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The call comes at five in the morning. Mabel’s asleep, has been for hours, but when she sees Dipper’s name on the screen she knows he probably hasn’t even laid in bed yet. Her voice is thick when she answers. “What’s the deal, broski?” Feigning a light-hearted tone, even though she already knows, at this hour, why he’s calling.

“Please,” he says, and his voice breaks, and he swears softly. He didn’t want his voice to break right away, she thinks. “Please come up.”

“Of course.” She’s already stumbling out of bed, switching on a light that hurts her eyes, making soft shushing sounds at Fritters when he wakes up at the foot of her bed and blinks confusedly. Me too, kittenpants. Me too. “Just gonna make the coffee and put on some shoes. You have food in the apartment?”

“Sort of.” His voice is still quavering. She’s distracting him, keeping him grounded to the here, the now, the real.

“Cool, then I’ll bring some stuff because ‘sort of’ from you means 'half a box of pizza rolls and maybe a thing of cottage cheese.’ Which, by the way, is disgusting.” She’s pulling on socks and a pair of denim shorts. Throwing some stuff in a large shoulder bag. Change of clothes just in case, hairbrush, bag of gummy koalas, the necessities. “All right, you need me on the phone, or can I let you go while I get on the road?”

He hesitates. That’s never good. “You can hang up.”

“Okay. But listen. Are you listening?”

“Yeah, Mabes.”

“You need me at all before I get there, you call. I’ll put you on speakerphone so I can still drive safe. You promise?”

“I promise.”

“All right. I gotta feed Fritters and put on a shirt. But I’ll see you ASAP.”

“Okay.”

But it’s not okay. He’s not okay. “I love you, Dipper.”

“Love you, Mabel.”

Too quiet. Too broken. She hangs up and swears at the pile of clothes on the floor and blinks hard against the dampness in her eyes.

Mabel makes sure Fritters has a full dish of food and water, pulls on a sweater, finishes throwing things in her bag. She pours a thermos of coffee and hurries out the door. A quick trip to the twenty-four-hour minimart for some soup, some cereal and milk, some frozen stir-fry thing that has some vegetables because Dipper probably hasn’t touched a vegetable in weeks. Some Pitt Cola. And then on the road two hours north to his cramped little apartment in a town far too wooded and isolated for his own good. It’s supposed to help him focus on his writing. Instead it helps him focus far too much on other things.

Before she starts the car to get on the highway, she pulls the hairbands off her wrist and ties her long hair up in a floof on top of her head. It’s long enough now. She likes it long.

The fall they were fourteen, Mabel had chopped off all her hair, straight up to her chin. It had been a loose, flowy cloud of brown curls for about six months before she’d started growing it again because she learned pretty quickly that she liked it better long. But she’d needed to cut it.

She’d done the math on how fast hair grows, and she was pretty sure that when she cut her hair, everything she cut off was the hair that had been on her head that summer in Gravity Falls. What was left behind was new growth, after all that. She had meant to throw away the old hair, but in the end she couldn’t quite manage. So she coiled up the braid and tucked it in a small paper box and shoved it in the back of her closet. There were good things in that hair, too. It had just gotten too heavy. The instant the braid was cut, she’d felt the lightness - not just the physical lightness from so much less hair, but the metaphorical lightness. Some spiritual lightness. There’d been so much heaviness in her before; she’d done her best to keep it at bay, but it was still there. And Mabel doesn’t like feeling heaviness. She likes to feel light and free to fly.

Maybe that was Dipper’s problem. He had to cut off his Gravity Falls hair in inches, bit by bit. It had more time to cling.

That’s what she had told herself at fourteen. She knows better now, drinking coffee and eating a minimart breakfast sandwich while she drives through the sunrise, blaring top forty radio to keep herself alert. The things that happened to them in Gravity Falls - the things that happened to Dipper in Gravity Falls - are not so simple as to be bound up only in the hair on their heads.

Dipper calls her forty-five minutes into her drive. She stays on speakerphone with him until she’s almost at the exit, after which it only takes ten minutes to drive to his apartment. They talk about nothing in particular and he manages to half-heartedly make fun of her music choices and she doesn’t mind the inanity of the conversation because him being on the phone means he’s still there and okay and nothing bad has happened. She gets so scared, every time, that this is the time something bad will happen.

She pulls into the gravel driveway. She’s always liked the crunch of gravel under tires, or feet. It’s just short of eight in the morning as she carries her big shoulder bag and the grocery bags up to the building. He buzzes her in, and she climbs the stairs to his third-floor, top-floor, one-of-only-twelve-units-god-she-hates-this-shitty-place apartment. It’s actually a nice building. But there are windows in the stairwell and she can see the trees all around them. When she comes here just to visit, just for fun, just to spend time with her brother, the trees are comforting and familiar and calm. But on these visits, the sudden phone call please-come-up visits, the trees loom too close and are too heavy and turn too many bad thoughts in her own mind.

When Dipper opens the door, Mabel has to bite her lip to keep from crying. The shadows under his eyes are awful, and his hair is beyond mussed under his cap, and he can’t even force a smile for her. “I brought you groceries,” she says. “'Cause I know you don’t have anything here, you goober.” He just holds open the door so she can come in.

And he closes the door and locks and it and he’s just standing there, so Mabel drops all her bags and goes and wraps her arms around him. He folds his arms in between their chests and lets her hold him. His chin rests on her shoulder and Mabel closes her eyes and grips her fingers into the fabric of his hoodie and moves her lips in silent words, prayers and supplications, please let this pass easily, my brother, my poor wonderful brother.

When Dipper warms a little - her presence by itself always warms him a little, clears at least a tiny bit of the fog - she makes them bowls of cereal and they watch cartoons for a while. Then Dipper lays down on the couch with his head in her lap, and Mabel plays with his hair, working out the small knots gently and slowly, stroking his scalp. He eventually falls asleep, finally, thank god, and Mabel leans back on the couch and closes her own eyes. She doesn’t quite sleep, but she rests, her fingertips moving idly in her brother’s hair.

He doesn’t wake up until two in the afternoon. Mabel dozes off and on throughout this time - she has homework she’s supposed to be doing, but she forgot her laptop. So she just sits and touches Dipper’s face, his hair, until he finally turns his head and slowly sits up, rubbing his eyes. “What time is it?” he asks, voice husky.

“Time for lunch. C'mon. I brought soup.”

He stands in the kitchen with her while she heats up two cans. He’s standing, at least, not slumped in the chair, which is a good sign; but his shoulders are still tight and his eyes are what she can only call haunted, which are very bad signs. “So we’re going to eat soup and I’ll tell you about how classes and stuff have been,” Mabel says. “And the other stuff’ll wait until after soup. 'Cause food and sleep both make everything better. And speaking of better, make yourself some of that woo-woo tea.”

Dipper scrunches his nose. “I hate that tea.”

“Yeah, well, the woo-woo lady said it’s what you need to drink when this happens. So make some and drink it. The soup will get rid of whatever stank flavor it has. I got you beef and country veggies, bro. No worries.”

Dipper can’t even manage to grumble, but he makes the tea and drinks it while staring out the window. At the trees.

They got the tea the second time this happened, when Mabel suggested maybe they try to get him some help. Dipper had insisted he knows what to do, but Mabel pointed out this isn’t like other demons he’s fought. So they found a lady who ran a metaphysical shop in the next town and asked her about it. “It” being, specifically, what you should do when horrific things of a supernatural nature that invaded your very mind body spirit at a young age still wreak havoc on you from time to time in the form of kinda maybe sorta slightly dangerous episodes of depression and anxiety.

The lady had stared at them – both of them, not just Dipper, which had made Mabel feel kind of cold – over the top of her glasses before going back to sorting boxes of tarot cards while she spoke. “Well, I’d suggest a therapist,” she had said, “but I imagine if you were comfortable telling a therapist about being possessed, you’d have already done that.” Dipper had clenched Mabel’s hand in a vice grip when the lady looked back up and said, “And I imagine you already know quite well how to banish things.”

“There’s nothing to banish,” Dipper told her. “It’s just– aftermath.”

“Mm. Well. Sometimes that’s harder to manage than the actual demons.” The lady stared at them a little longer, then said she could make Dipper an herbal tea that wouldn’t solve his problem but would soothe his symptoms. It was the best they could get, and they took it.

They eat soup, and Mabel tells Dipper about school, and she know’s he’s only half-listening even though he looks at her intently. She knows it’s the fact that she’s here and talking and with him that he’s latching onto, not her words. It’s okay. She doesn’t mind. The rest of the time he listens for real. These times, she’s taking care of him. That’s all that matters.

After the dishes are washed, they go to Dipper’s room and sit on the bed, leaning against the wall and hugging pillows on their laps, their shoulders touching. “So what happened this time?” she finally asks. Her legs are stretched out, ankles crossed. Her socks don’t match; one has pink and white stripes and the other is baby blue. Dipper isn’t wearing socks.

“Night terrors again,” he says. “For a couple days. And then last night I couldn’t sleep at all. I tried, Mabel, I really tried. I brushed my teeth and came in to go to bed and I just got stuck in the doorway.” His eyes have a far-away look. “Just stared at my bed and everything started rushing in my head. Everything that happened. Things that still happen. None of the good stuff. I never remember the good stuff, just all the fucked up shit. I couldn’t really breathe for a while.”

Mabel watches him, the shallow rise and fall of his chest, as he hesitates before saying, “I wanted to call you, but it was two in the morning. So I tried to drink some of that woo-woo tea, but I couldn’t swallow it. And my heart kept racing 'cause I kept glancing out the window and I was so scared I was going to see things out in the trees.” He almost laughs. “I think every kid is scared of that. Some adults too. But they’re afraid they’ll see something and it’ll turn out to be real. I already know it’s real. That’s why I’m scared.”

He pauses and bites his fingernails. Mabel waits; she already has plenty she wants to say but he likes to spew it out as much as he can at once. “I waited as long as I could to call you,” he finally continues. “I tried not to at all. I tried not to bother you. But the thought of even walking into this room or closing my eyes to sleep made me want to– I couldn’t. I had to call you. I’m sorry, Mabel.”

“No apologies,” she says. Her voice is quiet, matching his.

“I can trust you.” It’s not a question; he’s saying it to himself, clutching his pillow and staring at his knees. “I can trust you, I can trust you, I can always trust you Mabel, I can trust you–”

His eyes are starting to gleam wet. Mabel curves her hand around one of his; he doesn’t let go of the pillow but lets her hold her hand against his. “You can trust me, and I’m always gonna be here, and I’m always gonna walk with you 'til you come out on the other side. Forever and ever and ever.”

Dipper is crying now, quiet slow tears with red eyes and a red nose and sniffles and shaky, soft breaths. “'Cause it’s not just Bill,” he manages. “I used to wonder if it was just Bill, and everything with that– but– it’s not, that’s over, he doesn’t have me anymore but I just– Mabel I don’t–”

“Shh.” Mabel pries his hand free and winds her fingers in his, leans her face into his neck and hums softly, rubbing her thumb against the side of his hand. “I know why you get scared,” she says after a minute. “I know why you’re afraid to call me. But that’s why I always come when you call. So you know. So you don’t have to doubt or be afraid that I’m ever gonna turn back on you. 'Cause I’m not. I’m here for good, like it or not.”

Dipper makes a choked sound, part tears and part laugh and part something too hard to identify. “I like it.”

“I know.” She wraps both arms around his shoulders, burrowing close against him. “Do you trust me?”

“I do. I trust you.”

“Good. 'Cause I’m always gonna be here to be your light.”

She feels him move his head, so she looks up. He’s staring at her, wet-eyed, biting his lip, and she can see all the words built up behind that bit lip, words he’s already said before, over and over, words that’ll only make him feel crazier to keep on saying. So she leans in and kisses him so he won’t have to talk.

It’s gentle and delicate and slow, and he melts at her touch, soothed, melts into her and takes her face in his hands. She kisses him, kisses him, smooth and tender, reminds him with her lips and her hands on his back that this is who you are, you are safe, you are good, you are whole, you are with me. I’m here, I’m here, I’m always here and you don’t have to ever be afraid I’ll leave you. No more endings. We’ve had enough endings. Let’s just be, and be constant.

Eventually his hands move down to her shoulders, down her sides, down to her hips, and the press of his fingers grows needy. Mabel knew this was coming; it happens almost every time she comes when he needs her. And his sadness, his emptiness, his fear, all the pain balled up and twisting in her brother’s chest has been twisting her own this entire time because how can she not feel it, how can she not carry it with him? And she needs it too, needs him, needs to remember. So she leans into him, hands coming down to his hips and sliding up underneath his hoodie, under his T-shirt, to press against the warm skin of his back.

They strip each other bare in the warm afternoon light angling through his window, and Dipper lays her across the sheets, his eyes still damp but warmer, and his fingertips ghost down her front. Mabel sighs and closes her fingers softly around his other wrist as he grazes his hand between her legs and leans down to kiss her as he works her slowly. She wraps her arms around his neck and loses herself in feeling, in the sound and sensation of his breath, the tickle of his hair brushing her forehead, all the senses that are Dipper, Dipper, Dipper.

He leans down closer and she kisses his shoulders, his neck, finds his mouth with hers again as her hand finds his length. Dipper sighs into her mouth and grows hard in her palm and eventually pulls back enough to fumble in the bedside table drawer. Mabel turns and peeks; the box of condoms looks just as full as last time this happened. It makes her a little sad for him. But then she remembers this is not the time for feeling sad. This is the time for feeling Dipper, and together, and forever and ever and ever. So she runs her palms along his thighs while he rolls it on, and then she takes him in her arms, wraps her legs around him, pulls him all tight against her as he eases inside.

It isn’t always like this, tearful and slow and saddish. Sometimes it happens with more spark, more fun, more sexiness. Can she say sexiness about her own brother? She may as well, the whole thing’s completely off its head anyway. So sometimes it’s genuinely sexy, like normal person sex, hot and thrilling and full of moans and sometimes some really, seriously rocking orgasms. But even then, it means what this means now - saying to one another I am here, I am with you, I always will be. Saying it with their bodies because there are things they have seen, felt, known that go beyond words; there are things they need from one another, an intimacy without definition, for which they can’t find their words, so they talk with their hands, their pressed-together mouths and hips, the way Dipper’s stomach is warm against hers.

Dipper’s looking into her eyes, and his are finally dry. They’re burning, now, burning into hers, and Mabel finds one of his hands and laces her fingers through his and lets out a fluttering sigh. He moves in her and gazes down at her and there are thousands of words all in his eyes, which is okay, she can read them all, and she knows he can read her eyes, too. Then when he lowers his head and presses his face against her collarbone, she lets her head tip back and closes her eyes and gets lost. His breath on her skin, his skin on her skin, his length inside her, his soft grunts, the gentle scrape of his chin stubble against her neck. It’s Dipper, all Dipper, and she lets herself sink deep into him.

Eventually Dipper starts to slow down. Mabel feels him get softer. He glances at her - she hasn’t come yet, and obviously neither has he. She smiles to tell him it’s okay, because it is - it’s great when they do, but they don’t always finish, and they don’t always need to. Today she doesn’t think they need to. It felt good anyway, and she was with him, and that’s what they both need.

He rolls off her and curls up next to her. Mabel pulls up the blanket and covers their shoulders, turning onto her side so she can look at him. Their legs are crossed over each other’s and they twine their fingers together, breathing a little hard, watching each other again. “You’re okay being in your bed now,” she says, giving a slight eyebrow waggle to see if he’s ready to laugh. He does laugh, a little, and weakly, but still a laugh. “And you didn’t have a night terror when you napped earlier.”

“Yeah.”

“You gonna be okay after I go?”

Dipper pauses. “I’ll be better,” he says. “Better enough to be by myself. Fully okay might take a few days.”

“So just text me a bunch. I’ll send you kitten videos. It’ll all be good.” She snuggles closer until their noses almost touch; she can feel his body heat. It’s good, safe, comforting. It’s warm and still and close and she wonders if this is what it was like when they were together in the womb. She hopes he feels the same from her. “I’ll stay tonight and drive back down in the morning before class.”

“You sure?”

“Of course, brobro. You know when I’m here for you, I’m here for you.”

“Thank you.” It comes out a whisper. Mabel just smiles and kisses him, and then they lean their foreheads together and lie in quiet for a while.

The first time they slept together, which was the first time he called her out of the blue, only half-breathing, and begged her to drive up there (he has, since then, learned to control this a bit better), it almost made things worse. Dipper, being Dipper, freaked out and started overanalyzing. And Mabel had almost done the same. Because getting in your twin’s boxers is really really kind of seriously weird, Mabel, she’d told herself. “What are we?” Dipper had asked. “What the fuck are we doing?”

And then it had clicked, simply and succinctly, in Mabel’s mind. “We’re taking care of each other,” she had told him. “Like we always do.”

“This is a weird way of taking care of each other, Mabel.”

“But it’s not. Like– bro, do you want to date me now?”

“God, no.”

“Me neither. It’s not like that. It’s just like– just like this. Just us. It’s just what we needed. And maybe we’ll need it again sometime, y'know? And I don’t think - I mean it’s not exactly normal, yeah, but I don’t think it’s weird for us. 'Cause there’s so much–” And she had almost started to cry, then, except she had promised herself she wouldn’t cry. “'Cause there’s just so much,” she said. “And we’re just so much. After everything, we’re everything. So I don’t think it’s bad to try to tell each other the stuff we can’t find words for.” And she had grinned and said, “'Cause you would just reduce it to some logical formulaic blah blah, and I’d just word vomit and be like blaaaaaaagh my feelings! So maybe this is better.”

It hadn’t soothed his worries immediately, but when he had another bad spell and called her up again and they slept together again, he’d had far fewer misgivings. He began to realize what she’d been trying to tell him. He began to let himself be lost in her in those moments, only her and nothing else. And it grounded him, brought him back, reminded him that he’s safe in her. And that was all she wanted.

Dipper’s eyes are closed now. Mabel traces the line of his cheek and jaw with her fingertips, and he sighs softly at her touch. He does, in fact, remember all of the good from their time in Gravity Falls. He remembers it, loves it, cherishes it. Just in these moments, these bad spells, these attacks of past demons (both literal and figurative, though the literal ones only have a figurative hold anymore), he has trouble remembering the good. He only remembers fear and betrayal and loss and pain and violation and struggle and loneliness and paranoia. And Mabel is the only one who can bring him back. But she always does. He won’t be back to his normal self when she leaves in the morning, but he’ll be better. And soon he’ll be his normal self again, funny and smart and good and writing a lot and goofy and yeah, sometimes neurotic, but normal neurotic, not this kind of badness. She’ll bring him back to himself again.

This is what she does. Because he is hers, her brother, her twin, her Dipper. And she’ll always shine her light for him.

This is not always understood. Their first conversation about sex is true - they have no desire to date one another. But they are becoming increasingly aware of the difficulty of dating other people. Dipper’s always struggled in that area, letting his hang-ups get in the way of what a good guy he can be, and now it’s only harder.

Mabel’s struggles are different. During high school, she let her romantic dreams run wild and enjoyed dating and was incredibly fulfilled for what she wanted at the time, which was fun and light-hearted romance. But as she passed out of her teens, she started wanting something more meaningful, started understanding a more complex kind of love. And started realizing she might never find it.

The last boyfriend, Nick, is a perfect example. Things had started shiningly, but two months in she’d had a please-come-now call from Dipper and left when she was supposed to have a date night with Nick. (To her credit, she did not have sex with her brother that night. She never sleeps with Dipper if she’s dating someone because intimacy with your twin, once underpants get involved, fully counts as cheating, and Mabel isn’t a cheater.) She had apologized profusely but explained that sometimes Dipper had massively bad spells and she was really the only one who could calm him down.

“But do you have to drive all the way up there?” Nick had asked. “Like can’t he just talk on the phone?” And how was Mabel supposed to explain yes, I have to drive up there to make sure he’s safe, to make sure nothing actually does come out of the trees when it smells the stink of supernatural fear on him, becuase he knows how to fight those things but in his current state he’d probably put up his hands in surrender and let them eat him alive? How was she supposed to tell this nice normal history major who played intramural rugby that the world was full of strange things, some of which will steal your body, steal your soul, or eat you up from your liver to your eyes?

When Dipper came down to the school to visit, Nick had pronounced him a cool dude, and how the hell did he have “episodes” so bad Mabel had to go up to see him to calm him down? Because Dipper is a cool dude. (Sort of; he’s still a huge dork but he’s a good dork, a good guy.) But how is Mabel supposed to explain the immeasurable loss he’s experienced - and so has she - and the only way to bring him back from falling into the chasm of that is to ground him with her?

The third time she had to go see Dipper after starting a relationship with Nick, Nick had gotten sharp with her. And so she’d gotten sharp back. “Look,” she’d said, “some really, really messed up stuff happened to us when we were kids.” She held up her hand, waggling all five fingers. “There are approximately this many people who understand what we went through, and most of them? Dipper can’t call them up when he needs help. So I’m there for him. I take care of him. Because he’s my brother, and that’s what I do.”

“So just fucking tell me, Mabel,” Nick had said. “What did you go through that was that bad? Why won’t you just tell me about this shit?”

And she never had an answer. How could she possibly explain Gravity Falls - not just gnomes and body-switching carpets and mermen but narrowly escaping being torn apart alive by zombies, being possessed by ghosts, your brother being possessed by one of the most horrific beings around, and everything that had happened after? And like every serious boyfriend before him, Nick had left because, in his words, Mabel didn’t trust him.

That always made her so angry and so, so sad. Because Mabel knows how to trust. She just also knows what happened to her is not something she can ever talk about. Except with Dipper.

In his bedroom, now, the light is growing warmer and dimmer as afternoon turns into evening. Dipper is breathing softly, probably not quite asleep but resting, calmed for now, soothed by his sister’s presence. Mabel lets her hand rest on his cheek and thinks about ordering in a pizza later. She had planned to make that bag of frozen stir-fry, but pizza sounds good, and Dipper can save the veggies for another day. Then she thinks about Dipper, about all his strength and smarts and goodness, and how horrible and sad and painful it is to see this happen to him, all these fears come flashing back. There has to be a way to protect him.

She gets up for a drink of water a little later. Dipper holds her hand until she steps too far away and their fingers slip apart, but she promises from the doorway that she’ll be right back. “Look,” she says, stark naked as she lifts her arms and points her fingertips, drawing an imaginary line around the perimeter of his doorframe. “I’m filling up this doorway with protection. Nothing will get in and get at you except me.” And she smiles, and he smiles back, and she goes to get her glass of water.

Mabel drinks her water and fishes her phone out of her bag that’s still lying on the living room floor, and she calls for a pizza. After she hangs up the phone, she decides what she’s going to do.

She crawls back into bed with Dipper, and they lie wrapped in each other’s arms, talking softly now about the good things so he can remember them again, until the pizza delivery person buzzes the buzzer, and Dipper puts on jeans and his hoodie and goes down to get it. Mabel dresses slowly in the dimness of his bedroom and thinks about her plan. Then she goes out and eats pizza and drinks Pitt Cola with her brother and they watch more cartoons. When they’re done, Dipper looks less hollowed-out, a little better, and she feels better.

They go to bed, Mabel in her tank top and panties, Dipper in his boxers, and she curls against his back, insisting on being the big spoon. “You just want to be alpha twin,” Dipper mutters, but she knows he appreciates the safety, the comfort, by the way he curls his hand around her wrist. They lie in the quiet for a while before Mabel asks him if he’s still awake. “Yeah.”

“I have an idea.”

“Lay it on me.”

She takes a deep breath. “We should go travel.”

Dipper nestles his head into the pillow. “Like over the summer?”

Mabel squeezes her eyes shut. Now she’s wondering if this is stupid. But it’s not. It’s good. “Not exactly,” she says. “I was thinking a more permanent arrangement.”

Dipper rolls over onto his back, turning his head to look at her. “What’re you talking about?”

She props herself up on her elbow. “I know you’re writing and doing good work at it, and I’m really proud of you. But holing yourself up here is making stuff really bad for you, too. It’s letting all the bad junk fester up. I think– I think we should travel and be– be the mystery twins again.”

“Back to Gravity Falls?”

“Anywhere. Everywhere. We can– Dip, we know all this stuff. We can load ourselves up with like protection and an arsenal of baddy-killing ghost-busting tools. So we get all geared up and just– just travel where-ever there’s bad supernatural junk happening, and we can take care of it for people.”

“Isn’t that the plot of Supernatural? Like the show?”

She sticks out her tongue. “Don’t ask me. I only watch cartoons and Top Model, dork.”

“Mabel, are you serious? You have school. You’ve got a whole 'nother year after this semester.”

“Tch, yeah, my stupid fifth year 'cause I was stupid and couldn’t choose a major sooner. Dipper, maybe everything that happened was for a reason. Maybe we’re supposed to take it all and take it out there and help people.” She curls her fingers between his. “Like we help each other.” She leans her head in, resting her forehead on the side of his head and closing her eyes. “And then we’d always be together, like we used to, and you’d never have to be scared I’d leave you again. We’ll have each others’ backs. And we know now that we really will, no matter what.”

He turns all the way over, pulling her into his arms, all pretty swiftly which startles her enough to pull her head back and open her eyes. Dipper’s eyes are serious. “Mabel, you deserve to have a normal life. Finish school. Go be a teacher. You’ll be awesome.”

“Hey, remember when it’s my life and I get to decide what to do with it?” Mabel stares at him hard for a few long seconds, then tips her head and kisses his forehead, right on his birthmark. “And what I want to do with it is spend it with you.” Dipper’s arms tighten around her. “And hey, what better way for the mystery twins to spend their lives together than by seeking out things that go bump in the night and being like, hey, stop bumpin’ around.”

“You’re so articulate.” But his tone is softening. He’s coming around to the idea.

“Just think about it, brobro. We don’t have to decide now. But think about it. You and me, traveling and helping people get rid of bad junk. The right way.”

“Yeah. The right way.” He stares at her, then leans in and kisses her, firmly, and it surprises her, but she softens against him and curls her hands against his chest. “I’ll think about it,” he murmurs agains her lips.

Mabel smiles. “That’s all I can ask right now. My other choice is to tickle-bully you into saying yes, but this time I’d rather you make the decision on your own, not by the power of my alpha twin status.”

“You’re not the alpha twin.”

“I so am.”

“Mabel.”

“Yes, Dippingsauce?”

He touches her face, his thumb grazing under her chin and his fingers gentle against her jaw. It feels so sweet, and his eyes are so sweet. “Thank you for coming. I love you.”

Mabel smiles again, pressing her hands against his chest. “I love you, too, you big dummy.” And he finally smiles back at her, then gathers her in his arms until she’s resting with her head on his shoulder, arms around him, legs intertwined. They lie in silence, and Mabel listens to his breath, feels the warm, steady beat of his heart.

“I hope morning takes forever to get here,” he says, quietly, after a while.

Mabel strokes her fingertips against his back and smiles. “So do I.”