks, and knocks Bill’s hand away again. Bill lets his arms drop, upset. “You hadn’t thought of that, had you,” Dipper starts grinning. He almost wants to laugh. “Tough luck, Bill. You screwed yourself over.”

Bill’s a dream demon, wants to find out everything about Dipper, a human whose thoughts are invisible to him. Whether or not he has access to the Mindscape - Bill’s never going to be able to see Dipper’s dreams, because Dipper isn’t having any. It must be an immense disappointment for him.

Losing sleep sucks. A lot. Dipper’s never not going to be tired. But it sucks for Bill too, and that’s awesome.

...Bill’s still making a long, unending frustrated groan. It’s getting annoying.

“And as for the price-” Dipper speaks up louder, and reaches out- because- because hell, he’s curious. Bill’s one of the strangest things he’s ever seen, and he’s going to invade his familiar’s personal space again, who cares if Bill doesn’t like it? “I’ve already paid it.”

“What?” asks Bill, confused, then again - “What.” More flatly this time, looking unimpressed. Dipper’s placed a hand on his front. “Yeesh, ask a guy before feeling him up.”

“Why? You never ask me.” Dipper runs his hand over Bill’s front, the bricklike pattern is weird, but neat, then on to one of his sides - Huh, he’s… metallic. Is this gold? Still really warm, almost hot to the touch. When Bill flickers during speaking, the temperature of his surface briefly rises.

“Excuse you, sapling. I know you like it!” Bill closes his eye and rests a hand on himself with quiet dignity. “have been a complete gentleman,” Dipper’s still touching, but Bill’s not stopping him, he doesn’t mind all that much. “What with you giving bedroom eyes at that body so often. Don't think I didn't notice! And you're always wandering around, showing yourself off, you're one saucy little minx.”

That makes Dipper stop. His hand freezes in place. A- What?

Wait, no, Bill only said that to annoy him. He looks amused. Dipper glares.

“Speaking of which,” Dipper’s not going to acknowledge that comment, but he can already see a future where Bill says similar stuff all the time, just because he knows Dipper doesn’t like it. “You already took something from me. I paid a price up front, a while ago.”

Bill blinks at him. Realization dawns, and he slaps Dipper’s hand away, annoyed. “Ugh, knew I shouldn’t have done that,” He shoves Dipper, but Dipper moves with it and keeps standing. “You didn’t plan that!”

Dipper starts grinning. “Oh? Didn’t I?” He didn’t. At all. “How would you know, Bill?” Dipper taps the side of his head. “You couldn’t see what I was thinking.”

Bill just closes his eye, and sighs. He looks exhausted.

He’s going to react in a second. Taunting him about his- temptation, is probably a bad idea, the deal might be off, but if Bill takes this offer, Dipper doesn’t have to lose any body parts. It’s worth a little embarrassment. Bill just needs a reason-

Dipper starts as he has a thought. “It would be your revenge on Ford,” Bill looks at Dipper, suddenly interested. “I’m his favorite nephew, and you getting involved with me?” Dipper straightens up. Bill hasn’t immediately refused, this was a good idea. “He knows you can’t change my mind. It was all me. And he can’t do anything about it.

Bill hasn’t rejected it yet, but he turns away.“I mean,” continues Dipper, and now Bill hovers around, in a slow circle, thinking, eye narrowed - Bill’s actually considering this, holy shit - “Even if he did destroy your body again, I’d bring you back,” Dipper nudges Bill gently with the back of his hand, smiling. He knows what this creature likes. “You always come back, right?”

It wins Bill over.

He accepts the price easier than Dipper thought he would. Bill still flips Dipper off with multiple arms before the extras vanish.

“Right, fine, I popped your cherry, that’s-” Bill looks annoyed, he waves a hand dismissively. “Whatever. Not my usual though, I can’t accept that as-is,” He makes a disgusted sound, adjusts his hat. “So I got some conditions.”

“I’m listening,” says Dipper, eyes widening.

Honestly, Dipper’s surprised. He didn’t think that would work.

Maybe it’s because Bill’s in a terrible position to bargain, being trapped here in a way he despises, with no way out but dealing with Dipper. Maybe it’s because Bill just wants this deal over with, and there’s not much else he can take.

Maybe it’s because Dipper is mentally attractive, in a big way, and it’s worth it.

That’s- That would be cool.

“You,” adds Bill, and gestures broadly over Dipper. He’s recovered quickly, looks smug again. “Are now exclusive. Nobody else gets up in - or on - all of this, for the rest of your life. This right here?” He pokes Dipper. “Is Bill Cipher’s. I don’t like other people touching my stuff.”

If Dipper wasn’t already completely insane, that would be a big concession. But he is, so it isn’t.

“I assume that you’re talking about, uh,” It’s such a stupid euphemism- “Body stuff.”

Bill rolls his eye. “Yes,” He makes finger quotes. “‘Body stuff’, not general human touching. Say the word sex for once in your life,” He laughs a little, amused. “Kid, I couldn’t keep your sister from hugging you, she’d murder me. Again. But no sex, no kissing.” He jabs a thumb at himself. “That's all mine.”

Dipper’s admitted it. He likes Bill. And his human form’s attractive, this hardly seems like it costs him anything. Except-

“I’ll agree - if it goes both ways,” Dipper says, eyes narrowing. Bill could get up to something - it’s not likely, most mortals bore him, but he could. “You don’t get to fool around.” He has to add another term- “With humans, or with other demons.”

Bill starts laughing, high and bright, entertained. He flicks the tip of Dipper’s nose with one finger. “Jealousy! I like it. You should be jealous, I’m amazing. You’re so lucky and you don’t even know it,” Then he pauses, looking around, considering things. “I can do that. But only! If you never,” Here Bill moves in, uncomfortably close- “Make a deal with another demon.”

That’s no sacrifice at all. Dipper knows how tough handling just one of them is, there is not a single snowball’s chance in hell he’s taking on another.

Dipper still leans back a bit, frowning as if he’s having a tough time agreeing, hand cupped on his chin. It pisses Bill off more, that it looks like Dipper’s even thinking about it. His eye narrows, his fingers twitch.

“I guess that’s fair.” says Dipper, eventually, laughing inside, but keeping his face serious. “I’ll take it.”

Bill immediately looks entirely unbothered. He can pretend like he was never upset by that idea, so easily. This liar.

“Let’s do this, sapling,” Bill draws a hand up Dipper’s chest. “We’ll do your stupid definitions of what’s right and not. What are your terms?” The demon snaps his fingers, and a huge scroll of imaginary paper uncurls across the ground in front of them.

Time for the extremely dangerous part. Dipper could get completely screwed over, if he’s not careful, but he’s… excited.

Bill is deadly, and awful, and he’s absolutely never boring.

“We’ll talk,” says Dipper, and pokes Bill. The demon is warm against his finger, and his familiar makes an amused noise. “Don’t think you’ll get one over me.” He’s smiling, this is going to be- Dipper can do this.

Bill gives him a thumbs up, laughing, and confident. “Don’t think I’ll need to.” And… Dipper has some questions, but he’ll save those for later.

They negotiate.

It takes a long time.

It takes a hell of a long time.

It takes so much time Dipper loses track of it. His mouth feels dry and his throat hurts, they’ve been talking so long.

“-So, then, uh,” Dipper struggles for thought, rubs at his forehead. “Okay, you were right. This is boring.” Dipper’s feeling burned out, but he’s pretty sure this deal is working so far. It’s not the best, though he never expected it to be.

No wonder Bill ignored the terms of Dipper’s spell. Probably ninety percent of the time, nobody ever goes into this much detail with a deal, it didn’t seem like a risk. That, and sorting all of this out is terrible, and tedious.

Bill cackles - but he seems a little relieved as well. “I’m always right, kid. It usually ends up like this, when someone’s being paranoid,” He sighs, and moves in close- shrinking a bunch, then drops-

Dipper startles, catches Bill in the corner of one arm- “Why do you have to be so stubborn?” Bill grumbles, and pulls at Dipper’s sleeve. The chain leading to his human body drapes over Dipper’s forearm.

Dipper blinks at his familiar. The triangle is smaller, for the moment, slumped against his elbow, looking - not entirely happy. He hasn’t gotten everything he’s wanted out of their deal. That’s good.

“It could be worse,” says Dipper, still surprised. He lets the small Bill rest in his crooked arm, rubbing at his face with his other hand.

It really could be. For both of them.

Dipper’s going to be stuck with Bill, but he’ll have power, and knowledge. When Bill cooperates. Most of the good parts of having Bill around are subject to the demon’s whims, and he’s not giving anything up unless he wants to.

Meanwhile, Bill’s back to square one when it comes to taking over the world, but he’s going to be able to get back to his realm, and mess, to a limited extent, with reality. And there’s a human who he finds interesting. Bill knows he can enjoy some physical sensation, too, and Dipper’s even happy to let him, if his demon is polite about it.

Neither of them are winning here. There’s no advantage gained. The main thing Dipper’s getting from this deal is Bill. And while there are minor benefits on Bill’s side, the main thing the demon’s getting... is Dipper.

Though part of this deal is because Bill doesn’t want to be bored as hell, stuck to a corpse, Bill likes Dipper. In a way no demon should. There’s no way this idea would have panned out if that weren’t true. Dipper’s just entertaining enough, just interesting enough, and- mentally attractive enough that Bill’s willing to take this bargain.

Dipper’s… reasonably sure he’s covered everything. Possibly. He caught half a dozen tricks in the wording, and renegotiated, but he’s worried about the ones he hasn’t seen.

He looks at Bill.

“You know I’m going to have to-” says Dipper, but Bill interrupts, slapping Dipper’s arm.

“You’re an idiot. Of course I know,” Bill says, disgusted. “Yeah, life magic, fine, but only for this,” He’s a little dimmer than before when he talks. He’s not thrilled. “I’ll let you do it, but make it quick. One of the more disgusting parts of existence.”

Dipper’s still curious. Why does Bill hate this stuff so much? “Is it really that bad? I mean, it can’t hurt you.”

“Kid, you couldn’t hurt me if you spent your entire life trying to,” Bill climbs up and over Dipper’s arm, growing again and floating in front of him, looking annoyed. “It’s just gross,” He waves his hands in a dismissive, disgusted way. “Like that thing where your organs seize up and you expel all your stomach contents. Except metaphysical. I am not made for that business.”

Dipper can’t argue with that, Bill’s way more in tune with death than life. Life magic, apparently, makes Bill want to puke. It’s not something he would ever do by choice, and it’s opposite to his nature.

“And fair warning,” continues Bill, waving a finger in the air. “That’s gonna carry over once you’re done with the job, so don’t kiss me too quick. Won’t work out well for either of us.”

“I wasn’t planning on kissing you,” Dipper lies. It was one of the first thoughts in his mind, he wants to touch Bill’s human face again. “You disgust me.”

He’s done lying to his family, but he’s still going to with Bill. He’s a demon, he lies all the time. It’s only fair. Good warning, though. Dipper will get some mouthwash for Bill first. Bill’s human body is a metaphor. It’s the closest representation of this… thing possible, so the nausea showing up in it makes sense.

Bill's body shows- it represents-

Dipper realizes.

He wishes he hadn’t.

He’s terrified. He’s so glad. He’s- he’s not sure what to do.

He knows he's right. It’s a complete confirmation of his suspicion that Bill likes him, and it makes him tremble, and feel nervous, and in a weird way, happy.

He must have a very odd expression on his face, because Bill tilts himself to one side, then hovers in closer to push him a little. “What’s going on in there?” asks Bill, eye narrow. “I hate it when you won’t talk, kid.”

A horrible, wonderful, awful realization.

Dipper stares at Bill. The demon looks at him, interested, but confused. “Speak up, Pine Tree, this isn’t entertaining.”

If Bill feels like he needs to puke in the Mindscape, that transfers to the body. That form also doesn’t work like a normal human’s would, because it doesn’t have to. Bill doesn't have a lot of bodily functions, it's his power that keeps the body moving. He doesn't need real organs. It's an illusion, a representation of something unknowable. It doesn’t need most things, it doesn’t behave like it’s supposed to, it’s fucked up and weird and fake. Bill’s body is a metaphor for something else.

And when Bill’s around Dipper, it has something of a heart.

Dipper has felt it beat, and it’s only for him.

“Let’s do this,” says Dipper, suddenly. He looks down at the intangible contract between them, it’s long and it’s complicated, and he’s hopeful and eager, and he wants Bill back, badly. “Do- do I sign this, or….?”

“Nope! Just a handshake,” says Bill, holding out one of his own, eye half-shut, amused. “That’s how I do things, and then this deal is done.” His hand bursts into flame.

Dipper reaches out- then stops. Bill’s not offering the right one.

He lifts his left hand instead.

He shakes Bill’s hand. The demon laughs, happy and loud, and it burns something into Dipper’s palm, it’s-

It hurts, a lot, it's like something being carved into him, he feels his flesh- Dipper tries to let go but Bill’s still holding on, relentless.

Then the demon lets him go, and Dipper collapses to his knees, grabbing his left hand with his right, feeling the horrible pain on his palm. Bill’s finally managed to injure him because of this.

The deal is done.

Chapter Text

The palm of Dipper’s left hand really hurts. Other than that, Dipper’s fine.

But he’s a little nervous.

Bill can’t hurt him. Usually. He hopes the demon could only do this because of their deal, that it gave him a brief loophole in their bond. Dipper hadn’t thought of that, hadn't thought to argue against it, but now it’s over. They’ve made a bargain, his hand’s injured - it’ll heal, but still - and now he’s just got to live with it.

Just like he’s going to live with Bill.

Bill’s hovering in front of him, uncaring about Dipper’s pain, triangular and weird. “Welp, that’s over! Now,” He glares. “You better hold up your end, kid, or it’ll go bad for you.”

“Wasn’t planning on backing out,” Dipper mumbles. He gets up, slow, keeping his left arm tucked over his stomach, hand loosely opened. “How did you-?” It throbs in pain, it’s awful.

“Part of the deal, kid!” Bill interrupts, he claps a couple of times. “Anyway, time’s a-wasting here. I want that body back.”

The deal is done. The contract’s over. He’s got to get back to reality, to fix Bill’s body, and to- He’s got to explain this to his family, and that’s really going to be fun.

Dipper’s a great illusionist.

He copies the contract in a second, and rolls the whole scroll up into his left hand. It’s not tangible, but Dipper can move it around - and he’s not going to be able to use that one for much else for a while. It’s not solid, so it doesn’t hurt to hold.

Bill objects. “Hey, what’s with that? This is a done deal.” He jabs Dipper in the stomach. “You missed your chance to back out, Pine Tree, you’re in this for good.”

“I know,” Dipper states, walking away. Bill follows him for a bit, before the chain holds him back with a jolt. The demon curses - Dipper sighs. He grudgingly moves back towards Bill, patting him on a corner -“And it is done. But I want a copy anyway.” He’d really rather not explain this out loud.

He glances over - his family’s all clustered near the burnt porch, talking - the Mindscape moves so much slower than reality, and they’ve all moved on to something besides the fight, and its aftermath.

It’s been a long goddamned time.

“Right, I’m leaving-” Dipper starts, but Bill floats closer, fast, right in front of him. Dipper leans back, but only slightly.

The triangle is very close. Dipper looks around- their business is finished, so no traps, there’s nothing Bill’s doing, either, he’s not even talking. That’s strange. No reason not to ask.

“What, you want something?” Cautious, but curious. Hovering there in front of him is a powerful demon, intent on something, and Dipper’s not sure why.

“Ahem,” Bill clears his imaginary throat, one hand fisted and pressed up against himself. “What, not obvious? We’ve been over this before! I’ll see you in a minute, once you’re done fumbling your way through fixing that thing - but I think you know what I want.” He brightens, briefly, and opens his arms wide.

That’s vague, it’s a kind of puzzle, it takes a moment to understand - and then Dipper sighs, completely unsurprised. He lets his arms drop to his sides, looking at Bill with derision. Bill would want that. Why he would in this form is a mystery, but Dipper will figure that out, too, like he has everything else.

“Do you really think I’ll...” He grimaces, drawing his unharmed hand through his hair. Bill absolutely does think he will. His familiar wants a goodbye kiss, and Dipper’s not giving him one. He isn’t going to be gone very long. And… for fuck’s sake, Bill doesn’t even have a mouth, where’s he supposed to do it?

Dipper holds his hand up in front of him. “Bill, I’m not gonna kiss you when you’re like this. I’m not that messed up.”

“Yeah you are!” Bill’s lower eyelid is turned up in amusement. One of his arms wraps around Dipper’s back. “Now bring it on. It’s a lot slower here, it’s gonna be a while for me,” Bill pulls himself close, almost pressing himself against Dipper’s face. “Go for it, you know you wanna.”

Dipper watches Bill for a while as his familiar hovers in front of him, glowing, and his lips aren’t prepped for kissing, they’re drawn tight with annoyance. Really, though, he brought this on himself. Dipper knows what Bill is, what he’s like, and Dipper still chose a deal, instead of abandoning him.

Dipper is insane.

Okay, he had thought about… what Bill’s asking for would be like. In an idle way. Dipper’s always curious. The idea was entirely involuntary, but now Bill’s had a similar one, and he’s going to be an asshole until -

Dipper sighs, once, feeling fed up, and exhausted, and still stupidly curious. Fuck it. It’s easiest to give in, and indulge Bill’s weird request for a second.

Giving in, and leaning in, he presses his lips to Bill - just on one of his edges, very briefly. It’s… odd, but mostly like warm metal. Not bad, maybe a little tingly, but it’s more bland than anything. Kind of boring.

Though when Dipper pulls away-

“What, no tongue?” asks Bill, glowing brighter, almost laughing. The arm around Dipper tries to drag him in again. He taps a finger against Dipper’s nose. “Show a little more enthusiasm!”

Dipper lets out a low, grunting sound of annoyance. Shoving Bill with his good hand manages to move the demon away, and the arm slips off his back. Why would Bill put that thought in his head? Jackass, saying that - probably knew it would - well, Bill can forget it. Dipper’s drawing the freaking line at licking this thing.

“Goodbye, and I hate you.” Dipper turns and heads over to his nearly motionless family. He’s too tired, it’s been a rough day, and it’s not going to get any easier.

Behind him, Bill whines. “Aw, but when are you going to get another chance?” This triangle jerk. Dipper ignores Bill’s complaints, and lets reality fade back in around him. Bill’s voice trails off as he leaves the Mindscape.

Dipper stalks away as the greyscale fades, towards his family, illusionary contract clasped in one hand. As the last of the realm disappears around him, he’s standing next to Stan and Mabel, they’re standing by the porch and Ford is pacing across from them-

Ford spots him first. “Dipper!” He shouts, leaning back in surprise. Stan startles as he turns his head, Mabel spins around, eager.

Ford immediately confronts him, charging forward. “Dipper, where have you been?” He’s terribly confused, and gestures over Dipper, eyes wide. “It’s been almost a whole day! Where did you go?”

Has it? Dipper glances upward - the sun’s in a totally different position, it’s almost evening - Wow, he really has been discussing this for a long time. And… Dipper never mentioned he could go into the Mindscape.

Ford keeps questioning. “What happened?” He looks around, agitated, straight-backed and tense with worry. He can’t see where Dipper came from. “That was- how-?”

Mabel’s confused as well, but just shrugs. She smiles, a bit, she's seen him do the vanishing act before. She waves at Dipper, and he returns it, weakly. He doesn't know if she mentioned that while everyone was talking or not, but he's betting on the latter.

Next to her, Stan - is disgruntled, arms crossed. He’s still done with everything. Too much weird, too fast. Where Ford wants to figure things out, Stan’s just going to deal with whatever happens, as it happens. He sighs, head tilted slightly back. “Good to see you in one piece,” He grumbles, and wipes a hand down his face. “Say something before you take off next time.”

As far as his family knows, he just disappeared. Gone, completely, blinking out from the world in front of them, and not returning. For almost an entire day.

...That discussion took longer than Dipper thought.

When he thinks about it, he’s terribly hungry, and thirsty, and aching from standing so long - The Mindscape is slow, if they’ve been waiting a long time, it’s been a lot longer for Dipper, and now that he’s not arguing with Bill and distracted, he notices that he feels terrible.

Hungry, incredibly so, but he desperately needs to get some water, his mouth is terribly dry and his tongue feels sticky with dehydration. “Okay, I’ll be back in a second, just-” He squirms. Everyone’s looking at him. “Take a look at this, it’s important. I’ll be back.”

He unrolls the illusion of the contract, smacks it up to stick against the wall, and leaves it there for them to read. They should know what just went down. Dipper runs inside, despite the protests behind him - god, more than anything he’s thirsty.

They must focus on the contract, because nobody follows.

He rinses off his face, drinks water until he feels almost sick, he’s been talking for so long his throat hurts, bad. Keeping up the contract illusion doesn’t take much, but he’s got something of a headache and it's hard to think.

His deal must be a pretty interesting thing to read, because nobody bothers him. At some point Dipper hears Ford shout something really, really vulgar.

Which… means he’s realized what the contract is. It takes a while for it to get to the deal.

Honestly, the whole first bit? Is really stupid. In that it’s almost entirely Bill and him insulting each other.

They had to draw up definitions for themselves to make it binding - Bill is ‘eternal’, and ‘powerful’, Dipper conceded those, but managed to fit in ‘arrogant jerk’ - Bill couldn’t argue with that, he let it slide  -  Dipper’s an ‘ambitious mortal’, and ‘a hot little piece of mind’. There was a lot of argument about that last one, but- anyway, there’s a lot of those terms.

Also, Dipper is not property.

Bill is such a dick. He fought back against that idea harder than anything else, and Dipper’s - he thinks he might have won that. Or came close enough that it doesn’t matter for practical purposes. Bill can believe whatever he likes, Dipper isn’t anyone’s.

Really close call, though.

Dipper should probably have explained this himself, but his family might not have believed him. It sounds too impossible, not if someone didn’t see the details. By now they must have hit the part where things get serious. And boring. Both Bill and Dipper hated it.

There’s a lot of fuss and weird wording about their bond, they are tangled up in each other. They spent a lot of time on that - it gets complicated, and twisted, and strange. Dipper’s got the Mindscape, but Bill’s got the magic. They sort of sorted that out, but it’s more than a little vague. He guesses both of them wanted a little space, a little grey area, so they could do their own things without question. Nothing too dangerous, Dipper’s pretty sure.

Ford continues in the vein of swearing, loud but not quite distinct, before Dipper hears Mabel interrupt him. She’s probably complaining about his language.

Dipper finally wanders back outside-

Ford is frowning, stomping over and looking deeply upset. Dipper winces a little, gives him a weak wave. “Uh, hey.”

“Dipper, this is terrible. You can’t do this! Don’t take any deal,” Ford grasps his arm, looking horrified. It’s like he’s watching Dipper walking into his own grave. “And-” He pauses, and just- his hand stays tight around Dipper’s arm, and his eyes shut for a moment before he opens them again.

Ford actually looks a little despairing. “Do not talk with that creature. This isn’t what he’s actually going to do. He’ll trick you into something else when you talk again, you- You have no idea how much he’ll lie to you.”

Dipper knows exactly how much Bill’s going to lie to him. He’s always going to. But…

Ford hasn’t gone through the whole contract. He’s only reacting to the first parts - he hit ‘don’t hurt my family’ - which Bill - if things were different - would obviously never agree to.

“No, it’s okay,” Dipper says, raising his hands in protest. “Look, you’ve got to read the whole thing, it’s-” Not perfect, but reasonable. “It’s an okay deal.”

Ford groans, grimacing. His face creases up with desperation, almost pleading. “Dipper, listen. There’s no such thing as a fair deal with a demon, and Cipher would never accept this - he’ll change the rules, and trick you into something horrible.”

Dipper had to give up some things, sure, but most of the bigger concessions are on Bill’s part. He was in a terrible position to bargain. The demon’s stuck, he hates it, he wanted a way out. Dipper used that as hard as he could.

And - besides his problem - Dipper feels a little burst of embarrassed pleasure, he smiles - there’s something else. Without knowing that? This contract could seem impossible, but Bill Cipher did do this.

Bill likes Dipper.

Dipper’s even felt it, inside an illusionary chest. It’s involuntary, it’s the one, single thing Bill can’t lie about, not if Dipper can touch him, and feel it. That body’s a representation of what he truly is, and Bill can’t stop being himself, no more than Dipper can stop or start his own heart.

Ford knows a lot. He knows a ton! But he doesn’t know everything. Ford doesn’t believe that this deal would fly with Bill. Dipper is absolutely certain that’s not right.

It already did.

“Ford,” says Dipper, hesitant. He looks up at his uncle, feeling nervous, but certain. Ford looks back at him, incredibly concerned, but Dipper has to explain. It feels really weird to say. “You’re completely wrong.”

He really, really can’t blame Ford for being worried. Dipper knows how dangerous Bill could be. How dangerous Bill is. Bill’s with him now, and he will be for always… and- Ford is going to hate that.

Which is another reason Bill liked it.

Ford’s mildly surprised, but not upset, he starts to ask-

Dipper firms his shoulders and speaks before his uncle can. “Cipher already took this deal. And it’s a good one.” He stands, hands clenched tightly, determined. Bill is so good at covering up how he’s feeling but he looked disappointed - though he was, uh, a bit harder to read than usual- “I know you think it’s not, but- just look at it.”

Ford’s great, Dipper loves him, respects him- But he doesn’t know Bill as well as Dipper does.

Ford and Dipper have had totally different experiences with that demon - Bill was tricking Ford from the start, he lied and coerced and convinced - but Bill hid himself Ford for almost the entire time they knew each other.

He couldn’t do that with Dipper.

Bill admitted what he was too soon, tauntingly, before he realized he couldn’t kill this one small mortal. Dipper’s always known what’s up, and he’s stayed alert ever since. He might stumble sometimes, but he catches on quick. Bill can’t fool him, not for long. He handled this.

For a second, Ford simply looks shocked. Then he shakes his head, at a completely loss, not certain what to say. Dipper’s not sure how to continue, either, and shuffles in place, awkward.

Dipper and Ford have been talking. Stan has been ignoring them, his hand clasped over his mouth, standing over the intangible contract where it drapes down the wall, and sprawls across the grass.

He didn’t get distracted by the concept of a demonic deal. He’s used to dealing with laws, and contracts - mostly because he needs to avoid them, but he’s got experience - and he’s reading over the rules.

Stan’s eyes widen suddenly, he backs away a few steps, and stares at Dipper.

“Holy moly, I did not ever need to know that,” Stan says holding up his hands. He clasps one over his eyes. “You haven’t actually gone through with-” He grimaces, not sure how to continue. “You shouldn’t sell your…” Stan is about as awkward looking as Dipper’s ever seen, glancing at him, then away again.

Dipper cringes. He knows he’s starting to blush. Stan has seen the price.

“Sell his what?” asks Ford, storming closer to the contract, and Stan, and-

And... that’s Dipper’s cue to leave, and go do what he agreed to in the first place. Fix Bill’s body. This is going to happen. They can’t stop him. He’s...  pretty sure there’s some type of consequence for not fulfilling his part of a deal, anyway.

Dipper starts jogging back towards Bill’s corpse-

Mabel follows, catching him by his hurt hand’s wrist. Dipper glances at her, flinching with slight pain, and stops in place. His sister stares at him.

“Dipper…” She watches him, expression serious. Her hand tightens around his arm, ow, she doesn’t know his hand is hurt, but it’s squeezing, just a little, and it’s not pleasant. She almost says something, then stops. Her face twists as she thinks of something to say, but none of it looks like she’s thinking of something positive.

Dipper feels his heart sink.

He wants both of his uncles to like him. But he can live with Stan disapproving. He can live with Ford being upset, too, though that will be way harder, and more painful.

But if his sister turns away from him, because of the deal he made?

Then it wasn’t worth it.

Dipper may have just fucked up. In the worst way possible. He hugs himself, with his free arm, suddenly full of tension. “...Yeah?”

Mabel hesitates, looking weird. “I… yeah, I didn’t follow all of the stuff in that paper-” She glances back as Ford starts swearing, again. Stan just explained the price, has leaned away slightly from his brother’s sudden, astonished anger-

“I know you like Bill, but…” She looks sympathetic. “He’s dead? I think that-” She pauses, briefly glancing at the body, then cringing away. “You couldn’t really keep that around.”

Dipper relaxes.

She’s not upset that Dipper made this deal. She’s worried about him. Not because he dealt with a demon, but because she thinks he’s not going to get - Fine. He’s done lying to himself. No mental quotes -

...His boyfriend back.

Mabel would be okay with this. She trusts him. She just doesn’t want to see him hurt.

Definitely the best sister ever.

She knew he liked Bill before Dipper did, saw it from the beginning. Maybe she thinks he’s mad with grief, taking a contract to get something close to Bill, won’t get the real thing, but. That’s not the case. It’s… a little weirder than that.

“No, Bill- Uh,” Dipper glances back at Bill. That’s some pretty serious damage, and it’s not nice to look at. “I just have to fix it.”

“What?” Mabel’s confused again, doesn’t know about Dipper’s other talent. “How are you going to fix that?” She looks incredulous, gestures at the body - but doesn’t look at it, she’s more squeamish than Dipper.

An exploded head is irreparable, normally. Because it’s...a little bit extremely fatal. If this wasn’t such a fucked up spell situation - Dipper grips her shoulder gently with his good hand, and smiles.

“Bill’s immortal. He’s not dead, not really.” This… is going to be weird, and difficult, but- fascinating. Life magic isn’t something he’s going to get to use often, not with it making his familiar sick. “It’ll be okay.”

He flicks his eyes over to his uncles. Ford’s mostly stunned, and gesturing at the contract and spluttering, Stan just looks completely done with things again, hand over his face. Dipper doesn’t have much time before things get complicated, before someone tries to interfere.

“Sorry. I need to do this.” Dipper pulls away from his sister - she looks at him with worry - and walks over to kneel next to the corpse.

He’s getting Bill.

This time, he’s doing it on purpose.

It makes him uncomfortable, even a little grossed out, but now he needs to- Dipper slides a hand up the shirt, hand pressing against still-warm flesh.

There’s power still in the body, sustaining what’s left- Would Bill just stay warm forever, if he left him like this? That’s creepy as hell. Dipper shuts his eyes. This is going to be disgusting. For both him, and his familiar. He doesn’t want to watch.

This isn't like how Bill manifested. This is a different story altogether. This is a healing, not a summoning, or an illusion, it’s so much more complicated. He’s not sure, how, exactly, to do this, but-

Bill thought he could do it. His familiar didn’t even call it into question, or mock him, or doubt him in the slightest. That almost never happens. Dipper will come up with something. Bill, in a weird way, trusted that he would. As the first trickle of magic pours into the shattered body in front of him, Dipper sees-

Yep, Bill was right. He’s usually right - about more than just magic - though Dipper’s not ever this happy about it.

This is easy.

Only under a very specific set of circumstances, the one he and his familiar are in - but it is. Fixing this is both simple, and difficult.

Dipper made this before, without even trying. It’s like there are blueprints for it, still tied to his own blood, ready and waiting to be restored. He has to take a roundabout way to do life magic, and there’s a lot of wasted energy. Still not usually possible, this is some serious damage, it’s going to take so much power, more than he would ever have by himself.

But so what if Dipper needs a lot of power? He’s got that in spades at the moment. Whenever Bill cooperates, Dipper can do so much, and Bill probably knows that, he saw potential in him, even said as much.

Dipper can do this.

He still keeps his eyes closed, because it’s going to look... pretty bad. He ducks his head, and starts his work in earnest. Everyone else reacts, a couple of startled comments, one shout - it’s a ton of magic, it’s like a signal flare -

There’s a sound like someone pulling their boot out of deep mud. A loud, extended kind sort of ‘schlorp’ noise, backgrounded by disturbing, occasional clicking, and a few soft snapping sounds.

Dipper winces, but keeps it up anyway, frowning with disgust at the noise. He’s very glad he decided not to look at this.

He keeps it up until- Dipper’s cut off, again, he couldn’t continue even if he wanted. A strong hand grabs him around the forearm. He startles at the grip, and opens his eyes.

Bill’s lying there, face whole again, bare, and blinking at him, and immediately he pries Dipper’s hand off his chest, and sits up.

Dipper did it, it worked, Bill is here and he's alive, and moving, and look at how well Dipper made that face. It's so good to look at.

He straightens his back proudly. He managed something otherwise impossible, he feels triumphant, and powerful-

And Bill was being truthful about how life magic makes him feel, because almost instantly after his familiar sits up, he lets go of Dipper’s hand, turns away, and leans over. His torso shudders in a series of heaves. He’s struggling to not throw up. Dipper hears him swear a bunch of times, though some of them get cut off as Bill shuts his mouth, and hisses through his teeth, beating a fist against the ground.

Dipper- he almost pats Bill on the back - No. He knows better. Sympathy might actually make Bill puke. He gets up instead.

Dipper’s not sure if Bill actually cares if his - if he’s exposed like this, but it’s worth a shot, and that- yeah, looking for Bill’s eyepatch should be a priority.

Finding it isn’t difficult - it’s only a few yards away, black against the grass - a bit bloody, but Bill won’t mind - Dipper walks back over, dangles it in front of his familiar’s face, standing next to him. He speaks, a little awkward. “Uh, here’s your- You want it?”

Bill snatches it from his hand, holds back another heave. “-k you.” Bill puts it back on, breathes out a long groan. That might be a ‘thank you’, or a ‘fuck you’. It’s too garbled to know, but more likely it’s the second.

His familiar recovers quickly, sighing as his fake organs stop seizing up. “Why,” asks Bill, still sounding a little sick, sitting up straighter. “Are you such. A pain. In the ass.” He stumbles upright, shaking himself, and turns towards Dipper, glaring.

Dipper stares at that restored face. It’s evil, and he hates it, and it’s sneering, and attractive.

Bill’s single gold eye is bright, and actually there, not a mess on the ground - “You had no idea what you were doing, could you be more incompetent? Get something right for once, and stop sucking at everything.” He shakes his head, shifting in place, eye shutting as he leans forward, tight with discomfort.

He’s a little unsteady, and looking less than happy, but he’s let Dipper back into his magic. He’s only complaining because he’s feeling bad, he’s not completely angry.

It’s so relieving to hear Bill insulting him. It feels good, that things are Dipper’s twisted version of normal again, that there’s his demon around, one who’s always a problem to solve, a challenge, interesting and weird, and - and… well. Dipper’s not lying to himself anymore, either.

Man, Dipper is fucked up.

Oh well. Too late to change it. Fine, he likes Bill. It grew in him like an infection, and he also likes their arguments.

Already Dipper’s come up with half a dozen reasons Bill is both wrong, and stupid, for saying what he just did. Dipper can absolutely win that one - after all, wasn’t Bill trapped? Wasn’t this better? - But Bill will have so many responses, he’s got to think of more stuff, he’ll be countered if he can’t come up with something really good.

“What, no 'thank you'?” Says Dipper, moving in closer and giving Bill a little shove - Bill’s still a bit unsteady, he moves away, just a pace. His familiar pushes him back, glaring. “I took pity on you, Bill, be grateful.” Dipper grins. That’ll get to him.

Bill straightens up, deeply offended, mouth open. He gapes for a second, then he smirks, narrows his eye. “You live in Egypt, kid?,” He grabs onto Dipper’s shirt. “Because you’re constantly in denial. What you really wanted is power, and you’d never have any without me.”

Shit. Dipper doesn’t have a retort for that, it’s not the whole story, but it’s not wrong- He needs a response-

The demon surprised Dipper like this once, and this is sweet, justified payback. Dipper shrugs, moves in close, and tucks a hand around the back of his familiar’s neck.

“Bill?” The demon raises an eyebrow, intrigued- “I’m going to kiss you.”

Bill frowns in confusion. “What? You-” But he gets silenced as Dipper almost mashes his face against Bill’s, he’s only able to make a soft hum of protest.

Take that, bastard.

Only this time, unlike Dipper during their first, unexpected kiss, Bill responds easily, and- Dipper’s really glad to have Bill again, he never thought he’d feel that way, but he does, because Bill’s all about insanity, and he might not be able to change Dipper’s thoughts directly, but he’s done it anyway, just by being himself.

Dipper moves one of his legs behind Bill’s, pulls his mouth back, and pushes forward with his uninjured hand. Bill trips backwards, startled, cursing as he falls, but now he’s on the ground, leaning up on his elbows and blinking in confusion, and Dipper smirks, and drops down to follow.

He kneels between his demon’s legs, kissing him again, and feels Bill tense- then sort of shrug and relax, running a hand through Dipper’s hair, angling his head slightly, making things better.

This is Bill, he was almost gone, Dipper could have left him, maybe should have left him, but he didn’t because he’s a complete idiot, just like Bill always says, and brought this body back. But it’s so warm next to him, and - he checks, pressing his good hand against Bill’s chest -

Hell yes.

There’s the beating of the heart, not terribly fast, but present, and Bill’s tongue is sweeping over his own, Bill’s hands are sliding up under his shirt, over the bare skin of his back, nails raking down it. Dipper strokes his own hand downward-

A torrent of cold water runs over both of them.

Dipper yanks himself away, splutters - he has to cough out a little, and even snort some from his nose - Bill’s in no better of a position. He chokes, and spits, shaking his head and looking furious. The water eventually ends, but they’re both soaked, and cold. Bill starts being incredibly sulky, he’s not going to cooperate now, the mood’s completely ruined.

What. The. Hell. How did that- Oh.

Damn it, shit, and- and other curses, ones that Bill’s used. Dipper got carried away.

He stumbles to get up, wiping water off his face, feeling deeply, hugely embarrassed. Bill sits where he is, sulking, still not at one hundred percent yet. Dipper clears his throat, and- screw it, his family knows about the fire by now, he sets himself on it, just gently, to dry himself out.

As the steam rises, he turns to look at his sister.

Mabel is staring at them, one eyebrow raised. She’s the one that doused them, trying to get their attention. Stan’s behind her, looking exhausted, one hand on his hip, the other rubbing at his eyes.

Ford is still by the porch. He looks - his expression keeps changing between fury, and despair, and complete confusion. He’s trying to process, and having a ton of trouble, he’s clapped a hand to his head.

Dipper stops the fire - he’s dry now. He knows what’s giving Ford so much trouble. A deal? A reasonable deal? With Cipher, that shouldn’t be possible, resurrecting him shouldn’t have been possible, and the kissing - but if Cipher couldn’t have changed Dipper’s mind, why is Dipper doing it, how has he been fooled?

Ford has so many questions, and zero answers. It’s- its like his mind has crashed, now he’s just frozen.

He glances over at his other uncle. Stan’s unimpressed. Nothing happened to destroy the family, or the Shack, so- Dipper, resurrecting, tackling, and making out with a known demon? He sees weird stuff all the time, even makes some, this almost par for the course. Stan, unlike his brother, hasn’t shorted out.

But he’s absolutely. Not. Happy.

Dipper looks at his sister for help, smiling weakly - Next to him, Bill gets up, shaking himself. A few drops of water hit Dipper as Bill mutters and imitates his fire act. But Mabel holds her hands up helplessly, then lets them drop, limp. She’s extremely surprised to see Bill up and about again, and at a loss of what to do. Also, she doesn’t see Stan’s expression as it slowly darkens.

Dipper shifts in place - Stan read that whole thing, and he doesn’t like it. It’s not a perfect deal, but-

Uh oh.

Did Dipper-

He clenches his left hand, suddenly very, very worried. The pain was lessening, but it burns as he tightens his grip. Bill’s never been able to do something like this before, Dipper was so eager to get it over with he didn’t review their terms again. What if he’s not- Could Bill- What has Stan seen that Dipper hasn’t?

Dipper may or may not have made a huge, and terrible mistake.

Stan stalks over towards Dipper and Bill - no, just to Bill, the demon flips him off, one eyebrow raised - and gets right up in the demon’s space, glaring. Stan’s never been afraid of Bill, and he still isn’t. Whether that’s wise or not is up for debate.

“You really went through with that contract, didn’t you,” Stan says, shaking his head, slow, brow furrowed. “Did you even ask properly? I bet you didn’t, I knew you were a creep.” He sighs, disgusted. “Freakin’ demons.”

Bill’s annoyed, looking at Stan with distaste. He doesn’t attack, though. He just stares, and hell, the fire he was using to dry himself goes out. Bill takes another second. Then he looks away, nonchalant.

Stan helped with this body’s destruction, Stan’s even confronting his familiar. Bill should want revenge, but he’s not trying for any. He's being - not calm, he's bothered, but complacent, in a way. He can't do anything to Stan, not under their terms.

Dipper managed to protect his family.

Whatever happens to Dipper, whether or not Bill can now - at least Dipper did that. It’s not comforting, he's still worried, but it makes him feel a little proud.

Bill snorts. “Hey, sapling over there agreed to everything.” He dismisses Stan with a sharp wave. “Who cares if you don’t like it?”

Dipper cares! He wants Stan to be okay with this, though he knows it’s- it’s messed up. But Stan read through everything, and there is something wrong, something Dipper missed, and he needs to know-

“I’ve been taking care of Dipper for a long time, he’s lived here for a while,” Stan points a finger at Bill, accusatory. “I got one question for you, Bill Cipher,” He glances at Dipper, then turns back to Bill, lifting his chin. “Where’s the dowry?”

Dipper stares, a little stunned.

Bill actually- he tilts his head, lips pursing, starting to hum a little in thought. He’s considering it. He's old, something like that would seem normal to him, for a-

Oh god.

This freaking- this asshole, this-

Dipper should have seen it coming. He knew Bill was good at this, he knew he'd have to be careful, but he never thought that would be how Bill would - and - shit, that’s why those parts of that negotiation got so complex, wasn’t it. It was so Bill could take something else, a little bonus on top of everything.

His left palm still burns. Dipper hasn’t looked at it yet. No wonder Ford’s dazed, Stan caught this where Dipper didn’t, and explained - He hears a slowly growing gasp from Mabel, her eyes wide, hands clapped to her cheeks as she catches on.

Bill’s not Dipper’s boyfriend, he’s never been. That relationship was always fake. Then his familiar found an interesting opportunity, a way to take something else during a deal - and keep Dipper for himself, while he was at it - and decided, who needs that stage? They could skip straight to the point.

Dipper groans, and leans over a bit, facepalming. He’s not even surprised. Nearby, Mabel starts making high-pitched noises.

God forbid Bill be rational, or not lie, or ever tell Dipper what’s really going on. This probably mostly appealed to Bill in that Dipper was falling facefirst into it, oblivious. Bill’s a total jerk, and a conniving, lying demon bastard.

And now he’s Dipper’s fucking husband.

Chapter Text

It’s been one hell of a time, but there's been one small mercy.

One beautiful, glorious day of relative peace.

Everyone had to adjust, either in shock, or plotting, or upset - and even Bill was calm-ish, or at least quiet, still feeling sick from his body’s resurrection.

It couldn’t last.

Things went to hell again, but unlike everyone else - for once - Dipper is calm.

He was frustrated, he was tired, he had a lot he needed to do - but he’s so used to things changing up on him rapidly that the new stuff couldn’t faze him. If things devolved too quickly, he would have intervened, but it was controllable, no complete disasters in sight.

So you know what?

Dipper decided to take a freaking break, since damn it, he deserves one, after everything.

He’s ignored the chaos slowly erupting around him over… however long it’s been. It’s difficult to keep track of time when there isn’t a rest to mark the days.

He showered, and ate. Got caught up on some reading he meant to do, and ignored the sounds of magical weapons, and the shouting, used his bond to sense and avoid Bill - well, and avoided Mabel, too, he’s not sure what to do about her issue yet.

But he can’t ignore it forever, and he wants to move on. There’s stuff to sort out, and Dipper’s got to be the one to handle it, as the only rational person left. And even that’s debatable.

This is the first step.

It’s late evening on the lawn, and Dipper has his hands shoved in his pockets, clenched tight into fists. This is difficult. But he meets Ford’s worried gaze, determined.

Dipper takes a deep breath.

“Ford, please stop trying to murder my-” He searches for a word- “...demon.”

Bill’s a lot closer to him than that, though Ford won’t want to hear it out loud. Dipper can’t change that fact, and neither can his uncle. Ford is completely opposed to this, and Dipper can’t blame him.

The attempts have been - well. Stan has complained a bit, there’s been a bunch of collateral damage. Bill’s entertained by Ford being riled, and still smug... but he also doesn’t want his head blown off again. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t like it.

Too bad for Bill, there’s no good way for him to stop Ford. The familiar can’t hurt Dipper’s family. Not physically, or through his mind realm  - for everything else, the terms are more vague. Dipper can’t stop him from being an asshole.

Bill. That stupid goddamned demon. That tricky, lying bastard. That- extremely terrible excuse for a spouse, in whatever way they are husbands, the contract’s not exactly…. human legal, but it’s binding.

Dipper knew he should have nailed down the language. Though to be fair, he was so tired, and bored, and who would have thought Bill would ever want that type of thing, anyway? They haven’t had a chance to really argue about it, due to… this situation.

His uncle rubs at his forehead, sighing. “Dipper, he’s incredibly dangerous,” Ford reminds him, face creased with worry. “He won’t-”

“Nope,” Dipper states. “I said I’m keeping him.” He closes his eyes tight and takes a steadying breath, then looks at his great uncle. “I’d have to bring Bill back. There’s no point.” Dipper insists, holding his hands up imploringly.

“Still-” Ford’s not convinced, frowning, but Dipper interrupts.

This is a pain, too.

“I like him, ” Dipper mutters, leans his head back, and looks away. He’s resigned to that fact now. His brows draw together with annoyance as he stuffs his hands back in his pockets. “You can’t change my mind.” Even a freaking demon can’t do it, Ford- comes closer, but he’s not capable of it either.

“Besides,” Dipper gives a weak, pained smile. “The best way to really get rid of him would be-” Dipper draws a finger across his neck, tense. He doesn’t want to say it out loud.

Ford winces a little, expression tight with worry.

He hates Bill, but that’s a step he’ll never take. Dipper had worried, once- but he was delightfully, wonderfully wrong. Ford cares about him, deeply, which is exactly why he wants Bill dead again.

“I can handle him, really,” insists Dipper, holding up a hand to interrupt before Ford can do more than open his mouth. “Everything’s under control.”

There’s a sudden shattering of glass, and some cursing.

Ford turns to look, startled, Dipper doesn’t flinch, though he does glance over briefly- a chair tumbles across the grass, ending up lying on its side. Stan and Bill are finally bartering, and it’s going… interestingly. Dipper’s not sure which one of them broke the window - most likely Bill. Something must have gone wrong for him.

“Everything is about as under control as it’s ever going to be,” amends Dipper, shrugging off the interruption.

Ford looks at him, and sighs, looking tired. “That was one hell of a deal, I admit. Impressive as any I’ve seen, and it even seems to work,” Bill hasn’t retaliated, Ford’s noticed that - he still looks pained. “But...” He trails off

Dipper’s great uncle is trying to wrap his head around this, trying to accept its reality, but it’s upsetting him too much for him to process. And Ford’s right to be worried. Bill can still hurt people. Just not the Pines. It was the best deal Dipper could get.

Ford’ll never accept that this relationship is, in a twisted way - romant- Dipper can’t finish thinking that word, it weirds him out- Dipper squeezes his eyes shut tight. He always has ideas, and Ford… needs another way to look at this.  

He snaps his fingers once, still in his pockets. That could do the trick.

“Listen, this is good. He won’t be able to mess with people’s heads anywhere near as much as if he were in the Mindscape all the time.” Dipper draws himself up, trying to seem certain, and confident.

Ford starts looking at him intently, hand on his chin. “This… is an improvement over Cipher’s usual,” Ford admits, slow, still thinking. “Less mental damage to people, overall, but-”

Got it. Dipper keeps talking.

“Yeah, and - he can’t take over anything here, not as long as I’m alive. He can’t even be summoned by anyone.“ Dipper smiles weakly, “And if Bill tries something? I can stop him.” If he catches it. Dipper is pretty sure he’s not going to catch every single one. Probably the worst ones, maybe not the least. “I’ve trapped him. Bill’s my-” He searches for a word again. “Responsibility. It’s not perfect, but… I can do this.”

Ford doesn’t know how badly Bill is trapped, or he’d probably go behind Dipper’s back, and destroy Bill anyway. Not knowing that? Means Dipper gets to keep him. This view of things isn’t perfect either, but it’s all true.

Ford frowns. He isn’t entirely happy, but he starts looking a lot more like his confident self, back straight. His eyes glance around as he thinks, tapping a foot on the ground.

He takes several long moments, silent.

“Not demon hunting…” Ford thinks a little harder, frowning hard. He’s adjusting, slowly. “More like demon wrangling,” One eyebrow raises, curious, he looks at Dipper with some of the worry fading from his face. “Interesting approach, but… possibly effective. It’s one hell of a job to take on. Cipher’s always going to be trouble, you’d be busy all the time. It’d be... extremely difficult,” says Ford, carefully.

Dipper knows that, it is going to be difficult. He feels worried, then-  Ford clasps him on the shoulder, nodding.

He relaxes.

“Cipher’s intelligent, and one hell of a liar,” Ford frowns at the last part, still concerned. He gives Dipper’s shoulder a gentle squeeze. “You’ll need to be careful, but- You know, if you can make that deal? I think you can handle him,”  Ford smiles. “Keep up the good work. And if you ever need him taken down,” Ford glares over in the direction of the ongoing haggling, distant in the background. “I’ll be there anytime.”

Dipper feels so much better now. Finally, Ford’s less murderous, and stuff can stop being destroyed whenever he makes another attempt at the demon’s unnatural life.

Ford sees this as more as a… career than a relationship. In some ways, he’s right. Dipper’s always going to be busy.

Whenever Bill’s in reality, Dipper is going to be constantly on his toes, watching out for his familiar’s other plans. He’s a little scared. He’s a little excited. It’s never going to be boring, and it’s going to be a complete pain in the ass.

Bill, meanwhile, is still arguing with Stan, and Dipper… should probably check that out before there’s more property damage. He turns towards the Shack, then- Hell, Ford and him don’t usually do this, they’re both a little bad with people... Meaning incredibly awkward. But-

Really, how many people does Dipper know who’ll offer to kill someone whenever they want? Besides Bill, who’d do it just because he’d think it was fun.

Screw it. Dipper steps in and gives Ford a hug. Ford starts, surprised, and- slowly returns it, patting him on the back.

They kind of just… stand for a second. Wow, this really is awkward. But still good.

Dipper steps away, clearing his throat. “Well, uh,” He jabs a thumb in the direction of his demon and other uncle. “I guess I got some demon wrangling to do,” When he turns a little, he can see the shattered glass on the ground. Yep, he should definitely get to that.

Ford chuckles slightly. “Let me know how things go,” He grins brightly. “The spell you cast to trap that thing is like nothing I’ve ever seen. I’d like to hear how it works, once you know more.”

“I will!” Ha, that spell was such a mistake. Dipper totally screwed it up, he was winging half of it. He doesn’t remember exactly how he worded things. Not to mention this wouldn’t have happened if Bill wasn’t also a screwup. “Thanks. I gotta go.”

He jogs away from Ford - he feels lighthearted, and good.

This? As close to approval as Dipper’s ever going to get. Those two are absolutely never going to get along.

Dipper will find some way to manage.

The voices become clearer as Dipper heads inside, and he walks slowly - and quietly - closer towards the living room, listening in.

“One’s as high as I can go,” Bill says firmly, calm in the way that Dipper can tell means he’s quietly furious. As if the chair out the window wasn’t sign enough. Bargaining isn’t going well for his demon. “He isn’t worth more.”

“Forty,” Stan replies, just as firm. Dipper’s uncle sounds slightly smug. Already argued Bill up from a much lower price. Stan is good at this.

Dipper peeks into the living room. Bill’s standing, face neutral, while Stan relaxes in the armchair, arms tucked behind his head, eyes closed, looking confident. Bill spots Dipper in an instant, and charges over-

He gives a yelp of protest as he’s dragged into the room, stumbling to follow his familiar as he’s pulled by the arm. Stan opens his eyes, frowning at them. Bill hauls him front of Stan, eye narrowed, thinking of something. Dipper grumbles a little, but tolerates his treatment. This is what his familiar’s always like.

Stan still glares at Bill. “The hell are you doing? That’s gonna cost you more, you treat him like that.”

“Nah, Pine Tree here doesn’t care,” Bill says, pulling up one of Dipper’s arms, drawing it outward. Dipper does care - just not enough to bother at the moment. He rolls his eyes as Bill squeezes his bicep with one hand. “Besides, look! This meatsack is a complete disaster. Probably has all kinds of horrible malfunctions somewhere, and it’s weak! Hideous, too-”

“He’s healthy, got good genetics,” Stan glares, and flexes. He’s old, but he’s got some arms, and Dipper doesn’t have those, but it’s possible he might, with some effort - “And he could buff up!” A brief moment, then he smirks. “Besides, I read that deal. Nice try.”

Bill growls, gaze flicking briefly towards Dipper, but he’s been caught out. “Maybe two.” he allows. Bill lets Dipper’s arm drop, glaring. “The mind’s another problem! The kid’s stupi-” Bill continues, but gets cut off with a huff as Dipper hits him in the chest.

Dipper’s not stupid, and Bill knows it. He’s just trying to downplay everything so he doesn’t have to pay as much. Dipper knows Bill’s selfish, but he’s still annoyed.

“We all know Dipper’s smart,” Stan shakes his head. “Forty,” He waves a hand to cut Bill off before he can respond. “I already dropped it by ten, creep, I ain’t taking less.”

For a long moment, Bill simply stares at Stan, irritated as hell. He gestures over Dipper. “This guy tends to get himself into trouble, I mean, I’m around! Not to mention everything else,” He smirks. “You know he can be a handful.”

Stan mulls that over for a bit, frowning. It’s given him a bit of a pause, he has to take a moment- then he grumbles. “...Thirty-five.”

What, that fast a drop in price? Dipper frowns, leveling an irritated look at his uncle. Maybe Dipper’s been in danger before his familiar showed up, sure, and Stan’s had to bail him out once or twice. But Dipper always pulled through! Nothing was inescapable.

...This thing with him and Bill doesn’t count.

“Three,” Bill retorts rapidly, glaring, but Dipper knows he’s pleased he argued Stan down further. Eventually, they’ll reach a number both aren’t entirely happy with. That’s probably why Stan started at fifty- Fifty...

Dipper stands where he is, glancing between the two of them. They’re haggling in numbers, but he doesn’t know what’s going to change hands here.

“What are you guys-”

“Thirty-four,” declares Stan, leaning back, looking casual, but he’s into this. Bill gave something away earlier, the idiot. Stan’s seen a rich rube walk straight into a barter. Somehow, Bill’s wealthy, and now Stan’s going to bleed every drop from the demon that he can.

“Three and a half,” responds Bill, making a vulgar gesture. He’s not going to give up without a fight. “Think of the education you’ve given him! Do you know how much work I had to do to make him anywhere near reasonable?”

“Thirty-three.” Stan’s not budging much, still confident.

“Four,” Bill says promptly. Dipper arches away as he feel’s Bill’s hand on the small of his back, a finger creeping underneath the waistband of his pants. “That’s incredibly generous of me, you know!” The demon looks a little pleased with himself, smirking and examining his nails. “And I’m only going that high because-”

“Hey, hey, hey!” Stan gets up, frowning, getting right up in Bill’s face. “Hands off the merchandise! We’re not done here yet.”

Really. Merchandise.

Stan’s usually more respectful, but whatever his uncle’s getting from this bargain must be pretty damn good, it’s distracting him. Dipper frowns and takes a step away.

Neither of them seem like they’re going to break anything else- and anyway, they’re both ignoring him. Trying to argue his good and bad points, settling on how much he’s worth.

He’s not going to stand here for them to point things out on like some kind of prop. Dipper’s leaving before Bill starts critiquing - he doesn’t know - his fashion sense, or Stan tries to argue that he’s got good strong teeth or something. Dipper shakes his head, walking off, hearing them barter with each other.

He likes Stan, he’s learned a lot from him, but in this particular instance, he and Bill are both jerks.

Mabel’s upstairs, in her room and - he’s been putting this off for a while, but he’s got to face the music at some point, might as well be now. He steels himself, and heads towards her.

His sister answers the very first knock at the door, throwing it open so wide that it slams against the wall. “You!” She narrows her eyes, pointing a finger at Dipper so fast he takes a step back. “Are you finally gonna talk to me about this?”

“I know, I know,” Dipper heaves a heavy sigh, shutting his eyes. Believing in love, right, she would get worked up about - “I got-” He has to take a couple seconds, because he hasn’t said this out loud before-

Dipper sighs. “I got married.”

And his twin was so excited about that, for a while, then- she started being a lot less so. Pretty sure he knows why that’s the case.

Mabel stalks back into the room, expression serious - Dipper follows her in - then she rounds on Dipper again. “So…” She struggles for a while, looking for what to say.

Dipper waits, patient.

Why didn’t you invite me?” whines Mabel. She stomps one foot on the ground, pouting, looking offended.

Yeah, he was right.

His twin continues. “I wanted to be a bridesmaid, Dipper!” She holds her hands clenched tight and raised in front of her. “Or, I guess,” There wasn’t a bride, she takes a second to think. “Your best man! Wouldn’t I be your best man?” Oh no, she’s started with the wide-eyed, imploring, guilt-inducing look she’s so good at-

“Of course you would,” soothes Dipper, feels a little smile cross his face.

She totally would, if he had an actual wedding, but all they did was argue, it took forever, it wasn’t anything fun, or dramatic. The scenery was monochrome too, so, not even pretty. It’s only a marriage in a strange, demon way. A bonding. Though... more like some extra rules on top of the previous than a new one.

“Mabel, it was seriously boring. We only made a contract. There wasn’t any ceremony, or- a cake or anything. Trust me, you didn’t miss out.”

Saying that just makes his sister gasp. She clutches at her sweater, looking appalled.

“You didn’t? Dipper,” Mabel bounces in front of him. “You have to have something! It’s a celebration of your love!”

Yes. Because there’s so much love involved, in his completely non-horrific relationship.

Dipper looks away so doesn’t have to meet his sister’s eyes. Wow, look at this room, with all its rainbows, and posters, and he’s definitely not avoiding the topic.

Having a wedding is- He didn’t think ever have one, not until he met the right person, and… then maybe he’d have an opinion on the subject?

Apparently he did meet… not the right person, it’s a demon. This wasn’t Dipper’s idea, but he’s trapped, now, just as much as Bill is in that illusionary body. To be honest, Dipper doesn’t care one way or another if someone makes a fuss over his… whatever this is.

Mabel, of course, thinks it’s super important. If she marries Pacifica, that’s going to be the most extravagant event Dipper’s ever seen.

...It’d make Mabel happy, and he’s not actually opposed, but-

“I’m fine with things as they are,” He says, then blinks, and pats Mabel gently on the arm as her face falls. “Yeah, I know. I don’t mind one. But you’d have to ask Bill, and I don’t think demons do that kind of thing.” Dipper finishes, smiling slightly.

Awesome. All the responsibility, foisted off onto his demon.

Plans are great, sure. Wedding planning? Not something Dipper wants to do. If anything gets arranged, Dipper doesn’t want to get involved, not any more than the bare minimum of showing up. Let Bill deal with it. Disappointing his sister isn’t something Dipper likes, but Bill’s enough of an asshole to shoot Mabel’s idea down-

Wait.

Shit.

Dipper really hopes Bill does shoot it down, because otherwise-

Bill. And Mabel. Working together.

Their aesthetics are totally different. Bill’s all about blood, and conquering, and Mabel’s all about rainbows, and romance - but they’re united in their love of a kind of cheerful chaos that Dipper completely doesn’t understand. Anything those two got up to would be...

Nevermind. Ceremonies that don’t involve human sacrifice won’t interest Bill. There’s no danger.

It takes a moment, but Mabel nods, sighing heavily. “Yeah, okay,” She glances down at Dipper’s side, frowning. “Couldn’t he at least get you some bling?”

Part of coping with Bill is dealing with his - to put it lightly - eccentricities. Dipper lifts his left hand, and opens it, showing her, lowering his head.

“I also think demons don’t do rings.” He mutters. There’s ...something. It’s untraditional, and it still hurts a little.

On his left palm, staring out from Dipper’s hand, drawn in lines of bright gold - is a picture of Bill. Real Bill, triangle with a top hat. Maybe it’s even real gold. Dipper’s not about to take a sample to check, it still stings, a lot, and this is deep in his flesh. It’s magic, in some way, or he wouldn’t be able to use his hand.

Mabel cocks her head to one side, looking at it admiringly. “That’s weird. And neat! But, uh,” She hesitates, squinting at the picture. “What is that?”

Right, she doesn’t know what Bill really looks like, and this is what Dipper’s been- uh… He shuts his hand. Change of subject.

Dipper nudges his sister, smirking. “So, when do you think you and Pacifica-”

She giggles suddenly, blushing. “Aw, c’mon. We’re not-” She punches him very gently on the arm, pink with embarrassment, and changes the subject herself. “Never thought you’d be the first one to get hitched, bro.”

“Neither did I,” agrees Dipper. He rubs at his palm.

He’s still not happy he didn’t see this coming. Really, he’s more upset with himself than Bill. His demon’s never going to tell him everything, even on the rare occasions he’s being honest. Besides, Dipper already knew they were going to be with each other for life, that they were going to be exclusive. There was a contract right in front of him, if Dipper had been paying more attention, something would have tipped him off.

In retrospect, the ‘til death do us part’ bit alone should have been a dead giveaway.

“Hey,” Mabel smiles at him, then her expression turns a little concerned.“You’re happy though, right?”

Dipper takes a second to think.

Is he happy?

He’s not certain how he should feel, but what he does know is that’s he’s... Calm. Okay with things, and he even likes Bill, as frustrating and terrible as his familiar can be.

This is one of the weirdest things he’s ever heard of and he’s right in the middle of it. How is anyone supposed to feel about this?

“Yeah,” It takes him a while to admit it. “I guess I am.” Fine. Despite everything, he likes what he’s gotten himself into. Because it’s interesting, because this is so unexpected and strange even someone as infinitely old as his husb- familiar didn’t know how this would work. Because he’s insane.

Dipper continues, rubbing at the back of his neck. “I’m just not…” The words trail off as he thinks. What lies in his future is a complete mystery to him. “This is going to be weird.”

“Aw, you two’ll work it out,” Mabel’s grinning. She gives him a double thumbs up, and winks. “You’ll be fine! And if you ever need help, I gotcha, bro.”

She really does. It makes Dipper smile again. He’ll need it, too, since Bill is so hard to deal with. If Mabel can spot what he was from the start, she’s observant enough that Dipper will always have an extra eye on things, when his familiar tries something. Things are good. Sort of. Still a pain, though.

“Mabel,” Dipper hugs her, she returns it without hesitation. “You’re awesome.”

“Heck yeah I am!” She giggles, and slaps him heartily on the back.

Dipper pulls away, taking in a deep, slow breath. Bill’s still downstairs - he can feel it, the pull inside his chest - and -

Backing off, Dipper gives her a grin. “You can talk with Bill later, he’s busy, and I’m-” He’s so tired, and it’s been one rough couple of days. “I’m gonna lie down for a bit.”

Mabel gives him a weak smile. “No sleep, right?” Worst part of all of this, by far. Dipper nods. “Is that okay?”

“Okay,” mumbles Dipper. “I’m fine.”

He’s not really fine, he’s only edging close to it. But he’s alive, and that’s more than he could ever ask for, considering what he got himself into.

Mabel’s got something brewing in her head, she’s trying to think of something romantic, something to convince Bill - Dipper lets her be. Not getting involved in that.

He mumbles a goodbye and turns away, heading to his room. Their room, maybe, he doesn’t know how things with Stan and Bill are working out. He doesn’t know how a lot of this is going to work out.

Collapsing on the bed, Dipper shoves a pillow under his face. He grabs another, pulls it over his head, and groans.

How did he get into this?

Okay, Dipper knows how he got into this. But.

Now he’s got to do…

Something. He hasn’t got a clue.

For so long, Dipper’s always had a goal to aim for. Hiding Bill, at first. Then learning to control his new power, trying to take back the curse, learning from his demon, and hiding Bill again, so Ford wouldn’t - well, the last one didn’t work out, but he tried.

Everything’s out in the open - for his family, at the moment - and Dipper’s not sure where his life is going. He’d never been certain before either, but with Bill, it’s so much more complicated.

He was trying to be normal. Or look normal, at least.

Be normal, maybe one day, if he learned enough, if he tried hard enough, if he got better at magic. It would have been... okay, he guesses. Eventually he’d figure things out, become a moderately good practitioner, go on with life looking the same as everyone else. Fitting in with a fake familiar would be easy, and then his life would seem normal, too.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, Dipper is... Well.

He’s the key to a realm of thought, the first line of defense for others against an insane dream demon - who’s his real familiar, this bond is strong as hell - and, oh, yeah, he’s sleeping with his familiar, too. In the non-literal sense, because real sleep is never happening again for Dipper, he’s lost one of the major parts of being human in exchange for a completely absurd amount of power.

And he’s married the damned thing. That’s just downright bizarre.

How many humans get this tied up with a demon? It can’t be a lot - between Dipper’s awful spell, his accidental compatibility with Bill - even one in a billion would be a hugely generous guess. Nobody knew how this would work. Bill was unaware, and he’s-

Crap, even Bill freaking Cipher didn’t think this bond was possible, and he’s so old, and knows so much- Dipper fucked up so hard he made something entirely new.

Life is so far from normal now that normal might as well be on another planet. In another galaxy. In another dimension.

What the hell does he do with all of this?

Dipper lies there, face buried in the down, tries to come up with something, and fails.

Think of the dream demon and he shall appear, apparently, because now he feels Bill, approaching fast.

Dipper stumbles up, standing in the middle of the room as his familiar comes close. Won’t be good to look weak, or distracted, because this is what Dipper’s going to deal with for a very, very long time and he’s got to be strong. Within moments, the door opens, and he looks at his…

Husband.

Because that’s what they are, and there’s no turning back, Dipper’s a married man. He wasn’t trying for this, he was tricked, because Bill’s a bastard. Dipper feels like he should be more pissed off about things, but all he feels is resigned. Maybe a little pleased.

Mabel had a point, earlier. At least he’s hot.

Bill stands in the doorway, eye closed. “Stanley Pines is a vulture,” he mutters, blinking his eye open briefly. He sounds irritated, but there’s a little bit of respect in his tone. “You’re worth way less! I had to train you up a ton before you were worth anything,” The demon sighs, long and annoyed. “Whatever, keeps one of your uncles off my back.”

“The other one is, too,” Dipper gives his familiar a an unimpressed look. Bargaining with a conman didn’t go well, what a surprise. Bill should have known better. He’s awful, not dumb. “You’re welcome, by the way.”

The news makes the demon perk up, and he strides towards Dipper, smirking.

“Aw, sapling,” He’s very close now, Dipper leans away a bit in distaste, but Bill catches him by the chin and smiles wide. “Going around, manipulating people. Lemme know how you pulled that one off.”

“Later,” mutters Dipper, and jerks his head away from Bill’s grip. “But Ford’s, uh,” Still not happy with things. “You shouldn’t piss him off.” Likely he’ll murder Bill again, that’s inevitable, Bill’s not going to stop being a jerk. Hopeless to ask, but this way Dipper gets to say ‘I told you so’.

Bill makes a noncommittal sound, eye darting away as he thinks. Dipper watches, calm. While Bill can’t directly hurt his great uncle, he’s always up to something  - Yep, he’s going to get killed again, when he tries something too ambitious. Damn, healing this thing is disgusting, not looking forward to that.

Then Bill takes Dipper’s left hand in his own, pries it open and stares at the picture of himself, admiring. “Just look at that, kid. Pretty good work, if I do say myself,” He watches as Bill presses a kiss on the picture of himself. Then licks it. “Most attractive part of you!”

“Narcissist,” The word comes out more fondly than Dipper likes, even though he glares. He wipes his wet palm over Bill’s cheek, and the dirty look Bill gives him makes Dipper smile. “Listen, Bill,” This is… strange, but he has to ask. Dipper rests a hand on his demon’s arm, “We have to talk.”

“That’s ominous,” says Bill, looking cheerful. He would like that kind of thing. “What’s up?”

Dipper sighs, and that sounds fond too, shit, he is so messed up. He looks this creature over, shaking his head.

“What do I do with you?” asks Dipper. 

“You,” replies Bill promptly, rubbing his face dry. “Will do everything I say,” He rolls his eye at Dipper’s expression - “Well, ideally, you would, a guy can dream!” Bill knows his mortal is always going to fight him, and his eye narrows. “But kiss whatever plans you had before goodbye. You’re still mine.”

Dipper groans a little, slumping. He is Bill’s, in a bunch of ways, even if he’s not an object. He’s Bill’s human, he’s Bill’s contracted mortal companion, and for all that the demon’s false body is Dipper’s, now the reverse is true. No other mortal is touching him, not in the way that Bill’s reserved entirely for himself. Even if he truly is something incredibly weird, and triangular, Dipper finds he doesn’t care.

Oh no, his only option is someone energetic, attractive, and enthusiastic, how terrible. Somehow he’ll survive.

Meanwhile, Bill looks him over - his eye traces across him, and Bill turns away, stalking around Dipper in a slow circle. Dipper keeps looking forward, letting his demon examine him, though he arches an eyebrow.

“What are you doing?” This isn’t an answer, not really - Dipper doesn’t know what he’s going to do, but Bill has something in mind. “So what if I’m yours? What does that matter?”

Bill murmurs something softly, then, a little louder. “Pretty decent material. I can do something with this,” He says, and crosses through Dipper’s sight again as he completes one turn around him. “Give me a few years, and then you might actually be something.” He gets in Dipper’s face again, grinning sharply. “You’re a work in progress, kid,” His eye briefly flares red. “Don’t embarrass me.”

Dipper blinks.

There it is. Something he’d been wondering about.

This is why they’re married.

Thank goodness, his familiar hasn’t completely lost whatever crazy mind he has. With no idea why Bill would trick him into this, he’d… almost been worried.

Bill had an ulterior motive, he didn’t do this just because he likes Dipper, though he does, he’s- The demon’s salving his immense pride. Bill’s the one covering something up, now. They’re contracted together because it makes it look like Bill meant to get stuck with him, not that he wasn’t paying attention to the weird spell he got tangled up in. Bill won't admit he fucked up trying to get the world - but he can make it seem he was trying to get a husband, a mortal he wanted all to himself. 

But there has to be something - a reason why Dipper has to abandon the plans he didn’t have - Right.

Dipper’s moved up in the world, in a weird way.

He’s not Bill’s pet anymore, he’s Bill’s pet project.

Word’s going to get around, in some way or another, with Bill stuck in this form, and Dipper’s directly tied to it. Being associated with a mortal isn’t great for a demon - Bill wouldn’t just take any human - not someone weak, or boring, or uneducated, it’d make him look bad. Luckily enough, his mortal’s smart, Dipper catches on quickly, Bill knows a ton to teach him, and with his access to this power-

For this to work out for Bill, Dipper can’t just be average, or normal. He’s got to be good. No, he has to be great - but… that’s not right either - Dipper thinks about it for a second.

Dream demon. Loves nightmares.

Bill isn’t going to be satisfied until his mortal is nothing short of terrifying.

Dipper, scaring the shit out of other people, and monsters, and demons - and still being human. He should be barely a threat. But if he does end up being a force to be reckoned with - he’d be Cipher's. Though he’s tiny, and mortal, and young, if he shows how much he can do? Imagine how amazing Bill must be, by extension.

He’ll be a point of pride, a creation of Bill’s, making him look good, and powerful. 

And Dipper knows he could do that.

He’s always wanted to be good at something - to be great, to be better than other people, to have a talent, and when Bill’s working with him, when they have the same thing in mind -

God, that curse was amateur business, Dipper’s a perfect channel for Bill’s power, he never was going to explode, they’re too compatible, he could do so much. And if he does, his familiar will have something he can be ridiculously smug about, leaning back, maybe decades later, going ‘Oh, that guy kicked your butt? Ha! Yeah, that was my work. Did a good job, don’tcha think?’.

Both of them could- they’re both clever, and quick, and with Dipper being Bill’s channel to reality, and Bill’s control of the realm of the mind - when they have the same goal, with this power, and the knowledge, and such influence over their own worlds, what could stand in their way?

And- uh.

To do anything, they need each other. Dipper for the magic, Bill for the Mindscape.

Wow, they’re never going to agree on much, are they. This is still gonna be difficult.

“So, I guess I could play along a bit,” His face feels hot, and Dipper’s moved closer himself, almost pressing against Bill, hands gripping his shirt. Bill wants to make this look like it was on purpose. He went with Dipper’s coverup, he guesses he should pay it back, fair’s fair, but-

Hesitating, he glares. “I’m not going to hurt people. I don’t care if you don’t like it.”

Making a disgusted noise, Bill smacks him on the thigh, and ignores that statement. “I still got some stuff I want to do here, once you’re less terrible. You’ll love it!”

He sees the skepticism on Dipper’s face, and concedes, letting out a slow breath. “Fine, it’s stuff that you won’t dig your heels in and fight me about every second,” Bill stares at him with displeasure. “Happy, kid?”

Dipper shakes his head slowly. That’s not enough.

“What about what I want to do?”

For the longest time, he’s wanted - hell, he’s wanted to be like Ford. Be… adventurous, and exciting. Even heroic. That’s not in the cards anymore, not if he wants to do anything.

While Bill wants to advance his own agenda, Dipper wants to help people, and at his best? Bill finds that boring.

Bill looks at him with distaste. “The goody-two-shoes act isn’t my favorite, Pine Tree. Don’t think I’ll-”

“I’ll never let you know what I’m up to,” interrupts Dipper. He knows what this demon’s like, what he enjoys. “And I’ll make really convoluted plans?” Bill’s lips tighten, but he’s started looking slightly less bothered - yes, Dipper’s got this. “I promise it won’t make you look bad,” Dipper grins. “Nobody will ever think you like it, Bill, you’re horrible.”

Moral ambiguity is where they meet.

Bill might trick him into something evil, sometimes, and he’s going to do more awful things in the Mindscape.

But if Dipper’s truly as clever as he thinks he is - if he’s canny, makes it interesting, makes it impressive, so Bill can accept it as a boost to his project’s reputation, or, if Dipper makes him curious enough, so that he’ll follow along out of sheer interest - he could do a lot of good.

Maybe they’ll balance each other out.

“That aside, I know what I want,” Bill says, slow and smirking. His hands rub up Dipper’s sides. “I’m thinking - Nightmare realm. Hey, I’ll even make sure nobody eats you!”

The Mindscape, right. Dipper’s got to take him there, whenever he wants - it’s going to be strange, and this isn’t going to be fun in the slightest. But he’s a distraction, and he can be one, delay whatever Bill’s got in mind.

And right now, he wants to be one. If he has to have a husband, he’s going to take full advantage of it.

Dipper clears his throat, and presses himself closer.

“We can do that,” starts Dipper, looking Bill over, their faces close. “But first... I think there’s something you need to conquer.” He starts smirking, and grabs Bill’s arms, and - usually the demon’s the one that tries it, but he sets his familiar’s hands on his butt.

Bill looks surprised as hell for an instant. Then he starts laughing, loud and bright.

“Hey, you’re getting better at this! You really can learn! That’s a terrible line, but hey, could be worse,,” Bill’s into it, he stalks forward, squeezing at him - Dipper lets himself be pushed, until he feels the back of his shins hit the bed - “You’re fun, plaything.”

“Genuinely hate you,” Dipper mutters, but as Bill shoves him backwards, he falls down easily onto the mattress. “Stop calling me that.”

“Nah, you like me,” Chuckling, Bill climbs onto the bed with him. He lies over Dipper, and the warm, solid weight of him feels good. “You’re one twisted little thing. Tell you what, I'll indulge you.”

Sheets, cool underneath him, and above him, his demon is warm, and smiling, his breath moving slow in his chest, a heartbeat, faintly felt - and by the pleased, predatory way he’s looking at Dipper - Bill’s looking at him like he’s got something fascinating planned, and Dipper can tell he’s really going to like what happens next.

There’s a demon. Awful, and part of his life. All of his life.

This isn’t what Dipper thought he wanted. Certainly nothing he ever intended.  Dipper’s…

Fuck it, he loves it, accident that it is, he’s going to be awesome, and do everything, and have this, too, all the time, and Bill likes it as well - his demon leans in and starts nipping at his neck, and Dipper tilts his head away, taking in a slow breath-

And this is the single most fucked up thing that’s ever happened, to either of them. Neither of them are doing great, by their own ideas of what’s great, they’re each other’s worst possible scenario, if Dipper hadn’t tried what he had - things would have been.... Different, entirely.

This isn’t his fault, though.

There’s someone else to blame.

And if that guy hadn’t been an idiot, and incompetent, and basically the worst demon ever, Dipper would have managed to get a fake familiar, he’d never have any problems, or have to be in danger, never be amazing, or have to fight like he’s going to, and his life would have been- it would’ve been...

Boring.

And disappointing.

He watches as Bill pulls away, breath sped up, and his familiar watches him in turn, still smiling eternally. Dipper starts smiling back, and Bill looks at him with interest.

“That’s the look of someone with a plan,” Bill’s eye is bright, his smile a dangerous curve on his face. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”

“Just that you were wrong about something,” Dipper says brightly, and leans up. He plants a kiss on the corner of his demon’s mouth, where it curves upwards, and chuckles. “You’re an idiot, Bill.”

Bill leans back a bit, insulted, but curious. Dipper beams at him.

He got a real familiar. A companion. In a weird way, he got a partner.

And what Bill said when they first met was entirely wrong.

Dipper doesn’t regret this, at all