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Rocks and Water

Chapter Text

It was a couple weeks after school started up again that found Wendy bored and procrastinating. Today’s distraction was taking the form of crawling through the boxes in the not-quite-an-attic of her family’s cabin. She hadn’t been up there since before her mother died, but the lengths of Wendy’s desire to avoid homework knew no bounds. Especially since something had been poking the back of her mind since Weirdmageddon. It was Bill. He’d looked familiar-- and not just because she’d worked at the Mystery Shack, which, until recently had been covered in secret Bills like he was the Mickey Mouse of some demented Disney park.

So, that bothersome thought plus avoiding her trigonometry homework, sent her up into the crawlspace. She found her quarry easily; the pile of boxes of her Mom’s possessions hadn’t been touched by anyone else, either. One of her Mom’s many journals emerged soon after.

The drawings of Bill weren’t even a surprise by the time Wendy turned the third page. Wendy slammed the journal closed, and fumbled around for journals from more recently.

The surprise was the letter addressed to her, stuck in the pages of Wendy’s mother’s final journal. With shaky hands, Wendy opened the envelope and unfolded the page. It was dated a couple weeks before her mother had died.

Wendy,

I told your father to give you this after I died. I’m willing to bet cash money that he didn’t, and that you found this on your own. I’m glad that you did.

Gravity Falls is a strange, dangerous place. Your father and I discussed moving many times before you were born, but Corduroy blood runs too deep in the land here. He never seriously considered it, and was only humoring me.

Be careful here, Wendy. The forest is full of things that go bump in the night. If we’re being honest, they go bump in the morning and afternoon, too. I want you to read my journals. When you do, you’ll learn about the most dangerous entity of all. Do not seek him out, and avoid those who do. I learned that lesson the hard way.

To that end, avoid Stanford Pines.

He was a dangerous friend I made when I was too young to know better. I can only thank my lucky stars our friendship ended when it did. He changed dramatically not long after he and I parted ways, but that only made me trust him even less. That Mr. Mystery act, and that tourist trap he built are too different from the man I knew to be anything but lies.

I love you, and I’m proud of you.

-Mom

PS - Maybe avoid McGucket, too. He may be harmless now, but he did plenty of damage his own self.

Wendy folded the letter back up, her heart pounding. What on earth had happened? What had her Mom done with Dr. Pines? Why did she know about Bill? Wendy dug through the rest of the boxes, pulling out every journal she found, setting them aside. She brought them down to her room, locked the door, and set to putting them in chronological order. Then she learned some stuff about her Mom that never occurred to her in a million years.

The first half of the first journal was sweet, but held no answers. Wendy followed along as her mother fell in love with math, science, and Dan Corduroy, in that order. There were many pages of angst over the fact that even at 14, it was apparent Dan had no desire to leave rural Oregon. While it was clear she loved her home, she at least wanted to travel and see other places before committing to the life of a small logging town. Things got interesting as the journals reached the summer between her parents’ junior and senior years of high school.

June 15th, 1977

I went with Dan to his worksite today. He’d mentioned he was working on an expansion to a property he’d helped his Dad build a couple years back. I wanted to join him because he told me the sub-basement they were working on was going to be a science lab! I’ll take just about any chance I can to talk to someone more knowledgeable than the science teachers at the high school. So help me, I saw a line in our text books describing wistfully that “...man may someday walk on the moon!” Uh huh. The Apollo mission happened ‘69. So glad to know the school board is making science a priority. Ugh.

Anyway, I met the guy who hired Dan, this Dr. Pines guy. He seems nice enough, a little weird, but definitely someone worth talking to. I wonder if he needs an assistant?

Wendy flipped ahead.

August 23rd, 1977

I joined Dr. Pines on a hike through the forest today. He was cagey about what he wanted to show me, but he assured me I’d know it when I saw it. Well, next thing I know I’m elbow deep in the wiring of some alien spaceship that crashed here a bazillion years ago. Dr. Pines says the crash is what made the valley. As soon as he said that, I couldn’t believe I’d never noticed it before.

Wendy facepalmed and took a minute to assimilate this information. Cleaning up from the birthday party, Dipper had told her about his adventure with Ford before...well, before everything happened. It made sense that an ancient spaceship crash had gotten mentally backburnered in favor of basic trauma recovery. The directions this procrastination method was taking were troubling, and Wendy decided maybe trigonometry was preferable after all. She suspected if she ran into difficulty, she could always call Dr. Pines for help. She’d certainly be calling him soon to ask about other things, that was for certain.

Chapter Text

Later that night, journals and trigonometry put away finally, Wendy stared at her phone. It was kinda late, but the person she wanted to talk to was certainly a night owl in their own right. She figured a text might be the way to start this conversation. She still winced when she realized it was nearly 11pm.

                                                                                                                                                                                                         10:53
                                                                                                                                                                                           Hey, Dipper. You awake?

                    10:54
                    Yeah, what’s up?
                                                                                                                                                                                                         10:54
                                                                                                                                                     Mind if I call? It’s honestly too weird to text about.

Wendy’s phone buzzes right away.

“Hey, dude. How’s California?”

“Boring as ever.”

“Things are surprisingly quiet around here, since...you know. Everyone’s taking that “Never Mind All of That!” stance pretty seriously.”

“That’s good. Is that good?”

“With the Society of the Blind Eye gone, folks have just sort of quietly acknowledged whatever weird stuff they see and just ignored it. We’re in trouble if the gnomes ever find the supermarket, though, I can tell you that much.”

“I can only imagine! Um, Wendy. I know you didn’t call me at 11 at night to talk about the gnomes.”

“I didn’t.” Wendy doesn’t even know where to start.

“Want to tell me what’s up?”

“Yes, but it’s...a lot. So I was procrastinating doing my homework earlier, and I went into the crawlspace, and I found a letter from my Mom and all her old journals. How about my Mom was buds with Ford and McGucket?”

“Wh….what?” Dipper had never heard Wendy talk about her Mom. He’d never really known how to ask or what to say, so he just let it be. He kept it in his mental file of “Things That Make Wendy Mysterious And Therefore Cool.”

“Dude, my Mom knew about Bill.”

“Whoa.”

“I don’t have all the deets yet, but if it’s neutral, I figure I can just ask Ford, and if it’s not neutral, well...I have a lot of math and science homework I’ll need help with the next three years, you know?”

“Heh, well. I’m sure he’d be happy to help you with that stuff, blackmail or not.” Dipper laughed nervously. “What were you able to find out so far?”

“Aside from that bombshell, not much I didn’t know before? I knew my Mom wanted more than the logging life, but I didn’t realize how deep that went. Dipper, I think my Mom was a scientist back in the day.”

“What did she do before um...before she died?” Dipper wasn’t quite sure how to phrase that question. Talking around parental death was new territory for him. There were so many possible landmines, and he was afraid of falling face-first onto all of them.

“At that point she was mostly a stay at home Mom,” Wendy replied with no obvious reaction to the question. “There’s four of us, and my baby brother was still really a baby when she passed. So she went from “does stuff around town when folks need help” to “juggling four kids, two of them under five.” Dad got enough from logging and construction, it wasn’t too bad.”

“I see.” Dipper was wildly out of his depth in this conversation. Being one of two kids in a family where money wasn’t really a struggle made him unqualified to have any strong opinions. He decided to steer the conversation back towards a topic he did know about. “So how did she know about Bill?”

“I haven’t quite figured that out yet. She wrote that letter right before she died, but I only found it today. She was assisting Ford and McGucket between semesters. It sounds like she had a falling out with Ford not long before he fell through the portal. I guess the poor dude lost all his friends back then.”

“From what I saw in his journals, he’d gone pretty off the deep end by the time he wrote to Grunkle Stan. And you know how that ended.”

Wendy could hear Dipper chewing on a pen over the phone.

“You want to ask what was in the letter, don’t you.”

“I totally want to ask what was in the letter.”

“Nothing too jaw dropping, other than, you know, that she knew Ford and McGucket. No, like, touching missives of motherly wisdom. Well, I guess warning me to stay away from Bill is a good example of maternal protectiveness. I just got the memo like two months late.”

“Just think how different the summer would have been if you’d avoided your math homework last year!”

“Whoa, dude. Man. She wrote that letter a couple weeks before she died and told my Dad to give it to me. Want to know the stupidest thing?”

“Always.”

“He never gave it to me, and she even wrote in the letter, “I bet he didn’t give this to you and you found it on your own.” I can’t decide if I’m mad at my Dad or pleased my Mom got to surprise me one, uh, one last time.” An uncharacteristic amount of emotion floods into Wendy’s voice. The last time Dipper heard her this upset, she was mad at him and at Robbie. He is completely out of his depth, but he knows he should probably say something.

“That’s good, though, right?”

“Yeah, I guess. I just...no, this is stupid.”

“No feelings are stupid. Mabel won’t let me forget that.”

“Okay, well, not stupid, just…” Wendy trails off. Dipper thinks he can hear her sniffling quietly.

“Are you okay, Wendy?”

“Yes. I mean, no. In general yes, but not right now. This is stuff I don’t like to think about very much. Like, this is old stuff, and now it’s all mixed up with the stuff from this summer. It’s a double whammy of I’ll think about that later that I never actually want to think about.”

“I’m sorry it’s all hitting you at once, Wendy. That’s a lot to deal with.” Dipper hears her sniff again.

“Yeah, it is. Augh, maybe I can ditch tomorrow.”

“What?”

“Excuse me, “take a mental health day.” Fortunately, there’s a lot of that going around town.”

“Are people even talking about what happened?”

“Not super publicly, but there’s a hotline people can call if they need it.”

“Have you called it?”

“Nah. I figure we came through that mess better than most, am I right?”

Wendy’s voice sounded almost convincing. Dipper grimaces, thinking about how often he and Mabel have camped out on each other’s floors since returning home. Their parents haven’t said anything yet, but he’s willing to bet it'll get brought up soon.

“I guess, yeah, sure. Don’t feel like you have to hold it all in though, okay? You saw what that did to McGucket.”

“I’ll be okay, I promise. And if I need help, I’ll call someone.”

“Good. I uh, I promise that, too.”

“Are you guys okay?”

“We’re getting there.” 

“I’m only letting you off the hook because you seem to be doing the same." Dipper hears Wendy blow her nose and clear her throat, composing herself. He can practically hear her shields going back up. "Um, it’s almost midnight. I think I’m gonna turn off the light and stare at the ceiling until my brain shuts up. I'll text you tomorrow if I learn anything.”

“Okay, cool, thanks.”

“G’night Dipper. And, you know what?”

“What’s that?”

“You’re pretty good at this stuff.”

“Thanks. Well, thank Mabel. She’s the one who drilled it into all of us before we left the Shack. Something about not letting us hide our feelings anymore.”

“Either way. Okay, g’night for real this time.”

“G’night!”

With a sigh, Wendy plugs in her phone and, as described, rolls on her back to stare at the ceiling. Dealing with her Mom stuff and dealing with the Weirdmageddon stuff were both hard enough, and now they were all mixed up in each other. Conversations needed to happen, that was for sure.

On the bright side, she’d get to hear all new stories about her Mom, so that would be interesting for sure.

Chapter Text

Wendy went to school the next day after all. She wanted normal. She wanted-- god help her, she wanted trigonometry. She wanted cardboard cafeteria pizza and surely-not-actually-ever-had-been-potatoes french fries. She even wanted to hear Robbie make the tired “if you french fry when you pizza, you’re gonna have a bad time” joke. She wanted predictable.

But somewhere around her math quiz that afternoon, a trail of a melody got stuck in her head, and she couldn’t shake it. She couldn’t shake it, and worse, she couldn’t place it. Every time she almost got the shape of actual lyrics in her mind, they flitted away. There wasn’t even enough to hum at Tambry on the off chance they could Shazam it on her phone. It was maddening.

Wendy’s key was in the door to the cabin when the chorus crashed into her head like a train collision.

It was a cover of “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival that had been driving her mad. She’d been unable to convey the song as other people would recognize it because the version she knew best was slowed down, a female vocal over methodical acoustic guitar.

Ignoring the clamor of her brothers also getting home from school, Wendy returned immediately to the crawl space in the attic. The younger two asked where she was going, but she shared a look with the oldest of the three, and he shushed the others.

It was the work of maybe a minute to find the box that formerly housed a pair of her father’s Wolverine boots, now the home to easily a dozen cassette tapes. Cassette tapes. Who even listened to those anymore? Seriously, even Soos’s truck played CDs and nothing else.

Each tape was still in its case, each case with a label and a lovingly written out tracklist. “Road Trip North,” one tape said. “Portland 1995,” said another. Seriously, there were so many of them. Luckily, in another box--reverently placed atop what Wendy realized was the outfit her mother had worn on what turned out to be her last trip to the hospital-- was an Aiwa portable cassette player. (Her mother called it a Walkman, just as all bandages are bandaids, and all pocket tissues are kleenex.)

There was a tape still in it, halfway through its reel. Wendy knew that tape: she’d helped pick out the track list. It had been the soundtrack to many adventures. “Wendy & Me Mix 2004,” the label said.

When Wendy was still in elementary school, she and her Mom had spent an afternoon, tapes and CDs scattered around them in a pile. That pile eventually got whittled into a songlist, and then that songlist became a mixtape. It was full of singer-songwriter stuff that her Mom loved, often sent up from friends in Portland. Sure, there was some degradation in sound when they copied something from one mixtape to another, but Sarah didn’t care. The point was the story each tape told. In every 45, 60, or 90 minute mix, an arc appeared from the opening notes to the closing strains. The trick, her Mom made sure to specify, was that a complete tale was told. The point of mixtapes, she informed Wendy, was that they had a beginning, a middle and an end.

(Years later, when playlists constructed first on one website, then another app, made it easy to bend such rules, Wendy held firm. The stories might meander, and some might have the same parts in different frameworks, but they all took you on a journey and brought you back to ground. Not always back where you began, but definitely to a starting point nonetheless.)

Mixtapes were a road marker of their own.


The Corduroy house wasn’t terribly divided on gender lines. Wendy and her Mom were “the girls,” sure, but most activities were done all together, as a family. The logging life often meant a crew was only as strong as its weakest link. So Wendy, being the oldest, was never held back or excluded from the “manly” doings of the family. Dan Corduroy wanted to know his eldest could hold her own in the family business, regardless of the life she eventually chose for herself. His wife had climbed trees and hauled planks and all other manner of jobs, and they expected no less from their daughter. Even from a young age, Wendy had shown an aptitude.

But once in a while, Mom announced they were off to do girl things. Anyone was welcome to join them--no Corduroy was entirely alien to a nail salon or rom com matinee--but usually it was just her and Wendy. When it was-- especially when it was-- that mixtape was the soundtrack.


Wendy queued the tape to the song that had plagued her all afternoon, then laughed until she cried.

Thea Gilmore warning of a bad moon on the rise was basically the soundtrack to her summer, full stop. From spectral possession in a convenience store to...well, Weirdmageddon, everything the song warned had come to pass. Wendy wondered what other hints she’d missed on the tape, so she went back to her bedroom for a more thorough listen. The week caught up with her more than she realized, and Wendy crashed hard, acoustic guitars, harmonies, and words more prescient than she or her mother ever realized echoing through a tinny Harmon/Kardon speaker.

An old Ani DiFranco tune came on as Wendy drifted back to wakefulness, and all she could see was Mabel.

Each verse was Mabel checking in on her loved ones, making sure the trauma they all shared was, if not resolved, then on the way to being healed. Wendy realized she’d actually seen Mabel check in with Dipper, Soos, and Mr. Pines, but never Other Mr. Pi...Dr. Pines. She wondered if a conversation like that had happened. She hoped it had.

Wendy wrote down each track, then made an mp3 playlist featuring all the same. The gulf between a mixtape compiled years ago and all currently available technology was, in a gut wrenching shock, too wide. She knew she wanted to dig into her mother’s journals again, but knew the stone silence of her initial foray was not a good choice. Besides, having the songs she and her mother had picked to accompany her felt like a hug.

Wendy shivered. She hadn’t let herself indulge in a tactile memory of her mother in a long time. It cost too much.

The music buoyed her though, lowering that cost, easing the load.

Chapter Text

In the aftermath of That Thing The Town Won’t Talk About, No You Shut Up!, some businesses had recovered faster than others. The small movie theater where Thompson had worked was, unfortunately, one of the slower to recover casualties. Mayor Cutebiker had put together a job exchange for folks whose jobs weren’t ready to take them back yet, and Thompson took advantage. Well, more like his Mom had threatened to revoke his van privileges if he didn’t get a new job. He traded selling tickets at the movies for selling tickets at the Gravity Falls History Museum, and he decided he’d traded up.

The hours were way better-- no more late nights, for one thing. Even better, he no longer came home smelling like popcorn and hot dogs. Best of all, his friends were no longer hassling him to sneak them into showings. He was the rare Gravity Falls resident who found himself in better standing because of Weirdma…That Thing.

He checked his phone during a lull, and saw he had a message from Wendy asking him to call her. Now that was weird. When his break rolled around, he hit the call back button on the screen.

“Hey! Thompson! What’s doing my man?”

Ah jeez. He knew that voice. That was the “I need something voice.” Some things never changed.

“Hey Wendy. Not much. On break at work. What’s up? Did you need my math notes again?”

“Nah, I’m actually okay there. I was wondering if you could hook me up with a Night At The Museum situation? Actually wait, no. That’s the last thing I want. Around here, it’s way too likely. I want more of a From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler situation.”

“I have no idea what that is.”

“It’s a book where...nevermind. I want to get into the museum after hours.”

“Dude, I can not do that. I’m only here until the movie theater opens back up, and I can’t get in trouble before then.” Wendy was surprised that Thompson was showing some pushback. She guessed they’d all toughened up a bit of late.

“Come on, Thompson. You know I won’t blow up your spot.”

“What do you need in the museum anyway?”

“Would you believe a creepy cult used to be run out of it?”

“I would believe a creepy cult was run out of any business in Gravity Falls.”

“Okay, point. Well what’s left behind of this particular creepy cult might have some information I’m looking for.”

“I’m gonna need more than that, Wendy. I need this job for van privileges.”

“The creepy cult might have some information about....” Wendy mumbles softly enough that Thompson can’t hear the end of her sentence.

“You’re breaking up, dude. What do they have information about?”

“My Mom, okay! I might be able to find some stuff about my Mom.” There is a very loud silence coming from Thompson’s end of the connection. Wendy hasn’t mentioned her mother since, well. You know. “Don’t leave me hanging, dude.”

“Yeah, I’ll do it. Meet me here at 5:30.”

“You’re the best, Thompson.”

“Yeah, yeah. Gas is on you for the next two weeks.”

“Fair. I’ll see you at 5:30.”

“I’m coming with you, by the way.”

“Dude.”

“Dude nothing. Everyone knows we’re friends. If you’re caught, I’ll get the blame anyway. Might as well tag along and see the remnants of a creepy cult.”

“Yeah. You’re going to regret that, but fine. Catch you later.”

“Catch you later.”

Wendy hangs up the phone wondering what exactly happened to Thompson during Weirdmageddon that grew him a spine.

 


 

At 5:30 on the dot, Wendy was walking up to the museum. She’d texted Thompson to let him know she was on her way, and he said to meet her outside. She heard an R2-D2 whistle coming from around the corner of the building, and saw him peek around the side. She walked over to him, wondering if any of this skulduggery was necessary. The only reason they’d had any trouble on her last visit was because of the Society, and they were long gone.

“Hey Thompson.”

“Shudduuuuup! Do you want to get me fired?”

“Dude, there’s no one else here.”

“Okay, point. But I’d still rather keep a low profile. Remember: van privileges.”

“I got it. Let’s go.”

Thompson used his key on the door in the back by the loading dock, and lead her through to the center of the museum.

“All right, so where is this former cult hangout?”

“We gotta follow the pneumatic tubes.”

“What, like at the bank?”

“Exactly like.”

They walked for a while, Wendy realizing they were taking a different route than the one she’d taken before. She remembered Dipper and Soos talking about the room all the tubes lead to. The one with, well, all the other tubes. The ones with the memories inside.

“So what was this cult, anyway?”

“They stole people’s memories.”

“What?”

“Anytime something weird happened to someone in town, these dudes in red robes would swoop in, kidnap you, drag you here, then shoot you with a gun that took away whatever memories they wanted to take from you. Then they dropped you back at home and you had no idea what ever happened.”

“So why didn’t they do like...a mass mind wipe after...that thing no one will talk about?”

“Because the Pines had the gun and Mabel destroyed it.”

“Those two really shook this town like a snow globe, didn’t they?”

“You have no idea, dude.”

"So wait, what happened to the cult?"

"Funny story! We fought them, tied them up, then shot them with the gun. Made them forget their whole cult even existed. We saved the town from...well, themselves, honestly. It seemed like half the town bigwigs were there."

"This town. Jeez."

It took them almost an hour, but they finally found their way to the memory repository. Thompson looked completely stricken by the sight of so many memories piled up and forgotten under the museum. It took Wendy aback, too. She might have known about this room for a while, but seeing it was something else.

“All right, step one complete. On to step two.”

“What’s step two?” Thompson’s voice wavered, as though he’d run out of the extra gumption he’d been running on.

“We find my Mom’s memories.”

It took some digging. Literally.

Wendy’s Mom had managed to steer clear of the Society of the Blind Eye for most of the thirty years of its existence. There weren’t too many canisters with her name on it, either married or maiden. Some people in town, Lazy Susan for example, had entire piles with just their name on them. All over again, Wendy found herself furious on behalf of the town’s residents. How many days had been obliterated? How much brain damage had been inflicted? Wendy seethed, only consoled by the fact she’d been part of the Society's downfall. But still. Thirty years.

 


 

In all, there were three canisters that belonged to Sarah Corduroy. In order, the labels read:

Sarah Lennox, 1982 - Bunker

Sarah Corduroy, 1983 - Public Argument w/ F McGucket

Sarah Corduroy, 2007 - Drunk & Disorderly, Woods

Wendy sat on the floor and stared at the canisters she’d placed in front of her. Three memories, likely none of them pleasant, stared back at her. She knew no matter how awful, no matter how upsetting these memories were, she had the rare gift of new information, direct from the source. With a shiver, she wondered how many other dead peoples’ memories were scattered through the room. Thirty years was a long time, and Gravity Falls was known for its higher than average death rates.

“Wendy?”

Wendy jumped, having almost forgotten Thompson was there. He’d been off in another part of the room looking for canisters with his name on it.

“Yeah?”

“It’s getting kinda late, and I know my Mom’ll be worried if I don’t get home soon.”

“Yeah, my Dad, too.”

“You ready to go?”

“Almost. I need one more thing first.”

Thompson still doesn’t know how Wendy sweet talked him into stealing the weird TV thing out of the museum, and even less how she got him to drive it and her back to her family’s cabin.

He hoped wherever they’d been in the museum was off the security grid. He really liked this job. And his van privileges.

Chapter Text

Back in Piedmont, Dipper and Mabel were in the kitchen helping to make dinner. Their Dad had set up a bluetooth speaker and was letting a playlist run while he supervised the cutting of veggies and the making of salad. Pasta was on the boil, and he turned to Mabel to ask her to start grating cheese when the song flipped over. He sang along as the kids danced to the familiar strains of accordion and nerd.

It was when the song hit the third verse that he saw the kids look at each other. Dipper put down the knife he was using to cut tomatoes, and Mabel looked at the triangle of cheese in her hand and tossed it on the counter in disgust. Whatever moment they were having, he wasn’t a part of it. They’d been having a lot of those since they got home from summer vacation, and it hadn’t escaped his notice.

When the song hit the last verse, he saw his children go pale in the face, and then crack up. He doesn’t quite catch what passes between them, but he heard something to the effect of, “Person Man totally destroyed Triangle Man, I don’t know what they’re talking about,” and then they broke out in more giggles.

He finds himself desperately wanting the context, but seriously worried about what he’d learn. He’d spent plenty of summers up at the Shack with his uncle, running through the woods and being exploited for free labor, same as they just had. Whatever they’d been through, it was quite different than the golden, hardworked summers of his adolescence.

He and their Mom had noticed something was off about them immediately, and they’d agreed to treat the situation like microwaving popcorn. Namely, if the concerning moments happened with a certain frequency and for long enough, they’d call it out. Otherwise, they’d let the twins handle it themselves. For all of the new and concerning moments, they also seemed far more mature and unified than they’d been when they left. He wondered what kind of Monkey’s Paw situation he’d found them all in. What, he wondered all over again, had happened to them?

They weren’t quite at the “ask the uncomfortable questions” point. However, their new reaction to a song they’d known and loved since they were little was definitely adding some more tick marks to the tally. He wouldn’t do anything without discussing it with their Mom first, since she wasn’t here to see it happen. He sighed, and dumped the pasta water into the sink, beginning the final touches on the meal. “New and concerning ways our children are being secretive and weird in ways aside from just general thirteen-ness” was a frequent bedtime chat lately.

“All right kids, set the table and put the food out. Dinner’s about ready.”

Over dinner, they caught up about what’s been doing with school and such. The conversation restored the evening to normality, but he definitely heard when Mabel started singing new lyrics to Particle Man under her breath.

Triangle Man got punched way more in her version than the original.

Chapter Text

Wendy was trying very hard not to spiral into an obsessive habit of watching and rewatching the memories she and Thompson had stolen out of the museum.

The memories were frustratingly mundane, neither answering Wendy’s questions, but also not really raising new ones either. Based on what she knew, the first memory, of the bunker, was taken right after the structure had been completed. Given the other people in the memory-- Dan and his father, McGucket, some other friends of her father’s and grandfather’s she vaguely remembered-- Wendy figured this was part of McGucket’s cleanup effort. Remove the memories of the people who’d built the thing, then go ahead and pretend it never existed.

Dipper had shown her the page about it, and the dates lined up.

The next memory, an argument with a clearly starting to lose it McGucket, wasn’t much help, either, but Wendy queued it up anyway.

Sarah sits quietly at Greasy’s Diner, reading a book with a plate of pancakes in front of her. She eats absentmindedly, occasionally writing in a notebook next to her. A pair of headphones cover her ears. The peace is interrupted as McGucket, hair longer and disheveled, storms in.

“YOU,” he shouts, disturbing the scene. Other customers eye him warily, clearly having had their own run-ins with him before.

Sarah looks up, pulling the headset down around her neck.

“Dr. McGucket, hi. How can I help you?”

“Don’t give me that. I know you, but I can’t remember your name. Why do I know you?”

“You used to work with my mentor? Dr. Pines?”

“WHO?”

Sarah visibly blanches, realizing whatever happened to McGucket, it’s gotten worse.

“Your friend? From college? I know he’s changed his….whole look recently, but you two have known each other for years.”

“Bullarkey! I don’t know who that is, and I don’t know you, but I do!” McGucket lets out an unintelligible yell, getting further into her space.

“Are you sure?” Sarah stands up, clearly feeling threatened. “Maybe you’re part of this whole business, huh? Do you know why my husband keeps having nightmares about excavation? Do you know why Dr. Pines is suddenly behaving like some deranged carnival barker?”

“I don’t know any Pines! WHY DO I KNOW YOU?”

“Why don’t you? Dr. McGucket---”

“I’M NOT A DOCTOR. I NEVER WENT TO MEDICAL SCHOOL...at least I don’t think I did…” McGucket goes quiet for a second, lost in his own head. Sarah takes him gently by the shoulders.

“Come on, let’s get you home.” She leads him out of the diner and into the street, clearly heading left, but he swerves right. “Uh, isn’t your house this way?”

“House? Who’s got a house? I live at the dump!” Besides his assertion he knows her, this is the first thing he’s said with any kind of confidence during the whole conversation.

“You don’t live at the dump, I used to drive you home--”

“SO I DO KNOW YOU.” Sarah sighs, tired of this exercise.

“Dr. McGucket, I don’t know what happened to you. Right around the time Dr. Pines went weird, you started, I don’t know, losing your memory, I guess.”

“I DON’T KNOW ANY PINES. AND I DON’T KNOW YOU, BUT I DO.”

Sarah is suddenly struck with an intense feeling of deja vu.

“We’ve had this conversation before.”

“WHAT.”

“There was...there was a tunnel. In the woods-- OW!” Sarah flinches, pressing her hand to her temple. “You...you said something about memories and Dr. Pines, and OW!”
McGucket is now looking at her fearfully, as she’s now the one yelling and making erratic movements.

“A tunnel! Excavation! That’s what Dan keeps dreaming about! He was--OW!--damn, this headache. Dr. McGucket, did you make me forget something, too?”

Suddenly, people in deep red robes appear, grabbing Sarah and McGucket in broad daylight.

No one does anything, they never mind all of that.

The screen faded to snow, as Wendy frowned at it one more time. Nothing in that memory had been new information. Someone retrieving lost memories, McGucket slowly sliding into madness, members of The Society grabbing people openly. All of these were known quantities.

But Wendy kept watching anyway. She scrubbed at her face and set up the last memory tube. She knew if anyone saw her new nightly routine, they’d be trying to stop her.

Wendy pressed play.

It is bitter winter. It is dead of night.

Sarah is wending through the woods, singing off-key. She is drunk.

She turns onto Gopher Road, wobbling, still singing. On her third repetition of the chorus, Sarah begins challenging shadows, asking “Where is my mind?” at the top of her voice.

She makes her way towards the Mystery Shack, getting as close as the totem pole.

“I know you’re up to something, Pines! I know you’re not what you say you are! One day, I’m gonna figure it out! I’m gonna get to the bottom of this. The missing memories, the headaches, you, all of it! I swear it!”

Sarah begins the song again, dancing around the totem pole. It’s not long before familiar figures in red robes appear and move to subdue her.

“Oh great, you guys again. Yeah, I recognize you. I saw you chasing McGucket! I’ve seen you chasing half this town! I--”

Sarah’s rant is interrupted as a red cloth is placed over her nose and mouth. She goes silent and limp, and the scene fades.

Wendy was still unsure how to process any of this. She had no memories of her mother taking drunken midnight walks, but at hour, at that point in her life, Wendy would have been long asleep. The thought always nagged that her family should be talking about this sort of thing. Not so much dissecting stolen memories, but certainly thoughts and feelings, and remembering Sarah together.

It always came down to memory.

Wendy sighed, turning off the viewscreen. She knew rehashing this again wouldn’t help her sleep.

She got into bed and pulled the covers over herself, and then proceeded to not sleep for a very long time.

The next day, Wendy was stunned to see Thompson’s van waiting outside her house. He waved at her from the driver’s seat. He never drove her to school-- he lived clear on the other side of town. But, not looking a gift ride in the mouth, Wendy settled herself in the front passenger seat.

“Hey Thompson. Uh, thanks for the ride?”

“Glad to. Also, I wanted to talk to you, and I figured this would be the best chance.”

“Everything okay?” Wendy got settled, hoping nothing was wrong with her friend.

“Yeah. Um. After that night at the museum, um...I’ve been back to that room.”

“What? Dude, you don’t have to do that, we found everything--”

“We didn’t, though. I found a ledger.” Thompson eased his van up the dirt drive. He’d have to get snow tires on before long, probably.

“Whoa.”

“Yeah. There are entries in it as late as July, too.”

“What else did you find?”

“Well. There was more than just one ledger. There were dozens, going back like thirty years.”

“That checks out. The Society was started right around when Dr. Pines um. Thompson, did you ever get the story on what happened to Dr. Pines?”

“What, Mr. Mystery’s brother?” Of Wendy’s friends, Thompson had spent the least amount of time around either of the elder Pines twins.

“Yeah.”

“Not really? I know it had to do with that event we’re not allowed to talk about, but beyond that…” Thompson trailed off, focusing his attention on what Gravity Falls called rush hour traffic.

“So like, the short short version is he fell through a portal into another dimension and Mr. Pines pretended to be him for the last thirty years, and then he and Dipper and Mabel got him back somehow.”

“What.” Thompson spent a moment longer at the stop sign than needed, and the car behind them honked, shaking him out of his reverie.

“We lived in a time bubble for a week and that’s got you thrown?”

“No, I know, just....what. And what does this have to do with your Mom?”

“That part? Nothing. The only stuff my Mom had to do with was extremely pre-portal, pre-Society.”

“Ah jeez, you distracted me. Wendy, I found your Mom’s name a bunch in the ledgers. There should have been more memories in the pile.”

“Whoa.”

“I don’t know what happened to them. I’ve uh...I’ve been going back to that room after hours to try and organize it. There’s a lot there, but there’s not thirty years there, you feel me?”

“Uh huh. What do you think happened?”

“I have no idea. Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about that before we got to school today. I didn’t think we’d get a moment to discuss it privately, and I knew you didn’t want to have this conversation at lunch.” Thompson pulled into the student lot, smoothly parking the van.

“No, I appreciate it, dude. And thanks again for the lift.”

“You got it. Now get outta here! The bell’s about to ring!”

The two friends hustled toward the building, sliding into their respective classes’ seats under the wire.

Wendy spent her day wondering where the missing memories could be, and how she could possibly find them.