Dipper makes it to his third day of no sleep, the collar of his shirt beginning to fray due to his old habit of chewing on it, before Mabel locks him in their attic turned bedroom, telling him she'll let him out when he’s gotten a full night’s rest.
His body’s exhausted and he knows he should just do what Mabel tells him when a familiar top hat flashes in the corner of his eye. Whipping his head around, Dipper rubs his eyes when he sees nothing but Mabel’s bulletin board of things yet to be put into her many scrapbooks. With a groan, he groggily changes out of his clothes, the ones he hasn’t changed out of since meeting Bill, and into a comfortable pair of shorts and a plain red t-shirt.
He falls onto his bed, not bothering with the blanket, and turns his head to look at the drawer that holds his dream journal. There was a reason he’d been avoiding sleep and that was to prevent Bill from messing with his dreams. After the incident with the deer teeth crown – his fingers still absentmindedly played with his hair whenever he thought about it – Dipper had delved further into research about dream demons. Of course, a lot of the things he found were completely useless or were about cults that worshipped Bill. He’d snorted when he saw those, if only they knew how the demon really was like.
Soon, he felt his eyelids drooping – too heavy with fatigue for gravity to keep them up much longer – and turned his head so that he was facing the wall instead of burning a hole into his bedside table. Mumbling something about Bill and nightmares, Dipper lets himself be pulled into unconsciousness, once tense muscles relaxing as he falls asleep, and swears loudly when the sound of the ocean meets his ears.
“Bill! I hope you’re in here!” He yells, eyes flying open to survey the grey world before him. The pine trees behind him sway from the force of a breeze he can’t feel and the earthy smell he loves so much almost lulls him into a mood of pure relaxation. Almost, he’s still too hung up on Bill’s lack of meddling in his dreams and the crown. Determined to get answers, he takes a step towards the forest and practically stomps his way across the grassy field. “Bill! We’ve gotta talk!”
This whole no response thing was beginning to frustrate him. He loathed admitting it, but he actually misses Bill’s dark humor and unnecessary theatrics.
After what feels like forever, he stops and looks around him at the familiar scenery. It’s the exact spot where Bill had given him his little gift, minus the color and animals of course. Going through with his gut feeling, Dipper drops down onto the ground, sitting with his legs crossed and glare directed at the sky, and shouts Bill’s name one more time. Third time’s the charm after all.
“Sheesh, Pine Tree. Persistent aren’t ya?” Bill says as he appears in the mess of Dipper’s brown hair – for some reason he preferred to not have his beloved hat on inside his mindscape. Dipper doesn’t shriek, but he does start swatting at his head which leads to him falling backwards, the grass serving as a comfy cushion for him.
Although it didn’t hurt that much, a low groan still leaves Dipper’s lips and his briefly flutter close before opening again. This time he does scream when Bill fills his entire line of vision, the demon’s glow dimmer than usual; Dipper made note of that as it might be a clue to his strange behavior.
“You alright there, kid?” Bill floats away until he’s at a respectable distance away from Dipper as the human sits up. Dipper blinks a few times, surprise on his face because was that worry in the demon’s tone? He didn’t even know the demon was capable of feeling emotions that weren’t anger or morbid fascination.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” Dipper grumbles, surprise turning into confusion when he sees Bill reach out his hand. Bill seems to notice what he’s doing and that light pink glow is back, the tiny black hand immediately dropping to the demon’s side. Out of all the strange things Dipper’s encountered, whatever’s going on with Bill was definitely the strangest so far.
“Of course you are. I’ve seen you on the verge of death more than once since you’re first day here. I gotta say, Pine Tree, you’re pretty good at surviving. Not to mention, your body’s as durable as I remember it being.” It sounds like Bill’s just spouting nonsense now, his eye looking at anything but Dipper. He looks like he regrets saying that last sentence and hovers higher, trying to get away from the human on the ground.
Dipper’s confusion continues to grow, eyes never leaving the demon and the gears in his mind working to dissect Bill’s movements. It’s kind of hard to focus though, what with Bill’s uncharacteristic rambling followed by the fact that he’d just gotten a genuine compliment and not the backhanded ones he was used to by now.
“Uh…thanks...I guess…” He really doesn’t know what to say and for a moment, he’s starting to doubt this was the actual Bill Cipher. Maybe it was a figment of his imagination? It couldn’t be. Bill was acting like this back in the forest too. Dipper ran a hand through his hair and got up; simply staring at the demon from the ground wasn’t going to solve anything.
“So, what did you want to talk about?” There’s that familiar glint of mischief in Bill’s eye and apprehension mixed with relief at seeing something reminiscent of Bill when they first met all those years ago – well six years wasn’t that long, then again he felt nothing like a regular eighteen year old.
Bill boldly moves closer, circling Dipper’s head before stopping in front of the human with his hands engulfed in flickering blue flames. “You finally ready to make a deal?”
“What! No!” Dipper backs away as if being that close to the fire burned him, “Why are you making my dreams peaceful?” he asks and further elaborates when Bill just stares at him, “Like, there haven’t been any creep shadow monsters chasing me around and even the screaming head’s gone! So what are you planning?!”
“Pine Tree,” Bill glows brighter for a moment and makes a sound similar to someone holding back laughter; Dipper resists the urge to punch the demon for that, “Are you asking for monsters in your mind every night?”
“Yes!” Dipper replies without hesitation and a little more force than necessary. He clears his throat, “I mean, yeah. The normalcy of my dreams is kinda… unsettling.”
“Boy, I knew there was a reason I picked ya, kid.”
“What? Picked me?”
“To follow around. Humans sure are boring, but you just get more interesting!”
This was the most Bill’s complimented him in his own weird way and he can’t look the demon in the eye anymore. The conversation was starting to go in a different direction and Dipper really didn’t want to see where exactly it was headed.
“So… you’re not messing with my dreams?”
“I haven’t touched your mind in days, Pine Tree.”
He notices that Bill says that with a slightly pained look and now he really wants to end this conversation. It was beginning to make him shift uncomfortably.
“Okay, uh, I got one more question. What was up with the deer teeth?”
Bill’s glowing bright, bright pink again and Dipper watches him panic – another first. What exactly was going on with him? – before disappearing. It happens all too fast and when Dipper realizes Bill’s gone, he kicks the ground in frustration.
If anything, he was even more confused now.
“Morning bro bro!” Mabel’s cheery voice wakes him up the next morning, the smell of pancakes eliciting a growl from his stomach that makes Mabel laugh. Dipper sits up in bed, feeling ten times better than he did yesterday, and mumbles good morning back.
Mabel takes a seat on the edge of the bed and shoves the plate of Stancakes into his lap, confusion in her eyes as she leans closer to him. Dipper’s equally confused – what was she looking it? – but stays still, letting her reach out and…
“What’s this?” She asks, fingers hovering over something that was definitely not hanging around his neck when he fell asleep. Dipper’s own hand comes up to take it off his neck so that they could both look at it.
“It’s a flower necklace,” he says, studying the flowers hanging off the thin string. He’d seen these before; he just can’t remember where he knew them from.
“They’re pretty! I wonder what kind of flower it is…” Mabel reaches out again to touch the faded pink petals at the same time the name of the flower pops into his head, causing him to toss the necklace onto the ground and away from Mabel’s fingers.
“They’re Adenium flowers and used to make poison arrows,” He tells her when he sees the pout on her lips. Confusion is evident her eyes once more and she watches as he procures a bowl from one of his bedside table drawers. Dipper drops the flower necklace into the bowl, takes out a matchbox from the same drawer, and burns the flowers.
“Where’d you get a necklace of poisonous flowers?”
The image of a pink Bill flashes before his eyes and he groans, flopping back down onto his bed next to Mabel, he replies, “Probably Bill. I talked to him last night and he was acting really weird.”
“Yeah,” Dipper hesitates for a moment, debating whether or not he should tell Mabel about the crown of deer teeth, “I saw him on our first day back and he gave me a deer teeth crown. And then last night he kept glowing pink. It was really…”
“Weird?” Mabel finishes for him. He chuckles and nods his head. There’s a calculating look on Mabel’s face and he almost asks her what she’s thinking about; the fact that he’d rather not know what was going on her mind made him bite his tongue.
“Well, good luck with this whole Bill thing, bro bro.” She gets up from the bed, gives him a two finger salute, and then leaves.
Dipper sighs and stares into the flames currently contained in the bowl he’d magically enchanted. Magic… that was something he could keep away from Mabel for a while.
He doesn’t hear the knock on the back door, his head buried in his own installation to the Author’s three journals, until Grunkle Stan’s yelling for him to go get it. Some things never change. He opted to ignore the door for right now, knowing he’d forget the rest of his notes if he doesn’t write them down while their still fresh in his mind.
Footsteps he recognizes as Mabel’s come down the stairs and he silently thanks her when he hears the door open. A frown appears on his face when she calls his name, the underlying hint of fear worrying him.
With a soft thud, he closes his journal and tucks it under his arm as he makes his way over to where Mabel’s standing. She’s frozen in front of the door, so he has to peer over her shoulder to see what’s got her so shell-shocked.
Dipper tenses up when his eyes land on the bouquet lying innocently on the wooden porch.
“Are those…” Mabel starts, her own eyes never leaving the bouquet of flowers.
“Adenium.” Dipper finishes, still tense, as he gently moves Mabel aside so that he could carefully pick up the bouquet. His hands grip the plastic wrapping tightly and he makes sure to keep them far away from Mabel.
Mabel who’s looking at him with sparkles in her eyes, a wide grin on her face, and is squealing.
Dipper opens his mouth to ask what she was so excited about, but never got the chance to because she’s running back into the shack. Oh well, he’d already accepted the fact that he didn’t understand what his sister did sometimes.
Instead he focuses on Bill’s latest gift and heads off into the forest, hoping this would be the last one.
He should’ve known that it wasn’t.
Back at the Mystery Shack, Mabel’s figured everything out. She prides herself in being Gravity Falls’ love expert after all. Sure, the thought of Bill trying to woo her brother was pretty bizarre, but the demon hadn’t tried to kill them in years. In fact, she quite liked him now, especially when he was teasing Dipper.
“Bill! I know your secret!” She says in a sing-song voice, feet dangling off the side of the roof. Luckily, Grunkle Stan had left to lead a tour, Wendy’s friends whisked her away, and Soos was probably hanging out with Melody in the Gift Shop. No one was around to question her about why she was talking about Bill.
Except for the demon himself. Colors fade into grey before her eyes and a nervous looking triangle appears in front of Mabel. Her grin widens when she sees him because she knows her suspicions are right.
“Hey there, Shooting Star! How’s Llama?”
Ah, he’s stalling. She could work with that.
“Paz’s fine, she’s in Switzerland right now. But enough about my love life, we’re here to talk about yours.”
Bill glows light pink and Mabel has to bite her lip before an aw can leave her mouth. He looks less scary when he’s blushing!
“My love life? Demons don’t have love lives, Shooting Star.” He has his hands behind his back and Mabel just knows he must be fiddling his tiny fingers together. No matter how strange this was, she was a sucker for epic romances.
“You like Dipper!” She shushes him when he splutters and turns a darker shade of pink, “Oh don’t deny it. The crown and flowers and turning pink when you’re around him? This is definitely a crush.”
“It’s not a crush. Though I’d very much like to crush someone right now,” Bill spits out. His glow dims and regains control of himself until he’s his normal gold again. “It’s a love potion.”
“A… love potion? Like the ones the Love God has?” Mabel asks. She tilts her head slightly and a slight shiver crawls up her spine when she remembers the incident with the Love God.
“Slightly less powerful than that, potions made by witches tend to be.” Bill doesn’t know why he’s telling her this, maybe because she’s close to the subject of his magically created affections or maybe because he just likes Shooting Star. Either way, she was a sharp kid and was probably going to figure it out on her own.
“So a witch gave you a love potion… okay. Why Dipper?”
“I don’t know!”
“Owww, no need to yell in my ear. Fine, I have a better question. How do you break it?”
“True love’s kiss,” Bill mumbles, his words practically inaudible.
“What was that?”
His eye closes and he sighs before repeating what he said loud enough for only Mabel to hear, “True love’s kiss.”
Mabel squeals again – artificial or not, this was definitely going to be an epic romance. Bill leaves before she can stop him, taking refuge in his own mindscape and getting back to his favorite past time – Pine Tree watching.
“Oh, this is going to be so much fun!” Mabel says, not caring that Bill had left while she wasn’t paying attention. She’d be seeing him a lot more now anyways. She spots Dipper coming back from the forest and she hurries back into the shack.
Sprinting towards the back door, she jumps onto Dipper – his quick reflexes catching her and steadying them before they fell onto the ground – and hugs him tightly.
“Epic summer romance!!”
Dipper doesn’t know how to respond because what was she talking about? He was only gone for a few minutes, what happened during that time?
This summer was starting to prove to be an immensely confusing one.