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Ten Years, Two Weeks

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It’s nearly a decade, to the day, when he returns to Gravity Falls. It’s summer, and evening, the sun a fat golden orb sitting just above the tree line. There are things he remembers, like the water tower, and things he doesn’t, like the hipster coffeeshop that serves him a cardboard cup of latte that doesn’t taste too bad, for all it smells of wood chips.

Everything smells of wood chips in Gravity Falls. He remembers that, too. Woodchips and ozone.

He gets lost three times on the way to his destination. Something about the GPS doesn’t like it out here, both the one in his phone and the one in his car. He curses at the dashboard, which does nothing, and is only saved by a handwritten sign, nailed to a pine tree.

It’s a red arrow, and it’s been painted over and over at least a dozen times. Even still, he recognizes the handwriting underneath as his own.

The sign says MYSTERY SHACK, and he follows it. And the next one. And the one after that. It’s not GPS, but it gets him where he’s going.

618 Gopher Road. It sits fuzzy in his mind, a smudged sketch outline from that one summer, a million years and a dozen lifetimes ago. He’s surprised to find the place as ostentatious as the postcards, name writ large on a roof framed by a lilting totem pole. And if the place is more run down than he remembers, more tired, then he figures that’s just what ten years can do.

There are no lights on when he pulls into the drive. There haven’t been for a while, which is the reason that he’s here. Because two weeks ago, Dipper Pines got a phone call from a little town he hadn’t been to for half a lifetime.

Your great uncle has passed away, the voice on the line had said. And he’s nominated you as his executor.

This evening, Dipper kills the car’s engine, steps out onto dirt that grows less grass than the roof of the building above. He doesn’t know why he’s here, not really. No idea why a man he spent one single, uneventful summer with would’ve left him with such a responsibility. Great uncle Stan had been a curmudgeon and a recluse, and they’d never been close.

Dipper sighs, running a hand back through his messy hair. Two weeks. He has two weeks here to sort out his great uncle’s mess. To organize the funeral. Then it’s back to Berkeley, to the postgrad position at EECS. Dipper Pines has a PhD in quantum cryptography with his name on it, as soon as he’s done with the Town That Time Forgot.

Ten years, Dipper thinks, is a long time to be away. Ten years and two weeks.


His great uncle’s house is just as much a freakshow inside as it is out.

“There’s a jar of eyeballs, Mabes,” he tells his phone.

“On the counter? That’s always been there. Don’t you remember?” Mabel Pines, five minutes older than her brother and currently some five thousand miles away, at the London College of Fashion. It’s some ungodly hour for her but she said for Dipper to call as soon as he arrived, and so he has. He hasn’t seen his sister much since she left to study, and Skype is Skype but it doesn’t beat a solid dose of Maximum Mabel. If great uncle Stan’s death does one thing, Dipper supposes it gives him a chance to see her again. Her plane is in five days.

“Not really,” Dipper tells her. He crouches down, eye-to-eyes with the jar, spins it back and forth a little. “I’m not even sure if these are real or not.” If they are real, Dipper doesn’t want to think about what sorts of animals they’ve come from. “Mabel, what are we going to do with all this stuff?”

There’s a pause at the end of the line. “Grunkle Stan left the Shack to us, Dip.”

There’s a weird texture in Mabel’s voice, and Dipper straightens. He’s known Mabel for as long as he’s known life, and he knows what her voice means.

“You… you aren’t thinking about keeping this place, are you? It’s a dump!” It smells like cheap plastic and old man.

“Dipper!”

“It is!”

Mabel makes a disgusted noise, which comes down the line as a burst of static. “Just… don’t make any decisions until I get there, okay?”

“Sure,” Dipper says. “But I’ve already got the wrecking crew on speed dial.”

Dipper.”

“I dunno why you love this place so much, is all. We only spent one summer here.” And if Mabel remembers that one summer more than Dipper does? Well, so what? She is, as she likes to remind him, the older twin.

She’d kept in touch with her “Grunkle” over the years, in exactly the way Dipper hadn’t. He wonders why she wasn’t named executor. Probably some kind of conspiracy.

“It’s just… it’s Grunkle Stan’s house, Dipper! And I know— I know you—” Her voice breaks, and Dipper feels like the world’s biggest asshole. The guy did just die, after all. The fact that Dipper doesn’t feel much about the fact doesn’t mean other people won’t.

“Mabel, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…”

“I know,” she says. “I know. It’s… I’m okay. I’ll be okay. It’s just… It’s late, I’m tired.”

“Yeah,” Dipper says. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. Just… I’ll be there soon, okay bro-bro? You stay safe until then.”

Dipper can’t help but grin. “Aye aye, Captain Pines,” he says. “I’ll do my best to avoid the Terrors of Gravity Falls. Like the”—he looks around for inspiration—“like the dreaded Grizzlycorn!”

“Dipper…”

“Or the terrifying Roostdeer!”

“Dipper…”

“Or the horrific… Sascrotch? Seriously? Sascrotch? Who comes up with this stuff? Who pays to see this stuff?”

Mabel should be laughing. He’s trying to make Mabel laugh, but instead she sighs, and her voice is sad. “Dipper. I’m hanging up now,” she says. “Be safe. I’ll see you soon.”

Dipper has the awful feeling he’s done something wrong, something to upset his twin, and he has no idea what it is. So he stammers out, “Okay. Have a good flight.”

“I will. Bye.”

“Bye.”

And then he’s left standing in front of a stuffed gorilla in a pair of stained y-fronts, wondering what it was that he did wrong.

Two weeks, he thinks. Then it’s over. And he’ll be gone.


“Well bless my stars, if my eyes don’t deceive me, I do believe that right there is Dipper Pines.”

The voice is too-loud in the quiet diner, and the closeness of it nearly makes Dipper drop his phone. He’s been reading papers on cryptographic theory, shoveling down a barely edible meal of, near as he can tell, deep-fried starch. It’s not a good meal, but it beats eating alone in his dead great uncle’s cold, creepy cabin.

The owner of the voice hasn’t left, is casting a long shadow across Dipper’s table, so he looks up. Into the dark eyes of a baby-faced man with a platinum pompadour and a linen suit the color of a summer sky. Dipper can’t decide if the man is attractive or piggish, and it’s this confusion that kicks his memory into gear.

“Gideon?” he says.

He must get the name right, because the man—Gideon Gleeful, Dipper remembers—smiles, big and broad.

“That’s right,” he says. “Golly gee, sure has been a while.” He extends his hand, and Dipper shakes it. “I’m sorry the circumstances of your return to us weren’t happier, my friend.”

“Yeah,” Dipper says, because he doesn’t know how else to answer.

“Your great uncle’s little venture has been an important part of this town for going on forty years now,” Gideon continues. “Gravity Falls will not be the same without it.”

“I guess.” Dipper’s getting a crick in his neck from straining it upwards. Gideon isn’t tall, but neither is Dipper.

“And your sister? How’s lil’ Mabel doing these days? And will she be joining us in this time of grief?”

“Uh,” says Dipper, because Gideon’s hair is very shiny and his drawl very thick, and something about it… tickles. Dipper has no other word for it, just a strange scratching feeling about an inch behind his eyeballs. Gideon dated Mabel when they were kids, that he does remember. He also remembers it ended badly, but so do all Mabel’s romances, then and now.

Come to think of it, so do Dipper’s. Maybe it’s a curse.

“Um, yeah,” he says, blinking to try and dislodge the itching feeling. “Yeah, she’s in London at the moment. Fashion school. But she’ll be over for the funeral.”

“London!” Gideon is living up to the pun of his name. Dipper doesn’t think it’s insincere, not exactly, but something about it… grates. “Well I’ll be. She always did have such a sense of style, your sister. We must catch up when she arrives.”

“Sure,” Dipper says, though suspects Mabel may have her own ideas.

“But, listen to me go on.” Gideon makes a gesture, as if to reach out and lay and hand on Dipper’s shoulder. He doesn’t, not quite, which is good. Because something in Dipper does not want to be touched right now. “This must be a trying time, so much responsibility to shoulder alone. Why don’t you come over tomorrow? For lunch. Let my family care for yours. It’s the least Gravity Falls can offer, after all Stan Pines has done.”

“Um…” says Dipper.

“Excellent! Tomorrow, noon sharp.”

“I don’t know where—”

Gideon waves a hand. “I’ll send a car,” he says. “It’s the least I can do, old friend. Least I can do.”

“Well. Okay.”

“Very good, very good. See you then. You stay safe now, y’hear!”

“Yeah. Sure.” Funny, because hadn’t Mabel said something similar? As if everyone is waiting for terror and danger to leap out from behind every pine tree in this sleepy little hollow.

Dipper gives a half-wave, watching Gideon leave the diner. There’s a huge white car parked in the street. Not quite a limo, but the sort of thing people with limos drive on casual Fridays. Gideon gets into the back of it, and Dipper watches it leave.

He’s not far behind, unidentifiable food left half-eaten in his wake.


That night, he doesn’t sleep.

It’s the same bed from that one summer, thin and hard and cold. And small, because Dipper isn’t twelve any more. He’s twenty two, with aching shoulders caused by too many nights spent hunched over monitors and textbooks. Hard mattresses and lumpy pillows aren’t as tolerable as they used to be.

When he stretches, his feet stick out over the end of the bed. When he opens his eyes, the room is flushed bright-gold from the little triangular window at the roof’s apex. It’s brighter out here at night than he’s used to in the city, the moon a huge silver disk, the stars a confused glittering mess.

He doesn’t like looking at the stars, or the window, or the moon. They give him the itching feeling. Like a word he knows but can’t recall, a hole where a fact should be. Even still, he can’t look away. Lying transfixed in the too-small bed, watching and being watched by that awful sky.

When the moon blinks, he somehow isn’t surprised.

The moon blinks, and something’s in the center of it. A long black streak, rotating down from the top.

Dipper sits upright. The moon is looking at him and he should be afraid, he thinks he should be. But there’s something wrong about the room, cold and gray. Washed out and lifeless, and for a moment Dipper knows what this is. Knows where he is, not in the Mystery Shack, not in Grunkle Stan’s house. Not really, because this is…

This is…

The moon’s pupil isn’t. It’s not rotating, it’s falling. A meteor or a comet, the trail behind it a shadow of smoke against the reflected golden glow.

Dipper is out of bed in an instant, bare feet and bare chest, running from the bedroom and down a set of stairs that seems to wind on for eternity, passing a dozen score of doors. Doors with labels like FIRST DATE and PROM NIGHT and SOCK OPERA.

The latter door is boarded shut. So are many others.

And then old wood is replaced by cold dirt, and he’s outside. The sky is falling, and Dipper can see it properly now. It’s a meteor, a shooting star, glowing red core leaving a scorched black trail across the night. The meteor is falling into the forest, and Dipper is running after it, tree branches slapping at his skin, roots catching against his toes. He knows this wood even as he doesn’t, a hundred forgotten memories, his child’s hand grasped within his sister’s, laughing even as they scream.

In the end, he reaches a clearing. There’s a tree in the centre, a pine tree bigger than any he’s ever seen, towering above the rest of the forest.

The meteor is headed right for it. When it hits, the fireball is red-orange and white. A glare so baleful he has to turn away, to throw his hands up against the heat and the light and the chaos.

When it’s over, the tree burns. And a voice behind him, high pitched and nasal, says:

“It’s not subtle, but who doesn’t love a good explosion? And things are about to explode. You can have that one for free.”

Dipper knows that voice. Knows that, when he turns, when his eyes adjust from the burn of the tree to the gloom of the forest, he’ll—


—wake up.

And the window will be just a window.


As promised, the car arrives at noon sharp.

Dipper isn’t ready for it, after too little sleep last night and too long this morning spent pouring over his great uncle’s accounts. A PhD in quantum cryptography looks like grade school homework compared to the accounting practices of one Stan Pines. Dipper’s no accountant, but he’s pretty sure his great uncle was a deft hand at tax fraud, if nothing else. And now Stan’s mess is Dipper’s mess, and he’s left wondering exactly how much liability the role of executor comes with.

Sascrotch nothing, he thinks. The IRS is the real horror of Gravity Falls.

The car outside is the same one Dipper saw last night, big and white and trimmed in gold. The hood ornament is a five pointed star with a stylized eye in the centre. It takes Dipper a moment to place the symbol, but he remembers it eventually; from the Tent of Telepathy, Gideon Gleeful’s own version of the Mystery Shack. Dipper wonders if the thing’s still operational.

The car is still operational, and it has a driver, who steps out when Dipper approaches. He is, Dipper had to admit, drop dead gorgeous, even if he looks more like he should be lying on a beach in L.A. rather than driving cars in the middle of nowhere.

He also has an eyepatch. It goes with the black-and-yellow tailcoat outfit, kind of, but Dipper has to wonder about it. If only because his great uncle used to wear something similar, back when he thought tourists were watching.

“Mr. Pines,” says the driver, and for a moment Dipper hears the echo of a laugh in the back of his mind. It’s not a nice laugh. He feels like he should know the guy, but nothing is clicking, and the driver does nothing else but hold the door open and look at Dipper with an expression the manages to look derisive, even as it’s inscrutable.

Dipper gets in the car.

The guy says nothing else for the entire trip.


He doesn’t expect to end up at Northwest Manor. Nor does he expect to see Pacifica step out to greet him, arm-in-arm with Gideon. Pacifica, Dipper does remember, if only because she’s been Facebook friends with Mabel for the last decade.

Still, he somehow managed to miss the part where she’d married Gideon.

“Four months ago,” Pacifica says, showing Dipper the ring. It’s set with the kind of diamond that could be used to cut windows. “Just a little, private affair. We didn’t want to make a big fuss. And,” she confesses, voice lowered, “I didn’t want to upset Mabel. What with… you know.”

Dipper does not, not really. He also thinks twenty-two is far too young for marriage, but maybe he’s not one to judge. Dipper’s last boyfriend dumped him on their second date, but only after Dipper had paid for the meal.

He’s secretly terrified lunch with the Northwest-Gleefuls is going to be some excruciating mess of wrong forks and food he can’t pronounce. It turns out to be a small table in a lush garden, eating nachos and ceviche. The food goes down easy, the champagne even moreso, and Pacifica and Gideon are practiced hosts. They ask Dipper about his studies and his sister, he tells them stories about his friends from Berkeley. They laugh when they’re supposed to laugh, and don’t when they aren’t, and by the time Dipper’s on his third or fourth (or fifth?) glass, he’s feeling guilty for the way he reacted to Gideon yesterday. Dipper might have vague memories of Gideon as an asshole, but his memories are also a decade out of date. Maybe judging adults by things they did before they were old enough to drive wasn’t the best way to live.

Which is why, when Gideon asks him about his great uncle’s estate, Dipper sighs and says:

“Honestly? If it were up to me, I’d sell it.”

Gideon lifts one platinum eyebrow. “Oh?”

“It’s Mabel,” Dipper says. “I think… I mean, she was closer to great uncle Stan than I was. I don’t even remember him all that well, I’ve got no idea why he chose me to be his executor. But he left his house to both of us. And I think… I don’t think Mabel wants to sell it.”

“What would she do with it instead?” Pacifica, leaning forward, chin resting on her elegantly laced hands, gold bangles glinting in the sun.

“I don’t know,” Dipper says. “I mean, she lives in London now. I can’t imagine her moving back here to operate some run-down tourist trap.”

Gideon and Pacifica share a look, share a moment. Then Gideon says, “I know it’s forward of me, your great uncle not even put to rest, but, with his property—”

“We’ll buy it,” Pacific interjects.

If you’re thinking of selling,” Gideon adds, censure for his wife’s forwardness in his tone. Pacifica sits back in her chair with a creak, lips thin.

“Gee,” Dipper says. “I mean, if it were up to me…”

“Of course, of course.” Gideon holds up his hands, placating. “But the offer is there, and the price will be fair. The Mystery Shack is important to this town. And we would certainly see it would continue to be important for many years to come.”

“That’s… that’s very generous of you,” Dipper says. Truth be told, he’s ready to sign over the property then and there. He doesn’t care whether the new owners continue his great uncle’s legacy or bulldoze the place for parking. So long as it’s no longer his problem. But, “I’ll have to talk with my sister when she arrives.”

“Take your time,” Gideon says. “Some things can’t be rushed.”

“Thanks,” Dipper says, and means it. “I’m sure Mabel will come around.”

After that, they play mini-golf.


“Hey. It’s Dipper, right? Dipper Pines?”

Day two, evening, and Dipper figures he should be getting used to this.

Some things in Gravity Falls have stayed the same, some are different. Dipper suspects the gastropub is one of the latter. As with the coffeeshop, he supposes not even the edge of Oregon is immune to the slow and awful march of gentrification. At least this place has more edible food than the diner.

“It’s Robbie,” the newcomer says. “Robbie Valentino.”

Dipper has to laugh. “Robbie?” he says. “Oh man.”

He should’ve guessed. Robbie… looks like Robbie. Ten years haven’t changed him much, right down to the hoodie Dipper’s convinced is the same one he was wearing a decade ago.

This time, it’s Dipper who holds out his hand. “Didn’t expect to see you,” he says.

Robbie looks like the teen adulthood forgot, but he shakes like a professional. “Good to see you again, man. And I’m real sorry about your great uncle. Bad business, that.”

“Not bad for your business, though, hey?” It’s a stupid joke and Dipper regrets it as soon as he says it. Robbie’s reaction is a physical one, a grimace and a rearing back of his head, but he’s laughing.

“Aw, man. I guess I earned that.” Then: “Hey, speaking of, I know things weren’t great between us last you were here—”“Dude, I was twelve.”

“Yeah, and I was still a jerk. I figure I owe you at least one beer to make up for it?” He grins, lopsided and hopeful, hands shoved into the pockets at the front of his hoodie. It’s so Robbie—so much like the guy Dipper remembers—he has to laugh. Robbie, who most certainly was a jerk, but over something that happened so long ago Dipper finds he can’t even feel annoyed about it. There’s a weird sort of freedom in that, and for the first time, it occurs to him that maybe this is what it means to be an adult.

“Sure,” he says. “Why not.” He’s still half drunk from lunch, but half-drunk and wholly happy, and Robbie is, if nothing else, a familiar face. Not the creaking cold of great uncle Stan’s creepy shack.

They end up in a booth, laughing over beers, talking about Wendy’s latest exploits in the Himalayas and Robbie’s decision to take over his family’s business.

“You know,” Dipper says, “I wouldn’t’ve picked you as the guy who stayed.”

“I know, right?” Robbie says. “Me either. But…” He shrugs. “Mom and dad are getting older. What was I gonna do?”

“You were in a band, yeah? Do you still play?”

Robbie laughs. “Oh, hell yeah. But, ssh. Keep it on the down-low, yeah? People ‘round here get a bit funny ‘bout a guy who plays death metal burying their loved ones.”

“But you still play?”

“Yeah, man. Got a new album up online. Someone other than mom even downloaded it.”

“Well, the road to superstardom has to start somewhere.”

“Hah!” Robbie says the word, an ironic substitution for actual humor. “Well, y’know, the recording industry ain’t what— Oh, hey. Hey, Eyeball! Over here!” And suddenly Robbie is half-standing, reaching upwards to wave above the booth, trying to get the attention of someone else entering the bar.

A moment later, a familiar face appears at the end of the table.

“He-ee-ey,” Robbie says, grinning. “Dipper, meet the man who usurped the title of Gravity Fall’s biggest freak from yours truly. Bill, my man, this here’s—”

And Gideon’s driver grins a shark-toothed grin and says:

“Dipper Pines. I know. We’ve met before.”


Bill’s arms are tattooed solid black. So are his hands, including the palms. Dipper can see it, now the guy’s got his shirt-sleeves rolled up. An inky void except for two little bands of skin-colored triangles, one around each wrist. Dipper had assumed Bill was wearing black gloves when he’d come to the shack earlier. Now, he’s not so sure.

The black arms are the second weirdest thing about Bill, with the weirdest being his mouth, which is full of shark-sharp teeth. Between that and the eyepatch, Dipper knows why the guy hangs out with Robbie.

“Lil’ Mountebank let you off for the day?” the man in question says, Bill sliding into the booth next to Dipper.

Bill rolls his eye. “Still working,” he says. There’s something about his voice that gives Dipper the scratching feeling again, even under the bar’s pounding music. He knows he’s seen the guy before—before today, that is—but he’s not sure where or how. It’s not like Bill isn’t memorable.

“Doesn’t look like it,” Robbie is saying.

“What would you know about work ethic, Stitches?”

“More than you know about binocular vision.”

“Har har.”

So maybe the eyepatch is real. The eyepatch is real, and Bill is Robbie’s friend, and suddenly Dipper is the third wheel. Not that he can make excuses and run off, given he’s got a wall on one side and a Bill on the other. Social situations and Dipper have always been casual acquaintances at best. But he’s trapped, so he decides to deal like an adult, and takes another swig of overpriced craft beer.

Bill does not drink, but he does buy. On Gideon’s tab, according to Robbie, because: “You know the guy’s the mayor’s son, right? No one in this town’s gonna charge a Northwest-Gleeful for shit.”

Dipper has vague memories of the mayor of Gravity Falls being an ancient guy surrounded by buzzards. Which, firstly, can’t be right, but secondly, it’s probably not unreasonable someone that old wouldn’t still be around.

“Didn’t his dad sell cars or something?”

“‘Cars’ would be generous. ‘Heaps of trash’ more accurate.”

Dipper doesn’t feel qualified to comment on the businesses of the families of others, given his own, and so says nothing.

When Bill returns, it’s with three beers and no nachos, much to Robbie’s chagrin.

“Dude, we’re hungry,” he says. Then, to Dipper, “Eyeball here has an irrational hatred of nachos.”

“No,” Bill says. “I have a rational dislike of watching your hideous little square teeth chewing them.”

“Whatever, freak. I’m still hungry.”

“I got burgers, so deal with it.” A new voice, and a little wooden flag with a number on it, slammed down into the centre of the table.

The new voice is female, and belongs to: “Tambry, you remember Dipper Pines, right?”

“Oh man,” says Tambry, sliding into the booth. “Someone grew up cute.” Dipper tries not to blush, fails, and is grateful for the low lighting in the bar. Tambry, either polite or oblivious, continues: “So is your sister here? I kinda owe her one. For this guy.” She slaps Robbie on the chest, which turns into him slipping an arm around her shoulders. By the time they get to the cooing looks and the kiss, Bill is making gagging noises, covering his eye with his black-inked hand.

“Ugh, get me another eyepatch. Quick.”

Robbie and Tambry flip him off in unison.


Three burgers and another round of beers later, they’re having a conversation about the social merits of superhero films when Tambry’s eyes go wide.

“Aw, man. It’s Thompson.”

Robbie winces, Bill groans, and Dipper feels like he’s missed something.

“Dude, he’s coming this way.” From Robbie, to Bill. The latter spits a word in a language Dipper doesn’t understand, but which he’s 99% certain is a curse.

And then suddenly Bill’s face is in his face, and Dipper is staring straight into an eye the color of a Bunsen flame, with a pupil as long and thin and dark as a tear in the moon. “Just go with it,” Bill says.

“Huh?”

But then one strong black arm is around his shoulder, and Dipper finds himself crushed against smooth yellow silk, a heartbeat drumming somewhere deep below.

“Oh. Hey, Tambry. Hey Robbie. Hey Bi— oh.”

Dipper remembers Thompson, in the way he remembers all Wendy’s old gang. Except the man standing in front of them now looks nothing like the Thompson Dipper knew, half a lifetime ago. This Thompson is hot, all broad shoulders and strong arms, shirt tight enough to show off that and the flat plane of his stomach. Sometime in the last decade, Dipper thinks, Thompson must’ve discovered the gym.

His expression, though? His expression is the same. Some mix of uncertainty and disappointment, his eyes lingering on Bill, on where Bill is holding Dipper against his side like Robbie is to Tambry. And Dipper would admit himself not the most clueful when it came to social niceties, but he’s seen enough shitty romcoms to know what this is.

He’s still deciding whether to be mad about it or not when Bill says, “Hey.” It’s not a friendly hey and, this close, the voice echoes. Dipper has a sudden flash of… of red and white? Of a stone plateau and a void of doors and—

—and it’s gone, and Thompson is saying. “So, uh. Hey. Bill. I was wondering if we could. Um. Yanno. Talk? About… about…”

“No,” says Bill, and there’s that feeling again. Itchy and dark and as cold as the space between stars.

Dipper wriggles into a less awkward position, or as less awkward as he can manage, still crushed against Bill’s side. Bill’s arm is surprisingly strong, his fingers gripping Dipper’s shoulder hard enough to hurt. Moving involves levering himself by pushing down on Bill’s chest, which means he suddenly has his hand on Bill’s chest. Thompson doesn’t fail to notice, and his expression is animal shelter ad pathetic.

“Hey, um. Dude,” Robbie says, eyes flicking between Bill and Thompson. “Maybe, like. Not now, okay?”

Thompson is looking at Dipper when he says, “Yeah. Okay. Sure. Whatever. See you ‘round, Bill.”

“Unlikely,” says Bill, and Dipper can’t help but see the flinch in Thompson’s retreating back.

There’s silence as the four of them watch him go, until he’s lost over the other side of the bar, swallowed by the music and the surprisingly large crowd. Then Tambry says:

“Dude. You are such an asshole.”

Bill makes a disgusted noise, but his arm unwinds from Dipper’s shoulder. Freed, Dipper jumps back as if Bill’s on fire. Maybe, from the heat in Dipper’s hand and the warmth along his neck, he was.

“What was that?” he says, and is proud his voice only squeaks a little.

Bill doesn’t look at him, which is easy, given Dipper is sitting on his blind side.

“Bill’s ex.” Tambry fills in the blanks.

“That,” Bill snaps, “is a gross overestimation of the events.”

“Yeah, whatever dude.” Tambry gives a disgusted little wave. Dipper gets the feeling they’ve had this conversation before, even if he doesn’t really know what the conversation is.

Tomorrow, Dipper will wake up with five little bruises on his collarbone, one for each of Bill’s fingers.


“Okay, okay. So… ’m just gonna ask about the eye. Whassup with the eye?”

They’ve moved on from beers to shots, which Dipper knows is a bad idea and yet somehow more appealing than spending the night alone in a crumbling shack.

Bill turns to look at him, only the second time he’s really done so. He has to turn a lot to achieve it, so Dipper doesn’t blame him. Also, Bill’s eye is kind of creepy. There’s something wrong with the pupil.

“Bad deal with a sorcerer,” Bill says, straight-faced. “Now he keeps my soul in a jar and I’m bound to this reeking meatbag.” He gestures to himself.

Dipper has a sudden image of a black hand wreathed in blue fire. It’s gone as quick as it comes, replaced by laughter from Robbie and Tambry.

“Dude,” Robbie says. “I thought you lost it in a knife fight with Columbian drug lords?”

“No no,” Tambry adds. “It was pecked out by an eagle when you were learning falconry from Mongolian nomads.”

“Hey, when I heard that story it was a pterodactyl. Pterodactyl is much cooler.”

Robbie and Tambry are laughing, Dipper is drunk enough for the world to spin, and Bill is grinning a shark toothed grin.

“I get it,” Dipper says. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want.”

“How about,” Bill says, “a deal. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” He holds out a hand.

“Done,” says Dipper, because that one’s easy. He shakes, Bill’s fingers smooth and strong and warm, then lifts his bangs away from his forehead. “Boom. Birthmark in the shape of the Big Dipper.” Across the table, he can hear Robbie and Tambry making appreciative noises. Dipper is sure he’ll regret this in the morning, but tonight he’s three beers and a vodka away from caring.

“Congenital,” Bill says, flipping up the eyepatch. “Squeezed out of the cloning machine without it.” He’s not lying, except maybe for the part about the cloning machine. The skin beneath his brow is smooth and continuous, unmarred and uninjured, as if there’s just never been anything there.

“Aw man,” Robbie says. “Three years and we haven’t managed to get that out of him, then you come along and get it in one night.”

Dipper’s hand is halfway to touching the blank space above Bill’s cheek before it occurs to him that’s a really, really stupid idea, even drunk. “Wow,” he says instead. “That’s… that’s kind of cool.”

Bill drops the eyepatch again, covering the space. “Most people freak out,” he says.

“My great uncle had twelve fingers,” Dipper says. “It happens.”

Bill gives him a look at that. Appraising, maybe. Or… impressed? Dipper is too drunk to read it and, besides, he’s getting distracted by the jut of Bill’s cheekbones and the smooth-sharp curve of his jaw.

He really is devilishly handsome. In a freakshow kind of way, sure, but that’s something Dipper can totally work with. Totally.

It’s a moment, definitely a moment. The memory of heat against his palm and the sharp pain of fingers in his flesh. And so what if Dipper looks more like Thompson used to and less like he does? More soft than broad, the body of a guy more likely to lift books than lift weights. Two weeks he’s here, and two weeks isn’t long enough for a lifetime, but it is long enough in the privacy of his own head.

And then Dipper hears Robbie say, “Quick. He’s distracted! Go buy us nachos!” And Bill’s expression drops into a scowl, and his bright-blue gaze rotates to the far side of the table.

“I’ll destroy you, Stitches,” he says. “Creep into your dreams while you sleep and flay your skin. Fry it up, little guacamole and salsa, and have my very own bowl of Nachos Valentinos.”

Robbie laughs, and Dipper feels lightheaded in a way that has nothing to do with the alcohol.

“How ‘bout,” Tambry says. “I get us tater tots instead. Everyone okay with tater tots? No one got any weird hang-ups about those? Dipper?”

Dipper shakes his head, leans back against the smooth wood of the booth, and tries not to think of ink-black fingers and a burning eye.


By the time they stumble out of the bar, Dipper is way, way not in any state to drive. Neither are Robbie and Tambry, but Tambry’s place is close, and they can walk. Dipper has no such luck.

“So… I don’t suppose you guys have Uber?” he tries.

Gravity Falls does not, as it turns out, have Uber. It does have taxis but, more importantly, Dipper has Bill who, near as Dipper can tell, neither eats nor drinks, and is thus aggressively sober.

He’s also patting at Dipper’s crotch, which is terrifying for the second and a half it takes Dipper to realize Bill is looking for his car keys. Afterwards, it’s still terrifying, but perhaps more disappointingly so.

“Thanks man,” Dipper says when they’ve bundled into the old Toyota. “I owe you one.”

“You’ll get yourself in trouble, saying things like that.” It’s a weirdly aggressive thing to say, but Dipper’s starting to get used to that. Full drunk and half asleep, and he has to admit he’s had fun today. First with Gideon and Pacifica, then with Robbie and Tambry and Bill. Old friends from an old life, picking up not quite where they left off. Dipper knows he’s going to regret things in the morning, but the morning is miles away. Right now, Dipper is being driven home by the cutest freakshow in the northwest, and maybe that’s enough.

“The forest is creepy at night,” Dipper says, as they leave the town and the trees close in. “I remember…” he trails off, unsure. More itching, more holes. A scream in the dark, a light in the void. Something he’s forgotten, three straight lines and one round eye, opening even as Dipper’s close. Then the colors are bleeding and—

“Hey.”

—and a black-inked fist, slamming into his shoulder hard enough to bruise.

“Wha—?” Dipper jerks upright, suddenly awake. When he turns to glare at Bill, the man in question is watching the road with his brows drawn down and his triangle-sharp teeth bared.

“Don’t fall asleep, you overreaching glob of protein,” Bill snarls. “It’s not safe.”

“What? What are you…?” Dipper is too drunk for this. Whatever this is.

Bill makes a noise halfway between disgust and… pain? Dipper blinks, but the world won’t come into focus, and Bill’s expression won’t make sense.

“Sleep when you’re home,” Bill manages. “Not here. You’ll ruin everything otherwise.”

“Ruin… ruin what?”

“Just forget it, Pines.”

By tomorrow, Dipper will have. He’ll also have a headache fit to split logs, and between that and everything else, it never occurs to him to wonder how Bill got back into town.