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The Devil You Know

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Sixty degrees that come in threes.
Watches from within birch trees.
Saw his own dimension burn.
Misses home and can't return.
Says he's happy. He's a liar.
Blame the arson for the fire.
If he wants to shirk the blame,
He need only invoke my name.
One way to absolve his crime.
A different form, a different time.

^ ^ ^ ^

Summer had always been Dipper Pines’s favorite season. Though, with age and responsibilities, he no longer got much of a “break”, the longer days and warmer weather left the brunet with an unspoken promise of adventure.

The sun was still clinging to the horizon, even though the dull rays were, by this point, mostly obscured by the dark clouds. The pattering of the rain acted as white noise behind the music lowly pumping through the speakers of Dipper’s old Subaru Outback. It had been a few years since the new master’s grad had been able to visit the sleepy town of Gravity Falls, Oregon, but as he drove past its infamous 'Nothing to See Here' welcome sign, he smiled seeing how little it had changed.

Each building looked just as worn, each street sign just as beaten up, and each person he passed still waved pleasantly beneath their umbrellas even though they probably couldn't make out who he was through the slight downpour. It was a small town seemingly untouched by time- save a few new houses here and there at the edge of the town limits- and it made a warm sense of nostalgia settle in Dipper's chest.

It really had been too long since he last visited.

The main road to the Mystery Shack was still cracked and stretched on with street lamps set miles apart, making the forest that lined it all the more ominous. A spark of excitement lit in the pit of Dipper’s stomach whenever he chanced a glance through the thick of it as he drove. He couldn't wait to get out there again and fill the blank pages of his own Journal 1, given to him by Ford the Christmas after their first summer.

That following year, Dipper religiously worked to fill it cover to cover. Sadly as the years passed and more and more of his time was taken up by his studies or jobs, the thick leather bound journal spent more time on the bookcase slowly collecting dust than out on a daring adventure.

But not this summer, Dipper promised himself as he packed it on the top of his suitcase. It was time to re-spark the fire of that boy set on unraveling the secrets of the universe. True, between himself and his Grunkle Ford, there weren't many- if any- mysteries left in Gravity Falls to uncover. Still it'd been so long that, even if there was nothing new to add, it wouldn't hurt refreshing himself with some of the aforementioned mysteries.

He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen a leprechorn or had a conversation with a gnome- maybe 3, no 4 years ago? What even was it about? And what was his name again? Josh? Jim? Hank? Well whoever it was, Dipper mentally apologized for forgetting them and whatever they'd been talking about.

Point being, Dipper Pines’s encounters with the supernatural had become few and far between- a fact he hadn't thought much about until he was surrounded by the thick forest that had shaped so much of who he was and how he came to face the world around him.

Head on and steadfast.

Thanks to the time he had spent in this not- actually- so- sleepy- town, Dipper learned to think on his feet, to look for solutions in unusual places, and- despite the warnings he'd been spammed with from day one- to trust in himself and the ones he held near.

Nothing was more important than family- whether they be blood or water- because as long as they held onto that bond, they could do anything. Like, say, defeat a maniacal being of pure energy and boundless power.

Yeah, nothing brings people together quite like saving the universe.

Dipper passed the first sign for the “Amazing Mystery Shack" and smiled; only a few more miles to go and he'd be back at the only other place he’d ever considered home.

Soos ended up selling the old shack back to Grunkle Stan after his Abuelita fell ill; he and Melody moved back to her house to take care of her. He still worked there- often stepping in as the Man of Mystery himself- but truth be told, he seemed a lot happier without the burden of keeping up the business with everything going on. Plus, Stan seemed all too happy to have it back.

Ford continued his work unlocking the strange phenomena of the most mysterious places in the world. Apparently they’d found a lot of uncharted territory while sailing, and he was making it his personal mission to document any and all the weirdness he came across. So, when he and Stan had finally made it back to Gravity Falls, Ford decided to use the old shack as homebase while he spent the rest of the time traveling the world.

But these last couple weeks in August he came home to spend time with the great niece and nephew he hadn’t seen in years. At least, he hadn’t seen Dipper in quite some time. Mabel, on the other hand, made it her mission to come up at least once each summer to spend time with her friends, and there were a couple occasions Ford was actually there.

The signs for the shack became closer together as the storm worsened.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Dipper was blinded by a flash of light almost immediately followed by a deafening crack of thunder that shook the air around him. Mabel and his grunkles weren’t expecting him until late, but he wanted to surprise them by getting there early, and, as he squinted at the road through his windshield wipers on the highest setting, Dipper was thankful he’d made that decision. The storm hadn’t even been on the radar when he checked the weather before he finished packing his car, so there was no telling how bad it could get before the night ended. Dipper hopefully would be able to pull up to the old shack before any of them had a chance to worry about him driving in this weather.

As if on queue, his phone lit up on the seat beside him. A quick side glance at the screen and he could make his sister’s contact photo: she and Waddles squished together in the small frame, one eye closed from her cheek pressed tightly against the pig’s. Dipper sighed and blindly reached over for the device, but accidently ended up pushing it onto the floor.

“Dammit,” he cursed to himself, glancing quickly between it and the empty road ahead of him. He took a breath and reached down to the passenger floor, fingers easily clasping around the edges of the small phone.

Dipper straightened back up, a proud smirk on his lips that twisted into something of a silent scream as he was blinded by two bright headlights coming directly for him. He swerved into the other lane on instinct, not accounting for the heavy layer of water accumulated on the surface of the road. Dipper’s car hydroplaned off the road entirely and sent him tailspinning toward the forest’s edge. The vehicle came to a stop when the passenger side of the car slammed into a tree- Dipper’s entire body ricocheting with the impact.

Everything went black.

After what felt like a lifetime, Dipper felt his eyes slowly blink open. The world was too loud, yet far too quiet, it was stoic, yet everything seemed to be spinning, but still, the brunet forced himself to move. His arms felt like lead as his hand pulled on the door handle; he barely stopped himself from crying out as he made himself slide out from where he was sandwiched between the hard airbag and even harder seat. Dipper was greeted with heavy rain on his skin- the cold drops helping the senses come back to the boy.

The first thing he noticed was the horn blaring beneath the consistent hammering of rain on pavement; the next was the distinct taste of blood in his mouth and the heavy smell of burnt rubber, mixing with the strong scent of the wet forest that hung in the air; there was the general ache throbbing from his very bones, but, as far as he could tell, nothing seemed broken or bloodied.

Dipper turned back to assess the damage. The car’s hood was crumpled from the right corner almost to the dashboard, the windshield was shattered, the frame bent, a tire had flown off into the grass. Well, there’d be no saving the car, but hopefully his things were alright. Hell, he was lucky he was alright, Dipper knew that, but was the other driver?

The brunet looked frantically over his shoulder to see a truck off the other side of the road. From where he was, Dipper couldn’t tell if the truck was okay, but as he stumbled across he saw that it was, in fact, buried in the treeline.

“H-hello?” Dipper croaked, throat constricted and too dry . He took another breath before trying again, “Is anyone there?”

A strangled cry came from the cabin of the truck and Dipper’s breath caught in his throat. He slid down the small hill off the road, wincing when he came to a stop, and ran- as best his legs could carry him- to the driver’s door.

“Oh God,” he began panicking when he saw the girl’s head lolled against the window, “Um- h-hang on, I’m going to open the door!”

The stranger nodded weakly, pushing away from the window as Dipper opened the door.

“Are you okay?” He asked breathlessly.

The girl looked down at him- eyes dazed, frizzy black hair in her face, “I- I think so?” She made to step out, but winced when she tried to twist her body, “Help me?”

“Of course!” Dipper nodded, “Um, just, slide out, I guess, I’ve got you.”

The stranger nodded, slipping herself out of her seat. Dipper braced himself before sliding an arm beneath the girl’s legs and wrapping the other around her narrow waist. She winced as he gently brought her to ground to lean against the back tire of the truck.

“Thank you,” She smiled weakly, tucking a chuck of her raven hair behind an ear, revealing a pair of icy green eyes.  

Dipper flushed and smiled back awkwardly, “Um, I don’t know if you should be thanking me at all,” he rubbed at his arm, “I mean, if I hadn’t gone after my phone neither of us would be like this.” He sighed, dropping his head, “I’m so sorry.”

Warm fingers slid beneath his chin, prompting the boy to lift his chin to the girl. “But if you hadn’t,” she started softly, a sweet southern drawl finding its way into her voice, “we never would have met, and I’ve been waiting such a long time to meet you, Dipper Pines.”

Dipper furrowed his brow, “How do you-”

Before he could finish, he felt something blunt and hard at the back of his head; and for the second time that night, Dipper's world went dark.