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Echo Falls

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The dull hum of the diesel engine was starting to feel like a lullaby as Dipper rested his head against the bus window, watching the trees zip by as the vehicle rolled down the highway. He was bored. Despite the glee that he felt in his heart about returning to Gravity Falls to see all of his friends, the bus ride was nothing but a bore. The drone of the engine. The bumps in the highway. The vibration of the wheels. The… nuclear fallout that had just exited a certain pig’s backside.
“Waddles!” Dipper gasped, pulling his shirt over his nose and mouth as the pig looked up at him innocently. “Mabel!” he barked at his twin sister, who sat staring out the opposite window, “what did you feed him?”
“Why brother,” Mabel responded, turning to face him with a gas mask firmly clamped to her face, “I have no idea what you are talking about.”
Waddles’ bowels rumbled, and Dipper found his nose struck by a fresh assault of noxious fumes.
“Mabel! This is inhuman! Give me the mask!”
“Never!” Mabel retorted, sliding away from her brother and firmly gripping the mask with both hands.
Dipper gritted his teeth in frustration, then faked a glance to the front of the bus.
“Oh my God Mabel! Isn’t that Jacob Lofland sitting up there?”
“Where?!” Mabel’s head darted forward to see what Dipper had figmented, and he
grabbed the mask’s air filter and twisted it off. Mabel inhaled and immediately started to choke. “AAAAHHHHHH!!! Oh God! Waddles! Friendly fire! FRIENDLY FIRE!!!”
Waddles expressed his concern with a third flatulent rumble.

The next several miles went by with an open window and silence between the siblings. Dipper continued to gaze out at the roadside, noting each sign and grid road that they passed, trying to figure out if they were almost to their destination. A ruffle of paper beside him caught his attention and he looked over to his sister.
“What you looking at?” he asked, leaning in closer. Mabel looked up from the papers, then away from her brother with a dismissive smile.
“Oh, just letters I got from Candy and Grenda.” she said, holding them up a bit for him to see. Dipper noted the cute little drawings on Candy’s letters and marveled at how anyone could make out anything from the chicken scratch on Grenda’s.
“They have a busy year?” he asked. Mabel folded the letters and put them back in her bag.
“Oh yeah. Grenda spent Christmas in Germany with her Royal Boyfriend and Candy started taking after school classes from Fiddleford. She apparently wants to learn to make her own giant robots.”
Dipper chuckled, wondering how well that had been going. Knowing the two of them, he wouldn’t be surprised if Gravity Falls would be host to Giant Robot Wars in the near future.
“And did you keep them informed with everything you were up to this year?” he asked, and Mabel looked back at him in feigned shock.
“Why Dipper, how dare you ask me such a thing. Of course my BFF’s have been privy to all of my goings on this year.”
“Did you tell them about the Cyclist?”
Mabel looked away, embarrassed. “Well…. I….”
“How about the Painter? Or the Diver? What about the Mime?”
“I told you I am not good a charades! How was I supposed to know he was actually choking?” Mabel snapped, her eyes filled with regret. Dipper shrugged and leaned back against the window again.
“Lucky for you that Street Performer knew CPR.”
“Yeah,” Mabel grumbled, crossing her arms and pouting. “Lucky.”
Dipper shook his head and looked back out the window, his heart skipping a beat as he saw a sign; Gravity Falls, 12 miles. He reached into his own bag and pulled out the own letter he had received on the last day of the previous summer. Carefully unfolding it, he smiled as he read all of the names on the paper, finally setting his eyes on the bold message in the middle.
See you next summer.
“Almost there” Dipper whispered to himself as Mabel leaned over his shoulder to read the letter herself. “We are almost there.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The bus’ brakes screeched and hissed to a stop in front of the bus stop on the outskirts of the town, and the Pines’ twins grabbed their bags, each shivering with excitement as they rushed down the walkway to the bus door. Dipper turned sharply at the top of the steps leading off the bus and, as luck would have it, hooked his left foot behind his right ankle. With a quick noise of regret he went face first out of the bus, quite literally kissing the ground as his feet came dangerously close to tapping the top of his head. Dipper slowly got to his feet, face and lower back aching as his sister laughed behind him, though he noted that she took her time stepping off the bus. The twins looked around the bus stop, noting that no one was around as the driver got off and started getting the rest of their belonging from the undercarriage.
“Where is everyone?” Mabel asked, a note of hurt in her voice. “They did know that we were coming today, right?”
“I’m pretty sure we told them it would be today,” Dipper replied, just as confused as his sister. The bus driver set their remaining bags down beside them and climbed back into the vehicle. Dipper continued to look around for any sign of their friends as the bus engine roared behind him, the brakes released and the giant hunk of metal rumbled away down the road.
“Dipper! We have been forsaken!” Mabel cried out in anguish, dropping to her knees and reaching for the sky. “They have turned their backs on us! Whatever shall we do?”
“For starters, why don’t you try turning around?” came a familiar feminine voice from behind them, and both twins whipped around. On the other side of the road stood Wendy, Fiddleford, Soos, Candy, Grenda and, surprisingly, Pacifica. Wendy stood out a bit out in front of the rest, arms crossed, a coy smile on her face. “Welcome back guys.” she said, and both twins rushed across the road to the group as everyone broke out into laughter and salutations.
“Dude!” Soos shouted as he picked up Waddles and hugged him, “I have got some places that you are going to love!”
“You honestly thought we would forget the day you two were coming back man?” Wendy asked, giving Dipper a playful punch to the arm as Mabel, Candy and Grenda dissolved into a inaudible storm of gossip.
“I would hope not,” Dipper said sheepishly, feeling his cheeks burn slightly. “You guys got us pretty good there.” He took another look around, seeing that Soos, Candy, Waddles, Mabel and Grenda were now wandering off down the road, Soos carrying all of their luggage. “Everyone else busy?”
“Yeah, Robbie’s parents have him helping out with the family business, and the rest of the gang are gone for the remainder of this week on a road trip to the most haunted houses in the region.”
“Welcome back Dipper,” Pacifica spoke up, and Dipper turned to look at her. She was no longer in the usual high end clothes that he had grown so accustomed to seeing her in, instead in jeans and a plain white t-shirt. Her demeanor also seemed a lot more timid than before.
“Hey Pacifica,” he replied awkwardly, “how uh… how you been?”
“Oh you’ll like this,” Wendy chipped in, “her family is now working for Fiddleford at the Northwest Manor!”
“Wendy!” Pacifica snapped, blushing. “It’s not like I wanted to do that! It’s just… it was the only way we could keep living there. It is not like we are poor or anything. We just… didn’t want to move out of the town is all.”
“And they know the house way better than I ever will!” Fiddleford piped up behind Dipper, making him jump and yelp. “So the help is quite welcome! And I do have to say, they clean up real good after my inventions when they blow up rather than do as they are supposed to!”
“Your family,” Dipper looked to Pacifica, an eyebrow raised and his voice full of disbelief, “cleaning?”
Pacifica leaned close and whispered into his ear, “Daddy knows a really skilled cleaning crew. He just calls them in anytime we have to do actual work.”
“Why does that not surprise me?” Dipper whispered back, shaking his head.
“Well, it is good to see you again Dipper, but I best be gett’n back to my work.” Fiddleford said, turning with a slap of his knee and wandering off into the woods along the roadside.
“.... is he going the right direction?” Dipper asked as Wendy and Pacifica started walking after Mabel and the others.
“Nope, but don’t worry. He will make it back in one piece.” Wendy casually replied. Dipper shrugged and hurried after the two.
“So anything else new around here?” he asked, and Wendy shrugged.
“Not really. I still work at the Shack, Soos has made a few changes around the place… We are still cleaning up after the mess that Bill made, but it’s almost all back to normal at this point.” Wendy looked back to Dipper and paused, smiling. “You stinker! You got taller!”
“Well, yeah.” Dipper said sheepishly as Wendy stopped beside him to eye him up, the two of them almost eye to eye. He looked to Pacifica and realized that she had not grown much, easily a good three inches shorter than both him and Mabel.
“You had better stop buster,” Wendy said, giving him another playful punch, “You are not allowed to get taller than me.”
“No promises.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Well, that’s everything dudes.” Soos said as they all walked out of the Mystery Shack, the twins’ belongings back in the upstairs guest room.
“Soos,” Mabel asked, her brow furrowed as her brain worked, “Why did you attach a beaver to a chainsaw?”
“To make it more effective at cutting trees.” Soos replied, clearly having thought that his conclusion just made sense.
“Just don’t question it Mabel,” Wendy said, a note of defeat in her voice. “It makes sense to Soos, and it brings in the crowd. I just stopped asking questions a long time ago.”
“How do people find this stuff interesting?” Pacifica asked as she, Candy and Grenda walked out of the Shack. “Seriously, I feel like I lost brain cells by walking through that place!”
“Oh no! I’ll go look for them!” Grenda shouted, turning and rushing back into the Shack.
“Grenda no! That’s not what she meant!” Candy shouted to no avail, the bigger girl already back inside. Pacifica face palmed as everyone else laughed.
“Well, we had best get going,” Wendy said, looking out over the trees as the sun had begun to set, just touching the tops of the trees. “Come on girls.”
“See you guys tomorrow!” Mabel shouted as they all started away from the Shack, Grenda suddenly bursting through the front door of the Shack, a hand raised up in triumph.
“I found them!” she shouted as she ran up next to Pacifica and opened her hand.
“Grenda those are rat droppings!” Pacifica screamed as she ran ahead of the group, bringing a fresh wave of laughter from everyone else.

Dipper turned and looked at the Mystery Shack, feeling a slight ping of sorrow in his heart. He sighed, and his sister heard the note.
“Everything alright bro bro?”
He turned back to her and Soos, trying to smile.
“Yeah, it’s just… it feels kinda empty without Grunkle Stan and Great Uncle Ford here, you know?”
“Well, I don’t know if we should feel happy or insulted by that statement. What do you think, Sixer?”
Dipper turned and felt his heart skip a beat. Stan and Stanford were standing beside the Mystery Shack, smiling in the setting sunlight.
“Grunkle Stan! Uncle Ford!” he shouted as he ran towards them, causing Mabel to turn and squeal in delight. The two twins rushed to their great uncles and the four embraced as Stan laughed.
“I take it you kids didn’t know we were coming back at the same time, did ya?” he asked as he ruffled Mabel’s hair.
“No, we had no idea!” Mabel replied, smiling ear to ear as Waddles made his way over and chomped onto Stan’s pant leg.
“Where all did you go?” Dipper asked Ford, his eyes glistening in wonder. “What sort of adventures did you two have? Did you discover anything new?”
“Easy there Dipper,” Ford said in a soft voice. “There will be plenty of time to discuss these past 11 months. For now, why don’t we all take a walk through the Mystery Shack?”
“Soos!” Stan shouted as they turned to the Shack, “You better not have changed anything!”
“Actually,” Mabel started, “We already had a look through the Shack. Everything is... pretty much the same as it was.”
“Oh,” Stan said, looking slightly hurt, “I see.” He inhaled deeply, and quickly returned to his usual self. “Ah well, who cares what’s going on in there? Come on Ford, let’s tell the kids all about what we were doing!”
“I thought we agreed to wait until tonight to talk with them-” Stanford started before Stan cut him off.
“The sun is setting bro! It is night time!”
Stanford sighed and shrugged, and Waddles suddenly began to shake and groan.
“Uh oh,” Mabel said kneeling down next to the pig and petting his back. “I think Waddles isn’t feeling too good.”
“Weird, it’s never gotten sick before,” Stan said, looking down at Waddles.
“Might have been the Chipotle filled Donuts we threw out last night dude!” Soos said as he walked over to them and picked Waddles up. “Come on dude, let’s get you to a toilet and some Tums. Those always help me after a bad binge.” Soos carried Waddles to the Shack, and Mabel followed close behind.
“Why did he have donuts filled with…. Never mind, I don’t want to know.” Stanford said, rubbing between his eyes with one hand and shaking the other one in front of him, as though to waft the thought away. “Shall we have our talk now then Dipper?”
“Yes! Absolutely! Please!” Dipper felt himself jumping as he answered, and he didn’t care. New stories from Stanford was better than Christmas and his Birthday combined as far as he was concerned.
“Let’s take a stroll through the woods,” Stan suggested, pointing to the path behind the Shack. “Be a nice change of pace to walk on familiar territory as opposed to the stupid mountain trails.”
“Hey,” Stanford said as they all started into the woods, “You were the one who insisted that we spend a week in the Rockies looking for that man’s buried treasure.”
“And we could have found it if you would have been helping me!” Stan snapped back, and Dipper chuckled. Good to see that things hadn’t changed much.
“So where all did you guys go?” he asked as they turned off the main path onto a side one.
“Well first we went to Scotland to see if we could find old Nessie,” Stanford started, brushing a pine branch out of the way, “sad to say that Nessie is now in a better place.”
“You don’t mean you-” Dipper started before Stan cut him off.
“Hey, don’t look at me like that! The old girl was long gone when we found her at the bottom of the lake. And, despite my suggestion, we left her there to rest.”
“For the best.” Stanford said.
“Those bones would have gotten us a fortune!” Stan snapped.
“Anyways,” Stanford said with some strain in his voice, “After that we tried searching the Andes for the Yeti, but there was a massive blizzard in the region, so we were forced to cancel those plans.”
“And then we tried to figure out what is causing the weird stuff around the Bermuda Triangle,” Stan said, turning past an old oak tree and heading completely off the trail now, blazing his own path. “Ford made some doohickey that scanned the ocean floor as we sailed the area and-”
“Aliens?!?” Dipper asked, his voice cracking slightly in his excitement.
“Uh… yeah. Aliens.” Stan said, sounding a little off put. “Just spoil the answer, but whatever.”
“Sorry Grunkle Stan,” Dipper apologized, feeling a little shameful.
“Three alien ships actually,” Stanford picked up, “In the shape of-”
“A triangle!” Dipper shouted again, then slapped his hands over his mouth. “Sorry.”
Stanford laughed. “It is alright Dipper. That answer should have been obvious.”
“It still doesn’t mean you should be shouting out answers like that,” Stan said, turning to look at Dipper. “You asked us to tell you what we were up to, so you should let us actually tell yo-OUCH!”
Stan stopped dead in his tracks and began to hop on one foot, clutching the other as he cursed under his breath.
“What’s wrong?” Dipper asked, rushing forward.
“I hit my shin on something!” Stan answered, testing his weight on his injured leg before looking to the bush he had walked into. Dipper pushed the brush aside and jumped back, screaming.
“BILL!”
“What?” Stanford shouted, drawing his gun from his jacket and rushing in front of his nephew. In the foliage, leaning at an angle in the dirt was Bill Cipher, but he appeared to be-
“Petrified….” Stanford said, lowering the gun slightly and taking a cautious step forward.
“Petrified, like what? He is made of stone?” Stan asked, walking up to the statue and tapping his knuckles against Bill’s hat.
“It would appear that way,” Stanford said, putting the gun away and kneeling down to examine the statue closer. Dipper walked around the statue, examining it. Bill’s eye was wide, with one hand outstretched as though he had been frozen mid-handshake. In the back of his mind, Dipper recalled the last thing he had heard Bill say, the image of his sister’s Shooting Star appearing in the demon’s eye as he had proclaimed that one of them was about to die. A shiver ran up his spine, and Dipper backed away from the statue.
“I don’t think we should be here,” he said, looking around. “We should leave. Come back tomorrow when the sun is up. Figure out what to do with him then.”
“Dipper’s right,” Stanford said, looking back in the direction they had come from. “We will come back and deal with this later. We can’t just leave Bill out like this. Even if it is just a statue, we can’t take any risks when it comes to Cipher.”
“Sounds like a plan to me.” Stan said, turning away from the statue, then looking back at it. “Heh, look at the poor sucker, hand reaching out as though someone would ever want to help him.”
Stanford narrowed his eyes at Bill’s hand suspiciously.
“Hey Bill!” Stan suddenly stepped towards the statue, “What say we shake on how badly we dooped ya last summer?” Stan reached out to grab the statue’s hand, and just as his hand was about to touch the stone Dipper saw a faint blue flame spark between their palms.
“Grunkle Stan, don’t!” Dipper shouted, diving forward, but it was too late. Stan’s hand grasped Bill’s, and the area was engulfed in an explosion of bright blue light. Dipper felt his face crash into the dirt as Stanford yelled in shock. The light faded, and Dipper opened his eyes, finding a twig in his mouth from his landing. Getting up to his hands and knees, he spit the twig out and looked around. Stanford was blinking rapidly, as though to get his vision back and Stan was flat on his back, twitching slightly. The statue of Bill remained where it was, unchanged.
“Grunkle Stan!” Dipper said, getting to his feet and rushing to his uncle. Stan grunted a bit and blinked, his eyes rolling oddly in his head.
“Stan!” Stanford shouted, rushing over and kneeling next to his brother. He shook Stan a few times, then hit him with a heavy slap to the side of the head. Stan blinked and his eyes focused onto Stanford.
“OW! What the hell was that for?!?”
“Okay,” Stanford sighed standing back up. “He is alright.”
“What do you mean? What just happened?” Stan sat up slowly and looked around. “Where are we?”
“We are in the woods outside of Gravity Falls…” Dipper answered slowly, a thought slowly dawning on him. “Grunkle Stan, what is the last thing you remember?”
“Uh…. Stanford and I came back to surprise you and Mabel…. The pig got sick from Soos’ weird idea of what a snack food is…. And then….” Stan’s face tightened as he tried to think. “I…. I don’t remember….”
“No….” Dipper whispered, quickly turning and looking at the statue. His eyes locked onto its own, and Dipper’s blood chilled as it blinked. The stone shattered, and a golden light shot past Dipper’s ear, causing him to fall back on his rear. All three turned and watched the light zip through the trees, a lingering echo of Bill Cipher’s laughter in the air.
“What just happened?” Stan asked as he shakily got to his feet.
“Cipher has returned!” Stanford shouted, gun already back in hand.
“Where is he going?” Dipper asked, then froze as he once again recalled last summer. Bill’s words. The Shooting Star in his eye. “Mabel.” Dipper whispered, his voice shaking. His uncles looked to one another, and then both broke into a sprint back toward the Mystery Shack. Dipper started after them, and they all ran as the final rays of sunlight cut through the trees. A branch whipped into Dippers face, and he felt blood start to run down his cheek, but he ignored it. “Mabel… please be safe.” he whispered as the edge of the woods came into view. The three burst free of the trees, and the Mystery Shack came into full view, the first floor illuminated with light, the top floor dark. Dipper slowed as they approached the Shack, panting as Soos stepped outside.
“Hey dudes, what’s wrong?” he asked as the three stopped and fought for breath.
“Soos! Where is Mabel?” Dipper asked between ragged breaths.
“She’s upstairs unpacking.”
No sooner had the words left Soos’ mouth did the upstairs window begin to shine with a bright blue light.
“Mabel!” Dipper shouted, stepping past Soos and into the Shack. He tore through the kitchen, into the hall and up with stairs. The bedroom door was shut, blue light glowing through the frame as he approached. Grabbing the knob, he swung the door open just as Bill’s voice cried out, “It’s a Deal!” and he watched his sister become engulfed in the bright blue light. Dipper raised his hands to shield his eyes from the light, and when the light faded Mabel was no longer in the room, just Bill floating in the center, the flame around his hand fading. His eye turned to Dipper, and he spread his arms and legs out wide.
“Pine Tree!” he exclaimed, his voice full of mocking joy. “How have you been? You know, I have missed you so much! It was a very boring year without you around, you know?”
“Cipher!” Stanford’s voice came from the hall behind Dipper as he, Soos and Stan rushed up the stairs.
“Sixer! So good to see you again! Although, I have been seeing a lot of you this past year. Isn’t that right…” Bill turned his eye to look over Stanford’s shoulder, “Stanley?”
Everyone turned to look at Stan, who stood there, bewildered.
“What? I don’t know what he is talking about! You’ve got to believe me!” Stan stammered, holding his hands up.
“Oh, don’t get mad at him folks,” Bill said, floating sideways through the room. “He didn’t know. I mean, how could he? You all thought that I was dead, didn’t you? And I have to admit, that was a very impressive trick you all pulled on me. I almost want to applaud you all for it!” Bill’s eye turned red and his voice darkened. “Almost.”
“Where is my sister Bill?” Dipper asked, his voice firm as his knees shook. “Where is Mabel?”
“Shooting Star?” Bill asked, his usual demeanor back, holding a hand up as a martini glass appeared out of thin air in it. Bill took a sip from the glass. “Oh, she and I are currently in the middle of a bet you see. If she wins, I will withdraw my claim to her life. If she loses, then she dies. Simple, right?”
“What’s the bet?” Dipper asked, and Bill took another sip.
“None of your concern. This is between me and her, Pine Tree.” Bill downed his drink and tossed the glass over his shoulder. “You needn’t worry yourself with it.”
Dipper looked around to Soos, Stanford, and Stan. They all shared the same expression of worry and anxiety. Dipper turned his gaze to the floor, his mind racing for the next move to be made.
“Make a deal with me.” he said, and everyone around him gasped.
“Dipper!” Stanford said.
“Dude!” Soos exclaimed.
“Are you freaking nuts kid?” Stan yelled.
“Interesting,” Bill said, floating toward Dipper. “What is your proposal, Pine Tree?”
“Send me to Mabel,” Dipper said as he locked his eyes on Bill. “So that I can help her.”
“No.” Bill replied without hesitation, floating away. “That’s not a deal I am willing to make. There is nothing in it for me.”
“Fine!” Dipper shouted, causing Bill to turn. “Then set your conditions! Just send me to my sister!”
“Dipper! Stop and think about what you are saying!” Stanford said, grabbing Dipper and turning him to face him. “Bill will not set a fair deal for you. You are playing right into his hands!”
“Here is the deal Pine Tree,” Bill said, causing Dipper and Stanford to look up to him. “I will send you to your sister, and you will play a game of mine. The condition of your victory is easy: find a way to bring yourself and Shooting Star back home to Gravity Falls. Simple, right?”
“What’s the catch?” Stanford asked, standing up behind Dipper.
“None of your concern, Sixer.” Bill replied casually. “Pine Tree is the one making the deal, not you.” He looked to Dipper. “The rules of the game will be explained upon you agreeing to the deal. So,” Bill reached out his hand, the palm alight with a blue flame. “Do we have a deal?”
Dipper took a slow, deep breath and looked back once more, looking to everyone in the hall behind him as though it would be the last time he ever saw them. He then turned back to Bill and slowly reached out his hand.
“Yes, i agree to your terms Bill.”
“Excellent!” the floating triangle exclaimed as he grasped Dipper’s hand. “It’s a DEAL!”
Dipper felt the world around him start to spin as the flame surrounding Bill’s hand spread out and filled the room, blinding him. He felt his feet lift off the floor, and every nerve in his body began to scream as it felt as though they were being torn one by one from his body. He screamed, hearing his voice echo through all around him as though he were falling down a wide tunnel. Just as he felt he was about to be sick, he felt himself slam face first into something solid. The breath left his body, and he blinked, his body shaking as he found himself facedown in a field of green grass. As his vision began to fade he saw a pair of shoes step in front of his eyes, and a weak voice speak.
“Bro bro?”

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: Echo Falls

 

Dipper slowly pushed himself to his knees, shaking his head and spitting out a mouthful of grass from his landing. His body ached and he felt feverish, a shiver running through his spine as he forced himself to his feet. His vision blurred and doubled for a moment, as though his eyes were adjusting to the right channel. Slowly everything focused, and he saw that they were at the bus stop outside of Gravity Falls. Mabel stood a few feet away from him, concern etched all over her face. 

“You alright bro? That looked painful.” she asked, taking a step forward and touching the scratch on his face. Dipper winced and swatted her hand away.

“Never mind me Mabel, are you alright?” he asked, his head clearing from the impact of the ground. “What is going on here? What was the deal you made with Bill?” Mabel did not reply, nor did she move. “Mabel?” Dipper asked, taking a step forward and waving his hand in front of her face. No response. “Mabel!” he shouted, his voice cracking from the panic.

“Calm down there Pine Tree, she’s just fine.” came a voice from behind, and Dipper turned to find himself face-to-eye with Bill. “You see, we need to get some of the rules of this game set before you go running your mouth around here Pine Tree.” Bill floated a ways away and waved his hand, causing the trees in the distance to bend to the side, revealing the water tower.

“Echo Falls?” Dipper asked, reading the lettering.

“Exactly!” Bill replied, snapping his fingers and returning the trees to their natural state. “I was going to call it Reverse Falls, but that name wouldn’t fit on the tower. You see, this place is the exact opposite of your world! Or, at least to a certain extent it is. Because thanks to the limited knowledge I have gathered about your world due to the Barrier around Gravity Falls and Stanley’s lack of worldly knowledge, I was only able to create a world based on the collective knowledge of you, Stanley and Sixer. Which mainly boiled down to this town! Easier to maintain, less effort to keep an eye on you and Shooting Star.” Bill floated over to Mabel and hovered over her shoulder. “Now, the rules for this game are as follows, and I will not repeat myself Pine Tree, so listen up. To win, find the way back to Gravity Falls. To lose, give up or die. Also no telling anyone about the fact that you are not from this world, or that this world is not real. If anyone figures out either of those facts…. Well…. Something bad might happen…..” Bill suddenly turned his hand, and Mabel’s head spun a full 360 degrees and detached from her neck. 

“MABEL!!!” Dipper screamed, and Bill laughed.

“Calm down Pine Tree,” he chuckled, turning his hand back. Mabel’s head reattached to her body without any trace of ever having left it. “But I take it that you understand the consequences for breaking the rules now, correct?”

“Yes….” Dipper breathed, his body shaking. 

“And I mean no one can know pal, not even Shooting Star. Also, no mentioning me to anyone either!”

“So, just out of curiosity, how will you know if I break a rule?” Dipper asked slowly. “Will you be floating in the sky at all times?”

“Oh no. I will be-” Bill snapped his fingers and vanished, “-right in here!” Bill’s voice echoed in Dipper’s mind, causing him to scream again. 

“You’re going to be inside my head?”

“Not all the time. You teenagers are into some creepy and weird stuff. I mean, I have only been in here for ten seconds and I am already feeling the need to sit you down and have a talk about some of the thoughts you’ve been having. Nah, I will jump out from time to time to go and see how Gravity Falls is doing. But you will never know when I am here or not, so best not do anything stupid Pine Tree.

“Right….” Dipper’s mind was racing, as was his heart. This was a lot to take in, and the consequences were dire. But he had to do it. One way or another, he would find the way out of this world. “So…. don’t suppose I can get a hint as to where to start?”

“For you Pine Tree,” Bill chuckled inside his head, “I guess I can give you an idea. Check your pockets.”

Dipper blinked and felt the wind slap him in the face. Mabel blinked, and Dipper exhaled a sigh of relief. Dropping both of his hands into his pockets, he felt a crumpled piece of paper against his left hand and pulled it out, pulling it open and seeing three words scribbled on it: Retrace Your Steps. What does that mean? Retrace his steps from earlier today? From last summer? As Dipper pondered these options, he quickly realised that both options shared a common destination: Grunkle Stan. They needed a place to stay; a base of operations. Turning around, Dipper found his backpack on the ground a few feet behind him. He shouldered it and turned back to Mabel.

“Is this all of our luggage?” he asked, and she slowly nodded.

“We sent our bigger suitcases ahead, remember?” 

“Right! I totally remember! We did exactly that!” he replied with a little more enthusiasm than was required. 

“Oh yeah, that’s totally believable.” Bill said dryly within Dipper’s mind. 

Ignoring him, Dipper walked past Mabel, grabbing her hand and leading her towards the town.

“You know where we are going?” she asked, and Dipper replied with a snappy “Of course!”, although he felt a rock form in his stomach as Bill laughed at his words.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Thirty minutes of walking later, Dipper and Mabel arrived at the outskirts of the Mystery Shack. Dipper immediately felt something was off about the place. The grass was perfectly cut and kept. The usual gravel road had been replaced with a smooth brickwork path. There was an actual parking lot with designated parking spots! The Shack itself was in beautiful condition; the windows were spotless, the paint was weather treated, the steps were not falling apart, the shingles on the roof were all in place! This was not the Mystery Shack that Dipper knew. 

“I feel a disturbance in the force here….” Dipper muttered under his breath as he approached the front door. Reaching out, he knocked and listened for the sound of Stan’s footsteps. He instead heard nothing but the sound of the wind in the trees and the chatter of the birds. Backing away from the door, he saw a sign hanging in the window. Walking over to it he felt a shiver in his spine as he read it.

‘To all of our lovely Mystery Shack patrons! It is that time of the year again where we pack up and go for our happy little family get away! We apologize from the bottoms of our hearts for the inconvenience, but we will return in two weeks time, so please bear with us until our return! Take care y’all! Bud.’   

“What?!?” Dipper yelped in shock, “Bud owns the Mystery Shack?!?”

“Who owns the what?” Mabel asked, and Dipper slapped his hands over his mouth.

“Shut up you idiot!” he angrily thought to himself, the image of Mabel’s head twisting off of her shoulders flickering in his mind.

“Yeah idiot, shut up.” Bill echoed.

“Wait, you can hear my thoughts?”

“Better believe it Pine Tree! I can also see your thoughts. Speaking of which, what is with you and picturing that redhead in a two piece bathing suit? Twenty-three minutes and thirteen seconds of non stop her and being practically naked in here! Have some courtesy for your mind-mate!”

Dipper felt his cheeks burn and he violently shook his head side to side. He jumped when he felt Mabel’s hand touch his shoulder.

“Are you sure you are alright bro? she asked, the note of concern still in her voice. “You haven’t said anything about what happened. Maybe you should-”

“I don’t need to talk about anything!” Dipper quickly cut her off. He could not risk another topic rising that he didn’t have an answer to. “For now, we just have to find where we are staying!”

“With our Great Uncles, Stanley and Stanford.” She replied in a matter-of-fact way. “We just have to figure out where they live. Maybe we can ask someone in town?” 

“Yeah, that’s…” Dipper felt his anxiety fluctuate, “that’s probably a good idea.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~



The siblings walked in silence for the next several minutes, entering the edge of the town as they crossed the wooden bridge and stepped onto the town’s concrete roads. Dipper’s eyes began to dart around the buildings as his heart rate picked up again. The further into the town they walked, the more paranoid he felt himself becoming. Who would they run into? How different would they be? Would he say the wrong thing? This game was too intense, and he was barely an hour into it! He heard Bill giggle in his mind and paused, closing his eyes and taking a deep breathe. First thing’s first: try and figure out what was the same and what had changed. He opened his eyes and looked around the edge of town. 

The Tent of Telepathy and Gleeful’s Used Cars were both gone, the car lot now just a large unkempt lot with four foot tall grass. The Gleeful house at the far end of the block sat alone at the far end of the street, almost as though the town had tried to move away from it. The paint was peeling and the house appeared clearly abandoned. 

Greasy’s Diner was still in its usual place, though it had a much more modern look to it. Dipper actually felt himself feeling the urge to go and eat there, though today would be a no go as the “open” sign was turned off. Shadows inside the windows hinted that it was being cleaned at the moment. 

Dipper lead Mabel down the road to the right, walking past the diner and following the curve of the road. Graveyard was in the same place, though the Valentino house looked a lot less maintained and a lot more lived in. The usual neat grass was not as neatly trimmed as usual, and the house itself looked as though it had had several extra rooms added onto it over time. 

They followed the road all the way down and turned left onto Main Street. All the shops were closed for the day, and the statue standing in the town square was gone, now replaced with a triangular fountain that was shooting water roughly six feet up into the air. 

“Seriously?” Dipper thought to himself as they approached the fountain for a better look. “Replaced the Northwest Statue with a Bill Fountain?”

“Screw that family Pine Tree!” he heard Bill reply. “They were just such ass kissers. Honestly, my only good memory of them was when I put his eye in his mouth. It shut him up for five minutes!”

Dipper, to his distaste, could not disagree with the Dream Demon on that point. 

“Bro bro, where are we going?” Mabel asked, her voice still heavy and despaired, almost sounding on the verge of tears. This place was not good for her. He could barely recognize her like this. Gritting his teeth, Dipper turned away from the fountain and found himself face to chest with an older gentleman he did not fully recognize. As he does, Dipper reacted by screaming in shock. The man jumped and clutched at his chest, laughing from the scare.

“I am so sorry young man! I did not mean to startle you!” he said with a gentle smile.

“No, I’m sorry,” Dipper apologized as Mabel walked up behind him, “we are new to town and we are trying to find our relatives place.”

“Ah, well perhaps I can be of assistance. I know everyone in this town. Part of the job of being its mayor.”

Dipper eyed the man up and down again. He looked frustratingly familiar. There was no way this was Tyler Cutebiker. This man was much older. He wore glasses. His light brown hair was starting to show signs of grey along the sides.

“Well that would be very helpful, Mr…?” Dipper replied cautiously. The man chuckled and reached out a friendly hand.

“McGucket. Mayor Fiddleford McGucket.”

Dipper instinctively reached out to shake his hand, but his mind had gone momentarily blank. That’s who this was! In this world, Fiddleford had never gone through Standford’s portal! He had never seen Bill’s world! He never went insane from using the Memory Gun! It was almost haunting to see what Old Man McGucket could have become if it hadn’t been for his close encounter with Bill’s world. Fiddleford gave his hand a firm shake.

“So, who are your relatives? If you tell me I can point you in the right direction.”

Dipper paused again. He couldn’t just say the Pine’s Twins, that wasn’t who they were in this world. He had no idea what surname Stanford and Stanley had here. It felt wrong, but he would just have to use their first names.

“Our great uncles, Stanford and Stanley.” he said. The smile on Fiddleford’s face slowly faded away, replaced with a concerned frown.

“You’re related to those two?” he asked, and both Dipper and Mable nodded. Fiddleford hesitated for a moment, then almost reluctantly pointed across the town square, back towards the old house that Dipper had written off in his mind as abandoned. The Gleeful’s house. 

“They are in the old house just on the edge of town, over by the road that leads to the town attraction, the Mystery Shack.” he spoke slowly, as though he was regretting telling them this information. Looking over his shoulder, he sighed and looked back to them. “Listen kids, I understand that they are your family, but just so you know; if you ever need another place to stay, my place has lots of room in it.” He pointed off towards the NorthWest mansion. “Just…. Know that the offer stands, alright? Can you find your way there?”

Dipper nodded slowly, feeling nervous about Fiddleford’s actions and tone of voice. 

“Yeah, we saw it earlier. I’m pretty sure we can get there on our own. Thank you Old Ma - I mean, Mr. Mayor.”

Fiddleford gave them a small smile and a wave before turning his back and walking away. Dipper turned to his sister, just now noticing that she had been clinging to the back of his shirt the entire time. He forced himself to smile and took hold of her hand. 

“Come on,” he said, “we are almost there.”



~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Dipper nervously approached the house, a heavy sense of unease weighing down on him as he drew closer to the threshold of the run down manor. Up the front steps he climbed, and with a deep breath to steady himself, he reached out and clanged the brass lion knocker on the door. The sound echoed around the structure, and Dipper took a cautious step back. With no warning the door swung open and there stood Grunkle Stan, looking as he always had, though his suit looked a little worn out. He looked down at Dipper and Mabel, a look of displeasure on his face.

“Yeah? What do you two brats want?” Same voice. Same tone. Same Grunkle Stan.

“Uh…” Dipper started to pick his words carefully, knowing full well that Bill would be watching this. “We are your Great Nephew and Niece, Mabel and-”

“Oh right!” Stan cut him off and walked out, ushering them into the house. “Come on, come on we are burning daylight here.” They walked in and Stan shut the door behind them. 

The hall was dark and dusty, striped wallpaper showing signs of wear and tear. A few light fixtures ran the length of the hall, at the far end of which was the banister of a staircase on the left hand side. To the right were two doorways. Stan ushered them past the first one, which Dipper glanced into and saw a kitchen that looked as though it had not been cleaned in over a decade. Stan lead them to the second doorway, which was larger and right across from the stairs. They turned right and entered into what Dipper assumed was the living room, a long low table covered in books and newspapers, a few empty glasses and a half empty bottle that he assumed was some brand of alcohol. Against a wall, across from a dust covered bay window was a couch, and on either side of it was a lounge chair. And seated in one of these chairs was Stanford,dressed identical to Grunkle Stan, only his suit was in much better condition. He seemed to not notice them enter the room, his face buried in a book that had no distinguishing marks, just a dark brown leather cover.

“Hey Sixer, the kids are here.” Stan said, and Stanford lowered the book. Dipper shivered as his eyes met Ford’s; this was not the Stanford he remembered. His eyes were cold, hard, and dark. He felt as though he had just met the eyes of a demon. 

Ford shut the book and set it on the table before getting to his feet, slowly approaching the twins. 

“Welcome,” he said, his voice the same as Dipper remembered it, but it held a hard note in its tone. “You two have been through so much. I am so sorry for your loss.”

“Loss…. What do you mean?” Dipper asked, and in the back of his mind he heard Bill start to giggle.

“Brother….” Mabel said weakly, touching his arm. He turned to look at her, her expression even more distraught than it had been all day. “I know you don’t want to think about it, but please…. Please stop pretending that nothing happened.” 

“Mabel I….” Dipper started, trying to find something to say that wouldn’t break the rules of Bill’s game. He didn’t need to find anything, as tears started to flow down Mabel’s cheeks.

“Just say it…. Please…. Say it so that I know that this is not just a nightmare!” She cried. “Just say it! Mom and Dad are dead! Say it!”

Dipper felt the pit of his stomach drop out. His knees buckled and he dropped to the floor. His head started spinning, and he leaned forward, putting his hands on the floor to brace himself.

“No,” he thought, his mind turning into a blender of thoughts and emotions. “No…. they aren’t dead. This is Bill’s world. They aren’t dead. This is all a dream. They aren’t dead! This is not real! They are not dead!” It didn’t help. Dipper heaved and threw up all over the floor. He choked, coughed and cried, tears flowing from his eyes as bile and whatever had been in his stomach dribbled from his lips. 

“No…. no….” he whimpered. He felt a thick hand settle onto his back and gently rub him; Grunkle Stan judging from the position. Mabel came over and, carefully avoiding the puddle he had just made, gave him a hug, sobbing into his shoulder. “They’re dead….” Dipper muttered, letting the words sink in. That was a rule here. He and Mabel were orphans. He was never going to see his parents again; not until he found a way out. 

“I know that this has been a hard week for you,” Stanford’s voice came from above, and Dipper looked up to him, seeing a note of softness in his cold eyes, “however, I will ask that you refrain from vomiting on the floors in the future.”

“I…. I am sorry.” Dipper apologized, slowly getting to his feet, Mabel helping him up. “I will clean it up.”

“See that you do,” Ford said dryly before turning to the staircase. “And then go upstairs and put your things away. We put your bags into the spare bedroom, so get organized and make yourselves at home.

“Go upstairs kids,” Grunkle Stan said. “I will clean the mess up for you this time. Next time, it will cost you five-hundred bucks.”

Mabel gave a weak giggle, and Dipper nudged her.

“He isn’t joking.”

“Oh,” Stanford said, reaching out and stopping them from moving. “One last thing; what are your names?”

“Dipper and Mabel.” Dipper replied, and Ford cocked a curious eyebrow. 

“Dipper?” he asked.

“Brother….” Mabel said meekly behind him, and he turned to face her again. Her face was pure concern; tear stains streaking down her cheeks. “How badly did you hit your head earlier? Your name isn’t Dipper, it’s Mason. Mason Gleeful.”

Dipper pursed his lips and bit his tongue, because he knew that if he didn’t he would lose Bill’s game right then and there. He felt his teeth pierce his tongue; he tasted blood, and in his mind he heard Bill laughing like a maniac.

“Welcome to Echo Falls, Pine Tree!” Bill shouted in his fit of hysterics. “Welcome to My World!”