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What is Dark Within Me, Illumine

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“W̴̘͔̐͝h̷̖̫̬͒͝͠o̶̱̓̐̂ ̸̛̼̍͑͘d̶̨̲̪̙̎a̶̯̮͈̮̐̓́r̴̲̈́̾̓ě̵͔̓s̶͉͠ ̵͈̘͖̳̎ş̷̧̐u̷͚̜͉̮̐̊̅̽m̷̧̟̖̬̿̍̔m̴̛͙̮͚̦̉̋o̶͎̦̘͆n̶͔̓ ̶̢͍̃̑͠Ä̷̡̟̹̩́̔l̶̢̻̼̳̈́̚c̶̨̠̫͇͑̽̔o̷̡̲̦͔͌͑r̷̪͙̻̓̒ ̷̻͋̽̾͒T̵͚͇̦͌͘h̷͈̊ẻ̷̢̦ ̵̘͑͛̃̍D̶̮̿r̵̹̖̣͛̌͐͗e̵͎̚ȁ̵̯̖̳̲m̶̔̂͜͝b̶̘͠e̴̺͚̣͔͛̀̏n̵̩̺̯̅͗̃d̶̫͂͋̾͠ĕ̷̘̗̐͛ȑ̵̹̞̣̘̋̕”

The summoning tossed waves of blue light across the bedroom, casting high shadows onto the wooden walls and posters of boy bands. The air reeked of candle smoke, burning hair, and pine incense. Sitting with her knees pulled up to her chest, Mabel reached into the bowl beside her and popped another sour candy into her mouth. “Still not scary enough, bro.” Munching on her candy she pulled up the sleeves of her sweater, “See? No goosebumps.”

Groaning, Dipper dropped into the circle, sitting cross-legged in the blue glow. It tossed his hair and the back of his black coat around in an imaginary gust of high pressured air conditioning. Resting his chin against his hand, he reached for the candy bowl. “I don’t get it. I used the scary demon voice.” The points of his teeth sliced the candy into ribbons when he bit into it. The candy was just enough to keep him tethered to the physical plane. That was Mabel's idea of course. Candy always made things better in her mind. In Dipper's case, candy only made it a little better. 

Being a demon was not as easy as one would think. Dipper thought the only thing you had to do was show up, say a couple of well-practiced one liners, shake a few hands, and POOF! the deal is done. That’s the way it seemed to work in movies. But it didn’t seem to work that way in real life.

Maybe there was a demon training program he missed out on. Maybe an informational pamphlet? When Bill Cipher caused the Transcendence, thus gracing him with these unwanted powers and throwing the world into supernatural chaos, Dipper sort of felt tossed into the deep end of a pool without knowing how to swim. He had to learn everything step by step about his new life, how summonings worked, conjuring up tiny blue flames in the palm of his hand, even coming up with a new name for himself. (After all, there was power in knowing someone’s true name.) He couldn’t even talk to anyone but Mabel for a while, somehow the events caused her to see straight into the mindscape, winding a small touch of magic into her soul. It wasn’t easy on her either. But if he didn’t have her, he wouldn’t know what to do. 

Dipper huffed out a sigh. He still had a hard time putting this whole Transcendence thing together. Why would Bill do this? Who dies and then gives their worst enemy ultimate power? Maybe it was because Dipper was turning out to be a crumby demon. Bill would find it very funny. Maybe that's why he did it? 

Being a demon was all performance art--and Dipper never considered himself much of an actor. But Mabel considered herself an expert actress, and she took it upon herself to coach him. It was like she said, “I’m your twin sister. If you can scare me, you can scare anyone.”

“What am I doing wrong?” he grumbled.

“Dunno,” she shrugged. “I guess you’re just acting a little too much like yourself!”

“I am myself! I don’t think I can change that!”

“Okay, okay. What I mean to say is you’re trying too hard. I see Dipper pretending to be Alcor. Just be Alcor. You gotta sell me on the whole ‘I’m a scary demon who wants to eat your soul’ thing.”

He tossed his arms into the air. “I am a scary demon! I have gold and black eyes and wings! I mean, I don’t want to eat anybody’s soul. That seems a little gross and unnecessary. Maybe I don’t want to be a scary demon. Maybe I’d rather just be a friendly demon and do favors for people and fight bad guys.” Flopping back onto the summoning circle, the light illuminated the features from his human life that remained, the soft tufts of his brown hair and the Big Dipper birthmark on his forehead. “Maybe I don’t want to be a demon at all! But does anybody care what I want? Nope!”

Mabel patted the top of his head. “I know it's not easy, Dip. But this is how things are now and we’ve got to deal with what we’ve got.”

Beneath him the pentagram pulsed 3 times, a static hum emanating from it. “Uhhhhggg,” he groaned again.

“What?”

“Someone is summoning me-- I'm getting some negative vibes from it." (There's 7 summoners- more than you've ever dealt with before. The energy radiating from their intention is malevolent, clawing at skin and demanding blood.) "Can I let it go to voicemail? Does that even exist? Demon voicemail.” Ignoring summoning was hard. It was almost like an instinct, akin to ignoring hunger. But he absolutely despised it. Apparently, Bill's old summoning circle still worked on him, and Dipper kept getting wound up with all the wrong people. 

She shook his shoulder, practically leaning into him. “No! Don’t you see? This is the perfect opportunity to practice! You gotta get some real-world experience. I can go with you and take notes!”

“Are you sure? The people who summon demons aren’t the type of crowd you wanna be hanging out with, Mabel. They’re usually guys who live in basements and summon me to prove something about themselves, or people who only want power and actually think I’m gonna give it to them. They’re honestly creepier than I am.”

“That’s not a very high standard for creepy. Come on, let’s go!” She tugged on his sleeve, trying to urge him off the floor.

“Fine. If you say so, but as the record stands, I wanted it to go to voicemail--any weird thing that happens is on you.” Rising off the ground, he stretched out his wings and extended a hand to his sister. “Try to be careful. I’m still working on this teleportation thing and I’d prefer it if you didn’t barf on me this time. It wouldn’t help my image.”

She grabbed her backpack and “emergency baseball bat” covered with glitter (the grappling hook wasn’t enough for her anymore), dragging it into the pentagram with her. “You got it, bro-bro! Now beam us up!”

“Right.” His fingers dug into the back of her sweater, her hair flying up around her in the wind of the pentagram. The light around them burned into thick flames, the twins disappearing from the bedroom.

 

------

 

As always, the summoning took place in a basement. What did people have against taking their demonic activities outside in the sunlight? If you wanted a demon to like you, it was best not to coop them up in a dark room.

This was, for the most part, like every other summoning Dipper had been through (5, if you excluded all the times Mabel had to summon him just so he could talk to someone). It was dark except for the glow of the summoning circle. The air was cold and smelt like mildew. The brown walls were carved with strange symbols and covered with red drapes. And were those… pipes overhead. This all felt familiar.

No matter. He gave his back and wings a stretch. Mabel was right. He had to stop pretending, he had to be confident in himself. This was who he was now. Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing. Floating above the summoning circle he reached out at his summoners, all wearing long red cloaks like some kind of cult. Great… “Ẃ̴̡̛͓͈̖̗͖̲͍͌̀̈̈́̎̅̈́̔̿̿̕͠͝ȟ̵̳̬̹̪̝̪̉͒͑̚͝͠ö̸̡̧̧̗͇́̃̉͆͠ ̷̢̡̯͙̭͓̝͉̠͋͑͌͂͆̆͋̚ͅd̵̢̧̛͖̭͔̪̩̦̟̘̗̺̈̈́͑̓͋̑̍͘͠ͅa̵̢̧̤͇͉̖͚̦̥̘͊́̀̆̇̋̈̍̿̕r̷̺̙̣̙̘͉̪̟͙͍͆̓͋̓̾̋̚͜ē̶̺̳̻̫̺̺̇͜ͅs̵̛̰̓̽̈̑̉͊̒̔͝͠ ̵̤̜̗͋̈́̊̂͐̏͗̔ͅš̵̨̛͖̻̠̿͒̎̇̈́̒̿̆͛͠u̶̻̮̙̮͉͕͎̞̔́̂͂͘m̷͍͎̘̠̋͛͐͗̉͑̾͐̑̇͋͘m̷̗̼̑̌̐̍͌̀͊̚͠o̵̻̞̤̰͑̅n̸͇̘̞̣͙̥̱̣̾̋ ̴͖̉̄̒̌̄͋̿̾̕Ǟ̷̩̖͕͇̻͎̙͌͐̃̇͆̂̑̈́̀͠l̵̹̫͇̗̰̞̻̻̮͇̤̪͐̓̅̂͘ͅc̷̱͖̞̖̘͕̝͙̳̽̾͋̂͑̉͐̇́̚͠ͅͅo̸̢͍̠̰͙̘̙͎͒̓̔͛r̸̡̛͔̭̮̹̤̻͚̗̹͍̤̄̍̆́͋̑͑̊̃̋͒͘͠ͅ ̸̨͙̤̱̣̹̥͇̠͓̦͇̹̙̋̍̓͗̏̅̍͘t̷̤͑͋̇̓̇͛̒̍͛h̵̳̎̌̃͑̓́̅ẽ̸͚̗̙͍̙̙̼̲̤̘̟͗̽͆͆̆̾̄͊̔̈́̏́͊͜͝-̷̢̮͍̝̣̺̝͖͓̞̉̇͗́̏̓̋̑̂͜͝-̶͈͖̖̹̝̙̘̂́͆̏̇ ̵̥͂͗̂̉̓̎͛̅̉̔̃͆”

Mabel coughed, leaning over a pot in the back of the room. She spit into it, wiping at her mouth. Her face looked pale with dribbles of sweat coming down. “I threw up. I'm sorry, bro-bro.”

He shook his head, covering his eyes with embarrassment. “Why did I even agree to bring you?”

She spit into the pot one more time and staggered to her feet. “Uhg. Maybe I shouldn't have eaten all that sour candy before teleporting.”

“That’s it,” Dipper sighed, “get back in the circle. I'm taking you home.”

“What,” one of the men in red robes stepped forward, only his frown visible from beneath his hood, “is going on here?”

“Right, right,” Dipper said as Mabel stumbled into the circle. He cleared his throat, “I’m Alcor the Dreambender. Who dares summon me? Blah blah. Can we make this quick? As you can see I'm busy.”

The figures in red robes whispered to each other, their hoods covering their faces. Stitched into each hood was a crossed out eye, definitely familiar. But where would Dipper have seen them before? They whispered his name over and over, like he was some kind of oddity. Well, he was, but they summoned him. They should have known that.

“Can we move this along,” he urged. “Seriously,” Dipper said, “who are you guys?”

He waved one hand in front of his face. “We are the The Society of the Blind Eye.”

Dipper and Mabel looked at each other, blinked a few times and then laughed.

“These guys again? For a moment I was worried it would be something serious, like a demon worshiping cult or something.” Dipper clutched to Mabel’s shoulder as she nearly doubled over.

“Come on,” Mabel wheezed for breath as she laughed. “You guys wouldn’t stand a chance against us. Give it up. What prank show is this?”  

“Do you mock our institution?”

“Sorry,” Dipper tried not to crack a shark-tooth smile, but it didn’t work. “So what is it you guys want, huh? Knowledge? Power? New bath robes?” Mabel snorted and pressed her face into his arm.

“Enjoy your laughter while you can. All we desire,” one of the red robed society members presented the leader with a box, from within he pulled a strange looking gun with a dial and a light bulb on one end, “is to see you completely destroyed. The Transcendence has disrupted the blissful routines of life. It is our job to protect those who do not wish to see, and that starts with removing the two of you: Dipper and Mabel Pines.”

That was impossible. No one beyond friends and family should know who he was. That was the whole point of taking a stupid name like Alcor. And how did they even know about Mabel? He thought they erased the memories of all the Blind Eye members when they raided the History Museum over the summer. No one should even remember what happened. There shouldn’t even be a society left.

“Confused?”

“Yeah. Lil’ bit,” Mabel confessed.

“The Society of the Blind Eye has many chapters--protecting cities that are most at risk from the supernatural. When our fellow chapter was disbanded, we retrieved the memory tube used to clear their minds that you so casually left behind. After that it was more than easy to track it down to the visiting Pines twins and all the trouble you caused. So when word spread of this Transcendence, of a demon from Gravity Falls and the girl he kept so near, we knew it must have been you.”

“Yeah, that would do it,” Mabel muttered.

“I can't believe we were so stupid,” Dipper groaned. “Leaving the memory tube behind. We should have destroyed it.”

“Your childish mistake will be your last,” the leader held out the memory gun, pointing it between Dipper’s eyes. “Prepare to be unseen.”  

Grabbing Mabel by the wrist, Dipper yanked her down to the ground in the fading light of the summoning circle, trying to shelter her from the ray. “Time to go!”

“We can’t just let these guys get away,” she whispered. “They have a memory eraser ray. They’re gonna use it on innocent people. Or..."

“I can deal with that on my own. You need to go home.”

Her fingers dug into his sleeve, “Dip! It’s a memory eraser ray! What if it…” she didn’t get to finish her sentence.

The pale light of the ray fired again, not hitting Mabel but slicing against Dipper’s shoulder. He winced, the sting somehow racing through his incorporeal body. He traced his fingers across it, golden ichor dripping from the wound and his body, dissolving as if made of smoke. It would heal eventually, he knew it would, though slowly. But that wasn’t the point, it was that he wasn’t as invincible as he originally thought.

So this was what Mabel was trying to tell him. It all made sense. The memory eraser ray is what they used to destroy-- or thought destroyed-- Bill. Whatever his body was made of, it wasn’t flesh or bone, it was something metaphysical, the same stuff as dreams and memories.

“Dip!” Mabel screamed. She pushed herself off the ground, trying to assess how bad the damage was. One of the Blind Eye members grabbed her by the waist, hoisting her still tiny body off the ground while she kicked and squirmed, trying to reach for the baseball bat on the floor.

The leader still angled the ray at Dipper, gaze unfaltering beneath the hood. “Still yourself, Dreambender. We have the upperhand. You are but a child, even with all your power you are still naive and weak. Accept your fate, or the price will be taken from your sister’s memories.”

“Don’t you dare hurt Mabel,” he snarled back. The ray fired again, this time shooting the light into Dipper’s back, across the ridges of his spine, more of his body deteriorating away.

Mabel continued to claw and kick at the red robed member holding her hostage. “Dipper!”

He tried not to scream. Scary demons don’t scream. But a whimper escaped from his throat anyway. He couldn’t help it. It hurt … but it also felt kind of  good. The pain was almost delightful; after months of being completely unreal, it felt as if he had skin and nerve endings again. Like jumping into ice cold water. He leaned back on his knees and the front of his feet, clutching to his shoulder, ignoring the sting his spine. It was like being pinched awake. “You know,” he mumbled. And then he grinned, much too wide and all with pointed teeth, a Jekyll and Hyde switch. “Pain is hilarious. A̷̞̟̎͛͠ṅ̵͕̄̈́͒͘͘ͅd̶̀ͅ ̷̛̫̓͝͝͝͠I̴̫͊̈͌͘ͅ ̷͈̟͙́̉t̷͈̭̙̟͓̃̑h̸̪̆̏̌̑i̶̡̹̜̻̓̽̿̚ņ̴͚͍͓͒̆̄͜ķ̶̰̺̻͕̝́͊͂ ̸̥̩̬̤̣̞̽y̵͇͓̦̠̣̏͑͠͝ò̴̺̝͇͕͛͛͜u̵̧̙̺̔ ̸̬͙̞̹̥̓̒͗̎̚s̵̡̖̳̍̒̂ḩ̶̮͇ȍ̷͉̩̘u̸̠̪͠l̴̘̠̭̟͊̅̾d̴͙̳̘͎̈́͊̿͋ ̴̨͕͎̾̏̓̚s̷͎͉̬̗̜͊́̈̈́͘h̴̹̦̕a̵̮̫͍͆̃̎̕r̸̤̠̖̞̜̕̕ė̶̾͜ ̵̭̟͊ǐ̵͍̜̟͑ͅṋ̶͙̫̘̏̀̃͘ ̷̨̭̉͒͂t̷̘̣̬̽͘ḧ̷͔̫̭͙̬́́̒̐ȩ̷̧̜̰͈͐ ̷͎̰͎̯̩̈̒̄͋̀̊f̷̥̆ụ̸̳̱̈́n̷͇̍̄̈́̓/̷̩̻̞̖͖̕”   

Mabel’s face drained of color when he flew upwards, summoning full sparks of blue fire into his palms, watching them rage across any space they could find as if they had a mind on their own. Goosebumps bloomed on her arms and made her body run cold. The Blind Eye all stood still in fear and awe, mouths agape beneath their hoods. Mabel’s shock slipped into a sly smile, “I think you’re right, bro. Sharing is caring.” She dug her fingernails into the bare hand of her captor, drawing four slices of blood. He screamed, dropping her to the ground, allowing her just enough time to grab her baseball bat and stand at Dipper’s side. “Alcor.” She tapped the bat against her hand, once, twice, a menacing pattern. “Let's teach them a lesson about messing with the mystery twins.”

The raging blue light tossed across the twins faces, illuminating what was dark within them. “Ŵ̶̧̕i̴̛̯̪̱̯͐ţ̴̠͙̈́h̸͍̼̖͕̃̓ ̵̻̣̠̹̄͋p̵̥͋̔l̸̪̑ȇ̴̗̹ą̴̩̞͌̑s̶̨̛̰̟̘u̶̖̯̤̇̃̓̕͜ŗ̸̡̨̝̔̏̀e̵͍̞̤̼͝”

Mabel went first, more impulsive and buzzing with adrenaline. Reeling back her baseball bat, she slammed it into the gut of the Blind Eye leader. She reached up, trying to wrestle the ray from his hands, knowing that she would never win in strength. But it wasn’t about getting the memory eraser ray. It was about providing a distraction, so Dipper could take down the rest of the members.

He raised one hand and summoned shadows from the corners, behind pillars. He didn't even know he could do that, but now wasn't the time to question these things. They moved like ink in the water, sentient spirals that twisted their way across the floor and across the walls. They gripped to ankles and crawled up legs, latching onto wrists; dragging the red robes down to the concert blocked floor. Some of their hoods fell off, revealing faces with mouths open in horror-- triggering his omnipotence to urge names and backstories into his mind. (Nancy, mother of two, just wants to put dinner on the table, but has a hard time getting by without thinking of her rotten ex.) (Jahmeek, always been afraid of things that go bump in the night.) (Max, has been couch hoping for far too long and needed a place to go.) (Chi, used to drink to forget and now she doesn’t have to.)

So many things he never wanted or needed to know and now he did. All the effort it took just to fight off his own mind. Ignore the omniscience, deal with the bad guys.

Dipper urged the shadows closer, dragging the members closer to his grasp. The leader dropped the memory ray while the shadows curled around his body, pinning him down. With his other hand, Dipper motioned for the shadows to bring him the ray. He snatched at it with one clawed hand. The shadows squeezed tighter to The Society of the Blind Eye, as Dipper glowered at them. Mabel rushed to his side, still gripping to the baseball bat until her knuckles turned white and the glitter rubbed off onto her palms.

“Please, spare us,” the leader pleaded. “You may punish us for our transgressions but we beg you not to destroy us.”

Dipper blinked. “What do you guys seriously think I’m gonna eat your souls or something?” The Blind Eye looked at each other. He sighed, and let the shadows around them loosen just enough to let them breathe. “Listen, I know you’re scared about the new world and all of this crazy magic stuff going on. But no one is more scared than me. You said it yourself, I’m just a weak, naive kid. I’m a product of the weirdness just like everything else--I didn’t cause the Transcendence. But this is just how it is. I’ve got to learn to deal with all of this demon stuff, and you have to deal with it without erasing people’s memories or trying to kill me. Trust me, I personally know the guy who invented these. And it drove him insane for 30 years. Don’t make the same mistakes.”

“So you won’t do anything to us?”

Dipper shook his head. “No. I don't want to hurt people." He sighed and handed the memory eraser ray to Mabel, the memory reel playing of the first time they saw one, how gingerly he first held the golden frame. Things had certainly changed. "But she will.”

Mabel plugged the words onto the screen: DIPPER AND MABEL PINES. She held it up to her eye and angled the light bulb sealed to the front. “Say cheese.” The members screamed and begged. She pulled the trigger.

 

------

 

Teleporting back into the attic bedroom, Dipper paused as Mabel clutched in preparation to her stomach. She held still a moment. “Hey! I didn’t throw up this time! I'm getting pretty good at this!” Then she nudged his arm with her elbow, “And what the hey-hey! You were really scary back there! I thought you were gonna tear off their faces or something.”

He laughed and rubbed at the back of his neck. “Yeah. Something just came over me I guess. How angry and worried I was.” Or maybe it was the pain--though he hoped it really was concern for Mabel. He lowered himself down onto the ground, sitting cross-legged on the old, musty wooden floors. He rubbed at his shoulder, most of it seeming to have healed or at least reappeared… he wasn’t quite sure how this not real but still somehow real body worked-- why did his omniscience only apply to useless things?

“It was awesome! You even reminded me a little bit of,” she stopped and bit her lip, eyes tearing away from Dipper.

“Bill?”

“Yeah.” She sighed and plopped down beside him. “Don’t think about it like that though. You’re a thousand times better than Bill. He wouldn’t have hesitated to kill those guys, but you let them go. You may have inherited Bill’s powers, but that doesn’t make you him. You act too much like yourself to be Bill. I like Dipper, and I also like Dipper pretending to be Alcor--despite his scary exterior he’s a pretty good guy.”

He smiled and flushed a bright shade of pink, “Thanks.”

“Now,” she tapped her finger against the bottom of her lip, “what to do with this?” She held up the memory eraser ray, the blue light of the summoning circle casting odd shadows onto it. Dipper could see his distorted reflection in the gold exterior, the fingerprints that smudged its sides.

His mind raced through the possibilities, every use that the ray could possibly have. (It could be Mabel’s saving grace, a device that would allow her to hide their family’s greatest secret. Something to protect her from great evils. It could even get the cops off of Stan’s case. But it could also kill him, if that’s what he truly wanted. Or it could erase all of her memories. And even with all his knowledge, he was never sure if such a day would come. But if it meant protecting Mabel...

“Why don't you hold on to it for safe keeping?” 

Chapter Text

The summoning circle flared to life on the bedroom floor, a swell of blue light and a static hum of energy, Dipper and Mabel materializing inside. Mabel crashed to the floor, a groan escaping her throat. “Uhhhg. I’m so tired.” She rolled onto her back to stare at Dipper, blowing the hair out of her face and eyes. “Man, that was nuts and berries.”

 

 

 

 

Dipper resorted to hovering cross-legged in the air. “I wasn’t expecting the giant beetle to be some kind of eldritch monster come to punish humans and return to the upperworld. Sorry I dragged you into that.”

“Pfft.” Mabel pushed herself up off the floor, her breath rolling in heavy and painful puffs. “Please, you needed me. That thing was resistant to all magic, it would have eventually eaten you. But it wasn’t Mabel-resistant!” She swung her arms like she was holding her baseball bat, “Wapow!” Her arms flopped back down beside her, a low thunk on the floor. “And how could you not know the beetle was a monster? I thought you knew everything. That it was some super power or whatever.”

“I do-- or I can. I don’t know. I really tried this time. I wanted to know what the beetle was, where it was from, what I could do to defeat it. Though I guess I couldn't defeat it anyway. But when I tried to find out all I got was a garbled feed of stuff--like TV static. I only seem to know things when I really don’t want or need to know them. If there is information I really need, I can’t seem to grasp it.” It was like dandelion fluff in the wind, it always blows into your face when you least expect it. But when you wanted to catch the individual tufts, you never could. Maybe he wasn’t a dream demon after all. Maybe he was a demon of useless and inopportune information. So if you ever wanted to know exactly how many raindrops were in a puddle or how many people actually liked the band Dimeback (they have 17 million likes on their Instabook page), he was your guy. 

Mabel rose up off the floor, stretching out her arms and the muscles in her back. She pried off her shoes at the heel, kicking them across the room. “Whatever. It's the middle of the night. I’m going to bed. You should try to get some rest too. Might help you sort out all this omni-chance stuff. I know sleeping off my problems always helps.”

“First, it’s omniscience. Second, demons don’t sleep, Mabel.” Or at least, demons didn't need to sleep. Since it happened, he never felt the need to sleep weigh on his eyelids. Sure, he felt tired occasionally, but sleep didn't feel natural. He spent most nights stuck in his own head, thrashing against his own thoughts. The ability to pull himself down into sleep seemed like wishful thinking. He felt constantly on afraid of it, that if he ever allowed himself a moment to rest something bad would happen again. 

“Well,” she crawled into bed, not even bothering to change out of her clothes, “have you ever tried it?” She pulled the covers up and around her neck and shoulders, her head nuzzling a dent into the pillow.

Dipper bit one shark tooth into his lip. “No. But what would be the point? I probably wouldn’t even dream.”

“Sure you could. You’re Alcor the Dreambender, emphasis on dream. All this stuff is your domain isn’t it? If anyone can do it, you can. Besides, you aren’t like other demons. Some part of you is still human. I can feel it. You just gotta tap into that.”

“I don’t know. Dreaming is all about having a mindscape. I don’t have one because I literally live there. If I did dream, I don’t think it would be any different from my usual day. And, to be honest, I don’t think I remember how to sleep.” 

“Sure you do! You’re just out of practice. Let’s have a sleep over! Come lie down.” Dipper didn’t budge. “Come on, bro! Do it for me!” she whined, though exhaustion made her voice falter and mumble.

“Fine.” He flew over to the bedside and floated on his back, as if drifting through a swimming pool.

Mabel watched him through the hole in her blanket cavern. “Good. Now just focus on your breathing.”

“Another thing I don’t do.”

“Just fake it. Or meditate or something. List the infinite set of numbers between 0 and 1. I don't know. Whatever you do to relax.”

Relax? It’s kind of hard to relax when you’re adjusting to having near-infinite power. Meditation didn’t seem like a bad idea. It wouldn’t hurt for him to be a little more grounded. And he was definitely stressed, like 24/7 worried or thinking about something, especially since his brain could think much faster than what he was used to. He had to learn to control his thoughts and anxiety.

“Okay,” he replied. But when he looked over Mabel was already asleep, her breath making the hair around her face fly around. The hum of her dreams was soft, like a radiator in an old house.

He closed his eyes and tried to tune out the hyper-sensitivity; the creak of the house, the droning Shepard’s tone of the mindscape, the thousands of thoughts trying to race through his mind at once. Nope, ignoring all of that. Focusing on mindfulness.

He sucked in a fake breath, held it for five seconds, let it go for ten. Repeat that indefinitely.

He tried to think about his body (the metaphysical representation of a body), trying to imagine it turning to static. Nothing else mattered. Five seconds in. Ten seconds out. He listened more closely to the hum of Mabel's dreams, trying to curl within their safety. Following each of her breaths. Five seconds in. Ten seconds out. Five seconds in. Ten seconds…

 

-----

 

He found himself lying in a pasture of soft green, synthetic like plastic Easter grass. The sky looked like the color of Mabel’s favorite blue crayon, the one when she was 5 that she colored down to the nub. The clouds pooled into thick whipped cream shapes clumps, oozing across the open air. The place smelt like the inside of a supermarket freezer. How strange. He didn't remember being summoned? Or teleporting? 

A sheep with fleece like galaxies only seen through powerful telescopes blinked 2 beady eyes at him, chewing on something that looked like shadows and broken snowglobes. It stood over him, hooves planted at his sides.“What is this?” Dipper heard its voice in his head, echoing across his skull.

“A child. Oh how wonderful!” said another, turning its head with curiosity. Dipper's vision sharpened, and he suddenly became aware of how close the sheep were to his face.

“A child? What is a child doing here?” said the first. 

“He is strange, very strange,” replied the second. It leaned his and sniffed his hair with a puff of hot air. “He smells familiar. Like socks that have been put through the wash. Clean and fresh.”  Their bodies radiated something akin to the heat death of the universe, but yet the contact felt soft like blankets. 

“It smells human. Do you think it’s dead?”

The second shook its head. “He can't be human. Look at those eyes, those wings. You know who he is. He is… he is…” Dipper sat upright, realizing he hadn't yet moved, nearly knocking heads with one of the sheep. “See? He’s not dead.”

"Shame. I liked him better dead." 

He surveyed his surroundings, the grass and sky running endlessly, though only the two sheep stood in his presence. His clawed fingers gripped into the grass. “Where am I? Why am I talking to sheep? Am I supposed to be counting you or something?”

“Pfft. Sheep. You hear him call us sheep?” said the first.

“We look like sheep. Easy mistake," replied the second. 

“No…” Dipper leaned forward, pointing at the sheep. A memory flooded his thoughts like adding a drop of food coloring to water. They felt awfully familiar. Not in the way that you remember someone you went to middle school with years later, or even a story you heard once before. No, this was more like finding something you thought you had lost, an artifact of yourself. “I know you. You’re a flock of nightmares. Weird. I always thought you would have been horses. You know, night- mares ?”

The first sheep scoffed at him. “Ahh, so it thinks it’s funny. A real wise-cracker.” 

“Listen, all I need are answers," Dipper bargained. "Mostly about how to get out of here. I’m supposed to be sleeping back home, not talking to nightmare sheep.”

“I’m afraid you already know the answer to that, little one. Why don’t you try again? Hmm? Close your eyes.” 

I don’t see the benefit in that,” he crossed his arms like a stubborn child. 

The second nightmare prodded him with its nose, trying to force him to lie down in the grass. “You don’t see a lot of things. But I think in time you will figure it out." 

 Dipper groaned. “Seriously. I'm lost. Could you give me directions or something?”

 “I am directing you to close your eyes and try again. You'll get to where you need to go. I''ll help you, but first you need to lie down.”

“Alright.” He laid back down into the grass, staring up at the sky. Now he was taking advice from nightmare sheep. But it was the only advice he had. The second nightmare nudged his face with its nose, and licked one of his cheeks, his skin tingling where they met. It was somewhat comforting and familiar as the nightmare curled up beside him.

“Relax and try again. You’ll figure it all out eventually. It might be a little confusing at first, but I think you will manage. Close your eyes.” He did so, the grass acting as a cocoon around him. His fingers wove into the galaxy wool of the nightmare beside him. Even the first nightmare plopped down by his head, albeit with a sense of defiance. 

Dipper felt himself drift off again...  

------

 

The next was a woman with three faces. She stood, the portal in the Mystery Shack basement roaring to life behind her in a swirl of hypnotic colors. Her three arms and fifteen fingers performed an intricate game of cat’s cradle with red string. And each of her faces were Mabel.

“Yesterday is gone,” said the left head with wide eyes and pink cheeks. A memory of the tree swing in the front yard of his parents home formed in the strings of the cat’s cradle game. Fall had just begun to turn over the trees, the twins were only six then, and Dipper had fallen off of the swing and broken his arm. He could feel the bruises forming under his skin. He wailed, a full on sniffling and snotty cry. Mabel cradled him close, yelling for their mom and trying to kiss the boo-boo away, but this was bigger than a bandaid. Her pigtails and slap bracelets tickled his skin on impact.

Dipper blinked the memory out of his eyes. The lingering pain and cracked bone ached under his arm.

“Today still lingers like bonfire smoke on clothes,” said the middle head, her features looked refined and sharp at the edges. She held up the cradle, Mabel resting in her bed with the covers pulled around her head. Her breath came in slow puffs and the air smelt like laundry detergent.

The third head looked at him, except her face could not seem to stay, sometimes there and sometimes gone. “Tomorrow is no guarantee.” What she showed made little sense. But it was of memories that had not yet been formed. One of Dipper carrying boxes into the back of her car. In another, she and Stan sat fishing on the lake, just the two of them not saying anything. One where he presses her cracked and withered knuckles to his lips. One where she pecks an unfamiliar boy on the cheeks and smiles-- he is familiar somehow. One where she sits beside him in an open green field with her head on his shoulder while the wind tossed her hair. One where gold fire sparks from her fingers and she laughs as if learning a new trick.

Dipper took a step back, his foot getting caught in something black and gooey like tar. He tried to yank himself free but only felt the pitch crawl further up his leg. It smelled like rotting flesh and felt like lead weights dangling from his limbs. It continued to climb, winding across his waist and chest. It squeezed its way around his neck and locking his fingers. “What are you trying to tell me?” The tar crawled further up and around his neck and shoulders, binding him together in the sticky mess.

The three heads looked at him all at once, “They’re your memories, bro-bro. I thought you knew everything?" 

The tar swallowed him.

 

------

Dipper saw himself, underneath the pit of tar and caught in the blackness. His usual self. His real self. 12 years old and wearing a silly hat and vest. Caught in a bubble, floating aimlessly in the nothing. The real Dipper pressed his hands against the curve of the bubble, his palms turned flat and white where he met the glass. “L'p lq khuh! Ohw ph rxw!”

The other Dipper stepped back, swimming in the sticky sea of pitch. “What?”

“Gr brx nqrz zkb kh glg wklv wr xv? The other Dipper’s voice sounded like he was under water, rippling over the air.

“I don't understand!” He yelled back. How could he not understand? What did this even mean?

“Sohdvh! Ohw ph rxw! Iru wklv guhdp kdwk qr erwwrp!” the other self screamed, voice shredded with agony and terror. 

Dipper reached up to the bubble, “Please, I don’t understand.” His claws scratched against the glass, high-pitched slices trailing down it. “What are you saying?”

“Khos! Ohw ph rxw.”  

Dipper banged his hands against the bubble, desperate. Hot golden tears streamed down his cheeks and filled up his throat until speaking felt like choking. “I don’t understand!" 

"zkb glg kh gr wklv wr xv? brx qhhg wr iljxuh lw rxw! grq'w ohw frqwuro brx!" 

The tar surrounded them, changing its shape, stretching and clumping around them. It formed into a great mass, a stone triangle, with the bubble caught in the center of the eye, and one hand outstretched in a deal. Dipper slashed at it, trying to pry his other self from it. “It’s okay! I got you!" His fingers slipped uselessly against the shell of the bubble, like rain across a window. He was unable to use his powers, no matter what he did nothing would happen. He banged his hands against it, slowly losing the strength to keep going as the tears clogged up his eyes and mouth. He was useless to save himself. 

His other self stared with big brown eyes. “Gr brx?” The bubble enveloped itself in the blackness.

 

----

He woke up, gasping for the breath he didn’t need. “What was that,” he muttered to himself, staring at the wooden beams and mold spots on the ceiling. He couldn’t even begin to pinpoint his experience. Was he in another dimension? Trapped in someone’s mindscape? Was everything from the past few months just a fever dream? (Nope. Sorry.) 

I think I can explain.

He turned to face the noise. "Ah!" The old woman with the turtle skull for a head wearing an electric green Hawaiian shirt sat in the empty attic of the Mystery Shack. It was devoid of the beds, the shelves, the painting of a ship at sea. Mabel was nowhere. Even the smell of mildew was replaced with a very distinct nothing. It made his mouth taste like air and sawdust. A small round table with a doily garnished the empty wood floors.

Come, sit. Said the old woman with the turtle skull for a head. An empty chair appeared across from her. She tapped one finger on the edge of the table, creating an array of plates and cups and cake all stacked comically on each other. I’ve just made a lovely pineapple upside down cake. You must have a slice while you are here.

Dipper did as she asked, pulling out the chair and sitting with his hands on his knees. He was in no position to be questioning strange old women with strange animal skulls for heads. “Listen, ma’am. I’m a little confused. I don’t know where I am or what’s going on.”

You are dreaming. You ought to know that, Dreambender. She sliced into the cake and laid the piece delicately onto a white china plate. It was a perfect slice, no crumbs fell off and all the pineapple topping stayed together in one clump.

“But I can’t--”

Shhh. Eat your cake. She placed it before him with a silver fork. I hear you have a bit of a sweet tooth these days. Somehow, without moving, her skull could grin.

He dug his fork into it, the prongs clinking against the china plate. pulled off a chunk and took a bite. It really was lovely. Possibly the best thing he ever tasted, no, it was the best. The soft cake mixed with the sweet bite of the pineapple glaze. He swallowed, and dug into the cake again. He didn't even think he could be hungry anymore, but now he realized he definitely was. “Who are you?”

I am the old woman with the turtle skull for a head. Whom else would I be?

“Are you a demon? A god?” He crammed another bite of cake into his mouth.

No, no. Nothing so fancy like that. She made a can of Pitt Cola appear on the table before he realized he desired it.

“Then what are you?” He popped the tab open, a satisfying hiss escaping into the air, and took a sip.

The question you should be asking is: what are you?

“I’m a,” he paused, pushing his cake around on his plate. “I’m a demon, I suppose.”

You suppose?

“Yes… though I might be something else. This is all very confusing, so can you please help me instead of asking more questions?”

Who is to say I am not helping?

“I am!” He slammed his fork down on the table, blue flames spurting out of his hands but not burning the table or the doily. “So far everything I’ve seen has been part of some Wonderland, down the rabbit-hole weirdness. I’m supposed to know everything. So why is everything so confusing?”

The old woman with the turtle skull for a head pondered this before responding. Everything you see is truth, young one. The old woman with the turtle skull for a head looked only at her electric green shirt. Why do you think you struggle with your omniscience, hmm?  Dipper said nothing, instead sinking his teeth into his bottom lip. It is because truth is not a solid object. It shifts and changes with the tide. There is no end of the rabbit-hole, as you put it. You expect to reach into the barrel, pull out a fish, and eat it. But instead you sometimes get eels or elephants.

He slumped back down in his chair. “You’ve lost me.”

She chuckled, and Dipper liked the sound of her voice. She was the only new thing in his world that felt safe. My dear, the truth is always changing. The future is not set in stone, it takes arcs and bends much like the branches of an old tree. It creates a multiverse of possibilities. Accept what comes your way. If you follow the branches of a tree, you will eventually see it has come to bear fruit all on its own. You are still so young, and you have so much to learn. Omniscience will not come easily for you, but it will come on its own time. 

He thought to himself about it. “So… the trick to my omniscience is just to accept whatever I get? Stop looking for specific answers and realize there might be many answers, or no answer at all. Then I’ll be able to use it when I want and figure out what I need to know?”    

Right on the dot. 

“Why didn’t I figure that out on my own?” He sighed and reached for his fork again. At least cake still made sense in his crazy world.  

Dipper, do you know why you are here?

He spoke between bites. “Uhm. So you could teach me a lesson?”

No. Because you are dreaming. This is your omniscience, the inner workings of consciousness. Demons do not dream. But you do. You are very special. Something peculiar happened to you that made you what you are. Some part of you is a demon, new and powerful. But some part of you is still very human, your sister was right about that, and it will guide you to many miraculous things. 

"Do you," he wrapped one hand around the can of Pitt Cola. Cool condensation dripped down the sides and onto his hand. He wasn't sure if he wanted to ask this question, but who else would know? "Do you know why I'm like this? Why Bill did this to me?" 

She frowned, well she didn't actually frown but Dipper could tell she was frowning. I'm afraid not, my dear. 

A swell of sadness rose up in him, pushing at the cavity in his chest. But he would just have to keep looking for his answer. He rose from his seat and bowed to her. “Thank you. For the cake and the clarity.” He went to leave, but turned around. “...Are you supposed to be the representation of my subconscious or something?”

No. I am the old woman with the turtle skull for a head.

“Oh. Alright then, I guess I should be going. Mabel is going to wake up in,” he paused, letting the answers come to him, “97 seconds.”

Go. If you should need me again, you know where to find me.

 

------

Dipper woke up exactly 72 seconds before Mabel, enough time to yawn and stretch. He didn’t need to do those things. He just wanted to. The sun hovered through the triangle window, like an all-seeing eye. It rose at exactly 6:58 that morning. Particles of dust floated through the crisp sunlight. The bedroom had returned to normal. Correction--it never left and neither did he. It was all a dream. 

Mabel rustled in bed. Her bleary eyes blinked for times, revealing the tired redness of the whites. She groaned, and rolled onto her stomach to stare at him. She smiled between chapped lips and behind strands of clumped hair.

“I know you’re going to ask,” Dipper said before she could. He crossed his legs, hovering 4 feet in the air surrounded by a static hum. “And you were right.”

“I am always right,” her voice croaked when she spoke. “But right about what?”

“Dreaming,” he said with a sigh. “Contrary to popular belief. I can, or well, I enter some kind of trance-like state that is like dreaming. It was surprisingly helpful.” He felt relaxed in a familiar way that reminded him of waking up on Sunday mornings, into the late morning, with the sunlight creeping through his window. 

She pumped on lazy fist in the air, letting it fall back down before it was even fully up. “Wapow! The power of Mabel!” The blankets nuzzled back around her, cushioning her arms. “So… what did you dream of?”

He smiled slyly, looking at her through the corner of his black and gold eyes. “Destruction and chaos. I dreamed about taking over the mortal realm and making it my own nightmare realm where I can exist as I please and punish all who commit sins against my will." 

“Huh?” Her brown eyes turned were the size of silver dollars.

He laughed. “I’m kidding. Why would I dream something like that? The dream was all very nonsensical. But it had sheep, you would have liked that. They had galaxies for wool. And I knew them, I guess. They were familiar. They said we would meet again.”

She laughed, a wakefulness rising in her voice. “Haha. That’s awesome! Was I in your dream?”

He remembered the 3 faced woman, the memories of Mabel that did and did not exist. Something about her past, her present, and her future. He tried to follow the branches of that tree. But he couldn’t nail down her future. The branches kept intertwining and looping back around into each other. He swallowed the uneasiness.

He shook his head. “Sorry, Mabes. Not this time.”

“Well next time, dream me up with your sheep. No! Put the sheep in my dreams, okay?”

He could barely focus on her. He kept worrying 2 more faces would show up. Something else was going on here. "Sure thing." 

Chapter Text

“Shit!” Dipper stomped out the blue flames that licked around the carpet of the Shack’s living room. He didn’t mean to, it just happened. That was the fourth time in the past week he set the carpet on fire, and that didn’t even include the other accidents he had been having. Dropping to his hands and knees, he slammed his palms down on the fire until it eventually hissed away into smoke.

The shadows he accidentally summoned from under the fridge that nearly gave Grunkle Stan a heart attack. Forgetting how wide his wingspan was and knocking over some very dangerous chemicals on Ford’s desk. The fire alarm continued to shriek in his ears until he intentionally shot it down with another arc of blue flame, letting the now melted plastic top clatter to the floor beside him. A relieved sigh escaped his lips.


“Dipper” Mabel eyed him from the overstuffed armchair, Teen Teen magazine spread out across her lap, like a disapproving parent. “Swear jar. Now." 


Dipper rolled his eyes, but did as she asked. Rooting through his pockets he pulled out a tiny werewolf fang. (“Which I got in a very respectable way!” he said at the time. “Mrs. Willis’s pups are teething! She said I could keep the teeth as payment if I babysat for her.” He would have babysat the pups anyway, they were just so cute, but the promise of teeth excited him for some reason.) He dropped it in the jar alongside the collection of candies, 38 sided-die, and magic crystals. The jars were all lined up on the table in the parlor room, labeled with pink duct tape; the Swear Jar, Lost My Temper Jar, and the I Keep Waking Everyone Up At 3 am Because I’m Lurking Around In Their Dreams Jar. He was going to have a jar for everything if he kept this up.


The jars Mabel’s way of trying to control his new impulses. As much as she told him otherwise, Dipper was positive he picked up some of Bill’s personality traits. Over and uncontrolled usage of his powers, short-temper, and a fascination with collecting teeth. Or maybe it was just a demon thing. Either way, he didn’t like it. Things just weren’t going his way.


At that time, Stan and Ford barged in from the basement. Stan held a “demonic fire extinguisher” that Ford had created after Dipper’s first incident, made with a mixture of CO2, KHCO3, a flurocarbon found only in the nightmare realm, and liquid holy water. “Where’s the fire,” Stan shouted before taking a look around the room, and realizing the only thing left was just another black char in the carpet.


“Oh, man,” Dipper grumbled, folding his legs up so that he could float about 5 feet off the ground. “I’m really screwing this up. Some demon I am.”


“Aww come on, Dip in’ Dots. You’ll get the hang of it,” Mabel cooed as she dropped out of the chair.


“Don’t you think I would have controlled some of my powers by now? It’s been 310 days. Almost a year.” (It takes about 66 days to learn a new habit, and demonic powers should be no exception. By this point he should have learned how not to set the carpet on fire 4.696969--repeating for all infinity-- times, take away 1 of those times for the 2 months he spent completely invisible to everyone but Mabel while stuck in the mindscape until they finally figured out a good summoning ritual.)


Stan set the demonic fire extinguisher down. “Ahh don’t beat yourself up, kid. Learning anything is hard I’m still trying to figure out all the hip-lingo you kids use and Mabel’s been explaining it to me for the past year."


Mabel huffed. “Grunkle Stan, IGTGDFNNTF is not a tough acronym to understand.”


“See? She’s barely speakin’ English,” Stan continued.


Dipper ignored this. Learning wasn't hard for him. He loved to learn. He was a straight A student when he was still in school. If he wanted to pick up a new skill, he would, be it mental math, the sousaphone, or basic level engineering. And with his newly given omniscience, shouldn't everything come naturally to him? “I just don’t understand. I’ve mastered some elements of my powers; entering the physical plane when summoned, using offerings, I can even dream! Why is everything else so difficult?”


Ford rubbed his chin before offering a suggestion. “Dipper, have you ever considered that the factor might not be your ability level, but something else entirely?”


“What do you mean?”


Ford shrugged and sat down on the arm of the chair. “There are multiple factors that lead to under performance. We aren’t even certain how your powers work. Are they emotional, physical, psionic? If we can track down how they work, maybe we can figure out what is causing this blockage. Think of it as when humans get stressed, it can often lead to underperformance in areas where our skills are usually proficient.”


Dipper shrugged, “I guess? I feel like I would know if this was all caused by stress. But I guess I don't have a counter argument." If it really was stress, then he should be a complete hot mess. This was the most stressful year of his life thus far. 


Mabel popped up beside him and wrapped one arm around his shoulders. The very solid and real particles in her body tingled where they met his metaphysical and only temporary particles. “Come on, bro! Whatever it is, we can help you out! I’ve got my heart of gold, Ford’s got his brains, and if all fails Stan can just punch the problem away. Together, we should have no problem figuring out why your powers are being all stupid.” Stan and Ford nodded in agreement.


He really wished they wouldn’t get involved. In fact, maybe it would be for the best if they just stopped summoning him every morning. Maybe what he needed was some serious alone time in the mindscape where it didn’t matter what he set on fire, because nothing in the mindscape was real anyway. And besides-- he was always worried his powers would hurt them. So far he was lucky that he had only burned carpet. He didn't want to think about what would happen if his flames caught any of them. (Demonic flame, while used for a variety of reasons, can be deadly to physical lifeforms and objects if not used properly, burning at a temperature hotter than the Earth's sun.) 


But they really thought they could help him, and it’s not like he had any better ideas. He stared at Mabel’s sparkling brown eyes. “If you think it will help,” he answered sheepishly.


“Yes! 100% Without a doubt,” Mabel replied, grin taking up most of her face. “We’re going to help you become the best demon you can be!” The issue lied in his not really wanting to be a demon at all. 

------

Ford plastered another electrode to his forehead. Wires sprung from him and drizzled to the floor like water spurting from a leaky pipe. Machines beeped, clicked, and flashed around him. Cameras stared at him with unforgiving and inanimate eyes. It was a laboratory from one of his favorite sci-fi films brought to life. Except, he was the experiment and rightfully so. “Uhm, Great Uncle Ford, what’s all of this for?”


Ford didn’t look at him, but instead handed him a bag of gummy bears, packaging crinkling delightfully. “Eat these. I'm offering them."


Dipper didn’t question the offering. Taking one finger, he sliced open the bag and shoved a handful of gummy bears into his mouth. One of the only cool things about being a demon was that he was able to isolate all the individual flavors of gummy bears: 3 green, 2 red, 2 orange, and no clear ones.


Ford stepped back from his machines, holding his arms out as if asking everything in the room to hold perfectly still. “Excellent. Everything is working perfectly. I’ve been looking into different pseudoscientific studies in the recent, and I think I’ve identified a few that may help us figure out how your powers work.”


“I don’t think it works that way,” he said, words obscured by the mouthful of gummy bears. Second cool thing about being a demon, he could eat as much sugar as he wanted and never have to worry about how unhealthy it was.


“Only one way to find out. Now,” he swiped the bag away and set it on his desk.


“Hey!” Dipper whined.


“You can have that back after the experiment. I needed to be sure you would stay in the physical plane for as long as it lasted.” He pulled Journal 4 (Ford kept multiple spare Journals in the Shack, finally getting around to the 4th one, which was dedicated entirely to figuring out what Dipper was) out of a drawer and set it down on his knee. “We’ll start with pyrokinesis, as it seems to be one of your main issues. I’m going to ask you to summon a flame, try to keep it small and contained to the palm of your hand. I’ll write down everything I can, including which parts of your brain lights up, how the chemicals and atoms will be reacting around you... you get the idea.”


“If you say so.” He pressed his back into the chair and held out one hand. Usually he didn’t think to hard about how he used his flames. They just appeared, whether he wanted them to or not. But this time he really did concentrate on it. Ford was right, Dipper had no idea how the flames actually got there. Maybe it was all scientific. Or maybe it really was about his emotions, how happy or sad he was in a moment.


The blue flames appeared in his hand. At first it remained relatively small, no bigger than a golf ball, pooling in his hand. It warmed his fingers, like holding a mug of hot chocolate. Except it was flame. Very dangerous and otherworldly flame. (When used with the intent of violence, demonic flame can incinerate even other demons in 3.216 seconds.) He knew that didn't matter. He used his flames for a lot of things, like summonings, or starting bon fires in the back yard during lazy summer nights. But he could have swore it was getting warmer, and bigger. (It was.) It gushed out between his fingers like when you try to light an old gas stove and when you wait too long for the spark to come on the air fills with gas and everything bursts into one flame all at once. "Oh no!" He tried to call it back to his palm, watching is waver and spurt, but it didn’t seem to want to stay.


“Don’t panic, Dipper,” Ford said, adjusting some of the dials and knobs on the surrounding machinery. He scribbled something down into the Journal.


Too late. He was panicking. All the machines kept wizzing and buzzing in his ears. He couldn’t control the omniscience, all the data running through his head at once. It was all so loud. It was actually giving him a headache. Was that even possible?  The fire oozed out from his fingers, shooting across the room in arches. The machines exploded, inky smoke rising from them, light popping like dying lightbulbs. The whole room went quiet. A thick ash covered the walls and whatever objects still remained in one piece. Most things were reduced to melted plastic, shards of glass, or dislocated screws. The air smelled like sulfur. 

Dipper jerked around, finding Ford standing exactly 3 feet away from the blast zone, covered in black dust, but also uninjured. (Had he been 3 feet closer...) "Ah! Great Uncle Ford! Are you okay?" 

He coughed, sending up a puff of the black dust into the air. He wiped is glasses clean. "Oh yes. I'm perfectly fine. I can certainly handle a little lab fire." 


“Oh man. I ruined everything. I’m so sorry! I can fix it! If you make a deal I can put it all back the way it was. I promise to make the price really low! I’m so sorry, Great Uncle Ford.” Dipper speed through his words so quickly that they were barely comprehensible.


Ford shook his head. “It’s okay, Dipper. I’m not upset with you.” He went to brush some of the ash off his shoulder, but instead pulled his fingers away, rubbing the black dust between his fingers. “This is all very interesting.”


“At least let me tell you all the data. Anything you need.”


Ford looked up from his fingers and cleared his throat. “That won’t be necessary. Everything should have backed up to an external hard drive. Besides, the damage is just as revealing as the results. Sometimes we only understand things when they break.” Reaching over, Ford grabbed the bag of gummy bears and tossed them to Dipper. "We've still got a lot of learning to do, Dipper. Now why don't you go on and rest. You're putting too much pressure on yourself." 

 

-------

“Grunkle Stan, what are you doing?” Dipper followed Stan out the door. The air was slick with the smell of fresh rain, the mist still leaving a cool brush on bare skin. He barely had time to eat the rest of the gummy bears before Stan called him over (or technically, unhinge his jaw like a snake and swallow the gummy bears whole, which was another cool thing about being a demon-- at least according to Soos, who would try to make him swallow something whole at least twice a week). 


“I’m gonna help you learn to control your strength, in the same way my old man taught me! Ford can use his fancy machinery all he wants. But sometimes, you gotta do things the old fashioned way.” Stan leaned against one of the posts of the front porch and cracked his knuckles. “Imma teach you how to box. Something I shoulda done way before any of this Transcendence stuff. It’ll toughen you up, help blow off some steam. Already got it all rigged up.” He patted the black punching bag that hung like a butchered pig from the roof.


“Boxing? Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Dipper wasn’t athletic when he was still human, and he was pretty sure it still applied to his demon life too. Just because he had actual, physical strength did not mean he knew how to use it properly. And besides, if he really wanted to know how to box, all he had to do was close his eyes and think really hard about it. Then the knowledge would suddenly appear to him.


“I’m sure of it. Why don’t you go ahead and give the bag a swing. Show me what you got." 


It couldn’t hurt. After all, it was just a punching bag. Dipper balled his fist, drew back his arm, and planted his knuckles in the center of the bag with one very normal-- very human punch. The bag tilted back a little, but otherwise seemed to have no reaction.


“Aww, come on, kid!" Stan shouted. "Show me what you’ve got. Give it a real punch.” 

Dipper nodded. If it really was stress, he would have to use the full extent of his powers. He reeled back his arm a second time and thrust it forward with all of his strength. He knuckles blazed blue, fire cocooning around his hand. It blazed around him, crawling up his arm. When he looked down, a smoldering hole in the center of the punching bag stared back at him. The bag fell off of the chain holding it to the roof and spilled sand onto the muddy grass. 


“Well, that’s one way to do it,” Stan said, looking at the smoke rising off the bag. "If I'm being honest, I never thought I'd live to see the day you threw a good punch. Though your form could use some work." 


“Oh no. Not again,” Dipper sighed, hiding his face in his hands. “It’s getting worse.” He couldn't stop his mind from racing through the possibilities. What if the roof had collapsed? What if his flames spread too far? What if he had accidentally hit Stan? At the rate he was going, the Shack would burn down in 4 days. And he didn't want to think about what would happen after that. 

Stan put a hand on his shoulder. "Don't freak out. I got another bag in storage somewhere, but I'm thinkin' you might need something a little stronger." 

Dipper shrugged Stan's hand away. He backed up towards the door. His breath picked up. He didn't know why. He didn't need to breath. And the fact that he was doing something he didn't need to do but was doing anyway made him freak out even more. "You don't get it, do you? I-I'm dangerous. A punching bag is one thing! But... what if it's a person? What if... what if I lose my temper one day!" He stopped talking. His unnecessary breath was getting in the way. 

"Dipper. It's ok--" Dipper had already disappeared before Stan could finish speaking. 


-------

Mabel sat Waddles down next to Dipper, having dressed him up in a white coat and a tie. “Go on. Tell Dr. Waddles what’s bothering you.”


“Go away, Mabel. I’m not in the mood.” He turned away from her, staring at the empty bedroom wall, floating a few feet over his bed. He had given up. Now he was just waiting around for someone else to summon him or for the gummy bears to wear off so he could float around the mindscape aimlessly for the rest of time. "You shouldn't even be here. I could hurt you. Go downstairs or something." 


Mabel lowered her voice to make a very poor Waddles impression and tapped a crayon against a notepad. “Hmm, and tell me how you feel about that.”


“SERIOUSLY, MABEL! LEAVE!” he shouted, voice shattering across the air and tiny flames crawling around his hair and shoulders. Waddles screeched in terror, leaping off of Mabel's lap and scampering under the bed. Dipper snarled with all of his teeth, like an animal defending its territory, before realizing exactly what he had done and shrinking back into himself. He had never yelled at her like that before. 


Mabel huffed out a sigh and crossed her arms, not even flinching at the outburst. “This is what you get, Dipper. Work with me here." He stopped fro a moment, watching Mabel's cool and unyielding expression. The patient stare to her eyes. How could she not be scared? He closed his eyes and nodded in defeat. Mabel pointed at the bed. She poised the crayon in her fingers. “Lie down then.”

“Why?”

“Because that’s how the therapists do it in the movies. Maybe it will help you relax.” He didn’t say anything, but he did as she asked. It was easier than fighting her on the issue. His back pressed into the mattress, but he felt a peculiar weightlessness, like he wasn’t actually on the bed at all. He tucked his arms under his head casually. “Tell me how you’re feeling,” Mabel coaxed.


“I feel angry and afraid because I can’t control my powers. Today it’s carpet. Tomorrow it could be you, or Stan, or Ford. I can’t let that happen. I’ve been like this for almost a year. I’m tired of waiting. I want to be in control of my powers before someone gets hurt.” He glanced over at her. Mabel wasn’t taking notes as much as she was drawing artistic representations of what he was telling her. Though he wasn’t sure how the giraffe wearing a tutu played into this.

“Interesting,” Mabel mused. “And how does that make you feel?”

“Ugh!”

“Alright, alright. I can see you aren’t feeling very talkative. Let’s try something else.” She took off her Shimmery Twinkleheart watch and held it in front of his face. “Let’s try hypnotism. Maybe your subconscious will reveal what your problem is.”

“I can’t be hypnotized. I kind of control the brainspace and subconscious thought. Also, that isn’t really how it works.”

“Then mediate.” She drew her watch back and strapped it back around her wrist. “You’ve got some kind of mental roadblock you need to plow your mental car through while the cops chase you at high speeds through the mental forest.”

“Stan needs to stop taking you on trips with him.”

“This isn’t about Stan. This is about you. Now meditate all your stress away. I’ll put on some relaxing music.”

Dipper should have known that what Mabel considered relaxing was listening to a Lake Lads CD circa 1961, but he was eventually able to drone it out. He wasn’t sure exactly what he was supposed to be realizing. He knew it wasn’t stress… or at least it wasn’t stress until recently. He didn’t get stressed like he usually did. He used to feel it in his chest and in his lungs, swelling up until he couldn't feel it anymore. Now, stress felt more like a really hard Dungeons Dungeons and More Dungeons puzzle. He knew it had an answer, he just needed more time to figure it out. But anytime he tried to figure out the answer the only thing his omniscience would tell him he needed was time. Time was the one thing he had an infinite amount of, and so far time wasn’t doing him any good. He could feel Mabel's presence beside him, the loose strands of her hair brushing up against his arm while she sat patiently in her chair. But her presence was reassuring, even though he could feel the edges of sleep trying to creep up on her mindscape. Maybe it was okay to let himself slip for just a... 


When he opened his eyes, the bedroom was empty. He bolted upright and looked around. The attic was empty, though the faint echos of Lake Lads still seemed to linger in the scentless air. 


I was wondering when you’d come back. It's been a couple months, crooned the old woman with the turtle skull for a head. She sat at a table with a white lacy cloth placed over it that she was simultaneously sewing.


Dipper let his breath go. “Oh, it’s you.”


You sound surprised.


He joined her from the opposite side of the table. He hadn’t seen the old woman with the turtle skull for a head in any of his recent dreams. He was starting to think she was just that, a dream. But she was starting to become familiar. “Relieved, actually. I need some advice. I can’t control my powers, they just keep going haywire and... I'm afraid I will hurt someone." 


The old woman with a turtle skull for a head grinned. Well, it’s a good thing you’re just in time for tea. A cup and saucer appeared in his hands, brimming with a fresh white tea. She snapped her fingers, dropping 4 cubes of sugar inside. He took a sip of his tea, letting the warmth spill down his non-existent body. 

The old woman with the turtle head for a skull, gestured at the table. As you can see, I’ve placed 3 candles in front of you. She didn’t actually place any candles on the table, but when Dipper looked down at the table the old woman with the turtle skull for a head was adjusting them in to a perfect line. I want you to light the middle one, and only the middle one on fire. You have nothing to worry about. Your flames can’t do any harm here.

It wan't the easiest task in the world. The first time he tried, his hands shook, fire sputtering out in all directions. Sometimes, none of the candles would light and the tablecloth would instead. Or all 3 candles would light. One time he only lit the outer 2. And the longer it took the more out of control his flames would become. He must have tried hundreds of times over. And the whole time the old woman with the turtle skull for a head would look at him and smile. He slammed his hands against the table, fire spouting everywhere, ripping up his arms and spilling over the edges of the table, and yet nothing turned to darkened ash. Realizing the table cloth was glowing with blue fire, Dipper sighed and wrapped his arms around himself. Even in his own dreams he couldn't control himself. He was going to have to put something in the I Lost My Temper Jar when he got back. It was like the fire was growling, ripping apart everything it saw in a vast hunger of his own incompetence. 


Eventually, he resorted to dropping back into his chair. “Why is this so hard? It’s one candle!"


The old woman with the turtle skull for a head chuckled, and with one long and withered finger, touched the wick of the middle candle, and lit it aflame. You're looking at things the wrong way. You are afraid of your own power, of yourself. I told you your flames could do no harm here and yet you were so overwhelmed by fear. You rarely use your powers for violence, only when you are defending yourself and others. You prefer to practice summonings and teleportation, rather than manipulating shadows or creating nightmares. But Dipper, the hollow of her eyes met his, you are a good person and you have nothing to be afraid of. 

"Yes, I do! You just watched me set the whole place on fire! I have everything to be afraid of! I've turned into some kind of monster and I could kill my whole family without even thinking about it!" He stopped, taking a few short breaths to calm himself down.  

Listen to me, dear. These powers cannot betray you because they are yours now. You have nothing to be afraid of because you have a compassionate soul. If you live in fear of who you have become, your powers will swallow you and corrupt your mind. But if you learn to live with them, to use them how you see fit, then you will never have to worry about harming anyone. 

 

He paused, and wrung his hands around, claws digging into his palms. "You really think I can still be a good person... even like this?" 

You must stop being so hard on yourself, his companion cooed from across the table. She reached out and placed one warm but boney hand on his forearm. She felt very unreal to him. Unlike when he touched Mabel, and he could feel how real and alive her body was, the old woman with the turtle skull for a head felt perfectly ethereal and eternal. She felt like the soft embrace of sleep. It is okay to fail, to not get things right the first time. It's okay to feel afraid. Just as long as those things do not take control of the good person I know you are. She leaned back and pulled her hand away from him. You’ve become very short tempered in the recent. You must have patience with yourself and with the world.


Dipper shrunk into himself, hunching his shoulders together and starting at his always-perfect, black shoes. “Now I feel ridiculous. I could have figured this out for myself." 


The old woman with the turtle skull for a head scoffed at this before taking a long sip of her tea. Dipper wasn’t entirely sure how she ate or drank anything. The jaw of her skull never moved, nor did any of the tea drizzle from the open gaps between her teeth. Nonsense. You’re a 13 year old boy. Even with your omniscience no one can expect you to know everything. Things are very hard for you right now. You feel like you have to grow up twice. Once as a human and once as a demon. You are allowed to make mistakes and you are allowed to need time. Just like anyone else. This is a big and terrifying change for you, it will be awhile before you can fully feel comfortable with yourself. You'll face some hardships along the way, but do not lose faith in yourself. 


“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”


I am always right.

Dipper reached for his tea cup again. He liked how warm it felt in the palm of his hand, even if he didn't really like tea. "Thank you," he muttered, pressing his skin against the smooth porcelain. "It's nice to feel... understood. I guess. To admit that I'm scared and be told it's okay." 

She chuckled to herself, the sound rattling through her skull. You can always talk to me, dear. you don't have to feel ashamed about speaking with me. Now, she set her tea cup down. It was lovely seeing you again. But I think you need to go back home now. You can’t spend all of your time talking with some old woman. I think its time you went home and faced your fears. 

------

Mabel hovered over Dipper when he woke up, her hair dripping onto his face. “Dip? Thank goodness, I thought you weren’t gonna wake up. It’s been hours.” She flopped back onto the bed beside him, exhausted.


“Sorry, I fell asleep and got a little distracted." He rubbed at the back of his hair uncomfortably. 


That made her head pop back up and her mouth pull into a braces-filled grin. “Was it another one of those crazy dreams? With the old lady? I want to meet her! She sounds so cute!”


“Yeah. It was. And it was actually kind of helpful.” He bit down on the inside of his cheek. “Hey, do we have any candles and more of those demonic fire extinguishers?”


“Huh? What are you planning to do?”


“I need to stop living in fear of my powers. The more I work with them, the less afraid I'll be. I need to be more sure of myself and who I am." 


Mabel rummaged under her bed and in Fords lab until she produced 3 candles of equal size. Dipper practiced with them constantly, either in the backyard or in the mindscape. He rarely allowed himself the opportunity to stop, only to answer summons or to spend a little bit of time here and there with Mabel when he felt himself getting scared again. Stan and Ford did their best to encourage him, reminding him that it was okay to feel nervous, but that they believed in him. Mabel even got rid of all of his “bad behavior jars” in the Shack and gave him back all the treasures inside, figuring that they probably weren't the right kind of reinforcement. And it was good to know the still loved him, that they weren't afraid of him at all. 

Two weeks later, he finally lit the middle candle. 

Chapter Text

Mabel watched Dipper through the corner of her eye. He was getting better at the whole “physical plane” thing, considering she had enough candy to keep him tethered to the world for at least a few minutes. Keeping him around for hours often involved baking a cake or having to prick her finger with a sewing needle to squeeze out a few drops of blood. ("Don't do that," he said as she ignored him. "You know I hate the blood.") A few drops of blood was worth getting to hang out with him. She tried to convince him this was only a temporary setback, and that with a little practice he would eventually be able to stay for as long as he wanted. They both knew that might not be true.

He lounged with his back against the wall, floating upside down, flipping through the pages of some self-help book he picked up as payment from one of his last summoners. She tilted her head to read the title, Ten Ways to Make Change Work For You. That was the fifth book he picked up that month. He kept them stacked in the corner of the bedroom, including other boring titles like Giving Anxiety the Axe: Behavioral Models that Can Work For You, and Dealing With Your Own Inner Demons. Mabel wasn’t entirely sure why he read them. Usually, he asked for other things: candy, Monstermon cards, or old VHS tapes. Other times, he would have to ask for things of more value, things that his summoner treasured: things that he could suck the emotional power from. For the most part, Mabel couldn’t understand why he would ask for books if he knew everything (“Could know everything”, he would correct. “Omniscience is honestly a little depressing if you use it all the time.”)

The answer was obvious. But she kept wanting to deny it. Maybe if she didn’t let sit too long in her brain it wouldn’t be true.

It was a silent cry for help. He was scared and didn’t know how to put his experience into words, if there even were words for it. They were nearing on one year now.  One year since the Transcendence, since Dipper was trapped alone in the mindscape, since Mom and Dad said they'd rather have a dead son than a demon. Do have to have a "One Year Since You Became A Demon" party? Is it like a birthday? Should there be cake or presents?

He tried to explain it to her once, how he felt about the whole situation, but retorted to saying that he couldn’t describe it in any human language. He lived in a metaphysical reality, things like words had no meaning in a place like that. She knew that was a lie. He just didn’t want to talk about it.

She set down the magazine she clearly wasn’t reading and sighed. Dipper just needed to get out of his own head for a bit… or get out of other people’s heads? She wasn’t sure how good he was at mind reading yet... or if he could read minds at all. She stared at him, flipping through the pages remarkably fast. She knew in her heart that he was still the same, but he was all different-y too. There was a thin wire that divided her brother and Alcor the Dreambender that would keep being plucked until it eventually broke. Her mouth tasted sour at the thought.

“Let’s do something fun today,” she said, without really thinking about it.

“Fun?" he replied without even looking up from his book. "Reading is fun." 

"There's only so many post-teen magazines I can read and 'Whose Reincarnation Are You" quizzes I can take before my brain turns to jelly. Come on, broseph! We both need a break. Let’s go fight monsters or something.”

He stopped reading, letting his eyes drift away as to not make eye contact. “I don’t know.”

“Dipper,” she groaned. “Don’t you have any kind of demon business or something? Anything to get us out of the Shack?” She rolled onto her back, letting her head and hair dip off the edge of the bed.

He set the book down, making it float as if resting on a piece of glass, and flipped himself upright. He thought for a moment, or actually, let his omniscience drop information into his head. “I guess do I have some investigating to do in the forest, and I may need Mizar for backup. Something weird is going on.” They had recently begun to create code names for the rest of their friends and family, partially for fun partially for their own protection. She secretly loved it when he called her Mizar. ("It's the brightest star in the big dipper," he said to her. "Really? Aww, you flatter me, bro-bro." He smiled, but refused to meet her in the eye. "Actually, it has a twin... named Alcor. It's the dimmest star". She didn't know how to answer.) Dipper grinned at her. “What can you offer me?”

She tapped her bottom lip with her purple-painted fingernail. “I can give you my leftover pizza in the fridge and the cookies I hid from Stan by putting them in the raisin bran box.”


He sighed, and then shot her a goofy half-smile. “Alright. Fine. You got me. Let’s go.”

------

Dipper swallowed the last piece of cold pizza whole. Mabel was never sure if she found unhinging his jaw to be cool or creepy. She stomped through the forest beside him, pine needles soft under her shoes. She made sure to stop and grab a few handfuls and stuff them into her backpack. Dipper said the smell was familiar and reminded him of home, so it made summonings easier. (“I also think pine trees might be sacred to me, which is funny considering nothing is actually sacred to demons. Semantics are weird. But you get the point.”)

“So what exactly are you looking for?” she asked, pushing a tree branch aside with her glitter covered baseball bat, nails sticking out of the top. The bat was actually Stan's from his "off grid" days that he gave to her shortly after the Transcendence. He said he wanted her to have something more substantial than a grappling hook to protect herself with.

“I’m not so sure of that either.” He hovered over her left shoulder, it was kind of a force of habit, so that everyone knew approximately where he was even when he wasn’t in the physical world. Dipper stopped for a moment. He had this look when he tried to concentrate, he called it “casting his net into the barrel”. Something about waiting for all the answers to come to him. “Something entered the town last night. It has a really ugly aura, I don’t know how to describe it… but I feel something dark and malicious moving around. I can’t use my omniscience to figure out what it is-- so whatever it is, it’s stronger than me. However, nothing bad has happened since, so it might just be passing through.”

“So what exactly are you gonna do?”

“I’m gonna see if it tries to start any trouble. I need to make it clear that Gravity Falls is my territory, and make whatever it is leave. I’m still a fledgling demon, and partially human at that. I need to prove myself before supernatural creatures get the idea that they can walk all over me.”

She sucked in a breath, cold air rushing through her lungs and filling her mouth with the taste of bitter dirt. “I thought you said it was stronger than you?”

“It is.” He paused, “I’ll need you for backup, but if I tell you to run, you need to run. Find a place to hide. I’ll come back for you… if I come back.”

They had been on multiple adventures as Alcor and Mizar in the past months. The were the fairies stuck in the revolving door of a supermarket, a haunted rest stop, that run in with the Illuminati (Dipper did not like that at all, there was a slight mix up with the demon they actually wanted to summon--who was now permanently out of business). But this was the first time Mabel ever heard Dipper imply that he would fail. He always knew he would win, one way or another.

She nodded but said nothing in reply.

Dipper stopped hovering, and dropped down onto his knees, tucking his wings close to his back. A patch of charred dirt rested before him, faint lines where the grass still stayed green spinning and crossing over each other. He scooped some of it up with his clawed fingers and examined it under the sunlight. “Demonic flame.”

Mabel crouched down beside him. “What?”

He held the black dust up to her. “Remember when I was practicing with my powers and I set the basement on fire? Ford ran a few tests on the ashes left behind, and apparently it's not regular ash or fire. Demonic flame is different from mundane fire. It has unique properties depending on what the wielder wants it to do. It can be used to aide in teleportation, or it can be cool to the touch when used in deal-making. But when it actually burns something,” he twisted his finger, letting it the light toss off of the dust like glitter, “it leaves behind this magic residue.”

“It’s so pretty!” She paused, “So what exactly does it mean?”

The gold in his eyes burned and ached against the blackness. “It means that there’s another demon in Gravity Falls.” He shook the powder off of his finger and pointed at the charred dirt. “And that must be his circle. It’s like social security number, or a signature. Demons use it as identification and for summonings. Except, I don’t know whose circle this is… come to think of it, I don’t know anything about other demons.”

“You don’t?”

He shook his head and proceeded to float over the ground. “Only what I’ve gathered through experience and research. Somethings I innately know, sort of like an instinct-- devouring souls to gain power, or that I need offerings or possessions to be in the physical world. Everything else is like a gaping hole in my mind. Demons are immune to each other's omniscience.”

A crackling noise swelled against his ear, getting closer and closer. He tossed one arm in front of Mabel, and placed his back to her chest, the immaterial feel of his black coat sticking to her sweater, and his wings extending to make him seem bigger, more inhuman. “Stay behind me, Mizar. Don’t say anything.”

There was another thing about when he called her Mizar. It made her afraid. She took the name to hide her identity, knowing her name was just a step closer to knowing Dipper’s-- and wreaking havoc on their family and the world. There was a lot of power in true names. If you knew a demon's real name, it gave you power over them. Dipper never elaborated much beyond that. 

The conglomeration of different colored eyes connected at the base of a medulla oblongata peeled through the cover of the trees. Optic nerves and blood vessels braided into each other, bursting open with the pulse of wine colored blood, too rich to be human but releasing the familiar scent of metal. The blood drooled onto the ground, turning the grass and pine needles brown where they met. Mabel’s stomach lurched. She knew none of the parts were actually human, but she couldn’t help but imagine if they were. Imagining the gaping sockets left in someone’s skull, the feeling of her own eyes being ripped out, the snap of nerve endings. And as much as she wanted to, every thought racing through her mind telling her to do so, she couldn’t look away from it.

“I am Metus,” he said, despite having no mouth, “Blight of the Mind, Revealer of Truths.”

Dipper’s hand pushed her back. He didn’t dare look at her as he stepped forward. “I am Alcor the Dreambender, bender of dreams… wait… no, that came out wrong. I’m the…” He fumbled for the right words. So much for proving himself.

“I know who you are, half-breed. I’ve heard your name whispered across the dimensions. You reek of your impurities, your human soul.” The demon’s voice rattled through his non-existent mouth, course and gravelly, like a 70’s horror film monster.

Dipper cleared his throat, but couldn’t cover up the nervous crack that broke though. “This is--” his voice lowered into something more inhuman, like the sound was bending from the world around him instead of from his throat. “T̸͔̟̞͇̓͝h̶̙̪͖̃ͅĭ̷̼̺s̸͔̳͔͌͘͠ ̴̗̀͝i̴̗̫͋͒s̶̡̓̆͆̔ ̵̝̔ṁ̴̖͔̲͊y̵̜̑̊ ̸͇̞̮̒t̷̢̛̠̟̞͒͠é̷̻̓̚r̶͚͊̏̿ȑ̷̫ï̶̪͙̹t̵̻͆o̴̥̰̫͍̿̓̿r̵̥̹͚͉̎̈́y̵̖͈̯͈̓̔.̶̨͓̲̒̋ ̶̞̤̙͔̏̄̑̉L̷̯̽̌̐ͅe̸̛̞a̵̺̙̦̅́͘͜v̸͎̼̟̟́̽e̴̛͙͉͚̻̚͠ ̵̉̓͜w̸̥̜̠͉̿͘h̷̡̝̪͉̀͛̄ï̴̖̗̲͔̄l̶͓͇̲̺̑ḙ̴̛̞̓́ ̸̛̳̀͑͐I̸͓͂ ̵͈̻̐̑̐ŝ̵̗̝͈ṱ̴̮̠͗͋ḭ̷̢̕l̵͔͉̉̓͗͠l̴̢̟͋͝ ̶̙̍̑a̷̮̝̍͛͑͠l̶̦̋̐̽̋l̸̝̠̱͛̿͊͜ö̶̤̜̬̟w̸̹͇͂̈́ ̷̢̨͍̜̓̓͛i̸͍͖͇̪̎ẗ̶͖̩̏.̵̞̎͐̑ ̷̥͎̮͗”

“You don’t get it, do you, Dreambender?” Metus moved around him, wrapping the tail of its medulla oblongata around his shoulder and creeping under his chin. Mabel urged herself closer to him, digging her fingers into the sleeves of her coat. “This isn’t about quarrels or territory. This is about you. Things like you shouldn’t exist. You’re a disgrace to demons, a bastard amongst us. You consider yourself one among mortals and hide away in the physical plane.” All of his eyes shifted to Mabel in one sharp choreography, silently telling her to mind her own business. She backed away, easing into the cover of the trees. He continued, looking back to Dipper. “You are as a candle, better burnt out.”

Dipper countered, stepping to the side to block Metus’s view of Mabel, and hers of him. Trying to distract him from her. “What I do is my business. I’ll stay out of your way if you stay out of mine.”

“You are incredibly ignorant.” Metus’s medulla oblongata continued to slither around Dipper’s throat, making slimy sounds as it stuck and crawled across his skin. “Do you know why they call me the blight of the mind?”

He stood perfectly rigid, trying lean back like the bough of a tree in the wind. “No.”

“That is because you are less powerful than you think.” Metus tightened his grip around Dipper’s throat, not to try to make him suffocate, but to force him to look directly into the amalgamation eyes staring at him. Mabel caught the scream before it escaped her throat. Her feet felt hammered into the ground, too afraid to move, but too afraid to look away. Metus continued, lowering his gravel voice into a near-whisper, a low drone in her ear, though he wasn't even speaking to her. “They call me the blight because I eat away at the mind. I prey on fears and insecurities to deteriorate everything into insanity. You have so much to be afraid of. Allow me to become one of those things.”

Dipper pried at Metus, trying to free himself of the greater demon’s grip, kicking and struggling but having no success. He summoned flames from his hands, commanded shadows to creep up from behind trees and under bushes. His wings flapped violently, like a bird plucked out of the air. Yet, he couldn’t even leave a mark on Metus. His flames would sizzle out before they could burn, and his shadows were beaten into the dirt.

He barely choked out his next words, “Run! Mizar, run!” The innumerable eyes of Metus glowed an inky black, and hummed with the vibration of a rickety radiator about to explode.

Mabel closed her eyes and turned away, escaping into the security of the trees. She crouched into the cover of bushes, branches and thorns pierced into her spine. Sweat melted over her palms, making the handle of her baseball bat slick. And Dipper’s fearful screams were so loud and discordant that they made her ears bleed. The blood dripped down her jawline. 

She should run, she knew she should run. That’s what Dipper told her to do. And as much as she willed her legs to move, they remained stiff. But she couldn’t stop hearing his screaming. She looked over to him, clawing and gasping. Dipper was in trouble, and there was no way he was getting out of this one on his own. She couldn’t just leave him there to die. 

Dragging her fingers through the dirt, Mabel grabbed a decent size rock and squeezed it in her palm, jagged edges poking at her skin and bones. She staggered upwards, balancing against a tree. Then she reeled her arm back, and whipped the rock square into one of Metus’s eyes.

Only his one eye blinked, but all of them lost their inky glow, returning to an almost-human appearance. Dipper’s screaming stopped, though a wheeze took its place. His fingers still gripped at the medulla oblongata around his neck, though this time with less desire and strength, only a weak tremble. Realizing exactly what she had done, Mabel took a step backwards, only to find that Metus seemed to come closer without even moving at all.

So she ran. She shouldn’t have done that. Now Metus was going to kill them both. Her feet pounded against the uneven ground, wobbling the joints of her ankles and knees. A pair of eyes extended in front of her, cartoonishly extending on ever-expanding nerves. “Not so fast.” One of the eyes wrapped its fleshy nerve around her neck and dragged her backwards, heels scrapping the dirt and leaves into thin lines. She kept her grip on her baseball bat, trying to drive one of the nails into the long strand of nerve ending to no avail.

“You made a grave mistake,” he said. “You have no idea what you are messing with. I can see all your fears, your unremarkable human lifespan. Do you really think a rock can stop something like me?”

She looked at Dipper again, still trying to break free. And though his voice was weak, she could hear him call her, tell her to run and leave him. But that wasn’t an option. She was his Mizar, and he needed back up. He didn’t have to deal with things on his own.

Mabel grimaced, feeling the blood smear against her chin and down her jaw. “You are the one who made a mistake. Do you even know who I am?”

Metus laughed, “Who do you think you are, little girl?”

She gripped the baseball bat in her hand, something coursing up and down her arm. Something ancient and primal but still very much her—like she just hadn’t known this part of herself until now. Her body felt like a burning star. “I’m Mizar. Twin Star. Sister of Alcor the Dreambender. And I’m not afraid of you!” When she brought the bat down, she wasn’t expecting to see what happened next. The burning arched through her like lightning and out through the top of her bat. It sparked and glowed a soft pale gold, not the color of jewelry, but like the first pull of dawn over the horizon. It was warm like sharing body heat underblankets, or the kiss of sun in the summer. She was a brighter burning star. She couldn’t kill Metus, but she could blind him. If she wasn’t afraid, he would be powerless against her.

Words spilled out of her mouth, without much thought or reason to them. “I won’t let you hurt my brother! Leave and don’t come back. If you do, Alcor will kill you! He’ll be ready!”

Metus reeled back from it, eyes covered in a black but shimmering ash. He dropped Dipper, leaving him carelessly tossed on the ground, ambling about blindly. “You wretched mortal! Don’t think you have outwitted me. I will kill you and the half-breed yet.” And with that, he left in a glowing cast of red demonic flame.

Mabel abandoned the baseball bat and ran over to Dipper, who laid unmoving in the grass. He looked much different somehow. Still a demon with pointed ears, wings, and odd colored eyes, but he looked softer, and smaller. More like a child with his fingers tangled in the grass and hair falling across his forehead.

She scooped his head onto her lap and shook his shoulders. “Bro! Are you okay? Did the creepy-eye monster make you go insane? Please tell me you’re okay! I don’t think we would be able to find a therapist who would take you!”

He blinked awake, dazed and confused.  Mabel leaned back and allowed him to stagger upright, resting his head against her shoulders. A tremble cracked through him, his body having a hard time resting between reality and the mindscape. “Where’s Metus? Did he hurt you?” He was breathing heavy, even though he didn’t need to breath. (“Force of habit,” he told her once. “When I get scared or excited I start breathing really heavy. Otherwise, I actually forget to breath most of the time.”) 

“Gone.” Her concern turned into a smug smile. “I don’t know how I did it, but I used my baseball bat to burn his eyes and blind him! It was so cool! I can’t believe you missed it!” 

Dipper looked down at her baseball bat, the top now covered in a dark but glittering soot. It shined even more than the ash left behind by his own demonic flame, like it had dust of diamonds in it. He flopped his head back against her. “You can do demon magic. Of course, why didn’t I consider that before? I mean, I knew it had a possibility of 2.89% but I didn’t think it would actually happen. That would explain why you can see into the mindscape.” And perhaps it explained why he wasn’t fully a demon. The rest of Bill’s power had to go somewhere, so it went to Mabel. But Dipper didn’t say that part aloud.

“Woah, really? That’s so cool! Does that mean I can make deals or enter people’s dreams? Hmm. I wonder what Waddles dreams of?”

Moving away from her, Dipper pulled his legs up and pressed his forehead into his knees. His hands gripped around his shins. “I should have been able to stop him. I don’t want to think about what I would have done if he killed you. It would have been… apocalyptic at best. Metus showed me all the terrible things my powers could do to people and--” he looked up she was sitting next to him and promptly silenced himself. “Nevermind.” He proceeded to further bury himself into his knees.

Mabel pressed her palm into the fresh grass and fallen leaves and leaned forward. “Dipper,” she whispered.

“Mhm?”

“You know I’m always here, right? You can tell me anything, even if I don’t understand it. It’s time for you to get your head out of those self-help books and into the real world. You’ll feel better if you just talk it out to me.”

His breathing momentarily ceased. “I don’t want to scare you.”

“It scares me more when you don’t talk.”

He nodded, calculated rather than emotional. “There’s so much. I don’t know where to start…” His words drifted, but he kept his lips pursed together, as if he were letting his thoughts drift away on a boat. “Metus was right, you know, about being a revealer of truth. That’s what fear does, it reveals the ugly truths. I am afraid of everything I don’t know, but I am also afraid of knowing. I don’t know what I am or what I am capable of. I am, as Metus said, better burnt out.”

Mabel huffed out a sigh and wiggled herself closer to Dipper. One of her hands unlatched his from his shin and intertwined their fingers, hers very human, and his clawed. “We’ve got a couple hours until we have to be back for dinner. That’s plenty of time for us to find out together. You’re allowed to be scared of things, Dipper. You just don’t have to be when I’m around. I’ll look after you.”

He squeezed her hand, the press of the metaphysical realm against the flecks of sweat on her skin. “I don’t know what I’ll do without you, Mabel.”

Chapter Text

“Uhg,” Mabel moaned and slammed her face into her math book. “So boring.”


“Nope! No way!” Dipper arched his fingers as if gripping onto something, levitating Mabel’s head of her book and forcing her spine into an upright position. He then gestured towards the book, turning to the next page, and commanded that her glass of extra caffeinated Mabel juice be refilled. “No sleeping! You’re supposed to be studying.” 


Groaning, Mabel reached for her sparkly pink juice, fumbling to put the straw in her mouth. “And what are you doing?” she spoke with the straw crammed in the side of her cheek. 


Dipper shrugged and leaned back in the air, as if lounging on a folding chair at the pool. “Helping. Like I said I would. We made a deal, after all, and I want those pancakes you promised.”


She sucked the juice up through a bendy straw and then pushed the cup away. The stark light of her desk lamp in the nighttime cut across her face, revealing the bags that sunk under her eyes. “But I’m so tired, besides it will get done eventually.”


“No, it won’t. Your test is tomorrow morning.”


“Whelp. All the more reason to catch some zzz’s.” She spun around in her desk chair to find Dipper now standing in front of her. He was getting scary good with his powers the past few weeks. He was practicing on a more regular basis, but she suspected it also had something to do with the power of deal making. Something about magical contracts made him a lot stronger. 


He crossed his arms, frown casted across his ever-youthful face, a look that Mabel didn't like at all. “You have to do well in school, Mabel.”


“Says you. You just make a funny face and then you know everything! You have totally forgotten how hard it is to do things the human way.”


“Have not!” he countered.


“Have to!” she shouted back.


Dipper groaned and rubbed at the bridge between his eyes and nose. “Listen, I know math isn’t your favorite subject, but sometimes you have to do things that aren’t fun or exciting. I made a deal that I would help you pass this test and now I have to uphold my end of the bargain. This isn't like when we were in 7th grade. I can't give you the answers." In 7th grade, the twins sat next to each other in class. Dipper would angle his paper just right so that Mabel could see his answers. She would then spend her allowance on milkshakes from The Pie House down the street after school to thank him.


A grin uncurled, starting from the center of her lips and spiraling outward. “You did make a deal didn't you? And that means you have to fulfill it…” One finger tapped against the bottom on her chin in a slow repetition.


“Mabel… don’t you dare say it.” Dipper hesitated despite already knowing what she was thinking.


She jumped from her chair so that her face was level with his. “I want you to possess me and take the test for me!”


He cut one of his arms through the air, making a bright red STOP sign appear before her before dematerializing with a blink of her eye. “No way! You know I don’t possess people! Possession is what got me into this mess.” Or at least, he had always theorized it was. One thing Dipper could never do was try to figure out Bill’s motives. Why would someone willingly destroy themselves and then give all* their magic powers to their enemy? The only theory Dipper could come up with was that his first deal with Bill over the laptop never ended. He was technically Bill’s last tie to the physical world. And that Bill was just prepping him as another-- slightly more powerful-- vessel in order to destroy the world again. But that was just a theory.

*Of course, Dipper didn’t have all of Bill’s power. Mabel had a small amount, just enough to keep her human, while he had just enough to rip his humanity away. This was the one flaw in his theory.

He shook his head and sighed. “My answer is no. I’m not going to do to you what Bill did to me.”


“Dip,” Mabel cooed. She reached up and wrapped her hand around his wrist. “You aren’t Bill, okay? You aren’t going to do anything to hurt me. I think it might be good for both of us to at least try it. Think about it. You’d get to have your first day of high school that isn’t spent hovering, completely invisible, over my shoulder. Wouldn’t it feel good to have a human body again, even if only for a few hours? You could be--”


He cut her off. “Normal.”


“Yeah.”


When Mabel finally started high school, the sense of grief and isolation that followed Dipper felt like a rain cloud over his head. Before the Transcendence, Mabel was so worried about high school… and he was too. Sure, he was excited about trigonometry, and joining the AV club, and trying to make friends. But he also dreaded the social pressure, and feared what would happen if school stopped being easy. And when he realized Mabel would have to go through it without him, he was so worried about her he accidentally plagued the whole town with dreams of being ditched at the dance or coming to school in only their underwear. That was an awkward apology to make, he was still learning how the actual “dreambending” part of the job worked.


“What if we get caught?” he continued. “You'll get detention. And what if there's an emergency? I’d technically be you for the day-- that makes being Alcor tough. I’d lose most of my powers.”


“Pfft, it’ll be fine, bro. It’s just high school. There are no monsters or demon hunters or anything like that. Just crippling self-doubt and acne. I’ve been doing it for a couple weeks now. You’ll have nothing to worry about.”


Dipper spoke in all one breath. “Fine. You’ve got a deal.” He held out his hand to her, encased in blue fire. “But if I’m going to possess you, it’s not going to be for just a math test. I want the full experience. One whole day.”


Mabel stuck out her hand and grasped his, “You gotta deal. My body is yours for the next 24 hours! No ifs, ands, or buts! And no backing out!” The fire engulfed both their hands, cool to the touch like the first fall of snow.


“I still don’t like this, though. Let the record show I was against it.” A literal scroll unraveled behind him, while a quill checked one mark under the word AGAINST, leaving the tally under FOR blank.


“Pfft. You’re already so negative. You’ll see it was a good idea all along.” As she yawned and stretched, Dipper watched as her mindscape began to drift away into dreams of cute boys in minimal clothing and stuffed animals singing showtunes. He scooped her up off the chair and gently eased her into bed.


“I really hope you’re right about this.”

 

------


When Mabel woke up, Dipper had already started the day. She felt herself resting in the back of her consciousness, looking through her own eyes as if on a TV screen. She was in the bathroom brushing her teeth-- correction: Dipper was definitely driving and brushing her?... their?... teeth (the language was suddenly a challenge).


Mabel went to speak, but realized she had no control over her mouth, and that the words came out as an echo in her skull. “Uhh, Dipper?”


He spit in the sink, and looked directly in the mirror, the same way someone would break the fourth wall in a film. “Oh good, you’re awake. I figured I’d let you sleep in, since, you know, I’m in charge today.”

It had taken him awhile to readjust to the whole "human body" thing again. Remembering how gravity felt pressing onto a body, the pinch of hunger in your stomach, walking on solid ground. The sensation of a beating heart and lungs that filled with air made him swell with a spin of nausea.


She looked closer at her own reflection, knowing it was and wasn’t her all at once, but there was definitely something very peculiar. Her eyes were pitch black with gold plates for irises. “My eyes!”


He rubbed at their arm, nervously looking away from the mirror. “Yeah, it’s a little obvious. But don’t worry, you can only see it if you know to look for it. I have a plan to make sure nobody notices.”


“Well this is weirder than I thought it would be.” She paused,“Hey, wait. When you got possessed you were some kind of floaty sock puppet. Why don’t I get to be a sock?”

He groaned and started to brush through their hair. He was awfully delicate about it, taking each clump and brushing as if her hair was made of spun gold. Then it occurred to her, he was trying to be careful with her body. He was afraid that every little move could hurt her. He moved on to the next clump of hair and continued to brush. “I was a ghost, first of all. Not a sock. And there’s different kinds of possession. Bill kind of picked the worst one for me-- he also did it with the intention to kill me but that's moot. This option allows us to switch off who has control. Consider it sharing more than possession.”


“I wanted to ditch school and be a sock puppet all day,” Mabel grumbled.


“It’s not as fun as you think it would be, trust me.” He set down the brush, and for a moment, dragged their fingers through her hair and down her cheek. Mabel couldn’t pin down the emotion he was feeling, but she felt consumed by a certain kind of sadness. He missed being human. He longed for the ability to actually be there with another person. The course tangle of hair and the feeling of someone else’s breathing. But maybe, just maybe, the gesture wasn’t meant for him. Maybe it was meant for her, as if they were both standing there.


Dipper straightened their back and cleared their throat. “Could uhm… you drive for a moment? I didn’t want to get dressed myself, I figured I’d save that for you.” Mabel looked back in the mirror. Yup, still wearing an oversized t-shirt and socks. “It seemed like an invasion of privacy. I mean, I’m technically possessing you which is a huge invasion. But you know what I mean.”


It wasn’t the first time the twins had been in the other’s body. There was that time before the Transcendence when they had that issue with the body swapping carpet. They had made a very strict rule about anything below the waist. Somehow, all of this moved like clockwork to the twins. “Good call. Hand over the controls.”

----


Dipper walked into the school, head down so that Mabel’s extreme amounts of thick, brown hair would cover any potential of his inhuman eyes being seen. His plan wasn’t brilliant per say (there still was a 87% chance someone would notice), but it was a plan. Right before leaving school the twins crept down the stairs into Ford’s room to find one of his old pairs of glasses (considering he had spares for his spares). The glasses should be enough of a distraction to keep anyone from looking too close and realizing that Mabel’s brown eyes were actually black and gold.


Luckily, he had followed Mabel around the school enough times that he already knew her schedule or rather, he knew everything, but he often tried to not know everything about Mabel. He liked her best when she was full of surprises.


“I thought this would be fun but I'm actually just nervous and sweaty.” He spoke primarily in a whisper so no one would hear. High school was so far a lot worse up close. The hallways were crowded, the air felt moist and human, and it all smelt like body spray and hormones. 


“That's high school for ya’! It'll be okay. Math is second period, so we can always take turns switching in and out.” Mabel’s voice chimed, a literal inner monologue.


“Nope. No way. Normal humans don't just switch out. But I can’t help but get the feeling something bad is going to happen. It’s like we’re being watched.”


“1.) You feel like that all the time, with or without special powers. 2.) Of course we’re being watched, there’s security cameras in the hallway and stuff. Not to mention all the people surrounding us.”


“No, it’s not like that. It’s--” a screech echoed across the hallways. Candy and Grenda hurled themselves at Dipper, embracing him in a hug-- Grenda’s being particularly painful, but the good kind of painful that he missed.


“Hey, girls,” Dipper choked, realizing Mabel’s lungs were quickly running out of air. “Can you put me down now?” Letting go, Candy and Grenda barely allowed Dipper a moment to gasp for air.


Candy reached up, for the glasses. “Hey, I don’t remember you wearing glasses. Are they new?”


Dipper batted her hand away. He actually had no idea what to say to Mabel’s friends. Omniscience was of no help to him, it was all a matter of if he could be convincing as Mabel rather than anything he actually said. “Yup, definitely new. Very sudden onset of… nearsightedness? There was nothing else the doctors could do.” He was just as poor of an actor as always. 


“You know, I thought the demon stuff would have made you a better liar.”


“You poor thing,” Candy replied.


“They look like your Great Uncle’s!” Grenda commented. “Are you,” she gasped, “wearing old man glasses?”


Biting down on their bottom lip Dipper tried to think through another excuse. “Well you see I--”


Candy moved close enough that her reflection was cast in the glasses, and pursed her lips in calculated thought. Then she jumped back in surprise, “Oh Mabel your eyes! They’re--”


Dipper cut her off. “Fine, you caught me. Listen--”


“Completely hidden behind your new glasses! You need something more your style,” Candy continued. “I might have an old pair in my bedroom.”


Grenda nodded in agreement. “I can’t believe you didn’t call us. We’re your fashion team! We would have helped you pick out a pair!”


“I haven’t been able to pick them out yet… these are a loan?” Dipper said, unable to fully hide the hesitation in his tone. He winced and waited, as if that wouldn’t be a proper response. Something sharp and demanding ran across the halls. “Oh gee, wouldn’t you know. It’s the bell. I gotta go to my locker. See you girls, later!” He ran down the halls, not actually caring that Mabel’s locker was actually on the second floor and her first class was on the third.


“You’re so embarrassing. I can’t believe what just happened,” Mabel groaned.


Dipper chuckled under his breath, “Hey, you’re the one who made a deal with a demon. You should have known nothing would go as planned.”

 

-------


Pretending to be Mabel for the next couple of periods went better than Dipper expected it would. For the most part, he sat around pretending to pay attention while writing notes to Mabel in her notebook since he couldn’t actually talk to her out loud during class without blowing their cover. And he would admit that seeing the look on Ms. Roger’s face was pretty funny when “Mabel” was the first one to turn in her math test with all correct answers. For lunch he packed mostly candy and a sandwich, and the twins took turns with the controls. Mabel would do all the talking while Dipper would do all the eating. It was nice to actually eat something like a person rather than swallow it whole or just sort of absorb it (or whatever he did when he ate… he hadn’t really thought about it, nor did he want to). Though he could say it had its downsides too. Human bodies were awfully unreliable. Gym class was just as bad as he remembered it being. Not to mention being in his twin sister’s body was a whole new level of physical and emotional discomfort.

But there were just a few more periods until the end of the day, and as long as he did Mabel’s homework he could spend the rest of the day actually enjoying himself for once.


A catch of red hair curled through the hallways, backpack slung over one shoulder and voice cutting through the ramble of voices. “Hi, Wendy!” Dipper called, waving one hand in the air. He had almost forgotten Wendy was a senior in high school already. And her aura practically screamed senior, her casual stance and mostly empty backpack, but also the air she carried that everything was alright. 


She grinned and waved before walking over. “Hey, Mabel. What’s up?”


Dipper panicked. Right, he was playing Mabel today. He forgot about that too. “Nothing unusual. Just school. Just a regular day at school.”


“Way to blow it, dipstick,” Mabel chided.


Wendy laughed and tucked her hair behind her ear. “So what’s with the glasses?”


“Oh. Just trying out a new look. You know, wearing glasses make you look more ten times more attractive, though I think that’s a bit of an over-exaggeration.” Dipper tore his glance away and bounced nervously on both feet.


“Uh-huh… are you okay? You're actin’ a little weird.”


“I'm great! Never better!”


She rocked back on her heels before her green eyes widened and she pointed at something down the halls, “What's that?” Wendy pried the glasses of their face and stared close into those black and gold eyes. “Oh my God. Dipper?”


Mabel snickered. “See? You blew it, bro. I would never say over-exaggerate, also you didn’t think to put stickers on our glasses. I thought you knew me, but I guess I was wrong.”


Dipper pulled Wendy by the arm, pressing the both of them up against a set of lockers. He whispered, “Shhhh… we don't want anyone to know. Okay?” He glanced around to make sure no one noticed and put the glasses back on. On one hand, this was a flaw in their plan, and a greater chance they would get caught. On the other hand, he desperately missed getting to hang out with Wendy in public. He grieved at the fact that he missed the opportunity to go to high school with her, and to hang out with her friends. He missed things the way they were. 


Mabel pried the controls from him, knocking him momentarily back into her subconscious. “Hi Wendy! It's me, Mabel now! I'm talking to you with my mouth and so is Dipper!” she shouted. Stealth and secrecy were not her high points. 


Wendy raised an eyebrow, “Wait is this some sort of…”


“Possession situation. Yeah it is,” Dipper replied, trying to wriggle his way up into total control. But despite his power, Mabel was very strong of will.


“Yeah! Dipper took my math test for me!” Mabel added, bouncing up and down on her toes.


Wendy beamed, smile stretching across her face. “Oh sick! Hey man, can you take my college entrance exams? I want to stick it to the government about standardized testing.”


“No way,” Dipper pushed Mabel back into her subconscious. “Being Mabel is kind of weird. I didn’t realize how much hair got into your mouth when its so long, or how drafty it is under this skirt. Not to mention the fact that Mabel coughs up glitter? There’s no supernatural explanation for that. But, I don’t think I could handle possessing anyone who wasn’t Mabel.”


Wendy laughed and tucked some of her hair under her hair under her hat. “Alright, I won’t torture you more than Mabel already has. But keep me in mind next time you're thinking about causing some havoc in the real world.” 

"I can assure you this is the last time it will ever happen," he whispered. "I am sick of all the havoc that's been going on. For now on, I'm laying low." 


A deep growl echoed through the school. The floors shook and the display cases full of trophies from the 80s rattled, the lights flickering in tune with them. Dipper grabbed onto Wendy’s arm, trying to keep her balance, but realizing his balance was also off. Life was a little more difficult when you couldn't fly. 


“Is this an earthquake?” Wendy asked, looking around the hallway.


Dipper tried to zone out the sound of clattering lockers and screams just long enough to figure out exactly what it was. It was definitely no earthquake, he would have known that was coming a while ago. But if it wasn’t an earthquake… what was it?


Mabel’s voice quivered in the back of his mind. “Uh, Dip?”


The ground broke open like stitches tearing from an open wound. Dipper grabbed Wendy, pulling her down to the ground as flakes of earth and tile flung up from the floor. The rumbling in the floor reminded him of when their parents took the twins to an amusement park and the consistent rattle of being pulled upwards on the chain of a roller coaster, rocking his stomach back and forth so wildly that it made him nauseous. When the rumbling seemed to stop, he rolled back over, feeling something warm and wet sting when he moved. Blood. Red, human blood pooled at Mabel’s knees. Right. He wasn’t invincible in Mabel’s body.


It was time for this possession to end before things on any worse. But when he tried to leave, something kept him confined, like a chain tugging at his leg or a glass window surrounding his sister’s body.


“Uh-oh.” Mabel said. “I gave you my body for 24 hours… and I said you couldn’t back out.”


Dipper paused, “Are you kidding me?”


“Well, I really wanted you to take that test.”


Dipper groaned, trying to stand up but feeling the strain of a tired and injured human body weigh down on him. “I cannot believe you right now.”


Wendy rose unsteadily to her feet, brushing off the debris from her shirt and face. “What the hell was that?”


Dipper stared at the crater in the floor, surrounded by the dark shimmer of ash. “We’re about to find out.”


Squirming on the ground were a dozen centipedes, the size of large dogs. Dipper tried to focus, but the screams of everyone around him kept getting in his way. Of course it was demons, that would explain how they evaded his omniscience. The demons wriggled closer closer, turning their wrinkled heads in every direction. Then they rose up onto their abdomens, inhaling through their mouths, and locked onto the twins.


“Oh no,” Dipper said mostly to himself, sprinting in the opposite direction. “What are we gonna do? We can’t ignore these things until I can get out of your body.” Dipper said, trying to disappear into the crowd long enough to think of a plan.


“Then we’ll just have to fight them now!” Mabel plunged into control of her own body, and started to scramble through the crowd, looking for something in particular. The demons lurched against the students, rearing their hollow mouths lined with rows of tiny arrow teeth. Catching sight of the handle of a baseball bat sticking through the top of someone’s backpack, Mabel plowed over the people in front of her and yanked it free. “I’ve gotta borrow this! I’ll give it back, I promise!” She cleared a path through the running and screaming student body, beating down the demons one by one. Gold fire spit out from her like a fire cracker, leaving a dusting of shimmering ash on the ground. 

Charging at one of the demons, she reeled back her arms, and swung the bat, sending a few golden sparks up into the air. The thing reeled back momentarily, but soon continued to push forward through the darkening dust and fading lights in the hallway. It heaved itself over her opening up its jaw, revealing the black hole of its mouth. “Uhh Dipper… now would be a great time for you to tell me what’s going on,” Mabel stuttered, backing herself up into a wall.


“Okay, okay.” Dipper’s omniscience filled in the black in a rush, as if a bucket of water had dropped on him. “Those are mandobices-- lesser demons that live underground and are native to the nightmare realm. Their primary skill is the ability to eat through dimensional barriers and open gateways. They have no postformal thought and can’t make decisions for themselves, and will obey a master… but I don’t know who is controlling them.”


Mabel sucked in a breath, “Oh man, you really think that fast? It was so weird, like someone was dropping words into my brain from the top of a building.” It gave her a combination headache and brain freeze. 


“Yup, you get used to it. Now try to hit that thing in the back of the throat.”


“I’ll give it a--” a demon rose up and knocked her to the ground, sending the bat spiraling out of her fingers. The demon reared its oval and grinning mouth over her, its shriek like a the wheels of a car spinning ceaselessly against the concrete. She tried to burn it, but kept feeling the spark inside her die out before it could be lit. It bent down to swallow the twins, when an axe lodged into its head. A thick green and bitter smelling sludge poured from its open cranium and down onto Mabel’s sweater. The thing turned following source of it’s anguish.


“That’s right,” Wendy yelled, prying the axe from its head and jumping back into a clearing. “Come get me you big, ugly bugs.”


Mabel looked from the sludge on her sweater to the green stains on Wendy’s hands and shirt. “Wendy, what are you doing?”


“Buying the two of you some time to think of a plan together.” Then she grinned, freckles covered up by the smudges of dirt on her cheeks and a thick smear of demon blood. “I once fought a bear with a stick. This is nothing!” She slashed her axe again, this time taking one of the demon’s teeth.


Mabel’s breath felt stale in her chest, and the blood on her knees dribbled into the hem of her socks and onto her shoes. “Any ideas. Dipper?”


“Working on it,” he replied, trying to gain control of her body. For the first time, he realized he wasn’t used to not having his powers. There was a turn of the tide. He was more a demon now than anything else. He felt like he needed more time to readjust, time to think. But Wendy couldn’t hold those things off forever. “I don’t know! If I could use my powers, this would be so much easier.”


“Your powers, huh?” Mabel looked down at the blood oozing from her knees and into her socks. “Well, what if you can’t use them... but I can?”


“What do you mean?”


“I’m not really sure, but there’s only one way to find out.” Reaching down, she scooped some of her blood off of her legs with two fingers. She held it up and closed her eyes, trying to find a single moment of peace and focus in the midst of the screams of students, the fire alarm that someone must have pulled, the feeling of the mandobices lurking closer. Mabel let out her breath, “I give my blood in offering. Please take it and strengthen our possession, let me use your powers in your place.” She knew how strong he became when working under a deal, but this time she had to offer something more serious than pancakes. A piece of herself. 


“No, Mabel! You could get hurt or worse. I’m against it. I'll figure something else out.”


She stopped and swung the bat with the full arch of her body at one of the demons, disorienting it enough for her to make a hasty escape in the opposite direction. “No other choice, bro. Take the blood or we get eaten by giant millipedes--”


“Centipedes.”


“Whatever. I know possession is scary to you, and I’m sorry I pushed you into it. That was selfish. But please, help me out so we can kick the snot out of these guys.” The blood on her fingers was now dripping down her hands, leaving brown trails wherever it fell.


Dipper sighed, her offering was a good one. She was his twin sister after all, anything she offered would have been good. But there was something about the ringing of her blood in his being that suggested something more. Blood was the thing they shared with each other. He had to trust her.“May I refer to the record that this was a bad idea." He gathered his focus. "Mabel Pines, I accept your offering. NOW LET’S KILL THESE DEMONS.” When he spoke his voice curled out of Mabel’s mouth, a low growl that echoed across the white walls and lockers.


It was a funny feeling to share a body like that. Both twins felt themselves equally in control. Mabel tossed the glasses off of her face, revealing a pair of bright golden irises and black sclera. No point in hiding now. The blood that oozed from the scrapes on her knees turned bright gold.


She grinned, wiping the sweat and demon blood from her forehead. The mandobices had begun to corner Wendy, a few of them distracted by students trying to escape. “Hey demons!” She shouted, bracing her bat into position. The demons turned, rearing their widening mouths and teeth dripping with fresh human blood. Mabel waited until they pooled a few feet away from her, holding remarkably still. “D̴̝̝͓̝ọ̵͉̠̜̽n̸̘̺̯̺̈́͌̚'̴̜̉̐t̵̘̞̣͔͝ ̸̲̯̀̓̓̈́m̶͓̠̙̍e̸̟̬̣̓͐̅̕s̷̳̥̞͂͌͂̈́s̴̮̮̟̽̑̆̀ ̴̰͑̉͊w̷͖̄̂i̶̹͖̬̽̎̚̕t̴͓̎̀̓̈́ͅȟ̶͜ ̷̮̙̠̰̈̽̈A̸̼͇̦͙̐̐̾l̷͚̲͕͙̀c̷͕̊̽ǫ̸̩̯͓̽͘ṙ̷̛͚̖̠̎̓ ̴͈̝̂͊̋̕͜ȁ̵̧̰̣͘ṋ̵̮̿ḑ̶̮̬͍̓͊̒ ̵̨̤̮͎̉͠M̶̹̪̆͝͝ȉ̴̢̧̝̑z̸͖̯̟̬͗a̵̮̫̒r̴͖̋̉” She swung the back, the golden arch of flame that followed it larger than it had ever been before and sparkling as if tossing off firecrackers. It send the mandobices spiraling, skin burning away in thick flakes. They screeched in pain, wailing piercing against the sky. They hissed and wretched until there was nothing left but glimmering ash and a whole in the center of the high school hallway.


An eerie stillness passed over, anticipatory eyes waiting to make sure nothing in the crater would move.


Dipper blinked and took a step back, the power of Mabel's blood offering already weakening after such a display. “Woah… How are you better at this than me?”


“I know right?" she laughed. "I should have been the demon. Is it too late to trade?”


Off in the corner, Wendy groaned and staggered to her feet, the axe drooping in her hand. “Wendy!” the twins cried, rushing after her through the crowds of curious and terrified teenagers. 


Mabel reached out and helped her regain her footing. “Wendy! You were so cool! You were like,” Mabel reenacted the fight by swinging her arms around and making dramatic sound effects. "And, oh my god, we would have been toast with out you distracting those demons! You’re like a demon hunter or something!” 


Wendy grinned to herself, panting for breath but still running off of the high adrenaline of the fight. “Demon hunting, huh? That sounds way more fun than college. Maybe I found my calling."


“D-demon hunting? I don’t like the sound of that,” Dipper replied.


“Aww come on. I’d never hunt you,” Wendy wrapped an arm around their shoulder. “You gotta admit we  were pretty badass. And then what you guys did! Man, I thought I was gonna go blind or something! We’d make a pretty good team, the three of us.”

"I suppose..." he said. 


“Yeah!” Mabel chimed. “See, Dipper! Like I told you. This was a good idea.” 

------

Hours later, the twins took turns pushing the broom across the hallway, scooping up dirt, chips of tile, and flaked demon blood. “I told you this was a bad idea, now we both have detention. And you have to retake your math test. Why did I ever agree to this?” Dipper chided. Apparently, using a demon to take your test was against the school’s academic honesty policy. And then allowing that demon to attract other violent demons called for endangerment of the student body is considered a threat. Luckily, no one was severely injured, and Dipper was able to talk everyone down from calling the police and having them arrested. Or, well, he was able to toy around with their mindscapes to make them more understanding.


“What are you talking about? Today was awesome!” Mabel bounced up and down on their toes. “Did you even see how amazing we were? And besides, now school is canceled until the giant hole in the floor is fixed and everyone recovers from the trauma.”


“Mabel… what we did was terrifying. Do you even know what happened?”


“We killed a whole bunch of demons in a blaze of glorious flame?”


Dipper bit down on the bottom of their lip and momentarily rested their arms on the broom handle. “No, we brought both of our powers together. Or I guess Bill’s power. It wasn’t split in 2, it was full and realized. We vaporized those demons, Mabel. I’ve never been able to do that before and then it suddenly became so easy.”


“And what does that mean?”


“I don’t know yet, but nothing good.” He went back to sweeping, the dust pooling up in their face and leaving a chalky taste in their mouth in a dark brown mushroom cloud. 


“This really is worrying you, isn’t it?”


“Well, of course it is!" When he yelled, her voice strained. "I don’t know what Bill was up too, but this makes me worry that…”


Mabel interjected, tossing their arms out dramatically and throwing the broom. “For the final time! You’re nothing like Bill! And I’ll prove it. Did you have a good time today?”


“What? No! We got attacked and jeopardize the lives of hundreds of people.”


Mabel groaned and rolled her eyes. “No. Besides that. The regular school day. Without all the demon stuff.”


Dipper paused to think. “Yeah. I guess I did. It was nice to be human, really nice actually. You know, beyond all the terrible parts.” 


“See? Bill would have thrown a hissy fit and started cramming forks into my arm or whispering universal secrets into people’s ears like ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg’. Information like that would absolutely throw me into insanity.”


Dipper laughed. “Alright, you got me there.” He picked up the broom, sweeping more of the dust into a corner. "But it doesn't change the fact that this is all really suspicious. Something is happening and I know it isn't coincidence." Then he stopped abruptly, and stared out at the hallways. “You know what? I want to enjoy my next nine hours and thirteen minutes. I’m not going to spend all of it sweeping up some mess.” With a snap of their fingers, using what bit of his energy remained to twist and turn reality, all the dust and debris folding in on itself until there was nothing left. “We should have some fun. After all, it’s not everyday you get to be human. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”


Mabel thought to herself. “Eating sugar burritos until we throw up?”


“Maybe something less repulsive… I was thinking going to the movies and buying only one ticket, even though there’s two of us? The new Tiger Fist movie is out.”


Both twins smiled at the same time. It was good to agree on something. “That sounds very human.”

Chapter Text

Mabel laid on her stomach, thumbing through another edition of Teen-Teen Magazine. She fluffed up the pillow that propped up her head and readjusted her position on the bed. A green glitter pen spun between her fingers. She tacked another line of green gel on the glossy paper. She pursed her lips, “This quiz is bogus! I’m definitely more of a Cleopatra than a Susan B Anthony!” She threw the magazine on the ground and rolled on her back. Waddles oinked from the floor and chewed on the corner of the magazine. “You said it, Waddles. This is so boring,” Mabel sighed.

She eyed the big summoning circle that remained etched into the wood floor for all of Dipper’s comings and goings. He had left that morning for “business” as he put it. This whole demon thing was starting to become like a job for him. Mabel watched him meticulously adjust his tie and check to make sure his teeth were still unnervingly sharp in the mirror before leaving. The summonings were starting to get more frequent, “It’s to be expected,” he told her. “People are finally starting to recognize me as my own thing! Of course they’re going to test it out. I’m sure that after a while people will get bored of me and then everything can go back to normal.” This left Mabel alone most afternoons and weekends. Candy and Grenda had after school activities and practices. Soos was usually busy with Melody now, and Wendy was off with her friends. The only thing Mabel could do was take stupid magazine quizzes, play Cat’s Cradle by herself, or work the gift shop with Stan.

It’s not like she could be angry with Dipper. Since the possession situation he’d stopped coming to school with her all the time. And the thing about being incorporeal is that all you can do is float around and wait for someone to summon you. Having to keep up with the whole demon thing would keep his mind off the, well, the whole demon thing. It usually stressed him out, being a demon usually meant meeting all the worst kinds of people in the world. The power-hungry, the violent, the manipulative, frat boys. There was no amount of candy or MonsterMon cards that could make up for the kinds of situations he kept being put in.

A bright light pinged beside her, casting a blue glow over the attic ceiling. Waddles squealed and scampered under the bed to hide. Mabel turned her head to see the summoning circle blinking in and out. Someone was trying to summon Dipper, except he wasn’t answering. He had gotten a lot of calls throughout the day. He must still be busy. He’d just have to let it go to voicemail.

“I wonder,” Mabel said to herself, leaping off the ground. If she could answer those calls, maybe Dipper could come home sooner. She looked at her hands, the pale blue light against the sparkly pink nail polish and smiley face bandaid. She could do magic. Dipper said that demonic flame was used in teleportation. Who was to say that she couldn’t use her powers to do all the same stuff?

She grabbed her backpack from under the bed, making sure to give Waddles a quick pat on the head. She stuffed it with really anything she thought she might need: grappling hook, candy, gel pens, notebook, copies of Teen-Teen Magazine (in case she got bored), and of course her trusty baseball bat.

She swung the bat over her shoulders. “Well Waddles, wish me luck! Let’s hope I don’t accidentally split open my insides or anything.” She stepped into the circle. The air inside was always tasteless and lacked any kind of temperature. She planted her feet firmly against the ground. Holding up one hand, she concentrated hard on the feeling of a flame bursting in the spaces between her fingers, running up and down her palm. A flicker of gold light sparked, contrasting against the blue glow of the circle. “Here goes!” she shouted. The flame blasted out from her hand, changing the summoning circle’s light from blue to pale gold. It roared in her ears, covering up the entirety of her vision.

When Mabel blinked, she was still inside the circle, but the circle was somewhere else entirely. It was definitely in a barn, the rank stench of manure and old wood wafted into her nose and stacks of hay rumbled from her impact. Her mouth was sour with the taste of stomach acid, but she was well passed the days of throwing up after teleporting. But she had done it  all on her own. Take that Dipper! 

“‘Scuse me?” a man said, sunburn and dirt on his face. He crossed his arms and scowled at her, a snarl escaping when he spoke. “Are you supposed to be the demon I was promised?”

Mable blinked. That’s right, people were expecting some sort of fighting creature. Not a 14 year old girl in a Dream Boy High sweater. A silence crept through her mouth.

“Ye gonna answer me or not?” the man shouted.

Mabel shook her head and cleared her throat. “I’m uhhh,” she paused, eyes darting around the empty barn. “I’m Mizar, his temp! Alcor is busy at the moment, but your call is very important to us.” She slipped the backpack off her shoulders and scrambled for one of her notebooks and gel pens. “What demonic favor can we do for you, sir?”

He rubbed at the scruff on his chin. “Temp, huh?”

“Oh yes, there’s some big changes going on here! We’re under new management, the last demon who ran this joint is uh… well he’s no longer with us.” She smiled, and pressed the tip of her pen into the soft, clean notebook page.

“Ain’t you a little young to be a temp?”

“I teleported here, sir. We’re far beyond those kinds of questions.”

He nodded. “Alright, then. Well, all the neighbor kids keep sneakin’ into the barn at night to take the horses for a joyride. And now some of the horses are gettin’ loose or injured and I’m darn sick of it! I want someone to put a curse on my property so that those kids can’t keep comin’ in here!”

Mabel took some notes, mostly vague words like “horse” and “joyride” and “curse” followed up by many artistic renderings of horses. She tapped the pen on her bottom lip. “Would you like that curse malevolent or benign?”

“Benign,” he replied. “I don’t want no harm coming to those kids. But I want them to stay off my property.”

“We have a couple of offers right now. We have an attack scarecrow that will chase off any intruders. Or we can put a moat around the fence so the kids will fall in. Oh!” she scribbled something on her notebook. “How about a curse that prints HORSE STEALER on their foreheads for a week?”

He thought about that for a moment. “Can I have that scarecrow call their parents?”

“We’ll have to up your price, but it’s possible.”

“That’s right, so what’s my price at right now?”

Mabel reviewed her notes. “3 cases of Pit Cola, 20 candy bars, and rides on horses whenever we want-- with 24 hours advance notice, of course.” That seemed about equal with Dipper’s usual exchange rate. But it also seemed right somewhere in the back of her head, that the power in the soda and candy was equal to the amount of magic that it would take to curse a scarecrow.

“We?”

“Yes, this is a business. I do get benefits.”

“Fair enough.” He held out one hand, fingers crusted with dirt. “Sounds like a deal, missy.”

She took his hand, giving it a firm shake. She felt something deep inside her, not a compulsion or a joy. Something more like a putting a paper away in a filing cabinet or adding something else to a to do list. And somehow she knew that the information had been passed on to Dipper, like an email that he would open later. She had to resist all urges to remark on how cool it was.

She broke the handshake and scooped up her backpack. “Thank you for your business, sir. You can expect Alcor to come in the next 3 to 4 business days. No need to wait around, he’ll leave a note that he was here.” The summoning circle pinged again beneath her feet. “I have another customer on the line. I’ll have to let you go.” She summoned another flame, and felt herself lift into the inbetween of space and time.

------

This temp job thing was much stranger than Mabel had expected. The guy with the horses was just a test run. She knew Dipper dealt with a lot of crazies, but she never exactly knew how crazy.

Sorry ma’am, we don’t do cleaning services. Alcor is actually super messy and leaves his things all over the floor. And I won’t even tell you about when he last washed his clothes.”

“Nah, love potions aren’t in his domain. I can give you the number for a really good love god, though.”

“Infinite power and knowledge? Sorry, we have a waiting list going. You’ll be dead before we can get to you. I can offer you an encyclopedia set instead.”

“A cult? Pfft. Why would you wanna worship him? Let me tell you about the Lamby-Lamby dance, that will change your minds.”

It was no wonder that demons didn’t really eat, drink, or sleep. Mabel was already exhausted, and she had only been at it for a few hours. How did grown ups even have jobs? She answered her next call. The summoning took her to a living room with thin carpeting, a floral printed couch with plastic over it, and lacy curtains. An old lady stood in front of the summoning circle, gripping to her cane. Her slippers shuffled against the carpet when she moved. The air even smelled like old lady.

Mabel grinned, “Aww! You’re such a cute, little old lady! Your hair looks like silver cotton candy.”

She raised her cane and prodded Mabel in the gut, “What kind of joke is this supposed to be!” she shouted. “Why are you taking the form of an obnoxious little girl? That's a pathetic trick!" 

Mabel clutched to her stomach and batted the cane away. “Hey! I’m charming!” she whined. “And Alcor is very busy right now. I’m his temp, Mizar. What can I help you with?"

The old lady scoffed, "Ha! As if I would accept your assistance. Go away, leave me." 

"Can you at least tell me what you need? I can leave a message for him." 

The old lady frown and shuffled her way over to the window and pulled back the curtain. “My cat, Sprinkles, is stuck in this tree. I want Alcor to get him down.”

“Awww,” Mabel cooed and pressed her face up against the glass. “I love cats! I can get him down for you!”

“No,” the old lady smacked her with the cane again. “It has to be Alcor! I don’t want you doing it…” she raised an eyebrow. “Who did you say you were again?”

“Mizar.”

The old lady grinned, as if she had finally put the whole thing together. “Ahhh. Mizar. Yes, the temp.” Her thin lips spread wide when she spoke. She rubbed her hands together in menacing circles. “Are you close to him? Alcor? If something happened to you, he would not hesitate to come for you?" 

Mabel shrugged. “Uh yeah, duh.”

“Hmmm. Alright. In that case, I will let you get my cat out of the tree.”

Mabel tossed her backpack to the ground, whipped out her trusty grappling hook, and walked out the front door, followed by the old lady. The cat stared at her from the top of the tree in the center of the lawn, with big black and hollow eyes. It dug its claws into the thin branch of the tree, as if waiting for something. “Don’t worry!” Mabel called up into the turning fall leaves. “I’ll get you down!” She aimed her grappling hook up at the thicked branch of the tree and pressed the trigger, sending the hook and cord to spiral through the air. Latching onto the tree she scaled herself upwards into the thick.

The cat stared at her, a slight curl to its mouth and whiskers. It’s black body arched like the peak of a mountain, revealing a white patch on its stomach. “Aww, hi kitty,” she cooed, bracing her feet against the trunk of the tree and reaching out with one hand. “It’s okay, I’m not gonna--” the cat hissed and clawed at her hand, leaving thin ribbons of blood behind. It’s hollow eyes stared into her, as its snarling mouth grew larger in size along with the rest of its body. Spikes tore through its back and its teeth turned to fine needles. Smoke rose from its huffing nostrils.

The cat dug its needle teeth into her sweater, yanking her away from the tree and shaking her like a rag doll. The hot smoke burned the back of her neck. “Careful, Sprinkles,” the old woman called. “She’ll make much better bait. We want her alive for now.” The tree transformed itself into a steel cage, with salt circles surrounding it and dozens of pentagrams etched into the bars that were barely half of Mabel’s height, making her crouch down. 

“Bait? What do you mean? Who are you?” she asked, gripping her hands around the bars. Hot tears welled up in her eyes, though she refused to let them fall. All she had to do was hold still and wait, right? Dipper would eventually come for her. Right?

The old woman snickered, though now she was starting to look less like a sweet old lady and more like a super villain, body morphing into a new shape. “I am Basta. Demon of deceit, illusion maker, also crazy cat lady. And you've met my familiar, Sprinkles." Sprinkles purred at the notion of being mentioned. 

Mabel huffed, tricked by cats. She was so easily blinded by love. “What do you want with me?”

“Aww you think you’re so important.” She snapped her fingers, summoning a golden cat throne to appear behind her as she sat. Her purple eyes scanned the scene. “This trap was originally not meant for you, but I think this plan is much better. Alcor will eventually learn his dear Mizar is missing.  When he arrives here, he’ll have to decide. His life... or yours! His pesky human emotions will get the better of him, and I will win the bet over who kills him first!” She cackled, a real evil villain laugh from Saturday morning cartoons. “I am so evil. Good job me.”

“A bet? What is it with everyone wanting to kill him? He hasn’t done anything!” First Metus, now Basta? What? Did these guys have weekly tea parties to talk about their worst enemies or something?

Basta examined her manicured claws. “I don’t expect you to know much about demon culture. We like to keep our bloodlines pure. We don’t like things that are different. And your Alcor is very different. Half-breeds have a tendency to break the laws of demonhood. We have to kill the weed before it grows too strong. What I wouldn't give to see the mortal  plane covered in his golden blood!" 

While Basta spoke, Mabel tried to reach for her backpack, dropped not too far from where her cage rested. “Too strong? What does that mean?”

“Like I would tell you what that means,” Basta scoffed. She looked down at Mabel, with her body pressed up against the bars of the cage, arm extended and fingers just touching the strap of her backpack. Snapping her fingers, Basta summoned the backpack to her side. “Can’t have you getting into this. What’s in here anyway?” She carelessly tossed out Mabel’s notebook and baseball bat onto the ground.

“Hey! I know you’re a demon, but that’s pretty rude,” Mabel said.

Basta paused and looked into the backpack. “Is this… Teen-Teen Magazine! I haven’t read a good magazine in so long. I may be 1,456,236,781 years old, but I still have the heart of a teenager!” She kicked her feet up onto the throne and flipped to the inside of the magazine. “Whose Reincarnation Are You quiz on page 17. I do like mindless magazine quizzes.” She grabbed one of the glitter pens from Mabel's backpack and tacked off her answers.

Mabel scrambled about the inside of her cage. This was bad news. She couldn't summon Dipper for help. Even if she begged and pleaded with him, he would give himself over to Basta with out question. And the cage was protected with different pentagrams to keep demons inside, if he did come he would be trapped instantly… except she wasn’t a demon. A salt circle wouldn’t work on her, nor would any kind of binding circle. There was nothing keeping her inside the cage. An idea hatched in her head. She summoned a tiny flame on top of her finger and etched the framework a small summoning circle into the bottom of the cage.

“What is this!” Basta screamed. “Mother Theresa! That couldn’t be more wrong! I am most definitely Elizabeth Bathory!”

“Tell me about it,” Mabel chucked, continuing to etch her circle. “These quizzes are so artificial they could never capture someone with a personality as wonderful as yours.” Sprinkles meowed loudly at Basta, taking note of the circle starting to form at the bottom of the cage. Mabel put a finger to her lips and shushed it.

“I know! I am wonderful aren't I?” Basta huffed and leaned back in her chair. She licked her finger and turned the page. “Oh! Top ten cutest cats photos. I like that.”

“You should keep reading,” Mabel suggested. “I packed a whole bunch of magazines! You definitely won’t be distracted. I’ll just be over here, watching your evil plan unfold.”

“You are absolutely right!” Basta shifted her attention back to the magazines.

Mabel finished off her summoning circle, and positioned herself neatly over it. Sprinkles hissed and whined at Basta, who merely dismissed him with a wave of her hand and a tack of her pen against the paper. Mabel pressed her hands up against her tiny summoning circle. It burned a soft gold, casting shadows across her face. It was a lot smaller than what she was used to, and she had only been teleporting to answer summonings, but it would have to do for now. She closed her eyes and focused all her energy on trying to move her body out of the cage and into the summoning circle that originally brought her there. Sprinkles whines pierced her ears and the huddled position she was in made her back hurt. But she didn’t break her concentration. The golden flame encased her, warm to the touch, and when she opened her eyes she found herself inside the house she was originally summoned into.

“Haha! Yes!” She leapt out of the summoning circle. Sprinkles peered into the cage, whiskers arched in confusion while Basta remained absorbed in her quiz.  

Next step was retrieving her baseball bat. She moved around the front of the house, crawling on her hands and knees up to where her baseball bat lay abandoned in the grass next to Basta’s feet. Mabel inched her way forward, hoping that she would be quiet enough and that Basta would be distracted enough for her to reach the bat in time.

“What!” Basta shouted, sending the of Teen-Teen Magazine up in purple flames. “Sir James is a much cuter cat than Mittens! Look at his little paws!” She looked over to the cage, waiting for a response only to find it empty and Sprinkles pawing at it. Basta leapt from her chair, purple flames licking around her fingers. “Where is she! Sprinkles, what have you done, you worthless feline?” Sprinkles whimpered in shame, curling into a ball.

“Hey, crazy cat lady!” Mabel shouted, tapping her baseball bat against her hand. “Sorry to tell you that your trap only works on demons, and I’m no demon.” The bat burst into flames as she bore her teeth in a grin.

“Why you!” Basta hurled herself at Mabel, a purple fiery rage encompassing her. Mabel took a swing with her bat, puncturing the nails right into Basta’s gut. Reeling back in pain, Basta snarled over to Sprinkles. “What do you think you’re doing? Attack her!” Sprinkles covered and covered his head with his paws.

“You know, for a cat lady, you’re not so nice to your cat. Sprinkles deserves better!” Mabel took another crack at Basta’s head, letting the rusty nails sink deep into her skull, the knowing full well her attacks wouldn’t do any real damage but that they would be enough distract Basta so she could escape.

Basta roared, replacing what should have been her flesh with more of the flashing purple flame, eyes set deep inside. She stretched upwards, her enormous body now towering over Mabel. “That’s it! I’ll kill you too! I’ll vaporize you out of existence!” She picked Mabel up between her thumb and forefinger, flames burning away at her sweater and exposed skin, and squeezed as if Mabel were a blueberry. Mabel screamed and cried, trying to summon her own flames into a barrier around her body only to watch them be smothered out. The tears evaporated off of her face. The air smelled like burning flesh and hair.

Something growled behind Basta, a low and hollow sound that echoed across the now disheveled reality. Basta looked over her shoulder just in time to see Sprinkles leap through the air and catch her between his needle teeth. In her surprise, she dropped Mabel to ground with a clatter. He shook her around, her limbs flinging through the air.

Mabel staggered to her feet, trying to ignore the numbing pain of her burns. She darted to the cage, opening up the lock and holding it open. “Hey, Sprinkles! I think it’s time Basta had a timeout! What do you think?” His dark eyes looked over to the cage, and trotted over, spitting Basta out inside. Mabel slammed the door shut, being sure to melt the lock with her flames. “Ha! Take that!” She laughed as Sprinkles purred with satisfaction.

“No!” Basta shrieked, slamming her hands against the bars. “I will get out of here and wreak my vengeance upon you!”

“I’m sure you will,” Mabel replied. And then she leaned in until her brown eyes met Basta’s purple. “But I want you to take this as a warning. Don’t underestimate us. I’m human and I beat you. Alcor is both human and demon. You’re afraid of him. And you should be. Be afraid of both of us.” She turned away, gathering all of her things back up into her backpack. She carried it in her left hand, her back being too scorched to handle it. She looked to the massive monster cat sitting beside the cage, “You’re free to go, Sprinkles. I’d take you home with me, but I think you’d scare my pig.” He nodded with closed eyes and scampered off, turning back into a small house cat.

She stared back into Basta’s cage, the demon trying to gnaw her way out of the bars. “This is your last chance. If you leave Alcor and I alone, we will leave you alone too.”

“Never,” she hissed.

“Then you leave us no choice. We’ll keep getting stronger, and we will keep beating you.” Mabel stood up straight and smiled with flushing cheeks. “It was a pleasure doing business with you. Please call again if you want your butt kicked a second time.”

With that, Mabel stomped her foot against the summoning circle, disappearing completely.

 

------

 

Mabel landed back in the bedroom, immediately falling over onto the floor. She rolled over onto her back, feeling the ache of where Basta tried to burn her, but also relieved to know all of her flesh was still intact even if her Dream Boy High sweater was not. This demon stuff was really exhausting, not to mention almost deadly.

The summoning circle lit up blue, though blurry through her weak and watery vision. Dipper ruptured from the flames, dropping to her side on the floor. He spoke faster than she could comprehend, but she didn’t know if was a him thing or a demon thing. “Oh man, Mabel! What happened? I-I couldn’t see you! Did something attack you? Was it another demon? Oh no, you’re hurt. I think I can heal you! Just hold still!” He gingerly scooped her up into his arms. His body felt strange against hers; she knew he was there but she could only feel the memory of him on her skin. His hand pressed a hand against her back, a hum echoing from the soft blue light. Relief swelled through her, it was as if he were brushing sand off of her skin or wiping away dirt.

She peered up at him and chuckled. He looked worse than she did, well a different kind of worse. A cut dashed across his forehead where his birthmark was, golden blood streaming from it. The edges of his suit were torn and bright white feathers stuck out from from his air and the back of his collar. His wings dropped to his sides like wilted flowers. “You don’t look so hot either,” she commented.

He rolled his eyes. “When I lost sight of you, I went looking all over for where you might be. I ran into some problems along the way. Demon chickens and such.”

“Yeah, well," she sat upright, stretching out her newly healed body. "I kind of ran into a demon named Basta. Her domain is illusions and deceit… also cats. She was going to trick you and kill you, but I ran into her first when I was trying to fill in for you.”

“About that, what on earth were you thinking? Trying to be my temp? Mabel, the only reason I’m not dead is because I’m immortal! You’re just lucky you can use demonic flame or you’d be a pile of ashes right now!”

She laughed again, “You sound like mom.”

Dipper’s look of wide eyed concern turned into a stark frown. “Someone has to! You’re becoming more reckless than I am.” 

“It’s a good thing I did go! If I hadn’t gone in your place, Basta would have killed you! She laid a trap specifically for you and everything. I escaped because I was human, but you... “ She paused a moment to reorganize her thoughts. “Dipper, there are demons from all over trying to kill you. They’re scared of you… Basta said they had to 'kill the weed before it grows too strong'. It was really spooky." 

“Really?” His concern faded away, eyes coming light and expression widening. She could see all the gears turning in his head. “I-” And then he stopped. “That’s not my primary concern. If demons want to come kill me, that’s fine. But it means more and more demons will be in Gravity Falls. And they’ll be looking for you too. We need to lay low. Set up precautions.”

“A precaution would be getting better at your powers. If they don't want you getting stronger than that's what you need to do!" 

He shook his head. “No. If I get stronger it will just lure them here faster… I’ll just… I’ll find a way to protect the town. I’ll make a full scale unicorn spell or something. I’ll stop answering any suspicious summonings… I’ll…” he stopped talking for a moment when he noticed she was still staring at him. She watched the revelation pull into his expression. “I’ll find a way to reverse the Transcendence. That way everyone stays safe and everything goes back to normal.”

Mabel shook her head, rubbing at the sore parts of her back. “Dipper..."

"That's it that's what I have to do. I can't spend the rest of eternity like this. I can't spend the rest of my life without..." he caught himself in the middle of his words, looking to Mabel. "You know what never mind." 

"What is it?" 

"I said never mind." He stood up off the floor, not making a sound against the creaky floors. "I need to clear my head. There's a lot of information dropping into my brain right now. I need to spend some time in the mindscape." He looked over his shoulder at her, "Thanks for trying to help me today. You could have died, but you did awesome. I'll be a complete mess without you." And then he left, leaving only Mabel and the bedroom. 

Chapter Text

Come to think of it, he should have known better than to do it.

In the days that followed Weirdmageddon, Dipper couldn’t shake the voice in the back of his head that kept telling him to take a nice long walk in the woods with the potential of never returning. He assumed it was just homesickness about leaving Gravity Falls… or was it away-sickness? Was there a sickness for leaving some place that wasn’t your home but you wished was? Either way, he couldn’t knock the feeling either that something was definitely wrong.

His next trigger should have been the sleepwalking. At some point in the night, he would crawl out of bed and drag himself towards the bedroom door. He retained no memories of these happenings. Ford caught him on the first night, trying to make his way down the stairs but being too drowsy with sleep to make it down without stumbling. He simply picked Dipper up, tucked him back into bed, and left. “A little sleepwalking is no issue,” Ford said the next morning. “It’s common in children your age, and we’ve had a stressful few days. Odd behavior is to be expected.”

The second night, Mabel caught him, creaking the door open and making his way to the stairs. She got out of bed and tried to beckon him back, grabbing onto his hand to lead him in the right direction. He jerked his hand away and pushed her back onto the unfinished wood floors. Mabel retaliated by grabbing him around the waist and dragging him back into bed despite his best efforts to thrash and kick.

Then there were the dizzy spells where the world seemed to flicker in and out of a delusional gray-scale. Everything altered itself slightly to the right, as if misprinted on paper or poorly traced. One minute he was fine, and the next he’d find himself on the floor, trying to focus his eyes back on a tangible reality.

Mabel insisted that he see a doctor. “I’m fine,” Dipper said on the last morning of his usual life, knowing he wasn’t really fine at all. “I think I just need some fresh air. I’ll go for a walk or something.”

“I’m going with you,” Mabel declared, jumping up from the kitchen table, nearly knocking over her glass of orange juice.

“I don’t think that’s necessary,” he replied, poking at his pancakes with a fork. They smelled like warm silky butter, and yet he wasn’t all that hungry.

“Both of you need to get some time outside,” Stan said, dropping some pancakes onto his own plate. After the whole memory wipe incident, Stan was remembering his cooking skills, which mostly involved making pancakes and frying up brown meat. The memory eraser ray hadn’t hit him nearly as hard as they thought. His memories had returned with remarkable speed. Dipper felt it was almost too easy. “You’ve spent way too long cooped up in the house. Go play or solve a mystery or something. It’ll be good for ya’.”

“Yes!” Mabel fist bumped in the air. “Mystery hunt!”

“Alright. Mystery hunt,” Dipper replied, slipping out of his chair, leaving half of his pancakes uneaten.

Mabel crammed the rest of the pancakes in her mouth and bounded after him, as he stepped out onto the porch and into the grass. “So what brings us on this next adventure to the great outdoors?”

He didn’t actually know why he wanted to go out into the woods. It was some subconscious desire he couldn’t put a finger on. Maybe he left something out there and he just forgot what it was. Whatever it was, the paranoia was probably the reason why he was crawling out of bed in the middle of the night. The lack of REM sleep was definitely the thing making him dizzy, and in turn the dizzy spells were affecting his appetite. Theory: going outside would cure him of all his ailments.

“Don’t know,” Dipper said. “All I know is that I have this voice in my head that’s telling me to go out into the woods and… well, I’m not sure why.”

“That sounds kinda creepy. And what do you mean a voice inside your head? Do you have another, cooler, more fun personality I should know about?”

“Hey! I’m cool,” he retorted. “But having you here at least means that I’ve got someone watching my back in case something goes wrong or I pass out again.” The grass folded neatly underneath his shoes as he followed whatever direction he felt he needed to. It was like a string had been tied around the tree trunks and he was merely following it.

“Aww. I wanted to take the lead on this mystery hunt.”

“Next time.”

He kept walking, the sun slapping down on his cheeks and nose, probably burning them a crisp red. Mabel talked on about what her choice of adventure might be, “We haven’t been to the fairy land yet. Though last time I saw a fairy I waved hello and she bit me on the finger for no reason! So maybe no fairies. Oh what about--” Dipper halted in his tracks, Mabel ramming into his back. “What the hey-hey, bro-bro?”

He didn’t answer. He felt that if he opened his mouth to speak he might throw up. Something kept pushing him forward, trying to puppeteer his legs to take another step, pulling strings to make him move. But his logic told him to run. To get back to the Shack and bunker himself down with every weapon imaginable until it was time to go home to Piedmont. In the clearing of soft grass and wet wood, sat the stone image of Bill Cipher. He had been lured there.

Something was definitely wrong. He felt himself take another step, though he desperately didn’t want to.

“Dipper. This isn’t funny.” Mabel said, eyeing the statue. He kept walking forward, not saying anything. She wrapped her hands around his wrist and tugged him back, digging her heels into the soft dirt and grass. His skin felt cold to the touch. “We need to go!” She put it together before he did. The sleepwalking, the fainting. Bill was trying to possess Dipper again. “Bill is messing with your head! Don’t let him!”

He pressed his free hand to her chest and tried to push her away, though Mabel stuck on, pulling to the point where she swore she dislocated his shoulder. “Dip! You have to fight him off!”

Dipper was trying. He knew he was in his own body and that all he had to do was to stop and let Mabel tackle him to the ground, but he just couldn’t. He was hyper aware of every sensation running through him. Mabel’s sweaty palms chafing against his wrist, the dull pinch in his shoulder, the dew on the grass leaking against his socks, the sharp smell of bark, the tug in his legs to keep moving forward. There was no stopping it.

He looked over his shoulder at her, maybe to say I’m sorry. But her eyes met his, and that soft shade of brown was the most beautiful color he had ever seen. And there was a determination to his gaze, the set to his jaw. “I won’t let you win,” he muttered.

His fingers grazed the statue and everything turned white. He knocked back into Mabel, the blast flinging both of them into the dirt. A crater opened up from the blast, over turning the earth into a deep pit, the twins caught inside. 

Mabel’s ears rung with a high-pitched whine. Her vision blurred around, like she was looking at the world through a kaleidoscope. Her body felt tied up in knots, like balls of yarn that had intertwined with each other. Every motion was followed by a foreign body sensation. She reached for Dipper, barely able to crawl across the grass. He was still, very still. Definitely not breathing. She tried to grab him, but swore her fingers passed right through.

“You gotta stay with me, Dip,” she muttered. Her vision still wouldn’t focus. “Whatever Bill is doing, don’t let him. We’ll beat him again…” This time her palm laid flat against his arm.

She passed out.

 

Dipper opened his eyes to the hazy world… was it black and white? Mabel’s face lurched into his view, breaking up the monochrome with flashes of pink sweater and brunette hair. Her voice echoed, broken up like static through a radio, though her lips never moved. Waking up... Almost a day… Is he dying?... Worried… Bill. It had to be Bill.

“Mabel? What are you saying?” he muttered. His head pounded, like his brain was trying to escape from his skull. Sweat stuck to his chest and face, matting down his hair and clothes. Wow, it was hot. It had to be the pile of blankets (4) that Mabel clearly laid on top of him. Trying to make him sweat out the fever. But it was a different kind of hot, like it was coming from inside him.

“I didn’t say anything,” she replied. She scooted up onto the bed next to him, brown eyes examining him. “You really scared me. I thought you weren't gonna wake up. Your breathing was so shallow that it looked like you weren't breathing at all and you just looked dead and..." (Dead: no. Breathing: also no.) 

"Wasn't I asleep for almost a day?" he asked. He tried to move his fingers, trying to get a sense of his own body. Wanting to move his arms and back to sit up, but momentarily being unable to find them. How could that be? It was his body, why did he feel so lost? It took a second of concentration to remember where his hands were supposed to be in relation to his arms, which was in relation to his neck and torso, as if summoning them back. He pushed himself upright, a cool waft of air pressing against his sweat drenched shirt. If he felt terrible, he didn’t want to know what he looked like.

“Yeah,” Mabel bit her bottom lip. “How do you know that?”

“I thought I heard you say it. But I guess I was dreaming.”

Mabel pursed her lips and lowered her center of gravity into the bed. “I’m worried. Something is happening to you." 

He shrugged, “Or I’ve just been really, really sick.” (Sick is for humans. This is a transformation.) What was that thing in his head? When it spoke it felt like someone was dropping bricks on his head. 

“No… I fell unconscious too. Apparently Stan and Ford saw the blast and found us in the woods. I woke up a little bit after that. I felt terrible, like I had a fever. It got really, really bad for a moment and then just stopped. I think I threw up glitter.”

“Well, that’s normal for you.”

“Okay, yeah,” she admitted. “But then I had all these bad dreams about you, everything was on fire and you had this horrible eyes... It feels like my head is spinning when I look at you.” Her fingers gripped one of the blankets on the bed. When he looked close, he could see every detail on her face. The glimmer of sweat on her temples, the chapped once-bleeding skin on her lips, the literal puffs of air from her breathing. “I think it might be…” (Bill).

“Bill,” he asked, mostly because the voice in his head told him to.

“Yes.”

The door creaked open, Stan and Ford creaking back in. Stan grinned, “Hey! Sleeping Beauty woke up-- okay, not beauty. You look like you got hit by a bus.”

Ford elbowed Stan in the ribs with disapproval. “Your condition must be more severe than I originally thought. The good news is that I am also a physician, amongst my other medical achievements. How are you feeling, Dipper?”

“Like someone decided to play kickball with my brain, and then when they were done to disassemble the rest of my body parts, catalogue them for an academic journal, and then put me back together-- except really out of order. Toes for fingers, intestines wrapped around my neck like a scarf. That kind of deal.” Yikes. That was pretty detailed, even for him. “But I’m sure it’s just a fever,” he covered.

“Well, let’s see.” Ford pulled up a chair to the bedside. He placed a hand on Dipper’s forehead, but before he could say anything more, he jerked his hand away and winced, like touching a hot stove.

“Ah! Grunkle Ford, are you okay?” Dipper screamed. 

He winced, clutching to his hand. “Yes, but, you are literally hot to the touch.”

“Am I? I guess I do feel warm, but I didn’t think I was that warm.” (Your temperature is rising by 2.75 degrees Fahrenheit every hour. Currently at 158.5 degrees Fahrenheit.) (Almost hot enough to cause severe burns on human skin.)

Ford examined the red coloring to his fingers, as Mabel reached out for Dipper with no reservation. She placed her hand against his cheek, flushed a deep pink, and held it there. “Are you sure, Grunkle Ford? He’s just regular warm to me.”

Stan rubbed at the back of his neck. “Well, crap. I don’t know how I can possibly send you home to your parents, being so sick… or whatever this is.” (You’re never going home again.)

Dipper felt his stomach turn, “Me either.”

“What happened to you out there anyway?” Ford asked, pressing his elbows into his knees. “There was this big flash of Weirdmageddon like light and next thing I know we’re carrying both of you home.”

Dipper and Mabel shared a glance. She shrugged and looked away, kicking her feet idly up and down against the bed.

Stan leaned in, as if to interrogate his nephew. “Something did happen. Didn’t it?”

“Oh man…”

“You have to tell us, Dipper,” Ford said. “It’s the only way to fix this.” (Chance of fixing it: .00000002%)

Dipper swallowed. His mouth tasted like blood and sweat. “I think… or we think Bill was trying to come back. That he was the whole reason I got sick in the first place. Maybe he made me more sick. Either way, he must have wanted me as a vessel. Which would explain the sleepwalking, the dizzy spells, walking out into the woods… Yup. That checks all the boxes for repossession.”

Stan raised an eyebrow, “Repossession?”

“Yeah, you know, it’s a type of action in which the party having right of ownership of the property in question takes the property back from the party having right of possession without invoking court proceedings. Except in this case I am the property, Bill still had some ownership of because of a deal I, stupidly, didn’t break and he could technically reclaim the property, me, without any kind of consent.” Each drip of information rolled easily off his tongue, as if rehearsed. 

Stan shook his head, “What? No! I mean, when were you possessed in the first place? You kids never tell me anything. And since when do you know anything about jurisdictions or property law?”

“Oh,” Dipper paused. “That’s weird… I actually don’t know anything about property law.”

“Dipper,” Ford said, “this is serious. If this has any connection with Bill, the whole family is in danger. We need to figure out how to stop Bill immediately.”

(It’s a little late for that.) (You're the danger now, kid.) Would that voice in his head shut up? 

“I’m willing to try anything.”

 

Try anything really did mean try anything. Another unicorn hair spell was set up except for the fact that once it was set up, Dipper couldn't help but scream in pain, as if something were trying to bash his skull in with a crowbar. Ford suggested Dipper try Project Mentum a second time, but once he made contact with the helmet, his thoughts raced so fast the machine couldn’t keep up before going up in blue flames. Various spells and potions were tried, and most of them just made him feel dizzy or throw up. As things got more desperate so did their suggestions. Mabel offered to beat the snot out of him, like the last time he got possessed. Ford became convinced that he should put a metal plate in Dipper’s head, it was the only way to completely prevent possession. Stan drew the line there, though Dipper was honestly all for it.

And as time progressed, so did his unfortunate condition. His temperature rose at an alarming rate (438 degrees Fahrenheit, they had to use a welding thermometer to take his temperature), though somehow, the blankets or bed frame never caught fire or overheated. Not to mention the newer symptoms, complete lack of appetite, inability to sleep, fingertips starting to turn pitch black. And then there were the intense and insufferable pains that arched through his bones and skin as if his body were trying to tear itself apart. It became almost impossible to think about anything but the pain. 

Mabel was the only person who could attempt to take care of him, because she was the only person who could touch him without being burned. He couldn’t figure out why, the little voice in his head that told him things was quiet about that mystery.

She folded a handful of ice chips into a wet rag, and placed it against his forehead, though the ice immediately melted and turned to steam when it made contact with his skin. Mabel sighed, and folded another hand full of ice into the rag.

“You recognize that’s not working,” he said, not opening his eyes to look at her. “I can’t really cool down, and if I could, it would take something more powerful than ice.”

She pressed the rag to his head again, brushing the wet curls hair out of his face. The cool water managed to trail down his cheeks for a moment before completely evaporating. “I don't know what else to do. You're in pain and I can't stop it." Pulling the rag away from his forehead, she abandoned it in the bowl of ice chips. 

Dipper shrugged, a more casual tone slipping into his voice. "You could kill me... yeah, that would still work." He still didn't look at her. 

"Dipper!" Mabel scolded, a look of horror slapped on her face. 

"What?" he asked, as if his suggestion was a completely normal thing to say to someone. 

"No. No. No. That is not an option. You're going to be fine, okay?" (Fine is a subjective term.) 

Footsteps creaked up into the bedroom. Mabel jerked around, afraid that someone had heard their conversation. Ford appeared in the doorway, “Mabel, I’m afraid you may need to stay here alone with Dipper for a few hours. Something strange is happening that Stan and I need to look into before it gets worse, we’re worried it may have to do with you, Dipper. Do you think you’ll be okay?”

“What’s going on?” she asked. 

Ford pulled up the hologram on his watch, an image of the earth spinning around, with little red dots multiplying on it, filling almost every conceivable space on the globe. “Each of these little dots is an anomaly, much like the kind here in Gravity Falls, they’re multiplying. Reports coming it from all over the world about monsters, spirits, everything you can imagine and more. Some sort of alter-average transcendence. The fact that it aligns with Dipper is no coincidence.”

“The magnetic pole flipped,” Dipper muttered, intentionally straining his voice, as if he were trying to do a bad impression of himself.

“What?” Ford asked.

“You know how Gravity Falls is a weirdness magnet and draws in every strange and unusual thing to its borders? The magnetic pole flipped and instead of drawing weirdness in, it’s pushing all the weird energy out into the world. It’s inviting the strange and usual to come out of hiding.” He paused in thought. “Next report will be about vampires in Seattle, because where else would vampires hang out? Then a small town in Taiwan will report that a pair of chattering teeth and mouth, with no lips attached, destroyed their crops and killed anything in its path.”

At that moment, Stan barreled up the stairs, the sound of the TV faintly crackling behind him (Channel 6 News, yet another Emergency Broadcast). “Seattle this time. Vampires or something. I think we may be getting in over our heads here, Sixer. And we can’t leave when the kid is so-- did I miss something important here?”

Ford’s jaw dropped and looked to Dipper. “How did you know that?”

“Because it’s my fault. I wasn’t strong enough to fight back.”

Mabel shook her head. “Dipper that’s crazy--” Dipper opened his eyes, but what Mabel saw weren’t his usual brown eyes. No, these eyes were a pure shimmering gold in the iris, surrounded by a pitch black emptiness that suggested no depth or emotion to his expression. Mabel didn't mean to, but she recoiled from him. 

He ground his teeth when he spoke, each tooth seeming to sharpen into a dull little fangs and his voice pierced and echoed. “I just figured it out. It’s so obvious.” The truth tasted sour, or maybe that was the pool of golden blood that spilled into his mouth when he bit down too hard on his bottom lip. “I think I’m becoming a demon.”

 

Mabel eased up into the attic, balancing a bowl of soup in her hands. Dipper expected her to be tired, but despite all she slept remarkably well at night, dozing off the moment Dipper insist she get some sleep, and waking up precisely after 3 REM cycles. But her positivity remained, in fact it doubled, as if she were trying to be happy for him. “I brought you some dinner!” she chimed. “I made a yummy bowl of Mabel soup!”

“That sounds terrible,” he groaned. Meanwhile, he was wondering why he couldn’t feel the bed underneath him or the clothes on his back.

“It’s good for you! It’s just a can of chicken noodle soup with a bunch of crushed up vitamins in it!”

“Okay. 1.) That’s gross 2.) You recognize that I am beyond the help of multivitamins, right?  3.) I haven’t eaten anything in literally 3 days, what makes you think I will… do you eat or drink soup? Wait never mind, you eat it and then drink the liquid remains. But I’m not going to do that. And 4.) Demons don’t eat human food. We eat souls and other nasty things.”

She sat down at the chair that was perpetually pulled up to his bedside. “But you eat soup! Because your sister made it for you. Right?”

“No.”

“Please!” she begged. She held it up to his face so the steam could slap against his skin. It did smell good, up until the faint powdery smell of the crushed up multivitamins. “I am offering you this bowl of soup and you are gonna eat it because it will make you feel better.”

Something snapped against his brain like a rubber band. (Take it. You have to take it.) Come to think of it, he wasn’t hungry, but he felt this want. An instinct that suddenly made him feel sharp and alert. He pushed himself upright in bed, and took the bowl from Mabel. “Fine, I’ll do it.” He ate the first spoonful nervously, but it settled nicely. The ache in his bones lessened some, the material being of his body resorted back to a neutral state. He crammed another spoonful in. The multivitamins tasted terrible, he knew that, but it didn’t bother him at all. He just kept eating it.

“Yay!” Mabel grinned. “This is great! See? I told you it would make you feel better. You were just hungry.”  

“Mmm not quite,” he said between spoonfuls, “but sorta. I was immaterial.”

“Huh?”

“Yeah, I think I’m exiting the physical plane. But food is material, so when I eat it, I take on those qualities.” He finished off the bowl faster than he thought humanly possible, but that wasn’t worth questioning anymore. “Don’t get me wrong, I still feel horrible. But I feel a slightly less horrible. Eating will probably stall the demonic transformation process a little longer.”

“Does that mean you want more?”

He shrugged, already scraping the sides of an empty bowl. “It means I’ll eat more. But the word offer is key here. I can only eat what you offer me. And please keep the multi-vitamins out of it. It’s got a funny texture.”

She took the empty bowl from him. “Whatever you say, dorkus.”

 

Stan had come upstairs to keep him company while Mabel got some hard earned rest. Stan brought some welding gloves with, so that he could have what little physical contact remained possible with his nephew. He dragged his hand across Dipper's forehead and over his hair. And it was strange. Dipper never knew Stan to be sensitive in any aspect, and least of all, gentle. But it was comforting, to be able to focus on Stan instead of how pathetic he felt writing in a pain he didn't understand. Stan was the first to speak between the two of them, his voice low and gruff. "This is my fault. If I hadn't let you kids come stay with me, none of this would have happened. Things would have been how they always were." 

"No, Stan. It's not your fault." Dipper muttered, focusing on making his voice sound as normal as possible. "Coming to Gravity Falls was a good thing. I wouldn't change anything about it, sure we almost died every other day, but it was worth it to spend the summer with you and Mabel. Bill can do whatever he wants to me and it won't change that fact." 

Stan gave him a little nudge on the shoulder, the faint outline of a smile creeping onto his mouth. "You're a tough kid. You just gotta tough it out a little longer, okay?" 

Dipper latched on to Stan's hand, the claws forming at the end of his fingers catching onto the gloves. "Okay." He wasn't completely sure why, but he was crying. Maybe he was sad or just in a lot of pain. Or maybe it just felt good to know his family was still standing by him. 

 

On the eve of their 13th birthday, nothing was getting better. No one took the news of his demonhood well, in fact Dipper took it the worst out of everyone. The transformation had taken its toll, physically and emotionally. His teeth had completely sharpened, and sometimes his skin would just crack and turn black in small clumps. His core temperature had risen high enough that he could reasonably melt metal. And it felt like his flesh was trying to tear itself off. There was no distracting himself from it, not since his thought process started to speed up to beyond human comprehension. All he could do was bide his time until it was over. He knew Stan and Ford were downstairs, figuring out what to do with him. How could they possibly explain something that they didn't even understand? They eventually landed on calling his parents, insisting he was sick with the flu and should wait a few days to take the bus home, barely enough time to stall. 

The day ticked away into the evening, and evening into the dark, late night. He could hear the seconds, the milliseconds, passing in his ears.

“What are we gonna do,” Mabel sighed, pacing back and forth in the bedroom. Her suitcases were already packed, but there was no chance of her going anywhere so soon. “You can’t go home like this.”

“I’m not going home. I have to accept that this is the new normal for me. In a little bit, I'll fully,” he searched for the word, (Transcend) but refused to say it, “become a demon. I’ll officially separate from my human body and enter the mindscape. It’s going to hurt like a bitch .”

Mabel whipped her head around. “Language!”

“Sorry.”

“Well,” Mabel said, plopping down beside him on the bed. “Let’s look on the bright side. Demons don’t have to do laundry or take a shower. You’re already pretty good at those things.”

“Haha, funny,” he grumbled sarcastically, but could not deny the smile pressed into his lips.

“And… you’ll probably get really cool superpowers! You could read minds or fly or shoot lasers out of your eyes! Not to mention you won’t have to go to bed on time ever again or get a stomach ache from eating too much ice cream. Ultimate knowledge is up your alley too. You’ll have it all! Do you think you’ll be able to stream movies right into your head?”

“I guess that does sound pretty cool. I’ll finally be able to memorize every single Monster-Mon card.”

“See? It will be okay, Dip. There’s nothing Bill can do that we can’t handle." She stopped and looked at her watch. "How much longer do you have?" 

It didn't take him long to answer. "2 hours, 38 minutes, 19 seconds... 18... 17..." 

She stopped him there. "Should I stay here? I'd understand if you just want to be alone." 

His eyes squeezed shut in a burst of grinding concentration. "No, please stay. I'm scared to be alone." She climbed into the bed beside him, maybe to make himself less scared, maybe to make herself less scared. Either way, it worked. She felt warm, like a good warm, and not a burning warm. She pet at his hair and at his shoulders, watching him writhe under the intense pressure of his own being. 

“Mabel,” he whispered, barely able to choke out her name in one breath. The seconds counted down in his head. 

“Yeah?” Her hand swooped over his forehead. 

Midnight. It was now midnight. “Happy birthday.”

A smile creeped onto her face, mostly obscured by the pillow. “Happy birthday, oh demonic brother of mine.” She yawned, hands becoming limp beside him. Her eyes fell shut with little effort. He could hear the echo of her dreams whisper through the air as the soft pulse of her sleep rolled with the tide of her breath. Of course it was his own power that put her to sleep, because he wanted her to sleep. Her presence was comfort enough. 

He swallowed, trying to take in the last hours of tangible reality. The last sense of humanity to grace his skin. The heat trapped within the scratchy blankets, sweat against his neck, and Mabel’s breath tousling his hair. “2 hours, 33 minutes, 48 seconds... 47... 46..."  

 

When Mabel woke up, the bed was surprisingly cool. She reached out to the covers to find that there was no one beside her. She bolted upright, in a dazed panic, eyes glued with sleep.

“Good morning,” Dipper said, floating about 4 feet off the ground in the middle of the bedroom.

Mabel yawned and rubbed at her eyes. “Well, this is a little bonkers. How do you feel?”

He shrugged. “Different. Like, you know how mist feels when you pass your hand through it? Mix that with you leg falling asleep and you’ve got pretty much how I feel.” There was a slight echo to his voice when he spoke, but the kind you could get over if you heard it enough. "But it beats feeling like I'm about to explode." 

“I meant emotionally.”

“Oh. In that case, the same kind of anxiety when you come to school with a new haircut and you’re worried about what everyone is going to think and then you look at yourself in the mirror and for a moment you don’t recognize yourself? Except everything about you is the haircut and it’s a really bad haircut.”

“Yikes,” she muttered. “I don’t think the haircut is that bad. You mostly look like yourself.” Save for the eyes, the claw-like fingers, shark teeth, and great black wings sprouting from his back. But he was recognizable. He still had high rounded cheeks, the faint memory of sunburn on his nose, the soft curls of lush brown hair beating just against his brow and-- yes, the outline of a Big Dipper birthmark. He still looked like her brother. Mabel reached out to grab his hand, but her fingers phased right through him as if he were just a mirage.

“It’s not worth the effort,” he said. “I’m not technically real anymore. You know how Bill was all serious about getting a physical form and possessing people? That’s me now. Well, hopefully without the apocalypse or possession parts.”

“But I can still see you and talk to you. So that’s good.”

He let his shoulders droop for a second and smiled. But there was something wrong, she shouldn’t be able to see him. Why could she see him?  “Yeah. It is.” He had to believe it was good, that this was the intended course of the universe. But something definitely wasn't right. 

 

-----

 

The rest of the story, mostly involved a lot of struggling. Only being able to talk to Mabel made communicating with anyone else difficult. And while Stan and Ford easily accepted his new situation, his parents didn’t. They wanted nothing to do with this psychotic town, this crazy conspiracy theory, and they’d rather just believe their son was dead than demon. They weren’t going to believe it. That was the first time Mabel tried to summon him, the circles wouldn’t last more than a few seconds, eventually sputtering out before he could say anything. But it was enough for their parents to abandon him (and her) in Gravity Falls forever.

He was secretly grateful, though. He didn't want to go back home. The people of Gravity Falls were more than sympathetic to his situation. And having Mabel, Stan, and Ford made it all easier. Especially Mabel. She was the one who spent long hours working on summoning circles, talking him out of his madness. She bought him the horrible black suit at a thrift shop so he wouldn’t look so ridiculous when trying to answer summonings. She was the one who still set out a plate for him at dinner time. 

She was the ledge on which he teetered on the edge of his human and demonic origins.

Dipper looked over at Mabel, asleep on the bed opposite his. She laid, buried in mountains of pillows and blankets with Waddles curled up at her side. His own bed had been remade, by Mabel of course, and the revelation of his ability to sleep. And though the physical comfort made little impact on him, the emotional comfort was what really mattered. He snapped his fingers, sending another wave of good dreams toward her (this one would be about ice skating in an ice cream valley, with Xyler and Craz for good measure) before nestling his hand underneath his head. It was one of those quiet nights, no summonings or supernatural happenings. Just him, the creak of the Shack, and the soft lull of dreaming. 

“I’m gonna figure this out, Mabel,” he said, for no reason in particular, other than it had been eating away at his thoughts for a long time now. “I know it’s impossible, but I’m not letting that stop me. I’ll fix this, whatever it takes.”

Chapter Text

The Shack was quiet in the minutes before opening promptly at 7:30 a.m. Winter break was in full swing, greeted by a thick pile of fresh snow. Stan was out back, trying to create an attraction that was a little more suited to the season (Santa Claws, which was one of those dancing Santa decorations from a resale shop with lobster claws glued to it). Mabel and Wendy were taking advantage of the snow, trying to pelt Stan with snowballs from the roof and ducking before he could notice them.

Dipper hovered a few inches over the counter, watching as Soos mopped up some of the water tracked in by everyone’s boots in the gift shop. “Hey Soos,” he asked. “Could I ask you something? I could use some advice.”

Soos abandoned the mop, letting it clatter to the ground. “I’m great at advice! I’m also great at stuffing marshmallows in my mouth. Wanna see?” He produced a bag of marshmallows from his pocket and opening his mouth.

“No, I’m good.” He looked over his shoulder, making sure they were alone. “Listen, let’s say that a friend of mine… I don’t know… turned into a demon a year and a half ago. And things are starting to get out of hand. He’s got friends and family that he cares about, but he’s probably putting them in constant danger because all of these other demons are trying to kill him. And then there’s the whole problem of being an immortal in a human family.” He shook the thoughts out of his head. Sometimes his mind felt like a ball rolling downhill, once you got him started he couldn’t stop. “Anyway, should he try to fix it and make everything go back to normal? Or should he just accept things as they are?”

“Dude, seriously there’s no use trying to cover that one up. I know what you’re talking about.”   

He sighed, what was he even thinking? He could be honest with Soos. “Yeah I know I—”

Soo cut him off. “Your friend is in a really sticky situation. If it were me, I’d find some experts on the subject. I’d learn all about how demons work before I think about fixing it. It’s like fixing stuff around the Shack. You gotta know how it works so you can fix it, you know, after you accidentally break it.”

Dipper blinked, two gold and black eyes wide. “Huh. That is surprisingly good advice.” It occured to Dipper that, despite being one, he didn’t know a lot about demons. Most of that information was blocked from his omniscience. He had no idea how other demons dealt with their problems, or if they even have problems. But he could think of someone who might know.  

“Your welcome dude. Also ask your friend how many marshmallows can he fit into his mouth.”  

“32, without unhinging his jaw like a snake. Anything after that is just unfair.”  

“That’s awesome.”

Stan shuffled into the gift shop, pellets of snow dripping off his winter coat. “Alright, look alive people. Shack opens in 5! Time is money.” He took off his red knit cap and tossed it on the counter. “Dipper, either turn invisible or go hide out somewhere till closing time.”

The front door creaked open as Mabel and Wendy re-entered, faces red with glee and the nipping cold. “Aww, come on, Grunkle Stan,” Mabel said. “I think we can turn Dipper into a winter attraction. He’s got those little pointy ears. We can dress him up like an elf!”

Dipper rolled his eyes. “Yeah, that will go over well. Kids love elves with sharp teeth and the ability to give you nightmares.”

“You’ll go great with Santa Claws!”

“Nope,” Stan chided, hanging his coat up on the rack. “We gotta hang low for awhile. People are starting to get curious about some of the town’s… events. We just gotta pretend like everything is boring business as usual.”

“Stan’s right on this one. People are starting to get too interested in the Transcendence and with the holiday season more tourists and government agents are going to spend their vacations here. I wish I knew why, Gravity Falls is anything but a holiday hot spot.” He popped off the counter where he was floating, and continued to float across the gift shop. “And besides, I’ve got some of my own investigating to do. Demon stuff.”

Mabel frowned at him, “Demon stuff?”

“That sounds awesome!” Wendy shouted. “Can we come along?”

“No, it’s pretty boring stuff. Besides, Santa Claws will fall apart before lunch and you’ll all need to make more ridiculous attractions to cover for Stan. I like the Abdominal Snowman, which is just the gorilla in storage spray painted white but with a picture of abs tapped to it from one of Mabel’s Teen Teen magazines. That idea is combination Mabel and Wendy, so good job guys. Keep jamming on more ideas.”

He teleported from the room before anyone could question his motivations or the info dump.

Soos chuckled, “Heh. Abdominal Snowman. That’s pretty good.”

 

————

 

He thought he was going to visit the old woman with the turtle skull for a head. But somewhere along the way he must have taken a wrong turn. Instead Dipper found himself in a green field, the grass blowing in a breeze he couldn’t feel. A couple puffy clouds rolled over head that looked as if they were made of marshmallows that had been melted together. It all felt very familiar, but in the way reoccuring dreams feel familiar.

Something nudged the back of his legs, right below the crook in his knees. “Huh?” He spun around, finding two sheep with mostly black wool that would shift and blend into a variety of colored splotches.

The first one trotted in place for a few seconds, looking to the second. “Look! He came back!”

The second one groaned, and rolled it’s glowing eyes. “It took well over a year, we obviously don’t matter to him.”

Dipper stumbled back a few steps before regaining his footing. The sheep looked at him with an unblinking anticipation. “Oh, hey, I remember you guys. You’re the nightmares. We met when I first learned I could dream.”

A smile creeped across the first one’s face. “See? He didn’t forget. He’s just been busy.”

“Too busy for his own familiars?” The second one scoffed. “I don’t buy it.”

“I’m sorry but what do you mean by familiars?” he asked. “Like the kind that witches keep with them? Black cats and stuff?”

Bah! What are familiars? What kind of question is that,” the second one grumbled. “You are a terrible demon.”

Dipper put his hands on his hips and sneered. “Hey! I’m still pretty new to this, take it easy on me!”

The first nightmare nudged Dipper again to gain his attention. “Ignore Acrimony. It can be a bit grumpy. To answer your question, familiars are loyal companions. It’s our job to look after you and obey your orders.”

“Pfft,” Acrimony dropped into the grass with a defiance. “You won’t see me taking orders from the likes of him.”

“You will because you have not only do we have no choice, but he needs us. He’s just a child.”

Dipper held out both his hands, jumping between the nightmares. “Hang on! First, I'm 14. I don't think you can call me a child. Second, I thought you were nightmares, how did you become my familiars? Did I miss something?”

“Well, do you remember waking up from the blast that started the Transcendence?” the first one began. Dipper nodded. “You couldn’t fall asleep after that, not for a very long time at least. We are the nightmares you were supposed to have. All these fears that were running around your head about what was happening to you. We are the product of nightmares that have nowhere to go. In essence, we Transcended with you. We’re yours, so technically that makes us familiars. But nightmares can be made in multiple different ways. It’s not uncommon for demons to keep them.” (It is very likely you will collect more over time, seeing as that you’ve only slept 63 hours, 26 minutes, and 9 seconds since the Transcendence. That’s a lot of nightmares you aren’t having.) (You should sleep more often. Sleeping improves your mood, focus, and speed of omniscience.)

Dipper resigned to sitting down in the grass, pressing his thumb and index finger against the bridge of his nose. It never really occurred to him to think about where all of his nightmares went, or his good dreams for that matter. “Well, the thought of my personal nightmares running around is terrifying. Thank you… uhm what’s your name?”  

“I’m Delirium. That’s Acrimony. Isolation is off hiding somewhere-- as you could probably guess. And come to think of it, I haven’t seen Massacre around. Acrimony, have you seen Massacre?” Delirium called.

“That’s fine. Thank you, Delirium.” Dipper said before an answer could be given, “I really don’t want to know where Massacre is. In fact, I think I’d feel worse if I did. And I guess you guys already know me, or the worst parts of me that is.”

“Of course we do, Lord Alcor.”

“It’s Dipper, actually.”

Delirium plopped down beside him, staring up at him with those painful glowing eyes. “Why’d you come back, Lord Dipper. Do you need us for something?”

“Again, it’s Dipper. Just Dipper. No need for the honorific prefix. And, I’m sorry, but I think I ended up here by accident. I was trying to meet with the old woman with a turtle skull for a head. I kind of need her advice. So I should probably get going…”

“That old coot,” Acrimony snapped. “Why would you go to her?”

Dipper shrugged, “I find her helpful and easy to talk to. And she makes really good dessert.”

“Oh, so it’s because she can snap her fingers and make cake appear huh? Well I could too if I had fingers!”

“What I think Acrimony is trying to say is that you can always talk to us! We’ll come to you at any time, any place!” Delirium countered.

“I don’t know if you guys want to hear my problems. Also, I’d like someone with more life experience, and you guys have like a year and a half of just sitting around in a pocket dimension.”

“Give us your best shot, boy,” replied Acrimony.

Delirium plopped its head down onto Dipper’s knee and watched with a patient glare. “Okay, fine. Well, I don’t like being a demon. It sucks, like a lot. Other demons are always trying to kill me. I can’t do normal things like go to high school or answer the front door. Someone offered me a bag full of crickets as an offering and I swallowed them whole. I don’t even know why! And then there’s Mabel. She’s my twin sister, my best friend, my Mizar! I can’t just exist forever without her.” He looked at Delirium, a pit forming in his stomach. He sucked in a deep breath before letting it slip back out, the tasteless air in his mouth. “I was told to find another demon who has been around a while that could explain to me how demons work. So I can figure out if… if this is even fixable. If things can be normal again.”

Acrimony chortled to itself. “You don’t need a demon! You need to talk to I.S.”

“I.S.?” (Abbreviation for Islamic State, Intermediate School, Independent Soldiers, Immune System, Intelligent Systems, Importance Sampling, Information Science, Image Stabilization--) Okay, he had enough of that.

“Oh yes! The Information Specialist!” Delirium agreed. “His domain is all past and current knowledge-- he doesn’t have any of those pesky blocks your omniscience has. So whatever question you have, he can answer it.”

(Your search for the Information Specialist cannot be matched. This information is classified and unavailable to you.)

“I don’t know… Maybe this is a bad idea. I shouldn’t be getting involved with this. I think I want to talk to the old woman with the turtle skull for a head.”

He tried to leave but Delirium jumped in his way. “We would never steer you wrong! You should at least go say hello.”

“It’s very good politics to introduce yourself to other immortals,” Acrimony said. “Get them to like you before they realize what a nuisance you are.”

“Well, if it’s a good idea to introduce myself and if he’s not too busy. Alright.” He shifted his foot 10 degrees to the right, a summoning circle appearing in the neon grass. “Let’s go find this Information Specialist.” The nightmares bounded into the circle beside him, the warmth of their wool radiating against his legs. He wasn’t exactly sure how to find the Information Specialist, but the moment his circle burst into flames, the nightmares seemed to know the way.

He just hoped this wouldn’t be a bad idea.

 

The teleportation landed him somewhere in an office. The hallway was infinite the number on the first door labeled 00000000000000000000000000000000 (this is going to go on for a while). The checkered black and white floor warped itself into a thin ribbon that got smaller and smaller until disappearing, like one of those optical illusions in fun houses. Occasionally the sound of a phone ringing or a stapler getting jammed would infiltrate the silence. Delirium trotted over to one of the doors on the left side and tapped its hoof against the wood. “It’s this one!”

The gold plaque on the door was written in a language he was unfamiliar with, but easily understood that read: INFORMATION SPECIALIST and then an electric green piece of paper taped beneath it: AVAILABLE BY APPOINTMENT ONLY!

“Maybe I should make an appointment and come back later,” he commented, but when he looked down there were no nightmares by his side. Instead they were pressing their way through the door. “Hey! Get back here!” He tried to grab Acrimony, the base of its tail slipping through his fingers. With a groan, Dipper creeped in after them, hoping that no one would ever notice.

The room was much bigger on the inside, as in it was fit for a giant. Bookshelves stood like mountains over his head, containing books, scrolls, and trashy magazines. Dozens of TV screens blared live news from all around the world while old fashioned radios crackled with the news from 1957. Everything smelled musty with the sweet curl of old paper mixed in. Books piled themselves up in corners next to trash cans overflowing with empty cups of BuckBucks coffee and microwave burrito wrappers.

Dipper turned around, finding Delirium and Acrimony at the base of a desk that was the size of two Mystery Shacks stacked together. They grinned at him, and he shook his head, pointing to the ground as a signal to come. “Get back here now!”

“PLEASE LEAVE, CAN YOU NOT SEE I AM BUSY!” A voice boomed. The Information Specialist stood up and looked over the edge of his desk. Much to Dipper’s surprise, he looked like a regular guy.  A man somewhere in his late 40s wearing a white button up shirt and a dark blue tie. A pair of glasses slid down his nose when he turned his head. But the curdle of his voice and sheer size made him more terrifying than some of the creatures Dipper had ever met.

Dipper staggered back, stumbling over his own feet and onto the floor. “I-I’m sorry! My familiars came in here without permission. I just came to get them! That’s all!”

“YOU COME IN HERE WITHOUT MY AUTHORIZATION. TIME IS DATA! DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I--Oh!” His booming and echoed voice dropped to a more casual frequency, suddenly more kind and friendly. “Hey! I know you! You’re Alcor! You’re that little half-breed everyone’s been talking about in the break room. Wow, a celebrity in my office. I wish I’d cleaned up a little bit. It’s not everyday people like you just drop in here.”

Dipper shook his head, increasingly more aware of the fact that his face had turned #EE204S shade of red. “I’m not a celebrity. I just lost control of my familiars. I’ll just be on my way now.”

“What? I mean, okay you’re not a celebrity like those Sev’ral Timez guys, but you’re a pretty big deal in demon circles. Not that you would know that. All those rules about demonic omniscience just get in the way of an effective internal database, don’t they? How about you hop on up here so we can chat?” He reached down with one massive hand, and grabbed Dipper, catching him between curled fingers and a sweaty palm, as if he were a doll. Dipper looked down at his nightmares and grimaced as if to say ‘this is all your fault’. The Information Specialist let him sit down on a pile of sports almanacs from 1950-2000. “What can I do for you, Alcor? Or do you prefer Dipper?”

“I,” he paused. “Wait. How do you know my name?”

The Informational Specialist laughed and pushed his glasses back up his nose. “Well, that’s my job isn’t it? Collect information on everything and everyone? I know your real name too, but don’t worry, I don’t share that kind of stuff with anyone. It’s completely classified.”

“He prefers Lord Just Dipper,” Delirium called from the floor.

“It’s Dipper. Sorry. I’ve just become acquainted with my nightmares and I’m starting to question how smart they are.” The nightmares had somehow hopped their way up onto the almanacs beside him, Delirium curling up at his side and Acrimony sitting down as far away as it could.

“Speak for yourself,” Acrimony grumbled. “You are perhaps the dumbest demon that ever lived.”

“Oh I know all about familiars. They can be a little over excited sometimes. But these little guys can pack a powerful punch,” replied the Information Specialist, reaching down with one finger to pat the nightmares on the head. “I recognize you have a lot of questions. I’d be happy to answer those for you.”

“Oh uhm… wow I suddenly don’t know where to start.”

“Would it be helpful if I printed off a list of every unanswered question you’ve had in your lifetime? I’ve got that file right here on my computer.”

“No! Let’s not do that.” Dipper thought for a moment, chewing on his thumb nail (or claw?) in thought. “I guess, what does the term half-breed even mean? You called me that when I came in. Other demons have called me that too."

The Information Specialist beamed at the question and summoned for a book at the end of his library, having it fly into the center of his hand. He flipped through the pages, their scrawled and inhuman text reflecting into his glasses. “Demon politics! Very interesting subject. Took a few classes on it in college.” He stopped flipping and landed on a page. “So half-breed is a term usually reserved for half-demons. It’s not uncommon for demons to have relations with another non-demonic being during which they--”

Dipper covered his ears, “Nope! I know where this is going!”

“Oh, sorry. I forgot human teenagers are a little sensitive to this kinda stuff. Well, in any case, offspring is produced that is commonly referred to as a half-breed. But you were born human, so technically not a half-breed. You transcended, which is the first time that’s ever happened in the history of like forever! It’s so cool! You have all the powers of your predecessor, but you have a human soul. Pretty wild how that happened. However, it seems that other demons have taken to calling you half-breed to allude to your impure origins.”

Dipper nodded, floating cross-legged over the almanacs in captivation. “Are there any half-breeds out there?”

He flipped through the book again. “Not in the recent. Metus and his gang of purists took care of them a long time ago. Demon purists believe that only pure-born demons deserve to exist and want to restore the multiverse to its former power. Metus and the other purists kill half-breeds, denying them their lineage and stealing their power.”


Dipper swallowed, “Stealing power? You can actually do that?" Where was this guy a year and a half ago? Was this the demon training he was missing out on? 

He set the book down. “So get this. Demons are pretty much made of energy, the same stuff that came out of the big bang. It’s where all their power comes from. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, so when they die, this power needs somewhere to go. It can either be released out into multiverse or it can be absorbed by another being. It’s the same reason demons eat souls, because souls contain this same energy. Nor is it not uncommon for demons to kill each other for power, but for the most part, the most powerful ones respect each other. They see no point in a battle that would last centuries. But killing half-breeds or fledglings to gain power is typical. It's a lot easier to kill something inexperienced than an ancient and powerful being."

Dipper leaned in with his elbows on his knees and his chin resting in his hands. “So these guys are trying to kill me because they want all my power? I'm just an easy target to them?”

“Partially. There’s never been anything like you before. In fact, I’m still getting over the fact that you’re in my office!” The Information Specialist was starting to turn red from the intense grin that spread across his face. He cleared his throat and pulled at the collar of his shirt. “But, back your question. The purists are after you because there’s no telling how powerful you could become. You have all the powers of a demon and then some. Because you were born human, you are predisposed to entering the physical plane. It should be pretty easy for you.”

Dipper shrugged. “Not really. I still need to accept offerings or possess vessels to do anything.”

The Information Specialist grinned and lowered his face down to his desk so he could meet Dipper in the eye. “Let me tell you something, most fledglings can’t do that. Moving between dimensions can get kind of complicated. It would take a dream demons millions of years to be able to do those kinds of things. It took you a year!” He drummed his fingers against the table. “Mention, I've noticed that omniscience is a little hard for you. While being in the physical plane is what you are used to, having near infinite knowledge don’t jive well with your human thought-processes. But you're making some good strides." 

“Really?”

“Oh yeah! I bet that within a couple centuries, you’ll be beyond powerful. The purists are so keen on knocking you out because it won’t be long before you can destroy them. Of course, I can’t see into the future like you. But that’s my best analysis.”

Dipper had to admit it. It was a pretty good feeling knowing that he wasn’t a terrible demon after all. He was a good one, and a pretty powerful one at that. The possibilities listed themselves to him. If he’d already seen some of the most powerful demon in the universe, what would that make him? The thought of near unlimited power made him grin. And entering the physical plane at will would mean he could spend more time with Mabel… but learning about his own potential wasn’t why he came here.

“And uhm,” he whispered, “is it at all possible to reverse the Transcendence? Could I be human again?”

The Information Specialist stopped, wide-eyed under the glare of his glasses. “You want to reverse it? Why would you want to do that? You’ve got everything on my check list that humans desire. Power, immortality, fluffy animal companions, and the ability to eat whatever you want without gaining weight.” He pulled a yellow sticky note out of his desk drawer with the list written on it in smudged pencil.

“Can you just tell me if it’s possible?”

He turned to face the computer, typing in a few things and opening a few files here and there. “Well, uhm. No. It’s not possible. Or at least not feasible. You could always plead your case to higher beings, gods and such. But your case would be denied, this is a freak case and they won’t want to alter the timeline on this one. Not to mention their schedules are booked for like the next thousand years. So no… not possible. I’m sorry.”

Dipper felt his heart in his chest, as if it were beating again. He turned white, a few shades off from paper. “No. No. There’s got to be another way.”

This wasn’t right. He was supposed to fix this. Make it so that everything would be back to normal. Make it so that he could go to high school. Work at the Shack. Not have to wait for some kind of offering to give someone a hug. Just to be a normal kid again.

He spoke all in one breath, feeling the words spill out on his tongue. “And what about making someone else immortal? Is that possible?”

The Information Specialist nodded and checked his computer again. “Yes, it is. But it comes with all kinds of complications. For example, vampires can’t go out in sunlight and they drink blood, which is sort of off-putting to most people. Someone can become part of the fair-folk, but fairies are jerks... don't tell them I said that. They can hold grudges forever.” He sighed and leaned back in his black wheely chair. He slipped his glasses into his pocket and rubbed at his eyes. “Look, I gotta be honest with you. I know what you’re thinking and I don’t recommend messing with this. Transcending was a weird thing that should have never happened. But you can’t go around making other people immortal. You’re pretty powerful for a fledgling but something like this is an extreme level that involves literally bending reality. Not to mention, immortality is kind of terrible if you weren’t born with it.”

Dipper didn’t look up. “Yeah, I know. I guess I'm just... I'm still adjusting to this. You know?" It felt like something inside of him snapped in half. He gave Delirium a soft pat on the head before rising to his feet. “Well, thanks for taking some time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions.”

“Anytime! Just give me a call next time! I hate it when people see my office so messy.” He passed Dipper a large business card, but when it exchanged between them, the size mysteriously shrunk.

“Thanks, man. I will.” He crammed it in my pocket. “Oh, and how many marshmallows can you fit inside your mouth? A friend of mine would like to know.”

“52, if they are proportional to me.”

“Wow. That’s impressive.”

Dipper and the Information Specialist shared a formal bow, before Dipper and the nightmares were placed back on the floor. The door out was, of course, larger than the one they entered through. But when they appeared back out the other side, it was a usual 7 ft high. He pressed his back up against the white wall, in the hallway, unnerved by the continued silence.

“See! You wanted answers and we got you some. Try not to be so picky from now on,” Acrimony grumbled.

“Yeah! We can be useful!” Delirium paused and looked up to see the thin trails of gold tears spilling down his cheeks. “What’s wrong?”

Dipper dropped to the floor, unable to keep himself standing or floating. He wiped at his face with the backs of his sleeves, staining the black fabric of his suit. “I shouldn’t have come here. Having answers just makes me feel worse. I’ll lose my mind if I have to be alone forever. I was better off not knowing these things.”

“What’s wrong with losing your mind?” Delirium asked, with big innocent eyes. He stifled back a sob, letting the tears clog up in his throat.

Acrimony licked at the side of his face. “Don’t cry, you big baby. Who even said you had to listen to that guy anyway?”

Delirium nudges itself closer and licked at the tips of his fingers. They were both so warm against him, and it would have been comforting if they literally weren’t nightmares. “Yeah! He said it won’t be easy, but it’s possible! And if anyone can make the impossible possible, it’s you! Whatever you need, we’ll do it.”

He nodded and sniffled, “Thanks guys, but I think I’m gonna go home now. I have a lot to process.”

“Please talk to us again soon!” He wasn't sure if he would want to speak with the nightmares ever again. 

 

———

 

He got back just in time to catch Mabel on her lunch break from working the gift shop. The tips of her fingers were white with spray paint and hot glue clung to her sweater. “Hey, bro-bro!” She bounded up to him in the living room. “Thanks for the heads up on that Abdominal Snowman thing! It saved us enough time for me to add a bucket of glitter to it! I’d say he’s a very dashing gorilla!” She stopped talking long enough to suck in a deep breath. “So how’d all that demon stuff go?”

“Fine, just doing a little research. That’s all.”

She raised an eyebrow at him. “Are you okay? Your face is a little red.”

“I’m fine.”

“Well, you’ll have to tell me about all your learning stuff later! Stan cut five minutes from my break and I really need to eat a sandwich right now.”

Dipper crammed his hands into his pockets, feeling the crunch of the Information Specialist’s business card against his hand. “Hey, Mabel,” he called before she could reach the kitchen.

“Yeah?”

“On a scale of 1 to 10, how risky would you say you are?”

“12! Why are you asking?”

He nodded, crunching the card in his palm. “Just thinking about some future plans. Oh and you might want to go for PB and J. The cheese in the fridge just went bad.”  

She grinned, “I kinda like how you know everything! This demon biz is pretty cool.” Then she darted back off into the kitchen. 

Dipper sighed. “Actually this demon biz kinda sucks.” 

Chapter Text

Dipper put his index fingers to his temples, “I’m sorry, can you repeat that? I know just about everything and yet I could not follow what you are saying.”

Jeff groaned and wilted in his chair. “Okay, our old queen was eaten by a badger. We need to find another queen who is, preferably, larger than a badger. It’s been a while and we really don’t want to spend another Valentine’s day alone.”

Dipper pursed his lips together and shared an uncomfortable glance with Mabel, who was still swatting away at gnomes who were trying to smell her hair. “Yeah, that’s a no from me.”

“Aww come on!” Jeff pounded his fists against the tiny carved table, rattling the bottles and acorns on top. The gnomes hissed and growled in a chorus of disappointment. “Why not?”

“Well, considering the one time you tried to kidnap my sister, betrayed us to Gideon, and the 12 times, and counting, that I caught you hiding under the sink in our bathroom, I don’t really think I want to help you guys.”

Per Mabel’s idea, Dipper decided to try to connect more with the supernatural residents of Gravity Falls. From a technical standpoint, he had claimed Gravity Falls as his territory and that made everyone who lived in it his responsibility. Not to mention the fact that some supernatural creatures could live to be hundreds of years old, so maintaining good relationships with them was key. In the beginning, they didn’t know what to make of him. They all knew Dipper as a human and they trusted him that way. But becoming a demon changed the relationship and power dynamic drastically.

For the most part, though, things were okay. He helped the monsters integrate freely into the human world; teaching them how to get a library card, order at Greasy’s Diner, or even attend night classes at the community college. And the monsters did a pretty good job of welcoming him into their daily life. He swapped CDs with the multibear once, and really impressed the man-otaurs by plunging his fist into the pain hole without screaming (not feeling pain-- or anything-- anymore had its benefits).

Things were finally starting to work out and then the gnomes called.

“That was only 11 times and you know it,” Jeff yelled.

Dipper sighed, “You guys also realize I can’t help you just because I want to, right? Everything sort of comes at a price.”

A gnome in a suit pretending to be qualified to be Jeff’s lawyer came and whispered into his ear. “Fine, I’ll make the offer. But we aren’t going any higher!” Jeff turned his attention back to Dipper and cleared his throat. “The gnomes may or may not have been raiding some vending machines and local gas stations in order to acquire the sweet stuff. You know, YumberJacks, 3 Amigos Bars, Sour Pain Candy. We are willing to give you a share of that.”

Dipper shared a glance with Mabel, watching her return and approving nod. “How much?” he asked.

“⅓ of the stash.”

“Are there gummy koalas? If there are no gummy koalas, we walk,” Mabel shouted.

“You heard her,” Dipper said.

Jeff nodded to his gnome lawyer. “You gotta deal. Find us a queen and we’ll get you those gummy koalas!”

The shook on it, the soft pulse of a blue flame erupting between their palms. Dipper was beginning to like making deals. It gave him the feeling of reward as ordering something online that you don’t really need does. It also gave him a sense of purpose, that he wasn’t doomed to aimlessly wander the universe for the rest of time with nothing to do. He smiled, showing off all the points of his teeth, “Deal.”

 

------

 

Mabel pulled the heart shaped sunglasses over her eyes and cracked her knuckles. “Let’s make a match!” She dropped herself down in front of the “home computer” Ford had made (he was still accepting the fact that technology had developed on its own in the 30 years he was gone) which basically consisted of a monitor and dozens of tower cases lined up beside it. You’d think the guy would have accepted the idea of a laptop by now, but he was certain the trend would blow over in favor of sturdier materials and supercomputer capacity for storage (it would not).

Mabel logged onto monstermash.com and started making a profile for all the gnomes, which proved difficult seeing the website’s algorithm. “Okay, first question. ‘What is your name?’” She spoke aloud as she typed, “Society of Gnomes… Question two: ‘What is your gender?’... I’m gonna put Society of Gnomes again…”

Dipper rolled his eyes and hovered closer over her shoulder. “Mabel? You do realize this is unnecessary, right? I could easily find a willing match for them in a nanosecond… and I’ve already done it.”

Mabel laughed and turned around in the chair. “Dip, you’re not a love expert like me. You don’t know how these things work.” (He didn’t, as it would take a million years to fill out that kind of paperwork.) “And besides, you’re looking at it all wrong. A willing match isn’t the same as a perfect match. We need to find someone who is single, ready to mingle, and will fall in love with 1,000 gnomes.”

“Are you saying that a computer can do a better job than me? I am literally one of the most powerful beings alive.”

“This computer is much more romantically competent than you,” she teased.

“Is not.”

“Is too. The computer has probably kissed more girls than you.” She made a kissy face at him.

“That’s because you use the computer to look up pictures of male models and kiss the screen!”

“I thought I told you not to use your omniscience to spy on me!” she snapped, cheeks flushing a dark red.

“I didn’t need to. The monitor always has Sparkle Yum Berry Lipgloss on it!”

Mabel crossed her arms and sneered at Dipper, “Fine, Mr. Know-it-all! If you’re so confident in yourself, how about a little competition? Winner gets fame, glory, and all the good candy. Loser gets shame and loser candy.”

“Ha! Really, you want to go up against me?” he chuckled. “I know everything!”

Mabel pushed a smug smile at him. “Then it shouldn’t be too hard to beat me.”

“It won’t be.”

It was on the rare occasion the twins would become highly competitive with each other. There was that one time they argued over who got the spare room in the Shack, other times it was about board games or who could scream the loudest for the longest, but when the twins decided to compete with each other, it was always an ordeal. They would scoff and pretend like they didn’t know each other or wrestle each other to the ground.

Since the Transcendence, their competitive nature had gotten even more severe. Dipper would snap his fingers to knock Mabel temporarily unconscious while Mabel would lay binding sigils and salt circles on the ground to trap him when he wasn’t paying attention. Anything to ensure their own title as Alpha Twin. This was no exception.

All was fair in love and war.

 

------

After finally escaping the binding sigil Mabel had laid under the rug in the gift shop (luckily Soos eventually came by and let him out), Dipper was ready to present his match to the gnomes. (It only took a matter of minutes to appear in the dreams of his selection and tell her she had been invited out on a date by a gnome society that evening. Of course, his selection was more than willing-- as he had predicted.) (As for Mabel, she was still busy sorting through the online responses, chatting back and forth, and trying to convince her selections that a blind date with gnomes was a good idea.) For good measure, he had the whole thing set up for them too. A fancy dinner, some nice music pulsing from Stan’s old boom box, and candles lit by blue flame.

There was no way Mabel was going to beat him.

He stood in front of Jeff, the other gnomes huddling around in the trees and behind bushes. Jeff tapped his foot anxiously on the ground. “This better be good, kid! There’s a lot on the line here!”

Dipper cleared his throat, “Alright, Jeff. As promised, I have found you a date. May I present the future Queen of the Gnomes, Gerty.” He gestured towards the trees, as a stout figure peeled through the trees. “She’s a cave troll, who is, and I’m quoting her thoughts directly here ‘looking for something sweet’. She is also larger than a badger, which I recognize was an important quality.”

Gerty grinned, her jagged teeth apparent beneath her bright red lipstick. Dipper couldn’t say Gerty was the most attractive cave troll in the world, but she cleaned up pretty nice. A red dress hugged her hard, rocky skin. And she had pulled her stringy brown hair out of her face. “Hey, Jeff,” she said, posing to show off the amount of effort she put into her appearance. “Dipper told me so much about you.”

A smile popped onto Jeff’s face. “Hot dog! Now she looks like she could take a badger on in a fight!” His smile turned into a smoulder, “And might I say, also looks amazing in the color red.”

Gerty blushed, “Oh you. You’re looking pretty delicious yourself.”

Dipper spun around, closing his eyes. “Okay, this is getting a little gross. You guys have a good time on your date. I’ll just be somewhere that’s not here. You know how to call me if you need me.” He teleported a couple yards away, just far enough away the was out of sight and ear shot. Best to let the new couple have some privacy.

He was really looking forward to rubbing his success in Mabel’s face.

“I hope you’re hungry,” Jeff said, seating himself at the table. “Dinner is a gnome speciality! Which is to say we stole it from the diner in town. Spaghetti and acorns, they were out of meatballs so we had to improvise. I hope you’re hungry!”

“Absolutely famished.” Gerty said, dragging her clawed across the checkered tablecloth.

“I’d think so! A big girl like you needs energy to fight off badgers!” A little gnome waiter came by and filled their water glasses. “I just can’t believe a nice pretty girl like you is single!”

The blue candle light fractured off of her jagged teeth (cave trolls eat whatever they can find) and pitch black eyes (all iris, an evolutionary advantage to help trolls see in the dark). She chuckled to herself, “Oh, my dates don’t last so long. Men don’t seem to recognize that I have very specific needs.”

“Well, that won’t be a problem. With all 1,000 of us, you’ll have everything you ever needed.”

“Oh, maybe. 1,000 will last me quite some time.” She licked her lips with anticipation.

The gnome waiter came by again, dropping the plates of spaghetti and acorns on the table. Jeff rubbed his hands together. “Before we get to that, let’s dig in!” Just as he reached for his fork, Gerty leaned in over the table.

Her red lipped smirk was sharp and powerful. “Oh, I’m sorry. But I don’t eat spaghetti.”

“Oh,” Jeff frowned in thought for a moment, before returning to a smile. “That’s okay! What do you eat? Maybe we can rustle something up for you.”

She pursed her lips, thinking to herself. “Mostly things like berries, roots, chipmunks,” her black eyes suddenly became very menacing, “gnomes.”

“Huh?” Gerty rose to her feet, plucking Jeff up off the ground by the back of his shirt. He wracked against her grip, swinging his fist and legs around. “Hey! What gives?” he screamed.

The other gnomes moved into defensive maneuvers, stacking on top of each other to make living crossbows, all aiming at Gerty. Some scampered around by her feet, trying to bite her ankles or scale up her back, but she bashed them all away.

Gerty laughed to herself. “Let’s just skip ahead to desert shall we? I hear gnome flesh is very sweet!”

Jeff squirmed and screamed, “Ahh! Dipper! Help!” Gerty opened her mouth, preparing to eat Jeff alive.

Dipper popped into existence a second later. “What’s happening?” He looked over at Gerty, her grayish tongue hanging out of her mouth as she lowered Jeff inside. “Oh my god!” With one hand, Dipper commanded the shadows to come out from beneath the trees and around the bushes, gripping Gerty around the wrists and ankles, and yanking her away from the gnomes. He then used his spare hand to grab Jeff out of the air before he plummeted into the dirt. He let out a breath and set Jeff gently onto the ground. “That was a close one.”

“A close one,” Jeff shouted over the sounds of Gerty struggling against the shadows.  “She almost ate me! That was much too close for comfort.”

“I’m so sorry. I--”

Dipper was interrupted by the sound of Mabel breaking through the underbrush, crunching leaves beneath her feet. She still had her pink heart sunglasses on, and was standing in a power pose. “Jeff! Ignore whatever Dipper has said. My matchmaking skills have found you the new love of your life. Melissa, a sentient swarm of bees!” On cue, a swarm of bees, apparently named Melissa, buzzed through the gnome village. They looped and arched in chaotic patterns, chasing down individual gnomes and stinging their faces (it was a sign of affection for sentient bee swarms). The gnomes screamed and swatted in terror at Melissa, some taking cover in hollowed out trees and some resorting to lying on the ground and crying.

“Whoops,” Mabel said to herself.

Jeff screamed and shielded himself from the multiple bees that buzzed around his face. “What have you done?”

Mabel tapped her bottom lip. “I think she’s just nervous.”

Dipper pushed her out of the way, trying to maintain his shadow’s grip on Gerty while trying to herd Melissa away from the gnomes. The shadows swirled and pulled at the bees, his concentration pulled between the two poorly made matches. Maneuvering the bees with one hand was a struggle watching them slip and slide out from underneath the shadows as he tried to grab them one by one.

As he wrangled the final bee, he looked between both parties, exhaustion plastered on his face. “Thanks for coming out here ladies, but it’s a no from the gnomes. I’ll just send you all home now. Good luck in the rest of your romantic endeavors!” He snapped his fingers, warping reality around Gerty and Melissa until they both disappeared from sight. His arms dropped to his sides. “Wow, that was really hard. Is everyone okay?”

Everyone was not okay. Most of the gnomes has large welts on their face from the bee stings. Others pulled them self off of the ground, bruised from being beaten away by Gerty. They staggered around, leaning on each other for support as they tried to find a good place to sit down and rest.

The whole corner of the village was destroyed too. The hollowed out tree houses had some windows broken and doors hanging off of hinges. The table that had been set up was now on it’s side, spaghetti and acorns spilled across the dirt.

“What were the two of you thinking,” Jeff screamed, hands balled into fists, and a welt forming over his left eye.   

The few gnomes that still had the strength stacked on top of each other in sloppy and dazed formation, Jeff skittering up to the top until he reached eye level with the twins. He pointed at Mabel, “You! A swarm of bees? What kind of chaotic idea is that? We wouldn’t be in this mess had you just accepted to be our gnome queen years ago!”

“Melissa has a great personality. You just didn’t take the time to get to know her.” (She really did have a great personality.) 

Jeff rolle his eyes. “And you!” he pointed at Dipper. “A gnome-eating troll! I thought you were supposed to know everything and you set us up with her? Were you trying to kill us? You’re a sorry excuse for a demon and a human! You never have any idea what you are messing with!”

Dipper wanted to retort, but couldn’t find the words to respond. He had been so careless with his omniscience again. He was still so new to this, he barely understood how it worked. And this time it almost had some serious consequences. “I’m sorry, Jeff. I really am.”

“Sorry won’t cut it! You’ve ruined us for the last time. The deal is off!” The moment Jeff said that, Dipper felt something break off inside of him, what energy he had left now completely drained. “Now get out! I don’t want to see either of you around here again!”

 

-----

The twins left the gnome village defeated.

Dipper sighed and dropped down onto a fallen log. “We really screwed this one up, huh, Mabes?”

“Yeah, no kidding,” she said, sitting down beside him. They both rested their chins in the palms of their hands. “I was really excited about doing something nice for someone, but it’s a lot harder than I thought. Maybe we should stick to cult bashing and demon fighting.”

“Yeah, maybe.” Dipper was really excited about it too. He hoped that maybe he could use his powers from something productive and helpful, rather than just for violence. But maybe that’s all demons were good for: evil. “I just don’t get it though. I still know that we’re gonna find the perfect date for the gnomes. My omniscience says so. But if it wasn’t Gerty and it wasn’t Melissa, who could it be?”

She chuckled to herself, “Maybe we should have tried some of the humans in town. I can think of some really desperate people.”

“Ew, no!” Dipper laughed and pushed her shoulder playfully. “Can you imagine? Jeff with someone like… Lazy Susan?”

Mabel shrugged, “It could work. Jeff likes stealing food from the diner and mature women. Lazy Susan likes things that are roughly the size of a cat.”

The twins laughed, their shoulders rubbing up against each other. Taking a breath, Dipper shook his head. “I’m sorry I took this way too seriously and kept making you pass out and stuff. It’s no fun when we try to compete. We work much better as a team.”

“And I’m sorry I trapped you in that binding for like… 2 hours?”

“1 hour and 47 minutes. But apology accepted.” He looked out at the sun setting over the thick brush of the pine trees, a hazy pink turning into a heavy navy blue. It blinked through the needles of the trees, casting jagged shadows on the ground. “Maybe we should go home.”

Something crunched around the corner, a stick breaking. A guttural moan broke over the whisper of the forest.

Mabel whipped her head around. “Tell me you heard that.”  

Dipper rose into a hover, cocking his head towards the sound. It broke and swelled in intervals and radiated thick slurs of sadness and isolation into the air. “It sounds like someone crying. We should go check it out.”

They crept through the trees, until spying a small figure, nearly camouflaged by the foliage around her. Her hair was a thick, lush green like the pine trees around her, while her skin and clothes were a soft, light brown like patches of dirt and dead grass. Her hair fluttered in a breeze that wasn’t really there, as she sat against a rock, sobbing into her hands.

“She’s a wind spirit,” Dipper whispered to Mabel.

Mabel frowned, “Poor thing! I wonder what happened to her? We should go ask if she’s okay.”

“You’re right. Let’s go.” They walked over together, trying to wave down the wind spirit. “Hey, excuse me,” Dipper called out.

The wind spirit looked up, deep brown eyes red with tears. But when she laid eyes on him, she jumped back in terror. “Ahh! Demon! Please don’t hurt me! I’ll do whatever you want!” She cowered behind the rock, too afraid to look at Dipper but also unable to pry her gaze away.

He took a step back. “Woah, woah. I’m not gonna hurt you. We just-- we heard you crying and we wanted to make sure you were okay.” Mabel gave a warm smile and a wave, proving that the twins were no threat at all.

The wind spirit poked her head up from behind the rock, still not trusting, but willing to hear them out. “Oh. Well, I’m fine. Thanks for asking.”

“You don’t sound fine,” Mabel sat down on the edge of the rock, motioning for the wind spirit to come closer. “Come on, girlfriend, let out those emotions. It’s okay, Dipper won’t hurt you. He’s too much of a baby to hurt anyone.” He scowled at that, but also didn’t protest.

The wind spirit cautiously sat herself back on the rock next to Mabel. “Well, it’s kind of embarrassing, but I was supposed to go out with this man-otaur I met the other day. And he stood me up! I got all dressed up and I waited for like three hours,” she dropped her head down in defeat. “This is the worst Valentine’s Day ever.”

Dipper hovered over a little closer, and carefully placed a hand on the wind spirit’s arm. “Lora? That’s your name, right? Lora? Anyway, I’m sorry you got stood up. That’s not cool.”

“Definitely not cool!” Mabel agree. “I’ll have to have a talk with those man-otaurs about being polite. Want Dipper and I to beat him up for you?” She smacked her fist into the palm of her hand.

“Uhm, no. Not really.”

“Well there goes my revenge plot,” Mabel muttered to herself.

That’s when a literal light bulb lit up over Dipper’s head only to disappear a few seconds later. “Hang on. What if I said we could set you up on another date?”

“I’d really rather not make deals with a strange demon,” Lora said.

“No, it wouldn’t be a deal. Just a regular favor. I mean, I technically can't do favors for people, but Mabel can. We know some gnomes who have had a pretty bad Valentine’s day too. It might not be the perfect date, but if anything, you guys wouldn’t have to be alone. Misery loves company.”

Mabel leapt up off the rock. “Yeah! Dipper’s right! Besides, you’re all dressed up with nowhere to go. What do you have to lose?”

“The gnomes? I guess those guys are pretty cool.” Lora thought about it for a moment, her cheeks flushing a deep blue. “Well… alright. I guess it won’t hurt.”

 

------

 

When they returned to the village, the gnomes were hard at work doing damage control. The gnome police had shown up, along with a few gnome medics. Most of the scene had been closed off with DO NOT ENTER tape. Jeff sat against a tree, nursing the welt over his eye with an ice cube. He looked up at Dipper and Mabel, “I thought I told you two not to come back here? Haven’t you caused me enough pain?”

“We’re sorry,” Mabel blurted out. “Dipper and I were taking ourselves way to seriously that we forgot we were trying to do something nice for a friend.”

“And if you’ll let us try to make it up to you,” Dipper continued, “we may have found someone else who is having a really bad Valentine’s day and could use some cheering up.”

Lora waved from beside Dipper, her natural camouflage making her a little difficult to see against the foliage. “Hi. Uhm, Dipper and Mabel told me about the gnome eating troll… and the swarm of bees. I can’t believe I found someone who had a worse Valentine’s day than me.”

“Well, what happened to you,” Jeff asked.

“I got stood up my a man-otaur.”

All the gnomes in the available area all made a collective “oof” sound, sympathizing with her pain. Jeff shook his head, “The man-otaurs are a bunch of egocentric jerks if you ask me. You’re better off without them.”

“Yeah, I guess I am.” Lora gave a shy smile, looking over her shoulder. Mabel winked and Dipper gave her a thumbs up. “Well, if you guys aren’t doing anything, my evening has just freed up. And before you get worried, I’m a vegetarian and I am not made of bees.”

The gnomes all shared a collective glance, nodding with interest. “Okay,” Jeff said after gauging the general reaction. “Sounds like our night just freed up too.”

 

-----

 

As it turned out, Lora and the gnomes had a lot in common. They liked the same kind of music, long romantic walks, and had an obsession with Gossiping Housewives. They sat around a blue campfire and talked for hours. They were a pretty good match. (A perfect match.)

Mabel peeked over her shoulder from where the twins were sitting and pumped one fist in the air. “Match made!”

“Huh?” Dipper said. “Yeah, I guess we did do it.”

“Maybe this was destiny, and that’s why your omniscience was all screwed up. We wouldn’t have found Lora if we didn’t set the gnomes up on those horrible dates.”

“I think you’re right about that.” He shifted awkwardly on the log they shared, feeling his body start to pull out of the real world and into the mindscape. He exerted way more energy than he expected. And now, sitting on a broken deal with no candy reward, he was fading fast.

“Hey.” The twins looked around to see Jeff. “I brought you something.” He tossed a bag down at their feet. Mabel picked it up and untied it in her lap, mostly because Dipper couldn’t touch things anymore, his visage turning more and more into a flickering hologram. The bag was filled with gummy koalas, amongst other assorted candies.

“But you broke the deal,” Dipper said. “You don’t owe us anything.”

Jeff shrugged, “But you’re nice kids. And you try hard. Also Lora is… she’s a hit. We can’t get enough of her. Did you know she’s fought off two badgers at once? It’s so cool.” He rocked back on his feet and clapped his hands together, “So yeah, consider the candy a gift, or an offering, whatever you call it.”

At the mention, Dipper reached into the bag, grabbed a SnickSnack bar and popped it into his mouth, wrapper and all. Within a second his physical form steadied. “Thanks, Jeff.”

“No, thank you,” Jeff replied, shooting finger guns before heading back into the village.

Mabel grabbed for the bag of gummy koalas, ripping it open and pouring some into her mouth. She spoke between strands of sticky gelatin. “I think we did good today.”

Dipper grinned and grabbed another piece of candy. “Yeah, we did good.”

Chapter Text

“Nope. You can’t do it. You can’t make me go.” Dipper crossed his arms, stubbornly refusing to quit hovering over the porch.

“With enough candy we can!” Mabel pulled at his arm, digging the heels of her shoes into the wooden boards, but no matter how hard she pulled he didn’t budge. “Come on!”

“You do realize I haven’t intentionally left Gravity Falls for almost 2 years right? I leave for summonings and nothing else.”

“Which is why you need this vacation more than any of us,” she pleaded. “You’re always being Alcor and you gotta cut it out.”

“Cut what out? If people see me on the street, they’ll freak out. And I really don’t want to spend this vacation being invisible while you guys go out and have fun. I mean, the Transcendence really scared people. All this horrible stuff happened! Cities were destroyed! And if people saw me they would lose it. There is no way you can convince me to leave the Shack." 

Apparently, Stan and Ford had decided to purchase a used boat off of a fairly sleazy boat salesman (little did he know there was no one sleazier than Stanley Pines), and properly named it The Stan-o-War II. Now that summer had come around it was time to finally take the boat out for a spin, and Dipper and Mabel were meant to join them. Mabel was, obviously, excited, trying to pick out a swimsuit that would impress any nearby mermen (“I don’t think a bathing suit will be the thing that impresses any mermen,” Dipper told her. “Your personality should be enough. Also, you’ve already dated a merman.” Mabel chuckled and held another bikini up the mirror, “Dipper. There’s plenty of hot half-fish men in the sea. I just need to cast my net.”) Dipper however, was much less excited.

Even in town, surrounded by his friends, he did not like being seen by other people. In fact, only a few people outside of his family saw him regularly. Primarily Wendy and Soos (occasionally, Soos brought Melody by, or Mabel would bring over Candy and Grenda for a sleepover). But more often than not, he would disappear when anyone else came by the Shack. It took everyone a long time to adjust to his appearance and it usually took people a few minutes to remember that he wasn’t as scary as he looked. They would always jump a little when they saw him, and then spend the next 2-4 minutes working on lowering their heart rate.

“That’s why we’re not going out in public. We’re staying on the boat,” Stan grumbled as he slammed the trunk of the car shut. “And stop calling it a vacation. The only reason you kids are coming along is because we can’t trust you to stay in the Shack on your own.”

“We can’t leave them alone because they’re underage, Stanley. It would be illegal,” Ford commented, not looking up from Journal 4. “But also yes, you two can be very irresponsible.”

“Counterpoint,” Dipper said. “I no longer exist. Therefore leaving me alone in the Shack is not illegal. And without Mabel I won’t have anything to do other than read and probably sheer the nightmares. They could use a good trim.”

“The nightmares?” Stan asked.

“Irrelevant,” he brushed off the comment. “What I’m saying is that I don’t want to go, there is no amount of candy that can make me go, and you should just leave me behind. I have a bad feeling about this trip.”

Mabel frowned, “Dip. We’re going to spend some quality time as a family.”

“Actually we’re going to do some research on the particle waves created by the Transcendence,” Ford added. Mabel shot him an angry sneer, and Ford cleared his throat. “But yes, also family time.”

“See?,” Mabel said. “We’re all going together to take a break on the nice open ocean, where there will definitely be no people around to bother you, and to make sure Grunkle Ford doesn’t get eaten by a kraken.”

“Still no. There’s 28,003 situations in which this goes wrong and most of them are because of me. A few of them are particularly terrible and do involve being seen by the public. And I don't know which ones will actually happen. 0 are because Ford gets eaten by a kraken, by the way. They live in the Atlantic Ocean.”

“You’re coming.”

“No.”

“Yes you are. You wouldn’t be able to leave my side for a whole week! You’re way too neurotic for that.” Mabel grinned, and nudged her elbow against Dipper’s side. “And besides, I learned some sea shanties!”

“She’s gotcha there kid,” Stan commented. “The not leaving her side thing. Not the sea shanties-- oh sweet Moses, how many of those will she sing?”

Dipper crossed his arms in a huff. She was right, he wouldn’t be able to leave her alone for a whole week, even with Stan and Ford. “Fine." 

“Yes!” Mabel squeezed her arms around his middle. “This will be a great vacation. I promise.”

“Still not a vacation,” Stan called. “Now both of you get in the car.”

 

------

 

After a 4 hour drive to the dock, accompanied by Mabel’s “car shanties” (“It’s like a sea shanty, but it’s all about how I hope we have enough gas and that the car doesn’t break down!” she said. After the 2nd shanty, everyone was sufficiently annoyed by just how many things Mabel could sing about and for how long.) the Pines family was not looking forward to a week of sea shanties.

Stan steered the boat out of the dock, into the fresh spray of ocean water. The boat rattled and rumbled across the bright blue ocean. The air was warm with the fresh bursts of summer, and the sky was clear with the exception of a few clouds that occasionally passed by. The moment the boat was out of sight of the dock, Mabel sketched a quick summoning circle onto the floor of the boat, prying her brother out of hiding.

Mabel leaned up against the railing of the boat and inhaled. “Ahh! Do you smell that? Salt and dead fish! That’s the smell of family bonding right there.”

Dipper leaned up against the rail beside her, “That’s… really gross, Mabes.” He peered over the edge, just far enough to get a good look at the ripples in his reflection. He actually looked less strange with the echoes of waves running through the image of his wings and claws.

“Aww come on, bro-bro,” she urged. “Don’t be such a grumpus. We’ll have a good time. It’s like camping, but on the ocean. We had so much fun camping with Mom and Dad…” she paused, suddenly remembering they were technically disowned by parents who no longer wanted them. Dipper didn’t look up to meet her eyes. She sighed and stared down at her reflection too, how different it looked from his. “Let’s just try to have a good time, okay? I know you're nervous, but maybe the bad stuff won't happen. There's still the possibility that we have a very normal, nice family vacation.”

There was. 11,028 situations in which this was the most boring trip ever. He smiled, “Okay.”

The boat jerked everyone to the left, except for Dipper, who had no need for balance. A gush of ocean water sprayed up into the air. “Water’s pretty choppy. You might wanna hang on,” Stan called over the hum of the rudder and the toss of the waves.

Another boat peeled into view, just close enough to see the other passengers on boat, and a stabbing sensation rolled into Dipper’s cut. Mabel pulled him by the arm, trying to usher him along. “Come on, you should get below deck until they pass.”

Dipper shook his head, and leaned over the railing. On the boat opposite theirs, a family tried to steer the boat across the choppy waters, and a little girl crawled too far up the railing. (26 months old.) (Unable to swim.) (Her parents are distracted.) (She’ll fall off the boat in 7 seconds.) (She’ll get caught under the boat and her life vest will catch in the rudder)-- Enough of that!

Dipper pulled himself away from Mabel. “No time to explain. Keep the boat on course, I’ll meet up with you later. I’m gonna need some kind of offering.” Every instinct told him he couldn’t do things without some kind of deal first, but he forced himself to override that instinct.

Well, at least he was able to believe he could have a normal vacation for about 45 seconds. 

Mabel looked over in time to see Dipper disappear, just as the little girl fell off the boat and into the crushing waters.

It was the first time he had been underwater post-Transcendence. It was possible the strangest sensation ever; realizing he didn’t have to hold his breath or close his eyes. He felt more than weightless, that the water wasn’t even the thing keeping him afloat.

Not that any of that mattered right now.

He moved underneath the boat, grabbing onto the little girl, catching th back of her life vest before her life’s vest could snag the rudder. The short tufts of her blonde hair fluttered around her head. He was acutely aware of her parents above wondering what had happened to their child and what that black thing could be moving under the water.

He held the girl close, breaking through the surface of the water. “It’s okay,” he muttered to her, not really caring that her parents had screamed at the sight of whatever monster had caught their child. He gave a couple of good pats to her back, followed by the thankful sound of her coughing up water. (Heart rate: a little slow, but still good) (Breathing: obviously labored, oxygen levels low) (considerable throat and lung damage: treatable with medical care) (3 more seconds and it would have been worse)

He turned to the parents, who reeled back at the sight of his inhuman eyes. “Your daughter is fine, but she needs medical attention immediately. It will be faster if I take her to shore and get help. If you go quickly it won’t take long to catch up with us.” Her parents looked at him empty eyed and confused, their brains still processing all the initial levels of fear. “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to help.” And they nodded, easily going along with his instructions. Mention, they were a little too shell shocked to start questioning things.

He gripped tightly to the girl. Teleporting would be a bad idea; she was far too young, and if teleporting made adults nauseous, it would just do horrible things to a toddler. So the next best option was to fly.

He hadn’t flown in an open space before, and never any higher that the Mystery Shack roof. Nor had he ever flown with another person before (Mabel asked on 18 separate occasions and it never seemed like a good idea). But now he didn’t have much of a choice. He took off into the air, moving just fast enough as to not waste time, but still low enough as to not have a sick toddler in his arms.

The dock below was densely populated, everyone was heading out for their supposedly nice family vacations. But that niceness was ruined by someone pointing up into the sky and screaming (they couldn’t have given him the benefit of the doubt? He reasonably could been a really big bird, or a plane?) This wasn’t going to end well, he knew that. But the little girl needed him. And he was quickly running out of time in the physical plane without an offering to justify his actions.

He landed as gracefully on the wooden dock as he could, trying to give off an aura of peace. The stares were impossible to ignore, the wide eyes horror, the jaws agape with wordless terror. A heavy sting ached in the air. He could feel all of it, every negative emotion. All of it towards him.

“This girl needs an ambulance. Someone call for one. Her parents are still at sea,” he said, trying to sound as neutral as possible.

Instead of being greeted with assistance, he was greeted with a loud, guttural scream. “What is that thing?”

The voices rushed through his ears, maybe shouting all at once or some of them dropping into his skull with a vengeance. “What is it doing with that kid?” “It’s a monster!” “It’s the devil!” “It’s lying to us!” “I think that thing is going to eat that baby!”

Dipper shook his head. “No, she fell off her boat. Please someone get help!” The crowd kept shouting. Some people starting throwing rocks and bottles. Many pulled out their cellphones to record what was happening or take pictures. Someone even started praying at him. The little girl he held certainly would have been crying, had she not done damage to her throat. He staggered back, tucking his wings close against his back. “My name is Alcor. I’m just here to help. I’m not eating her, just someone please take her.”

A man with a rifle leapt up onto the front of one of the boats anchored at the docks. He pointed the barrel directly at Dipper. “Put the baby down. Now!” The bullet wouldn’t hurt him, so there wasn’t anything to worry about, except the girl. The bullet could hurt her. So he nodded, carefully setting her down where the dock turned into the concrete.

He stepped back, both hands in the air. There was a moment of silence, followed by the crack of a gunshot and a small tuft of smoke. He barely registered the bullet that bounced off of his chest and onto the ground with a clink. And that was what really did it for the bystanders. Not that he could fly or had clawed fingers. It was that they couldn’t kill this monster with silver bullets.

He disappeared before anyone had the chance to scream again.

 

-----

 

Dipper sat at the table, or more so the mindscape version of the table, with his head tucked into his arms. The small TV Ford wired into the boat, rattled with static of the late night news. 8 hours and 23 minutes had passed since the initial incident and things had only gotten worse since. “Today, sailors off the coast of Oregon spotted a creature kidnapping a small child. Cryptozoologists and theologists reported in that they believe this creature to be of demonic origin. The creature referred to itself as Alcor and was scared off by bystanders, eventually abandoning the child. She is reported safe with her family, being treated in the hospital. It is advised under no circumstances to engage with the creature if seen and to report any sightings to authorities.”

“I think you’ve had enough of that.” Mabel came by and turned off the TV, spotting Dipper hovering in a mostly holographic visage at the table.

“It doesn’t matter,” he groaned. “I have TV in my head. I can hear all the terrible things people are saying about me. There’s a whole bunch of online forums wondering what they can do to destroy me before I go out and try to eat more babies.”

“Well,” Mabel said, sliding into the booth opposite of him, “let’s change the channel. Is Ducktective on? I know you love Ducktective .”

“Mabel, thanks for trying, but you really can’t make me feel better right now.”

“Can you at least come out of the mindscape? It looks like you could really use a super-special-sister hug right now. And I packed a whole bunch of candy.” He shook his head. Mabel side, looking out the little round window, watching the sea mist splash against it. “These people are wrong. They don’t know you like I do… they don’t know you at all. If they knew what kind of person you were, if they knew the truth about all of this, they wouldn’t say those things about you.”

“They can’t know the truth. If word ever gets out about what… who I am, it’s game over. Those other demons will latch onto that information and then kill me and you.”

Mabel sighed, reaching out to let her hand phase through him. “You did the right thing. You need to know that.”

Ford eased his way down into the hold of the boat, looking over to see Mabel starting woefully at the empty end of the table. “Is he doing alright?”

“Nope. He’s a sad little tea cup. He won’t come out of the mindscape. Not even for candy.”

“Well, then how about helping me with some research? Come on, apprentice. There’s nothing more fun than particle waves.”

Mabel looked back over at Dipper. “He still won’t come out.”

Ford rubbed at his chin in thought. “Not even for a game of Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons ? I may have found a warding spell that will protect me from your omniscience. My traps will finally get you.”

Again, Mabel translated Dipper’s reply. “He said he’s really not in the mood for games.”

“Alright, I see you’re still pretty upset,” Ford leaned over and patted at the air where he assumed his great nephew was (he was1 foot 4 inches off). “I’ll leave you be then.” He disappeared back up the stairs.

Just then, a blue summoning circle lit up beneath Dipper’s feet, pulsing blue 3 times. He groaned, folding further into himself. Mabel popped her head under the table to look at it, “Is someone summoning you?”

“People have been figuring out how to summon me all day. I guess they’re ignoring the warnings on the news.” (The summonings happened progressively over time; starting with Mabel, then cultists who formerly worshiped Bill Cipher, the people of Gravity Falls, theologists/demonologists, cryptozoologists, cultists in general, self-proclaimed goth kids, frat guys, people who lived in towns that were previously known for supernatural happenings, and now… everyone in the whole world.) “Which is fine, I haven’t been answering them anyway. All they want is to try to get photos of me for the media or kill me.” (Ignoring the summonings was getting harder. It went against all of his primal instincts. Sort of like an itch you can’t scratch. But he continued ignoring them anyway.)

“You should answer them.”

“Mabel, I love you, but that would make me feel worse.”

“No,” she slide out of the booth, “I mean that you can go and try to convince these people that you don’t eat babies, you rescue them!”

He shook his head. “They have pretty malicious energy. I’m not going.”

“What if I went with you?”

“You can’t. People will be taking pictures, someone will take a picture of you, and someone will recognize you and ergo me, and then we’ll both be dead.”

A smile flashed across her face. “No they won’t!” She launched herself into one of the tiny backrooms of the boat that Stan and Ford converted into a bedroom for Mabel, and came out a minute later wearing a hot pink cotton surgical, heart-shaped sunglasses, and her hair pulled up. She slung the baseball bat over her shoulder and beamed with pride. “See! Instant disguise!”

Dipper looked up only long enough to catch a glimpse of her. “You look like you came out of the pink apocalypse.”

“Thanks!”

“We’re not going. I don’t feel like being greeted by acrimonious crowds right now.”

She sighed, baseball bat lagging off her shoulder. “Fine,” she took a few shuffled steps back towards her bedroom, and then Dipper felt the sudden burst of energy radiate from her. “But I don’t need your permission to do anything! I can teleport all on my own! Later, broseph!” She gave him a quick salute, before rotating her foot about 10 degrees to the right, and disappearing into the light of a golden flame.

Dipper immediately, sat upright just in time to watch her go. “Mabel, no! Auughh!” And he teleported after her.

 

------

 

A crowd had formed in the abandoned parking lot of some town in the Midwest where the summoning circle was, a couple of priests standing in front as if they could exorcise whatever Dipper was (they could not). Mabel already stood in the center of the summoning circle looking down at was… animal caracasses. Pigs… of course they had to pick pigs. The smell of open flesh and fresh blood permeated the air around them. Thick sloppy blood oozed over the blue glow of the summoning circle. He didn’t want to look too long. That if he looked, maybe he would start to enjoy it.

He couldn’t believe that’s what they used to summon him. Didn’t they do any kind of reading? Didn’t they know he hated blood and death and would have answered for a chocolate bar? And what was he supposed to do will animal corpses?

A few seconds after he arrived, cameras flashed and people screamed either in horror or just pure shock from seeing the summoning.

He wrapped an arm around Mabel. He could see her eyes through the tint of her glasses, the tears welling up inside. “Come on, we’re going.”

She yanked away from him, almost stepping in a thick puddle of blood. “No! You need to tell them not to do this! That they’re jerks!”

As she pulled free, the crowd shouted, both speaking to each other and into the livestreams on their cellphones. “This time it kidnapped a girl!” “Let her go!” “What will it do to her?”

Mabel shifted back and shook her head, “What? No! My name is Mizar. Alcor didn’t kidnap me, I came here with him!”

“The demon must be forcing her to say that!”

“He didn’t!” she shouted over them, taking a step outside of the summoning circle. “Please, you need to stop! He isn’t like this! Stop with the summonings. He’s not a bad person!”

A random bystander wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into the crowd. The baseball bat slipped out of her hand. “I’ve got the girl!” he shouted, holding Mabel tight against her struggles.

“What? No! Let me go!” she cried.

“Destroy the demon!” Someone else shouted.

An splatter of water swung through the air, scattering itself across Dipper, and the moment he did he dropped down to his knees in pain. He gripped to his arm, suddenly aware of the sting that ran up his body. Smoke hissed off his skin where it touched. Blessed water. Another arch sprinkled across his side and shoulder, causing him to wince again. “I didn’t do anything! Ṣ̶̊̌͘ẗ̶̹̝̦̦́o̸͙͛̽̓p̵̤̲̫ ̵̣̭͌,” he growled, trying to rise to his feet before being hit again.

Mabel pulled against the arms of her restrainer, “Stop it! You’re hurting him!” Of course, no one stopped. They weren’t going to listen to her. They thought she was a crazed victim. A spark flew up in her hands and trailed up her arms, still cold to the touch, but enough to frighten the man away and for her to make a mad dash towards Dipper.

Shadows curled out from underneath people’s feet and from around cars, causing them to shriek and stumble in fear. Dipper snarled, showing off far too many of his sharpened teeth. “S̵̥̳̰͛t̸͖͓̅̑ȯ̴̞͔̋̓͑ṕ̵̧̞͍̐̈́̀ ̸̋͐͌ì̵̮͆͑t̵̨͝!" Mabel hadn’t seen him like this since their run in with the Blind Eye, except now he was stronger, and far more upset. She grabbed at her baseball bat, threatening anyone who came a step too close.

She tugged at his coat, dragging him into an embrace, covering his body with hers. The smoke where they hurt him wafted into her face, as she stepped into the summoning circle. The circle lit up gold as she landed them back on the deck of the Stan O’ War II.

Mabel dropped to her knees, whipping off the mask and sunglasses. The sounds of Stan and Ford rushing towards them muffled in her ears. She put both her hands on Dipper’s cheeks pulling his face up to look at hers. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry. Are you okay?”

Mabel watched as golden tears bubbled up in his eyes and dripped down his face. He sniffed, at looked at her with painful blackened eyes. “I didn’t do anything,” he muttered.

She yanked him into a close embrace, careful of where the blessed water stung his skin. His clawed hands pressed against her back, perhaps too tightly, but that didn’t really matter. “I’m sorry,” she whispered again. “I promise I’ll listen to you from now on. I’m so sorry.”

He didn’t answer, he just cried into her shoulder.

Stan knelt down between them, “What happened to you?”

Mabel pressed her cheek up against the side of Dipper’s head. “A lot of bad people.”

------

 

For the next few days of their journey, Dipper remained nowhere to be found, definitely hiding out in the mindscape. Mabel gave up on the idea that he would ever come out of the duration of the trip. She mostly spent the days helping Ford with his experiment, barely singing along to sea shanties, and watching the news.

The twins were all anyone wanted to talk about. They made every news station, every late night talk show, or teen gossip station. Everyone had a (mostly negative) opinion about what happened. The wouldn’t stop talking about the demon that ate babies and kidnapped teenage girls. Most news stations advised you to stay indoors. Schools around the country were cancelled. Crusades of self-made demon hunters patrolled the streets.

Soos called shortly after it all happened to make sure they were okay. Apparently he tried summoning Dipper multiple times after seeing the news, but he never showed. (“Things actually aren’t okay,” she told him. “Dipper got hurt pretty bad. Physically and emotionally. I think it could be a couple weeks before he shows himself again, he’s not really in the mood for talking to people. Even us.”)

As for Dipper, he floated around in the depths of the mindscape, wondering if he should ever come out of hiding at all. He could spend the rest of eternity in there if he really wanted. And it didn’t seem like that bad of an idea.

The summonings came and went, most of them violent and malicious, the rest all desperate pleas from his family. He answered none of them. He just wanted to disappear.

And then there was another summoning, a little different from the rest. It felt warm and hopeful, kind even. And it was vaguely familiar. (This one you have to answer. Don’t ignore it.)

So he went.

 

He found himself in the cozy living room of a nuclear family. The air smelled like residue of having already eaten dinner and cleaned all the dishes. A warm yellow lamplight filled the room, illuminating the mother (Ingrid) who sat on the couch, fretting over a little girl who was busy rocking a babydoll. The father (Kyle) stepped back from the summoning circle, careful of the candles and his daughter, the blood streaming down his arm.

It was the little girl from the boat accident. She looked curiously at Dipper for a moment, and then resumed her coloring. Dipper, however, went wide-eyed with fear at the family. He shrunk back, wings curling around his shoulders.

“Don’t be afraid! We don’t want to hurt you or make fun of you!” The father held up both hands, as if to beckon Dipper back. It was odd to hear someone imply that he was afraid of them, because it was definitely true. He had become afraid of humans. The father spoke carefully, as if trying not to frighten off a startled animal. “We wanted to say thank you. You saved our daughter’s life.”

Dipper paused, taking a step back. “You’re welcome,” his word came out in a hesitant whisper. Why were they doing this? Why were they being kind to him?  “I’m happy to see that your daughter is doing well.” 

“What’s your name,” the mother asked. “I heard it on the news but I don’t remember it.”

“Alcor.”  

“Alcor,” she tested out the name, as if she were speaking the name of God or something. “Is it okay if we ask you a question?” she asked again.

“Yes.”

“Demons aren’t supposed to be kind, or do things without a price. Why did you save her?”

Dipper felt very small, not just because he hadn’t grown since the Transcendence, but because no one really cared about who he was or why he did things a certain way. He didn’t know what to say, or what to do with his now useless hands, folding around and fidgeting. “Because I couldn’t sit back and do nothing when I had the ability to help her.” He tried not to look at them, tucking his hands behind his back like the shy child he had to admit he was. “I’m not like the other demons. I don’t want to be a bad person.”

“People are afraid of things they don’t understand,” the father said. “We’ve tried explaining to the media that you’re a good person, but fear is a powerful thing. But we aren’t afraid, okay? You’re our hero. We wouldn’t have a daughter if not for you. And we’re sorry that you’ve only been met with fear and hatred for what you did. It’s unfair.”

Dipper nodded, watching the little girl (Cassie) rock the baby doll back and forth. And it finally struck him that he was responsible for her sitting there, continually rocking her doll. “Thank you,” he muttered. “I needed to hear that.” 

It was the first time anyone offered him something he actually needed. Something he didn’t have to suck the emotional warmth out of, it was just given to him. 

The mother rose from the couch, holding out her hand, but not to make a deal. Instead, she rested it just against his upper arm. She smiled at him so softly. “If you need to see some friendly faces, we’ll be here.”

“And if you ever need anything, like literally anything, please let me know. Just… don’t use blood next time. It’s kind of gross.  Candy works better.”

They smiled. “We will.”

Things were pretty bad, Dipper had to admit that. But if he could do this one good thing, if this one good family could like him, maybe there was a chance things could change one day. 

 

------

 

Dipper went back to the boat in the middle of the night. The soft lull of the waves had rocked Mabel into a delicate sleep, but the moment he returned, she slipped into wakefulness-- as if she were becoming more aware of his presence. “Dipper, are you back?” she mumbled.

“Yeah, I’m back,” he slipped over to her bunk.

She reached out with one hand, her fingers getting caught in the curls of his hair. “You’re material? Did someone summon you?”

“Mhm. That girl’s parents. They weren't afraid of me and they... thanked me?" 

A lazy smile pressed into Mabel’s mouth. “They know that you’re a good person. There was no reason for them to be scared of you.” She yawned, stretching out in her sliver of bed. “Do you feel better?”

“No, not really. I don’t think I’ll ever feel good about this.”

She nodded, head nudging its way into the pillow. “I’m sorry I made it worse. I forced you to come on this trip and then I forced you to go on that summoning and… I really ruined your life didn’t I?"

“No,” he whispered, hands lingering at the edge of her blanket. “It’s not your fault. I don’t regret the choice I made. I knew from the moment I decided to save her things were going to be bad. We’ll just have to lay low for a while, try to assess the damage.”

The words choked themselves out of Mabel’s throat. “More bad things are going to start happening aren’t they? More people, and demons, and monsters are going to try to kill or capture you, aren’t they?”  

“Yes,” he replied. “And I don't know what to do anymore.” 

Chapter Text

Mabel, Wendy, and Soos all slammed their hands on the table. “Eat it! Eat it!”

Since Alcor became public knowledge, the world started changing. The summonings had increased by 202.37%, though Dipper answered maybe 5% of them. Only for family, friends, and for people in desperate need (in which case he would try to go in and out before anyone noticed). It took its toll on him too. It was like someone was constantly ringing a doorbell or calling on the phone in the back of his head. Demons weren’t supposed to look tired, but Dipper did, weakened by the lack of magical energy. His powers weakened drastically. He couldn’t hold physical form for as long, his flames were usually small and flickering. (“You should try to take a few more,” Mabel urged. “I know you’re still scared and upset but you can’t keep doing this! You’re getting weaker! There have to be a few easy ones you can take.” He’d always shake his head, “I’m just not ready.”)

It also meant that he had to lay low. If he were ever to be seen in Gravity Falls by an outsider, it would mean tracing his location back to the town, to the Shack, and to his family. He spent most of his time hiding out in the attic or wandering around the Shack completely invisible. He didn’t even want to go out into town anymore. Mabel could see the hesitation simmer off of him like a heat mirage. He hadn’t been the same person since the vacation. The good news was that his family was very good at trying to keep the status quo.

The three continued to chant, their pounding fists rattling the table and walls in the kitchen. “Eat it! Eat it! Eat it!” Their chanting moved with the rhythm of the rain pattering against the windows.

Dipper grabbed the sponge off the dinner plate between his thumb and index finger. It smelled like the inside of a drain pipe and oozed a thick brown sludge onto the plate? “Did you cover this in hot sauce, leave it outside for 22 hours and 13 minutes, put it in the microwave, and then swipe peanut butter over it?”

Soos nodded, “We call it danger toast!”  

“Awww…” Mabel grumbled to herself, “this game is no fun when you know what we did to it.”

“I can’t help it. I know most things,” he shrugged.

“Still,” Mabel replied, “there’s got to be some way I can hide stuff from you. Mystery Food would be way more fun if you had to guess.”

“I don’t know what to tell you, sister. If there’s some secret spell or magic item that makes me not know about stuff, I wouldn’t know about it… because you know… that’s what it does.” He looked back at the sponge and grimaced, “What I don’t know is why you guys find this game fun.”

Wendy pounded her hand against the table one more time, “Stop stalling and eat the sponge!”

Dipper cringed, closed his eyes, dropped the sponge into his mouth, and swallowed. Mabel had quickly learned he could eat things that weren’t even food, simply because his body didn’t process food the normal way anymore. At first it was just an experiment: could he really eat anything? (Yes, preferably things that were offered to him.) And then it turned into one of Mabel’s wacky games for her own amusement. He really didn’t appreciate being used as her plaything, but anything was better than sitting in his own misery.

He shuddered, “I hope you guys know I can still taste things and that was really gross.”

Wendy chuckled, “Yeah, that’s the point, dummy. Gross things are funny.”

“I wish I had the ability to eat whatever I wanted.” Soos counted the items on his fingers, “Grass clippings, paint, laundry pods, and rhubarb!”

“Rhubarb is already edible, Soos,” Dipper replied.

“I don’t know. That sounds pretty fake, dude.”

“Alright, hurry it up in here, your lunch breaks are almost over,” Stan said, stalking into the kitchen. He looked down at the grimey plate on the table and Mabel setting down another one with a lump of stale cereal, glue, and bacon grease. “And what did I say about playing Mystery Food without me?”

“Aww come on, Stan,” Dipper whined. “Stop encouraging this.”

Mabel laughed and poked at his cheek, “We love you too much to stop tormenting you.”  

Stan chuckled, “Sorry, kiddo, but your pain is hilarious. But seriously, all of you, gift shop now. We got a lotta tourists coming in. Dipper, if I see you, you’re grounded. Turn invisible.”

Everyone groaned and shuffled back into gift shop. The twins shared a glance with each other and shrugged, as Dipper faded away into the mindscape. “Another round of Mystery Food after closing?” she asked.

“Can’t we play something normal? Like poker or charades?”

“Nope,” she gave him a playful smile and a wink. It was hard to be mad at Mabel.

He sighed, but smiled back. “Your deal is my command.”

 

-----

 

During everyone’s shifts, Dipper tried to find new ways to occupy himself. Usually he would hang out with Mabel behind the register, waiting for her to occasionally mumbled something to him or to write it on a pad of paper.

He hovered over her left shoulder, watching the crowd of tourists shift through the items. He rolled his eyes, “Don’t look now, but there’s a weird guy in the Shack.”

She kept her eyes trained on the register, and whispered under her breath. “The flamboyant cowboy or the guy who spits into a bottle and then drinks it?”

“No, this is a different guy. He’s got a really intense look on his face.”

A customer came by, setting down her I FELL INTO A MYSTERIOUS CRATER OUTSIDE THE MYSTERY SHACK t-shirt onto the counter. Mabel scanned it, and punched a few numbers into the register, finally looking up at the mysterious man. He wore all black; pants, shirt, and jacket with two silver guns and a glass bottle plastered to his hips. But none of that was the strangest part, it was the bright red glass eye he wore strung around his neck. He moved about the gift shop, each of his motions calculated, before looking at Mabel with intense eyes.

The customer paid for her shirt and Mabel whispered again to Dipper as she pretended to tie her shoe. “What’s this guy’s deal, do you know?”

Dipper looked back at the man, and bit down on his bottom lip. “No.” He blinked and looked away. The longer he looked at the strange man, the more his head would spin.

“Wait. Really?”

“Not a single idea.”

“Is he human?”

“As far as I can tell.”

“As far as you can tell?” She paused for a moment, “There isn’t something wrong with your omniscience is there? I’m seriously worried, I think not taking summonings is starting to hurt you.” (It is-- but you’re just too stubborn to listen.) She stood back up to resume her duties.

He stared at the mysterious stranger, their eye contact  sharp and relentless. “Something’s not right here, I can’t read this guy at all.” He paused in thought. “I have a theory. Stay here.”

Another customer came by with an armful of Mr. Mystery bobbleheads and dumped them onto the counter. She glanced at Dipper as if to say ‘wait, what are you thinking?’ but by that time he was already phasing through the walls with a shrug. She shook her head and huffed out a sigh, returning to the register.

 

-----

 

Dipper paced outside of the Mystery Shack, or more so he went through the motions of pacing while floating 2 feet off the ground. The rain had stopped, leaving the dirt and grass outside to turn into a dewey-scented mud.

Something was definitely off about this guy in the shack. Sure, Dipper wasn’t great at using his omniscience but no human should be immune to his sight. He could tell you everything about everyone in the Mystery Shack at that moment if he wanted to, but the man in all black? Nothing on that guy. A complete blank slate.

Theory: this guy had some kind of spell that makes him immune to omniscience, and seeing him at the Mystery Shack was really bad news. He ceased his pacing, and peeked his head up into the gift shop window. He waved at Mabel through the glass, who widened her eyes and hunched her shoulders. ‘What are you doing?’ she mouthed.  

‘Waiting,’ he mouthed back. And then he pointed to the crowd of people, and put his other hand up over his eyes like a visor. ‘Do you see the guy anywhere?’

Mabel scanned her eyes across the room, tilting her head and leaning to the side to look around the crowds. She shook her head. Dipper took a step away from the window, and bit down on the claw of his thumb.

A shadow arched up around him. A gravelly voice curled around from behind, “Found you, Dreambender.” Dipper summoned a flame in his hand, feeling it course around his fingers just to have it put out into a puff of sparkling ash. Dipper turned around just to be greeted by something wet and burning splashed into his face. He reeled back, skin burning away into smoke as he tried to wipe the blessed water from his eyes. The only thing he could think to do was scream out in pain.

The man chuckled, placing the empty glass vial on to his belt. He reached into the breast pocket of his jacket and pulling out a small piece of paper between his thumb and index finger. “This is much easier than I thought it would be. I overestimated you,” he tossed the piece of paper to the ground.

Dipper could barely see it through the tendrils of smoke spiraling up from his body and the tears in his eyes. It wasn’t until the paper landed at his feet that he could make out the intricate pattern on the paper. A binding circle.

The circle glew a bright blue, lifting itself off the page and expanding across the open air. Dipper felt himself stick to it like glue. He had only been caught in a binding circle a few times, always set up by Mabel as ridiculous pranks or training segments. But they were always a minor inconvenience. This one was different. It spiralled out underneath his feet, creating a false floor while the edged sprung up into a snow globe like dome. Dipper collapsed under the weight of it, dropping to his hands and knees. He slammed his hands against the barrier, trying to claw his way free, but the circle would merely richet his actions back.

“Mizar!” he screamed, pounding more and more against the barrier. “Mizar, can you hear me?”  

The man in the suit laughed, the red eye around his neck seeming to wink with glee. “I can’t believe you’re the little half-breed everyone is so worried about.” Dipper bashed harder at the circle. “Aww… I could sit here and watch you struggle all day. But time is money.”

The man snapped his fingers and the circle collapsed in on itself. “No, no” Dipper shouted as the binding circle grew smaller and smaller. “Mizar!” The circle disappeared, leaving only the piece of paper, still glowing blue. The man placed it back into his breast pocket, adjusted his jacket, and continued on down the dirt path as if nothing had occurred.

Moments later, Mabel busted through the front door, darting around the Shack in a panic. “Dipper? Dipper?” Her breath stung the inside of her chest as she ran. The dirt and grass clumped to the bottom of her shoes as she ran. “Dipper, where are you? Are you okay?”

She poked her head up through the window where he was standing just moments ago. No sign of him. She looked down at her feet, the flecks of mud caking into her shoes and socks. Something glittered in the breaking sunlight from within the mud. Mabel dropped down to her knees, scooping some it up with her middle and index finger. A powder that looked like ashes crushed diamonds. Her breath caught, “Demonic flame… oh no.” Where the ash sprinkled against the ground, a pair of footprints disappeared from the Shack. “Oh no. Dipper!” He had completely disappeared. But there was a tug in her chest, some deep connection that felt like a string connecting her to him. He was still out there.  

“Mabel?” She heard Soos call, as he and Wendy rushed out into the yard. “What’s going on, hambone?”

She shook her head, staring at the useless summoning circle. “I think that weird guy in the suit took Dipper.”

 

-----

 

Mabel scrambled around the attic, simultaneously tying her hair up and trying to switch into less muddy shoes. She grabbed her baseball bat out from under her bed, careful of the nails jutting out from the wood. Of course Dipper had to get captured by some crazy guy who looked like a 90’s rock star. She told him over and over again to regain his strength, even if it meant answering summonings. But he was stubborn and now she had to go save him from something she didn’t understand.

“You guys keep an eye on the Shack, I’ll go rescue Dipper,” she instructed to Wendy and Soos, who watched her from the opposite side of the bedroom.

Wendy shook her head, “No way, we’re coming with you. Stan and Ford will be able to take care of the Shack themselves.”

“You guys can’t come!” Mabel snapped. “It’s too dangerous! Some of the stuff we might run into will be seriously messed up! I can at least do demon magic, but you guys could be completely defenseless.” She slid her face mask on and headed for the door until Wendy cut her off.

“Come on Mabel, remember how we took on those Mandobices? This will be a snap.” She twirled her axe around her fingers and slipped on a pair of Mabel’s novelty sunglasses, “Just call me Wendigo, demon hunter.”

“Yeah and I… I’m Soos!” He looked over at Wendy, “Do I need a disguise? I can try to grow a moustache.” He squeezed his eyes shut and concentrated.

The baseball bat dropped down Mabel’s shoulders. “You guys really want to go on this mission with me?”

“Well, yeah,” Wendy replied casually. “You and Dipper are our best friends. If he’s in trouble, we want to help both of you.”

Mabel bit down on the inside of her cheek. Wendy and Soos weren’t going to take no for an answer, they would go to the ends of the earth to save Dipper (and then some). And she would do the same for them. “Then let’s do it.” She put her hand out, “Team Alcor.”

Wendy and Soos put their hands on top of hers. “Team Alcor.”

 

------

 

The summoning circle sprung back open, landing Dipper in the middle of unfamiliar territory. He took a moment to reorient himself, usually he had no problem figuring out his geographic location, but this time it was a little more difficult. Whatever was blocking his omniscience was doing a good job.

The room was dark, mostly illuminated by the muted glow of waxy candles. The air smelled like hot sewage and steam, adding to his sense of repulsive claustrophobia. And then there was well-- everything else. Lesser demons writhing in cages and summoning circles much like his, screaming out in agony at their entrapment. Silver weapons like the walls, slick with polish and something that made his stomach churn and a bitter taste enter his mouth.

He pressed his hands up against the circle, trying to find any way to escape. Any breach in the circle, any doorway left open. “Come on,” he tried to push the circle to its breaking point, but instead it flung him back, knocking his head against the opposite side of the dome.

The man in black laughed, coming down a set of stairs on the opposite side of whatever dungeon he was trapped in. “I mean it, I could really watch you forever. It’s like watching a goldfish knock into the walls of its tank.”

Dipper snarled, bearing each point of his teeth. His voice echoed and screeched, "W̷̡̛͓̠̉̇h̶͉̲͐̊o̴̽̎͝ͅ ̸̼̾ä̵̰̖́͜r̷̟̺̜̎͊ȩ̶̩̻̾ ̵̧͈͎̄y̵͉̒́o̴̼͇͙̐̉u̷̡͇͗͒?̷̱̦̓̐ ̴͉̕W̶̻͖̌̓̋ͅh̸̞͎̃à̷̫̝̱͝t̶̝̎ͅ ̵̲̃̽d̸̨̠̹̊́ǫ̸̝̬̓̄͐ ̷̬͗̚ŷ̸͎̭̇̏o̸̝̿̓͜u̴̘̩̫͋ ̶̝̽w̷̝̠̮͐̃a̴̟͙̿n̵̼̖̑̇͂t̸̝̲̟͝ ̶͍̓w̷͖̖̓̎͘i̵̠̲͒͋t̶̳͈̃͂h̴̛͉̀ ̸̣̃̏͘m̴̖̮̻̎ê̶̡̲̥?̵̡͇̖͗ ̶̻̫̹͆͒"

“For a demon, you sure do ask a lot of questions.” He turned his attention away from Dipper and over to the cages of lesser demons, opening the locks to let them momentarily break past their binding circles. “Come out, my pets. That’s right, I’m home. I didn’t forget about you.” The things scuttled on their many legs, winding over his feet and screaming for attention with their wide mouths of many teeth and green slime. Something that looked much like a nightmare version of a centipede.

“Mandobices?” Dipper asked. It had been a little less than a year since he and Mabel teamed up to fight them off in the high school. “Were you the one who sent those after us?”

The man patted one of the Mandobices on the head. “Well at least you figured one thing out on your own. Yes, I did.” He sighed and paced himself over to Dipper’s binding circle.

“Why did you do it? Why haven’t you attacked us since then?”

He rolled his eyes, “Again with the questions. You are absolutely irritating.”

“Tell me what’s going on and I won’t have to ask questions anymore.”

The man groaned, “Fine.” His fingers slipped around the eye that dangled around his neck. “I’ve had my eye on you for awhile now.” He pulled up a chair from a nearby work bench, one of the Mandobices slithering over his feet like a lazy cat. “My name is Jarax, I’m a bounty hunter from dimension 93:^. I was hired by a certain group of demon purists to aid in your capture and execution. And, honestly, I’d like to have the most powerful group of demons in the multiverse on my side.”  

“But why attack once and then stop?”

“Mandobices aren’t the smartest demons in the world, they get easily confused. They are, however, excellent trackers. Their job was to follow you and strike when you were at your weakest, but your little possession trick confused them. Most of my horde was killed when you and your sister combined so easily. I decided to bide my time, gather more Mandobices, and wait for the moment in which you were weak enough to warrant a second attack, this time an attack I would carry out. Looks like my patience paid off.”

Dipper had stopped paying attention two sentences ago. “How do you know she’s my sister?”

Jarax leaned back in his chair, “I know quite a few things about you, Dipper Pines.” If Dipper still had a functional human heart, it would have sank in his chest. “It’s my job to know everything about my target. From the moment my Mandobices tracked you down I knew who you were, where you lived, the names of your loved ones. You’ve been too careless and trusting. It’s a wonder you’ve survived this long. But I can’t be too harsh on you. I do have the advantage.” He gestured to the eye hanging around his neck.

The longer Dipper looked at it, the more it made his head spin. “What is that?”

“This is a god’s eye. They are the most ancient, most powerful beings in the universe. But, like most things, they do occasionally die. Their body parts hold vast amounts of power, especially their eyes which grants me the ability to hide from omniscient beings like yourself. It also keeps lesser demons at bay, which is to say they don't want to eat me.”

Dipper leaned in, pressing his hands against the front of the binding circle. “Mabel will come for me. I hope you know that. And when she does she will destroy you.”

Jarex scoffed, a sly smile splitting across his face. “I’m sure she’ll try. But she’ll never make it here on her own and you are completely unable to help her.” He rose from his chair and headed towards the stairs. Dipper’s breath quickened, an involuntary reaction that rested somewhere between his anger and fear. “Even she does find you, Metus and the other purists will be here soon to kill you. Enjoy your last moments alive, kid.”

 

-----

 

Mabel, Wendy, and Soos all held hands in the summoning circle. Mabel stared down the summoning circle, permanently painted onto the floor of her bedroom. Her breath escaped all at once. She had no idea where Dipper could be, all she had was the feeling that he was somewhere. All she had to do was follow her instincts.

“Mabel?” Wendy asked. “Are you okay?”

It occurred to Mabel that she was crushing their hands in hers. Wendy and Soos started at her with expectant eyes. They had taken a few moments to throw together more proper disguises, Wendy with her obvious red hair tucked up into a beanie and her axe hidden by a coat, and Soos wearing a fedora and a fake mustache (he still didn’t quite understand how this whole disguise thing worked).

She swallowed, mouth already dry. “Yeah, yeah. I’m fine.”

Wendy let go of her hand for a moment, and placed it on her shoulder. “We’ll find Dipper. Okay? He’s going to come home and finish that game of Mystery Food no matter what.” She removed her hand and held it back out in offering.

Mabel took it and straightened her back. “Alright, Team Alcor. I have no idea where we are going or what we will see on the other side, but if we work together anything is possible,” she said. “Oh and one more thing. Have either of you teleported before, because heads up it will make you throw up the first few times.” They both shook their heads. “Whelp. Here we go.”

The summoning circle lit up gold, and Mabel felt the little guiding string in her gut tug and launch them out into the unknown. She simply willed the circle to bring her as close to Dipper as it could. She had never teleported other people before, and it was a rather unpleasant feeling, having to concentrate on keeping her own body in one piece and then having to worry about everyone else fragmenting into tiny pieces.

When they arrived, it felt as if Mabel felt as if she had crash landed on a foreign planet. She barely managed to land on her feet. Wendy and Soos weren’t as lucky, barely able to rise to their feet. Soos threw up in a nearby pile of trash. “Is everyone okay?” she asked. Wendy and Soos groaned in response, but a groan was better than nothing.

Mabel found herself in some kind of back alley way, hidden by piles of garbage and wreckage. But something wasn’t normal. She tiptoed towards the front of the alley, peeking her head around the corner of a building. The streets clustered with supernatural creatures, some she had seen before in Gravity Falls like gnomes, unicorns, or eyeball bats. But some completely unfamiliar like a creature with three different sets of arms, legs, and faces passing a mysterious suitcase to a floating head. A shadowy figure holding up a sign reading SEPARATED FROM BODY, COLD, HUNGRY, ANYTHING WILL HELP.  Nearby a pale white elf stood behind a makeshift stand, holding bottles into the air yelling, “Moonshine! Getcha moonshine here! Just harvested from the moon last night!”

“Wait, I think I know where we are,” Mabel muttered as Soos and Wendy finally came out to rejoin her. “This is the crawlspace, it’s like a paranormal blackmarket. I remember this from when that monster took my face.”

Wendy turned, “Took your what?”

Mabel shook her head, “It’s a long story. The issue is that humans aren’t supposed to be down here. You need a key to get in, or in our case, teleportation. But how are we supposed to know where to go?”

Soos walked out into the open street, “Let’s just go ask for directions. Someone should know the guy we’re looking for.”

“Soos! No!” Wendy cried out, but it was already too late. Mabel hopped out into the street after him, hiding behind wagons full spare body parts and 4-headed barbershop quartets. She slipped her baseball bat out from her backpack, gripping it carefully in her hand.

Soos walked up to the pale elf selling moonshine. “Hey, dude. I need to ask you for some directions.” Mabel pressed her back up against the side of the stand and held her breath, eavesdropping on the conversation.

“What can I help you with, Mr…” the seller looked up and peered suspiciously at Soos. “Mr. Naked-Mole-Man?”

Soos laughed. “Yeah. So, you see, I’m looking for a friend of mine, he’s sort of a demon and he may have been kidnapped by some weird guy in all black. And now we’re on a big mission to rescue him, but we don’t know where to look.”

The elf’s eyes shifted. “Did you say demon?” He leaned in on his elbows and whispered, “Listen, bud, demons don’t go over well down here. Most people here have had their home dimensions destroyed by demons. They’re refugees. So unless you want trouble, I’d just leave.”

Soos shook his head and grinned. “Oh no. He’s not like that at all. He’s a really good guy. You might have heard of him. His name’s Alcor.” The moment Soos said it, the street went completely silent, emphasized occasionally by the soft hiss of the name. Alcor. Everything froze like a photo, all eyes narrowing down on Soos. Wendy peeled out of the alley way, hand poised for her axe. “Come to think of it, I probably shouldn’t have said that.”

Mabel sprung into action, leaping onto the moonshine seller’s table, brandishing her bat into the air. “Alright, listen up! Just tell us who captured Alcor and where I can find him and no one gets hurt!”

“So you mean it?” asked the homeless shadow. “You’re with Alcor the Dreambender?”

“We’re only here to rescue him,” Mabel yelled. “We don’t want any trouble with you, I swear.”

The silence penetrated a moment longer. A fairy flew closer to Mabel, radiating a thick pink light. “So that must make you Mizar… wow. You guys are heroes.”

Mabel paused and lowered the baseball bat, “What do you mean heroes?”

The elf cleared his throat, “Wow, you guys are pretty out of the paranormal politics loop.” He looked up at Mabel with bright silver eyes. “We heard about what you did. The residents of Gravity Falls fought Bill Cipher, killed him, and then Alcor transcended and took his place.” Mabel pursed her lips together and nodded. “Bill’s done more damage to the multiverse than anyone,” he gestured to spray painted graffiti reading POST NO BILLS. “You helped save countless other dimensions from Bill’s destruction. We owe everything to you.” The crowd nodded along with a serious intent.

“Who do you think took him,” asked the mysterious floating head.

“Some weird guy wearing all black with this necklace of a funny looking eye,” Mabel answered. The crowd hissed and muttered to themselves. “Wait, do you know who he is?”

“That’s definitely Jarax,” replied the elf. “He’s a bounty hunter with no concern for anyone but himself. He’s been in tight with some demons who I hear have a vendetta to kill Alcor. He’s your guy, no doubt. He just came through here not long ago.”

“His hideout isn’t far from here,” added the homeless shadow. “Go two blocks north, turn left on Elm Street. It should be on your right. If you see the Red Room you’ve gone too far.”

Mabel looked out onto the street. It had never occurred to her that her family’s sacrifice, everything they went through during and after Weirdmageddon didn’t just impact Gravity Falls or planet Earth. Their actions were on the multi-dimensional scale. She crammed the bat back into her backpack, watching the faces of every supernatural creature, every refugee from Bill’s destruction looking back at her. “Uhm. Thank you,” she told them. She leapt down from the table, flanked at both sides by Wendy and Soos.

“Alcor and Mizar are the only thing standing between us our world and total demonic collapse,” said the elf. “Everything is in your hands now.”

Mabel felt the sense of something large and foreboding rising over her spine. “Come on, guys. Let’s go save my brother.”

 

-----

Dipper laid curled up at the base of the binding circle, tracing his finger over the intricate pattern within, following each line of its own secret language. Every circle had to have a name or symbol in it, like some sort of demonic calling card. Mabel created a simple but nice one with a pine tree in the center (“This will really stick it to Bill!” she said. “Nothing would make him more upset than to see you take some ownership of that silly nickname.”) But this was far more elaborate than hers, every line, every detail added with the intention to trap him inside its web.

He turned onto his back and stared up at the ceiling, leaky pipes and moldy wood boards. He wasn’t sure how long it had been. His sense of time was completely messed up by the binding circle, not to mention his already weakened state. He should have listened to Mabel and taken on some summonings, just to keep his strength up.

Footsteps echoed down the stairs, jerking Dipper into an upright position. Jarax entered into the basement of the building, thankfully alone. “You are a skittish little thing, aren’t you? Relax, the purists haven’t forgotten about you.” He leaned over to examine Dipper through the barrier. “You’re not looking so good, half-breed.”

“You won’t get away with this,” he snarled.

Jarax laughed, and poked his finger against the edge of the barrier, as if trying to startle an animal in a tank. “Mhm. Is that right? Well, if I recall, you said your sister would be here to save you and… I haven’t seen her at all.” Dipper said nothing, letting the labor of his breath be the only response. “Oh, so now you decide to be quiet? You are so hard to figure out.”

“Mabel is coming.”

“I’m sure she is, but will she make it? I’ve hunted things much older and more powerful than you. She wouldn’t be a challenge.”

“For someone who has supposedly been tracking us, you don’t know enough about Mabel.”  

“We’ll see about that.”

 

------

 

“Uhg,” Mabel groaned, looking up at one of the many brick buildings on the street. “It’s the Red Room,” she pointed towards a the neon red sign that flashed in the velvet lined window, “we went too far. Let’s turn it back around.”

Soos looked up at the rows of illegal potions dealers, bars, and haunting services. “Everything down here is crazy-bonkers-creepy.”

Mabel was starting to run out of patience with herself as she stalked down the stone streets. Whenever her walk her bones seemed to crack with stress like the ticking of a watch. She kept trying to follow her instincts, hoping that maybe there was some connection that would lead her back to Dipper, but nothing seemed to come of it.

“I think I found it,” Wendy called, snapping Mabel out of her own thoughts. She pointed at the window of one of the buildings, beckoning them over. Mabel rushed over, crouching down next to Wendy at the base of one of the buildings.

It didn’t look like much from the outside. The windows were smeared with a thin layer of dirt, through which an abandoned front desk and a few chairs could be seen. A sign hung over the door that read SLEAZY J’S TRASH REMOVAL SERVICE: Your Trash is Our Treasure. Mabel scrunched her face up, “Are you sure?”

“Positive,” Wendy replied. She pointed up at the sign, “All evil-villains make dumb jokes like that. Sleazy J for Jarax and a trash removal service because he gets paid to hunt down and remove fugitives.” She tapped her finger on the window. “Also there’s a really suspicious blue light coming from inside.” Mabel pressed her face against the glass, catching the faint glow through the dust windows. “So unless they have magic trash here, I’d say that’s Dipper.”

Mabel nodded and pulled away from the window. “But how to we get in without causing a scene?”

“I’m just gonna knock. Maybe this guy isn’t home?”

“Soos!” Mabel whispered. He rapped his knuckles twice against the wooden door, inviting it to swing up with a weak creak. “Huh. Guess he left the door open.”

Mabel let her breath out, grabbing her baseball bat and creeping towards the door. She pressed her back against the frame. “Follow my lead.” She snuck through the door, into the dark light of the room. Dirt flecked into her lungs as the soft pulse of a dying light beat against her eyes. The sound of Soos and Wendy’s footsteps followed behind her.

“Mabel!” She snapped her head around to find Dipper, chained to a back wall by his hands and feet, tugging against his restraints. “Mabel!” he cried.

“Dipper!” The bat clattered out of her fingers as she rushed for him, pressing her hands up against cheeks. “Dipper, it’s okay! We’re here, we’ll get you out.”

He lowered his face to hers, dark eyes empty and unfamiliar. “Mabel! Please, get me out!” When he spoke no breath escaped his lips. He never looked directly at her.

“I will! Just hold still. Let me see the chains.” She dropped to her knees, fingers fiddling around the metal clamps at his wrists. She pried a bobby pin out of her hair and jammed it into the lock.

“Wait! Don’t!” Wendy gripped Mabel by the back of her sweater and pulled her away from Dipper. Soos wrapped one arm around Mabel’s middle, holding her back.

Mabel struggled between them, trying to use one hand to push Soos away and the other to remove Wendy’s iron grip from her clothing. “What are you doing? We found him! We need to get out!”

Dipper cried again, still tugging at the restraints like a helpless animal. “Mabel! Mabel! Please, get me out!” The color of his skin in the pale blue light was remarkably white, almost like snow.

Wendy moved her hand away from Mabel, moving it towards the axe on her hip. “That’s not Dipper.”

“What do you mean. Of course it is,” Mabel panted, keeping an all-too-careful watch on Wendy’s hand.

“He didn’t greet us,” she whispered, unclipping the axe from its holster. “He hasn’t said anything to Soos or me. This isn’t Dipper.”

“Dude always says hi to me,” Soos concurred. “Like always .”

Mabel looked away in horror as Wendy raised the axe and slashed it through Dipper’s abdomen. Thick red blood and scraps of flesh scattered across the air, leaving a putrid and rank smell too the air. There was no sound after that. Mabel opened her eyes to see the corpse of a strange and unfamiliar being, something so shriveled with loose hanging skin and a beak like a bird. It was all a trap.

Soos let her go and helped steady her to her feet. “It wasn’t him,” Mabel whispered to herself. How could she not know? He was her twin, she should have immediately known it wasn’t him. This Jarax guy was good. He knew exactly what would distract her.

Wendy twirled the axe in her fingers. “It looks like Jarax was expecting you,” she replied, turning her head towards a closed off door. “But he didn’t plan for me and Soos coming along.” Wendy looked back at Mabel, still staring down at the shriveled corpse of the creature. She gave Mabel a gentle pat on the shoulder, urging her to move forward. “Let’s use this to our advantage while we still can.”

“I have a plan,” Mabel offered, drawing them in close.

 

-----

 

The floor was slick with dust as Mabel slipped into the basement. The air was thick inside her lungs, fresh with mold and demon blood. She didn’t know where to look in the room, at the man in all black sitting casually in a chair-- as if enjoying a leisurely weekend, or the Mandobices that skittered and shrieked at his feet, or the heavy pulse of a binding circle with Dipper peering up from inside. He did not look good, wings drooping and his shoulders hung low. He pressed one hand against the barrier of the circle, waiting for her.

“Mabel, what a surprise,” Jarax said. “I wasn’t expecting you to make it past my Moculous.”

“I told you she would come,” Dipper replied, an anxious smile wrapping around his teeth.

Jarax pushed himself off his chair, scooting the Mandobices out of his way. “I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting you to make it.”

Mabel’s knuckles turned white where she gripped the baseball bat, gold sparks already spitting their way out of the nails. “I know you want to play evil super villain, but can we just cut to the part where we beat each other up?”

Jarax chuckled. “If you say so.  I’ll try to go easy on you. The purists would be interested in having you too, you’d make a nice little snack for later--” he didn’t get to finish his sentence because Mabel had already sent a waft of golden fire at him.

“Less talk, more fighting!” she yelled, running towards the binding circle.

Jarax sneered, ducking out of the way of her attack. “Get her!” he yelled to the Mandobices. They turned to her, mouths turned spreading open, revealing the rows of little teeth lining their gullets. She bashed a few back with the baseball bat, sparks of fire shooting out with every blow. They were just as gruesome and scary as she remembered, but it phased her less this time.

The Mandobices rose up on their hind legs, gathering themselves into a cluster and backing Mabel up into  a wall. Or more so, she lead them there, with their backs exposed to the real threat coming down the stairs. “Team Alcor! Now!” She shouted. She bashed the bat into the closest demons before ducking out of the way for Wendy and Soos to spring into action. Wendy threw her axe across the room, making a clear path for Mabel to break for the binding circle. Soos, mostly unaware of what to do but aware that he should at least do something, launched himself at Jarax, in an attempt to pin him down.

Mabel darted for the binding circle, pressing her hands up against the outside as if it were a glass wall between them. Dipper pressed his hands up near hers. “Team Alcor?” he asked, voice muffled as if heard from underwater.

“We’re trying to be charming. Now how do I break you out of this thing?” The fight raged on behind her, Wendy having reclaimed her axe and Soos getting knocked around by Jarax.

“There’s a piece of paper with the circle on it. Get that and destroy it.”  

Mabel dropped to the ground, fumbling around for the paper with the sounds of violence ringing in her ears. Behind her she could hear Soos get slammed into a table, Wendy fighting to come to his rescue and keep the demons at bay. Mabel’s fingers twitched around the curl of paper, a soft blue light echoing from it. She grabbed it in her hand and focused, if anyone could break the binding circle it was her. Her own golden fire consumed the paper, charring it away into nothing. The moment it broke, the barrier collapsed around Dipper, knocking him down against her.

“Are you okay?” she asked, helping him regain his stamina.

He straightened his back and looked out at the fight before him. “I’m ok-- Look out!” He pushed her to the side, barely a second between her falling away and a pellet arching into his shoulder. He winced and pressed his hand up to the wound, smoking and streaming with gold blood. Bullets blessed with holy water. As he breathed the red eye hung around his neck seemed to pulse against his chest.

Mabel jerked her head around to see Jarax aiming his gun with one unsteady hand, the other one trying to keep Soos back. “I promised Metus I’d have you alive, Dreambender. But I’m sure he won’t mind if I hand you over dead!” He pushed Soos to the ground and then turned to grab Wendy around the waist, pinning her arms down and causing her to drop the axe. “I’ll kill Wanda and Zeus too if that’s what it takes… Are those your names? I never paid that much attention to you guys.”

“You need to get the god’s eye from him,” Dipper wheezed to Mabel.

“The what?”

“The thing around his neck. You get that, I’ll take care of these demons.”

“But you’re hurt.”

“Just do it!” he shouted. Shadows curled out from underneath tables and around corners, even her own shadow slithered away from her feet, ushering back some of the Mandobices.

She did as he instructed, running towards Jarax at full speed. The Mandobices howled at her, trying to reach up high enough to devour her, but she ignored them. Instead she launched herself onto Jarax, splitting up him and Wendy, and trying to pry at the god’s eye hanging from the chain around his neck. He roared in anger, gripping to Mabel’s shoulders. “You little brat!”

Soos hurled himself over to the base of Jarax’s feet, giving just enough time for Wendy to knock herself into Jarax. They all tumbled to the ground, the god’s eye slipping over Jarax’s head.

Mabel knocked into the ground skull first, the eye still tight in her palm. She tried to crawl away only to find a pair of hands wrapping around her midsection and dragging her back. “How dare you!” Jarax screeched. Over her head, Mabel could see Dipper trying to round the Mandobices into a corner, his flames whipping at them in small but powerful arches. If she held onto the god’s eye any longer, Jarax would certainly take it back.

So she did the only thing she could think to do.

“Dipper!” she shouted, holding the god’s eye into the air. He looked over, completely forgetting the other demons, prepared to follow her instruction. “Mystery Food!” She threw it across the room, the light winking off of it. Dipper snatched it out of the air. And without hesitation, he swallowed the god’s eye whole.

Jarax froze, suddenly wide eyed. “Did you just-- no! No!”

Dipper shuddered, the Mandobices breaking free from his shadows and inching closer. “Oh man, this thing makes me feel nauseous. I shouldn’t have done that.” He doubled over clutching to his stomach.

Mabel turned around and delivered a good kick to Jarax’s face before skittering to her feet and over to Dipper. “Let’s get out of here guys,” he said, trying to contain his nausea. Mabel wrapped his arm around her shoulders, letting him lean against her with each step. Wendy and Soos slung up beside them, moving to an open space in the room.

“What about Jarax?” Soos asked, looking over at the incapacitated bounty hunter.

“Without the god’s eye the Mandobices will take care of him,” Dipper said. “Now let’s go.” Mabel nodded, a gold and blue circle lighting up beneath their feet as they teleported home.

 

-----

 

Dipper dropped the god’s eye on the kitchen table next to the glasses of water, ibuprofen, and extra strength bandages. The red iris pierced into the gaze of everyone who looked at it. “No more playing Mystery Food, like ever again. The misery I went through to get that was not something I want to repeat.”  

He looked absolutely terrible with pale skin, tired eyes, the wound on his shoulder still healing over. But yet again, no one at the table looked great. Soos has a large bruise on his forehead while Wendy was covered in scratches and green demon blood. Mabel took a beating to her shoulders and back, barely able to keep herself upright.

She brushed the sweaty hair from her eyes. She leaned over it, reaching out with one hand before drawing back hesitantly. “So this thing can really block your omniscience?”

Dipper pulled up a chair opposite them and physically sat down in it (a rare occurrence). Of course he was also exhausted an injured (another rare occurrence). “Just being near it seems to have similar effects, you guys are all really blurry and unclear to me. Like I have a migraine, or you know, maybe that’s just because I threw up some ancient being’s eyeball. We’ll see how I feel in a few hours. But yes, if you make contact with it, no demon can see you. You completely disappear. The issue is we only have the one, sharing would be hard.”

“Do you think Ford might be able to recreate something like this?” Wendy asked.

“I don’t think it’s possible. This is literally the eye of a dead god. My best guess is that if it could be replicated, everyone would have one.”

“Then let’s just get more,” Soos offered. He laughed to himself. “I mean, what kind of ultra-powerful being would have only one eye?”

Everyone gave the same blank stare at Soos before moving on with the conversation. “There’s a couple problems with that,” Dipper continued. “Starting with the fact that I can’t see them. If there are more, I don’t know where they are or who has them. And besides, even if we did have enough, you’d hide from all demons including me. If there were to be some kind of emergency where you couldn’t summon me, I would have no way of knowing.”

“So what do we do with the one we do have?” Mabel asked.

Dipper sighed and leaned back in his chair and looked to Mabel. “I think you should wear it. A demon would do anything to get their hands on you in order to find me. This way we can protect each other. As long as you wear the god’s eye and I stay nearby you, we should be safe for a little while.” He looked up at her with hard set gold and black eyes, “But if you ever get into any danger and I’m not nearby, you need to rip that thing off immediately so I can come save you. I don’t care if the demons are trying to get to me, you have to take it off.” He pushed it across the table to her, the eye seeming to fade into a deeper and deeper red.

She leaned away from it, “Uhh okay.”

“Is there something wrong?”

“Well you did just kind of puke that thing up.”

He rolled his eyes, “Oh, so you’ve been feeding me old sponges and torn up car tires all day but now you’re grossed out?”

“Well, nothing’s ever made a reappearance before. It’s like some nasty magic trick.”

“It’s not nasty! My body doesn’t even work like a human’s anymore!” Wendy and Soos snickered at him, faces turning red. “It’s not funny, this is serious!”

Pressing one hand to her mouth, Mabel stifled a snort. “It is pretty funny, Dip.”

“We aren’t your team if we don’t make fun of you,” Wendy replied.

He relented. They were his team, weren’t they? He had to find comfort in the fact that they would be at his side when he needed them. And what else was a team supposed to do? “I guess you’re right. After all, that was a great team rescue.”

“It was awesome!” Soos yelled. “Just like TV except even more deadly! My life flashed before my eyes like 6 times!”

“Yeah, seriously, I can’t believe you’ve been keeping us out of the fun,” Wendy added.

Mabel looked at Dipper and shrugged. “I think we can make space in future mystery hunts for a few more. Honestly, I wouldn’t have found you if Wendy and Soos hadn’t come along.”

Dipper smiled back. It would be just like old times. Just like their first summer in Gravity Falls. “I couldn’t think of a better team to have because we’ve got some pretty big mysteries to uncover.”

Chapter Text

“What’s Dipper doing here?” Mabel eyed her brother through the rearview mirror.

He lounged in the back seat of the STNLYMBL, no seat belt on, playing with an old handheld gaming device he got off of one of his summoners, a kid who probably shouldn’t have been summoning demons in the first place, in exchange for revenge on a middle school bully. (After the kidnapping incident, Dipper hesitantly agreed to take more summonings. “I still don’t like it,” he said. “These people still try to take my picture or scream when they see me. I only agreed to meet the kid because he was too afraid to do anything like that to me.”)

Dipper shrugged, not looking up from the game. “Grunkle Stan is offering me the movie night pick in exchange for being ‘accident control’.”

Mabel turned and gasped at Stan, who was sitting in the passenger seat of the car. “You of little faith!”

Stan leaned back in the seat. “Listen, sweetie. I have faith… er some faith in you. But learning to drive isn’t easy. I just want to make sure you’ll be safe, and well, Dipper is just a last resort.”

“Alright,” Mabel said, gripping to the steering wheel.

Turning 15 meant it was time for Mabel to start taking learning how to drive with her learner’s permit. Stan took it upon himself to teach her right away. He went on and on about how it was an important life skill (right behind breaking out of handcuffs and conning tourists). (But in reality, Stan was just excited to do something that a parent would normally do for their child. He would never say it out loud, but he liked taking care of the twins.)

“Have you checked your mirrors?” Stan asked.

Mabel popped the rearview mirror into place, removing Dipper from the frame. “Check.”

“Okay, then I want you to put your foot on the break and put the car in reverse.” She did. “Now, using your mirrors gently put your foot on the gas and back out.” Mabel did that too, except instead of gently hitting the gas. The car lurched backwards, causing her and Stan to jerk back in their seats.

Stan turned around to see Soos’s truck pulling up behind them. “Mabel, hit the breaks!” But like most new drivers, using her rearview mirrors and handling the wheel at the same time was not an easy task.

Dipper flipped himself upright in the backseat, holding up both hands, encapsulating the car in a heavy blue light, stopping it in its tracks. Mabel took a deep breath, taking her foot off the gas and hands off the steering wheel. She looked over at him, wide brown eyes in shock. Dipper lowered his hands, releasing the car and turning the engine off.

Soos lowered his window, “Heh- cool trick, Dipper. Can you do my car next? Do you think you can make it like fly around or something?”

 

------

 

Mabel paced across the bedroom for the 108th time. “I could have crashed today!” She bit down on her sparkly blue nails, chewing them down to the bed.

“Well you didn’t,” Dipper relied, watching her turn to take her 109th stride.

“Only because you were there! And let’s say you weren’t! I would have rammed right into Soos!”

“The only real damage would have been to Stan’s car, which wouldn’t be a shame. That thing is falling apart already. And you’ll do much better next time.”

Her pacing ceased, an erratic look to her eyes. “Next time? Oh no, there won’t be a next time. There is no way I am getting behind the wheel of a car ever again.”

“You will,” he replied. “Sure, it’s a little scary at first, but you’ll be a great driver in no time!”

“A little scary! I could have hit Soos!”

“Hey-hey, he’s okay. He’s not even consciously aware that you could have hit him. Driving will be easier the more you do it.”

“What do you even know about driving?” she spat. “You’ve never driven a car. You can’t legally take the test! You don’t even exist.” She looked over at him, the expressionless hole in his eyes. “Wait, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”

“I know you didn’t,” he muttered (that didn’t mean her words didn’t hurt). “It’s okay. You’re just scared.”

She huffed out a sigh. The silence chewed between the twins. Mabel tugged at the string that held the god’s eye around her neck, turning to Dipper with a wide-eyed, mischievous grin.

“Oh no, that’s your idea face,” he said. Ever since Mabel started wearing the god’s eye, he could never tell what she was thinking anymore. Just that she was on the brink of trouble.

“Can you make me less scared? Like get inside my head and work your brain magic?”

“Uhm well, I don’t know if brain magic is the right choice here.” He thought back to one of his earlier meetings with the old woman with the turtle skull for a head, how she lectured him about not being afraid of himself and embracing his own failures. Not to mention he was worried about permanently altering her brain chemistry. “I think you need to conquer your fear on your own. And that means getting back in the car and driving, just a few circles around the Shack.”

“Come on, work your dream business on me, get inside my head, alter my brain! I’ll trade anything. Anything! Just help me!” she pleaded.

He resisted the primal urge to take that offer seriously. “Nope.”

“Dipper! Please?” She blinked her big brown eyes at him. “Pleeeeeaaaaaassssseeee.”

He rolled his eyes as her please continued to elongate. “Fine. I think I may know of something that can help.”

She latched her arms around him in a hug, even though he wasn’t completely material and her arms went right through him. “Yes. Thank you, thank you, thank you!” She would have squeezed the life out of him if he could.

“Alright,” he hovered out of her way. “But I’ll need something in return.”

“I’ve got some candy bars?”

He shook his head, “Nope. Go bigger.” Candy bars were fine for a casual summoning, or or a simple job around the house. But this was different. It was a big deal, as in it was a deal he really didn’t want to make. The price was high; to perform such a task would drain so much of his energy. Emotional spells required more human emotion. “I need… a memory.”

“A memory? Like the things inside my brain,” she asked.

“Yes. A memory of a time in which you felt brave. A good memory.”

She bit down on her nails again, another flake of nail polish coming off. “I won’t ever get this memory back… will I?”

“No,” the word slithered through his teeth.

She thought about it for a moment. Not like it would be easy, to give away an integral part of your consciousness. To give away something that is distinctly your own. “Then… I want to give you the memory of when Mom and Dad took us to the pool and I finally jumped off the high dive.” She held out one hand to him. “Deal?”

“Deal,” he shook her hand, instantaneously re-entering the physical plane, the pulse of fire blooming between them. “No hold that memory in your mind.”

She closed her eyes and held the sensation of standing at the top of the high dive, the sinking of her stomach in her mind. The sound of her dad calling her name. The image of the blue water was still crisp in her mind. Anticipation rattled through her chest. The feeling of her feet…

She couldn’t remember what she was thinking about.

She opened her eyes.

Dipper held a translucent something in his hands, blue and crisp liquid sloshing around inside. When she looked at it, it made her feel good. “Did it work? I don’t think I was thinking about anything.”

“You were,” he said. He took the something and flattened it between his palms. He gripped it by the edges, twisting and pulling at its edges. It folded like origami paper but squished like clay. It took a new shape, stretching itself out into a tiny glass bottle of liquid. “There. That should do it.”

“Cool.” She blinked. “What is it?”

He held it up to the light, examining it. “This is liquified courage. Taking it will override your other emotions, and since it’s made from made from your memory it will only work on you.” He handed the bottle to her. It fit in the palm of her hand. “One drop should give you the confidence to get back in the car.”

“Woah…” It rolled around in her hand, the light winking off the glass.

“Mabel, I’ve got to warn you that,” he caught her popping the cork off, preparing to chug. “Mabel!”

“Huh?” She held the bottle meer centimeters (4) from her lips.

He groaned, “Seriously! You shouldn’t take more than a drop. This stuff can give you courage but it also inhibits good judgement.”

“Oh.” She lowered the bottle.

“So next time Stan wants to take you out for driving lessons, put a drop of that on your tongue. No more, okay? Promise you won’t take more than a drop.”

She held up one hand, “I promise.” She looked back at the tiny bottle in her hand, rolling it between her fingers. “Wait! If all you need is memories to make this stuff, why haven’t you made one for yourself?”

“What?”

“Aww come on, don’t play dumb with me. You’re a big scaredy-demon! You’re always going on about how scared you are that your powers will hurt people, or about eternity or whatever. Just make yourself a bottle of liquid courage.”

“I’m not--” he paused. No use in lying to her. He rubbed at his arm, feeling a chill run through his body. “It wouldn’t work. I can’t take my own memories out of my head, and besides, it would take way more than a drop to alter my thinking, nor would inhibiting my judgement be a good idea. It’s best I just leave it alone.”

“If you say so… Hey! Can you make this feel-juice with other emotions? Could I drink some and then feel angry or sad?” She gasped, “Could I take some of a memory of drinking Mabel Juice and then have intensified Mabel Juice?”

Dipper chuckled to himself, “I think we should stick with the courage. Come on, let’s go down to the gift shop before your shift starts.”

 

------

The next day, Stan and Mabel got out of the car, followed behind by Dipper. Stan slapped a hand on Mabel’s shoulder, “You did much better today, pumpkin! You were so much more confident behind the wheel.” Mabel looked at Dipper out of the corner of her eye. He winked at her.

She’d slipped a drop of liquid courage onto her tongue that morning. Her mouth rushed with the taste of chlorine and a jolt of lightning broke through her skull. It made her feel fantastic, like she could conquer the world if she wanted to. Nothing, not even car rides or claymation, could be scary to her. The confidence and focus made her drive like a champ (she drove in circles around the Mystery Shack) (but she still felt good about it).

“And I didn’t even come close to hitting Soos!” she replied, striking a power pose.

Soos waved from the back of the Shack, wearing a vest the color of an orange traffic cone. “I’m a pedestrian!”

“Alright, kid. Don’t get too confident. You’re still starting out. Tomorrow we’ll practice on some back roads.” He ruffled her hair and walked back into the Shack.

Mabel turned to Dipper and squealed, “I feel so good! This memory juice is amazing! Let’s go on a mystery hunt! No! Let’s fight a cult!” She gripped him by the shoulders and pulled him in. “Let’s fight a bear!”

He eased himself out of her grip. “Easy, Mabel. You’re getting too excited. You feel good now but that liquid courage will wear off in a little bit.”

“Really?” She frowned, “But I like it.”

“It can’t last forever. You take it before you go driving with Stan until your confidence builds up naturally. Then you won’t need it anymore.”

“How could I not need it? It’s like Smile Dip without the hallucinations!”

“Mabel,” he chided. “Remember that this stuff is made out of your own memory. You were already courageous. This is just a little reminder for when you need it.”

“Fine,” she grumbled.

“Promise?” he urged.

“Promise.” She crossed her fingers behind her back.

 

------

 

That night, Mabel crept beside Dipper as he laid asleep, hovering about 2 feet over his bed. “Dipper, wake up.”

Dipper jerked awake, flames sparking at his fingers. He wasn’t used to people having the ability to sneak up on him, let alone when he was sleeping. But the god's eye gave her the ability to hide from him completely. Sucking in a breath he looked over at his sister, grinning in the dark overcast of night. “Mabel? It’s 3:17 in the morning, what are you doing?”

Her pupils looked very big, like big black disks in his brown irses. “Let’s go on an adventure.” She tried to grab at his arm, but she phased through his immaterial body. “You need an offering. I’ll get you an offering. Hey-- if I give you a couple liters of blood how long would that last? What about my appendix! I don’t need my appendix. I can cut it out if you want. I’m confident I’ll be fine.” She spoke remarkably fast, as if running entirely on sugar and energy drinks.

Dipper looked behind her, an empty bottle of liquid courage abandoned on the floor. “Mabel, did you drink all of that?”

“Well I took a drop, you know, just to keep the hype going. Like, the more of this I have the more memories I have to make more liquid courage. And then you know after that I was like, ‘what could possibly go wrong? I’m confident that I could take this whole bottle and nothing bad will happen’. And so I did.” She blinked, the rise and fall of her breath heavy in her chest. “Wanna take Stan’s car out on a joyride?”

“What? No! I thought you promised not to drink the whole bottle.”

“I had the confidence to lie.”

Dipper groaned, “Okay. I know you feel like you’re on top of the world right now but you need to do as I say--”

“Pfft! Nah dawg, I’m perfectly fine on my own. With this feel-juice, I’m unstoppable. Not to mention the fact that who’s always swooping into to save your butt,” she pointed at herself, “this girl! I’ve got it all figured out and you know nothing. If anything you should be listening to me.”

"M̵̗͘ą̴͝b̶͈͝ė̴̤l̵͖̀ ̴̣͝," he shouted, turning on his scary-demon voice. “̸̨̟͊͂Y̷̤̙̦͙̋̎͘o̴͈͒̀͂̊u̵͔͇͕̻̾͝ȓ̵͎̝̃̿̑͜ ̸̧͖̙́̓͝j̵͔̠̻̻ụ̶͋̐͆̏ḏ̶̜̲͕͊̈́g̸̨̞̖̼m̸̺̝͉̤̾̽è̴͇̿̽̎n̷̺̟̺̑̕ť̸͚͓̠͓̚͝ ̵̠͒ï̸̘̻͛s̸̨̛̝̊̓ ̵̣͙̼̉b̸̟̉͠ȇ̴̮̓̽͠ỉ̵̻̕n̵͎̖̗̱͝g̸̫̕͝ ̸̨̓̓͠i̷̩͘n̵͈̫͐̓̃ͅh̸̩̗͕̾̋̍̌i̷̦̤̺͌̅̈́͠b̴͚̀̎i̴̧̝̘̍̒t̶͚̺͕̣͋̓͝͝e̶̡̝͓͎͗d̸͔̝͔̚ ̷̭̉̓ÿ̴̩̝͝ͅõ̸̘͙̦͋ư̷̳̯̙̭̌͑͝ ̴̛̘̖͕̣̎̆́n̷̤̹͙̓e̷͙̭̬͚e̴̫̤͊͝d̶̘͔̔͐̊̏ ̶͔̊̈́̇͗t̷̫͇̋́̕ͅo̸̯̟̲͐͋͘͜͠ ̴̫͌̓͐̍ͅl̶̡͍͙͕͊̇̉̑i̶̩̮̝̤̅͋s̷̜̯̙t̶͉̝̜̥͑͋͝ḙ̴͎̘͇͛̓n̵̾̐̍ͅ ̷͉̣̈́t̶̫̉o̵̜̓ ̶̨̙̱̲͛̓̊m̸̫͕͒̕e̶͔̹̙͂ ̸͕̱̠̳̀͠ ” She stopped momentarily, as if confused at the outburst. The liquid courage had even worse effects that he had expected. Not only was Mabel over confident in herself, any filter she had or sense of consequence had completely disappeared. (Just ignore the fact that she’s right.) (You really don’t know anything.) He took a deep breath, “Let’s just stay inside the Shack until this wears off okay?”

She pursed her lips, crossing her arms in distaste. She turned away from him, refusing to meet his gaze. “I don’t have to do anything you tell me to do,” and then she paused, a grin tearing into her mouth. “And you can’t stop me… can you?”

“Mabel no!” He flew over in front of her, trying to make her listen, but she walked straight through him, a feeling of static where their bodies meet. She bounded down the stairs hoping over and maneuvering around the boards that squeaked or creaked too loud (she had clearly snuck out before). Swiping Stan’s keys off of the table by the door, she slipped her shoes on. Dipper followed in close pursuit. “Mabel, please come back!” She walked out the door.

Popping into the front seat of the car, she turned on the engine and buckled herself in. “I don’t see why you’re so worried. I’m a great driver.”

“You’ve been driving for 2 days!”  he said. He slid up alongside her in the car.

“Longer than you,” she smirked, pressing her foot onto the gas. The car shot off down the dirt road. Dust flew up around the tires as the STNLYMBL rattled over the bumps in the road and over rocks. Mabel rolled down the windows and slammed her foot onto the gas. “Woo-hoo!”  The wheel jerked in her hands, unable to keep a steady course. The wind whipped her hair around, and had this not been a highly dangerous situation, Dipper would have thought she looked like she belonged in a commercial. 

She whipped and curled around the roads in the dark sheen of the night. The dim glow of the town pulled into view, inching closer and closer with every second. The car bumped and curled against the rough and uneven terrain of the poor Gravity Falls road system. 

(You're going to hit a pothole.)  

“Mabel, slow down!” Dipper shouted.

She looked over at him. “No way! This is great!”

The car bumped a little too hard against a divet in the dirt, the wheel spinning around in Mabel’s hands. She gripped to it, trying to steer the car back in the right direction. “It’s okay! I got this!” Her voice wavered. She jerked the car away from the tree line, still sending it spiralling at 120 mph towards the town square. (Much too fast.) (She won’t slow down in time.) (She’ll crash through the post office, then the barbershop, coming to a halt in the front door of the library.) Mabel looked down where the dirt road turned into concrete, “Uhh okay! I’ll just stop!” She slammed her foot on the gas, but instead of stopping the car, it spun around on its front wheels. (Now you’ll hit the supermarket. Good news is that you’ll crash into baked goods for a softer, sweeter impact.) She hit the gas again, trying to regain control.

Dipper groaned and pulled himself into her line of vision. “Mabel! I know your brain isn’t working right, and that you don’t want to admit you were wrong.”

“I’m not wrong, this is just way more fun!”

“We are going to crash! So please, use the liquid courage for the right thing and admit you are in trouble.” He looked over his shoulder as the car hopped a curb and skidded along the sidewalk. “Just make a deal with me! Now!”

She gripped her hands to the steering wheel, watching as the big glass windows of the supermarket loomed closer. She let go of the wheel and took her foot off the pedal, letting the car spiral where it pleased. “Fine!”

Dipper grabbed her hand, pulling himself into the physical plane before surrounding the car in a blue light, lifting it up off the ground as the tires spun themselves out. He looked at Mabel, the uncertain expression on her face, and let his breath go. He shut off the engine and lowered the car back onto the street. Sitting down into the passenger seat next to her, he threw his head back against the headrest in relief. “That was a close one. It could have been so much worse.” The wail of a siren and the flash of blue and red lights filled the air. He and Mabel both turned to look out the rearview mirror. “Now it’s worse.”

 

-----

“Driving without a licensed driver in the passenger seat. Going 90 miles over the speed limit. Driving under the influence of magic. Car theft.” Sheriff Blubs checked each item off onto a list. He looked up at Mabel and scoffed, “You are in a lot of trouble, little girl. This is going to be one hefty fine.”

Mabel put her head between her knees, sitting on the side of the road. The effects of the liquid courage slowly evacuated her system (or more so, Dipper rooted around in her brain to reverse it). “Oh no. Stan is gonna kill me.” The red and blue light reflected off of her pallid skin.

Dipper bit down on his lip. It was wrong to say he wasn’t a little angry at Mabel; ignoring his instructions, insulting him almost all night, getting pulled over by the cops. But he wasn’t angry enough to leave her at the mercy of Gravity Falls’ random and illogical justice system. He sighed and turned to Sheriff Blubs. “Come on. Isn’t there anything I can do to cover Mabel’s debt? Literally anything.”

The Sheriff laughed and ripped the ticket out of his book. “Sorry, but I don’t deal with demons.”

“Seriously, Blubs. It’s me. You can trust me on this one. I can… I can repave the roads in town. Or I can stock the station with an infinite supply of jelly donuts.” He wracked his omniscience for another option, landing on one that seemed pretty potent. “I can send you and Durland on that dream honeymoon you didn’t get to have.”

Blubs lowered his glasses. “Dream honeymoon?”

“The one with the waterpark and the swimming pool filled with slushies? Yes. All for the simple price of pretending like none of this ever happened.” 

He rubbed at his chin. “Well… alright. You two are free to go. But just this once. I don’t want you thinking you can get away with everything just because you’ve got these magic powers.” They shook on it.

Dipper walked over back to Mabel, sitting down beside her. “Whelp, now I have to plan the world’s most awkward honeymoon.”

She looked up at him, hair hanging over her face. “Thanks for covering for me. I’m sorry I’ve been such a butt to you. All the self-confidence went to my head. I guess I do need you as much as you need me.”

“Ahh, I know you don’t really mean it. We’re a team. And besides, the worst is about to come in 3… 2...1…”

“What were you thinking! Do you know how it feels to wake up at 4 am to the police at your door, saying your niece and nephew were caught taking your car for a joyride.” Stan slammed the passenger side door of Durland’s police car, an overly giddy Blubs going to meet Durland. “I thought they were there for me! I was about to book it into the forest!” He marched up to the twins, still in his underwear and robe. “Now tell me what happened.”

“Well…” Dipper turned a very deep shade of red.

Mabel cut him off. “After I almost hit Soos with the car, I got really nervous so Dipper gave me some magic memory juice to give me some courage. But then I ignored his instructions and took too much of it. It got me all hyped up and decided to take the car out for a joyride. It’s not Dipper’s fault. He was just trying to be ‘accident control’. This one is on me.”

“Mabel don’t--” he started.

“Can it, kid!” Stan turned to him, pointing one finger and yelling at the top of his lungs. “I don’t care how powerful you think you are. The moment Mabel tried to leave the house you should have woken me or Ford up, nor should you have given her that magic potion in the first place.” He turned to Mabel. “And you, not only are you an inexperienced driver, but intentionally misusing a magic potion that I'm assuming your pressured Dipper into giving you is wildly irresponsible. You could have gotten yourself killed.”

“Sorry, Grunkle Stan,” they muttered in unison.

“Sorry ain’t gonna cover it. Both of you are grounded. No more TV for a week.”

Dipper nodded, “Yeah, I think we deserve that.”

“You deserve a lot worse.” He gripped them both by the collar and pushed them towards the car. “Now get in the car, I’ll go talk to the cops.”

Dipper spoke under his breath, “Actually, I already took care of it. All is forgotten in the eyes of the law.”

Stan paused, “You did?”

He nodded. “I’m a demon. Making deals is kind of what I do.”

“Huh… You’re still not off the hook.”

 

-----

 

Stan placed the plate of tacos on the summoning circle in the middle of the kitchen (Mabel and Ford spent a weekend etching them onto the floor of almost every room in the house to make summonings easier on everyone: one in the kitchen, living room, the twins’ bedroom, and the front porch.) “Alright, ya' menace. Come out!”

“What’s up,” Dipper said from inside the circle, already devouring the first taco. “Is this about the Mabel and the car. Listen, I know I should have.”

“I don’t wanna hear it.”

Dipper picked up the second taco, stopping speak before completely swallowing it. “Then what did you summon me for?”

Stan nodded his head towards the door, “”Get in the car.”

“Huh?”

“I said get in the car!” Dipper paused, unsure of his next move, but followed Stan outside to the car. He floated over towards the passenger side. “Nope, driver’s seat,” Stan said.

He blinked a few times. “Uhm. What?”

Stan sat himself in the passenger side. “I’m teaching you how to drive.”

“Okay, thanks but 1.) I already know how to drive 2.) I don’t need to drive, I can teleport 3.) I can’t get a driver’s license anyway… just one of the many things I can’t do.” He sighed, not getting in the car and not looking up at Stan.

Stan reached over, and placed his hand on Dipper’s shoulder. “Look, I know you’ve had a really hard summer with all this demon business and watching Mabel learn to drive and do all you the things you want to do. You probably feel a little left out.”

Dipper rubbed at his forearm and looked away. “Yeah but… what would be the point? None of this really matters.”

“‘Course it does. Demon or not you’re still 15. 15 year olds learn how to drive. Who's going to stop you?”  

Dipper kept his eyes focused on the window. He pursed his lips and and nodded in compliance. He opened up the door and sat inside. It felt odd, to actually do something like any other normal person would. Not hover, but have to adjust the seat, to make sure his feet were firmly planted, to fold his wings tight against his back so he could lean against the seat. 

“Good,” Stan said. “Now just because you know how to drive, doesn’t mean you can. This isn’t some information you can just pop right into your head. You have actually do it.”

Dipper placed both his hands on the wheel. He turned to Stan and smiled, “Then let’s do it.”

 

-------

They entered back through the gift shop, a smug high-cheeked look on his face. Stan scratched at his head. “Ok, well I guess you do know how to drive.”

Dipper grinned with all his teeth. “Told you! I was driving the golf cart at 12! I even piloted the Shacktron. Now there’s just roads and stuff involved-- also it helps a little if you can recognize traffic patterns, stop lights, and pedestrian crossings before they happen.”

“Alright. Don’t get a bigger head than you’ve already got.” He reached out and tousled Dipper’s hair.

Stan walked towards the EMPLOYEES ONLY door, just pushing his way through when Dipper sprang up behind him in a hug. “Thanks. It’s nice for someone to treat me like any other 15-year-old.”

Spinning around in the hug, Stan gave Dipper a back on the back, right in between where his wings pulled from his back. “Yeah well, I don’t find the wings and claws to be impressive. I know what a big loser you are underneath.” Dipper looked up at him, with dark eyes that definitely seemed a little bigger--more puppy-dog like. “Ahh, you see, I never had kids of my own. And I like taking care of you. The one good thing this Transcendence thing got me was having you two live here.” He leaned down and whispered, “Don’t tell your sister I said that. She’ll go nuts.”

Dipper released Stan from the hug. “I won’t.”

He pushed Dipper into the living room. “Now go do chores or something. You’re still grounded.”

Chapter Text

The mindscape echoed in the hollow of his ears, like holding up a tin can tied to a string. There was something about lurking in the corner of dreams that felt more real than reality. Everything felt slick, liable to melt or slip away without any notice. Dreams were tricky like that. They never made any sense but yet you would find yourself believing in them. He tried not to interfere too much with dreams, but at night, often found himself drifting about in the minds of his family.

Mabel sat across from him in the mental representation of their bedroom, the black and white tones arching around her while she remained in full technicolor. A false light shined through the triangular window overhead. “Do another one!” she urged.

“Hmm okay…” Dipper thought to himself looking around the bedroom. Mabel thought it best he practice his dreambending on her while she slept, going so far as to remove the god’s eye so that they could interact with each other. Dipper figured it would be alright if she took it off every now and then. After all, as long as he was the one rooting around in her brain, no other demon would dare tread on his domain… right?

“I think I got one,” Dipper said. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He focused on the dream around him, the particles of memory and imagination that made up dreams. He twisted and bent them to his will, changing the very fabric of his surroundings. He held his hand up, fingers creating 2 conjoined L shapes, as if imagining a picture frame before him. He shifted his hands slightly to the left, the whole world tilting with it.

Mabel slide across the bed, giggling in both glee and momentary shock. He kept tilting the mindscape, moving towards a 90 degree angle before Mabel cried out, “No! Stop I’m gonna fall!” She caught herself in a laugh as he set everything back to its normal upright position and she landed face first in the bed. She rolled over onto her back to look at him, hovering just over her face. “Okay, do one that doesn’t involve hurtling me across the room.”

“Come on. It’s the mindscape, you can’t get hurt. It’s all in your head.” He reached out, swiping his hand through her skull and pulling away with a fist full of glitter. He paused and opened his palm, letting the hot pink glitter pour out onto the ground. “Is there any part of you that doesn’t sparkle?”

“Nope!” She sat upright, kicking her legs up and down on the bed. “You’re getting a lot better at this dreambending junk. I haven’t had any horrible nightmares in a few days.”

Dipper shrugged. “Technically, I should be using your dreams to torment you into doing my bidding, but I guess making your stuffed animals sing in a choir is also good. In reality, all of this is just parlor tricks in comparison to what Bill could do.”

“You gotta get Bill out of your head, dummy.” She tapped a finger against his forehead. “We’re going for positive dreams here. Gumdrops and lollipops kinda stuff. Let’s save the eternal torment for someone who isn’t me.”

He knew he shouldn’t be thinking too much about Bill. That it made this fear compress inside of him until he was doomed to explode. Bill was in the past. He had to fight the nagging thoughts in the back of his head that he could be anything like Bill.

“You’re right.” He tapped a claw against his bottom lip. “Hmmm… but what else could I do.”

Something swiped across his vision, too fast to make out, shining a bright yellow-ish color against the black and white of the mindscape. He jerked around to follow it, watching it disappear from his vision. It was definitely odd. He couldn’t discern its shape or size. There was no telling what it was. And his omniscience couldn’t grasp on to it, as if it didn’t even exist. But there was one thing he was certain of, it didn’t belong there.

“Did you see that?” Dipper asked.

“See what?” Mabel replied. “Did you do another trick? Aww, did I miss it?”

“No, I didn’t do anything.” He stood up, “There’s something in your mindscape. I’m going to follow it.”

“What?”

He was already gone, chasing after the mysterious spectre of her mind. It was impossible to keep pace with, tracing down and around the labyrinthian halls of Mabel’s mindscape. It didn’t seem to be going anywhere, but yet it moved with such intention, as if leading him in a game of cat and mouse. And has hard as Dipper pushed himself to catch it, it always remained out of his grasp.

He summoned a bright blue flame in the palm of his hand, launching it at his target. It doged with ease, as if to tease him, and the flame hit a nearby door instead. The fire crackle and spread, leaking blue across the hazy gray of her mind. The yellow light flashed again, ripping its way through the sea of fire. Dipper lurched for it, still unable to catch it. He ricocheted into a shelf, knocking over dozens of books and boxes into the fire. They clattered on top of his head and skittered across the floor. The fire roared in his ears, across his line of a sight, and for a moment it all blurred together into one thing.

He pulled one of the books from the flames, making out the hand-written title on the cover, adorned with macaroni art and glitter. Summer Memories 2012. It was a scrapbook (correction: these weren’t scrapbooks, they were the representation of her memories). Mabel’s mindscape was burning.

“Oh no. No, no, no, no.” He stomped on the flames, trying to put them out as quick as he could. They extinguished beneath his palm, turning to a thick black ash. “Mabel! Wake up!” He put the books out, one by one, trying not to panic at the sight of charred edges, broken spines, and missing pieces.

What had he done?

The fire crept around the beams of the ceiling, making its way to destroy something else; the fears she kept under the bed or maybe her postered wall of dreamboys? Would it take her personality woven into the wool of her sweaters?  

“Mabel, you need to wake up!” He slammed the palms of his hands onto the floor, wet and burning tears building up in his eyes. It wouldn’t stop on its own. He had to dreambend it away.

He let out a dream breath, and gestured towards the ceiling. With a snap of his fingers, he sent a spray of sprinklers raining down on her mindscape. Cool water doused the flames into ash. The blue glow faded away into the dull black and white.

That’s when he was snapped out of the mindscape.

Their actual bedroom was in full color, darkened by the veil of night. Dipper took a moment to reorient himself. Mabel was tucked carefully into bed beside him, rousing herself from a fitful sleep. “Mabel, please wake up. Please be okay.”

She blinked awake, two brown eyes coming into view. “Dipper?” Her voice strained, a weak thread of sounds lumped together.

“Are you okay?”

She shifted in bed, but when she moved she winced. “My head hurts. And everything smells like campfire. What happened?”

He backed away, floating back towards the door.  “I could have hurt you. Burned your mindscape away.”

“You…” she paused in disbelief. “You set my mindscape on fire?”

“I almost destroyed everything. I’m so sorry.”

Mabel propped herself up on her elbows, watching Dipper keep himself as far away as he could. “Come back,” she urged. “What happened?”

He shook his head, breath raging in his chest like it never had before. The black in his eyes, the sinking depths, were the most prominent thing about him. “I’m so sorry, Mabel.” He disappeared completely from her sight.

 

------

 

“--and that’s how you knit a sweater in an hour,” Mabel finished. “Did I do okay?”

Ford nodded and scribbled something down in Journal 4. “You did great. I think all of your memories are still intact.”

After Dipper disappeared, Mabel panicked. It wasn’t like him to do that unless something was seriously wrong. And to leave her hanging on a thread, wondering what had happened to her mind? She didn’t know what to do. She cried for her Grunkles, for the first time afraid of what Dipper had done to her.

Stan shook his head. “Let’s not be too certain. We need to ask more questions.” He positioned himself in front of Mabel, the worry lines on his face pressed in deep. “Sweetie, do you remember how to break out of handcuffs?”

“Well,” Mabel began when Ford cut her off.

“Stanley, I don’t think that’s information she should know in the first place. Besides, Mabel seems to be acting fine. She remembers all the important stuff. I think whatever Dipper did, it had little to no effect.”

“I know, but,” Stan paced around the room, “as someone who’s actually had their mindscape set on fire, when something is missing you don’t know what it is! She could have gaps in her memory we don’t even know about.”

“Everyone forgets things, even important things. If any memory matters that much, it will come back.”

“Uhh, guys,” Mabel said. “I’m right here you, know?”

Stan and Ford both let out a deep breath and returned their attention over. “Sorry, pumpkin. I don’t  want to make you worried or anything. If Ford says you’re okay, then you are okay.”

She bit down on her bottom lip and curled back into her bed. “I’m worried about Dipper. He hasn’t come back.”

“He’s probably a little bit shaken up,” Stan said, sitting down on the arm of the chair and putting an arm around her shoulders. “I’m sure he just needs some time to settle down and then he’ll come back home.”

Mabel shook her head. “That’s what I’m worried about. When Dipper gets scared, that’s when bad things happen. That’s how all of this started. We were playing in my dreams and he said he saw something. I didn’t see anything but it really freaked him out, I think that’s how he set my mindscape on fire.”

“He didn’t say anything about it?” Ford asked.

“No. He just chased after it.” She adjusted the god’s eye around her neck. She didn’t want to put it back on, how else was Dipper supposed to contact her? But if something really was going on, she knew that the god’s eye was the best way to protect them both. “Wherever he went, he’s all alone and there’s no one to calm him down. I don’t want him to do anything stupid.”

“What are you talking about?” Stan nudged her shoulder playfully. “Stupid is our family’s crowning achievement. You think we’ve made it this far because we’re smart? Stupid is a survival skill. I betcha Dipper will come home any moment now with some dumb story about what happened.”

“You think so?”

“Absolutely! Now how about we try to get a little more shut eye-- huh? I’m sure Dipper will be here when you wake up.” Stan and Ford left the room with a few nearly quiet footsteps and the creak of the door. But sleep seemed far off to Mabel.

 

------

 

If Dipper was being honest, he hated the mindscape. It was cold and dark and lonely. It swirled with the buzz of a collected unconscious, the constant ramblings of people’s thoughts and mixing together into one wave of information. He tried to get away from it all, lurking in the heavy brush of a forest. But everywhere he went he still felt haunted.

He sat with his back up against a tree, caught somewhere in between feeling the scratch of bark against his back and feeling absolutely nothing at all. It was more like remembering how something felt, remembering how the air smelled like thick pine and dirt.

Something moved behind him, the snap of a twig the rustle of a branch. He jerked upwards, looking around the forest. “Who’s there? Show yourself!” He thought to summon a flame, but instead let it fizzle out.

A nose poked its way through a bush, followed by two beady eyes, and a soft mound of galaxy wool. “Sorry, master. We didn’t mean to spy on you.”

“Actually, we did.”

“Acrimony? Delirium? What are you doing here?”

The nightmares stepped forward. “You seemed more upset than usual. We came to help,” Delirium said.

Dipper didn’t want to take the time to think about how his two nightmares seemed aware of his emotions and whereabouts. “I’m… ugh, everything has been terrible lately. First, people tried to kill me for doing a good thing. And now, I almost hurt Mabel. I could have burnt her mindscape down.”

“That does sound bad,” Acrimony said. “She must be afraid of you.”

“I didn’t mean to,” Dipper countered. “I thought I saw something, it was sort of like a light but it might not have been. It could have been moving too fast for me to see. But there shouldn’t have been anything in Mabel’s mindscape unless I… unless I put it there.” The realization hit him head on. What if none of it was real? What if all of it was something he made up? (It was real to you, that’s for sure.)  “Maybe I’m just--”

“Delirious?” Delirium guessed. There was a knowing grin spread across its face.

Dipper sucked in a breath, the air in the mindscape tasted like dust and cold. He dropped back down to the ground in defeat. “Am I really losing my mind? Am I going insane like Bill?” He wound his fingers up over his forehead and into his hair.

“Maybe!”

“But that means I hurt Mabel for no reason.”

“Now hold on,” Acrimony said. “How do you know this thing wasn’t real? Someone could be trying to trick you because you are stupid and impressionable.”

Dipper turned towards the nightmare. “That was a really backhanded way of trying to make me feel better.”

“My job isn’t to make you feel better. It’s to help you.”

Dipper pressed his head back against the tree trunk. “But you might be onto something. Someone could be trying to trick me, but how am I supposed to figure out who that is? My omniscience is essentially useless when it comes to anything important.”

“Obviously whatever it is wants to use the minds of your loved ones to get close,” Acrimony said. “It probably wants them to be afraid of you.”

Delirium bounced up and down on its hooves. “Ohhh… we can follow it into people’s dreams. That way we can see if you really are coo-coo bananas. What do you and your sister call it? Mystery hunt!”

Dipper shook his head, “Uhm… thanks, but maybe you guys should stay behind.”

“Oh but we can be so helpful. All nightmares are dream experts. And besides, if this floating light is real, we can protect you, see?”

Dipper didn’t know what to expect when the sheep turned into something so horrifying he couldn’t dare repeat it. A thing with a curling mouth (or mouths, he wasn’t sure) filled with far too many teeth and eyes that dug so deep into his subconscious he felt himself break. The longer he looked at Delirium the less sure he was of what he was even looking at. He tried to back away but bumped into Acrimony, now covered with eyes, hooves clawed like pitchforks, and a mouth that too closely resembled a bear trap.

The worst part was how he felt, something about the nightmares made him lose his sense of reason. Something that made him feel out of control, something that made him feel backed up into a corner with no escape.

The lord of nightmares was absolutely terrified. He folded in on himself, using his wings to block the sight before him. “Okay, I’ve seen enough,” he begged. The nightmares turned back into themselves, soft and only vaguely otherworldly. Dipper peeked up from behind his wings. If his heart were beating it probably would have pounded out of his chest, instead there was just a hollow sensation.

He didn’t really want to bring the nightmares along, but he also didn’t want to be alone either. “Fine. If you promise to never do that again. You can come along. Deal?”

“Deal!” they chimed in unison.

 

-----

 

It was still in the dim hours of the morning back in reality. Everyone in the house had fallen back asleep, except for Mabel, who laid still in bed, waiting for the moment she would catch Dipper drifting back in the room. Her eyes were red with exhaustion and tears. And as much as he wanted to drop back into her dreams, he couldn’t dare set foot in her mindscape again.

Instead, he went for the next nearest dreamer: Stan. He wasn’t a stranger to Stan’s mindscape. It was where they first met Bill, the first mind he ever entered as a demon-- trying to help Stan rebuild his mindscape. (He re-created memories out of thin air, rebuilding their summer board by board, adding in some of the very doorways he was looking at now.)

He waited in the halls of doorways, sitting up in the rafters of the imaginary Shack, feeling a familiar comfort from it, like a place you had been when you were a child. The nightmares lingered by his side. Maybe it wasn’t the best place to hide out, but he knew Stan was resilient and safe.

He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “This is super boring. I should have packed snacks. Oh wait,” he snapped his fingers, summoning a box of Chipackers. (Anything was possible in the mind, why not having a snack?) He crammed one in his mouth, before offering some to the nightmares.

“So what do we just sit around and see if this thing followed me?”

Crumbs fell from Delirium’s mouth when it spoke. “Or find out you’re just becoming delirious.”

“Well for once in my life, I hope there is something stalking me,” Dipper replied. “And I hope it shows up soon.”

“Maybe we need to re-create the scene,” Acrimony suggested. “What were you doing when this thing supposedly showed up the first time?”  

Dipper shrugged, grabbing another Chipacker from the box. “Mabel and I were just hanging out, I did a few dreambending tricks and… yeah, then it popped up.”

He ate the Chipacker. Mindscape snacks were weird, they tasted good, like really good. Better than in real life (because you always remember foods as tasting slightly better). But it also wasn’t real food. It wouldn’t make humans feel full and it wouldn’t make him feel a deep satisfaction either.

“It was a usual night,” Dipper continued. “We mostly talked, the way we used to, you know? She told me about her random crush of the week. And I got all paranoid about my powers being evil or whatever--”

“You are a paradox, do you know that?” Acrimony said. “You clearly need your sister. You simply can’t live without her. But at the first sign of danger, you hide away from her.”

“I don’t hide--” (You do. No use in lying.) He hung his head down and hunched his head down. “Okay, fine. I do, but I just don’t want to hurt her. I’d rather not be around Mabel at all than be the reason something bad happens to her. Do you know how many horrible things I could do to her or anyone else? 1, 379, 540.”

“Yeesh, you are paranoid,” Delirium said.

“I can’t help it! I never have any idea what’s going on. Just as I was getting the hang of this demon stuff, I had to go into hiding! And now I’m probably going insane like Bill-- which is understandable. This demon thing is the worst.”

“Sympathizing are we,” Acrimony teased.

“Not at all. I just--” the doors in Stan’s mindscape flew open one at a time, as if someone were trying to peek inside each and everyone. Dipper ducked low onto the beam, catching the glimpse of the same unfamiliar presence racing down the halls. It had more body this time, moving a little slower but still too quick to make any sense of. Like it wanted to be seen. The sounds of Stan’s memories blasted through the air. “There,” he said to the nightmares, “it was right there did you see it?”

Delirium shook its head. “Nope.”

“But it just,” when he looked down all of the doors were closed again, as if nothing ever happened. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“It’s official! You’re delirious! All that paranoia is finally catching up to you,” chuckled Delirium.

“I’m not delirious, I’m serious. Something was just in here. You should believe me, I’m your master or whatever. Acrimony, back me up on this.”

“I think you’re projecting,” Acrimony replied. “You’re so anxious all the time that your subconscious is starting to justify your fears by making them real. It’s a thing that humans do, and seeing that you still have all these poor human habits, it would make sense for you to do it too.”

Dipper groaned and wound his fingers up in his hair. He didn’t want to believe he could let his subconscious get away with something like that. But it was the only thing that made sense. If he was the only one who could see it and his omniscience didn’t work on it; maybe he was actually delirious.

“What am I doing” he sighed. “I’m talking to a literal representation of my nightmares about if I’m going insane. And now I guess I’m just creating more things to punish myself or whatever? How am I supposed to go home now and tell Mabel that I’m to blame for everything that happened?”

“Well,” Acrimony thought out loud. “You could just not go home. If what you said is true and there’s 1, 379, 540 terrible things you could do to people, what would be the point. You could hide out here with us. People already hate you, right? Want to kill you? Don’t give them any more reason to.”

“Or you could be honest with her. I’m sure your sister will love you even as you slowly dissolve into a psychopathic demon,” Delirium suggested.

Dipper covered his ears and buried his head in his knees. “You guys are not making this any better! I should have never come here, I should have just stayed at home. I should have known better than to bring some horrifying nightmares along with me. All you’ve done is make things worse. First, you took me to see that Information Specialist and now I know I can’t put anything back to the way it was. And now you’re trying to make me feel like I’m some evil and terrible monster! So can you both just ĺ̴̰̠̘̻̫̓̅̄͌̂ͅẹ̸̛̝͖͍͉̹͌͐̉̂̔̽̕͜͠͝͝ȁ̵̭̼̙̮͔̃̋̉͌̾̿̔͝͠v̵̧̧̛͙̬̼͕͓͓̤͕̯̪͇͒̾͋̐̊̒͘͝͝͠ȩ̵͇̲̯̝̜̙̘͚̟̤̉̑͛̍͑̆͛͛͘.”

He didn’t mean for his voice to change like that. He didn’t mean to make the shadows of Stan’s mind get just little bit darker to the point where it was unnerving.

“Master?”

“I̷̻̠̙̿ ̶̭̯͈͈̅͊̕s̵̯͖̠̦͆̐̉ả̵̠̩̩̎ĩ̸̹̼͚ď̴͙̃͌ ̴̻͓̭͍̿͒͗̈́ľ̸̺̖̉ͅe̷̲a̴̲̳̻͚͌̄v̸͈͂̍͋͘e̵̻̥͊͛̿!̶͍̯̫̇̍͛!” But this time he meant it; he meant for his gaze to burn and to bare his teeth like an animal. If they thought he was delirious, fine, he’ll let them believe that.

He looked over at the little sheep-like creatures, who had downcast their eyes from him. They actually looked a little sad. And they probably were. He didn’t ask for any of this to happen. They didn’t ask for it either. They existed only because something bad happened to him. He curled up into  a ball, wrapping his wings around himself. “I’m sorry. Please, just go. I’ll leave in a minute, just let me be alone.”

Delirium trotted up to Dipper, and gave him a soft lick on the cheek. “We don’t mean to hurt your feelings. We’re just trying to be good familiars. We weren’t made to punish you, we were made to help make scary things less scary. More like… friendly sheep. But we did a bad job. We’re sorry.” Dipper made no reaction to any of this. He really did want to be alone. The air that escaped from Deliriums nose brushed against his face. “Ok. We’ll stay away.”

They disappeared.

Dipper didn’t move. Not for a while. He just wanted to get out of his own brainspace for a while. But that didn’t seem possible. Wherever he went, he was surrounded by thoughts. He felt like he was surrounded by all these threads, and didn’t know which one to follow, which one would lead out of the labyrinth he was trapped in.

He knew it was about to be morning. That he would eventually have to go home, because the nightmares were right about one thing, he couldn’t keep hiding from Mabel at the first sign of danger. It only made him feel worse. She deserved to know what happened. And she would love him no matter what. (The nightmares are always right. They’re not easy to listen to, but they know how to make you see things the right way. They scare you straight.)

With a hollow sensation raging through his gut, Dipper went to find the doorway out. Something faint caught is eye. Something that didn’t belong.

(Look behind you.)

“.ɘɘɿɈɘniԳ ,ɒγiH”

There in the stark gray-scale was something definitely not gray and staring at him with one cold eye. Despite having no mouth, it was smiling. Dipper swallowed. “Bill?”

“⸮ɘm ƨƨim ɒγ’biႧ”

Dipper couldn’t forget the sound of Bill’s voice, the piercing crack the penetrating echo that made his words repeat in your ears long after he stopped speaking.

Dipper scrambled backwards, trying to get as far away as he could but his body had gone rigid. Suddenly he felt 12 years old again, small and completely powerless. “This isn’t real,” he stuttered, each word dipped in a staccato of panic. “You’re just a projection of my subconscious.” Something in his chest squeezed, not his heart, not his lungs, for he had neither of those things, but something deep rooted in his soul.

Bill hovered over him, and Dipper felt, somehow, this was all very, very real. “⸮I mA”

Chapter Text

“Hello? Reality to Dipper?” Mabel waved her hand in front of his face. He blinked a few times, beckoned back to the present moment by the sound of her voice and her body leaning over the kitchen table.

He cleared his throat. “Sorry.” For the first time in a long time, Dipper felt sick to his stomach. It twisted and turned into harsh knots as if to suggest there was actually a functioning body he inhabited, and not some cruel joke in the universe.

Mabel dropped back down in her seat, rattling her bowl of cereal on the kitchen table. “What’s been with you lately? You keep zoning out. Which is weird even for you.”

He hadn’t told anyone about what happened with Bill. Or what maybe happened with Bill. He still couldn’t be completely sure if what he saw was real or imagined. Anytime he thought about it, his omniscience would turn to static. Apparently the rule “you can’t know anything about other demons” applied to the dead ones too.

He wanted to believe it was all his imagination. That is was impossible for Bill to still be out there. It didn’t make any sense that he could be. Bill was dead and that was the end of it.

But it didn’t make any sense.

He knew that when demons died their power has to go somewhere, and sometimes it can be stolen by someone else. That was how he Transcended. Bill lured him out into the woods and tried to possess him But then to just die? It just didn’t seem like the kind of thing Bill would do. There were too many missing pieces to the story.

And there were the other factors too, how did Mabel end up with her powers? Why was she not equally as affected as him (an Equivalence)? If Bill was only targeting him, she should have gone unaffected. And how did the whole world get plunged into chaos too?

He couldn’t shake the feeling that things were not what they seem.

“Just a little distracted. Near-omniscience is like that.” He didn’t like the fact that he kept lying to her, or anyone for that matter.

(After hiding out in the mindscape, desperate to ease the discomfort running rampant through his chest and stomach, wondering how he could even feel something like that, he finally went home. He lingered in the doorway for a moment, watching her text out a message to the “Team Alcor group chat” about if anyone had seen him in the past 51 hours. There was a dry red caught in her eyes countered by the thick bags underneath. She didn’t fall back asleep that night. She kept waiting for him to come home, tossing and turning furiously under the covers.

“Where have you been!” she yelled, face red hot. “Why did you disappear like that?”

“I just needed a little brainspace,” he told her. “I’m not really sure what’s going on. I might be imagining things. I’m so sorry, Mabel.”

“You can’t just disappear like that! Last time you disappeared you were kidnapped! You almost died! I don’t want to lose you ever again.”

“I don’t want to lose you!” he shouted back. “I almost burnt your mindscape down! That’s why I left, so I wouldn’t hurt you!”) 

Even if everything he saw was just an overactive imagination mixed with demonic powers, it would still break their hearts. His family sacrificed everything to defeat Bill, they shouldn’t have to put up with him ever again.

“Is there something you’re not telling me? If there is you need to tell me.” She looked up at him as she shoveled another spoonful of Unlucky Charms into her mouth.

“I’m just tired. That’s all.” He grabbed the glass of orange juice she offered, just to keep her from asking more questions.

Ford came into the kitchen, scroll of parchment tucked under his arm, immediately turning to fill a mug with coffee before speaking to his niece and nephew. “I have a special mission I’d like to go on today, and I need both of you with me.” He joined them at the kitchen table, unfurling the scroll. “I bought this off of an intergalactic scholar I met at the supermarket yesterday! Did you know craisins are used as currency in dimension 122*?” Of course Dipper knew that. (Craisins are like dollars while raisins are like cents.)  “Not that this is relevant information. Anyway, this document suggests a new equation for calculating weirdness energy that I had not previously considered. I think it would be a good idea to go to the blast site and test it for radiation. Maybe get a closer look at Bill.”

Dipper choked on his orange juice, spitting it back out into the cup. “What?” Had Ford somehow figured out what had happened in the mindscape? Did he know about Bill? “Why would you do that? I mean, he’s dead. Long gone. I don’t think there’s going to be anything left to uncover.”

“I think doing some research into Bill might help us with your uhm, condition.”

“That makes it sound like I have a rash or something,” Dipper replied.

“What I mean to say is that I’m still looking into the Transcendence, our little trip out to sea provided very little evidence into exactly how something like this works and how we can reverse it.”

Dipper paused. “You’re really still thinking about reversing it?” He thought everyone had given up. That it just wasn’t possible for them to un-do it. He hadn’t quite given up himself, but he recognized it was going to be a lot harder than he originally thought.

Ford took a sip from his coffee, mulling over the equation before him. “Yes, of course. It is vitally important we get you back to normal.”

Mabel grinned reaching across the table to pat the back of his hand. “Really? You think you can help Dipper!”

Strange, considering all of this had started to feel normal. Or maybe he had just forgotten what normal was.

Dipper shook his head. “This doesn’t sound like a good idea. Maybe we should just leave it alone.”

“Are you sure you’re okay? You’re acting really, really weird,” Mabel asked.

His voice came out in a long chain, each word tuggin on the last.“Ĭ̶̤ ̸̯̈́ď̷̯ō̶͍n̴̗͗'̶͙̍t̷̢͆ ̶͈̈́w̴̤̾ą̸n̴̟͐t̵̗̄ ̴͓̀t̴̮̅ò̶͇ ̶̪͑s̴̢͊e̷̙͒e̶͇̚ ̷͕̔ḩ̸̏i̵͖̚m̴͇̆.̷͙̌,” Spurts of fire puffed from his curled hands, fizzling out before they could grow too large. The shadows against the walls ached and twitched while the lights overhead flickered.

Mabel instinctively flinched away, momentarily forgetting the flame wouldn’t hurt her. “Dip…”

“Ǐ̴̪̠̔ ̶̥̎̅d̷͈̻̐̍o̸͖̼͐n̸̙̕'̷̺͝ṫ̶̡͍ ̴̱̇w̶̝͂͑a̷͠ͅn̸͎̥͊t̷͓̚ ̸̱̮̒͑ṱ̸͌̒ò̵̺ ̷̜̹̆̈s̷̨̿̔é̶̗ȩ̶̺̍̋ ̸̒͜͝h̵̤͓́ǐ̵̻͇m̷͉̓̈͜ ̸̝̺̄ë̶̼̌͜v̸̫̇̃ȩ̷̲̇̚r̸̭̔̓ ̸̠̖̕a̴̧̫̒g̵̓͜͜a̷͔̔̅i̸͇n̴̺̬̈́.̶̦̑͝. Ì̸͎͜ ̴̦̤̺̆w̶̩͕̱̃̈̍a̷̜̥͛n̶̤̰͉̔̐t̷̜͆̈́ͅ ̷̡͓̽̏͂h̶͈̽̕i̷̠̊̀m̴̬͗̋̈́ ̷͈͗͝g̴̢̲̮̈́̂̔o̴̲̳͘n̷̫̑͛̕ę̸̖̒͊͌.”His claws scratched deep into the table, chunks of wood scraping away.  

“I think I understand what’s going on here,” Ford commented. Dipper snapped his head to the side in a panic, his powers coming to a sudden and ferocious halt. Placing a hand on Dipper’s shoulder, Ford gave a half-smile. “I understand that the sight of Bill would be distressing. The event must have been very traumatic. I’m sure we wouldn’t understand what you went through in those moments.”

“Yes. That must be it,” Dipper replied. “I’m traumatized that must be why I saw hi--” Dipper caught himself mid-word, quickly covering it up with a lie. “That must be why when I used my omniscience to see that you had a mission out there, I panicked. Yeah, that’s why I’m acting weird.”

Mabel smacked her hand on the table. “You knew Ford was going to do this, and you didn’t think to bring it up beforehand even though you’re scared?”

“Don’t berate him, Mabel,” Ford chided. He focused back down on the scroll. “Now, while I was hoping to have your help in this matter, I understand if you would rather stay home. Stan will be here, I'm sure he wouldn't mind the company." 

“No!” Dipper shouted. That was the other thing weighing on him. If Bill really was still alive, then Dipper left him in Stan’s mindscape. He didn’t mean to. He was so afraid that he ran around without thinking. Looking nervously between Mabel and Ford, he continued. “I mean, I want to go with you. Just for my own peace of mind. I need to see for myself that Bill is dead and… and that he can’t hurt me.”

“Well then, if that’s the case,” Ford rubbed his hands together and looked to Mabel. “Grab a backpack! We have a very important mission ahead of us.”

 

----

 

Dipper followed behind as Mabel and Ford walked through the forest. The sound of their footsteps crunching against leaves and branches was followed by his own eerie silence. Ford has promised he put up fake police tape to keep any nosy tourists or paranormal investigators out of their way, but that didn’t make Dipper feel anymore secure. He wanted to teleport, but Ford said he wanted to test for energy signals at intervals of every 25 feet. This was the sort of mission he would have loved, watching Ford walk around with his portable weird-o-meter as Mabel wrote down everything he said in purple gel pen.

Of course, he could have just told Ford what was going on. No real research was actually necessary. (There’s a high amount of magical “weirdness” energy in air, hanging around like ions. It’s demonic in nature -:[[...//-//) (_-_,,^^^-,,,,) Huh? That was weird. Did his omniscience just cut out?

He stopped where he was floating, trying to focus in on his omniscience. (.....) It hung in the silence, like someone had cut the line on a telephone. Something twinged at the front of his skull, a low but continuous dull. Wait… was that a headache? He shouldn’t be having one of those either.

“Dipdop,” Mabel shouted, standing at the top of a hill with Ford. “What are you waiting for? Come on! This mystery won’t solve itself!”

He caught up to them, clinging to Mabel’s side. “Something is wrong. I don’t feel so good.”

Ford chuckled and looked down at his weird-o-meter. “I wouldn’t doubt it. These weirdness levels are practically off the charts. Obviously they aren’t actually off the charts. I’m always very prepared when it comes to charts. But whatever it is we’re witnessing, it had something to do with the Transcendence. You’re likely very sensitive to it.”

“Well that’s just the thing,” Dipper said. “This is demonic and I think it’s interfering with my powers. My omniscience isn’t working. I can’t see anything.”

“All the more reason to investigate.” Ford looked over his shoulder to his niece, “How about you Mabel? Are you feeling any changes to your abilities?”

She ripped the baseball bat from her backpack, holding it steadily in both hands like a torch until a tiny golden flame bloomed at the tip. “Nope! Everything is still sparky-sparky boom fire!”  She tucked the bat back away.

“We should go back,” Dipper urged. The headache seemed to be getting worse, like something was pushing up against the front of his skull.  

“Nonsense,” Ford replied. “Measuring your reaction is just another step in figuring out exactly how your powers were acquired and what we need to do to reverse them.”

Mabel turned to him, the worry plastered into her eyes but her smile trying to push it off. “This place is sort of a demon hot-spot now, maybe it turns off your omniscience like other demon things do?”

“The demon it’s associated with is me.”

“And Bill.” She realized she had spoken out loud. “I mean… maybe it’s all part of the…”

“It’s okay. You don’t have to censor yourself around me. We can talk about Bill, we do it all the time.”

Ford called out another number than Mabel jotted down onto her notepad. “It’s just that you seem a little more sensitive about it than usual,” she continued. “And I don’t really like talking about him either. You gotta remember that Bill did his demon magic thing on me too. I’m just as confused as you are.”

Dipper did sometimes forget that Mabel was an equal victim in this. Even though she was affected differently, she probably had all the same questions. She had her own powers to be wary of. And she was the one growing up all alone. He spent so much time worrying that he forgot to ask her how she felt about any of it.

He nodded, “I understand. Maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll get a clue to what happened. And then everything can be normal again… or close to normal.” He tried to give her a smile, but it was cut off by the sound of Ford beckoning them to his side and the pressure swelling in his head. It felt like something was building up inside of him.

He stayed close to Mabel, trying to keep pace with her and just keep staring at the ground. It had to be some kind of side-effect. He hadn’t returned to this part of the forest since the Transcendence happened. He had no way of knowing if this was a normal.

Ford stood in towards the edge or the crater, dust flying up around his boots. “I think we should set up the equipment right here.”  

The closer Dipper got the more he felt as if he were about to explode. He looked up at Mabel, who wasn’t moving and instead starting directly into the single stone eye of Bill Cipher. She looked sheet white.

“Ok, I agree,” she said. “Something feels weird about this place. And not the good weird. Messy and unnatural weird.”

And when Dipper looked directly at Bill, he couldn’t take it anymore. Letting out a scream he dropped to his knees. How could something hurt so much? It wouldn’t stop. Why wouldn’t it stop?

“Dipper!” He could hear Mabel call his name, but he couldn’t see her. The world was turning a very strange and delusional grayscale. Instead all he could focus on was Bill. Something about him felt very tied up, as if caught in a web or bound together with string.  “Dipper!”

He passed out.

 

When he opened his eyes, he was sitting in a black and white room, with long gray curtains pulled over to hide something he wasn’t supposed to see. The only things in the room were a few chairs and an occasional shadow that glided across the nothingness.

He was in one, sitting with his back comfortably erect against… was that stone? When he looked down, he saw a face plastered into the stone. It was Grunkle Stan. No wait, it was Ford. Or maybe it was Wendy or Soos? It didn’t really matter which face he saw because he knew he was sitting on a throne of stone and human agony. He tried to run from it but he couldn’t rise from the throne as if a part of it.

He looked up. The chair immediately adjacent from him was Bill. The space was silent and motionless. Bill made no indication of his next move.

And across from Bill was Mabel. She looked older, not by much. He couldn’t distinguish an exact number of years. Though when Dipper looked down at himself he felt he hadn’t gotten older at all.

“.Ɉon ƨ'Ɉi Ɉυd ,niɒϱɒ υoγ ɘɘƨ oɈ ɘɔin ƨ'Ɉi γɒƨ b'I” Bill’s voice came in distorted tones, as if being played backwards through a tape recorder. And yet Dipper understood every word, as if it were his native language. 

He looked back to Mabel, who remained expressionless. Her eyes focused solely on him. Bill noticed the twin’s gaze and eyed them both from the side with smug delight. “⸮ɿɘɈƨiƨ ɿυoγ ɘʞil γlɈɔɒxɘ Ɉƨomlɒ ʞool ɘʜƨ Ɉ’nƨɘob Ɉυઘ .bnɘiɿʇ blo nɒ ƨ’ɘʜƧ”

“But that is my sister.” He leaned forward, “Mabel? Is it you?”

“. Ɉɿɒqɒ ʞɒɘɿd I ƨɘmiɈɘmoƨ nɘʜɈ Ɉυઘ .ɿɘʜ mɒ I lɘɘʇ I”

Dipper shook his head, “I don’t understand. What do you mean you break apart?”

Bill stared at him. “.ƨɈɘɿɔɘƨ ʇo llυʇ ƨ’ɘʜƧ”

“I must be dreaming,” Dipper muttered to himself, again trying to escape the throne but still unable to move.  “This is all a figment of my subconscious. I’m just having a bad dream.”

Bill seemed to find this funny. Dipper honestly couldn’t tell. “.lɒɘb ɒ ɘʞɒm oɈ ϱnilliw ɘɿ'υoγ ʇi ,ƨɈɘɿɔɘƨ ɘƨoʜɈ ʇo ɘmoƨ υoγ ɘviϱ oɈ γqqɒʜ ɘd b'I .ooɈ ƨɈɘɿɔɘƨ ʇo llυʇ m'I”

“No.” Dipper leaned back in the chair. “I can’t trust you. Y-you aren’t even real.”

This shouldn’t be happening. Dreams were in his domain. He should be able to alter it, make it disappear but yet he was stuck in it as if a prop being passed around in the universe’s most bizzare play.

“ .won Ɉʜϱiɿ ɘno υoγ ɘviϱ ll'I ,no ɘmoƆ” Bill looked to Mabel and motioned for her to go to Dipper.

Mabel rose from her chair and walked over to him. Her smile was fond and mature, the days of her braces and goofy grins exchanged for something more gentle. She leaned in and kissed him on the cheek, her fingers warm against the side of his face as she pulled him in. He could smell her perfume and the generic brand detergent on her clothes. Then she whispered into his ear.

Dipper looked up at her in disbelief. “No. That can’t be.”  

 

“Wake up! Please, wake up.”

Dipper muttered something under his breath, “⸮lliઘ” He blinked a few times, Mabel’s face hanging upside down, hair dangling in his face. He closed his eyes again, unsure if he was still trapped inside the negative space. The air smelled like burning, but it was also ripe and sweet.

“No! Don’t close your eyes again. You gotta stay with me.” She brushed some of the hair from his eyes. “Grunkle Ford, can you get more pine branches?” she called over her shoulder before returning all her focus to him.

“Mabel?” This time he kept his eyes open.

“Hey, that’s it,” she said. “Just hold tight. Grunkle Ford and I are gonna take care of you.”

Dipper watched her breathe, the hill created at the center of her chest by the god’s eye hidden under her sweater. Much like in the dream, or whatever that was, there was a certain maturity about her. Out of every part of the Transcendence, he hated how it changed her. Not the magic powers, but how serious she was becoming. How much of her time was spent thinking only about him. This wasn’t the Mabel he knew when he was 12.

He looked over his shoulder at the piles of green pine needles lit with golden flame, smoke curling with shimmering flakes. A ritual. There was something comforting about the smell. Something that eased him into a more wakeful state.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“I’ve been better.”  He propped himself up on one arm. His head was still pounding, literally pounding as if someone was trying to break down a door. Mabel also looked like she’d seen better days. She kept blinking, unable to make her eyes focus. And with every movement she swayed a little, as if disoriented.

“Is he up?” Ford called, running over to the twins with an armful of branches. He dropped them in a pile and knelt down beside Dipper. “Good to see you’re awake. You gave your sister and I quite a scare. I’m very sorry. We should have turned right around the moment you said something was wrong.”

“No, it’s okay. I’ll be fine.”

“Something is wrong, Dipper,” Mabel said. “You’ve only fallen unconscious twice. When the Transcendence happened and then when Metus attacked you. The magic here must be really powerful if it can knock you out.”

Dipper took a moment to gather himself, looking from his great uncle and sister to the stone image of Bill Cipher, laid out in the grass. It seemed to be watching him. Dipper swallowed, “All of this is left over from the Transcendence, residual demon magic. It’s at its strongest right here.” He took a breath though his lungs didn’t fill with air, “After all, this is where Bill died and I was created. I’m connected to it.”

Mabel leaned in close to him. “Did you have any dreams or visions?”

“I--” Dipper thought back to the strange room, to Bill and the image of Mabel whispering something into his ear. She said something vitally important. There was just one problem. “I don’t remember.”  

“You don’t remember?”

Bill’s presence loomed over him, casting a thick dark shadow into the hollow of the crater. 

“No. I don’t.”

Chapter Text

“Please tell me this isn’t what it looks like.”

(It’s exactly what it looks like.)

Mabel looked up from the bag of chips she was pouring into a bowl next to a stack of post-teen magazines and container of nail polish. “You mean a sleepover?” She laughed to herself, “Aww. Do you still think girls have cooties?”

Dipper shook his head. “What? No! I don’t care about that.”

She shrugged, “Then you should have no problem with my friends coming over.”

He hovered over to her, following alongside as she pulled multiple cans of Pitt Cola out from their box. “I do have a problem with it. I’m not really used to people being in the house and,” he flushed a dark pink and his wings fluttered nervously, “your friends haven’t really… seen me like this yet.”

It didn’t matter how many times he saw his reflection, he always hated what he saw. It took his family weeks to get used to the sight of him, to stop jumping back any time they looked at him. Usually, when someone saw him they would either pass out, scream bloody murder, or have nightmares for months on end. And that was assuming a best case scenario. Worst case scenario someone would try to splash blessed water in his face or kill him.

Mabel snorted, “It’s been 2 years. I’m pretty sure they’re well-beyond being freaked out by the supernatural. Besides, I only invited the people you know. Candy, Grenda, I managed to rope Pacifica into it too. Isn’t that great?”

“I don’t know…”

Mabel frowned and crumpled up the empty chip bag, throwing it in the trash. “I haven’t had friends over since everyone was camping out on our lawn during Weirdmaggedon. And I don’t think that really counts.”

“Wendy and Soos are over all the time.”

“Friends my own age, Dipper!” She paused, realizing she had lashed out at him. “Friends I can talk about crushes and reality TV with. I’ve had plenty of patience with you and your situation but I would like to be a normal teenage girl for one night. I have to take care of myself too.” She grabbed the bowl of chips and carried it into the living room and set it down on the T-Rex skull side-table, avoiding any eye contact with Dipper.  

“At least you still have friends,” Dipper muttered, following behind her. “I don’t have a normal life like you do! You’re the closest thing I have to normal!”

She snapped around with a whip of her hair. “Yeah, well, you’re not normal! I’m not normal! You’re a demon and I shoot fire out of a baseball bat. None of this is normal! None of this should be happening, but it is!” Her cheeks flushed a deep and glowing red. “Maybe you can’t pretend anymore but I can.”

“Mabel…” he began and then stopped to watch her turn away from him in frustration.

And she was right. He couldn’t pretend, or if he could he wasn’t sure how. And he kept hoping she would jump into the deep end with him, give up her normal life because his was taken away. But Mabel had to live a dual life, she pretended that everything was fine all the time. He never had to pretend.

“I’m sorry. Let’s not fight about this. Here,” he gestured to her magazines and snacks on the table, sparing just a little bit of magic to levitate the objects across the room and into position. “I want you to have fun with your friends tonight. Watch movies and eat snacks. Grenda is gonna take the ‘What Type of Flirt Are You Quiz’ and say she’s sexy and subtle, but she’s lying.”

Mabel snickered, “I didn’t need omniscience to know that.” She paused, pursing her lips together. “You really feel like you don’t have any friends? Not even Soos and Wendy?”

“They’re our family. But when they’re here, I have to be invisible because the Shack is open. They have to pretend like I’m not here and that none of this is happening, kind of like you do. But it’s not like I was any good at making friends before. I’m kinda used to it.”  

Mabel looked from the magazines to him. “Maybe you should say hi to everyone. I mean, I know things won’t be the same. But actually talking to people might help boost your confidence.”

“That doesn’t seem like a good idea.” (It’s true. It’s not.) “Maybe I’ll just go hide out somewhere or join Stan and Ford on their weekend boat trip.”

“You always say that. Just give it a chance okay? I promise it will be fine.”

“I--” Dipper stopped (3… 2… 1…)

There was a loud and brash knock on the door. (Mabel’s skills of misdirection combined with the god’s eye made her pretty good at tricking Dipper into things.) “Too late to answer, they’re here!” Mabel squealed, socks sticking to the wooden floor as she ran. “Welcome, friends!”

Candy, Grenda, and Pacifica piled through the front door, bracing Mabel in a hug. Their squeals echoed against the walls and ceilings. Dipper hadn’t seen Mabel actually smile like that in so long. The girls pulled back out of their hug, grins still spread across their faces.

And then there was a pause as the girls took their first sight of Dipper standing in the living room, at the terrible floating spectre with dark unfeeling eyes.

He gave his best attempt at a human wave and smile. (Maybe you shouldn’t have smiled. Too many teeth and all that.) He at least hoped that having worn his plain clothes that day instead of that awful black suit made him look a little more normal. A little more familiar. He cleared his throat, “Hey, guys.”

The initial reaction was as he expected: The sleeping bags slipped from their hands in shock. Pacifica turned sheet white, holding one hand over her dropped jaw. Candy jerked away, closing her eyes from the sight. Grenda simply shouted, “Holy moley!” They were definitely afraid, Dipper could feel it radiating in the air, ripe and ready for nightmares.

But then things took a turn.

Pacifica took a few hesitant steps forward, before embracing him in a hug. “Where have you been, you big dummy! It’s been two years! Not that I’ve been worried or anything.”

“We haven’t seen you since you possessed Mabel at school that one time,” Candy commented, joining in.

Dipper chuckled nervously. He tried not to think about the possession situation, as it was more fun than he expected it to be. “Yup… that was a thing I did.”

“And it was awesome!” Grenda added, squeezing him around the chest until he felt… wait was that pain? How was that possible? (Unknown.) “You should come to school more often,” she said, continuing to squeeze.

“I don’t think so.” When Dipper spoke his words were accompanied by a laugh. “That ended up being kind of dangerous.”

“And since when have you cared about danger before?” Pacifica laughed.

“I guess you’ve got me there.” He rubbed awkwardly at the back of his neck. “But hey it was nice seeing you guys but I should probably let you get back to your sleepover.”

“No stay!”

“We haven’t seen you in like ages,” Grenda added. “It’s been super weird seeing Mabel and not you.”

“Well,” Dipper looked to Mabel, who gave a half smile and a ‘give it a shot’ shrug, “if you insist.”

Maybe this wouldn’t be a bad idea. Maybe he was getting another one of those faulty predictions. Hanging out with friends would be good for him. And with everything going on Bill, he needed to be reminded that the Bill’s greatest weakness wasn’t a memory eraser ray or having all of his powers stolen, it was the connection between people.

The girls lead him over to the floor where they sat in the mounds of their sleeping bags and pillows, fishing snacks out of the bowls. Dipper resorted to floating cross-legged a foot above the ground, watching them curiously. Come to think of it, he’d never been invited to a sleepover. The only way he went to things was if Mabel was invited because you couldn’t invite only one twin. Most of the kids in middle school thought he was awkward and weird. If only they could see him now.

Mabel leaned forward using her hands to balance herself against the ground. She pulled a piece of excessively glittered paper out of her pile of sleepover supplies. “Okay, first on tonight’s list of fun is gossip. I want to know the hot deetz about everything.”

“Well,” Candy flushed a deep pink, “I think Zachary in third hour might like me. He asked me if he could share my math textbook when he left his in his locker. He sat really, really close to me while we did our homework. Our shoulders touched.”

“Candy!” Mabel screamed. “That’s so romantic.”

“Zachary is such a cutie,” Grenda swooned.

Pacifica scrunched up her face. “Grenda, aren’t you with Marius?”

“What Marius doesn’t know won’t hurt him. This is girl time,” Grenda thought that over for a second, glancing over as Dipper crammed a handful of potato chips into his mouth and swallowed without chewing. “Girl time plus Dipper.”

“Boys are a mystery,” Candy sighed. A light sparked in her dark eyes and she leaned over to Dipper. “What do you think? You’re a boy. Does Zachary like me?”

He reached for another handful of chips, “Oh no. He’s not interested in you. He just wanted to copy your homework.” He paused for a moment in thought, as if scrolling through an infinite database of information until landing on the right link. “But Cade, from the RPG club is super into you. He thinks it’s cute when you win at Monstermon.” He caught some chips in his claws and dropped them in his mouth.

“That’s right,” Candy spoke in a breathy whisper, mostly to herself. “You’re a demon, that means you know everything.”

“I know lots of things,” Dipper corrected. “Let’s not spread misinformation here. There are some things I can’t know, and some things I choose not to know.”

“So, I could ask you a question about almost anything, say…”

Dipper stopped her there, “Yes, you could ask me who is going to win Game of Bones. But if I told you, it would eat away at you because you wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone else about it. I should know, I’m currently in that position and it’s really upsetting.”

Pacifica covered her ears, “Don’t say anything I just started season 7!”  

“Answer my question!” Grenda shouted, clapping her hands together. “Which boys like me?”

Dipper blinked. “Marius? I don’t even need to use my omniscience for that because he’s, you know, your boyfriend.”

Grenda huffed, a frown dropping on her face and her arms crossed over her chest. “That’s so boring. I wanted to be apart of a love triangle so Marius would have to fight for me like in my mom’s vampire romance novels.”

A nervous laugh escaped from Mabel as she bit down on the bottom of her lip. “Okay, guys, give Dipper a break. I’m sure he doesn’t want to sit around talking about your romantic lives all night.”

Dipper shrugged, “I really don’t mind. Sometimes my summoners like to ask when the world is going to end or when they are going to die. This is pretty harmless stuff in comparison. And as long as you guys keep up with the offerings, I’m able to stick around.”

“Come on, Mabel,” Pacifica grinned. “What happened to the matchmaker? Haven’t you ever asked your brother to tell you the future about who you’re going to marry?”

Mabel and Dipper both reeled back, contorting their faces in twisted disgust. “Eww.”

“That’s gross! I mean, sure we’ve talked about crushes in the past but this is completely different. I mean, this is...” Mabel fumbled for her words, looking to her brother in a panic.

She honestly hadn’t even thought much about dating since the Transcendence. It’s not like she could bring any boys home to her family: a con-man, an interdimensional traveler, and a demon. Though sometimes she thought about asking, but she didn’t want to change the future… or cause the future.

“I don’t really like predicting so far into the future anyway,” Dipper commented. “The further you go, the more likely you are to see several possible outcomes, so something becomes more probable than others but that doesn’t mean they won’t happen as the future changes. So if you ask me who the president will be in 200 years, there’s a 2% chance that it will be an inside-out duck named Brian. It’s an unlikely possibility. Also gross but in a cool way.” He leaned casually against the empty air, as if there were clear glass behind him. “Plus, I can’t see Mabel when she has the god’s eye on. It gives her some privacy. I only care to know so much about my sister’s love life. So how about we move on to something else?”

Mabel scrambled for a piece of pink construction paper covered in glitter glue and stickers. “According to my step-by-step guide for sleepover fun.” She trailed her finger along the numbered list, “After gossip, it’s makeovers, magazine quizzes, make more snacks, truth or dare, bad movies, bedtime but not meaning it, excessive giggling, existential crises, and then actual bedtime.”

Slamming her hands on the ground, Grenda shouted, “Come on, Mabel. That’s like, little kid stuff. Not only that, but your brother has near infinite power. We could do anything we wanted.”  

Mabel laughed nervously, “What do you mean little kid stuff? I thought this was just regular girl stuff.”

Candy shrugged, “This was fun when we were 12. But we are almost 16 now. I want to live on the wild side.”

“I wouldn’t mind doing something a little different,” Pacifica twirled a strand of hair around her finger. “I haven’t done anything dangerous or disobedient in years.”

Leaping to her feet, Candy pointed at Dipper. “Take us to the demon realm so we can destroy our enemies.”

“No,” he replied, flat-voiced. “Pick something less deadly.”

“Watching bad movies is an activity that only requires some friends and funny commentary? Nothing deadly or demonic necessary?” Mabel bit down on her lip, the step-by-step guide for sleepover fun crushed in her hands.

“Quick,” Grenda shouted, “Dipper! Tell us the worst movie ever made, past or future!”

Pausing for thought, Dipper tapped a claw against his bottom lip. “Well that’s wildly subjective but I’d say its--”

“I don’t care!” Mabel’s voice pulsed across the room, followed by an eerie silence. “The point of this sleepover was for some girl time, to talk about silly things that don’t matter like which magazine boy has the dreamiest eyes. All I wanted was to forget about the future and demonic hocus pocus. But I guess that’s not cool anymore!” She crumpled the list her hands, glitter glue cracking and sending sparkly shimmers everywhere. The list dropped from her fingers next to a bowl of chips. She stormed out of the room and into the kitchen.  

“What’s up with her?” Pacifica asked.

Dipper let his shoulders droop in defeat. “It’s just as my omniscience predicted. This was a bad idea. I’ll go talk to her.”

Standing up, he floated over to the kitchen and peering around the doorframe. Mabel leaned against the kitchen table, fighting off an intrusion of tears. “Can we talk, Mabel?” She sniffed and scooched over against the table, signalling for him to come closer. “What’s going on? I can’t read your mind so you’re gonna have to tell me.”

A hiccup escaped her before she spoke. “It’s just… you’re ruining everything with your weirdness again.” Her fingers gripped to the edge of the table. “You ruin a lot of things now. At first I couldn’t have friends over because they’ll be scared of my demon brother, and now I can’t have friends over because they think my demon brother is cooler than me. Everything I do ends up being about you!”

“If you didn’t want me to ruin this, why did you let me stay?”

“Because I worry about you!” The pink in Mabel’s cheeks was darker than it had ever been, spreading like a wildfire. “You told me you felt like you didn’t have any friends. And you’ve been acting super weird lately and you aren’t talking to me about it! I’m always afraid that if I’m not there for you, you’ll just snap and then I won’t have a brother anymore because I couldn’t keep everything together.”

“I didn’t know you felt that way,” he whispered, hovering just close enough to her that he could reach out and brush the hair from her eyes with the back of his hand.

Rubbing at her eyes with the back of her sweater, she looked away from him. “Like you said, you know lots of things but not everything.”

“Yeah, but I should know to pay more attention to my twin sister. I know that you’ve given up everything to stay with me. A home, time with your friends, a normal life. I’ve asked way too much of you.” He sighed, “And I know that I owe you way more than one normal sleepover with your friends. So I’m going to leave, and I want you to have an awesome time.”

Mabel flopped her head against his shoulder, “But what’s the point if my best friend isn’t there?”

Dipper raised an eyebrow, “But I thought they were all here?”

“I mean you, doofus.”

“Oh.” A shark-toothed smile and a laugh cracked between his lips.

“Are you gonna stay for the rest of the sleepover?”

“Nah. I think we need to find a new normal. The kind of normal where sometimes there’s demon hocus pocus and other times there’s magazine quizzes. And while it’s nice to have friends again, I think you deserve some time with them. I’ll hang out with you guys next time they come over.”  

Mabel smiled, “Next time.”

Pushing off the table, she sucked in a deep breath and walked back into the living room to find Candy, Grenda, and Pacifica all huddled around the pile of cheesy teen magazines. Grenda set hers down, “According to this my flirting style is sexy and subtle.” Mabel stifled back a snort.

“I thought you guys said this was all little kid stuff,” she asked.

Candy traded out one magazine for another. “We were letting all the magic get to our heads. It was time to do something normal.”

“Also your kitchen has no door so we heard all of your conversation,” Pacifica said. “We didn’t know how important this was to you. And besides it’s kind of fun. We haven’t done this in a while.”

“You guys are the best.” Dropping to her knees, Mabel crawled in beside her friends, grabbed a magazine and folded herself into the first night of her new normal.

Dipper poked his head around the corner, watching Mabel and her friends giggle and whisper to each other. It was nice to see Mabel start to act more like herself again and not spend so much time worrying about him.

He turned to leave, trying to cause as little disturbance as he possibly could.

A voice clawed in night, coming from everywhere and nowhere. 

“.qɒnƨ oɈ ϱnioϱ ɘɿ'υoγ ƨʞniʜɈ ɿɒɈƧ ϱniɈooʜƧ”

“Shut up,” Dipper muttered under his breath, before disappearing into the mindscape.

Chapter Text

“You don’t think Bill is alive somehow, do you?”

He laid his head down flat on the table covered with a perfectly circular doily and a stack of brownies on it. Too bad he wasn’t in the mood to eat anything. Somehow, he felt sick to his stomach. He wasn’t really in the mood for talking either, but it seemed he had run out of options.

As usual he met her in the empty attic of the Mystery Shack. He knew it was all a subconscious representation, like anyone else’s mindscape. He wanted a familiar place to meet with enough room to think. But there was always something eerie about it.

“It’s like he’s everywhere,” Dipper continued. “In my head or in the mindscape. But only I can hear him or see him…”

The old woman with the turtle skull for a head sighed and poured herself a cup of tea, pulling the teapot out of thin air. If Bill Cipher were alive, you and I would not be having this conversation. You inherited his powers, his very life-force. It’s not uncommon for fledglings to have difficulties controlling their powers, sometimes creating things they did not intend. Perhaps this is the cause for your distress. She stopped pouring the tea and thought for a moment. But that does not mean you are out of the woods either. You’re getting more powerful and I’m afraid I have little understanding of what you could be capable of.

“I wish I understood what I was capable of,” he grumbled, resting his chin in the crook of his arm. “Ultimate power is a lot more desirable when you know what that power does.”

You always have such a serious look on your face, the old woman with the turtle skull for a head teased.

“I do not have a serious look.”

You do. You knit your eyebrows and stare at nothing. (It’s true.) She finished pouring her tea, added some milk, and took a sip. The electric green of her Hawaiian shirt looked more out of place than ever, a stark sense of color against the dim nothing of the mindscape. Tell me more about these visions and the voice you hear.  

“Well,” Dipper rubber at the name of his neck. “Bill usually says all these cryptic and threatening things, but that’s not unusual for him. Like one time he said he was full of secrets and shared one with me, except I don’t remember it.”

The old woman with the turtle skull for a head nodded, as if this were all common place. Sounds like a classic case of overactive dream magic; you can’t remember information that never existed.

Dipper groaned, shoving his face back into his hands, as if to hide from her eyeless gaze. “But it feels so real. I don’t know why I would do that to myself, even subconsciously. It has to be real. Oh and he speaks in this language I’ve never heard before but I understand. It sounds like someone playing a record backwards.”

She looked up at him, and Dipper sensed the mild twist of panic in the air. Dreamspeak, she whispered.

“Dreamspeak?”

It is the language of the unconscious, once spoken by dream demons. Think about the last moments before you fall asleep, how your thoughts start to blur and words lose meaning. That is Dreamspeak. Cipher taught it to humans thousands of years ago to use in summonings.

“Do you speak this language?”

I speak every language, dear. As do you, She cleared her throat, ⸮ɒɘɈ ɘmoƨ ɘʞil υoγ blυoW  She gestured to the tea pot beside her with a knowing grin.

Dipper nodded and tried to focus. “.ɘɘɈ ɿoʇ ɘbom ɘʜɈ ni Ɉonʞ mɒ ɘγƎ .υoγ ʞnɒʜɈ wonﻼ”

She chuckled, It appears you have a few mistranslations. But seeing as your native language is English, not Dreamspeak, I shouldn’t be surprised. Just as humans can understand a language but not speak it very well, you are in a similar position.

.wonʞ ʜO” Dipper sighed. “What did I say?”

The old woman with the turtle skull grinned with her unmoving jaw, Complete nonsense.

Nothing a little practice can’t fix.

“But why would I need to speak it? If Bill isn’t alive, like you say, then what’s the point of learning some language?”

Just a formality. It might help you refine your powers. Snapping her fingers, a paperback book appeared on the table between them: Dreamspeak for Idiots.

Dipper grabbed the book. “Seriously? I’m a demon and in order to learn another language I have to use a book? There’s no amulet or spell that will do it for me?”

I’m afraid not. Besides, this will be a familiar way of learning. Not everything needs to be supernatural.

“Well, if that’s what it takes to make Bill go away.”

Good. Now how about you go home and get to work.

Dipper looked between her and the book. “There is a chance though, right? That maybe he can come back?" 

I hope not.

 

------

 

The book floated next to Dipper as he stood in the living room, trying to name everything he saw.

He pointed at Stan’s worn out armchair. “.ɿiɒɈƧ” He looked over at the book, “No wait that’s not right.” He cleared his throat, “⸮ɘɿɒɈƧ” He groaned, “No that’s still not right.”

Mabel walked into the living room, “Hey bro-bro. What’s that weird sound you’re making with your mouth? It sounds like someone trying to gargle mouthwash while burping the alphabet.”

He sighed, “I have to learn Dreamspeak but I keep mistranslating.” He returned to the book, concentrating before speaking. “.ɿiɒʜƆ  .ɿiɒʜƆ”

“I can’t believe you have homework.” Creeping over his shoulder, Mabel stared at Dreamspeak for Idiots, except the longer she looked at the page the more her vision began to blur. “Wow. This is so boring I am literally falling asleep just by looking at it,” she yawned and looked away.

“Well it’s supposed to be the language of the unconscious. I guess it would make you a little drowsy.”

She flopped down into the chair, fighting off another yawn. “Huh. So why do you have to learn it? I thought you could already do dream magic?”

“I uhh--” He couldn’t tell her the truth, not until he knew the truth himself. If Bill was actually alive he didn’t want to scare her. “Apparently it will help me control my powers. It’s the language of dream demons or whatever.”  

She stretched out in the arm chair, hair hanging over the side. “Do you think there are other dream demons out there?”

Looking away from the book, Dipper paused in thought. “I don’t know. I mean, there must be? Maybe lesser demons? At one point there had to be enough of them that they would have their own language.”

“Do you think they’d adopt you into their society? Teach you how to be a real demon and all that?”

“I don’t know,” Dipper plucked the floating book out of the air and tucked it under his arm. “I’m not all that interested in hanging around with demons.”

“Well I hang out with a demon and I think he’s pretty cool. And besides,” she propped herself up on her elbow, “don’t you have questions about being a demon? Things you don’t understand?”

He had more questions than could be answered. Maybe Mabel was onto something? If he could get on friendly terms with at least one other dream demon, maybe he could figure out how to control his powers? He could figure out what was up with Bill. There might even be a chance that another dream demon would know how to reverse the Transcendence.

“I guess that would be nice,” he whispered. “But I can’t know anything about other demons, remember? It’s like some crazy privacy policy. So making contact would be difficult.”

“Hmm, you’re right. But you know who has six fingers and might know a thing or 2 about dream demons?” She wiggled one hand, showing off her average amount of fingers. “If anyone knows, it’s Grunkle Ford.”

“I don’t think we should bother him with this, Mabes.”

“Nonsense. Ford loves being smart about stuff. And it’s not every day that you have a question omniscience can’t solve.”

“I guess it wouldn’t hurt to ask,” he sighed. He had a feeling the old woman with the turtle skull for a head was keeping something from him.

 

------

 

“You want to know about dream demons?” Ford asked, leaning over his desk, Journal 4 open surrounded by mostly empty coffee mugs and polaroid photographs. He shuffled aside a stack of papers, “Why the sudden curiosity?”  

“Well, Bill isn’t exactly the best role model,” Dipper said.

“And Dipper needs to learn more about the other things like him,” Mabel added.

“First, I’m not a thing. Second, there’s no one else like me in this universe.”

Ford cleared his throat, “Well, that’s a very extensive question. And I’m afraid my answer will be insubstantial.”

“What do you mean,” Dipper asked.

Reaching down into his bottom desk drawer, Ford pulled out Journal 3, its pages now filled completely. The sight of it always made Dipper’s heart break a little. He no longer needed it for anything. “Bill once told me that he destroyed his home dimension and everyone in it. ‘Flat minds with flat dreams,’ as he put it.” He opened Journal 3, showing the twins his various notes on the matter. 

“Demons consume souls to gain power,” Dipper muttered, staring down into the well worn and familiar pages of the Journal. “And if there were other dream demons, destroying them would be a quick way to get stronger.”

“Wait. Let’s back this train up,” Mabel said, looking over to Dipper. “Have you eaten a soul? Would you say it tastes like chicken? Or does each soul have its own distinct flavor?”

Dipper grimaced and stepped back. “I haven’t eaten anyone’s soul before! Why would I? That’s gross!”  

Tapping a finger against her chin, Mabel puckered her lips in thought. “If Bill killed all those people for power… are you made of souls? If I lick you what would you taste like?”

“Cut it out!” Dipper shouted back, cheeks turning red. “I mean, ugh, I’m made of energy, but maybe there’s still something fleshy? I enter the physical plane with more ease than Bill ever did. Maybe it switches back and forth? I don’t know. And please don’t lick me.”

Mabel sucked her tongue back into her mouth and looked to the side as if nothing happened.

Ford tapped his pen against the desk, “Licking each other aside, I’m curious to know why you kids are suddenly so interested in dream demons. Please tell me you haven’t gotten yourselves into trouble. Don’t lie.”

Huffing out a sigh, Dipper folded up his legs so he could sit criss-crossed in the open air. “I’ve been trying to learn this dream demon language, but what’s the point if none of them are alive anymore?”

Ford snapped his head up. “You’re learning Dreamspeak?”

“You know what Dreamspeak is?”

“I’m afraid so,” Ford sighed, now reaching for Journal 2. He flipped through the pages as he spoke. “Bill taught me some of the language, as he did with those before me. It’s a dangerous tool, the sound can put mortals into a drowsy and susceptible state-- leaving us open to Bill’s tricks and even possession. I experimented with it once, using it to create my own possession spell. But it proved to be too dangerous.” He closed the Journal and sighed, “Dreamspeak is the language of manipulation and the subconscious.”

Dipper repeated the word under his breath. “Manipulation.” So what did it mean that Bill spoke to him in Dreamspeak? If Bill was just a figment of his imagination, how could he be manipulating himself?

"If this is about dream demons, I doubt there is anything to worry about. They are all long dead. Learning the language would simply be for your own benefit." 

“Right,” Dipper muttered back to himself. “Nothing to worry about.”

A voice clawed at the back of his skull. “⸮υoγ oɈ ϱniʜɈon γllɒɘɿ I mA”

Did this really have to start happening now? He didn’t need the extra pressure from a dead demon whispering in his ear.

Mabel looked over at Dipper, a suspicious scrunch in her face. “Is something bothering you?”

He nearly jumped when she asked. “I-uhm..” (Good luck covering that reaction up.) If he still had a functioning human body he’d be sweating buckets right now. It was fine. He just had to believe it was fine. The old woman with the turtle skull for a head said it herself, Bill was dead. He wouldn’t be stuck with these terrible powers if Bill were alive.

“.ɘɿυƨƨɘɿq ɘʜɈ ɿɘbnυ ϱniqqɒnƨ ɘɿ'υoY .ɘυɿɈ ɘmoɔ ƨɿɒɘʇ Ɉƨɿow ɿɘʜ ɘʞɒM .ʜɈυɿɈ ɘʜɈ ɿɘʜ llɘT .Ɉi ob ,ɘɘɿT ɘniԳ ,no ɘmoƆ”

“I,” Dipper fumbled around for anything, any lie that could cover him for at least a moment. “I need to go.”

------

 

He paced back and forth in the bedroom, or moreso walked on the open air as if there were glass beneath his feet. He was really itching to break something, or maybe set something on fire. Anything to take the edge of anxiety off.

“It’s fine,” he muttered. “Everything is fine. It’s all in your head. Like when you were afraid of getting eaten by yetis in second grade. Yetis don’t even live in California and Bill is definitely dead.” As he spoke, it was as if the air swelled around him, trying to make him choke-- except choking would be impossible.

“⸮ʜυʜ ,noƨɿɘq bnoɔɘƨ ɘʜɈ ni ʇlɘƨɿυoγ oɈ ϱniʞlɒT .ʜƨɘɘY”

Dipper chuckled nervously, a spatter of doubt clashing in his voice. “Oh no. I’m not listening to you. Listening to you is like taking advice from Dr. Dan on midday television; the guy isn’t even a real doctor. I’m just going to pretend like I’m not hearing any of this.”

“.noiɈɒnimob blɿow ϱninnɒlq bnɒ ʇʇo υoγ ϱniƨƨiq nɒʜɈ ɿɘʜɈo no ϱnioϱ ɘƨlɘ ϱniʜɈon Ɉoϱ ɘv'I --γɘʜ bnA  .υoγ qlɘʜ nɒɔ I ɘdγɒm ʞniʜɈ I .no ɘmoɔ wwA”

“No. No way am I letting you do this to me. I see right through your little Dreamspeak gimmick. You’re just trying to manipulate me with your fancy language.” Dipper realized he was outwardly emoting, pointing at someone who wasn’t actually in the room with him. He paused and lowered his hand.

“.nomɘb oɈ nomɘႧ .ƨnoiɈɒƨɿɘvnoɔ ɿυo ʇo γɔɒviɿq ɘʜɈ ɘɘɈnɒɿɒυϱ nɒɔ I γɒw γlno ɘʜɈ ƨi ʞɒɘqƨmɒɘɿႧ ,biʞ, ʞoo⅃”

“Have you considred just not talking to me?” he snapped.

“⸮υoγ Ɉ'nɘvɒʜ ,γʞɿɒnƨ ɒbniʞ  ɘɿ'υoY”

Dipper groaned and flopped back down onto the open air. “.ɘnolɒ ɘm ɘvɒɘl bnɒ qυ Ɉυʜƨ ɈƨυႱ”

“.llɒɔ ɿυoY .ƨbnɒʜ nwo γm oɈni ƨɿɘɈɈɒm ɘʞɒɈ I ɿO .ƨυ ʇo ʜɈod ƨɈiʇɘnɘd ɈɒʜɈ lɒɘb ɒ Ɉυɔ ɘW .nɘqqɒʜ lliw ƨϱniʜɈ owɈ ʇo ɘnO .mɘʜɈ ɘvɒʜ I bnɒ ƨɿɘwƨnɒ bɘɘn υoγ ,γɒwγnA .ɘυϱnoɈ ɘʜɈ ʇo ƨlloɿ ɒbniʞ ɘϱɒυϱnɒl ɘʜT .Ɉi ʇo ϱnɒʜ ɘʜɈ ϱniɈɈɘϱ ɘɿ'υoY”

“Out of the question! I would never make another deal with you.”

“.Ɉxɘn ƨɘmoɔ Ɉɒʜw ɿoʇ ɘm ɘmɒld Ɉ'nob ,nɘʜɈ llɘW”

Suddenly, everything felt quite for a moment. A perfect but unnerving silence.

The bedroom door creaked open, a sweater clad figure poking through the light. “Dip?” She spotted him, semi-translucent in the mindscape, expression twisted in despair. “There you are. Is everything alright? I thought I heard you talking to someone.”

“Just myself.” He pushed himself upright, wings folding up against his shoulders like a blanket. “I’m sorry I ran off. That was a lot of information and I needed to process it.”

Dropping onto the bed, Mabel looked up at him. “Yeah, it was kind of overwhelming to realize how little we know about Bill and the other dream demons.” A smile spread across her face, “But the good news is that there’s only one dream demon left! And he’s the best one ever. We don’t have to worry about those other guys.”  

“Yup,” he muttered. “The one and only.”

Chapter Text

“Ugh,” Mabel pressed her face against the window still, breath fogging up the glass. “It’s the middle of December and it hasn’t snowed even a little!” 

“What can I say, Dipper shrugged, snapping his fingers to make a tiny flame appear and disappear in a flash. “It’s a warm winter. Snow won’t stick until December 28th.” 

“But I wanted to spend winter break sledding and having snowball fights.” She huffed out a sigh and slammed one hand against the window. “Come on sky! Snow faster!” 

Snow had become Mabel’s favorite thing since the untimely and unexpected move from California to Oregon. Everytime it fell, she’d appear at breakfast in the morning with brand new, winter themed sweaters for the family to wear. She’d go out and pour maple syrup in snow until it cooled into hard candy. There was something about the clumps of frozen water falling from the atmosphere that fansciated Mabel.

 (“It’s mother nature’s glitter,” she said, the first time she watched it fall and stick to the ground in thick, luscious clumps. She looked to Dipper, who’s reaction wasn’t nearly as awe-struck; and how could it be when the universe suddenly become a lot less mysterious and fleeting? “Get excited, bro! The sky just gave us free snow cones!” 

He shrugged it off, after all it was just snow. He was about to get an eternity’s worth of weather changes. “I sorta prefer warm weather.” He was really just longing to go back to summer. Not just any summer. A specific one he wouldn’t get back.) 

Dipper ceased snapping his fingers to watch her at the window of their bedroom. “I don’t think yelling at the sky will help you control the weather in anyway.” 

“I know.” With a grumble Mabel moved away from the window and flopped down face first on her bed. “I just wish it would snow a little.” She laid with her face planted in the pillow a little while longer before bolting upright. “Wait a second! I can’t control the weather, but you probably can!” 

“What?” Dipper replied, not because he didn’t understand what she said, but that he couldn’t understand why she said it. 

Mabel crawled off her bed and over to his, full of a dark-eyed and starry charm. “You can make it snow! Why wait for nature when you have magic?” 

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” Dipper replied. 

“You always say that!” 

“And I always mean it. I don’t want to do anything bad and we both know my powers are still a little uncontrollable.” 

“Aww come on. What good are your crazy superpowers if you don’t use them? Become Lord of the Skies! Master of Fun!” She waggled an eyebrow and nudged him with her elbow. “Best brother in the whole world?” 

He snickered and nudged her back. “Shut up.” 

“You would be.” 

He supposed it would be possible. It would be like conjuring any other item, except huge and with potential threats to the environment and public safety. (Chance of catastrophe: 100%) (Chance of having fun with Mabel: also 100%) and it's not like he was a stranger to catastrophe and screw ups. Things always came around in the end. 

The one thing he couldn’t figure out is if it would be worth all the trouble in the end. 

“.γbodγnɒ Ɉɿυʜ ɿɘvɘn noiɈnɘvɿɘɈni ɔinomɘb ɘlɈɈil A .biʞ ,no ɘmoƆ” 

Dipper groaned and rubbed his temples. Bill was the last factor he needed to take into consideration. “Demonic intervention hurts people all the time,” he muttered. 

“Who said anything about demonic intervention?” Mabel replied, smug smile stamped to her face. “Demonic would mean the snow is made out of ground up bones or super sharp glass. This is just a supernatural nudge in the right direction.” 

She was awfully good at coercing Dipper into her wild plans. 

He sighed, “As long as we are careful, I guess--” There was no finishing his sentence, because Mabel had already locked him into a hug. 

“Thank you! Thank you!” 

The laugh that escaped his through was crackled and nervous. “I mean, it’s just snow. How bad can it be?”  

 

------

 

Dipper sat cross-legged over the summoning circle, which had to be made of pine tree branches outside in order to create one large enough for a weather spell. He bit down on this thumb claw in thought. 

Mabel rushed out from inside, voice muffled by her scarf and winter coat. “Okay, so today’s offerings consist of two packets of hot chocolate mix, four potatoes, and a turkey sandwich.” She held them out to him in her mitten covered hands. 

“Uh, Mabes… that’s not nearly enough.” 

“What do you mean?” 

He snapped his fingers, sending her treats back into the kitchen. “This is serious, reality altering magic. This isn’t the same as helping me maintain physical form or writing your English paper for you. This is going to require a lot more of my energy. Food offerings won’t really cut it.”  

“Anything you need! Deal’s a deal!” 

“Well…” 

She frowned and put her hands over her knit cap, “Oh no. This isn’t one of those memory things is it?” 

He nodded. “I’m a dream demon, not a weather demon. It’s the price you have to pay.”  

“What would you do with the memory I give you?” 

“Well,” he rested his elbows on his knees. “Remember when I made you that vial of courage? I turned your emotions into something you could drink and use. In this case, I’d pull the snow straight out of your memory and put it in the real world.” 

Mabel nodded. “Okay… then I know what memory I want to give you.” She closed her eyes, as if trying to capture each detail perfectly. Then she extended one hand, ready to make a deal. Dipper’s bare hand wrapped around her mitten. “Our first winter in Gravity Falls, it snowed 8 inches overnight and school was canceled. It was the fluffiest snow ever; it looked like whipped cream poured over the trees. Candy and Grenda took me to the hills outside of the floating cliffs to go sledding for the first time. The snow would toss up into the air like confetti when we tumbled down the hill. But it was so easy to mold too, so when we made snowballs it would… it would…” She blinked her eyes open. “I don’t remember what I was talking about.” 

In the moments that Dipper held onto Mabel’s memory, he could feel her laughter and wonder. He hated taking them from her. And he knew he shouldn’t do it, that it wasn’t worth toying around in her mind. After everything with Stan, and almost burning down her mindscape a few months ago, Dipper wished there was something he could do to convince Mabel this was a bad idea. But there was always a hunger for a good deal, and memories were near-irresistible, he could never reject once the offer was made. 

“You don’t have to remember. It’s okay,” he told her. “Are you ready for some snow?” 

“Yes!” She clapped her hands together and watched with big and curious eyes. 

The summoning circle lit up a chilling blue. He released his grip on the memory, letting it run wild around the Shack. The air around him turned cold. The ground swelled, suddenly rising with mounds of thick fluffy snow. Snowflakes floated through the air like tiny specs of glitter, despite there being not a single cloud in the sky. Dipper could feel it too, not just touch it, but feel the beginnings of something cold grace his fingertips. The faint memory of what it was like to have a body, of what winter might be like. 

The compiling snow knocked Mabel off her feet. She toppled over into a snowbank, laughing with glee and bewilderment. The snowflakes crowned her hair and hat as her breath turned to steam in the cold. The snow was almost pure white, but it would catch the light with a blue sheen. 

“This is amazing,” Mabel said, picking up a handful of snow and letting it fall out of the palm of her hand like sand. She looked out at the street, a blunt and clean line between where the snow fell around the Shack and the rest of the world. 

The front door to the Shack slammed open. “What’s going on out here?” Stan and Ford stood in the doorway, perplexed, amazed, and deeply concerned.  

“Look, Dipper is made it snow.” Mabel tossed a handful in the air. “Now I don’t have to wait!” 

Ford adjusted his glasses, which had fogged up from his breath. “Remarkable. The ability to impact reality to such a degree is far beyond what I ever expected you to be capable of. I should take samples.” 

Dipper shrugged, “Just a little magic.” 

A snowball zipped over his head and smacked into the side of the Shack. “Family snowball fight!” Mabel whooped and hollered, gathering another handful of snow. 

Ford shook his head. “I’d love to Mabel, but this is a supernatural phenomenon I’ve never seen before. Who knows how stable it is. What the implications could be--” A mound of snow pelted him in the face. 

“Ahh cool it, Poindexter,” Stan chuckled, dusting the powdered snow off his hands. “You can be a nerd later. Play with your niece.” 

Wiping the snow away, Ford grinned. “Well, I suppose I could break out my snowball launcher from last winter.” 

Stan took off into the snow, “Oh crap. Run kids!” 

Mabel threw a snowball at Dipper’s head. He held up one hand, signalling for the snowball to halt midair and then melt away. 

“You’re cheating!” she cried. 

“What can I say? That’s what demons do.” 

Raising one hand, Mabel shot a ball of golden fire, blasting Dipper in the chest. He spiralled backwards, caught somewhere between a gasp of surprise and a burst of laughter. “Should I be concerned about how good you are at that?” 

“Less talk, more fight!” 

A few shadows curled around on the snow, scooping up the snow and molding it into balls. “Oh. It’s on.” 

 

------ 

 

Dipper had to admit, he really thought this plan would have blown up in his face by now. All seemed well at the Shack. Mabel was making snow angels while Stan and Ford watched from the porch. They did everything Mabel wanted to do. They had a massive snowball fight, he rearranged the snow into a hill so Mabel could go sledding. At one point she brought out a bottle of maple syrup so that it would freeze into candies in the snow.

It was an odd but welcome feeling that maybe he could relax. Usually he didn’t get to participate in family activities. He could cheat at board games, knew the ending to every movie, and definitely couldn’t be seen in public. But playing in the snow was different. It was private, something he only made for Mabel. 

It was hard to believe, but he was actually having fun. 

“Hey bro-bro!” Mabel called, beckoning him over. “How’d you get the snow to taste like whipped cream?” 

“Huh?” 

She licked the tips of her mittens. “Mhm! It’s so good!” 

“That’s weird,” he muttered. “I don’t remember doing that on purpose.” 

She flopped back into a bank of snow. “This is the best day of my life!” She turned to him and gave an affectionate nudge to the arm, “And I have the greatest brother to thank for it.” 

“Thanks, Mabel.” 

“But you know what this is missing? Sunshine and rainbows! Snow is great but I’m freezing. Is it possible for it to be warm and snowy at the same time? I have tons of warm weather memories I don’t need.” 

“I guess so.” 

“Great!” Mabel grabbed his hand and closed her eyes. “Last summer, I remember there was a pretty rainbow that was so clear and…” she paused, momentarily confused, but bouncing back. “Did you take it?” 

The summoning circle lit up beneath him. “Why don’t you find out?” 

The temperature rose, but the snow stayed cold and crisp. A bright, nearly neon rainbow blasted against the sky. 

Mabel stood up, shedding the layers of her coat, mittens, and hat. “You made swinter! Or Wummer? Either way it’s so cool!” She grabbed a handful of snow and tossed it into the air, letting it sprinkle down over her. “Nothing can ruin this day.” 

(Danger imminent.) 

Wait? What? He thought everything was going fine. How did this happen? 

The wind picked up, whipping Mabel’s hair around. The flurries of glittery snow turned to hard pellets of rain followed by clashes of lightning.  

Mabel tried to keep the hair out of her face, but the wind grew stronger, now grabbing onto her sweater and nearly pulling her back. Dipper grabbed her by the arm and held her steady on the ground. “What’s happening?” 

“Uh, kids?” Stan called over the howling wind. “Tell me why that rainbow is melting.” 

Spinning around, Dipper watched as the brilliant rainbow oozed across the sky. “Oh no,” he muttered to himself. “What have I done?” The snow melted at his feet, getting swept away by the increasing winds that started to swirl around the Shack. “The changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure have caused an anomaly in the weather patterns around the Shack,” he called over the wind. 

“Caused a what?” Stan shouted, taking a few unsteady steps towards Dipper. 

“He means a tornado, Stanley,” Ford replied. “We need to get inside.” 

The wind shrieked as it wove itself into a con that touched down on the grass. Reaching out with one hand, Dipper grabbed onto his Grunkles, keeping tight to Mabel with the other. Then he teleported into the Shack just as the tornado rushed passed them and into town. 

As everyone staggered upright from the rough landing in the gift shop, Dipper peeked out the window, watching as the sky seemed to melt and the wind swirled and wailed. “Mandelbrot rainbows. Screaming tornadoes. I think I may have caused a meteorological apocalypse! Not only could it destroy Gravity Falls, it could expand across the globe!” 

“. ɈʜϱυoʜɈ I nɒʜɈ nomɘb ɿɘɈɈɘd ɒ ɘd Ɉʜϱim υoY .biʞ ,ʞɿow ɘɔiИ”   

“Can’t you stop it?” Mabel asked. 

“Maybe.” 

Ford grumbled as he stood up, “Tell me, Dipper, how exactly did you manage to alter the weather?” 

He sighed, realizing there was no point to lying. “I took Mabel’s memories and used them to create weather changes in the real world.”

“Mixing dream magic and reality is a very dangerous thing! Memories are faulty and sensationalized. Allowing them to enter the real world can be disastrous,” Ford scolded. 

“And you should know better than to take memories out of your sister’s head, for any reason” Stan added. “It’s dangerous when these things get erased from your mind. I’ve dealt with too much for you kids to be so stupid.” 

Mabel sighed, hugging herself at the elbows. “This was my idea. I made Dipper do it. You know he can’t resist a good deal, even if he wanted to. So yell at me and not him. But first, help us think of a way to stop this.” 

Dipper tapped a claw against his chin. “No Stan is right.” 

“Bro, we can play hot potato with the blame all day but--” 

“Not about this being my fault, I mean, it is. But about memories being erased. I’ve almost burnt down your mindscape before. I should be able to burn this down too.” 

“That may actually work,” Ford commented. “Or, you know, we’ll have a flaming tornado on our hands. I give it a 50/50 chance.” 

Mabel pursed her lips, “Well then I’m going with you.” 

Dipper shook his head. “You could get hurt.” 

“Did I ask for your permission?” she snarled. “This is my fault too. I’m going to chase down this storm with you and I’m going to throw a fireball at it whether you want me to or not.” 

Dipper bit down on the inside of his cheek. He didn’t need his omniscience to know that Mabel would teleport after him anyway. It didn’t matter what he said, she would follow behind him. She was reckless and relentless. And who better to take down Mabel’s memories than Mabel herself? 

“If you want to come, you’ll be needing this,” he reached upwards with one hand, sparks of fire warping at his fingertips, and pulled out her baseball bat as if it had always been there. 

Taking the bat, Mabel gave a few practice swings. “Let’s do this.” 

Just as the twins tried to step into the summoning circle, Stan jumped in front of them. “And what are Ford and I supposed to do? Sit back while you knuckleheads charge head first into danger? It seems that anytime I leave you two alone, bad things happen. You steal my car. Or get kidnapped. Or start a demon fight in the high school.” 

“Look, I know you’re upset with us,” Dipper said. “And I promise I’ll be more careful in the future. But when Mabel and I make a mistake, we have to be the ones to fix it. So just stay down in the basement thinking of what punishment we deserve.” 

“But don’t go too hard on us, okay?” Mabel urged. 

The wind screeched outside, followed by the sound of trees falling in the forest and a distant car alarm. “We have to go,” Dipper said. He gripped Mabel as the waist, the blue light of a summoning circle illuminating his face. The disappeared in a blink, the summoning circle now a faint outline in black marker on the floor. 

Stan blinked, realizing the twins had already left. “Those knuckleheads are going to get themselves into serious trouble if they don’t start being more careful.” 

Ford chuckled, moving over to the window to watch as the wind pushed against the tree line. “They most certainly will. Reminds me of two other knuckleheads I know.” 

“We didn’t have demonic powers.” 

“But we certainly made a lot of mistakes, or at least I did. But when Dipper and Mabel screw up, they own up to it and fix it.” 

Moving next to his brother, Stan let out a sigh. “But you can’t fix everything… speaking of, have you gotten any closer? To, ya know, fixing this?” 

“All tests have been inconclusive. If reversing the Transcendence is possible, I’m just one man. I may not be capable of such a thing. For now, the best thing we can do is try to prepare Dipper for what will be a very long road ahead.” 

“Well, let’s hope the kids are learning a lesson from all of this.” 

 

------ 

 

Landing in the middle of town, Dipper and Mabel were greeted head on by the raging tornado in front of them. It barreled down the street, picking up a (thankfully abandoned) mail truck and launching it into the air. The sky was overrun with the melting rainbow, as if someone tried to melt a box of crayons over Gravity Falls. Everything smelled like cold wind, rain, and sawdust. Around them, the townsfolk scattered, trying to get into the nearest building for shelter. 

Mabel gripped her fingers into Dipper’s shirt, the wind so strong it had lifted her off her feet. He summoned a tendril of shadows to wrap up and around her legs to keep her tethered to the ground. The tornado whirled towards them, inching closer and closer to the center of town. 

“.Ɉnɘbiɔɔɒ nɒ ƨɒw ƨiʜɈ ʇo llɒ ,ʞniʜɈ oɈ bnA .bɘƨƨɘɿqmi m'I”

“Too bad that I’m going to destroy it.” Dipper summoned a thick blue flame into the palm of his hand. “Are you ready?” 

“On three?” Mabel asked, holding her baseball bat in the air, hair whipping into her eyes and mouth.

“On three.” 

The twins counted in unison. “One. Two. Three.” Dipper shot the flame out towards the tornado’s base, letting it sizzle and smoke, only to be devoured by the heavy wind. He tried again, this time using both hands, but still not having enough strength on his own. 

Mabel, on the other hand, stood pale and motionless in the center of town. The baseball bat fell limp in her hands. 

“Mabel, what’s going on? You were just launching fireballs at me this morning.” 

  The tornado grew closer, winds high enough to make even him unsteady. The cars abandoned on the street knocked over and tumbled away. Potted flowers uprooted themselves and the singles flew off of roofs. When the air hit his face it was somehow both cool and warm to the touch, as if so cold it burned. 

“Mabel! I could use a little help before the town gets swept away!” 

“I can’t! I can’t do it!” She screamed over the wind, voice straining for a proper breath. 

“What do you mean?” 

“I can’t just destroy my memories like this!” She gestured outwards. “They were supposed to make me happy and now they’ve just made me sad, and I can’t even remember why they made me happy in the first place! And now they’ll be gone forever!” 

“They won’t be gone. They’ll be with me. I know everything is really bad right now, but before the apocalyptic mess, I was having fun! I’m glad I got to use your old memories to make new ones. I know you won’t get them back, and that can be upsetting and scary. But when I saw those memories of you being happy, it made me feel good to know I’m going to remember seeing you like that forever.” 

She nodded, albeit with a hesitation. She squeezed the bat between her hands  and proceeded to slap an arc of fire right into the center of the tornado. Dipper followed in suit, burning away at the base of the tornado. 

This time the fire took hold, reverting their meteorological mistake into smoke and something vaguely like the smell of melting whipped cream. The Mandelbrot rainbow faded out of view, leaving a hazy gray sky just on the edge of becoming night. Slowly, the wind decreased  and the air was crisp and fresh. 

Dropping her bat, Mabel leaned over, catching her breath as the last bit of her memories turned to smoke. “Hey Dip?” 

“Yeah.” 

“Thanks,” she sucked in another breath, “I had fun today too. And if that made you happy, it would be worth all the memories I have.” 

He laughed under his breath. “I don’t want all your memories. Some of them are pretty bad, like the ones we’re about to form back home. We are in big trouble.”  

“.bɘɈɿɒɈƨ ϱniɈɈɘϱ γlno ƨi ɘldυoɿɈ ɘʜT .ɘldɒɈɿoʇmoɔ ooɈ Ɉɘϱ Ɉ'noႧ”

Chapter Text

“Ugh. This god’s eye is an eyesore,” Mabel said, holding up a remarkably bedazzled dress in the mirror that tossed refractions of light so intense they would be blinding. The red eye of a dead god winked against her chest, staring into the depths of Dipper’s soul with an intimidation. 

“I don’t see why it matters. You usually wear it under your clothes,” he said, looking up from the newspaper titled The Daily Multiverse. The headline announced a demon attack on Dimension 331/^  (a dimension that now no longer existed) and yet another article about protecting yourself from demonic threats. 

She let the dress go limp in her hand. “Because I can’t hide it under my dress! There’s no way I’m going to let Peter Jacinto take me to winter formal next week with some scary eyeball hanging around my neck!” She groaned with disgust, and traced the eye with her fingers. “Can’t I take it off for one night?”

(“Peter Jacinto? Really, he’s your random crush of the week?” Dipper asked when Mabel told him about her date.

 “No way, this is serious. We bumped arms in the art room while cleaning our paint brushes,” she swooned. “It was so cute the way he blushed. I think he might be the boy of my dreams.” 

“That’s highly unlikely,” Dipper replied.) 

“No, you can’t”, he chided. “Without it demons have an opportunity to root in your brain and figure out where we live, who our friends and family are.” He stopped for a beat, thinking through every single possibility, every tiny percentage of things that could go wrong. “My true name.”

“Oh… right.” Mabel turned around, hooking the dress onto the side of the full length mirror. “You’ve never told me what happens if someone actually finds it, just that it would be bad.” 

He set down the newspaper and pursed his lips together. “There’s power in true names, even humans used to take middle names to protect themselves. If someone were to learn my name, they would have the power to enslave me or kill me. Every demon takes a second name, even Bill. Except every other demon is so much older than me. No one is around to remember their true names.” 

Mabel sucked in a stale breath. “And I know yours. Oh no. Please tell me I haven’t been controlling you this whole time?” 

“No, no. You haven’t been doing that.” The idea did make him nervous. He was always at Mabel’s beck and call. It seemed that he could never say no to her, and even if he did it was only a matter of time before he turned to her side. He always assumed it was because he loved her and would do anything for her. But maybe she did have the slight advantage of his true name. He cleared his throat as if to clear his thoughts, “Besides, it’s all about intent. You’d have to say my name out loud.” 

“Well that’s a relief. I can’t even remember the last time I called you by your real name.” 

Dipper forced a smile, fighting off the gnawing anxiety. “Let’s keep it that way. So please, for my sake, keep the eye on.” 

A blue summoning circle pinged beneath his feet, the world’s most annoying and inconvenient pager. Was there a way to turn it off? Was there some kind of settings option he didn’t know about? 

“Ooooh,” Mabel squealed. “Is that adventure calling us?” 

Dipper rolled his eyes, ignoring Mabel and trying to concentrate on the summoning. (‘’’’[[,,,,, 13 people are following an ancient ritual. They are --:; ___<<*# circle {{& __ ....>/ true >>>>>..;;’;--00 dream catcher ‘;;lll;[‘;;]]]]) The sound cut like static and the whine of human voices, like changing between radio stations too fast. 

“That’s weird,” he said. 

“What’s weird?” 

“I have no idea who’s summoning me or why.” 

“You mean like,” she pointed to the god’s eye around her neck. 

Dipper shook his head. “No, this is really different. It’s like static. Sort of like a <///..,’&**.” It was unclear how he was able to make that sound with his mouth. “I can catch a few words but most of what I’m getting is nonsense. Quick, ask me a question no one should know the answer to.” 

Mabel tapped on her bottom lip, “How many words are in that newspaper?” She scooped it up and held it out to him. 

(96,451.) Dipper shook his head. “My omniscience is working just fine. I don’t understand why it’s, ” he looked at the newspaper and pried it out of Mabel’s hands. 10 ways to protect yourself from demonic attacks. Of course, it had to be a talisman or a warding spell. But how would his summoners even know about such a thing? “I think we need to go investigate.” 

“I can’t believe I’m being the cautious one, but really? After everything we’ve been through you want to go chase down the people who are immune to your superpowers.” 

He hovered over to her. “Look, there’s some kind of spell that can screw around with my omniscience. My best guess is that my summoners are human, so how did they get their hands on that kind of spell?” 

“Ahh,” Mabel grinned. “So these guys are in too deep with the supernatural?” 

“Exactly. If they have access to a talisman, they probably have access to far more dangerous stuff. We need to figure out what they know, what they want, and how to stop them.” 

“What I’m hearing is that we’re going on an Alcor and Mizar adventure.” 

Dipper nodded, “Grab your bat. I have a bad feeling about this.” 

 

------ 

 

Dipper felt he was certain about what he was getting into. More likely than not, a bunch of humans would have stumbled upon something they shouldn’t and decided to ignore their instinct for self-preservation and give this warding spell a try. Or, maybe it was another group of interdimensional bounty hunters trying to make a quick buck off of him. 

But he couldn’t have been more wrong.

That was the thing about not being able to rely on his omniscience for everything. He had gotten used to it, and now he was learning that it might not always be there to help him out. 

The room they landed in was not an unfamiliar sight. There were candles everywhere, casting a warm yellow glow against the cool touch of blue beneath his feet. The air smelled like dust and wax and faintly of salt. The feeling of Mabel’s arm looped around his own, her fingers curled around the fabric of his suit. 

And then there were the things that definitely weren’t right. The room was well lit by the candles and a roaring fire opposite the room. Glass prisms lined shelves, casting tiny rainbows across a collection of dream catchers. Figures in yellow garments stood at the base of the circle, a cult for sure, but not like the ones Dipper had seen before. They didn’t cover their faces in fear, instead they draped embellished shawls over their shoulders. And the fact that the summoning circle he was standing in wasn’t his own. It was Bill Cipher’s. 

“Ahh Lord Alcor, we are humbled in your presence.” Dipper snapped his head up, looking face to face with who he could only assume was the cult leader. An older man with a slight Egyptian accent. The leader turned to Mabel and bowed his head politely. “And you must be Mizar. What a pleasure!” She took a step back, curving into Dipper’s side, fingers itching tighter around the baseball bat. 

“Ẁ̸̨̗̭̈́h̷̳̟̼͇̓o̴̡̙͑͠ ̵̻̞͋͗ͅǎ̴̼̅̑r̷̙̣̝̋̑̃̄é̴̼̙̻̹͂ ̴̦̜͓̒͛̏͋ȳ̴͔͚͓͙̄o̵͙̔̕͝u̸̲͓̓̎̋?̶̢̡̘̂?” Dipper asked, twisting his voice into an unearthly echo. (They are the ***’’-’;__-_<--) 

“My apologies, Lord Alcor, if you are confused. Our wards are still up, it prevents unwanted eyes from spying in on us. You aren’t the only demon around, after all.” (<<___ */’;;..---) Something was definitely wrong. He just had to play it cool. Pretend like everything was fine. “We are the Third Side, seekers of truth, loyal servants to our patron.” 

Dipper looked back down at the summoning circle. It had been a very long time since he even dared look at any image of Bill. Everything in the Shack had been destroyed, and he dared not go out into the woods and look at that statue ever again. But now he was caught looking directly into Bill’s old circle, the connection between them running deep. “L̴̘͝e̸̛̜t̸̺̓ ̷͓̈́m̶̍ͅe̵̖͌ ̵̱̂g̶̠̎ụ̵̈́e̷̞s̸͕͝s̷̱̈,̵̺̉ ̶̭̌t̷̞̍h̷̗a̶̜̐t̴̞͛ ̴̰͛p̷̼̏a̸͎̍t̷͈͛r̶̲̆o̵̠ń̶̼ ̴͕͌ủ̸̼s̸̱͊e̸͒͜d̶̖̏ ̷̧͋t̷͋͜o̶̘̐ ̷͇͑b̴̗e̴̹͑ ̷͖̿Ḇ̶̐i̴̫͒l̸̰͛l̸̥̿ ̷̥͆C̴̻͌ĩ̷̺p̴̠̆ḧ̵̰ę̶͊r̸̳͌?̶̘͝” 

This was definitely not good. He and Mabel had to leave immediately. 

“You are correct. He was our muse, the mastermind behind much of human history.” 

Mabel’s voice was muffled beneath her cotton mask. “You do realize Bill tried to destroy the world, right? I wouldn’t call him a muse. More like a psychopath.” 

“There’s a third side to everything, Mizar.” The yellow clad figures had definitely moved closer, but yet seemed to remain perfectly still. “I’m sure there is much about Cipher you do not understand.” His eye contact was frighteningly prolonged. 

“B̴͚̽i̵͕͗l̵͙l̶̙ ̵̱̔ä̴͍n̷̡̓ḓ̷͝ ̸̟̅I̵̯͊ ̶͍̈́w̵͉͝e̸̠͆r̷̘̆e̷͔̋n̷̝̈'̷̫́t̷̼̿ ̷̫̈e̸͈͝x̷̩̚a̶̧̿c̵̼͊t̵͍̄ĺ̶͜y̶̩͗ ̶͙̽f̸͎̚ȓ̵̨i̶̧̎ẽ̶̯n̸̡̍d̷̲̍s̴͓͝.̴̘̌,” Dipper interrupted. “Ś̸̗o̸͍̾ ̵͔͠ẉ̴̕ȟ̸͎á̶̼t̵̩̊ė̸̳v̴͍̆e̷͕̓r̴͇͛ ̸̟̓t̴̞̓ḥ̵̆i̷̩͒ŝ̷̹ ̷̺̿i̸̗̓s̵͍̊ ̵̮̐w̵͒͜e̴̼̊ ̷̢̎w̴͕̐ȧ̴̲n̶͔̚ẗ̶̞́ ̸͚͒ṋ̷̉o̴͇t̶͔͋ḩ̶̒i̵̒͜n̸̬̉g̴͖̈́ ̶̧́t̷̢̄o̸͓̔ ̵̫́d̴̞́ǫ̷͘ ̵͈̔ẉ̶̊i̸͍̍t̴̝͘h̷̹͒ ̷̞̽í̵̫t̶̳̒.̷̹̋ ̴͎̓” 

The summoning circle flared to life beneath him, but not before the desperate hand of a worshipper cut through the blue light. “My lord, you misunderstand.” Dipper paused, “You are the answer.” 

([^^..,.,#---) “T̴h̷e̸ ̶a̴n̸s̴w̶e̴r̶ ̸t̷o̸ ̶w̷h̵a̴t̸?̴?” His voice softened with a curious hesitation. 

“To our redemption, our second chance to do things right.” His smile was impossible to read, too soft, too honest. “As Cipher’s successor, you hold the key to starting over. We only ask for your help.” 

“Ī̷̭ ̴͉́ḑ̷͗ö̵̫n̶͍̎'̵͚̅t̸̲͐ ̷̱͆ţ̷̔r̸̨̅ù̷̱ŝ̵̖t̶̮̆ ̷̜̆ỷ̷͍o̶̖̎ũ̴̖.̴̇ͅ” 

Mabel let her grip on the bat loosen as she turned to Dipper. “Wait… I mean, this isn’t the most unlikely situation. Can’t you think of someone else we may know who once was chummy with Bill and then changed his mind?” She tapped the bat twice against the summoning circle, over a familiar six fingered hand. 

  Of course. Ford had once worked with Bill, he even believed many of the same foolish things that the Third Side believed. It wasn’t completely unlike Bill to manipulate people around the world for his plan. He probably tricked the Third Side into giving offerings or supplying information. Maybe Mabel was right, maybe this wasn’t some trick. Maybe they really did want to change. (They want to ~~\\\``....^^) (‘’’’’’’{{{~~~__==)  

He sighed, “What do you need?” 

The leader stepped out of the way of the circle, gesturing openly. “We can discuss that more when we fix our little warding problem.” He turned to one of the other members. “Erm uh, Greg, get on that.” He cocked his head violently to the side. 

A man standing off to the side, jerked with a surprise, “Yes, Leader Odion. I’ll get right on that.” Greg ran off into a hallway covered by a black curtain. That was another odd thing, cult members would never refer to each other by name, especially with names like Greg. Not only would they want to protect their identities, but it made them far less threatening. Or possibly that much more threatening. There was nothing more terrifying that humans with nothing to lose. 

Dipper stepped out of the circle, thankful to leave Bill’s watchful eye. “About your wards, I’m curious about how you would get information like that. It’s not like demons to hand out warding spells.”

Odion chuckled, “We read it in The Daily Multiverse . We like to keep up with the political climate and all of that, also, I can’t pass up the great deals on those Multi-Mart coupons!” 

Mabel’s jaw dropped, “There’s a multiverse shopping center!” She turned around and tugged on Dipper’s sleeve, “Why didn’t you tell me this? I wanna buy space groceries and have an alien for a pet!” 

“Can we talk about this later,” Dipper hissed through his teeth before returning attention to the Third Side. “I’m curious as to what I’m getting out of this deal? I don’t do anything for free.” 

“You will be compensated, I assure you.” He hated Odion’s smile, how kind and playful it was. 

He watched the cult members press into the corners and folds of the room. It was odd how they kept their distance, backing into the walls as if they were a part of tapestries on the walls or wound up in the display of dreamcatchers. He should have considered this a sign of their fear, or maybe their respect, but their rigid faces expressed otherwise. 

(They’re **<<>::~,,,,) (lll;;;-_true-_$’’’) That ward should have come down by now. Why couldn’t he think straight? ([{{--%...#-hide) 

You know the sound when you hit your head and there is a dull ring in your ears that whines in the background of your skull? Imagine that in the front of your skull, a headache that would continue to trail across the neurons of your brain. Imagine only hearing static instead of your logical thoughts. 

That’s how Dipper felt. 

The wards had only gotten stronger, enough to leave him disoriented. Dipper staggered, struggling to keep himself standing tall. 

Mabel rushed to his side, “What’s going on?” 

“The wards are getting stronger.” 

She looked up at the Third Side. “What sort of game are you playing? If you want our help, take down the wards now!” 

Odion looked at the twins with little concern. “I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way. Seize them.” The other members rushed on them, pulling the twins apart from each other. 

Taking the dream catchers off the wall, two members forced Dipper to his knees and looped the dream catchers at his wrists like handcuffs. They stung at first, feeling as if his atoms were being rearranged and his bones twisted around. He tried to pull himself free, but the harder he tugged the more stuck he felt. 

Odion reached down, placing a finger under Dipper’s chin and forcing his head up. “You are pathetically naive, Alcor.” 

Mabel yanked against her captors, gold flame rising up from her hands and racing up her arms. Her screams echoed across the room as more and more cultists came to pin back her arms. Odion turned, a smile curling around his lips. “You are a stubborn one, Mizar. Let’s see how long that lasts, hmm?” He turned to one of the other cultists, “Douse that fire would you?” 

The cultist nodded, grabbing a bucket from the corner. Water sloshed over the sides as he walked, what Dipper could only assume was blessed water. Holding the bucket to Mabel’s chest, one of the cultists restraining her forced her face below the water, the bubbles of her screams rising throughout. The fire around her quickly died out, but they continued to force her head under the water until the bubbles stopped forming. When they pulled Mabel back up by her hair, she coughed up water, desperate for each gasp of air. 

Her brown eyes met Dipper’s, afraid and overpowered. 

Odion pressed the tips of his fingers together and paced the room. “So here’s how things are going to work. Everytime you fight back or do not give me what I want, one of you will be subjected to a greater and greater torture.” 

“And what is it that you want?” Dipper growled. 

“As Cipher’s successor, it would seem that you are the key to his return. But in order to do that, we need your true name.” 

“I would never,” Dipper couldn’t finish his sentence, because a cascade of blessed water exploded against his back. 

A smile cracked against Odion’s otherwise unphased exterior. “Remember that we can do much worse than that.” 

Dipper chuckled, “As worshipers of Bill, I thought you’d be more aware of how hilarious pain is.” 

“Mmm, yes,” Odion replied with a nod. “That’s where your precious Mizar comes in. Douse her again.” Mabel’s head was forced back underwater, holding her down until she started jostling around for freedom.  

“Stop! Stop!” Dipper plead. “Please stop.” 

Odion signaled for his men to cease, pulling Mabel back up from the water. This time she nearly fell to her knees in exhaustion, held up only by the cultists restraining her arms. “Are we all on the same page now?” 

“No,” Dipper snapped. “I can’t let you do this. If Bill comes back, he will destroy everything in his path. Even you. He doesn’t care about anyone.” 

“But he has a sense of loyalty, as do we. Let Cipher do what he wishes to this world, as those responsible for his return and the destruction of his enemy, I have no doubt Cipher will reward us handsomely.” The smile that curled around Odion’s face paralyzed Dipper. “He will return to us." 

Mabel’s voice strained as she spoke, wet strands of hair clinging around her mouth. “What are you talking about? Bill’s long dead. I’ve seen it.” 

“Dead, but not gone.” He paced across the room, keeping a watchful eye on the twins. “So how about we get this started?” 

 

------- 

 

Pain stopped being funny after 43 minutes. 

At first, it had the same appeal as scraping your knee on the concrete while running away during a game of tag. It would sting as you pulled yourself up and continued to run, despite the blood that would dribble down your leg, but it would make you feel more alive. 

This was the equivalent of having a metal rod shoved through your skull or having your skin peeled away. The warding spell the Third Eye had only gotten stronger, so much so that Dipper couldn’t think. And that was in conjunction with the continuous splashes of holy water in his face, the dreamcatchers digging into his wrists, and Bongo the Clown’s Greatest Hits CD. Okay, that last one wasn’t the worst, but when you have the most intense migraine of all time and are currently being tortured-- it definitely makes the situation just a little bit worse. 

But the worst part was when it was happening to Mabel. Unlike him, they had a variety of methods to choose from when it came to hurting her. Sometimes they’d dunk her head underwater, other times they’d get tired and just hit her instead-- demanding she speak his name. He kept careful watch on the rise and fall of Mabel’s chest, just to make sure she was still breathing. 

On multiple occasions, Dipper had considered giving in and telling them. Anything was better than watching Mabel get hurt. But then she’d look at him, a smear of blood pooling at the corner of her mouth, and continue to fight with everything she had. 

Another bucket of blessed water splashed into his eyes. “What is it? Tell us your true name.” 

".ɿɘvo ɘd llɒ lliw ƨiʜɈ ,mɘʜɈ llɘɈ υoγ ʇI" 

Dipper trying to blink the burning water from his eyes. “Not gonna happen.”  There had to be some way out of this, but he couldn’t focus long enough to think of a plan. 

“You’re a bunch of idiots if you think there’s anything you can do to make either of us talk,” Mabel snarled, nearly breathless. Her hair clung to her face and neck  in thick, wet clumps and her arms were bruised a deep purple where the cultists restrained her. She then mustered her strength to stomp down on one of her captor’s feet, making him leap back and yelp in surprise. “That’s just a taste of what we’re going to do to you when we break out of here.”  

Odion paused, taking a few curious steps forward while the other cultists hopped up and down on one foot. “You look awfully tired, Mizar. Perhaps you should rest and watch for a little bit?” 

Another cultist pulled him aside, and spoke in a rather obvious whisper. “Why don’t we just kill the girl? She’s obviously important to him and a bit of a nuisance if you ask me!”

“Are you fools?” Odion spat. “The girl can do demon magic, did you not see her summon those flames? We need her alive.” He pressed his finger tips together in thought. “We must bend both until one breaks.” Turning, he knelt down in front of Mabel, and tilted her head up with one finger so she was forced to look at him. “What will break you?” That’s when he paused, moving his hand down to around her neck. “What this?” 

He pried at the string around her neck that held the god’s eye, yanking it free from underneath her sweater. The red iris flashed in the dim light, dark and violent. He wrapped one hand around the eye, breaking the string and holding it up. 

“Now this is an interesting development. I’ve never seen a god’s eye in person. Legend goes they completely block you from demonic sight.” He grinned, “I wonder what would happen if we applied this to our warding spell?” 

Setting the god’s eye on the floor, the cultists drew a pentagram around it in chalk, followed up by candles in each of the cardinal directions. Odion pulled out a copy of The Daily Multiverse , flipping through the pages until he found the one he needed. If anything, watching a group of threatening cultists use a newspaper for all of their scary spells made Dipper laugh to himself. 

Joining hands, the Third Side chanted in a language Dipper was far too tired and beaten to translate. All he knew was that the longer they chanted the worse it got. He felt as if something were squeezing at his skull. Black dots danced across his vision. After a few moments, he couldn’t even concentrate long enough to hear anything in the room. It was just him and the complete darkness. He wanted to tear himself apart. 

Mabel couldn’t stand watching it. She’d never seen him like that, and the twins had found themselves in multiple bad situations. His screams where the kind that made her ears bleed and her head feel like it was splitting in two. 

She had to get him out of there. She looked down at the god’s eye on the floor, seeming to glow amidst the spell. It was supposed to protect anyone from learning his true name, from rooting around inside her head and learning his name. But now, it might just be the thing that caused their demise. 

Looking up at Dipper, Mabel realized she had to act immediately. There was no time to think it through. 

“Fine! I’ll tell you! I’ll tell you his name,” she screamed. The chanting stopped, as did her brother’s screams. “If I tell you, you have to let me speak to him alone. Just for a moment before you do whatever it is you are going to do. I promise I won’t do anything. Deal?” 

Odion considered this for a moment. “Very well.”

Across the room, Dipper panted for the breath he didn’t need. “Mizar, don’t do this. The whole multiverse is at stake. You can’t do it!”    

Her head hung low, all of her hair cascading around her face.“It’s Dipper… his name is Dipper Pines.”  

Dipper dropped, like a dead weight against his restraints. “What?” 

Odion raised an eyebrow, “Dipper… what a peculiar birth name for a child. But that doesn’t really matter. A deal is a deal, Mizar. Release her.” 

The cultists unchained Mabel’s hands and arms, pushing her to the ground where she crawled to Dipper. “Oh my god.” She put one hand to his cheek, the gold blood smearing across her fingers. 

He shook his head, eyes wide in disbelief. “Why did you do that? Why did you tell them that?” 

She leaned in close, keeping one hand cupped to his cheek. She buried her face next to his shoulder and if to cry. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry but they hurt you. I didn’t have any choice.” But then she whispered into his ear, “Just go with it. Okay?” 

He nodded, letting himself relax for a moment, comforted by her closeness. 

“Time’s up!” Mabel was yanked back by her arms again, dragged back across the room. But this time she didn’t fight. This time she waited, patient and encouraging. 

“Dipper Pines. Under the binding of your name, as your Master, I command that you relinquish your power and life in order to return Bill Cipher from the dead.” 

Dipper looked up, suddenly still with his head eye and eyes wide. “Yes, Master.” It sent a chill down Mabel’s spine. He didn’t budge or blink, he simply waited. 

“Release him from his bonds and take down the wards,” Odion commanded to the others. “He is of little threat now.” The dreamcatchers pulled free from his hands and the talismans were removed from around his hands. It was an instant relief, the pleasurable sense of nothingness as his wounds slowly began to heal over. 

“Now,” Odion commanded, “bring me the girl as well.”

They dragged Mabel to his side, her feet scrapping across the floor. They tossed her to the ground at his feet. She staggered upright, bruised and beaten but still holding herself tall. Dipper looked out at the sea of yellow-clad cultists, their faces pale with anticipation.

“Well what are you waiting for!” Odion shouted! “Get on with it!” 

 “Y̵̬̠͇̻͠ọ̸̤̔̚ͅͅu̷̦̔̃͝ ̶̨̳̲̱͐ā̶̼̿͝r̸̮̘͈̹̈́e̵̛̺͝ ̸̬̝͗p̴͖̦̎͠ͅa̴̰̣͌t̸̫̜̆̃̚h̵͇́̿e̴̼̭͍̱̔̌̔t̶̠͖̣̿͆̆̅͜ȋ̷̡͎̬̺̉͑c̶͚̘̄̒̈́͘ă̸̫͕̅̀͜͝l̸̟̖̳l̴͍̯̬̄̅y̴͉͇͖̿̈́̈́̌ ̴̩̲̘͛̿͗ṋ̸͇̉͝ä̶͖̩̳̙́̃̈î̶̜͓͆v̷̮̂̌̂͜e̶̞͛.̵̦̯͉̽,” Dipper growled. With that he raised one hand, using what strength he still had to cast the room in a thick black shadow that curled around the legs of the cultists like snakes, squeezing so tightly that they could no longer breathe.  

Backing up against the wall, Odion found himself unable to escape the tendrils of darkness.  “How dare you! I am your master! The owner of your name.” 

Mabel grinned, “Wrong name, pal. As if I would ever tell you his true name. Dipper is just a nickname.” She limped for her baseball bat, picking it up off the floor where it had been abandoned. Snatching the god’s eye from the pentagram on the floor, she re-tied the string around her neck. 

The shadows crawled their way up and over Odion. “You will fall before Cipher,” he shouted, as the shadows curled into his mouth and down his throat. “Alcor will die! As will you! Be it by my hand or another!” 

“We won’t be dying anytime soon,” Mabel sneered. 

“But you will be,” Dipper snarled, speaking as if to show off all of his sharp teeth. His wings expanded to their full width, casting the room in an eerie darkness. He snapped his fingers, allowing the blue flame to shine only on his face for a moment, before releasing it full force to engulf the room. 

He took Mabel by the arm, the two of them holding to each other for support. The summoning circle lit up, the twins disappearing from within it, leaving only the sounds of screams. 

 

----- 

 

The twins collapsed onto the bedroom floor upon reentry.  

They laid there breathing, keeping still on the creaking wood floors of the attic where Mabel had etched a summoning circle into the boards. The wind outside howled with rage. 

Dipper was the first to speak, turning to Mabel. “I killed those people.” 

Mabel squeezed her eyes shut. “You weren’t thinking straight. They were evil. They tortured us and wanted to bring Bill back. You acted in the moment.” 

“⸮lɘɘʇ Ɉi bib woH” 

It felt… it felt like everything that had been trapped inside of him had purpose. All the power, all the rage and fear; it all had somewhere to go. Dipper dug his clawed fingers into the wooden floor. 

“It felt good,” he whispered. 

Mabel didn’t answer. 

Eventually Dipper forced himself to stand up, fighting off the urge to disappear completely into the mindscape to heal. He reached for Mabel, helping her to stand and shuffle over to the bed before they collapsed again. It was a pathetic sight. Alcor and Mizar, unable to keep themselves standing. 

Mabel looked to him, “Why don’t you just erase your true name from my memory? This is too dangerous, Dip. We almost died.”

“Anyone who knows my true name could have me destroy the world, they could kill me, take my power… anything. But anyone who knows my true name could also stop those things from happening. If I ever lose control or become too dangerous, you’d know how to stop me.” 

“Do you trust me to know your true name?” 

“Yes. More than anyone.” 

“Even if it meant I would sometimes do selfish and stupid things with that knowledge?” 

“Yes.” 

Placing a hand on his cheek, where his wounds were healing over and the gold blood dried up, she leaned in close. “Mason Pines,” she whispered into his ear, voice barely a whisper, just a passing of air between her teeth and tongue. The moment she said it he went rigid, reeling back in agony from the sound of his identity. His shoulders tensed and he ground his teeth, yet he waited with an eerie patience, as if being pulled along by a leash. “Under the binding of your name I command that you tell me the truth. You’ve been hiding something from me. Is it about Bill?” 

The word slithered between his teeth. “Yes.” When he spoke it was as if someone were prying the truth off his tongue. 

“What is it?” 

“Bill has been talking to me through the mindscape. He was the thing I saw in your dreamscape a few months ago. I don't know how it's possible, but it is.” No air escaped from his mouth as he spoke. 

Mabel stopped, eyes wide as she processed what she had just heard. And then she looked to him, “Why didn’t you tell me this?” 

“Because I’m afraid. I don’t know what to do. When the Transcendence happened, Grunkle Ford said that if there was any connection to Bill, the family would be in danger. I’m that connection. I’m the danger. Bill has me right where he wants me and I’m powerless to do anything about it.” 

For awhile Mabel was quiet. Occasionally she’d open her mouth as if to say something, but then change her mind, realizing that there was nothing she could say. And Dipper said nothing more, unable to speak unless spoken to. 

A breath of warm air escaped through her nose. “You’re not powerless. We’ve beat Bill before, but only when we’re together. I’m not letting you do this alone.” Her chest swelled with each word, god’s eye resting on her expanding ribs. “You said that anyone with your true name can stop you from doing things? Then, Mason Pines, I forbid you from letting Bill or any other demon win.” 

He gave a rigid nod, but she could see in his eyes that he really meant it. There was something dark burning within his voice, “I won’t.” 

Chapter Text

Mabel sat in front of the corkboard, trying to resist the urge to hum and let her mind drift. It was time for laser focus. Dipper hovered behind her, spread out as if lying on the bed and not floating 4 inches over it. Waddles nugged at Mabel’s leg, oinking for her to drop another piece of gummy candy into his mouth. 

Since their encounter with the Third Eye over the weekend, Mabel had been on edge. She went right to work, prying his old ‘summer mysteries’ corkboard out from the closet and pegging every single theory about Bill she had to it. She’d spend all of her time trying to think of a solution, even when at school she’d jot down notes. He tried to convince her to rest, for at least a day. The Third Eye left both of them in bad condition (though he left them in worse condition: dead). Bandages lined up and down her arms, her voice was hoarse, and she tried to cover the cuts on her face with makeup. 

“Uhm,” Mabel turned to the cork board. “Bill hates synthesized music. Remember that first time we fought him in Grunkle Stan’s mindscape. It drives him crazy!” She grabbed her phone and popped some earbuds into Dipper’s ears. She jacked up the sound to a Dream Boy High song and waited. Dipper knew of every song that was or would be written in any human language and inhuman language, and he could say that “Going Wild Until Curfew” was the most cliche and bland song that would ever exist. 

“!lɒɘɿ nɘvɘ Ɉ'nɘɿɒ ƨɈnɘmυɿɈƨni ɿiɘʜT .ƨƨoɿɔɒ ɘmoɔ ɿɘvɘ ɘvɒʜ I ɘɿυɈɿoɈ Ɉƨɿow ɘʜɈ ƨi ƨiʜT”

“File this under maybe,” Dipper said. “If anything, I can annoy him back for the rest of eternity.” 

Mabel slapped a yellow sticker under the ‘synthesized music’ note. It was the first promising conclusion they’d come to. 

“I wish I could listen to Dream Boy High for the rest of time,” she said with a dreamy sigh. “I mean, you’ve been cursed by an evil demon, but still.” Looking over at the cork board, she chewed on a strand of her hair nervously. They had exhausted nearly every option, every spell, every weakness they could think of: kittens for fists (ridiculous), tickles (she refused to stop until he faded from reality), silver mirrors (they only had a spoon). And then there was the temporary moment of complete weakness in desperation, in which he pulled the memory eraser ray out of the shoe box Mabel hid under her bed. She grabbed it from his hands and put it back before he could say anything. 

“I think we need to tell Stan and Ford. They might have different ideas.” 

“I know I should,” Dipper muttered, trying to distract himself with the sounds of 80’s synth pop but soon realizing that when your mind ran at 100,000 thoughts per second there were no distractions. On the one hand, they were his family. They stuck with him throughout everything so far, why would this be any different? Ford had dedicated 30 years of his life to learning about destroying Bill. And Stan was certainly clever, a far better con man than Bill ever was.  

But there was always the ‘what if’, the ever so slight chance that this may not be true. What if they were afraid of him or stopped trusting him? Bill was using him to spy on everyone. Bill could be using him in ways he wasn’t even aware of yet. 

“I’m just scared.” He said.

Leaning over, Mabel took the earbuds from him and popped the phone into the pocket of her sweater. “What’s there to be scared of? Do you think they’ll be disappointed? Angry? Do you think they might hurt you?”

He hugged himself at the elbows, trying to comfort himself. “I don’t know.” The electricity of synth music continued to drone in his ears.  

Stan’s voice echoed from below the stairs, cutting them off. “Kids! Come down for dinner!” 

Mabel nudged his arm with her elbow and slid off the bed. “Come on. I’ll be right there beside you.” 

------- 

 

“Keep your science-y nerd stuff off the table,” Stan demanded, holding a bowl full of spaghetti in the air.  

Ford continued to look into his laptop, poking at a few keys. “Science is everywhere, Stanley. It’s in the fire used to heat the food, in the chemical makeup of the ingredients, it was used to forge your utensils--” 

“Nevermind. Do all the science you want as long as you stop lecturing.” Setting down the bowl, Stan sat down in his chair across from Dipper as the rest of the family began to eat. 

Dipper didn’t experience feelings like hungry, so by contrast it was impossible for him to feel not hungry either. He ate because he could take on the physical qualities of food, and because it was something that made him feel normal. But that evening, he couldn’t convince himself to eat dinner. He would have rather disappeared from reality. 

Mabel sat next to him at the dinner table. She pushed around her spaghetti with her fork, twirling it into hills or making smiley faces out of it, but never taking a bite.

“I thought you loved spaghetti, Mabel,” Ford said, snapping the twins out of their disconnected silence. “You’ve called it the silly string of pastas.” 

Stan looked over at them. “Are you two okay? What did I get hair in the sauce or somethin’?” 

“No, it’s fine.” Dipper said. “I think we just ate too much candy. That’s all.” 

Stan rolled his eyes. “I know you need the offerings, but I’ve told you kids a hundred times now not to spoil your dinner.” 

The strained conversation followed by silence was obviously uncomfortable. Mabel kicked Dipper’s leg from under the table, trying to urge him to speak up. 

Ford cleared his throat, as if to alleviate the tension by directing focus onto himself. “I’ve been analyzing the data I collected using the equipment I set up at the Transcendence site a few months ago,” he said through his spaghetti. “It’s the most peculiar thing I’ve ever seen. The weirdness level spikes at random, I can’t seem to find a pattern.” 

Dipper looked down at his empty plate, “It’s the nature of weirdness is to be unpredictable.” 

“I suppose that’s true. Though it still doesn’t explain the many anomalies, including the fact that you passed out last time we were there.” He chuckled, “In a way it reminds of Bill, but less deadly.” 

At the mention, Mabel stopped twirling spaghetti around her plate. “Well, actually…” 

Dipper lurched over, covering her mouth. “Bill,” he said. “Who said anything about Bill?” 

Stan raised an eyebrow at them. “Are you kids okay? You’re acting kinda funny.” 

“Funny? Nothing is funny. Everything is fine. Why would everything not be fine? You know what, I think Mabel could use some fresh air. How about you come outside with me?” She didn’t have any time to respond before he grabbed her by the arm and forcefully dragged her out of her chair and out to the front porch. 

Twisting her arm free of his grasp, Mabel shouted in a huff, “What was that about?” She shivered, a course of January air pressing through her sweater. 

“Sorry! I panicked!” As he paced back and forth, fire spurted at his feet, leaving a blackened char on the wooden porch. 

“About what?” 

“I don’t know. Everything? You just wouldn’t understand! I mean, I don’t even know what’s going on! How am I supposed to explain it?” 

“No! I don’t understand! Because you don’t talk to me anymore.” The frost rolled from her mouth like angry smoke and flames and the wind tossed her hair around. “You didn’t even tell me about Bill until we almost died. I don’t know what the Transcendence did but it made you all secretive! Maybe you did get some of Bill’s personality.” 

“.ɘɿɘʜ bnυoɿɒ ϱniɈƨɘɿɘɈni ϱniɈɈɘϱ γllɒniʇ ɘɿɒ ƨϱniʜT” 

His eyes were dark like the night sky; not empty, but holding back something terrifying and complex. She took a few steps back, as if afraid he would lash out. But he didn’t. 

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I didn’t mean it like that. I just miss my brother. The guy who was really bad at keeping secrets? The one who came looking for me during Weirdmaggedon because he believed it was impossible to defeat Bill without me?” She shivered again, now wrapping her arms around herself. 

Dipper kicked at the ground, kicking up a shadow as if it were dirt and dust, causing it to spray around. He wasn’t usually this thoughtful. He could think so fast it never took him very long to figure out what to say, but now it was taking him a long time to figure out what to say. “All of those things are still true, but I’m also not that person anymore. Like I said, you don’t understand. You literally cannot understand what I’m going through.” He sat down on the edge of the porch (technically he hovered) and sighed. 

She dropped down beside him, the air significantly warmer next to him. “No, I can’t understand. But please, we need to tell Stan and Ford the truth before it’s too late.”  

“Ahem.” The twins turned around to see their Grunkles standing in the door frame, shrouded by the warm yellow light inside. Stan crossed his arms and glowered at them, “I’m going to ask you one more time. Is there something going on here that we should know about?” 

Dipper nodded, slowly and ashamed. “Yes.” 

 

------ 

 

When he finished explaining, the room was quiet. He could see the tension, floating like thick fog in the air. The lightbulb overhead illuminated the table and the occupants below, flickering with a general anxiety against the howling wind. 

Stan leaned his elbows on the table. “And how long has this been going on?” 

“85 days,” he muttered. 

Mabel looked at him with wide brown eyes, realizing just how long it had been. 

“You knucklehead, why didn’t you tell us sooner?”  

“Because I didn’t want Bill to hurt you or for you to be afraid of me.” 

Ford nodded, “I understand your fear. I didn’t tell anyone about Bill when I first met him, nor did I tell anyone when I realized he was manipulating me. I thought I could handle it on my own, afraid Bill would hurt anyone else who got involved. He has a way of making people feel paranoid.” 

“Just don’t be afraid to tell us anything, kid,” Stan added. “Nothing you could say would be anymore terrifying or weird than anything that’s already happened.” 

 “I’ve only known for a few days but we’ve done everything we could to make Bill leave and he hasn’t,” Mable continued. “Tickles, silver mirrors, synthesized music. We’re out of ideas.” 

Ford thought about this for a moment, “While I’m sure I could come to some conclusions, our main concern should be about silencing Bill entirely. But I’m afraid you might be immune to most of my solutions. I don’t know what I could do on such short notice.” 

“What do you mean you don’t know? You built that mind reading machine in the basement. What about that stupid plate in your head? That seemed to work.” 

Ford jumped from his chair. “Wait. That might be our solution!” He grabbed Journal 3 from the pocket inside his coat, flipping to the proper page. “Dimension 52: home of the Jehselbraum The Unswerving, an oracle with deep knowledge of the multiverse. She was the one who put the metal plate in my head. If anyone knows about Bill and your situation, it’s her.”

Dipper eyed the page, an inked illustration of a cloaked woman with multiple stern eyes. “You really think she might know?”

“I guarantee it! She knew more about Bill than I ever did.” He knocked on it twice enthusiastically, a hollow echo coming from it. “In fact, I can’t believe I didn’t think of this sooner! She may even be able to help us understand the Transcendence.” 

Dipper chewed on his bottom lip in thought. Who was to say this Oracle wouldn’t send him away? Or that she wouldn’t view him as a threat? What if he went all that way to learn there was nothing she could do for him? But if it was the only chance he had, it was a chance worth taking. 

“Then I want to speak to her.” 

“Hang on,” Mabel said. “We can’t all hop in the RV and go to a different dimension. How are you even gonna get there?” 

“We’ll have to repair the portal, it’s the only way to travel into the multiverse,” Ford replied. 

“Woooo! Interdimensional road trip!” Mabel hollered. 

“You can’t be serious,” Stan said. “That portal is dangerous. You could get lost or it could open up another one of those rifts.” He threw his hands in the air, “What about the government? I am not going back to federal prison.” 

Dipper shrugged, “This time the demon is on your side. I can take care of all of that. I know this is a risky and dangerous idea, but it’s the best one we have. I shouldn’t have waited so long to tell you about this but now I’m not waiting to fix it. I’m going to Dimension 52.” 

With a smile and a nudge to his arm, Mabel said, “You heard him. Let’s get to work.”

Chapter Text

“Why does Grunkle Ford get to go!” Mabel whined, standing at the base of a new and improved portal. 

Even with Dipper’s omniscience and immense power, it took a week to repair the portal. After being dismantled and then used to construct the Shacktron, it had taken quite a beating. They had to scavenge new parts from the alien spacecraft, steal more chemical waste from the government (which Stan offered to do but Dipper convinced him it’s much easier to steal when you can do magic and also don’t exist), and guarantee that this portal would not release an interdimensional rift. Wendy and Soos would come by to run the Shack while the family worked in the basement. And to be honest, Dipper enjoyed it. They would work well into the evening (and Dipper would work long after everyone went to sleep) telling stories and jokes. Even though he knew the danger Bill posed, he secretly wished the portal would never be finished. 

Ford tossed a backpack over his shoulders and snapped a pair of goggles over his head. “Even as a demon, it’s not wise for Dipper to travel alone. There’s dangers around every corner and he’s not exactly subtle. I’ve been through the multiverse, it only makes sense that I go with him. Plus, you have school, young lady.” 

Mabel huffed and crossed her arms in disappointment. “Yeah because I totally learn about cool portals and weird alternate dimensions in school.” 

Dipper floated over to Mabel’s side, tugging nervously at the sleeves of his suit. “I wish you were coming with too. It’d be kind of fun to explore the multiverse with you. But I need you here. Opening the portal again will likely gain the attention of some very powerful people. You’d be the only one who could stop it.” 

“But what if you get into trouble?” She always spoke about him as if he were still a child getting bullied on the playground and not a powerful demon. 

“Don’t worry about me,” he replied. “I’ll be fine. I’ll have Ford with me and he survived 30 years alone out there. We’ll be home soon. And hopefully we’ll have some answers… maybe the Oracle knows how to fix everything.” 

Mabel nodded as if reassured, but Dipper could see something yellow and anxious grip at her mind.  

“Are you ready to leave, Dipper?” Ford called. 

“Ready.” 

With a sigh, Mabel stood over by Stan as he looked up from his clipboard. “Alright. Are you sure you have everything?” 

Ford pulled on the stapped of his backpack. “I have quadruple checked. Food, water, flashlight, weaponry, Journal, various interdimensional currency, extra socks, and a towel (which is the most useful object for any interdimensional traveler). You know, being sucked into an interdimensional portal is much more pleasant when you get to prepare for it.” 

Mabel thought to herself for a moment, and then gasped, wide eyed and panicked. “Wait! Grunkle Ford, you need something really, really important!” She charged up into the elevator before anyone could question her. 

“I hope its not another one of her strange juice concoctions,” Ford said, turning white. “The last one gave me heartburn and dyed my tongue purple for a week.” 

Stan ignored this comment, instead turning to Dipper. “Are you sure you want to do this? Because you don’t have to. We can do this without some dumb oracle.” 

“Yes,” he replied. “This isn’t just about Bill it’s about everything.” 

“If you insist. Just keep Ford outta trouble, will ya’? He’s not very street smart if you know what I mean.” 

“I heard that!” 

Dipper chuckled, “I’ll keep him under control.” 

Mabel came back down the elevator and held out her CD player to Ford. “Just in case you need some synthesized music.” 

He raised one eyebrow. “Uhm. Alright?” He tucked it into his backpack and turned to Dipper. “Time to go, my boy.” Dipper curled to his side, watching as Mabel and Stan entered into the glass control room.

“Open the portal again in 3 days.” Dipper instructed.

“And if you aren’t there?” Mabel asked, pulling down the microphone that pulsed her voice through the portal room.

“Close it. I’ll contact you via mindscape if it’s safe to reopen it.” 

That was the key word: if.   

“Alright, let's fire it up.” Stan pressed some buttons and pulled a lever. 

The portal lit up, letting out a thick and gargled hum. The room swelled with a bright light as the center portal swirled with arches of lighting and rainbows. A weightlessness filled the room, lifting Mabel off her feet and into the air. Watching from the window, she waved goodbye to her uncle and brother. Dipper waved back and she could tell the smile on his face was a nervous one. The light bounced off his pale face as he extended his great black wings to steady himself against the weightlessness. He grabbed onto Ford, staring into the vastness of the portal. And then they were gone. 

Stan reached for the lever and pulled it down, shutting down the portal and sending the two collapsing into the ground. Stan staggered upright and cracked his back. “I’m way too old for this.” He looked down, realizing Mabel wasn’t moving from the ground. “You okay, kiddo?” 

“This is dumb. I wanted to go with,” she grumbled. 

Stan extended a hand, pulling her up from the floor. “I know you feel left out. But this is for the best. I don’t want either of them going. The last time I watched my brother go into that portal, he didn’t come out for 30 years. But this is something Dipper needs to do and Ford has the experience to help him. Besides,” he ruffled her hair, “with those nerds gone we have 3 whole days to ourselves. I know Ford doesn’t want you skipping school, but I say we both play a little hooky. Close down the Shack and relax a little.” 

“You never like to close down the Shack.” 

“Eh. What’s 3 days if it means spending time with my favorite niece?” 

A smile slipped across her face. “I guess it would be fun to hang out like we used to.” 

“That’s the spirit. We can eat junk food without Ford reminding us how bad it is for our health or whatever.” 

“Yeah! And we can watch movies without Dipper spoiling the ending!” 

“You got it. 3 whole days of us being immature!” He grabbed Mabel around the shoulders and forced her into a noogie. “Ice cream for dinner and staying up as late as we want.” 

Mabel wiggled his way free of his grasp. “Yeah. Who needs their dumb mission? We get to hang out here. It’s not like anything bad is actually gonna happen.” 

 

------ 

 

Their “brother-free” vacation had gotten off to a strong start. They immediately ate ice cream for breakfast, set things on fire in the backyard (courtesy of her bizarre supernatural powers), and Stan let her drive to Greasy’s Diner for lunch. 

Mabel dug her fork into the piece of pie, breaking off the golden crust and smashing it into the mound of apple filling. They almost never went out to eat anymore and the pie at Greasy’s was the best in the world. Sometimes they could coax Dipper into coming along, but usually he would hide out, completely invisible in the mindscape, or he would insist they wait until the restaurant was almost close to avoid seeing other patrons. After awhile it started being more nerve wracking than fun, so they stopped going altogether. 

“Okay,” she crammed another bite into her mouth, “would you rather be able to turn invisible or fly?” 

Stan thought for a moment, “Turn invisible. Think of all the crimes I could commit, the pranks I could pull.” He took a sip of his coffee, “Would you rather eat 10 spiders or lick a slime monster’s foot?” 

“Spiders. Definitely spiders.” Tapping her fork against against the plate, she continued, “Would you rather kiss a gnome or kiss a goblin.” 

“What’s the difference?” 

“Goblins are taller and kinda ugly, but the gnomes smell funny and have those big beards.” 

“I’d kiss a goblin. I find the gnomes small and creepy.” 

“Hey! We heard that!” In the booth behind Stan, Jeff, some of the gnomes, and their new queen Lorna, turned around. Jeff’s face turned red as he yelled and pointed a stubby finger at Stan. “The gnomes are a sturdy yet refined people. Our bodies are built for climbing, stacking, and folk dancing! And just for the record, we don’t think you’re that much of a looker either! Come on, gang. Let’s blow this joint!” They all scampered out together, Lorna waiving to Mabel before being pulled out of the diner. 

Mabel and Stan looked at each other for a moment before bursting into uncontrollable laughter. “He’s so mad! His face looked like a little red tomato,” Mabel cried. 

“He’s even creepier when he’s mad!” 

Lazy Susan came by, topping off Stan’s coffee. “I haven’t seen the Pines family around here in awhile.” 

Stan shrugged, “We don’t get out as much as we used to.” 

“And where are your brothers at?” 

Cramming another piece of pie into her mouth, Mabel shrugged, “They’re on some smarty pants mission to Dimension 52. We’re having a brother-free vacation!” A gray creature skittered across the floor, nearly knocking into Mabel’s seat. 

“Isn’t that nice,” Susan commented. “And how is your brother Mabel? Does he still have…” she leaned in and whispered, “that condition ?” 

Mabel pushed the last piece of pie around on her plate, “It’s not a condition. He’s just a demon.” 

“Well, whatever it is, you oughta get him a cream or something. When I do see him, he’s awfully scary. Just looking at him gives me nightmares for a week. I’m glad he’s outta town.” She left the check on their table and walked away. 

“Because of that comment, I’m not gonna tip her anything,” Stan scoffed, slapping down some cash by the check. 

“You wouldn’t tip her anyway.” 

“Eh. Now I have a reason not to.” He watched Mabel continue to push the pie around on her plate. “Let’s get outta here before she finds out.” 

Mabel slid out of the booth, slipping into her purple winter coat. Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw something small and gray peering at her from behind the counter. She took a step closer to it, moving with a slow and sneaky intention. 

Stan jingled the car keys, “Let’s get a move on. You’re driving us home.” 

She blinked, and suddenly there was nothing there. 

 

------ 

 

The snow warped and splattered against the windows of the Shack. The first day had come and passed without incident. She and Stan had been snowed in, not that they minded the opportunity to do absolutely nothing of importance. They were half way through The Planet People of Planet Planet, which wasn’t necessarily a bad movie, just a very poorly made movie. Mabel cocooned herself further into her blanket, sitting cross legged on the floor. Waddles laid his head across her lap, sleeping soundly. Wendy and Soos were supposed to join them later in the evening. 

It was perfectly imperfect. There was nothing wrong with this moment, other than she was silently counting down the hours until they could reopen the portal again. Her brother-free vacation had been overcome with worry and anxiety. 

Something rumbled outside, bashing up against the side of the house. Stan groaned, “I betcha it’s those raccoons rooting through the trash again. Go grab one of the traps and catch it for me.” 

“If I catch the raccoon can I keep it?” 

“I’m already letting you keep the pig. There’s no way I’m letting you keep a raccoon.” 

“Aww, please. I promise I won’t let it inside. It can live outside with Gompers.” 

“Just go check.” 

Shuffling over to the door, Mabel grabbed one of the metal raccoon traps and walked outside. The trash cans were still upright and she didn’t see any raccoons, which was a pretty big disappointment. She looked around the corner, hair tossing in the snow and wind. Still nothing. She went back inside, brushing the snow flakes off her sweater. “I didn’t see anything.” 

“Huh. Guess it must be the wind.” 

She sat back down in her blanket pile, the sound of the old black and white movie humming in her ears but not registering in her head. “Do you think Dipper and Grunkle Ford are okay?” 

“Why wouldn’t they be?” 

“Grunkle Ford said it was dangerous, even for Dipper.”

“I’m sure it is. But it’s not the first time those knuckleheads have put themselves in danger. And this Oracle lady sounds like the real deal, she’s probably keeping them out of trouble.” 

“I hope so.” 

There was a knock on the door, hard and brash. “Coming!” Mabel called, leaping to her feet. Wendy and Soos were just the people she needed to keep her mind off of Dipper and Ford. She threw open the door, a gust of cold air rushing in.
Wendy stood in the open door frame, melted snow soaking through her jacket and weighing her hair down against her shoulders and back. The curve of her axe glinted against a clash of lighting. She held something in her hand, a thick dark figure that Mabel couldn’t quite make out. “I found a little spy looking through the window,” she spat, tossing the figure onto the floor. It tried to skitter away but Wendy stomped on its back foot with her boot. “Make one wrong move and I will chop you up and feed you to the werewolves next door.” 

The creature clutched to it’s abdomen with two of its six arms, gray body oozing with a thick black sludge. “I am not afraid of you,” its voice boiled and hissed between large teeth and a slithering tongue. Waddles squealed and ran away at the sight, taking cover under Mabel’s blanket pile. 

Soos popped his head into the doorway, “Hey dudes, are we still doing cheesy movie night? I brought burrito bites.” He held up the bag and then looked down at the strange creature. “Who’s this dude?” 

Mabel stepped forward, leaning over the creature. It was a demon for sure, but she didn’t know what kind. Dipper would know, except he wasn’t there to tell her. But it was small with multiple agile arms and large eyes almost like binoculars. It was made for spying. “Who are you?” 

“I am Viz. Loyal servant to my master. And you are the mortal who calls herself Mizar, but is named Mabel.” 

“How do you know that?” 

“My master told me.” 

“And who is your master?” She had a feeling about who it might be. 

It grinned with oversized and boxy teeth, “I will not tell.” 

Wendy let the tip of her axe graze against its neck. “We’ll see about that. Soos, grab that raccoon cage.” She moved with the intensity and grace of a skilled demon hunter. She never once let any expression slip through her face, though Mabel knew deep down she was worried and nervous. As Soos opened the cage, Wendy nudged Viz in with the dull side of her axe, careful not to hurt it but also not gentle. She reached into her backpack, grabbing a plastic water bottle with the label torn off. She rinsed off the black and bloody sludge, and the water sizzled upon impact. “Blessed water,” she said. “Just in case you get any clever ideas. So I suggest you get to talking.” 

“You do not scare me.” 

Stan got up out of his chair and cracked his knuckles. “Want me to beat the truth out? I learned a couple torture techniques when I was in Colombia.”  

“We could give the cage a shake?” Soos suggested, “When I was a kid, my cousin Reggie used to trap me in a cardboard box and shake me around until I told him where the cheese puffs were.” 

“I say we get right to the part where I start cutting off fingers. We need to send a message that we aren’t here to play games,” Wendy snarled. 

“Hold up!” Mabel interjected, “Can I speak to all of you… somewhere private?” The three nodded and followed her into the kitchen, though keeping a careful eye on their prisoner through a crack in the door. 

She sucked in a deep breath and addressed the group in a hushed voice, “I think we need to let him go.” 

“Whaddya mean we’re gonna let him go!” Stan nearly-shouted. 

“Mabel, I know you’re a good person who believes in doing the right thing, but this is serious. That thing could be here for Dipper, we need to know what it’s up to,” Wendy said. 

“But torture doesn’t work, trust me. He’ll say anything just to get a chance to escape. We’re doing this the Mabel way, with kindness!” 

Stan shook his head. “Kindness isn’t the key to everything, kiddo.” 

She looked pointedly at Stan, Wendy, and Soos. “Dipper left me behind because if there were to be an invader, I’d be the only person who could stop it. You have to trust me to do the right thing.” 

Soos gave a very serious nod, “I trust you. And if Dipper trusts you, then I trust you double.” 

Wendy sighed, “Alright. We’ll let it go. But if that demon makes one wrong move, I’ll cut it’s legs off.” 

“Fine,” Stan grumbled. 

Mabel walked back into the room standing tall over the spy. “Ah there is Mizar, twin star, most feared of mortals. What do you have in store for me?” 

Lifting up the cage door, she gestured, “We have decided to let you go free.” 

“Free?” Viz slowly made its way out of the cage, wary and unsure. 

“Yeah, I mean. Why would we torture you? Your master is probably angry with you. We’ll let him take care of you.”

“Master is pleased with me. I have kept an eye on you and told him where to intercept Alcor.” 

“You were also captured and blew your cover. Because of you, we were able to alert Alcor as well as our own reinforcements. We have no more use for you. So go back to your Master and tell him what happened.” 

The thing about being captured and tormented for hours by an evil cult is that you get really good at learning how to really scare the truth out of someone. 

“No! You mustn’t, my master will be displeased. He will subject me to eternal torment!” It lunged at her feet, clawing up her legs. “Please! Have mercy, Lady Mizar!” it kissed at her feet desperately. “I will give you anything you want! Information, yes! I will give you information!” 

Stan leaned over to Wendy and whispered, “When did she get so smart?” 

“What information?” Mabel asked. 

“My master! I served Lord Metus, the blight of the mind, leader of the demon purists. When an interdimensional portal was opened, he sent me here to spy!” 

The breath caught in Mabel’s chest, painful against her lungs and rib cage. “How did he know we have a portal? It’s been broken down for years until now.” 

“Bill Cipher has done his bidding in this town for centuries, it only made sense that his portal would be traced back to you. That if you became desperate, you would use it!” 

“And what exactly is Metus’s plan?” 

“To attack. He went to Dimension 52 with his most trusted allies to capture and kill Alcor. He will be sending his army here soon to capture you and your portal-- giving him free roam of your dimension. He wanted to wait, until you and Alcor were separated! Metus despises you for besting him and wishes to kill you personally.” 

Mabel nodded, her composure starting to crack as her eyes watered and her chest hurt.  

“Uhm, sweetie,” Stan whispered to her, “who’s this guy we’re talkin’ about.” 

“Metus,” she muttered back, the words tasting sour in her mouth. “He’s a demon who’s been trying to hunt Dipper down for years now. I thought he would have laid off by now…” 

Wendy spun her axe around her fingers, a red rage blooming in her cheeks. “We’ll kick this guy’s ass and his whole army. They don’t stand a chance against us.” 

“Yeah!” Soos shouted and then he looked to Mabel. “What’s the plan? You’re sorta the leader, right?” 

The words sputtered and croaked from her throat.  “Excuse me.” She walked back into the kitchen, closing the door behind her, and crumpled onto the floor. 

Scrambling for the summoning circle drawn on the floor, she scrambled for the candy bowl she always kept on the counter and sent it scattering to the ground. “They can’t stay there. They’ll die if they stay there!” She pressed her hands down into the summoning circle, she chanted in rough and choppy Latin. Yet nothing happened. “It’s not working! Why is it not working?” Perhaps she needed something stronger. She grabbed the kitchen knife and dug it deep into her palm. Metallic blood spilled between her fingers and onto the floor. “Come on, come on. I can’t let him die!” Again, nothing. 

Mabel reached out into the vastness of all known universes. She tore off the god’s eye, desperate that for a moment she’d be able to reach her brother. 

She could always feel him, no matter how far apart they were. It was how she found him after he was captured by Jarax. How she knew when he was out on a summoning or just hiding out in the mindscape. And so long as she felt that tug, he was alive. She had to remember that. 

The door creaked open and Stan slipped into the kitchen, “Uh, Mabel?” 

She sniffed, not realizing she had begun to cry and stood up. She wrapped a dish towel around her bleeding hand, and stood up tall. “I can’t contact him. They’re in danger and I can’t contact him.”

The air smelled rusty and bitter with blood when she breathed. Her face was wet and sticky with sweat and tears. She hadn’t gotten to that part yet. She was still stuck in the initial shock. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Nothing bad was supposed to happen. 

“I know you’re scared,” Stan said, trying to remain calm even though she could see the panic trapped deep in his eyes. “But you were left here because you don’t back down. Don’t start backing down now.”

She looked back down at the summoning circle, a dull black sketch on the floor, highlighted by a few drops of red blood. The tug in her gut was still strong. There was still hope. 

“I won’t.”

Chapter Text

When Dipper opened his eyes, he was somewhere otherworldly. Lightning crashed around him without getting too close. A place that swirled with a foamy chaos and the smell of burning hair. Coils pulsed and beat like a lacerated heart, each one leading to a strange and far off  world. Worlds he could visit, should he ever chose to leave behind his own. 

This was the nightmare realm. 

Even before he obtained a deep and magical understanding of the universe and all its inner workings, he knew the nightmare realm rested right beyond his own universe. But no amount of knowledge could ever prepare him to set foot in it when they came through the portal. 

He could feel it crumbling, against his skin and in the back of his head. It was doomed to fall apart-- what wasn’t? But this was more urgent. It was like a back alleyway between buildings, a shortcut from point A to point B. A place where you might hide out if you were up to no good. It was destined to be bulldozed, giving all the terrible things nowhere else to go but out into the light. 

(1.8 million years until collapse.) (Which is a long time.) (Unless you live forever.) 

Turning around, he caught sight of an incredibly large throne built of optical illusions. It would have made a person’s head spin, but it looked completely mundane to him. (Get closer.) He traced its edges with his fingers, feeling where it had begun to crack and break. It felt strangely familiar. Not in the way where it was a part of his memories, but in the way where he knew the throne belonged to him. In the same way he inherited Bill’s powers, he inherited something much more complex. 

“Dipper.” Ford called, balancing on the edge of a chunk of a long-dead planet. Catching up to Ford, he paused a moment to stare at the deep pulsing web that interconnected all known universes. “The nightmare realm is where the portal leads to. It’s where Bill and his goons used to hang out. I didn’t think I’d ever have to see this place again.”  

“I didn’t think I’d ever have to visit.” He sighed, not wanting to think about it much longer. “So how exactly do we find the Oracle?” 

“We don’t. She’ll find us.” 

Dipper’s jaw dropped. “You’re kidding me.” 

“Not at all. I never intentionally went to Dimension 52, I was brought to it.” 

“So we’re just supposed to wait? What if she never contacts us!” 

“I have faith that she will. Come along now, we shouldn’t stay out in the open too long,” he held out one hand, more so for his own sake as he drifted aimlessly in the weightlessness. 

Dipper grabbed his hand, leading him through the endless spiral of chaos. “It must have been incredibly lonely out here all these years.” 

“Not at all,” Ford replied. “I travelled extensively, meeting some of the most incredible beings, seeing places beyond my imagination. Mention, I was fleeing for my life. But I had grown so cold and untrusting, I didn’t know what I was missing out on,” he smirked, “That is, until I returned to Earth.” He looked out into the vast space, and pointed out a passing asteroid, “There. Check that asteroid for caverns. It would be a safe place to hide until now.” 

They found a large cave on the far side of the asteroid, settling inside. Ford reached into his backpack, pulling out his flashlight, allowing the light to reflect off the stalagmites and chunks of rock, not that Dipper needed a flashlight to see anything in the cave. The air around them was wet and pulsed as if alive and breathing. 

“You know,” Ford said, leaning up against the wall of the cave, “when I first landed in the nightmare realm, I found a cavern full of refugees.” Dipper did know, he was omniscient… and he had read Journal 3. But he listened intently anyway. “If it hadn’t been for them providing me with food, information, and a dimensional translator, I would have surely perished. Though, I doubt anyone would still be living in this place since Bill’s death.”

Dragging a claw through the dust, Dipper tried to keep some semblance of a conversation going. “I’m sorry you had to come with me. The Nightmare Realm is probably the last place you ever want to be.” 

“Actually, the M Dimension is the last place I want to be. Though, this is a close second.” He paused in thought, “But you are far more important to me than any bad experiences I may have had. And, if I may be honest, it’s nice that we get to spend some quality time together.” 

Dipper inched a bit closer, “You see this as quality time?” 

“Well, it’s certainly not ideal. I’d rather be at home, playing a riveting game of Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons. But an adventure is an adventure.”  

With a sigh, Dipper looked over to his great-uncle. “Can I ask you something?” 

“Go ahead.” 

“Aren’t you scared? Of me?” 

“Why would I be?” 

“Because I can do bad things. I could give you nightmares about failing a math test, pull out all your bones and use them as utensils to eat your soul, or just flat out kill somebody. I could be evil and you wouldn’t know it.” 

“That was, erm… oddly specific. But no. I have no reason to suspect you’d do those things. Are you worried because of Bill? Because I—“ 

Something groaned, rattling at the walls of the cave. Dipper immediately jumped up, summoning a thick blue flame in his hand. Stale wind from the back of the cave blew into this face. No-- not wind. Breath. Multiple glowing eyes blinked at him from deep within the cavern, “Grunkle Ford, you know how you said nothing would live here anymore? I think you were wrong.” 

The closer the creature came, the more it became illuminated in the combination glow of Ford’s flashlight and Dipper’s flame. The creature emerged, skin covered with a thick layer of asteroid dust and dagger-like claws that pierced the ground. It growled at them, low and curling in its throat. 

“I think we should run away now,” Dipper said. He grabbed Ford by the arm and darting out of the cave. 

Even for a demon with all of the immense strength and powers of flight, trying to escape a monster that was roughly the size of a house through a lawless and chaotic wasteland was not easy. Things would fly in his way or he’d begin to lose his grip on Ford. 

“I don’t think it’s possible to outrun it,” Ford said, breathless. “Perhaps it would be in our best interest to attack.” 

Dipper slipped behind another asteroid, watching as the creature continued its angry pursuit. “Have you seen that thing! It’s massive! I can’t fight that!” 

“Why not? This is an opportunity to test your strength. After all, we’re in the nightmare realm. There are no laws of reality to hold you back, no spells or summonings. You’d really get to see what you are capable of.” 

The creature behind them shrieked, getting closer and closer to their hiding place. The only other options were to continue avoiding it until it either gave up or the portal opened up in 3 days. 

“I haven’t won a single fight on my own! I’ve almost been killed multiple times by demons and humans. I can’t handle something this big! Mabel is the one who saves the day! Not me! Oh man, we should have brought her along.” 

The shrieking grew closer, followed by thick huffs of stale breathing lingering in the burning hair. The more the creature moved, the more the asteroid behind them would shake. 

“I know you are nervous, but you can do this, Dipper.” 

Dipper tried to pull his focus. Ignore the fact that he was surely about to be eaten by a monster. Ignore the nagging voice inside of his head. The nightmare realm felt different. It was solid and real but also had all the freedoms of the mindscape. All of the energy within it was dark and churning. It was like having your head dunked in a bucket of ice water, suddenly feeling more alert, more alive. 

The nightmare realm wasn’t falling apart because it was unfit to exist, but because every universe fed off of it’s chaos. As did Dipper. 

He let the harsh blue glow of fire start at his fingertips and race up his arm. But then he felt the panic offset by the blue light. All he could think of was the faces of the Third Eye, the terror they felt as they burned away. And how good it felt to hurt them back. How easy it was to feed off their pain. 

“Dipper!” 

By the time he turned around, the creature had already descended upon them. 

Dipper wasn’t entirely sure what happened next. It felt like everything had stopped, like a cut telephone wire. Everything when black, but a bright black that burned like looking directly into the sun. 

He reassessed the situation. 

His feet were firmly planted on the ground. There was no smell of burning hair, just the smell of cold. And quiet, it was unnervingly quiet. 

He opened his eyes. 

A woman stood in the open mountain air. The thick fabric of her hood cast a dark shadow over her 7 eyes and stern mouth. Diamonds that hung on a string around her waist sang in the slight breeze. “It seems like I called you here just in time,” she spoke with a smirk plastered to her face. There was something divine about her, not that she herself was celestial by any nature, but that she had been looked favorably upon by the divine. 

She was the Oracle. 

The top of her mountain was surrounded by thick clouds that curled like they had been painted with brush strokes. A large temple towered behind her, glowing so brightly in the light that it rivaled the sun. 

“Jheselbraum.” Ford blinked a few times, as if initially stunned by her. 

She glanced at him up and down, taking note of how he had changed over the years. “Stanford Pines. It’s a pleasure to see you here again.” 

“Yes. It is.” He cleared his throat, “Uhm, this is my great-nephew, Dipper.” 

Still in shock from the seamless act of teleportation, Dipper scrambled to regain himself. “Uh. Hi.” 

“I don’t usually allow demons in my sanctuary. But for you, I will make an exception. After all, I’ve been expecting you.” Then she relaxed, loosening her shoulders and letting a smile faintly touch her mouth. “Welcome to Dimension 52, Alcor.” 

“Thank you,” Dipper muttered. She looked exactly as she did in Ford’s illustration in the journal, but yet, somehow even more ethereal. She moved with purpose, but not grace. Her gaze was distant but not disconnected. 

“No use in us standing out here, please come inside.” 

Leading them inside the massive temple, Dipper had to fight the curiosity to peek into the different rooms. One smelled strongly of an incense that made his head spin a little, and another was filled with pieces of wood, all with prayers in various alien languages burned into them. But wherever he went, the same silence persisted. 

Jheselbraum lead them into what seemed to be a basic parlor room, she had a few chairs set up by a roaring fire. He didn’t know how to describe it, but the thin mountain air was sticky with safety, making it so that you didn’t want to leave. “Relax. This is the only place in the multiverse where you are completely safe. Eat and drink, I’ve had some cosmic sand prepared.”

Ford reached for a glass, “You must try some, Dipper. It’s Time Baby’s drink of choice. A little grainy at first, but it has a delightful, fruity aftertaste.” 

Dipper paced through the room, dragging his fingers along the ornate tapestries of an axolotl on the wall and old carvings done into the wooden panels on the walls. Light poured in through a large glass window high above his head. Everything felt so still and peaceful. So much so that something was unnerving. 

“It’s quiet,” he remarked. 

“Yes, it is wonderfully secluded.” Ford replied, taking a sip of his cosmic sand. 

“No. It’s really quiet. I can’t hear anyone’s thoughts or information dumps. It’s like my omniscience is gone.” (…)  

Jheselbraum sat down in the chair across from Ford, spreading out her long dress. “This place is heavily warded to be a safe haven from demonic influences. It would take an army to tear down its protections. While inside, all of your abilities will be suppressed.” 

Dipper looked down at his hands, and then snapped his fingers. No fire appeared in his palms. When he commanded it, the shadows in the corner didn’t bend. Much to his surprise, he felt vulnerable. 

“So,” the Oracle continued, grabbing a glass of cosmic sand for herself, “I recognize something significant has caused you to seek an audience with me.” 

“Oh well uhm,” Dipper struggled for a moment to find the right words. “You know more about Bill Cipher than anyone else. I am desperate for your help. I’ve been seeing him, hearing his voice. I don’t know how this is possible or what to do. I need to know everything about him if I’m going to live as his successor.” 

“You are the wisest and kindest being I have ever met,” Ford pleaded. “You must help us. We are out of options.” 

She stared down into the  glass, swirling the liquid around inside. ”I will tell you all that I can. Perhaps I should begin this story from the beginning.” She took a moment to compose herself and then began to speak:  

“Dream demons were a peculiar people. They lived in a 2-dimensional world similar to the mindscape. They were very strict and traditional, to step out of line was punishable by death. Their caste system determined what duties you would perform. Higher ranking demons would dreambend: they were shapeshifters, masters of fear and nightmares. They were the only ones allowed to leave the mindscape and would provide information to other demons. The lowest demons were servants who tended to flocks of nightmares and served masters. Bill was of a lower class, always dreaming of freedom. He became quite the conman, finding new ways to steal or disguise himself as the nobility.

“One day, he retaliated and accidentally killed one of his superiors. That’s when he learned that you could steal the power from another demon, and that higher ranking demons held their power by killing the lessers. So he kept on killing, gaining power in hopes of liberating his dimension. But his taste for blood became too strong. He wanted to be the most powerful demon alive. So he destroyed his home dimension and everyone in it, believing it was the only way to achieve liberation. But without a home dimension he realized he had nowhere to go. He was still a 2-dimensional unable to enter a 3-dimensional world. 

“He destroyed countless dimensions looking for a replacement for the one he lost, trying to gain more and more power. For a time, he lived in the nightmare realm, but it is a place doomed to fall apart. So he settled on your dimension as his next target, hoping once and for all to enter the physical plane. You know what happened after that.” 

“Wow that’s… morally ambiguous,” Dipper muttered. 

“Do not sympathize with him. Bill had the option to stop, to know when enough was enough. But he refused and he let the power consume him. That’s what power does to a person, it makes all their bad qualities worse.” She cleared her throat, realizing the gravity of the situation as Dipper chewed nervously on his bottom lip. “But that’s not the matter at hand. Tell me more about your encounters with Bill.” 

He stopped biting his lip for a moment, “I first saw him in Mabel’s mindscape and again when I fell unconscious at the Transcendence site. Ever since then I’ve heard his voice in the back of my head, trying to… well, come to think of it. I don’t know what he wants.” 

Ford pulled out Journal 4, opened it, and handed it to her. “I collected some data from the Transcendence location, the site is heavily demonic in origin, and the weirdness levels spike at random. The intense power is overwhelming for Dipper.” 

She took the journal as if being handed something very precious and glazed a thin finger across the inked pages. “Mmm yes, I can see why that would be. It is by far one of the strangest places in the multiverse: a place of birth and death, the meeting place between worlds. And you do not fully belong to either world. It’s not unreasonable you would ‘shut down’. It would also leave you very open to threats.” The diamonds on her skirt rustled as she looked to Dipper. “Are you certain this is not another demon trying to trick you? It is not unheard of for demons to use their powers on each other, and your human sensibilities leave you far more susceptible.” 

“No, it has to be Bill. Who else could it be? I just need to know what I can do to stop him or protect myself from him. My sister and I were captured by a cult last week. They tried to get my true name believing I could somehow raise Bill from the dead. I have to make sure that could never happen.” 

He was starting to get restless, chewing on the claw of his thumb. He felt like he was going in circles. Explaining everything over and over again but never getting closer to the truth. 

“The only way to know would be to give you a full prophecy.” Holding up both hands out to him, she asked, “May I?” He nodded and she placed both hands on his cheeks and looked into his eyes. Her hands were chilled by the mountain air, but that didn’t bother him. The tone of her voice was smooth and dreamy, as if coming from somewhere far away. “You seek a familiar enemy, whom you thought you had evaded until now. One who clouds your mind with fear and forces you to succumb to your affinities. For there is something dark within you, waiting to be illuminated.” 

The room fell into silence. No sound of wind, of far off footsteps, or shallow breathing could penetrate the nothingness. Dipper felt himself grow heavy, as if he could crash to the floor in a barrage of dust and agony.   

“That… that doesn’t make any sense.” He stated it like it was obvious. But then his breath began to rise in his chest, a useless response. 

“Dipper,” Ford reached out to him. “You must relax. We will figure this out. We will stop Bill.” 

Except he wasn’t worried about Bill anymore. He was starting to believe that Bill was the least of his problems. 

He turned to the Oracle, unsure if the panic made him want to scream or cry. Though when he spoke, the words barely came out as a whisper. “What do you mean by something dark? Is that why you took my powers away? Because you’re scared?” Ripping himself from his chair, he stepped away from Ford and Jheselbraum. He wished he would stop breathing so heavy, trying to remember that he didn’t need to breathe. But it was the only thing he could do. “Am I the threat? Is that why you told me all of that stuff about Bill?”

And suddenly, the voice in his head was the least of his problems. 

Jheselbraum remained unphased by this. She reached out, taking a drink of her cosmic sand in thought, and then folded her hands gently in her lap. “Things aren’t always what they seem. Only you can decipher your prophecy.” 

Dipper stopped completely. No movement. No breathing. Like a statue left outside to the elements. 

Ascending from her chair, Jheselbraum spoke very matter-of-factly. “I believe this has all been too overwhelming for you. Let’s pause for now and readjourn when you are ready. I’ll show you both to an open room.” 

 

------ 

 

Dipper wasn’t sure how much time had passed. Not only was time different in other dimensions, but without his omniscience, he had no sense of it. He probably should have brought a watch along. 

He laid curled up in a bed that was way too soft, sitting in the quiet agony of the unknown. He kept wanting to hear the voice in his head. To have something that would keep him grounded. Some kind of answer. But Bill was silent. And yet, he felt very close. Like something was lurking on the border. 

Mostly, he wished he was at home with Mabel. She would know what to say or do. 

The door creaked open, Ford easing his way into the room. “Jheselbraum was just pulled away for something important, so I came by to check up on you. Is everything alright?”  

“It’s too quiet,” Dipper muttered into the bed. “With my omniscience gone, I’m just stuck here with my own thoughts.” 

“Sounds a little bit like someone is already forgetting what it feels like to be human.” He sighed, sitting beside Dipper. He put a hand to his nephew’s back. “What are you thinking about?” 

“Everything… I guess not literally everything. But a lot of things. Mostly, Bill. He started off doing the right thing. But it got out of hand and terrorized the multiverse. He took a fagillion lives.” 

“Fagillion?” 

“Sorry, I forgot you can’t comprehend a number like that.” He sighed, taking a moment to think, “I want to believe I’m doing the right thing. That I won’t let the power or the knowledge get to me. But I might end up being even worse than Bill.”

Ford took a moment to think about this, leaning back up against the bed frame. “You know, when I first found out that Bill had manipulated me, I had never been so afraid. I thought I was doing the right thing, making scientific advancements that would change the world. Instead, I ended up creating a doomsday device and I nearly destroyed my relationship with Stanley. Sometimes we do the wrong thing by trying to do the right thing.” 

“You haven’t done bad things like I have.” 

“What do you mean?” 

Dipper squeezed his eyes shut, “Remember that cult? I killed them.” 

“You did what?” Ford didn’t sound angry, not even surprised. Just curious.  

“I killed them so they wouldn’t be able to bring Bill back. They tortured Mabel. It seemed like the right thing but it wasn’t,” a burst of gold tears pulsed down his cheeks. “It felt good to hurt them back. Like Jheselbraum said, there is something dark within me.” 

He didn’t like how quiet Ford was. How quiet everything was. 

“Jheselbraum’s prophecies  told me that I had the face of a man who would destroy Bill Cipher,” he said. “Just because what she says is true, does not mean you should take it at face value. Meaning lies not in words but in actions.” Ford sighed, looking down at the curled up ball of brown hair and black wings. “Mabel insisted I bring this. Something about synthesized music. It might make things less quiet.” 

Dipper perked up at the sight of the old CD player. It was the same one that Mabel used to bring on road trips when they were kids, the one they would listen to in their tent while camping. It was pretty beat up, and covered with rainbow stickers that had started to peel up. He put on the headphones, and clicked play on Mabel’s Ultra-Awesome 80’s Synth Playlist *Now With Demon Repellent. The music hummed against him. It wasn’t good, but for a moment, it made him feel like everything would be okay. 

“Thanks Grunkle Ford.” 

Everything jostled, as if the whole dimension were being tilted on its side, like trying to shake the money out of a piggy bank. And it rumbled with the snarl of a vicious animal. 

Dipper paused the music, pulling the headphones around his neck and tucking the CD player into the pocket of his black coat. “What was that?” 

The door opened again, but this time with urgency. Jheselbraum rushed into her room, her calm demeanor suddenly extinguished. She spoke with a breathy desperation. “You must leave immediately.” She looked over her shoulder, constantly aware of an unknown presence. “Demons are invading Dimension 52.” 

“I thought you said this place was a safe haven? What about all the wards?” Dipper asked. 

“Wards can only go so far against an army of this size. I believe they are here for you. You must leave immediately. I’ll have to teleport you out.” 

Ford nodded, “I’ll grab my backpack.” 

Just as Dipper turned to “My dear, before you leave.” She grabbed him by the hand, holding on to it as if she were holding something precious. “I know that I said that power emphasizes everything about a person, making their bad qualities worse. And I am sorry for putting so much pressure on you all at once. But know that power can also make what is good about a person better. You have a good soul, do not forget that.” 

Dipper didn’t have the words or time to respond. Backpack around his shoulder, Ford joined them at the center of the room. “Send us to the safest location you can,” he instructed to the Oracle. “Dipper and I will find our way back home on our own.” 

“Take caution,” she warned. “The multiverse again rests with the Pines family.” 

The room shook again, and the air ionized with a sense of dread. The feeling was all too familiar. The far wall of the room caved in, a rising pillar of dust and debris spiralling through the room. And from the dust, a creature with far too many eyes surrounding its wretched body. 

“Not so fast, half-breed.” the demon’s voice grumbled and shook like thunder. And though it had no mouth Dipper knew it was smiling at him. “Did you miss me?” 

Chapter Text

They sat around the kitchen table, the warm yellow light encasing them against the darkness pouring in through the window. Mabel slipped the god’s eye off her neck and onto the table. “Okay, everyone, hands in.” Stan, Wendy, and Soos all tucked their hands into the center  of the table, sharing the hiding power of the god’s eye. Though being near the god’s eye offered some protection, they needed complete secrecy to talk in safety. Though she did keep her nail encrusted baseball bat nearby, just in case. Meanwhile, the demon spy, Viz, watched patiently from beside them. “We need the best, fastest, most kick-butt plan ever made… any suggestions?”  

“Okay, I think I got it. Hear me out on this one, dudes,” Soos said. “This time we build a bunch of tiny robots, each with their own color scheme and power set. I call blue!” 

“That’s a stupid idea,” Stan retorted. “I say we just put up another one of those unicorn things or whatever it was. Won’t that keep the bastards out?” 

“But if we put up a unicorn spell, Dipper won’t be able to get back inside,” Mabel replied. 

“We could set up traps,” Wendy said with a shrug. “Blessed water. Binding circles. Memory eraser ray.” 

Mabel shook her head. “But that might not work on all of them. Who knows how big this army is.” 

Viz wrung his spindly hands around, “Lady Mizar? Might I offer some advice?” 

“What is it?” 

“There are only so many ways in and out of a dimension. I believe Metus will be sending his army through your portal. The best way to prevent an attack would be to,” he swallowed nervously, “destroy it.” 

“No way,” she snapped. “That’s not an option. We aren’t abandoning them.” 

“Quick question, about this portal,” Soos said. “Uhhh… where exactly does it go?” 

Mabel sucked in a deep breath and tried to keep her cool. “Grunkle Ford said it goes to the nightmare realm, which is kind of this in-between space that goes to other dimensions.” 

“So why can’t we go to another dimension?” 

Mabel perked up at the question, thinking about it for a moment. 

“We can’t just leave our portal unattended,” Wendy countered. “If we all went, that thing could flip the town upside down, or worse.” 

Mabel bit down on the inside of her cheek. “What if I went?” 

Stan raised one eyebrow at her, “What?” 

“I could go in after them,” she spoke very matter-of-factly. “If we can’t all go, then only one of us should go. I’m the best equipped. I can do magic, teleport, not to mention I can sense where Dipper is, and I know he’s close. If anyone stands a chance at finding and saving them, it’s me.” 

“Absolutely not,” Stan replied, stern and unrelenting. 

“It’s the only chance we have.” 

“We are not taking any more chances!” He rarely raised his voice. Not even when bossing anyone around the gift shop did Stan command a room with such a serious tone. It made Mabel shrink back into her chair. “This is an army we’re talking about, Mabel. This isn’t Weirdmaggedon. There is no giant robot, no magic spell, no trick that can save you. We got lucky the last time. Whatever is beyond that portal is probably way worse than anything we’ve seen. It’s too big of a risk.” 

“I’m with Stan on this one, hambone,” Soos said. “All of this seems beyond dangerous.” 

Mabel sighed, letting her head and shoulders wilt on to the table with exhaustion. The collar of her sweater rose up to cover her mouth. Perhaps it was how frustrated she felt, how afraid, or maybe she was just tired, but Mabel was on the brink of tears. “So what do you suggest we do?” 

Wendy leaned back in her chair, tapping her fingers against the table. “Demons can’t get through unless we open it, right? So let’s just wait it out. If it’s safe to open, Dipper will let us know one way or another. In the meantime, we should prepare for a potential invasion. Viz will keep us updated on any changes, as well as keep our cover. And we’ll need weapons too.”

Stan rubbed his hands together. “It’s a good thing I own ten guns.” 

“Uhh, I don’t have any weapons. I guess you can use me as bait?” Soos offered with a passive shrug. 

Wendy looked to Mabel, nearly trying to envelope herself in her sweater. “It’s all we can do right now, Mabel. And who knows… maybe they’re okay?” 

Mabel knew they weren’t. She just knew. 

She sighed, “Okay.” 

 The four removed their hands from the god’s eye and allowing her to slip it back over her neck. As they prepared to enter into the basement of the Shack, Mabel pulled the demon spy to the side. 

“Viz, I need to ask something very important of you.” 

“Anything, my lady.” 

“You can’t tell anyone. No matter what.” Then she knelt down and began to whisper into the demon’s ear.   

------

Dimension 52 had fallen. The ground soaked through with dust, debris, and a rainbow of blood from the slaughtered inhabitants streaked across the ruins. Demons stalked the once isolated grounds, cackling at their destruction. With the wards down, Dipper felt a painful onslaught of information, each one of his instincts screaming “danger”. As his head hung down, Mabel’s headphones dangled from his neck and her CD player swung in his pocket. 

The three had been escorted out of Dimension 52 and deep into the bowels of the nightmare realm and made to stand atop the throne of optical illusions, as if on an altar to be sacrificed. Of course Metus had brought them there, demons were stronger in the nightmare realm. There were no physical laws of reality to contain them. Dipper had felt it himself earlier that day, but yet he was still no match against his captors. 

He looked to his left and to his right, where Ford and Jheselbraum had been restrained beside him. Ford had a stern silence about him, a gaze of confidence that this was not his first time getting captured by a murderous demon, and it likely wouldn’t be his last. Meanwhile, Jheselbraum prayed in a language Dipper didn’t know but translated with ease. “Hallowed is your mercy. Hallowed is the place between time and space. Hallowed is our death and resurrection. Hallowed our deliverance. Hallowed is your name.” The more the Oracle prayed, the more nervous Dipper became. 

Dipper struggled against his own captors, a demon that looked like a large and muscular mantis and another that was the physical embodiment of cosmic dread. He pulled against them, fire starting at his fingers and racing up his arms. His wings flapped wildly like renaissance paintings of Icarus falling from the sky. 

“Enough, half-breed,” the mantis growled, yanking Dipper’s head back by his hair.

Ford turned to Dipper, and though his voice was unwavering, the concern still dripped from his tongue. “It’s no use, Dipper. Save your strength.” 

A demon made entirely of interlocking fingers smacked Ford on the back of the head. “Silence, mortal!” 

“Isn’t this Cipher’s old toy?” one of the demons said, who appeared to be some kind of giant rock monster. 

Another one glanced Ford over with large glowing eyes. “I think you’re right! I remember seeing the old guy’s wanted poster in that bar on the corner of Dimension 28:- and the pit of eternal shrieking.” 

“The one with the margaritas salted with bones?” 

“That’s the one!” 

“Now, now,” Ford said. Dipper watched as he tried to flex his fingers around the plasma ray near his hip. “That was a very long time ago. Maybe we can talk this out like… proper eldritch horrors?” 

The demons went silent for a moment. 

“Do you think we can eat him?” asked the one made of fingers. 

Another one with a hammer for a head and nails for arms chuckled to itself. “Why don’t we head down to the Gambling Dimension and play for his parts?”  

“I’m rolling for those extra fingers,” said the one made of, well, fingers. 

“Not going to happen!” Ford shouted. Then he twisted out from the demon holding him back, kicking it with one foot while reaching for the gun strapped to his side. “Eat antimatter, you devils!” As he rose the gun to fire, the giant rock monster reached out with its enormous fingers, and crushed Ford’s arm with a simple pinch. He collapsed onto the throne, gripping his arm that had bent in too many unnatural directions. 

“No! Stop!” Dipper screamed, continuing to pull against his captors again. “Leave him alone!” 

“Enough, all of you,” Metus groaned, making his way through the rubble, the demons going silent and making way for him. Each of his eyes locked onto something in his path, though several pierced against Dipper like stakes. “We are here with a mission. When we are done, you may feast on the mortal as you please. Until then, make use of yourselves.” The demons sighed but walked away obediently. “Now,” Metus paced over, moving past Dipper and to Jheselbraum. Slowly, her 7 eyes raised to meet the hideous demon before her. “I demand a prophecy, Oracle.” 

“Why should I?” she spat. “You already believe yourself successful in your endeavors. What more is there to say?” 

Red hot fire rose with his voice, narrowing in on the Oracle. “Tell me of my power, that my reign will soon wash over the multiverse!” He waited in steely patience, as Jhselbraum grimaced. 

“Your vows are made in pain, violent and void,” she growled. “For true power cannot grow where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep: which will lead you to a worse relapse and a heavier fall.” 

“You insolent fool!” Wrapping a long tentacle-like appendage around her neck, Metus bellowed, “You dare insult me!” 

Her voice broke into a pained whisper as Metus’ grip grew tighter, “You asked and I answered. How you interpret my words is up to you.” 

“Leave her alone!” Dipper shouted, causing Metus to loosen his grip on the Oracle. “It’s me you want, isn’t it? So just get it over with!” 

“Don’t be so hasty, little half-breed. You’ll have plenty of time to die.” He let Jeheselbraum go, letting her gasp and sputter for breath. Coming closer to Dipper, he spoke calmly, with a near-sympathetic twist. “Why don’t we talk, demon to demon? You see, I know a secret. Something your foolish Oracle did not say.” 

Dipper looked to Jheselbraum, one hand placed at her throat as she gave a dry and desperate wheeze. When he spoke, the words tasted forbidden, bait he knew he shouldn’t take but was eager to indulge in. “What is it?” 

 

------ 

The basement was always cold. She clutched at the sleeves of her sweater, wondering if she was trembling because of the temperature or out of fear. The whir of machinery clicked in her ears as if stuck inside an enormous clock, counting down to an event she was unaware of. She gripped tightly to her baseball bat, careful of the rusty nails sticking out of it. The grappling hook clattered against her hip bone. 

She let out a long breath, preparing herself for what she was about to do. 

As she made her way down to the portal, Viz tugged on the back of her sweater and motioned her to kneel down beside him. “Is my lady sure of her plan?” he asked. 

“I am. No matter which option I choose, my family and friends are still in danger. This is whatI have to do.” 

“Lady Mizar?” 

“Yes?” 

He spoke in a language she did not understand, a series of clicks and slides. “⥩⥸⥙⥸⥮_ ⥫⥩⥯   ⥚-⥚ ⥙ ⥚⥠⥧⥜ ⥧⥶⥶⥱” 

“What does that mean?” 

Loyalty is the most noble way to die. It is a phrase of my people, but Lord Metus would say it to keep us in line. Through watching you, I understand what it really means.” 

Mabel looked away from him, biting down on her lip. “Just follow the instructions I gave you.” She paused, realizing the gravity of her situation, “And thank you, this is a lot to ask of someone who I captured an hour ago. Now go.” He nodded and scampered back up the stairs as Mabel made her way to the base of the portal, its great dark shadow devouring her. 

Mabel had come to realize there was no winning in her situation. She was the lure for Metus’s army and as long as the portal was intact, they’d find a way through and destroy the town. But if she closed it, she would condemn her brother and great uncle to die. The choice was easy: without her family’s knowledge, she’d enter into the portal herself, keeping the town safe, and go to find Dipper. If she could get to him, she was certain they’d all make it out alive. 

“Fire it up!” she yelled.

She watched Viz through the glass panel of the control room when the door slammed open. “Wait!” Stan leaned up against the door frame, panting for breath. “Mabel, let’s talk about this.” He scrambled towards the portal. 

“I have to go! There’s no other way! I thought you’d understand, after everything you did to get Grunkle Ford back the first time.” 

“I do understand,” he said with a strained voice, putting a hand to her shoulder. “Kiddo, I understand completely. I was willing to do anything to get my brother home or to protect you kids from Bill, no matter how much it hurt me in the process. And now that he and Dipper are in danger, I’d still be willing to do anything to save them... except lose you. There might not be anything I can do for them, but I can protect you. If I lost all 3 of you today, it would destroy me. I’m not gonna let that happen.” 

“It wouldn’t matter. If I don’t rescue Dipper, Metus will kill him, and then he will find a way to come kill me. We’re out of options. And there is nothing you can do to stop me.” 

“I didn’t come here to stop you,” he said. “I realize there is nothing I can do to stop you.” He gave her a cheesy grin, “You’re stubborn like me.” He moved his hand from her shoulder. “I came here to say that if helping you find them gives us the best chance, then that’s what I’ll do.” 

Without thinking, Mabel dropped the baseball bat and hugged Stan around his chest, not yet tall enough to reach his shoulders. “I promise we’ll all come home safe.” 

“I believe you. Now let’s not waste time. I’ll open the portal for you; I don’t really trust the little demon guy to do it anyway.” 

“Will you be okay on your own?” 

“Eh, Soos and Wendy will figure it out eventually and come down here. Plus, I own ten guns and have a stash of bullets dipped in blessed water.” 

Breaking the hug, Mabel nodded and Stan made his way to the control panel. She gave the thumbs up, and Stan pulled the lever that flushed life into the otherwise empty portal. Her feet lifted off the ground. Weightlessness was a strange feeling. Not particularly a magical feeling, but an unreal one. The eye of the portal swirled into a rainbow, nearly blinding her to look at. She took one last look at Stan, the two of them sharing a nervous but determined gaze. 

The uncertainty swallowed her, as did the portal. 

------ 

 

Metus eased up to Dipper, a pulsing conglomeration of eyes and blood. A twisted tentacle of veins and viscera grew from his body, placing itself just under Dipper’s chin and forcing him to look up at his captor. 

“Don’t listen to him, Dipper,” Ford panted, still gripping his broken arm. “Demons trick or manipulate anyone to get what they want.” 

“Silence him,” Metus said, without a single care. Instead, he kept his focus on Dipper as the demon made of hands placed on over Ford’s mouth, despite his loud and muffled protests. “I’ll admit, I have lied to you, half-breed. But seeing as I am about to kill you, it only seems fair that I offer you one last bit of knowledge.” As Metus leaned in, Dipper could feel the air become stiff and suffocating. “It was I who created the image of Bill Cipher in your head. My voice that whispered in your ear. My words that guided you to destruction.” 

His expression loosened, suddenly nervous, as if being asked a trick question on an exam. “That’s impossible. I don’t believe you.” 

Metus chuckled, and then twisted his voice in a way that Dipper had become all too familiar with.  "⸮Ɉi ƨI" 

Dipper shook his head. “But dreamspeak is supposed to be a dream demon language. You shouldn’t know it. Unless… you’re?” 

“⸮nomɘb mɒɘɿb A” He paced around, dragging his tentacle along Dipper’s neck where Mabel’s headphones still dangled. For a moment, he thought he saw Metus’s body flash from a multi-eyed monstrosity to something circular and flat. “I thought the Oracle would have told you. It was the duty of high ranking dream demons to torment mortals, to get into their heads. I was the best of the best, a master shapeshifter who had a way with using my powers to keep my subordinates in line-- except for one. 

“I was in the mindscape when Cipher burned our dimension to the ground. I returned to nothing but ash and flame. All of my people were dead. I knew that if word got out that I had survived, he would surely come for me next. 

“So I disguised myself as a fear demon and allied myself with other purists: demons who believed in the hierarchy and purity of birth. I was prepared to kill Cipher myself, taking back everything he stole from my people, but then you came along. A pesky, little half-breed who did not belong in our world. 

“When my past attempts to kill you failed, I knew I needed a new approach. I snuck into your sister’s mind when she removed the god’s eye, but you nearly destroyed it with me inside. It then occurred to me that I didn’t need to get into the heads of your family. The only mind I needed was yours, to make you paranoid and susceptible. I had seen your fears once before at our first meeting; I knew it would be easy. So I disguised myself as Cipher, using your nightmares to fuel my impersonation, and patiently waited for the moment your true name would slip out. I influenced the Third Side to capture and torment you. And that was when I got your darling Mizar to whisper your name. Then, all I had to do was wait for you to make yourself vulnerable.” 

Dipper felt himself shrink back, suddenly very small and very helpless. “No.” 

“That’s right. There’s nothing you can do,” Metus leaned in, slimy body ripe with the stench of nightmares as the words slithered from him, “Mason Pines.” The sound made Dipper freeze over, as if trapped in sleep paralysis: except the demon leaning over him was very real. He could hear Ford calling out for him, but was unable to respond. 

Moving back, Metus looked at Dipper with a sudden disinterest. He turned to the other demons, “Take the mortals away. I’m done with them… and release Alcor the Dreambender. He’s no threat now. I’ll finish him myself.” The two demons holding Dipper released him, though he remained perfectly still. All Dipper could do was watch helplessly as Ford and Jheselbraum were dragged from the crumbling throne of optical illusions. 

He couldn’t believe how stupid he had been. Not only about lying to his family for nearly 4 months, nor for not seeing through Metus’s trick when Ford explained Dreamspeak was a language of manipulation. But when he first saw Bill, the nightmares suggested he was being tricked and he ignored them. Jheselbraum even asked him the same thing and he brushed her off. And now, he was going to pay for it.  

“Oh and one more thing I forgot to mention,” Metus said with near delight. “Once I’m through with you, I’ll kill your wretched sister too. But don’t worry, I’ll be sure to toss your corpses together in the heap.” He then drew uncomfortably close, all of his eyes locked onto Dipper ravenously. “Now, let’s, as you said, ‘get this over with’.” 

Full of red fire and fury, Metus extended several more braids of bloody veins to fully encapsulate Dipper, as if to crush him into dust. Metus’s eyes turned a thick and endless black, like ink being dropped in water. His fire burned against Dipper’s skin, causing smooth golden blood to leak out. He could feel every part of him start to crack and burn away, but mostly he could feel Mabel’s CD player bang against his hip and her headphones tighten around his neck. It brought an odd sense of comfort to him that she felt so close… incredibly close… 

Usually, pain was a welcomed experience. Something to remind him that he was somewhat alive and feeling. But when you’re about to die, all you feel is hurt. 

And then there was a click as Mabel’s CD player jostled in his pocket, wrapped up in one of the tentacles of viscera. Music blared through her headphones at full volume, the sound echoing throughout the nightmare realm. 

Metus hissed and turned away from it, “Cease that incessant noise! I can’t focus with their positive attitudes and fake instruments!” He dropped Dipper to the base of the throne as if pained by the sound of the 80’s. Perhaps synth music really did have magic qualities? 

Dipper felt himself jolt, as if being unexpectedly woken up from a dream or having his head dunked in ice water, the trance over him broken. The soft reverb of the music pulsed against his face, a comforting savior. He continued to lay there, surrounded by a pool of sunlight blood, trying to feed off the chaotic energy of the nightmare realm. He had felt it earlier that day, and now it was his only chance. 

He had no choice but to believe he was strong enough. 

Growling with rage, Metus turned to Dipper, “You annoying, little--” 

The nightmare realm split open. A rush of light and color flooded into the thick, dark chaos. 

Mabel blinked her eyes open, baseball bat gripped in hand. She hovered in the air with a sense of grace and control, her hair caught up in the lack of gravity. Looking around, her confusion turned into immediate fear. She gave a very pale-faced grin. “Don’t mind me, I’m just passing through. Just a casual pedestrian in this realm of utter horror.” 

“Bring her to me,” Metus snarled. 

“Uh-oh.” Mabel barely had time to brace herself before the demon swarm descended upon her. She brought her bat up and swung it with as much force as she could muster, a thick tidal wave of soft, golden flames pouring from it. Some of the demons reeled back, bodies smoking and eyes blinded. Though it wouldn’t be enough. For every adversary she pushed back another would come forward, until eventually she was caught and restrained, baseball bat tossed into the void of the nightmare realm. 

Still unable to stand, synth music blaring in Dipper’s ears. Metus came forward, leering over him. “I’ve had enough of this noise.” He set Mabel’s CD player ablaze, causing the music to drone and distort into a silence. 

As Mabel was brought forward, she was forced down to her knees against the throne. As she huffed for breath, she looked over at Dipper, struggling to stand up. He didn’t like watching how her face changed from a vicious grimace to wide-eyed and weepy. She’d seen him bleed before, but not like this. Not with the blood oozing from cracks in his skin, like a shattered mirror or crumbling brick wall. 

Metus glanced between them, eyes literally split in both their directions. “What an interesting turn of events.” 

“Surprised to see me?” Mabel snapped. 

“Surprised that you would so willingly throw yourself into death’s grasp; leaving an open portal for me to invade your dimension.” 

“You don’t know me very well, do you? Because I came to kick your butt.” Kicking upwards, she planted one of her feet into Metus’s eyes. 

Reeling back, Metus grabbed onto Mabel. His voice billowed and churned against the silence of the nightmare realm, “I̸͈͖͕͈̗͗͂́͆͗̓̓͘̚͘͜ͅ ̵̧͇͎͋̒̂̌̆̈́̎̈́̋̏̃̕w̴̨̢̦̙̙͕͍̲̫͈̻̉i̴̧̛̯̠̭̯̫͙̜̪̘̣͈̦̋̆̓̾l̷̡͍̱̥̳͈̰͌̀̽͊͜ḽ̸͖̦̙̜͈̰̝̎̋̉̂̋̋̾̇̚͘͜ ̵̗̳̣͍̼͚̹̞̘͕̣̱̯̺̿̄͗̈́͗́̉̈́̋͑̂̋̚d̶̨̡͖͈͉͖̘̙̤̎̈́͒͒͊̅͘͠e̸̹͚̜̹̩͘v̷̝̂͂̋̏̈̂̋̽̕ǫ̶̠̩̺̒ͅͅư̷̧̟̮͖̿͛̑͋̂̈̏́̉r̵̲̪̬̱̱̱̣͑̿͌̈̄̚ ̶̧̰̥̠̝̺̗͇͇͌̕͜ý̶͙̫͔̦͍͎͍̬͖͈̞̼̀̋͝ͅǫ̸̹̲͚͓̞̿̃̋̽͊̊̓̍̕͠͠ư̷̯͕͇͚̪͕͕̞̌͗̈̐́̎̄̚͘͝r̶̡̬̹͓̲̝͊̒͘͘͝ ̵̡̛͈͕͎̻̈́̈́̇s̸̡̨͈̪͓̝̯͔̈́̓͊̇͐̆̈́̍̓̾̕͝͠ờ̸̝̪̼̥̤̘̠̬̭͈̲̝̼̭̙͆́͊̂͘u̴̝̼̙̠̔̋͋͊̿̅̉̽̀l̸̮͓̬̘̖͇̦̥͚͕̦̯̓̋̿̊͜ͅ!̸̞̘͍͉͖͎͙͉̫͊͂̓̍̋̍͘"̷̢͔̗͔̙̳͖̜̮͎̮͙͎̥̜̏̍̿̂͛̒͛̚̚̕͝͝ 

She struggled and fought, slamming her fists against him, fire sparking at her palms but not doing any damage. She closed her eyes and turned away, too afraid to face what would happen to her next, when something bright struck against Metus. 

Dipper rose to his feet, unsteady at first, but then with a confidence and rage unseen before. The shadows around him crawled, manifesting out of nowhere. And he glowed, wafts of blue fire bouncing off of him, like a burning star.

 "̷̮̪̼̩̇̀̋̚L̴̯̟͌̀͘͝e̷̦̿t̵̳͋͗͐͆ ̴͙͖̭̝̈̔͌ḧ̵̢̭̞̞́è̷̢̱͈̐̽̕ͅr̵̨͖̳̽̌͐̑ ̵͖̂̐ġ̷̣̈́̋o̶͇̊̿.̷̡̺̙͊"̴̊͝ T̸͚̖̉h̸͇̹͒̀i̸̡̬̓̑s̸̠̗͘ ̵̗̣̾̇i̴̪͝s̸̭̽ ̴̘̾b̴̼̹̏ě̸̱̥̍ṱ̷̄ẃ̷̯e̶̙͌ẻ̵͖͍n̵̨̫͛͠ ̴̰y̶̲̍o̵̖͋ú̴͇͘ ̷̺̯͠à̸͎̺͒ṇ̴̍d̵̪͝ ̶̲̱̓̕m̷̰͌e̸̝͘͠.̸̝͇̂"̶̧̘̽̋

Metus sighed, “You don’t know when to stand down do you? Very well. This shouldn’t take long.” 

Dipper didn’t have any time to respond. It was a flash of fire and fury and Metus lunged at him, with multiple spindly arms and eyes full of nightmares. “Go find Grunkle Ford! Get out of here!” he shouted to Mabel, trying to fend off the murderous evil demon attacking him. 

“But what about you?” she countered. 

“Just g̸̤̗ö̵̫́̈̋̂!̵̫̒͂"̵̙̞̏̄͑ ̵̩̦̈̌͑͘͜  

Realizing it was not in her best interest to get involved in a demonic show-down, Mabel leapt her way through the anti-gravity, blasting any adversary before they could get too close. She crept along the side of a floating asteroid, taking notice of her great uncle and a 7-eyed woman. 

“If my arm wasn’t broken, I’d break every part of your face,” Ford shouted at a group of demons, holding the two of them hostage. 

The demons all looked to each other, unenthused by his threat. A gelatinous demon gave a shrug. “I don’t even have a face.” 

Mabel sucked in a deep breath and pushed herself off from the asteroid. “Not an issue for me!” Pale golden flames bouncing off the bat, she struck down the nearest demons, giving Ford an opportunity to retrieve his plasma ray and fire into the crowd with his good arm. 

“Mabel?” he asked. ”What are you doing here?” 

She dug the nails of the bat down into the back of a demon. “I knew you were in trouble, so I came to help. But we need to get out of here before our portal closes!” 

One of the demons in the hoard chuckled, showing off its needle-like teeth. “You aren’t going anywhere.”

Ford looked over his shoulder, an asteroid passing by them. But from inside one of its craters, a yellow light was beaming. It was the flashlight Ford had dropped when that creature attacked them. He leaned over to Mabel and  pointed to the crater with his good arm, “I need you to blast that crater with fire!” 

Without time to question his plan she raised her bat, and used it to swing a line of fire right into the crater, letting it whiz passed the demons. “You missed!” one teased. 

Multiple pairs of green glowing eyes blinked open as it screeched, a sound that blasted through the entire nightmare realm. It emerged from the cave, claws first, then scaly torso, and finally its head, breathing with a violent anger. Lurching from its cave, the creature reared at the swarm of demons, descending down on them with its mouth wide in hunger. 

Ford grabbed Mabel’s arm, “We need to go, while they’re distracted.” 

“How did you know it was there? And who’s this?” She pointed to the Oracle. Jheselbraum gave a simple wave. 

“We’ve had a long day. I’ll explain later,” Ford said simply, as the three made their way to the open portal. 

 

Meanwhile, the fight raged on. So much blood had been drawn that Dipper was practically smeared in gold. He hadn’t felt tired in so long, as if he were about to collapse, his very essence being frayed and scattered. He was unraveling like a thread being pulled from cloth. 

Grabbing Dipper by the shoulders, Metus slammed him down against the throne of optical illusions, causing more cracks to form within it. Dipper struggled to stand back up, pushing and kicking furiously. “It’s no use, half-breed,” Metus taunted. “I’m stronger than you are. So long as I have the memory of your name, I will end you.” 

That was it. That’s all his true name was. A memory. Memories could be removed, destroyed. He had done it before with Mabel. And if Metus could use his powers on Dipper, who said it wouldn’t work the other way around? As Ford told him earlier, this was the nightmare realm. There were no laws of reality, nothing left to hold him back. It was time to see what he was capable of.

He raised one hand, letting the fire engulf it.  "̸̛̻̹͕̯̠̗͐̅̈͂̆̄ͅT̵̤̮͙̓͐͐h̸̨̜̫͕̭̗̥̗̿͛̑̀͆̽͘ę̴͖̹̄n̸̡̢̪̯̳̞̣̥̎͂̿̎͘͝ ̷̪͎̥͕̤̜̩̩͠͝Í̵̠̞̻̔̈'̶̧̺̂̇́l̵̨̪̠̒l̸̜̪̺̻͗͛̇͊̅̔̀͜ ̵̛͕̐͆̊̈̊t̸̖̥̘̲̯̙͔͎͗ả̴̖̯͑̕k̶̡̳̙͎̹͔̖ȩ̷̦͙̩̟̹͑̓̽̈́ ̶̧̨̱̻̗́i̶̱̣̦̤̫̊̍͘ṫ̷̯̟̜̦̒̎͠ ̴̩̭̑̆̄͠b̷̦̟͑̐a̴͍̖̮̼̗͖̟̒̈́̈́̾͛́̈́c̷̣̰̹͔̽̾̋̑̑̓k̷̛̖̋́̅͜͝!̵͖̤̲̝͝"̸̠̺̣̥͕̽ 

The shadows around him rose, clamping onto Metus like chains as Dipper pried at the memory, floating at the surface of Metus’s consciousness. It was his name, it belonged to him. He ripped it free, like pulling two magnets apart, and then without a moment to waste-- crushed the memory of his true name like glass. 

Metus paused a moment, not angry, but with many eyes wide and curious. “Impossible.” 

“Maybe I’m a better demon than you thought,” Dipper muttered before prying himself free. And for a moment, he hovered over the throne, darkly burning against the endless terrors of the nightmare realm. 

As he turned to leave, Metus called after him, “Perhaps you are right. There might be something dark within you yet.” 

Dipper bit down on his bottom lip, ripe with the taste of blood. He turned away, refusing to justify the statement any further, and went off towards the portal. 

Looking over her shoulder, Mabel caught sight of Dipper moving towards them. Abandoning Ford’s side, she tried to drift towards him in zero gravity. “Dipper!” She latched onto his arm, the flame’s surrounding him dying out and turning to dark ash. A few tear droplets rose from her eyes and drifted into empty space. “Oh my god! What happened? Are you okay?” 

“I’m fine,” he replied, though she could tell he was tired and unfocused. Then he smiled, “Thanks for the rescue. I would have been done-for if you didn’t show up.” 

“Yeah, well, I couldn’t leave all the fun to you and Ford. Though,” she looked him up and down, the final feathers of all consuming flame gone out, “I don’t think you need me much anymore.”

He shook his head, “Believe me, I think I need you more than ever.”  They clung to each other’s arms, catching up to Ford and Jheselbraum, desperate to be back home. 

 

------ 

 

Another demon approached Metus, “My lord, the mortals have escaped and are headed towards that portal. Shall we go after them?” 

The multi-eyed demon watched, as the small, black-winged demon met up with the others and quickly ushered themselves towards the rampant and swirling portal. A mouth of multiple teeth spread across him, only with the purpose of smiling. “No… let them go. For true power cannot grow where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep. I think we need to bring the little half-breed to our side.” 

He watched eagerly, already formulating his next move, as the four disappeared from the nightmare realm and the portal warped shut.