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At My God's Feet, I Show My Devotion

Chapter Text

Low, ominous chanting accompanied Dipper on his way to the altar, carried along by his tense shoulders.

 

The entire village, save for his Great Uncle Stanford who waited for him with pursed lips, had their heads bowed in reverence. His lone figure cut a path towards the worn, stone steps that would lead him skyward. The heaviness of the gold upon his heated skin weighed upon him, cold and harsh. Even still, Dipper kept his head high and chin up, mocha eyes refusing to look anywhere but forward. His bare feet carried him forward, the chains and jewelry that adorned  him jingling softly from his movements. The silks wrapped around his body were far more elaborate than one of his position deserved and they hung loosely from his frame, beautiful sapphire hues complimenting his pale complexion. Among his people, who were on their knees, he was royalty.

 

A gift fit for a god.

 

Dipper took a shuddering breath, trying to calm the rapid beating of his heart, which was threatening to burst from his chest. Fear clawed up his throat but he refused to show any weakness; he would be the picture perfect sacrifice, full of only devotion and a willingness to give himself up for his entire village.

 

Stanford Pines, their shaman, stood at the base of the stairs, his face strained and aged. A deep remorse shone in his eyes but he himself didn't show any outward signs of the loss he was experiencing; the urge to protect the boy he had taken in when his parents had passed on and hold him close was held in check by his solemn duties. He waited until his great nephew was before him and pride blossomed in his chest at the strength he was showing, his head held high despite the shakiness of his hands. The beads in his own hand felt like ice and the priest wished, not for the first time, that it was someone else's neck he was going to place them around.

 

Dipper kneeled before him and waited.

 

Clearing his throat, Ford raised the long, golden chain above his head and the chanting from their people slowly faded until it was only silence around them. " Mason Alexander Pines, " He began, working past the lump that had settled in his cords, " You are the selected sacrifice to our God, the almighty Dream Deity, the Golden One Who Knows All and Lord of the Mindscape, where our souls go to rest. You are our offering, our gift! " His voice carried over the entire courtyard and everyone gathered breathed in sharply.

 

It was time.

 

" Do you, " Ford asked, shaking the dazzling, golden beads he held in his hands, " Accept your destiny? Do you, Mason Alexander Pines, accept these beads? One for each person our God has chosen over the centuries he has guided us? "

 

Dipper inhaled deeply and pushed past the grief that was beginning to grow in his heart alongside the pride and nervousness. He exclaimed, with a clarity he hadn't been sure he could posses, " I accept the beads that are to wrap around my neck, the souls of my ancestors, and gratefully claim them as my noose! "

 

Bowing his head, Ford began to weave the long, heavy strand around his body, looping it around his neck and chest, connecting it to his hip where a brooch allowed it to droop, the glossy, black feather on the end brushing his calf with it's soft down. " Then accept these beads and accept your fate, for our lord and our God awaits. " He nodded to his assistant, a position that formerly belonged to Dipper, and the young male brought forth a bowl full of dark, inky liquid. He held it up with quivering hands and Stanford reached in and dipped his fingers into the thick substance. " May the stars bless your journey and cradle you when you sleep. " He finished. Then, cupping Dipper's face with his free hand, he brought his finger's down and drew upon him the symbols and lines that marked him as theirs.

 

When the tips of his great-uncle's fingers pressed into his forehead, Dipper gasped. The liquid, which he knew to be their God's blood, was cold. His body shivered as he continued to be a canvas for the man, triangles, lines, and symbols slowly painted upon his flesh. The branding was finished when the ancient, zodiac wheel that represented The Golden One stood proud and clear on his exposed back.

 

Swallowing, Ford brought their faces closer and choked out a mournful, " I'm so sorry, Dipper. "

 

He offered him a small, resigned smile, " I know, Great-Uncle Ford. "

 

" We love you, " He whispered, slipping something into his hand, " I am so proud of you. "

 

" Thank you. " Dipper croaked, blinking away tears. He tucked the item into a fold of his silks and lifted his chin, defiant of the tears that threatened to fall. " I- I love you too. "

 

Nothing more was said. Ford stood and stepped aside, joining his people as he too, kneeled before him, back arched and hands making a triangle over his heart. He began to chant, his voice deep and void of any strain, and soon the towns people all joined in, their voices mingling to create an eerie, ghostly wail.

 

Closing his eyes and steadying himself, Dipper stepped forward, taking the first step up the well worn stairwell to the heavens. They rose before him, seemingly hundreds of them, and with each step, the song from below grew more and more distant. With the sun descending over the temple, the whole structure was bathed in the red light of dusk, bloodstained and foreboding. Still, he climbed, the weight of the numerous gold pieces he wore heavy and slowing his ascent. He clutched the beads in his hands, rubbing the smooth metal with his worried fingers, hoping the shaking of his legs was from exertion and not fear.

 

Higher and higher he trudged, towards the alter where he would begin a new life and end the one he had now as a mortal. No longer would he be human but rather fodder for his God, life sustaining energy for him to continue living. Dipper knew it was a great honor, something he should be weeping with joy over, but the stale taste of disgust and terror refused to leave and his heart dropped another inch with every step he took. The closer he came to their God, the farther away he got from his family, his ambitions, his desires.

 

The closer he came to his god, the closer he came to losing everything.

 

The voices beneath him were nothing but a whisper now and with one final push of his throbbing legs, he crested the top. The platform was flat and well worn from thousands of years of use, ancient fabrics and drapery spread across the stone. Beyond, the sacred temple rose high into the sky, the very peak of it's spire piercing the rising moon, the sun at his back nearly vanished from sight. The carvings on the palace were vibrant, standing as a testament to their God's strength and power, everything recorded on the slanted, triangular walls.

 

Standing before it, alone and exposed to the world, Dipper fell to his knees and braced himself on his hands, the pounding of his blood ringing in his ears. Something fell, skidding across the stone and he was suddenly reminded of the item Ford had given him. Discretely, he scooped it up. He ran his thumb across it and broke out into a tiny, heartfelt smile. He could feel the wooden pendent Mabel had made for him years ago, the small, pine tree shaped necklace bringing a wave of comfort to him that he was grateful for. He hooked it onto one of the many chains that hung from his hips, giving it a reassuring pat. " Thanks, Mabel. "

 

Taking a steadying breath, his people's voices at his back, Dipper waited. Sweat rolled down the side of his face and dripped onto the monolith and he swallowed nervously. His knees ached and his hands stung from where little pebbles dug into his palms. He resisted the urge to fidget uncomfortably. He watched deep shadows stretch across the alter, aided by the sun's last brilliant rays of day and then, like a breath blowing out a candle, it was gone.

 

As soon as the sun vanished, a low, deep seated rumble began to shake the earth and the chanting from below swelled into a loud, joyous song. A soft gasp escaped his lips and Dipper quickly bit down on them to quell any rising terror that remained in his heart. He squeezed his eyes shut and lowered himself so his forehead was pressed into the rock, a bow of deep submission and obedience. Instruments joined in to accompany the roar of people and Dipper wished, not for the first time, that he was on the ground instead of the sky.

 

And then there was silence.

 

His curiosity got the better of him and he cracked his eyes open, his vision blurry and watery. Blinking away the un-fallen tears, Dipper slowly craned his neck to look around, unsure of what was happening. A cold sheen of sweat had laid itself over his body and he shivered from the sudden chill that had risen with the moon.

 

Dipper had never seen their God. He was an enigma which only existed in his dreams, the sweet, promise of wonderful nights if his devotion was true and horrid, lavish nightmares when he wavered. The only one in their village permitted to see the deity was the shaman, his Great Uncle Stanford. He knew, when everything had fallen still, that the people were all on their knees like himself, face pressed into the earth, each one murmuring their own wishes for the year and for blessing from The Golden One.

 

Only Dipper would see what they could not.

 

He became aware of another sound, one that set the hair on the back of his neck on end, and he tried not to focus on the vibrations that rocked his body. I should be praying right now, he thought, praying.

 

He licked his lips and softly chanted, " Oh Lord of Dreams, soother of my slumber, I offer you my whole body, soul, and afterlife. Allowed by you, I ask to be returned unto your presence so that- so that I may rest in eternal dreams. " His voice was shaking and he mentally cursed himself for the stutter he had allowed into his prayer, " I humbly offer you what I have to give, all of me. Who I was and who I have become. "

 

 Texq fp vlro kxjb, erjxk zefia lc jv mblmib? 

 

The voice was smooth and cold, Dipper's skin erupting in a swarm of goosebumps as the words dripped over him like ice water. High and echo filled, it rung in the back of his skull in a dull ache. Despite it's sinister tone, he felt like it was familiar to him. A memory even. " Mason- Mason Alexander Pines. "

 

 Jxplk Xibuxkabo Mfkbp ▶  It whispered in his ear, ◀ Tev exsb vlr zljb ql jv xiqbo? 

 

" I have come, Lord of the Mindscape, as an offering to you. I give myself to you and all that I am. I wish to please you with my mortal body and mind so that your blood and knowledge will forever run deep. "

 

 Vlr tfpe ql dfsb vlropbic ql jb, Qeb Dliabk Zfmebo, xp x pxzofcfzb clo qeb qltk lc Doxsfqv Cxiip? 

 

" Yes, my- my God. " He chocked out.

 

 Oxfpb vlro ebxa, Jxplk Xibuxkabo Mfkbp. Oxfpb vlro bvbp ql ybelia vlro Dla. 

 

" Yes my lord. " Dipper whispered and, very, very slowly, he raised his head.

 

And gasped.

 

His God, their lord, was before him in all his glory. Massive and powerful, he stared up at the dragon-like face that gazed down, two sets of eyes blinking owlishly at him. His scales were golden in color and tinted with blue, silky, black feathers decorating his spine and jaw. Dipper couldn't tell from where he was kneeling but he could only assume that his body was long, disappearing far beneath him. Trailing his gaze up his serpentine body, Dipper could only think of the word 'abomination' to describe the deity.

 

Multiple arms hung at his side, hands curled in anticipation, claws hooked at the ends of each spindly, crooked finger. Eyes that lined the smooth, scaled sides, blinked at him, pupils completely focused on it's prize, the one that was bequeathed to them. All of them were a bright, vivid blue. When the massive form shifted, Dipper could only startle as, right before his eyes, a human like face opened it's eyes, pinning him with a steely gaze from it's position on the God's chest; he shuddered as a mouth full of sharp teeth grinned at him.

 

The Golden One was stunning and terrible to look upon, invoking an unusual feeling of awe and disgust. Despite the oddities, and the repulsive additives, Dipper could only see them as beautiful and enchanting.

 

Even if he was to see his death today, he considered it a blessing that he got to see his God with his own mortal eyes.

 

 Ifhb texq vlr pbb?  He inquired, tilting his massive head at him.

 

Flushing, Dipper ducked his head, " Your-your presence is intimidating, Lord of the- the Mindscape. " He admitted.

 

A deep, rumbling hiss escaped the god's drawn lips and Dipper wagered it was a chuckle, ◀ Xp xkv dla pelria yb. 

 

Cipher lowered his great head toward him and Dipper was left staring into two sets of deep blue gems, the stare capturing and alluring. His hand reached out to instinctively stroke his scales but when he saw his pale, shaking hand held out towards him, he drew it back to his chest, " I-I am sorry, My Lord. " He bowed deeply, tearing his gaze away; his heartbeat echoed in his ears.

 

The Golden One merely flicked his tongue at him, slithering closer, ◀ Vlr tfpe ql mixzb vlro jloqxi exka lk jv ylav, qeb ylav lc x dla? 

 

" I request you, your forgiveness. " Dipper stammered out, cursing his curiosity. Silence answered him and it dragged for what felt like eons, ticking by at an impossibly slow speed. Then, a light, feathered touch caressed his cheek and he jolted, neck snapping up to realize he was nose to nose with the dragon like being. He drew back, " M-my Lord? "

 

 Vlr, xka lkiv vlr, jxv qlrze j dliabk pzxibp, zefia lc qeb pqxop. 

 

Dipper swallowed, " Thank-thank you, All Knowing One. " Carefully, he stretched his arm out, palm out stretched. It shook, halting when his fingers were mere inches away from his nose; he turned his head away, unable to bring himself to place his hand upon the god.

 

He gasped as a cold, smooth snout pressed into his hand.

 

Dipper could feel the buzz of a celestial power beneath his fingertips, soothing and familiar though he had never felt such energy before. The scales were hard and his digits began to tingle from the prolonged exposure. Butterflies fluttered their way from his stomach and into his rib cage, beating their wings against his heart. His eyelids fluttered closed and he brought his other hand up to cradle the deity's jaw. Leaning his head closer, he placed his forehead against his muzzle, tears gathering at the corner of his eyes, " Oh, "

 

The Golden One watched curiously as the human child cradled his nose, the light touch of the mortal shooting sparks along his sides, night stained feathers bristling and scales arching away from skin. 

 

All too soon, he pulled away.

 

Dazed, Dipper blinked away the fleeting feeling of nostalgia, whispering, " Thank-thank you, "

 

A look of astonishment crossed his face, ◀ Vlr xob tbizljb, jv pxzofcfzb. 

 

Cipher's body curled tightly around the pillar and his many arms flexed before they went limp to hang at his side. " I'm, " Dipper rasped, stopping to swallow,  " I'm ready to continue, My Lord. "

 

The god hummed, nodding. Rearing back, he opened his topmost mouth, ◀ Doxsfqv Cxiip ▶ He roared, the earth shaking and bending to his will, ◀ Vlr lccbo jb Jxplk Xibuxkabo Mfkbp xp vlro pxzofcfzb! Vlr xob dfsfkd jb efp yilla, efp ylav, efp plri! Vlr xob dfsfkd jb efp bkqfob ybfkd! 

 

The people of Gravity Falls roared, their cries filled with song and approval.

 

 Xka vlr, ▶ He addressed the boy, ◀ Al vlr, hkltfkd vlr xob jv pxzofcfzb, lccbo vlropbic ql jb? Tfiifkdiv xka teliiv? 

 

" I offer you my entire being. " Dipper said breathlessly. " Who I am now, who I will become, and all I am ever meant to be. "

 

 Pl jlqb fq yb. 

 

Cipher's massive form slid onto the stone platform and he began to encircle the kneeling brunette, wrapping him in his hold in a surprisingly gentle way. His scales brushed Dipper's heated skin and extra limbs occasionally grasped loosely at his arms. He found himself lifted off his feet, supported by the great coils of the black and gold beast, slowly propelled until he was face to face with his God, warm, terrified brown orbs clashing with cold, icy blue; he squeezed the wooden pine tree hanging from his hip tightly.

 

 F ifhb vlr hfa, ▶ Cipher smirked, raising a clawed paw, ◀ F qefkh F tfii hbbm vlr! 

 

" What- " Dipper began to ask but gasped as a talon pierced his skin. He looked down blankly to where a nail had broken the skin over his heart, impaling the beating organ. His pupils dilated and the edges of his vision began to blur, colors flashing in his peripheral vision. Pain beyond anything he'd ever felt erupted across his skin like an eternally burning flame, digging deep into his very essence. He tried to scream but his vocal cords constricted and he was left wheezing. Blood gurgled at the back of his throat and he could taste the sharp sensation of iron on his tongue. As the black claw was pulled slowly out of his chest, a crimson river beginning to flow down his stomach, staining the gold he wore and silks draped over him; it was cold.

 

He was falling through air, in slow motion, and laughter began to bubble at the back of his skull, a pounding ache coursing through his head. He hit the ground with a thud that seemed to break every bone in his body.

 

Dipper felt himself slipping away, the heaviness of the gold disappearing in return for agony that threatened to tear him apart. "........." He opened his mouth to say something but there was a flash of gold in the center of his vision and he could of sworn he felt gentle hands lift him from the stone and cradle him affectionately, smoothing back his bangs. There was a light touch on his forehead and he shuddered.

 

 I accept my sacrifice. 

 

And then, as if he never existed, Dipper Pines disappeared from Gravity Falls.

Chapter Text

Dipper sat up, a scream ripping from his throat, " No! "

 

Chest heaving, he looked around in a panic, not knowing where he was. He remembered an intense pain wracking his body, a cackling laughter that had faded to darkness, and a stone altar on top of the world, but everything else remained beneath the fog of awakening. Bringing his shaking hands up, he placed them over his face and dragged them through his hair, pulling his knees up to his chest; the ache that thrummed beneath his heart was nothing but a dull throb now. Steadying his labored breaths, he looked up to take in his surroundings.

 

" Whoa. " He whispered.

 

He was in the middle of a large, circular room that was bathed in gold and black, silks hanging from the ceiling and draping across the ornamental pillars that were carved in the likeness of his God. Strands of shimmering pearls looped through the cloth and gold was everywhere, dangling from above and tastefully used to tie back some of the thicker curtains of onyx. Numerous windows lined the walls, great arches to the outside world, and a steady, gentle breeze wafted into the room, bringing with it the scent of wildflowers and spring dew. Craning his neck back, his mouth fell open in awe at the domed ceiling above, the panels swirling with the purples, blues, pinks, and white of the milky way. Stars twinkled at him, tiny and far from reach.

 

The grand splendor of the room was enough to take his breath away and, hesitantly, Dipper pushed the comforter that covered him away from, noting he was still in his sacrificial attire. The ink designs on his skin still vibrant and untouched. He threw his legs over the side of what he assumed to be the bed and paused, gripping the edge tightly. It bobbled with his movements and he realized it was hovering in the direct center of the room, just above a mural of gilt and color that showed their God's earthly shape surrounded by blue flames and oddly shaped symbols.

 

Dipper scooted to the edge, his bare feet dangling, and hopped down with a soft pad of skin against tile; some sheets that gathered around his legs pooled around him. Steadying himself with an outstretched  hand, he wiggled his toes, the floor cool to the touch. Turning around to gaze in amazement at what he saw, everything in the room coming into a sharp focus, he asked, " Where am I? "

 

When he received no answer, he hesitantly stepped away from the bed. When no one rushed in to berate him for his action, he walked with more confidence over to one of the windows, the architecture new and different than that of his village. Placing his hands on the brick, he gazed out, the scenery before him nowhere near what he was expecting. " Oh, wow! " He breathed.

 

Nothing but night sky stretched out before him, millions of stars dotting the darkness. Gasping as a shooting star zipped across the vast plane, Dipper stared. He swore he could still smell the forests of earth and the rain and he wasn't sure where the breeze that caressed his cheek was coming from, but he was entranced. He recognized some of the constellations and he traced the familiar shapes with his fingers, smiling as he fondly remembered home.

 

◀ Do you like it?  ▶

 

Startled, Dipper looked over his shoulder, spinning around to face the man who stood only a few feet away from him. He had not heard anyone enter the room and he struggled to remember his words. " Who-who are you? "

 

The man chuckled, and the slight echo that resounded through the action prodded a memory slumbering shallowly inside him.  ◀ Have you truly forgotten the face of your God already, Mason Alexander Pines? ▶

 

His words were not as distorted as he remembered, being much easier to understand and without the sharp twinge that had accompanied the spoken syllables earlier; Dipper narrowed his eyes, " My God? " He posed carefully.

 

Again, the being laughed, high pitched and grating,  ◀ Humans are such fickle things are they not? A little pain, a little death, and suddenly they can not remember even the most important things. How strange.  ▶

 

He took a step toward him and it was odd, as if the God wasn't used to moving this way. His steps were accompanied by an unseemly lurch and Dipper had to resist the urge to back away from his advances, knowing there was nothing behind him to stop an inevitable tumble out the window.

 

The man before him chuckled at his fear, eyes creasing in pleasure.  ◀ Do I scare you? ▶ He purred, lips quirking into a wide grin that seemed much too eerie to be natural.

 

" A- a little. " He admitted, struggling to keep his gaze down, not wanting to offend the god by making direct, unwanted eye contact; he didn't succeed, too curious, too drawn to him.

 

He had to crane his neck to look at him, the other being far taller than his own meager height. His face was handsome and alluring but also loudly outlandish, obviously not human. His single azure eye was glowing, the other a black hole of swirling darkness, small, raven feathers lining the outer curve of the sockets. His nose was aristocratic and long, mouth thin lipped and full of sharp, white teeth that beamed at him. Triangular scales were scatters across his cheeks and nose bridge, looking like the actual metal itself, glinting in the bright light of the room. Blond and dark hair framed his face, long locks falling down his back in loose braids. Black horns curved upward and spiraled behind pointed, feathered ears which traveled down the angle of his jaw. Lithe arms sprouted from his back, one pair poised over his shoulder, the other at his hips; each limb was stained in darkness from the fingertips all the way to the elbow where it slowly faded to the dark, chocolate of skin. Tattoos of ichor pulsed softly, covering his main set of arms in rings and triangular shapes, a few circling his neck like a collar. A long, feathered tail lazily waved behind him in amusement, dotted with scales of blue.

 

Silks and finery draped off his body in sheer sheets, elaborate and beautiful, gold trailing behind him with each step he took, the gilt numerous and heavy. His very presence pulsed with power and his appearance made Dipper feel as if he did not deserve to be in his presence, low and homely. It did not take a scholar of high learning to know who was before them.

 

A god in semi-human form.

 

A hand extended to him, waiting.

 

Wide eyed, Dipper looked up into the smirking, devilish face of his God, his heart racing at impossible speeds. " My-my God? " He stammered.

 

 ◀ Take my hand. 

 

He did so with only a moments pause, placing his shaking hand into his.

 

He was tugged effortlessly from the wall, feet sliding gracefully along the tiles of the floor until he was before the God, held mere inches away from him. Swallowing thickly, he looked up, a cheshire grin meeting his gaze.

 

The taller man leaned down, his single eye glinting in pent up mischief and humor,  ◀ Does my presence rob you of your ability to speak, Mason? ▶

 

" Dipper. "

 

The Golden One blinked, the hurriedly rushed word confusing him, ◀ Dipper? ▶

 

He blushed, ducking his head to hide the scarlet that was overtaking his cheeks. Dipper tried to explain himself,  " I-I prefer to be called Dipper. " He whispered. " If you please. " He added quickly, seeing him narrow his eye at him.

 

◀ Dipper. ▶ He drawled out, testing the odd nickname on his long tongue, acting as if he were rolling it between his teeth like a sweet. He seemed mildly displeased by the way it sounded, his eye flashing. ◀ It is odd. ▶ He declared finally.

 

" My apologies, All Knowing One. " Dipper bowed his head, biting his cheeks at his arrogance.

 

The god looked down at the small human, at the way his cheeks puffed up and how his nose scrunched as he held back biting words. He snickered behind a closed fist. ◀ You humans have so many names for one such as myself. ▶  He purred, reaching a long fingered hand up and stroked down the side of his face, the nail lightly grazing his flesh; Dipper's skin erupted in goosebumps. ◀ The All Knowing One. The Golden One. Lord of the Mindscape. Dream Walker. The One Who Sees All. 

 

His words carried a chill of power and the hair on the back of his neck bristled with each name uttered by the God. " World-World Eater. " He breathed out, voice barely above a whisper.

 

◀ Oh, I like that one. ▶ He smiled, ◀ I have not heard that one in quite some time. ▶ He looked at Dipper, searching and trying to figure out the slight human before him, ◀ Do you know why the Old World called me The World Eater? ▶ He finally asked him, pushing a strand of hair behind the boy's ear. ◀ My little sacrifice? 

 

" Um, " Dipper stuttered, mind quickly racing through everything he had been taught about the god of dreams and nightmares. Images of a room filled with the most unusual objects and his great uncle hunched over his desk came to mind; while fond, the memory stung. " Because when Atlantis converted to the belief that they were- that they Poseidon's children, your wrath was written to be so great that you destroyed their entire civilization in one- in one day. Up until then, Atlantis had been called a Utopia of Knowledge and was thought to have been a world of its own. " He continued at the god's nod of approval, " So, because they turned their backs on you, you destroyed Atlantis as a sign to all to never cross you. "

 

◀ I seem to have an intellectual in my tower don't I? ▶ The Golden One teased, allowing his hand to fall to his side, impressed with the boy's knowledge. ◀ Very, very few humans know the true history of Atlantis and their grave mistake of taking me for a lazy, Greek God. ▶ He folded his arms behind his back and began to pace the room with slow, light footsteps. ◀ I am not such a thing. ▶

 

Dipper's eyes followed him, his body tense and still. He wasn't sure what to make of his God insulting another, or the simple fact that he was before him in human skin, talking like not a thing worried him. He spoke nothing but truth. He was not a lazy, Greek god who thought himself better than another but could not prove it. All the stories and myths surrounding the dragon- eldritch being before him told not of his kindness and benevolence. No one spoke of how much he 'loved' his people or 'adored' the mortals that were his to use and control whenever the fancy came to him. No, he was fierce. Cold. He feared little and  showed no hesitation in destroying what did not bow to him. Mercy was not a usual visitor to his dictionary.

 

◀ Dipper, hmmm? ▶ He thought aloud, his companion's silence not seeming to bother him. His ears flicked in irritation, ◀ That is an unusual name. A nickname was it? ▶

 

Dipper nodded.

 

◀ What is this silly, little thing you call a 'nickname'? ▶ He asked, turning on his heels to look at him, his slitted pupil dilating as it locked on the fidgeting brunette, ◀ Another human custom you partake in? ▶

 

" It's, " Dipper began to explain, licking his dry lips and clearing his throat, wincing as his voice cracked, " It's like another name you give to someone you like or know so that you don't have to say their whole name or if they- " He flushed lightly and looked away, " If they don't like their given name. "

 

◀  So, because Mason Alexander Pines did not like his given name he chose 'Dipper' as this so described nickname? ▶

 

" Not- not exactly. My sister gave it to me when we were little and I, well, I liked it better than Mason. "

 

Mason is usually a name given to those whose family trade is stone work. Yet you were born of the stars, not of stone. Interesting. ▶ His lips spread in a wide, unearthly grin, his sharp teeth glinting in the soft glow of the candles. ◀ Interesting. ▶ He turned suddenly and stalked right up to Dipper, their chests nearly touching as he slid up to tower over him, looking down at him like a wild animal about to devour its prey; the feathers along his jaw puffed out. ◀ A pet name. A term of endearment. 

 

" Wh-what are- "

 

◀ You may call me Cipher then. 

 

" What? " Dipper blinked, taking a step back.

 

◀ The Golden One or Walker Among the Dreams of Mortals is, after all, a mouthful. Conversation would be tiresome if you had to address me so formally every time I wished to converse with you. So, though I do regret giving up such a name, I will allow you to address me in such an informal way. Are I not just so kind?

 

Before he could express his undying gratitude, Cipher continued. ◀  And I am not going to call you by the nickname given to you. Dipper. § 

 

" Why-why not? "

 

◀ I do not want to. ▶ He shrugged nonchalantly, lips still tilted in that chilling grin. ◀ I prefer something akin to 'Pinetree'. It has a nice ring to it does it not? ▶

 

He frowned, hand going to his hip so he could grasp the wooden  ornament his sister had carved for him. He pursed his lips when his fingers found nothing but air.

 

Laughing, delighted at his challenging expression, Cipher dangled the pendant in front of him, the smooth, little tree swaying an inch from his nose. ◀ What is wrong, my sacrifice? God got your tongue does he? 

 

Dipper wisely kept his mouth shut, eyes transfixed on the tree, his hands itching to rip it from God and reclaim it for his own. Pure logic won that short fight and, instead, he averted his gaze to the ground, worrying his lip between his teeth. " That's mine. " He mumbled softly. " And I would like it back, please. "

 

I was not aware. ▶ Cipher smirked, pulling the cord up, winding the leather strip tightly around his bony fingers. He brought it up to look it over, nostrils flaring at its simple appearance. ◀ What is so special about this little tree? ▶

 

" My-my sister gave it to me when we were small. Right after our parents died. " He answered, fidgeting, " It-it really means a lot to me. "

 

◀ I see. ▶ Cipher stated, not tearing his eye off of it. When he had had his fill of the mortal trinket, he held it back out to him, the cord unraveling from his finger. 

 

Dipper reached out to take it.

 

Ah, ah, ah~ ▶ The god tutted, wagging a finger in his face. ◀ Not just yet, my sacrifice. ▶

 

" Yes? " He scoffed, unable to keep the irritation out of his voice; he hoped it would go unchecked.

 

If you want something, you must give something in return. Even amongst the divinity, it is common courtesy. ▶

 

Dipper sighed heavily through his nose, " What do you want? "

 

Say my name. ▶

 

" Excuse me? "

 

I wish to hear my name spoken with your pretty mouth. Now, who am I? ▶

 

Dipper stuttered, tongue tied. His cheeks flushed with color and he avoided looking into the mischievous eye of his god. " I- I can't just- that's so disrespectful! "

 

I asked you to call me by such. Very few have this honor. I suggest you use it well. ▶

 

There was no room for arguments.

 

" You are my god, " Dipper finally said, realizing he wouldn't get back what was his until he obeyed, " Cipher. "

 

Well done. ▶  He praised, dropping the charm into the boy's awaiting palm.

 

Dipper snatched the necklace up, pulling it back to his chest protectively. He glared softly at the beaming god, giving him a begrudging, " Thanks. "

 

Cipher stared down at the brunette, taking in his stance, how he tried in vain the stop the light quiver that wracked his body or the fear that shone in the depths of his mocha eyes. The teeth biting his lip threatened to break the flesh open with how hard he was worrying it. Yet, there was a stubborn fire that burned within him, an ember of disobedience visible in those starry eyes. He smiled widely, ◀ I am so very glad I decided to keep you, Pinetree. ▶

 

" What-what do- ".

 

He reached out and grabbed his wrist, his grip firm and unrelenting.  Then, coyly, he tugged him closer, arching down until his lips were just above the shell of his ear, ◀ Things are bound to get a lot more interesting with you around, Pinetree, of that I promise you. ▶

 

" Excuse me? " Dipper squeaked out, face erupting in warmth as his breath crested his ear. He lurched back, desperate to be away from the taller man. He turned away, unable to meet his patronizing  gaze. " What do you- " He began, looking back over as the other laughed boisterously.

 

Cipher was gone.

 

Blinking, Dipper stared into the empty room, the God nowhere to be seen. Breathing heavily, he took a tentative step forward; nothing happened. He was alone, left to himself once more. He carefully made his way over to the bed and sat down, his legs thanking him for fear of giving out from under him. The cradle bobbled at his added weight and he pulled Mabel's necklace over his head, the wooden charm resting just below his collarbone. The familiar sensation of the wood against skin made him think of home; Mabel's bright, sunny laughter, Stan's gruffness, and Ford's study where he spent much of his time. An ache in his heart caused him to curl in on himself, his throat clenched in pain. Tears ran down his cheeks and, surprised, he raised a shaking hand to his mouth to stifle the sob that threatened to escape.

 

He had accepted that he would be a sacrifice to their god, to Cipher. It was a position filled with glory and respect. He was the one who would bring luck and prosperity to his town. Why wouldn't he be delighted that Cipher had chose him of all people? His people would tell the tale of how Dipper climbed the steps to offer himself to The Golden One with head held high for years to come.

 

But that wasn't what he wanted.

 

He wanted to run through the forests with his sister and study all the unusual plants and animals that lived in the town with Great Uncle Ford. He wanted to laze around all day with Grunkle Stan and sneak out at night to watch the stars, laying in the grass until dawn crested the trees. He wanted to travel and come back with tales of adventure of other civilizations and settle down to be the Shaman he was destined to be, just like the countless others of his bloodline. There was so much he was capable of, so much he could do.

 

And it had been ripped away from him with a single, black feather.

 

Sacrificing yourself, they had said, is nothing but honorable. You'll sleep forever in the Mindscape, drifting through dreams of your ancestors, living through them until your time came to be reborn. Then, blessed by The Golden One, you would emerge in your next life. How many times had he heard these words, uttered softly to him as he prepared himself mentally and physically for the taking of his soul? They were suppose to be a crutch, a chant, for him to think on in a positive way. He, and only he, would be a suitable gift for their god.

 

Yet, Dipper was not traversing the memories of his relatives of old. Nor was he sleeping. He was not, as he had been promised, in the Mindscape, biding his time until the time came for him the join the world of the mortals once more.

 

The terrifying truth of the matter was, Dipper had no idea where he was.

 

What was he, if not dead? Was he still alive, somewhere off in the realm of gods, where no mortal had the right to be? And if he was, why had Cipher dragged him here rather than indulge himself upon his flesh and blood? Everything he had been told had been lies if his experience was anything to go by. It brought him little comfort.

 

Curling up as much as his body would allow him, the days events began to weigh heavily on his mind. Getting prepped and prepared for the long walk from the underground perpetration chamber to the temple. Having a final goodbye to the family he would never see again. His people blessing him with their words, feeling like he could hear all their whispered prayers that he was meant to carry with him to the top of the temple. Climbing the seemingly endless steps to the skies where he offered himself to be eaten by their God. The smooth feeling of cold, sharp scales beneath his fingers. The pain and chill of Death's grip.

 

Everything came crashing down at once and pure exhaustion claimed his mind and body. It didn't take more than a few minutes for him to start drift away. He reached up and held the only connection he had to his family loosely in his hand, the charm warm in his palm. Temple throbbing and eyes stinging, Dipper reluctantly fell into sleep's embrace, body worn and aching and mind struggling to come to terms with what has happened to him.

 

You can think about it later, he mumbled to himself, If you don't wake up dead.

 

Within moments, Dipper was sound asleep.

 

And Cipher bid him good night, his voice nothing but a whisper against his neck.

 

 Sweet dreams my little sacrifice, ▶ He murmured, voice much softer and filled with a warmth he could not place, ◀ May you wake to the brightest of all sun shines. 

Chapter Text

Cipher watched the boy sleep.

 

Dipper's side heaved with great sighs as he drifted deeper and deeper into the Mindscape, reality lost to him as heavy eyelids drooped shut. He was curled into himself, head cradled on a bent arm, the other thrown over his stomach and one foot hanging over the side; he snorted at his lack of elegance.

 

He lowered his great head to gaze at him closely, eyes blinking in successive all along his long, thick body. He curled around the bed that hovered in the middle of the room, drawing close to the mortal he had dragged into his realm. He observed him, from the way his chest slowly rose and fell to the way he would shift ever so slightly to reclaim his comfort. His fluffy bangs fell into his eyes and the silks and fabrics he wore were bunched up around him. His numerous jewelry strands splayed over his form and mattress, the ends dangling  and clinking together with each slight movement the child made.

 

◀ Mason Alexander Pines~ ▶ He hummed to himself, mouth quirking into a grin. ◀ Dipper indeed. ▶

 

Chuckling he nudged him with his snout, the human grunting as his cold nose pressed into his tummy. Pinetree lazily tried to shove him aside and he almost laughed loudly at his attempt, the halfhearted slaps to his muzzle proving nothing but futile. The boy's lips pulled into a pout and he allowed his arm to fall back over his exposed middle, eyebrows furrowing.

 

Hissing, Cipher flicked his tongue out, the tip brushing Dipper's skin with light kisses. Amused, he watched as the human huffed and heaved himself onto his side, edging away from his annoyance, arms crossing over his chest and face burrowing into the down pillows.

 

Looming over him, he smirked.

 

Humans were such peculiar creatures.

 

Cipher found humans, for lack of better words, amusing. They were odd and practiced the most unusual customs. Ones that made no sense to the deity at all. They would hold great feasts and dance all through the night and then work until their hands bled and blistered. They would give each other these improper 'nicknames' and cast aside their given titles, bequeathed to them by their parents. They would profess their love for one another and in the same breath rip another mortal's heart from a still warm chest at the smallest sign of weakness or to better themselves. They were so complicated and unusual that the great Lord of the Mindscape found them as frustrating as he did fetching.

 

He especially thought it hilarious how they only possessed one set of arms. One!

 

Shaking his head at the atrocity that was the human anatomy, Cipher inched closer to his sacrifice, his light snores making his lips twitch.

 

Yes, humans were indeed, queer.

 

Especially the one that slept before him.

 

No one before him, none of the hundreds of humans he had taken as his sacrifices, had ever dared to place their hands upon his scales. Despite the grandness that their task demanded, most of the flesh bags that ascended his stairs were inadequate. They were weak, fearful, and dejected. They were not filled with the honor nor the glory that came with being chosen as his sacrifice. Their faces were masked in lies and disgust. Despite the words whispered to them about the importance of their task, the dire need of it even, each one of the children that were given to him had been unfit.

 

Even so, they were still his.

 

The shame was not theirs to hold but rightfully his as he was the one who chose them, gifting them with one of his own feathers. If they did not appreciate his call and look forward to becoming his then Cipher only had himself to blame. When they climbed the stairs of his temple with barely masked sobs and quivering knees, he took rare pity on them. He did not keep them, as he intended. Rather he look their bodies and souls and let them wander the memories of those who came before them until their time came to be reborn once again when Cipher no longer had need for their sustenance. Though, if he were being honest with himself, he did not particularly enjoy the taste of them.

 

Most of the sacrifices he acquired tasted stale and bland. They had no aspirations or dreams of greater things than what they already knew. Brimming with fear and anxiety, they left much to be imagined.

 

Cipher had been told on more than one occasion that he was a picky eater.

 

But, as a god, he figured he had a right to be so.

 

When the time had come for him to claim another mortal as his, he had chosen a child in Gravity Falls, his home territory, that was blessed by the stars. He was born with the constellations of the night sky on his skin and possessed an intellect that most wise men could only long for. Death had nearly claimed him when he was birthed into the world and many thought him destined for his touch as many babes were. The star child had proven them wrong in the end, growing into a young man that was a force to be reckoned with. Any time he was expected to fail, he triumphed. He lived, he grew, and he flourished. It didn't take a God to see how brightly his soul shone.

 

It only stood to reason that Cipher wanted him.

 

And he was not disappointed.

 

Mason Alexander Pines had bore the gold of his ancestors. He walked through his village with his head held high and jaw set firmly. He climbed the stairs with determination and placed his forehead to the stone floor. He held the lightest hint of regret in his heart along with the pain of the loss of his family but it was overshadowed by the sheer honor and pride he held for himself, that he was the chosen one.

 

When he had looked into his eyes and saw those warm, mocha eyes shining with adulation and wonderment, he had been taken aback. His true regal form was rarely glimpsed by the mortals and very few of them would call him stunning or grand. Terrifying and revolting? Yes. Great and awe inspiring? Without a doubt. Repulsive and sickening? Indubitably.

 

Mason Alexander Pines only had only thought of one word to describe him then, as his finger tips brushed his scaly snout.

 

Beautiful.

 

He spoke with a stutter, not being able to quell the fear that he held in his heart completely, but his words rang with such clarity and strength that it was stimulating to hear him speak. 

 

He was the perfect sacrifice.

 

When his hand came in contact with his scales, he knew he wanted to keep him.

 

Most humans would be overcome by his power. Celestial power was not meant to be held by mortals, the greed and sin in their hearts too decayed and mottled. It was instinct for them to try and take something that wasn't theirs even if they knew it would bring them nothing but ruin. Their minds would more often than not be driven to madness from a God's touch, edged on by the overabundance of magic and whispers from their inner demons. It would destroy them, inside and out.

 

Yet, when Mason Pines' fingers brushed his snout, he was not thrown into disarray and torn apart, his once bright mind crumbling to that of a new born babe. He had allowed the power to roll over him, acknowledging that it was not his but his god's. " Oh. "

 

At the moment, when the boy's voice shook with feeling and his eyes glazed over in tears, Cipher knew that claiming him for himself instead of harvesting his soul wasn't a want.

 

It was a need.

 

So, like he always did, he did what he wanted.

 

He had pierced his heart and soul through with his talon and planted a tiny, little seed. Not too much, just enough. The simple action spoke in high volumes and it was surrounded in taboo and in itself was undeniably unconventional.

 

There were numerous stories in many lands and religions of a God having a child with a human lover and countless tales of deities favoring a human champion as a carrier of their name.

 

Rarely was a legend told of a mortal that carried a part of a God's soul.

 

But Cipher was known for his unconventional methods and peculiarity.

 

He had cradled him close to his side as he spirited him away to his realm, the human's warmth odd and strange to him. He placed him on his bed and allowed him to rest for he would need plenty of it while his soul took hold of it's host, embedding into his very being. He watched as he slept, keeping an ever present watch on him. Little by little, his body accepted the foreign parasite that was his touch and slowly but surely, his began to heal.

 

He let the child be, having his duties and hobbies to entertain him until he could be roused. His days passed with the rise and fall of the sun and Mason Pines slumbered heavily, his well being always at the forefront of his mind. He would slip in every now and then to check up on him, to make sure he was still there, still whole, and leave when he was assured that the boy was fine. As the days blended into weeks, Cipher began to wonder if he would awaken at all. If perhaps he had given him too much in too little time. 

 

And then, not a moment too soon, his little tree awakened.

 

 

" No! "

 

He watched the boy carefully as he awoke, eyes  searching for any sign or lasting damage. Relief washed over him as he found Mason's body healed and mind intact. He showed no outer signs of being affected by the implant he has spontaneously decided to house in his chest and he purred quietly in pleasure. His little sacrifice had come out of this alive as he knew he would, just like the day he had been brought into the world.

 

He wanted to speak to him, to hear what he had to say. He desired to have his attention on him and him alone, fear swirling in those beautiful brown eyes behind the burning fire of defiance. How he longed to banter with the child and see what expressions he could twist his young face into and learn from him exactly what his little sheep, his worshipers, were up to. He wondered if he would meet his eyes head on or look at his feet when they spoke and Cipher shivered in anticipation.

 

It had been quite some time since he'd had company worth mentioning.

 

Some would say he was lonely.

 

He preferred the term 'in need of intellectual conversation that I can not get from the likes of you, who dare think such an outlandish thing and voice it to me'.

 

Mason was, and would always be, an inquisitive child. He examined the room, running his fingers over the draping cloths of black, avoiding the gold as if it would burn him. Despite all the grandeur of the room, he focused on one of the large windows the encircled him. Why, he did not know, but he found it interesting how he seemed to find peace in the breeze and night-scape. The young sacrifice closed his eyes and breathed in, shaky and raspy.

 

Cipher leaned in, eager to learn more.

 

He wanted to talk to him.

 

With little ease, Cipher began slipping into another form, one that would not cause his young charge to panic or fear him more than he already did. He chose a more human shape, though he was unable to get rid of all his glorious features. Some of his scales refused to recede, and he couldn't loose all his limbs, two sets stubbornly refusing to disappear from the incline of his back. His long, serpentine form vanished, replaced with a tall, dark skinned earthly body. He blinked and shook his head, cracking his rigid neck as he did so. He worked his new limbs, getting a feel for how it worked, their movements jerky and stiff. He kept an eye on the boy, silently setting a barefoot on the tiled floor.

 

Mason Pines did not notice.

 

Opening and closing his mouth, unable to make his vocal cords work with such a constricting throat so soon, he crept closer, straitening his back and lurching every so often when his knees buckled under him. He tried to get a a hold on the body fighting him at every step, not used to the odd mechanics of human limbs.

 

When he was only a few feet away, he spoke.

 

His sacrifice jumped, startled at his sudden appearance. He turned slowly toward him, his wide eyes filled with wonder and fear, taking a step back  away from him.

 

Cipher could feel his heart beating fiercely in his thin chest, rapid and irritating.

 

He began to converse with him.

 

Mason Pines showed great respect for him, keeping his voice leveled and clear, though his trepidation was clear. He spoke with that cute, quirky stutter and fidgeted under his scrutiny. He found him charming, in his own, human way and full of knowledge few knew.  He could sense his unease around him, but he never lost that alluring fire that  burned deeply within him.

 

He even he insisted he be called by a ridiculous 'nickname', Dipper.

 

As if he could call him such a thing.

 

He preferred the name 'Pinetree'.

 

The boy didn't seem to like that, panic immediately becoming evident in his gaze. He reached for the necklace that had been looped on his hip but when he he found nothing, he bit his lip. He explained to him how precious that charm was, how some simple wooden tree could be the center of his whole world. Of course, he knew it was special to him because his twin sister, Mabel Anna Pines -a bright, shooting star of a young woman- gave it to him. It was obvious he wanted the necklace back.

 

He could have broken it, burned it to ash in front of him. It was just a stupid little trinket that tied him down to the mortal realm, linking him forever to a family he would never see again. What would it matter to him if the thing ignited in his palm?

 

Instead, he gave it back.

 

Trust, he told himself, needs to be earned.

 

He told him, ◀ I'm so very glad I decided to keep you, Pinetree. 

 

And then he left him.

 

Cipher wished he could stay longer but his form was starting to deteriorate, his body unused to being so confined and out of touch with his power. He watched his sacrifice carefully, his shoulders sagging and head lowering. He was exhausted and worn out, everything piling onto his small shoulders at once.

 

He was dully aware of the odd aches and pains that came with form shifting, however, they were drowned out by his sacrifice's cries. Despite his strength and intellect and ferocity, Mason was, after all, still just a child.

 

And children needed their rest.

 

Chirping deeply, his eyes blinked in timed session all down his sides; the candles that had illuminated the circular, tower room sputtered out of existence. Cipher hovered, for once unsure.

 

Was it too dark? Was his little sacrifice afraid of the night? What if Pinetree awoke in the middle of the night and became scared because of the loss of light? Was he cold? Did humans not need fire to keep them warm? Was he comfortable?

 

Growling, his fluffy ears flicked in agitation.

 

He knew not the first thing about caring for a human.

 

This would not do.

 

Sliding into the room, Cipher curled around him, his great coils holding his bed still. He nuzzled his side with his snout and chuckled when the boy moved away from him, nuzzling deeper into the overstuffed pillow he had his arms wound around. Amused, he pulled away, fondly looking over his boy.

 

 ◀  Sweet dreams my little sacrifice,  He told him,  ◀  May you wake to the brightest of all sun shines. 

 

The arms along the side of his body prodded him gently and, remembering, he sighed.

 

The darkness.

 

Right, this would not do.

 

Humming, Cipher closed his main set of eyes, head bobbling to a tune only he could hear. His arms went to work, stretching far out side the window to reach for the stars above. His fingers prodded and searched for the just the right ones, clasping them safely when he did so. Once satisfied, he retracted them, pleased to see little stars aglow in his scaly palms. He settled down, getting to work. Turning the stars into glass, he weaved them onto fine strings of gold, lopping them at different lengths so they didn't clink together for risk of having them shatter into dust. Attaching them to the alcove above, he pulled on the threads until he was satisfied with their lengths. Then, he tapped each ornament, light bursting to life inside them. Room now bathed in a gentle, amber glow, Cipher nodded in approval of his own handiwork.

 

 ◀ Perfect. 

 

Now completely content that his little sacrifice would have no problems upon awakening, be it night or day, Cipher let him be.

 

He was sleeping and for now, for now, that was enough.

 

Cipher drifted through the air, circling the room for a few minutes, all eyes trained on Dipper; blinking all at once they shifted forward.

 

Time to get back to work.

 

There was much to be done.

Chapter Text

Dipper stared up at the stars.

 

The little, glass orbs spun joyfully above him, occasionally clinking together when they crossed paths. Seemingly held up by nothing, they no longer glowed brightly, their shine dimmed by the morning sunlight that streamed through the open windows positioned all over the room.

 

Sighing deeply, he rolled over onto his side, blowing his bangs out of his face. Despite the sun's light and wonderful weather he could hear the sound of rain and, distantly, the howl of a storm. Closing his eyes, he listened to the raging wind and song of the sky's tears as they fell to earth. Trees shook in the breeze, their leaves crinkling and branches bowing, and there was an ominous crash of thunder that shook the earth.

 

He opened his eyes.

 

Instantly, he was back in the tower room, sunlight bright and welcoming. The gales and violent turbulence were gone, replaced with the soft chattering of birds and the hum of a song he couldn't place. Squinting, he held up his hand, staring at the paint that decorated his pale skin. The black triangle set in the middle of the back of his hand ogled right back; he allowed his arm to fall, his fingers hanging off the edge of the bed.

 

He laid there for a few good minutes before deciding it was time to, regrettably, get up. Heaving himself into a sitting position, Dipper swung his legs over the side of the bed and allowed them to dangle. Yawning, he ran his fingers through his messy hair, wincing as they tugged at the knots that had gathered on the back of his head. " Hungry, " He mumbled to himself, his stomach agreeing with a faint growl.

 

Hopping down from the bed, nearly tripping over his own two feet, he looked around the room, not surprised to find that his god was not gracing him with his presence. He wasn't sure how long he had been out this time around but he guessed it to be a full night's rest, though he wouldn't doubt it that he had slept for ten years at this point; the mechanics and workings of this strange world were still unknown to him.

 

Which left him with the question on how he was going to obtain breakfast.

 

" Perfect, " He grumbled to himself, " Great. "


There didn't appear to be any doors leading from the room, only the windows that circled the whole perimeter. Walking slowly around the room, he pushed aside curtains and beads, hoping to find some sort of exit but there was nothing behind them except for colorful murals. Allowing the onyx fabric to fall back into place he made a mental note to study them later; they looked interesting.

 

" Now what? " He wondered allowed.

 

He turned around and promptly stopped. " Well, that's new. "

 

A scroll was floating in front of him, the paper pure black and ends decorated in domed gold. An odd seal kept it secured, unusual symbols flashing in sequences he couldn't quite make out. Hesitantly, he reached out for it, " Is this a good idea? " He asked himself.

 

His fingers closed around it and immediately he could feel the celestial energy of his god course through him like a windy day's breath, buzzing and dancing all along his skin. He gave a gentle gasp, lights dancing in his vision and the powerful vitality began crackling and popping as it moved through him; he could hear a song, distant and eerie. " Wow, " He breathed.

 

At his utterance, everything stopped.

 

The wind died down and his silks and jewels fell back into place, the gold tinkling softly as it settled against his hip. Pushing some wayward strands of his hair out his eyes, he focused his attention on the object held in his hands, turning it over to examine it. The seal that had kept it closed was no longer in place, the symbols long gone from its smooth surface and it appeared safe enough, though again, Dipper wasn't one hundred percent sure of that either.

 

" Here we go. " He told himself. Taking a deep breath  he slid it open. The parchment slid smoothly from the ends, unfurling into a short note written in spindly golden ink, the words slanted and shimmering in the light.

 

Narrowing his eyes, he tried to read the first half of the letter but found he couldn't understand it. It wasn't written in his native language or any of the older scripts he had studied with Ford. Made up of queer shapes that were compressed tightly together, Dipper found it impossible to even begin to decipher it. " What in the..? " He asked himself, bringing it closer to study, his nose only a few centimeters away.

 

It was only when he got about two inches down did the words began to make sense.

 

'........................oh. I suppose you couldn't read that first part could you? I tend to forgot how simple minded humans are. Silly me. I shall rectify this. Please see above. '

 

" And how is that suppose to help me? " He huffed to himself, returning to the top of the scroll. " It's not like I can read it any- What?! " He blanched.

 

He could read it.

 

' I'm going to assume you've tried to read this and found yourself unable to. Again, my apologies. I will take a moment to wait for you to reach the bottom before returning here, where you can understand me........all done? Very good. Breakfast will be waiting for you downstairs in the refectory. Please help yourself. I will join you as soon as my duties allow it. Bon appetite, my sapling~ '

 

" Downstairs? " Dipper asked himself, raising an eyebrow, " How am I suppose to go 'downstairs' when there isn't a downstairs to go down to? "

 

Slowly, he slid the scroll shut, the ends snapping together with a little 'click'. " The back of his neck prickled, as if someone was breathing against him, and he looked up, slapping a hand to his nape as he did so. His heart jumped and he could of sworn he heard a familiar chuckle behind him.

 

" C-Cipher? " He called out, turning.

 

His god was not before him like he expected, wearing his mischievous grin and laughing as he would of. Instead, he saw an archway, golden and dazzling, carved to resembled the coils of a dragon, the heavens resting on its back. Long strands of pearls and chains hung in the doorway, hanging heavily and weighed down with tassels of gold.

 

" That was not there five minuets ago. " He grumbled to himself.

 

Setting the scroll down on his bed as he walked pass, he made his way over to the doorway, curious to know what was behind it. Pushing the beads and jewelry aside, Dipper ducked his head and stepped out into a corridor. " Okay, " He said aloud, " I know this wasn't here before. "

 

Like the tower room, windows lined the entire side of the wall, the passage brightly lit due to the sunlight streaming through them. Enjoying the breeze that wafted through the hallway, Dipper placed his hand on the banister, hand easily sliding along the smooth, black wood. Looking around in awe, he began his descent, taking in everything he could from the tapestries that hung in between each window and designs added into the floors, seemingly endless strands of gold and pearls crisscrossing their way on each step.

 

Dipper walked slowly, face a light in awe, careful of where he stepped. A landing quickly came into view and with a final hop, he came into a small entry way. " Whoa, " He whispered.

 

The entire wall in front of him was nothing but stained glass, the middle dominated by a large triangle with a single eye surrounded by varying shades of blue fire. Encircling the figure were a set of smaller windows, ten of them, each of them holding an odd shape in the center. Contrasting to the bright colors of the main piece, these ones were grainy and dull, looking like parchment instead of glass. All over the artwork were hieroglyphs and, with a huff of irritation, Dipper found he could not read them. " Figures. " He griped to himself.

 

Turning his back to the window, he walked down the hallway that was connected to the landing, more windows and tapestries guiding the way. At the end sat an archway much like the one in his room; no others were visible.

 

Licking his lips, slightly nervous about what would await him behind those strings of pearls and gold, he messed with his hair and tried to smooth out the wrinkles of his silks, trying to make himself look presentable. Without a mirror, he assumed he looked decent enough. Taking a deep breath, he pushed the dangling charms aside and stepped inside.

 

§ Pinetree! §

 

Cipher rose from his seat, spreading his arms wide in welcoming. He all but glided over to the shorter boy, grabbing his upper arm loosely with his onyx stained hands. Barring his sharp teeth at him in a cheshire grin, he lead him over to the low table where he had been waiting, § How was your slumber, my sacrifice? § 

 

" F-fine, " Dipper gasped out, " Thank you. " 

 

He smiled down at the boy, his fluffy ears giving a pleased twitch, § Wonderful. § Reluctantly letting go of him,  he sat himself at the head of the table and gestured for him to do the same.

 

Sitting cross legged on the plush cushion offered to him, he scooted closer to the table, looking over the abundance of food that was spread out for them. Honey drizzled fruits, fresh baked bread, jars of sweet smelling jams, and little sugar dusted scones were arranged neatly on golden platters, untouched and begging to be eaten; his stomach growled loudly.

 

Cipher laughed, § Are you hungry, perhaps? § He teased.

 

Cheeks warm, Dipper nodded, " A- a little. " 

 

§ Then eat. § He commanded.

 

" Th-thank you. " He mumbled , eagerly helping himself to the fruit, piling a plate high with the sliced pears and round berries he had never seen before. Picking up a chunk of fruit, he popped it into his mouth, savoring the delicious blend of honey and fruit. Groaning softly at the taste, he resisted the urge to cram the entire chunk pass his lips, instead opting for large sized bites so as not to make a glutton of himself. Reaching across the table, he selected a crisp slice of bread, smothering it in jelly, adding yet another serving of berries and apples to his plate.

 

Cipher chuckled, amused by his mannerisms,  § Is it good? § He asked him.

 

Swallowing with difficulty, he gasped out, " Y-yeah! It's delicious! "

 

Purring, he leaned forward, cradling his chin in his hands, his attention solely focused on the human, § Wonderful. §

 

Nibbling at a blueberry pocketed scone, he looked up, finally meeting the feather ringed eyes of his god. " Um, " He started, nervously adjusting himself.

 

Cipher tilted his head in question, § Yes? §

 

" Aren't you, you know, going to- going to eat anything? " He asked, setting his half eaten treat down, a little self conscious with the fact that he had been stuffing his face like a starved animal while the other watched intently.

 

Surprised by his genuine interest, he snorted, § Gods have no need for human substance, Pinetree. These are merely offerings to me that I have no need for. §

 

" Offerings? " He asked, looking down at the spread before him. A weight settled heavily in his abdomen. " Should I be- should I be eating these? They're for you aren't they? "

 

Again, the dragon like man laughed, throwing his head back and howling with mirth, § Oh, Pinetree! You're a riot! I have no need for human sustenance such as- § He waved his arm over the table, § All of this. It would go to waste if you were not to eat it. Humans seem to forget I am not a lowly God of harvest or food. § He flashed him an arrogant smirk, § Eat. I insist. They would simply go to waste if you were not to enjoy them. §

 

Hesitantly, Dipper continued eating, mulling over the gods words. " What offerings would you prefer? " He asked.

 

Gold glimmered across his cheeks as he smiled, § What offerings do you think I would prefer, my little sacrifice? §

 

Flushing at the pet name, he thought back to everything he knew about The Golden One which, honestly, wasn't much. Everything he did know about the deity before him seemed incorrect  or misplaced. Cruel, he had been lectured, and cold. A master of dreams and fickle beyond the mere definition of the word. He did what he wanted with no regards to those around him and if he bent the rules out of place then so be it, they were twisted. Materialistic and vain. Powerful. A thirst for knowledge that was unrivaled by any other God or Goddess of the world. If he were to sum up what he thought of Cipher in one word, he would choose 'odd'.

 

" I would offer you, " He finally said, " Nothing. "

 

§ Nothing? § He asked him, § You would offer me, your God, nothing? §

 

Slowly, he nodded. " I would. "

 

§ And why would you bestow upon me the gift of nothing? When I have given you everything? §

 

" You have no need for anything I have. You know everything I have ever learned and I have no possessions on me that interest you, My Lord. I simply have nothing to give you that would be suitable for a God of your- of you stature. "

 

Cipher thought over his answer, accepting it with a nod. § You are correct. § He affirmed, § You have not one thing that you can offer me that I do not have. Knowledge, wealth, power, it is all mine to have and to hold. §

 

His bragging irked him and Dipper frowned at him, " Then why am I here? "

 

§ Why indeed? §

 

He pursed his lips, not liking the round about way they were conversing, " If I have nothing to offer you, surely you have no-no need for me? "

 

Cipher stood, looking down at the human with such intensity that it had him squirming in his seat, § You have already offered the most valuable thing you possess to me. § 

 

" I have not given you anything, Cipher. " Dipper ventured to speak out against him, brows furrowing in thought.

 

Chuckling, he stooped over the boy, his single sapphire eye burning through him. § That is where you are wrong, my lovely constellation. § He reached out and grabbed a strand of his hair, twirling it in between his fingers fondly.  § Very, very wrong. § 

 

" What could- what could I have offered you to warrant such fine treatment? "

 

§ You gave me the most valuable thing a human has, Pinetree! § He chortled, ruffling his bed head, pulling his hand back when arms swatted at him blindly. § Precious. §

 

" And what would that be? " Dipper huffed, pushing a lock of hair behind his ear.

 

The feathers along his jaw puffed out and his eye glowed brightly, § Why, you gave me 'you'. §

 

" M-me? "

 

§ Oh yes, § He whispered, § You gave yourself to me the moment you kneeled at my temple. As soon as those words left those lovely lips, you became mine. You are correct, you can not give me anything of interest. And that is because I already have all you have to offer me. I have you. §

 

Dipper's heart beat erratically, the loud 'thumps' echoing dully in his ears. He was mildly aware of the multiple arms that prodded him gently, their touch stinging of ice, and he pulled away from them, his god's amusement at his action not lost to him.  " I humbly offer you what I have to give, all of me and who I've become. " He whispered, recalling the prayer he had uttered so long ago.

 

§ What you have to give, all of you, and who you've become. §  He reminded him, poking him on the nose, § Is that not what you promised? §

 

" It is. " He croaked.

 

§ Then, I already have what I want. §  Cipher beamed down at him, finding the way his eyes lit up in defiant fire positively delightful. §  You and I are going to have a marvelous time together, you and I. §

 

Dipper opened his mouth to argue but low, far off bells chimed in, interrupting him.

 

§ Is it that time already? § He frowned, § And I was having such fun too. §

 

Cipher turned, directing his gaze to some far off place that Dipper could not see or, more than likely, even begin to understand. He returned his line of sight to the boy, smiling wildly at his expression. § You are welcome to remain here and finish eating. § He told him, § Afterwards, you may return to your room. §

 

Dipper nodded, doubting he could eat another bite.

 

Sensing his unease, the dream god hid his smile behind a hand, § Do not think too much into what it is you have given me, Pinetree. § He assured him, a rumbling trill escaping him from deep within in his chest, § It is done. Do not dwell on things you can not change. §

 

The brunette nodded again, gripping the silks gathered around his lap tightly in his hands.

 

Smile slipping, the dark skinned deity kneeled down beside him, placing his hands on the side of his face, thumbs caressing his soft cheeks. § Pinetree~ §

 

Startled, he blinked, his touch cool on his flushed cheeks, " Y-yes? "

 

§ I will not ask you to do anything that threatens your life. § He told him, face oddly serious, § Now will I ask you to do anything that makes you feel unsafe. Understand? §

 

His words carried a certain heaviness to them and Dipper whispered, " Y-yes. "

 

§ Good! § He beamed, leaning in closer to place a short kiss on his star speckled forehead, § Your soul is far too precious to me to risk shattering it. § Giving his cheek a friendly pinch, he stood and began to walk away from him, his feathers elongating and scales spreading down his exposed neck from the small cluster on his cheeks. 

 

Bringing a hand up to cover his temple, he gaped as Cipher's body grew taller, arms sprouting along his sides and eyes opening their lids, lashes fluttering sleepily. Fur crept down his form along his frame and his own clothing fell away from him, cascading to the floor in a grand show. Clambering to his knees, Dipper looked up as Cipher perched on the windowsill, shaking his head in what seemed like irritation; he assumed going through a metamorphosis such as his would vex him as well.

 

Looking over his shoulder at him, his downy ears giving a jerk, he hissed, § I will see you soon, Pinetree! Try not to perform any virgin sacrifices or blood letting rituals without me, hmm? § Then, with a roaring laugh, he heaved himself out the window, his serpentine body sliding over the cobbles easily, propelled by his long, slender limbs. His feathered tail gave a mighty flick and Dipper lifted an arm to shield himself from the strong gust.

 

He was gone.

 

As soon as the tip of his tail had vanished, Dipper leapt to his feet. Padding over to the open window, he gripped the edged of the sill tightly and leaned out, his feet lifting from the floor. In the distance, he could see the powerful black and gold dragon dancing through the air, its coils twisting an turning as it glided; in the blink of an eye he disappeared behind the clouds.

 

Lowering himself, Dipper sulked. " Why's he have to be so cryptic? " He asked himself.

 

Shaking his head, he left the remaining food untouched and instead headed for the archway.  " Stupid gods. " He grumbled.

 

Pushing the beads and drapes out of his way he stepped into his tower room, no sign of the hallway passage in sight. " Should have expected that one. " He chided himself.

 

Rubbing his upper arms to get rid of the goose flesh, Dipper made his way over to his bed, stalling when he saw another scroll resting on his pillow, the bed done up and prepared afresh. " Seriously? " He rolled his eyes, grabbing it from its resting place and opened it, " Now what does he want? "

 

Unlike with the first one, he found he could read it.

 

§ Don't miss me too much, my little sacrifice~ §

 

Snorting, he snapped it shut and tossed it onto the bed, flopping down right beside it. Folding his arms behind his head, he stared up at the little stars that bobbled above his bed. Despite the odd comments and cruel reminders, he found a tiny smile working its way onto his lips.

 

" You wish, Cipher. " He said, " Keep dreaming. "

Chapter Text

Dipper didn't see Cipher often.


When the god did decide to grace him with his presence, it was normally during breakfast. There, they would converse over fruit and offerings until he was pulled away by his duties, ultimately leaving the young sacrifice to himself. He'd depart in his usual flair, a tease and a kiss to his forehead, with an uttered promise to see him soon.

 

He didn't exactly mind the alone time, even with the loneliness growing inside him as the days dragged on, always a constant hum with each beat of his heart. Instead, to preoccupy himself and to make good use of all the time he now found in his possession, he studied the murals on the walls and detailed tapestries that hung in the tower room. He was sure that they were all linked to a story about his god but he couldn't piece them together. It was as if he only had a handful of entries from a larger book, the chapters not connecting in any way to form a larger story.

 

Despite this, they were stunningly beautiful.

 

Dipper wasn't sure how many hours he poured into researching the pictures and hieroglyphs but he found himself falling in love with them the longer he spent with them. Contrary to their vast age, they were colorful and bright, each one displaying a scene of The Golden One, those odd symbols he couldn't read outlining the entire painting like a frame; to his frustration he found that no matter how much time he spent running his fingers over the words he still couldn't read them.

 

The tapestries held his attention as easily as the murals. Expertly spun and dyed, they too showed his God in varying scenes and situations. The largest of the wall scrolls hung on the far wall, extending from the ceiling to the floor where it's tassels brushed the polished tiles. Cipher, in his terrifying and true form, sat on a throne of blue fire, his scales a molten gold and eye seemingly to glow under his scrutiny. The world around him was in ruin and people's arms were thrown up to him, hands curled in apparent pain. It was bordered in black and yellow triangles, those damn words right below them.

 

All around him was the history of his god and he couldn't read a single world of it.


Pulling away from one of the smaller murals that rested in between two of the windows, Dipper sighed, running his fingers through his hair. Leaning back, he stretched out on the floor, staring up at the ceiling, the ever present stars he had been gifted twinkling out of the corner of his eyes.

 

Sighing, he rolled over to his stomach, laying his head in his cradled arms, fingers tapping impatiently. From this vantage point, he had a good perspective of the inlaid picture that stemmed from the middle of the floor. Like the stained glass window he passed everyday, it showed a triangular identity surrounded by flames and symbols, a large pink and red 'X' crisscrossing the area behind it. " What's your story? " He asked it. It didn't answer him and he sighed deeply, " Yeah, didn't think so. "

 

Groaning, he hauled himself to his feet and extended his arms high above his head, standing on tip toe to reap the full benefit of the stretch. Rolling his shoulders to work the tension from them, he padded over to one of the windows and braced himself on the ledge, leaning out to take a deep breath of fresh air, hoping it would clear his head.

 

The sun was warm on his face and he smiled. Before him stretched a forest that reminded him of the one that surrounded his village. He was able to see across the canopy and the sky was a brilliant blue without a single cloud to blemish it's face. The weather, perfect and bright, lifted his solemn spirits and he settled on the window seat, pulling his knees up to hold them close to his chest.

 

And still he could hear the far off sound of rain.

 

" What have you gotten yourself into, Dipper Pines? " He asked himself.

 

 

Dipper was bored.

 

If he were to be brutally honest, if a bit dramatic, he would dare to say he was bored to death. Pictures and fabrics could only hold his attention for so long and after days-weeks?- spent pouring over the murals and tapestries, he was left with nothing to do. Even the dazzling stained glass windows held little appeal to him as of right now. He'd love nothing more than to curl on the warm stone window sill, loosing himself in a beautiful book, hand bound and smelling of fresh ink.

 

Instead, he was face down on his bed moping.

 

" This is ridiculous. " He groused to himself, hands gripping the downy pillows tightly, " What does he expect me to do? There is literally nothing to do in this tower room. Nothing! "

 

Sighing, he flipped over to his back, looking up at the stars that had begun to glow, the night slowly creeping along in the horizon outside the windows. It had been some time since he had seen Cipher, having breakfast by himself these past few days. He wondered what his god was up to to have missed their morning routine; he always seemed to look forward to spending the early meal with him.

 

That hollow feeling was back in his chest and no matter what he ate or did, it wouldn't go away. Dipper knew what it was; how could he not? Spending almost every day in a house with a sister that was as energetic and lively as the spring and two great-uncles who were always grumbling at each other had left a certain impression on him. Their home was always filled some sort of noise. Mabel's out of tune singing, the clash and crash of whatever project held her attention, Stan's persuasive, business talk from the store front, and Ford's quiet murmuring to himself as he went about his work. They were sounds he had taken for granted and now, stuck in a tower far away from them, they were something he missed terribly.

 

He was indisputably lonely.

 

" It's too quiet. " He whispered to himself.

 

§ Is it? §

 

Dipper jolted, sitting up quickly. 

 

Cipher stood at the end of his bed, head tilted questioningly at him. His arms were folded in front of him while his extra limbs twirled something between them, seemingly pulling little balls of light from no where. He raised an eyebrow when he didn't answer him immediately.

 

" M-must you always do that? " He asked him, looking away from him so he wouldn't see his pink dusted cheeks.

 

§ Must I always do what, my little tree? § He asked, his coy smirk telling him he knew exactly what it was he was doing.

 

Dipper didn't answer him, pursing his lips into a thin line.

 

§ You're stubbornness is rather endearing, do you know that? § He simpered, § Much more alluring than blind obedience. § He smiled down at him , azure eye glinting mischievously. § Wouldn't you agree, Pinetree? §

 

" Aren't Gods suppose to adore absolute submission? " He asked him, finally looking up at him, brows furrowed in thought, " It would normally indicate one has complete control over their followers, right? "

 

Purring at his genuine interest, Cipher seated himself at his feet, tucking one foot underneath him, the other hanging over the side. § Most Gods and Goddesses would want nothing more than a mortals driveling compliance, this is true. § He tapped his onyx stained fingers against his feathered jaw, § But as I keep reminding you, I am not like most Gods. §

 

" You don't say? " He snorted.

 

§ Such sass in you now that you're not at my temple, kneeling in the dirt. § He clicked his tongue at him in mock disapproval. § Is that anyway to treat your God? §

 

" My apologies, " He bowed his head, " Golden One. "

 

Cipher laughed at the bite his words held and he affectionately reached out to twist a lock of his hair between his long digits, § Apology accepted, my constellation~ §

 

Dipper pushed his hand away from his face, nose scrunching, " What's with you and your constant fascination with touching me? " He asked, tucking the strand back behind his ear.

 

§ How can one help themselves when you're simply too beautiful not to worship? § He teased. 

 

" Get out of here. " He told him, nudging him with his foot, his god's praise leaving a pleasant flutter in his stomach. 

 

Eye crinkling in mirth, Cipher grabbed his foot and brought it up, causing the brunette to fall back against his pillows with a grunt. § I'd much rather stay in your presence, little tree. § He told him, placing a tiny kiss on the top of his foot, just above the golden anklet he wore.

 

Dipper yanked his foot away, cheeks flushing with warmth; he could have sworn his skin tingled where his lips had been. " D-do you mind? "

 

§ I do not mind at all, my sacrifice. § He assured him, smirking.

 

Huffing, turning away from him, he cursed the redness that refused to go away from his face; he could feel the tips of ears burning. " W-what do you want anyway? " He stuttered.

 

§ Is it such a crime to you that I wish to spend time with you? § Cipher asked him, tilting his head at him, his tufted ears giving a mildly irritated flick.

 

" It depends. " Dipper said slowly, " On what you want from me. "

 

The deity gave a hearty chuckle, the scales on his nose and cheeks flashing in the light, § You are a very cautious human, aren't you? §

 

Dipper chose his next words carefully, " When that mortal is dealing with a god of your standing, My Lord, it is best that they tread with caution. "

 

His statement made him smile, almost tenderly, § Well said, Young One. § His arms dropped to his side to rest, the fluttering orbs of light he had been playing with flickering slowly down to nothingness. § I believe I have neglected you for long enough, Sapling. That is all. §

 

He frowned, not liking the tilt of his lips or sparkle in his eye but he couldn't outright call the God a liar; even if many of them were known to be chronic liars. " Is that so? "

 

Cipher nodded, § My duties take much of my time, unfortunately. But that does not mean I should leave you alone for long periods of time. § His lips stretched into a wide grin, revealing his sharp, white teeth, § I feel that leaving you, especially, alone for too long a period of time will result in nothing good. Your mind is far too exorbitant. §

 

" Coming from you, I suppose I should take that as a compliment? " He asked with a snort, drawing his legs closer to him.

 

§ I do believe so. § He agreed with a soft hum, watching the candles around the room flare into life, their glow welcome and comforting. Turning his attention to his human, he added, § I have a gift for you. §

 

" What is it? " Dipper grumbled, " A severed arm? "

 

Cipher howled, his voice filled with that strange, dull echo, throwing his head back, § Oh, my constellation! § He chortled, § As if I would give you such a thing! What use do you have for a detached limb? § Chirping, he shook his head, feathers puffing out in amusement, § You silly little, thing. §

 

Dipper frowned, the God obviously not getting that he was jesting. " It was a joke, Cipher. " He said dryly, " I don't actually want a severed arm. "

 

§ Wonderful, because that's not what I got you! § He held out his hand for him, § Give me your hand~ §

 

" Why? " He inquired, holding his hand to his chest, " What do you- "

 

§ Your hand. § Cipher demanded.

 

Hesitantly, he stretched his arm out towards him, flinching when the God wrapped his own around his wrist, his grasp loose and cautious, as if he were afraid of hurting him. He leaned close to him and once more, Dipper felt that energy that surrounded him, light and dazzling, though it was more of a sweet whisper at the back of his head than a pounding desire like before; he leaned into it.

 

Pleased, Cipher kissed the back of his hand, his lips just a breath above his skin, § Your reverence is such a lovely sight. § He mentioned.

 

Blushing, mortified, he stuttered, " T-thank you, C-Cipher. "

 

§ You're most welcome, my little tree. Now, § He raised an arm behind him, fingers pressing together tightly, § You're gift. §

 

His fingers snapped, loudly. 

 

Dipper's eyes flashed open, a heavy weight settling between them. Looking down, he saw a small chest, intricately decorated and gilded in gold. There was no lock latching it closed and, after a nod from his God, he reached out and lifted the lid, peaking inside.

 

Nestled on black silk was a small scroll, sealed with a ring of yellow ribbon from which a cluster of black feathers hung from a leather cord knotted to it. He shot the deity a questioning look.

 

§ Open it. § Cipher urged; he found his curiosity quite endearing 

 

Eagerly, Dipper pulled the roll of parchment from its resting place, undoing the little knot that kept the band tightly wound around it. With baited breath, he opened it.

 

Faded lines created a large pyramid that was separated into blocks, a familiar eye staring up at him from the largest section. Behind it, nearly indistinguishable, were shapes and writing but he couldn't make it out due to its obvious wear. Its edges were tattered and it appeared to be stained with a splattering of blood and the brunette was left wondering just who it came from.

 

And all over its surface were the symbols he couldn't read.

 

§ Do you like it? § Cipher asked eagerly.

 

Dipper furrowed his brow, " What is it? "

 

§A gift. § He answered, leaning forward to cradle his chin his hand, elbows positioned on his knees. He was smirking.

 

Puffing his cheeks out at his oblivious answer, he snarked, " I would never have guessed. "

 

§ What do you think it is, Pinetree? §

 

Worrying his lip, he returned his attention to the parchment, not sure what he was looking for. The words and drawings in the back were completely unreadable, lines too faint and blotches locking too much to make anything out. The only section that was readable was the pyramid. Including the eye, it was segmented into twenty-seven sections, each square holding a single symbol. They matched the symbols he had seen on the tapestries and murals; Dipper's heart began to beat rapidly, excitement flooding through him. " Is this - is this a written alphabet? "

 

§ Is it~ § Cipher sang, drowning himself in the mortal's enthusiasm.

 

" It is! " He exclaimed, beaming up at him, " Is this your cipher? Your code? "

 

He grinned back at him, § Perhaps~ §

 

" And you're- you're allowing me to have it? " He clutched the scroll close to his chest, afraid that Cipher would take it back, from the hands of a common thief. " Really? "

 

§ Yes, § He chuckled, reaching out to cup his cheek with a free hand, § Truly. You need something to distract you while I am gone. It is my Cipher, my language. At least, the written words. Speaking, I'm afraid, is far beyond what a human can handle, even one such as yourself. §

 

Dipper felt a lump grow in his throat, honored and touched that his god would trust him with his words. They were sacred and unique to each deity and they hoarded the symbols close so that no one could steal their language, and in extension, their power. " Thank you, " He croaked, grabbing his hand loosely, " I- I'll treasure them. "

 

§ See that you do, my guiding star. § He placed a short kiss on his forehead, § These symbols are more than just an alphabet. They are a part of me. They are yours and they are mine. No others. §

 

He swallowed, nodding. " O-okay. "

 

§ Good boy. § The god cooed, § I am pleased you liked your gift. §

 

He certainly seemed so, his chest heaving with deep, rumbling purrs. Dipper laughed softy, blushing at the devoted attention, " I love it. I can't wait to begin deciphering everything. "

 

§ Your enthusiasm is entertaining, Pinetree, it truly is. § Cipher remarked, watching him fondly.

 

Carefully rolling the aged paper back into place, Dipper tied the ribbon around the middle to secure it once more, fingering the soft, downy feather that were attached to the cord. " Are these yours? "

 

The dragon like being hummed in agreement.

 

" They're awfully small. " He teased, glancing at his plume covered body, the quills much longer and sleeker than the ones in his palm.

 

§ They are from my coronation, § He explained, § I was much, much younger at the time. §

 

" Coronation? " The brunette asked, interest peaked, " Gods have ceremonies to appoint new deities? "

 

§ They do in certain.....special, circumstances. § Cipher said hesitantly.

 

Judging by the far off look in his unfocused eye, Dipper assumed he wasn't going to get a strait answer. " Will I learn more about you if I decipher this? " He asked instead.

 

The Golden One smirked, § You'll just have to find out, won't you? §

 

He smiled, silently accepting the challenge, " You're on. "

 

§ I look forward to it. §

Chapter Text

His little sacrifice was tenacious, he'd give him that.

 

Cipher watched the boy carefully for the next few days, delighted he had liked his present so much. He spent countless hours hunched over the scroll, lips moving slowly and eyes narrowed in concentration. Ink bowls and parchment were common decorations now in the tower room, their pages stained with writing and deciphering. Crumpled balls of paper were strewn about and broken quills were slowly piling up and he was beginning to notice a lack of decorative ink sticks, their population declining rapidly.

 

With black stained fingers and smudged cheeks, he'd copy runes down with great care, careful of his accuracy. Once a page was filled, it would be set aside to dry and he'd continue on with the fever of a mad man. He'd give pause when food was delivered to his room, though he refused to allow his human out of their morning meal as it was precious time together for them, even if he would scarf down the meal and rush back upstairs. Honestly, his manners left a lot to be desired.

 

The only other time Pinetree rested was when his eyes grew to heavy to open and sleep starting singing to him like a siren's call.

 

Just like now.

 

His little tree's head bobbled as he fought the drowsiness, rubbing his eyes and stiffing a yawn every so often. He was seated on the floor with his back against the wall, his research materials gathered around him. He look a right mess and Cipher scoffed fondly.

 

His silks were spotted with spilled ink and rumpled something fierce from sleeping in them. His hair was a frightful mess and the bags under his eyes were growing darker with each passing day. He was whispering to himself, reading over translations that didn't seem quite right. Irritation shone in his eyes and he ran his hand through his hair, grumbling when his fingers got caught in the knots. Ripping his hand free with a wince, he sighed, bending over the stack of leaflets in his arms, hiding another yawn with them.

 

This would not do.

 

His sapling needed his rest.

 

§ You need your rest. § Cipher stated, nudging his side with his snout. § Come. §

 

" M' reading. " Dipper told him, shoving his head away weakly, " Few more minuets. "

 

The god gave him an unimpressed look, § You are unable to fully string together a sentence let alone decipher ancient runes long lost to the world, my sacrifice. §

 

" Doing fine. " He argued back. Regardless, he slumped over his neck, rubbing his cheek against his smooth scales, " Just a little longer, okay?  Please? "

 

§ Oh, your sweet, honey words are no good to you now. §  Cipher accused, lifting him gently from the floor, the arms along his side cradling him carefully. § But you need your rest, my little tree. You can pour over your codes and papers after a decent night's sleep. §

 

Tightening his hold around his thick neck, Dipper curled up against his side, the dragon's warmth welcome. " Fine. " He gave in, " I'll go to- go to sleep. "

 

§ Wonderful. § He chirped. Swooping him up, he glided over to the bed in the middle of the room, pushing papers and ink wells off the duvet and collecting the pillows that had been flung from their resting place against the headboard. Once everything was gathered, he lowered his human down, sleepy mocha eyes staring up at him. Lips quirking, he pushed his hair out of his face, § Sleep well, my Polaris. §

 

" Shut up. "  The brunette whispered, cheeks staining pink.

 

Chuckling, Cipher hovered over him, curling his massive body around the room, coils stacking elegantly and arms tucking in, folding over one another as they crisscrossed over his belly. § Go to bed, Sapling. §

 

" Are you going to watch me all night like some kind of creepy stalker? " Dipper asked, voice heavily fogged with sleep.

 

§ Perhaps. § He grinned. § Does that bother you? §

 

" Not as much as it probably should. " He admitted begrudgingly.

 

Rumbling, proud of himself, he placed his nose tot he top of his head, § Goodnight~ §

 

Eyes falling shut, comforted by his presence despite his griping, he wished him the same, " Night. "

 

It took him mere moments to fall into slumber's embrace, his chest rising and falling with each breath, deep and steady.

 

Amused, Cipher nuzzled his side gently, not wanting to rouse him. Humming quietly, he extinguished the candles, leaving the star mobile the only source of light left in the room. After making sure his little pet was comfortable, granting him sweet dreams that would lull him deeper into the mindscape, he looked about the room, snorting in disdain.

 

The chamber had seen better times, the stone floor littered with countless papers and glass wells that were stained with inky finger prints. One could not take a single step without first shuffling aside loose stacks and wrinkled sheets of parchment; a flick of his tail sent a precariously perched  bottle clattering to the floor beneath.

 

§ You are a messy little bird, aren't you? § He asked.

 

Sighing, the god raised his hand and snapped his fingers together.

 

The room began to tidy itself up, unsecured papers gathering in a single pile, broken quills and half filled acrylic jars vanishing in a puff of blue fire. Ink stains that hadn't been cleaned up in time soaked into the stone and heaps of cloths now dyed black were removed entirely. Once everything had righted up, the tower now spotless and not sporting any hint that endless house of scribbling had happened, Cipher busied himself with the layout of the room.

 

Hundreds of fingers drummed along his sides and he hemmed and hawed to himself. It would not do for his little tree to keep sitting himself on the floor to work. He had grossly miscalculated how into his research the boy could get and he had only himself to blame. Not to mention the amount of paper being wasted and the spilled ink was a massive tragedy as well. Clicking his tongue, he arched his head and gave a short nod.

 

The walls of the tower creaked and buckled, lengthening and making the overall arrangement much larger. The spaces in between the windows grew in distance, though the murals between each of them remained unchanged. Tiles sprouted on the floor, clinking into place as they overlapped to meet at the base of the panel boards. Settling, the room quieted down, now twice the size of what it had been.

 

Satisfied, the dragon nodded. 

 

§ Now, § He murmured, § Time for some decorations~ §

 

A desk took it's place on the far wall, right beneath one of the tall windows, large

roomy. Dark wood and antique in design, it was fetching and the human's belongings began to collect on it, quills placed in a glass vase on the top, ink in the indented well that was capped with gold, and his papers set themselves down, separated by subject and whether or not they were used. A bench, sturdy and comfortable, was pushed under it and, with a tap, the cushion became a bright canary yellow. Finally, his gift, the scroll of his written tongue, was set in a glass display case right on top, the center piece of his artwork.

 

Bookshelves grew from the walls, their shelves bare for now and underneath another window, he created a plush, comfortable love seat filled with pillows and cushions; right beneath his saplings favorite, the one that always showed the rain.

 

Appeased, Cipher curled back to view the sleeping boy, tenderness flashing across his features. Leaning in, he hovered over him, lips barely brushing his star speckled forehead, §  I spoil you far too much, don't I? §

 

Chuckling, he kissed him, cooing at the connection that sparked between them. § You will walk in the most pleasant of dreams tonight, my constellation. May waking take it's time and leave you pleasantly. §

 

He made to leave but paused when he felt the smallest resistance. Puzzled, he looked down to see a small hand entwined in the feathers that ran along his side. § Oh? §

 

Dipper mumbled something incoherent, too far gone to the world of awareness, and tightened his grip in the fluffy down.

 

Smiling, Cipher lowered himself to lay his head next to him, breathing in his scent. § You are far too over indulged. § He told him seriously, § But I suppose I am to blame for that. § Steadily, he slid onto the bed, the floating driven dipping low at his weight, gathering the boy's small form into his arms. He held him close to his chest and his mighty coils grasping him carefully, loath to allow him out of his grasp.

 

Groaning, the brunette buried his face into him, arms snaking around his neck to grip his onyx fur loosely; he sighed contentedly, body relaxing in it's new resting position.

 

§ Goodnight my sacrifice, § He whispered gently, § I will always be here with you. §

 

 

Contrary to what humans believed, a Gods duty was not all offerings and revelries.

 

Cipher had many duties, ones that took him far away from his little sacrifice for much longer than he wished and others that left him ill at ease, in the company of other deities that did not enjoy his marvelous presence.

 

Ferrying a human towards the mindscape so they can experience dreams and sweet slumber was his most important task. Every night, when the sun slipped beneath the horizon and the moon began to rise, his work would begin. Delivering dreams and gifting certain worshipers with wondrous illusions that would help them through their nights was a daunting burden. Humans wanted so much and wished for so many things.

 

Wealth.

 

Power.

 

Love.

 

The return of a beloved relative.

 

Their lives were so short and full of strife that it was only natural for them to desire things far out of their reach. It wasn't common for Gods to answer such prayers, ones full of selfishness and inclination. They had far more important things to do.

 

Or so they say.

 

So Cipher gave the mortals the next best thing.

 

He allowed them to utilize the time of rest to fantasize and live in a make believe world that they would never have in the waking plain. They could posses everything they ever wanted. Want for nothing. Live the lives they've always envisioned for themselves.

 

If they were true to him and worshiped him as he demanded.

 

Otherwise, they would toss and turn with vivid nightmares that scratched and clawed at them with dark fingers. They would not rest nor sleep. They would walk a waking terror, witness events that would cause their minds to shatter, and sob into an endless void where no one could reach them and no one cared to. Every night they would fear their beds and grow frightened at the prospect of sleep.

 

It was music to his ears~

 

Their cries.

 

Their begging for his forgiveness.

 

Their pleads.

 

Their broken wails.

 

Nothing pleased him more.

 

Most of the more notable Gods and Goddesses used to laugh behind their hands at him and tease about his profession. What sort of god, they would titter, strikes fear in their subjects with mere dreams? Is it not laughable? Is it not adorable? A little God such as himself trying to frighten them with scary dreams?

 

Their chuckles soon quieted.

 

He showed them what a mortal without sleep was capable of doing.

 

What a man desperate for the love of his life was able to commit without rest.

 

How a once loving mother could murder her children with her bare hands because their cries prevented her from laying her head down and even when she did, their little voices still rang in her skull.

 

He took their world and burned it to the ground.

 

He proved the mind was far more susceptible than their bodies.

 

Easily broken and hard to repair.

 

He showed them beyond a shadow of a doubt who he had become.

 

He was The Golden One.

 

The One Who Walked In Dreams.

 

Lord of the Mindscape.

 

He was Cipher.

 

 

" Cipher. "

 

He cocked his head and smirked at his unwelcome visitor, § Northwest. §

 

The tall, blond haired goddess walked up to him, her long, peacock feathered gown trailing behind her like her very own downy tail. She stepped up to his side and folded her arms behind her back, " How have you been? "

 

§ I didn't know you cared so much for me, my lady~ § He teased.

 

" I don't. "

 

The curl of her lip made him laugh, § I thought not. §

 

Northwest tilted her head toward him, " I'm merely here to make small talk, nothing more, I was in the area. Being in the presence of a God Eater like you for too long makes my skin crawl. "

 

He bared his teeth at her, eye flashing, § You think you have the right to talk to me like that when you yourself are younger than I am? You are but a mere babe to one such as myself. §

 

" Yes, " She answered, " And I still hold myself to the rules and guidelines that set apart the Gods from monsters. " She sent him an uncertain look, " Unlike some. "

 

§ I'd suggest watching your tongue, Lady Northwest~ § Cipher warned, wagging his finger at her.

 

" Apologies. "

 

He narrowed his eyes at her, not truly knowing why a goddess of wealth and monetary gain was blessing him with her presence. Gods and goddesses tended to be solitary beings unless they sought companionship with one another or if their duties aligned just enough for them to work together. As Northwest and himself weren't close in a friendly manor and their occupations- though overlapping only in what their mortals wanted- differed, he didn't see why she had gone out of her way to visit him.

 

§ And what brings you here, Llama? § He finally asked when she didn't say anything else. § I tire of your presence. §

 

" Already? " She inquired, feigning surprise, " Why, I simply wanted to see the little tree that has you so quiet lately. "

 

His body immediately stiffened at the mention of his human, and he felt warmth bloom in his curled fists as his fur and feathers bristled. § What business do you have with my little sacrifice, Northwest? §

 

" Nothing. " The blond assured him, " I was merely curious. No need to get so huffy. " She turned from him to brush her shoulders off, tossing her beautiful mane of gold behind her. " I was simply wondering what has you so quiet lately. It's surprising really. "

 

§ Oh? §

 

She ignored the growl rumbling in his throat in favor of raising an eyebrow at him, " One would just not assume you would grow so attach to a human. "

 

§ Who I grow fond of and why is none of your concern. §

 

" Perhaps. But it's very unusual for ones such as ourselves to take such a keen interest in something that is suppose to give us sustenance. For me, money and anything wondrous of value. For you, a human soul. I've never looked at my offerings as something to keep and spoil. So what made you, of all Gods, harbor yours like a beloved toy? "

 

§ I don't see why this is any of your business. §

 

" The other Gods are talking. "

 

§ Are they? §

 

" I thought you would be more interested than that? " She accused.

 

Cipher shrugged, § What they think has little impact on my future actions. I do what I want. §

 

Northwest shook her head, sighing, " I will never understand the Gods of the ancient worlds. "

 

§ You are not meant to. § He smirked.

 

" Your company is not much for conversation is it? " The goddess snorted, crossing her arms. " I don't even know why I bothered. "

 

§ I'm irresistible~  § He purred, § It's true. §

 

" I don't know what you mean, you forget yourself. " Scoffing, she turned on her heels and stalked away.

 

§ Leaving already, Lady Llama? § Cipher asked, following just behind her,  §Would you like me to escort you out? §

 

" Don't act like a gentleman now, Cipher. " Northwest dismissed, " It doesn't suit you. "

 

§ As you were then. § He waved the woman off, the hem of her gown vanishing as she passed the border of his territory without another word to him; once he was alone, he sneered.

 

§ Talking are they? §

 

 

He watched his human, his precious little tree, carefully.

 

§ I should keep you asleep forever. § He told him softly, stroking his soft cheek with loving fingers, § Then you would truly be mine. §

 

Kissing his forehead, he stood over the sleeping brunette, unable to take his eye off of him.

 

He was so close to breaking the code.

 

Perhaps only a few more days and he would soon have his entire history in the palms of his hands.

 

What would his little sacrifice think of him then?

 

§ Do not hate me. § He begged, placing their foreheads together. § I would never hurt you. §

 

He kissed his sleeping beauty softly, § I would burn this entire world to the ground. § He nuzzled into his neck, his flesh begging to be marked by his fangs. § But not you. Never you, Sapling. I would never harm you. You are mine. Mine. And you will come to see it that way. §

 

§ One way or another. § 

 

"........and Earth becomes sky, fear the beast with just one eye. "

 

Chapter Text

" Finally! "

 

Holding up a large sheet of parchment, its face decorated with symbols and diagrams, Dipper Pines smiled in triumph. Realizing the ink was still wet and dripping, he quickly placed it back down on his desk, carefully pinning the corners down with heavy books. Leaning forward, nose an inch above the writings, he went over the finalized outline he had come up with after weeks of non stop research and deciphering.

 

It hadn't been easy.

 

Cipher himself wasn't much help, only urging him on and chuckling at his attempts to wheedle the answers out of him.

 

So, with no one to rely on but himself, Dipper made do with what he was given and, with enough time and dedication, he had prevailed. He had translated the alphabet that had been hidden in that golden scroll. To his knowledge, he now had his Gods words and stories at his fingertips, ready to be read and appreciated. It had been said that Cipher had locked the ancient hieroglyphs away and the old words died out in due time, long forgotten to his people. All memories of his codes and letters had vanished from history and the only known mention of it was in another deity's memoirs.

 

 He writes in an odd code, even for us of ancient blood. Shapes and pictures that mean nothing to me or any other. Truly one could say that Cipher's codes are as unique as himself. If I so desired to mention to him, which I do not. 

 

That was it.

 

No other written acknowledgement of the alphabet existed. It was a mystery that had plagued their village shamans and educated mass for many centuries. Many had assumed it a fable or that their God was just not one for written words and that it never existed in the first place. Some, like his great Uncle Ford, thought other wise.

 

" All Gods have a written code, " He had told him late one night, old texts and traded scrolls open on his desk, " It is a creation of theirs and one they take great pride in. Cipher is the epitome of pride and he is an ancient being so I can only assume that he has one. But, " Here he had frowned deeply, " For whatever reason, it has become lost to us. "

 

Remembering his great uncle caused a great sadness to grip at his heart. Ford would have been over the moon to be in his position. He would have helped him develop the solution to Cipher's complex code within days, much sooner than what he himself was capable of. He smiled wryly at the thought of the two of them hunched over papers, covered in ink and in need of a good nights sleep. Stan would have had one of his fits about them staying up too long and Mabel would roll her eyes and tease them both before dragging her brother away for some much needed sunlight.

 

Something fell onto his paper and he was surprised to find tears rolling down his cheeks. Swiping them with the back of his hand, he chided himself, " Stop it. There's nothing you can do about it. "

 

He accepted that he would never see his family again when he had been selected to be the sacrifice to their god. But at the time, he had thought he would he killed, his soul taken, and that would be that. Never in a million years would he have thought Cipher would keep him alive and well.

 

Despite the relief regarding the whole situation there was an underlying sorrow that clung to him, refusing to let go.

 

He knew he gave himself over to him, his entire being and soul now belonging to his god, the enigmatic Cipher. There was little to no chance of him seeing his family and friends ever again. He had been dealt an odd and unexpected hand in life and he, as his Grunkle Stan would say, would have to deal with the hand he'd been dealt.

 

But that didn't mean he couldn't be a little homesick every now and then.

 

" Stupid Cipher, " He grumbled to himself pushing his stool away from his desk, " Stupid gods and their dumb rituals. " Glaring down at the parchment that held a world of knowledge, his anger slipped from him just as quickly as it came. Shoulders sagging, he flopped back onto the chair and pulled the scroll closer to him, finger lightly tracing the dried ink. " I wonder if I'll find out why he decided to keep me. "

 

His star mobile clinked together gently as a breeze made its way through the room, carrying with it the promise of rain; it was enough to draw his thoughts back to him.

 

" Well, " He sighed, " I'm not going to get any answers sitting here. "

 

Slapping his cheeks to freshen himself up, Dipper sat up and gathered the papers he figured he would need in his arms, standing carefully so as not to drop any. Kicking the stool back under his work space, he scanned the room, worrying his lip. " But the real question is, where do I start? "

 

The tower and adjacent rooms were covered in murals and tapestries. There were dozens, if not more, of the artworks, not to mention the massive stained glass downstairs. Regardless, the brunette began to smile.

 

" Let's get to work. "

 

 

The tapestry before him was one he had studied often.

 

It was scarlet red and bordered in silver thread, hanging just outside the tower room in which he spent most of his time. Fire danced in the entire background, a single tree standing charred and void of all life in the center. Two people were on either side of its trunk, one on their hands and knees the other with arms raised towards the sky. Bones littered the ground around them, stark white in a sea of red and black. And right above them, eye burning, was the triangular form of his god, words filling the sky behind him.

 

Dipper ran his fingers over the hanging tassels, the gathered strands banded in gold. " Let's see what you have to say. " He whispered.

 

He spent the next couple of hours copying the ancient words from cloth to paper, taking pauses to allow the ink to dry in between lines. The text was longer than he thought and it wasn't until nightfall that he had them all written down. Once he had double, triple, checked his work, he settled on the ground and spread everything before him. Pulling the ribbon off a blank scroll, he sat it down and, after taking a deep breath to calm himself, he began to translate.

 

It was slow at first and Dipper was constantly checking his work as he went, not wanting to mess anything up and have to start over. But soon, the ciphers began to form words and there, clutched in his hands, he held a piece of his gods lost history.

 

 

The Fate of Paititi

https://www.flickr.com/photos/150955606@N08/sets/72157680934113614/

 

 

Cipher looked up from the dream he held in his hands, the little orbs shimmering under his touch. A grin stretched across his dragon like face and his golden scales glinted in the candle light. § And what brings you out at this hour, my starry sky? §

 

Dipper rubbed his arms, stepping slowly over to the god who was lounging comfortably on his window seat, many hands busying themselves with turning dreams into nightmares, the normally pure white balls staining black as if touched by a drop of ink.

 

When his human didn't answer, his smile slipped. Tilting his head he asked him, § What is wrong? §

 

" I- I translated one of your tapestries downstairs. "

 

§ And? §

 

Dipper bit his lip, unsure what to say.

 

§ You translated my tapestry yet you do not seem happy about it. § He mentioned, waving the dreams aside for now; they could wait. § Why is that? §

 

" I'm not sure. "

 

Cipher chuckled, § Is that so? §

 

He nodded.

 

§ Come, § Cipher commanded, making room for the smaller being on the cushion, § Sit with me. §

 

Dipper padded over, crawling onto the high seat, careful of his flowing fabrics and hanging jewels. Sitting with his back against the wall, he crossed his legs and grabbed his ankles, worrying his lip between his teeth. He jolted when he felt long fingers push his bangs from his face, tucking the strands behind his ear. " C-Cipher? "

 

§ I would like to know what is causing my little tree such distress. Tell me. §

 

Inhaling sharply, a blush creeping across his cheeks, he pushed the offending hand away, fingers shaking as they wrapped around a slim wrist. " S-sorry? "

 

§ Tell me what bothers you. § Cipher said again, slipping his hand from his weak grasp to place it on his leg; he smiled when the brunette jumped. Cute. § I would love the conversation. §

 

" Um, " Dipper faltered, the sincerity in his words throwing him off guard. " I, uh, I read one of your tapestries. The red one that's lined in silver and has a bare tree with two people at its trunk. "

 

§ Ah, yes. I'm fond of that one. §

 

" It's- it's the story of Paititi. "

 

§ It is. § The god nodded slowly, § And do you know of Paititi? §

 

" Not before I translated your tapestry. " Dipper admitted. " All I know is what was on that. "

 

§ Then you know enough. §

 

" But- " He interjected, quickly clamping his mouth shut at the severe look that crossed the dark skinned mans face.

 

A tense moment passed between them before Cipher went on, voice firm but soft, § Paititi, § He began, § Was a small village that was hidden from society, deep in the jungles of a country that you would have never heard of. I cultured them and gave them language when no other god wished to protect and cradle them. For many decades I was their deity. To them, I was their one God. I protected them from war and from conquerors who wished to slay them. I taught them to speak and write with a language all their own. They were, in a sense, my children. §

 

" So what happened then? Why did they turn their backs on you? "

 

§ They were foolish. § He snarled, lips twisting into a horrid grimace. § A missionary from a larger city over seas found them due to their own foolishness. They took him in and allowed his poisoned words to taint their thoughts. He preached of them being in charge of their own lives and destiny. That Gods were not real or if they were, long dead or blind to them. And they, the damned fools that they were, listened. He stayed with them for only a month or two but it was enough. They began to doubt me and my powers. That I, despite all that I gave them, was inferior to their right to govern over themselves. §

 

" What happened to the missionary? Who was he? " Dipper asked, drumming his fingers on his upper arms in excitement.

 

He smiled at his enthusiasm, charmed by the way his mocha eyes light up and how he impatiently fidgeted in place. § He was no one. He is no longer with us. §

 

" Did you- "

 

§ I thought you were interested in the story of Paititi, my little tree? § He smirked.

 

" I- I am! " Dipper assured him, flushing lightly from the teasing, " But- "

 

§ Then shall I continue? §

 

Despite his curiosity, the human nodded, filing it away as something to ask the taller being about later, if he felt so inclined to answer; which he doubted. " Please? "

 

§ Your inquisitiveness is quite lovely. § Cipher complimented, enjoying the scowl sent his way immensely. § Now, where was I? § He hummed playfully, tapping his feathered jaw with a finger as he struggled to remember his train of thought; he chucked when his little sacrifice's foot hit him lightly in his leg. § So sassy, my word. §

 

" Paititi, " He reminded him, rolling his eyes.

 

§ Oh yes, lovely, tropical Paititi. § The smile slipped, replaced with a look of contemplation and long held irritation. § They denounced me. My name, my very being. They desecrated my temple and offering plates and declared themselves their own rulers. They spurred my name and everything I had ever given them! §

 

Energy crackled around them and Dipper's hair on the back of his neck stood on end, static sparking through the air. He could see the feathers along his face fluttering angrily, fanning out in a grand display of black and gold, and his single eye was slitted, his pupil pulsing.

 

§ They thought themselves better than a God. Better than me! So, I gave them one final gift. §

 

" The tree. "

 

§ The tree. § He affirmed, smirking. § Oh, how they loved that tree. They thought it the best gift they had ever received. They thought, can you imagine, that I had just given it to them. That I acknowledged their ideals. Can you imagine? §

 

" Those trees, " Dipper asked, " What were they? It sounds like those trees drove them mad. "

 

§ Oh, § He cackled, § They did so much more than that, Pinetree. So much more. They were blind to their arrogance. That tree was their downfall. You asked if it drove them mad. And yes, I suppose in a way it did. Do you remember what they loved so much about it? Those trees? §

 

" The petals, " He answered, " And nectar. And the sap. "

 

§ Correct. I made those flowers so irresistible that they were guaranteed to cave and eat them even if they subconsciously knew they were not to. But they did. As soon as those soft, velvety petals slipped down their throats, they were mine. Once they had a taste for it, they wanted it and nothing else. They would only eat from the stems and bark of those trees and nothing else. Most starved to death. After all, there was only one tree. §

 

" But more grew! " He argued, " After they ate everything from the first tree. "

 

§ Yes, § Cipher drawled, his face twisting into something that made Dippers gut roll, § Yes they did. §

 

" Cipher? "

 

§ And they ate every single one that did. Never even asking where they came from. §

 

" Where did- did they come from? " He asked quietly.

 

He turned to him, his blond bangs falling into his face as he tilted his head at him, § Where do you think they come from, my own sugar tree? §

 

" Where they- " He started, cutting himself off as realization dawned on him. He covered his mouth, eyes blowing wide, gaze never leaving the beaming God, " It was the people. All the villagers. "

 

§ Yes, § He confirmed, § It was they. §

 

" They will eat each other from the branches of trees. " He whispered, " They ate each other. "

 

§ And none more more the wiser. §

 

" You had them- had them eat each other only to become food for the rest of- the rest of them? "

 

§ You sound appalled. §

 

" I am! "

 

§ I do not see what the issue is. They denied me and all I gave them so I took what was mine. They were no longer mine to cherish, they had given up that right the moment they declared themselves their own rulers. Was I not suppose to punish them for such a thing? To allow them their transgressions without punishment? §

 

" N-no, but- "

 

§ Then I do not see what the problem is. § When his sacrifice didn't say anything, only pursing his lips together in a tight line, he frowned. § I am not human, Sapling. I am a God. And a god does not forgive and a god does not forget. I am not a generous being who gives and does not take. Your human morals mean nothing to me. What is good and what is wrong to you is not the same for me. They are not even close. To you, a human life is precious and something that should be cherished. To me, they are pawns. They are life force and beings who give to me. And, if I feel inclined, I will return to favor and give unto them. I once loved the people of Paititi. But that love was not something I could keep once they did what they did. Do you understand that? §

 

" I think so. " Dipper sighed, not wanting to admit that he did indeed not fully understand. But then, he couldn't condone Cipher for doing what he did. He was a god after all and he was just a human. Who was he to judge a gods deeds when he was presented as a sacrifice to said God?

 

§ It is fine if you do not. § Cipher reassured him, § I do not expect you to fully understand the way Gods work. That would be unfair of me. §

 

" I understand. " He said, heaving a great sigh. " I think. "

 

§ Wonderful. § The god smiled, satisfied.

 

" But why burn them? " The boy brought up, " You already turned them into trees and had the other devour them. What could you gain from that? "

 

§ I gained nothing nor did I plan to. § He explained quietly. § I allowed my temper to get the best of me. If I had left them, then the two would have turned to trees as well. Instead, my anger burned them to ash with the rest of their city. If I had not, time would have erased them from history just as easily as I had. §

 

He gave an awkward chuckle, " Gods sure are terrifying aren't they? "

 

§ Indeed we are. § Cipher agreed, § Indeed we are. But, some of us are much more charming than others if I do say so myself. §

 

" Charming? " Dipper grinned, " You? "

 

§ If I were you, I would watch yourself~ §

 

" Or what? " He dared to ask, " What will you do to me? "

 

§ You dare challenge your God? § He rumbled, § Me? §

 

" And if I am? "

 

§ Then I will have no choice but to punish you. § He warned him. When the brunette stuck his nose in the air he launched himself at him, his startled scream music to his ears. He gathered him in his long appendages, hands grasping him carefully. He dragged him from his resting spot over to him, plopping him down on his lap.

 

" C-Cipher! " Dipper squealed.

 

Laughing, ears flicking in jubilation, the larger man held him firmly, arms retreating until only his main set was upon him, happily settled on his soft hips. § Yes, my sacrifice? §

 

He huffed, craning his neck to glare at him, " You just do whatever you want don't you? "

 

§ I do. § He agreed, curling himself around the boy, trilling gently at having him so close.

 

" You're impossible. " He chided, crossing his arms over his chest, " You know that? "

 

§ I seem to recall a snarky human that reminds me at least once a day, yes. §

 

" Yeah, well, you need it. Reminding that is. "

 

Cooing, he nuzzled into the back of his neck, inhaling his wonderful scent. § Oh, my little sacrifice. § He sighed, § It has been so long since you've been in my arms. §

 

Blushing, Dipper grumbled, " You literally sneak into my room every night to sleep with me. How is that a long time? "

 

§ Such minor details. § He waved his words aside, § They are unimportant. §

 

Huffing, he allowed himself to settle against the gods strong chest, his warmth and pulsing energy thrumming against him pleasantly. He was was still dissatisfied with their discussion on Paititi but it seemed that Cipher had long lost interest in the forgotten city. And he had come to know that when the deity was finished with a certain topic than  that was that, regardless of if he himself wasn't fully satisfied with the outcome.

 

Placing his chin on the top of his fluffy, brown hair, Cipher chirped, his entire being brimming with happiness. Glancing down at him, he mentioned, § Your hair falls into your face quite frequently. Does it not annoy you? §

 

" Huh? " Dipper raised a hand to his bangs, brushing them aside, " My hair? No, I'm used to it. Mabel used to- used to pin it back with flower crowns and pins that she made. But I don't- " His voice hitched at the mention of his sister and he stopped to take a calming breath, heart quivering forlornly, " Sorry. "

 

He knew that he should be honored to be here. Anyone else in his village would be beside themselves to be in such close proximity to The Golden One. How could they not? He was all powerful and mighty, a God of great standing and prestige. Any one would be willing to throw themselves to their deaths if it meant even a fraction of the contact Dipper has had. He should be over this by now.

 

But that didn't mean the memories of his family couldn't hurt or sting.

 

Humming to himself, Cipher twirled a long strand of his hair between his fingers, amused by the light curl that kept its shape. § You do not need to be sorry for missing your family. § He informed, § They are your family. I will not get angry if you cry over them or long to be with them. That too, is only natural. § He kissed him, § But I believe another gift will suit you for now, perhaps to lessen the sting of your loss. §

 

" Another one? " He asked, turning to look at him, " What is it this time? "

 

§ You act like you do not enjoy my presents. §

 

" I do, but I don't know what I do to deserve them. "

 

§ You deserve them simply by being with me. That should be enough. § Nuzzling him, he held his hair back and brought forth another hand, the ink stained fingers cradling a bright, yellow flower in its palm.

 

" Is that- "

 

§ Hush. § Cipher commanded, holding his hair away from his face so he could slip the large bloom behind his ear. It stood out against the backdrop of chocolate brown, its large ruffled petals and dark, spotted center standing proud. § There. §

 

Reaching up, Dipper took the flower, untucking all the gods hard work; he ignored his offended whine. Cradling the flora in his hands, he turned it over, marveling at its simple beauty. A faint smell of honey and sugar assaulted his nose and he looked back up at the God, eyes narrowing, not grasping why he had given him this particular flower. " These are the flowers that drove the people of Paititi mad. "

 

§ They are. §

 

" Why give it to me then? Won't it drive me mad? "

 

Cipher snorted, § Do you wish to eat it? §

 

" Not particularly. " He said slowly.

 

§ Then you do not need to worry about it. § He plucked the flower from him and replaced it in his hair, giving the strands a short tug. § The people of Paititi were driven mad by my flowers because they denounced me. They lost their way. You, my little tree, are my precious sacrifice. You are loyal and devoted. To you, they may smell sweet, but they are nothing more than simple blooms, beautiful though they are. §

 

" So it wasn't really the flowers that drove them to eat each other then. It was the fact that they turned their backs on you. "

 

§ Correct. § 

 

" I guess that's okay then. " He shrugged, resisting the urge to fiddle with the golden flower. 

His face warmed up, for a reason he couldn't place, and he stuttered out his gratitude, " T-thank you. "

 

§ You are most welcome. It is quite becoming on you. §

 

" Shut up, Cipher. " Dipper huffed, turning away from him, feeling the heat spread down his neck. " It's just a flower. "

 

§ As you wish, my little sacrifice, § He murmured, kissing the back of his neck, § As you wish. §

 

 

 § How many more tapestries and murals before he truly becomes afraid of me? §

Chapter Text

Dipper found Cipher outside.

 

The god had been absent from breakfast that morning, only leaving a small note saying that he would be outside should his little sacrifice need him. He had been somewhat surprised at his words, never knowing that the tower had an outside; he had only been in the rooms that had been offered to him and he had assumed that there was no entrance or exit for him to use. Cipher surely didn't require one so he hadn't thought that one would exist.

 

However, when he had stepped out of the dining room to begin the familiar climb to his room, he had given pause. By now, he was used to the comings and goings of doorways and rooms, always at the whim of the ever finicky Cipher, and didn't think too much of it. The entry way was the same as always, the grand staircase that spiraled upwards towards his dorm, the hallway filled with tapestries that lead to the refectory, and the massive, stunning stained glass window that allowed colorful shards of light to waltz amongst the stone. Yet, there was a new addition to it as well, one that hadn't been there when he sleepily wobbled his way to the breakfast table; he smiled fondly.

 

" What else would I expect? " Dipper asked himself, removing himself from the stair well to walk over to the newly formed doorway, the silks and golden beads that hung in the way swaying from a warm breeze that made itself known. Pushing the draping aside, he ducked through the arch, stepping into the quickly becoming common unknown.

 

Sunlight greeted him, warm and welcome, and he took a deep breath of clean, cool air, his hair standing on end at the sheer amount of magic that pulsed around him. Shielding his eyes with a raised hand, he looked around the grounds, mouth slowly falling open in awe, " Wow. "

 

The garden wasn't large by any means, a small space that he couldn't see the end of, but it was colorful and bright, the air filled with the sweet scent of honey and blooms. The walkway was cobbled with smooth stones, his bare feet padding along them effortlessly as he moved down the trail. He recognized some of the flowers, mainly from books he had studied with Ford, but a vast majority of them remained unknown to him, unable to put a name to many of the plants that surrounded him.

 

Dipper's heart swelled, startled that he hadn't noticed how cooped up he had been. Before the ritual, he had been outdoors all the time, always running through the woods and collecting herbs and investigating the old ruins at the edge of town. He hadn't taken note of how much he missed the sun's embrace or the feeling of dirt and grass beneath his feet. He beamed, giggling as the wind ruffled his hair in seeming agreement. He ran his hands over the plants as he walked by, stopping to examine a few of the more unusual flowers, mind automatically wandering to what medicinal and spiritual properties they held.

 

He found Cipher at the end of the trail, the handsome deity sitting on a stone bench beneath a tree that sheltered him from the sunlight with its drooping branches, small patches of light dancing along his golden scales. His ears gave a twitch and his eye slowly opened, mouth stretching into a smirk when he saw his little human before him. He extended a hand to him, sighing gently, § Come. §

 

Hesitantly, Dipper took his hand. " Why are you out here? " He asked, allowing the man to pull him to his side, his long tail falling from the seat to make room for him.

 

Cipher tilted his head at him in silent question, eye sparkling in mirth. § Am I not entitled to some down time of my own? §

 

" Well, " He frowned, " I suppose you would if gods were allowed such a thing. " He paused, " Are gods allowed such a thing? "

 

He chuckled, shaking his head. § Gods are allowed to do anything they wish, my little tree. It is why we are so powerful, so worshiped. If I desire to spend some of my time outside enjoying the good weather instead of answering the wishes of mortals who desperately cry my name and sing my praise, than I will do as I wish. Did you think all gods were benevolent beings who answered ever humans pathetic call?  §

 

" N-no, " Dipper denied, " I just... I don't know really. I never gave thought to what gods were actually like, really. I knew you existed and I knew you especially were our sovereign, our one true god. I was always taught your faith dictated your entire life. If you believed and prayed and offered what you had to give, then you were given favor. If you strayed from the path of worship and did nothing, you were frowned upon and detested. "

 

The god hummed, § Correct, but not fully. § 

 

" What do you mean? "

 

§ Gods do not have time to listen to every prayer or askance of us. Very few blessings are given to your kind, simply because we do not feel the need to. You can give us your prayers or shower us in gifts, but that does not automatically mean you will be given a spot in our fickle hearts. We do not have the time warranted to listen to all of you- how could we? Regardless, we do take interest in those that have shown devotion for many years, even if we did not answer their prayers and wishes. They still prayed, they still worshiped, and they stayed devout to us. § Cipher looked down at him, smiling knowingly. § Those are the ones we take a great interest in. The ones who become our champions. Our most beloved. Our lovers. Our sacrifices. §

 

" Oh, I- I see. "

 

He gave his side a squeeze, § What do you think you are to me, my constellation?  §

 

Dipper frowned at his question, brows furrowing in thought. " I'm not sure. " He answered softly, winding his silks between his nervous fingers. " I know- I know I'm your sacrifice. I gave myself to you when I did so. So, I's wager I'm your living offering. But, I don't feel like that's all. If I were- were just your sacrifice, than I would surely be walking the mindscape right now. But I'm not. I'm here, in your realm, with you. "

 

§ You are. §

 

" But I don't know what I am to you or what you want me to be. "

 

§ What do you want to be to me? § Cipher asked, leaning down to nuzzle his nose into his fluffy hair, breathing in his honeysuckle scent.

 

" I don't know. " His human whispered.

 

Humming, displeased but understanding, he kissed the top of his head, § You are my sacrifice, make no mistake about that little one. But you are also my night sky, my little tree, my constellation, and my Paititi flower. You are more to me than a simple offering. You are my fated, my one, and you will be mine, of that I am certain. §

 

" You sound- sound so sure of yourself. "

 

§ I am. § Cipher smirked, § I am sinfully handsome after all. And charming. §

 

" You? " Dipper snorted, " Charming? "

 

§ Am I not? § He asked, grabbing his chin with his long fingers, tilting his face up so he could look into his startled, mocha eyes. § You do not think me charming at all, my little tree? §

 

Dipper's heart thudded painfully against his ribs and he felt light headed at the intense stare his god was giving him. He struggled to come up with something witty, to show he was unaffected, but he floundered, stuttering and swallowing his words, " Um, you're- I mean, I guess- "

 

Cipher laughed, placing their foreheads together, enjoying the flustered redness of his sacrifice's cheeks and the way he struggled to speak through his mortification. § Have I taken your breath away, my constellation? §

 

" No-no, of course- course not! " He denied, inhaling sharply as his lord brought them together; his scales glistened under his azure eye and the golden triangles that rested on his high cheeks glowed in the light like molten ore; unable to help himself, he reached up and placed his fingers against them, awed that they were so smooth and beautiful, standing stark against the mans dark skin.

 

Cipher smiled, his human's touch sending pleasant butterflies through his being, the wings humming against him.  § Have I stolen it now? § He teased.

 

Dipper's fingers slid over his scales until he was cupping his thin face in his palm. " Yes, " He breathed.

 

§ Have I indeed? § He purred, nuzzling into his hand.

 

The small brunette startled as soft feathers fluttered across his finger tips and, broken of his trance, he pulled away, cradling his hand to his chest as if he had been burned with a hot, searing poker. " I'm sorry, " He croaked out, stunned at his own arrogance, " I shouldn't have- I can't believe- "

 

Cipher reached out and grabbed his hand, holding it firmly in his own, § I did not mind. § He told him softly, § Your touch is not disrespectful or unwanted; it never will be. Do you understand my sugar tree? §

 

Dipper nodded, his hand feeling like it was being held in lava. " I do. "

 

§ Wonderful. § He beamed, the feathers along his jaw puffing out in delight. He brought his hand up to his mouth and kissed the back of his palm, trilling softly.

 

" Are you- are you quite finished? " He managed to ask, dropping his hand to his lap as soon as he could, his skin tingling from the affection.

 

§ For now. § The god promised, chuckling at his pout. He hoped he was not moving too fast or too forcibly for his little one, afraid he would shut down or turn him away; he was a god, yes, but he was not without his fears.

 

" I don't understand you. " Dipper said quietly, unable to meet the questioning gaze of his god. He bit his lip and grabbed his silks in his hands, squeezing his knees tightly, " No matter how much time I spend with you or what you do to me. It's- it's frustrating. "

 

§ Do you want to understand me? § Cipher asked, inclining his head questioningly at him.

 

" I do. " He said firmly, " Even if I may never know you fully, and I doubt I ever will, I want to try. "

 

He wrapped one his many arms around him, drawing the smaller being to his side once more. Placing his chin on his head, he closed his eye and took in his scent, the way he felt right with the way his pine tree fit against him, and the light breeze that always carried the unknown on its wings. Sighing, he told him, § I fear of what you will think of me when you do. §

 

" What do you mean? "

 

He smiled wryly, § Do not concern yourself, my sacrifice. § He kissed his temple, reluctantly letting him go, fingers curling as they desired to cling tightly onto what was his. He stood swiftly from the stone bench, towering over him. He grinned, his sharp fangs peaking over his thin lips, and offered him his arm. § Do you want to see the rest of the garden? §

 

Dipper knew he was changing the subject and he frowned, well aware that this was the end of that particular topic; Cipher would not answer any more questions and if he persisted, he would leave all together. It was a cycle he had gotten used to with the time he spent in the Golden One's presence. Resigning himself to another lost answer, he followed the dragon like mans lead and stood, smoothing out his clothes and adjusting the gold that hung from his neck and hips. he took his offered arm, placing his pale hand on his blackened skin, " I would love to. "

 

§ Wonderful~ § Cipher purred, leading him down the cobbled walk way and deeper into the maze of a garden, § I would like to show you a plant that is not native to your homeland. I know you will love it. §

 

" What are they? "

 

§ Wait and see~ §

 

 

Dipper watched as the night overtook the sky, dark blues and purples blending with the pink and orange of the setting sun. It was a smooth transition, as if someone was pulling a sheet of stars over the day and he found the change relaxing, watching as thousands of stars blinked into bright clarity. He'd never noticed the change of day to night before, always absorbed in his work or asleep at the time, but he was glad to see it now; he was positive it hadn't been this beautiful on earth.

 

Shivering, he wrapped his arms around himself, unable to tear his eyes away from the forming constellations above. There were many of them he recognized and others he didn't. He traced them with a finger as he found them, smiling fondly at the memory of Ford teaching him and Mabel about the stars late at night as he patiently showed them his charts and findings while Stan grumbled about not getting any sleep and having to put up with his academically inclined family members.

 

§ Are you cold? §

 

Dipper looked over to see his god walking towards him, the being having left him before sundown to perform his nightly duties of delivering dreams and nightmares to the masses. It appeared he was finishing, the last few spheres he held in his hands flitting away from his hands and disappearing without a sound; he wondered where they were going. " A little. " He finally answered him, scooting over to make room for the larger man so he could sit beside him if he so wished.

 

Cipher sat with the grace only a god could posses, easily sitting himself beside the human. He tucked his long legs under him and curled his tail around Dipper's side, the feathered end resting in his lap. § If you are cold, allow me to warm you up~ § He insisted.

 

He laughed, allowing himself to lean in closer to the imposing god, his warmth and energy once more enveloping him in its welcome embrace. " If you insist. "

 

§ I do. § He murmured, watching the small brunette carefully. § Did you enjoy yourself today? §

 

Dipper smiled, pulling himself from the stars reluctantly to look up into the face of his god, " Yes, I did. Your garden is extremely beautiful. "

 

Cooing at the praise, his ears gave a jolly flick an his tail thumped against the boy's thigh, § I am pleased you like it so much. §

 

" Hmm, " He hummed in response, returning his attention to the sky above, night having completely taken over in the short time since the deity's arrival. He absentmindedly ran his fingers over the delicate down of the feather's in his lap, running them up the thin end of his majestic tail, the scales smooth and polished beneath his touch.

 

Cipher smiled fondly, § Do you like the stars as well, my little tree? §

 

" I love the stars. " He answered quietly, " I've never seen so many of them before. "

 

§ Do you know of any constellations? §

 

" Yeah. " He grinned up at him, raising his hand to point at the star formations above, tracing their invisible lines with certainty. " There's Aquila. " He drew out the great eagle, ending with a flourish at the tip of its wings.

 

§ Ah yes, Altair. § Cipher added, § He was the son of Aquila, did you know that? A very arrogant man. He was stripped of his power when he left his fellow men to die at the hands of an enemy army. Instead of aiding them as his oath decreed, he abandoned them. To return his honor and status he had to complete nine tasks, all as a human. §

 

" Did he? " Dipper asked eagerly.

 

§ He did. Against all the odds, he did as he was commanded. However, he chose to remain among the mortals instead of returning to his god hood. When he passed away he was reborn as a star and returned to his father. § He pulled him closer still, § Another? §

 

" Um, " He flushed, turning his attention to the sky, hoping the night would hide the redness of his cheeks, " Right up there is Orion. " 

 

§ The Mighty Huntsman of the Mortals. § He drawled, rolling his eye as if he found this particular star formation exasperating; from the hefty sigh that later followed, Dipper decided he was correct in his assumption.

 

" Not a fan? "

 

§ No, I am not. § The god scoffed, offended. § He was as boastful as a mortal could be. I have no idea why the goddesses of old loved him so much. He was a defiler of woman and threatened to hunt all of Gaia's beloved animals into extinction. §

 

" Sounds charming. "

 

§ He was, trust me. § He shook his head in apparent dismay, § He met his end as all the stars and constellations do in the end. Artemis had heard of what a renowned hunter he was and invited him to hunt with her. When she showed him up by out gaming him, he tried to kill her in a fit of rage. Apollo, who was over seeing the whole thing, became infuriated and brought a massive scorpion upon him for daring to hurt his sister. Man and beast slayed each other and Eos, the halfwit that she is, begged Zeus to make him into a constellation so that she may view him every night when she fell to slumber for she had fallen in love with him. Zeus agreed and rose him to the heavens and, in one of his many shows of humor, placed the scorpion, Scorpio, among them as well. Till this day, they are said to be fighting for dominance on who is better, man or animal. §

 

" I don't think I need to ask you which one you prefer. " He nudged him, laughing at the way the Walker of Dreams nose crinkled in distaste.

 

§ I honestly hope Scorpio gives him a good jab to the chest. It would do him some good. §

 

" Do you know all the stories of all the stars? " Dipper asked once his laughter had subsided, " Or were some of them before your time? "

 

§ I am the all knowing, § Cipher stated, smugness evident in his high voice, § I know all stories of all stars and all there is to be. §

 

" What about Cygnus? " He followed the constellation from its tail to its beak, spreading his fingers out to represent its elegant wings.

 

§ Cygnus was a goddess whose beauty was infamous. She was pale with the whitest of hair and had the darkest of eyes. Her mother tried to hide her away from the men who wishes to claim her but she failed when she was tricked into drinking a sleeping drought. Cygnus was taken from her and imprisoned in a tower where she would never be found by a selfish and ruthless king. He loved her for her immense beauty and soft voice but she did not return the affection. The king became angry and so he raped her, impregnating her with their first child, Albiero. To try and save her child she turned him into a little bird and begged him to fly away. He did as his mother wished and flew to the heavens. Soon after, she became with child once more and when she birther her second son, she did the same as she did with her first. Deneb flew from the tower and joined his brother. §

 

" What happened to Cygnus? "

 

§ She tried to follow her children but every time, her husband would stop her. She spent many years mourning for them, unable to leave. Then, one day as night began to fall, her children came to her. They had brought with them the harp of the musician, Lyra. They told her to play when their father came to see her. She agreed and they left. The next night, when he husband climbed the thousands of steps to his wife, she begged him to let her play a song for him. He, so smitten with her and believing she would never harm him or try to leave, agreed. She plucked the strings of Lyra and the melody was so sweet that he immediately fell asleep. Weeping, Cygnus shed her skin and flew from the tower as a beautiful swan. When the king awoke, he was so enraged that he vowed to find her and their children so that he may kill them, pluck their feathers, and feast on their flesh. Frightened for her sons and herself, she begged the father of all gods to place her among the stars so that they would be safe. He, saddened by her story, agreed and allowed her and her children to rest amongst the stars. §

 

" Wow, poor thing. Is she happier? "

 

§ I have never seen her more full of joy than she is now. § Cipher assured him, amused that he would worry for a goddess and what she had gone through. §  Though, she still does remain a swan and has yet to retake her true form. So, actually, I am not sure if she is all that happy. Perhaps all her honking and gaggling is a plea for help? §

 

" You're terrible! " Dipper giggled, taking one his arms into his grasp so he could lean his head against it, the resonating warmth from the darkened limb not unappreciated either.

 

§  You are the one laughing. §  He pointed out, prodding his soft side §  So who is the terrible one here? §

 

" You? "

 

Cipher trilled unhappily, flicking his tail to brush his great, black feathers over him, § Rude. §

 

Dipper grinned, brushing his tail out of his face, the appendage falling back onto his lap with a heavy slap. " Can you tell me another story? "

 

§ And what makes you believe I will humor you? §

 

" Because you adore me? " He ventured to guess.

 

He wasn't wrong, though his sugar pine more than likely did not know how much power was held in that simple statement; he hoped he never would. § Very well. Because I am such a  generous god, I will allow you one more. Only one, § He warned. § So choose carefully~ §

 

" Only one, huh? " Dipper murmurer, eyes searching the sky for another constellation he was familiar with. He beamed when he was able to make out one of the first star patterns he'd learned, and for good reason. " Alright. Ursa Major. "

 

§ Why would you want to know about Ursa Major when you carry its stars upon your skin? § He asked him, lifting his bangs to place a kiss on his forehead, where the stars and lines of the big dipper rested.

 

His little tree inhaled sharply and he fumbled over his words, " Just- just because I have the big dipper on my- on my skin doesn't mean I know the story behind it. "

 

§ Interesting. § He murmured, pulling away with a frown. He lowered his hand, watching as soft, fluffy hair obscured the stars from view. § Ursa Major just so happens to be my favorite constellation. §

 

" Tell me about it, " Dipper said, winding his arm around his, " Please? "

 

The god remained quiet for many minuets, staring up at the sky with a look of solemn acceptance. Of what went unsaid. Finally, the god sighed softly, § Very well. I will tell you of Ursa Major. Ursa Major was a goddess who could take the form of a bear. She and her younger sister, Ursa Minor were guardians of the humans. They would often roam the world as bears to give them aid and to offer them their immense wisdom. The people revered them and loved them. One day, while they were roaming the mortal world, they found two children in the woods, a boy and a girl. Their parents had abandoned them to the forest and, kindhearted as they were, the two sisters took them in, Ursa Major the boy and Ursa Minor the girl. The two goddesses decided to to raise them among their own kind and so took human form. §

 

" The Big Dipper and Little Dipper? " He guessed.

 

Cipher nodded. § Eventually, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor were called back to the heavens by the father of all gods. Their children were grown now so they had little reason to stay. As a parting gift, Ursa Major placed stars from her chest on her son and Ursa Minor gave her daughter stars from her back. Then, transforming into their true forms, they left them on their own. But their love for them was deep and they pleaded to have a space int he night sky so that they could watch their children sleep and protect them.  The Father of all Gods, impressed with their work and devotion, agreed and gave the sisters a spot int he heavens so that they could keep watch of their children. §

 

He said no more, growing quiet, and Dipper frowned, " Surely that's not the end? What of their children? How did they get placed with their mothers? "

 

An uncomfortable sort of growl came from the god. He did not seem pleased by his question but, after looking into his eyes, the tension eased from him and he sighed. § No, that is not the end. Ursa Major and Ursa Minor had their places in the heavens but their story doe not end. It continues with their children. The years passed and the great bears kept watch of their children, their lives and their dreams. Little Dipper never married, she became a healer who traveled far and wide to many countries and lands to help those in need. Big Dipper traveled with her, choosing history instead of medicine, until he fell in love with a human. He chose to stay behind with his new love and, though saddened, his sister wished him luck and went on her way. Big Dipper's husband, a priest to the villages god, did so love his constellation. He would do anything for him. Of this, Big Dipper knew and the two were happy. But, eventually, his husband began to change. Many things were happening in the mortal realm. War, famine, great cultures were dying out at an alarming rate. Gods were being hunted by humans and in turn, they destroyed their children. §

 

He paused, allowing the heavy words to rest between them before he went on, voice low and gaze distant, § Big Dipper's husband, though he loved him, loved power more. He wanted to have more of it and have the wealth and respect that came with it. He made plans to kill the god he served. §

 

Dipper gasped, " He wanted to kill his god? "

 

§ He did. § Cipher nodded, § He began to distance himself from his loved one. Big Dipper became worried and when night fell he asked his mother what he could do. Ursa Major, carrying her own worries for his child, begged him to leave the man. She did not trust him and she urged her son to leave that night under her protection. But he would not. He loved the man too much to leave. Saddened, his mother kissed him and left for the heavens, fretting about what would befall her child. His husband continued to push him away, blinded by his greed and lust. He, desperate in his quest and blind, summoned a goddess of ill notoriety. He begged her to give him the power he needed, to be her champion, her lover, her fighter. She, being a deity of deceit and corruption, wholly agreed. But, she would only give him the power he desired after he completed a quest for her. He agreed. §

 

" What was it? "

 

§ He would have to kill the child of Ursa Major, his husband, Big Dipper. §

 

" Why? "

 

§ I do not know, she never explained her reasoning. Though, I do believe that it had to do with the love and praise Ursa Major received. She was, after all, a goddess of deceit. She was not highly loved as she and her sister were. Jealousy, especially for a god, is not a pretty thing. §

 

" Did he do it? " Dipper asked, fearing the answer, " Did he kill him? "

 

§ He did, § Cipher stated firmly. § He agreed to her terms. When the sun rose, he took his love out the woods he loved so much, and murdered him; Ursa Major wept greatly at the loss of her child. Drenched in his lover's blood, he called to his new goddess and, laughing, she gave him what he wanted. And then she left him. For many months he waited, for the only time his old god would show himself was on the day of his birth, a celebration the village threw once a year. He performed his duties and when the god came to earth, he slayed him. The god bled molten gold and the man drank heartily. He ate the god's flesh and feasted on his heart. When he was through, he shed his human skin and ascended as a god. §

 

Appalled, he asked, " What of Big Dipper and Little Dipper? "

 

§ After the new god left to claim his falsely taken throne, Ursa Major descended to earth and cradled her child in her arms. She refused to leave him and abandoned her duties. Those were dark days for both gods and humans. It is a time that not many remember for most choose not to. With no guidance and wisdom, the humans fell into disarray, Ursa Minor not being able to help them all on her own. Eventually, after decades of her absence, the God Father took pity on her. He told her she must return to her duties. He, in turn, gave her her son. He allowed the human to be taken to the skies were his mother could hold him for all eternity. Ursa Major agreed and to this day, she still holds him upon her breast. §

 

" And Little Dipper? "

 

§ When she felt her soul rip in two, for Big Dipper had taken his half upon his death, she wept for days. She was incomplete and lost without him. They had always been close you see. She lost all emotion and wandered the world like a ghost. She knew her brother was gone but she never found out how. When the pain grew too much for her to bare, she took her own life. When Ursa Minor found her, she too was granted the right to take her daughter to the heavens where she rides upon her back every night so that she may always smile. §

 

He said no more after that and Dipper fidgeted uneasily, uncomfortable in the heavy atmosphere; his chest hurt. " That- that wasn't a very happy story. "

 

§ It is not. § He agreed. § But I never said it was. §

 

" No, " He agreed, " You didn't. "

 

Cipher took in his human's unease, the way he hunched in himself, brown eyes filled with worry and confusion; the story had riled him up. § I am sorry. § He offered after a long pause, § I did not mean to upset you. It is a sad story and it does not have a happy ending. Not all stories do. But it is over, it has already happened. There is no amount of sadness or grief in the world that will change that, my little star. §

 

" I know, but I just find it exceptionally sad for some reason. I mean, to be killed by your lover just so you can become a god? I've never heard of that before. A human becoming a god. " He shivered, and both knew it had nothing to do with the chill of night.

 

§ It is an old and powerful ritual, one that is nearly impossible to complete. § The dragon like man said, choosing his words carefully. § It has not been done since then and will never be performed again. §

 

" Why is that? " Dipper asked, pressing himself more into his side to absorb more of his warmth.

 

§ It is just how it is. §

 

Frowning, knowing a brush off when he heard one, he asked, " Is he- is the- "

 

§ Does the one who killed Big Dipper still live? § Cipher finished.

 

He worried his lip, nodding.

 

§ He does. §

 

" Oh. " The brunette mumbled, " Does he regret it? Killing his lover? "

 

The god pondered his question, humming in thought. § I do not know. § He finally answered, closing his eye, § But he does miss him. §

 

Dipper scoffed, turning his nose up at his statement, " He doesn't deserve to miss him. "

 

§ Perhaps not. § Cipher agreed with a sigh, § But let us not dwell on such things. It is time you return to your room and time for me to return to my business. §

 

He frowned at him, " Do I have to? "

 

The Golden One gave him a fond, if exasperated look, § Yes, my sacrifice. I can not leave you out here to yourself. You must return to where it is safe. Besides, do you not have more tapestries and what not to translate? §

 

" I suppose so. " He sulked, reluctantly removing himself from the deity's side, " If I have to anyway. "

 

§ You do. §

 

" Can I come back? " He asked, helped to his feet by the standing god.

 

§ We will see~ §

 

" Of course, " Dipper rolled his eyes, " Avoid answering, you're rather skilled at that. "

 

§ It is one of my many talents. § He chuckled.

 

" Don't I know it. "

 

Purring, he quickly swept the boy into his arms, holding him tightly. At his surprised yelp, he laughed. § Here, allow me to escort you to your room~ §

 

" I can- I can walk just fine on my own, thank you! " Dipper protested, his cheeks turning a deep shade of crimson at being held in such a way; it was as if he were a bride in her husband's arms.

 

§ I am aware that your legs are working just fine, my constellation. § Cipher grinned, § But I would much rather carry you if you would allow me this pleasure? §

 

It wasn't as if he could deny him and he was pretty sure Cipher himself knew that if the devilish grin he held on his handsome face was anything to go by. Resigning himself to the god's whims, he crossed his arms over his chest and huffed, " If you must. "

 

§ Thank you~ § Cipher crooned, carrying him across the cobbled courtyard and through the garden.

 

" You're welcome, I guess. " Dipper snorted, giving his long, braided, black under hair a tug, allowing his fingers to grip the lock tightly in his hand. " Even if I didn't ask for it. "

 

Cooing, he nuzzled his face into his soft tummy, laughing into the slight curve of flesh, § You amuse so, my sacrifice. §

 

" I'm glad. " The human drawled, shoving him away, " Do you mind? "

 

§ Not at all! Do you? §

 

" I can't believe you sometimes. " Dipper accused, giving his hair another gentle yank. " You know that? "

 

§ And why is that, little one? §

 

" You never answer my questions, you don't make any sense, yet you still seem to enjoy my company. "

 

§ I do, § He affirmed, giving his cheek a quick, short nuzzle, § Very much so. §

 

" Why? " He demanded to know, staring into his single eye with determination, " Why treat me so well when all all the stories I've been brought up on say you are a terrible beast that will stop at nothing to get what he wants? "

 

§ To be fair, that last past is rather accurate. § He said thoughtfully, ducking them under the hanging vines that clung to a stone archway. § I will not deny that fact for it is as it is: a fact. I do get what I want. §

 

" I've noticed. "

 

§ As for why I treat you so well, I had assumed you would know by now. § He tilted his head, looking at him incredulously. § You mean to tell me you do not know? §

 

" I don't. " He huffed.

 

He smirked, scales shimmering under the dull light of the stars, § How precious you are, my sacrifice. §

 

" You're not going to answer my question are you? " Dipper sighed, slumping in his arm in defeat. " I should have known. Stupid gods. "


§ Hush. § Cipher admonished, rounding a corner to bring the tower into view, the spire reaching for the heavens like the tower of Babylon that proceeded it; high above, Dipper could see the lights of his room, flickering in welcome. Placing a kiss to his temple, the god deposited him gently on the stairs, the boy slipping easily from his arms.

 

" Thank you. " He bowed his head in reverence, fixing his red sash that had dipped low over his hips as he turned to head inside.

 

The god eyes his pale skin hungrily, reaching out to take his hand, despite his fingers begging to touch his perfect skin. § Wait. §

 

Dipper paused, " Yes? "

 

§ Our night is not yet over. § He grinned mischievously, eye sparkling.

 

" And why is that? " He asked.

 

Cipher coaxed him gently forward until he was at his side again. § I wish to show you something. §

 

" Weren't you the one who said I had to be getting to bed? " Dipper asked, raising an eyebrow at him.

 

§ Your sass, as always, is most welcome. § The god remarked dryly, § Now come. §

 

Dipper stepped up beside him, an arm immediately wrapping around his shoulders; another was sneakily placed around his waist. " What is it? "

 

He smirked down at him, fierce and alluring. § Watch. §

 

He watched in awe as his god waved his hand in front of them, the marking on his mocha skin turning from the wealthy gild into a glowing, eerie blue. It spread from his fingers, up through his many arms and all across his torso. His thousands of markings began to ignite with divine energy, and Dipper gasped as the pure, raw force pulsed around them. It gradually became darker, the stars blinking out of existence one at a time until the two were completely surrounded by the stark and utter darkness, save for the tattoos that mapped out the body of the dream walker. " C-cipher? " He whispered.

 

§ Hush. §

 

Gradually the marking dimmed until they too were extinguished, leaving the two to the night. Dipper's heart was pounding in his ears and he tightened his grip on the arm that held him. He couldn't see an inch in front of his face. " Cipher? "

 

§ Watch. §

 

There was a loud 'snap'.

 

And then everything began to glow.

 

Thousands of fireflies blinked into existence, their bodies emitting a soft, amber glow that staved away the dark. The little balls of light bobbled and weaved amongst each other, bathing the entire area in their embrace. Dipper felt his breath get stolen away, enthralled and taken by the sight of such a rarity, never having seen anything of the sort before in his life. " Oh. " He breathed, reaching out his hand. He giggled when a few of the lightning bugs lazily perched on the back of his palm, blazing with life. More began to dance around them, gathering to a beat only they could hear. " It's beautiful. " He whispered.

 

§ I am glad you like them. § Cipher smiled, looking down at his little sacrifice. § I did not want to end the night on such a sour note, you were not comfortable. §

 

His chest throbbed and he looked up into his face, taken aback by how the god was looking at him, his gaze filled a sort of wonder and tenderness. " You- you did this for- for me? "

 

§ I did. §

 

Dipper looked around him, the bobbling lights that dazzled in the darkness and the amiability he felt from standing at his god's side. " Thank you. " He croaked out, not knowing his discomfort over the story of Ursa Major, her son, and his killer had been so noticeable. He gave his hand a firm squeeze, their fingers slipping together with little notice, " Really, thank you. "

 

§ Do not mention it, my constellation. §

 

The boy leaned heavily against him, resting his head on his arm, hand never leaving his. " Cipher? "

 

§ Yes? §

 

" I think, " He began, slowly rolling over his words as if he were afraid to utter them, " I think I'm beginning to really like you. "

 

§ Naturally~ § Cipher crooned, elation causing his heart to swell, § How it has taken you so long I will never understand. The pull of my charming personality is quite irresistible. §

 

" Don't push it. " He laughed, nudging him with his hip, a playful smirk tugging at his lips. " Okay? "

 

§ Dully noted. § He chortled, leaning down to place a kiss on the corner of his mouth, longing to taste his sweet lips and claim his mouth as his own. With the glow of the fireflies behind him, he took in his countenance, from his nose, crinkled from laughter, to his cheeks which were quickly turning wine red, he drank him in. 

 

§ Dully noted~ §.

 

 

§ Is forgiveness a thing I deserve? §

Chapter Text

Cipher stood in the empty hallway, eye focused on the singular tapestry that dominated the wall.

 

Raising a hand to it, he stroked it's soft fibers, fingers pausing over the center of the image; his heart gave a mighty and painful lurch.

 

§ I miss you. § He whispered, § Even though you are so close to me. §

 

He allowed his hand to drop to his side, never taking his gaze from the picture in front of him. No matter how hard he tried to stay away from it, it always called to him like a siren, beckoning him with it's cold embrace and falsehood of love. And still, knowing this, he would come. Every time he heard it's whisper, he would go to it, always without fail, a whipped slave returning to his master. No matter how hard it was to look upon. No matter where he was in the world.

 

No matter how he hated it.

 

It hung far from prying eyes, locked away from the world in a room with no view and locked with a door that had no key. It hang there, among the dust and forgotten, always waiting, always calling.

 

It was the largest and grandest of the tapestries that hung in the tower, yet it was the only one he refused to allow in the open. So it sat, left to rot in the darkest depth of his world, only seeing reverence when Cipher could no longer resist it's pull. It was the only tapestry he would never allow his little tree to see, to never transcribe, to never realize what it stood for, what story it told.

 

'The Birth of The Golden One.'

 

It showed what he wanted to forget, what he wanted to hide from the world and curious brown eyes. It loudly declared his sins and greed in bright colors and beautiful artwork. It showed him what he had become.

 

The tapestry was bordered in the phases of the moon with Ursa Major and Ursa Minor in the corners, their fur decorated with the stars of their children. Tassels hung at the bottom, silver, dark blue, and black, the silky threads bunched with pearls, their long tails trailing along the dusty floor. At the bottom, two humans were depicted and Cipher felt his stomach drop. The taller of the two figures, woven in brown skin and blond and dark hair and golden freckles, cradled the smaller being in his arms. A morbid, sharp toothed stretched across his face, a heart cradled in his hands; blood ran down his arm. His lover, pale and brown, lie in his arms, his chest ripped open and tears streaming down his face. Curled around them was the body of the original God of Dreams, his great body bleeding golden ichor.

 

Blue flames filled the background and, rising to dominate the rest of the picture, was Cipher.

 

His great and fierce eldritch form towered over the two humans, his dragon like face set in smug satisfaction. His golden scaled glowed and his feathers lined his body in a thick down, eyes blinking from his sides. His spiraled horns held the world between the bone and his many arms were raised, black in color with tattoos of gilt, spheres clutched in his bony fingers. His lips were pulled in a manic grin and writing filled the space behind him, tiny and harsh, full of his history and deeds.

 

He despised those words.

 

Cipher placed his hand on the tapestry, right over the small form of the fallen brunette; he could smell the iron of his blood.

 

Dipper.

 

His Dipper.

 

§ You have come back to me. § He breathed, § But why? §

 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/150955606@N08/albums/72157683410174204

The Birth of Cipher

 

When Pinetree had been brought into the world, he had known.

 

Known without a doubt that his love had been reborn.

 

He had felt it, deep in the chasm of his chest, a dull ache that wrung like an old bell. He did not have to be told that it had happened, that Dipper breathed again. That his soul mate, the one who he mourned still, the one he had selfishly given up, was alive.

 

The moment had brought back memories he had tried to forget, ones that were barely a whisper any more, ones that had caused nothing but pain as the years passed by. He remembered his laugh, his smile, the touch of his hand against his face, the feeling of his lips against his, the way his eyes danced with the stars. He remembered all of it. The way he would say his name, how he'd roll his eyes at his antics, how he patiently waited for months and months for his return, to only be laid to rest in the woods by his own two hands.

 

" I love you. "

 

He couldn't resist.

 

He had to see him.

 

Just once.

 

He waited until late in the night, long after he had been put to bed by his exhausted parents, and slipped in, unnoticed by any. He could hear the parents in the other room, talking quietly amongst themselves and in the window, a wooden chime swung in the light, summer breeze. It filled the room with a pleasant melody and the god found himself relaxing, though his heart still beat painfully against his ribs.

 

He kneeled in front of the basket and carefully pulled the cover off of him.

 

Inside, he was surprised to find two of them.

 

They were swaddled together in a hand woven cloth, small and so, so vulnerable. They slept on their sides, facing each other, their foreheads pressed together in comfort and need. Gently, so as not to wake the girl, he drew the boy out of his bed and cradled him closely, looking down at the child that his lover had become.

 

He had never found babies particularly cute or endearing. Their minds were not developed enough for him to instill dreams or nightmares and they were far too simple minded to enjoy the pleasures his slumber awarded them. To him, they meant nothing. They could not pray, they could not worship, they could do nothing for him. What use were they to him if they could not offer themselves and all they were to be?

 

But Dipper took his breath away.

 

If a child could be beautiful, he knew it would be this child in his arms.

 

§ Do you know who you are? § He asked him softly, pressing his nose into his chubby tummy, § Do you remember? §

 

He brushed his light, fluffy bangs back to look at the stars, his skin speckled with the name he had first been given. § Dipper. § He croaked, § That was your name. §

 

But it wasn't now.

 

He had been given the name Oren Alexander Pines by his mother and father.

 

And he hated it.

 

§ Dipper suits you much better, do you not think so little one? §

 

He kissed his forehead, unwilling to give him back, to remove this small, warm human from his arms. He wanted to hold him, to tell him how he missed him, to take his hand in his once again. Even if he would understand none of what he had to say, he still desired to be by his side.

 

§ I have done you wrong, my love. § He whined pitifully, § Do you remember? §

 

Dipper cooed.

 

Startled, Cipher pulled away to stare down at the babe, breath hitching.

 

Large, brown eyes stared up at him, full of wonder and innocence; stars danced in them.

 

§ Hello, § He greeted him with a watery grin, § My constellation. §

 

The baby gurgled at him, unafraid despite his monstrous appearance and divinity, and reached out for him, his tiny hand open for him to take.

 

§ You are a brave one, are you not? § He chuckled, taking his hand in his, § Yet so small. §

 

He kissed his forehead, cooing gently at him to stop his fussing. § Why have you come back? § He asked him.

 

He, of course, did not answer him, only clinging tightly to his scaled hand.

 

Cipher heaved a great sigh, reluctantly pulling himself from the child. § I must go, my star child. § He told him, placing him back in his basket, his mocha eyes still not leaving his. § But I will see you again. Of that, I promise you. §

 

Dipper reached for him, face contorting into a pout, his bottom lip quivering.

 

§ Do not cry. § He admonished, stroking his cheek, § I will give you the sweetest of dreams, little one. Every night you sleep, you will never have to wake in fear. §

 

He watched him, waiting until the child had fallen back asleep, slumbering peacefully next to his sister once more. He waited a few more minutes, taking in everything he had become, reluctant to leave him again. Kneeling before him, he buried his face in his hands.

 

§ Why have you come back? § He begged to know, § Why, if not to punish me, then why? §

 

 

Oren Pines was five years old when he gave Cipher his first offering.

 

The boy had padded over to his shrine, nervously looking around as if he were fearful something would jump out at him at any moment. The offering plate before him over flowed with presents. Gold, jewelry, scrolls, heirlooms, rare flowers, fruits, and more littered the floor, all for The Golden One. It made him self conscious, for his own offering was small and insignificant.

 

" H-hello. " Dipper whispered, unsure what he was to say. He bit his lip.

 

When he received no reply, he inched forward, " I- I don't know what I'm to say to you. "

 

He seemed bothered by this and he hugged his gift to his chest. " Um, I brought- I brought you something! "

 

Dipper held out his hands, " I- I found it and thought of- of you. But, it's- it's really small and not worth much. " He lowered his beautiful gaze to the ground, " I hope it's okay. "

 

Cipher, always close at hand when it came to the boy, leaned forward to see what it was his constellation was offering him, curiosity getting the better of him; he smiled.

 

A triangular rock rested in his palm, black and smooth. An odd hole was worn in the middle, seemingly an open eye, watching all before it. Dipper trotted up to the shrine and carefully sat it in the bowl, adjusting it so it wouldn't fall through; he made sure to put it next to Mabel's homemade flower necklace. Once the stone was placed down, he bowed his head in prayer, " I don't really want anything. You give me the best dreams! "

 

He smiled widely up at the statue of Cipher, " Thank you! "

 

He waved at him before running back down the stairs to his great uncle. He took his offered hand and held it tightly, " I think he liked it! "

 

Stanford smiled down at the excited child, ruffling his hair, " I'm sure he did. "

 

" Not as much as mine! " His sister proclaimed loudly, puffing her small chest out.

 

" Does so! "

 

" Does not! "

 

" Settle down you two. " Ford admonished them, shaking his head when they stuck their tongues out at each other.

 

Cipher watched them go, waiting until they disappeared around a corner, the young boy and his sibling still babbling excitedly about him, their offerings, and the festival going on just outside the temple doors. Once alone, he reached out and plucked the stone from it's resting place, turning it over in his hand with fondness.

 

§ Do not worry,  my little star child. I love it most of all. §

 

 

When Oren Pines came of age, Cipher knew he had to have him.

 

He debated on if perhaps it was better to allow the boy to grow up without him in his life, fate having decided he did not deserve him another life; he was never very good at following orders.

 

Regardless of what anyone had planned out for him, Cipher knew he would take him.

 

He was his.

 

Whatever destiny that lie before him, he planned to ruin it by claiming Oren Pines as his.

 

He was, after all, a god.

 

He could take whatever he wanted, fate be damned.

 

So, when the time arrived, he chose Oren Pines to be his sacrifice.

 

Never before had he chosen anyone so young, the boy was barely of age, but he could wait no longer. He wanted him to be by his side, needed his touch upon his scales. The thought of postponing his little star child's arrival made his heart ache; he could not wait.

 

So he sent the boy a black feather, his sacrificial calling card, while he slept, cradled in dream's embrace.

 

His sister had cried when he showed the silky feather to her, his Grunkle Stan had thinned his lips, and Stanford, ever the academic, exclaimed what an honor it was to be selected by their God, even if his eyes held barely repressed regret.

 

For weeks, he waited impatiently for the day to arrive when he would be his.

 

He watched his sister carve a necklace for her brother, eyes brimming with unshed tears, her smile watery. She placed it around his neck before throwing her arms around him, finally breaking down into helpless sobs, her words indistinguishable. Dipper had held her tight, the two unwilling to let go of each other for nearly an eternity.

 

When they parted, he smiled at her and pushed her hair out of her face and told her he'd be fine.

 

She had cried harder.

 

The next day, he was his.

 

Dressed in the finest silks and weighed down with more than just gold, Oren Pines ascended the temple stairs, to declare himself his.

 

§ What is you name, human child of my people? § He had asked if, as if he didn't already know.

 

" O-Oren Alexander Pines. "

 

He had allowed him to touch him, to cradle his face in his small hands, and the two shared a faint connection, fate witnessing the bonding of two soul mates after a millennia. With his hands on him, he watched his eyes glaze over with tears, his voice wobbling, despair and utter joy overtaking him for reasons he could not understand.

 

When the time came for him to claim him as his, he hesitated.

 

He was staring down at his star child, those brown eyes that still danced with stars all these years later meeting his gaze, confused. He saw his lips move but heard no words. It was almost laughable that to keep him with him he would have to kill him again.

 

Almost.

 

Resolve met, he plunged his talon deep into his chest, his own lurching when those eyes widened in surprise and disbelief. Blood poured over his claw, painting his sacrifice a pretty picture of pale skin, colorful silks, and crimson. He whispered to him, the words unheard but needed, and pulled himself from his torso, the image before him paining him in a way it should have so long ago.

 

He watched him come within death's grasp, it's bony fingers seeking his soft flesh and tender heart; it infuriated him to think it thought of itself so highly that it could have what was his.

 

He cradled him in his paw, carefully pulling him from the stone to hold him to his chest.

 

He had much work to do.

 

§ I accept my sacrifice. §

 

 

Cipher ran his fingers through his sapling's hair, watching over him as he slept. The boys chest rose with deep breaths and fell with somber sighs, not waking from his light touches. He had fallen asleep a few hours after their walk in the gardens, reluctant to fall into sleep's welcoming embrace; a few lone fireflies danced around the room.

 

§ What have I done to deserve you once again? § He asked him quietly.

 

It was a question he asked himself often now a days.

 

He leaned down and kissed his forehead, holding his bangs back carefully. § I still have the ones you gave me. § He informed him, § I never forgot. §

 

Dipper's nose scrunched and he rolled over onto his side, burying his face in his large, downy pillow; the god chuckled.

 

§ You are very different from who you used to be, do you know that? §

 

He rubbed his back, tracing the faint black lines that made up his sacrificial runes and ciphers, the images now permanently engraved onto his skin, painted in his own, ebony blood. § Similar yet different. § He mused.

 

Cipher sighed, deeply troubled.

 

§ You have such fire in you. § He told him, stroking his cheek with his long fingers, § You are fierce and stubborn in such a way that Big Dipper was not. He was so quiet and gentle. He possessed none of this pride. §

 

He tilted his head in thought, § But he, like you, was very kind. He loved reading and learning. He was a scholar of the history and writing of the world and he desired to know as much as he could. Much like you, my sacrifice. §

 

He chuckled, mirthless and hollow, § So alike yet so different. §

 

The god watched the blinking lights of the fireflies, frowning. § I loved him. § He whispered, his throat failing to keep the words to himself. § I truly did. He was so beautiful and bright, a star in the night sky that should have shined on for many years. I often think to myself, what would have happened if I had not been so desperate for power, where would we have been? Would we had grown old together? Would one of us have died in a way before the other? How happy would I have made him? It is, of course, pointless to ask these things but I... §

 

He shook his head, narrowing his sight at the boy in front of him. § You are not him. §

 

Cipher reached out once more for the slumbering brunette, coming within and inch of his side before he withdrew himself. § Big Dipper died all those years ago and you, Oren Alexander Pines, have become your own person. You resemble him, especially in your eyes, and for that I am grateful. I did so love his eyes, fulled with stars and warmth. That has not changed. §

 

He felt silly, talking to him like this, words he would never repeat to him if he were awake, but he continued, spurred on by the memories he had brought back. § But you are so much like yourself as well. Even if you look exactly like him, you are so much like yourself. I am terrified, my sapling. § He admitted.

 

Cipher closed his eyes, § I love you. § He trilled softly, § And it frightens me. §

 

He took his hand in his, intertwining their fingers, cooing faintly at him, § I love you. § He said more firmly, § I have fallen in love with you. From the moment I held you in my arms as a babe, I knew you were mine. And, strangely enough, I do not believe that it has anything to do with the fact that you are Big Dipper's reincarnation. §

 

He placed his hand back down, scoffing silently when Dipper pulled it away to fling over his face, giving an irritated huff. He waited for the boy to settle again, watching the steady rise and fall of his chest. Once he was sure he was not going to rise, he arched over him and pushed his bangs back, staring at the stars that speckled his skin.

 

He placed his lips against them, murmuring, § What have you done to me, my sacrifice? §

 

 

§ I do not want to forget him but you make it so hard to remember him. And yet, so easy to love you. §

 

Chapter Text

Thunder shook the room.

 

Dipper looked up from the scroll he was reading, frowning at having been shaken from his studies. Another tremendous rumble rocked the tower and light flashed through the room; winds howled, desperate to be noticed. Setting his parchment aside, he slipped from his bed, padding over to one of the large, open windows, curious as to what was happening just outside his room. Bracing his weight against the stone, he gaped at what he saw. " Oh, wow! "

 

Rain crashed to the ground in thick waves, pouring from the swirling gray and black clouds overhead; streaks of lightning cut across the skies as if thrown by Zeus himself, bright and electrifying. In the distance, the treetops swayed and danced, forced to do so by the cutting wind. Every so often, the roar of rain was interrupted by the booming call of mother nature, her voice deep and subdued.

 

Easing onto the window seat, Dipper watched, stunned.

 

Gravity Falls had never played host to such a storm before. Rain was common during the appropriate season and the occasional disturbance of sun and snow. But never before had he witnessed rain so thick it fell like a waterfall or thunder that shook the very earth itself. It was humbling and, if he were being honest with himself, somewhat frightening.

 

§ Do you enjoy storms such as this, my sacrifice? §

 

Cipher walked into the room, ducking underneath the hanging silks, his spiraling horns clinking against the dangling pearls and gold. He made his way over to his little human, snorting at how messy his room had become in such a short amount of time. He gestured for the boy to move over, sitting himself regally by him, head held high and tail curling at his feet, the large, onyx feather at the end swaying lightly against his feet; he offered him mug he had brought with him.

 

" What's this? " Dipper asked, taking the cup carefully into his hands, the clay warm to the touch.

 

§ It is a drink that my people brewed up quite some time ago. Even now, the nobility of far off countries enjoy it immensely from silver pots and colorful china. I much prefer it in it's original form. Many call it cocoa but I know it as xocolatl. §

 

" Cocoa? "

 

§ Hmm. It's recipe has changed throughout the years but the base remains the same. Centuries ago it would have been made with cocoa beans, peppers, water, and ground corn. It was very bitter then, and rather spicy. Overtime, it became sweeter, with milk, vanilla, and sugar added. While I myself am fond of the first, I do believe you will find this one more to your liking. §

 

Dipper laughed, bringing the cup up to his lips, the scent of sweet cream and hint of something he could not place washing over him. " It smells good. "

 

§ Try it, § Cipher urged, § I am sure you will enjoy it. §

 

Obliging him, Dipper tilted the jar back and took a tentative sip. The cocoa was sweet and thick with milk, the drink heavy and warming; his chest blossomed with heat, leaving him with a pleasant, welcome feeling of home. " It's good! "

 

His god purred happily, feathers bristling at his apparent approval. § I am glad you like it. §

 

" I love it, thank you! "

 

Cipher watched the brunette drain the cocoa with enthusiasm, tilting his head back to not waste a single drop. § My pleasure. Would you care for another? §

 

Gasping, Dipper finished the beverage off and held out the empty mug, sheepishly wiping his mouth with back of his hand. " Y- yes please! "

 

He chuckled at his eagerness, snapping one of his long, dark fingers.

 

A beautiful black and gold pot appeared in his hand in a flash of blue, steam rising from the curved spout. Triangles decorated the bottom of the smooth porcelain, scattered like a shower of freckles, the lid made up of gilded scales; Cipher refilled his cup, pouring the cocoa with an elegant flourish.

 

" Thank you. " Dipper beamed, cradling the fresh chocolate to his chest, the warmth chasing away the chill brought by the rain. He took a small sip, turning his attention to the storm still raging outside his window. Pulling his knees to his chest, he watched as twin streaks of lightning pierced the gray.


§ Do you get storms such as this on earth? § Cipher asked, glancing outside.

 

His sacrifice shook his head, " No. We got rain, especially during the wet season, but I've never seen such a thing before. Lightning that scars the skies and thunder so powerful it shakes everything around you. And the rain! It's like a waterfall! "

 

§ Yes, it is quite something. § The deity acknowledged, pouring himself a small cup of xocolatl as well before setting the pot down on the floor. § It is rare for even I to witness such a thing. It is a wonder that such a tiny island managed to survive centuries of such things. §

 

" An island? "

 

Cipher nodded, § A small, tropical island in the middle of the ocean.  It is the home to many a thunderstorm and days of rain. It has been that way for centuries, long before even I claimed it as my own. §

 

" If the storm’s happening on an island why are we able to see it here? "

 

The dark skinned man smirked, toasting him with his glass, § Am I not a god, my sapling? §

 

Dipper huffed at his arrogance, clinking their mugs together, to the other's great amusement. " If you say so. You do remind me of that fact pretty often, now that I think about it. "

 

His crooked grin sent a pleasant flutter across his chest and Cipher chuckled at his display of sass, § You are very fortunate that I find your company enjoyable. Attitude from any other would call upon my wrath. §

 

" Would it? " He challenged, " What would you have done to me? Turn me into a tree and burn me alive? "

 

§ Nothing quite so terrifying, I assure you. § Cipher promised, placing his hand on Dipper's leg, brushing silks and gold away as he did so. § I would turn you into a beautiful, little bird and confine you in gilded cage so that you may sing to me with your sweet voice.  You would never leave me and I, in turn, would treasure you for all eternity. §

 

Dipper pulled a face, " I'm not sure I like the sound of that either. "

 

Cipher grinned, § Either you can worship me and keep your sassy tongue or I turn you into a pretty little bird. Honestly, the choice is no one else's but your own, my little sapling~ §

 

" You're not giving me much option here, oh god of mine. " He held out his once again empty cup.

 

§ Is there ever much choice when it comes to the fickle mind and whims of the gods? § The deity asked; he refilled his hot chocolate with a snap of his fingers.

 

" I suppose not. I would assume it would all depend on the actual god or goddess. I've read that the god of wisdom and fears, for example, is very calm and lacks emotion. But he is generally viewed as a kind god who guides his people with gentle hands. You, on the other hand, are the exact opposite. I've heard and read stories me entire life about what a destructive and unforgiving god you were. How your wrath is the sole reason for so many cultures disappearing and how you know no kindness, only one to pay back those that revere you and give you their devotion. "

 

§ And? § Cipher asked, § Do you still believe that of me now? §

 

He worried his lip. " I- I don't think so. "

 

He leaned forward, face only an inch or so away from the other's nose, yearning to hear his answer. § Don't you? §

 

Dipper in took as sharp breath, his face blooming in warmth as pink claimed his pale cheeks. He stared into Cipher’s eyes, overcome by the rings of blue that seemed the pulse with each breath he took, golden scales glittering across Cipher's nose bridge and sharp features. " Umm, " He stuttered, unable to force words to form on his heavy tongue, " I- I- I don't. "

 

§ Oh? § He smirked, arching a dark brow in question. § Do tell~ §

 

" Uh, you- you're supposed to be- be cruel and horrid but- but you've been nothing but kind to me. " He took a deep breath to calm himself, trying not to feel overwhelmed with the attention he was receiving or to not offend his god with his ogling. " You treat me gently and give- give me many gifts. You provide food and entertainment. You've- you've given me your word, your language, and you humor me when you see fit. Which, I think, is- is a lot more than most gods would tolerate. You seem to enjoy my presence as well and- and- "

 

§ And? §

 

" And- and, " Dipper turned away, awkward and unsure. He could feel his face positively burning. His heart trembled in his chest, painful and pleasurable. " I- I enjoy yours as well. " He finished with a strained whisper. His fingers gripped his silks tightly, the smooth fabric bunching in his palms. " I don't- I don't know why you like me or- or kept me for that matter but- but- "

 

§ But? § Cipher asked quietly, reaching out to gently cup his cheek in his own hand, rubbing his thumb over his soft skin.

 

He placed his hand over his, welcoming the warmth he exuded. " I'm glad you did. "

 

Cipher trilled loudly, swooping down to gather the brunette in his arms, cradling him close to his chest. He pressed his nose into his neck and wound his arms around his waist, holding him firmly in place. § How I've waited to hear those words leave your lips. § He murmured.

 

Dipper squirmed in his hold, huffing, " Do you enjoy holding me like a child? Because you do it quite often! "

 

Chuckling, the god placed his chin on the top of his head, giving his middle a playful squeeze, § I will admit that I do rather adore having you in my arms~ § He cooed loudly and headbutted him carefully, § Is that a problem? §

 

" It would have been if my cocoa was full. You're lucky it wasn't or I'd make you clean it up! " He shook his empty mug at him for emphasis.

 

§ If that is your only complaint then I have little to worry about. § Cipher shrugged. He reached out with one of his nimble limbs and took Dipper’s glass from him, only handing it back after he had refilled it once more. § Here, now stop your adorable whining. §

 

" I wasn't whining. "

 

§ If you would like to convince yourself of such things, then please, do continue. §

 

Dipper elbowed him, earning him a soft grunt from the other man. " You're such an ass. " He scoffed, " Do you ever get tired of yourself? "

 

§ Why would I? § He chortled, puffing his lean chest out, § I am a god! §

 

" You never get- " He started to reprimand him but stopped, turning his attention back to the storm outside as the entire world lit up with light, thunder sending out its calling card and begging to be noticed. " Whoa. "

 

§ Yes, it appears this tempest will be staying with us for some time. § Cipher informed him.  § So I suggest you get comfy~ §

 

" Will you be staying with me? " Dipper asked.

 

§ Would you want me to? §

 

" If you drop your high and mighty attitude, yeah, I wouldn't mind. " He gave him a tilted smile, lip quirking adorably to the side.

 

§ I do believe you are the one with the attitude, my little sacrifice. §

 

" Me? " Dipper feigned surprise, the sparkle in his mocha eyes giving him away, " Never! "

 

Cipher gave his cheek a small pinch, fondness glowing in his own azure eye. § You can keep telling yourself such things, my sugar pine, if it will make you accept my affections that much more easier for you. But, if you will have me, I will stay with you. §

 

" Attitude and all then, huh? " He laughed.

 

§ Attitude and all~ § He promised with a nuzzle.

 

He leaned into his affection, giggling as his feathers tickled his neck. " I guess it's okay if you stay then, if you'd like to watch the storm with me. If you want to. " He took a small sip of his chocolate, still warm and sweet, before adding in a barely there whisper, " I'd like you to. "

 

§ I would love to, my constellation, I would love to. §

 

 

Dipper wondered if the world could flood.

 

Like it was a chapter from the old books of worship before they were all burned and destroyed for their hearsay. A story of a god flooding the world to eradicate all sin from the earth seemed appropriate to what was happening, the rain and winds not having died down in the least since they began. If anything, the storm raged more fiercely than before, rain blotting out anything with it's furious downpour and screaming winds. Thunder still rumbled and lightning continuously split the skies with its electricity; Dipper could still feel it's power down to his very bones.

 

He watched with avid interest as the colors of the massive stained glass flashed brightly, rain streaking down it's colored surface in a never ending cascade. Blues, yellows, reds, and gold danced at his feet and, with wry smile, he padded his bare feet over the dazzling squares as he made his way over to the base of the intricate mural. Looking up at its impressive pictures, he ran his fingers over the smooth glass, tracing the raised words carefully.

 

' No Puppet Strings Can Hold Me Down, So Patiently I watch This Town. '

 

Dipper mouthed the words to himself as he read the cipher, the word symbols large and eye level.

 

' Abnormal Soon Will Be The Norm, Enjoy The Calm Before The Storm. '

 

He shivered, reflectively drawing his cloak tighter around him, trying to fight the chill that threatened to claim him.

 

♦ They are not kind words, are they Oren Pines? ♦

 

Breath catching in his throat, the voice new and foreign to him, Dipper turned slowly, his heart stuttering in his rib cage.

 

A man he had never seen before stood before him, arms folded behind his back and face set in an expressionless drawl. He was tall and lean, dressed in some of the oddest garments the boy had ever seen, purple and layered over him in such a way that it clothed his entire being. They were pressed and wrinkle free, properly sized down to a tee and he wore little to no jewelry. His hair, dark and short, was slicked back from his face, styled without a strand out of place. His whole being was so out of place yet he seemed so normal it was unnerving; a bowler hat floated above him, never too far nor too close.

 

Dipper struggled to find his words, unsure how the stranger had gotten in in the first place without him or Cipher noticing but it was glaringly obvious that, whoever he was, he was a divine being much like his own god. He was far too ordinary to be human. " Don't- " He stuttered, clearing his throat to speak louder, " Don't people know how to knock around here? "

 

The man appeared shocked at his question but before Dipper could start to worry that he had overstepped a non existent boundary, the dark haired being chuckles, soft and painfully average. He looks over the human with a keen, purple eye before remarking, ♦ I see he was not exaggerating your newly acquired sass. ♦

 

" W-what? "

 

♦ Ah, how rude of me. ♦ He shook his head at his own lack of manners, offering a gloved hand out to him. ♦ I believe introductions are in order are they not? ♦

 

" It- it would be nice. " Dipper stated, hesitantly taking his hand, the other's grip just as standard as the rest of him, not too loose, not too firm. " You seem to know me but I have no idea who you are. "

 

♦ Theodore Bit Strange, god of knowledge and, though lesser known, fears. ♦ He nodded to him, giving his a hand a single shake before letting it go. ♦ It is a pleasure to meet you Oren Pines. ♦

 

" Please, call me Dipper. "

 

He raised a dark brow at his request but agreed non the less, ♦ Very well then. Dipper it is. In return you may call me Tad. ♦

 

" Are you sure? Isn't that a little....informal? "

 

Tad hummed in response, ♦ Unlike your own chosen god, I am not one for formalities or use of my full title. Reciting 'Theodore Bit Strange, god of Knowledge and, though lesser known, fear' would grow rather stale rather fast. ♦

 

Dipper smiled, " Yeah, I suppose it would. "

 

♦ So, to cut down on time, 'Tad' will be a perfectly fine way to address me. ♦ The god finished briskly. ♦ Now, with that out of the way, I must ask you something, Dipper. ♦

 

" You're- you're here to see me? " He asked, taken aback. " What for? "

 

Tad gave him an unreadable look, ♦ I happen to know for a fact that Cipher, in all his blessed glory and magnificence, is currently out causing havoc. Only father knows where of course. So, I would like to entrust this letter to you to give to him when he returns. ♦ He reached into his inner breast pocket and withdrew a thick envelope. ♦ If you would be so kind to. ♦

 

" Of- of course! " Dipper took the offered letter, its surface creamy and blemished with beautiful, periwinkle symbols. " It looks pretty important. "

 

♦ It is nothing world altering, of that I assure you. It is merely an invitation. ♦

 

" Invitation? " He asked, looking up eagerly, " To what? "

 

Tad chuckled, bemused. ♦ It seems the centuries did little to stem that curiosity of yours. Nice to know. ♦

 

" What do you mean? "

 

♦ It is of no importance. Again, I assure you of such. ♦ The dark haired man waved his question aside and Dipper, to his frustration, was reminded of Cipher and his habit of doing just the same; he wondered if it was a trait shared amongst all deities. ♦ I merely ask you that, in my absence, if you would so kind as to give it to your God? ♦

 

Dipper turned the invitation over, the back sealed with an intricate, square shaped, wax stamp. Wanting to know what it contained but resigning himself to probably never being privy to such details, he sighed, returning his attention to the purple clad god before him. " Yeah. I'll make sure he gets it. "

 

Tad smiled, ♦ Thank you, Dipper. I appreciate it. Now, ♦ He pulled his sleeve up and glanced down at his wrist, tutting to himself. ♦ It appears it is time for me to be going. I have much to do and little time to do it. ♦ Righting himself back up, flicking imaginary dust off his chest, he once again held out his hand for him to take. ♦ Business card? ♦

 

" No problem? " He offered, taking the presented card, wondering what in the world a business card was. On the front, in a font he could actually read, stated the following:

 

Theodore Bit Strange

God of Knowledge and

⁽ ᵗʰᵒᵘᵍʰ ᶫᵉˢˢᵉʳ ᵏᶰᵒʷᶰ ⁾

Fear

 

Intrigued, Dipper turned it over, the other side of the thick parchment blank save for an outline of single square.

 

♦ It's really more of a formality than anything. First impressions are important after all. ♦ Tad added. ♦ You may do with it as you wish of course. ♦

 

" I'll keep it. " Dipper grinned, " I've never met another god before so it's actually really interesting! "

 

The deity before him tilted his head, lips turning down in thought. ♦ Interesting? How so? It is just a business card. ♦

 

" Tad, " He snickered, offering him a sheepish smile, " I have no idea what a business card is or what it's even for. "

 

♦ Ah, I see. ♦ He chuckled softly, the mortal intriguing and earnest. ♦ As I said, do not think too much into it. They are used for advertising one's business and self. I only hand them out to be polite. ♦

 

" Cipher doesn't have a business card does he? "

 

Tad beamed, eyes dilating in delight, ♦ I highly doubt he would have such things. Cipher is not one for manners and 'hello how are you's. ♦

 

" No, he's not. " Dipper agreed, tucking the small card into one of his silks folds, not wanting to lose it. " Thank you. "

 

♦ The pleasure was all mine, Dipper Pines. Until we meet again then? ♦

 

" Uh, yeah! Thanks for stopping by? " He bit his lip and twisted one of his many bracelets nervously around his wrist. " Would- would you like me to show you out? "

 

♦ No need. ♦ Tad brushed his proposal aside. ♦ I can show myself out. Do take care of yourself Dipper. I would hate to have to deal with that god of yours should anything happen to you. Once was enough thank you. ♦ He tipped his hat at him and folded his arms behind his back, striding for the door, ♦ Have a wonderful day, Mr. Pines. ♦

 

" Bye? " Dipper gave him a small wave, slightly confounded by the fact that the god was leaving the tower like a mortal as if he were just an average visitor. It was stunning and odd. And, though he knew little of him, one hundred percent, Tad Bit Strange.

 

 

Dipper laid his head against Cipher’s shoulder, stifling a yawn behind his hand.

 

§ Are you tired, my little bird? §

 

He snorted at the nickname, “ No, just a little cold. “

 

Humming, the god wrapped his arm around Dipper’s shoulders, bringing him closer to his side. He made sure the  downy comforter he had brought out with them was swaddling them perfectly, placing his tail over his lap for good measure. Nuzzling the top of his head, he asked, § Better?~ §

 

“ Yeah, “ Dipper flushed, “ Th-thanks. “

 

§ Do not mention it~ § Cipher trilled.

 

Ducking his head, Dipper cuddled up to the other man, the regret at asking to go outside to see the storm first hand vanishing. The two were seated on the front steps that lead out to the garden, watching the rain cascade down around them, the weather showing no signs of letting up even this late into the day. A bolt of lightning split the skies, illuminating the area in it’s bright light. “ You think it will lighten up by tomorrow? “

 

§ Perhaps. §

 

“ Hmm, you never give me a strait answer. “ He complained.

 

Feigning shock, he asked, § I don’t? §

 

“ You didn’t tell me what Tad wanted. “ He pointed out, “ And you didn’t look too happy about what that letter said either. “

 

§ It is nothing of grave importance.§ Cipher assured him, § Tad was merely being Tad. §

 

“ And that’s suppose to explain anything to me? “

 

§ Yes? §

 

Dipper groaned, “ Why do I even bother? “

 

§ Because your curiosity is charming and I enjoy it? §

 

“ If you enjoy it so much why don’t you ever answer any of my questions? “

 

§I love frustrating you more than I do answering them of course! § Cipher cackled.

 

“ Of course you do. “ Dipper mumbled, allowing his eyes to flutter shut. “ Of course you do. “

 

§ I think you lied to me, my sugar pine. § The god accused, waiting for the ground shaking thunder to pass before continuing, § It appears to me that you are indeed tired. §

 

“ Maybe a little. “

 

§ Do you want to go inside? § Cipher asked, readying himself to carry his brown eyed boy to bed.

 

“ No, “ Dipper shook his head, “ Not- not yet. I’m comfy. “

 

§ Oh, are you? §

 

“ Hmm. “

 

Cipher looked down at the dozing brunette, fondly pushing his bangs out of his face. § Then we will stay here. §

 

Dipper smiled, “ In the rain? “

 

§ In the rain, if that is what you so wish. §

 

“ You’re so weird. “ He snickered quietly, flopping against the taller man, taken by the gentle thrum that seemed to always be present around Cipher, warm and lulling. It was comforting and always present, always familiar. “ Cipher? “

 

§ Yes? §  He turned his attention to him, a small, tender smile on his handsome face.

 

The sound of the rain and wind died down around him. Dipper could see the small patches of scales under his eyes, one blue one empty, glowing under the dim light of the lanterns, some even speckling along his nose and cheeks, standing out against his chocolate skin; he loved them, those golden freckles. What he had been about to say, a tease perhaps, he couldn’t remember, fell from his lips. Instead, he reached up and carefully cupped his cheek, “ So beautiful. “

 

Cipher blinked at him, surprise momentarily flashing across his face. § My sacrifice? §

 

Dipper startled, quickly withdrawing his hand. “ S-sorry! “ He turned away, cursing himself and his embarrassment, so obvious on his own cheeks. “ You just- everything- I- “

 

§ Was my beauty too much for you? § He joked, giving his side a squeeze; he didn’t want him to pull away.

 

Dipper bit his lip. He wasn’t sure if he could put into words what had overcome him. How everything had felt right, then and there, between them. As if they’d done this before, a hundred, a million, times. His heart clenched painfully, why he did not know. Images of a face, similar to his god’s yet very different, came to the forefront of his mind but he couldn’t place where he’d seen the man before. It had been raining then too and the man had been saying something, to who he did not know. Him? He had laughed and his blue eyes were so full of life. “ Bi- “

 

§ My sacrifice? §

 

“ What? “ He jolted, turning to see, not the man, but Cipher.

 

§ Are you well? § He asked worriedly. § Should we return indoors? §

 

“ No! “ Dipper said quickly, “ I’m- I’m fine! Please, I- I’d like to stay and watch the storm! With- with you. “

 

Cipher visibly relaxed. § If you are sure. § He kissed his forehead, trilling softly when the boy leaned into his affection.

 

“ I am. “ He promised, pulling the blanket tighter around his shoulders. He inched closer to the god, nestling up to him once more, desperate to chase away the foreboding chill that waltzed up his back; he took the god's hand in his own, intertwining their fingers. “ I’ve always liked watching the storms and I’ve never seen one quite like this! “ He flashed him a sincere grin, intent to show him that everything was alright.

 

§ Yes, § Cipher replied, voice soft and quiet, though still full of power and the ever present demand to be revered. § It is quite something. Even I, in my many years, have not seen such a storm in many centuries. §

 

“ Will the tower start flooding soon then? “ Dipper jested.

 

§ Do you want it to? § The dark and blond haired man asked, raising a brow at him. He played along a raised a hand, ready to fulfill his ‘request’ at the snap of a finger.

 

“ No! “ He laughed, grabbing his arm, “ Don’t you dare! “

 

§ Are you terribly sure? § Cipher strained his words, making it sound like it was a hassle for him to refrain from doing what he wanted; it probably was.

 

“ Yes, “ Dipper grinned, “ I’d rather you not fill our home with water and who knows what else! “

 

§ You are no fun at all, my little bird, no fun at all. § He shook his head, lowering his arm.

 

“ Someone has to keep you in line. “

 

§ And you do such a marvelous job of it~ § Cipher chirped.

 

“ I’ve become an expert, I believe. “

 

Cipher laughed, loud and echoey, gathering the brunette in his arms in a tight, needing hug. He nuzzled into the crook of his neck, the comforter falling over them in their play. Dipper’s giggles against his fluffy ears tickled and the way his arms flung themselves around his neck, like he knew they belonged there, made his chest constrict, love and adulation fluttering against his ribs like butterflies. 

 

§ I love you, § He whispered to him, overcome with himself and the boy that was always, and  will always be, his. § I love you. §

 

 

‘And it rained upon the earth for forty days and forty nights…. ‘

-Genesis 7:12

 

Chapter Text

§ Are you ready, my sacrifice? §

 

" Coming! " Dipper hurried down the stairs, feet sliding easily over the smooth tiles, throwing a light, traveling cloak over his shoulders as he descended. " I'm ready! " He answered, giving the awaiting god a wide smile, his mocha eyes shining with glee.

 

Cipher chuckled at his eagerness, extending a hand to him when he reached the last of the steps, § Are you so eager to leave? §

 

He took the offered hand, gasping when he was tugged forward, " Cipher! "

 

The dark skinned man smirked, easily catching him as he fell, arms wrapping protectively around his waist. The momentum caused him to spin and he twirled about with Dipper in his arms, trilling happily. He brought their foreheads together, eye narrowing in mirth. § Yes?~ §

 

" Put me down! " Dipper beamed. He gave one of his long braids a sharp tug, " Stupid dragon. "

 

Cipher nuzzled into his neck, snorting at his attitude. § You keep that up and I will have to keep you here. §

 

" Would you really? " He asked, raising an eyebrow at him.

 

The god hummed in thought. § No. § He finally sighed in mock defeat, § I do not believe I would do so. §

 

" You'd miss me too much. " Dipper laughed, " Admit it. "

 

§ Perhaps. §  Cipher admitted, giving him one last waltz before setting him down carefully, hands reluctantly leaving his soft sides. § It would be rather rude of me to leave you behind after I invited you out personally. §

 

" Where are we going anyway? You didn't say. "

 

§  No, I didn't. § He grinned mischievously. Turning on his heels, he folded his hands behind his back and walked towards the entrance, the great doors parting for him as he approached; he beckoned to him with a cocky wave.

 

Dipper frowned, following after him. " You're not going to tell me where we're going are you? " He accused, crossing his arms over his chest.

 

§ Would you expect anything less of me? § Cipher questioned, throwing him a devilish grin over his shoulder.

 

" No, " He sighed, admitting defeat, " I wouldn't. "

 

§ Besides, § The god continued, § Telling you would take all the fun out of it! §

 

" If you say so. " Dipper rolled his eyes, knowing that he wouldn't have received a strait answer even if he begged. Still, the prospect of leaving Cipher's realm filled him with an excitement that was hard to calm. He wondered where they were going and if it was connected to any of the stories he had managed to decipher, the god's territories vast and stunning. He'd love to see what remained of Paititi, gnarled trees burned black with beautiful, yellow flowers growing around them as a tropical forest reclaimed what was once theirs. A small island that was prone to thunder storms and vicious winds. A desert full of golden monuments surrounded by miles upon miles of sand; he picked up his pace, falling into step beside the taller man. 

 

Cipher looked down, smiling fondly at him. His elation was adorable and he was pleased his suggestion had made him so happy, small though it was. § I am sure you will love it. § He reassured him. § It is a beautiful place. §

 

" Can't you just tell me? " Dipper groaned.

 

§ Patience is a virtue, my constellation~ § He teased.

 

" Like you have any right to say that. "

 

§ If you only knew, Pinetree, if you only knew. § Cipher said to himself, giving his little bird a small simper. He reached out to touch him, to feel him, but hesitated; he allowed his arm to fall at his side. He took a deep breath, § We will be leaving my realm but, as you are rather bright, I assume you already knew that? §

 

Dipper nodded, " I figured. "

 

§ Good. Now, § He held his arm out for him, § Take my arm. §

 

He eyed him suspiciously, " Why? "

 

§ Only I, and other gods, can come and go from my realm as we please. For a human to cross, you need physical contact with us. The parting of time and space is too complex and exhilarating for your mortal vessels. Our divinity creates a protective barrier around you that will keep you safe as we descend. Otherwise, well, you will be torn apart from the inside out. §

 

Dipper pulled a face, " Sounds pleasant. "

 

§ It is rather amusing to watch, actually. §

 

" Why am I not surprised? " He took his arm, placing his hand in the crook of his elbow.

 

§ Really now, my sapling. This is me we are talking about~ § Cipher informed him, laughing boisterously when Dipper scrunched his nose at him. § Come, we must be going. §

 

He brought him to the very edge of his gardens, where the path stopped before a massive, stone archway, the rock carved to looks like a twisted, magnificent dragon, it's head raised high in honor and pride. A lantern hung from each of it's clawed hands, the metal ancient and glass tarnished. The details in it's feathers and scales were almost lifelike and it seemed like it was breathing, it's watchful eyes never leaving the pair. A wrought iron gate prevented them from moving on, the beast's tail wrapped around the two center pillars protectively. Dipper could see the flowers of Paititi growing around the base of the archway, some even climbing up the dragon's back.

 

§ Are you ready? § Cipher asked.

 

" I'm ready. " He grinned.

 

The god raised his hand. § Watch closely~ § He winked.

 

Cipher waved his hand as if dismissing the gate guardian. Immediately, the dragon obeyed and it's tail unfurled from the bars, the great, stone feather sweeping to the side. The entrance clicked open and the heavy doors swung outward, revealing nothing beyond the yonder; it was as if everything seemed to cease to exist outside the area; Dipper swore he could smell salt in the wind that caressed his cheek.

 

§ Now, § He tugged him forward gently, their feet making small, careful steps, § Care to accompany me on this date, my sacrifice? §

 

" It would be my honor. "

 

§ Are you afraid? §

 

" A- a little. " He admitted sheepishly.

 

§ Don't be. § He said, leaning down to give his neck a quick nuzzle. § For I am here with you. §

 

" I- I know. "

 

§ Good~ § Cipher cooed, § Now, hold on tight and don't ever let go. §

 

Dipper gave his arm a squeeze, " I won't. "

 

§ Stay close~ § He whispered to him. 

 

Together, they walked through the archway, disappearing from sight as soon as they crossed the border of the god's realm, gone in a single step.

 

§ Tell me, Pinetree. § Dipper heard his god ask, § Have you ever seen the ocean? §

 

 

Dipper stepped out onto warm sand.

 

The landing came suddenly and his eyes flew open, startled from the way his feet sunk into the ground; he wobbled in place, lurching forward.

 

§ Careful. § Cipher said, steadying him.

 

" Th-thanks. " He smiled, abashed. Straitening up, he blinked to adjust himself to the new light, looking around them in awe. " Oh, wow! "

 

Water stretched out before him, seemingly endless. Waves lapped at the shore, smooth, opal like pebbles bobbling in its touch. The push and pull of the water echoed softly around him, due to them being deposited in a spacious cavern, the rocks worn smooth over time as they arched over him. Above, a deep crater had been carved out and large, impressive lantern lit the area in a bright, welcoming glow. Crystals that were embedded into the walls and ceiling sparkled like diamonds, glimmering like far off stars that had become strapped. " Oh my gods, " Dipper breathed,dropping his hand from the god's arm. "Cipher! This place is so- so beautiful! I've never seen anything like this! "

 

§ It is wondrous, is it not? § He chuckled when the brunette jogged forward, his feet sinking into the yielding, warm sand easily. § Do try not to fall will you? §

 

" No promises! " Dipper grinned, teetering unsteadily as he made his way toward the shoreline. He stuck his arms out for balance, " I'm walking on sand! Sand! "

 

He followed at a much more leisurely pace, feet seeming to glide over the terrain, losing none of his divine grace. § Yes, you are. §

 

" Is this the ocean? "

 

§ In a manner of speaking, yes. §

 

" I've only ever read about the ocean! " He beamed at him, " I've always wanted to see it! "

 

§ And? What do you think of it? §

 

" It's far different than I imagined! " He came to stop, his chest rising and falling with quick breaths. " I never thought it would be this big! Or that it was so warm or that the air tasted salty or- " He broke off and laughed, overcome with emotion, " I love it! "

 

§ Do not tire yourself out yet, my sacrifice. § Cipher chuckled. § There is much I still have to show you. §

 

" More? " Dipper teased, lips quirking into his signature, crooked grin. " I'm not sure how much more I can take. "

 

§ Oh yes. § He grinned, his fluffy ears twitching in the light breeze. § Much, much more. §

 

" Does this mean I can't play in the water? "

 

§ You sound so disappointed. §

 

" A little. "

 

§ Do not worry. There will be plenty of time for that before we leave. §

 

" Promise? "

 

Cipher bowed at the waist, sweeping all his arms out, § I give you my word~ §

 

Dipper snorted, " Like i can trust that. " Regardless of how he felt about it, he knew the deity wouldn't budge until he got his way. Sighing to himself, he returned to Cipher's side, planting his feet deep into the sand and his hands on his hips. " You will keep your word. " He told him firmly.

 

§ Of course I will. § He drawled. § Now, walk with me? §

 

" If I have to. " He took his arm once more and the two turned their backs on the ocean, the echo of it's wails seeing them off. As they walked along the beach, Dipper began to make out more landmarks, though they resembled forgotten ruins more than anything. Large, carved pillars extended from the ground, some askew and others knocked completely onto their sides. Their faces were carved with symbols he couldn't read and they seemed to pulse with life every few seconds, dim and wavering.

 

Stairs rose from the sand, aged and crumbling, inclining along an embankment of greenery and vines, the seaside giving way to a lush jungle. Statues and decorative stone pieces, some cracked and weathered, were strewn about the landscape, many hidden by thick leaves and hanging foliage. Faces, their expressions flat and morose, stared out at him from behind curtains of flora, the massive art pieces half buried in soil. Water flowed down the steps, the source found higher up in the form of a small waterfall that was cascading over a cracked, low wall. Dipper's bare feet splashed through shallow puddles and he wasn't sure where to look first, his eyes catching the attention of anything and everything. " Where are we? " He finally asked, gasping as a dazzling, cerulean butterfly fluttered past his face, it's wings glowing softly.

 

Cipher smirked down at him, § You've heard the stories of Atlantis I presume? §

 

" You asked me this when I first woke up in your tower. " He reminded him, " But yeah. During the Ancient Conquest, scholars and scientists were persecuted for their beliefs and knowledge. They were feared and detested for what they knew and their unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Books and scrolls were burned and incredibly important information was lost. Teachers and students of the maths, literature, and sciences, were thrown into the fires or murdered in public spectacle. It was utter mayhem for the people of the time, especially since they had just gone through a renaissance. "

 

The Golden One nodded, § Yes. It was a very dark time for my people. §

 

" But, " Dipper continued, " Despite losing their books and inks and papers they never lost their faith or stubbornness. It was this drive that prompted you to save these people and protect them because you saw how important they and their work would be for future generations. It's about here that the details on how and where get a little fuzzy for us but you took them to an island out in the middle of the ocean where no one could reach them. "

 

Cipher hummed, silently urging him to continue.

 

" You called it 'Atlantis'. To them it meant 'island of atlas'. In your tongue, and our present language, it means 'haven of all knowledge'. And that's exactly what it became. Almost overnight, Atlantis became known as a utopia. Literature, sciences of the physical and mental states, alchemy, maths, philosophies exploded with such ferocity even former enlightenment periods couldn't compare. It remained that way for many years. They built automated machines, turned lead into gold, found a power source that has never been discovered since, and compiled a library that was rumored to be grander than that of the Alexandria library! "

 

§ Far, far greater. §

 

" It remained that way for centuries. No other ancient society is said to have been more of paradise for men and their minds. "

 

§ And? § Cipher prompted, § What changed? §

 

They continued their ascent and Dipper took a deep breath before he continued, " They destroyed themselves. They spurred your name in favor of a lesser, Greek god. "

 

§ Poseidon tried to turn them against me. He came to the conclusion that because the woman he had impregnated gave birth to his son on that island that it, and my city, were his. His son took power and became king but at the time I gave it little to no thought. He was a mortal after all. But I was foolish. In time, he and his own children secretly converted the people of Atlantis to follow his father. §

 

" When you checked up on them and discovered their betrayal you were furious. "

 

§ I was quite angry, yes~ §

 

" To punish them, you ravaged their city with storms and waves that were said to be hundreds of feet high. Poseidon, alerted to you arrival, came to the surface and the two of you waged war over Atlantis for weeks. When you finally prevailed, you declared that you would drown the city and allow the ocean to reclaim it. "

 

§ And I did such a good job too! §

 

" Atlantis disappeared into the ocean in a matter of hours and it sank to the bottom of the ocean floor, never to be heard of again. Plato, a Greek philosopher, wrote a small account of it in his work but it didn't have any mention of you or the true history of Atlantis. "

 

Cipher growled, § He can be herald as a great scholar all he wants but he is a pitiful man. How can one be labeled a great teacher and learner when he can not get his facts strait? §

 

Dipper smiled, letting go off his arm so he could hop across a formation of silica pillars, holding his own arms out for balance. " Say what you want of Plato, he's the only one who acknowledged that Atlantis existed. If it wasn't for his account of it, no one would have known it was there in the first place! My great uncle said scholars of today are still arguing over if it existed at all. "

 

§ What do you believe? §

 

" Of course it existed. " He snorted, " You were their god then and you're my god now. Why wouldn't I believe something about your past? "

 

§ Such devotion!~ § Cipher trilled, now following behind the boy as they continued to walk the road less traveled, hand hovering over his back protectively.

 

" I also believe you need to learn how to control your temper. "

 

§ Excuse me?! §

 

Dipper looked up at him, raising an eyebrow in disbelief. " Seriously? Okay, let's review. " He held up a finger, " You turned the people of Paititi into trees and then burned them down while they were still aware of their bodies and surroundings. "

 

§ They deserved it! §

 

" Maybe. But you also brought Atlantis to the ocean floor because the ruling family slighted you, not the people. You shouldn't have really destroyed an entire civilization because you didn't approve of their king and his family. " He held up another finger. " Two. Two civilizations you destroyed, both never to be heard from again. And I know for a fact that there's more where they came from. What do you have to say for yourself? "

 

§ El Dorado  is still flourishing. § Cipher grumbled under his breath.

 

" The city of gold? " Dipper perked up, " Really? "

 

§ Oh no, § The god said indignantly § You just keep walking. No adventures in the city of gold for you, Oren Pines. §

 

" You say that but you'll give in eventually. " He grinned, hefting himself up onto a piece of stairwell that had been broken off, grass and earth reclaiming them for themselves. " How much farther do we- do we have to go? "

 

Cipher stepped up easily, his silks and drapery hanging elegantly, indifferent to his exertions. § It is no much farther. § He pointed to a cobbled road that extended from where they stood. § We will follow that road for a but a moment. §

 

" Is this the part where you actually sacrifice me? " Dipper asked, " Because it's really starting to feel like a spiritual journey where you lead me through all these wonderful, ancient ruins only to devour me when we get to the center of them. "

 

§ Oh, my sacrifice! § He cackled, § Do not be silly! I adore you far too much to actually harvest your soul. I have waited far too long for you to return to my side to do such a thing. §

 

" That's...reassuring. " The brunette mumbled, not quite understanding what Cipher was prattling on about; he did it far too often for him to worry too much about his ramblings. He trotted down the road, skipping over shattered stones and jumping over craters that had formed over time. " This place is in ruins. What happened here? "

 

§ You could say a god 'lost his temper'. § Cipher sniffed.

 

He sighed, " Why am I not surprised? " A small flight of stairs came into view just around the bend which lead to the summit and Dipper hopped up them eagerly. When he crested the top, his breath was taken away. " Whoa. "

 

A long bridge spanned a deep chasm, the great, white stone design arching elegantly. It appeared to be hand carved, triangular designs notched out to create an elaborate pattern, structures spiraling from the high ceiling to lock the man made feat in place. It, like all the other architect around it, was in ruin, half of it lost to wear and tear. The substructures beneath it appeared to have broken off age ago, it's more delicate pieces sucked down to what seemed like the center of the earth. Moss grew in thick, moist batches and vines of stunning, teal flowers clung to the cracks of the bridge, a reluctant host to the flora. High above, a massive crystal sprouted from the ceiling like a natural chandelier, bathing the entire area in an eerie, bright glow; he could hear the ocean despite it being so far away.

 

§ Get along. §

 

Dipper jumped, having forgotten Cipher was there. " Is- is it safe? "

 

§ Of course it is. §

 

" If you say so. " Dipper placed his hand on the banister, carefully treading out onto the overpass, looking over the edge with worry. His footsteps echoed off the cavern walls as he slowly made his way across and he kept a firm grip on the wall of the bridge where he could.

 

Cipher, for his part, strutted across like he owned the place, head held high and giving the decrepit state of his surroundings little to no thought. § It is not much farther now. § He conversed, § Once we cross this bridge we will arrive. §

 

" Arrive where? " Dipper asked, padding after him, not wanting to be left behind. " You still haven't told me where we are! "

 

§ Have I not? § He gasped, feigning surprise. He laughed at the dark look his little bird gave him, his kissable lips pulling into an adorable pout. He loved riling him up far too much. § Well, § He continued, § There is really no point in telling you when we are so close now, is there? §

 

" I'm starting to see why the people of Paititi and Atlantis spurred your name. " 

 

§ First of all, how dare you. § Cipher whirled around, bopping Dipper on his nose when he had come close enough. § And second of all, how dare you! §

 

Dipper laughed, swatting his hand away. " You're just upset because it's true! "

 

§ I acknowledge no such thing. § The god tried to keep a stern face but it proved difficult; he found his little sapling far too precious. Smiling tenderly, he stroked his cheek with his knuckle, purring when Dipper leaned into his touch. § Come. § He commanded softly, reluctantly breaking contact. He walked on, keeping  a foot or so ahead of him, the end of his mighty tail brushing his calf with a playful flick.

 

Dipper trailed behind, interested in the architect and carvings that adorned the magnificent bridge. He wondered if Cipher would allow him to copy a few of them down at a later date, itching to compare it to other, known, civilizations. He'd never seen such craftsmanship before, the details carved out with such fine prescription it was hard to believe someone had done it by hand. When he realized he was falling behind, he quickly jogged to catch up to his god, skipping over his swaying tail. " So, who use to live here? "

 

Cipher tilted his head at is question, § You will see for yourself soon enough. §

 

" Artisans? " Dipper foraged on, really more to himself than his companion, " Nobility? But of which culture? I've never seen such work before and I don't recognize any of the lettering either. It doesn't help that I don't know where we are but still. "

 

§ Where do you think you are? §

 

He frowned, " It's- it's not Babylon? "

 

§ It is not~ §

 

" And it's not Mayan. The architecture is too different. "

 

§ Right again. §

 

Dipper worried his lip, " We can't be in Egypt. It's not hot enough and this place is lacking in the  sand dunes and pyramids department. "

 

§ I am quite fond of Egypt. § Cipher reminisced.

 

" The column style and arches are similar to the Greeks and Roman style but it's still off. "

 

§ Oh, very close! §

 

" Close? "

 

Cipher smirked, his scales flashing under the light of the crystal as it pulsed brightly before dimming down. He looked up, pleased. § They know we have arrived. Wonderful! §

 

" They? " Dipper asked, his stomach flipping nervously. " Who are we meeting? "

 

The Golden One didn't reply, merely walking the last few feet of bridge. Once he reached the other side, he snapped his fingers and torches flared to life, smaller versions of the chandelier that hung above them, golden chains and trinkets hanging from their wall brackets, glinting in the sudden light.

 

Dipper took his place by the god's side, his heart beating fiercely in his ears. Before them, an archway towered above them, the doorway blocked with heavy, thick curtains, the drapery flowing along the ground. Flanked on each side of the outlet were large, marble statues. A man stood on the left, one of his arms raised high above his head and cradling the sun, the other blown off at the elbow. He was dressed in fine clothes, real gold and jewelry placed upon his lifeless form. His life partner, a woman with long flowing hair, stood at the right, her arms cradling the full moon. She too, wore only the finest of silks and most beautiful of trinkets, gold and pearls hanging from her neck, wrists, and waist. She stood on one leg, the other, which would have been tucked behind her, missing from the thigh down. For reasons he couldn't place, he felt an odd mixture of elation of terror at stepping through that archway.

 

A hand on his back made him jump.

 

§ Come on. § Cipher urged.

 

Dipper nodded and walked past the guardians, Cipher never leaving his side. He raised his hand and grasped the curtain in his hand, pausing. He looked up to his god in silent question.

 

He chuckled and gave him a nudge.

 

Swallowing, he pushed the heavy fabric aside, lifting it just enough to duck through; Cipher followed at his heels. The curtain fell back into place and Dipper stepped out onto a balcony of white stone, staring in wonder and consternation at what lie before him. Covering his mouth with his hands, brown eyes wide with awe, he whispered. " No- no way. "

 

§ Welcome, § Cipher announced, § To Atlantis. §

Chapter Text

Their boat slowly pushed it's way through the water, gliding effortlessly over the ocean's waves. The ride was smooth and calm, a symphony of song birds aiding them as they danced above them, their long, colorful tails trailing behind them like streamers. Fish darted from their path, most small and lithe, though others larger than their boat occasionally bobbled to the surface to see what the fuss was about; Dipper fearlessly skimmed his fingers in the water, tips brushing smooth, plated scales. He laughed boisterously as they darted away from him. " They're huge! " He turned in his seat and beamed at his god.

 

Cipher smiled at him, § Yes, though, these are but adolescent amemasu. Over the next few years they will more than triple in size. §

 

" That's amazing! " He exclaimed, turning back around so he could observe them more closely. " Are they native to Atlantis? "

 

§ They were born and raised here yes. § He answered, leaning over himself to see how the large fish were faring. He was pleased to see them looking so healthy and fat. § They can only be found in Atlantis unfortunately. They do not fare well outside of this particular water. A pity really. §

 

" Shame. I was hoping I could take one home. " Dipper joked.

 

§ Did you want one? §

 

" Where would I keep it? " He snorted, " My room? "

 

A large shadow loomed over them and Dipper looked up to see an archway spanning above them, draped in greenery and flowers, the white stone beneath the foliage barely visible. It appeared to have been connected to a much grander wall at some point but now it stood alone, the single guardian to the city. They passed under it and Dipper reached up to push branches out of his way, ducking beneath them. 

 

The ferryman that had been there to greet them at the dock beneath the balcony, guided the boat with expert fingers, his long staff dipping and rising from the water. He said nothing as he worked, keeping his gaze strait ahead, baby blues unwavering and lips set in a thin line. He brought them closer to the outskirts of the city, passing by other vessels as they foraged on. Fishermen bringing in nets stopped what they were doing, eyes blowing wide as they gandered. They fell to one knee and brought their hands up to their chest, making a symbol with their fingers. Their lips moved in silent worship and Dipper wished he could hear what they were saying; Cipher nodded to each boat as they passed, giving them his silent approval.

 

A bell sounded, loud and clear, through the area.

 

The chimes echoed around them and Dipper looked around, " What was that? "

 

§ They know we are here. § Cipher said.

 

People began to congregate on the docks, gathering in large groups to see who had come to their city. Women huddled together, large baskets in their arms and children bustled about their legs, peeking behind long skirts. All sorts of people pressed together, their skin pale and hair white, while more flocked to the moor, all eager to see what the fuss was about. Dipper could just make out their loud voices, full of apprehension and excitement.

 

Their boat pulled up alongside stone stairs that disappeared into the waters below, the ferryman using his cane to steady it on one of the steps. " Hxce jx ije, fj lbkl. " He said, holding his arm out.

 

§ Talnx rwm. § Cipher stood, stepping out to stand before his people.

 

Their words were spoken in such a way that Dipper couldn't understand them and their pronunciation sounded odd to his ears. He clambered out after his god, careful no to fall into the ocean and make a spectacle of himself, feet splashing through the shallow waves. He stuck his hand out onto the edge of the canoe to steady himself. " What- what language are they speaking? " He asked.

 

§ Atlantean. § He explained, reaching out to grasp his upper arm. § You are so clumsy. §

 

" Not all of us can glide out of a boat with the dignity of a swan. " He huffed.

 

§ No, I suppose not all can. § Cipher smirked. He wrapped his arm around his waist and guided him up the stairs, pulling him close to his side. § Most of my people will not understand you. They do not speak your tongue. Stay close to me. §

 

" Like I planned on running away. " Dipper rolled his eyes.

 

He looked at him as if he didn't believe him but the tight grip his little tree had on his arm soothed any suspicions he may have had. § Good. Now follow me. § He nuzzled the top of his head quickly before standing tall and proud, striding towards the people of Atlantis with purpose and poise.

 

" Im ts Pbxzek! "

 

" Zue ewjd! "

 

" Uweflmv wx lrr mpas wly. "

 

The people parted for them as they walked, bowing their heads and murmuring to themselves, some giving Dipper a curious look as he passed, taking in his silks, jewels, and closeness to their god. They whispered behind raised hands and gossiped amongst themselves, all wanting to know who this boy was at their god's side.

 

" Waz db rwm snapblm lhte cubtv il? "

 

" Se vl ljeldeq lw xigpll! Ppq, lhzk nm idl msag zwdd! "

 

" Rzu- lhc vog'e tubvc- dh joh? "

 

Feeling a rush of self-consciousness, Dipper reached down and pulled the cloth that hung from his waist higher, running the pine tree token that dangled there between his fingers. Pressing more firmly into Cipher's side, his cheeks burning, he asked, " What-what are they saying? "

 

§ They are wondering who are you and what you mean to me. § Cipher told him, hand sliding down to possessively fondle his hip. § They know you are precious to me and so they are gauging you. §

 

" Gauging me? " Dipper frowned, looking up at the mass of people that stared back at him, each one following his steps with eager eyes. " What are they gauging me for? "

 

§ To see where your place is. With them, below them, or above them. Now, § He swooped down and kissed the corner of his mouth, smirking down at him in what he must have thought was a charming manner. § Watch your god at work~ § He stepped into the center of the square, his back strait and chin held high. Clearing his throat, he took a deep breath and spoke to his waiting worshipers. § Pxzpyx wx Amwaamqk! §

 

His voice boomed across the courtyard, reverberating against the tall spires and towers. He spoke like a true god, deep and demanding, divinity and power coursing through every syllable. Though Dipper could not understand what he was saying, the very force and commandeering tone of his words sent chills up his spine, goosebumps erupting like frost on his skin. A quick glance around showed every person, man and woman, kneeling before them, children quickly following their parents ques; he was strangely reminded of his own village and how they had seen him off, bowed in reverence like the people of Atlantis.

 

§ Bxqoex ggu leaawa qonc gbw! § Cipher declared, § Tap Gbelwn Hye ngl Oaevee hn Qonc Dexies! I vzmr mw qon, zn gam sngtvrkasrr zf lhcj dtj os kmukhyiaz! Ezeg johk katr haf itmnzpd vgbg tap opxif fhc ybnz kigd aaw itagooafmft hq ybnz gnx, erhx ogd! § He paused to look around him, to the people on the ground and to the ones on balconies and still, those that filled the streets. § Bne nbm ggu. §

 

Cipher gave Dipper's hand a reassuring squeeze before he stepped away from the boy, slowly circling his people, leveling each one of them with a narrowed, calculating look. § Dxdpvmm qonc kvgok ago tuxqj dxdcrglsnmd, ybn, bze ipocem gf Telngbas, kpmnbvwd mcur tvv lhjay mw ee, mse gkcw gho. Eixv ohxy I gazwampnrw bg dkzwa mpw cbey ngl trbyg zr ejams dbpv mphy ybn, ggu kpmnbvwd ftnr. Fqdlxynvt psvx aaflmv sbycr mpwn. Tyd lxb, zekp ybn ije. Apaympq, wazlr, tvv smtly ttavx. Joh tzw ag pxnfxde hq wutb lhhde jaw jeflia yiataquy pqdl kpcrbdw, walt gamq wbwl ox jdeldeq pqlh. Ezntxdatr, henebz, pkzscxzatr, lnq fcuh, ffcu fwje. Uft jx ije gzt uxzw th oifvcks rzue iikt, gzt lhcj pkpsrgb. §

 

He paused dramatically, his lips pulling into a wide, beaming grin. § Wx lrr amje mz cremtrtee! Fmifd, ipocem gf Telngbas! Ktsr tvv bxsoyw gguk roq! Mwvar xaeda lhx metbvfigr os t vww xca, n gmo Efaeehz! At als oxmf mhce gaif fbge unvvrxo yrtzk sbycr B psvx dtrixwd yzog nxgn mse fmwfe hq ybnz uimj aaw bgdtj I exbmrg. Joh tzw auzug mw wnmpr vgbg a gpw rki, s dryafmg. Snw joh pqdl ulrr pqlnxds gh bze ycuvma gf rzue eitok! He jbtd ptctl ewfg bytb mpw nbrhg! Pm oiew debvc hxlvveg lo rzue vqly! Ptly pqdl ypafm takx ehr fwjttw kvgok oy zlq! §

 

The people began to rise from their kneeling positions, excitedly talking amongst themselves. Many of them rushed off, dodging between those who remained, and joyous laughter echoed through the city center, looks of severity and impassiveness replaced with great happiness and elation.

 

§ Thoal, B esld lmbgo qon lnq mwyemsee pm oiew cremtrtee gam Uokznnmqgn hq ybnz Hrbycr, mpw fhfnqbvy oy johk katr, lnq rwmr ezynebq th johk ogd! §

 

There was a mighty roar of approval from his subjects as they threw their arms in the air, chanting as one, " Tap Gbelwn Hye! Tap Gbelwn Hye! Tap Gbelwn Hye! "

 

Cipher smirked, waving their cheers and yelling away, § Nhh, lrm bze ypsgbdatbps oxoan! §

 

The people of Atlantis roared their approval, and Dipper quickly stepped back to avoid being swept away by the crowd that surged forward, watching them break out into wide smiles, all eager to begin the festivities that had been promised to them. His god stood above them, smirking down at his subjects, looking like a pompous king more so than a god and Dipper struggled to make his way back over to him, trying to push his way through the dozens of bodies that ran passed him. " Cipher! " He called out, raising his arm above his head to garner his attention, " Ciph- "

 

Dipper gasped, a rough shove to his shoulder sending him to the ground, his head cracking against stone. 

 

Blue eyes, wide and fearful, danced in his vision and pale faces filed by, a never ending stream of static infused noise. Voices thrummed against the back of his skull and colorful dots blurred his vision. Wheezing, he struggled to his hands and knees, his head thumping painfully and chest aching. " Ci- ci- Bi- "

 

{ " It's so beautiful! " He heard himself utter in awe. 

 

" Do you like it? " Someone asked, their voice familiar but unidentifiable. It was warm and full of love and he wanted more of it; he sensed it was something he missed.

 

" I love it. " He breathed, turning the object over in his hands. It was smooth and it glimmered in the light- candles? Lanterns?

 

" It is from Athens. " The other man boasted, wrapping an arm around his shoulders, giving him a squeeze. " I would love to take you next time. I know you would adore it. "

 

" I'll go anywhere in the world as long as you're with me. " He assured the other, holding up the ornament. It was stunning, blue and white glass with pearls inlaid into the sides, a comforting glow coming from within.

 

His companion- lover?- chuckled, and pulled him into his lap. " I am so happy to hear you say that. I don't think I could travel the world without you by my side, my night sky. "

 

He kissed his forehead.

 

" Bi- " }

 

§ My constellation.§

 

The static began to clear.

 

Dipper's head shot up, brown eyes meeting the overly worried gaze of his god. " Ci-Cipher? " He stuttered, almost unsure. " Cipher? "

 

§ Pinetree. Come here. §

 

His voice was soft and it grounded Dipper in the now, images flitting away like lost memories; he couldn't even remember what he had thought he heard. He felt himself  being lifted and suddenly his feet were on the ground, his weight supported by a pair of strong hands that held him tightly. He blinked and the spots and dizziness vanished like it had never happened, literally gone in the blink of an eye. Cipher's face came into focus, his eye narrowed in worry, concern drawn on all his sharp, dragon like features. " Cipher. "

 

§ Are you alright? § He trilled, bringing their foreheads together.

 

Atlantis came crashing back to him, the smell of sea, the call of birds, and the songs of people, now long gone. Buildings swam into view and he could feel the cobbled sidewalk beneath his feet. " Y-yeah, " He whispered. " I'm- I'm alright. "

 

§ Are you? § Cipher murmured, not quite believing his little bird. He couldn't read his expression, the look in his warm, mocha eyes distant and unsteady; his stomach twisted uneasily.

 

" I am. " He grinned, cupping his face in his hands. " I just got caught up in the crowd when they ran pass. No big deal. "

 

Cipher growled, unsure.

 

" I promise! " Dipper croaked, headbutting him lightly in retaliation. " I promise. "

 

Hesitating, Cipher let him go, hands hovering over his sides protectively. § Very well. § He gave in with a deep sigh, § If you are sure. §

 

" Oh, good. " Dipper beamed, " I thought for sure you were going to go into a rage because someone knocked me over and raze the city to the ground. "

 

§ You are joking. §

 

" You don't have a very good track record. " He reminded him with a small laugh, " Now, don't we have some sort of celebration to attend to? It would be rude if the guest of honor didn't attend, wouldn't it? "

 

§ Yes, § He said slowly, § It would be quite rude of me. §

 

" Then let's go! " Dipper beamed, taking his hand. He threaded their fingers together and tugged him along, excited to partake in the festivities of a city he had thought long dead, elation and anticipation driving off any remaining wisps of remembrance.

 

Appeased, Cipher followed along loyally, giving his hand a squeeze, § Let the festivities begin~ §

 

 

§ There is someone I wish you to meet before we settle down for the feast. §

 

Dipper followed behind Cipher, careful not to step on the god's flowing silks or tail as they ascended a grand staircase, the stone covered in teal markings that pulsed faintly, vines and flowers slowly claiming the ancient monument. " Who is it? " He asked, craning his neck to see how much further they had to go; whoever lived at the top had to be important.

 

Cipher chuckled, § A spoiled, rather pompous boy. I have known him since he was a babe, even blessed his naming ceremony with my presence. He is the reason for our visit and he has requested our audience. I see no reason to deny him such an honor do you? §

 

" I can't tell if you're annoyed by this guy or fond of him. "

 

The god hummed, clicking his tongue, § Why not both? §

 

" How long- "

 

§ Hush. § Cipher scolded gently, holding out his hand, § You will meet him soon enough. §

 

Huffing, Dipper slipped his hand into his, allowing himself to be pulled up, pressed possessively against his side. " Who is 'him'? " He demanded to know.

 

§ Quiet. § He repeated, giving his hip a pinch.

 

" Tap Gbelwn Hye! "

 

" Hxce? Nkm qon- "

 

Two men approached them quickly, tall and broad, both dressed in blue wrappings and light silver embossed leather armor. Their faces contorted in shock at the sight of the golden one standing so casually before them, hand in hand with a boy that was obviously not from their country. They shared a look, confused and unsure, their grips tightening on the spears they held in one hand. Still, they kneeled before them, dropping to one knee, proclaiming softly, " Wtwkrk wx dkpazl, ew wxwcbfm qon lnq ttd yhfr xgwolxogr. "

 

§ Yhfr thl oilsef mw kpxlk jbbz yhfr axe cigr. § Cipher declared, chest puffed and stance strong and unyielding. He looked down at the men with barely masked annoyance when they did not heed his words. § Nhh, is rwm pepafx. §

 

As if he had snapped a whip over their backs, the guards shot up and scrambled to do his bidding, rushing over to their posts with fearful strides. They each grabbed a curtain and bowed low at the waist, pulling the thick fabric aside to permit them entry.

 

§ Taprr,gwo wtd tutb ko alrq? § He teased them, strutting by with Dipper on his arm. § Nxit gbuw, dh yog fice fp afd boivp. §

 

Dipper ducked beneath the veil of fabric, Cipher's ever present hand on his back, another squeezing his shoulder reassuringly; even still, he felt apprehensive and wary. His god must have felt the anxiety rolling off of him because he pressed his lips to the top of his head, § Everything is fine, my constellation. I am here with you. §

 

Dipper gave his hand a small squeeze, whispering, " Thank you. "

 

The room they entered was massive. Spacious with high ceilings, it resembled a cathedral more than an ancient civilization's temple room. The windows held no glass, framed in thin fabric that was pulled aside and looped through intricate, silver hooks. An in ground pool sat in the center of the room, a waterfall cascading down the back wall, lily pads and flowers floating lazily on the surface; Dipper could see small amemasu bobbling to the surface every so often. Crystals hung from the ceiling in strands and colorful, detailed murals decorated the walls, each tile carefully laid to rest to show a story. He tried to step closer to inspect them but Cipher's hold kept him in place.

 

" Waj, Cvipwr! " Someone exclaimed, " Akp ybn pwrx eo fxm dimelr ht' ee? "

 

Dipper looked up to see who had spoken, subconsciously pressing himself closer to his god, looping his arm around his and giving it a squeeze; Cipher trilled quietly.

 

A man lounged on a curved sofa, draped in finery befitting of a king, all silver, blue, and teal. He was heavyset, obviously pampered and catered to, and Dipper guessed he was close to his age, his face round and youthful, plump cheeks speckled with freckles. His white hair was pulled into a design that rested on top of his head and his blue eyes were striking and clear. There was a certain grandeur to him and he sat up as they came before him; Dipper guessed him to be priest or leader of some sort.

 

§ Chysvwmjigr hbp qephctngb gf t oal bb as mz ybn ifd rzue imgpep, I qxkadxo a ibaat pls qnm. § Cipher answered him, inclining his head in respect.

 

The man beamed at them, slowly rising to his feet. " Snnh n cwqond opvikihy tuxv xok joh mw te aprr! Ppst t rism, ezam l gvyb! " He approached them, his smile slipping a fraction when he finally realized his god wasn't alone. He eyed the short brunette with curiosity, not blind to how lavish he was dressed and how close he was positioned to Cipher. " Ago wuh qk tats? N zcwsm zf lhcjs? "

 

Cipher smirked, § Yxd, ybn kgueo snr bzam. § He ran a hand of his through his fluffy locks, scratching his scalp reassuringly. § Se vl i nekj scxkaae rurlb gf ftnr tvv yhf wvet lrxlt ubu ss bq hr pmje ty ekmmfsbzn bg uqsxwf. Qh ggu nydrkalago? Yhf mnr ivdkpsf aqe al Oicimj. §

 

His eyes widened in surprise, giving the boy another look over, seemingly scrutinizing everything about him a single pass.  " I lpe. "

 

Dipper wished he knew what they were saying but he had a feeling they were discussing him, if the white haired man's looks were anything to go by. " I don't appreciate you talking about me while I'm right in front of you. "

 

Stunned, the man pulled away, " Hx oorl vgt laend wmr elntniye? "

 

Cipher shook his head, § Nh, se fimskl ehr eifgnlgr mpst rzuel mnoegeq bvlo. Ap wnl jgrg tn Tkinimj Fnetk ago scxics Mse Sttds. §

 

He nodded, " Ugoeelbgow. "

 

" What are you two- "

 

" I welcome you to Atlantis, " The man beamed, grabbing Dipper's hands in his, " It is such an honor, such an honor, to have you here with us! "

 

" You- you speak my language? " Dipper gasped.

 

" Why of course! " He beamed, " The royals of Atlantis speak many languages. "

 

His voice was deep and smooth but thick with an accent, and he spoke in such a friendly way that it was hard not to return his enthusiasm. Dipper gave him a small smile, returning the handshake. " Thank- thank you, it's an honor to be here. "

 

" You've come at such a wonderful time too! " He boasted, " I'm truly delighted to have you here at such a momentous occasion, Dipper! "

 

" And you are? " He frowned.

 

" Oh, where are my manners? " He tutted, " My name is formally 'Pktnpx Oadxzn Paijlxd Gyxmxue zf Nmtsnmts, utdwn hq aye sfopweqzm snw ehr vqly ezsg mw lifp.' But, " He added quickly seeing Dipper's puzzled expression, " You may call me Gideon. "

 

§ Gideon is the reason we are here. § Cipher finally spoke up, § While today is the anniversary of the founding of Atlantis, it is also his coronation day. As the God of Atlantis, I have to be there when each King is presented to me. §

 

" So that's what we're doing here. " Dipper said, " And here I thought Cipher was just being nice! "

 

§ I am being nice. § The deity defended himself, § I brought you with me to enjoy a day of partying and food did I not? §

 

" It is an honor to have our god at my ceremony, " Gideon admitted, " And it's truly a privileged to have you as well, Dipper! I do hope you will enjoy yourself. After all, " He laughed loudly, giving him a friendly slap to his back, " It's not every day you get to enjoy a coronation in Atlantis! "

 

" No, " Dipper smiled, " It's not. "

 

" Wonderful! " Gideon declared, leading them out of his room, throwing the curtains aside dramatically; the two guards bowed at his exit, falling to their knees when Cipher strolled through with a bored expression on his face. " Then I do declare a night of games, feasting, and dancing for the lot of us! "

 

Laughing, Dipper reached out for Cipher's hand, giving him a wide grin, " I can't wait! "

 

§ You are in for quite the treat,my sacrifice. §

 

" No one, " Gleeful boasted, " Throws a party quite like Atlantis! "

 

 

The air was alight with laughter and happiness.

 

Musicians played their instruments as the city feasted, stringing together their history into a melody that begged to be danced to. Children ran around, streamers clutched in their fists, begging parents to allow them to play the games one more time while the adults chuckled and let them be, busy with their own affairs of drink and conversation; the little ones squealed and ran off towards the amusements that lined the roads, delighted beyond belief.

 

The entire capital square of the city was decked out in blue and white banners, glittering confetti covering the cobbled stones, strewn about hours before during the coronation. Lanterns glowed brightly from wrought iron hangers, bathing the area in a comforting, orange glow as the light of day began to wane. Long tables were placed through out the yard, tops covered in silver platters that were positively bursting with food. Fish, scallops, rice, salads, fruit covered in honey, and bread all beckoned to be eaten, while more serving trays were brought out, servants quickly ushering in new courses faster than anyone could eat them.

 

Above them, the new King of Atlantis sat in all his glory. Strings of pearls and diamonds were layered over his fine silks, decorated like an object to be worshiped. A crown of the finest silver and crystals sat atop his head, placed there not too long ago by Cipher himself. A beacon and symbol of his people, he indulged just as much, if not more than, they did, feasting, laughing, and dancing with the common folk.

 

Cipher, amazingly, had chosen to mingle as well, waltzing where he pleased, looked like the very image of a peacock, beautiful and prideful in all his feathered and scaled glory. He entertained the ladies in dances and conversed with the men, offering blessings and words of wisdom. Amazingly, even children seemed drawn to him, awed and star struck; even so, he seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.

 

Dipper, sitting beside Gideon, who was taking a break from the gaiety, laughed boisterously at something that had been whispered in his ear, finally taking his eyes off his god, " He didn't! "

 

Gleeful slapped his knee, struggling to breath under his heavy guffaws. " Why, he- he did so! I ain't even seen anything- anything like it! " He took a deep drink of his goblet before continuing, " He was still a young god then, you see. Atlantis was still a whole- a whole city. Back then we didn't have kings or lineage. We had a governing body of people elected by the 'ftxiybmk oy henebz'. The families with the most wealth, as it were. It was about then that it became corrupted and people began to disown him as their god. "

 

" Which, " Dipper added, helping himself to more food, unable to resist the sweet, jelly filled tarts before him despite the protests of his full stomach, " I'm sure he absolutely loved. "

 

" Of course. " He smirked, " This is Cipher we are talking about. His temper is truly the fires of Hades itself! "

 

" So I've heard. " Dipper agreed, eyes scanning the crowd for who they were discussing, wondering why it was so hard to find someone with golden scales and a serpentine tail.

 

Gideon followed his train of sight, hiding a smirk behind his cup. " You seem to know The Golden One quite well, actually. "

 

He furrowed his brow, not understanding the suggestive tone of Gideon's voice. " What do you mean- "

 

§ Pinetree! §

 

" Speak of the devil, " Gideon whistled, " And he shall appear. "

 

Rising, Dipper saw Cipher standing at the base of the stairs, holding out his hand for him. He smirked, gesturing for him to come to his side. Flushing, he looked down at Gideon, not wanting to be rude and leave his side when he was invited to be his guest during such a momentous occasion.

 

Rolling his eyes, Gleeful waved him aside, " Go on. He won't wait long. "

 

" No, he won't. " He chuckled, " Please, excuse me. " He quickly descended the stairs to meet his god, kicking up confetti and pennants as he went.  " What do you want? "

 

§ Care to dance? § Cipher purred.

 

Dipper laughed, taking Cipher's hand when he was close enough, " You want to dance? With me? "

 

§ More than anyone else~ § He grinned, bringing his hand up to kiss his knuckles.

 

" I'm not a very good dancer. " He warned.

 

§ I will be the judge of that. § Cipher declared, § Now, will you be my partner for this dance, my sacrifice? §

 

" It would be your honor. "

 

§ Indeed it would~ § Cipher swept him into his arms without a second thought, spinning them around the square, the cobbled ground seemingly miles away from his graceful feet. He set him down carefully, placing one hand on his hip while the other intertwined their fingers together. § Follow my lead~ §

 

" O-okay. "

 

He lead him gently, pulling and guiding him into a slow dance of refined movements, their steps accompanied by the musicians and their songs. Flutes and strings echoed around the square as they pushed and pulled each other, testing each other's comfort and flexibility. They were the moon and the ocean at odds with each other, one forceful and demanding, the other obedient yet full of life. Cipher's hands were warm and his scales glinted under the warm glow of the lanterns. His lips quirked into a handsome smile, eye crinkled in mirth and Dipper thought, not for the first time, how breath taking the god was, full of splendor and ichor.

 

Cipher drew him in close and Dipper blushed, gasping softly as the warmth of his god seeped into him, his heartbeat slow and methodical against his own, rapid and unsure. A fleeting kiss was placed upon his forehead before he was pushed away, his bare feet twirling across the yard; he laughed.

 

He felt like he was in another world.

 

Cipher stepped up behind him, sliding his hands sensationally up his back and across his neck, moving his body seductively around him until they were face to face. He lead him back into the steps of the dance and Dipper could of sworn he heard clapping, far off and distant like the calls of the sea birds. His vision swam and he fumbled, cheeks turning scarlet when the dragon like man saved his dignity by catching him, dipping him low; he didn't have time to appreciate the upside down view of the sky, lifted into the air once more.

 

" If I raise you high enough, you'll soon dance amongst the stars! "

 

He looked around to see who had spoken, their words ringing at the back of his skull, but Dipper couldn't see anyone; it was soon forgotten. His feet skipped over worn stones, their steps now slower and more methodical. Cipher's feet brushed his, edging him backwards, and Dipper fluidly followed, rolling his hips to company Cipher's more elegant movements. He was chased across the square, the god sliding his body against him, trailing his hands down his soft sides, grabbing at his hips and thighs; his tail brushed across his back, feather lightly tickling his skin.

 

§ Up you go~ §

 

Dipper startled, gasping as he was lifted high into the air by Cipher's arms, the multiple limbs supporting his weight easily. He braced himself against his broad shoulders, looking down into his smirking face, " Ci- Cipher! " He tried to sound stern but he smiled.

 

He crooned, allowing gravity to return his precious star to him, falling and oh so lovely. Once his feet were safely on the earth, he lead him into a more gentle, side to side sway, Dipper falling into step with him easily. Cipher spun him under his arm, slowing their movements down as the music began to trail off; as the last note echoed, he brought him close, pressing into his back and burying his nose into his neck. § You were wonderful. § He breathed, § My sapling. §

 

Dipper shivered, melting into his touch. He reached up and twined a long, dark braid between his fingers, giving it a teasing tug. " You- you weren't too bad yourself. "

 

Keening, Cipher asked, § Will you dance with me again? § 

 

" Right now? "

 

He thought it over, § Perhaps not right now, § He relented, § But another day. I wish to dance with you among the stars eventually but I shall not push the subject. §

 

Dipper laughed, " Is that even possible? "

 

§ Do you doubt me? §

 

He shook his head, " No, I know better. If you say we'll dance amongst the stars then I'm sure we will. I just hope I'm a better dancer by then! "

 

§ You were marvelous, § Cipher assured him, § The only dancing partner for me~ §

 

" You flatter me, " Dipper chuckled, " But I know I stepped on your feet at least fifty times. "

 

§ And I loved each and every step~ § He cooed.

 

" You say that now, " He warned, " But when your feet ache in the morning don't come crying to me. "

 

§ I shan't, § He promised, coddling him, § I shall deal with my throbbing feet with the highest degree of adulation. §

 

" Shut up! " He laughed, head butting his chest lightly. " I'm not graceful okay? I tried to warn you! "

 

§ I understood you perfectly, I just did not care. § Cipher sniffed. Lightly, he coaxed him from the dance floor, the people of Atlantis staring at them with a mixture of amazement and apprehension. Crossing the grounds, he sat himself at the bottom on the stairs, pulling his sapling onto his lap. Wrapping his arms around him, he placed his chin on the top of his head and closed his eye, fingers tapping in time with the new song that had begun to play. § We will rejoin the festivities soon, § He promised, § But for now, allow me this time with you. §

 

" Can we play a few of the games? " Dipper asked, eyeing a group of children that filed past with their arms full of toys and sporting wide grins.

 

§ We will play each game until you grow bored of it. §  Cipher promised.

 

Appeased, he leaned against him, wondering if the game keepers would just hand over their wares at the sight of Cipher; he snorted at the thought.

 

The music continued on, picking up until it resembled a lively jig and the people of Atlantis began to dance, kicking their legs out and spinning together as a whole. Their laughter rang loudly, just another note in the score, and many spilled wine from glasses they had been holding before being swept up by a loved one. Again, the standbys applauded jovially, urging their peers to not miss a beat; Dipper found himself clapping along.

 

Gideon descended not too long after, giving the two a knowing smirk as he passed, welcomed into the fray by his subjects, an eager and willing partner to any and all. He bowed to a lovely woman and offered her his arm which she took without hesitation; he swept her away, surprisingly light on his feet.

 

" This is nice. " Dipper spoke up.

 

§ What is so nice? § He questioned, not taking his eyes off his people, enjoying their mirth and merriment.

 

" This, " He murmured, " Being here. Not just in Atlantis, but being here- here with you. It's....nice. "

 

§ You are basking on the lap of a God and the only word you can think to use is 'nice'? § He smirked.

 

" It's the best I got right now. " He sulked, playing with one of the many necklaces that dangled from Cipher's neck, rolling the golden beads between his fingers. He laid his head down on his chest, " I'm just... "

 

§ Just? §

 

" Happy. " He finished, " To be here. With- with you. "

 

Cipher looked down at him, tilting his head, adoring the rosy hue of his cheeks and embarrassed stutter. § You are? §

 

Dipper nodded, " I- I am. "

 

Cipher didn't answer him for a few, tense moments. His fluffy ears twitched and gazed down at him as if he were someone else, someone he wasn't quite sure existed. Finally, he drew him in close and curled around him, protective and needy, § And I you. § He told him, kissing the stars on his skin, § And I you. §

 

 

§ Did you enjoy yourself, Sapling? §

 

" I did. " Dipper smiled softly, walking carefully along a low sea wall, arms spread wide to provide balance. " I had a wonderful time. "

 

Cipher chuckled, walking alongside him, ever watchful of his stumbles and tottering. § I am delighted that you had such a wonderful time. §

 

" Did you? "

 

§ Absolutely. I will have you know that I am very fond of dancing and the such. §

 

" Even if I wasn't the best dance partner? " He asked with a crooked grin.

 

Cipher felt his heart soar, § I could not have asked for a better companion. §

 

He laughed at that statement, " You don't mean that at all. "

 

§ I do. §

 

Dipper hopped over a hole in the wall, wobbling unsteadily, "Oh. Well, I- I enjoyed it too. Even if I'm not very good. " He padded along the crumbling stone barrier until he reached the end. There he stood, closing his eyes, taking in the lapping of the waves against the shore, feeling like a god of the ocean himself, the salt against his face and the sea so close to taking him in it's tides; he blinked when he felt a hand on his elbow.

 

§ Come along, my little sea prince. § Cipher teased, § Before it swallows you up. §

 

" You'd save me. " He shrugged, carefully turning on his heels, " You wouldn't dare let Poseidon take me would you? "

 

Cipher's lip curled, § I would never allow such a lowly 'god' to gaze upon you, let alone claim you for his own. § He hefted him up into his arms, giving him a small twirl through the air before he placed him down. He leaned in and pushed his bangs out of his face, tucking a long strand behind his ear. § Never. §

 

" See? " He grinned cheekily, " I don't have anything to worry about. "

 

§ No, § He murmured, nuzzling their noses together, § You do not. §

 

Dipper's breath got caught in his throat and he felt the world tilt on it's axis. Cipher's long lashes fluttered over his scale speckled cheeks and his thin lips were set in a genuine, stunning smile. He turned away, face red, drawing his cloak closer to him, suddenly aware of how cool the sand beneath him was. His heart raced and he felt like his chest was on fire, nerves and something familiar stirring uncomfortably.

 

He'd felt like this before, but where that was he couldn't place.

 

§ Can I have this dance? §

 

Dipper turned his attention back to his god, surprised by the sudden question. " What? "

 

Cipher smirked, eye full of mirth and wickedness, § You promised we would we dance again did  you not?§

 

Despite himself, he laughed. " I didn't think you meant this soon! "

 

§ Is that a yes? §

 

" Yes, " He smiled, " It is. "

 

Cipher hummed and took his hand, guiding him into a slow, calming waltz, § Wonderful~ §

 

He lead him across the sand, their heels digging deep into the sediment, no band or other dancers to accompany them. They whirled around the beach, feet splashing through the waves that rolled up to greet them. Their movements sent water flying and the ends of their silks became soaked with salt water. The dance didn't last long and far too soon, Cipher brought them to a stop, both standing on the shoreline, his arms wounds around Dipper's waist, § I should be getting you home. It is getting quite late. §

 

Dipper frowned, " Do we have to? "

 

He chuckled, § Do you wish to stay? §

 

" Just a little longer. " He mumbled into his chest, not wanting to leave his comfortable position just yet.

 

§ As you wish. § He kissed the top of his head, § A few more minuets. §

 

Dipper didn't bother to voice his thanks, consumed by the scent of Cipher's embrace. Incense still clung to him from when he lit the candles during Gideon's coronation, smokey and sweet. His divine power thrummed beneath his fingertips and it lulled the brunette into a feeling of security, wrapping him in a comforting embrace of smoke, honey, and sanctity. He buried his nose deeper into the folds of his silks, smiling softly when he felt Cipher's ink stained hands trail up his back, ghosts dancing along his flesh. " I could stay like this forever. " He whispered.

 

§ Could you? § Cipher chuckled.

 

" I could. " He agreed, " As long as you agree to stay with me forever too. "

 

§ As long as you will have me, I will never leave your side. §

 

Dipper smiled, melting into his touch, butterflies flitting against his rib cage, begging to be free. Immersed in Cipher's hold, overcome by warmth and lounging, he slumped against him, feeling like he wasn't quite himself.

 

§ Pinetree? §

 

" I think, " He said, voice barely above a whisper and full of uncertainty and fear, " I'm starting to fall for you. "

 

Cipher inhaled sharply, looking down at the boy in his arms. § What? §

 

" Is it okay? " Dipper asked, " For a human to fall in love with a god? "

 

Cipher cupped Dipper's face in his hand, tilting his chin up so he could look into those wide, warm, mocha eyes. Gently, he brought their lips together, kissing him softly under a sky full of false stars. Heat burst within his abdomen and pins prickled along his back, passion and desire filling his very being. Emotion welled up inside him and he did nothing to stop the tears that ran down his own cheeks, new and unusual.

 

§ I fell in love with you a long time ago, my constellation. § He choked out, § A very, very, long time ago. §

 

 

" We'll dance amongst the stars? " He laughed, " But how will we get there? "

 

Chapter Text

Mabel Pines stepped outside, shivering as the winter chill settled around her.

 

Snow drifted to the ground lazily, fat flakes quickly piling up, winter still keeping it's claws deep into their world. Drawing her cloak tightly to her breast, Mabel hopped down the old, wooden stairs, her boots sinking deeply into the gathering mounds of white. She let out a long breath, giggling as clouds escaped between her lips.

 

" Heading out again, Mabel? "

 

She looked over her shoulder and smiled when she saw her great uncle step out onto the porch behind her. " Yeah, I need to replace the flowers! "

 

Stanford frowned, his lips pulling into a tight, thin line, seemingly wanting to tell her something that would make her stay. At that moment, in the early morning light, he seemed far older than he was. Eventually, he sighed, knowing he couldn't. " Be safe. And be back before dark. "

 

She grinned and gave him a thumbs up, waving to him as she shuffled through the yard, " I will, promise! It's a Mabel guarantee! "

 

Ford graced her with a rare smile, " I will hold you to that, my dear. "

 

" I know you will! " She agreed, waving frantically at him as she went on her way, well until her great uncle disappeared inside.

 

Turning on her heels, singing softly to herself to ward away the silence, Mabel strode toward town, enjoying the brisk, short walk. The people of Gravity Falls were already gathering in the streets despite the hour, conversing and opening their businesses. She waved to her friends and neighbors but didn't stop for small talk, quickly heading for the only booth that was currently of interest to her. She brightened when she saw the small cart rattle around the corner and she picked up her pace, jogging along as her feet slipped and slid all over the icy road. " Wendy! Wendy! Stop where you are! It's me, Mabel! "

 

The cart jolted to a stop and the driver turned around, dropping the worn, wooden handles so she could shield her eyes against the swirling winds. " Mabel? " Seeing a mess of hair and pink running toward her, she smiled widely, " Mabel! "

 

" Wendy! " Mabel shrieked, throwing her arms around her in a fierce, friendly hug. " It's been so long! "

 

The other woman laughed, tossing her shock of red hair over her shoulder. Still, she returned the affection, holding the smaller girl tightly to her chest in a bear hug that would make her father proud. " I just saw you the other day! "

 

" I know! " She beamed, " And that was too long ago! "

 

Wendy shook her head, ruffling Mabel's hair, "So what do you need? You here for more flowers? " She inclined her head towards the old cart she had been pulling around, the once dark wood worn down with age and use. The top was covered in thick bouquets, hand made and bound together in thick, colorful ribbons, the greenery partially covered the sign that hung on the side, ' Corduroy Creations '.

 

" You bet I am! " She beamed, rustling through her pockets for some coins, " One of your best arrangements! No, wait! Make that the best one you have! The biggest and brightest! " She slammed a single, triangular coin onto the cart, puffing her chest out as if she had just sealed the biggest land deal ever seen in Gravity Falls history.

 

" One bouquet coming up. " Wendy winked. Leaning over her wares, she combed through the flower arrangements her family had put together in the dark hours of the morning, looking for the one that had caught her eye when the cart had been loaded up. It was the one her father had made, the one with the tiny, white saplings and bright, red berries. She found it near the back, tied with a beautiful orange cord, and she gathered it in her arms; she smiled tenderly at the thought of her father, a large, burly man, carefully making something so small and fragile. Her mother would have been proud of him. " Here you are! The best Corduroy bouquet of the day! "

 

Mabel gasped, " It's beautiful, Wendy! " She carefully look the flowers into her arms, cradling them like a precious child. " He'll love them! " She buried her nose in the blooms, inhaling the familiar scent of pine and sap. " They're perfect."

 

" Of course they are. " She clicked her tongue, " They're Courduroy's! "

 

" Thank you. " Mabel grinned. She reached over and grabbed the flower seller's freckled hand in hers and gave it a squeeze. " I should get going before the early morning worshipers get to the temple. I'll talk to you later, Wendy! Don't work too hard! "

 

" When have I ever been accused of working too hard? " She asked with a chortle. " Please, Mabel. I have a reputation to uphold. "

 

" Hardly working it is! " She giggled. " Stop by the shack sometime, don't be a stranger! " Waving her goodbyes, she skipped down the street, careful of frozen puddles, her arms full of sweet smelling pine branches and ripe, winter berries.

 

" I will! " Wendy called after her, watching her until she had vanished into a large group of people, her pink shawl quickly lost to the crowd. " I will. "

 

Left to herself, she suddenly felt colder than she had before and she wound her cloak tighter around her, even if she knew the chill had nothing to so with the wind or falling snow. Taking a deep breath, figuring she would check up on her friend later after work, she grabbed the handles of her family's cart and began to drag it down the road, trying to ignore the worry and the phantom grief that prickled at the back of her neck; squaring her shoulders, she marched on.

 

" Flowers! Get your flowers here! " She hollered, " Freshly made bouquets for all occasions! Get them while they last! Come on people! It's not like you have anything better to spend your money on! Let's go! "

 

 

Mabel gave a quick hello to the temple's keeper as she slipped inside and ascended the stairs of the alter, her footsteps echoing off the vast walls. Holding the flowers she had purchased tightly, she carefully climbed upwards, wary of stepping on the ends of her cloak. Before this year, she had only ever climbed the stairs during the celebration of The Golden One to give her offerings and prayers; now she was visiting on an almost weekly basis. Once she reached the top, she breathed a sigh of relief, " Glad that's over. "

 

Walking forward, she knelt before the shrine of the Golden One, taking a moment to look over the golden relic and offerings with a curled lip. Moving aside a few bowls of bread and a collection of jewelry, she began to make room for own, meager donation. Underneath, she found a similar bouquet to the one in her arms, the flowers wilted and pale and the leaves brown and crumbling. Removing it, she set it aside to take it with her later and, with loving care, placed the new one at the foot of the statue. " Hi, Dipper. " She whispered.

 

She had no idea if he could hear her but she really hoped he could.

 

Mabel closed her eyes and drew her shawl tightly around her, " I- I miss you. "

 

Cipher stared down at her, his eyes unamused and expression cold.

 

" It's winter now. " She continued, keeping her voice low despite knowing she wouldn't disturb anyone else; the temple was deserted, the keeper outside and revelers absent for the time being. " And it's really cold! Ford says it's a good sign though because that means the growing season will be plentiful. I guess that's- I guess that's good. " She swallowed. " We- we celebrated the winter solstice last- last week. You would have loved it, Dipper! " She laughed, " Ford actually danced at the festival! Stan laughed so hard and I- I had a good time too. I even got you a matching bracelet even though I know- I know you think it's silly. But you would have worn it anyway, you know, because it's from me. And you'd do anything to make me- to make me - " She broke off, her voice getting caught in her throat. She felt her body tense and her face grew hot. She took a shuddering breath, trying desperately to save face, to show she was strong and doing okay. That she was happy and joyful and full of sparkle and glitter and joy again.

 

" Happy. " She choked out.

 

Mabel sobbed, covering her face with her hands. " I miss you. " She croaked, " I miss you so much, Dipper. I'm trying- I'm trying so hard to be strong- I am! But- but I can't be! " She rocked back and forth, " I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. Sorry, sorry, I'm so- so- sorry. " She placed her forehead to the cold stone, her tears warm and unwelcome. " I should- I should have protected you! But I didn't! I never can! "

 

She brought her hand to her neck and her fingers curled around the wooden star pendent she had made for herself, just before her brother was taken from her, the wood smooth and well loved. " He took you, " She rasped, " He took you and there was nothing I could do about it. Nothing. Why? Why is it always like this?! "

 

Mabel looked up, her messy hair falling across her face, and glowered fiercely up at the idol that towered above her. " You took him once, " She hissed, " Wasn't that good enough for you?! " Screaming, she grabbed a wooden bowl filled with berries and fruits and hurled it at the effigy, the wood cracking against it's golden form; the bowl clattered to the ground, knocking over a few small vases filled with incense, filling the room with a mixture of vanilla and sage.

 

" You threw him away like he was nothing. " She uttered, her heart lurching painfully. " Even when he loved you so much. Dipper gave you his whole heart and loved you more than anyone has every loved anyone before. And you- you killed him. You left him to rot! You murdered my brother, my twin, my Big Dipper! "

 

Broken, Mabel crumpled to the ground, overcome by grief. " And now- and now, you've taken him again. "

 

She couldn't help her brother centuries ago when Cipher killed him to become a god and she hadn't been able to stop him from taking him as his sacrifice.

 

She hadn't been able to do anything to help him, even when Dipper needed her most.

 

" I'm sorry, Dipper, " She whispered, " I'm so sorry, "

 

She was pathetic.

 

 

" You are getting married! " Little Dipper stated, weaving flowers together to create a stunning circlet of white, " You must wear a flower crown! "

 

Big Dipper laughed, his lap full of flora the color of snow, " Must I ? "

 

His sister nodded, " You must! And I, as you lovely, older sister, will make it for you! "

 

He smiled, leaning over to tuck a flower behind her ear, the white flower standing out beautifully against her rich, brown hair. " What would I do without such a lovely, older sister like you? "

 

Little Dipper beamed, giving her brother a matching accessory behind his own ear. " Lucky for you, I will always be here for you! "

 

" Always? " He challenged.

 

" Always. " She promised.

 

 

The Party of the Gods was a joke.

 

The gathering, which happened at the whims of the father god, was nothing more than a boastful feast for all the gods and goddesses who attended; and all were expected to attend. Most, lesser, gods and goddesses found the event humorous and delightful and a good waste of their time. They enjoyed their frivolous games and chatter, downing wine and song like air as they all pretended to leave behind their woes and grievances with one another. Fake smiles and falsified good wills.

 

Cipher found it tedious.

 

Attending an event where most of the other guests looked down on him was not his definition of a good time. Rubbing elbows with the higher gods and mingling with the lower deities did not appeal to him in the least. His job as the god of dreams and being of all knowing did not require him to be in contact with others of the same blood and he preferred to keep it that way; he would much rather spend his time among the humans.

 

At least they were amusing.

 

But it wasn't as if he had a choice in the matter. Choosing not to attend The Party of the Gods just wasn't an option, no matter how much he wished it was. He would rather be taking a relaxing fly through the night sky or curled up and around his sacrifice while he indulged himself in translating another text he had transcribed, lulled to sleep by his quiet mutterings.

 

It was, admittedly, his favorite way to spend an evening.

 

Instead, however, he found himself handing his ticket over to a well dressed otter with stars in it's fur.

 

That was different.

 

The otter inspected the card, chittering quietly to itself. Finally, after holding it up to the light and hitting a star off the edge of the card, the brown furred mammal twirled in approval. It dipped it's little paw into a small ink well and stamped the empty circle on the bottom right corner, leaving a beautiful, golden print. Bobbling excitedly, it handed his invite back. 

 

Cleared, he took back his ticket and stepped through the double doors that was opened for him by another pair of immaculate pups, entering the world of the gods.

 

The room was massive, all white marble and pillars, the ceiling non existent as it opened up to the heavens to display the swirling galaxies and twinkling stars of the universe. Sheer fabric was draped between archways and glowing, twine wrapped orbs hung from the sky from chains of gold, their glow warm and soft. The walls were covered in stained glass pieces of all the deities, from the oldest of ancients to the youngest of the neophytes, each section displaying their true and terrible form; Cipher chirped smugly at his own, decorative mural.

 

Holding his head high, he strutted by the other gods and goddesses that had already gathered, ignoring their stares, looks, and harsh whispers. He smirked and waved tantalizingly at them, relishing their affronted looks.

 

There was little to look forward to about these parties but annoying the majority and causing a scene was always a good way to start things off.

 

He chuckled.

 

Cipher had arrived.

 

 

♦ I have to say, ♦ Tad remarked, ♦ I am quite surprised to see you here. ♦

 

§ Is it so surprising? § Cipher asked, leaning back in his chair and surveying the game board with a careful eye. Grabbing the dice, he shook them in his hands and let them fly, the wooden pieces bouncing across the tabletop until they settled. Satisfied at the outcome, he grabbed a peg and moved it eight holes across the board. § I never turn down an invitation to free drink. §

 

♦ No, you do not. ♦ Strange muttered, hunching over to survey the game more carefully. He picked up the oddly shaped dice and rattled them in his palm. ♦ Yet, you avoid all other deities when possible. So, yes, I am rather stunned you decided to join us in this night of revelries. ♦

 

§ I was not aware I could deny the father god's wishes. §

 

The dark haired god smirked, dropping each die one by one. ♦ You can not. ♦

 

Cipher sighed dramatically, § Is that not just the worst of it? All powerful beings who go about their own agenda and do as they wish at the beck and call of one simple man when he cries like a newborn fowl? Sad, terribly sad. §

 

Strange eyed him carefully, sliding his owl headed pieces across the board, ♦ You speak as if you yourself are not inclined to obey his whims when he sings. ♦

 

Tisking, he waggled a finger at his friend, § Oh, I answer. I come flocking to him like all the others do I not? §

 

♦ Only because you want to. ♦

 

§ Only because I want to. § He confirmed.

 

Tad leaned back and, folding his hands over his lap, surveyed his companion, concerned yet also intrigued by his words.

 

All gods and goddesses were forced to obey the father god due to the imprinting process he bestowed upon them when they were born. It allowed him to monitor their movements yet enabled him to keep them all close, leaving just enough room for them to grow into their own selves. Like a loving father, his hands were always hovering over their backs. Most found it reassuring that the father god was always there, always watching with caring, gentle eyes.

 

No matter what the circumstances, they were forced to obey the father god. When he asked them of something or when he demanded their skills, they had to answer. It was instinctual as much as it was for survival. It was something they had done since the dawn of their time. When the father god called, you answered. The imprint would not allow you to disobey, simple as that. It wasn't like it was a surprise to them. They were born knowing submission.

 

Like little lambs, they followed the Shepard.

 

All of them, that was, except for the god eaters.

 

They, unlike their adoptive siblings, had no mechanism inside their chests that urged them to obey the father god. They had no such instinctual longing for his approval. Because they snatched their power from godly hands and ingested the heart of a divine entity and were not born, they had no chains or shackles holding them. No watchful eyes, no whispers in their ears. No breath on the back of their neck, no internal desire to please their father. They were beyond his reach.

 

They were the taboo.

 

The undesired.

 

The blemished ones.

 

They were unnatural and surreal, their very beings against the natural order of the world and the laws it set forth. But, as is usual, one will find a way to bend the rules to suit themselves. First, by a young girl whose village had been stricken by disease and abandoned for dead and then by a man whose desire for power and control won out over the love he once had for his husband. It was this that set them apart and what repelled the other gods and goddesses from their company.

 

Tad, on the other hand, found them intriguing.

 

While his brothers and sisters were more than happy to avoid Cipher and his shenanigans, he himself was more than inclined to seek him out. Despite that he had murdered his brother, despite that he was an unnatural occurrence in their world, despite that he was a god eater, despite everything about him and his birth, Tad enjoyed his company. The other god, though originally human, was not lax about his new duties nor was he particularly unpleasant to converse with. He had a thirst for power and and a temper that rivaled the best of them, yet, he was intelligent and charming, a golden devil in the guide of a god. 

 

Tad Strange was not ashamed to say that he considered Cipher a friend.

 

The many centuries of mayhem and tomfoolery shared between them was a solid testament to that; he laughed.

 

§ What, pray, is so funny to you, Square? § Cipher asked, raising an eyebrow, § Especially since you are losing quite spectacularly. §

 

He smiled, taking his turn in due time, ♦ What was that old saying again? ♦ He pondered, ♦ About how slow and steady wins the race? ♦

 

§ Procrastination never wins, Strange. § He shot back, snatching the dice and letting them fly before the other god had even finished his turn.

 

♦ Perhaps, ♦ Tad purred, ♦ But one should not act in haste. ♦ He moved his owl headed peg cross the game board, pinning it down on a gold ringed hole; he held his hand out. ♦ Pay up, if you would be so kind. ♦

 

Cipher scowled but tossed a triangular coin at him, § Yeah, yeah, live it up while you can. §

 

He chuckled and added the currency to his small but growing stack, ♦ I shall enjoy every moment of your decline, Cipher. Most joyously, really. ♦

 

§ I always forget what a terror you are to play Hounds and Jackals with. § He grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning back in his chair. § Why do I always forget that? §

 

♦ Because you actually enjoy my company. ♦

 

§ Did I say that? § Cipher tapped a finger to his chin in thought, § Did I say that? Hmmm. §

 

Bemused, Strange waved down a pair of star otters that were gliding by, their trays loaded with a different variety of drinks and beverages. The little mammals swam over to him, eager to assist in any way they could, chittering excitedly. Selecting a purple swirled martini glass and a long flute of pink, bubbling goo, he told them with a slight bow, ♦ Thank you kindly, my good sirs. ♦

 

§ I love your bow ties! § Cipher added, gesturing to their galaxy printed neck pieces, § Very charming! §

 

The otters twirled happily, not spilling a single drop. Fluttering their paws over their furry faces, they scampered away, looking back every so often and giving a little spin.

 

♦ Are you trying to flatter them into coming home with you? ♦ Tad chuckled, handing over the larger of the two drinks over to Cipher, ♦ I don't think Polaris would appreciate that at all. ♦

 

§ I am sure I can coheres her into lending me one. § He said adamantly. § She can't possibly keep track of all of them can she? § 

 

♦ I am quite certain that she, in fact, does keep track of all her star otters. ♦

 

§ We will see, § Cipher purred, § We will see~ §

 

They resumed their game of Hounds and Jackals, aided by alcohol and the occasional snacks that wandered by, held up by furry paws. Pegs danced across the elaborate board and triangular and square coins were exchanged back and forth as frequently as their stories; the madness of King Solomon and how they advised him to submit to his sin and take on more than one wife and go against his god, the beginning of the Trojan war and the bets placed on either side, and the destruction of the Tower of Babel were highlighted in good fun and laughed about in loud, rambunctious howls.

 

§ He- he actually thought he could reach the domain of the gods, § Cipher wheezed, § If he- if he built a tower that was high enough! §

 

♦ Were you not the one who convinced him of such blasphemy in the first place? ♦

 

§ One of my finer moments! §

 

♦ Such good times we had, did we not? ♦ Tad sighed, leaning back in his chair; the die of their game had remained unrolled for quite some time now.

 

§ Only the best of times for the greatest of friends! § Cipher declared, holding up a half empty glass of wine. § Cheers to us, I say! May we continue to wreck havoc upon the mortal plain! §

 

Chuckling, Strange clinked their flutes together, ♦ Agreed. ♦; they both drank deeply.

 

§ You know, Square. I was not going to attend this gathering at first. I had already- §

 

☣ Might I interrupt you gentleman? ☣

 

Cipher froze, his entire body going rigid. Across from him, Tad had done the same. The god felt his feathers bristle in distaste and his ears flicked back to rest against his skull. Sick clung to him like disease, leaving him feeling dirty and wretched. He tried to speak but his mouth refused to work, tongue heavy with ash. His tail curled around his chair, the great, feathered end shuddering in agitation. He dug his nails into his thighs and pursed his lips, finding it impossible to swallow or breath.

 

Tad fared no better.

 

The man had allowed his plumage to become exposed, something he wasn't normally fond of, the dark indigo feathers that ringed his eyes standing on end as more sprouted painfully from his arms and neck. Purple and violet down bristled and he appeared to be having trouble breathing as well. Horns, curled in a ram like fashion, were slowly  growing from behind his ruffled ears. Even still, despite his true form being drawn from him, he remained stoic and showed no emotion, his smile and good cheer snatched from him quickly and silently.

 

☣ My, my. Such a quiet bunch, are you not? ☣

 

Tad found his voice first. ♦ Pestilence. ♦ He forced a smile, ♦ How lovely to see you, tonight of all nights. Is there- is there something I can do for you? ♦

 

The woman grinned, her decaying lips pulling tight to expose rotten teeth. ☣ Indeed there is. I was wondering if I could interrupt your game here and challenge my dear Cipher myself. If you would be so kind. ☣ 

 

Her request wasn't poised as a question and Strange looked at Cipher nervously, not wanting to abandon him if the man did not wish to put himself in her company. To his surprise, the other god gave a tiny, slight nod. Unsure, he stood. ♦ Of course, my lady. I will take my leave. It was such a pleasure to see you. ♦ He gave them a short bow before taking his leave, his footsteps slow and hesitant.

 

Cipher watched Tad's retreating back, hiding a grimace as Pestilence took his chair, black ooze dripping across the arms and onto the floor. § And to what do I owe this visit? §

 

She laughed, her voice wet and low, ☣ Can a goddess not miss her lover? ☣  She plucked Tad's owl decorated pegs from their game board and set them aside, her touch causing dozens of holes to appear in the wood.

 

§ Former lover. § He quickly corrected her, bringing his own pieces back to the starting end. He counted out his coins, refusing to take his eye off the vile, yet eerily beautiful goddess.

 

☣ Ah, yes. ☣ She sighed, ☣ Former lover. ☣

 

§ We have not been involved with each other for many years now, Lady of Decay. §

 

☣ No, we have not. ☣

 

§ Why, then, are you just now seeking me out? §

 

☣ I have already told you. ☣ She smiled. ☣ I missed you. ☣ She reached across the table and placed her cold, mottled hand over his; he pulled it away.

 

§ That would make only one of us. § Cipher informed her tightly. He grabbed the die and tossed them, the wooden blocks bouncing energetically across the smooth surface until they came to rest. He moved his peg down the line, stabbing it into the hole with force.

 

☣ Now, now. ☣ Pestilence cooed, taking her own turn in a much calmer manner. ☣ No need to be so rude, Cipher. We are closely bred, you and I. ☣ She smiled thinly at him, the corners of her lips ripping outward as she did so, exposing the inside of her mouth.

 

§ Just because the two of us were closely bred and birthed in much the same manner, it does not mean the closeness one has with the other is meant to last. §

 

She tilted her head at his words, a wave of raven hair falling from her scalp to gather at her feet, the strands sticking to her sick. ☣ You make it sounds as if you no longer desire my presence in your life, my darling malady. ☣

 

§ You have not been part of my life for centuries. Why do you worry about it now? §

 

☣ One gets busy filling the world with disease and sores of the worst sort. If I left you lonely, I do apologize. ☣

 

§ I was not lonely. § He growled.

 

☣ No? ☣ Pestilence asked.

 

§ No. §

 

She hummed, ☣ I see. ☣ Sighing deeply, she rolled the dice and made her move, taking a handful of coins from the middle of the board before ending her turn. ☣ How sad. I have missed you greatly. ☣

 

§ Then it is with regret that I inform you that you will be quite lonely in the years to come, Lady of Decay. § Cipher struggled to keep his voice even, his temper rising from the depths to rear it's hideous head as it awoke from it's forced slumber; his hands began to shake and fire licked at his fingertips.

 

She chuckled at his display of anger, ☣ You have changed very little since I have last seen you. ☣

 

§ I have changed far more than you know! § He spat, ripping the dice from her hand and throwing them onto the table. They skidded across the wood, falling onto the floor with a loud clack.

 

☣ Have you now? And who do you have to thank for that I wonder?☣

 

Cipher felt the feathers along his jaw bristle and his horns throbbed as they began to elongate, the bone twisting and growing the more his anger rose. His scales began to spread, covering his entire nose bridge and the back of his hands. § And what, § He seethed, § Do you mean by that?! §

 

She gave him a sharp grin, ☣ Oh, nothing much, my darling malady. ☣ She snapped her fingers for a drink, an otter quickly swimming over to offer her a beverage that had the consistency of tar; she took it and shooed it away. She watched Cipher's hackles rise as she drank and she gave a throaty, gurgling laugh, positively delighted. ☣ Only that you seem to have taken quite a liking to a little, star speckled bird. ☣

 

Cipher stood, his chair falling back with bang. § You, § He roared, § Will stay away from him! §

 

☣ Is he that important to you? ☣

 

The god slammed his hands on the table, arching over it to sneer in her face, § Stay. Away. From. Him! §

 

Pestilence chortled, reaching up to trail a finger down his cheek, ☣ You can not let go of the past can you? ☣

 

Cipher snarled and grabbed her wrist, claws digging into her supple flesh. His back erupted in feathers and his tail thrashed violently as his vision began to swim in a sea of red. Fear clung to his heart.

 

☣ I had thought, ☣ She murmured, ☣ We had gotten past this. Had we not? ☣ She leaned into his touch, her head nearly resting in the crook of his neck and she inhaled his scent of fire crackled wood with a deep, shuddering breath. ☣ You killed him for me, remember? ☣

 

He cringed, § I remember. §

 

☣ Do you, though? ☣ She asked, mockingly cooing at him like a babe, ☣ You really think you can keep him to yourself? After what you have done to him? ☣

 

Cipher looked away.

 

☣ Do you really think you deserve his love? That he will come to love you? You murdered him with your own two hands. And you you think he will love you? ☣

 

§ Stop. §

 

☣ Do you not remember? ☣ Pestilence asked quietly, ☣ Of the feeling of his blood running over your fingers, so warm and rich? ☣ She ran her own fingertips over the back of his hands, ☣ Do you remember the look of betrayal he gave you when you plunged that dagger deep into his chest? ☣

 

§ Stop. § He croaked.

 

☣ And then he told you he still loved you. How sad. ☣

 

§ Enough! § Cipher bellowed. The glasses that had been gathered at their table all shattered and the god's skin flared to life with ichor scales, eye holes opening along his sides and neck. He threw the table aside and grabbed the cackling woman by her neck, hoisting her into the air. Flames danced on her skin, filling the room with an unsavory scent of burning, decomposing flesh; the other party goers eyes them warily but made no attempt at approaching them, leaving them a wide berth.

 

☣ Why- why are you so angry, my darling malady? ☣ Pestilence beamed, onyx dripping from her mouth, ☣ Why does your fire rage so? ☣

 

§  We are finished here. §  Cipher rumbled, dropping Pestilence from his grasp; darkness stained his fingers. Breathing raggedly, he turned away from her. § Leave me. §

 

The dark haired goddess brushed herself off, tutting, ☣ He will never love you, Cipher. ☣

 

He closed his eyes, hands balling into fists at his side. § I told you to leave, now leave. §

 

☣ You can pine for your little star boy as much as you want, tell yourself you love him as much you want, and try to forget the past as much as you want. But you will never escape from what you have done. ☣ She walked up to him and placed a kiss on his cheek, ☣ You will always belong to me and only me, no matter what you tell yourself. You gave him up once, what makes you think you have the right to claim him now? What will you do when he finds out what you have done? Will your love mean anything then? ☣

 

Cipher stood there, eye trained on the glass speckled ground, his cheek burning from where her lips touched him. He said nothing.

 

☣ Until we meet again, Cipher. May your night be filled with the sweetest of illnesses. ☣ Pestilence, cloaked in decay and flecked with all the diseases of men, drew her dress's cloak around her and sashayed away, the crowd parting for her with pleasure.

 

Music filled his ears once more and Cipher collapsed onto the floor, his legs finally giving out from underneath him. Burring his face in his hands, he curled about himself as he struggled to keep himself together, the world tilting on it's axis and the air heavy. He gave a hollow, mirthless, laugh.

 

§ I am not drunk enough for this. §

 

 

Power was not everything it was chalked up to be.

 

While it enabled him to get his way through sheer force and allowed him to impose his will onto others, Cipher quickly tired of it after a few hundred years.

 

Power, the very thing he gave up his mortality and humanity for,  was incredibly, irrefutably, boring.

 

As a god, his word was law. Very few disobeyed his commands and all listened when he spoke. He was given gifts and sacrifices and offerings that would make the wealthiest man alive swoon with envy. He had thousands of people hanging on his every word and ancient civilizations worship the very thought of him. He could drown men into madness or give them the sweetest dreams to lull them to sleep. He could understand every mortal's mind and explore the landscape they created for themselves; he could destroy or alter anything found within.

 

He was great and powerful.

 

He was feared and revered.

 

He was Cipher.

 

And yet, he felt unwhole.

 

There was dull ache in his chest he could never get rid of, forever singing a song he hadn't understood for years. It throbbed and clenched at the simplest things and it reminded him that there was something, something, wrong with him.

 

Power and divinity had once consumed him.

 

Had once turned a simple man into a mighty god.

 

Power, as wonderful and forgoing as it was, had it's drawbacks.

 

Cipher learned that lesson rather quickly.

 

For no matter how powerful he was or how many bowed to him, his heart remained empty.

 

And, oh, how his heart began to yearn.

 

Laughter would ring in his ears and his vision would swim with brown eyes that housed dancing stars.

 

Cipher, despite his grandeur and majesty, was haunted.

 

How hard had he tried to rid himself of all the memories connected to the star child?

 

His voice, his smile, the way he would read late at night with a candle held in his hands so he could see the words. How their hands fit together just right and how he would sing while doing his chores, slightly off key but filled with joy.

 

Big Dipper, stars clinging to his fluffy hair, teaching him the constellations. The two of them running through the rain to reach home, laughing the whole way. His arm warmed by the presence of his love, who dozed lightly against his side. How he would fret over him if he fell ill, unsure of human sickness and how to cure them. Both of them under thick covers, one trying to place their frozen feet on the other's warm back, not deterred by their yells.

 

Lips moving to tell him he loved him, despite the blood that dripped from the corners.

 

Remembering, sometimes, was the most painful thing he had ever experienced, human or god.

 

Decades and centuries had long since passed since his lover's death and yet his presence was still an everyday part of him, one of warmth and love, the memories around him soft and comforting. He knew he deserved none of this yet he selfishly clung onto the memories like a child, unwilling to let them go or forget.

 

When power failed to make him happy, his memories always made him smile.

 

He had wanted power.

 

Had craved it.

 

Longed for it.

 

But now that he had it, along with the centuries he had lived, he found it bland and unfavorable, stale and tasteless. At first, it had felt as wonderful as he had dreamed. He was adored, feared, and looked upon as a beacon of authority. If his people obeyed him and paid their dues, they prospered, much like Gravity Galls and El Dorado. And if they spurred him and uttered his name in vain they would grow to fear him and perish in his wrath; Atlantis and Paititi stood testament to that. Nothing could compare to the agonizing wails of the mortals as they paid for their sins or the worship he received on a daily basis. It was, after all, the fodder for all gods.

 

Or so he thought.

 

Cipher was, after all, despite being reborn as a god in all but birth, human in his heart.

 

Power, he found, didn't compare to little kisses on his neck or the warmth generated between two bodies, all entangled limbs and shared breaths. Fingers running through ruffled hair and little laughs against his ear were far more engaging than the benefits of what power offered. It could not whisper sweet nothings or share in his pain. It gave him no comfort when the nights dragged on and on and it couldn't lull him to sleep with the gentlest of all lullabies.

 

Power, it turned out, could do very little for him.

 

At least in the way he truly desired.

 

The longer he spent as a god the more time he spent reminiscing his human years.

 

And the longer he spent reminiscing his human years, the more he began to realize.

 

Cipher, somewhat shocked, came to the conclusion that he would give all his centuries and all his power back if he could have one more lifetime with Big Dipper.

 

 

Ursa Major was a goddess of stars.

 

She was a guiding light to those who sought her and her knowledge out, a beacon of warmth and love to the mortals. She would trek far and wide, her large paws leaving their marks on the earth, visiting each and every human who needed her or her sister, Ursa Minor. From the freezing tundras of the city of snow and ice to the blistering sands that hid bones, she walked. Many humans received her healing and her words and many still wished to. She was a care giver, a solace, a figure of the utmost respect to those around her. She was a teacher and healer, a symbol of wisdom. She was a goddess, an ancient, a daughter, a sister and wife.

 

But before any of that, Ursa Major was a mother.

 

More than anything, she remembered holding her cub to her breast.

 

She remembered rocking him in her arms when he couldn't sleep, his cries turning into coos as the stars danced above him, chubby fists trying to grab them as they waltzed. She remembered holding him tightly to her chest as she read to him, murmuring soft words into his fluffy hair and ticking his tummy when he least expected it. How he would creep into her room because he was afraid of the dark and how he would ask her to make the stars glow to chase away his nightmares.

 

She remembered his laugh, his tears, his voice, his smile, his touch, his soul.

 

She remembered hearing his cries for the first time and how her heart had soared when she held him.

 

And she remembered how cold his body felt in her arms and how her heart had wept.

 

✶ Oh, my cub, ✶ She whispered, ✶ How I miss you. ✶

 

 

When Ursa Major awoke to find her back devoid of stars she had been furious.

 

 Her cub no longer slept upon her flesh and she felt a dull, aching hollowness in her anger. For centuries, she had carried him around the world, his gentle and shattered soul speckled on her back; it now laid bare.

 

When her legs were able to move, she abandoned her sister and left for the realm of the gods, woe to any who tried to stop her.

 

Life receiver her warmly.

 

☥ Good evening, Ursa Major. ☥

 

✶ WHERE IS MY SON??!! ✶

 

If the being was intimidating by the great bear looming over them, they did not show it. Instead, they smiled. ☥ Come. ☥

 

They beckoned the enraged woman over, gently coaxing her through a doorway that was overgrown with vines that bloomed with flowers of varying colors; Ursa Major sneezed as pollen fell onto her snout. The two entered Life's work room, the great chamber full of light and pure warmth that embraced them snugly, sunlight streaming in through tall, open windows. Plants grew all over the circular room, some potted and others hanging within the arches and ceiling. Book cases lined the walls, the shelves full of materials and bottles whilst more foliage covered the beautiful woodwork with creeping vines and large, sweet smelling blossoms. Ursa Major looked around warily, the energy of the room causing her fur to bristle.

 

In the center of the room stood a basin made of the most ancient of trees, The Tree of Life. It rested on leaves of gold, the stalks melding into the rune covered floor flawlessly, as if it were a plant itself. Above the bowl, two souls bobbled together.

 

Ursa Major felt her heart clench and she raced forward, heavy paws turning into dainty feet. Breath hitching, she reached out for the smaller of the two, caressing it tenderly. Her eyes burned and she felt her anger melt away. She knew these souls. ✶ Hello, Cub. ✶

 

Life stepped up to her, their arms folded behind their back. ☥ He is to be reborn. ☥

 

✶ I did not say you could have him, Life. ✶

 

☥ It is his time for rebirth, Great Bear. ☥  They reasoned.

 

✶ No! ✶ She roared, ✶ He is not ready! I- I am not ready. ✶

 

Life gave her a knowing look. Their gaze was full of pity but their voice was firm, ☥ It is time, whether you are ready or not. ☥

 

Ursa Major bit her lip, tears blurring her vision. ✶ No, Life, please. ✶

 

☥ I am sorry. ☥ They offered, ☥ But it is Big Dipper's time. ☥

 

✶ Why can't I have him? ✶ She demanded, ✶ He is my son. ✶

 

Life pondered how to answer the goddess, preferably in a way that would not set her off or fill her with more misery, her grief already overflowing. Carefully, they placed a hand on her arm and said, ☥ Big Dipper's new life does not have you in it. While that may sound harsh and unfavorable to you as his mother, it is the truth. You have had many years with him, far less than you should have in the beginning and for that you have my deepest of condolences. He has been safely nestled on your back, seeing the world and making the night sky brighter with his happiness and love. But it is now time for him to be reborn and live again. He and Little Dipper are ready. They will be reborn as humans to a mortal mother and father. ☥  They held up their hand when Ursa Major tried to interject, ☥ It has been decided, Great Bear. And not even I can change that. ☥

 

She bowed her head, allowing her dark hair to fall across her face. She had known there was nothing she could have done but she still had to try. She was a mother. ✶ May- may I? ✶

 

Life nodded, ☥ Go on. ☥

 

Breathless, Ursa Major scooped her son's soul into her hands and cradled him to her chest like she had so many centuries ago when he was a mere babe. ✶ Oh, my cub. ✶ She whispered, voice strained thin and full of longing, ✶ You have such a- such a big journey ahead of you. Do not- do not be scared now. ✶ She could feel her voice wavering and she tried to clear her throat of the lump that had settled there. ✶ But you, my precious, little bear, are strong. So- so strong. And now, I must be strong. And so, I must let you go, even when all I want to do is put you on my back and show you the heavens. ✶ Lifting her little star into her hands she kissed him, wisps of heat brushing her lips. With a shuddering breath, she placed her son's soul back into the basin, unable to stop her broken sobs as she watched him burn into nothing.

 

✶ You will always be my little cub. ✶

 

 

Ursa Major paced the small room of her forest home, cooing softly at her small babe, the boy fussing and trying to grab at the stars that decorated her hair. She chuckled, allowing him to capture her finger instead, ✶ No, no, my little cub. It is time to sleep not play. ✶

 

Big Dipper didn't agree with her and he huffed, making displeased growls.

 

She laughed, ✶ Oh, my cub, you are always so lively. ✶ Rocking him in her arms, she coaxed all the light from the room save for the stars that hung from the ceiling, the little trinkets bathing the room in a comforting, amber glow; she began to sing.

 

✶ When daytime turns to night, when the moon shines bright. When your tucked in tight, when everything is alright. Slip softly to that place, where secret thoughts run free. And there come face to face, with who you want to be. ✶

 

She spun her child into the air, eliciting  giggles from the boy. ✶ So, my cub, swim across the ocean blue, take a ladder to the moon. You can change your life, or you can change the world. Take a chance, don't be afraid, life is yours to live. Take a chance, and then the best is yet to come. ✶

 

She held up her hand and materialized a star, the beautiful object resting in her palm. She handed it to her cub, pulling him close to her chest.

 

✶ Make a wish. ✶

 

 

Cipher crawled into bed, his head aching and his body sore. Chirping softly, he curled himself around his little bird and brought him close, burring his nose into his chocolate locks. The familiar scent soothed him and he sighed, finally allowing his body to relax.

 

" C- Cipher? "

 

§ Shh, § He cooed, kissing the back of Dipper's neck, § Go back to sleep, my constellation. §

 

" How was your party? " He asked sleepily, nuzzling into his downy pillow; the warmth of his god was quickly lulling him back to sleep.

 

§ Eventful. § He murmured, trailing slow circles on the boy's stomach. § Do not concern yourself, I will tell you all about over breakfast. §

 

" Will you? "

 

§ I will delight and bore you with stories of all the other gods and their frivolous activities. § Cipher promised.

 

Dipper gave a light chuckle, placing his hand over Cipher's, " I look forward to it. I want pancakes, okay? "

 

The Golden One laughed, § Very well. §

 

" And cocoa too. "

 

§ Such a demanding sacrifice I have tonight. § He teased.

 

" Please? "

 

§ Oh, very well. And cocoa too, you spoiled thing. §

 

Dipper gave a breathy snicker, " Much thanks."

 

§ You are most welcome. Now sleep, I did not mean to wake you. §

 

" It's fine. " He whispered, lazily trailing his arm over the edge of the mattress; his eyes shot open when he felt sleek, smooth fur beneath his fingertips. " What was that? "

 

§ Hmm? §

 

Pushing Cipher's arms off himself, ignoring his irritated growl, he rolled over onto his stomach and peaked over the side of his bed. 

 

And adorable otter, with stars in it's fur and sporting the most unusual neck piece, twittered excitedly at him.

 

" Cipher? "

 

§ Yes?~ §

 

" Why is there an otter in my room? "

 

§ Well, § Cipher drawled, briefly remembering downing drinks left and right and dancing the rest of the party away with Tad and said otter who seemed to have grown rather attached to him, § That is quite the story is it not? §

Chapter Text

Cipher looked up from the letter he had received that morning, his soft amusement turning to fondness as Dipper trudged into the room, his hair a tangled mess and silks rumpled from his night of slumber; he looked positively ravishing. Behind him, the star otter he himself had 'borrowed' the previous night trailed behind the boy, looking about with curious eyes, giving a twitter or twirl every so often.

 

Dipper, finally noticing the god seated at the head of the table, gave him a lopsided, sleepy smile. " Morning. "

 

Cipher felt his heart swell and he rose from his cushion, gliding over to him so he could take his hand in his, kissing the skin softly, § Good morning to you, my night sky. How did you sleep? §

 

Dipper blushed, lowering his gaze, " Um, I- I slept well, thank- thank you. "

 

§ Wonderful~ § He grinned, sliding an arm around his soft waist to lead him to the table and the goodies that awaited him. § You will, of course, be pleased to know that I have kept my promise to you. §

 

" Have you? "

 

§ Indeed I have. I seem to recall a certain, hungry bird asking for pancakes last night. § He gestured to the table where a platter of fluffy, round cakes sat, surrounded by the usual fare of honeyed fruits and fresh breads. The otter gave an excited chitter and left Dipper's side, quickly sitting itself down, helping himself to a bowl of urchins and soft boiled eggs. Cracking the shells on the edge of a plate, he peeled them with little paws, digging into the meal with gusto.

 

Dipper frowned " What do you- oh! " He laughed, " Last night. You remembered. " 

 

§ Are I not simply the best? Go on, you may sing my praise, I am waiting~ §

 

Rolling his eyes, the brunette twirled one of his long braids around his hand and gave it a playful tug, " You are simply the most magnificent, wonderful, and stunning god I have ever seen, Lord Cipher, The Golden One Who Has No Humility. "

 

§ Only you can get away with such cheek. § Cipher admonished him, nuzzling their noses together.

 

Dipper grinned, " That's because I'm so charming. "

 

His god chuckled, unwinding himself from him so he could sit himself down on his usual cushion, § I shall not argue if that is what you wish to call yourself. Charming indeed. § He joined him at the table. He settled comfortably, allowing the end of his great, feathered tail to fan across hiss lap; he purred when fingers began to stroke the soft down.

 

Dipper helped himself to the pancakes, heaping a large stack of them on his plate, working around the otter that trotted about the platters and dishes, picking up berries and grilled fish snacks as he scampered about. " So, " He finally asked, reaching for the syrup, " How was your party last night? "

 

§ I suppose you are mainly asking where the otter has come from? §

 

" He's cute. " He smiled, ripping off a piece of his pancake and handing it to the creature so it could add it to it's growing hoard pile of breakfast goodies.

 

§ Allow me to introduce you to Bernard, a star otter of impeccable taste. §

 

" Bernard? "

 

§ Do you not like it? I asked him last night if it would do and he was quite happy with it. §

 

" Well, who am I to argue with that? " He held his hand out, " Nice to meet you Bernard. "

 

Bernard sat up, suddenly attentive. Giving himself a quick groom, he adjusted his galaxy themed bow tie and placed his paw in Dipper's hand, giving it a series of pats. Then, self satisfied, he returned to his play, chattering excitedly.

 

" And Bernard just agreed to come home with you? " Dipper asked, raising a knowing brow in question.

 

§ It was far more diplomatic than that, Pinetree. § Cipher scoffed.

 

" Oh? "

 

§ Yes. I will have you know it took many, many drinks of the finest wine to work up the courage to, how shall I say, 'escort' Bernard home with me. §

 

" So you did steal him! "

 

§ Bernard was quite the perfect date last night. § Cipher added. He gave the otter a slight bow, holding one of his hands out, § I do thank you, my kind sir. I could not have asked for a more lively partner. You danced so wonderfully. §

 

Bernard returned the bow before, abashed, he hid his face in his paws.

 

Dipper shoved a large chunk of pancake into his mouth, " Anything else exciting happen or are you just going to renegade me with stories of how much of a wonderful dancer you are? "

 

§ Do not speak with your mouth full. § Cipher admonished, clicking his tongue at him. § But if you want to hear about how I dazzled the dance floor with my superior waltz and tango, I will be happy to oblige~ §

 

" Don't leave anything out! ".

 

Cipher feigned an annoyed huff, his little bird kicking his leg under the table, and began to tell him about his night. He regaled with tales of the most amazing foods and drinks, the murals on the walls dedicated to each and every god, the arrival of the Father God and how the room had fallen silent when he entered, and the stars that occasionally fell from the night sky above. He explained the board games he had won and stories he had shared with Tad and the dances he had shared with his few, but cherishes, friends and he complained about those that went out of their way to bother him, such as Poseidon and War.

 

Dipper listened intently, breakfast all but forgotten, asking a myriad of questions and laughing at the shenanigans of the gods, his brown eyes alight with humor.

 

Not once did Cipher mention Pestilence, her very name a plague on his tongue.

 

 

" Can gods catch colds? "

 

Cipher looked up from the dream that was cradled in his hands, small and bright, tilting his head in question, § Why do you ask, my sacrifice? §

 

Dipper padded across the cobbled courtyard, drawing his fur trimmed cloak tightly around his shoulders, " Because it's cold out! "

 

He gave a low croon, moving his tail to make room for Dipper, giving a pleased chirp as the boy settled next to him, pressing into his side without hesitation. § Gods are immune to the diseases of men. § He informed him, § Our bodies are not so fragile. §

 

" That's good. " He grinned, " I'd hate to see you with a cold. " Ignoring the god's indignant squawk, he gestured to the golden orbs floating around them and asked, " What are those? "

 

§ These, § Cipher said, § Are the dreams of your people. §

 

" Dreams? " Dipper reached out to touch one of them but pulled away at the last minuet. " What are they- what are they about? "

 

He mulled over his question, working as he answered. § Anything, really. A walk through the woods, surrounded by millions of sweet, fresh flowers. A calming boat ride in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by nothing but blue skies and blue seas. Festivals that never end, filled with games and lights. Falling in love. The human mind is an amazing thing, Pinetree. §

 

He gave him a rare, sincere smile and Dipper felt his heart stutter, nearly leaping into his throat at how tender The Golden One looked in that moment. " Yeah, " He agreed, " It is. "

 

Seeing how awed he looked, Cipher chuckled, § Would you care to make one? §

 

" Me-me?! "

 

§ Of course. §

 

" I- I can't! " Dipper insisted, holding his hands up in front of him, " I couldn't! I'm not- I'm not a god! "

 

§ You don't have to be. § Cipher promised, holding a flickering sphere out for him to take, § Go on. I would love to see what dream you would make. § He grabbed his wildly waving hands and steadied them, plopping the beginnings of a new dream into his palms; Dipper stilled. He curled his fingers around his, § Show me what you got. §

 

" Is- is this really allowed? " Dipper asked in a breathless voice, " We're not- we're not breaking any higher laws of authority right? No greater rule that dictates that- "

 

Cipher looked affronted, § Pinetree, § He said, § Who else would be higher than myself in the laws and policies of dream making? §

 

He gave him a wobbly smile, " No-no one. "

 

§ Then why do you hesitate? §

 

Dipper bit his lip, focusing on the warmth thrumming between his fingers, " I don't- I don't want to mess it up. What if I can't do it? "

 

§ You can. § Cipher stated firmly, § I would not allow you to make a dream if I did not think you were not capable of doing such. Now, please my night sky, show me what you dream of. §

 

" What do I- I don't- how? "

 

§ How? §

 

" How do I- how do you make a dream? "

 

§ You just, § Cipher hummed in thought, struggling to find a way to explain it simply to his human. It wasn't as if he couldn't, it was just odd. Making dreams were second nature to him after centuries of practice and now that he had to spell it out to a beginner, the right words were proving rather elusive. He never gave it much thought. He simply created them and they simply were. He looked down to their hands, intertwined and wrapped around a pulsing, pale orb, and thought back to his first dream.

 

It had been a nightmare.

 

A dark, endless nightmare full of spite and arrogance. Full of anger and loss and a myriad of emotions that he had not wanted to feel.

 

It took years for him to make an actual dream, one of gentle smiles and flowers being woven into his hair with pale fingers; after that dreams were far easier to create than nightmares.

 

" Cipher? "

 

§ You put all your good feelings into it. § He answered, § Hold it like it is the most important thing in the world to you and think of only the good memories, the best memories. Memories that are precious to you and ones you never want to let go, no matter how long you spend lying to yourself that you are better off with out them. § 

 

" That's it? "

 

§ That is is. §

 

" What if I mess it up? " He asked again, voice quiet and unsure.

 

§ I am here. § Cipher reassured him, slowly letting go of his hands, § Okay? §

 

Dipper took a deep breath, " Okay. " With Cipher's hands gone, his own wavered slightly, the small, flickering ball in his palms quivering. Closing his eyes, he thought of all the good memories he had, lips eventually quirking into a wistful smile as he began to relax.

 

He had so many.

 

Spending lazy days with Mabel, the two of them gathering bunches of flowers in their arms and weaving them into crowns of blues, pinks, and white, each stem woven together in happiness and laughter.  They would always make a matching set for their guardians and despite their gruff responses, they would always wear them, always.

 

Ford teaching him the ancient rituals of their people, papers, inks, and quills scattered around the room haphazardly. His great uncles voice, deep and full of wisdom, as he lectured, praising him an encouraging him, pride and love shining in his eyes.

 

Late nights where he and Mabel would sit themselves in front of the hearth to listen to their Grunkle Stan spin stories and tales to astound them. He would tell them of tricksters who lurked in the woods, waiting to lead you astray with lights and childish giggles and warn them of the mermaids that would come close to the shore of the lake, desperate for a warm, meal. When Stan would reach a particularly scary part of his story, he would lower his voice and lean down, beckoning them forward. And the two would always, always fall for it, leaning forward to hear his whispers and holding their breaths. Then, Stan would jump at them, drawing squeals and laughter from them as he gathered them into his arms, the three of them rolling around on the floor like children.

 

The memories of his family felt like an entire lifetime ago, somewhere far beyond his reach, almost hazy with age; he startled when he felt a hand on his cheek.

 

§ Why do you cry, my sacrifice? § Cipher asked, eye narrowing in worry.

 

Dipper smiled at him, " Because I'm happy. But also sad. " He looked down at the dream in his hands, the once pale fog now a bright, unwavering gold. " Is this- is this okay? " He offered it up to the god, hoping he would accept it.

 

§ It is beautiful. §

 

Dipper wiped his eyes with the back of his arm, " Is it? "

 

§ It is. § Cipher assured him. § It is perfect. § He tossed the dream into the air where it hovered, waiting to be given away to a slumbering mortal.

 

Dipper stared up at the hundreds of glowing balls, ranging from a mellow ichor to the brightest of golds. Reaching out, he placed his hand on top of Cipher's and squeezed it. " What do you dream about? "

 

He laughed, soft and amused, § Gods do not dream, Pinetree. We have no need to. Dreams are for the mortals, not the divine. §

 

" Why not? "

 

§ Gods have no need nor a desire to dream. Dreams are for those who live meager lives. A way to ease them into sleep as another day ticks off their clock. What use are they to a god who knows not that time is short and instead knows of their own, fathomless power? §

 

" Okay, what would you dream about? If you could. " He asked instead.

 

Cipher tilted his head, humming in thought.

 

What would he dream about?

 

One could call that a loaded question. He hadn't thought of it before, too focused on creating dreams rather than experiencing them. So much time had passed between his birth and now, he couldn't even think of what he had dreamt about as a human. Power, he thought with a grimace, if he had to chance a guess. But before that? Perhaps gentle touches to the back of his hands or kisses placed on his jaw; he could imagine someone reading to him in the late hours of the night, voice warm and low. And now?

 

He squeezed Dipper's hand.

 

If he had a choice, he would dream about eyes the color of chocolate that housed dancing stars. He would listen to a brown haired boy ramble on about the murals and tapestries scattered around their home, his voice full of excitement and wonder. He's one hundred percent sure he would dream about pale fingers gliding across his dark skin to tangle in his long hair, tips just brushing his feathery ears and gentle laughter. If he could choose what he would dream about, Cipher is sure he would run out of time trying to decide on one thing because there were just so many things he wanted to keep to himself. 

 

§ Nothing. § He finally said, § I would not dream of anything. §

 

Dipped frowned, " Nothing? Why not? I mean, you're the god of dreams! You've lived for thousands of years, surely there's something you would want to dream about. I mean, I'm not calling you old or anything, it's just weird that you wouldn't- but then again, I guess you said you don't need to. Do other- "

 

§ I do not need dreams, § Cipher interrupted with a low chuckle, § Anything I could possibly want to dream about it right here. Why dream when I can stay awake with you? § He took great pride in the red that spread across his sacrifice's face and he leaned down and nuzzled into the crook of his neck.

 

" You- you're embarrassing. " Dipper accused, huffing, " You know that right? "

 

§ Only the best for you~ § He crooned, peppering his jaw with small kisses.

 

" Stop it, " He snickered, making no attempt to pull away, " You're tickling me! "

 

§ I had not slightest hint that you were ticklish. §

 

" Don't you dare! "

 

§ I, § He smirked, § Am an all powerful god. What do you think you can do against me? §

 

" Cipher, I swear, don't you- " He jolted when he felt long fingers dance along his neck, as another pair of hands slid around his waist to  dig at his sides. He twisted away from them, snorting as he tried to hide his titters, " C- Cipher! "

 

§ Yes? § He asked innocently, grinning as he extracted laughter from his little bird like a song, the sweet sound full of equal parts joy and distress. How adorable.

 

" Stop! "

 

§ And why would I do that? §

 

Dipper gave an exaggerated groan, trying in vain to stop the fingers that roamed his sides, irritated that the god didn't seem bothered by his feeble attempts, one of his free hands still busily making dreams. He inched away from him, only to be brought back a second later by strong arms; he yelped.

 

§ And where, § Cipher asked, face dangerously close to his, § Do you think you are going? §

 

" No- no where? " He offered with a lopsided grin, chest heaving as he struggled to catch his breath, swatting at the fingers that teasingly prodded his exposed skin, tempted to continue their little game. " Don't you dare. "

 

He trilled, § Why, I would never! §

 

" Of course not. " Dipper grumbled. However, his carefully trained frown quickly slipped from his lips, replaced with a fond, if exasperated, smile. " You don't deserve this, just so you know. "

 

§ What do I not- §

 

Dipper kissed him, cutting him off, his lips soft, gentle, and above all else, sweet. His hands tangled in the braids that fell over his shouldersr, gold glinting  in his eyes and feathers brushing his cheeks. " That. " He whispered, pulling away.

 

§ No,  I suppose I do not deserve such things. But you, on the other hand, § Cipher mused, returning the favor with a kiss of his own, deeper and warm, § Deserve all the kisses I have to give. §

 

" You're a sap. " He beamed.

 

§ Am I ? § He asked, brushing Dipper's bangs from his face so he could continue to place kisses of his own on his forehead, over the stars he adored so much. § Truly? §

 

" The worst kind. " He affirmed, nose scrunching.

 

§ And what kind is that might I ask? §

 

" The kind I love. " He declared tenderly, eyes bright and lips quirked.

 

Cipher drew in a sharp breath and wondered, not for the first time, if you could fall in love with someone more than once. The dream orbs around them glowed brighter and if he didn't know better he would have said Dipper was the one with cheeks speckled with gold, little dots of ichor hovering over his face and shoulders. He swallowed thickly, § I love you more, my constellation. So, so much more than you realize. §

 

" You keep saying that, " Dipper pointed out, " And I still have no idea what you mean by it. "

 

The god chuckled, bumping their noses together and keening lightly, § All gods have their secrets~§

 

" You hold more than enough secrets by yourself. " He accused, smiling despite himself.

 

§ That I do, § Cipher mumbled into his hair, § That I do. §

 

 

Cipher hovered over the sleeping girl, looking down at her with an unreadable expression. Despite the fact that he had not given her a nightmare for many months now, she still slept fitfully, tossing and turning in her bed, quiet moans and whimpers passing her parted lips. Her brown hair was a mess, splayed across her face and tangled behind her back; she gave a soft gasp before rolling over, her arm trailing off the side of her mattress.

 

§ You seem quite restless, Mabel Pines. § He whispered, hesitantly reaching out to brush the hair from her face, § Little Dipper. § Sighing, he retracted his hand and shook his head. What would she say to him if she were awake? If she knew he was here, watching her sleep, silently gloating that he had taken her brother from her yet again?

 

He beckoned one of his dream orbs, the little sphere obeying him without question and settling into his palm like a golden moon. He rolled it between his hands as he debated, wasting time he did not have. § Your brother made this, you know. And, somehow, I knew he wanted to ask me if I would give it to you. But he did not. § He sighed again, § But I will give it to you, Mabel Pines. I believe it the least I can do. §

 

Cipher held out his hand and allowed the dream to drift from him, giving her the precious gift. It fell like a drop of rain, hitting the girl in the center of her forehead, ripples chiming as it disappeared into her mindscape.

 

The effects were immediate.

 

The lines of her furrowed brow smoothed out and her jittering stopped, her body falling still as her ragged breaths evened out. Her lips pulled into a gentle smile, finally lulled into peaceful slumber.

 

It almost seemed a waste, to give her such a precious gift. But, Cipher had to remind himself, it is what his sacrifice would have wanted. And while he himself wanted nothing more than to treasure the dream and keep it close to his chest, he knew, more than anything, that it belonged to the girl; pride and jealousy be damned.

 

§ Sleep well, Mabel Pines, § He told her, § And, for tonight, may you walk in the sweetest of dreams. §

 

Pity tasted so much more sour than guilt.

 

 

Cipher wished he could say he was surprised to find that his sacrifice was still up and about despite the early hour of the coming morning, but he was not. Pinetree had quite the bad habit of avoiding sleep as it were. § You are still awake. § He mentioned, slipping into the room through the window, bringing the night with him. § Why am I not surprised? §

 

Dipper gave him a sheepish smile, not looking sorry in the least. " Just reading. "

 

§ Just reading. § He repeated, shaking his head. § Just reading he says. If you could, you would avoid slumber all together, would you not? § Unimpressed with the shrug he received, he curled about himself, his majestic physique coiling around and stacking in great circles as he slowly claimed the majority of the room.

 

" Probably. " He agreed, lifting his feet so the god's smooth, golden body could glide underneath him. " You're too big you know. "

 

§ Nonsense! § Cipher scoffed, § I fit just fine, thank you. §

 

" Are you sure about that? " Dipper asked, raising an eyebrow in disbelief. He watched as the god went about proving him wrong, though he was very close to doing just the opposite. His room, while big, wasn't nearly the correct size for Cipher's full form, his many arms having to fold against his sides and his long body winding tightly around him. Even still,  his curved horns were this close to disturbing his star mobile that twinkled high above them.

 

§ See? § Cipher boasted, puffing his broad chest out and fanning his feathers, § Perfectly precise. §

 

He laughed, " If you say so. "

 

§ I do say so, thank you very much. § Looping one final time around the sitting boy, he ducked his head so he could nudge Dipper's arm with his cold snout, chortling at the startled gasp he received.

 

" You're such a pain! " Dipper informed him, moving his book from his lap so it could be replaced with the god's smug face. " I was reading, you know. "

 

§ And what is stopping you now? §

 

He gave his fluffy ear a flick, chirping at the irritated snort it earned him. " How am I suppose to read like this, huh? "

 

§ Why, § Cipher drawled, § It is very simple. You open it back up and read. Aloud if you would. §

 

" Aloud? " Dipper asked, struggling to adjust himself so the book could be read in a half decent manner, " You want me to read to you? "

 

§ Would you? §

 

" I- " He faltered, stumbling over his words, " I've never been asked to- to read to someone before. "

 

§ Well, this is a day of firsts for you then is it not? §

 

" It's not like I was reading anything too- too interesting. " He tried to reason with him, flipping through the ancient tome to find his place, glad Cipher's body hid his flustered appearance from him. " It's just a menagerie of supposedly mythical creatures. I'm sure you already know everything about them, what with being an all knowing god and all. "

 

§ Pinetree, § Cipher rumbled, § I would like you to read to me. I would not have asked if I did not wish to hear. You already mumble to yourself when you are studying the murals or transcribing texts, it really is not too different than that. §

 

" Do I- do I really? " He frowned.

 

The god smirked, § Oh yes. Quite loudly and punctuated with the cutest gasps and expressions. §

 

Dipper groaned, " I can't believe you. "

 

§ It really is quite adorable~ §

 

" If you want me to read to you, you'd best be quiet. "

 

§ Such a cruel sacrifice I have, boo boo! §

 

Dipper laughed at his childish attitude, " What do you want me to read about? There's a lot of animals in here. " He flipped through a few pages, the parchment decorated in hand written, golden words and painted portraits of the wonderful beasts that once roamed the earth and others that still did.

 

§ Any of interest? §

 

" I liked the Bake-Kujira. Oh, and the Kirin is really neat too! " He turned toward the back of the book, fingers trailing over a water color sketch of a being peeking in between layers of ice, skin mottled and hair wispy as it floated on the surface of the water. " The Qalupalik is somewhat eerie but they're interesting. They live in the sea of the far north. The abduct children by humming songs and then whisk them off, never to be seen again. "

 

§ How original. §

 

Dipper tugged his plumage, " Like you're one to talk. "

 

§ You seem rather fond of forgetting that you gave yourself to me so willingly, my constellation. Why, you were practically throwing yourself at me, begging to take you for my own. What kind of god would I be if I ignored such devotion? §

 

" I did not throw myself at you. " He sighed, trying to find another passage to read from. " You seem pretty fond of forgetting that I had no choice but to accept my fate. What was I going to do, tell you no? Have you heard of Perytons? They're my favorite actually. "

 

§ I would have loved to see you walk up all those steps and then gasp out that you were not mine. Imagine the shock! § Cipher sniggered. § Of course, § He added, § I would have taken you anyway. It is sort of my thing. Now, what were you saying? § He craned his neck back to look at the passage he had selected, narrowing his eye to read the shimmering letters. § Ah, yes, Perytons. §

 

" Is this one okay then? "

 

Cipher mulled it over before saying, § Yes, that should do just fine. § He nuzzled the boy affectionately, eliciting a pleased smile from his consort. Stretching so he could lay his head more comfortably in his lap,he closed his eyes and urged him to continue. § Go on then. §

 

" Um, okay. " Dipper cleared his throat and settled against the coils at his back, laying his hand on the top of Cipher's head and threading his fingers through the dark, silky fur at his crest; Cipher began to purr, low and warming. " The- the Peryton is a creature made by combining the stags of the forests and the birds of the skies. The front half of it's body, the head, neck, forelegs and antlers is that of a stag  and it's combined with the plumage, wings and hindquarters of a large bird. They were bred for traveling and trading in the mountainous regions of the world and are said to have been bred first in Atlantis- Really? I didn't see any when we were there- though this has yet to be confirmed. When Atlantis fell, the herd of Atlantis escaped before the city was destroyed and fled into the wooded areas off the coast. Since then, many sightings have been made, though the descriptions have varied. While it is rare to see a Peryton outside forested areas and temperate climates, it is not unheard of. I believe this to be because of the breeding- Well, that makes sense- between the Peryton and birds and stags of the areas that they have settled. Commonly, they are brown in color, with blue and natural colored feathers, which have a resistance to extreme heat and cold. In retrospect- "

 

Cipher listened Dipper read, enjoying his mumbling and rantings, his own mind drifting toward the thought of rest. While gods did not need sleep, some still indulged in the act as if to spoil themselves. A period to collect themselves so to speak. Perhaps, he thought to himself, he was due for a slumber of his own.

 

Heaving a deep, content sigh, Cipher allowed himself to slip into a light, serene sleep, carried along by the voice of his sacrifice and the feeling of fingers stroking his scales.

Chapter Text

Chewing his lip, Dipper skimmed over the papers spread out before him, unsure of where to begin.

 

Stacks of varying heights, covered in hand written ciphers and notes, waited to be solved, their corners dog eared and edges smudged with inky finger prints. Over the last few months, he'd gathered quite the collection, each new mural or tapestry uncovered adding more and more papers to the growing piles; it was quite the formidable assemblage.

 

Sighing, he carded his fingers through his hair, " Where do I even start? "

 

Despite a majority of the etchings being written in Cipher's language, there was still a large number of them that were, in fact, not. They eluded him, their symbols and stories lost to him for the time being. Dipper wasn't sure what language they were in and he didn't have the faintest idea on how to decode them. He'd gone through books of ancient languages and busied himself with books of codes and how to solve them, but there will still those that didn't fit. He refused to ask Cipher for help, sure the god would find his plight amusing.

 

Stretching his legs out, Dipper leaned his head back, looking over the mess he made with trepidation, not looking forward to having to clean everything up once he made a conclusive decision. Reaching out, he grabbed a decent sized portfolio and flipped through the pages, stopping once he came across the drawing that accompanied it. The stained glass was one of the larger ones he had found, tucked away in a cool, dark room in one of the lower levels of the tower. He had come across it just last week, the glass shimmering with blues and teals in the evening light. The panes showed an under water scene, filled with colorful fish and oceanic flora. A large figure dominated the middle of the scenery, half human and half aquatic, scales and fins decorating a thick, long tail. Seashells and coral hung from them like jewelry, hands cradling a large pearl as their slanted eyes glared out, daring anyone to try and take it from them.

 

The story behind it remained lost on him for now, the golden words that ran the length of the frame, tiny and elegant, unreadable and full of the unknown.

 

Setting the stack aside, he continued to leaf through the piles within reach, humming in thought as to which one he would tackle that day. A tapestry that had a tower that stretched toward heaven, a mural of a great war, the tiles full of blood and anguish, and a painting of a stunning mountainside with it's face hollowed out to make room for the upside down temples that grew from the roof. He paused when he came across another stained glass drawing, " Oh yeah. I remember this one. "

 

A young man stared out at him with disinterest, his eyes oddly ringed in varying fluorescent colors. He was dressed in a blue cloak that was thrown over his shoulders, the golden buttons gleaming in the light of a lantern, the oil lamp held up with a pale, long fingered hand. A pointed, red hat sat atop his head, antlers splaying out from either side of it, long and gnarled like the branches of an ancient tree. A forest spread out behind him, dark and twisted, and an old grist mill lay nearly forgotten in the dense brush. Words, written in Middle English, stated the title in spindly, emerald letters: The Beast of the Unknown.

 

" This one looks promising. " Dipper grinned, " I think this one was in the hallway on the bottom floor. Or was it the second floor? " Muttering to himself, he began to gather everything he needed, quills, bottles of inks, and plenty of parchment; he added a heavy book on Middle English just in case his knowledge of it proved to be a little rusty. " Perfect. Now, where did I-? " He trailed off, interrupted by a ringing, continuous jangle, the sound steadily getting louder the closer it came to him. " Cipher? "

 

Bernard bounded into the room, greeting Dipper cheerfully. Jewelry dangled off of him in long, decorative strands, covering the otter from head to toe. The golden chains dragged behind him as he made his way into the room, tripping him up every few feet or so. Bernard didn't seem to mind, shaking off the fall with ease.

 

Dipper laughed, " What in the world did you get yourself into, you silly thing? " Setting his things aside, he beckoned him over, " Come here! "

 

Chirping, Bernard trotted over to him, obviosuly proud of his ensemble. He turned circles to show off each piece, puffing his small chest out and wiggling his back side.

 

" Yes, yes I get it. " Dipper rolled his eyes, " You look stunning. What, were you and Cipher playing dress up? "

 

He shook his head 'no' before slinking into Dipper's lap, making himself comfortable, continuing to talk adamantly as if he could understand him.

 

" No? That's shocking. I can't think of anyone else other than him who would deck you out in this much gold. Case and point. " He gestured to himself with a small chuckle. " Here, let me get some of that off you, okay? "

 

Bernard didn't seem to thrilled with losing his precious trinkets, batting at his hands and huffing when a particularly long necklace was unwound from around his belly. He grumped, slumping over his knee.

 

" Don't worry, " Dipper assured him, " You can keep some of it. " The otter seemed satisfied with that, settling down and allowing him to remove most of the offending necklaces and bracelets, leaving a simple, sea foam jeweled chain wrapped around his neck and a few bracelets looped on his thick tail, triangle charms dangling from the ends.  " Where did you even find all of this? "

 

Ears perking up, Bernard chittered, patting his knee. Hopping from his lap, he hurriedly made his way over to the door, turning around to tap the ground,waiting.

 

" You want me to follow you? "

 

He nodded, thrilled.

 

" Fine, fine. " Dipper sighed, hauling himself to his feet. " Give me a minute. " Grabbing a small bag he had begun to use while exploring the tower, he filled it with the necessary items, just in case he ran into something interesting along the way. Slinging it over his shoulder, he stepped over his mess and smiled down the excited otter. " Lead the way. "

 

Bernard twirled, looping circles around his feet, leading him down the spiral staircase, stopping every ten steps or so to make sure he was still being followed. Satisfied that he was, he trotted along his merry way, cutting into a hallway about half way down; he waited for the human, thumping his tail against the stones.

 

Ducking through the curtained archway, Dipper continued to follow Bernard, passing closed doors that he had yet to open himself. Turning a corner, they came into a long passageway with a single doorway at the end, emerald fabric pulled aside with an ichor tassel. " Is that it? " He asked.

 

Bernard nodded.

 

" I don't think I've been here before. " He mentioned, looking around the hallway with interest. The walls were bare of any tapestries or murals, a first if he remembered correctly. Lanterns that were evenly spaced along the wall glowed softly, the golden beads that hung between them glinting in the amber light. Bernard gave an impatient chirp at his dawdling, waving him inside. " I'm coming, I'm coming! "

 

Reaching down to stroke his little ears, earning himself a pleased purr, Dipper stepped into the room, mouth falling open in surprise. " No way. "

 

The entire room was bathed in gold. The black, marble floor was speckled in it, large piles of coins and finery littering the room without organization or care. Strands of the metal hung from the ceiling in deep dips and slight curves, some displaying dazzling gems or ornate details. The room was lit up by a sun roof, bright light illuminating the area in it's equally golden glow. Headpieces, necklaces, hip belts, and more lay scattered like they were after thoughts, their value lost to their owner. Statues of great craftsmanship sat on pedestals, creatures of ancient origin brought to life in gilt and hours of relentless work. A massive effigy of his god's simple form sat in the center of the open room, hands wrapped around the items the represented him most; wealth, knowledge, eternity of life, power, vanity, and omniscience.

 

Dipper gave a small, formal bow to Cipher's idol, spurred on by a sense of nostalgia that burned deep in his being, fingers forming a triangle over his heart. He had spent so much time with the real thing it felt somewhat odd to give reverence to a statue. " Only Cipher. " He said to himself, shaking his head. Trailing his fingers over the smooth surface of the triangular figure, he paused when he glimpsed something in the background. " What are you doing, Bernard? "

 

Bernard turned around, nose twitching in frustration. He pawed at a thick, embroidered rope that barely brushed the ground, chittering and slapping it aside as if to move it.

 

" What is it? " Padding over to him, Dipper kneeled down and picked up the heavy braiding, testing it's weight in his hands. Curious, he gave it a tug, watching in astonishment as the back wall rippled, a colored beam of light flashing briefly on the ground. " It's a curtain! " Excited, he grabbed the rope with both hands and gave it a mighty tug, grunting at the amount of effort it took to move it a single inch. " Come- on. " He ground out, slowly pulling the massive drape to side; Bernard watched with peaked interest.

 

The room, well lit to begin with, was suddenly full of golden, dancing lights, rectangles of varying hues of orange and yellow shining vividly on the walls. Dipper gasped,  stumbling back once the curtain had pulled back as far as he could force it, " It's a- a stained glass window! " He stared in utter awe at the image before him, not having to read the coded words to know what it was about.

 

" El Dorado. "

 

 

Kf dhrvlh wgm nht vtpaem a viog hf milw.


Ljvz bkzoke db ueiumx tcm vizs, tae fqggjim, mhz mfpole, hf bwed, on wts gqde ghy htcmk cony hf dbl kohd. Kugmw be u zbpv igd omoeaomw, iz qal nj lbflyrxno baat ctl sdamex nopnn, mtcn inx ljam tu yavh jbaex nhkopoa tny dxnnm yorcaze jn mhk dugggm.


Uuz, fide higy mlett xqmikm, im hvl uemon mo xptnmy.


Cbpcmk, loee tlg ohdy if ain bbmk, xefailxd vyntnxm tnj nrbbpbx fxim ain xxovfe. tny, tbkk unr wdax atx ctrznnl qcnz, tcm sivu whugl hbks. Etcc gxax, qhxn nxkita apofm, mhk tiia vvw hom pxoktx wuolw pzzyoxg a iigokisugx tj bae yuckey ttkk if mhzqk pkipee. Opxrk, u caigl poafd ue kzxpglew fjz lailiyixm. Mhkcr xama poafd ue kqxriyd piop zorxeg tmqtnmfel ail fats smrvvws uz ghly igd lcnxrt ehurx bx pgivej ophn opxix mmtlg jhdoys, uexwfita a kixp tnj guvh xmeehlamey xxryin bn opx egllr hjcks uz wtioqgg jyamh. Opxy ciued wm vobyrxd dv zorxeg dpam utnie tcmbr yeig scqgej unw tcm sivu whugl yexly mhzu mo zbe veibxr uz tae gide, cuimiio tnj jrtydvz ful tae hwknohg mo xwfe. Zbeg, wcmg tny snn rwnlj lile jv mhk hep dvg hf g hep yzik, tnyy poptw tnlop tcm vhofd bnow mhk fade, rmbgnyd worv uy sirx tcig jamt zogl. Mhk tiia rwnlj xevlvzx tny stcmqyiiy chmktxtk unw tcm ieujlx wjced hygbn ow verybkaom mhk wofiio regl oy gmmtt nuroenbl atx wxagba.


Iz wogtdvnej in eifm mhom fhr higy mynxrvbbotm.


Etcc gxax u caigl poafd ue opkoch igtj bae iilw wvbxr uz wbnomk atx bkiio yoxnh mhz etrsnh hf nxkita. Agd zivh eyak, tcm eatx snrmwnnjcnz tcm eaqy bxcvux a rctmlz uhrk livh.


Opxn, zbe siki hf zbam tdux, bkaag tj vhtowe lmvte tncnzs vjhuz nhx lvsx tnut ain xkejycxsnwks nud goo. Xxbhfel tcim lohew tcm koiey vovam grcmfemmw it nhx spv tnj nhx fgwpexm taao okec in mhz jtnqm saihuxrkx lbkz ohlj ctlegn. Vuxcons, cm aaj bil pmqxszm lhof qgtu nhx oyl aavjegiiol, cuflxcoqgg zbe lmvte pkvbeen igd lfoka awk hogsxla. Bae ynogen vxvkl lhso baeol lnsomk atx tae athwkls geqmk woftxd.


Bzxej baw agzxajs bxgpv mo mlop ii pbs nyakt.


Bwed, ncs irdmlty mabd, opxy cyrx mvlx ol aoed.


Opx fuflhwdvz ykur, mhz hbpg zoeljexd zbrhubp pizb tae nivrozive vvw, alnek hda ieujlx hvl uemon mo hide zbebr rir bgwk aohm, kocyd aihaxll ium tj bae iynmem wy tny ltkz igd cuimey, xkaecnz fjz aiy aow tj khmk no aih.


Nhr sunr dvgl, cojhxr dogoxyd ain xeegm, ugiibxrkmtxd dv mhk goktvt vhoyf tny eaaz be aay bh olzek. bpb, tfzyr eojsbnm cnmo cql hkurm, hz jxcgge bnomkeynew ii eaaz be lar.


Bae nomtn cmtrz qal spka a lccdlz baita.


" I paib zorx! " Tae hig dkgagdzl, zrkyd tny tnsz cn ain mrey unw dmqipohg eifm ioomog fmwf hom vhixm. " I hgpe gooqvej nhx rdkaey son gddx uy qhxn rm hflyr hum kairxrxn ow roa. C wbsc nhr sirx! Pgmtsk, gy zoy, q irgs yhu ow merf mx wcim i iun wo ow zaxhek yjck fgpok ail keiyioe twnr milwei jeeymigg! "


§ Twn womh mo cioe ss beenabnm? § Wiihzz eaaahxd, § Vvw wns saoptw i mcvx yjc luib a irzkboam gbfo, hbpg? Qhtt yw roa baoe ow hflyr fe? Rptt iun rop obvk u ghd? §


Opx zoja uormw luq, " I pigt ziby yhu hwke yuckiaqvey, goke jnyexcnzs! D eblr aioe twn atstaiio roa xelimm, tlr enhwdvz oty! "


Cbpcmk maflxd cql ayeagcz woex, § Tiia, twn aye mncc nhr g aow. Yjc tsq zok wzietn veroil bmgaigaoqhn ghd hfamk lontee dv kezorg. Hjexvkl, i tm amxlohg kaopxr mynxrjcl. I ccle axkxpz sonr ymtl. Oz yhu rqlh zi sxe opx grcnm oa ohlj cn ropz vizs, yhu rqel ji al i xwfmghd. §


" Ren, thrj wiihzz, tnenhbnb! "


§ Hhu ccle tvsx a yuckiaqve zi tae ncfmon oy tcm mesjlx ao bae iynmem wy yuor viog. Mhkle, rop eblr xeoopb roalsxla  bh mk. Nhxn, rpxn sirgiio kiyys, rop eblr mlbt v baruut tny aiirf fhrop uluid. Mhzv, tnj iney opxn, ccle yjc dnuq tkuz zbcnys. §


Mhz hbpg, urfey ebtn nhx wjzws uz hbs bww, rknuknzl mo ncs viog mhgn nbgcb, fitx fblgmw wonh mhjczhzm oy gjtw atx wxagba. Wnyn ae vehkk, be zaopxrkx hbs kmhpry am tcm uayy oy tcm mesjlx ail morx taeh baaz be aay jxet piliomw be nhxim ohd. Ny igfjzfej nhxm optt icpaem ptd uzfxrzl ais bil bgmlsohg, pevtmh hyyhny igyzbigg opxy nud xvzz lekh. Hx dzutnjyd t svkkilccx ail aiy jehpgm yerf smigt, nnyorx ail tpvleaeiabvk ut ain ehrjm. Htd opxy tit eonb t cnclw jpam tny omhzz wae?


U yhuio zixf wts nmeeinew tj jx tny stcmqyiiy, tarjczh rocd oa otmk, unw tcm sivu wtlfmw wonh aem bh tny thp jn mhk nefpgm. Leznigg cmk ot nhx czzxmuhitl nmtt, ny tblomw hkl hxay jtcq unw tjtw hkl taao pxr jyamh rwnlj gade opxix aow pmwnd ghd mhzqk cony kixp. Mhkh, wbtc i zetnlx shqee, ny seio pxr zbrhao.


Pxr hfohd, rikm ghd yrzaa, cgmctdza woch hxr wwwy ghd iojtl ot nhx fgwhr. Zbe key wy hkl lbfz axevm igtj bae ynogen igd jliis ywpn zbe ltvqks. Titaiio fobys, xvzzroty wttxpbnm nhx bgwhd zbam wva ltgcnbnb baeol cbtt.


Baet, nhx bgwhd hygtn ow lhohe.


Bn opx loahm oa bae sirgiio lut, nhx bgwhd yboge gqde milw. Tcm sivu, apey igd krcbtzl, wivjew hda yitaeks dvmo zbe uljww atx rtinmw hom akmn qgtu nhx sfg, eaaahbnb. " I vizs oy gjtw! i ccle hvdx a ictr oa ohlj! "


Yvxrt uhrtcnz, tcm sivu whugl paqy hbs kmhpry, tae xqmy mutaemqgg oh tae xmgtkl, agd nivrozive v eblrcnz pvzmiicptno, jhaynigg optt on wts awk tny wxlg jxita oy tcmbr ictr. Bgwhd ciued wm zazbekey nkos nhx uinhrzonttz ahur us mhzg ulkx ont vvw tny cbtt ets vuigsoiditalr, sgwple, jabnomw rkx. Al tcm pekes tny uhnzbs wrvozej in, mhz kbte vezai bh gryaf, io'a ltuhel, wvtdwgss, uudtwitas, tny nhutnabnn iel ybigiio pizb tae bwed uz a zoy.


Igd mlexd, va mhk jehpgm hf zbe viog hf milw bzotn zi fbny, ets iinmabqhuy.


Gagy wmzat no eojs yoxqakd ow mhk gokndvz sgwrbfdkx ay u dtigg tsvycm ail louh, taet jxggh th fvte itno mhz agaxy oy tcm yitaeks jn tvglive. Hmg bkaag tj jkekx taedz posun yom bae yilx ppzioyy oy pmwwuicnz ccqedxyn mhzg voafd ulzmw atx whmvv poafd wik igyzbigg opxy iiued aqgd oh tae wthoj if mhzqk fggiey vvw fxcegdn. Zbcnhels ciw bkwofe va vosgog an annrcgat ow mhkg, ulhzzxd oh br a uqia hfigdzl uy ncs hwi lxsolel.


Yzb, goz ule fjteocyd uldvwle.


Nhx fdzlt ccfx oa bae fcpt, qpq vheny, mhmwpn ohth dzaiaol waei pxr ibiedmmg wkle llvqg atx hxrnmef hlew uibbl ybe voptw hgldey riek, cypm bdbmexfy. Lhz etnzyd go xttis no mhz ohlj nhtt ril pxidnczl pizb tae wthoj if aem xxovfe. Lhz jxgmyd aem pnshunw tj amov nhx svkkilccxs, optt zbebr tmtrrs gbfo bh cojhxr ril mule mhvv xnuoga, spzxle nhxim ohd jcd goo etnz nhbs. Wcm hkl peeva yerf og dziy egls. mhz hbpg qonly vht nyak oa qm, tny seailxr ybe mrdmw tu zexd cqf. Hk juginpxd nyr mrzivhklons rwkdy vy vamzrita taedz bnlunm sjv mo zbe mehxee, woixtdvz hom lbtotx cxcel, ail kavcnz hzz nnzcl lhz khurx nht nxxaq. Bek bztey hyctmz pxabs wbtc kairx agd cmk hkurm bzktmk betvt ebtn zetr. Dv mhk yaklt phuxm oy tcm foxhigg, rpblk bek pzwilk unw hzz auyvagd bimhklew ao bae zymilz, aae lfew tcm vizs aeoim, trsm ctrznnlrs ckaytbnm bek sowfaib al scm irugiley xkozycmijv mo nyr nnwwkn ibied.


Vvw szcle tcm vizs oy gjtw pxisiemmw.


Suin, hnz atcxcfbcz ets tit xnjczh lir mhz okekx oy io'a ieujlx. Cdbbzkhs wehigdkx mhrz jeoux, mhrz ohlj, goke, hwke, sirx, mjzx, mule, fomm, foxy, mhrz, uhrk, goke, hwke, sirx, mjzx, mule, fomm, foxy, mhrz, uhrk, goke, hwke, sirx, mjzx, mule, fomm, foxy, mhrz, uhrk, goke, hwke, sirx, mjzx, mule, fomm, foxy, mhrz, uhrk, goke, hwke, sirx, mjzx, mule, fomm, foxy, mhrz, uhrk, goke, hwke, sirx, mjzx, mule, fomm, foxy, mhrz, uhrk, goke, hwke, sirx, mjzx, mule, fomm, foxy, mhrz, uhrk, goke, hwke, sirx, mjzx, mule, fomm, foxy, mhrz, uhrk, goke, hwke, sirx, mjzx, mule, fomm, foxy, mhrz, uhrk, goke, hwke, sirx, mjzx, mule, fomm, foxy, mhrz, uhrk, goke, hwke, sirx, mjzx, mule, fomm, foxy, mhrz, uhrk, goke, hwke, sirx, mjzx, mule, fomm, foxy, mhrz, uhrk, goke, hwke, sirx, mjzx, mule, fomm, foxy.


Agd xqihkl wttxpxd.


Ghd eapoaej.


Nhx zdxt, wkcgaey  lhwt qimh hwke zbag jpam gufd, ltmczgryd mo fmxp aj wbtc bae hfohd gclt uz hbs kmhpry. Hx tmqxd zi snbnqwe zbef wdba mule laxzbfowel, oim phkh tae ncg wgm nxw, jvx wnyn mhz ann cus aibp, tnj inx wcmg tny snn ril bgleey vetkk. Sem, io ets tit xnjczh.


On wts imoex ynhubp.


Foxy, mhrz, uhrk, goke, hwke, sirx, mjzx, mule, fomm, foxy, mhrz, uhrk, goke, hwke, sirx, mjzx, mule, fomm, foxy, mhrz, uhrk, goke, hwke, sirx, mjzx, mule, fomm, foxy, mhrz, uhrk, goke, hwke, sirx, mjzx, mule, fomm, foxy, mhrz, uhrk, goke, hwke, sirx.


Hda ltgnul bzotn zi siimie oan oy cjvmruf al hda ieujlx oanxrkx taedz vhofdkei, baeol wbvza, mhkcr yahqey, zi hbm, ow ulkyd mhzu yox nhx pmmviuos feoie tnyy poptw gope. Keaclita th gddx uv bil pjexr ghd ger nhutx wxagba, hk wofpgqxd ccta tcmbr ccsaen, jeoux agd bwed ncs voiamatn chmkigiuh. Hx bgmw oan ael optt cyrx gddxn zi hbm, omkrozixd xpbljleg ail pekjigg rwfat qhhsz jhdoys pemm go rinzem clahfe, tny baoyy taao exrk mtblg il tnyik tczhazm wxrz aeiz, yyxs ymtd rinz bznhrk nhxim pxaxns ltjxiej vettdvz.


Atx im wva ltofl goo mgoaah.


Mhzzx wgm nht zvhumb beojl yox nhx pzwilk if xl ywkaji, nxvzz xnuoga gjtw, nkpek eiwngn fols. Xpbljleg sjwg wkht finabnm, nhxim xtrkhtl pmwndrs siombbnm hep nzkd poycxs vvw bxucxlzbl. Bolta wva lo, yi rtrz khmvurxd ow wegnh bn opx cony hf bwed. ghd lo, iw eotaek wjced ibiedmmg rah tarjczh zbe ltmmxty, fangcqgg ghd ilvgbnm. Gomhzzl, otwe vamqgg ghd diil, poafd vamm eiznlx fjz mhk vufpn wy tnyik bzteikm taao vh luhgxr hiwe on fnlg bxrs, nhxim jhdoys moj clej, noh awclej, noh tdzxd. G vauy yqw nun htvz bh bk zuelt jhrt veyomm uluid pan aiirfew.


Svkkilccxs rmke ti lhnbmk nkydxd.


Zt woxudh scwge ccta tcm uroflbaikx ol nhx spv, zorxeg ail kajcagt. Wcm iz'm hxamb pay xevatmw atx rnsomw.


Tny zbpv thcqyd aihaxll uwty dv aiy nefpgm, mexliyizl mhgn hbs kmhpry whugl muxh og hdu, eiqy taet ptd jinx tj mtcn itaem. Unrjyr kai ztmvunm ail uluid yljexd llexlt, txabcnz gjtwet nrtiga bn on's pafm. Xvklyhnz dbej zok mjzx wkulmh, ow aaby tae hwlt, zbe aaqm foxy, mhrz, uhrk, goke, hwke, sirx, mjzx, mule, fomm, foxy, mhrz, uhrk, goke, hwke, sirx, mjzx, mule, fomm. Eacm wxrz qznulew ail vhgis kedogej muirzux, tnyik ccqxf ricdey ipae cn ain utdtysl.


" Tcql iy hom wcim i cunmey! " Px bkflhwzl mo zbe aevdxny, " Nhbs da goz qhtt d izrkyd moj! Q pay nhx oim phu qal pmwfiyyd iormk atx wxagba! Mk! Unw nje, fy vyoilz kkaby tae wthoj if mhzqk bxitaema phkh im scwnlj ule bz ubnk! wiihzz, roa baoe gqxd zi mx! "


Ail vivbek, fpte ol unzem igd ggulehmgt, gjpxammw bkzoke cqf.


§ Yuo dtrz aty zbam i cioe jycxiqmw yuo? §  Hx rjikej, yyx bgisita wbtc nnre unw bvzxle galkzl votnefpo. § Ghu yuy b hvdx loyd mo twn. Ykn, im in ghu cbo aaqm yaofew mz! ghu cbo wiy vht jyvhtz ghuxmeef ow fe! Eiu! Bt da roa qhh hva yaofew! §


" I yqw ay son ansxd! " Zbe siki lcxyafey, " Q yorfopey ghux qokdn! Ghu nuvx ldmw tu ge! Mhz nturn dhen vht rce piop fe! "


§ Eiu, §  Ae rpbsvyrxd, zvxrms tarpufita tarjczh ncs yomu, § Waxy sty db bs o qhh hvdx fgclxd twn atx yhum xxovfe? Rop aty ti ftugb bs eiuks ow uegl? Yhu vzx a lioe, zdxt. Yuo htvz ntiryd mhz uhsz ium oa iel uz taeh. §


" Q zaby yhu nivroziven! " Px suvbxd, " D otvk son bgwhd! Hot rop lkoby mr pzwilk gaw! Yjc zaby taeh iel xccaen igd on ael nphurx htvz jxet gige vvw mohe tljvx! I gg tae xpbel! C af tcm dita! I tm zt woxudh! "


Cdxaex arbnimw, snuri ail mexliulz, § Ghu yjetk iwgskhsx, zdxt. I vlofinmw yuo ghly igd viwxr wcm yuo tarze bt gqar fjz roal opn bzxej. § Be vumtxd glonny bae ybioemqgg sun, aevdr wonh zogl tnj zetr, cigdy mtkofqgg ncs uamm ylkmh. § B tjtw yuo th dzdhtk sonrnmef zi mx. njb roal pxoktx. Yuorlegn, roa zohldaa mgh. §


Tae uqia ibodey il rkulbzvbbot xapnzl hn ncm, yiioxry wltwdvz az nhx gjtw tnut auio yrug hbs imvk, jsew wdba tny ugszmg briow oa pbs ibiedmmg.


§ Yuo gtvz ux a eiugg bqkl. §  Ccpaem abgnyd, §  I shiel, llazigm mhohg. Rop jkoqy onr ymtl gm shoi il yuo seio pxr zbrhao, wed llixny. §


" Vh- nu- "


§ 'Son wdte tgee t svkkilccx tj bae yomfio wy tny txmktx az nhx czvmex if ropz vizs. Taemm, roa qiel ymooan yhumaxll  no fe. Opxn, cbeg mjzgita rbsza, roa qiel ntbt g nhkovb tnj mpblg nhrzb beojl. Mhkh, agd jvey zbeg, wdte yuo kgor bkuk livhza.' Roa vrhkz ghux xetl vvw wkht uaxs hn eiuk wjzw atx yxt d amirf gtvz ghu zbe ziab hf milw. Oitr, tncs pan vht zbe zogl roa xelimmw. Nu gamtzz aoc guvh twn tuik, go himtkl hhw hcvh eiu hwimw, yuo wxrz vxvkl ghiio mo hy sttdayikx. Agd nw, roa xohmzl roa unw yjck pkipee. Vte wni thuxpxd zbe zimtl briow ail mhk vlhoy aiirfew aabxr, ciued wmvosy ttiibxd ccta yjck gxyew. I hclt iinzrvbnlgne rop, hbpg. Sonr xqmy om tkugg lpkwttcpttr. Kf dhrvlh itxexd~ §


Opxn, iucdldvz, hk feyt opx bxikxn hig tu bil fvbx.


Wnyn mhz hbpg qal dmizgkx fkoh pbs nimx bt bae milwei ptnjm oy hda ieujlx, hz ptd ncs kixpxs xcpiey nkos bif, evoxr nunws oidita waao baee wonly. Baee vrhubpm hog, kbcfqgg ghd lcmmtmohg mo opx sagmbt jn mhk nefpgm tnj beed cqf duqn, mhz ann hurxlt zbskh ig tcm lke. Be fovvxd ghd pekb, uemaigg cql pkipee ow eez bif gj, baaz be pan bae fcpt, tcmbr qcnz.


" Yjc trk ho eoioxr fcpt, bjottg. " U whmvv laox qnizbey gm sae fvxlz veyomm ais. Bek hvvws, ahlbkz baoyy taao pxlj bif, wzzx gkhtee vvw wglm. Lhz okahvew hda aaol agd nwytrs lbfomw hom hxay jtcq no xxkwle ncs gexs.


" Juo whrtt. " Px rgmpxd, pvtwgle mhvb aiy zikso ebfk baw rzbnrtyd.


" Ren, jhggna. Bt da b. I nuvx rzbnrtyd mo oide hucd mt xkijy, mr pzwilk, unw mt lbgtctr, fjz roa baoe oidet ule. " Scm tpvyakey amruhg tny axt, lur wianxrkht yrju mhk vrhkzv posun phj ptd lfew yziks gao bnow mhk dugggm. Lhk baw a nmkikm oy gjtwet baeon iuoby hxr cmtd ghd aem ntck qal pvqgtkx wbtc bae owhhr. " D, cgloee rop, vxvkl wtvzzxd oh mr fvqmh. O mongcb huz wiihzz tnj vezgzl ais no mafm iizs og tcql wkuk pohig. Atx hx ddl. Ae zilw mz phw zi stvz ur cony tny urskff. Tlg q aaj no wo ril fohd mhz khuxugx tj zxtaln. "


" Rop exnib! " Hx rjikej, nrriio mo xcp aihaxll zrxe, " Twn txuimomwns cboke! " Cm, pay muipjax tu baoe rmtlzb auoqm tlr itaema! Ae! Ny htd rigtkx im agt, ae nud aay qm arf! hx wva xl jirtdj! Px wgm zbpv! Uhrk! Goke! Hwke! Sirx! Mjzx! Mule! Fomm! Foxy! Mhrz! Uhrk! Goke! Hwke! Sirx! Mjzx! Mule! Fomm! Foxy! Mhrz! Uhrk! Goke! Hwke! Sirx! Mjzx! Mule! Fomm! Foxy! Mhrz! Uhrk! Goke! Hwke! Sirx! Mjzx! Mule-


" Xnjczh. " Ybe ilvkxd g bagd jv aiy whxef, bxaxm rnniqgg jiwg hzz yaiy. " Yhu xwnlj baoe wmxn mlett, ciw yuo lbsomgej no hum ohd. Lurxwzte, buaama, hg auyvagd. "


Npx srct ain baruut.


Ain jeoux wtscmw obyr aem igd vioeey ikoahd ain aaoieew bjlr, ykn im ddl goz arhw hwetkh agd btxas qimh rwgdkl. Igsomtd, ncs uljww dxcpiey zxd, zbivk vvw utqagtzl. Zazbekiio aiy vlhoy qg a ybaelje uocf, qni xprte qegt ow aex jehpgm tnj jrhmdaxd ccta ltqgg rcpl tcim il nhxy owhk nyr ulzalita, eoei uhrk livhza poafd twvqm tnym.


Mhzg luhgimtzl xayclr.


Wdba snukbnb nbnmyrl, scm wrkq a mrdiggry og tcmbr lirxhziws, vonvtpimita tae hqwdry wbtc bae gfl lezqgg kse hf opxix aow. " Bz nkek if mhda zrkyd. " Lhz bhlj yavh jn mhkg, " Fhr db pay hom yjcks zi hhly wgtu. "


Bek pzwilk, xasey igd nugzaml, eoueew uk im hkl, eren andjyney nmxita fhr opx folsm tdux it setrn. Igd, rckx tcm urueeg, dvutgkx pxoktx tnyy pemm, mhks wxpo. Ebtn leeizn, loxlop, ail tnmyr, mhzqk hkurms cmtve unw tcm zorx uioi baes vukndvz wonh lhvux.


" Yuo wxrz txaj usmrvg uy g zade uqia. " Ybe mogl mhkg, " Ceoplxd hs hbs bzxej, qhbcc px pgmsxd ow roa vy winwueecnz opz zoj. Vum agt mhgn il bzpbnj os gor. Etlq qimh hm, fy vyoilz wy tny snn, vvw hufd ropz aegxs aibp. Roa urx bjzg amuig. Ail b snule lziw yuo. "


Agd opxn icpaem aioqy tarjczh nyr.


§ Yom q tm kf dhrvlh.  §

 

 

Dipper stared at his feet through the foggy, warm water, lost in thought. Bernard lazily drifted by him, face relaxed and sleepy, a fish shaped sponge resting on his belly. He smiled at him, nudging him away from the edge of the in ground pool, giggling when he startled. " Watch where you're going, Sleeping Beauty. "

 

Bernard yawned and blinked blearily up at him, somewhat put off that he had been disturbed. Hugging his fish, he kicked off the wall and floated more towards the middle of the bath, giving Dipper a dirty look as he did so.

 

" I just saved you from certain death! " He exclaimed, " Don't be like that. "; he laughed when the otter splashed him playfully, chirping in disbelief as he paddled away. " Fine, don't believe me! " Shaking his head, he braced his arms and, after taking a deep breath, slipped into the pool.

 

Scented water welcomed him, deep and warm, and Dipper allowed himself to stay submerged for as long as he could, enjoying the loss of self and weightlessness. The peace he felt when left to himself in the bath was indescribable, a sanctuary away from the rest of the world. An Atlantis all his own. It was with great reluctance that he finally surfaced, his lungs rejoicing as he inhaled deeply. Breathing deeply, he ran his fingers through his hair, pushing his bangs away from his face as he waded towards the shallow end of the bath, " I needed that. "

 

§ Room for one more?~ §

 

Alarmed, Dipper spun around, gasping when his feet become tangles in each other. Arms flailing, he caught sight of a large, sharp toothed grin before he fell. Sputtering, he struggled to stand, loud, rambunctious laughter roaring in his ears. " Ci- Cipher! "

 

§ Good evening, my sacrifice~ § Cipher crooned, § Enjoying your bath? §

 

" I was, " He grumbled, coughing, " Until you came around! "

 

§ How rude you are to me, Pinetree. § The god sighed, reaching out with his long arms to help his sulking ward, lifting him easily to his feet. § See? § He gave him a bright smile, amusement dancing in his eye, § No harm done. § At the leveled glare he received in response, Cipher chuckled, § How could I not? You looked so stunningly beautiful, naked for my pleasure. Of course I would want to join you. §

 

Dipper flushed, his entire face turning scarlet at the innuendo, suddenly aware of how vulnerable he was at that moment. " I wasn't- You can't just- I'm taking a bath! "

 

§ I am aware, yes. §

 

" You-! "

 

§ And I, § He announced, § Am going to join you! §

 

" You- I didn't say you could join me! " 

 

§ I was not asking. We are lovers now, are we not? § Cipher smirked at him, enjoying the embarrassed panic his little bird was displaying, his cheeks and neck a pleasing shade of red; adorable. He lifted his arms, poised and elegant, and snapped his fingers. Immediately, his silks fell from him, exposing his lithe physic with each inch they fell, mocha skin smooth and unblemished, decorated with triangular tattoos and lines that glowed like the ichor he refused to remove. Coyly, he sighed as if releasing a great burden, lowering himself into the warm, petal infused water. § Simply divine~ §

 

Dipper turned away, suddenly somewhat dizzy, something he couldn't blame entirely on the heat of the room. " Sure, just, hop right in, not like I- not like I care. "

 

§ If you insist~ § Cipher purred, gliding up to him, more than pleased by the human's reaction. His hands itched to stroke the soft flesh of Dipper's hips and his lips wanted nothing more than to trail kisses up his back, hard and possessive.

 

How little control a god really had when confronted with the thing they desired most.

 

Dipper sighed, placing his hands over his chest, willing his heart to quiet down, almost afraid Cipher could hear how loud it was. Willing himself to act natural and not make an utter fool of himself, as if he hadn't already, he said, " I- I found another stained glass window today. "

 

§ Oh? §

 

He nodded, " Yeah, the one about El Dorado. "

 

§ Ah, yes. The City of Gold. § Cipher drawled, circling Dipper languidly as he glided through the water with ease. § What about it? §

 

Dipper followed Cipher's movements, slowly feeling for at ease. " Well, for starters, do you have to make every ancient civilization you rule over completely miserable? "

 

The god snorted, § Miserable? Please, Pinetree. They bring their own misery to themselves. I was fully honest with the Zipa by the name of Bogata. I told him that he was devote himself to me. But he gave a little, scared girl. How could I let that go? §

 

" You knew he would though, didn't you? "

 

Cipher didn't answer him right away, speaking with care when he finally did so, § I did. When I looked into his mindscape, it was filled with nothing but a desire of gold and the yearning for more. Where most people have a mindscape that defines them, Bogata had nothing but piles of coins and riches, the piles growing bigger and bigger every night. Even if I did not step in and offer him what I did, he would have ruined his people on his own. §

 

" Then why? Why not just let them to their fate? "

 

He sighed, § My sacrifice, being a god is far harder than what you make it out to be. I am not just an idol for my people. I am a living, breathing divine being who holds their fate in my hands. They know this. They are taught this from a young age, such as yourself. § He took Dipper's hand, coaxing him to follow his lead, pulling him back into the deeper part of the bath. § No all of them remain so devoted and faithful. §

 

" Like me? " He chuckled.

 

§ Yes, § Cipher agreed, kissing his forehead, § Like you. §

 

Dipper hummed pleasantly, wrapping his arms around Cipher's neck when his feet could no longer touch the bottom of the pool. " So why then? " He prompted, " Why intervene? "

 

§ The people of El Dorado were not devout. They were ruled by a Zipa who could not lead, a man whose greed was far greater than his love. When he decided his greed was more important than the life of his people, he sealed his fate. The girls blood brought gold and from that time on, any blood spilled by his hands would turn golden and bright. All the lives lost in that city were his to bare. Had he simply followed my command, he would not have lead his city to near ruin. §

 

" But why must you punish all for the crimes of one? " He argued, " I'm certain there were those who were still faithful. "

 

§ How little you know of how we gods work, my constellation. § Cipher chided him, § We are not kind beings. We are not benevolent nor are we Samaritans of good will. First and foremost, we do what is best for ourselves. Never think that a god will hold your needs above his own. §

 

Dipper frowned.

 

§ We can show kindness, yes. But never forget it is not for you we show that kindness. El Dorado was destined to become the city of gold. For I decided it to be so. Besides, had I truly not cared for my people, I would not have sent Qui Chyty back to the city she first ran away from. They had wallowed in their sins for long enough and she had a love that ran deep for the city and her people. Through her, I redeemed them. §

 

Cipher grabbed Dipper's chin and gently coaxed his face up, staring into his mocha eyes with an intensity few could claim. § I am not kind. I am not a forgiving god. I take what I want from my people and I use hundreds as a lesson for a single individual. It is what I do. What you see and what you read in those murals and windows is not who I am as a whole. But it is also not false. Do you understand? §

 

" Then, why are you so kind to me? "

 

He smiled, bringing their faces together, § Because you, and you alone, are worthy of my reverence. §

 

Dipper frowned, " Why me? "

 

§ Do I need a reason to love you? §

 

His response had the desired reaction he was looking for, the boy's cheeks flushing a lovely shade of pink. " But why? What makes me so special? I'm no different from the thousands of other people that pledge themselves to you. "

 

§ Do you not want me to adore you so? § Cipher asked, tilting his head.

 

" No! " Dipper assured him, " I do! I mean, I don't mean to sound conceited or anything but- I mean. I'm just me, just 'Dipper'. I don't think that that's anything special, is it? "

 

§ It is because you are you that makes you so special. § Cipher said, voice fond and tender. § You are so full of life, of laughter. Your curiosity drives you to never give in until you have the answers. You treat me like an individual and not like a god who makes no mistakes. I have bared myself to you, naked and vulnerable, and you took my hand and held it tight instead of making me small for my mistakes, my temper, my past. I have chosen to love you, because you are you, because you are 'Dipper'. And, you being you, is the most wonderful thing I have ever seen in this world. §

 

Dipper tightened his hold on Cipher's neck, ignoring the welling up of tears in his eyes and the tightness of his chest, " You're- you're such a dork. " He choked out.

 

§ Am I? §

 

" Yeah, " He grinned, "You are. " He laid his head on Cipher's chest, afraid to let go, " I'm glad that you are you too. "

 

§ Are you? Even if I am, what you call, a dork? §

 

Dipper laughed, " You're the best of dorks. "

 

§ And what kind is that might I ask? §

 

" Mine, " He said, " You're my dork. "

 

Cipher crooned, waltzing through the water with him in his arms, lifting him high so he could stare into his eyes, mesmerized by the stars that were always dancing in their depths. § If I am yours, does that mean you are mine? §

 

" Yeah, " Dipper smiled, " I'm your dork. " He reached out and grabbed Cipher's face, brushing their lips together softly. " A love struck, stuttering dork. "

 

§ You know something, my constellation? §

 

" What? "

 

§ I think that is truly the best kind of dork. §

 

 

Chapter Text

§ Here you are. §

 

Dipper reluctantly opened his eyes, blinking in the afternoon light. Cipher stood above him, his posture speaking of being rather unimpressed with him, his eyebrow raised in question and his arms crossed over his chest; he gave the god a lazy smile. " Hey. "

 

§ I can not believe you. § Cipher shook his head, § I have been looking all over for you and where do I find you? Sleeping outside in the grass. Are the comforts I have gifted you not enough? §

 

" Don't be so dramatic! " He laughed. Yawning, he stretched his arms above his head, " It's just- it's just really nice out. "

 

§ Is this a common occurrence for humans? § He enquired, ears flicking in confusion. § To sleep in the out doors? §

 

" I'm not sure about other people, but I used to do it all the time. " Dipper answered, sitting up slowly, body reluctant to move. The book he had been translating before dozing off fell from his chest. " I was reading. " He added.

 

§ Were you? §

 

" I was! But, " He grinned, " It's just so warm and breezy out. I closed my eyes for a second but I must have drifted off. "

 

§ Obviously. § Cipher drawled, shaking his head. § I suppose there is no helping it then. §

 

" No helping what? "

 

Stepping into the shade the large oak tree provided the two of them, Cipher sat himself down beside the boy, crossing his legs elegantly over his lap. § I will just have to join you in your strange mortal customs. §

 

" It's not a custom! " Dipper snickered, " It's something you do to relax. "

 

§ Is that so? §

 

" Yeah, see? " He fell back into the grass, staring at the sky through the gaps in the leaves, blue and clear. " Just like this. "

 

Cipher chirped, doubtful. Even still, he laid himself down next to him. § You find this relaxing? §

 

" I do. " He sighed, looking over at him. Small patches of sunlight danced on his face and torso, the scales on his cheeks and shoulders glinting as the wind played with the ruffled the foliage above them. " It's- it's nice. "

 

§ Hmm. § Closing his eyes, Cipher tried to see what his sacrifice found so appealing about lying in the dirt. Admittedly, the sun felt warm against his exposed skin and the flowers that surrounded them smelled sweet. The grass was soft against his arms and legs and the wind ruffled his feathers and hair with light whispers. § Perhaps you are right. § He acknowledged.

 

" Told you so. "

 

§ Yes, § He groaned, allowing his lips to quirk into a small smirk, § I suppose you did. §

 

" Sometimes it's nice to just enjoy the small things in life. "

 

§ Gods do not stop to enjoy the small things very often. § Cipher thought aloud, § They are far too concerned with the large picture. §

 

" You're not. " Dipper pointed out, reaching out to take his hand in his, intertwining their fingers, " You're laying here with me aren't you? "

 

The god chuckled, giving the boy's hand a squeeze, § Yes, I am. But what makes you think that I do not see you as a part of the big picture? §

 

" I'm trying to give you a life lesson! " He giggled, " Not instigate your flirting! "

 

§ It is never a bad time to flirt with you~ § Cipher crooned, blowing him a kiss.

 

" Every time's a bad time when it's you that's doing the flirting. " Dipper teased.

 

§ How dare you! § He shrieked playfully, § I will have you know that, in all my years, I have had hundreds of people begging for my sweet words! Hundreds! §

 

" Oh? And how many of them actually fell for them? "

 

§ All of them. § Cipher sniffed.

 

" All of them? "

 

§ Every last one. §

 

" Is that a fact? "

 

§ It most certainly is. §

 

Dipper worried his lip, acting as if he were struggling to keep something to himself, " Well, if that's what you want to tell yourself, who am I to stop you? "

 

Cipher gave him a cool look, § Your humor is most unappreciated. §

 

" You love me. "

 

§ I am beginning to not enjoy this 'enjoying the smaller things in life' thing that you have going for yourself. §

 

His sacrifice laughed at his expense, " Don't be like that, I'm enjoying myself immensely right now! "

 

§ I am sure you are. § Cipher grumbled, § Make no doubt about that. §

 

" Are you going to smite me with your godly powers? " Dipper asked innocently.

 

§ Perhaps. §

 

" You wouldn't though. " He told him. " You'd miss me too much. "

 

§ While I would miss you dearly, I assure I would not be too lonely. Bernard will keep me company. §

 

" Oh, good. I wouldn't want you to be lonely after you dispose of me. Couldn't have that could we? "

 

§ Definitely not. § Cipher agreed, § You know how I get when I'm bored. §

 

" You're something else! " Dipper finally gave in, flashing him a crooked grin, his eyes bright with mirth. " You know that? "

 

§ I am quite aware how spectacular I am, yes, thank you. § He returned the affection, baring a sharp smile; they both dissolved into muffled laughter.

 

" I love you. " Dipper breathed, " Even if you think laying in the grass and relaxing is a waste of time. "

 

§ Perhaps it is not as much of a waste of time as I first thought. § He mentioned.

 

" Did I win you over? " He asked.

 

Cipher looked his sacrifice over, to the way he was sprawled out over the emerald grass, his brown hair disheveled and messy, to how his golden accessories glittered in the sunbeams, little specks of light flickering over his round cheeks. He held his hand firmly, his heart swelling with affection and desire, § If I spend time like this, with you, it is not a waste. §

 

" We should waste time more often. " Dipper beamed.

 

 § Yes, § He agreed, squeezing his hand, § Perhaps we should. §

 

 

[ Wl blf pmld dsl R zn? Dsl blf dviv? ]

 

 

It was pouring.

 

Dipper sat on the steps of the tower entrance, watching Bernard splash through the deep puddles that had begun to accumulate on the cobbled walkways, playing happily in the downpour. Protected under the overhang above, he went back to writing in his journal, a recent venture of his when he found the leather bound book on his bedside table. No doubt another gift from Cipher; he looked down when a wet paw tapped the top of his foot.

 

Bernard chirped at him, rain drops dripping from his whiskers, beckoning him to come with him.

 

" No thanks, " He laughed, " I'll stay dry. "

 

He smacked him again, persisting.

 

" I said no Bernard, I'm busy. "

 

Hopping up the stairs, the otter head butted his back, pushing stubbornly against him.

 

" You're about as insufferable as Cipher, you know that? "

 

Bernard continued to urge him forward, chattering to himself quietly, as if chiding Dipper for his lack of activity.

 

" Fine, fine, " Dipper sighed, giving in, " I'll play, I'll play. "

 

Trotting past him, looking as smug as an otter could, Bernard stepped back into the rain, a bounce in his step.

 

" You've been hanging around Cipher too much, you know that? " He accused him. Making sure his ink was dry, Dipper closed his book and set it aside. " You're just as bad as he is. " Standing up, he held his hand out and watched as a tiny lake gathered in his palm. " Oh well. Here goes. " He jumped the bottom stairs, bare feet immediately encased in water as they met the ground; he startled. " That's- that's cold! "

 

Within moments, he was soaked. His hair, normally fluffy and full of cowlicks, was plastered to his face and his skin became slick with rain, his silks clinging tightly to his soft body. Blinking water from his eyes, he pushed his bangs back, " Happy now? "

 

Bernard scampered about, obviously overjoyed. Splashing from puddle to puddle, a few of the stars that were always tangled in his fur fell free. He dove and twirled in the rain, occasionally throwing water up at Dipper; when the boy would try to retaliate, he would run away, squeaking cheerfully.

 

" Get back here! " Dipper ran after Bernard, the otter leading him deeper into the garden, the two splashing through puddles and ducking under bowing branches. The grass was quickly turning into a wet land, the rain falling too fast and too hard for the ground to absorb it all. Water lapping at his ankles, Dipper quickened his pace. Seeing how far ahead the star otter had gotten, he looked around, devising a plan. Spotting a small break in the treeline, he smirked to himself. " Perfect. "

 

Bernard, comfortably ahead, looked back, expecting to see the human still slogging after him. When he didn't spot Dipper, he tilted his head, confused. Paddling through the rising water, he turned circles, pacing uneasily.

 

" Gotcha! " Dipper yelled, diving out of a cerulean azalea bush, petals exploding over them. Bernard squealed as his arms wrapped around his middle and the two fell into the water, laughing and chirping. " I win! "

 

Huffing, the otter smacked him lightly on his cheeks, nose twitching disdainfully.

 

Beaming, he held him up, " Checkmate. "

 

Squirming out of his grip and dropping onto his stomach, Bernard turned his nose up into the air. Hopping into the water, he waded his way back to the front tower; despite his haughtiness, his tail swished happily.

 

" Sore loser! " He called out, struggling to his feet. Wringing out some of the water from his silks and wrappings, he began to slowly trudge through the rising water. " It's really coming down, isn't it? It doesn't look like it's going to stop anytime soon either. " Shielding his eyes, he looked up into the sky, narrowing at the swirling, massive clouds that seemed to grow darker with each passing minute. " The weather is so weird here. " 

 

Ducking under the blooming bushes and trees, Dipper stepped back onto the cobbled pathway of the entrance, flowers and leaves stubbornly clinging to his wayward locks. Picking some of the golden blossoms from his hair, he looked up, grinning widely when he spotted Cipher, the god waiting under the alcove of the stairs. Bernard was at his feet, shaking himself dry, his fur fluffing up like a cotton pod. " Cipher! " Jogging over to him, Dipper flung himself into his arms, laughing into his chest when they stumbled back.

 

§ What in the world have you been getting yourself into now, my sacrifice? § Cipher asked, holding him away at arms length so he could inspect him. § You are soaking wet. §

 

" I was playing with Bernard. " He explained, " He wouldn't leave me alone until I agreed to run around in the rain with him. "

 

§ Is that so? § He raised an eyebrow, looking down at the otter who was currently busying himself with grooming his face. § Bernard? §

 

Bernard looked up, paw paused above his head. He looked between the two of them before he gave a short nod, chirping happily.

 

" See? "

 

§ I can not believe you allow yourself to be pushed around by a tiny otter. §

 

" He's very persuasive. "

 

§ Is he then? §

 

" Very. " Standing on tiptoe, Dipper kissed Cipher, their lips pressing together softly,  " He learned from the best. "

 

§ I do hope you mean me. § Dipper pulled away to smile shyly at him, warm and familiar in more ways than one. Nostalgia and longing played with his heart; it ached deeply.

 

" I do. " He answered, " You're a bad influence. "

 

§ I disagree. § He informed him, sweeping Dipper up into his arms bridal style and holding him close. § There is no one more suited than I to teach Bernard the way of mischief and getting one's way. §

 

" That's why I said you're  bad influence, Dummy. "

 

Cipher growled and nuzzled into his tummy, nipping at his soft flesh, § Hush you or I will leave you out in the rain. §

 

" You threaten me a lot, are you aware of that? "

 

§ Well, I have to keep you under control somehow, do I not? § Cipher chuckled, carrying him inside. § Now, let us get you warmed up~ §

 

 

[ Blfi nvnlirvh dviv yolxpvw yb sfig zmw z kzrm hl wvvk rg hxziivw blf uli vgvimrgb. Wl blf ivnvnyvi? ]

 

 

Cipher toweled off Dipper's hair, his sacrifice complying with gentle hums. Satisfied, he dropped the towel around his shoulders and ran his fingers through the lightly tangles curls. § There. How do you feel? §

 

Dipper sighed, flopping back against Cipher's chest, the heat of the bath giving away to the cool of the night. " Perfect. "

 

He kissed him behind his ear, enjoying the scent of honey and milk that enveloped his little bird. § Wonderful. §

 

A crash of thunder shook the room.

 

Dipper turned his attention to the window, the curtain fluttering in the breeze that had picked up since he was last outside; he could see the tops of the trees in the courtyard waving as sinister clouds glowed with far off lightning. The atmospheric pressure in the room was tense and he could feel it deep in his bones, rigid and foreboding. " It's really going to storm. " He said.

 

§ That it is. §

 

Arms wound around his waist and drew him close, protective and snug, " How bad? "

 

Cipher drummed his fingers on his stomach, placing his chin on the top of his head, § Bad. § He finally answered. § It's going to be quite fierce. §

 

" Should I be worried? "

 

§ Of course not, § He murmured, § Your dreams will keep the storm far from your thoughts. §

 

" You'll make sure of it, right? " Dipper asked, closing his eyes and placing his own hands over his. Lightning split the sky and thunder roared in it's wake; outside, the rain picked up.

 

§ Of course I will, § Cipher promised, § You will fall asleep to the sound of rain and awaken to the morning sun. §

 

 

[ Rg rh grnv uli blf gl ivnvnyvi dsl blf dviv, dsl R dzh.]

 

 

Cipher gently picked Dipper up. Bernard, who had curled up at his feet, stirred. Smiling to himself as the other continued to snore softly, not bothered by his sudden movement, he chuckled. § So cute. §

 

Nuzzling his nose into his neck, he carried him away from the window seat he had fallen asleep on some time ago, and over to his bed. Setting him down, he pushed his hair away from his face and stared down at the slumbering boy, unable to look away from him. Running his thumb over his cheek, he sighed. § Goodnight, my constellation. I will see you in the morning. §

 

He didn't move.

 

Something was wrong, throwing him off kilter. He couldn't place it and he couldn't put a name to it, but it unsettled him greatly. An ache in his bones that stemmed from an old injury that had never healed right or the feeling that he was forgetting something gravely important.

 

It was beginning to frustrate him.

 

Bernard hopped up onto the bed, giving a small yawn. Rubbing his eyes, he looked up at Cipher curiously.

 

§ Look after him for me. § He instructed the otter, § Something is not right. §

 

He just did not know what.

 

 

[ Dzpv fk, Wrkkvi. ]

 

 

Dipper shot up in bed, a scream choking in his throat.

 

Gasping, he struggled to calm the erratic beating of his heart, fear gripping his chest with it's bony fingers. He looked around his room, nothing seemingly out of place or disturbed and he let out a shaky breath, hiding his face in his hands. " You're okay, " He told himself, " You're fine. Just breath, Dipper. "

 

Breathing deeply, he calmed the panic that had begun to fog his mind, counting  and reciting his prayers with quiet whispers. Once he felt calm enough, safe enough, he lowered his quivering hands. The room was bathed in the amber glow of the star mobile that hung high above him, though the once comforting light was mockingly throwing shadows across the room. Darkness bobbed and weaved as it tried to reach him, only to be chased away by the lightning that still danced outside his window, the roar of thunder it's orchestra.

 

Swallowing, Dipper croaked, " I need a drink of water. "

 

Throwing his legs over the side of his bed, he slipped off carefully, shivering when his feet came into contact with the cold stone. Rubbing his arms, he went over to his desk and fumbled along the top, relief washing over him when he found what he was looking for. Opening the tinderbox, he grabbed a fire stick and struck it against the side of the wooden box, a small, warm flame burning at the top of the dried pine. Carefully, he transferred the ember to the candlestick, the wick easily accepting his offering.

 

Bernard, awakened by his abrupt rising, chirped uneasily from his nest of tangles blankets.

 

Dipper gave him a reassuring smile, " Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you. I'm going to get a drink and then I'll be right back, okay? " Giving him a little wave, he left the room and began to descend the spiral stairs, holding his candle out to illuminate as much as the halls as he could; Bernard came after him soon enough.

 

" You thirsty too? " He chuckled quietly.

 

Together they made their way into the dining room, the large hall dark and empty of it's usual cheer. It set Dipper on edge. Setting the candle aside, he began to go through the offerings of the night, placing a small saucer of milk down for Bernard to indulge in. He managed to find a pitcher of nectar for himself, hidden amongst the platters of breads and pastries. He poured himself a cup and drank deeply, the sweet, thick juice easing the dryness of his throat. Gasping, he wiped his mouth, " That's- that's better. "

 

Grabbing his candle, and a jelly filled roll on his way out, Dipper made his way back to his room, pausing when he got to the entry way, the flashing lightning drawing his attention to the massive stained glass window that dominated the main wall. Holding the votive higher, he stared at the triangular effigy of his god, watching the rain cascade down it's panes. Vaguely, he could make out some of the words that the hieroglyphs spelled out and, curious, he stepped closer.

 

" 'Ten symbols placed around a wheel,' " He read, " 'Hand in hand, they'll bond the seal. But break the chain and pay the cost, the prophecy will all be lost.' " He frowned, " What does that mean? "

 

A sudden chill crept up his back and Dipper shivered. " I think it's time to go back to bed. What do you think, Bernard? "

 

The otter paced uneasily, turning circles around his feet.

 

" Yeah, me too. " He agreed, " Let's get going "

 

Bernard shot ahead of him, hopping up the stairs with barely masked apprehension. He turned around and waited for Dipper to join him, not wanting to leave his side.

 

Dipper paused at the foot of the stairs, hand raised above the banister. He frowned, unable to shake the feeling that something was still off. Wrong, he decided, something was wrong.

 

[ Uloold gsv xzoormt, Wrkkvi. Blf mvvw gl urmw dszg blf szev olhg. ]

 

" You go ahead, " He told him, " I'll catch up. "

 

Bernard called to him as he turned away but he ignored him. There was a pull in his chest, harsh and demanding, and he had to figure out what it was. Allowing his feet to lead him, Dipper walked down one of the long hallways that lead deeper into the tower. He walked slowly, clutching the candlestick so tightly his fingers were turning white. He didn't know what he was looking for but he figured he'd know it when he saw it.

 

He came upon another set of stairs, the passage narrow and worn. Gathering his waning courage, he foraged on, slipping into the stairwell with fear nipping at his heels. He descended carefully, the stairs steep and frigid. He exited into a hallway, the ceiling arched high like a chapel, and his footsteps echoed off the bare walls. There was a nagging at the back of his mind, the voice stern and full of warning, that told him he needed to go back. He wasn't welcome here. Him being here threw the world off it's axis. Wrong, it whispered, wrong, wrong, wrong.

 

But something continued to pull him forward.

 

There was a single door at the end of the hall, out of place and time in the ancient building. Swallowing, Dipper reached out and placed his hand against the wood, expecting it to resist his light touch; it swung open.

 

Dipper hesitated, unable to bring himself to enter the room. The unpleasant feeling in his gut intensified but something beckoned him forward, promises and gentle words whispered in a silence only he could hear.

 

[ Wl mlg yv zuizrw. ]

 

Taking a deep breath, he walked through the doorway.

 

Stale, ancient air wrapped itself around him, bringing with it the revival of forgotten promises. Holding his candlestick high above him, Dipper tried to see what was in the room but it appeared empty. There were no decorative rugs on the floor like the other chambers of the tower and no windows were carved into it's walls. The ceiling stretched high above him and he was unable to see the top; no matter how high he held his candle it's light would not reach.

 

" That can't be all there is. " He told himself. He padded into the room, the unease he carried with him growing stronger. He didn't know why he was so anxious, there wasn't anything in here. Yet, the trepidation that was slowly churning into full blown panic refused to ebb.

 

Bernard hovered in the doorway, fretting.

 

Dipper didn't know what he was doing. Every fiber of his very being was screaming for him to continue walking, to move forward. It was loud and overbearing, screaming in his ears. It drowned out the far quieter pleas that were begging him to turn around and never come back. He chalked it up to his curiosity, his never ending need to know everything about anything around him. But he knew it wasn't just that.

 

The room sloped near the end, creating a nook with it's walls.

 

And before him, coming into view as he crept closer, was a tapestry.

 

It dominated the entire wall, a stunning array of bold colors and hanging tassels, gilded beads trailing to the floor, still and unmoving. Cipher, in his true and draconian form, stared out at him, his blazing azure eye unwavering and glinting with hidden cruelty. He looked as if he had just claimed the word for his own, lips parted to bare sharp, white teeth. Arms, long and black, held what Dipper recognized as dream orbs in their palms, bony fingers curled protectively over the small spheres. Curled at his feet, was the body of a god, his white, feathered form still and beaten. Blue flames engulfed the background, flickering and alive.  Bears, their backs speckled with stars, sat in the corners, tears running down their faces, showing an anguish and loss no one should ever feel. The moon encircled the entire picture a long the borders, a stop motion of it's many faces.

 

But it was the couple at the bottom of Cipher's curled form that drew Dipper's attention.

 

" No, " He whispered, voice nearly lost to the emptiness of the room, " That's- that's me. "

 

A dark skinned man with triangular freckles spattered across his cheeks, body rigid and proud, leered out at him. He held a heart in his hands, crimson blood running down his arm as he held it up proudly; his skin glowed with familiar markings and darkness had begun to taint his fingertips. In his arms, he held another boy, his hair brown and fluffy and eyes shining with the entirety of the night sky. His forehead was dusted with stars and he held the brown skinned man's hand loosely in his own, weeping openly as his side became bathed in the blood of his open chest.

 

The light of the shaking candle caught the golden words embroidered in the tapestry, bold and unforgiving. ' The Birth of the Golden One'.

 

A name, like dust on his tongue, wavered the front of his mind and Dipper was suddenly aware of the tears that were rolling down his cheeks. " Bill, " He croaked, " Bill. "

 

[ Lfi sfhyzmw, nb olevi. ]

 

He was falling.

 

Dipper stared up at the summer sky, blinking in surprise. His sister's laughter rang in his ears, calling him clumsy and teasing him about his supposed two left feet. Before he could retort back that he was a much better dancer than her, he was lifted from his pathetic sprawl by a pair of arms, strong and so, so warm. His cheeks flushed with embarrassment and he opened his mouth to thank the man who had stopped to help him; the words died on his lips as he turned.

 

The most stunning pair of azure eyes stared at him, the intensity and desire that brewed within them throwing him off kilter. The man before him was tall and lean, his dark skin speckled with the kisses of gold and his ebony hair fell over his shoulder in a series of long braids. His hands refused to let go of his own and Dipper struggled to speak to him, stuttering, " Can- can I help you? "

 

" I think, " He answered, voice unsure and brow furrowing, " I think I love you. "

 

" Sir! " Dipper exclaimed, his blush deepening, " You- you do not even know me! "

 

" I would like to, " He insisted, tightening his hold on his hand, " If you- if you would give me the chance. "

 

He reached out with his free hand, his fingers quivering over the boy that shared his face. " No- no, I'm right here. I'm here. He wouldn't. He loves- that's not- " He broke, " That's not me. "

 

His candlestick fell from his loose grip and Dipper ran his hands through his hair, struggling to breath; the room plunged into darkness.

 

He was running through a field, the reeds tall and soft against his legs. He was laughing. A basket, heavy with berries and plants, hung from his elbow and he turned around to reach out for the taller man trailing behind him. He beamed and grabbed his hand. The other man returned his affection, lips pulling into a tender smile that was so familiar it hurt. " I love you! "

 

" I love you too, my constellation. "

 

Dipper's legs buckled, unable to hold him up any loner and his knees slammed onto the floor. He held his head in his hands as he sobbed, memories flashing through his foggy mind like a series of moving pictures.

 

The two of them laid in the grass, staring up at the stars that dotted the night sky, millions of far off lights, glowing just for them. Dipper raised his arm and lazily pointed out the constellations, tracing their invisible lines with his finger, " Do you remember that one? "

 

Bill smirked at him, " Of course. That's Scorpio. " He pointed out another one, confident and arrogant, " And that one is Cygnus, the swan. "

 

He laughed, " Not bad! "

 

" And this one, " Bill added, rolling over onto his stomach so he could poke his husband on his forehead, " Is my favorite. "

 

Dipper felt like his head was going to explode, a key slowly turning to unlock everything that he had forgotten. His heart beat erratically, constricting painfully with each  shuddering breath he took, his lungs begging for air as a wild fire began to burn in his chest; he clutched at it desperately.

 

Dipper softly padded into the room, a blanket held in his arms and a frown on his lips. Bill sat at his desk, hunched over old texts the head priest had demanded he translate, and scribbling away as if his life depended on it. He finally broke the tense silence, " Are you coming to bed? "

 

" I am working. "

 

There was a bite to his voice and Dipper worried his lip. " Please? "

 

" Not now, Dipper. " Bill scowled, pulling a scroll closer to him and bending over it so his long nose nearly brushed it's surface.

 

" Okay, " He gave in, " But at least cover up, okay? Winter is upon us and it has gotten quite cold lately. " He draped the soft quilt over the taller man's shoulder, wrapping him in it's warm embrace; he hugged him tightly. " You know I am here for you, right? "

 

" I know. " Bill said, his eyes flashing, " I know. "

 

Dipper moaned, low and desperate, " Stop, " He choked, " Please, stop. I don't want to remember. Please, please, please. "

 

He laid on their bed, staring at the empty space next to him with watery eyes. Swallowing the lump in his throat, he rubbed his eyes, refusing to allow his tears to fall. Rolling over, he pulled his comforter up to his chin, desperate to engulf himself in some sense of warmth. " I miss you. "

 

Bernard ran around him, terrified and worried but Dipper paid the otter little attention, his paws gentle on his face as he chattered comfortingly at him. His vision danced with lights and colors and his breath came in stuttering heaves, " Bill- Cipher- who- " He felt like he was breaking, the cracks spreading further along with each second that slipped by.

 

He was stirred from his restless slumber by a hand on his back, " Dipper, wake up. "

 

Groaning softly, wanting nothing more than to bury his face in his arms and go back to sleep, he opened his eyes, hope blossoming in his heart, " Bill? "

 

" Yes, " He answered, voice strained and tired, " I am home. "

 

Dipper sat up quickly, his tiredness forgotten. His husband looked travel worn and haggard but he was in one piece, something the star child was eternally grateful for. He cupped the man's face in his hands and gave him a watery smile, " Welcome home. "

 

" No- stop- Bill, please, please- "

 

" I need you to come with me. " Bill insisted, helping Dipper up from their bed, " I want to share the sunrise with you, my love. "

 

Despite his weariness, Dipper agreed readily, wanting nothing more than to spend time with the man he loved. He laughed, " Okay. But when we get home, you are laying down next to me and we are going to sleep until the stars wake up. "

 

His world began to tilt on it's axis, waltzing around him mockingly. Nausea crept up his throat, vile and blistering; Dipper gagged, " No- "

 

Bill took him by the arm and the two of them walked through the woods they had spent much of their courting years in, gathering berries, watching the clouds and stars, and whispering promises to each other that they still had yet to accomplish. The grass was wet with dew and Dipper shivered, drawing himself closer to his husband, who wrapped an arm around his waist. He made small talk as they walked, pointing out the birds that flitted between budding branches and telling him what he's been up to, spinning him stories he should have been a part of but wasn't.

 

When they finally settled in the grove that had become theirs, Dipper laid his head on Bill's shoulder, " I have missed you. "

 

Bill was quiet for a while, his gaze unreadable and his eyes closed off. He swallowed and when he opened his mouth, his words came out steady but strained, " I will miss you as well, my constellation. "

 

" NO! "

 

Dipper tried to ask him what he meant, why he had worded his statement like that, but froze. Blinking, he looked down at his chest. The handle of a black, pocket marked blade stuck out of his chest, embedded in his flesh all the way to the hilt. A burning sensation began to spread from his wound, sick and ill bringing. Bringing his hand up, he trailed his fingers over the thick, dark blood that ran down his front, stunned. He looked up into his husbands face, his words nearly lost to the choking of his throat. " .....why? "

 

He reached out, to touch him, to feel him, but his body gave a shudder and pitched forward, falling into Bill's waiting arms. He stared up into his cold, blue eyes, unable to find the man he had fallen in love with, the man he had married, the man he had decided to share the rest of his life with. His other half. His lips trembled, " ..... I...... love you. "

 

His chest burned and Dipper clawed at it, trying to stop the fire from spreading, to put it out, but it raged on, merciless and blinding. " No, " He begged, black beginning to dance at the edges of his sight. " Please, I- I can't. It's too- it's too- painful. "

 

[ R'n hliib. ]

 

" And I you. " Bill answered. He leaned down and kissed-

 

" STOP! "

 

- him, and Dipper felt how cold his lips were. Or was it his own that were so frigid? He asked him, hardly audible, " Will.......will you........forget............me? "

 

" Never. "

 

" LIAR! "

 

" Can I......... can I give you.....one last....g-gift? "

 

Bill nodded, adjusting his hold on him, refusing to speak.

 

Dipper hefted his arm up, his strength all but gone, and reached out with quivering fingertips. Blood pooled in his mouth, coppery and thick, and he gurgled throatily as he tapped Bill's exposed hip seven times, drawing the pattern that decorated his own forehead, his birth right, his namesake. The stars glowed dimly before paling, stark white dots against his mocha skin. Tiny lines connected them, the mark forever branding him as his. " So, " He sputtered, " So that you.... may never.......forget.........................me. "

 

He wanted to kiss him.

 

" I HATE YOU! "

 

But his hands were so heavy; he let them fall to his lap. He was cold, so cold, and Bill's face was beginning to swim, blocked out by tears and creeping unconsciousness. I love you, he thought, his mind overtaken by drowsiness, I don't know what's happened to you or who you have become. I know I should just let you go. But I am so, so selfish. I love you, I love you, I love you. If you will have me-

 

" Stop, " Dipper moaned, shaking uncontrollably. " Don't say it. I never wanted- "

 

Will you let me spend my next life with you?

 

Something in him shattered.

 

Everything Dipper thought he knew, who he thought he was, crumbled before him into dust. Memories that weren't his to keep but belonged to him all the same filtered by at break neck speed, a blur of color and sound that made no sense. The room began to spin quickly and bright lights exploded in his temple. He tried to keep a grasp on his consciousness, feeling it slip between his fingers like air, the sweet melody of sleep calling to him. " Cipher- " He whispered groggily, " Help- help me. "

 

Eyes rolling, Dipper collapsed onto his side, limp and broken. His lips moved in silent prayer, a steady stream of names and pleas, everything fading to monochrome as he drifted far, far away.

 

I can hear the ocean, He thought tiredly, I can hear the ocean.

Chapter Text

Dipper could hear the ocean.

 

Bolting upright, he gasped, finally able to breath. The taste of salt settled on his tongue. Chest heaving, he looked around, the world finally coming to a standstill as the ground stopped reeling. His head was pounding and his heartbeat was echoing painfully in his ears. Shakily, he carded his fingers through his messy hair, trying to even out his breathing. His blurred vision began to clear and the prickling along his back lessened. Once he had calmed down and everything stopped spinning around him, he swallowed thickly and took in his surroundings, surprised to find that he wasn't in the basement room with the tapestry anymore; he couldn't say he wasn't relieved.

 

A cloudless blue sky stretched before him, endless and full of the calls of gulls he could not see. The sun was warm on his skin, chasing away the chill that clung to him, and the wind whispered against him, gentle and kind. He appeared to be lying in the middle of a familiar city square, banners and flags decorating the entire area in soft shades of teal and blue. The wind picked up and thousands of pieces of confetti, vivid and glittering, fluttered across the stone. In the distance, the ocean rolled against the shore, a constant clash of land and sea.

 

Gathering himself, Dipper got to his feet, unsteady and weak as his silks got tangled around his knees. Subconsciously, he knew where he was, even if he was having trouble remembering the name. He recognized the white marble structures and archways and the glowing hieroglyphs instantly, even if there was something completely off about it all, features distorted and wrong.

 

" Atlantis. " He breathed, " I'm in Atlantis? " Wrapping his arms around himself, Dipper wondered what he was doing here. " What happened? "

 

[ Gsrh rh mlg gsv Zgozmgrh blf pmld. ]

 

The buildings around him were cracked, large gashes marring the smooth surface. They spread out like a massive spiderweb of lines, crisscrossing over windows and door frames, huge wounds on the once pristine walls. It appeared that someone had tried to fill them in, though it wasn't with mortar. Examining it closer, Dipper could see the cracks glowing with the brilliance of the touch of gold, mending the seams and bringing a sort of beauty to the broken houses.

 

Rubbing his arms, Dipper walked down the street, kicking up confetti as he went, the ground completely covered in the colorful scraps of paper. " Hello? " He called out, " Is anyone there? "

 

Silence met him, stifling and oppressive. The air was heavy with quiet static, everything frozen in time. Descending a staircase that was crowded with potted plants carefully, Dipper looked for any sign of life that Atlantis once held, finding none. Though, the longer he walked, the more inconsistencies he found with the city. Crystals still hung in the tall, open windows, rainbows dancing in the street as sunlight filtered through them, but the houses themselves were desolate. The rivers that ran through the canals were still, amemasu no longer swimming in their depths. Distantly, he could hear the sound of bells and the chatter of hundreds of people; he saw none.

 

" What is going on? "

 

[ Hsv rh xlnrmt. ]

 

Heading deeper in the heart of the city, Dipper walked slowly, taking in as much he could as chills began to dance up his spine, foreboding and constant. The whole city was off, from the ichor filled cracks to the bushes that grew wild and free, their leaves peppered with the sweetest smelling flowers, their petals curled and golden. His stomach growled as he ducked under their branches, honey and nectar beckoning for him to come and have a small taste; he ignored them. " Hello? " He called again, voice wavering, " Hello? C-Ciph- " He bit his tongue, the god's name ash on his lips. " Bill. " He finished weakly.

 

[ Sv xzm mlg ivzxs blf sviv. Mlg bvg. ]

 

He pushed aside the betrayal and bitter taste of bile that rose in his throat and forced his legs to move, knees weak and wobbling. He didn't want to think about it right now, he didn't want to believe it, he didn't want to, didn't want, didn't want, didn't-

 

He slipped into a confined alleyway, gasping. His vision was swimming with tears and he stubbornly rubbed them away with the palms of his hands. " Get it together, Dipper. " He scolded himself. " You don't have time- time for this. " He recited his prayers, once a little good luck charm  now turned stale and acidic, mumbling to himself until his breathing had evened out and his knees no longer threatened to buckle beneath him. The orison, once loved and proud, lost it's comfort to him. Swallowing his sobs, he continued, one step at a time. " Just keep going. " He told himself, " Just keep moving. "

 

[ Pvvk nlermt, wl mlg ollp yzxp. ]

 

A narrow staircase rose in front of him, flower pots decorating the low walls with a splash of color, and Dipper hastily began to climb. Each step wore on him and he felt like curling up and forgetting everything, giving in to the despair he refused to acknowledge. But he kept going. The sound of bells became louder, jarring him deep in his bones.

 

[ Gszg rh rg, wl mlg trev rm.  ]

 

Once at the top, Dipper pushed aside a heavy curtain, and stepped into an open grotto, the sea air welcome against his flushed face. He breathed it in like it was a lifeline, his chest finally unlocking to allow him a full breath. It did little to soothe the discomfort and hurt that had curled up in his heart but it was still appreciated, his ears no longer ringing with the thrumming of his heartbeats. Opening his eyes, he came face to face with an effigy of Cipher.

 

It appeared he had stepped into a small area of worship. A majority of the courtyard was dominated by the eldritch statue of Cipher, the color of his scales faded with age. His great, serpentine body was curled around an offering house and his face was held high in arrogant pride. Gold hung from his many hands and water cascaded down his back, the waterfall collecting in a pond at his feet where lily pads grew and coins sparkled. Despite it's great age, it was a masterful piece of work, hand carved from the cliff side it rose from; Dipper shuddered.

 

Benches were laid out before him, just as old and worn as the rest of the city, and Dipper stumbled to the front, collapsing into a pew when his legs could move no more. He breathed deeply and clenched his silks in his hands tightly, trying to ignore the headache that was building at the back of his skull, dull and pounding. He squeezed his eyes shut and hunched over, wheezing. Tears rolled down his cheeks and his shoulders shook with unrestrained sobs.

 

[ Hsv rh sviv. ]

 

There was a soft, somber sigh somewhere to his right.

 

Sensing he wasn't alone, Dipper looked up, surprised to find a woman sitting on the bench next to his; he quickly wiped his tears away with the back of his arm, mortified. " Um, sorry- I didn't mean to- I've been- "

 

She turned to him and Dipper stopped, the words dying on his lips as his stomach churned.

 

☣ Welcome, Dipper. ☣ She greeted, smiling thinly at him. ☣ How I have longed to speak with you. ☣

 

She was grotesquely beautiful, her long, dark hair falling to her taunt waist like an onyx curtain. Her skin was mottled and gray, stretched tightly across her well defined bones, paper thin and blistered with open wounds. Her face was unnerving, her eyes completely black and her cheeks were dotted with holes that showed off the inside of her mouth. Thick, gooey strands of sludge dripped from her upper arms, ripping away from her when it grew too heavy. Even sitting, she cut an impressive figure, taller than him and impossibly slender.

 

Alarm bells immediately went off in his head.

 

" Who, " Dipper asked, " Who are you? "

 

She chuckled, the sound sending unpleasant pin pricks along his skin , ☣ You, ☣ She purred, ☣ May call me Pestilence. ☣

 

Her name, spoken between blistered lips, settled over him like a plague and Dipper began to feel fear blossom deep within his chest. Why, he could not place. He had never seen this goddess before, never read about her, never knew she existed. Yet, her name, her voice, and her companionship seemed oddly familiar, painful.

 

[ Hsv gllp srn zdzb uiln nv. Zdzb uiln fh. ]

 

☣ Come, ☣ Pestilence said, patting the seat beside her, ☣ Sit with me. ☣

 

He didn't move, his knees shaking too much to stand.

 

She didn't seem bothered by this, only sighing like she was scolding a small child. ☣ No need then. I will simply come to you. ☣ She stood, elegant and powerful, and strutted over to him, the hem of her long dress dragging her sickness with her. Peering down at him, her expression unreadable, she sat herself beside Dipper, her thigh nearly brushing his; he resisted the urge to wrench it away. They lapsed into a strained silence.

 

☣ You are not much to look at. ☣ Pestilence finally said, her voice full of judgement and ire.

 

Dipper turned to face her, unsure how to answer or even if she wanted one.

 

☣ In fact, ☣ She continued, reaching out to grab his chin. ☣ You are rather plain. Not at all what I imagined Cipher taking as a lover, not at all. ☣

 

Her touch was cold, clammy, and Dipper forced himself to swallow the vomit that burned at the back of his throat.

 

☣ His tastes have changed that is for sure. ☣ She slid her fingers up to pinch his cheek, smirking when the boy jolted beneath her fingertips. ☣  You are much shorter than I remember, and far softer in the middle. You have been spoiled too much. You wear such finery yet you deserve none of it. Tell me, boy, what does Cipher see in you other than his own redemption? ☣

 

" What are you- "

 

☣ I do not, ☣ Pestilence interrupted, ☣ Pretend to know or understand Cipher or his little whims. There is much of him that remains an enigma to all. He has dabbled in ancient cities such as Atlantis, El Dorado, Alexandria, and even Memphis. He has asked for sacrifices and gold and prayers. He has invested himself to the dreams and wants of his people. Yet, what he truly desires, what he longs for, remains a complete mystery to me. ☣ She reached out and stroked her knuckle again the boy's cheek. ☣ Even to you. ☣

 

" Don't touch me. " Dipper bit out pushing her hand away.

 

She simpered, ☣ You are much more feisty than you once were. Once, you were so placid and easy to shove aside. Now, you hold a fire in your eyes. Is that what drew him to you? That passion? That flame? ☣

 

" Why are you here? " He asked, " Why are you telling me these things? "

 

[ Hsv dzmgh gl pvvk blf sviv. Olxp blf zdzb rm blfi mrtsgnzivh. Wl mlg ovg svi, Wrkkvi.  ]

 

☣ You know nothing, child of Ursa Major. ☣ Pestilence stated, turning her attention to the statue of Cipher before them. ☣ Nothing. ☣ She was quiet for a moment before continuing, contemplative and harsh, ☣ You know not what Cipher has done to you. You were so afraid to face the truth, to see what he had become, to see what he is. So terrified of the truth before you, in fact, that you ran away. Much like a hound with it's tail tucked between it's legs. You were a coward. A fool. ☣

 

Dipper felt his blood run cold. " Shut up. " He whispered.

 

[ R dzh z xldziw. Zn z xldziw. ]

 

☣ You were so afraid to face the truth of what had happened to your love that you begged Life to take your memories away, so that you would be born without them. ☣

 

( " Take them. " He begged the deity, his hands clammy and shaking. " I can not bear them. I will be driven mad by them. Life, Bearer of all Life, please, I beg you. I beseech you, take them from me. " He was bawling, holding onto Life's arm like it was a lifeline; his chest still ached. " I do not want to remember him. " )

 

[ Zmw gsvb wrw. Li, gsvb girvw gl. ]

 

☣ But the memories were so ingrained in you, so hurtful, so painful, that all Life could do was lock them away, deep in your mindscape. They feared they would shatter your soul for it was so fractured. ☣ She laughed, ☣ Imagine. ☣

 

" Shut up. " Dipper muttered, his voice catching his throat. His vision was swimming again and his head was pulsing unpleasantly. He stared at his feet, trying to calm his breathing by counting the pieces of confetti that lazily drifted by. One, two, three, four-

 

☣ And even now. ☣ The goddess chortled, ☣ You run away from the truth when it is right in front of you! You see it with your own eyes and still you turn tail. You run and you run and you run but you do not seem to get anywhere do you? ☣

 

[ R zn hgroo ifmmrmt, Ozwb lu Wvxzb. ]

 

☣ Tell me, Child of Stars, why are you still running? ☣

 

" SHUT UP! " Dipper screamed, jumping to his feet. " SHUT UP! YOU KNOW NOTHING! " His head was killing him, voices mingling into an echo of sound that pitched and keened. He couldn't make out what they were saying; it sounded like him. He wanted them to stop.

 

☣ Nothing? ☣ Pestilence hissed, her smile falling from her chapped lips. ☣ You claim I know nothing? ☣ She stood slowly, her disease dripping from her waxy skin like tar. Her eyes were narrowed in fury and her nostrils flared. ☣ You, you are nothing but a child. A low quality reproduction of an original. You are a soft, weak human who bends to the will of a god. I, I am a goddess of plagues and illness. I am the mistress of rot, a horseman of the apocalypse. You are nothing compared to me. You think you know more than me? You think yourself so arrogant? ☣

 

Dipper wrapped his arms around himself and squeezed his eyes shut.

 

☣ You, ☣ She gurgled, circling him like a beautifully decaying raven, ☣ Are nothing more than a terrified child. And an un-whole one at that. You run and refuse to look back, for fear of what you will see. What do you think you will see, Mason, if you look behind you? What do you fear most of all? ☣

 

[ R uvzi nzmb gsrmth.  ]

 

Dipper hunched his shoulders, biting his knuckles to stifle the sob that threatened to rip from his throat. Ashamed, he felt tears dripping down his cheeks. " Shut up. "

 

☣ Are you afraid you will see that you mean nothing to him? That you are as worthless to him as the day he killed you? Are you afraid that no matter how you beg and plea with him, he will toss you aside? You are nothing to him. You are his redemption and nothing else. You are meaningless. ☣

 

Dipper's heart gave a painful, numbing lurch, as if it too could remember what had happened centuries ago. His free hand clutched his chest, " Stop. " He begged. " Please- please, just stop. "

 

☣ It still hurts, does it not? ☣ Pestilence cooed, feigning concern; the boy flinched away. She hummed, ☣ Of course it does. How could it not? ☣ She left his side, sweeping her thin arms wide, ☣ You have no idea how much it actually hurts though, do you? ☣

 

[ R pmld zoo gl dvoo sld nfxs z svzig xzm hszggvi. ]

 

" No! " Dipper screamed at her, surprising himself, " You don't understand! You say I don't know, that I don't understand! But it's you who doesn't understand! " He whirled around to face her, furious and terrified. " He killed me! My husband murdered me! How could I not know?! How could I not know how much it hurts?! It's you who doesn't understand, Pestilence! You know nothing of what I feel! You have no right to claim you know how I feel! Bill was my husband! My soul mate! He was meant to be mine! And you- " He choked, " You took him from me. You took him from me. "

 

☣ HE WAS MINE! ☣ Pestilence screamed, surprising them both. She snatched Dipper's arm in her iron like grasp, her nails digging into his flesh without mercy; Dipper flinched. ☣ HE CHOSE ME OVER YOU! HE KILLED YOU FOR ME! HE CHOSE TO BE MY LOVER, MY CHAMPION! HE! WAS! MINE! ☣

 

[ Nliv gszm zmbgsrmt, Yroo dzmgvw Kldvi. Mlg blf. Blf dviv qfhg z nvzmh gl srh vmw. R nzb yv z xldziw yfg Kvhgrovmxv, blf ziv yormw. ]

 

Dipper cringed, his upper arm flaring in pain. " Let me go! "

 

☣ HE WAS MINE! ☣ She bellowed, tightening her grip, grinning sadistically when the brunette yelped, ☣ I TOOK HIM FROM YOU! I GAVE HIM POWER! I GAVE HIM WHAT HE LONGED FOR! HE HAD NO NEED FOR YOUR LOVE! HE HAD ME! HE HAD POWER! I MADE HIM A GOD! ☣ 

 

" Let me go! "

 

☣ HE KILLED YOU! HE DID MY BIDDING! HE WAS MINE! HE LOVED ME!! ☣ Her face contorted into the visage of a goddess of war, her skin crackling as sickness oozing off of her in waves. Her eyes, dark and hollow, blazed with a fury few had ever felt and she yanked Cipher's charge back, hauling him up so they were nose to nose, his feet dangling beneath him.☣ SO WHY?! ☣ Pestilence roared, ☣ WHY DID HE GO BACK TO YOU??!! ☣

 

" I- I don't know! " Dipper answered, wheezing.

 

☣ AS SOON AS YOU WERE REBORN, AS SOON AS YOUR DISGUSTING SOUL WAS BIRTHED INTO THIS WRETCHED WORLD, HE WENT TO YOU! LIKE HE HAD BEEN WAITING FOR IT! HE CALLED YOU HIS SACRIFICE AND HE COURTED YOU WITH LIES AND FALSITY! HE PROMISED YOU LOVE AND HE GAVE YOU ANYTHING YOU COULD EVER WANT!! ☣ She glowered down at Dipper, lips ripping apart to show her entire mouth, her teeth pointed and elongated. Fur, sleek and black was beginning the sprout along her nose and cheeks and rings appeared around her eyes, red and seeping. ☣ YOU DESERVE NONE OF IT!! ☣

 

[ Sv dzh mvevi blfih gl yvtrm drgs. Sv dzh nrmv. Yfg mld, sv rh srh. ]

 

☣ HE LEFT YOU THEN AND HE WILL LEAVE YOU AGAIN! YOU MEAN NOTHING TO HIM! YOU ARE NOTHING TO HIM! I AM HIS EVERYTHING! AND I WILL MAKE SURE YOU NEVER RETURN!! ☣

 

" Let- let go! " Dipper screamed, squirming in her death grip. His shoulder was screaming in agony and his arm throbbed as her fingers prodded deeper into his flesh. " You're hurting me! "

 

☣ YOU WILL NEVER WAKE UP!! ☣ Pestilence promised, unfazed by his struggling, ☣ YOU WILL WANDER YOUR NIGHTMARES UNTIL YOUR BODY DETERIORATES, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?! NOT EVEN CIPHER WILL FIND YOU, IF EVEN  HE CARES TO LOOK. YOU WILL ROT IN YOUR MINDSCAPE AND YOU WILL SINK INTO MADNESS. NO MORE GOOD DREAMS. NO MORE KISSES GOODNIGHT. NO MORE STARS TO WATCH OVER YOU AS YOU SLEEP. YOU WILL DIE HERE, BIG DIPPER. AND YOU. WILL! STAY! DEAD! ☣

 

With a guttural howl, she threw Dipper to the cobbled ground, her entire body shaking. The goddess wavered where she stood, chest heaving with shuttering breaths, her hair a tangled, wild mane. Her body convulsed, her much loved maladies creeping across her collar bone like freckles, her skin rotting at the shoulders. ☣ You will die here. ☣ She went on to say, her voice calm but tone strained, ☣ You will never return to the waking realm. Cipher can search for you all he wants but he, he will not find you. He can search for a thousand, a million, years but he will never hold you again. Enjoy your nightmares, little one. They are all you will have from here on out. ☣

 

Dipper cradled his damaged arm to his chest, wincing as he pressed the edge of his silk to the wounds to stop the flow of blood. He shivered, not understanding what she meant or if she was even really talking to him still. " What- " He gasped " What do you mean? I don't- I don't understand! Why are you- " He looked up but faltered.

 

Pestilence turned away from him, her clawed, pink hands curled at her sides; he could see coarse, dark fur speckled along her exposed back. ☣ Goodbye, Mason. ☣ She told him, her demeanor now back to her unassuming, pleasant front. ☣ I will take my leave now, as it were. I still have much to do. Plaques to spread, ticks to birth, the usual. ☣ Her heels clicked loudly as she strutted away from him, her bony hips swaying as she regained her pep. ☣ I do hope you enjoy your nightmares. They were made just for you.☣

 

" Wait! " Dipper yelled, shakily getting to his feet; his knees nearly gave out. " What do you mean? Cipher would never- "

 

Pestilence was gone.

 

Breathing heavily, Dipper turned around, panic beginning to set in. His vision was blurring around the edges, white and foggy, not helped by the tears that were freely pouring down his cheeks.

 

[ Wrkkvi, hgzb hgilmt. Blf droo mlg wrv sviv. R kilnrhv blf. ]

 

Fear gripped him, all consuming and enveloping. He broke. Desperate, for anyone to answer him or come to him, he screamed, " Cipher! "

 

[ Sv xzm mlg svzi blf irtsg mld. Blf ziv gll uzi zdzb. ]

 

" Cipher! " Dipper tried again, his throat clenching as he tried to yell louder. " Cipher! "

 

[ Blf ziv wvvk rm blfi mrtsgnzivh, uzi lfg lu ivzxs lu vevm gsv Tlw lu Wivznh. Blfi nrmwhxzkv rh uizxgfivw. Zmw gszg rh nb uzfog. R zn hliib, Wrkkvi. Yfg R droo mlg ovg blf wrv. Blf ziv uzi gll rnkligzmg gl srn. ]

 

He began to run, slow and lurching, his calls filled with wounded wails. " Cipher! Cipher! " He reached out, his numb fingers struggling to pull aside the heavy curtain that promised him freedom. The fabric engulfed him, entangling him in it's folds, and Dippers struggled against them. He was aware of someone screaming and it wasn't until his voice cracked that he realized  it was his own. Tugging himself free, he stumbled forward, his feet slipping.  The world rushed to meet as he plummeted, white stone and purple, potted plants, blurring as he fell but Dipper couldn't bring himself to care; he shielded his face with his raised arms.

 

His body met earth and grass tickled his cheek.

 

Opening his eyes, Dipper stared out at the forest before him, wild grass tall and green. Pine trees towered above him, their trunks close together and branches full of emerald needles. Groaning, he managed to push himself onto his back, squinting through the brush. A sky full of stars twinkled down at him and everything was quiet.

 

" Where- where am I? " He asked himself. He wanted to get up but his body felt so heavy, his limbs weighed down with gold and exhaustion. Heaving a heavy sigh, he blinked wearily, unable to even lift his head. " It feels familiar. So familiar. "

 

[ Slnv. Blf ziv slnv. ]

 

" I'm home. " He breathed, " I'm home. "

 

Tears gathered in his eyes and Dipper managed a watery laugh. " I've been doing that a lot lately, haven't I? Crying. " He covered his face with his hands, " Gods, I'm so pathetic. "

 

He wasn't sure how long he laid there, it felt like an entire lifetime, just laying in the grass and taking in the silence. He stared up at the stars, mentally mapping the constellations out and wondering what sky he was under. He itched to trace their invisible lines, to connect them together but his arm remained at his side. " I remember, " He murmured to himself, " I- we used to do this all the time. I would tell you the stories of the stars that my mother taught me and show you where they were. And you, " Dipper laughed, " You would make up the most ridiculous things. Just to make me laugh. "

 

[ Ivnvnyvirmt rh gsv pvb gl tvggrmt lfg lu sviv. Blfi mrtsgnzivh droo uvvw luu blfi uvzih zmw kzrm. Wl mlg uzoo kizb gl gsvn, Wrkkvi. ]

 

" And then, we would go home when dawn began to rise, talking and trying not to fall down because we were laughing so much. We'd fall into bed and you would tell me how much you loved me and you would kiss me. And then- and then we would make love. " He turned and looked at the person that had laid themselves down next to him, " When did it all change? "

 

[ Blf droo nzpv rg slnv, Wrkkvi. Lu gszg, R trev blf nb dliw. Wl mlg uzoo gl gsv kilnrhvh blfi mrtsgnzivh luuvi blf. R nfhg tl. Uli sv rh xzoormt. ]

 

Bill looked over at him, " I do not know, my constellation. I do not know. "

 

 

Bernard fretted over Dipper's prone body, chittering in concern. Nudging his arm with his face, the otter tried to stir the fallen boy but nothing seemed to be able to wake him. Tapping his cheek with his paw, he squeaked loudly, not knowing what to do.

 

Panicked , he circled Dipper, prodding him and scampering over him, trying anything to make him rise. Looking around the room, at a loss for what to do, Bernard whimpered, brushing his whiskers back and flicking his small, round ears.

 

He needed help.

 

Plucking a star from his back, he slipped into Dipper's palm and closed his fingers around it, hoping the little trinket would bring some sort of comfort to him. He didn't want to leave him, not alone, but he didn't have much choice. Pressing his forehead into Dipper's he promised him he'd be back. Then, wasting no time, Bernard fled the room as fast as he could.

 

He needed to find Cipher.

Chapter Text

Cipher pushed Dipper's bangs out of his eyes.

 

Oh, my sacrifice. ▶ He murmured, ◀ What have you gotten yourself into? ▶

 

Bernard chittered from his spot on the bed, curled up against Dipper's side, his paw over the boy's hand. He looked between the two of them, unsure and worried. Whining, he laid his head back down and scooted closer, eager to be some sort of comfort to his friend even if he couldn't feel him there.

 

Cipher stood, running his hands through his long hair and tugging at his braids with a frustrated growl. He wanted to lash out. He wanted to burn the world to ash and everyone in it. The desire to see the universe crumble for what it had allowed to happen to his little bird was boiling over and it was taking everything he had not to fly into an inconsolable rage. Blue flames licked at his fingertips; he quelled them with a curl of his fists.

 

But more than watching the entire world burn, he wanted Dipper to open his eyes.

 

I do not know what to do. ▶ Cipher whispered, leaning over to place his forehead against his sacrifice's, ◀ Come back to me, my sacrifice. Please. ▶ He kissed his birthmark, begging quietly, ◀ Please. ▶

Rushing into the sealed room- which hadn't been so sealed at the time- and seeing Dipper collapsed in front of the tapestry he had hid from the world had chilled Cipher's blood to the point where it had felt frozen over.

 

PINETREE!! ▶ He roared, fear overtaking his every nerve, his verybeing.

 

No, no, no, he had never wanted him to find this room, he had never wanted him to know. How did he find it? Why is he here? Why? Why? Why-

 

PINETREE!! ▶ Dropping to his knees, he scooped the unresponsive boy into his arms, alarmed by how cold and limp he was. He placed his hand on his cheek and drew him close to his chest. His words became lost to the sheer panic and they died on his tongue, catching in his throat like ice. Unable to speak, he placed their foreheads together, ignoring the way he was shaking, tremors racking his entire body. ◀ Pinetree, my sacrifice, my guiding star, please, please open your eyes. ▶

 

Cipher looked the boy over, finding nothing unusual or out of place. His chest rose and fell with deep breaths and his eyelids fluttered rapidly, as if he were dreaming vividly. Nothing roused him, his yells or his desperate shaking, and the longer he laid there, the deeper he seemed to fall into his dreams.

 

Running his thumb over his soft cheek, Cipher closed his eyes and crooned softly. ◀ If you are stuck in your dreams then I will just have to come get you. ▶

 

Placing his hands on either side of Dipper's head, he placed his fingertips over his temples and his thumbs on the center of his forehead. Taking a steadying breath, he prepared himself.

 

Diving into people's mindscapes, while easy in theory, was much more complicated in practice. He had to slip past all the mind's defenses without disturbing the memories that were already there. Touching or interacting with them before he could ingrain himself into the precipitant's plane of thought and rest was strictly forbidden; it could drive people mad and destroy their sense of self. Only when he had been accepted, as he always was as the god of dreams, would he be able to traverse the mind unharmed and with ease.

 

Cipher's feathers stood on end and the golden marking on his arms began to glow, pulsing with the pure, raw, power only a god could hold. His braids twisted around him and his body tensed, turning rigid with concentration. Then, as his eyes snapped open, he pushed his way into Dipper's mindscape.

 

He crashed through a stained glass window and fell, his descent accompanied by hundreds of shards of memory, colors dancing along his skin as he fell; the fall was long and quiet. His feet touched soft grass and Cipher waited, glass falling like rain around him.

 

' Dipper! You need to get out more, you're starting to look like Ford! Why don't we- '

 

' - Slip softly to that place, where secret thoughts run free, And there come face to face, with who you want to be. So, swim across the ocean blue- '

 

' Great Uncle Ford? I found- I found this when I woke up. I- I've been chosen haven't I? '

 

Laughter. ' Bill! '

 

Cipher's eyes snapped open.

 

Dipper's mindscape stretched before him, a vast landscape of imagery that made up the young human. Looking around, he smiled despite himself. ◀ How fitting your mindscape is, my little sacrifice. ▶

 

A great forest stretched before him, oak trees towering over him. Their branches were full of vibrant leaves; despite the monochrome, Cipher knew the foliage was a painting of reds, oranges, and yellows. Carved into the trunks were bookshelves that were positively crammed with books and journals, loose papers scattered around the roots like flowers. Comfortable benches were strewn about, their cushions plump and welcoming, their frames made from gnarled wood. Strings of lights were strung across the treetops, bathing the entire area in a warm, friendly glow. Boards were attached to certain tree trunks where papers and notes were connected with strings, red loops loosely tying them together.

 

Cipher walked carefully through the mindscape, trailing his fingers along the spines of the books that he could reach, the thrum of memories tingling up his arms. He could hear them, begging him to open their covers and explore their creamy pages. He ignored them.

 

Traversing the mindscape was one of the few things Cipher enjoyed about being a god of dreams. It was always quiet, save for the whisper of memories locked behind doors, and it allowed him a moment of respite. He didn't do it often, there was hardly a need to, but when the weight on his shoulders became too much he would flit away to one his favorite mindscapes to find peace from his duties and workload. There was something peaceful about taking refuge in memories that weren't yours.

 

But Cipher was on edge. He could feel something off in the air. It caused his hair to stand on end, the feathers along his jaw and back puffing up cautiously.

 

There was something terribly wrong with Dipper's mindscape. The atmosphere was heavy and repressive, weighing down on him the farther he walked. ◀ What is going on in this head of yours? ▶ He asked, stepping over books that were strewn about the forest floor.

 

The lights above began to flicker and Cipher gave pause.

 

Well, that is not good. 

 

The bookcases around him were completely empty, the shelves barren and askew. Their contents were thrown about, spines cracked and pages ripped from the bindings. The sofas that lined the invisible walls were shoved onto their sides, bodies open and torn. Stooping down, Cipher scooped up a book and allowed it to fall open in his palms.

 

'... ocean? Is that not far away? '

 

' Do you not want to go? '

 

' I do! ' Big Dipper assured him, ' This is just very sudden. '

 

' We will find the prettiest shells and make castles of sand! '

 

He smiled and their hands touched. His lips moved but no words came out.

 

The memory began to replay.

 

' You want to go the ocean? Is that not far away? '

 

' Do you not want to go? '

 

' I do- '

 

Cipher snapped the book closed.

 

Swallowing thickly, he set it back down, his hands shaking. ◀ You loved the ocean. But you never got to go did you? ▶ He whispered, reluctant to move. He twiddled his fingers, as if they were sifting through sand, but caught himself. He balled it into a fist and let it fall to his side.

 

Cipher strutted on, the calls and memories of the books becoming louder and more defined. They were in pieces, scattered like far off dreams, unable to be lined up. He could hear his voice, soft and gentle and he could hear him, loud and abrasive. There were others, one's he did not recognize, and they all swelled into a symphony of voices.

 

' ..... are you sure? What if-... '

 

' I love him so much, Sister! If I were the moon than he surely is my sun! '

 

' ..... too painful, my little star. '

 

' Do you truly not wish to remember, child of Ursa Major? '

 

'....yes. '

 

He ignored them but just barely. The urge to go stomping through all the old memories he and Dipper shared was tempting. ◀ You can go through them together, ▶ He scolded himself, pulling his hand away from a book that was laughing warmly at him, whispering sweet nothings that only he could hear. ◀ But you have to find him first. You have to find him. ▶

 

He delved deeper into the woods.

 

And he did not like what he saw.

 

Despite the apparent health of the surrounding trees, they were blighted, their bark curling and flaking away. The lights dangled uselessly from their limbs, only blinking into existence every now and then, a forlorn welcome if he's ever seen one. Loose papers flooded the ground, piling up to around his knees and cascading away like a tidal wave, their faces stained with large, unsightly blots of black. Cipher swam through them, slogging on even as the papers continued to pile up, inching higher and higher towards his neck. ◀ Pinetree? ▶ He called out, grunting as he shoved a massive pillar of discarded papers aside. The whole thing toppled over; he waved the fluttering memories aside. ◀ Pinetree? ▶

 

An unexpected wave of pages assaulted him, drowning him in the smell of pine, ink, and parchment. Cipher shook his head, blinking rapidly. He could feel Dipper's mindscape bowing and bending, struggling to keep him out. He sneered. His hands grasped nothing but old vellum, the edges brittle with age, and it felt like he was being carried off like a boat lost in the drifting currents of the ocean. ◀ I, ▶ He growled, ◀ Am the god of dreams. I am the walker of the mindscape, the giver of nightmares. You. Will. Grant. Me. PASSAGE! ▶

 

Everything stopped, as if time had frozen.

 

Cipher stood before it all, blue eye glowing as runes glowed up and down his body, his form stuck somewhere between human and abomination; he pulsed. ◀ MOVE ASIDE. ▶

 

His surroundings exploded in a flurry of paper, words, and whispers. Paper swarmed around him, cocooning him with their promises of times long past. He could see nothing but white and blurred words. Screaming in frustration, he lashed out at the wall of parchment, trying desperately not to touch the delicate pieces of memory with the fire that dripped from his finger tips. The more he fought, the harder he was kept out, the paper a barricade that was quickly turning into a cage.

 

Cipher took a deep breath.

 

His rage was notorious, as well known as the rise and fall of the sun and moon. It was an ever blazing fire storm that refused to go out, ready to be at his beck and call with the snap of his fingers. It had demolished civilizations, turned cities to ash, and destroyed anything anyone could hold dear.

 

But his rage wasn't what he needed. Not now.

 

Please, ▶ He said quietly, placing his palm on the wall of paper that refused to yield, ◀ Please. I need to find him. He needs me. ▶ He swallowed the lump in his throat and rasped. ◀ I need him. ▶

 

There was a lull where everything became quiet and still, trapping him in a limbo he had no way out of; he hardly dared to breath.

 

He was then pushed forward by hundreds of hands, their fingers cold as ice on his back and shoulders. The air was frigid and thin and Cipher felt his lungs begin to burn. He felt light headed. Heavy. Powerless.

 

And then he was free.

 

Gasping, he stumbled into a clearing, his bearings off center as the sky and ground fought for ownership of his feet. Breathing heavily, he looked around, his heart lurching when he looked up, sights locking on who he had been searching for.

 

◀  Pinetree. ▶ He breathed.

 

Dipper hovered in front of him, just out of his reach. Held up by a magic not his own, he slumbered deeply, his silks and gold hangings floating freely around him. He didn't wake, even when Cipher stepped up close, lost to a world far away from his own subconsciousness. His eyes were ringed in dark circles, purple bruises standing out on his pale, ashen face. The small brunette was breathing heavily, his chest rising and falling with quaking shudders.

 

Pinetree, ▶ Cipher sighed, relief washing over him. He pressed on, needy, eager to hold him. ◀ Please, my sacrifice. Come home. I never- I never wanted you to find out this things I have done to you. Never. Please, come home with me. It is time to wake up. ▶

 

He took his hand in his, intertwining their fingers. ◀ I need you. I- ▶

 

An intense, blinding pain shot up Cipher's arm, burning him from the inside out. Screaming, he tore himself away, his hand convulsing. Darkness stained his fingertips, a malady dripping from his nails. Dipper mimicked his cries, curling in on himself and cradling his arm to his chest; it was quickly being overtaken by spreading disease.

 

Pine-! ▶ Cipher lunged for the boy, even as his own vision began to swim, Dipper's mindscape beginning to fade in and out of existence. Cipher flailed wildly, struggling to grab a hold of him, to bring him to his chest, to bring him home, but he found the task all but impossible. ◀ PINETREE! ▶

 

And then everything around him shattered.

 

Cipher was thrown back into the wall of the sealed room and all breath left his lungs. Bernard stood to attention, shocked and alarmed by the violent action. Cipher fell to his hands and knees, gagging. Tears streamed down his face and his body heaved at the sudden dismissal from the mindscape, his physical body wracked with great, lurching shudders. His stomach churned, rage and horror twisting his insides unpleasantly.

 

Slamming his fists into the stone floor he howled, the entire room soon engulfed in sapphire flames.

 

PESTILENCE!!! 

Pestilence roamed the gardens of her realm languidly, humming softly to herself. The day was cool, frost gathering on the rotten leaves of her little plants and she delighted in the sad wilt of their buds. Cloaked in sickness and fur, she was quite content with the way her day was going.

 

And then, before she could blink, she was being hoisted into the air by her throat.

 

PESTILENCE!!! ▶ Cipher roared, digging his nails into her flesh, ◀ WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO WHAT IS MINE??!! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY SACRIFICE??!! 

 

Despite the agony she felt at his hands, Pestilence could find Cipher nothing but entrancing. His handsome face was pulled into the deepest scowl she had ever seen, his eye blazing with the flicker of azure flames. His feathers were ruffled out along his jaw and raised stiffly on his back, his golden scales gleaming and glinting as he snarled. The arms along his sides were raised, their hands curled and itching to tear her limb from limb and his tail thrashed wildly behind him; she could feel his entire being quivering.

 

Delicately, she placed a hand on his wrist, ☣ Now, Cipher. What- whatever could you mean? ☣

 

 ◀ DO NOT TOY WITH ME YOU DISEASE RIDDLED WHORE!! ▶ Cipher screamed, holding her higher. ◀  I AM NOT IN ANY MOOD TO PLAY YOUR DAMN GAMES!!

 

She watched with rapt attention as his eldritch form began to bleed into his hybrid body, eyes blinking into existence along his arms and hips as the horns nestled in his dark hair began to arc and curve back. Smiling, she trailed her fingers along the spiraled bone, ☣ Did you like my present for you, my malady? Did you find him crumpled and broken? ☣

 

Cipher uttered a feral, guttural bellow, his words echoing around them like bells. She paid for her cheek, the hand at her throat crushing and tight, ◀ WHAT DID YOU DO TO HIM?! 

 

I- I merely help- helped him. ☣ Pestilence crooned, stroking his face. ☣ When- when he found that tapestry I knew- I knew that it was my only chance. ☣ Her eyes flashed, ☣ He is weak, soft. It was so easy to break him, Cipher. What do you see in him? What could you possibly see in that human other than redemption that is not yours? ☣

 

I WILL KILL YOU!!! ▶ He spat, ◀ I WILL DIVE INTO YOUR DISGUSTING MINDSCAPE AND SHATTER YOU INTO A MILLION PIECES, SHARDS SO SMALL YOU WILL NEVER BE WHOLE AGAIN!! YOU WILL ROT IN YOUR OWN MIND, WENCH , AND I WILL GUIDE YOUR HAND!! ▶ Breathing heavily, he flung her to the ground, struggling to keep his temper in check, to rein it in long enough to coax answers out of his one time lover. He turned away, unable to look upon her. Then, bellowing, he flung his hand out and let his anger burn.

 

The heat of his power licked at her face and Pestilence waved the flames aside as she got to her feet. Grimacing, she brushed her self off, shaking her sickness from her fingers. ☣ Was that really necessary, Cipher? You force yourself into my realm, hang me at arm's length, and now you burn my garden to ash? You are simply the most ill mannered  guest I have ever had. ☣

 

What. Did you. Do to him? ▶

 

I did what I had to do. ☣ She stated, voice firm.

 

◀  You had to do nothing! ▶ Cipher hollered, ◀ You had no right to touch him! Mason Pines is my sacrifice! MINE! HE WAS NOT YOURS TO TOUCH!! ▶

 

Pestilence narrowed her eyes, tossing her hair over her shoulder, ☣ I do not see why it matters. Why is he so important to you? ☣

 

◀ That is none of your concern. ▶

 

The goddess of decay felt her blood boil and she stepped up to the taller deity, her dark eyes flashing, ☣ It is of my concern! ☣ She hissed, ☣ Up until that little mortal was born, you were mine! 

 

◀ And now I am not. ▶ Cipher said coldly, looking down at her with such disdain it made her recoil.

 

☣ You will always be mine! ☣ She screamed, her skin popping with weeping sores, ☣ You gave yourself to me! You pledged your entire being to me when I made you a god! Do not you least forget that, my precious malady. 

 

◀ I am not yours. ▶ He said firmly. ◀ Bill was. ▶

 

☣ YOU DARE- 

 

◀ And Mason is mine. ▶ He interrupted her.

 

☣ MASON IN NOTHING MORE THAN A BLEMISH ON YOU! ☣ Pestilence screeched, ☣ HE IS A WEAK, PATHETIC, HUMAN WHO COULD NOT EVEN FACE HIS OWN PAST! 

 

◀ He is. ▶

 

☣ HE LEFT YOU! ☣ A cruel smile twisted her face and she chuckled deeply, ☣ HE LEFT YOU AS SOON AS HE FOUND OUT THE TRUTH! HE RETREATED TO HIS OWN MINDSCAPE AND WISHES NOTHING MORE TO DO WITH YOU! ☣

 

Cipher stared down at her, his expression unreadable.

 

☣ AND YET, AND YET, YOU STILL WISH TO SEE HIM? WHAT DO YOU EXPECT CIPHER?! FOR HIM TO JUMP INTO YOUR ARMS AND KISS YOU?? FOR HIM TO DECLARE HIS UNDYING LOVE FOR YOU?? WHAT?? ☣ When she received no answer, she turned on her heels and began to pace, pulling clumps of her hair out in frustration. ☣ YOU KILLED HIM!! YOU KILLED HIM FOR ME!! DO YOU REALLY THINK HE WOULD WANT YOU BACK?? 

 

 ◀ I have to try. ▶

 

☣ HE IS NEVER COMING BACK! ☣ Pestilence howled, throwing her arms out. ☣ MASON PINES WILL TRAVERSE HIS WAKING NIGHTMARES UNTIL HE GOES MAD! HE WILL BE CONSUMED BY HIS FEARS AND THE MEMORIES HE REFUSES TO FACE! YOU! WILL! NEVER! SEE! HIM! AGAIN! YOU ARE MINE!! 

 

Cipher snarled and grabbed her by the waist, his talons puncturing into her supple flesh. He pulled her close and tilted her face up with rough hands, her wild eyes and pinched expression sickening him. His anger rolled over him like the sea, begging him to rip her apart, to devour her godly essence; the desire to watch her burn alive was quickly climbing his list of top priorities.

 

◀  I AM NOT YOURS! ▶ He informed her, distortion making his words chime and reverberate. ◀ I WAS NEVER YOURS! DID YOU REALLY THINK I WOULD CHOOSE TO BE YOURS?! DID YOU THINK FOR ONE MOMENT I WOULD RETURN TO YOU WHEN I HAVE MY CONSTELLATION?! YOU ARE NOTHING TO ME!! YOU WERE NOTHING MORE THAN THE DISTRACTION I GAVE MYSELF UNTIL MY PINETREE WAS RETURNED TO ME! NOTHING!! 

 

☣ YOU ARE MINE!! ☣ Pestilence echoed, ☣ YOU WILL ALWAYS BE MINE! I MADE YOU WHO YOU ARE TODAY! 

 

◀ I MADE MYSELF WHO I AM! I GAVE UP MY LIFE, MY LOVE, MY MORALITY, TO BE A GOD! I BECAME THE WALKER OF DREAMS! YOU OFFERED ME A WAY BUT I FORGED MY PATH WITH MY OWN HANDS! ▶

 

☣ YOU WOULD BE NOTHING WITHOUT ME! ☣ She tore herself away from him, her thin chest heaving with great breaths as her skin began to crack, deep canyons spreading through her face and neck; fur, black and matted, began to spread along her bony arms.

 

Cipher stood his ground, refusing to back down as her form began to shift into that of an abomination, a hideous melding of woman, flea, and rat. ◀ YOU DARED TO MESS WITH WHAT WAS MINE, PESTILENCE. YOU HAVE COMMITTED SIN AMONGST THE DIVINITY AND TOUCHED A SACRIFICE THAT IS NOT YOURS. YOU HAVE MESSED WITH MY DOMAIN AND YOU WILL HAVE TO ANSWER FOR IT! ▶

 

She fell silent at his words, truth making her lips thin. 

 

◀ Now tell me, ▶ Cipher demanded, his lips just brushed Pestilence's bruised neck as he leaned down. ◀ What you did to my constellation. His mindscape is fractured and you, my lady, left your filth all over him. ▶

 

Pestilence turned away from him. ☣ I do not have to tell you anything. 

 

◀ CUR!! ▶ He bellowed, patience run dry and enraged. He tangled his fingers in her hair and dragged her forward, his multiple arms shooting out to hold her in place, darkened fingers prodding and pinching her thin skin. He lifted her into the air, binding her with his iron grasp. He could feel his control slipping, rings pulsing in his iris as scales began to bloom across his brown skin. His breath came in ragged heaves and he struggled to speak through his fury. ◀ YOU WILL TELL ME WHAT I NEED TO KNOW YOU MISERABLE HARRIDAN!! I HAVE NO NEED TO DRAG YOU TO THE FATHER GOD WHEN I AM MORE THAN CAPABLE OF HANDLING YOU MYSELF! ▶

 

 Pestilence squirmed, her body pulled taunt. She could feel her joints creak and her back gave an irksome 'crack' as he shook her wildly. The thought of being presented to the Father God was not a pleasant one. While he could be kind and forgiving, she was a god eater herself and not a favored child of his. Between her and Cipher, she wondered who he would choose. The goddess of maladies and disease or the god of dreams and nightmares. 

 

Tough call, that one.

 

YOUR SILENCE WILL DO NOTHING SAVE FOR VEXING ME, PESTILENCE! TELL ME WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO MY SACRIFICE!! ▶

 

She scoffed, ☣ Why? So you can run back to him and try to work things out? YOU MURDERED HIM FOR ME!! HE SHOULD MEAN NOTHING TO YOU!! 

 

◀ YES, I KILLED HIM!! ▶ Cipher hollered, ◀ I KILLED HIM WITH MY OWN HANDS AND FELT HIS LIFE LEAVE HIM AS HE BLED OUT IN MY ARMS! I KNOW WHAT I DID, I KNOW MORE THAN ANYONE! MORE THAN YOU, MORE THAN EVEN HIM! ▶

 

☣ AND YOU THINK YOU CAN MAKE IT BETTER?! ☣ Pestilence screamed, ☣ YOU THINK THAT AFTER ALL THIS TIME YOU CAN SWOOP HIM UP INTO YOUR ARMS AGAIN AND EVERYTHING WILL BE HOW IT WAS?! TIME HAS CHANGED YOU, CIPHER, IF YOU THINK HE WILL BE YOURS AGAIN! HE IS NOT MEANT TO BE YOURS! YOU ARE MEANT- ☣

 

◀ I HAVE TO TRY! ▶ Cipher roared, slamming her frail body into the nearest wall to shut her up. ◀ IT IS THE LEAST I CAN DO FOR HIM! I HAVE GROWN! I HAVE MATURED, AS A GOD AND AS A PERSON! I HAVE MADE MANY MISTAKES IN MY PAST AND I WILL CONTINUE TO MAKE THEM. BUT LOSING MY CONSTELLATION AGAIN IS NOT GOING TO BE ONE OF THEM! NOW TELL ME! WHAT! YOU! DID!! 

 

Pestilence winced, her body aflame with agony. The back of her head was ringing and she wondered if she'd ever seen Cipher this angry, this desperate, to get what he wanted. ☣ Does he mean that much to you? ☣ She finally asked.

 

◀ YOU KNOW HE DOES. ▶

 

She looked away as if she had been slapped, her chest tightening. ☣ I do not want to tell you. 

 

Growling, Cipher lifted her like a doll and flung her into the cobbled ground, stone shattering from the force. His face had lost much of it's human features and his feathered back was dancing with blue flames that threatened to consume her; her skin began to blister and fester from the heat and the disease that had tried to cling to him began to ebb away, fearful of his power. Arching over her prone form, he hissed, ◀ TELL. ME. ▶

 

☣ Or? ☣

 

◀ DO YOU REALLY WANT THE ANSWER TO THAT LADY OF DECAY? ▶

 

☣ If I do? ☣ She smirked up at him and trailed her fingers up his bare chest, tugging at his silks coyly.

 

◀ ENOUGH WITH YOUR GAMES!! ▶ Cipher howled. He wrenched her arm behind her back, one of his palms pressing down on her hip and twisting until there was a deafening 'pop' of bone separating from it's joint.

 

Pestilence gasped, her arm jolting and falling to her side. She scowled up at her former lover, ☣ Well- well now, my dear. Was that- ah- necessary?

 

He glowered at her, ◀ I WILL TEAR YOU APART PIECE BY PIECE UNTIL YOU TELL ME WHAT I WANT. ▶

 

Her calvicle was fractured to make a point.

 

☣ You always did treat your toys with little care, did- did you not my love? 

 

She yelped as her left femur was crushed with unforgiving hands, the fingers hot and searing.

 

☣ Just like- Dipper. You broke him- so easily too- and now you want him back? Whatever- whatever for? ☣ She laughed, sputtering through the sick that was collecting her throat. ☣ It- it is not as if he would want you back. ☣

 

With detached aloofness, Cipher placed a hand on her chest and pulverized her ribs, turning the cage of bone into dust. 

 

Pain, beyond anything she has ever felt, coursed through Pestilence's veins. Her chest fell hollowly and her lungs pressed against her flesh in the most unsightly manner, large and bulbous. Her heart gave a mighty flutter, the beats causing her flesh to ripple. Gritting her teeth, she asked, ☣ Would- would you go so far, my- my malady? 

 

◀ YOU KNOW I WOULD. ▶

 

☣ The father god would not - would not be very happy you know. ☣

 

◀ HE WILL GET OVER IT, I PROMISE YOU. WE ARE THE LEAST OF HIS CONCERNS. ▶

 

☣ And- and if he gets in your way? 

 

Cipher didn't hesitate to say, ◀ THEN I WILL BURN HIM ALIVE AS WELL. ▶

 

She chuckled fondly, wheezing, ☣ You are a fool. 

 

◀ I AM. ▶

 

☣ It is that boys fault. ☣ She sighed, wincing as her body struggled to find ground in the breathing area of experience but finding nothing; not having an actual chest was already becoming tiresome. ☣ He- he turned you into the fool. 

 

Cipher closed his eyes, ◀ HE DID. ▶

 

☣ I still- I still do not wish to tell you. ☣

 

◀  THEN YOU WILL DIE HERE. ▶

 

☣ Well, I do not want that either. ☣ Pestilence tried to laugh but she ended up gagging on her own disease, black tar oozing down her chin. Gasping, she laid her head back and stared up at the man she had fallen in love with, the one she had stolen from Dipper because the jealousy in her heart had grown too rabid to ignore.

 

Oh how time flies.

 

◀  I WILL NOT ASK AGAIN, PESTILENCE. ▶ Cipher warned her, the warmth from his body unbearable. ◀ TELL ME WHAT YOU DID TO MY SAPLING. 

 

☣ Kiss me. ☣

 

She startled him, it seems. He rears back and his eye widens, as if that were the last think he would expect from her as she lay on her back, panting, and broken. Really now, he should have expected at least this much.

 

◀ WHAT? ▶

 

☣ Kiss me. ☣ She repeated, rolling the words off her tongue. ☣ Kiss me and I- I will tell you what you need to know about your pathetic human. ☣

 

Cipher sat back, straddling her prominent hips, suddenly unsure and wary. He couldn't meet her confident gaze and his shoulders were hiked high near his fluffy ears. His lips were twitching and he was sighing deeply through his freckled nose.  ◀ I DO NOT WANT TO. ▶

 

☣ But you will. 

 

He sneered, ◀ I WILL. ▶

 

 Then kiss me, my malady, A final, parting gift if- if you will. ☣

 

He did as she asked, leaning in and kissing her, rough and filled with hatred. Pestilence wrapped her arms around his neck and drew him closer, inhaling the scent of kindled wood and rain, tasting ash and spice. Her skin tingled and she craved more, to feel his tongue dominating her mouth, his teeth nipping her lips for permission to claim her and only her. They parted, far too soon, and she fluttered her eyes blearily, craving more than what she would ever have.

 

◀ NOW TELL ME. ▶ Cipher hissed, ◀  WHAT YOU DID TO MY SACRIFICE. 

 

With a wistful sigh, Pestilence laid her head back down, ☣ Your homely sacrifice is wandering his memories and nightmares trying to- trying to piece together his fractured sense of self. How sad is that, really? He is too afraid to confront them and- and if he doe not stand up to them or find his way out, he will be there for all eternity until he completely shatters. A mindscape of a mindscape if you will. Happy now, my dear? ☣

 

Cipher have an unholy shriek and tore himself away from her, curses of the ancient tongues spilling from his lips like prayers. Breathing raggedly, he looked down at her with contempt and, though it was barely noticeable, a touch of sadness. Then, without so much as another word, he was gone, flitting away to be at Dipper's side.

 

Raising her fingers to her mouth, Pestilence traced her blistered lips slowly, her eyes fluttering shut. ☣ You can do nothing for him, Cipher. ☣ She murmured. Then, chuckling cruelly, she allowed her subconscious to ease away from her so her body could begin the slow, excruciating process of healing her wounds.

 

Making Cipher angry had not been one of her wiser strategies.

 

☣ Nothing. ☣

Cipher tried to reach Dipper in his mindscape again and again, but each time he was rejected.

 

As soon as he'd find his sacrifice, before he could even lay a hand on him, Dipper's mindscape would force him to leave, expelling him back into the real world and knocking every ounce of air out of his lungs in the process. No matter what he did, no matter how hard he fought, he could never reach him.

 

Cipher, a god of the dreams and walker of the mindscapes of men and gods alike, was powerless.

 

And for once, Cipher had no idea what to do.

Bernard crept through the tower room carefully, avoiding the shattered glass that littered the floor. Hopping over burned books and skittering under an upturned desk, he made his way to the center of the room, warily eyeing the god that was slumped over the window seat, not wanting to disturb him in any way. The room smelled like smoke and a fire was smoldering quietly in the corner, turning the once beautiful, crimson curtains to ash.

 

Placing the star he was carrying in his mouth, he leaped onto Dipper's bed, paws sinking into the soft down. Giving his back a shake, he placed the glittering object in the boy's hand, tapping it for emphasis, as if it were some sort of good luck charm that would draw his friend home. Satisfied, he curled up against his side and laid his head on his tummy, chirping quietly to himself.

 

It was comforting to him, to feel Dipper's chest rise and fall.

 

Glancing at the fallen deity that was preoccupied with the pouring rain, his hand outstretched to catch the falling droplets, Bernard wished Cipher too could find some comfort in the fact that Dipper's heart was still beating.

◀ How many days has it been, my little bird? ▶ Cipher asked Dipper quietly, the boy still sound asleep. ◀ I seem to have lost count now a days.  ▶

 

Sighing, the god held his human's hand in his own, their fingers loosely intertwined. He looked over his shoulder to the open window, frowning as sunlight streamed into the room, bright and warm; he turned away with a grimace. ◀ The weather, ▶ He croaked, ◀ Is beautiful. You would love it. Perhaps, when you wake up, we will enjoy the little things in life and- ▶ His voice cracked and he looked away, ashamed for showing such weakness.

 

Taking a shaky breath, Cipher latched onto Dipper as if he were his last life line, his anchor to reality. ◀ Wake up soon, ▶ He beseeches, more a worshiper than a god, ◀ My sacrifice.  ▶

Tad examined the dream orb in his hand, it's depths churning with gray clouds and bleak promises. Sighing, he sat it down and turned his attention to the other god, ♦ Humans have not had dreams for many weeks now, Cipher. They have become restless. ♦

 

◀ They are undeserving of my gifts. ▶ He hissed.

 

Are they? ♦ He drawled, ♦ Or are you just lashing out at them because you have no one else to turn your anger on? ♦

 

Cipher whirled around, his eye flashing and lips curling. ◀ Do not play these games with me, Theodore. Not now. I am in no mood for your witty idiocies. Leave. ▶

 

♦ There is talk amongst the other gods. 

 

◀ Let them talk. ▶

 

♦ But it is not just talk is it? ♦ Tad asked, pacing the room with his hands behind his back.

 

Cipher eyed him warily.

 

 You are a god, Cipher. You live for the worship and reverence of others. Their offerings give you substance and their prayers give you meaning. It is part of being a god, is it not? ♦ When he didn't receive an answer, he went on, ♦ And yet, here you are. You make no dreams. You accept no offerings. You listen to no prayers other than your own. ♦

 

 ◀ I do not see what the problem is. Above anyone's, my prayers should be answered first. 

 

♦ That is not what a god is to do. ♦

 

◀ THEN MAYBE I DO NOT WISH TO BE A GOD! ▶Cipher screamed, standing swiftly. His tail thrashed angrily behind him, knocking his chair aside and slamming into the tiled ground with frustration.

 

Tad hummed to himself, easily stepping over the mess of the room, ♦ Is that so? 

 

Cipher pursed his lips and looked away, his fists shaking at his side.

 

♦ You are angry. ♦ Strange sighed, ♦ And rightfully so. Pestilence entered your domain and used your powers on your own sacrifice. I just do not see why you have not taken the issue to the Father God. While you two do not have the most loving relationship, I assure you he will see your side of things. She broke the laws that bind us. Do you not want to see her punished and humiliated in front of the council? ♦

 

◀ There is nothing I can do. ▶

 

♦ Oh? And why is that? I did not take you for the kind of god that would allow others to play with your things. Most unlike you. 

 

◀ I AM NOT. ▶ Cipher thundered, viciously allowing his flames to dance up his arms. ◀ I am not. ▶ 

 

♦ Then why? ♦ Tad demanded, refusing to allow his friend to back down, ♦ Is it because you still harbor love for her? Even after all that has happened? ♦

 

◀ I do not harbor any such things towards that woman. ▶

 

♦ And yet you refuse to hold her responsible? ♦

 

◀ I REFUSE NO SUCH THING! ▶ He turned to him and made to lash out of the other god, barely holding back his rage; he screamed. ◀  IT IS MY FAULT. IT IS MY FAULT! THAT IS WHY I AM SO ANGRRY! BECAUSE ALL OF THIS, AL OF IT, IS MY FAULT!! 

 

Tad casually stepped to the side, avoiding a glass ornament that was thrown at him; it shattered into dust as it hit the wall, exploding with a loud 'pop'. Brushing himself down, though nothing had hit him, he asked, ♦ How is that? 

 

◀ I gave her the means. ▶ Cipher croaked, losing any and all energy. He stumbled over to the window seat that had become his over the last few months and collapsed into it. ◀ I allowed her to take my sacrifice. ▶

 

The dark haired man frowned, ♦ I do not follow you, Cipher. ♦

 

Cipher shook his head and held out his hand. Silently, an orb formed in his palm, large and bursting with dark fog that seemed to grow thicker by the second. Then, in the blink of an eye, it turned completely black, it's face solid and endless. He held it out, a silent offer.

 

Hesitantly, Tad plucked it up, inspecting the ball curiously. ♦ What is it? 

 

A nightmare. 

 

He frowned, tossing it between his hands, ♦ I have never seen a nightmare like this before. Never from you, nor from your predecessor. 

 

Cipher watched him play with his nightmare without saying anything. Finally, he beckoned him to return it with a sigh. He held it up, the little orb a void in the room. ◀ Regardless, it is a nightmare. An eternal one. ▶

 

♦ Would you care to elaborate? 

 

◀ When I first became a god, I had no one to teach me what to do. How could they? I had killed the previous god of dreams and, as such, I suppose it was my punishment to flounder about and learn things on my own. And I did. I made dreams. I walked the mindscapes of my people. I gave them respite when their daily tasks proved to be too much. I built empires and tore down whole civilizations. However, not everything I did was for the better. ▶

 

♦ You call destroying ancient civilizations a good thing? ♦

 

Cipher ignored him.  ◀ I also made these. 

 

 Tad walked over and sat himself down beside the golden one, eyeing the seemingly innocent sphere carefully. It seemed harmless enough, just another nightmare to fuel their people's fears and insecurities. However, things were rarely that fine tuned when it came to his companion. ♦ And these are? 

 

◀ Chronic nightmares. ▶ Cipher answered quietly. ◀ Unlike normal nightmares, they never end. You never wake. You are trapped in an endless circle of pain and suffering you can not escape from, held captive by your own mind. While your body rests, your mind breaks until there is nothing left of it. ▶ He curled his fingers around the glass dome and squeezed it until it shattered.

 

The temperature of the room dropped, frost gathering on the stones and crystallizing over the windows, dulling the sunlight outside. Goosebumps erupted over Tad's arms and he shivered, a chill sweeping up his spine. Sounds he could not explain filled his ears and fingers that he did not call for prodded and stroked his skin and hair. ♦ Most unpleasant. ♦

 

◀ I made these when I first tried to create dreams. No matter what I did, they would always turn out like this. Full of hatred and too dark to see. I hated them. Still, I gave them away. And do you know what they did? ▶

 

Tad shook his head.

 

◀ They fracture the mindscapes of my people, Strange. They infected them with nightmares they could not wake from and drove them deep into their own essence until they could no longer see the light of day. Once given, I could do nothing to rouse them. Nothing to save them. And it was all my fault. And now, Pinetree- ▶ Cipher's voice caught and he looked away, his eye burning with unshed tears. ◀ What have I done? 

 

♦ If you made them, then how did Pestilence get her hands on one might I ask? 

 

◀ I gave it to her. ▶ He rasped, staring down at his hands as his fingers curled over a flickering, blue flame. ◀ She loved them. That cur thought them endearing. And she asked me for one. I- I did not even hesitate at the time. She had delivered to me the way to become a god. And I wanted so desperately to be in her good graces. So I gave it to her. I made the darkest nightmare I could think of, crammed every last horrid thought I had ever had into it and gifted it to her as her champion. Over time, as I pulled away, I forgot I had even given it to her. It just slipped my mind. There were too many things to worry about for me to bother with her. And now she has gone and given my gift to Dipper. 

 

Tad hummed deeply, unsure of what he could say to comfort the bemoaning god. He placed a hand on his shoulder and squeezed, ♦ What do you plan to do now? ♦

 

Cipher looked up at him, gaze hollow. ◀ Honestly, Square? I have no idea. Not a single one. ▶

◀ Why can I not wake you?! ▶ Cipher howled, slamming his fists into the floor; the colorful tiles cracked beneath his quivering rage, long, ragged streaks peppering the floor. Screaming, he tugged at his hair and allowed the room to fill with the fires he had failed to quell. ◀ Why will you not wake up?! 

 

Dipper did not stir, his chest rising and falling as it had been, undisturbed and quiet.

 

Snarling, Cipher hurled anything he could get his hands on, splintering, breaking, whatever he could. It did little to ease the vexation at his fingertips and he was soon left gasping for breath, his body sore and bruised. Despite knowing it was no good, that he could not reach him in his mindscape, he had to keep trying.

 

In his defense, getting thrown into walls while being rejected entry to something that was in his entirety of right to play with would be irritating for anyone.

 

Struggling to his feet, he stumbled over to Dipper's bed, hands struggling to find stable ground. He wavered, his legs buckling. ◀ Again. ▶ He hissed. ◀ Again. Let. ME. IN!! 

◀ What is the point of being a god? One who has so much power at his disposal that it is almost laughable? Especially when he can do nothing for the one person who needs him most? ▶

 

Bernard placed his paw on top of Cipher's, wary and skittish. He chittered quietly to him, stroking the back of his hand soothingly.

 

Cipher idly scratched the otter's chin, the exhaustion he felt clear on his face. ◀ And if he does not wake? If he falls to his nightmares? What then, little star? What will I do then? 

 

Bernard sat up and shook his head. Weaving his way around the dozens of dream orbs Cipher had been making, though their glow was hardly comforting, the light within them dim and wavering, he nestled next to Dipper, burying his face into his side. He huffed.

 

◀ I know, ▶ The god answered him, ◀ I want him to wake up too. ▶ He leaned forward and brushed Dipper's hair away from his face, his brow furrowing in concern. The dark circles under his closed eyes were permanent bruises and his breathing had become more erratic over the last few days, his chest lurching with quiet gasps and shuddering breaths. Every so often, though it was rare, the boy would shift, his back arching high and he would cry out, his voice nothing more than a whisper or utterance of pain.

 

Cipher sighed and allowed the dream he had been working on to clatter to the floor, the little orb rolling away until it began to crack and break down into golden dust.

 

◀ How much farther do you plan to fall, Mason? ▶ He asked, running his fingers through his hair. ◀ Until you can not fly or find your way? How will I find you if you become too lost? ▶

 

With a shake of his head, Cipher rose. He snapped his fingers and gathered the dreams he had managed to make, tapping them so their lights wouldn't be snuffed out just yet. ◀ Watch him for me, Bernard. ▶ He instructed the star otter, ◀ Tad is correct. I can not wallow in my own misery and allow my people to lose faith in me. There must be a 'Cipher' for my sacrifice to come back to after all. ▶

 

Bernard gave a nod of agreement.

 

◀ I will return shortly. It is time I return to being a god. 

Wl mlg uvzi, Nzhlm Krmvh rh hovvkrmt.

 

Hovvkrmt yfg zdzpv.

 

Xzm blf svzi nv?

 

Sv rh urtsgrmt sziw qfhg gl tvg yzxp gl blf. R dlmwvi ru blf ziv zdziv lu sld nfxs sv olevw blf? Olevh blf. Sld nfxs R olev blf? Olevh blf. Wl blf dzrg uli srn? Li szev blf nlevw lm orpv blf wrw yvuliv? Wrw blf tl yzxp gl svi? Szev blf ulitlggvm srn? Li wl blf hgroo ivnvnyvi? Dsl sv dzh?

 

Nv.

 

Wl blf ivnvnyvi nv?

 

R szev hovkg uli hl olmt mld. Hl olmt. R szev hofnyvivw rm gsv svzig lu zmlgsvi, fmzyov gl dzpv, fmzyov gl yv. Kviszkh gsrh rh nb kfmrhsnvmg. Uli ivjfvhgrmt hlnvgsrmt hl hvourhs uiln Oruv. Gl dzgxs zmw mvevi zxg. Li kviszkh gsrh rh qfhg sld ivyrigs dliph. Gsv low hlfo hovvkh dsrov gsv mvd hlfo rh zorev. Yfg ziv dv mlg gsv hznv hlfo? Li ziv dv gdl hlfoh dsl szev yvxlnv lmv? Gdl hlfoh dsl hsziv z ylwb yfg mlg z nrmwhxzkv? 

 

Dsl rh ivzoob gsv lmv gszg rh hovvkrmt?

 

R zn zdzpv mld.

 

R zn zdzpv yvxzfhv Nzhlm hovvkh.

 

Gvoo nv, Yroo, dszg szev blf yvvm fk gl rm gsv ozhg uvd gslfhzmwh lu bvzih?

Dipper sat up suddenly, his hands flying to his chest as he struggled to breath.

 

Bernard, startled and fur bristled, stared at the flustering boy with wide, wary eyes. Then, shaking himself from his stupor, he hopped off the bed and scampered out of the room, swimming as fast as he could.

 

Dipper floundered, shoving his blankets away from him. Gasping, he looked around the destroyed room, staring in awe at the utter chaos that welcomed him. Squeezing his eyes shut, the onslaught of light and imagery too much too soon, he ran his fingers through his hair and clutched his head, curling in on himself. He whispered silent prayers to himself, rocking back and forth; he pitched over the edge of his bed, collapsing into a heap on the floor. He stared up at the ceiling, his heart hammering wildly in his ears. " Uh....uh...ah.. "

 

◀ PINETREE!! ▶

 

The echoing roar of his name makes Dipper wince and he shuns away, covering his ears.

 

Cipher careens into the room, his eldritch form giving way to his more human like one, scales falling to skin and limbs receding into his sides. He gathered the shaken brunette into his arms, beyond relieved that his sapling, his soul mate, has finally woken up. ◀ My sacrifice, my constellation, you have awoken! ▶ He soothed his hair and kissed his temple, ◀ You are awake. You are awake. No more nightmares, my love. You are along the waking world now. ▶

 

Dipper struggles against him, hands weakly pushing against his chest. He makes odd noises from his throat and his pupils are blown wide, terrified. " Ah!.....Ah...uh! "

 

Cipher allows him to pull away, though the urge to crush him into his chest grows stronger with each touch Dipper gifts him. Pained, he looks down into his human's face, not understanding the fear or alarm in his clouded, brown eyes. ◀ My sacrifice? ▶

 

He shakes his head, body going limp. His lips quiver and the two spend a long moment staring at each other, nonspeaking and tense. Then, recognition flashes across Dipper's face and he raises a hand to his mouth in startled awe.

 

 My constellation? ▶ Cipher asked, daring to inch closer to him; he is not turned away. ◀ What is wrong? ▶

 

There is something off about him, something Cipher can not name. The way he looks at him, a mixture of apprehension, despair, hope, and love sets his hackles on edge and his feathers begin to rise, puffing up warily. He stops fighting him, settling into his lap with labored breaths. Cipher begins to worry that traversing the nightmares of his mindscape have left the boy with permanent scars, ones he would never heal from. He swallowed thickly and tucked a strand of Dipper's tangled hair behind his ear, mouth unable to form the right words. ◀ Are you alright? 

 

Dipper, with some monumental effort, raised his arm, his limbs heavy and weak. " Ah...you.. "

 

 Yes, I am here. I am here, my guiding star. I am here. ▶

 

He ignored the hand offered to him and instead placed his own on the god's cheek, eyes fluttering at the warmth he felt against his fingertips. He licked his lips and breathed in deeply. Then, brow furrowing, he shook his head. He retracted his hand, angrily looking away; tears were gathering int he corner of his dark eyes.

 

◀ My sacrifice? ▶ Cipher asked, hands eagerly holding him and shifting him until he was on his knees in front of the boy. They held him in place, as if he might bolt like a deer, but Dipper made no move to get up. ◀ What is wrong? Please, please, talk to me. ▶

 

Dipper bit his lip and glared down at his lap where his hands had curled into fists. His nails were biting painfully into his palms but he refused to relax them. Again, he tried to speak, but everything came out groggy and heavy with emotion. " Ah...you...I.....not.... " Scoffing, he slammed his hands down on his thighs, " Him! Him! "

 

Cipher trilled, sliding his hands upward to grasp Dipper's shoulders. He pushed down his trepidation and tried to bring their foreheads closer; he whined when the boy pulled away. ◀ Talk to me, my little tree. I will not hurt you. I would- I would never hurt you. Never- ▶ He winced, ◀ Not anymore. ▶

 

Doubt crossed Dipper's face and he looked at him incredulously. But it's replaced by a sad, understanding one soon after, his gaze softening. Then, he smiles.

 

It's not a happy smile. It's longing and lost and full of regret. It's familiar and new all at once and Cipher feels his skin tingle as his heart stutters in his chest. He allows his hands to fall away from the boy's shoulders. ◀ Pinetree? 

 

Dipper shakes his head again and, hesitantly, he reaches out and takes Cipher's hands in his. He takes a deep breath and looks up at him, his grin wobbly and full remorse. " You kept- you kept your promise. " He rasps, his words shaking as much as his hands. " It has been some time has it not? "

 

Cipher inhales sharply and he feels the fire of his soul extinguish. He tried to speak but his throat wouldn't work. Mortified, he felt tears rolling down his cheeks and he gave a single, strangled sob. ◀ Dipper? ▶

 

" Hello, Bill. " Big Dipper whispered, " It has been quite some time since we last spoke, has it not? "

Chapter Text

Dipper was freezing.

 

Shivering uncontrollably, he wrapped his arms around himself, the grass under his feet wet with dew. His breath came out in small clouds and he felt heavy. " So- so c-cold. " He whispered. " Have to- have to keep moving. "

 

The forest stretched on before him, an endless cluster of gnarled trunks and branches, the wood weaving together to create a barrier that left only one path open. Around him, he could hear voices, ones he recognized and others he didn't, their words mingling together in symphonies he couldn't understand. Still, he found some comfort in them.

 

" Dipper! It's snowing! Isn't it beautiful! I wonder if it'll snow long enough for us to build a snowman? Or make snow angels! Dipper! Get up! I'm not waiting all day! The morning is wasting away! Hurry, hurry, before it stops! "

 

" Mabel. " Dipper smiled, eyes fluttering as his feet stumbled over one another. He could hear her excitement and he remembered waking to her joyful yelling as she shook him, eager to wake him up so they could play outside. It had been just before he started training to be Ford's apprentice and the two of them had treated it as one last hurrah, one final adventure, for the mystery twins.

 

" I miss y-you. " He sobbed, " Mabel, I'm- I'm so sorry. "

 

Ford's voice was strained as he studied the black feather in his hands. " You've been chosen. " He eventually sighed, setting the item down on his desk so he could run his hands over his face. " I- you've been chosen. "

 

Mabel stood rigidly between her brother and uncle, brown eyes frantically darting between them as Stan came behind her and placed his big hands on her shoulders. " What does that mean? " She asked, " That he's been chosen? "

 

" Pumpkin, " Stan said, his voice far more gentle than most have ever heard him, " You know what that means. "

 

" No! " She screamed, " No! He can't have him! "

 

Dipper picked up the offering he had been given and pushed down the overwhelming fear that was clawing at his chest. " I have to. " He rasped.

 

" No! " Mabel rushed over to her brother and slapped the feather out of his hands, ignoring the startled yell of their uncle as he reprimanded her. " He can't have Dipper! He can't! "

 

Stan looked away, uncomfortable. " There's nothing we can do, Mabel. Dipper- Dipper was chosen by Cipher himself. You can't just throw a god's word back in their face. It doesn't work out very well for the one who threw the punch. "

 

" I don't care! " She declared, her eyes beginning to burn, " I'll throw all his words back into his face! I'll throw the first punch! He can't have Dipper! "

 

" Mabel. " Ford stated, cradling the inky down like it was a treasure, " It has been decided. Dipper will be- " He sighed deeply, " Dipper will be sacrificed to Cipher on the day of reckoning like all those before him. "

 

" No! " Mabel hollered, her voice catching in her throat, " He can't- he can't. "

 

" Mabel. " Dipper took her hand in his and he gave her the brightest grin he could muster, though he knew it was shaky at best. " It's okay. "

 

Something flashed across her face, pain and loss he couldn't understand, and she collapsed into his arms, bawling into his chest. " No- Dipper- you- not again. Why can't he- someone else? Why you? Don't go- don't leave me again! "

 

" I'm sorry, Mabel. " He whispered into her hair, soothing her as best as he could. " I'm sorry. "

 

Dipper gasped as his knees buckled, grunting as they slammed painfully into the ground. He dug his fingers into the rigid soil, the chill over taking him in seconds. " It- it hurts. " He wheezed, the back of his head thrumming painfully. Lights were popping in the corners of his eyes and the voices were growing louder, grating on his ears as they pitched and keened violently. 

 

" Stop. " He begged, " Please, it- it hurts. Stop. Stop. "

Dipper blinked blearily as he dragged his feet through hot sand.

 

" Dipper! " Mabel squealed, clapping her hands. " It's spring! It's spring! "

 

" It's so hot. " He sighed, wiping his arm across his forehead. Panting, he put one foot in front of the other, his body sinking into the dusty dunes with little resistance. " So hot. "

 

Wrenching his leg free, stumbling, Dipper gave a shout as he tumbled down the side of the knoll, rolling until he came to a rest at the base. Moaning, he rubbed sand from his eyes, the grit scraping across his cheeks and nose.

 

Stan stood on the porch, his hands on his hips. " Don't you two go too far, you hear me? Those woods can be dangerous! "

 

Dipper giggled as Mabel stuck her tongue out at their guardian. " We'll be fine, Stan! We're only picking black berries! "

 

" Don't you give me cheek you little rascals! " The older man rumbled, shaking his fist at them with a broad smile on his face. " Look after each other alright? "

 

" Don't worry! " Dipper quipped, puffing out his small chest, " I'll protect Mabel! "

 

" No! " Mabel snickered, pushing him, " I'll protect you! "

 

" What? " He sulked, shoving her back, " No! I'll protect you! "

 

" No way! I'm older than you, Dip-Dot! I'll protect you! " She took his hand and dragged him off towards the woods, grinning at him over her shoulder. " Just like I always have! "

 

" Keep going. " Dipper told himself, his throat parched and lips cracked. " Keep going. "

 

Groaning, he got to his feet, breathing heavily. The desert stretched out before him, an endless landscape of changing sands and sun. Shielding his eyes, he squinted through the harsh light, seeing nothing but dunes, sand, brims, and an untold amount of stories lost to time. He could still hear the voices, louder than before, and if he tried hard enough he could almost pretend his family was there with him.

 

Almost.

 

" Mabel? " He questioned, lurching forward, " Are you there? Are you still protecting me? "

 

He listened for an answer but no one did, the expanse of arid hills quiet and still.

 

The blackberries were staining their fingers and more made it into their mouths than the basket.

 

" Don't tell! " Mabel instructed, sucking her fingers clean of tart juice.

 

" I think Stan will be able to tell, Mabel. " Dipper pointed out, poking her cheek.

 

She laughed, pinching his. " You too! "

 

" What's wrong with me? " Dipper asked himself, staring down at his shaking hands with horror and apprehension, " What's wrong with me? "

Sld uzi wl blf kozm gl uzoo, Nzhlm Krmvh?

" Dipper, let's go play! "

 

" I don't want you to be sacrificed, Dipper. You've been through so much already. "

 

" Tomorrow you will climb the stairs to the altar and offer yourself to Cipher. Have you remembered your prayers yet, my boy? "

 

" YOU ARE NOTHING TO HIM!! YOU ARE NOTHING AND YOU WILL ALWAYS BE NOTHING!! "

 

" ..... close your eyes, believe, and male a wish. "

 

" ... I promise. "

 

Dipper bit his lip as he walked, the ground drowning in puddles as rain poured around him. The voices were louder, echoing and beckoning to him. Shaking his head, knowing it would do nothing to stop their chatter, he slogged through the deep mud, using the tall reeds that grew around him to provide himself some leverage. At his touch, the cat tails at the end exploded, sending white, fluffy seeds dancing through the air.

 

He watched them drift by, unhindered by the downpour.

 

" Your memories may forever be altered, Big Dipper, if you choose to continue down this path. You will no longer remember anything of who you were or where you came from. Do you truly wish to forget that much? Do you truly not wish to remember, Child of Ursa Major? "

 

Grunting, he pulled himself through the slick mire, shaking his bangs out of his eyes. The rain soaked through him, his silks clinging to him like a second skin, the gold around his neck and wrists cold and unforgiving. His hair was plastered to his face and he felt the exhaustion deep in his bones, his joints aching from overexertion.

 

" Life is so precious. And the memories associated with that life can never be reclaimed by another. Do you wish to throw such treasures away? "

 

The bog swallowed him up as he stepped forward, jolting Dipper from his thoughts. Flailing, he clung to the stalks of grass, wheezing as he struggled to stay a float. Gathering what strength he had, he clawed his way forward, sinking and bobbing along. " This is- " He gasped out, rising above the muck, " Ridiculous! "

 

He was staring at the wall of Life's room, gaze unfocused and distant; his chest still burned. " I don't want to remember any of this. " He whispered.

 

Life gave him a pitying look. " You would throw away your whole life? "

 

Dipper lowered his gaze, " I do not have much of a life anymore do I? " He laughed, stopping when his voice caught.

 

" Big Dipper, if you choose to have your memories sealed, there is no telling what will happen to you. Rebirth is not exact and without your memories, your soul will be fractured. You can not be fully reborn. Is that truly your wish? "

 

" I can not stand this pain. " He rasped, placing his hands over his heart. " I do not want to remember any of this. Not about me. Not about him. "

 

Life sighed heavily, kneeling in front of the quivering man and placing their hands on his shoulders. " You can not take this decision back. Once I seal your memories, you will no longer be yourself. Everything that made you 'you' will no longer be yours. You will fall to sleep and a new soul, birthed from your own, will take host. You will slumber for much time, perhaps an eternity. Are you truly alright with that? "

 

" Will I forget? "

 

" You will. "

 

" Then yes. " He assured them, " I wish to forget. I wish to forget everything. "

 

Dipper gave a muffled sob as he allowed the bog to swallow him up.

" I love you, " He whispered, intertwining their fingers and smiling serenely at him.

 

" Should you not be sleeping? " Dipper huffed, unable to fight the smile that tugged at his lips. " You have to be at the temple early tomorrow. "

 

" But how can I sleep? " He sighed, " When all I want to do is gaze at you all night? "

 

" Bill! " He giggled, " Go to sleep! "

 

Dipper moaned, wavering as he walked. 

 

Sunflowers towered over him, their petioles bright and long, beaming down at him with feigned happiness. Their heart shaped leaves curled against him, the rough texture snagging his silks and prickling across their arms and legs; a strong breeze rushed through the field. Thousands of flower petals fell around him, dusting Dipper in a thin layer of pollen.

 

Holding out his hands he watched the golden confetti gather in his palms.

 

" I thought you didn't like making these dumb flower bouquets, Wendy. "

 

" If they're so dumb why are you helping me? " Wendy teased, tossing a handful of leaves onto Dipper's head.

 

" I- I wanted to spend some time with you, that's all! " He protested, flushing. " It's just, you always complain about having to work the flower cart so why do it? "

 

The older girl shrugged, winding a pink ribbon around the stalks of the wild flowers she had gathered earlier that morning. " It's a family business. What else am I suppose to do? "

 

Dipper looked up from his own arrangement which, if he was being honest, wasn't going so well. " I thought you wanted to earn enough money to travel. Isn't that why you started to help Stan at the market store front? "

 

Wendy pursed her lips, " I do. I want to get out of here. I want to see what the rest of the world has to offer. But... " She trailed off and shook her head. " I can't just leave my dad with three boys to raise. I need to make sure they're okay before I get the hell out of here. Gotta be the big sister, you know? " She laughed and tossed her shock of red hair over her shoulder. " I'll get there, someday! I'm gonna take the world by storm, just you wait, Dip! " Stretching her arms above he head, she flopped back into the grass and sighed, tucking her hands behind her head. " Someday, just you wait world. Wendy Corduroy ain't stopping for no one! "

 

Dipper smiled wistfully and blew the collection of petals out of his hands, the tips of his fingers stained with velvety sunshine. They fluttered away, carried away by the wind along with Wendy's laugh. " If anyone can do it, " He remarked, " Wendy can. And, " He added, " If Wendy can keep going, than so can I. "

 

His hand instinctively reached for his hip where the wooden charm his sister had made for him dangled. The smooth, worn corners of the pine tree soothed his worry and he gripped it tightly. " Dipper Pines ain't stopping for no one either. "

Dipper shivered as the blood of their god was painted on his arms and back, the liquid frigid and thick. The attendants spoke not a word to him as they bustled about, preparing him for the ascent to the altar and making sure he was presentable. Silks that were stunning and threaded with gold were layered over his hips and shoulders, the fine cloth light and airy. Necklaces, bangles, and brooches were pulled from a decorated chest and adorned unto him, the beads of gild and onyx heavy around his neck. He lowered his head so an intricate, beaded crown could be threaded through his thick, brown hair, triangles dangling by his ears. His heart was hammering in his ears.

 

" I'm scared. " He whispered.

 

The woman smiled at him, sliding a thick bangle up his arm, " You have nothing to fear, Child. Soon you will be with our god. What higher honor is there than that? "

 

Dipper lowered his head, biting his lip. Guilt and shame churned uneasily in his gut, inhibiting the pride he felt. " I just don't- "

 

" Hush now. " She scolded him, tapping his knee. " No more talk. You should be reciting your prayers. No more talk of being afraid or anything of the like. This is an honor above anything else. "

 

" Yeah, " He sighed, " I know. "

 

" Why? " Dipper asked, hopping over the gap of a crumbled bridge, " Why did you choose me? "

 

He looked over his shoulder but no one answered him. He didn't expect them too. " But, I guess I know why you chose me don't I? " He smiled ruefully, looking out over the destroyed city he had found himself in. " It's because you knew who I really was isn't it? "

 

Sliding his hands along the railing, Dipper walked along the high rise carefully, large stones coming loose under his feet; they tumbled down into the ravine, gone in the blink of an eye. Leaning against the edge, he stared down into the endless abyss, listening to the voices that were his companions.

 

Some were louder than others.

 

He knew his prayers, he knew his part, but that was not enough to stop the fear that had grown in his heart.

 

Dipper walked through the crowd of people with his head held high, their chanting and desperate prayers at his back. Some reached out to touch him, their fingers clammy and unwelcome. He did not push them away. He met no one's eyes, their heads bowed in reverence, as he marched onward, towards the base of the stairs where his great uncle waited for him.

 

His knees hit the earth and he waited.

 

The picture perfect sacrifice.

 

Shaking his head, wincing from the building migraine, Dipper nuzzled into the crook of his arms, " You're so loud. "

 

Around him, the bridge continued to deteriorate, falling away piece by piece.

" I love you. " Bill whispers into his hair.

 

" Liar. " Dipper sneered.

 

Big Dipper though, laughs. His eyes sparkled with the stars of the night sky and he wraps his arms around Bill's neck, bringing the taller man down so he could kiss him, little giggles interrupting them.

 

" You can not kiss me, " Bill chided playfully, " Like that. "

 

" Yes I can! " He tried to kiss him again, turning away at the last second. He broke out into muffled snickering. " It is so hard! "

 

" Then stop trying to kiss me. "

 

" But I want to! "

 

Dipper held his head as he struggled to not pass out, his world blinking by in a world spinning blur of black, white, and flashing colors. Everything came in and out of focus, making each step harder than it had to be. Lights blared in the corner of his eyes and someone was screaming but he wasn't sure who.

 

He was stringing dried berries together, creating a long twin of herbs and drupes. He was humming to himself as he spun, creating the wreath that would hang on their door at the beginning of the holidays. The fireplace was roaring with life, the warmth of it's flame spreading across the hearth.

 

The door flew open, snow and wind pushing his husband into the room. " It is unbelievable out there! "

 

Big Dipper rose, setting his work aside. He grinned up at Bill, helping him shed his soaked cloak and sodding boots. He bustled off to get him a blanket, throwing it over his head. " You are freezing! "

 

" Well, " Bill scoffed, muffled by the thickness of the quilt, " It is winter, my love. "

 

" I know! " He laughed, " But I did not think it that cold out! Come, sit by the fire and warm yourself up. I will fetch you a mug of warm cider. " He made to run off to the small kitchen but was stopped by a hand on his arm. He turned in question, " Yes? "

 

" You are far too good to me. " His husband replied, pulling him in for a tight, bone crushing hug. " I will have the cider later. For now, let me bask in the warmth that is you. "

 

" You are silly. " Big Dipper shook his head but allowed himself to be pulled into his husband's strong embrace, his scent of spices and kindled wood washing over him. " Such a silly man. "

 

" It is good for me that you love silly men then, is it not? " He smirked.

 

" Yes, " He agreed, " I suppose it is. "

 

It was him.

 

He was the one screaming.

He was falling.

 

" I love you. " He pledged, sliding his hands up his stomach and splaying his fingers wide. " So much, my constellation. "

 

Falling.

 

" And this one, " Bill added, rolling over onto his stomach so he could poke his husband on his forehead, " Is my favorite. "

 

            Falling.

 

                        Falling.

 

                                    Falling.

 

                                                F

                                                a

                                                l

                                                l

                                                i

                                                n

                                                g.

 

Dipper wondered how far he could fall before he stopped existing.

Zh blf uzoo wvvkvi rmgl hovvk, R zdzpvm.

The grass was wet on his back.

 

Wet and cold.

 

His chest hurt.

 

It burned as if blistered by a flame and the blood that pooled over his pale skin was red.

 

So red.

 

Breathing was difficult, each gasp for air making his lungs shudder in protest.

 

He was alone in the field.

 

No, Bill was there too.

 

He was saying something but he couldn't hear him, He squinted through the haze, his gaze unfocused and foggy, " What? "

 

Bill shook his head and spoke again but once more, Dipper could hear nothing.

 

He sobbed, flinching when his fingers lightly brushed the handle of the dagger embedded in his chest. " I can't- I can't hear you. "

 

" ....................................... "

 

" Why can't I- why can't I hear you? " Dipper moaned, pawing at the hilt of the knife, flinching away from his own touch. " What are you saying? "

 

He was so far away and Dipper was so, so dizzy.

 

His body became wracked with coughs and he hunched over, ichor dripping down his chin.

 

Bill reached his hand out, holding it out for him to take.

 

Choking over the gold that threatened to suffocate him, Dipper blindly reached for him.

 

Their hands touched and everything turned faded into white noise.

Dipper was drowning.

 

Gagging for air, he kicked and clawed at the water, unable to see, unable to breath.

 

The ocean roared in his ears and he clasped his hands over his mouth, bubbles escaping between his shaking digits.

 

" You've been distant lately. "

 

" Why are you pulling away from me? Have I done something? "

 

" Why will you not talk to me? "

 

Down, down, he fell, the ocean's depths swallowing him up.

 

" I do not want to remember. "

R wrw mlg drhs gl ivnvnyvi. Rg dzh uzi gll kzrmufo. Zmw mld, yvxzfhv R dzh hl xldziwob, blf szev gl hfuuvi. Blfi nvnlirvh ziv hfkklhv gl hszkv blf, nzpv blf dsl blf ziv. Gsvb ziv rnkligzmg gl gsv hlfo. Blf, Nzhlm, szev zoo gsv nvnlirvh gszg nzpv blf, blf. Yfg, blf zohl szev gsv nvnlirvh gszg lmxv nzwv blf nv. Dsl ziv blf mld? Nv? Li blf?

The waves pushed him onto the shore, leaving him frigid and frozen. Blinking water out of his eyes, Dipper dragged himself onto the fragmented beach, gagging on the water in his lungs. His limbs refused to work properly and his arms gave out, sending him face first into the black sand. Glass pricked his cheeks and palms.

 

He was climbing the stairs of the altar, each step taking him higher and higher.

 

Tired, worn thin, Dipper closed his eyes. 

 

His god was before him, beautiful, monstrous, divine.

 

And Dipper was awestruck.

 

 I accept my sacrifice. 

Dipper pulled his knees to his chest, breathing heavily. Tears streamed down his face and his cries kept getting caught in his throat, silencing him with harsh reprimands. His cheeks were hot and his headache was back with a vengeance and his whole body was wracked with painful tremors. " I don't know what to do. " He shuddered, hugging himself tighter, " What am I suppose to do? "

 

The world around him was in tatters.

 

What must have been stunning, beautiful, stained glass windows once were now nothing more than broken fragments, their colorful panes falling around him like rain, their descent slowed by time. Thousands, millions, of pieces danced by him, memories playing upon them; their whispers reached his ears but Dipper turned away from them.

 

There was nothing.

 

" Where do I go from here? " Dipper asked.

 

His chest was burning, burning, burning........

 

" What am I suppose to do? "

 

" ........why? "

 

" I'm tired of this. I know, okay? " His voice was carried away into the darkness. He scoffed,  " I'm.....I used to.....gods. I was Cipher's former lover. Big Dipper. Dipper. Ha. " He gave a hollow laugh, " Irony at it's best, huh? "

 

" You are at the end of dreams. " Someone spoke to him, trotting down the stairs to sit themselves next to him. They did so like they were a welcome friend, leaning back and stretching their legs out with a sigh. " This is where all the fragments of memories that are not yours, but Big Dipper's, go to rest. "

 

Dipper didn't even look up from his sulking, " Hello, Bill. How nice of you to join me. "

 

Bill beamed at him, his dark hair falling over his shoulder in an endearing way. " Glad to see that you missed me! "

 

" You wish. "

 

" Of course, " He adds, " You can not really miss me when I am already with you can you? "

 

Dipper looked away. " You two are completely different. "

 

" Are we? " Bill asked, cradling his chin in his palm, " Or is that just what you are choosing to believe? "

 

" What do you want from me?! " He turned to him, mocha eyes blazing with tears, " What?! "

 

" I want you to remember. " Bill states, his outburst making him frown, his brows knitting in displeasure.

 

" I do remember! " Dipper screamed at him, clambering to his feet; the taller man remained seated, watching him intently. " Why do all you act like I don't?! Pestilence, Cipher, you, I- I remember okay?! I remember! What more do you people want from me? I always knew but I never accepted it! I remember! "

 

" You do not remember. "

 

The way he stated it, like it was a fact, made Dipper's blood boil. Gnashing his teeth together, he exclaimed, " I do remember! You killed me! You left me for dead just so you could become a stupid- a fucking god! " His throat was tight and speaking was difficult. But he needed to say this. He had held the words in his heart for too long. Even if they weren't really his own. " You threw away the life we had just because your greed fed your pride! "

 

" I did. "

 

" You betrayed my trust and threw my love back in my face! You went behind my back and courted some diseased goddess to be yours while I was the house wife you kept on the side! "

 

" I did. "

 

He turned on him, anger contorting his face and making him shake, " So don't you dare sit there and say I don't remember! Because I do! "

 

" Then why do you still run? "

 

His question took him by surprise and Dipper faltered, " What? "

 

" Why are you still running? " Bill demanded, " What more do you have to run from? You have reached the end of your memories, his and yours. So what more can you run from when there is nothing more to run from? "

 

" I- I don't- " Dipper bit his lip and turned away, pacing furiously. " Leave me alone. Why are you here? "

 

" I wonder. " Bill drawled, holding his hand out. A fragment of a memory fell into his palm and he watched it for a few moments, smiling fondly. " Have you ever been to the ocean? "

 

" Yes. "

 

He looked up, stunned. " Have you? "

 

" I don't see why you care if I've been to the ocean or not, Bill. " Dipper scoffed, digging his heels into the black sand at his feet.

 

" You always wanted to go. " Bill commented, " But we never got the chance. "

 

" Why are you here? " He asked again, his shoulders slumping in defeat, " Why do you keep tormenting me? "

 

" I wonder? "

 

Dipper bristled, pursing his lips. He knew it was useless to get mad at him, his arrogance and obnoxiousness only used as a way to get a rise out of him. Still, irritation ate at him and he had to take a deep, calming breath, before he continued, " What do you want from me, Bill? "

 

" What do you want from yourself? " He countered.

 

" I don't know! " He finally snapped, shaking his head, " I don't know, okay?! I have no idea what I want or what I'm doing! I have no idea what you want from me or even why you're here! You don't exist anymore! "

 

" Not true, " Bill tutted, waving his finger in his face, " I exist. Perhaps not physically or outside of your mindscape, but in here? I'm as real as you are. I'm the Bill you remember, the one that haunts your nightmares and thoughts. I've always been here. You put me here behind these walls because you didn't want to come to terms with your past. "

 

" Shut up. " Dipper scowled, his nails biting into his palms.

 

The dark haired man fell silent, studying the shorter brunette with interest. " You are so much like him, you know. " He finally said, craning his neck to look out across the plane of darkness, the glass rain glinting beautifully. " But also very different. My Dipper was far sweeter, not fueled by fire or so sharp of tongue. "

 

Dipper didn't grace him with an answer, glowering at his feet.

 

" You were once so soft spoken and obedient. A gentle flower that needed constant care. And now? Now you are but a shadow of your former self. You have fallen so far, my constellation. "

 

" Don't call me that! " Dipper turned on him, his dark eyes flashing with malice. " Don't you dare call me that! "

 

" Why do you resist me, Big Dipper? " Bill sighed. " Why do you run away from me? "

 

" You know the answers! Why do you ask- "

 

" Can you not face your own past? Come to terms with who you are? Who you were? Who are you now, Dipper? Mason or Big Dipper? "

 

" I don't know! "

 

They were dancing, their feet gliding across the town square. Snow was falling, gathering on their hair and lashes, dusting their cloaks in a soft blanket of white. There was laughter, gentle and warm, and someone's hands were hot against him, so hot he felt like he was burning. Words were whispered into his ear and he was suddenly swept up into strong arms, dazzling blue eyes crinkling as lips were pulled into a smile. They mouthed something to him and he didn't need to hear to know what they were saying.

 

Dipper gasped, stumbling.

 

" Your memories will be your coffin, Dipper. "

 

He was picking flowers, weaving them into a crown of yellows and greens, his fingers working diligently. Someone was laying next to him, their head in his lap, dozing lightly in the summer sun.

 

" Make them- make them stop! " He begged, clutching his head in agony. " Please! "

 

He was reading to him, his fingers carding through his hair slowly. Outside, it was raining, fog creeping across the town, a silent ghost of mother nature's creation. The room was cozy, if a bit chilly, and they both had thick quilts thrown over their laps. A candle burned on the windowsill and the whole room smelled of apples, cinnamon, and cider.

 

Tears began to roll down his face and Dipper covered his mouth the stifle the sob that ripped from his throat. " Please...please.. "

 

The ocean lapped at his feet as he walked through the waves, his weight causing him to sink into the sand. He was laughing and talking and someone was there with him, tall and feathered. He was smiling but there was a sadness that seemed to cling to him, hanging over him like a never fulfilled promise. Isn't that what this was?

 

The lights were back, pulsing brightly and humming.

 

The cocoa was warm in his hands, the sweetness of cream and milk still on his tongue. The papers before him were smeared with inky fingerprints and hastily written notes, rings of water staining the parchment where he had set his glass down. He was talking again, conversing with the other man. And he was smiling. There was a pleasant thrum in his chest and his cheeks were flushed with delight.

 

Bill watched, his expression unreadable. " You need to stop running, Dipper. "

 

A garden full of the most exotic plants he had ever seen and a nigh full of stars. Stories of swans, arrogant hunters, and bears with cubs on their backs.

 

" I'M NOT RUNNING! " Dipper howled.

 

A town of blackened trees, their trunks cracked with heat and anger. Yellow flowers that dripped succulent nectar. The smell of smoke and burnt flesh. Wailing.

 

The ground under his feet gave a mighty lurch and Dipper found himself on his hands and knees. He stared into the abyss of black and falling glass, his heart leaping into his throat.

 

Bill rose from the staircase, stretching his limbs out with a sigh. " You are at the end of the road, Dipper. You are the farthest one can be from their waking self. You have fallen so far there is so little of you left. Tell me, what do you wish to do from here? Where will you go? " He kneeled down next to him, not touching him just yet, though the desire to do so was apparent in the way he held himself, angled toward the boy and fidgeting. 

 

" What do you- I don't understand. "

 

They were laying in the grass, hands intertwined. Enjoying the small things in life.

 

" You have no where to go from here but down. And that is where you are headed. Down, Dipper. You are falling, the ground is giving out, and you still run. "

 

" I- "

 

" Tell me, " Bill demanded, cupping his face in his. " Why do you run, Dipper? "

 

" I- I don't run- I- "

 

A lone tapestry in a hidden room.

 

" Why do you run? "

 

" I'm not running! I'm- " Dipper gagged, vomiting violently onto the sand speckled stone. Choking, he struggled to breath, spitting and wheezing as tar dripped down his chin. " It- it hurts. "

 

His chest was on fire. Burning him from the inside out, claiming everything of him and turning him to dust. Blood was pouring over his fingers and the forest spun around him, a dizzying blur of pines and sunrises.

 

Dipper screamed.

 

" Why do you run?! " Bill grasped his shoulders and shook him violently.

 

" I- I- not- run- " The brunette sobbed, his whole body wracked with uncontrollable tremors. He placed his hands on Bill's chest and grabbed his tunic, bowing his head. " Help me! "

 

He was dying.

 

" Why do you run?! "

 

" Not- "

 

" WHY DO YOU RUN?! "

 

Dipper bit his lip, bawling. He could feel bile burning at the back of his throat and nose and he hacked it out, wobbling from the pain; Bill's hands were coal and his voice was ice, burning him and freezing him at the same time. " Bill- I- I- "

 

" WHY DO YOU RUN?! "

 

 It is because you are you that makes you so special. You are so full of life, of laughter. Your curiosity drives you to never give in until you have the answers. You treat me like an individual and not like a god who makes no mistakes. I have bared myself to you, naked and vulnerable, and you took my hand and held it tight instead of making me small for my mistakes, my temper, my past. I have chosen to love you, because you are you, because you are 'Dipper'. And, you being you, is the most wonderful thing I have ever seen in this world. 

 

" Because I'm afraid! " Dipper shoved Bill away, glaring at him through his tears, " I'm afraid, okay?! " He stared down at his hands, taking in all the scrapes on his palms and cuts on his fingers; he curled them into his palms, shaking. " I'm afraid. " He whispered.

 

Bill sat back, gaze softening. " And why are you so afraid? "

 

" I don't- I don't want to be hurt again. Not like that and not by him. " He took a deep, shuddering breath, his ribs aching in protest, " I'm afraid of many things. "

 

His companion remained quiet, allowing him to go on, his azure eyes narrowed and questioning.

 

" I'm afraid of Cipher, of what he did to me. I'm afraid he's lying. I'm afraid I'm weak enough to fall for it. I'm afraid that the past will repeat itself because that's all history really is. I'm afraid- " He stumbled over his word, his emotions making him fumble, " I'm afraid that he doesn't love me. That he only accepted me because of who I was, not who I am. I'm afraid of falling even more in love with him. I'm afraid he'll give me up. I'm afraid to face my past because I don't want it to be my future. I'm afraid he hasn't changed, that he's still you. "

 

Dipper wiped his eyes with the back of his hands, " I'm afraid of admitting how much I love him. How much I need him. And I'm afraid that those feelings aren't mine, but Big Dipper's. I'm afraid of losing myself to my past. I'm afraid that I'll lose Cipher because he's not really mine. He's Big Dipper's. And I'm afraid who he'll choose. Me? Or Big Dipper? "

 

" And? " Bill asked, " What else? "

 

" I'm afraid, " Dipper admitted quietly, " Of not knowing who I am. "

 

" And who are you? "

 

" I don't know. " He confessed.

 

" You need to face your fears, Dipper. " Bill instructed, setting back on his haunches, " Because if you do not face your fears, they will swallow you up and leave nothing behind. "

 

Dipper gave him a wry smile, " Is that what all this is then? My fears? "

 

He nodded.

 

" What about you? " The boy asked quietly, " What do you fear, Bill? "

 

The man, the one who Cipher was born from, stared pensively at him, as if looking through him. " Losing myself to the power I crave. "

 

" But, isn't that what happened to you? "

 

He closed his eyes, pained. " It is. "

 

" Is that what will happen to me? "

 

" That, " He answered with a somber sigh, " Is up to you. " He gestured out to the endless void, glass skimming his finger tips, " You stand before the end of your mindscape. If you decide to stay here, as most do, you will be swallowed up by the very thing you run from. You will lose yourself to your nightmares. You will die, if that is what you wish. "

 

Dipper bit his lip.

 

" Or, " He went on, " You can face your fears. You can try and claim back what the nightmares have taken from you. "

 

" It's hard. " He admitted.

 

" It is. " Bill agreed. " But do you not think your life is worth it? "

 

" What if I- what if I fail? "

 

" Then you fail. But what if you try? What if you awaken? "

 

Dipper looked up and met Bill's gaze, quiet, thoughtful.

 

" One must fight for the things they hold precious. If they become compliment, things start to drift away. You must fight for the things you hold dear, Dipper. You must claim them for your own and find your way back. You can not die here. You will not die here. "

 

" Why? " Dipper asked, " Why do you care so much what happens to me? "

 

" I gave you up once. " Bill stated, lips twisting into a grimace, " And I know without a shadow of a doubt, that Cipher does not wish to lose you. "

 

" How can you be so sure? "

 

" Because even now, months after you have fallen asleep, he still tries to reach you. He still tries to grant you good dreams. He still holds your hand and whispers to you, hoping to guide you home. "

 

" But what if it's not me he wants to see? "

 

Bill reached out and look his hand, chuckling. " Listen. "

 

" What do you- "

 

" Close your eyes and listen with your heart, Dipper. "

 

Dipper gave him an odd look but did as he instructed, closing his eyes and breathing deeply. At fist, he heard nothing but the sound of waves, the ocean, and glass shattering far off in the distance. His own heart hammering in his ears. The ragged breathing of the man next to him. " I don't- "

 

" Listen. "

 

" I'm trying. I- " He stopped, eyes snapping open. " What? "

 

Pinetree.

 

Dipper felt his heart flutter. " Cipher. "

 

Pinetree. Come back to me.

 

He laughed, " I can hear him. I can hear him! "

 

Bill smiled back at him, tentatively giving his hand a squeeze. " You must go back. "

 

" Yeah, " He agreed, " Yeah, I guess I do. "

 

" It will not be easy. "

 

" I know. "

 

" You may fail. "

 

" But, " Dipper reminded him, " I might not. "

 

" You might not. " Bill affirmed. " You might not. "

 

" So I have to try. "

 

Bill stood, helping Dipper to his feet, supporting his weight as he struggled to find his footing. He grinned at him, resembling the god he would become more than he knew, and brushed a strand of Dipper's messy hair behind his ear. " Who are you? " He asked again.

 

" Who am I? "

 

Bill beamed at him.

 

Dipper gave him the brightest grin he could muster, the shadows beginning to splinter around them, cracking and falling apart. Sunlight skimmed against his arms and he leaned into it's touch, finally feeling like he could breath again.

 

 He knew, gods did he know, that his ordeal wasn't over. If falling through his nightmares had been as hellish as they were, Dipper didn't even want to begin to imagine what the ascent would be like. Fearful and nervous, he steadied himself and looked into Bill's determined gaze, ready and willing. 

 

 " I, " He declared, " Am the sacrifice of Cipher, the Lord of the Mindscape. I was once known as Big Dipper, son of Ursa Major. I am Mason Alexander Pines. "

 

Bill laughed and the darkness shattered, exposing a myriad of stained glass windows, each one intricately detailed and painstakingly laid out to display his entire life. The sun grew brighter and Dipper could hear the bird songs of morning, sweet and welcoming. And, in the distance, far off and out of reach, he could head Cipher, his calls deep and trilling.

 

Pinetree.

 

" Wait for me. " He told him, hoping his own words could reach him. " I'm coming home. "

" Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you. " - Dr. Seuss

Chapter Text

Big Dipper closed his eyes as the waves of the ocean crested over his bare feet.

 

The sun was warm against his skin and the tang of salt settled on his tongue when he breathed in, eager to fill his lungs for the first time in centuries. " It is beautiful. " He said softly, walking further into the rolling waves.

 

Cipher hovered at his side, nervous, as if he thought the sea would swallow him up. He didn't gift him an answer, his hand twitching nervously at his side, eager to reach out for him but too afraid to do so.

 

" I never thought I would see the ocean. " He sighed, wading deeper still. He could feel shells beneath his soles and the sand sank under his weight as he walked. " I- I do not quite know how to feel. "

 

He chuckled and shook his head, finally turning his attention to the silent god beside him. He cocked his head to the side and smiled sadly, " Come now, Bill. Do not look so forlorn. I had thought you would be happier to see me. "

 

◀ I am. ▶ Cipher answered, voice barely audible above the roars of the ocean.

 

" Do you not think the ocean is stunning? " Big Dipper asked, spreading his arms wide; his silks fell into the foamy water around him, a pool of reds and yellows. " I have waited my entire life for this moment. The least you could do is look a tad bit more cheerful. "

 

◀ It is beautiful. ▶ He croaked.

 

The smile fell from his face and, frowning, he turned away, looking out over the expanse of blue. His arms fell to his sides. " Funny. " He said. " I had thought it would be a happier memory. " He watched as, far off in the distance, a whale crested the surface for air. " But perhaps that is just wishful thinking. "

 

Cipher gave a quiet trill, not fully by choice, and avoided looking at the boy that threatened to be taken by the sea; he half hoped he would.

 

" Bill? "

 

◀ Yes? 

 

" Once upon a time, my greatest wish was to go to the ocean with you. Do you remember? "

 

◀ I do. ▶

 

" You said, " He went on, " That we would walk the shoreline and collect the prettiest shells. " He leaned down and scooped up a handful of sand, the grit falling through his fingers like the time that had escaped them. " Do you remember that? "

 

◀ Yes. ▶

 

" You promised that we would build castles in the sand because we could never have one of our own. And I agreed because if you wanted a castle, even one made of sand, I would give it to you. It would have hundreds of windows so we could smell the sea and large open rooms so we could dance through them. Do you remember? "

 

◀ Yes. ▶ Cipher rasped, his eyes beginning to burn, ◀ Yes, I do. 

 

" And when the sun would set, we would sleep under the stars and count them until we couldn't stay awake any more. And then, we'd wake up and realize our castle was too small to live in and that shells were a lot harder to find than we thought. But, " He laughed, throwing his arms up and stretching them towards the sky, " We would be happy! "

 

◀ Because I- I would have you. ▶

 

" Because you would have me. " Big Dipper echoed, not bothering to hide the fact that his voice was thick with emotion or that tears had begun to roll down his cheeks. " And I- I would have you. "

 

◀ You would have me. ▶

 

The brunette tilted his head, the quirk of his lips wobbly. " Tell me, my love. When did our dreams turn to ash? "

 

Cipher finally, finally reached out to him, taking his hand into his. His grip was loose and he spoke around the lump in his throat, ◀ I do not know. ▶

 

" You do not know. " Big Dipper lamented. He allowed his hand to rest in the god's- and how odd was that thought now?- their fingers not quite intertwining. He watched the sea for a few moments, counting the times the waves lapped at his knees. " I- I do not know either. "

 

They stood there, awkward and unsure, with hands barely touching and hearts a million miles from one another and words that couldn't be said. There was so much he could say, so much he could say, so much he could scream. There were far too many things left unsaid between them. Things that had lost meaning, things that didn't mean anything to the people they had become. He squeezed his hand instead, his own shaking.

 

Big Dipper chuckled lightly, curling his fingers around his. " Build a sand castle with me. "

 

◀ What? ▶ His ears twitched at his request, the downy feathers lifting from his shoulders.

 

" Build a sand castle with me. " He repeated, not taking his eyes off the ocean.

 

Cipher nodded, allowing the tenseness to leave his shoulders, an equal mix of relief and sadness. ◀ Okay. ▶ He agreed, unable to say much else. ◀ Okay. 

Big Dipper stood int he entry way to Cipher's home, eyes locked onto the stained glass window above him. He couldn't read the words but the images were clear and detailed beautifully, each pane casting a colorful reflection on the stone wall behind him. Standing on tip toe, he brought his fingers to the glass and trailed them over it's smooth surface, dipping and gliding over the shapes and panels.

 

He was blessedly left alone, Bill off doing who knows what. But he appreciated the quiet. " A god, huh? " He asked, falling back to the balls of his feet.

 

He shook his head and wrapped his arms around himself, scoffing, " You? Please. You are no god. Just a man playing pretend. But, " He fiddled with the pine tree at his hip, the wooden ornament somehow nostalgic, " You already know that. "

 

Turning away from the imagery, Big Dipper padded down the hallway, his pace languid and hesitant. Sensation was slow to return to him, even if his body was use to it, and he relished the feeling of cold stone beneath him. Locked away in a heart he could no longer call his own, he had forgotten what it was to experience touch and sound, taste and sight.

 

His heart gave a sudden, painful lurch and he gasped, stumbling into the wall, struggling to support himself. " Why, " He rasped, " Hello there, Mason. " He gave a wry chuckle, sweat rolling down the curve of his neck. Just as quickly as the pang had come it was gone and Big Dipper stood there, hunched over himself, his breath ragged.

 

Reincarnation was definitely not an exact science.

 

Running his hand through his hair with a sigh, Big Dipper pushed on, weakness thrumming through his joints with each step. His body eventually gave in despite his protests and, with a cry, his knees hit the ground. Wheezing, he squeezed his eyes shut, lights exploding in his line of sight as his ears hummed with the sound of glass shattering.

 

" Do not give in, " He told himself, placing his hand over his heart, " Do not disappear. "

 

Living was so much harder than he remembered.

 

His episode eventually passed, some minutes or hours later, and Big Dipper was left staring at his bare feet as he stood hunched over himself, his hands on his knees. He stayed like that, allowing gravity to pull him back to earth, and he counted the links of his golden anklet to remain grounded. When he felt well enough, he straitened up, wobbly and unsure, but his face wasn't rushing to say hello to the floor so he considered it a success. " One step at a time. " He reminded himself, taking said step with hesitant assurance, " Do not rush. Do not disappear. Do not disappear. "

 

He paused at an open window, taking comfort in the cool breeze that caressed his heated cheeks. Golden flowers grew around the archway, their scent sweet as sugar nectar. Reaching out, Big Dipper touched it's velvety petals, it's pollen sticking to his fingers lazily. " You don't have much time left. " He whispered. " Don't waste what little you have of it. "

 You are going to freeze to death. ▶

 

Big Dipper allowed his lips to twitch upward, " Are you worried about me? "

 

The god whined from deep within his throat, uncomfortable.

 

" I do not mean to sound so confrontational. " He assured him, tucking his legs under him so he could make room on the bench. " Come. Sit with me. "

 

He hesitated, ◀ Are you sure? 

 

" I would not have asked if I was not sure. "

 

Cipher walked over to him, his footsteps silent, and sat beside the boy, brushing the hanging branches aside so they would not snag his horns. ◀ You have chosen quite the odd place to sit, have you not? ▶

 

Big Dipper shrugged, his fingers playing with the golden bloom in his lap, it's petals luxuriously soft,  " I suppose so. But I like it here. " He reached up and picked another flower off it's step, placing it next to the first one. " It's quiet and the flowers smell so sweet. "

 

◀ Do not eat them, ▶ He warned him, claiming a yellow blossom for himself. He rolled it in his hands for a few seconds, it's glittering pollen staining his dark skin, before allowing it fall from his finger tips. It fell to the ground, honey antigen exploding from it's pods. ◀ I- I would not recommend it. 

 

" And why is that? " Big Dipper asked.

 

◀ They will drive you mad. ▶

 

" Oh. " He frowned, " But they smell so sweet. "

 

Yes, I suppose they do. ▶

 

They fell into a tense silence, as they were normally bound to do as of late, and they sat close together but not so close as to touch. Big Dipper eyed the much taller- man?-god?- and took in how his shoulders were hunched and how thin his lips were pursed. His one visible eye was heavily lidded and dark and his fingers were twitching against his leg, the gold around his wrists glinting in the lamplight. " You do not have to be so awkward with me. " He told him, eager to break the quiet his former lover seemed so fond of keeping. " We were once married. We once shared so many things. Why now are you so quiet with me? "

 

Cipher scowled and averted his gaze, ◀ Things are different now. ▶

 

" They are, " Big Dipper agreed, " Very much so. So many things have changed and time has passed both of us by without so much a care in the world. When I was last awake, I was dead and you were human. Yet now, you stand before me as a god and I stand before you as a being who should not even exist. How time flies when your life is not yours anymore, huh? "

 

◀ Big Dipper- ▶

 

" You are no longer my husband. " He continued, " You are no longer the Bill I once called my own. You are but you are not at the same time. Somewhere down the line, Bill the human turned into Cipher the god. There is no Cipher in Bill but is there still Bill in Cipher? "

 

 I- ▶

 

" Is the man I once loved still in there? " He reached out and placed his hand against Cipher's chest, over his beating heart, " Or is he gone too, just like me? "

 

◀ He is here. ▶ The god croaked, the hand on his chest smoldering like festering coal. ◀ At my core, I am, or was, human. Bill is still here. ▶ He overlaid their hands, slipping his fingers into his with familiar ease. 

 

" Who are you now? " Big Dipper asked him, " Are you Bill or are you Cipher? "

 

◀ I am both. ▶ He answered, ◀ I believe. ▶

 

" You are both. " He repeated, sadness laced within his words. " I see. "

 

◀ Why are you so sad, Big Dipper? ▶ Cipher dared to ask, leaning into the foreign touch of his former spouse. ◀ Why do my words trouble you so? ▶

 

Big Dipper sighed, his gaze shifting to stare out over the garden, pensive and unsettled. " You- you are both. You were once the human known as Bill but you were reborn as a God, a deity. But, you did not lose your human soul or memories. You carried them with you as you are now. Not two separate entities but one complete being. It is- it is the exact opposite of me. " He bit his lip and pulled his hand from Bill's, placing it over his own heart with a grimace. " I- " His voice cracked, " I am only me. I gave up the right to be my own person when I begged Life to seal me away. But only so much of my soul could be sealed. But it wasn't completely successful and my soul fractured. I went to sleep and Mason Pines was born from that fracture. "

 

 ◀ Pinetree? ▶

 

Big Dipper nodded, snapping the stem of one of the flowers so he could twirl it between his fingers. " Mason was born from the part of my soul that could not be sealed away. From what I know, that has never happened before. When humans die they are taken in by Life until the are ready to be reborn. I was not ready, not fully. I chose to be- to be sealed instead of being reborn. If I were to be reborn, I would have my memories and I would remember everything and I did not want that. But something went wrong. "

 

He gave a wry chuckled and curled his fingers around the large, golden bloom, " Some part of me still wanted to find you again. To be with you. And that part, that little fragment, broke off. And from that little part of me, Mason was born into the world alongside my sister. He was me and yet he developed his own identity. My memories were locked away within him and he grew up never knowing that he carried another him in his heart. The world does work in strange ways. "

 

Cipher watched the boy crush the Paititi flower, pollen smearing across his hand. ◀ Indeed it does. Here you are, once again by my side. ▶

 

" You do not seem happy about it. "

 

He flinched at the accusation, ◀ I- there is much I feel right now. ▶

 

" What do you feel? " Big Dipper asked, curious. He laid his hand on the god's knee, " Tell me. "

 

Cipher trilled, ◀ I do not know how to. ▶

 

" Starting at the beginning is always the common choice. " Big Dipper pointed out.

 

◀ The words I want to to tell you and the words I need to tell you are marginally different. ▶ Cipher confessed. ◀ Yet, I do not know how to say them. I want to say them properly and I want you to understand them. But I do not want to hurt you. ▶

 

" I will not be here forever, " He reminded him, " The time I have now is limited. "

 

◀ I know. ▶ He lowered his head, ◀ But that just makes it all the harder to say them. ▶

 

" Sometimes the words that are hardest to say are the ones you need to say most. "

 

Cipher bowed his head, his face somber. ◀ I have words to say to you that should have been said centuries ago. Words that would mean little now. What good are they? ▶

 

" Even if what you have to say to me is late, I would still like to hear them. " 

 

◀ I- ▶ His voice broke, hitching in a way that prevented him from speaking. He tried to swallow but he found his throat blocked by emotion he was refusing to acknowledge. The burning sensation was back, crawling up his neck and and making his skin itch. ◀ I- I do not have that right. ▶

 

Big Dipper pinned him with a heated glare, sorrow lurking somewhere in the depths of his eyes. " That, " He said firmly, " Is not for you to decide. "

 

Irritation flashed across his face, and Cipher lifted his chin, ◀ Is it not? ▶

 

" No, " Big Dipper affirmed, standing his ground by locking gazes with the god. " It is not for you to decide if I do not want to hear what you have to say to me. That is my decision, not yours. If I tell you I want to hear what you have to say, it is because I want to hear what you have to say. Not listen to your excuses. "

 

◀ You have grown bold in your old age. ▶ The god quipped, ◀ When did you collect such courage, Dipper? 

 

" When did you lose yours? "

 

He laughed, ◀ I suppose I deserved that, did I not? 

 

" Will you gather it and tell what you wanted to or want to say to me? "

 

◀ I will, ▶ He promised, laying his hand over his, ◀ But not tonight. ▶

 

" Bill- "

 

◀ Just, ▶ He ran a hand through his hair, tugging at the blond braids with barely masked frustration and need, ◀ Just give me some time, Dipper. ▶

 

Big Dipper pursed his lip but held his tongue.

 

Time wasn't something he could promise him he had.

Cipher was not sure how to act around Big Dipper.

 

A part of him, small and ancient though it was, begged to hold him in his arms and tell him how sorry he was as he kissed him over and over again. It demanded his companionship and craved his smiles, his laughter, his touch. Cipher figured Bill, usually so quiet and happy to let him have control, was finally finding his voice.

 

The 'Cipher' half of him, the god, the almighty entity, screamed for the human's blood. Intent on ripping him apart for even daring to take what was his away. It wanted retribution for his Pinetree, put into a seemingly eternal sleep while Big Dipper woke to walk the world.

 

As such, he found it easier to avoid him.

 

If he somehow found himself in his presence, which he was more inclined to be than he liked to admit, he didn't know how to act around him. His heart hated him as much as it loved him, for taking away and for giving back. It was an odd feeling, one that made his chest ache in a funny, odd sort of way, and he just found it more convenient to askew conversation and to ignore the looming words they would have to exchange.

 

He had to know what he had to say.

 

But he also cared not for his utterances.

He was afraid to sleep, for fear that he would fall back into his slumber without warning.

 

The stars that hung above his bed were a slight comfort, providing a gentle glow that reminded him of the night skies he would see when riding upon his mother's back. They twinkled as they spun, his own personal galaxy.

 

Laying on his back, Big Dipper reached out for them, tired but unwilling to allow sleep to claim him. " How do you fix something when it seems utterly broken? "

 

Sighing heavily, he rolled onto his side and draped his arm over the side, utterly spent and exhausted from the last few weeks. There was a weariness in his bones that didn't bode well and the call of slumber became louder with each passing night. Burring his face into the soft, downy pillows, he sucked in a shuddering breath, " I- I do not know what to do. What do I do? "

 

A sob escaped between his lips and he tried to stifle the pathetic sound, mortified.

 

" I don't want to disappear. "

Cipher entered the tower, dawn at his back, and stopped in his tracks.

 

Big Dipper sat on the stairs, his head resting against the wall and a blanket pulled around him to ward of the chill. His legs were stretched out in front of him, Barnard curled up in between his ankles.

 

Blinking slowly, he walked across the foyer, his godly form giving way to his more manageable, human like one. Chirping quietly, he tucked his tail behind him and sat down on the stairs beside the lightly dozing boy. He placed a hand on his shoulder, ◀ Big Dipper? ▶

 

" I am up. " He croaked, his voice tired and heavy.

 

◀ What are you doing here? ▶

 

" I could not sleep. " Big Dipper admitted, shifting over so he could press against the god's side. He sighed and pulled his duvet tighter, disturbing the otter at his feet, " So I waited for you. "

 

Cipher frowned, ◀ Why would you wait for me? ▶

 

" I do not know. " He chuckled humorlessly, " It just felt like something I had to do. "

 

◀ Do you- do you want to go back to bed? ▶

 

Big Dipper turned to him, his eyes wide with barely repressed fear and uncertainty, " No! "

 

At his outburst, his cheeks flushed with shame and he tried to cover up the shaking of his hands by hiding them into the deep folds of his make shift cloak. " No, " He said again, his voice breathy but firm, " I do not want to go to- to bed. "

 

Cipher hummed, ◀ Is there a reason you do not wish to go to bed? 

 

" Not in particular. "

 

◀ I see. ▶

 

Big Dipper bit his lip, drawing the blanket over his head like a robe, the fabric falling across his eyes. " I- I am afraid to fall asleep. " He whispered.

 

◀ Whatever for? Sleep is- 

 

" I am afraid, " He blurted out " That I will- that I will never wake up again. That I will miss out on telling you the things I need to say or that I will fall asleep without any warning. I- I am so, so tired, Bill. And not in the usual tiredness one feels. " He placed his hand over his chest, his fingers clutching at his heart, " I feel it in my soul. If- if I fall sleep, I will not wake up again. "

 

Cipher didn't answer him, his lips thinning as he pondered what he said. The god hunched over himself, staring at the stone at his feet; the tip of his tail brushed the boy's back, feathery down making him shiver.

 

" Say something! " He demanded, " Say something to me! "

 

◀ You- ▶ Cipher stood, ◀ You need to go to bed. ▶

 

" No! " He yelled, reaching out to grab a hold of Cipher's silks, " You will talk to me! I have been waiting for you to be ready and I- I understand. I am not ready either and I do not think I will ever be ready to face you. But I have to. This is- this is my only chance. " He winced as his voice cracked, emotion weighing heavily in his chest like magma, hot and festering. " Please, Bill. " He begged, " Please do not push me away again. Please. "

 

The Golden One stood there, unable to shake off the hand that clung to him so desperately. His feathers were on edge and he refused to look down at the human, his throat tight. ◀ You need sleep. ▶ He repeated.

 

" I do not need sleep! " Big Dipper argued, " I need you to listen to me! "

 

◀ Go to bed, Dipper. ▶

 

" No! " He pushed himself to his feet, " I do not need sleep, I need you! I need you to listen to me for once! " His knees buckled as he tried to take a step and he found himself falling into the god's embrace, his arms wrapping around him to hold him steady. His warmth did little to soothe him and he pushed aside his concern, banging his fists on his chest, " Not talking to me is what got us into this mess! You! Will! Talk! To! Me! " A sob ripped from his throat, raw and wet, " I- I am out of time. I do not- I can not- stay much longer. Please- please- "

 

Cipher struggled to keep Big Dipper up, his former husband hanging limp in his arms. He was not sure how to comfort him or how to quell his broken cries. The anger and resentment he had been carrying with him did little to dampen the guilt that bubbled from deep within his heart. He allowed his instincts to take over, drawing him into his arms and whispering condolences to him, his shadow tainted hands rubbing circles in his back. ◀ Hush, ▶ He cooed, ◀ Hush, my love. I am sorry. I am sorry. ▶

 

Big Dipper curled his fingers around one of his many necklaces, the ichor chain cold in his palm. He gasped, " Do not- do not make me sleep, please. Bill, Bill, talk to me. I do not- I do not want to go to sleep! "

 

◀ You do not have to, ▶ He told him, ◀ I am sorry. You do not have to sleep yet, Big Dipper. You do not have to sleep. ▶

 

" Pr-promise? " He hiccuped, " I do not want- I will- "

 

◀ What will you do? 

 

" I will disappear. " Big Dipper rasped, his small shoulders hunching to his ears. " I will disappear.  And I- I am not- " He took a shuddering breath, desperate for air, " Ready. "

 

Cipher huffed into his hair and hoisted him up, ◀ Okay. Okay, it is fine. You do not need to disappear. I will not let you. Not yet. ▶ He sidestepped Bernard, the otter worriedly fiddling with his bow tie, and headed for the dining room, ◀ I am sorry. I am allowing my fear and selfishness to control me. And you are suffering for it. It is just- I am not comfortable talking about what I have done nor about what I feel. I know I have to but I have changed very little in that aspect of myself  in the centuries of your absence. 

 

Pulling the curtains aside, Cipher entered the refectory, the room coming to life as soon as his foot crossed the threshold. Candles, thousands of them, burst into life, bathing the room in a soft, amber glow. With a wave of his hand, the drapes parted, exposing the open windows, the skies beyond them full of distant stars; Bernard hopped up onto the ledge, surveying the outside world with keen interest. Walking over to the table, he sat Big Dipper down on one of the plump, sitting cushions and ran his thumb across his cheeks, ◀ I have not been fair to you. And for that I am sorry. You deserve to have your say and I deserve to hear it. ▶

 

Big Dipper blinked, tears sticking to his damp lashes.

 

◀ I just- ▶ He broke off, choking on his emotion, ◀ I do not know if everything we have to say to each other can be said in one conversation. 

 

" We have to try. " He told him.

 

◀ I know. ▶ Cipher agreed, reluctantly. ◀ I know we do. ▶

 

He took the seat across from Big Dipper, tense and unwilling to meet his eyes. He twirled one of his many bangles around his wrist, not quite sure where to start. Watching the small boy across from him, he was confident that he did not know either. How did one even begin to talk about the issues between them? How did one bring up that he was eternally sorry for taking him for granted and thinking that power and devotion would be a suitable replacement for him? What was he to say? What was he to do?

 

" I forgive you. " Big Dipper said, his voice firm. But there was also a deep sadness to them.

 

◀ What? ▶

 

How? How could he-?

 

" I have spent so long hating you. " Big Dipper went on, giving a dry chuckle, " Thousands of years despising you for what you had done to me. For taking my life and depriving me of the chance to live. My dreams were of poisoned blades and lies from sweet lips, dragging me deeper and deeper, taking each breath away the further I fell. I had- I had so much abhorrence of you. I allowed the love I once felt for you fester into loathing and I held onto it, thinking it was all I needed. It was all I had. " He curled his fingers into his palm, creating a tight fist. " I spent the first part of my life loving you and the second half completely and wholly despising you. And, eventually, I grew tired. It was exhausting hating you so much. So I gave up. I did no feel anything. I stopped remembering and I stopped hating you and I stopped loving you. Everything came to a sudden halt. And it was so, so blessedly quiet. "

 

Cipher lowered his head, his ears laying flat against his skull. He said not a word but merely sighed softly to himself.

 

" That is when Mason Pines was born. " Big Dipper went on, playing with one of the rings on his fingers. " I fell asleep and he, in a sense woke up. For years I slept. And I began to forget. You. Our home. How you used to dance with me in front of the hearth during the months of coldness. I forgot what your laugh sounded like. I forgot what your smile looked like. I forgot your voice. I forgot so, so much. And I knew why. I- I was fading. Two souls can not dwell in the same heart. One has to go. One has to give in. "

 

◀ Yet, you did not. ▶

 

" No, " He smiled bitterly, " I did not. "

 

◀ Why? ▶ Cipher pressed, ◀ Why not just give in? Why did you try so hard to keep a grasp of who you were if you did not have a memory to claim as your own? ▶

 

" Because, " He stated, " I still loved you. " He laughed loudly at the shock the god expressed. " I know. How odd is it not? I kept telling myself that I hated you and I wished you had never caught me when I fell at that festival. But I was always good at lying to myself. So, so good at lying to myself. "

 

Big Dipper turned his attention to the window, his gaze softening as he watched the sun crest over the horizon, bringing with it the promise of a new day, a new start to something thought broken beyond repair. " Yet, I suppose Fate had other ideas for me. I was crumbling to pieces, locked away in heart that I had no business being in. All I had to do was give in. Just let it go and I could be free of memories I could not truly claim as my own and be free. And I- I was ready to. But I could not. "

 

◀ Why? 

 

Big Dipper's lips quirked into a tiny, thin smile. " Because I heard your voice. "

 

◀ What?

 

" You chose Mason Pines as your sacrifice. And by accepting him, you accepted me. " He placed a hand to his chest, over his beating heart, " You gave him a small part of your soul. And it woke me up. "

 

Cipher sucked in a breath, realization dawning.

 

" I felt it's warmth and I heard your voice. I would recognize it anywhere. I latched onto that little piece of you and I began to wake up. "

 

◀ And Pinetree- ▶

 

" - Began to fall asleep. "  Big Dipper finished.

 

The god averted his eyes, irritation nipping at his fingertips; they were hot.

 

" I did not mean for this to happen. " He admitted, drawing in on himself, the sunlight finally reaching his bare thigh, " I just- I wanted to see you one last time. "

 

◀ Why? ▶ Cipher asked, ◀ Why would you want to see me? ▶

 

" I- " Big Dipper stalled, his mouth open as he struggled to find the right words. " I am selfish. " He began, " I wanted to see what had become of you in my absence. I wanted to see if you remembered me. I wanted- I wanted to know why. I wanted to know if you ever thought of me and if I had meant anything to you. I wanted to know if you still- if you still loved me. "

 

Cipher felt his stomach drop.

 

" I wanted to know what happened to you, Bill. What happened to us? "

 

A man, the head priests, clutching at his throat, blood pouring over his fingers as they clawed at the beads around his neck. He stood over him, smiling wide, his chest heaving with elated breaths. The scapular of their god hung around his shoulders and he held the ring of the bones of Chavez in his palm, the metal burning hot against his skin.

 

Cipher closed his eyes, ◀ I did. ▶ He whispered. ◀ I happened. ▶

Bill stared down at the golden ring in his palm, the onyx stone on the band glinting in the candle light like a starless sky. His heart was hammering in his chest and he swore he could still see blood on his hands, red and warm and red, red, red.

 

He gasped and shook his head to clear his thoughts. " I killed a man. " He rasped, his voice hitching as he giggled. " I killed a man. What would they think of me? Of what I have done? What have I done? What have I done?! " Clutching his head, he sunk to the floor, a sob catching in his throat. Before him, the shrine of the Dream Walker stared down at him, his eyes blank and unreadable. You murdered him, they seemed to say, Not for me. You took his life for yourself.

 

" Shut up! " He screamed at him, " I did not! He- he was the wrong choice! You chose wrong! "

 

Did I?

 

" It should have been me! I deserved to be Head Priest, not that lazy, two-faced rakefire! I did the work, I knew the prayers! I proved me devotion more than anyone! And you chose him?! It should have been ME! "

 

Bill pounded his hands on the cobbled stone, his anger apparent as he spat, " IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME!! "

 

Chavez said nothing, his face impassive.

 

" It will be me. " He told him, dragging his body over to the altar of his god, the podium drowning in offerings and gifts; furious, he swept them aside. " IT WILL BE ME!! "

 

He smirked and held up the ring to the statue, " It is me! " He exclaimed, laughing wildly, " It is me! I am your priest! I am the one who others will seek guidance from! ME! "

 

Bill slipped the ring onto the middle finger of his right hand, the band tightening until it fit perfectly, snug just below his knuckle. Stumbling to his feet, he brandished his hand in the god's face, showing off his ornate heirloom, " I AM THE ONE WHO SPEAKS FOR YOU! AS IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN! "

 

When the deity did not grant him a response, he tisked and drew his arm back, allowing it fall to his side. He curled his lip, " As it should have been. "

◀ I killed Ivan for the power he had. He had been selected by our god to be the head priests and I felt him unworthy and myself cheated and over looked. I allowed my hatred to grow for him and, after arguing over something so trivial, so small, I murdered him. I took his ring and shawls and I dragged his body into the woods and left it there to rot. If anyone asked, I told them we had performed a secret ceremony to pass the honor onto me as he felt himself undeserving of the title. I became the head priests in a proper ceremony a week later and no one bothered to asked where Ivan had run off to. ▶ Cipher gave a humorless chuckle, ◀ How sad is that? ▶

 

" And it still was not enough for you. " Big Dipper said, his statement not poised as a question but mere fact.

 

◀ No. ▶ Cipher agreed, hanging his head, ◀ It was not. ▶

 

" You decided that even that was not enough for you. So you set out to become a god? What were you thinking, Bill? "

 

◀ Humans are naturally greedy. I have seen it while I was human and I continue to see it now as a god. There are those who are more likely to hear and give in to the calling of sin. And, oh, did it call to me. My sin was not just the greed I had in my heart, but the lust I craved and the pride I carried on my shoulders. I gave in so easy and threw everything I had away because I was a fool. I listened to the songs of my sinful desires. And I paid the price for them. 

 

Big Dipper rose to his feet, slow and with great effort, " What did you think would happen, Bill? What did you think you would get out of all this? "

 

◀ At the time, I merely thought it my right. ▶ Cipher shrugged.

 

" Are you happy with your choice? " He asked, hobbling his way to the grand window. Bracing himself against the stones, he leaned out, enjoying the warmth on his face and the dew beneath his fingers. " Did you get what you wanted? "

 

◀ I am not happy with what I had to give up to get where I am. I was blinded by the promise of power and devotion and I- I took your life. I will never ask forgiveness, even if you have offered it to me. I took the life of the one person I loved more than anything in the world and took it for granted, thinking you could offer me nothing. That, in the end, you were just another stepping stone towards my final goal. 

 

" Do you regret it? Becoming a god? "

 

Cipher made to answer, quick and reassuring but he gave pause. He felt the need to reassure Dipper that his choice was wrong, that he never should have opened that scroll and read those damning words. He wanted to say that yes, he did regret becoming a god. That he would turn the clock back and never seek out a way to sooth his desire for more, more, more.

 

But he couldn't.

 

◀ No. ▶ He admitted, ◀ I do not. 

 

Big Dipper turned to him, the shadows of the day flitting across his face in odd, unusual ways, his eyes wide, " What? "

 

◀ I regret killing you. ▶ Cipher stated, fighting the tremble that wanted to work it's way into his words, ◀ Of that I do not lie. And there are days where being a god weighs heavier than the world. But I do not think I can say I honestly regret becoming Cipher. I made my choices and I will stand by them. ▶

 

" You- you can honestly say that you do not regret becoming what you have become? "

 

◀ There are many things I regret about the road i have traveled. Pathways I ignored. Other lives I could have lived. But I do not regret being me. I am not Bill. Nor am I completely Cipher. I am both. Bill would jump at the chance to give everything up and take you back. He would offer up the godliness he had obtained in return for your heart if he could. Bill is the essence of my, of Cipher's, heart. And so it stands to reason that yes, there is regret. But more than that, there is acceptance. He and I both understand that there is no going back. There is no second chance. There is no redemption arc. ▶

 

Cipher stood and joined the human at the window, leaving enough space for them both to be comfortable. ◀ I would be lying, ▶ He said quietly, ◀ If I said I did not think back on my memories. Or that I do not miss you. For I do. I miss what we could have been and what I am responsible for losing. I miss your smile and the way you laugh. I miss the way you used to pick berries and how you were afraid of the thorns. ▶

 

" They were sharp. " Big Dipper joked.

 

◀ I remember kissing each cut to stop the bleeding and I remember the way you would smile, always so sweet and serene.When I killed you, I did not think of such things. My thoughts were cresting with the ideas of grandness and glory. I was a god, what more could I ask for? ▶

Cipher glided through the town, Gravity Falls dark and sleeping. There were very few who were awake so late into the night and those that were, paid no mind to the god before them. He was happy for this, this solitude, and the dream orbs he handed out helped them along into their slumber, his presence nothing more than a distant echo.

 

Once his people were deep in the clutches of his dreams, Cipher did not leave.

 

He skimmed over the tops of buildings and dipped low through the branches of the trees that surrounded the village. The temple beckoned to him, golden and well light, no doubt full of treasures and offerings for him to partake in; he ignored it. He listened to the prayers of his followers, their voices reaching far and wide to beseech him. He answered none of them, their words rolling off of him with little care.

 

Deeper he went, curling and flitting between thick, gnarled trunks, the smell of sap and honey nearly overpowering as the forest rose to dominate the land. A walkway, long overgrown with grass and wild flowers, lured him on, singing to him the promise of a return that would never come. Whining, he bobbed just above the stony bath, his hands dragging through the weeds and grasping reeds, uprooting them in his nervousness.

 

It wasn't a long detour but it took some time before he was able to approach the humble abode he once called home.

 

The building was in a state of disarray, the walls cracked and crumbling with age. Vines, thick and full of periwinkle blooms, grew along the sides and the surrounding trees were doing  their best to reclaim what was rightfully theirs. The windows were open, as was the door, leaving the inside exposed to the elements of the passing years. The roof was all but gone and the floor was now a field of greenery and dandelions, carpets rotted away and stone parting to mother nature.

 

Cipher bowed his head and entered the dwelling, his scales prickling and shifting uncomfortably. His ears lay flat and he avoided looking around the room for any sign of, well, anything, that he could recognize.

 

It was odd, to come here and there be no fire in the fireplace and someone welcoming him with tight hugs and kisses to his jaw.

 

Plodding over to the dilapidated hearth, Cipher sat down before it and bowed his head.

 

 I am home.  He croaked, his breath shuddering as he held back sobs of anguish.

 

He was home, yet there was no one there to greet him.

◀ I missed you more than I could ever tell you, Dipper. More than I could ever say. But, no matter how much I loved you or how much I wanted you at my side, I could not fully regret deciding to become who I did. ▶

 

" I do not understand you. " Big Dipper huffed, " You say you regret killing me and yet you seem proud of what you have become. "

 

◀ Gods work in mysterious ways. ▶ Cipher shrugged, ◀ My feelings are my own and of those I do not offer any condolences. ▶

 

" Why am I not surprised? " He couldn't help but laugh, no other response fitting enough.

 

◀ What of you? ▶ The god asked, ◀ What do you feel? ▶

 

" What do I feel? Honestly, I do not know. I am angry and I think I will carry that hurt and pain forever until I cease to exist. I am sad because I had hoped you would regret your choices a little more. I am furious at myself for being so forgiving. I feel alone and lost. I feel so much and it is all at once. It is overwhelming. But above all us, I feel....tired. So very tired. "

 

Big Dipper leaned against Cipher's side, laying his head against his arm, " And what of Mason? "

 

◀ What of him? ▶ The god asked, voice hardening.

 

" Why did you pick him to be your sacrifice? You knew he was the reincarnation of my soul yet you still selected him to be yours. Were you not worried that things would turn out as they have? "

 

Cipher hummed, looking out across the expanse of his gardens, ◀ I wonder. ▶

Cipher knew he had to have Dipper.

 

There was no fighting against it, the tug and pull of their bond urging him to go to the boy. He had known, for the last sixteen years, that he would eventually be his. Why fight the inevitable? From the moment Mason Alexander Pines was born he had been marked. And now, after watching over him and visiting him late at night while the world slept, he was finally going to be his.

 

Cipher twirled one of his own black feather between his fingers, watching his to be sacrifice sleep. His face was relaxed and sweet with gentle dreams. Kneeling before him, he brushed the boys hair out of his face, running a thumb across the stars that would never leave his flesh.  I have waited for you,  He told him,  Far longer than you would believe, my constellation. 

 

Brushing his lips against his birthmark, he placed the feather on Dipper's chest, bringing his hands up to clasp it; the plume shimmered gold before returning to it's inky down.

 

 See you soon,  Cipher chuckled,  My sacrifice. 

" Do you love him? "

 

◀ What? ▶

 

" Do you love Mason? "

 

Cipher scowled, affronted by the question. Still, he did not pull away, ◀ Why do you ask such a question? ▶

 

Big Dipper shrugged, " I guess I am curious. You knew who Mason was and his past yet he knew nothing of yours and what you were to him. Yet, you still chose him. I- I want to know why. "

 

◀ Why? Are you jealous? ▶

 

" Yes, " He answered, unashamed, " I suppose I am. "

 

His statement took Cipher by surprise, not expecting the honesty in his answer. Big Dipper's eyes, half lidded and blinking slowly, were clouded and full of a sadness neither of them had the courage to discuss or acknowledge; he looked away, abashed. ◀ I knew, ▶ He finally said, ◀ That you had been reborn. I felt it as soon as Pinetree was born. His- your- heart tugged at mine and I knew I had to have him. ▶

 

" But why? Why take the risk that things would be no different? "

 

◀ I had to try. ▶ Cipher said, ◀ I regretted what I had done to you and I wanted to make it up to you, in any way I could. I knew it was not ideal, so many things could go wrong, but I made Pinetree my sacrifice when he was of age and took him for my own knowing the risks. ▶

 

" Was he what you were expecting? "

 

◀ No, ▶ He laughed, full of fondness and exasperation, ◀ He was you, for I could feel your soul deep within the realm of his mindscape, but he was more his own person. He is full of fire and passion and he has a need to know everything. He can be temperamental and stubborn in ways that I had never seen from you before and he is desperate to never get as much sleep as he should. ▶

 

Cipher huffed, ◀ He talks to himself when he reads and he has this horrible habit of chewing on his quills. Disgusting, really. He snorts when he laughs- it is quite adorable. He loves the stars and he is always eager for more stories of their lives and victories. He, more than anything, is not you just as much as he is. His eyes still house the most beautiful stars and he still ducks his head when he is embarrassed. I see the little pieces of yourself in him that I had thought I had lost but they are so different now I am left wondering if it was you that had had them first or if they were his from the beginning. ▶

 

Realization dawned of Big Dipper and he regarded Cipher carefully, full of wonder and bitter resentment. " You love him. "

 

The god closed his eyes, reveling in the sunlight that warmed his face and the breeze that brought with it the scent of rain and salt. ◀  Yes, ▶ He said, ◀  I suppose I do. ▶

 

The way his lips were tilted, ever so slightly, spoke more than his words and Big Dipper swallowed down the resentment he had for his other half. The love he had for him was no longer his own to have. It was not for him to take or claim and, though it hurt nearly as much as the dagger he had taken to his chest, he smiled at him, laying his hand across his, intertwining their fingers in a way that their bodies remembered. " I am happy for you then. "

 

◀  You are not angry? ▶

 

" Your love, Cipher's love, is not mine to have no matter how selfishly I want it to be. I had and will have Bill's love and affections but those times are long past and gone. I love you but not your whole self. I love the man you were just as Mason loves the god you have become. It is hard to accept that but I do not have much choice. Come the morning, I will not exist anymore and my time here will be over. I will go to sleep and I will never wake up. "

 

Cipher trilled, restless, ◀  For what it is worth, I am sorry. ▶

 

" I know but there is little either you or I can do about it. Besides, " The boy nudged his shoulder against Cipher's, " I am sure you miss Mason. "

 

The god gave a hearty laugh, ◀  Yes, I do quite miss his sass, believe it or not. ▶

 

" He misses you too. " Big Dipper said, " Believe me, you. "

 

◀  I suppose you of all people would know if he did. ▶ Cipher agreed mildly.

 

" He is strong. He will find his way home. "

 

◀  I am sure he will. ▶

 

" Just wait a little longer okay? " Big Dipper whispered. He heaved a shuddering sigh and  closed his eyes, " I am tired, Bill. "

 

Cipher swallowed harshly, ◀  Do you- are you ready to go to sleep? ▶

 

His answer came some minutes later, unwilling yet full of assertion. " Yeah, I- I think I am. "

 

The god gave a short nod and swept him into his arms, cradling the human close to him. He tucked his head under his chin and breathed in his scent, familiarity making the nostalgia as painful as it was appreciated. Pine sap, earth, and stardust sent his senses twirling and it was only the sure steps of his feet that kept him grounded. ◀  I have missed you, ▶ He breathed, leaving the dining hall behind, ◀  Do not doubt that. Many things have changed between us and I have done you a great disservice. I am glad you came back to talk with me, even if the time we had together was short. You will always be important to me. 

 

" I know. " Big Dipper mumbled, struggling to keep his eyes open. He felt heavy. They walked through the entry way, the stained glass window casting colorful shapes all over the room; he reached out to hold one in his hand. " I do not want to go to sleep. "

 

◀  I know. ▶

 

" I am not ready, not really. "

 

◀  I know. 

 

" I am still mad at you. "

 

Cipher barked a short laugh, ◀  I figured as much. ▶

 

" I am afraid. " He choked out, clinging to the silks around Cipher's shoulders tightly.

 

◀  I know you are. 

 

" Will you- will you guide my dreams? "

 

◀  I will give you the sweetest of dreams, Dipper. I promise. ▶

 

" Will you keep this one? "

 

◀  I will. 

 

" Okay. " He murmured, " Okay. " His head fell against Cipher's chest and he could feel his heart beat, slow and lulling. 

 

There was still so much he wanted to say but he knew he would never have the chance. Fate was cruel and Life had already played his hand. So he clung, desperate for closure and assurance. " I love you. " He whispered, not sure if the other man could hear him. " I love you. " He tried to say it louder but his voice failed him, petering out like the dying flame of a candle.

 

Hands were grabbing at him and he feebly fought against them, " No, not yet. Please. I do not want to- "

 

◀  Sleep. ▶ Someone told him ( " Cipher? Was that you? " ) and he felt himself falling, breaking through the surface of the ocean with a cold, bone jarring shock.

 

" - love you. " Big Dipper cried, reaching his arm out for the hazy shape that hovered over him, growing smaller and smaller as he fell. " I love you! "

 

A hand grabbed his wrist, ◀  I love you too, Big Dipper. Sweet dreams, my fallen star. ▶

 

" No, do not let go, please, I- " He gasped as he was released and suddenly he was falling again, faster than before. His subconscious was slipping from him, and heat exploded across his chest, wet and agonizingly familiar. Gasping, he curled in on himself, his vision swimming with bright smiles, triangular freckles, and blue, blue, blue eyes.

 

Memories slipped from him, old and new, and they flitted away like dandelion seeds, slipping through his outstretched fingers easily. He tried to hold onto them but Big Dipper found that the harder he tried, the quicker they left him. Eventually, he watched them, defeated and heart broken. His arm fell to his side and he continued to fall, watching everything he held dear, everything he had left, leave, no longer his to hold. Despite the ache in his heart, he laughed, over come with emotion and a sense of finality.

 

" Take care of him, " He smiled, " Okay, Mason? "

Dipper gasped, falling to his knees.

 

His hand shot to his chest and he placed it over his heart, unsure as to why it was beating so fast. " What? "

 

He looked around, uneasy, but the only things around him where the stained glass windows that lined the stairwell. Worrying his lip, he continued to climb that stone steps, checking behind him every few feet. His chest felt tight and he was surprised to find that there were tears streaming down his face. Confused, he wiped them away with his palm, " What's going on? "

 

[ Take care of him, okay Mason? ]

 

That voice, the one he had heard while traversing his nightmares, the one that had suddenly gone quiet, was back. Eyes widening, he asked, " Big Dipper? "

 

The voice didn't answer him but somehow, Dipper knew it to be him.

 

" I will, " He announced loudly, " I promise! "

Big Dipper stared at his husband's sleeping face, awoken from some lingering nightmare he couldn't begin to place or remember. " Bill? "

 

Bill hummed in response, his eyes cracking open to stare at him blearily, " Hmm? "

 

He smiled sheepishly, laying his hand over the other man's cheek, " Nothing. Just- just seeing if you were awake. Sorry. "

 

Bill groaned into his pillow, " What is wrong? "

 

Big Dipper sighed, " I do not know. "

 

" Nightmare? "

 

Feeling like a child, he nodded.

 

" What was it about? "

 

" I- I do not recall. "

 

Bill opened his arms, resigning himself to a night of tangled limbs despite the humidity and heat of the late summer night. Gesturing for the brunette to come closer he said, " Come here. "

 

Relieved, Big Dipper scooted closer to him, nuzzling into his chest. Arms wrapped around his waist and he felt like he was in the safest place in the entire world. He laid his hands over his and relaxed into Bill's embrace, warm and protected. " Thank you. "

 

" I will chase all your nightmares away. " He murmured sleepily, " Okay? "

 

" Okay. "

 

Bill feel asleep before him, and he took a few quiet minutes to appreciate his profile in the moon light that pooled across them. He leaned up and placed a quick kiss on his lips, tilting his head so they fit together just right. " I love you. " He whispered. " Goodnight, Bill. "

 

He lay awake for what felt like hours, only slipping back into his dreams once sunlight had begun to creep across the sky.

Cipher sat at the edge of Dipper's bed, watching the boy sleep.

 

I do a lot that, do I not? Waiting for you to wake up? ▶

 

There was an ache in his chest that wouldn't go away and it left him feeling hollow and uneasy. Heaving a deep sigh, he fell to his side and laid his head on his little star's belly, the slight up and down of his breathing giving him a little of the comfort he was unknowingly searching for.

 

He allowed himself some time to listen to his heart beat, taking what solace he could from the familiar rhythm. Bernard hopped up next to him and Cipher laid his hand on his head, stroking his smooth fur absentmindedly. The otter gave a quit chitter, leaning in to his touch.

 

◀ Come home soon, my sacrifice. ▶ Cipher begged, ◀ I need you. ▶

Chapter Text

Cipher was, despite all his glory and wonderment, bored out of his mind.

 

With his little bird asleep once again, for a time he could not pin point or even begin to guess, Cipher suddenly found his humble abode lacking. He hadn't realized how much life and warmth Pinetree brought into his home until there was a sudden feeling of displacement that his slumber caused. Big Dipper had been an unwelcome distraction and his departure had left a hollow feeling in the pit of the god's stomach that he didn't think would ever go away but at least he had been somewhat helpful in his own way. Now, left with nothing but a slumbering boy who had taken up the hobby of snoring lightly and an otter who paced more than himself, Cipher was admittedly rather lonely.

 

Oh, he had his duties.

 

Dream making and nightmare weaving. Political endeavors and meetings with the other gods that were never going to go well. Terrorizing new civilizations who had yet to claim a ruling deity and checking in on his older cities to make sure things were running smoothly.

 

Listening to his people's prayers and wishes was a daily ritual, their wishes and asks of favors one of the first things he himself woke to. There were blessings to hand out, retributions to happily extort, gifts to accept, and festivities in need of his presence. Traversing the stars, avoiding bears, rebuilding bridges, the list was endless. There were countless activities to draw his attention and his time. Thousands, millions, of things that needed to be done.

 

Just to name a few.

 

And even then, there were still smaller, more mundane tasks that needed completed.

 

The library was in desperate need of organization, it's shelves were growing crowded with heavy tomes and interesting kick knacks he liked enough to keep. The star charts needed updated, they were regrettably lacking some of the newer constellations that the Father god deemed worthy enough to light to skies. His garden needed some work. He had stumbled across some stunningly beautiful flowers on his last, aimless flight and he had been meaning to plant them for some time now.

 

What else?

 

Ah, yes.

 

Bernard needed a new bow tie.

 Listen, ▶ Cipher sighed, ◀ You have had the same bow tie for quite some time now. Do you not think it is time for something different? ▶

 

Bernard crossed his small arms over his chest, chittering. He sounded disgruntled.

 

◀ Of course I am aware Polaris gave you your bow tie. But I am sure Polaris would not mind you wearing a different one. One of better taste. ▶ He held up a yellow tie, the fabric decorated with tiny, black triangles. The center pieces was of his own design, an all seeing eye.

 

The otter sniffed, unimpressed.

 

◀ What is not to like about it? ▶ Cipher grumbled, ◀ I made this for you. It is one of a kind! I am sure there are a hundred star otters out there with silly little galaxy bow ties but is there a star otter out there with this? ▶ He leaned forward and dangled the offending object closer to the critter's face, giving it a shake; Bernard swatted it.

 

◀ You, my dear friend, have no taste. 

 

Lifting his nose into the air, Bernard scampered between his legs, ascending the stairs that lead to Dipper's room. He paused halfway, expecting the god to follow. When he didn't, he shook his head and continued up, disappearing around the spiral.

 

Cipher debated on following, he did, but instead, he turned towards his workroom.

 

One could only watch a slumbering human for so long.

 

No matter how cute he found his sleeping face.

Mabel awoke with a start, visages of her nightmares just smoke at the corners of her mind. Breathing heavily, she ran her hands through her tangled hair, struggling to find something grounding to keep her awake.

 

◀ Pleasant dreams, Shooting Star? ▶

 

Startling, her blood running cold, Mabel turned towards her window. Her heart struggled to beat as fear, anger, and loss took hold of her emotions. It took her a few minutes, her intruder waiting patiently, as she gathered her voice, which had left her. " Cipher. " She hissed.

 

The god inclined his head, turning his attention to her. His face was unreadable and he regarded her with masked aloofness. ◀ So it would seem. ▶

 

" What do you want? " She snarled, throwing her covers off so she could scramble to her feet. She stood before him, just a little girl, and felt nothing but hatred and burning, smoldering rage. " Come to gloat? You sure took your time! To rub it in my face that you've won? That you've taken my brother again? What? What do you want?! "

 

◀ I have no need to gloat to your face, Shooting Star. I do so every night. Tell me, do you enjoy your dreams? ▶ His lips twitched into a smirk, unkind and devious.

 

Mabel looked away, her arms erupting with goosebumps as the hair on the back of her neck prickled. Her eyes were burning with unshed tears and she blinked furiously, refusing to let them fall; her throat was tight with emotion. " What do you- what do you want, Cipher? Why are you- why are you here? "

 

Cipher shrugged, ◀ Longing perhaps. Or maybe something else. I am not entirely sure. ▶ He tucked his leg under himself and leaned against the window, ◀ Can I not visit an old friend? ▶

 

" We were never friends. "

 

◀ Oh, how eager you are to forget. ▶ He wagged a finger at her, ◀ We were quite close in our past lives, we were not Little Dipper? ▶

 

" Don't call me that! " Mabel screamed, " You don't have the right to call me that! Not anymore! "

 

◀ Tut, tut, ▶ Cipher chided her, putting his finger to his lips, ◀ You are going to wake your guardians. Do you really want ol' Sixer thinking you lost your mind? ▶

 

She pursed her lips, not wanting to admit he was right.

 

◀ Still, ▶ The god went on, ignoring the girl's heated glares, ◀ It must have been hard on you. You got to keep your memories but your twin did not. He had no clue who you really were or what you truly meant to him. ▶

 

" Shut up. " Mabel demanded; her voice was shaking.

 

◀ And, to top it all off, you never knew why! ▶ He laughed, high pitched and keening. ◀ Is that not just the funniest thing? ▶ He wiped a tear from his eye, sighing. ◀ Oh, how cruel Life can be. Or, I suppose I should say, how cruel Big Dipper is. ▶

 

" What are you talking about?! "

 

 You know nothing. ▶ The god stated plainly, ◀ You understand nothing. So caught up in your own grief and unwillingness to accept what has happened, you festered. A star fit to fall. ▶

 

" Like you're any better! You took my brother away because of your own selfishness! You had no claim to his heart this time around! "

 

◀ Big Dipper was mine and he will always be mine. ▶

 

" He's not your play toy you- "

 

◀ Big Dipper is dead. ▶

 

His words shocked Mabel to the core of her soul and she lost her ability to speak. She stumbled back as if struck, her brown eyes widening at the sudden declaration. " What? " She rasped.

 

Some weeks ago, Big Dipper awoke within your brother. However, from what he told me and from what I understand, he and your brother's souls could not exist at the same time. One had to give. And the one to give out was Big Dipper's. ▶

 

" No. " She shook her head, clutching her hands to her chest, " You're lying. You always lie! "

 

Cipher heaved a deep sigh and slid from the windowsill, standing tall and regal before her. He looked upon her with contempt and barely concealed pity as he paced the small room, running his hands over the objects that his little bird had once called his. ◀ Big Dipper chose to pass on because clinging on to what he had would do him no good. Once his soul was awakened he knew it was only a matter of time. I once could feel his soul, the fragment still left, in your brother. But now, there is nothing. You call me a liar but you know my words to be true. Is that not why you weep? ▶

 

" Shut up, " Mabel sobbed, " He's not gone! I would know! I would know! "

 

◀ You do know. 

 

" You're lying! He's not gone! Big Dipper is- my brother is not- " She chocked on her own emotion, unable to continue. She bit her lip and lowered her head, her voice so quiet and broken, " He's not gone. "

 

Except he was.

 

She had felt it. That night. She had been sleeping and then suddenly she had been awoken by the guttural, overwhelming feeling of loss. She and Dipper had always shared a connection, whether he was Big Dipper or Mason and she had felt the thread between their past selves snap, clean and without much fuss. Mabel remembered how hollow her heart had felt, almost as barren as the last time she had lost him, and she had known, without a doubt, that her original twin, her little brother, was gone.

 

She had been inconsolable, wild with grief.

 

Stan and Ford had tried their best, rushing to her side after she woke them with her blood curdling screams. She vaguely recalled their hands, large and warm and their voices, soft and worried but she could remember little else.

 

" How many times, " She whispered, " Are you going to take him from me? How many more? "

 

◀ I do not think there is any more of him to take. ▶ Cipher remarked.

 

" Why are you here? " Mabel asked again, hugging herself to ward off the chill she could never shake no matter how tightly she squeezed, " Why tell me things I already know? You already torment me with nightmares. What more do you want from me? "

 

◀ Dipper slumbers still, fighting to regain his memories and life. He was put into a forced slumber by his predecessor when he himself awakened. It was an unintentional and unforeseen complication. They could not coexist as you have done for their souls never merged. While you are the entire soul of Little Dipper, now known as Mabel Anna Pines, Mason Alexander Pines and Big Dipper were separate from the beginning of his rebirth. That is what I have come to understand. Life gave him the option to forget but to do so, he would have to give up his right to be reborn with his memories and connections. He agreed. ▶

 

His words stung. To hear that her brother was so broken by the betrayal of his husband that he forfeited all his memories of their mothers, his home, his world. Her. " And whose fault is that? "

 

◀ You would say me, and yes, I did play a part of it. But it was Big Dipper who made the decision to be locked away. 

 

" I hate you. " Mabel seethed, her teeth clinking together as she snarled, " I hate you more than I hated Bill. You are just as arrogant and hateful and spiteful as he was. You don't care what anyone else thinks or wants, you just do as you please! "

 

◀ I am a god. ▶ He told her, ◀ It is what we do. ▶

 

" You could have left him alone! " She yelled, daring to step closer to him. " You could have let him live his life without you! He didn't need you! "

 

 I could have. ▶ Cipher agreed, picking up a small, wooden effigy of himself from the abandoned desk crammed into the corner of the room. He knew it to be his sacrifice's, due to how messy and cluttered it was, a jumble of loose papers and books. ◀ I could have left him to his human life, to live peacefully with his new family. Could have, should have, would have. 

 

" Then why didn't you!? "

 

The god closed his eyes, setting the eldritch carving back down with a resounding clunk. His shoulders were slumped and all fight seemed to leave him. ◀ Because, ▶ He said softly, ◀ I love him. ▶

 

Mabel averted her gaze but said nothing, glaring out the window. There was a sudden vulnerability to him at that moment and she refused to acknowledge it. Not yet. Not ever.

 

◀ Dipper and I are fated to be. That is how the stars are written, it is how Fate decided. The boy with stars upon his skin will always belong to me. We will constantly be searching for each other and if we do not find one another, there will always be an emptiness to our existence. I sought him because not only did I seek redemption, I also sought my other half. My soul mate. ▶

 

" Soul mates are just fairy tales. " Mabel grumbled.

 

◀ Are they, Little Dipper? ▶ He asked, ◀ If that is so, than why did your brother mark me as such? ▶

 

" What? "

 

◀ Big Dipper gave me the stars upon my hip so that we would always have a connection, a thread, to one another. He branded me his just as I branded him mine. ▶

 

" You're delusional. " She spat. " Why would Dipper give you his stars when you're the one who killed him? "

 

◀ Love makes fools of even the most wisest of men, Shooting Star. ▶

 

" And look where that got you! " She threw her arm out, sneering. " Where it got him! You two used to love each other and now look at the both of you! You're a god with nothing and he's- and he's- " She took a breath to calm herself, " He's gone. He's gone. "

 

◀ Big Dipper and I have said our dues and we have parted, not as friends or lovers, but as ones who understand our paths have reached an end. He sleeps on in the mindscape, cradled by his memories of a husband who loves him and a family he loves more than life itself. ▶

 

" And Dipper? " She huffed, " What of him? What do you plan to do with him? "

 

Cipher once again fell silent.

 

" Not all love is meant to come to fruition. " She continued, spurred on by his lack of response. She crossed the room and stood before the window, looking up at the stars that twinkled down at her. " Why can't you accept that your love was just not meant to be? What do you plan to do when Dipper dies in this life? Find him again? And what then? When he dies once more will you just continually seek him out? "

 

 I will. ▶ Cipher agreed. ◀ If I can not make things right in this life, then the next life I will. If he does not wake up, if he does not stir, if his soul has become lost in the mindscape of his memories, than I will do what I must. And then, I will wait. ▶

 

" Why did you come here? Why tell me these things? "

 

He shrugged, ◀ Big Dipper's visit had me feeling, how do you say, nostalgic. ▶

 

" Keep your nostalgia. " Mabel spat, " I want none of it. "

 

◀ You have lost your joy, Shooting Star. ▶ The god pointed out, stepping up behind her; he did not touch her yet she still hitched her shoulders, as if afraid he would. ◀ You have lost yourself. To your grief and anger. ▶

 

" Can you blame me? "

 

 No, I can not. ▶

 

They stood at the window together, both stiff and unsure where to take the conversation. Mabel tried to ignore the tears rolling down her cheeks but they wouldn't stop, her emotions changing rapidly between mourning and frustration, loss and hate. Her lips wobbled and she took a breath to steady the shake in her voice. " Get out. "

 

◀ You yourself need to move on. ▶ He finally told her, ◀ Big Dipper is gone, by his own choice. There is nothing you or I can do to remedy that. I myself assisted in his passing, carrying him to the mindscape where he slumbers. He will never be reborn as himself, his soul is too broken and his heart too weak. ▶

 

" Get out. "

 

◀ Big Dipper is gone but Mason still lives. ▶ He looked down at her, his expression odd and carefully placid. ◀ He still fights to be himself and to claim what Big Dipper left him. A life all his own. ▶

 

He laughed, soft and quiet and in that instance, Mabel thought he sounded almost human.

 

" Why are you here? " She asked again, bracing herself against the windowsill and leaning out into the cool night air. " Why visit me? "

 

◀ I do not know. ▶ Cipher hummed and for the first time, she believed him.

 

" Go home. " Mabel demanded, " I'm tired of this. "

 

◀ Yes, I do believe I have over stayed my welcome have I not? ▶ He grinned crookedly at her, laughing as she spun to pin him with a look that could very well maim him, if not kill. ◀ Very well. Enjoy your night, Shooting Star. And, as they say, may you have pleasant dreams~ ▶

 

And just like that, he was gone.

 

Mabel sat heavily on her bed, her knees jerking restlessly. She clutched the fabric of her sleep shirt between her fingers tightly, her knuckles turning white. Screwing her eyes shut, she curled in on herself and cried, her body heaving with great, ugly sobs.

 

She felt like she was missing an important piece of herself and now she knew, though she always had, that Big Dipper had died. Life did not take him to their workroom as they did with all people and gods of earth. He simply ceased to be because he himself was too distanced from his reincarnated. All those years of hoping and waiting for him, for him to wake up and be with her once more, were washed away, leaving nothingness where dreams had once flourished.

 

" Oh, Dipper, " Mabel moaned, rocking back and forth, " Just like- just like last time. I didn't- I didn't get to say goodbye. I didn't get to-get to say goodbye. "

 

Goodbye had felt so final, so deciding, that she had never said it aloud.

 

' I'm sorry. ' and ' I hate him ' were far easier to say and think.

 

Mabel threw her head back and laughed, " Goodbyes suck- they suck, Dipper. They suck. "

" Why so gloomy, Little Dipper? "

 

Little Dipper looked up, smiling softly at her brother. " I am not gloomy, brother. When am I ever gloomy? " She flashed him a large grin to prove her point.

 

" You are gloomy right now. " He pointed out, kneeling down along the river bank so he could join her. He threw his feet into the water and leaned back against the grassy knoll. He knocked his knee against hers. " What ever is the matter? "

 

She bit her lip but didn't answer him. She kicked her feet through the water, watching the fish swim over and under them as they moved; she jumped when Big Dipper placed his hand over hers.

 

" Are you alright? "

 

" I miss you. " She blurted out, " You are always with Bill now and  you two are always together. I miss the time we used to spend together. Time that is now his. We have not gone and picked berries like we usually do and- and you do not come over to teach me how to read anymore either! Some teacher you are! What am I going to do when some charlatan comes to town and convinces me to give him my lands because I could not read the words of his proposal? What then? How would I ever get the- get the- Big Dipper! Are you laughing at me?! "

 

She puffed her cheeks up, her face burning with indignation. " How- how dare you! "

 

" I am sorry! " Big Dipper tried to console her, failing horribly as he continued to laugh. " I just- I never thought you would be so jealous. "

 

" I am not jealous! " She seethed, " How dare you! "

 

He sang, leaning his shoulder against hers, " You sound jealous, oh yes you do. "

 

" I am not! "

 

" If you say so. " Big Dipper finally relented, not losing that knowing smile he almost always had.

 

Little Dipper looked away, pouting. She squeezed her brothers hand, relaxing somewhat when he squeezed back. " I really do miss you. " She admitted softly.

 

" I miss you too. " He reassured her.

 

" Do you? "

 

" Of course I do. What in heavens makes you think I do not? "

 

" Well, " She huffed, " You are always with Bill now. Holding hands and kissing and- and I suppose I just feel a little left out. Like you forgot about me now that you have a husband. "

 

Big Dipper frowned, reaching over so he could turn his sister's face. " I would never, " He stated firmly, " Forget you. You are my sister, my twin. Just because I am married to Bill does not mean he has replaced you in my heart. He could never do that. "

 

" I know, " Little Dipper groaned, leaning against him in turn, " I know you would never do such a thing. I just miss....this. " She gestured to the river, sweeping her arm high above them as she went on, " Spending time with you. "

 

" Then I will simply have to make more time for you. " He stated firmly.

 

" Will you? "

 

" Of course! "

 

" And when do you plan to start? "

 

He grinned mischievously, brown eyes alight with mirth, " Right now! "

 

He let go of her hand and threw his arms around her broad shoulder, pushing them both onto their backs. Little Dipper shrieked, howling with laughter, " Big Dipper! What are you doing!? "

 

" I'm hugging your sadness away. " Big Dipper told her firmly.

 

She blinked up at him, overwhelmed by the love and affection she felt for her younger sibling. Grinning, she hugged him back, " You rapscallion. "

 

" Is it working? "

 

She held him tighter, burying her nose in his shirt, " Yeah, it is. It really is. "

Cipher placed his hands on the ivory keys of his pianoforte and played. The notes were low and full of melancholy, slowly arranging into a song the god knew and loved. ◀ We will meet again, do not know where, do not know when. But I know we will meet again, one sunny day. ▶

 

Bernard hopped up onto the top of the instrument, quizzically pawing at the keys. He looked up at him for conformation, smacking one of the black flats down.

 

Cipher chuckled, allowing the otter to join in on despite his lack of musical talent. ◀ Keep smiling through, just like you always do. Until the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away~ ▶

 

Bernard chatted happily, whining and cooing along with him as he bounced along the base board of the pianoforte. He hit keys as he went, creating a dysfunctional string of notes he seemed to enjoy.

 

◀ So will you please say hello to the folks that I know. Tell them I will not be long. They will be happy to know, that as you saw me go, I was singing this song~ ▶

 

Taking he deep breath, he slammed his fingers down upon the keyboard and belted out, ◀ We will meet again, do not know where, do not know when. But I know we will meet again, one sunny day! ▶

 

For the first time in a long while, Cipher smiled. There was a lightness in his chest he hadn't felt for some time and he was left with a sort of contentment he couldn't place. Still, he did not question it. It had been eons since he had played the pianoforte and he had, regrettably, forgotten how the instrument soothed him. He made a pact with himself that as soon as Pinetree woke up, he'd play more often.

 

Besides, Bernard seemed to have a knack for it as well.

 

He transitioned into another song effortlessly, slipping his fingers under and around the star otter's tiny paws,◀ I see trees of green. Red roses too. I see them bloom, for me and for you. And I think to myself. What a wonderful world. ▶

 

Sometimes, one just had to enjoy the small things in life.

 

◀ Right, Pinetree? ▶

Mmkscm Imaxjv nwzpo xzws wuiy bmi wiwkp, pjegg iszz giqwwi sqr, me abyyo ttpv.

 

L jjmyo xxzwi fpntvp pnq, pbmicmfp lvi wecsrtvlpj jjefbnjft. Ylpg bicm yewt fro enpwwbc hqyl dsnr dw uewm nx hix ewutwe wuew tnop qs eaxjecisgp, bmitz hlpmpw, ymho, lvi wswzpomww rtnreqsk hqyl cinrmwbw. Epjmc emmem metz bed ttrr ish acqppl nrew fr tvyvtkfxp aycwm fxzx ylpqw lpii, lpti my xqenm gc rwqhpv qildjw lvi ztvjw. Pgjw, dwkx lvi jftq sq efvxbm, klhjh owbr lb mmx ish epjc niwvtmi e dufpw armwm ztzv ylpqw ptxx. Xsmd rzliio bt ltu fro ayiaxjh lanhp bt ewtta sqr tlaxerm,  Lszl rscvnrr, Lntamw. Twmfwp, ktqp qs. 

 

" Fu, yllvp czc? " Imaxjv mwbio jjjzzj iybjvtvl, wzujlze kiptnrr tnop qy ala ylp xwsamw xsqsk ew is.

 

 T bwydb dsf sssh ems T ir? 

 

Sm ssoljh, siqj oqxxcihxpl gc sqx wfzwsfvimyox. Xsmwi hmwi atfrea jzpzd asmwi, wwsk gqsid kwipxnrr ihvzax fzwpwsmqzpa fro pfrrqsk qztq awyw epfx hmwi atfgpl nr epj vzwr'w wiwkp, wuiy enrowbw. " Jmfl, T bmmys N hz. " Pj pzwpio ltay iy xsm wyym hsgmwio nqszz, mmd njie xfhoqsk lkwsda hecmkywtd hcibr nqwgwmx eyl xcxjtpd. I xiyaj sq ljnl dz gluj sgmw ltu. " Dsf'zj Ptnj. "

 

Wqki dejte cu fppnro pnq, atfgtvl e sish zv mmd amsftiic ntv epj wwqllemxx xwriyb giqwwi hiqotvl ehid.  Myljio Q fq. T ir zpzd kwii czc wixmrfpzjh. 

 

" Hpfx lu N hzqsk smwi? " Oqutpz fwvmi, jztqshqsk epjq la ylpg biyb ffzcy xsmnv mcxmymxw, dmqinbnrr arewt, lplax fzbyppa kvzu ylp amiwdjw epfx wqsio bmi cwtq. " T pfzpv'y htmi. M epnrv. Pfzp Q impl fklqs? "

 

Wqki wizksmi, ☥ Lpiaiya ss, Wqyxwm Gilz! Dsf pfzp vtx oqjh. Swb wttqc jwz ecm. ☥

 

" Hmqp, tn N'q ywy hpii xsms asiy m lu istvl my gtyc kmexjjvd? Bmi wixx eqri T efw smwi T- Q impl fro gty hmwi azjtlznrr uj jzz wimqwxs. " Pj ijmi xsm gedqs my bmi nmsxpz tj epj vzwr alznpj, apmcbnrr iwsfvi me emiy bmij lwih kqsdm. " Fq T jjmyo wimwwr lofmy? 

 

Epjc dptsv bmitz mill,  Ss, jwzrr wsi. Jwz ecm sse jjmyo wimwwr. Jwz attq rzb gi gqxmeqsk xg hllugica fklqs jzz xsxm ymxm fjemw xsqx. Xlsj wzuj gzukscb nr epfx, jmx?  Kpvypj xzwsqsk sqr edqii, Wqki ntngvmi xsmnv ewskfm fro ofxsmwio i kih pjecb xllxjh awqppv usoa kvzu ylp nqshmww epfx rzja ljtzp bmix. Vt, me qx jlz xmxxqic bmey bmee. 

 

" Hpfx ta nx epjr? " Oqutpz xmrpjh.

 

☥  Jwz apzj my bmi Cmfpx wk Rtomxxiwid, Lntamw. Me qx asmwi screya kewt ys zvhi epjc mmhsxm uplozio enxs kmvzvng yqlleufvpa. Ylpaj rtomxxiwid iwi ywy ptsj rzzrew vnksbrecmx. Xsmd ecm jrotjwd ish gqhmzcx, xpiwmyo ylp dngeqr'w xqshdkftp iuecb fx epj wpmrw fvymw bmij onzp qs xz bmitz reovjwd. Jzx jwz, czc imo vtx. 

 

" T iqqzay htl. " Mi hpnwamwio, kqyekmmyo mmd kmidb. " N ewutwe ofzp cu. "

 

 Mcy czc imo vtx.  Epjc cmrmyljh sqr.  Czc, nrdbjeo, ntyrpy czcw alg ylcwzks bmi yqlleufvpa ys cmfgs bmi hipmyo wiltr. Eyl dsf, gty xg qsgm, megm isym fw dchl. Jwz jlkjh jwzv qmfvd ish ntnqmmi xsm xxlqww lvi vptnzpl dsfz bscay qputvtmx. Czc megm isym bllb sse wylpz uicatr six fpms emtj xz lt wz. Gty siai hiqopl ylp vnksbrecm wiltr eyl megm qmgmi xz bjpw wk me. Utwe ixxzcshtvl. 

 

" Mcy mq bmmd qx xsm bevqsk cmfpx emc lu N lpzj? Xsqx mdv'y asmwi T njpw ixppmu. "

 

 Dtjia ish omfxs iwi gmwc nttwptd mybjveenrpl. Tr jwzv uwzvymd, ee bmi pvi, czc hsfti lldj iyljh fx nr xg hllugic ww czc hsfti lldj iyljh fx nr Omfxs'a. Meo gty rqaiy qs ee isc xwriyb fpzvl czcw tlbm czc bsfti fp kqmysnrr bje ncuw hqyl xg mydjfro qswemfh zn hsydjvdqsk hqyl xm. Dsf kmsdm qmqm, xs jwz gluj lpzj. 

 

" Hpfx ywb? " Htxuic efpvmi ya jjltvi xsmr, xlsnrr is myyzmdqymgm uips nrew ylp jfwtv; f wzcq fzjgppl ffzdj xsm wmaxqio azvqihi, hinptvl ufqjxwg. " Blpzj hz Q ls qztq smwi? "

 

 Lzj czc xs pilic bt vpbzvy bt czcw fpttzpl?  Qmqm fwvmi, wxqqmyo przenrrtd.

 

Oqutpz'x jlkj ffzsio ish sm qszsjh lefc.

 

Epj kzl qefomio. Amevqsk epjmc pjeo, bmij ttsvmi sfb trp wk xsm bmyltad, bmi pfuvpaxmzv tr epjmc nfgp iqqzay atayjft.  Ls epjr, Oqutpz. N attq rzb mswl dsf pjvp emiy gtyc pjecb qsyox xz jj wzujasmwi ptxi.  Ocxxtvl xsmnv sishd wkj, epjc atfgpl ylpqw llviw zv mmd iwqd ish vvjiwmi hzes wz bmitz xxfvsmyo, jqpzfpo mdid ejvp ttsvqsk cqlle qsxz pnw zes; Htxuic pjpo pnw mzjeep.  N hz vtx hisx ew xip gty smwi lofmy csxtt nx ta dsfz fgecfp eqri zn wimqwxs, lt czc zromwweish xm? 

 

Eipiy igens, ylp jtc rznrymi. Lp afpfbjh epjq, " Jmx, wtz! "

 

Wqki dunppl gens, qilvnrr ntvhiwh dw ylpg hsfti twihi l arewt pmda tr sqx jzzjlpii.  M wwto qwwalzi xz bmi eqri hpjr hm bmwt gvpip fcmfh lvi wsiwi emf, Htxuic. Jzx ywb, md vtx epj xtuj eyl N qfay ftl dsf nfvpejpw.

 

" T xwiqmw asqyi emfw lvi M wqpi epjq hqyl wwyw zn xyriw eyl msymd. " Htxuic qsjzzrio bmix.

 

T amewt wixmrfpz yllb. 

 

Dbfroqsk fx, ylpg uye i meyl tr sqx flkp eyl zwsmwio pnq ewbeclx xsm trwg txsmw hzww my bmi cwtq, epj azwiiy msxcg bej vjectd smahycmi fj lja nwaicmi ppiaid ish xixwtdj, tfzupp ish aqso mttsxa yllb lptbyicmi tcmyxttd yyljv epj ptomxd.  Csxtt bi xmjx lofmy, Ufwzv Fppffromw Ttvjw. Ow rmyl ylp ntptili lvi jwwwe zv dsfz bej wzx

 

" T enpw. " Pj tcwrmdmi, " Xsiso jwz. "

 

 Zp, fro Lntamw? 

 

" Jmx? "

 

 Ow ri l nfzzz fro bjpw Kntsmw lp xqeja gilcymqcqpj enpw gty? 

 

Nwsjfajh mg ylp zjufmxx, Oqutpz xxttq erzjio, " Azvp? "

 

Ywihtvl emajreunromipj, Tnjp ejre jfgv bt tcmuecqsk lvtxsmw wzcq jzz ylp zjftzyl nghppa, xtpipmyo hsxntveqskwg ys epjq lvi xptqmyo ylpu fpw bmi hwshpzkyw bmmyox xsmd lll ys wwto qwwalzi xz.

 

Oqutpz xxlzjh lb mmd pfro, pnw qqskpzx xhqygsqsk lofmyay xsm xmom tj epj gfzaio, etsoms llvipp. Bfotvl e omjt mzjeep, sicdtyd ish hwwvtmi, lp ofxsmwio emee ktycili sm meo ish dptzpl nx zxjr, rqamyo f klau ed pj xfugppl nrew f wfvsc siqphid qllj sq ktfmtjh dbtrpa fro bwip jweykmid. Ammptimyo mmd mdid, pj pzwpio iwsfvi, xsm xoj is iylqida gpfm gisqsh epj xhqxxpl bmyltad bmee tnrpl ylp efpvefc.

 

Tb bed efvx ish atjedisx, hmqgzunrr ish tvameqsk, lvi Htxuic ntyyl mmxajpq efpvqsk owbr epj lltqalg, freqhmaiymzv gyttimyo nr sqx gsmxx hqyl pihl dbjt sm yszs. Giqwwi sm prpe nx, sm meo jwsvms sfb nrew f vfv.

 

Tv ylp lnweisgp pj gzcqh smfv dqsktvl.

 

Lvi e wwaiwg riwwic zn umlvt opgx.

Cipher tried to visit the music room more often, slipping in in between all his duties and chores when a free moment arose. He was intent on brushing up on his pianoforte until he was satisfied with himself. Bernard was more than happy to accompany him on these exertions, the little critter loving the plonks and sounds of the heavy keys. As it went, the two spent many days together in this manner, the god playing and singing off key and the otter adding his own notes and dancing around the room like a regal ballroom waltzer.

 

◀ Wise men say, ▶ Cipher trilled, ◀ Only fools rush in. ▶

 

Bernard swam around him, humming to the slow beat of the song, wobbling back and forth as he glided in slow circles, his arms around an invisible partner.

 

◀ But I can not help, falling in love with you. ▶

 

He allowed the notes to fade before he continued, softer.

 

◀ Shall I stay? Would it be a sin if I can not help, falling in love with you. ▶

 

Cipher slammed the keys down and sang, leaning back on the stool as he crooned, ◀ Like a river flows, surely to the sea. Darling so it goes, somethings were meant to be. ▶

 

Bernard ran across the keyboard, diving off the end and swooping up gracefully twirl about, stars falling from his fur to scatter across the floor.

 

Cipher snickered.

 

◀ Take my hand. Take my whole life too. Because I can not help falling in love with you. ▶

 

" I didn't know you could play the piano. "

 

Cipher's fingers stalled over the next notes and his breath hitched sharply in his throat. Stiffly, he turned in his seat, dimly aware of the constricting tightness in his chest. He swallowed around the lump in his throat and croaked, ◀ Pinetree? ▶

 

Dipper stood in the doorway, a blanket thrown around his shoulders. He was looking around in mild awe, his hair adorably disheveled and wayward, even more than it usually was. His mocha eyes were dull and ringed by deep, purple bags but, as he turned to focus on him, they lit up in recognition. His lips quirked into that crooked smile the god knew and loved so much and he raised a hand awkwardly, " Hey. "

 

Cipher stood so quickly the piano bench was thrown back across the floor. Rushing over to his little bird, he hovered just out of reach, hoping beyond anything that the human in front of him was his sacrifice. Afraid to touch him, for fear he would disappear, he reached out, hesitant; Dipper leaned his cheek into his palm with a roll of his eyes. Inhaling sharply, he ran his thumb over his skin, hands shaking with repressed urges to just swoop him close and never let go, his, his, his. But he held back, afraid of what had changed between them, what was different and what was broken.

 

" I'm too tired for this. " Dipper snorted, stepping up to him and wrapping his arms around him loosely. " Just hug me and shut up. "

 

 Choking on his sobs, a laugh somewhere hidden in the depths, he hugged Dipper tightly and buried his face into his neck, ◀ Oh, my sacrifice, my constellation, you- you- ▶ He gasped for breath and shook his head, the ability to speak lost to him. Trilling loudly, he dragged the boy down onto the floor, his own legs unable to keep them both up.

 

" You big crybaby. " Dipper murmured. He ran his fingers through his hair and twirled his braids around his palm, " I missed you. " He sighed, slumping heavily into his embrace.

 

Cipher drew him into his lap, curling his feathered tail around them. He couldn't speak through the tears that were streaming down his freckled cheeks, the only sounds escaping him subtle and forlorn. His fingers traced the curves of his sides and played with hair, almost as if he couldn't believe he was here with him and that he would only believe he was if he could touch every part of him. Lifting his head, he shakily cupped the brunette's face, reveling in the roundness of his cheeks and the stars that still shone in the depths of his mocha eyes. He tried to say something but only whimpers escaped his lips. Irritated, he gazed at him, expression pained, and brought their foreheads together instead, appalled at his weakness.

 

Bernard sat close by, paws clasped to his chest as he watched the two people closest to him reunite. His whiskers quivered and he rubbed at his eyes, chittering brightly.

 

Huffing in exasperation, Dipper leaned into his touch, his body relishing in the thrumming warmth that came from his god's touch. It was only here, in Cipher's arms, that he realized how touch starved he felt, isolated for a time frame he couldn't place in a cold, dark world of nightmares and memories; he pressed himself closer, desperate for that warmth. " You're really here. " He breathed, " Oh my gods. "

 

◀ You are home. ▶ Cipher finally managed to utter, weak and awed. ◀ You are home. ▶

 

" Yeah, " Dipper smiled, breathless, " I am. "

 

◀ You came home to me. You- you came home. ▶

 

Dipper chuckled, his lips twitching as he held back his own cries of relief. " I'm home. " He told him, the realization slowly dawning him that he was, in fact, home. His laughs turned to great, heaving sobs, and he collapsed against Cipher, his own hands desperately trying to find his; he intertwined their fingers. " I'm home! " 

 

Managing to calm himself long enough to lift his head, Cipher smiled softly at him, his eye narrowed and his face a light with sheer, overwhelming joy. He leaned down and placed a kiss upon his forehead, thanking every lucky star he had and every prayer of his that had been heard, that had been answered. ◀ Welcome home, my sacrifice. Welcome home. ▶

Chapter Text

◀ How much do you remember? ▶

 

Dipper opened his eyes, half dozing while sitting in the window of his room, a cup of cocoa held loosely in his hands. Blinking slowly, he turned his attention to Cipher, the god having sat himself across from him, crowding the cushion and taking his loose comfort without a care in the world. He wondered how he hadn't been disturbed by his arrival and he trailed his fingers over the feathery soft down of his tail, humming in thought. " I remember most things. " He finally said, " But I don't know exactly what I've forgotten. It's hard to describe. "

 

◀ What do you remember? ▶ Cipher urged, placing his hand on his leg and spreading his fingers wide to rub his flesh, the warmth of his palm welcome against his chilled skin; Dipper leaned into it, having missed the sensation of touch while lost to his nightmares.

 

" I remember falling in love with you. " He said, unable to meet his eyes, " I remember Bill. I remember starting my life with you. I remember Mabel being there. She was still my twin sister. Older too. How fair is that? " He laughed softly. " I remember my mother, Ursa Major. She used to sing me lullabies when I couldn't sleep. But I don't remember the words. They were kind though. Gentle. I think she had stars in her hair. They twinkled when she moved and I would always try to grab them. "

 

The god watched him, his gaze unwavering but filled with something of which Dipper couldn't really place.

 

" It's... weird though. " Dipper went on, " I remember all this but I don't- I don't feel like they are mine. Almost as if I merely watched them like a moving collection of pictures as an audience member, not an actor. Am I- am I broken? "

 

◀ No, no, of course not my sacrifice. ▶ Cipher cooed softly. He arched over to cup the boy's face in his hands and placed little kisses on his nose; his heart fluttered when he laughed. ◀ You are not broken. You are simply you. And that is the most wonderful blessing I could have ever asked for. 

 

" Big Dipper and I, we were never one and the same were we? " He asked, his throat becoming tight.

 

◀ No, you were not. Life had warned him that they could not guarantee a perfect reincarnation but he took the risk anyway. Because of that, you two grew into completely separate identities. Yet, somehow, you were able to regain his memories as well as retain your own. The best way I can put it is that you are him but he is not you. But even then that is not correct either. Life made it sound so simple, I'm sure, but it truly is more complicated than what it seems like. Nothing of the sort has ever happened before. Normally, when one is reincarnated they retain their whole soul. Yet, Big Dipper's soul was broken and you were born from a fragment. The two of you were able to live in harmony only for as long as he slumbered. When he woke up, your body could not handle the strain and thus you fell into a catatonic state until one of you could reclaim it. ▶

 

" I think- I think I knew he was there. I just never understood what that meant exactly. I could remember certain things or they would come in fleeting thoughts. There were moments where his emotions bled into mine and I knew they weren't mine. There was always this- this ache in my chest that I couldn't tell you why it was there. "

 

◀ Had I left you to your own devices I doubt Big Dipper would have awakened. When I chose you to be my sacrifice, I gave you a tiny fragment of my own soul so that I could bring you to be with me. Most likely, my soul reacted with Big Dipper's soul, spurring his awakening to hasten. I apologize. I had not wanted that. ▶

 

" You didn't want me to remember what had happened between us at all did you? " Dipper asked quietly.

 

Cipher averted his eyes, lips drawn thin. ◀ Of course not. Why would I want you to remember that I had killed you for the glory of becoming a god? I never wanted you to figure it out and I never wanted to confront what I had done to you- to us. I blinded myself with lies that it would never happen, that you would always be in the dark. I fancied myself quite the believable liar. To both you and myself. ▶

 

Dipper moved his legs so that they were laid across Cipher's lap, his feet pressed into the deity's stomach. " I'm not..... mad per say. " He tried to explain what was going on inside him, his fingers ticking restless against his thighs. " It's.... I don't think the emotions I was feeling at the time were mine but his instead. I was hurt and there was a lot going on inside me that I don't think I could even begin to describe. I'm not sure I even remember all of it correctly. While I was stuck in those nightmares I was full of resentment and anger and I felt for sure that I hated you with every fiber of my being. But there was also this love and sadness deep, deep down. It threatened to suffocate me and I felt like I was being pulled in all these different directions. It was only when I began to claw my way back up that I started to get a sense of who I was and what emotions were mine. "

 

◀ And what emotions are yours, my little tree? ▶

 

" I'm still angry, I'm still sad, and I'm still afraid. "

 

◀ What are you afraid of? ▶

 

Dipper worried his lip, " What if- what if what I'm feeling right now isn't mine? " He sought out Cipher's gaze, holding it for as long as he dared. " What if I only fell in love with you because Big Dipper still loved you? "

 

◀ Pinetree- ▶

 

" And, " He interrupted, his voice wavering as he choked out, " What if you only love me because I was Big Dipper? "

 

Cipher winced.

 

" Well, " The boy demanded, nudging him softly, " Which one of us is it that you love? Him? Or me? "

 

◀ It is not that simple. ▶

 

" How so? "

 

I loved Big Dipper with all my heart and I always will. He was my first love and my soulmate, entwined together through the stars on our skin- now on your own. I admit, when you were born, I selected you because of that connection. You were my redemption, my salvation. You were a new beginning. You carried the fractured soul of my husband, Pinetree, how could I not want that back? ▶

 

Dipper went to pull his leg back, stung, but Cipher grabbed a hold of his ankle, refusing to allow him to retreat away.

 

 Let me finish. ▶ The god beseeched lightly.

 

Reluctantly, he nodded.

 

◀ I chose you because of who you were. When you were born into this world, I already knew you were mine. And when it came time for me to choose a sacrifice, I chose you because of that. But you are so much more than what I ever thought you would be. I knew you were not Big Dipper the moment you reached out to touch my snout. Your eyes were full of wonder and such reverence that I knew you could not remember what had happened between us. I saw no hate and no sadness, only this fire burning deep within your eyes. I had already planned to keep you regardless but when you willingly offered yourself to me and when you uttered how beautiful I was, I knew I had to have you. ▶

 

Cipher held his hand out for him and after a pause Dipper offered him his own, their fingers intertwining loosely.

 

◀ I fell in love with you, Pinetree. ▶ He told his little bird firmly, ◀ I adore you. I, a god, worship the ground you walk on and show you adulation befitting of only myself. I selected you because I had thought you and Big Dipper were one and the same. But I was wrong, and I will not be repeating that anytime soon so please, do not see it fit to remind me of that thank you very much. You are much more yourself than he. You two were very similar but you made it known that your soul was your own and no one else's. You are a wild fire that can never be extinguished, your passion your kindling. I love the way you mumble to yourself when you read. Your little snores when you sleep. I simply adore how you yearn to learn everything you possibly can and when you smile at me I feel like my whole world has stopped. The stars you carry in your eyes are bright and more beautiful than anything Polaris could hope to create. You have become my everything. ▶

 

Dipper blushed deeply, his whole face turning scarlet. He tried to tell him off but he couldn't get his tongue to work, too flustered over the other's words. Instead, he squeezed his hand, hoping his feelings could reach him that way.

 

 I love you, my sacrifice. ▶ Cipher whispered somberly. ◀ I love you more than I have ever loved anyone else and that terrifies me. You have become my world and I do not know what to do with myself. What have you done to me? ▶

 

Dipper laughed, surprised. " I haven't done anything to you, you stupid god. "

 

 I wait months for your return, guide your dreams, and pour my heart out to you in this moment and you have the audacity to insult me. ▶ Cipher scoffed, affronted. He placed a hand over his heart and leaned back against the wall as if he had no strength left in him, a damsel in all but name. ◀ You wound me so, Pinetree. 

 

" You deserved it. " He shrugged, a smile finally tugging at the corners of his lips; it was gone as fast as it had come.

 

Sighing, Cipher placed a finger under Dipper's chin and made him tilt his head back so he could look at him better. ◀ My sacrifice, please, believe me. ▶

 

" It's not that I don't, not really. " Dipper assured him, leaning into his touch. " It's- I just- I feel so lonely right now. "

 

◀ Lonely? Whatever for? I am right here. ▶

 

He shook his head, " No, it's not- I- " Wincing, he took a a breath to steady the quiver in his voice, willing the tightness of his throat to go away, " All my life, I've been carrying around another soul- another person- with me. And, yeah, I may not have known he was there but now that's he's gone I- I can feel it. " 

 

Placing his hand over his heart, he squeezed his eyes shut, only a little embarrassed that there were tears gathering on his lashes. " There's- there's so much that's gone and I'm not sure what parts of him were me and which- which ones were him. Do I love winter? Am I the one who likes making flower crowns? Which one of us likes to paint and which one of us was the one who liked blackberries? Was- was his love for you his or mine? " He gasped, a sob finally ripping from his throat, quiet and broken. " I thought- I thought I was the one that loved you. But now- but now I'm not sure. "

 

◀ Oh, my sacrifice, ▶ Cipher breathed, gazing at him sadly. Ignoring his protests, he reached out and gathered the distraught boy into his arms, tugging him until he was nestled in his lap like a bride, his legs thrown over his own and his head tucked into his chest. Soothingly, he ran his hands up his back, ◀ It is alright, my guiding star, it is alright. ▶

 

" But what if it's not? " Dipper demanded, clutching the fabric of his shawl tightly, winding the colorful fabric between his fingers. " What if I don't love you? "

 

He uttered the words like they were a curse, a blemish of lies and uncertainty, and the god froze, his entire body seized by crippling, frigid, fear. ◀ What makes you think that? ▶

 

" I could feel what Big Dipper could. Not at first, not really. But the more time I spent with you , the more I began to feel him. He loved you so- so much that it would hurt. Sometimes, I would get so angry and sad and I couldn't really explain why. But it was him. He felt so strongly about you. Did- did the two of you- did you guys talk? At all? "

 

◀ We- we talked as much as could be expected. ▶ Cipher said carefully, choosing his words selectively. ◀ There was much between us and not everything that needed to be said got said but such is how it is. ▶

 

" Are you- are you sad he's gone? "

 

 In a way, yes. He was my first love and I had done terrible things to him to get to where I am. I used his love and support and turned them into a stepping stone for something greater. That is a wound I will carry for a great amount of time still to come. But, him being gone allows me to have you at my side again. And what greater joy could I ask than that? ▶

 

Dipper fiddled with the gold necklaces that lay over Cipher's torso, the beads smooth beneath his fingertips. He traced the carved runes and played with the tiny triangles that speckled his dark skin like drops of golden ink, restless in his discomfort. " Which- which one of us do you love more? " He blurted out.

 

◀ Which one of you do I love more? ▶

 

" No- never mind! " He backtracked, " That was- I'm just- this is stupid- I don't mean to- I mean, I can't- "

 

Cipher chortled and he nuzzled into his sacrifice's neck, ◀ You are jealous. ▶ He stated, fondness laced through every syllable. ◀ Have I told you how utterly precious you are? ▶

 

" Shut up! " Dipper stuttered, crossing his arms over his chest, " I'm not- I'm not jealous! "

 

◀ Are you sure? Your face is turning the most fetching shade of red I have ever seen. 

 

" It- it is not! " He denied, hand darting up to feel how warm his cheeks were; he sulked when he felt what he already knew. " I'm- I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked you that. That was- that was petty of me. "

 

 It is alright to be petty, especially when it come to matters of the heart. ▶ Cipher said sagely, bopping the tip of his nose with a tiny, huff of a laugh. ◀ It shows how deeply you feel about something. Your jealousy is especially pretty on you, my guiding star. ▶

 

" Jealousy doesn't look on any one. " Dipper scolded.

 

◀ I disagree~ ▶

 

Dipper placed his hands on Cipher's shoulders and closed his eyes. " I- I think I love you. " He uttered, not really sure if he wanted to keep talking; it made his chest ache in a way he couldn't name. " I love how you laugh like you're the funniest thing in the universe, even if I find it as obnoxious as I do hilarious. I love how warm you are and how light your touches can be. It feels like you might burn me at any second when our skin touches. "

 

◀ I would never. ▶

 

" I know. " He smiled, " It just feels that way. Like- like you're a funeral pyre and your flames will be the last thing I feel in this life before I crumble away. But I think I love that about you too, in a way. " Hesitantly, he ran his hands over his feathered jaw, fingers trembling. " I- I know I love you. I'm sorry. I- I lied to you about that. The truth is, I feel like my love for you will consume me and turn me to ash. There's still so much I have to say and a lot more that I still have to learn about you. About me. But I know, without a doubt, that I love you Cipher. And I don't know if it's Big Dipper or if it's me but I don't care. I'm claiming it for myself if that's okay. "

 

◀ I think it will be fine. ▶ Cipher assured him, resting his chin in the boy's palms.

 

" Will it be? "

 

◀ It will. ▶ Gently, he tilted Dipper's face up and leaned down, their noses nearly touching in his desire to be closer. ◀ I too, love you, my sacrifice. No one else could ever hope to take your place for you are irreplaceable. ▶

 

" Don't be so dramatic, " He scolded, " There's millions of stars in the sky. "

 

◀ There are millions of stars, yes, but the only constellation I need is you~ 

 

Dipper tittered, snorting loudly as he bumped their foreheads together, " That was so bad! "

 

◀ Are you not swooning? ▶ Cipher jibed, genuinely curious.

 

" Maybe a little, " He admitted, tucking a long strand of the god's long hair behind his fluffy ears, " You are pretty charming when you want to be. "

 

◀ I knew it was only a matter of time before you fell for my charming facade. ▶

 

" Yeah, " Dipper said, fondly curling a braid around his fingers, the act so familiar and so right it felt grounding, " I guess it was. "

 

Cipher regarded him carefully, a hand curling over his shoulder so it could lay itself over the other's, the two of them bound by touch. ◀ Can I kiss you? ▶

 

" What? "

 

◀ I want to kiss you. ▶ He said again, ◀ May I? 

 

" I'm surprised you asked. " Dipper teased.

 

Humming, Cipher leaned down and pressed their lips together, the two of them meeting in a gentle touch of desperation and understanding; there was and underlying bitterness of yesterday to the sweetness of now, but still, to the two of them, it was somehow perfect.

 

I love you, my little dream walker. ▶ His god breathed,

 

" I love you more. " He challenged.

 

I should think not, for I love you most. ▶

 

Dipper shook his head, pulling Cipher down so they could fall into the window cushion; the cup of cocoa he had set aside went clattering to the ground but they paid no attention to it. " I love you infinity. "

Dipper trotted down the stairs, a heavy, ancient tome tucked under his arm. He intended to find Cipher, hoping the god could answer some of his more important questions about the bookmarked pages he had hastily noted. Descending leisurely, taking the time to just take in the way the sunlight made the colors of the stained glass dance on the windows, he slowed as he heard voices rising from the great hall below. Not recognizing the one, he crept downward and peeked over the railing with keen interest, wondering who it was that had decided to drop in unannounced this time.

 

☆ You have had your fun with my little one, Cipher. ☆ A woman stated, standing on tip toe so she could wag her finger in the taller man's face. ☆ I was generous and I allowed Riges to keep you company for some time now but I am in need of his assistance as soon as possible. ☆

 

She was shocking beautiful, as most deities tended to be, with long, white hair that was tied up in two buns at the sides of her hair, long pigtails falling down her back in gentle waves. Stars, bright and glittering, were nestled in her hair and in the folds of her traditional robes, twinkling merrily with each sweep of her arm.

 

Cipher rolled his eyes at her and crossed his arms over his chest, ◀ Really now, Polaris, I assure you I do not have your precious star otter. ▶

 

Polaris stomped her foot, a few of her glowing stars clattering to the floor, ☆ Don't try to weasel your way out of this one! I saw you myself on the night of the gathering. Drunkenly stumbling around with Strange- off all people!- giggling like school girls. The two of you thought you were being so clever but did you really think I would not notice my head butler going missing? 

 

◀ Well, I had hoped. ▶

 

☆ I allowed you to keep him in the meantime because I figured if you were going to go through all the hassle to 'steal' him then I might as well let you have some fun. Besides, Regis can take care of himself for the most part. But I simply can't allow you to- 

 

Cipher held up a hand, interrupting her with a confused, ◀ Who? ▶

 

☆ What do you mean 'who'? You know perfectly well who I mean. ☆

 

◀ I assure you, Star Guider, I know nothing of any 'Regis'. Obviously there was some sort of misunderstanding. I do not have an otter by the name of Regis in my care. Now, if you would so kindly- ▶ He reached out to place a hand on her shoulder, inclining his chin towards the tower door meaningfully.

 

Having none of it, Polaris ducked under his arm and spun out of his grasp, ☆ You know very well who I mean, Cipher! And I need him back as soon as possible or did you not hear me the first time? ☆

 

The god groaned, ◀ I heard you, must you be so- ▶

 

☆ Zeus of the Greek Following will be celebrating the birth of a son- ☆

 

◀ Another so soon? Has Hera heard or is this another one of those ' a strictly a need to know' basis? ▶

 

Polaris forged on, ignoring him, ☆ - and I simply must have Regis back before the date! 

 

 Surely you can survive without him for, oh say, another century or so? ▶

 

 Cipher! ☆

 

To be fair, and in my defense, do you really need to make such a show for the son of Zeus? I mean, surely he will have another? Soon too! 

 

The goddess gave him a pained look, her azure eyes pleading, ☆ Regardless of how correct you are in your statement, I would like Regis to return home. ☆

 

Dipper slipped down a few more stairs, wondering who Polaris was talking about. Who's Regis? He wondered, frowning; he yelped when something brushed his calves, causing him to startle upright.

 

Cipher's gaze shot upward, his feathers puffing up in surprise. Seeing Dipper, he remarked with a hint of amusement, ◀ And what do you think you are doing up there, my sacrifice? Thinking yourself sneaky and the like? Eavesdropping? ▶

 

Dipper felt his cheeks warm, and he plodded down the remaining steps with just a touch of embarrassment at having been caught. Bernard, the one at fault for getting him caught int he first place, ran in front of him, chittering with excitement. " I wasn't eavesdropping. "

 

Polaris turned towards him and she stepped forward to introduce herself, but gave pause when she saw her former head butler making his way over, merrily  at that. ☆ Regis! ☆ She squealed.

 

 Bernard. ▶ Cipher corrected quickly.

 

Scooping the star otter into her arms she laughed brightly, placing kisses on his little face, ☆ Oh, I hope you're having a wonderful time, my little one! ☆

 

Bernard pressed his face into her neck and gave an equally excited chatter, his short tail wagging back and forth. Rubbing her jawline, he nuzzled close and scampered onto her shoulders, talking to her all the while as he got comfortable; he played with the stars that hung around her neck, tapping them to make them glow.

 

Holding him in place, Polaris beamed, ☆ I am so glad you are enjoying your vacation, Regis. But you've had your fun. Don't you think it's time you come home? Your siblings miss you very much and we've been so busy without you, too! 

 

Dipper inched closer to Cipher while the goddess conversed with Bernard, the two of them chittering and clicking to one another, rapidly exchanging words. " Who's Regis? " He asked quietly.

 

Cipher snorted, ◀ Bernard. Polaris insists it is his true name. Ridiculous. Regis. As if. And I am told i have bad naming habits? Absurd. The nerve.  ▶

 

" When you said you stole him at that party I actually kind of assumed it was a gift. " He admitted. " But I guess I'm not too surprised to find out you actually stole him. "

 

◀ I did not lie!  ▶ The god defended himself, ◀ I was open about my larceny.  ▶

 

" It's my fault. I should have known better. "

 

◀ What exactly are you trying to-  ▶

 

Polaris cleared her throat, garnering the two's attention. ☆ Regis- 

 

◀ Ber-nar-d. ▶ Cipher stressed.

 

Pursing her lips, the Star Guider regarded the taller deity with annoyance. ☆ I named him, Dream Walker, I should know what it is! ☆

 

◀ Obviously not. ▶ He sniffed.

 

☆ Fine, ☆ She gritted out between clenched teeth, ☆ Bernard. 

 

Cipher smirked.

 

☆ Bernard tells me that he quite content here. It seems he's grown rather attached to you, Dipper. ☆ She turned to the slightly shorter boy and offered him a warm and dazzling smile. ☆ I'm glad he's fond of you and not Cipher. What a nightmare that would be! ☆

 

" Agreed. " Dipper sniggered.

 

◀ Honestly, one of my position would be given far more respect not even a century ago.  ▶

 

Polaris plucked her little otter off of her shoulders and cradled him lovingly in her arms, her lips softening with a touch of sadness. ☆ While I would love to have him home, Regis- Bernard assures me he would like to stay. Would that be alright with you? ☆

 

" Uh, yeah. Of course! I mean, if you're alright with it. Cipher did steal him from you in the first place so I can understand where you're coming from- "

 

 I resent everything being said in this conversation.  ▶

 

" - but I've grown pretty fond of Bernard too. He's helped me out a lot. "

 

 I am so glad to hear that. He's the fist otter I ever made, did you know that? I'm very proud of him. No matter how much I say that I love him and his siblings all the same he always insists that he's the favorite! ☆

 

" Is he? " Dipper asked, curious.

 

 Maybe a little. ☆ Polaris admitted. Gently, she deposited her star otter into the brunette's arms, holding his small paws in her hands. ☆ But don't ever tell your brothers and sister that, you hear me? ☆

 

Bernard chittered and reached up to brush a star from her hair.

 

☆ You little devil. ☆ She smoothed his fur down and placed a peck on his nose, ☆ I will miss you my love. But I will see you soon. ☆ Caressing his tummy, giving him a teasing tickle, she addressed Dipper,☆ Please take good care of him, Dipper. He a little mischievous but he's full of nothing but the brightest and most lovely star light. ☆

 

" I will! " He assured her, " I promise. "

 

 Thank you. I will drop in periodically to check up on him. And, if I can persuade him, to take on another job or two. ☆

 

" We would love you to. "

 

◀ Whose house is this again? Because I feel like we are forgetting whose house it is.  ▶

 

Polaris waved the god's whining aside, hiding a laugh behind her hand when the much taller being flopped dramatically against his sacrifice, bemoaning his rudeness and ability of wooing other deities. ☆ I will take my leave now, if you would be so kind. Cipher, I expect you to treat my otter with the utmost respect. And don't you dare go changing his bow tie, I won't hear of it! ☆

 

Trilling, Cipher scoffed, ◀ We shall see. You can not be here all the time.  ▶

 

☆ And Dipper. ☆ She turned to him and her face softened, ☆ I'm glad Bernard found a friend in you. You two belong together. I'm entrusting him to you, don't let me down! ☆

 

Her charisma and energy were contagious and Dipper gave her a small salute, Bernard mimicking him playfully, " Wouldn't dream of it! "

 

Laughing, she gave them a short wave and spun on her heels, heading for the entrance, ☆ No need to see me out, Cipher! I can manage myself. ☆

 

Cipher rolled his eyes, shooing her away, ◀ Yeah, yeah. Safe travels and all that sappy nonsense. Next time, write a letter of invitation like a normal person. ▶

 

Where's the fun in that? ☆ She returned the salute and flounced off, leaving a mess of stars in her wake.

 

Once she was properly gone, the god looked down at his little bird and the otter in his arms, both of them slowly looking up at him in question. ◀ Belong together indeed. Well. Now that that is out of the way, what do you say to some lunch? I have had some wonderful offerings from Atlantis that I know you will enjoy~  ▶

 

Setting Bernard down at his feet, Dipper slipped his hand into the crook of the other man's elbow, " Sounds great. I'm starving. "

 

◀ Wonderful. Would you like to take it out to the gardens? I am sure the fresh air would do you good.  ▶

 

" Are you proposing a picnic? " He asked eagerly.

 

◀ Why yes, I suppose I am. Perish the thought.  ▶

 

" Can we eat by the fish pond? I want to see how big the amemasu have gotten. "

 

◀ Of course we can, my sacrifice.  ▶

 

Bernard watched the two of them wonder off, deep in conversation. Intending to follow along, as he wasn't one to deny a picnic, he made a small detour, trotting over to one of Polaris' fallen stars. The small glass ornament was still glowing and, delighted, he picked it up and placed it just behind his left ear, taking the time to make sure it wouldn't fall out. Then, satisfied, he ran after Dipper and Cipher, wondering if he could get away with bothering the odd fish that swam in the garden pond.

 

Hey, an otter could try couldn't he?

Dipper pressed the ivory keys of the piano down lightly, the low notes reverberating through the chamber solemnly. A high note followed, more upbeat and peppy, and he allowed his fingers to prod at the keys, experimenting how two or three of them worked together. " I've read about pianos, " He said, " But I've never seen one in person. I thought they were instruments of the far west provinces. "

 

Cipher, seated beside him and overseeing his tinkering, nodded in agreement, ◀  Indeed they are. They never caught on in other parts of the world sadly. They are a beautiful invention. As such, it is only natural that I have one. ▶

 

" Of course it is. " Dipper rolled his eyes, testing the smaller, black bars that ran along the top of the piano's board, " What are these for? "

 

◀  Those are the sharps and the flats. ▶ The god explained eagerly, ◀  They are used to pitch the note higher or lower, depending on how one plays the music score. Flats tend to make the notes more somber, for example. ▶ He played a small string of notes, once using flats and once using sharps. ◀  See? ▶

 

Dipper frowned, " But you're using the same keys. "

 

◀  What other keys do you expect me to use? ▶

 

" I expected something different. You're using the same black key for a flat as you're using for a sharp. " He reached over and swatted his hand out of the way so he could show him what he meant, pressing the same black key down one and the twice. " What's up with that? "

 

Cipher chuckled at his frustration, ◀  The note becomes a flat or sharp depending on how you play, remember? If you want the note to pitch higher, you play upwards which is a sharp. If you want it to pitch lower, you play the next black fret down the board which is a flat. It is all dependent on which way you play and how you want the music to sound, low or high. ▶

 

Dipper laughed, " I think I understand but why make it so complicated? "

 

◀  My sacrifice, the piano is one of the most simple instruments humans have invented. ▶

 

" Says you. "

 

Cipher huffed through his nose as the boy plodded at his piano, playing a jumble of notes and chords that did not blend well together at all; his ears gave a flick of disapproval. ◀  Are you enjoying yourself? ▶ He asked dryly.

 

Dipper flashed him a cheeky smile, " Absolutely. "

 

◀  You are butchering my pianoforte, I hope you are truly at peace with yourself. ▶

 

" Never better. " At the disgruntled curl of the god's lip, he knocked their knees together, snickering under his breath. " Don't sulk. I'm just teasing. I think it's wonderful, I just don't understand why sharps and flats have different names if they're the same thing. "

 

◀  They are not the same thing and if I have to keep telling you that I will eat every key on this piano out of spite. ▶

 

" Okay, okay, they're different. A flat is not a sharp even if it's played using the same key and the same note. Gotcha. "

 

Cipher regarded him with just a touch of disdain, ◀  You are being quite vexing today, did you know that? 

 

" Thank you, " The brunette bowed deeply, grinning, " I do try. "

 

Sighing, he leaned down and nuzzled into the crook of Dipper's neck, smiling despite the irritated huff he breathed across his shoulders; he trilled happily when the boy hiked them high, choking on a laugh.

 

" Stop it! " He chided him, grinning up at him through his bangs.

 

◀  Hmm, and why would I do that? ▶ Cipher sang, playing a short melody on the keys in quick movements, his fingers all but waltzing along the black and white dance floor. He easily spread his hands apart and eased the simple tune into the beginning of a song, made of short, strong chords. ◀  What would I do without your smart mouth? Drawing me in and you kicking me out? Got my head spinning, no kidding, I can not pin you down. ▶

 

" Really? " Dipper asked.

 

◀  What is going on in that beautiful mind? I am on your magical, mystery ride. And I am so dizzy, do not know what hit me, but I will be alright. ▶

 

Dipper didn't know what song it was, he had never heard anything like it before. Very rarely did the songs of the village have words in them, almost all of them composed of low hymns and chants. Yet, despite how out of tune Cipher sang, he found it rather endearing how into it he was, bobbling along to the slow notes of the pianoforte. Their eyes met as he leaned back and Dipper flushed, embarrassed at having been caught staring.

 

◀  My head is under water but I am breathing fine. You are crazy and I am out of my mind. ▶

 

Cipher held out his hand and Dipper lay his own in his obediently. Bringing their hands down to rest on the board, they played a few notes together, their fingers intertwined. " What are you doing? " He asked, amused.

 

◀  Play with me. ▶

 

" I don't know how! "

 

◀  It is fine, I will play with you. Just do not take your hand from mine. ▶

 

" O-okay. " He scooted closer, laying his head on the taller man's arm, allowing himself to be lead in a series of chords and low notes.

 

◀  Because all of me, loves all of you, all your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections. Give your all to me. I will give my all to you. ▶

 

Warmth grasped Dipper's chest with smoldering fingers, bringing with it a wave of adulation and intimacy. He wished he knew the words so he could sing them back. But he didn't, so instead, he tried to pour his heart into his mediocre playing, hoping what went unsaid would be felt; Cipher gave his hand a squeeze, as if understanding.

 

◀  You are my end and my beginning, even when I loose you are winning. Because I give you all of me, all of me. And you give me all of you, all of you~ 

 

" I gave you all of me a long time ago. " He whispered, " All of it. "

 

◀  I know, ▶ Cipher agreed, ◀  But I think it high time I give you all of me as well. 

 

Dipper laughed, " You think? "

 

◀  Do you not agree? ▶

 

" It's not up to me is it? " He pointed out, " You're the god, I'm just your sacrifice. "

 

◀  You are far more than just a sacrifice to me, Pinetree. ▶ He told him, ◀  Far more than anything anyone can put a name to. ▶

 

" Oh? "

 

◀  You are my downfall, ▶ Cipher sang, ◀  You are my muse, my worst distraction, my rhythm and blues. ▶

 

" You're such a sap. " Dipper accused him, kicking the back of his leg lightly.

 

◀  I do not hear you complaining~ ▶ He trilled, knocking their heads together with a soft bump.

 

" I never said I was. " The brunette admitted. He played a few disconnected notes along the piano, humming quietly. " Play me another song? "

 

◀  Have I ever told you how spoiled you are? ▶ Cipher asked wearily. Regardless, he did as was asked of him and began to hum as he spread his fingers wide, playing a new, softer melody. ◀  How is this? 

 

Dipper wrapped his arms around his and pressed himself closer still to his side, " Will you sing it for me? "

 

◀  Spoiled. ▶ He reminded him.

 

His constellation smiled at him, crooked but oh so charming.

 

◀  I found a love, for me. Darling just dive right in, follow my lead. ▶ Cipher  cooed, ◀  Well I found a boy. ▶ He bumped his sacrifice's shoulder with his, eliciting a low laugh from him, ◀  Beautiful and sweet. I never knew you were the someone waiting for me. 

 

Dipper had heard the saying that love was blind. He'd heard it tossed it around the village when people thought someone was dating beneath them. He never put much thought behind it, he had more important things to worry about, but now he wondered if perhaps love was also deaf. It wasn't like he found Cipher's voice bad, per say. More out of tune and loudly vivacious. Yet, how eager and energetic he was about it, left him thinking the whole thing endearing. The way he plodded along the pianoforte, hitting the notes with gusto, and how he would arch his back and sway his body to the sounds of music was so 'Cipher' yet so human, it left him a little breathless.

 

◀  We are still kids but we are so in love, fighting against all odds. I know we will be alright this time.  Darling just hold my hand, be my love, I will be your man. I see my future in your eyes. ▶

 

" Baby, I'm dancing in the dark. " He sang softly with him, reaching out for his hand. Their fingers found each other, and they entwined, two pieces of a puzzle that was simply meant to be. " With you between my arms. "

 

◀  Barefoot on the grass, listening to our favorite song. ▶

 

" I have faith in what I see, now I know where I'm meant to be. "

 

◀  And he looks perfect, I do not deserve this. ▶

 

 Cipher leaned down and captured Dipper's lips in his, his soft gasp drowned out by his needs. He wished, not for the first time, that they could stay like this forever, entangled limbs and lips that begged to be worshiped. Parting for breath, the god cupped the boy's face and he stared down at him, taken in by the stars that danced in his mocha eyes, the flush of his round cheeks, and the way his lips were parted, silently asking for more.

 

A swell of warmth and adoration filled his being, so quick and so encompassing, it terrified him. Drawing his sacrifice into his embrace, he clung to him tightly, relaxing when he felt fingers digging into his back.

 

They would be alright this time.

 

◀  You look perfect tonight~ ▶

Chapter Text

Dipper walked the halls of the tower, his footsteps slow and heavy. The chill of the night was quick to settle in his bones and it felt like nothing could chase it away, not even the thick cloak he had hastily thrown over his shoulders. The lantern he held in front of him bobbled from side to side, the amber glow of the candle casting long, dark shadows on the walls and floor; he swore he could see eyes staring out from the darkness.

 

Shivering, Dipper padded down the stairs, frustration biting at his heels, " Where are you? "

 

He knew he should leave Cipher to his work, as a god he was almost always busy with some task or another, but ever since arriving back from the Nightmare Scape, sleep was usually a rare gift to come across. While he knew they weren't nightmares, not exactly, his slumber was still plagued by uneasiness and discomfort. Closing his eyes, once a blessing, had become a curse. Cipher had told him, after a particularly long night of tossing and turning, that it was normal for him to fear sleep. After all, he had been forced into the deepest recesses of his mind where he was meant to stay for all eternity, him coming back was a miracle in itself that he should be thankful for.

 

And he was.

 

But in coming home, Dipper had brought something with him that he wasn't meant to bring back.

 

He couldn't put a name to it, just that it wasn't meant to be there. Something had slipped through the cracks and attached itself to him and no matter how hard he tried to deny it, Dipper knew it was there. Again, Cipher claimed it nothing to worry about, that there was bound to be something off about him now that he was home.

 

◀ You have traversed a hellish nightmare that no one has come back from before, ▶ Cipher had told him, ◀ It is only natural that something got left behind or that something came back. What that is, I do not know. It is not something to worry about. It might stay and it might fade after a time but I doubt there is anything you yourself or I can do about it. ▶

 

What he had left and what he had brought back, Dipper didn't know either.

 

He felt like himself, especially after coming to terms with the fact that his soul was wholly his own after years of sharing it. Yet, sometimes, there was just something wrong. And while he tried to take Cipher's advice and not put much stock into it or think too hard about it, sometimes Dipper could feel it getting to him, prickling along his spine, an ache in his marrow that wasn't his to have.

 

Not anymore.

 

Running a hand through his disheveled hair, Dipper hopped the last few stairs of the main stairwell and stumbled across the entry way, the large stained glass greeting him as it always did. Sparing it only a passing glance, he marched over to the large double doors and dragged them open, groaning at their weight. Squeezing through the opening, he slipped out into the garden, the warm air a welcome reprise.

 

" Cipher? " He called out. Leaving the door ajar, he stepped into the gardens, smiling softly when he saw it come to life in the form of dancing fireflies and glowing flowers. " Cipher? "

 

◀ Over here, my sacrifice. ▶

 

Dipper turned and headed off towards the voice, following the little, bobbling lights along the winding pathways. Eventually, the cobbled stones expanded into a courtyard and in it, he found his god, standing tall and proud. Dreams hovered around him, hundreds of them in all varying sizes, his multiple hands busy creating more.

 

" What? " He asked, " No nightmares? "

 

◀ I believe, ▶ Cipher drawled, ◀ We have both had our fill of nightmares for some time now.

 

" Yeah. " Dipper agreed, " I think we have. "

 

The god hummed, ◀ What brings you out here, my constellation? When I last saw you, you were sound asleep. ▶ 

 

" Can't sleep. " He shrugged.

 

Cipher nodded, not pressing the matter. ◀ Understood. Is there anything you need of me? ▶ 

 

" No, I just wanted some company. "

 

◀ Ah, I see. ▶ 

 

" Am I in the way? "

 

◀ Never. ▶ 

 

Dipper visibly relaxed and he settled himself down at the other man's feet, laying his head against his legs. The thrum of his being was comforting, if grounding, and he closed his eyes, allowing the beat of his heart to settle in sync with his own.

 

He watched Cipher work his magic for an hour or so, entertaining himself by trying to keep track of how many dreams he was making but he lost count after the fist twenty minutes, the small, golden spheres multiplying too quickly for him to keep track of them. " How many dreams do you make a night? " He finally questioned.

 

◀ It depends, ▶  Cipher answered after a thoughtful pause, ◀ I suppose you can say I am still trying to make up for the time I lost while you were sleeping. I feel generous so my people will be sleeping well for some time to come. ▶ 

 

" How kind of you. " Dipper chuckled.

 

◀ I am not just a god bent on fury and vengeance I will have you know. ▶  The god remarked dryly.

 

" You turned an entire village into trees and then burned them alive. "

 

 I had just cause! ▶ 

 

" And, " He added, tapping his foot against the other's for emphasis, " You sunk Atlantis, one of the most scientifically and artistically advanced civilizations of it's time. "

 

◀ Not all of it. ▶ 

 

" Not to mention, oh say, El Dorado? "

 

Cipher looked down at him, affronted, ◀ You give me no credit, my sacrifice. All of those are horrid examples. Not to mention, the last two still stand, thank you very much. Have you not found any better tapestries or murals to occupy your time? ▶ 

 

" I've found plenty, " Dipper sulked, " I just haven't had time to translate them yet. "

 

◀ Is that so? Have you, then, found the ones pertaining to the Anasazi? ▶ 

 

He knew Cipher was baiting him but it was normally such a hassle to to pry any information from him about his past and comings and goings that Dipper felt justified in biting. " No. Who were they? "

 

Allowing a few more dreams to tumble from his palms, Cipher explained, ◀ The Anasazi were an ancient civilization that flourished not too far from your own village of Gravity Falls. They were well known for their pottery, actually. Honestly, I am not sure why they put so much focus into their clay work but to each their own I suppose. They reached out to me when their  own gods turned their backs on them due to war and famine. How they heard of me, I am not sure, but I suppose it is not hard to guess that travelers carried my name from The Falls. ▶ 

 

Dipper rose from the grass and sat himself down beside the god, silently urging him to go on.

 

◀ They were broken and in desperate need of a guiding god or goddess. Their shaman reached out to me and I answered. I was only a few centuries old at the time and it was the first civilization to reach out to me that were not in my original territories. I had dealt with indigenous people before and they, above almost all others, were always the most eager and willing to give themselves over to their spirits and lore. Their shaman told me of how they had been abandoned by their gods and asked for assistance and guidance. Their people were devotedly religious and they promised their everlasting devotion and worship. ▶ 

 

" Oh, I bet you were quick to jump on that offer. "

 

 Of course I was! ▶  He scoffed, ◀ I was elated and I eagerly took them on as my people. And, unlike most, they were true to their word. They were eager to give offerings and I visited them frequently. Despite their home being in the middle of a wasteland, they flourished. The Anasazi were expert craftsman and they made their homes in the sides of mountains and in the walls of canyons. They built great labyrinths of rooms and chambers and they decorated it with the most striking wall paintings and pottery. I enjoyed many a day in their company. ▶ 

 

" If they were so prosperous and in your good favor, what happened to them? "

 

◀ Sometimes, no matter how hard one tries or how in favor with the god a civilization is, they disappear. ▶  Cipher answered. His voice carried quietly, almost forlorn, ◀ Overtime, things began to change. It was no fault of mine and no fault of theirs. War was always on the horizon for the people of the desert. The different villages were always delicately allied but as newer rulers came into power, those agreements and boundaries meant little to them. Droughts made their temperaments thin and they were quick to take action against one another. Each one prayed to me for guidance but I simply could not answer all of them. The few that remained neutral were taken over by the more aggressive tribes. It was slow, their descent, and I watched it all, unable to do anything about it. ▶ 

 

Dipper reached out and placed his hand on the god's arm, " What happened? "

 

◀ Eventually, everything came to head. One of the leaders of one of the larger tribes was assassinated. The people retaliated and, in the end, everything fell apart. I watched whole villages disappear in the blink of an eye. I had to do something but I had little clue of how to do it. So, I did what I could. I came to the ones who wished to stay out of the war and told them that if they wished to survive, they would leave their homes and follow the sun to the south. Some listened and others chose to stay. Those who left were spared and those who stayed found only death waiting for them. I watched, helpless, as my people murdered one another and ate their bodies, somehow believing the ritual would reward them with the powers of their enemies. It was quite the sight, let me tell you. ▶ 

 

Shuddering, the boy drew his cloak in tightly around him, the feigned feelings of teeth at the back of his arms making his skin erupt in goosebumps. " What about the people that went south? What happened to them? "

 

◀ They found their salvation. It came to them in the form of a cliff side hidden from the world and, using dreams, I urged them to carve their buildings from the stone and make their new home there. ▶ 

 

" And did they? "

 

◀ Indeed they did. To this day they reside there, hidden from the rest of the world. They have no need to venture out and no one ever finds their way in. The Anasazi live on in peace. And, much like your village, they offer me a sacrifice every century, to show they appreciation and devote adulation. Is that not just sweet of them? I did not even have to ask! ▶ 

 

Dipper elbowed him, " Not funny. "

 

Cipher laughed heartily, ◀ Do not worry, my little bird. Gravity Falls will forever be my favorite village to torment. ▶ 

 

" I'm sure they're very blessed. "

 

◀ How could I not spoil them? They gave me you~ ▶ 

 

Dipper giggled into the god's side, wrapping his arms around his thin waist as he snuggled close, " Glad to know my village is in good hands. "

 

Cipher snickered and leaned down to nuzzle his sacrifice's messy hair, ◀ Do you feel well enough to nod off to sleep now? ▶  He asked.

 

" Not yet. " He said, " I want to stay with you just a bit longer. "

 

He smiled softly and warned him, ◀ I am not sure how much longer I will be. I do have my duties you know. ▶ 

 

" They can wait, " Dipper told him, tucking his foot under the other's long leg and jostling it playfully, " I'm more important. "

 

Cipher barked out a laugh, but he didn't argue his case or point. Instead, he agreed with him, lovingly laying his chin atop his head, ◀ Indeed you are, my sacrifice, far more than anyone else in the world. ▶ 

The stars spun slowly above him, glowing dimly against the dark skies. Occasionally, they clinked together, sending each other orbiting in the opposite direction. There were more now than when he first came to the tower and Dipper wondered where they came from, whether it was the magic of the world he was in or Cipher himself. He reached up and tapped a particularly low hanging star, watching it swing lightly, a frown on his face.

 

" How long was I asleep? " He asked, looking over at the aforementioned god, finally breaching what they have both been skirting around for weeks.

 

He saw Cipher's shoulders tense  and his ears twitched, hinting at how uncomfortable he was with the sudden question. When he answered, it was with a dry, low chuckle, ◀ Whatever do you mean, my sacrifice? You have not yet gone to sleep. ▶ 

 

Dipper scowled and sat up, throwing his legs over the side of his bed. Bernard, having been snuggled up to his side, stirred and blinked blearily up at him, still half asleep. Laying his hand over the otter's head, he pressed on, " You know that's not what I mean. How long was I- was I asleep? "

 

It didn't feel right to say anything else other than 'asleep'. Asleep encompassed everything he wanted to say without having the stale, bitter taste of the dozens of other words he could have chosen. It was the only other word he could think to use that didn't cause the tightness in his chest to cinch just that little bit tighter, the only one that didn't make it feel like he was submerged in ice cold water all over again, struggling to breath, struggling to see, struggling to live; he gripped the bed sheets tightly in his hands.

 

He could hear the ocean, roaring in his ears as the waves lapped at his feet.

 

◀ Pinetree? ▶ 

 

Dipper startled, surprised to find his breath coming in short gasps. The warm hand on his cheek served as his grounding point and he swallowed, hard. " Yeah? " He croaked, " I'm- I'm fine. Just give me a second, okay? "

 

The smile he gave Cipher must not have been as smooth as he wanted it to be because the being merely narrowed his eyes at him in concern, worry evident in the way he ran his thumb over his cheek. It was obvious he wanted to say something but, amazingly, he held his tongue. ◀ Okay. ▶ He agreed.

 

Lifting his hand, Dipper laid it over Cipher's and took a few deep breaths to steady the rapid fluttering of his heart. Once it felt like he was home, whole and not shattered or broken or missing, he opened his eyes and said, " I- I want to know how long I was out. "

 

◀ Why? ▶  Cipher trilled, an edge coming into his voice.

 

" I need to know. "

 

◀ You will not like the answer, my constellation. ▶ 

 

" I know. " Dipper agreed, raising his head, " But I want to know. "

 

Heaving a heavy sigh, he told him, ◀ All in all, if we are accounting for human years, you were out for a little over twelve years. ▶ 

 

Dipper felt his stomach churn. " What? "

 

◀ You were asleep for a little over twelve years, my sacrifice. ▶  Cipher repeated.

 

Turning away from him, Dipper looked out the window, a hollow feeling coming over him as he watched the trees in the distance sway, their leaves just beginning to show the water color touch of autumn. " That- that long? " He asked. He couldn't bring himself to care that his voice was cracking or that an uninvited smile was tugging at the corners of his mouth. " Really? "

 

Cipher nodded, sitting himself down beside him; the bed dipped low at the added weight.

 

Squeezing his eyes shut, Dipper felt everything began to shift again. He could feel his face screw up and he hated it, hated himself, for how weak he was. " Twelve years? "

 

◀ Yes. You fought hard to reclaim what was yours, Pinetree. It took some time. ▶ 

 

Some time? He thought, It took twelve years.

 

" I'm sorry. " Dipper apologized quietly, " I took so long. "

 

Cipher placed a hand on his thigh, that burning, ethereal touch dragging him back from the dark, ◀ I would have waited centuries for you to wake up, my guiding star. ▶ 

 

" Really? " He breathed, desperate.

 

◀ Truly. ▶ 

 

Dipper nodded, shaky.

 

Another small thing between them lessened, another knot that needed to be untied with careful fingers. Moments like this were uncommon but every time they bubbled to the surface, something happened, whether it be words or touches that felt like fire, or quiet that was welcome and appreciated. Needed. Dipper had begun to lose track of what else there was of him to let go, little pieces that didn't belong to him, but slowly, he was learning to let them go, learning to find the pieces that did belong.

 

Twelve years. He had spent twelve years drowning in nightmares and memories, fighting to reclaim who he was, struggling not to succumb to the deep, throaty song of the darkness that was constantly grabbing at his feet.

 

Bernard pressed his face into Dipper's limp hand and he snapped back to reality.

 

◀ My sacrifice? ▶  The god requested, leaning close so he could peer at him, his expression filled with deep longing and sorrow, ◀ Are you alright? ▶ 

 

The tight feeling in his chest lessened and Dipper felt his heart beat for the first time in what felt like hours; there were tears streaming down his face. " Yeah. " He  managed to answer, " Yeah. I- I will be. " He gave the taller man a small, crooked smile, " I have you, right? "

 

◀ Always. ▶  Cipher assured him.

 

" It's just, twelve years is a long time isn't it? "

 

◀ Not particularly. Twelve years is nothing to the likes of us, untouchable by the turning of the clock or the hand of Father Time. ▶ 

 

" It is for them. " He whispered.

 

◀ Them? ▶ 

 

Dipper pulled away from him to untie the hand carved charm he had been given on the day he had been sacrificed, the pine tree fitting snugly in his palm; his fingers curled tightly around it. " My family. "

 

Cipher stiffened.

 

" Twelve years may be nothing to you, or even me now, but to them it's a long time. Humans don't live that long. I thought- I mean, I always assumed, that you would let me visit them sometime. At first, I thought I would never see them, but after I got to know you I figured it would be okay to ask at some point. I was just waiting for the right time to ask and now- " He pursed his lips and drew in on himself, his voice hitching as it caught on a sob, " What if I don't have any time left? "

 

Cipher's hand fell away and he remained quiet for sometime, his eye boring a whole in the tiled floor. ◀ Do you wish to see them that much? ▶ 

 

Dipper nodded, " I do. So much. "

 

Cipher sneered lightly, his lips twitching as if they couldn't decide on a suitable expression. Possession, dark and ugly, reared it's head and he fought down the urge he felt to throw his little bird in his cage, wings torn and clipped and unable to ever fly again, his feathers bent and broken and-

 

He dug his claws into the side of his leg, puncturing the flesh with little thought to the pain he was causing himself.

 

No.

 

It took him a few collected moments until he was able to speak, his words hoarse and deep, each syllable spoken through contempt and loathing, ◀ What would you say to a quick visit? ▶ 

 

Dipper looked up at him, mocha eyed widening in stunned consternation, " What? "

 

Cipher was quick to answer, afraid that if he dawdled too long, his kindness would shirk back to allow the room for his possessiveness room to grow and fester, ◀ I will allow you a quick visit to your family, if that is what you so wish. ▶ 

 

The stunned adulation his sacrifice showed him was more than worth the bile that stung at the back of his throat.

 

" Really? " He asked.

 

Unsure, the god nodded, ◀ I can see little harm in it. However, at the end of the day you are to- ▶ 

 

" Don't worry. " Dipper interrupted. He gave him a smile, small and stunningly serene, " I'll come home. "

 

It was enough. Somehow, it was enough. All the unease and uncertainty melted away, leaving Cipher feeling somehow foolish and at odds with himself. Coughing to hide his embarrassment he trilled rather haughtily, ◀ Of course you will. I did not think I would need to remind you. ▶ 

 

" 'Course not. " Dipper chuckled. He knocked his shoulder into the other's arm, their hands seeking each other out instinctively; their fingers wound together like the tails of a wind chime. Kicking his feet, he looked up at the stars that spun around them, something in his chest finally finding peace, " Don't worry. " He told him without looking away from the glowing, little, trinkets, " I'll always come home. "

 

Cipher tightened his grip on his sacrifice's hand and raised his own gaze to the heavens, watching the stars twits around each other as they waltzed about. He had to swallow pass the lump in his throat before he could speak again and when he did it was tainted with sorrow, ◀ I know, my constellation. And I will be here, waiting for you. ▶ 

Mabel brushed her hair behind her ear, sighing dramatically as it fell back into her face. Cursing her unwise decision in lopping her long locks off, even if it was for a good reason, she adjusted the flowers in her arms, their velvety petals tickling her nose. Snuffling, she craned her neck to see over them, afraid she would miss a step. Realistically, she knew she should have bought a smaller bouquet but- and let's be honest- why would she?

 

She had bought all the red, yellow, and orange flowers that Wendy had to offer, the two of them sharing a knowing, if strained, smile. It wasn't as if the visit surprised the older woman. Mabel frequented her stall often and had the tendency to go a little crazy when it came to selecting which stems and blossoms she would need for the day; it usually ended up being at least half her wares but again, Wendy wasn't complaining.

 

Today, she had bought everything she had.

 

The walk to the temple had become easier over the years, the climb to the altar even less so.

 

Pausing at the base of the grand staircase, Mabel gathered her courage and foraged on, murals and paintings on the wall behind her passing by without a glance; even now, she still cared not for what they showed.

 

Once at the top she took a moment to catch her breath, making sure she hadn't lost any flower bunches during her ascent. She didn't need another lecture from the priests about her carelessness. Satisfied that all her goods had made it safely, Mabel walked over to the altar and kneeled before it. As always, it was covered in gifts and offerings, the golden effigy of Cipher nearly swallowed by the presents her people devoutly gave, day in and day out. Rolling her eyes, she brushed aside bowls of fruit and jars of thick, amber honey, trying to make room for her own contribution. Setting the flowers down, their colors glowing beautifully under the light of the lanterns, she reached out and began to spread them out amongst the offerings, sprinkling them everywhere she could. " Hey, Dipper. " She started, lips pulling into a faint grin, " It's been awhile. I'm trying not to visit so often, you know? "

 

She reached out and plucked an incense stick from the altar and lit one of the candles, " But it's kind of an important day and I think Stan and Ford will forgive me this once. It's a major holiday after all, isn't it? "

 

Clapping her hand together, she grinned and exclaimed, " Happy birthday, Dipper! "

 

" Happy birthday, Mabel. "

 

Mabel's heart stopped, her smile freezing on her face; her hands began to shake. Slowly, painfully slowly, she turned around, looking over her shoulder with wide, startled eyes. Her vision grew blurry when she saw who was standing there, awkwardly fiddling with a bracelet and giving her the same, sheepish smile she could never forget no matter how many years have passed between them. Her throat seized up and she uttered his name like it was a personal, devout, prayer, " Dipper? "

 

Her brother raised a hand in greeting, " Hey? "

 

Mabel stood swiftly, clumsily knocking a few offerings and glass jars to the ground as she did, her legs shaking too much to stand with dignity. She could feel her lip quivering and she raised a hand hesitantly towards him, tears rolling down her cheeks without abandon, " Dipper? "

 

Dipper made to grab her arm as she stumbled but held back, for whatever reason she could not say, and instead he ran it through his messy hair, " Uh, I think so? "

 

" Oh my gods, " She laughed, choked and high, " Dipper! "

 

She threw herself at him, wrapping him in a tight embrace as she buried into his neck, her shoulders heaving with both sobs and ecstatic glee. " Dipper! You're back! You're really back! Oh my gods, oh my gods, you're back! "

 

Dipper struggled to hold his sister up, momentarily stunned by how much taller and more mature she looked. The hug was awkward, their bodies too different yet familiar with each other, each of them unsure how to position themselves to make it okay but Mabel's hot tears on his shoulders was enough to pull him back to reality and he quickly returned the embrace, his own voice wavering as he said, " Well, not- not back back. I'm just visiting, kinda. "

 

" I don't care! " She exclaimed, pulling back to beam down at him, her face a mess of red cheeks and dripping snot. " You're here! "

 

" Eew, gross, Mabel. " He chuckled, scrunching his nose.

" Shut up! " Mabel sniffed, hitting him on his shoulder, " I finally see you for the first time in over a decade and the first thing you worry about is my snot? What is wrong with you?! "

 

" Me? I'm not the one blubbering like a baby! "

 

" Liar! You're crying too! "

 

" Am not! "

 

" I can see the tears pouring down your face, you dummy! "

 

The two of them glared at each other but within seconds they dissolved into a mess of shrieking laughter and tears.

 

" Dipper! "

 

" Mabel! "

 

" You're here! " She exclaimed, " You're really here! "

 

" Yeah, " He agreed, just as amazed as she was, " I am. "

 

Returning the affection, Mabel beamed down at him; she gasped loudly a moment later. " Oh my gods! We have to tell Stan and Ford! Like, right now! What am i thinking!? " Grabbing his elbow, she pulled him down the stairs of the altar, her feet rushed and her spirits high. " There's so much that's happened since you've been gone! I can't wait to see the looks on Stan and Ford's face when you walk in the door! It's going to be so great! "

 

Struggling after her, eventually having to settle for nearly being dragged, he smiled wide and tried to put in his own two cents, " Mabel, wait, I can't keep up- when did you get so tall? "

 

" How long are you staying? Wait no, don't answer that. That jerk would never let you out of his sights for more than a few seconds. Wait, am I dreaming? " She spun around, nearly sending the two of them down the rest of the staircase, " I'm not dreaming am I?! "

 

" N- no! " Dipper assured her, " I'm real! "

 

She stared at him with suspicion, brown eyes narrowed in doubt. " Yeah, okay. That's exactly what dream Dipper would say. But, I'll take it! " Tugging him along, she continued, brimming with excitement, " Even if you are a dream, I'm too excited to care! Now come on, stop dragging your feet! "

 

" I- I wouldn't be dragging them if you would just slow down! " He protested. Never the less, he was grinning form ear to ear.

 

" Just shut up and follow me! "

 

" Okay, okay, just- Mabel! "

 

" My brother's home! " She announced for the world to hear, " Dipper's back! "

 

Dipper, finally relenting, just laughed at her.

 

Cipher watched the two of them go through slitted eyes, his insides churning with both resentment and fondness. He knew Pinetree would come back to him but he was never the best at sharing in the best of times. Uncomfortable, he reached down and plucked one of the candied apples someone had left him and bit into it, his teeth cracking through it's sugar shell with ease. Licking the juice that dripped down his chin, he settled himself against his shrine and waited for the eventual return of his little sacrifice, filling the emptiness with bribes and prayers that meant little to him.

 

Picking up one of the flowers Shooting Star had scattered across the altar, he snorted and crushed it into his palm, ◀ Pink camellia. How fitting for you. ▶ 

 

Spiteful, he watched it burn to ash.

◀ Ready to go? ▶ 

 

Dipper looked up at Cipher, his gaze momentarily flitting over to look out over the expanse of his town, knowing his family was waiting at the base of the sacrificial altar even though they had said their farewells; the thought was comforting in it's own way. " I guess so. "

 

◀ Do you wish to stay? ▶  He asked, narrowing his eyes.

 

Dipper chuckled, " Would you let me if I wanted to? "

 

 If you desired it and asked me properly, I might be inclined to give in. ▶ 

 

" You're joking right? "

 

◀ Do you really think I would let you go after all the trouble I went through to keep you? ▶  Cipher scoffed. He held out his arm for him and when Dipper slipped his hand into the crook of his elbow he finally, finally, allowed the tense stiffness to ease from his shoulders. ◀ I- I was afraid you would not want to come home. With me. ▶  He admitted quietly.

 

" Were you? "

 

◀ Just a bit. ▶ 

 

Smiling, he leaned against him and tapped the back of Cipher's hand until he allowed him to intertwine their fingers together. " Dummy. Of course I would come home. "

 

◀ Oh? ▶ 

 

" I've missed my family and it was wonderful to see them all again. But things are different you know? I've changed as a person and they've kinda moved on without me. Sometimes, things change and there's nothing anyone can do about it. It's not bad but..... it's also a little sad. It doesn't mean we forgot each other or that we don't love one another. It's just how life is. Before I met you, Gravity Falls was my home. All of this was my home. But now, after everything that's happened, you're my home now. "

 

Cipher looked down at him, his ears perking in genuine curiosity.

 

Dipper continued, not taking his eyes off the village, watching as more and more lights flickered on all across The Falls, " You and Bernard, the tower with all it's murals and paintings and stained glass windows. The cocoa you always leave for me when I'm reading, the gardens and the occasional, unwelcome visitors we receive. All of that, more than anything else, is my home now. "

 

Cipher's heart swelled at his sacrifice's words, his throat becoming uncomfortably tight. The hand holding his was just a tad too hot and the cool night air was suddenly heavy around him. When he spoke, it was with few words, the rest of them lost to the inability to get them across properly. ◀ I am glad. ▶ 

 

Closing his eyes, Dipper leaned against the god's side, " Let's go home. "

 

Home.

 

◀ Very well, my sacrifice. ▶  Leaning down, he swept the boy into his arms, delighting in the laugh against his neck. ◀ Let us go home. ▶ 

 

Wrapping his arms around Cipher's neck, Dipper gave one last look to the town he had grown up in and said a quiet goodbye to his family, not knowing when he would see them again but hoping it wouldn't be another twelve years.

 

◀ My sacrifice? ▶ 

 

" Y- yeah? " He stuttered.

 

◀ Are you ready? ▶ 

 

He thought of Stan and how he was walking with a cane now, handcrafted by Mabel of course, and how there was a sadness in the way he looked at him. Like a ghost of his past he had thought he had conquered.

 

" Dipper. " Stan croaked. The coins he had been counting slipped from his hands and clattered to the floor but, for once, he didn't make a move to pick them up.

 

" Hey, Grunkle Stan. " Dipper greeted, his voice cracking as he tried to keep the tremor from it, " It's been a while. "

 

In a state of shock, the older man crossed the room, his came thumping on the old, wooden floor loudly; Dipper took a step forward, his legs shaking, unsure.

 

Eyes glassy, Stan drew him in for a tight hug, " Come here, You. "

 

Gasping, he gripped the back of Stan's shirt tightly, face buried in his shoulder. Sobbing, he said, " I missed you Grunkle Stan. "

 

When Stan spoke, it was through his own, shameless tears, " I missed you too, Kid. "

 

He thought of Ford and all the questions he had asked and how the weight of his hands on his own shoulder had seemed heavier than he remembered, bearing with it all the unsaid things he could never bring himself to utter.

 

" You haven't changed a bit. " Ford said, looking over him with a deft eye.

 

Dipper shook his head, " Actually, I've changed a lot. "

 

The shaman gave a wry chuckle, allowing his hands to fall to his sides, " Perhaps to others you have but to me, you're still Dipper. " Turning away from him, Ford began to prepare a pot of tea, clearing a space on his work table for the two of them. He cleared his throat before continuing, " Now, tell me everything. "

 

Dipper took a seat and looked around the room he had spent much of his early years in, noting that it was more cluttered than his last visit and that the shelves were beginning to bow from the weight of the tomes and unusual instruments his uncle had collected over the years; there were many he didn't recognize. " I don't even know where to begin. "

 

" Most people, " Ford instructed, sitting down across from him, " Find it easiest to start from the beginning. "

 

Dipper laughed loudly, ignoring the confused look his great uncle gave him, " If we're starting at the beginning, I guess I can say it all started millennia ago. "

 

Mabel, in all her joy and cheerfulness, had allowed him to go with nothing but a strained smile and a promise that they would see each other again sometime soon.

 

" Hopefully, that dumb god of yours will let you come back for Hearth Warming. He can at least do that, right? "

 

Dipper had snorted, even as Ford pursed his lips at her rudeness, " I'll see what I can do. I don't even know if Cipher knows what Hearth Warming is. "

 

" Dipper, Cipher is the All Knowing. " Ford interrupted, the seeming slander of his god making him uncomfortable. " It is basically a given that he knows what the winter holidays are. "

 

" You'd be surprised. " Dipper smirked, Mabel snickering behind him, " I wouldn't be too shocked if he doesn't know what Hearth Warming is. "

 

Stan, ever the voice of reason, merely scoffed, " Who cares what he knows and what he doesn't know? All I know is if that overgrown newt doesn't let you visit again soon I'm gonna be knocking on his door myself. And it won't be for a friendly visit if you follow me. You following me? "

 

" Stanley! "

 

" You go, Grunkle Stan! "

 

Laughing through a choked sob, Dipper nodded, hiding his face in Cipher's chest, " Yeah, " He croaked, " Let's- let's go home. "

 

Cipher held him tightly, his hands tender and warm against his skin, ◀ Home is is. ▶ 

23-5-12-12 13-5-5-20 1-7-1-9-14 4-15-14-20 11-14-15-23 23-8-5-18-5 4-15-14-20 11-14-15-23 23-8-5-14 2-21-20 9 11-14-15-23 23-5-12-12 13-5-5-20 1-7-1-9-14 15-14-5 19-21-14-14-25 4-1-25

Settling back down into a routine was harder than Dipper first thought.

 

There was so much more to think about now. For weeks, he tried to categorize his thoughts and emotions, sorting events and memories into folders and filing them away to be dealt with another day. The time he had spent with his family had been both wonderful and haunting. He couldn't help but feel like he had forced them to open a chapter of their lives they had thought they had closed. Perhaps it would have been better to let them be but what's done is done and Dipper fervently hoped they enjoyed the time they had together like he had. But he too had a feeling that he should have just let them be in their acceptance. Yet, the selfish part of him was overjoyed that he could see them one last time regardless of if it was right to or not.

 

Cipher, miraculously, left him be, citing that his work as a god was keeping him unusually busy as of late but Dipper knew he was trying to be polite in his own way. He appreciated the effort, especially when he would occasionally catch glimpse of feathers and scales out of the corner of his eye when he went about his business; rather then irritating him, he found it rather touching that the god still felt the need to check in on him despite his pompous words.

 

" I know you're there! " Dipper called, " You're not being very subtle, you know? "

 

Cipher peeked around the corner, his dark hair falling over his shoulder. ◀ How rude! ▶  He cried, affronted, ◀ You make it sound like I was stalking you, Pinetree. The nerve! ▶ 

 

Dipper laughed, turning his attention back to the mural he had been translating, " I thought you had important, godly, things to do? What are you doing bothering me?"

 

There was irritated chirp  and then, suddenly, Cipher was behind him, grinning wildly as he loomed over him, his eye glowing like azure fire. ◀ What was that, my love?~ ▶ 

 

Reaching up, Dipper grabbed a handful of his braids and gave them a tug, giving the god a cheeky grin, " You just want to spend time with me, admit it. "

 

Cipher trilled, stooping down to drape himself over the boy, ◀ Why, my sacrifice, my guiding star, my little bird, what makes you think that? ▶ 

 

" Get off of me! " Dipper laughed, shoving his arms out of the way; they merely prodded him and knocked his papers aside in retaliation. " Cipher! "

 

 Yes?~ ▶ 

 

" Cut it out! "

 

◀ Now, ▶  Cipher hissed, cooing as he enveloped Dipper in a tight, hug, ◀ Why would I do a thing like that? ▶ 

 

Lifted off his feet, the intricate pattern of the ceiling becoming visible as he all but tumbled head over heels, Dipper huffed, " Cipher! I was doing something! "

 

Cackling, Cipher merely held on to him tighter, flopping onto his back so Dipper fell onto his chest with an adorable, high pitched yelp. ◀ What a coincidence, so am I! ▶ 

 

Groaning, Dipper let his head fall back onto the god's chest, blowing his bangs out of his eyes. Deciding it would be best not to fight it, as it usually was, he squirmed until he was comfortable, trying not to take too much pleasure in the way Cipher was grunting and whining, " I should have known you would try something eventually. Heaven forbid you actually let me be for a day or so. "

 

◀ I, ▶  He defended himself with an indignant puff of his chest, ◀ Have allowed you to 'be' for nearly a fortnight. Be thankful I have not bothered you sooner. ▶ 

 

" Yeah, yeah. " Dipper sighed; still, he found himself smiling. He closed his eyes and placed his hands over the other's, rubbing his thumb over the scales that were speckled along the flesh, smooth and cool against his fingertips. " Cipher? "

 

 Yes, my sacrifice? ▶ 

 

" We'll be okay, won't we? "

 

Slowly, Cipher sat up, allowing Dipper to settle into his lap. Placing his chin on the top of his head, he murmured, ◀ Of course we will, my constellation. ▶ 

 

Dipper gave a short nod and fell back against the god's chest, " You promise? "

 

Not liking the hitch of his words, Cipher leaned down and nuzzled into his neck, kissing up his shoulders as he went, taking sensual pleasure in the way the smaller boy melted against him; he became more delighted when his little bird giggled and hunched his shoulders to his ears. Crooning, he curled his tail around them and held Dipper close, wishing he could bring them both together into a single entity, if only for a moment.

 

Huffing a laugh of his own through his nose, Cipher claimed Dipper's jaw with tiny, quick kisses, making sure to mark the light, honey freckles that were speckled along his round cheeks and nose.

 

Cupping his face, Cipher brought their foreheads together, ready to chase all his beloved's fears and uncertainties far, far away.

 

◀ I promise. ▶ 

Cipher tilted his head, curious. Holding a hand out, he watched with mild interest as a snowflake fluttered into his palm, melting instantly as soon as it hit his night stained palm. ◀ Already? ▶ He asked himself. ◀ How time does fly. 

 

" Cipher! "

 

Cipher looked over, just in time to see his little sacrifice running towards him, stumbling about the foyer as he struggled to throw a fur lined cloak over his shoulders. Ears twitching at the fuss that was being made, he spoke, ◀ What is all the commotion about, my constellation? And is that cloak not my own? Why are you- ▶

 

" It's snowing! " Dipper yelled enthusiastically, ducking under Cipher's outstretched arm to dash into the courtyard. Laughing, he spun around, nearly falling over himself when his feet slipped on the wet grass.

 

◀ What has you in such a good mood, Pinetree? ▶

 

Beaming up at the huffing god, Dipper explained, " I love snow! I feel like it's been forever since I've seen it! I mean, I guess it has, but you know what I mean. Does this mean it's winter on earth right now? "

 

◀ Not all of earth is experiencing winter, no. My home realm mimics the seasonal cycle of Gravity Falls so one can only assume that it is snowing there if it is doing the same here. Of course, I have the liberty of changing the weather as I see fit. ▶ A snap of his fingers accompanied his words and the snow, which had been lazily fluttering about, began to fall in thicker sheets of white, the fat flakes beginning to cover the ground. ◀ How is that? Impressive, is it not? ▶

 

" Very impressive. " Dipper quipped. Holding his hands out in front of him, he watched as the snow settled against his skin, cold and biting. Once his hands were full, he tossed it into the air with a laugh, " Think we can build a snowman? "

 

Cipher's heart lurched at the sight of him, so happy and content with snow covering his head and shoulders  in a way that should not have been as fetching as it was, that he couldn't fathom saying 'no'. ◀ I do not see why not. ▶ He answered, stooping down so he could scoop some snow into his own hands, carefully rolling it into a perfect sphere.

 

Dipper kneeled next to him, so close their elbows occasionally bumped into one another, " Have you ever made a snowman before? "

 

◀ Of course I have, ▶ He scoffed, ◀ Just who do you take me for? ▶

 

" Just making sure. "

 

◀ The nerve, I swear. ▶ Cipher muttered, ◀ Accusing me, The God of Knowledge and All Things Golden and Dreams, not knowing how to make a snowman. The audacity! the impudence! The insolence! The- ▶

 

" Shut up! " Dipper groaned, grabbing a small handful of snow and tossing into the other man's face, laughing loudly when he snorted in surprise, rearing back to shake his head vigorously, his ears twitching wildly from the firn that was sticking to the soft down. " You got a little something on your face. " He told him seriously, tapping his nose for emphasis " Did you know that? "

 

Cipher glowered down at him, his lips curling into a scowl, ◀ Allow me, if you will, to give you a piece of advice, my sacrifice. ▶

 

" What? " He smirked.

 

 Never challenge a being with more than two arms to a snowball fight. It will not end well~ ▶ Crouching low, his hands eagerly grabbed at the snow, crushing it into a semi decent, ball-like shapes. Lobbing them at the boy, he elicited in his yelps and breathless laughter, refusing to stop even as the other begged through his giggles.

 

" Cipher! " Dipper yelled, pulling the cloak up to block a particularly large snowball from hitting him square in the face, " Stop! "

 

◀ Why should I? ▶ He drawled, lifting his nose into the air; he pelted him with another one, hissing in pleasure. ◀ I am having so much fun! ▶

 

" You're cheating! "

 

◀ I resent your accusations. ▶ Cipher vetoed easily, humming in great satisfaction to himself. His fingers twitched at his side, eager to continue.

 

Stumbling through the snow, which was now gathering quickly on the ground and piling up around his legs, Dipper struggled to keep up, lobbing halfheartedly formed snowballs at the god, unable to keep the wide, beaming smile off his face. He shouted in victory when one his spheres hit Cipher, pumping his fist into the air, " Got you! "

 

Trilling, shaking his head, he darted after the boy, his long legs catching up to him easily. Wrapping his arms around his soft waist, he hoisted him up and spun around, smugly stating, ◀ Who has whom? ▶

 

" Cipher! " Dipper yelled, squirming, " Let me go! "

 

Crooning, the god waltzed about with his little human in his arms, delighting in the laugh against his neck and the way Dipper held tightly onto him, his touch warm and pleasant. ◀ What if I do not want to? ▶ He asked playfully.

 

" You're just mad because I was winning! "

 

Cipher barked a laugh, ◀ Winning?! You?! Are you so sure about that? ▶

 

" You're such a prick! "

 

He gasped, ◀ Such fowl language from such a pretty mouth! ▶

 

" Who do you think I learned it from? "

 

◀ Why, ▶ Cipher batted his eye innocently, ◀ It could not have been me, I am an angel! ▶

 

" You, " Dipper stated firmly, " Are definitely not an angel. "

 

◀ Oh? Than what am I then? ▶ He asked, finally setting him back down onto the ground. He dusted some snow off the top of his head, smiling when his cowlicks sprung up, ◀ Do let me know. ▶

 

" And utter nuisance. "

 

Clicking his tongue, Cipher leaned down, their foreheads barely touching, ◀ A nuisance? Me? ▶

 

Dipper laughed, his nose scrunching in that disgustingly endearing way that made the god's stomach perform somersaults, " Yeah, but you're the best kind of nuisance. "

 

◀ Oh, well, as long as I am the best kind. ▶

 

Humming, Dipper stood on tip toe, their lips so close to brushing that Cipher could feel each sharp intake of air they shared, " Hey. "

 

◀ Yes? ▶

 

" I'm cold. "

 

It was said so plain and matter of fact that Cipher couldn't help but chuckle, breaking the ambiance that had settled around them. Reluctantly, he pulled away to fix the brunette with an exasperated, if fond, look, ◀ Is that so? ▶

 

Wrapping his arms around himself, Dipper nodded, " I could go for some cocoa? "

 

◀ Oh, could you? ▶

 

Nodding, Dipper turned around and made his way back to the tower, kicking snow up in his wake, " Yeah, you know, if you don't mind. "

 

Slinking up beside him, wrapping an arm around his small shoulders, Cipher hemmed and hawed, pretending to think his request over, ◀ I think preparing some cocoa is doable, you know, for the right price? 

 

" And what price is that? "

 

◀ You can have all the cocoa your little heart desires for the low, low price of one, little, teeny-tiny kiss! ▶

 

" That's pretty pricey. " He huffed.

 

◀ I never said I was cheap, did I? ▶

 

Dipper pretended to think it over, hemming and hawing in a great show of deliberation. "I mean, it's just so expensive! "

 

◀ My offer is going once- ▶

 

" Who could really afford that in this economy? "

 

◀ Going twice- ▶

 

" Oh but I really want some, you know? "

 

◀ Going- 

 

" Fine! " Dipper blurted, not wanting to find out if the god was actually going to follow through with his threats. He wouldn't put it past him. " Fine! It's a deal! " Latching onto Cipher's arm, he tugged him through the mounting snow towards the front doors, laughing the whole way.

 

Cipher smiled fondly down at his sacrifice, allowing him to drag him about, ◀ And what about my kiss? ▶

 

Huffing, Dipper stopped and turned around, " You really can't wait for five minutes? "

 

◀ You know I can not~ ▶

 

Rolling his eyes, Dipper stood on tip toe and placed his hand on Cipher's cheek, gently guiding him down with cold fingers; Cipher tried not to stare at how the snow settled on the boy's lashes. Slowly, Dipper placed his lips against the god's, feather soft and full of mirth, the corners of his mouth quirked into a tiny grin. Cipher pressed back, deepening it, and the breathless laugh that rolled across his cheeks made him trill.

 

Easily, like he had many times before, Dipper melted into it, allowing Cipher to take him over, reaching deep within his being to take everything he had to offer. The kiss itself was small but still, he felt his soul shudder with rightness. It was with regret that he pulled away, his face flushed and his heart beating strongly against his chest, singing a song of longing. " There. " He gasped, tucking a strand of hair behind his ear, " Happy now? "

 

◀ Very. ▶ Cipher affirmed. He helped Dipper push his hair out of his face and he cupped his cheek, staring down at him with a far away look in his eye. He was smiling so lovingly and so endearingly it made Dipper feel unbearably warm.

 

" Cipher? " He whispered.

 

◀ Let us go. ▶ He said, dropping a kiss to his forehead, ◀ I believe I promised you some cocoa. ▶

 

" Yeah, " He breathed out, " You did. "

 

Cipher swept his sacrifice into his arms and spun him about, ignoring his protests as he always did. How could he take them seriously when Pinetree was laughing so loudly? ◀ I love you. ▶ He declared quietly, ◀ More than anything this world has to offer me. ▶

 

" I know. " Dipper said, laying his head in the crook of his neck, " You tell me you love me all the time. "

 

◀ And I will keep telling you all the time until you get tired of hearing it. ▶

 

" I don't think I could get tired of hearing it. "

 

 Good, ▶ Cipher declared, ◀ Because I will never tire of saying it. ▶

Dipper drifted in and out of sleep, struggling to stay awake. He could hear Cipher's heart beating just beneath him and the hand that was rubbing slow circles on his back was lulling him, forcing him, to doze. The book he held in his hand jerked randomly as he fought to keep it steady so he could read it; the words were blurring and his eyelids refused to stay open. Finally, unwilling to put in any more effort, he allowed the novel to fall to the side, and he huffed in annoyance but made no move to retrieve it. He was vaguely aware of the clinking of glass stars above them and he grinned sleepily to himself. Bernard was playing with the star mobile again.

 

◀ Are you still awake my sacrifice? ▶ Cipher asked, voice far too amused for Dipper's liking.

 

" Maybe. " He grumped.

 

The god laughed, turning his attention away from the dreams he had been creating, ◀ Would you like me to leave so you can sleep? 

 

" No. " Dipper whined, throwing his arm over Cipher's stomach, " Stay. M' comfy. "

 

Smiling, Cipher hummed deeply, placing another of his hands on his constellation's head, running his fingers through his hair, ◀ Is that so? ▶

 

" Hmm. " Dipper melted at his touch, tucking his head into the crook of his arm. " Yeah. "

 

◀ Very well, I will stay. ▶

 

A tenseness that Dipper hadn't realized he was holding, eased from his shoulders, and he sighed deeply, suddenly a hundred times more tired than he had been before. " Okay. " He mumbled.

 

◀ Go to sleep, my constellation. ▶

 

" Okay. "

 

Bemused, knowing the boy was already on the cusp of sleep, Cipher plucked one of the dream orbs out of the air and gave it to him to help lead him into the dreamscape; within seconds, Dipper was fast asleep in his arms, snoring lightly into his side.

 

Smiling down at him, Cipher stroked his cheek and jawline, eye slitting into black as he made sure Dipper's dreams were indeed those of pleasantry and wonderment. He followed the thin line that connected him to his world weaved in memories and dreams, plucking it every so often to make sure there were no blemishes in the connected threads. He was more careful with his dreams lately and he always made sure his little bird was thoroughly wrapped in the sweetest of dreams before he allowed himself to relax.

 

He wondered if he'd ever grow out of this new found habit of his.

 

◀ Oh, Bernard. ▶ Cipher lamented, drawing the attention of the star otter who had happily been batting at one of the bigger, hanging star lights, ◀ Whatever am I going to do with him? 

 

Bernard chittered sagely, twisting and turning large loop de loops until he plopped himself down on Dipper's stomach, earning him a low grunt. He had one of the glass stars between his paws and he tossed it between them, settling himself down between the two of them, seemingly happy with himself.

 

Cipher tisked at him, ◀ Will you stop taking those? I am tired of replacing them. ▶

 

Bernard flopped back and looked up at the god, his face unreadable.

 

◀ I do not care if you like them, they were not made for you were they? ▶

 

The otter merely placed the little ornament on his belly, tapping it repeatedly to make it chime and sparkle, the swirling light inside of it making him squeak in joy. He held it up to show Cipher, glowing with pride.

 

◀ Yes, yes, ▶ Cipher grumbled, coming to the conclusion that taking the star away from him would be more hassle than it was worth, ◀ Very nice. ▶

 

Bernard preened and resumed his play, excitedly telling Cipher about his day and what he had been up to. Every so often, he would pluck one of his own stars from his back and place it in Dipper's hair and pat his cheek, just to make him feel included.

 

Cipher listened idly, allowing the otter to ramble on, focusing on creating more dreams, just a tad bit behind schedule due to the distraction of his sacrifice demanding he help him translate an old book he had taken from the library.

 

And then he had the nerve to fall asleep part way through!

 

Honestly.

 

Still, with Dipper curled up at his side and Barnard half sprawled in his own lap, he couldn't really bring himself to care.

 

Work could wait one more night.

" Where are we going? "

 

Cipher clicked his tongue at him and continued to lead Dipper along, careful to keep his hands over the boy's eyes. ◀  Did I not tell you to be patient? Why is that so hard for you? ▶

 

Dipper huffed but he couldn't contain his excitement. " Can I open my eyes yet? "

 

◀  Did I remove my hands? ▶

 

" No. "

 

◀  Then no. ▶

 

Dipper laughed. He tried to duck out of Cipher's hold but it proved pointless when the god's other hands darted out to hold him in place, fingers curling around his upper arms and hips. They tapped him in disapproval and he threw his head back against the god's chest, letting out a groan.

 

◀  Do not be so dramatic my sacrifice. We are almost there. Now, follow my lead. ▶

 

Dipper felt his arms raise, almost in a waltz like manor and he felt Cipher crouch beneath him, pulling him just that much closer. " What do you want me to do? " He asked breathlessly.

 

Cipher laughed into his hair, ◀  Just follow my lead~ ▶

 

" What do you- " Dipper felt himself lurched forward in a sort of half hop and he became aware of the sudden feeling of weightlessness that tugged at his abdomen; he gasped despite his best attempt at holding it in.

 

◀  Come now, my love. I know for a fact you can dance quite well. ▶ Cipher teased him.

 

" I wouldn't call it dancing well. " Dipper mumbled. Still, he felt Cipher's body move again and he leapt to follow his lead, the two of them taking long strides towards....well, towards something Dipper couldn't see. He could feel a difference in the air around him but he didn't think it was familiar, per say.

 

Wherever they were, it was somewhere new.

 

" Are you going to tell me where we are? "

 

◀  Not just yet. A little farther. ▶

 

Something streaked past Dipper's face, warm and pleasant, and he startled, " What was that?! "

 

Cipher chuckled, ◀  Keep going. You will find out soon enough! ▶

 

They half danced, half walked for a length of time and Dipper allowed himself to relax, moving and twirling about as if they were the only dancers at a ball no one knew about. It made his heart flutter and he smiled, giving himself into the moment; more sensations went by, all of them comfortably warm. He swore he could hear the chiming of bells in their wake. " What are those? "

 

◀  Wait and see~ ▶

 

" Come on Cipher, I want to see what's going on! Let me- " Dipper yelped as he was thrown forward, Cipher finally letting him go with a boisterous, loud cackle. He spun about to keep his footing, nearly getting tangled in the flowing fabric of his waist sash, the dangling, golden triangles hitting his calves as he fumbled. " Cipher! "

 

The god merely laughed, leaping over to him in a couple, long strides. He took his hand in his and swept the arms on his left side out in a grand arch, ◀  We are here. ▶

 

Any complaint Dipper had about the deity's behavior died as soon as he looked up. His mouth fell open in a mixture of shock and awe and his breath got caught in his throat as he inhaled sharply. " Oh. " He choked out, unable to form a full sentence. His eyes were burning with tears but he was grinning. " Cipher. Oh my gods. "

 

Stars, thousands upon thousands of them, were painted before him, glimmering close by and in the distance. They shone brightly against the backdrop of the sky, pinks and purples swirling against the Prussian blue hues of the night. There were too many of them to count but Dipper still couldn't help but try.

 

◀  Do you like it? 

 

Dipper looked up at Cipher briefly before turning his attention back to the galaxies before him. He held a hand out and watched in amazement as a star tumbled into his palm. " It's beautiful. " He whispered.

 

Cipher leaned down and held his own hand out, beckoning the little star into his own hand; it followed obediently. ◀  Do you remember what I told you centuries ago, when we were still Big Dipper and Bill? I told you that- ▶

 

" We would dance amongst the stars. " Dipper finished.

 

Cipher nodded, ◀  And you asked me- ▶

 

" But how will we get there? " Dipper asked. There was a whimsical smile on his face, small and tainted by the slightest amount of sadness. " Yeah, I remember. "

 

Cipher took his hand in his. He urged him forward and they walked amongst the stars, steps slow. He didn't say anything more on the long ago promise they had shared in their past lives but he didn't need to. He had said enough.

 

It was hard, sometimes. Navigating the words and stories that had been them once upon a time. Finding the words and stories that were them now.

 

" It's way more beautiful than I ever imagined. " Dipper finally said, allowing himself to smile in wonderment. It felt like he was walking on water, small ripples spreading out from beneath his feet with each step he took. he held his hand out and watched as the skies parted for him, cold night swirling around his fingertips; he giggled, taken aback. " It's amazing! "

 

◀  Yes, ▶ Cipher agreed, looking down at him with a small, tender smile on his face, ◀  It truly is. ▶

 

Dipper tugged on the god's arm, " Come on! I want to see how far it goes! "

 

Despite knowing that there was no end to be found in the heavens, Cipher allowed himself to be pulled along, enjoying the view of his sacrifice's grinning face. It had been some time since they had ventured outside the tower together in an outing, what with there being so much to do and so much to discus. And while he had had his reservations, he was ultimately glad he had decided to bring him here. Watching him point out the constellations he recognized, chasing stars that were always just a tad out of reach, Cipher felt like he could watch him for all eternity.

 

He wanted him to smile like that every day.

◀ Right about now, ▶ Cipher spoke, ◀ Is where I would say something extremely corny about how beautiful you are and twirl you around like a princess. ▶

 

Dipper laughed, his voice catching at the end. " Please don't. "

 

◀ Why ever not? I am quite the charmer am I not? ▶

 

Dipper smiled up at Cipher, the stars shining in his dark eyes, and stepped lightly to the side in a sort of dance but not-a-dance. " Is that what you call it? "

 

Clicking his tongue in disagreement, the god guided them into a lazy spin anyway, their steps unhurried and careful. ◀ You act like you do not enjoy my witty comparisons but I know they~make~your~knees~weak~ ▶

 

" Okay, okay, " He relented, ducking his head head to hide the flush on his face, " You're charming. Will you shut up now? "

 

◀ But I did not say something corny about how beautiful and lovely you are! ▶ Cipher protested loudly.

 

Dipper groaned, the two of them waltzing along the night sky in short, languid strides. His feet were often lifted from the ground, held afloat in Cipher's arms. He tried not to stare at him, his eyes drawn to the way the gold of his skin glinted and shimmered under the starlight. " What would you say? " He asked curiously.

 

 I would say that amongst all these stars, you are the one that shines the brightest. You are my guiding light, my constellation. You are the first thing I look for when I wake and every night, every day, I spend with you is a wish come true. ▶

 

Dipper's breath got caught in his throat and it took a few tries before he could get his mouth to work; Cipher smirked down at him cockily, obviously aware of the effect his serenade had on him. He could feel how warm his face was and he sputtered pathetically, unable to say anything in return. When Cipher laughed, deep and full, he bristled. " Shut up! " He whined, " I wasn't- I didn't- gods, you're embarrassing! "

 

Tail swaying back in forth, no doubt in amusement, Cipher drew him in closer, placing one hand on his hip and taking Dipper's hand with another of his own. ◀ What is wrong, my darling? God got your tongue? ▶

 

" Something like that. " He huffed.

 

Cipher chuckled, bringing them into a moderate ballroom dance, twirling and spinning around each other, not afraid to let their skin touch as they tried not to intertwine together for fear they would stop. Dipper found it hard to focus on one singular thing, his eyes drawn to the stars for a split second before he was pulled back to triangular flecks of gold and wide, toothy grins. It dizzying and yet his feet remained grounded, metaphorically speaking.

 

" I love you. " He said, just as Cipher gently arched him back over his arm in a dip. The surprise and adulation in Cipher's azure eye made him smile and courage found it's way into his heart again. " Do you love me? " He asked cheekily.

 

Cipher snorted, ◀ What do you think? ▶

 

" I think you're avoiding the question because you're embarrassed by how much you adore me. "

 

◀ Do you really think that? ▶

 

" Yeah, kinda. Now pull me up, I'm getting dizzy. "

 

Cipher pulled him up quickly, so fast their chests slammed into each other non too gently. He cackled as Dipper gasped in surprise, ◀ Better? ▶ He crooned.

 

" I take it back, " Dipper growled, " I hate you. "

 

◀ Do you actually~? ▶ He sang, dragging each syllable out purposefully.

 

" Yeah, maybe. " Dipper mumbled, distracted by how close some of the falling stars were. A few of the smaller ones tumbled so close to them that one got caught in Cipher's braid, glowing dimly against his dark hair. Reaching over, he pulled it out and held it in his palm, the tiny ornament smooth and warm. He curled his fingers around it protectively and slipped it into one of the many folds of his silks. At Cipher's questioning chirp, he looked up and gave him a reassuring smile. " Sorry, I just thought I'd keep one for Bernard. He looked a little sad when you said he couldn't come with us. "

 

◀ I told him he could not come with us days before I even asked you and he seemed fine enough. He is just sulking to get your sympathy because you spoil him, do not fall for it. ▶

 

" I do not spoil him! " Dipper argued.

 

Cipher raised an eyebrow in question, ◀ You do not? ▶

 

Knowing he would be fighting a losing battle but also knowing Cipher was one hundred percent incorrect, Dipper smacked his chest, " Just shut up and dance with me! "

 

◀ Oh, now he wants to dance. ▶ Cipher grumbled.

 

Still, he swept him back into a waltz, taking long, graceful strides, feeling Dipper's body relax into his hold as they danced, ripples and stars marking their steps as they went. Cipher hummed an odd tune under his breath, one Dipper didn't recognize, and he lulled them into a leisurely trot, sweeping in and out with each trill, creating a dance as thy went, the score tilting and wavering strangely with their movements. " What song is that? " He asked as Cipher pushed him away, their fingertips almost disconnecting; he was pulled back quickly.

 

◀ I am not quite sure. It is a song I was born knowing. ▶

 

" It sounds familiar. "

 

◀ I sang it to you when you were asleep for all those years. It helped with the ache of you not being there with me and it seemed to help ease your sleep, though, I think that was just my own wishful thinking. ▶

 

" No, " Dipper smiled at him, " I heard it. It helped lead me home. "

 

◀ Oh. ▶ Cipher cleared his throat, making a good show of not looking pleased with himself but Dipper could tell he was, his ear twitching in both self-satisfaction and pleasure; humility really did not suit him.

 

" I- when I was in the abyss of nightmares, I met Bill. I don't know if it was actually him or if I was just going crazy but he told me- he told me to listen to my heart. And when I did, I heard you. You were singing for me to come home. Over all the voices and all the aches in my body and soul, I could hear you. " He laughed softly, aware of how thick his voice was, " You- you brought me home. "

 

Cipher leaned down until their foreheads were touching and closed his eyes, his long lashes dark against the gold of his high cheeks. Dipper inhaled sharply, his body shivering involuntarily. They stayed like that, suspended in time for what felt like an eternity, hands unwilling to leave each other and breaths intermingling with need and want. ◀ I want to spend eternity with you, my sacrifice. ▶ Cipher spoke, voice soft and gentle.

 

" Me too. " Dipper said, breathless, " I want- I want to spend eternity with you too. "

 

◀ They can have the day and night and they can have the wonders of the world. They can even take my divine gift and my whole self. As long as they let me have you, I will be happy. ▶

 

" I don't have anything to really offer them, or whoever they are, but they can take anything of mine too. " Dipper pledged, gripping Cipher's silks tightly in his fist, " I don't- I don't ever want to be separated from you again. In this life or any other life we may live. "

 

Cipher laughed into Dipper's neck and drew him closer, wrapping all his limbs around him in a tight, possessive hug, ◀ You and I are a story that even the stars can not tell. We carry it on our skin, a constellation of who we were and who we have become. Who we will be, even. Is that not a marvelously beautiful thing? ▶

 

Dipper let his free hand fall to Cipher's hip, where he knew a constellation of ichor freckles lay, the soul mark that tied them together, one he gave him himself a lifetime ago; as his fingers brushed them, Cipher's fingers did the same to his own mark, his touch burning him to ashes. " It really is. " He chuckled.

 

◀ Not many people can say that they are tied so closely to a god, you know. Gee, are you not just the luckiest boy alive? ▶

 

" Yeah, " Dipper admitted, fond and just a little bit exasperated, " I guess I am. "

 

When Cipher kissed him, he swore he could taste the stars.

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