The dreams began not long after 'Weirdmageddon' had concluded, and the statue of Bill Cipher's 3 dimensional form lay quiescently undisturbed in the forest.
Someone lectured in a room down the hall. The more Ford listened, the more she could make out the words.
"--Weirdpocalypse is closer; from the Greek for 'revelation' or 'unveiling'. The end times, heralded by a divine messenger, that makes known what was formerly unknown. If you'll turn to page sixty five..."
Ford stopped outside the door, hearing the obedient rustle of many dead trees, bound and marked.
"Armageddon is derived from the Hebrew for 'mountain city', and appears only once in the Bible, as a location, where the final battle for the souls of mankind is fought. This won't be on the test."
Ford tried the doorhandle, as the window was frosted glass, and the door opened. Inside everything was completely dark, but the sounds of pencils scratching and pages turning, as well as the lecturer's voice, continued.
"You're late, Stanford. Take your seat."
Quiet laughter from the back.
"Hold on..." Ford patted her trenchcoat down for a pocket maglight, then turned it on and surveyed the classroom. Empty chairs, everywhere. An empty lecturer's desk.
"Your seat, Stanford."
Ford sat down, feeling increasingly uneasy.
"Now. Who can tell me why Stanford was wrong about Bill Cipher?"
Ford woke with a start, grabbing the blanket nearest herself and finding it a surprise to be in bed at all. Often, even now, she just passed out anywhere. Thirty years dimension hopping as a homeless convict meant that she wasn't accustomed to the nicer things, like pjs or soft beds or pillows or the illusion of safety while unconscious.
She got up, padding downstairs to get some water, then stopped dead, listening. The house was quiet. The house was - a house. This was wrong. There was an electric hum coming from even more downstairs than the downstairs she'd just used, and this... was the shack in the woods, from thirty years ago. Rift portal and all.
"Well?" The lecturer's voice, from the kitchen. "I'm waiting. There were three assumptions about Bill."
I'm still asleep, obviously. Ford reasoned. This is some strange guilty conscience based on Weirdma-- ...Weirdpocalypse. She could no longer remember which was correct. She headed into the kitchen, intending to confront the lecturer, who stood, lounging lazily against the dining table in the corner.
It was Ford, with cats eye pupils, holding up fingers as she spoke. "Assumption the first - Bill was some kind of dungeon boss in a tabletop roleplaying game. Assumption deux - Bill wanted to 'destroy the Earth', cosmos, etcetera. And the final, third assumption - Bill didn't let you win."
"What are you talking about? Look, whatever this is, I made it right. I defeated Bill."
"For somebody so smart you sure don't do much listening. Maybe that's your problem. All the basics came too easily to you. So you just rush in with assumptions about everything. Did Bill ask you to worship them as a god? Did Bill push you through that portal after trying to burn your life's work? Did Bill erase your memories when you said something they didn't like?"
Ford floundered. "... What are you saying?"
"Cipher was the hundredth lucky winner of you deciding you'd had enough mistreatment. From your father, from your brother, from your schoolmates, from your society. Every little disappointment ratcheted you tighter. You snapped on the last one, not the worst one. You should've decked your brother at some point. Might've made you feel a little better."
"Look. If you're my subconscious having problems with how I deal with my relationships, then I'll thank you to bring it up while I'm awake. And if you're Bill rooting around in my mind without permission again--..."
"WOULD GOOD OL BILL REALLY DO THAT? I MEAN, YOU GAVE THAT PERMISSION UNILATERALLY YEARS AGO. YOU HAD A CRUSH THAT COULD BE SEEN FROM SPACE."
Ford's eyes narrowed. "Yes. I did. And I probably hung too much onto my relationship with Bill. The difficulties I ran into later, the disappointment I had, it was - my own fault, yes. To some degree. But you didn't have to actively lie to me."
"DIDN'T I? I GUESS YOU WERE DOING THAT PRETTY GOOD ON YOUR OWN." Bill - and it really was Bill, she was sure now - stepped around the kitchen counter, to keep the boundary firmly between them.
They continued, "BUT EVEN AFTER YOUR 30 YEAR ALL EXPENSES PAID DIMENSIONAL VACATION, YOU STILL THINK PUNCHING CTHULHU IS PREFERABLE TO TALKING TO HIM. YOU'RE PODDED, SIXER. I CAN'T DECIDE IF IT'S BECAUSE YOU REFUSE TO LOOK AT YOURSELF OR BECAUSE YOU JUST HATE WHAT YOU SEE. BUT YOU'VE ALWAYS HAD MORE IN COMMON WITH ME THAN WITH HUMANITY. I GUESS YOU JUST COULDN'T TAKE THE DISAPPOINTMENT, WHEN I TURNED OUT TO BE FLAWED LIKE THEM TOO."
Ford actively resisted the temptation to run from this. To wake up, to escape. "So that's your angle."
"HA! SORRY, I CAN'T BELIEVE I NEVER USED THAT ONE. GO ON."
"...No, you go on. You can't just 'casually suggest' that you let me win and then not talk about how."
"I PUT THOSE ASSUMPTIONS IN ORDER FROM MOST IMPORTANT TO LEAST, SOCRA-TEASE. YOU HAVE TO ACCEPT THAT I MIGHT NOT BE A HORRIFIC MONSTER BEFORE YOU CAN ACCEPT THAT I DIDN'T KILL YOUR WHOLE FAMILY - FROM 5 GENERATIONS BACK, EVEN - WITH MY TIME BABY POWERS. I MEAN I DON'T KNOW HOW YOU EXPLAIN IT OTHERWISE. INCOMPETENCE? I DO A LOT WITH MUCH LESS THAN WHAT I HAD THERE. DO YOU REALLY THINK I WAS AUTHENTICALLY DEFEATED BY A SAD ALCOHOLIC, TWO TWELVE YEAR OLDS, AND YOU?"
"I don't know what good it does to lie, but we did defeat you." Ford rallied.
"YEAH. EXCEPT I SHOOK STAN'S HAND. YANNO, THE ONE THING THAT DIFFERENTIATES YOU TWO INSTANTLY? AND NEVERMIND THAT I'VE BEEN INSIDE YOUR MIND BEFORE AND I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE IN THERE. THINK ABOUT IT, SIXER. YOU WON'T OWE ME ANYTHING IF YOU JUST ADMIT THAT I HELD BACK LIKE CRAZY BECAUSE I DIDN'T WANT TO WIN. YOU WANT MORE EVIDENCE? BESIDES THAT I DIDN'T KILL YOU IN THE FOUR DAYS I HAD YOU IN THE FEARAMID, I GUESS - OR ANYONE ELSE IN TOWN, BY THE WAY. HOW ABOUT MATH?"
Ford didn't follow. "What?"
"THAT 'SIMPLE EQUATION' YOU KNEW TO ESCAPE GRAVITY FALLS. WHICH OF US KNOWS ENOUGH MATH TO PUNCH HOLES IN DIMENSIONS WITH OTHER PEOPLE'S MACHINES? OR DID YOU FORGET THAT TOO? YOU MIGHT HAVE BEEN MY AGENT IN THE THIRD DIMENSION, BUT I WAS YOUR TUTOR."
Bill leaned on the counter. "I THREW IT, OKAY? I THREW THE MATCH. I WANTED TO WIN AT FIRST, BUT I WASN'T HAVING FUN ALMOST RIGHT AWAY, AND I NEEDED TO GET TO A POSITION WHERE I'D HAVE TO USE THE GET OUT OF JAIL FREE CARD FROM THE AXOLOTL, OR I WAS NEVER GOING TO."
Ford stepped back toward the front door.
"DON'T RUN AWAY FROM THIS. I'M TIRED OF CHASING YOU." Bill's voice took on a raw, ragged edge, the way it had when they'd laughed about being 'crazy either way'. "PLEASE. I KNOW I MADE MISTAKES. I THOUGHT YOU WERE DIFFERENT. BUT YOU ARE A SCIENTIST, AND SCIENTISTS FACE FACTS. SO LISTEN TO WHAT I'M SAYING."
"Let me, err. Let me wake up, and I'll think about what you've said."
"I'M NOT STOPPING YOU. AND I HOPE YOU DO." Bill looked mildly pained, "WE COULD'VE BEEN GREAT, YOU KNOW. WE STILL CAN. AS LONG AS YOU'RE ALIVE, YOU CAN ALWAYS DO DIFFERENTLY. THAT'S WHAT CHAOS MEANS."
Ford came awake, genuinely this time, and spent the next half hour staring up at the ceiling.
Facing facts was one thing - what to do with them afterwards?