The Redemption of Bill Cipher
A Gravity Falls Fanfiction by Aoikami Sarah
On a day in late August, in the year 2012 on the planet Earth in dimension 46'\ Bill Cipher, who had run amok in the universe for eons, was defeated by a handful of mortals. Before he would have perished, he recited an incantation he'd memorized long ago but dreaded ever having to employ. "A-X-O-L-O-T-L, my time has come to burn! I invoke the ancient power that I may return!"
Then everything went dark.
"NO-BOOOODY KNOOOOOWS THE TROUBLE I SEEEEEEN…" Bill sang to himself fairly tunefully in the perpetual twilight of his prison. "NO-BOOOOODY KNOOOOWS BUT ME-EEEEE…"
He'd been trapped like this for a long time.
Or had he?
He tried not to think about it anymore.
September, 2023 (11 years and 1 month later)
"Everything was supposed to go according to plan," Dipper muttered bitterly as he drove north, fighting exhaustion with caffeine, loud pop music, and rolled-down windows. "Too bad my plan was worthless." He scoffed. "Too bad I'm worthless." His eyes stung and the bubbly, 70's pop song on the radio chimed 'If you're all alone, when they pretty birds have flown, honey I'm still free, take a chance on me.' "Shit," he hissed and took another sip of the strong, cold, black coffee he'd picked up at the Circle K back in Oakland. Not even Abba could cheer him up now. Jessica was gone.
His overactive imagination and wounded ego dreamed up scenarios where instead of leaving him for a hunky, older actor, Jessica had died after a short, but terminal illness. Dipper sat at her bedside and clutched her hand, and stayed with her until the end. Her headstone was made of the whitest marble and dwarfed all others in the cemetery in his mind. The angry honking of a car horn, dopplering off as it swerved and passed him, the SUV it belonged to missing him by mere inches brought him back to reality. "Shit!" he cried, over-compensated for his leaning into the oncoming lane and rocked his old Honda pickup truck from side to side before it settled back on track.
Jessica had left him about six months before, just after Valentine's Day.
Ever since he was a kid, Dipper had the idea that his perfect girl would be called Jessica. He didn't know why, it just sounded good. Maybe he'd seen a TV show with a character called Jessica that sparked something in him, he wasn't sure why the name was special, but he knew when he met Jessica Ngyuen that she was The One. Only a few weeks into freshman year he worked up the courage to approach the cute girl with vintage X-Files t-shirt and they were together through graduation. They got an apartment in LA where she worked as a production assistant and Dipper stocked shelves while he tried in vain to pitch his paranormal investigation show. After two years of struggle, one day, Jessica came home from work and told him she had been seeing an actor from the set of the movie she was working on and that she was moving in with him. Now.
When Dipper protested, deeply wounded by the suddenness of her departure, she lashed out at him and told him that he'd 'missed the boat', that paranormal shows were out and no one wanted to produce something 'so 90's'. He watched her pack in stunned silence and remained sitting on the couch, mouth agape, for hours after she'd left.
He might have been better able to cope with the pain had three other major things not already rocked his happiness.
First, three years ago, his sister got rich.
Mabel dropped out of college to pursue her art 'unfettered by the bonds of academia'. Dipper and their parents had advised against it, fearing for her happiness further down the road. They thought at least if she had a college education she would have something to 'fall back on'. Mabel moved out of the house she grew up in at 20 years of age because at her very first show (mixed media, mostly recycled items hot-glued into various sculptures and works that hung from the walls) she sold each and every piece and was instantly propelled into art-world stardom. She now owned an apartment in LA, New York, Paris, and Tokyo and got to do whatever she wanted with her life. Initially, Mabel was concerned that her newfound lifestyle would push her and her twin apart, but Dipper insisted that she go. That 'life happens'. And so for the last few years, he rarely saw her.
Second, once Mabel moved out and it looked like Dipper would marry Jessica, their parents moved to Hawai'i.
Being tech workers, they retired early and went to pursue their dream of doing absolutely nothing. Christmas in paradise was kind of nice, but otherwise the parents became even more distant than they had ever been.
Thirdly, just before Dipper graduated, Stan and Ford disappeared.
The Brothers Pines had planned on being at the ceremony but when they never even called, Dipper, Mabel and Soos tried everything they could think of (including a séance that turned up nothing but low-level ghosts that bothered them for days) to find them. The last note they received suggested they might be heading for the Bermuda Triangle and so they could do nothing but worry as the weeks dragged on. After a year, Dipper decided that he should just acknowledge that they probably had a wreck and died at sea and Mabel didn't speak to him for a month before he changed his tune and called to apologize. They were lost somewhere, she gave him that, but Mabel refused to say they were dead until their one-hundredth birthday rolled around.
These three major life-changes didn't help Dipper's ability to pursue his own dreams or keep his relationship together, and in short order, his world crumbled. It was time to re-group. He sold off most of his stuff, packed up, and headed north.
Dipper's truck rolled into the driveway of 618 Gopher Road a little after two PM on a warm, September day. A handful of tourists were parked nearby and when he got out Dipper could hear Soos' voice coming from the other side of the Shack. He smiled wistfully and pulled his bags out of the trunk.
Not wanting to disturb Soos, Dipper entered the house through the family entrance on the back side of the building. He knocked first, but as they were expecting him, he turned the knob and let himself in calling out a greeting as he did.
The peel of a small child's screeching laugh made him simultaneously wince and grin with delight. He'd met Soos and Melody's first child, Stanita Mason "Nita" Pines (as Soos had changed his name to Pines many years before) soon after her adoption was finalized, but she had been just a tiny baby. The family had recently increased to four with the adoption of Melody's wayward sister Harmony's child who she had named Jamiroquois after her favorite band (and Melody and Soos christened Jamira Harmony Pines). Dipper smelled the amazing aroma of Soos's Abuelita's home cooking and heard the distant sound of Melody's boisterous giggle and a radio playing alternative pop hits from the 1990s coming from somewhere inside. "Hello!" Dipper called, setting his bag down and entering the living room. Seated on the floor playing with a pair of two year old girls, one with braids and one with pig tails, was a slender young woman with her back to him. Her feet were bare, her red hair was short in the back but almost to her chin in the front. She turned her attention from the building blocks before them and gasped.
He stared down at her, rendered speechless. For a moment, time seemed to stop.
"What are you doing here?!" they both asked.
When first Bill had appeared in the tiny cage immediately following his defeat at the hands of the Brothers Pines, he raged against the bars, unable to slide between them in his pyramidal shape and unable to phase through them, either. When he made his bargain with the Axolotl, he never guessed he'd wind up in some sort of inter-dimensional solitary confinement. When it dawned on him that's just what happened, Bill had boiled with angry flames and screamed, cursing the Axolotl on and on until he realized he wasn't going to get an audience any time soon.
For a while he sat in the middle of the cage and said nothing. He thought. He plotted. He connived. No escape he conceived of seemed in the least bit plausible if he were to simply be left to rot with no interaction with anyone or anything to trick into letting him out. The never-ending twilight, grey as far as he could perceive, started to wear on him and chinked away at his already feeble sanity (or so he thought) as his mind calmed and dulled.
He mulled over the last half-century of his existence. Where had he gone wrong? Why did it always go wrong? Why couldn't he get his hands on that last dimension? What was it that protected the humans there? Was it all the Axolotl's doing? The humans didn't seem to have any idea what the Axolotl even was! No. There was something else. Something that always thwarted him. A power he could not grasp and not being able to wrap his brain around what it could possibly be steadily drove him mad.
Wendy drove a motorcycle-a perfectly beat-up Harley Davidson on which she looked even cooler than Dipper could handle. He could hear her coming for about a mile as she rode up Gopher Road and he had plenty of time to get up off the lip of the porch to greet her. He'd been spacing out before he heard the tell-tale engine, staring at the totem pole and imagining he was a young teenager again, hopelessly in love with an impossible girl. Even back then he knew she would go her way and he would go his. Dipper had mapped out his future as he was wont to do (and as his sister groaned was 'not a way to live') and that future, he decided, could not contain any frivolous dreams like ending up with Wendy Corduroy.
If he glanced to his right, he'd see the Stanley Mobile under its faded car-cover and the log cabin Stan and Ford built for themselves almost a decade before. The words "Fort Pines" were engraved in a kitschy carved wood sign hung above the front door. Dipper wondered as he rose to his feet, when his heart would stop twisting every time he thought of them. Then the impossible girl pulled into the parking lot in a flurry of dust and pulled her helmet off. Even with the short hair, Wendy looked like a goddess to him. The same rush of love he'd felt as a boy washed over him and he sighed. 'Oh well,' he thought. 'At least she's here. I can be close to her. That's better than nothing.'
"What's with the face?" she asked, smirking.
"Just thinking about when I was a kid and how some things never change." He made a sweeping gesture with his arm (which encompassed the Shack as well as the girl) and shrugged.
She laughed then put her hands on her hips. "Come for a ride with me."
Dipper stammered and offered excuses; he didn't have a helmet, wouldn't that be dangerous, etc. She put her hand on his shoulder. "Shut up and get on."
As he cautiously wrapped his arms around her middle at her urging she picked up her helmet and before she put it on she said "you need to get away from this place for a little while. Trust me."
Once she had slipped it on and started the engine, he whispered. "I do."
They wound their way around town and to his surprise went up the big hill to the former Northwest Mansion. Much of the old place had been demolished by its current owner, the wealthy inventor Fiddleford Hadron McGucket. The main hall remained, but the rest of the campus was now comprised of several hangars and workshops. On any given day, the sounds of science and progress could be heard echoing off the surrounding hills.
Today, it was relatively quiet. Wendy parked the bike and they approached the house. The door was, as usual, open. She called out for the old man and moments later he came into sight from an upstairs room, flying down the stairs in a hovering cross between a wheelchair and a pony.
McGucket greeted them warmly and invited them into the dining room for snacks. Staff appeared as if commanded telepathically and opened doors, brought in treats, pulled out chairs, then were gone.
"Well how-dee!" McGucket crowed and slapped Dipper on the back. "Long time no see, you whipper-snapper! Where ya been hidin'?"
Dipper chuckled a little. "These days? The Shack."
McGucket turned quickly to Wendy to verify and she nodded. "Be gentle, Fids. The guy's had a hard break up."
"Ohh…" the old man nodded sagaciously. "Understood. I ain't aimin' ta bring ya down none. Life's too dang short for that sort a hoosafusdge. Say…" He raised a brow over the odd, green spectacles he wore. "Did I hear something new pull up outside, Miss Corduroy?"
Wendy grinned. "Hell yeah!" She led the way back to the driveway and showed off her 'new' baby. Unbeknownst to Dipper, Wendy had been through three bikes already. She asked McGucket what he thought and before she could ask he pointed out a few things he'd fix up for her.
Dipper smirked. "You sound like an old pro, McGucket. You ride?"
"Well…" He looked skyward. "I may be workin' on a little somethin' of my own…"
Wendy clapped him on the back. "No shit? Then what are we waiting for!"
The old man's face lit up and he scrambled for his garage and came zooming back to them on a bike that looked to Dipper like something straight out of an 1980's anime.
"Let's ride!" he cackled and the two bikes screamed off into the countryside.
The "Ride with Fids", as Wendy coined it, became a highlight of Dipper's week. He filled his days busying himself helping out with the Shack, doing research, taking hikes, writing, and healing his wounded soul.
It was working.
One sunny afternoon the following spring, Dipper and Wendy pulled up on their motorcycles (Fids had helped them fix up a junker for Dipper that may or may not have run on plutonium) to find an ambulance parked askew in the driveway. The ambulance doors and the doors to the house stood open and as they leapt from their bikes to see what the matter was, paramedics emerged slowly with a gurney topped by large, black, zippered bag.
"No…" Dipper whispered and slowed his steps. Suddenly, he remembered in vivid detail the day of his graduation when Stan and Ford had failed to show. How he'd tried to do what everyone told him and get through the day, but how he'd floated through the ceremony, the dinner afterward as if he were only watching it happen, half-interested and falling asleep in front of the TV. Once everyone had gone and Jessica was asleep he snuck out to the kitchen and sat in a chair with a notebook, writing ideas, theories, reviewing the last communications he'd received from the brothers before they vanished off the face of the Earth. Now, as he approached the body-bag containing the remains of Ford's college friend and co-conspirator, his heart hammered in his ears. "No…" he repeated. "Not again…"
Wendy, on the other hand, kept right on going and accosted the emergency workers, demanding to know what the hell happened. They couldn't tell her, but one of his staff who had called them told her he had died in his sleep the night before. Satisfied with that answer, Wendy stopped shouting and stood stock still, hands balled tightly and tried to hold on. 'Not here,' she thought. 'Keep it together, Corduroy…'
Dipper's mind dulled, just as it had on his graduation. Fear and pain gripped him and dragged him down. He stepped slowly up to Wendy and watched wordlessly as they loaded the gurney into the ambulance. Only when the doors had been shut and the vehicle pulled away did he notice she was crying. Adrenaline rushed through his veins, making his heart skip a beat and he reached out without a thought in his head.
Later, he would recall that it was the first time he realized how much taller he'd become than she. Dipper pulled a startled Wendy to him and hugged her tightly for just a moment before he realized what he was doing. Wendy cried quietly into his flannel shirt for a few moments, clinging to him for support before she composed herself. It was brief, and soon she gently pushed him away.
"Thanks…" she muttered.
"Yeah…" he replied, at a loss for words.
They would not ride again for another two months.
Bill rocked slowly, legs pulled up and leaning on an angle of his pyramid form. He held his knees and stared straight forward singing "Nobody Knows" over and over until finally the Axolotl came to him.
It rendered itself visible as if condensed from the never-ending fog surrounding his cage. Bill stared at the undulating pink interdimensional higher-power and his brain slowly registered its presence. He stopped singing and rocking.
"OH. HI," Bill said flatly. "SUP?"
"It is time," the Axolotl replied, dreamily.
"FOR...?" asked Bill, coming out of his funk. He stood up and rested his hands on his sides.
"REALLY?" His eye frowned. "LAST TIME YOU TRIED THAT ON ME I TOOK IT OUT ON DIMENSION TWENTY-TWO-POINT-FOUR-BACKSLASH, REMEMBER? OR MAYBE NOT, BECAUSE THERE'S NOT MUCH LEFT OF IT TO TALK ABOUT, IS THERE? SO HOW YOU FIGURE IT'S GONNA WORK THIS TIME, YOU FLUFFY PINK FROG FROM HELL?"
The Axolotl smiled. This deeply unnerved Bill. "You invoked the boon I bestowed upon you many eons ago…"
"AND YOU LOCKED ME UP! SOME BOON. THAT'S A RAW DEAL, AXY."
"I said nothing of what my mercy entailed, Bill Cipher. You are lucky to be alive. Perhaps you should be a bit more grateful?"
"YOU ARE REALLY STARTING TO PISS ME OFF, YOU KNOW THAT?"
"Yes, I do," it said, and swam in a delighted circle through the aether. "Before you can receive my gift, you must first look inside yourself."
"GIFT SCHMIFT. THIS IS BOGUS! EITHER LET ME OUT OF HERE OR KILL ME OFF, PICK ONE!" his voice boomed.
The Axolotl giggled then opened its wide mouth and spoke in verse:
Your desire for conquest is misdirected
Their true source of power lies undetected
It can be found in others' eyes
See it and you'll realize
What once was lost will now be found
Open your heart-how sweet the sound
A second chance is within your grasp
If only you choose the proper path
"WHAT THE HECK IS THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN?" he shouted.
The Axolotl nodded a little, tipping its body up and down slowly as if that were a good enough reply, and turned to go. As its image dispersed back into the mist, Bill heard it say "good-bye, Bill Cipher. And good luck."
"WAIT! DON'T YOU DARE LEAVE ME ALONE IN HERE AGAIN! DAMN IT, GET BACK HERE! I'M NOT-" Bill could not finish his tirade. In an instant, he was plunged into darkness.
Wendy laughed a happy, light-hearted laugh with a hint of exhaustion coloring the timbre. She lay back against the deck and let its residual warmth fight the chill she'd gotten in the spring air. "That was so fun," she breathed. "I think that's the first time I've enjoyed a ride since we lost Fidds. It's about time."
"Yeah," Dipper agreed. "It is. About time." His stomach threatened to rebel against him but he took a few calming breaths and mustered his resolve. "Wendy, I'm going back to California." She didn't immediately respond and he didn't dare turn to face her. He focused on a solitary puffy white cloud and prayed to powers he did not believe in that he wouldn't start crying.
"Alright," she said flatly. From the corner of his eye he saw her turn away.
"Ya know, because, my dream is still out there, somewhere."
"The TV show?" she asked, voice muffled.
"Maybe? I'm not sure anymore."
Wendy scoffed, sat up and pushed herself up off the porch lip. She stood and stretched her back. Her hair was getting long. He still thought of her as an angel and the sunlight beaming down gave her a sort of flaming halo. "If you're not sure, why bother?" she asked, looking out at the yard. "Does it suck here that bad?"
"N-no!" he blurted. "I love it here."
"Then stay. Whatever."
Dipper's heart soared with 'stay' and sank with 'whatever'. The dismissal seemed to echo off the surrounding trees. All he had to do was say something flip like 'well, see ya later, maybe' and go inside, closing the door on his hopes forever. It would be so simple, and maybe they could still be friends. Maybe the bubble didn't have to burst. He didn't have to ruin it, but his heart felt as if it were cracked in half. If he felt this close to death he might as well go all-out, he figured. Dipper sat up. "I talked to Mabel last night," he said.
"Oh?" Wendy asked, still not turning around.
"She doesn't think I should go, either. But she also thinks that I should tell you how much I love you and how I never want to be without you ever again, but I told her that would be awful because if you don't love me, then I'll lose my best friend. But If I don't tell you, Wendy, I feel like I might just as well crawl in a hole and die as go back to California. So, I love you. I always have."
She balled her hands into fists and trembled and Dipper wondered for a few agonizing seconds if she was going to turn around and punch him in the gut as she had in so many of his self-deprecating fantasies. "I don't want to need you," she said quietly. "I don't want to need anyone anymore ever. I've tried this with so many people and it always ends and I'm always left alone again. These last eight months have been so great. I have literally never been happier, even with losing Fids, even with being stressed out having to live with my dad and his boyfriend... Having you here, palling around. You are my best friend, Dipper. Don't leave," she demanded.
Dipper stood. She had heard his admission. She had not rejected him. She wanted him. His vision blurred a little. "I will never leave you," he said quickly.
At last she turned to him, her face an unreadable mask. "You mean it?"
"Do you love me?"
"I dunno," she whispered, brows arched. "Come'ere." Wendy reached out and grasped a fist full of his shirt and pulled him toward her. She embraced him, gripping his back tightly, pushing her face into his neck and breathing deeply. Her body relaxed and melted against his nervous, tense frame. "Yeah. I do. I love you. Shit. Shit I love you so much, fucking don't leave. Don't leave me."
"Never!" he spouted. The tension broken, his arms encircled her and joyful tears escaped his eyes. "Never, ever, ever."
The bars of his cage were gone. Everything was gone. His very self seemed gone. The dark was complete. Eternal. Perfect. He floated in nothingness, unable to use a single one of his senses or to cry out-only think-and the thoughts that entered his mind were terrible. The darkest of fears crept upon Bill unhindered by ego as he spun through the void. Nowhere was there even so much as a point of light for reference and he felt more lost than he had ever been. His soul ached for something to ground him and for the first time in millennia, Bill Cipher knew what true fear was. He knew it and there was no escape. None of his amusements were there to distract him from the intense pain of his existence-it was all there was-his being and his immense loneliness. He searched his soul for something, anything to give him succor and ease his suffering, but he found every one of his memories empty, broken by betrayal and lies.
He'd always had a keen sense of self-preservation. Even when he taunted the Axolotl to kill him, he'd intended to use any action made against him as leverage to free himself. Bill descended further down the spiral, grasping for something to pull himself up out of the endless night until he found himself at his wit's end. He'd reached the very bottom. All pretense was stripped away until all that was left was a raw nerve that felt only cold. And Bill Cipher despaired.
Not having any real idea of how long he'd been in the void, unsure even of who or what exactly he was, anymore, a word Bill had not used in countless millennia spilled from his soul. It creaked and cracked as if through disused vocal chords, tinny and hollow.
"PLEASE…" Bill Cipher begged.
At once he felt a glimmer of warmth that he'd forgotten completely, one nearly erased from his memory, but this spark was more eternal than even the void.
His eye shot open.
"MOTHER!" he cried out in agony. "I'M SORRY!"
The void cracked open. The world shifted. He was thrust violently forward and all he could see was a bright red, warmth, like the color of fresh, vibrant blood. A great, hot pressure bore down on him over and over.
Then another shift. Cold now. Shivering. His epidermis tightened painfully and suddenly he realized he couldn't breathe. 'I need to breathe?' He wondered. 'I need to breathe!' he screamed, but all that came out was a wailing cry. 'I can breathe!' he thought. 'Why does it hurt? Why does everything hurt?! Ah, pain is not hilarious...' Something was brushing against him. Something wet, then dry, moving him. Sounds he could not make out very well-voices it seemed-muffled and muted were all around him. A distant beeping. He tried to open his eye. The world was bright. Too bright. 'Why can't I see? This shouldn't be this hard. What are those sounds? And what is that smell? Where am I?'
He descended and came to rest against something soft. The action immediately calmed him. The warmth returned, soft and humming, so familiar yet so totally odd at the same time. Something stroked his cheek and at last his surprisingly stereoscopic vision and hearing came online.
"He's perfect," she said, smiling from ear to ear. She was crying.
Bill looked up at his mother.
She was crying, but happy? No. Overjoyed. She bowed and kissed his forehead. "Welcome to the world," she whispered and looked up to her right.
Another hand reached out and touched his face, smoothed the few strands of hair back. The hand seemed bigger than his entire being. "Hey," his father greeted him, his voice rumbling like distant thunder, soft and promising. "Uh, I don't know what to say," he said softly. "He's amazing. You're amazing." His eyes were green. Her eyes were green. And what Bill did not yet know was that his own eyes, too, were green.