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Find Me In Oregon

Chapter Text

Stan stalked forward, his footsteps against the concrete muffled by the howling wind. He took a hurried glance at the sky, saw dark thunderclouds, and broke into a jog. The clouds crackled ominously, blinding arcs of lightning dancing across the sky. Suddenly, a flash touched down in the distance, and then a couple of seconds later, a thunderous boom. It rumbled deep into his bones, shaking him to his very core. 

His heartbeat pounded loudly in his chest, whether from fear or from his faster pace, he didn’t really want to admit. The wind tugged at his hair and clothes, its strength steadily growing stronger.

If that morning someone had asked him what could go wrong during the day, the weather would not have been high on his list. He could maybe see his fake scar falling off at the grocery store, or Montano's gang finally tracking him down, or hell, even a shootout happening, down here in the armpit of New Mexico. But not the weather. It hadn't even crossed his mind. That morning, there had been clear blue skies, with a hint of a cool, stiff wind, the mountains on the eastern horizon dotted with a few sporadic clouds. Harmless, maybe even cute. 

There was a reason he wasn't a meteorologist. But what he lacked in brains he tried making up with his athleticism. There was a slim chance that he could make it back to his motel before he was completely soaked. After all, tt was only a two or so blocks away.  

And just as he thought that, a few stray raindrops began to drip from above, but feebly, periodically, as though they trickled from a leaky tap. They sunk into his clothing, patterning him in darker colors, and he thought, that maybe, just maybe, he could still outrun the worst of the storm. He remembered Montano saying once (before things had turned sour between them), that desert storms were like a flash of lightning. There and gone before you could really appreciate it. 

(Then Montano had laughed and slapped him on the shoulder, his glasses glittering under the sun's glare. "That is, only if you're inside.") 

Another blinding flash of lightning, a crash of thunder following it. His heart skipped. The air was full of pent up tension. He could feel it in his body, as if the entire world was holding its breath, and he just couldn't help but go along with it. 

Then the world sighed. The rain cascaded down from the sky, descending on him like a curtain falling over a stage at the end of a play. A sudden quietness overcame him, the drops cold and almost refreshing. The moment quickly passed, and he picked up his pace, instinctively knowing that the cold would do him no good. He squinted through the water, pushing aside his hair, cursing, his breath puffing out in little, crystalline clouds.

The wind picked up, throwing the rain diagonally through the air. Loud cracking sounds echoed up and down the sidewalk, and he felt little hard pellets hitting his body. Holy Moses, was that hail?

A thunder-hail storm? Sounded like something that would happen to him; it was just his luck. 

Stan couldn’t see very far, the rain turning everything into a gray haze. Concrete and water, and the distant flashing of a car's headlights. 

Then the air seemed to whisper against his skin, raising the hairs on his arms. Something buzzed across his shoulder blades, leaving him jittery. Cursing louder, he froze. The sensation continued, amplified by the sporadic drops of rain that were blown into his face.  His heartbeat thundered in his ears, pulse points beating frantically under his skin.

He was in deep shit. He was going to die, struck by lightning, in some mediocre little town in the middle of nowhere. 

A little voice broke through his frantic state, telling him to get it together. You've survived crazier things, and besides, you should know what to do. 

You have to crouch down. 

Self-preservation instinct (or maybe it was the voice) made him crouch down, covering his ears with his hands.

That voice whispered, reassuring him that the most dangerous thing to do in a thunderstorm was to stand up or sit under a tree. Take your heels off the ground and touch them together, to form a smaller circuit. Hearing loss could also be a side effect from being so close to a lightning strikeso you have got to cover your ears, Stanley.  If you're carrying anything metallic, you have got to throw it away, for your own sake. You can’t die because of something avoidable. We have to make it to all the gold and treasure before we die off."  

He scoffed, rolling his eyes and shoving his brother. Ford fell over with a satisfying thump against the floor, the flashlight knocked over by his feet. A moment of bated silence, as they waited to see if their parents had woken up, but thankfully, nothing. 

"Be careful," Ford hissed, pushing himself off the ground and adjusting the flashlight to be upright again. 

"Sorry," he whispered. "But, come on, Sixer. I think you're taking this too seriously. I ain't blind or deaf, you know. I'd see a storm coming from miles away." 

Ford frowned, pushing his glasses up his nose. “You never know. It could come out of nowhere. We both heard about the kid down the street. A beautiful, sunny day, and then BAM," he smashed his fist into his palm for emphasis. " I don’t want you to fry from the inside out.”

"…Like an egg?”

"More like that time Ma boiled the potatoes for too long.”

Stan shuddered, hugging the pillow closer to his body. His bro nodded in agreement, running his fingers through his hair. They stared at the wall of their dark bedroom.

"The best thing is to just not get caught in a storm,"  Ford said with finality. "So don't get caught, okay Stan?" 

The heavens cracked open, and a bright flash of lightning struck down in front of him. The memory shattered like a glass bauble, his brain abuzz with the sensation of electricity against his skin. He felt his heart do a somersault in his chest, and suddenly he was all too aware of his pulse, feeling his body uncontrollably shiver. The boom was so loud that it swallowed all his other thoughts, making him deaf to the world for a few precious seconds. 

When that passed, he opened his eyes, and the world flashed in bright yellow spots. He stood up and tried rubbing them away, swallowing thickly against the lump that had formed in his throat. What a dazzling and resounding death that would have been. 

And then, as he stumbled forward still half blind, his thoughts on a nice, hot shower, he tripped. Throwing out his hands to catch himself, he landed with a splash, his palms and knees scraping against the concrete. He gritted his teeth and stood up, turning to glare at what had made him fall.  

There, sprawled on the ground, was a kid. Brown hair plastered to his face, backpack unstably perched on his back. He was knocked out. A few feet away a sodden fur hat lay on the ground. 

Blood roared in his ears and his stomach dropped. Stan rushed forward and crouched down next to him. "Hey, hey! Wake up!" 

No response. The kid was unconscious. He was warm, but quickly cooling underneath the rain. Stan gently turned him over and felt for a pulse, pressing his hand against the boy's chest. For a frantic moment, he held his breath, trying to silence his own heartbeat. And then he found it, beating a bit fast, but steadily enough. A sigh escaped his mouth, the tension draining from his body. He checked him over, taking careful note of his scraped palms, scuffed up tennis shoes, and the dark scorch mark staining the hat. Fading bruises dotted his kneecaps along with an angry, red scratch, and his clothing was stained in a few places. He scrutinized the kid's face, coming to realize that he looked strangely familiar, like a distant relative. But Stan couldn’t place him.

What to do? He couldn’t just leave the kid out here in the rain and lightning, especially since it looked like he had just ran through hell and back. If he took him to safety though, would that be considered kidnapping? He didn’t need that on his record…

"Hello?" he yelled into the rainy street, squinting to see if anybody else was around. "Is this anyone's kid?"

Nothing but the rain. 

Screw it.

He gathered the kid up in his arms, grabbed the hat, and jogged the rest of the way to the motel. Just as he reached the door to his room, the boy started to wake up, mumbling something incoherent.

“It’s alright, kiddo,” he said softly, shifting the kid onto his other arm as he searched for his motel key. 

The wind had died down, as well as the rain. Like lightning, huh. Stan would've flipped Montano off if he could've. Bastard. 

He whipped out the key, slid it into the slot, and turned it. The door unlocked with a click.

Chapter Text

When Dipper woke up, he felt like he’d been hit over the head with a bat. Repeatedly. With a lot of force. He was also slightly…damp. Somehow. He wasn’t sure how. The most horrifying thing, however, was that he had absolutely no idea where he was. The only thing he knew was that he was inside, somewhere warm, with a blanket or two thrown on top of him. Distantly, he could make out the muffled howling of the wind, nearly drowning out the soft beat of rain on the roof.

“Doodly-doo, drying my clothes on the heater,” someone hummed softly, their voice rough and out of tune. It took a moment for him to connect the voice to the person. It was Grunkle Stan. He was probably safe, then. 

He tried opening his eyes and sitting up, but he only ended up blinding himself with the light and making himself nauseous. His mouth opened on its own accord, and a strange, rasping groan came out. At that moment, he made the thrilling discovery that his throat felt raw. Not the sick type of raw, but the one that came from yelling too much. What had he been doing?

Stan stopped humming. Dipper heard him pad over, and the rustle of fabric as he crouched down next to his resting place. “Hey kiddo, you awake?”

Grunting, he tried opening his eyes again. It was still too bright, so he had to squint to even kind of see anything. Above him, there was an ugly popcorn ceiling, its true color indiscernible in the wane light. Maybe a booger green. Nothing he could confidently recognize. He guessed he wasn’t in the Shack anymore.

“I’ll take that as a yes. You need anything?”

This time, when he opened his mouth, his voice did a horrendous crack, ascending as high as the heavens, and then dropping into the pits of hell. He groaned, rubbing his throat. “Do you have any water?” he whispered.

“Yeah sure. I’ll be right back.” Stan’s presence disappeared from his side. He heard a creak in the walls, pipes probably, and the thumping of the man’s returning footsteps. “Can you sit up?”

Dipper pushed himself up slowly, feeling his stomach flip. He squeezed his eyes shut, his head spinning.

“Easy there,” Stan warned. He guided Dipper’s hands to the cup and took a moment to make sure he could actually hold it. “Drink slowly.”

His fingers locked around the plastic cup, it’s surface crinkling under his tight hold. For a second, his hand shook from the unexpected weight, and he almost spilled the water all over himself. Luckily, his hand remembered how to hold things in time. He took a slow sip of the water, delicately swirling it in his mouth before swallowing. The water was cool and comforting. It had a slightly different taste than what he was used to, but he couldn’t exactly place what was changed. Maybe it was just his imagination.

“What happened?” Dipper asked, after he regained some confidence in his voice. “Where are we?”

“To be honest, kiddo, not entirely sure what happened to you. Found you out in the rain, and,” he paused there, cleared his throat, “ I just…brought you into my motel room…”

“What.”

Grunkle Stan laughed nervously. “It was a real bad thunderstorm earlier. I almost got struck by lightning, you know. You could’ve died out there.”

Dipper waved that off, a thin veneer of anxiety growing in his throat. “Yeah, sure, whatever. But a motel room? Why not just go back to the shack?”

In the split second of uncomfortable silence that followed, his anxiety began to choke his throat. The cup in his hand felt like jelly, and he was afraid it was going to spontaneously disintegrate in his hands. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t supposed to be a question met with confusion. This was wrong.

“What shack?” the man asked.

Dipper realized then, that he wasn’t talking to Grunkle Stan, and that he was in a stranger’s motel room, sick and tired, with his throat raw from yelling. He forced himself to open his eyes. The artificial light stung, and he blinked, rubbing away the tears. When he could focus, he saw, sitting across from him, a… man. A man with a square jaw and scar on his bottom lip. A man with brown hair and a five o’clock shadow. A man who could never be old enough to be his Great Uncle Stan. But if he squinted, if he let himself imagine, he could see how this man could grow old, how his hair could turn white with age, how his face could be lined with wrinkles. He could see this man’s future. 

Trying to smile, the man spoke, “Hey, kid. I’m not gonna hurt you.”

Those words were the last nail in the coffin. He had the same voice.

Later, when Dipper looked back on this, he would recognize this as the moment everything started to get messy, to get complicated with lies. But now, that thought is far away, muffled by the pain in his head and the nausea boiling in his stomach. Confusion marched in a circle through his head, and he just needed some clarity. So, without a second thought, he said, “Grunkle Stan?”

Chapter Text

Stan shot to his feet, his fists clenching and his nostrils flaring, and immediately Dipper’s mind began backpedaling. This wasn’t his Grunkle Stan. This was past Stan. Dipper was in the past, and he definitely should not have said that. This Stan might as well a stranger, and he had just carelessly blurted out his name. If Dipper was on the other side of this, he would be shocked, disturbed. Scared, even. Not only that, but if he somehow managed to let it slip that he was from the future, he could do irreparable damage to the timeline. He needed to salvage this quickly, or he could, at best, get thrown out of the room, and at worst, cease to exist.

So, he reached. He reached for what he knew for certain about Stanley Pines, what would always be true. He reached for something unlikely but still possible. He reached for Grunkle Ford. “You’re… uh Stanford Pines, right?” he managed to stammer out.

And Stan froze, tension coloring ever line of his body.

“Wow!” he crowed, struggling to look like he was excited. He tried to ignore the shame clawing its way up his throat and the horrible somersaults his stomach was doing. He knew he shouldn’t be doing this to Stan. He shouldn’t be picking at an open wound. This was pure manipulation. Stan and Ford took forever to make up in the present, and that was after thirty years. Now, he could only imagine what being this blind-sided would feel like. But he didn’t know what else to do, what else would make Stan stop in his tracks and not dig any further. “It’s so awesome to see you! You know, I’m a real fan of your work, even if everyone else says you’re the crazy guy in the woods. The anomalies you’ve been researching are—”

 “Stop,” Stan growled, his voice harsh, his nostrils flaring. He held up his hand. “I am not Stanford Pines.”

 The instant the hand went up, Dipper knew Stan was testing him. Stan’s gaze was hard and sharp, regarding Dipper with a strange ferocity and anger. “You’re not?” Dipper said, trying to do his best impression of a confused kid, but his voice shook. Swallowing nervously, he made a show of counting Stan’s fingers, though he already knew. Stan’s face was slowly losing some of its tension, but his face was carefully guarded. “Oh, then who are you? You look almost exactly like him.”

 There was something then, in Stan’s eyes, that made Dipper’s chest tighten. He could almost place that look, almost understand what it meant. But it passed just as quickly as it came, fading into that same guarded expression. “I’m Stanley Pines.”

 “His twin brother,” Dipper finished quietly.

 An uncomfortable silence. Stan seemed to be struggling, clenching and unclenching his fists, staring at him intently. Dipper didn’t want to dig himself into any deeper of a hole, so he said nothing.

 “Who are you?” Stan finally said, an accusatory edge to his tone.

 “I’m D—” He bit that back. He couldn’t just go around calling himself Dipper. That was such a recognizable name, and if it got around to the time police somehow, there was no question of who he was. He sucked in a breath and mulled it over, acutely aware that with each passing millisecond Stan would grow more and more suspicious. Well, it was about time he told Stan his real name. “I’m Mason.”

 Stan didn’t seem to pay any special attention to that, as interested in Dipper’s name as he would be in the weather. The man was already moving on, and for that, Dipper was grateful. “How do you know my brother?”

“I uh, I live in Gravity Falls, Oregon,” he stuttered, faltering under Stan’s gaze, acutely aware that any misstep could result in something catastrophic. “I sometimes stopped by Ford’s…shack to see what he was working on.”

 “This whole time, you thought I was Ford.”

 He nodded, not trusting his voice to stay steady.

 “You said something before Stan. Gronkle? Grankle? What does that mean?”

 “Ah!” he exclaimed a bit too loudly, making his throat twinge. He was beyond thankful that Stan managed to mishear him earlier. “You see, I actually said…uh, groggy Stan. That was just a … you know, a dumb nickname.” His face was burning. This was the worst lie he had ever come up with.

 “Right. Sure. OK,” he paused. Then that same look came over his face. It stayed longer this time, and Dipper could place it: nostalgia. Melancholy. “I don’t even sound like him.”

 This lilted up into a question, and Dipper forced himself to swallow the lump that had grown in his throat. He was fiercely glad that he and Mabel had made up during the summer. That they’d never let what happened to their Grunkles happen to them. But at the same time, he recognized that those events hadn’t technically happened yet, that Ford hadn’t fallen through the portal and that Stan hadn’t been branded. But he shoved those thoughts to the back of his mind, because messing with timeline was a dangerous thing.

 (What should he do? What was the right thing to do?)

 “It was enough,” Dipper said lamely. 

 Stan didn’t look like he believed him, like he was struggling.

 Dipper nervously scratched his wrist, reaching underneath the squishy, glowing bracelet. Wait. He didn’t wear jewelry. He looked down and saw what looked like an amusement park wristband, except that this one was made from weird gummy material and was also faintly glowing. His mind stuttered to a halt for a fraction of a second, before it picked up again at startling speed. So that’s what had happened to him. This is what had flung him across space to young Stan. Everything began to click into place.

 The bracelet was the Time Escape, courtesy of Blendin Blandon. It was a onetime use, last resort teleportation device that was supposed to transport the wearer somewhere relatively safe, based on an algorithm that Dipper didn’t understand. He and Mabel had both sworn to activate it right after splitting up, intending to throw off the time pirates and meet back up. But all he could remember was that on their way out of the time pirates’ lair, she’d been injured. Scratched by the giant time cat. Mabel had smiled at him, full of precarious courage that was there for his sake. She told him it would all work out. That everything was going to turn out fine. But it wasn’t turning out fine, and it was his fault. “Mabel. Where is she?”

 “Who know?” Stan asked, sighing. He sat back down on the bed and massaged the bridge of his nose.

 “Oh.” He blinked and couldn’t stop the strained chuckle that slipped out. Sucking in another breath, he tried steadying himself. Of course, this Stan wouldn’t know. Of course. “She’s my uh twin sister. She looks… well she looks like me, but with longer hair and braces.”

 A blank expression.

 Any hope Dipper had for a miracle, for Mabel to have been outside nearby, died right then. Mabel was alone and injured. Panic was jittering its way across his arms and legs, making it hard for him to swallow, hard to breathe, hard to think. Headache. Aching head. A dull throb at his temples. He could feel his heart rushing out of control, filling his thoughts with static, turning his arms and legs into jelly. Tugging at the Time Escape, he twisted it between his fingers and tried to figure out what it had done. On the inside, he saw in bold blocky letters, ‘Prototype 1.0’.

 Oh.

 Of course. He gulped, took another breath, and almost choked on it. “She always wears sweaters that she knits herself,” he said, not able to keep the high-pitched panic completely out. “She wore… a sweater that had a puppy with shades.”

 And another look came over Stan’s face, eyebrows furrowing, his hands twitching to move. But he didn’t. He watched Dipper, before looking away, quickly clearing his throat and standing up. “Hey kid, there’s no need to cry. I’ll go and check outside. She might be nearby.”

 “I’m not—” his voice cracked, but it didn’t matter because Stan was already out the door. Something slid down his cheek. Wet. He wiped it away, suddenly and sharply aware of not being able to breath. No, this wasn’t good. He couldn’t start crying, or he would be useless, useless and floppy and wet and then he wouldn’t be able to think and that was all he was good at so what could he do then—

 He stopped, wrenching himself back from the cliff he almost toppled over. Forced himself to count his breaths. To stop thinking. To shut up.

 By the time Stan came back, Dipper had managed to calm down. Mostly. But then he saw Stan’s glum face, and a fresh wave of anxiety engulfed him, making his stomach turn and his throat burn. “Nothing?” he heard himself say.

 “Nothing,” Stan repeated, a frown on his face. “I asked around a bit and no one saw her. I could maybe stop by the police station?”

 “No!” Dipper said, too quickly. Too forcefully, he belatedly realized as Stan’s eyes seemed to focus on him again with that laser sharpness. Scrutinizing him. Picking him apart. “No, I mean. She’s not here. She would have been nearby.”

 “Are you sure?”

 “Yeah.” And as he said that, he became absolutely certain that it was the truth.

 The Time Escape was a prototype. Blendin had warned them about it, but he hadn’t really payed attention to the explanation. But he was slowly starting to remember. There wasn’t any guarantee it would transport them to the same place. He wanted to laugh. Mabel could be in another dimension for all he knew, chased by time pirates and evil time cats. Naturally, Blendin would give them a metaphorical escape pod that only put them in more danger.

 “It’s honestly really no trouble,” Stan said.

 “No. She’s not here.”

 A pause.

 Dipper breathed, attempting to think. “Where’s my stuff?”

 “Oh, your backpack?” Stan said, walking over to the dresser. He leaned down and picked it up, lightly shaking it. “This is it right?”

 “Yeah.”

 Stan handed him the backpack. It was slightly damp, but as Dipper started going through it, he found that the sweater Mabel had forced him to pack had protected the rest of his things. He shook his head, a small smile worming itself onto his face despite the situation. It was the yarn ball sweater. Taking a second, he just held it in his hands, before gently putting it aside next to him. It was weirdly heavy, but that was probably because of the water. Turning his attention back to his pack, he found that everything else was miraculously dry: the notebook, the pens, a small baggie of pretzels, the height-altering flashlight, and... the walkie talkie. No time machine. Another surge of anxiety was unfurling in his stomach and snaking its way up, choking him. Mabel must have it. If she didn’t, he guessed he would just spend the rest of his life however many years in the past, or in time prison. 

 Deciding to leave that thought for later, he pulled the walkie talkie out, running his fingers along the buttons and dials. Grunkle Ford and old man McGucket had enhanced their pair, making their range absurdly large, covering hundreds if not thousands of miles. If this didn’t reach Mabel, he didn’t know what would. With deft, practiced motions, he yanked the antennae to its full height, and pressed the button. “Mabel, are you there? Over.”

 Behind him, Stan shuffled closer, but Dipper didn’t pay him any attention, waiting for a response. Something like half a minute passed. He tried again. “Mabel, come on, where are you? Over.”

 Nothing. Another half a minute.

 “She’s probably out of range, kiddo,” Stan said. “Maybe it’ll work better outside.”

 Dipper jumped off the bed, walkie talkie held securely against his chest. His legs buckled as he landed on the grimy carpet and the ache in his head flared up again, but he managed to catch himself. Recovering quickly, he stumbled his way to the door. At his back, Stan was saying something, but Dipper ignored him. One twist and pull and he was outside. Wet and damp and cold. He shivered. Neon signs and bright street lights glowed around him. Stars in the sky. The dull pounding in his head traveled to behind his eyes, making him nauseous.

 Again, he tried. He held the walkie talkie out, the Time Escape on his arm catching the light, mocking him. “Mabel,” he said, voice cracking. “Please, please answer. Over.”

 Silence.

 Somewhere in the distance, a car alarm went off. His stomach lurched, and he hunched over, still holding the walkie talkie out, unwilling to give up yet. Muddy water seeped into his socks.

 A warm hand on his shoulder, a low voice, sympathetic, “Hey kid, let’s get back inside. It’s cold.”

 “Wait, it might work,” he stammered, even as his heart sunk with each breath. “Please wait, she might…”

 Stan stayed there, hand still on Dipper’s shoulder. Dipper wanted to desperately do something, anything, but all he could do was wait as the seconds trickled by with no response. Seconds turned into a minute. The anxiety in his stomach solidified into something hot, something boiling and ready to tip over.

 The man’s grip tightened. “We should try—”

 Then crackling and a muted cry of, “Dipper…!” The rest of the message fading into static. He straightened, shrugging off Stan’s hand and holding the device up higher, waiting with bated breath. “…shifter! Over!”

 In that moment, the entire world disappeared and all that was left was the walkie talkie and him. He breathed out, struggling against surging nausea and said into the receiver, “Where are you? Over.”

 “…Gravity Falls!” It faded out again more crackling. He couldn’t tell if it was the walkie talkie or Mabel, but she seemed to be out of breath.

 “Stay there, okay? I’ll get there somehow! Over,” he said, hands shaking.

 Static and crackling was the response. But he didn’t care. That was enough. He knew where she was, and he could reach her. Whooping, he jumped up and pumped his fist. “Yes! Did you hear that?” he cried, a smile stretching across his face as he turned to Stan. The man looked bemused. “We’ll find her in Oregon!”