Dipper was having a bad day.
The pen trembled in his hands. His whole face felt heavy, a lump forming in the back of his throat that burned his throat and nostrils. His eyes were growing blurry. The words were mixing on the page in front of him, numbers turning into letters and letters turning into nothing.
His head hurt, a steady pounding drumming at the backs of his eyes, drilling into the middle of his forehead.
The pen slipped from his fingers, and he fumbled to tighten his grip on it. He could almost feel the bags under his eyes, so big they felt like suitcases – wasn’t that in a song once? He didn’t remember – and they dragged down his whole face. Or maybe it was the stress.
He wasn’t sure.
Something plopped onto the sheet of paper in front of him, and he stared at the wet ink spreading across the paper. Another droplet plopped nearby.
And another one.
And another one.
And another one.
The lump in the back of his throat seemed to be the only thing holding back what could only be a mix of sobs and hiccups and screams in general, and for once, he welcomed the pressure it put in his whole throat, welcomed how it made swallowing difficult.
But then a sob broke through, and suddenly, everything had.
God, I’m so useless.
He felt his lip curl towards his nose and expose his teeth as the corners of his mouth pulled down into a frown.
All I fucking do is cry.
His brow furrowed upwards, his eyes beginning to scrunch closed, tears wetting his lashes like morning dew on grass in autumn.
Jeez, no wonder I don’t have any fucking friends.
His fingers found their way into his hair. He tugged and pulled at the bunches of strands that curled in his fists, the palms of his hands digging into his temples.
No wonder Mabel doesn’t hang out with me anymore.
The pen clattered onto the desk beside his work with an anticlimactic donk, donk, and his eyes fixed on the blurry droplets that fell into the paper itself.
Is this why my parents don’t listen to me like they do Mabel?
He felt his chest tighten at the thought. Ever since he and Mabel were born, Mabel seemed to get everything she wanted. She got the carefree childhood, where the only thing she had to worry about was looking bad on picture day. She got all the clothes she wanted, all the supplies she needed for her hobbies, all the attention and eventually all the money and she was never told to “get a job” or “suck it up, Dipper, she does more than you do” and she never had the pressure of looking good in their parents eyes and –
Was it just Dipper or was it suddenly very hard to breathe?
His breaths came in heaving hiccups, and every breath he took only made his chest hurt more. He kept sucking in more air, trying and trying to get the breaths in, but it wasn’t working, and why wasn’t it working, he should be breathing but he can’t and this doesn’t make sense.
The desk chair tipped back, the wheels ticking as they spun dumbly, and the plastic giving off a dull thud as it hit the dark blue carpet of his room. He freed a hand from the confines of his hair and desperately clawed at his chest, his fingers gripping his shirt and his legs were tripping over each other as he stumbled for the door.
No, wait, he needed his phone.
He… needed to call someone.
Yeah. Yeah, he needed to call someone.
Stan. Stan might be able to help.
Dipper turned back to his desk. His socked feet dipped into the carpet, his long legs staggering in front of each other, and he removed his other hand from his hair the closer he got to the desk. It-it felt like he was drowning, like he was swallowing sand and glass and he was gasping for air and his whole body was boiling and he’s pretty sure he just threw off his shirt in an attempt to cool down.
The phone feels especially heavy in his hand, and he struggles to make his shaking thumb work around the touch screen.
He gives up as he fails to unlock the screen three times, his hands shaking too much, and he almost drops the phone. His thumb presses into the home button twice, and the tell-tale dinging of Siri being activated is all he gets before he somehow manages to work his throat and mouth and face around the struggling pit of despair and tells Siri to call Stan.
He doesn’t remember falling to the floor, but his knees hurt, and he still can’t breathe. He presses the phone to his ear. The dialling tone is weirdly comforting.
“Y’ello?” Stan says, and Dipper suddenly feels like his heart is beating so loud Stan can probably hear it.
He sucks in a breath and stutters out a sentence.
“S-Stan, I can’t – I can’t – I can’t breathe Stan please help I don’t know what to do –“
Stan cuts him off.
“Woah, Dipper, kid, what’s going on? Are you hurt?”
Dipper tries to reply, but all that comes out is a choking sob.
“Ah, shit – oi, Poindexter! Ford, get the fuck over here! I think Dipper might be having a… a panic attack or some shit.”
There’s shuffling on the other end. Dipper’s pretty sure he says something that barely translates to I’m not having a panic attack, I’m just fine.
Stan huffs before he passes the phone to who he can only presume is Ford.
“Dipper?” Ford’s voice is calm with a panicked undertone, and for some reason, Dipper feels a new flood of panic rise from the pits of hell.
“Ford I – I can’t breathe what the fuck man I’m pretty sure I need to breathe to survive but I can’t and I don’t know what to do why the fuck can’t I breathe, Ford, what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck –“
Dipper’s cut off by his own sobs, but he can hear Ford make a… sound of some sort.
“Dipper, I need you to breathe with me, okay?” Ford says smoothly, ever the responsible one.
“But Ford I can’t breathe I can’t breathe I can’t fucking breathe!”
“Yes, you can. You just need to do it with me.”
He nods. Ford can hear him nod, right?
“Okay, inhale –“ A tinny noise that seems very similar to an inhale rattles over the speaker, and Dipper feels compelled to follow, but it’s shaky at best. “- Good, now exhale –“ the same, only exhaling, and it’s only the same results.
“Okay, that was good, now do it again, okay?”
Dipper nods again. He’s pretty sure Ford can hear him nod. That’s a thing, right?
Whatever, he’s too out of it to care, but he’s pretty sure he needs to be focusing on his breathing, anyway.
It takes a few tries, but they eventually get there, and the Grunkles must be able to tell, because Stan’s immediately in his ear, asking him questions.
“Dipper, kid, okay, what the fuck was that?”
He vaguely hears Ford scolding Stan for his lack of respect, but he doesn’t care. Maybe he’s just too out of it. Maybe it’s the lingering feelings he still has. Maybe everything’s just too much of a blur for him to be able to process anything that’s happening around him.
Maybe it’s all three.
“Uh,” he provides dumbly, as even he’s not sure what happened. “I was just. I was just doing my homework or some shit and I dunno, I haven’t slept in a few… I haven’t been sleeping well lately and I’ve been pretty stressed so maybe it all just hit me at once?”
Silence. For a good moment.
He hears one of them – probably Ford, it was pretty science-y sounding – sigh, and the sound of glasses being pushed up.
“Dipper,” yep, it was Ford, “that wasn’t just a regular, run of the mill ‘everything hit me all at once’ deal. That was a full anxiety attack. And a bad one, from what I heard.”
Dipper refrains from huffing. He called these guys, for some reason, and they were willingly helping him, so he might as well hold the attitude. For a little longer, anyway.
“Son, you have to talk to us.” The way Ford said that grated on Dipper’s bones a little, but he chose not to comment. “You’re almost eighteen, and we haven’t seen you in years, Dipper. Talk to us. What’s going on?”
Dipper has to think for a moment, because honestly, what wasn’t going on? He had a whole heap of issues to try and get through, and now didn’t feel like a good time to start sorting the mess. First, there was the whole loner deal, with Mabel having pretty much abandoned him to go be the social butterfly she was, and with him, being the complete opposite, not having made any friends since his second year. Then there was this whole big ‘Mabel gets everything she asks for whereas I get the basics and only the basics’ thing, which was complete bullshit if you asked him.
And then there was the general stress of being in his final year and being in, like, every advanced class there is and a whole bunch of other shit piled on top of that and he was just sick of everything. He was so sick of being underestimated or only remembered as ‘Mabel’s brother’ and he was sick of how people treated him and how he felt like the whole world was on his shoulders and people kept adding more and more planets on top of it and it was just getting to be all too much and he just wanted it to stop.
“… Jeez, kid,” Stan sighed, and Dipper was suddenly very aware that he’d said all of that bullshit out loud. “Sounds like you need to just… get out.”
Dipper sighed again. Quietly agreed.
They all sat in silence for a minute, and Dipper tried to rub some warmth into his arms.
“Hey, Stan?” He said, his voice quiet, and Stan hummed in acknowledgement.
“Is…” Jeez, why was it so hard for him to say what he wanted? He felt like a twelve year old trying to confess their love to their crush. Just… unable to get it out. “Is it okay if I came and stayed with you? For a while?”
A beat of silence. “For… forever?”
God, there was so many silences. They sent chills up Dipper’s spine.
Stan sighed, but it was in a way that suggested he smiled as he did so.
“Sure, kid. Whatever you need.”
And in that moment, it just felt like the next year might be a little bit better.
Just a little bit better.